Thursday, 26 May 2016

#LoudnProud - 290516

Welcome to this week's #LoudnProud - your opportunity to share something that you are really proud of, to take note of an achievement or milestone no matter how big or small and to feel free to do so without being made to feel like it is wrong to enjoy and celebrate success - because it isn't, so come and shout about it.

Weight loss or fitness progress, non-scale victories, getting your teenager to actually wear a coat to school, sports or musical achievements, first steps, first words, or perhaps that the males in your household have finally grasped putting the toilet seat down after use (I live with four of them, I understand fully what a massive achievement this is) - anything goes. If you're happy or proud about it, then come & share with us and let us celebrate with you.

I'm this week's #LoudnProud host, and we would love to hear all about your special moments and achievements so please do share your posts below. We only ask for you to comment on the host post, and 1 or 2 others linkers - please do feel free to grab & display our badge, and we'd love it if you could share the linky love - thanks! The link up closes at Midnight on Sunday. Tweet @jooleroo #LoudnProud with your posts and I will RT and share them. Next week your hostess will be Sarah at Mum of Three World.

Want to know more about #LoudnProud? Check out the 'rules' here.

Mama Owl

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Our Top 5 Favourite Things about a Mark Warner Holiday | #ShepsGoToLaki

October feels like a lifetime ago, a week spent with my family enjoying the sun, sea & sand and having a much needed and well deserved break. Having had some time to reflect on our experience of Lakitira Beach Resort in Kos, I wanted to share our family's top five favourite things about our Mark Warner holiday, after our first impressions.

The top of my list, and absolutely the most important. There is something for everyone at a Mark Warner resort, it is a proper holiday for the whole family - all ages (especially teenagers who are often overlooked in terms of activities & childcare provision), special needs, kids and parents/adults, it is a fully inclusive holiday experience for all.

As a family we all have our own separate interests, and Mark Warner catered well to each of us. I enjoy fitness and working out and with a daily programme of classes on resort, I was able to dip in and out as I pleased (fitness classes are available at all MW resorts - you can also read about my experience at San Lucianu in Corsica) and not fall out of step with my health and fitness regime even when I was away.

The children loved the watersports, especially the teenagers and they had a wonderful time learning new skills and making new friends out on the water. It was about more than just keeping them busy while we were away, it helped build their confidence & I was so proud to watch them throwing themselves into the experience.
Mark Warner childcare is second to none, and aside from a small list of essentials that the kids need for their day at club everything is provided for them and included in the price of your holiday.

With me and the kids all sorted, you might wonder what the Mister did to keep himself occupied when the rest of us were all off sailing or keeping fit. At San Lu he took part in several games of Volleyball & Football, as well as the odd game of ping-pong with fellow guests and resort staff, though having had a recent shoulder op before our visit to Lakitira he was restricted solely to the evening game of MW staff vs guests Football.

Managing five children on a daily basis is no mean feat. At home they each have various activities, sports and commitments that requires me to keep them to timetable and make sure that they get from A to B on time, that they don't miss appointments, etc. When we go on holiday, I want everything done for me. I want a week of having to do and remember pretty much nothing. Mark Warner do it all, transfers from airport to resort (and back again), childcare included that you can choose when and if you want to use (including evenings if you want a quiet dinner with your partner), all meals (depending on board basis), entertainment, and all at a pace that suits me. I haven't had to arrange extras, and everything is available for us to use as and when we please.

Lakitira has a very short transfer time from airport to resort, and is flanked by two beaches, the smaller of the two generally reserved for the kids and the larger one the base for the watersports. It is very enclosed and quiet, and felt safe and secure and though it is away from the hustle and bustle, it's just a short journey into town if you do choose to venture out.

Mark Warner Holidays enable you to 'build' a package that suits you. From childcare to sports and activities, board basis, and off-resort excursions, you are able to fit your holiday to your own personal budget. Taking five children away meant upgrading to full board at Lakitira was an obvious choice for us, and we then only had to pay for drinks, bar snacks & ice creams at the end of our stay (we did this at San Lucianu also). Childcare is included in the price of your holiday (with the exception of very young babies and children), and even special needs provision is available at no extra cost, although it must be booked in advance and over the telephone. Most sports and activities on resort are also included in the price of your holiday, with others - such as cycling/bike hire, tennis coaching, and sailing courses - available at a small extra cost.

