Mama OWL Blog: April 2014

Happy Birthday E

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

We celebrated E's 4th birthday over the weekend, and a very lovely weekend it was. I think we're all well aware of my dislike of (hosting) children's parties and I'm not planning on throwing her a "proper" party with friends until she is at primary school, so this was my last year of sidestepping that particular landmine.

Instead, I booked tickets for myself & the Mister to take E & H to go and see Disney On Ice: Worlds of Fantasy at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on Saturday evening, the day before her birthday.
This was the plan, up until 8am on Saturday when H decided he was vehemently opposed to going. He was already going off to my nephew S's birthday party during the day and he wanted to stay & play at my sister's afterwards, so I asked E who she'd like to take instead & she chose my niece, N. Luckily, they didn't have any plans so we picked up N mid-afternoon & set off to spend the evening enjoying the magical world of Disney!

Both the girls dressed up in their Disney Princess outfits, so we had two Rapunzels with us! It was very cute, they were so excited and on the way in we bought them a light stick each, and then E insisted on her & N having Tinkerbell slushies, so... flavoured ice in a plastic cup, which cost £9 each. I'm all in favour of souvenirs and keepsakes but there really is no need for them to cost that much, it's ridiculous. I think £5 would have been more than reasonable and I'd have been far more willing to buy other things if they had been more sensibly priced. The family ticket cost £95 for the four of us and I think it was absolutely worth the money as it was a fantastic show, but the overpriced souvenirs really let it down.

We really enjoyed the show, it was brilliant and the girls were enthralled throughout. It really was a magical experience and I'm glad we opted for a "day out" rather than a party, it was perfect for celebrating her special day.

On Sunday she enjoyed a nice lie-in as we'd had a late night at Disney, and when she woke up she bounded down the stairs to see what was waiting for her. I had tried to be clever by wrapping up all of her presents and then putting them in a box and wrapping that up - however, she was not impressed by this and did not appreciate me "tricking" her... So I know not to do that again!
She was delighted with her presents, which included lots of art and craft items as she will sit for ages and paint and draw, frankly she has enough toys so the main bulk of her presents were art supplies which she was more than happy with. She couldn't wait to use it all and I already have lots of lovely paintings hanging up to dry out in my utility room!

She - like every other child in the country - is a huge fan of Disney's Frozen and had asked for a Frozen themed birthday cake, and so that is what she got. I didn't have a design in mind, I just bought some Elsa, Anna and Olaf figurines (I don't have the patience or skill to sit and make them out of fondant) and decided to wing it. I made a vanilla blue & white swirled cake, filled & iced with purple buttercream and covered it in teal fondant. I dyed white fondant to make it the colour I wanted using blue gel paste, and also added edible glitter to it as I was rolling it to make it sparkle (which unfortunately you can't really tell by the photos, but it did look effective).
Disney Frozen Birthday Cake
Disney Frozen Birthday Cake
E was happy with it and that was the main thing, the blue and white swirls worked out well which was a relief as that was the first time I've tried that particular technique. Pinterest tends to give me ideas above my station when it comes to baking, so I was rather pleased that I managed to pull that one off.
Disney Frozen Birthday Cake
We had a lovely family day at home, and my sister L and brother M came by to visit with their other halves to drop off gifts and cards and wish E a happy birthday. We had a family roast expertly cooked by the Mister, and then finished off the day by watching Frozen on DVD. It was a really lovely birthday and she says she had a great weekend. Thank you to everyone who made it that way!


Meal Plan Monday 280414

Monday, 28 April 2014

It's mostly a Mexican themed week, in association with Old El Paso who have kindly sent us some delicious goodies to review.  We love Mexican food and often enjoy 'Fajita Friday' and my tasty Mexican lasagne and chicken chimichangas, so we'll all be looking forward to dinner time all week I think!

Mon 28th April - One pan rice with chicken

Tues 29th Apr - Macaroni cheese

Weds 30th Apr - Beef tacos with salad

Thurs 1st May - Toad in the hole with mash & vegetables

Fri 2nd May - Roasted red pepper & tomato fajitas with chicken

Sat 3rd May - Egg & chips

Sun 4th May - Roast gammon

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

Let it Grow, Let it Grow!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

It has been a busy time for my little gardeners-in-training. I have been keeping them occupied with taking care of their seeds and flowers, and their enthusiasm for their new found hobby shows no sign of waning yet.

The Mister has made lots of progress with our mini garden redesign, we've moved E's play house & sandpit to the opposite side of the garden and he has created a play area especially for her which she is absolutely delighted with. We also now finally have a rotary washing line up out there (so I don't have to keep dragging the airer outside every five minutes) complete with barked area, which leads along the side of the house to our new memory garden.

During the construction of the memory garden, we found all manner of wildlife hiding amongst the undergrowth including several slow worms (which give me the serious heebie deebie jeebies) as well as this little guy, who was hiding out under some brambles!
We helped him find his way to the back of the garden, when he apparently remembered the way he'd came in and hopped back off under the fence to the pond in the garden behind ours.

