Mama OWL Blog: July 2013

Keeping kids safe with Kattoo

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Keeping children safe is paramount in any parent's mind, and when you're out and about this Summer you might be concerned about the possibility of being separated from your little one in a busy & unfamiliar place, or them wandering off - hey, it happens, sometimes the lure of the ice cream kiosk is just too much (L has done that to me on two separate occasions).

If you're off to a festival, the beach, a theme park... You might be interested to hear about the genius idea that is the Kattoo. It's a temporary phone number tattoo for kids, easily applied and lasts for 2-5 days. It's also a UV blocker so you don't need to apply sun cream over the top (although we did, with no negative effects to the tattoo), and you can even wash it gently (without scrubbing) if your little darling gets it a bit grubby while on an adventure - as kids often do! - to keep it looking its best.

We received some Kattoos & the Kattoo pen in our BritMums Live goody bags, and the lovely people at Kattoo kindly sent us some more to use through the Summer on our days out. They even sent them in pink, green and blue - the favourite colours of E, H & L! I much prefer this idea to a wristband, which can be removed or fall off, and also would not be tolerated by L (who has autism).

E had the first outing of the Summer with a visit to ThomasLand at Drayton Manor with her Auntie, Uncle & cousin C for C's 3rd birthday in mid-July. We applied the Kattoo to the inside of her wrist and I wrote my sister-in-law's phone number on it, just in case.

You apply the Kattoo as you would any temporary tattoo - simply apply on to clean, dry skin and hold with a wet cloth for approx 30 seconds, then peel off the paper and allow to dry before writing your phone number on to the white strip with the Kattoo pen, which has been developed to use with the Kattoos & is also safe to write directly on to skin.

We also used them on our recent holiday to Torquay, they were great as extra peace of mind on our days out to Woodlands Family Theme Park and Paignton Zoo. We popped them on the upper arms of L & H so that they were concealed under their t-shirts but easily accessible should they be needed. They lasted well even through numerous showers and use of the swimming pool, and washed off in the bath with just a bit of elbow grease when we got home.

You can buy your Kattoo pack online from and follow them on twitter @kidstattoos & Facebook for all the latest product news and information.

We received complimentary samples of Kattoo for review purposesThe views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words.

Family Days Out - Paignton Zoo

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

If you're going to South Devon on holiday, I cannot recommend Paignton Zoo highly enough. As a family we have also visited Bristol Zoo & ZSL London Zoo this year, but Paignton is our favourite without a doubt.

Clean & well maintained with ample free parking, Paignton Zoo is set in lovely gardens with large, well equipped habitats for the animals who live there. There are over 2000 creatures at Paignton Zoo, including giraffes, monkeys, a rhino and elephant, coatis, crocs and lots more besides. There are several outdoor and indoor play areas as well as the Jungle Express train (you'll need change for the machine to purchase tickets for this) so there is plenty to see and do.
It cost my family £74.35 to visit the Zoo for the day. Currently, you can buy a 'Zooper' ticket which gives you entry to both Paignton Zoo, and the Living Coasts Coastal Zoo at the harbourside, this ticket offers a 20% discount and allows you to visit each attraction once (valid for 6 months). I think the entrance fee is very reasonable considering what the Zoo has to offer.
There is lots of space to sit & enjoy a picnic if you bring one along, as well as several kiosks selling ice creams & snacks located around the Zoo. There is also a restaurant and cafe bar on site if you'd rather buy your lunch, offering hot & cold food and drinks. We received outstanding customer service throughout the day, the two ladies at the pasty shack where we bought L's sausage roll were particularly friendly, happy & helpful.
We made a couple of snack pit stops on our way around the Zoo, the children each enjoyed 2 delicious Marshfield ice creams during the day (clotted cream is my absolute fave) to cool off in the lovely Summer sun, and bought our lunch in the restaurant. As expected, the food was on the pricey side but as I have said before, that is not unusual when you're out somewhere for the day & it's worth taking along your own food if you're on a strict budget.
I loved visiting the Western Lowland Gorillas in the Forest Habitat. I adore Gorillas and could have stood and watched them all day. I love seeing them interacting with each other, and just how human their behaviour is, they are absolutely beautiful creatures.
I think one of them took a dislike to me though, as seconds after I took this picture at the bottom left of the next collage (without flash), it ran up the net and smacked its hand against the window where A and I were stood! I had turned around to talk to the Mister and didn't see him coming, the bang certainly made me jump though and we had to peel A off of the ceiling...