Mark Warner Holidays provided flights and half board accommodation for five people as part of the #MarkWarnerMum 2015 Ambassadorship. All opinions and words are my own.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

E turns 6 | Celebrating in style with a Gymnastics themed Birthday Party

Our house has been a flurry of activity lately, not least because of a certain young lady's 6th birthday at the end of last month. Last year for her very first proper birthday party we celebrated with a fabulous Frozen themed party with her chums from school (I think just about everyone had a Frozen party last year!) and so this year we needed to think of something new. E being a keen gymnast quickly decided on a gymnastics party at her club so we booked it up and we started to look for partyware, decorations and party favours to match her chosen theme. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to find any gymnastics designs in the UK and so decided on a turquoise & yellow colour scheme instead, creating her invitation to match and selecting gorgeous chevron designs from Party Delights who sent us items from their Dots & Chevons Party Supplies range.

E invited 15 of her friends from school and gymnastics and her club set up a course around the gym for the kids to follow, separating them off into two groups and having fun on the beams, bars, double mini as well as using the floor, trampoline and other apparatus. Upstairs at the gymnastics club they have a large party room which I set up during E's usual Saturday squad training - usually the club do this for you but as I was there anyway and they were short-staffed I offered to do it myself (and this way I could do it exactly how I wanted, too!). Jugs of squash are also included in the party price.

We catered the party ourselves with a small buffet consisting of ham & cheese rolls, various flavours of crisps, cheese savouries, cocktail sausages, mini pizzas, popcorn chicken, scotch eggs, sausage rolls, mini breadsticks, and cheese - and there would have been vegetable crudités had I not left them at home in the fridge that morning! For dessert there were raspberry mini rolls, party rings, popcorn, and brownie bites, and again there would have been strawberries if I had remembered to bring them with me!

E was delighted with the party room set up - using yellow, white and blue balloons from Party Delights (£2.49 for a pack of 10) my mum created beautiful floating decorations which we set up around the room, and brought along a big '6' balloon to go behind E's chair. The table was laid with yellow chevron plates with matching cups, and turquoise chevron napkins, to complement the bright turquoise and yellow table covers and matching food platters on the buffet and cake tables. The serving platters are made from a durable plastic and will be able to be used again & again, and at £2.99 for a 3-pack I think they are great value for money. Likewise the plastic table covers are large (1.4m x 2.8m) and we have folded them up to save them to use again another time.

I decided against making a big cake for her party and instead made plain vanilla cupcakes in bright yellow cases topped with turquoise buttercream icing, and decorated with white fondant discs with rice paper gymnastics pictures on the top. I popped them all into small individual plastic containers ready for E to hand out at the end of her party. Her actual birthday wasn't until the following Wednesday so we saved the proper cake until then - I made her a three layer vanilla sponge cake filled with buttercream and decorated with a little fondant gymnast on the top, complete with sparkly blue leotard!

Instead of party bags we opted to hand out party favours, having chosen some beautiful rhythmic gymnastics blue ribbons on dowelling rods, raspberry flavoured blue & white swirl lollipops and a winners medal for each child, along with their birthday cupcake.

Her party was a great success and everyone had lots of fun, E really enjoyed sharing her favourite hobby with her friends and was suitably exhausted by the end of the day! She received lots of lovely cards and gifts from her friends and loved spending the afternoon with her friends. On her actual birthday we had a family meal at the venue of E's choice (Frankie & Benny's) just the seven of us, before coming home and having cake. It was definitely a birthday to remember - thank you to everyone who made it special for her.

We received complimentary partyware from Party Delights for review purposes. All words are our own.
Family Fever

Monday, 9 May 2016

Meal Plan Monday 090516

Meal Plan 090516
Monday 9th
Fajita spiced chicken with peppers and red onions with salad, wraps and rice
Tuesday 10th
Pie & chips with vegetables
Wednesday 11th May
Macaroni Cheese
Thursday 12th
Spaghetti Bolognese served with garlic bread
Friday 13th
Chicken, bacon & leek lattice with mashed potato and mixed vegetables
Saturday 14th
BBQ - weather dependent!
Sunday 15th
Roast after H's end of 2015/2016 season Rugby presentation

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Celebrate the new Angry Birds Movie and #WIN four tickets to Thorpe Park Resort

A family day out with kids of varying ages can be hard work, you need to find something for everyone to enjoy and that appeals to all ages and interests. Fortunately - a theme park ticks all the boxes. We were delighted to be invited to be Thorpe Park Island Ambassadors for 2016 and enjoyed our first visit last month. Since our last visit to Thorpe Park, they've welcomed the addition of Angry Birds Land which launched in 2014 & includes attractions King Pig's Wild Hog Dodgems, the Angry Birds 4D experience, and Detonator: Bombs Away which gives you a bird’s eye view of the Resort at the top of the 100ft drop tower (before plunging you back to earth at 50mph).