We've bought the kids some more plants, seeds and pots, and they have been keen to get them potted up and set out for everyone's viewing pleasure.

E received a Disney Princess egg for Easter which came with a little bucket, she decided that she wanted to use it to plant her sunflowers so we made some drainage holes and she's planted them up and put them out in the greenhouse to grow them on.

To their absolute delight, the fruits of their labour are now being made apparent as the flowers bloom, and their seeds and bulbs begin to reach skywards - they are so excited to have spotted the beginnings of shoots and H & E are very happy little gardeners indeed.

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate

Friday, 25 April 2014

We are a family of chocolate lovers (especially me, I must admit), and the children are quite the "hot chocolate" connoisseurs. We try and incorporate a delicious comforting mug of chocolate into our family traditions wherever we can, particularly at Christmastime when we enjoy our "snowman soup", so imagine my our delight at the opportunity to try out chocolate actually MADE for drinking - not "hot chocolate", but true drinking chocolate.

The Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate range of products, available in Smooth Milk, Rich Dark and Natural Honey flavours, are pure beads of top quality chocolate, designed to melt perfectly with milk or water (or, if you prefer, a combination of both) to give you a pure drinking chocolate experience.

"Inspired by the seventeenth century chocolate pioneer, Sir Hans Sloane, all Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate products are lovingly hand crafted and come from a truly British and historic pedigree.
All Hans Sloane flavours are made from unique 100% chocolate beads individually shined for 3-4 hours and hand packed, reflecting Hans Sloane's passion for chocolate perfection".

We tried out the Rich Dark, and Natural Honey flavours and I have to say that I was very impressed. I was pleasantly surprised that there was no bitter after taste as you might expect from a pure drinking chocolate, it was simply a rich & luxurious flavour, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

My youngest three children were happy to try out the flavours for themselves, of course using the biggest mugs that they could find in the cupboard. H chose the Rich Dark, and L & E opted for Natural Honey. As a pre-bedtime treat, I made up their drinks using the recommended three heaped tablespoons of chocolate beads (about 45g) together with some hot milk, and they all gathered around the table to enjoy their drinks together in satisfied silence (probably my favourite part...), and three empty mugs told me all I need to know about their opinion of it!

Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolates are available online via the website, and in Waitrose and Tesco stores nationwide, RRP £4.99.

For more information, you can visit their website at or follow on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with the latest news & offers.

We received complimentary Drinking Chocolate products for review purposesThe views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words. All links are no-follow.

The Swimming Gala

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Being a (very) keen swimmer, H was thrilled to have been picked to represent the school in the local area swimming gala, which took place yesterday. His bag was packed and he was up & raring to go in the morning, telling us he had butterflies because he was so excited about his races.

He was chosen to do Y3 boys front crawl, and to take part in two relays - one freestyle & one backstroke. H is a very competent swimmer and has taken to it like, if you'll pardon the expression, a duck to water. Since starting swimming lessons two years ago he has whizzed through the stages and is now a strong swimmer at stage six, he absolutely loves the water (just like I did at his age!). I think swimming is a hugely important life skill as well as being great fun and good exercise, and I am really pleased that my kids enjoy it as much as they do.

The Mister was able to be there with me to watch H too, which was nice as unfortunately he usually has to miss events because of work, so H was doubly pleased that he had both of us there to cheer him on.
The kids all arrived poolside and the gala began, it was a lovely atmosphere and everyone cheered everyone else on throughout. The ones that came in last still received cheers & shouts of encouragement, and a big, very well deserved round of applause when they reached the finish line.

H pulled off a barnstorming performance, coming a very close (a split second, very exciting) second place in his solo race, and then flying down the pool like a little propeller doing backstroke during the medley and reaching the end first, ready to tag the next person. All of the kids did an absolutely cracking job, they were brilliant sports, and I was on my feet and cheering & clapping for all of them (admittedly loudest for H, naturally). It was a great, well managed event and I know that H really enjoyed the experience, to the point that he is even more keen to join the local competitive swimming club.

As lovely as it is to win, with that aside - it was great to see such good sportsmanship from everyone at the event, whether they won or lost. Sitting behind the kids from our school, I overheard them giving words of encouragement to each other, saying how well they had done and what a great effort, even if they hadn't won their race. It was a really positive, fun morning and I got the impression that everyone really enjoyed it, they should all be as proud of themselves as I was of all of them - especially H.


Meal Plan Monday 210414

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter Mon 21st April - See last week's meal plan

Tues 22nd Apr - Caribbean lamb

Weds 23rd Apr - Macaroni cheese & broccoli

Thurs 24th Apr - Chicken cacciatore

Fri 25th Apr - Mexican lasagne

Sat 26th Apr - A, J & L are having pizza, while the Mister & I take E & H to see Disney on Ice for E's birthday so we'll pick something up while we are out

Sun 27th Apr - Today is E's 4th birthday, and we are undecided as to what we are having - BUT, it's definitely going to include birthday cake!