The Orang Utans in the next enclosure are very funny to watch, and one came over and was hanging from the edge of the window staring back at everyone. They're just gorgeous, I could have stayed in there with them for the whole visit.
Everything is very interactive and educational and there are lots of opportunities at each habitat and enclosure to learn more about the animals and to read about where they come from. The kids loved rushing off to read the information and then coming back to tell the Mister & I what they had learned, they're now all full of fun & fascinating facts that they are thoroughly enjoying sharing with anyone who will listen!
A beautiful setting for a fun-filled - and educational - family day out. We will certainly visit Paignton Zoo again, and look forward to doing so!

This is not a sponsored post and our visit to Paignton Zoo was paid for in full out of my own pocket. All opinions, as always, are honest and written in my own words.

Meal Plan Monday 290713

Monday, 29 July 2013

Monday 29th July - Honey dill chicken drumsticks with salad

Tuesday 30th July - Tomato & red pepper beef bolognese with courgette noodles

Wednesday 31st July - Honey dijon crock pot chicken

Thursday 1st August - Brinner, with smoked bacon & gf/wf sausages

Friday 2nd August - Fajitas

Saturday 3rd August - Minted lamb chops & roasted veg

Sunday 4th August - Whole garlic roasted chicken served with steamed vegetables

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = breakfast for dinner  gf/wf = gluten free/wheat free

Family Days Out - Woodlands Family Theme Park

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Last year we visited Woodlands Family Theme Park in Totnes, South Devon for the first time, and we enjoyed it so much that it was top of our list of places to go again this year during our Summer holiday.

It can be a struggle to find a place that has 'something for everyone' with such a wide age range between the children (from 15 down to 3), but Woodlands manages that for us without breaking a sweat. With indoor and outdoor rides and attractions it is somewhere that can be enjoyed whatever the weather, and there are plenty of kiosks, cafe/restaurants and picnic areas dotted around the park to make snack pit stops whenever the mood takes you... Or rather, whenever the kids bug you. The ice creams & snacks are reasonably priced and no more expensive than at any other place we visited during the week.
For our family it cost a total of £88.88 for 'Summer special' tickets, including a special needs concessionary rate for L & a reduced price for E as she is under 110cm tall. I think that that is excellent value for money considering the amount of rides and attractions that Woodlands has to offer and the fact that it is 'all weather'. There is almost nothing that E couldn't go on - including the 3 water coasters which kept all of them (the Mister included) busy for well over an hour - & so she had as full & exciting a day as the big kids.
A favourite attraction of ours at Woodlands is the zoo-farm, where there are many different types of animals to see & some of which are very friendly & roaming free. The kids loved the pygmy goats and we were begged by A to buy her one for her birthday. We of course didn't, but mostly because we couldn't have fit it in the car. They are gorgeous and all came running up to the fence to greet us.
There are large indoor soft play areas as well as plenty of outdoor park & play areas and sandpits in addition to the rides and zoo-farm, and the Trauma Tower inside the Empire Zone was a big hit with L who went on it more times than anything else. L & H also loved the Dinosaur Farm Ride, which encapsulates both of their favourite things in one handy attraction!
We decided to buy lunch at the park, while a little on the expensive side it is about what you would expect to pay at a theme park. The only complaint I really have regarding the food is that the poor chap serving was doing so entirely on his own during a busy lunch hour while I watched four other employees standing nearby either looking at something or being shown how to use something while he did so.
I witnessed two customers ask these four employees for assistance further down the counter, only to be told to join the other queue (the long one that I was standing in) or to go outside to a kiosk. I wasn't particularly impressed by that and thought that it would have been better to continue with whatever it was they were doing after the busy lunch time had passed.
Woodlands also offers two boating rides, pedal boats and bumper boats, which were great fun and really enjoyed by everyone. They're a little different to your usual attraction, and the pedal boats are located in the new fantasi forest which also includes a maze and zip wire.
My only other grumble would be the toilets at the main entrance and in the wooded area near the fantasi forest, which have seen better days and could do with a bit of updating and a good deep clean. I don't know how often they are checked or cleaned but they didn't smell particularly fresh & there was a fair amount of tissue paper on the floor.
With that said, and as public-toilet-phobic as I am, it hasn't put me off the park in general as the grounds are clean and tidy & well maintained and there are several other public toilets on site that might be perfectly clean & fresh! Those just so happened to be the two that we visited.

Overall, in our opinion it is a fun day out for all the family and well worth every penny we spent. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will definitely visit there again in the future.

I have linked this post with #MagicMoments at The Oliver's Madhouse.