The kids are big Angry Birds fans and have all played the game, and visiting Angry Birds Land was just like the app being brought to life complete with characters, big crates of 'TNT', giant catapults and colourful buildings painted to match the theme. We spent a lot of time enjoying King Pig's Wild Hog Dodgems which bring out the best and worst in my children, teaming up together and against one another as they race around trying to catch each other - there was not much 'dodging' going on as you might be able to see as my daughters chase their brothers around in this clip of their antics!

Bringing the Angry Birds world alive, Thorpe Park Resort premieres the world’s first ANGRY BIRDS 4D Experience where you can sit back and enjoy high tech movie theatre surroundings and be a part of the action as rumbling chairs catapult you through a fast-paced adventure as the Angry Birds attempt to get their precious eggs back from the dastardly King Pig. With timed air gusts, water jets, leg ticklers, flashing lights, bubbles and smoke blasts Angry Birds 4D will be have pulses racing from start to finish!

In celebration of the new Angry Birds movie which will be hitting UK theatres on May 13th, Thorpe Park are giving away a Sony TV and Home Entertainment System worth up to £1000! All you have to do to enter is click here and enter your details - it's that simple! The competition runs until June 3rd. Terms and conditions apply. Featuring a hilarious, all-star voice cast, you can join Red, Chuck and Bomb, along with the rest of Bird Island on an adventure to discover what it was that made them such Angry Birds.

In addition to Thorpe Park's amazing Sony TV and Home Entertainment System giveaway - I am pleased to offer my readers the opportunity to WIN FOUR TICKETS to Thorpe Park Resort to experience the thrills first-hand and enjoy a fantastic day out.

You do not need to have a blog to enter or leave a comment on this blog, simply use the name/URL or 'anonymous' option from the drop-down list, and please make sure that your name is in your comment if you use these options.
  • Competitions are open to UK residents aged 18 years and over.
  • The prize is four tickets to Thorpe Park Resort.
  • The giveaway ends at midnight on 3rd June 2016.
  • All entries will be verified before the winner is announced.
  • The winner will be notified via email.
  • If the prize is not claimed within 28 days a new winner will be drawn.
  • The prize is non-transferable and there is no cash alternative.
  • Invalid and incomplete entries will be removed and disqualified.
  • Please see FULL terms and conditions on the Rafflecopter Competition Widget and here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A Celebration of the 'Every Day' | #LoudnProud

You know those days where you have all of your shit together and everything goes well and you're on top of everything?

No, me neither.

Well sometimes. But not nearly often enough. Certainly not as much as I would like. I was under the (mistaken) impression that as your children get older, they need you less and you are more able to get things done and have some time for yourself. If anything I find that entire weeks go by and I haven't seen or spoken to a single one of my friends, I'm in and out of the house to various clubs, sports, events, appointments, meetings, parents evenings (and so on and so on) and if I make it to the gym or Project 6 Pack it's nothing short of a miracle. Oh - and how is it May already? What next? June?

The past couple of months have been so busy and chaotic. We are fast approaching the end of the 6th Form for A who will sit her final exams next month before heading off on her merry way to university in September. J is hurtling towards the beginning of Y11 and final GCSE preparation (in actual fact, he's sitting his final PE BTEC exam today - good luck kiddo). L has finally had an appointment at the hospital to see another specialist about his legs and has physio starting next week. H & E are the ones that keep me heading back and forth to various sporting activities but at least I get to drink coffee and give my brain a rest during the hour or two that they're busy.

So today it's my turn to host #LoudnProud, and I could share the amazing things that my kids have done recently. And I will. Just not today. Today it's about me. Today I got up and got dressed (admittedly only like ten minutes ago - strive for progress not perfection) and I got on with everything I had to do. Yes, I'm tired. My hair needs washing, or at the very least, brushing. BUT - My kids are clean, tidy, fed & watered and got to school on time with everything that they needed. Except L because he refused to take the appropriate footwear for PE, but I tried. I have no dirty laundry with the exception of what I & the kids have on today. The house is pretty tidy. The kids have been to all of their clubs and after school activities, on time with the correct kit. All the bills are up together. I've managed to work out every day this week so far. I've done the majority of this by myself because the Mister has been super busy at work all day every day (every evening, every weekend...). I'm doing a good job, so well done me. The Mister is too - well done him.