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

Easter Bird Feeders

Friday, 18 April 2014

I've wanted to make these bird feeders with the kids for ages as I think they're brilliant - a really clever yet very simple idea, so this afternoon we gathered up the necessary equipment and made our very own Easter themed bird feeders to hang out in the garden. Since the children have been so enthusiastic about our garden work, I thought that this would be the ideal activity to carry that on and really keep them interested.

You'll need bird seed, twine, cookie cutters (we used our Easter themed cutters in keeping with the season!) and some gelatine, as well as some water, an old baking tray, and some greaseproof paper. Typically I have just run out of greaseproof paper so we just used some tin foil.

Make up the gelatine as per the packet instructions, and then stir in your bird seed. Lay your cookie cutters on the tray and half fill with the mixture, before adding your twine loops in to the middle and filling the rest of the way with the bird seed, being sure to press it in firmly.
Leave them to dry overnight (turning occasionally), then simply pop out of the cookie cutter moulds and hang them out in the garden for the birds to enjoy.


This post is inspired by an idea from Pretty Prudent.

Easter Egg Decorating

Thursday, 17 April 2014

HRS UK invited us to design our very own Easter eggs using the fab Cocoapod chocolate egg decorating kit, so we've been busy doing just that.

It proved to be a very popular activity with my kids and although we started out with a large quantity of sweets, the amount soon dwindled as the kids each had a turn at creating their own design - rather unsurprisingly, I wouldn't have expected anything different!

The girls designs (E at the top, A below)

Unfortunately our egg got a bit 'scrambled' (badoom-tish) in the post, but it didn't make a difference to our enjoyment of the activity & the kids came up with some very eye-catching & unique creations using the sweets provided.

L & H's designs - H at the top, L below

It was good fun and encouraged the kids to really get creative, I have to say that they rather enjoyed eating their efforts afterwards too so it was a win/win situation! The design below is our joint family effort, of sheep grazing in a field next to a river, enjoying the Spring sunshine.

This is our entry for the HRS UK easter egg decorating competition.
All links are no-follow.

A Favourite Place. #theGallery

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

We're lucky enough to live in the beautiful West Country - surrounded by rolling hills and stunning countryside but just within a stone's throw of Bath and Bristol, and only an hour-ish drive from the beach.

There are lots of places I enjoy visiting locally but I have to say, my favourite has to be the White Horse at Westbury. There are stunning views, wide open spaces for the kids to run around & kick a ball or fly a kite, and a lovely walk around the top of the hill - perfect for a Spring or Summer evening.

It's breathtaking at sunset, we like to go late afternoon so we can enjoy the last of the day's warmth, & watch the sun go down before we head home.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Little Green Fingers

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

While green fingers certainly run in my family, unfortunately it seems to have missed me completely. With that said, out of my own five children it appears that it is H in particular who has inherited the love of gardening from my father & grandfather, and he has been taking pride in potting his own plants and seeds since we started working on the garden.

We bought him a little four-tier greenhouse for him to keep all of his seeds and things in, and A helped him build it & put it out in the garden. Unfortunately we had a minor mishap with a freak gust of wind catching it & knocking it over, which meant he lost all of his newly planted seeds and a tray. He was so upset about bless his heart, so I helped him repot the Pansies & Violas and then we took him to buy new seeds & trays to replace them.

He's been sure to add extra weight to it to keep it steady this time, as clearly we didn't add enough the first time! But it seems like it will hold now so fingers crossed it doesn't happen again. He's bought some more Pansy seeds, and he also chose some Mint to grow this time, too. Perfect for mojitos...

The Mister has been busy digging out old tree stumps and levelling out other areas of the garden ready for our new pots, and pebbles for our 'garden of remembrance' for our hamsters, Sparky & Cannonbolt. The ground isn't suitable for planting at the side of the house so we'll just decorate it with pots, stones, and other knick-knacks instead.

The kids have potted up lots of lovely plants ready to decorate the garden with, and they've been taking
good care of them until the patio & tiered areas are ready for them. H is first out there with the watering can in the mornings (which he then has to wrestle with E for) and it's good to see them taking an interest.

My sister J has shown me some lovely free-standing planters which are ideal for planting veg, so I think that will be my next plan, depending on how our Summer flowers go. It'd be lovely to "grow our own" and like I said, I am rubbish at it but now H is keen I think I'll let him have a go! He & my nephew S (9) seem to be the able gardeners, maybe it just skipped a generation!

Hopefully in the coming months we should have some beautiful borders & pots full of Victoria Cross Poppies, Desert Bluebells, Sweet Peas, Black Velvet Gladioli, Anemones, and Pansies provided all goes well, and with the kids being this keen to take care of them I have high hopes for a garden bursting with colour come the Summertime.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 3 Children and It

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?
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