This is not a sponsored post and our visit to Woodlands Family Theme Park was paid for in full out of my own pocket. All opinions, as always, are honest and written in my own words.

Meal Plan Monday 220713

Monday, 22 July 2013

Monday 22nd-Friday 26th July - We are off on our travels leaving my brother & his fiance to house and dog-sit for us for the week, so who knows what we will end up eating this week! A bit of everything no doubt.

Saturday 27th July - Today is A's 15th birthday so whatever her ladyship wants for dinner, she will get.

Sunday 28th July - A roast of some description, as it has been a while!

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

The way we were #theGallery

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

One of the things I love most about looking through my family photos is seeing the five smiling faces beaming back at me.

Wherever we are, whatever we're doing, I just shout "Smile!" and it's like vogue, they all strike a pose and we get some of the funniest, silliest photos. But that's what I like, seeing them as they are and their personalities, and how they genuinely enjoy being together.

Not all of the time of course (the Waltons we ain't) - we spend a fair amount of time refereeing the arguments & bickering too - but 9 times out of 10 they love the bones of each other, and it really makes me happy to see. It reminds me so much of the times I had with my three older sisters when we were kids, and I love to see the closeness of the five of mine, I really hope that they stay close as they grow up.

So for #theGallery this week, I want to share with you one of my favourite photos from my parents family album, and it's even a genuine polaroid picture, not an effect frame! This is me and my big sisters, the way we were.

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

Meal Plan Monday 150713

Monday, 15 July 2013

Monday 15th July - Birthday BBQ for my nephew's 3rd birthday

Tuesday 16th July - Pasta salad

Wednesday 17th July - Brinner*

Thursday 18th July - Baked potatoes (sweet for me) with various fillings

Friday 19th July - Chicken & bacon salad

Saturday 20th July - Anniversary dinner with the ILs

Sunday 21st July - I'll be having lunch at the Spa! I'm leaving the rest up to the Mister since he'll be in charge at home

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

The Summer Fair #CountryKids

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Last weekend the kids and I enjoyed all of the fun of the fair at the primary school Summer fête. It was a beautiful day for it and there was plenty to keep the children entertained, and my purse empty! But it was all for the benefit of the school (the event raised £2500) so it was money well spent.
There was a bouncy slide, a climbing tower, lots of stalls with games like human fruit machine and a ring toss, stands from the Army Cadets (which L & H loved) as well as the local police and fire service (H wants to be a policeman when he grows up so he was particularly impressed by this, and E loved sitting in the fire engine), a barbecue and very importantly, a Pimms tent along with live music and performances from the staff and children made it a really enjoyable day.
We spent the entire afternoon there and although L refused to take part in the dance performance that his class had prepared, they all got involved in the activities - and particularly enjoyed throwing wet sponges at the staff - and had a really lovely time.

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

E's Pre-School Induction

Thursday, 11 July 2013

This week E headed off on her very first day at pre-school for her induction day. She will start in September and attend five mornings a week, at the same nursery that all four of her siblings have gone to before her.

The ladies who run the nursery are wonderful, and the fact that both L & H are always asking to be able to go and visit them at the pre-school even now years after they left is testament to their ability & how welcoming and nurturing it is there. The ladies have a wicked sense of humour and are brilliant with the kids, it is just a really lovely environment. (And they also visit the fire station every year... I will of course be signing up as a parent helper for that trip.)

E woke up at her usual time on Wednesday morning, hair sticking up all over the place as per and I asked her "Do you want to go to school today?" (not that she actually had a choice of course, but you ask anyway) and her eyes lit up and she squealed "TODAY?! I can go to school today?! I need to get my dressed on!" (meaning, she needs to get dressed) and raced at top speed out of the room. I called to her to wait and that she needed breakfast first, to which she responded by hurtling down the stairs to the kitchen and then ransacking the cupboards for her owl bowl and the cereal.

After breakfast, a wash & tooth brushing, sun cream application, getting dressed (she even chose her own outfit) & the sorting out of the hair, she packed her bag and helped fill her water bottle ready to take with her. She was ready by 8.15, I managed to stall her for half an hour otherwise we would have been sat outside for ages if she'd had her way! At 8.45 we made our way up the hill and waited outside for nursery to open.
Some initial shyness, but no tears and I have been assured by the nursery ladies that she settled in well and was perfectly at home there. I only stayed for ten minutes or so, E couldn't wait to get rid of me!
Two of her cousins currently attend the nursery so it was especially nice that the three girls got to spend at least one morning there together, as N will be heading up to primary school in September. They're all very close, and all chose to sit & play together which I thought was very sweet.
I collected E at 11.45 and treated her to something from the shop on the way home for being so well behaved and settling in quickly, and she's all ready now to start after the holidays. My baby is growing up!