I want you to share your #LoudnProud moments. Anything and everything. School and sporting achievements. Weight loss and fitness goals. If you managed to get up and show up when you would have rather done anything but - then bloody well done. We get it, and we want to hear about it. Post it below.

Mama Owl

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Girls in STEM - Project Mc2 Doll Review

Recently in the media there have been many reports on the chronic under-representation of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths). I've seen it everywhere, from newspapers to posts on Instagram - you should check out the IG hashtags #GirlsinSTEM and #WomeninSTEM for awesome and inspiring stories of women and girls pursuing careers in STEM fields - and think it is wonderful, as a mother of two daughters I want them to reach for the stars and to know that they are capable of anything and can be whatever they want to be, and likewise for my 3 sons to support and empower their sisters in the pursuit of their dreams and future careers.

A will be heading off to university in September this year to study Sociology and American Studies, she has a goal in mind and has been working hard to reach it. E has just turned 6 and still has years left to decide what she wants to be, and I hope that she will be encouraged during her remaining school years to consider all possibilities and "think outside the box" before she decides on a final career path. As her mother I will be encouraging her to try out as many different things as possible before she moves on to the next stage of education and employment at 18, but I understand that before we reach that point - she can be influenced and inspired through play.

Project Mc2 is a collection of award-winning dolls that seek to inspire girls to explore a future in STEM (and STEAM, including Art) in a way that hasn't been done before.

"Project Mc2 is on an important mission to help advance girls in the areas of S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths). Project Mc2 is loved by both girls and adults for the fun experiment sets, fashionable real-girl inspired dolls and Emmy nominated Netflix original series. Project Mc2 also empowers girls to explore S.T.E.A.M related themes in a way that's relatable and engaging to them. The Project Mc2 brand believes "Smart is the new Cool" - and we want girls everywhere to celebrate it!"

Having had the pleasure of owning a myriad of various toys and games in the almost 18 years that I have been a parent I have to say that the Project Mc2 collection is a breath of fresh air in terms of dolls. Like many children, E loves her doll collection and has amassed several boxes of them (after inheriting her sister's collection some years back) which she drags out and spreads across the living room most afternoons after school. What I particularly like about the Project Mc2 dolls (RRP £24.99) is that each character has her own set of skills from coding, chemistry and digital technology and also comes complete with their very own experiment for your child to carry out at home. They can build McKeyla’s lava lamp or Camryn’s skateboard, make Adrienne’s volcano erupt or Bryden’s glow stick light up, and all of the experiments use products you can find in your store cupboard at home (things like vegetable oil, and tonic water).

E was sent the McKeyla McAlister doll to review which includes the lava light experiment and received a big thumbs up from E. She loves crafting, and making & building things so a doll that has its own experiment that she can use again and again with different food colourings (perhaps even a bit of glitter to mix things up a bit) was going to be a surefire hit. So much so that we bought her another doll from the collection, Bryden Bandweth (who comes with a glow stick), for her birthday last week.

Visit where your child can become an honorary member of NOV8 and play games, take quizzes, watch videos, learn more about the girls from Project Mc2 and even ask them questions. Download the free app, Project Mc2 Case Files, from the App Store to go on missions for NOV8. Collect evidence and analyse the clues to solve the case. If your child is playing on a smart phone, they can pop the device into the A.D.I.S.N. Notebook for added secret spy mission play, just like McKeyla McAlister. Use the key code in the back on the booklet included with A.D.I.S.N. to unlock even more clues - with over 1000 missions to play on the app, NOV8 will certainly keep them busy.

You can also follow on Facebook (Project Mc2 UK), twitter (@ProjectMc2UK) and Instagram (Project_Mc2UK) for exclusive product news, competitions and more.
Family Fever
E received a complimentary McKeyla McAlister doll for review purposes. All words and opinions are our own.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Meal Plan Monday 020516

Meal Plan 020516
Monday 2nd
Spaghetti bolognese served with garlic bread
Tuesday 3rd
Fajita spiced chicken with peppers and red onions with salad & wraps (served with brown rice for me)
Wednesday 4th May
Macaroni Cheese (grilled chicken with a large mixed salad for me)
Thursday 5th
Toad in the hole
Friday 6th
Homemade chicken korma curry & rice
Saturday 7th
Currently undecided
Sunday 8th
Roast Gammon

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.