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

Will the 'end of term' just END already?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

June & July have been a whirlwind of activity with one thing and another. The final term before the summer holidays is full of activities, sports days, race days, fetes, parent-teacher consultations, assemblies, school plays, taster days, SATs, GCSEs, residential trips (& preparation and packing for said trips), induction days and the like.

This is also while continuing with swimming lessons, football training, matches & tournaments, after-school clubs, guitar lessons, keeping my foot firmly up teen's backside for her exams and revision over the past two months, as well as everything else I have to do as normal on a daily basis and fitting in our optician appointments, dental check ups and now also the occasional vet visit with Florence.


With having five kids I am almost meeting myself coming back some days trying to keep up with it all. I've spent more time at the primary school in the past fortnight than I have at home, I think. I've barely seen the Mister because he's been working all the hours as well as attending football meetings & training for himself & J. I'm grateful I had Britmums Live in the middle of all of that to enable me to compose myself enough to keep going.

I absolutely cannot wait to be off timetable for a while. No running around, no school runs to worry about, no uniforms to wash, no mad rush of teenagers hurtling down the stairs & out of the door for the bus with seconds to spare, or stuffing lunches in bags and herding kids to the car.

I just need it to stop, just for a bit.

We've got a lovely holiday to look forward to at the end of term and I tell you - I need it! I am looking forward to getting there, sitting down and just exhaling. Just taking a minute to breathe. I know after a couple of weeks L will start to react to a lack of routine so we'll have to work in a loose 'day-to-day' thing for him, plan a few things so he knows what he's going to be doing, but still keeping it relaxed.

We have four birthdays during the holidays, A & L who will be 15 and 10, and myself and the Mister who will be... older than that... so we have those to look forward to as well. I'm hoping for good weather so we can get out and do things if the mood takes us, but likewise I am happy to sit in the garden and just enjoy my own surroundings.

I'm going to spread the back-to-school shopping out as much as I can over the Summer, (a) because we currently have four in school and it costs us an arm & a leg with supplies & school uniforms and shoes, and (b) because I really don't want to get involved with the madness at the end of August. The local school uniform shop often has a queue out of the door come the end of Summer. Insanity.

After the holidays we will be straight into A's final GCSE year, L's last year of primary school which will involve a lot of extra preparation and transition meetings & visits due to his autism, and E will be starting nursery.
I'm hoping to be able to get involved at the primary school with 'reading pals' and giving back some of what they have given me since my boys have been there, before E eventually (hopefully) starts there in 2014. I am keen to be there for L's last year too, to give extra support before 'the big move' up.

So, I'm enjoying the sunshine, and hanging in there for the next couple of weeks... But the 'end of term' really can't end soon enough! Roll on Summer!

Meal Plan Monday 080713

Monday, 8 July 2013

Monday 8th July - Spaghetti Bolognese

Tuesday 9th July - Chicken & bacon salad

Wednesday 10th July - Sausage & chips

Thursday 11th July - Brinner*

Friday 12th July - Pasta salad

Saturday 13th July - Barbecue

Sunday 14th July - Picnic

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

A natural childhood #CountryKids

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Last week I took the kids for their six monthly visit to the dentist - it is always a joy taking a gaggle of kids to the dentist on my own, but you do what you've gotta do. Luckily they're all plenty old enough now to know to behave in the waiting room. Also, there's a shop next door which I was able to use as bribery.

I'm pleased to report that it was a good check-up all round, everyone's teeth are fine & dandy, though J now has a referral for the orthodontist and it is looking like L might have to as well, he will be reviewed in six months. The dentist also commented that L is the youngest patient he has ever seen (or known of) to have no baby teeth left at 9 years old, so that was something!

After we left the dentist we stopped in the shop for some drinks and then walked back towards town to meet the Mister who happened to be working nearby. I had already picked up his car keys on my way to collect the boys from school, so when the kids & I reached the car we dropped off our bags and the kids then headed back over the road to the field to play while we waited for their Dad to finish work.

The field is just a short distance from the school, dotted with trees, and has a small, more densely wooded area at one end. The kids spent the next hour racing around on the grass, climbing trees, chasing each other and building dens with broken branches and sticks while I sat & watched and enjoyed the sunshine.
There were no complaints about being bored, no tantrums about having to wait for an hour, just peace and quiet while they played outdoors together.

No computer games, no fancy toys, no distant foreign land - just a plain old field, with a few trees... the only things you need to enjoy a natural childhood.

It was really lovely & peaceful and a pleasure to watch and enjoy.

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

Mars Bar Cake

Friday, 5 July 2013

If you're a fan of Mars Bars and dark chocolate, then do I have an indulgent treat for you - which also comes with the added bonus of being incredibly quick & easy to make and great fun to make with kids.

I make this as a treat for my father-in-law, and the kids absolutely love it too. If you're looking for something healthy & sugar-free, then I would look away now because this is probably the furthest thing from healthy that you can get. But, frankly, I care not!
Mars Bar Cake recipe
2 x packs of four 36.5g Mars Bars
2 generous tbsp golden syrup
Rice Krispies (or supermarket equivalent works just as well)
4 x 45g bars dark chocolate (Bournville is my personal favourite!)

Line a shallow brownie pan with greaseproof paper or cling film and set to one side.
In a bowl, pour in a generous amount of rice krispies (I never measure, I just guess judging by the size of the pan I intend to use, you can always add more if needed).
Cut up your Mars Bars and place them in a microwave-safe bowl, and melt them in short blasts, stirring regularly, to make sure they don't burn. It takes about a minute in my 800W microwave, in 15-20 second bursts.
Pour the melted Mars Bars in with the rice krispies, add the golden syrup and mix well until completely combined. Use a wooden spoon or - if all else fails - your hands, to get it properly mixed in. Then put it into your brownie pan and squash it down into the pan.
Melt your dark chocolate in the same manner as you did the Mars Bars, or in a bowl over a pan of water on the hob, until they are completely melted into a glossy liquid, then pour it over your Mars mixture in the pan. Use a spoon and spread it evenly over the top.
Place it in the fridge and leave to chill for a couple of hours. Then simply cut up, share and enjoy. Or just enjoy, you don't have to share it!

You could also cut it up into squares and present it in a nice gift box as an end-of-term home-made teacher present perhaps, along with some delicious cranberry & white chocolate fudge, or rocky road.

Or, like I said - you could just eat it all yourself... No judgement from me!

#50Books2013 - June Round-Up

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Welcome to the - ever so slightly delayed - June round-up of #50Books2013, we're at the halfway point! How are you all doing?
Is anyone else finding that they have zero time for anything except school activities right now!? I'm swamped!

I'm languishing well behind everyone, STILL on book 16 a month later (shocking considering I am the linky host! Embarrassment!). Perhaps I'm not reading things that are holding my attention, because a good book that I really enjoy I find hard to put down because I want to know what happens next. I think I need to reevaluate the titles that I am choosing as well as trying to manage my time a little better.

What about the rest of you, though?

Mumturnedmom has three books on the go which really puts me to shame considering I am not even managing one at the moment! She's reviewed Strange Fits of Passion by Anita Shreve, and Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman which is the chosen title for the new book gathering Sara has joined, check out her review to see what she has to say about them.

Ups & Downs, Smiles & Frowns is on top form with her reviews (as always!) and this month shares her thoughts on the harrowing Little Prisoners by Casey Watson, which tells the sad tale of two 'unfosterable' children. Super-Reader Soph's June reads include A Dance With Dragons & A Feast For Crows, and she explains how reading for pleasure comes with a side order of guilt & procrastination, you can read more at Ignoring Life, One Book At A Time.

Little Super Sparks has enjoyed four books this month. Lucy has reviewed How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman as well as titles from Scott Westerfeld and Sian Busby, and finally Emma's Little World is up to book number eight, and shares her views on Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich and Adventures in Love, Life and Infertility By Leah Campbell amongst others.

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 book review to share please link up below. As always, thank you for taking part in this challenge with me.

The July Round-Up is going to be hosted by the lovely Sara at Ups & Downs, Smiles & Frowns (you can follow her on Twitter @OoSerzoO) at the end of the month because we're going to be on holiday & busy celebrating A's 15th birthday, so please look out for the link, visit & share! Email or tweet your reviews to Sara by 28th July to be included in the round-up please, thank you!

See you in August, I hope everyone has a lovely Summer! x

Meal Plan Monday 010713

Monday, 1 July 2013

Monday 1st July - Macaroni Cheese

Tuesday 2nd July - Homemade burgers & chips with salad

Wednesday 3rd July - Honey dill chicken with cauliflower mash

Thursday 4th July - Brinner* (the Mister's football training has started now the U12s has finished... never ending!)

Friday 5th July - Spaghetti Bolognese

Saturday 6th July - Sausages & vegetable mash

Sunday 7th July - Whole roast chicken, chosen by H this week

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