Mama OWL Blog: 2016

A Festive Feast at The Frome Flyer

Friday, 9 December 2016

Christmas Day when I was growing up was always a big event, culminating in the family dinner mid afternoon with everyone together around the table. It just isn't Christmas without a beautiful roast dinner, and Mum & Dad always put on a fantastic feast with all of the trimmings. No expense was spared and they always put so much effort into making it a memorable day for us, so when I was invited to visit The Frome Flyer to sample their Festive menu recently I decided to invite my parents as well as my in-laws out to treat them all to a Christmas dinner that they wouldn't have to cook!
More importantly, I wouldn't have to cook it either.
The Frome Flyer is a Table Table restaurant in Somerset, part of the Whitbread Inn family, offering traditional pub dishes and good value for money. We were greeted warmly by staff and seated after a short wait at the bar on what was seemingly an exceptionally busy Wednesday evening. We had pre-booked our menu choices in advance, so after a quick recap of our order we enjoyed drinks as we waited for our food to arrive. We had all gone for the traditional main course choice of Roast Turkey, and we all opted for the classic Prawn Cocktail starter except for my father-in-law who chose to have the Garlic & Herb Breaded Mushrooms, served with a BBQ sauce.
The starter was beautiful, accompanied by a crisp salad and brown bloomer with butter and was enjoyed by everyone, and there was not long to wait until our main course arrived. The Roast Turkey is served with crispy roast potatoes, a Yorkshire pudding, sprouts, pig in blanket, chestnut and cranberry stuffing, roasted carrots and gravy with some cranberry sauce on the side. The portions were very generous and I think for three courses, considering the size of the helpings, £16.49 is very reasonable.
Dessert for most of us was a delicious and very sweet Christmas Brownie served warm with mince pie ice cream, caramel & chocolate sauce and topped with festive gold stars, while my father-in-law enjoyed Mince Pie ice cream and a wafer. Other options for dessert are traditional Christmas pudding with chopped cranberries and brandy sauce, or lemon cheesecake with lemon curd and drizzled with raspberries in sauce.
There are a wide range of choices for all three courses which also include vegetarian options, and additional extras like cauliflower cheese, or coffee and a mince pie. We all thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience at The Frome Flyer with pleasant staff and a lovely relaxed atmosphere. The food was delicious and well cooked with generous helpings, and was served promptly without any long waits between courses. For two courses, the price is just £12.49 but in my opinion you'd be missing out if you didn't have all three which is only £16.49 (and so worth it for that Christmas Brownie!)
To make your Festive Menu booking at your nearest Table Table restaurant, visit the website at
We were invited to Table Table's The Frome Flyer restaurant to sample their Festive Menu for review purposes. All words and opinions are our own.

Family Fever

Remembering These Days | Blogging Our Memories

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The drafts folder of my blog has more half finished posts than I wish to acknowledge. My kids are reaching an age where they don't necessarily need or want everything documented, but at the same time I do want to keep a record of our life, the things we enjoyed, the places we went, the little things that one day I will have forgotten all about - like the time L got E to draw a moustache on her own face and all hell broke loose during the 30 minutes I had gone out for on a 'Santa run' one Christmas. I think that this blog is important to continue, and I want it here in case the day ever comes that I can't remember, so at least I can read about it and smile.

There has been so much going on over the past few months that I have all these things I want to get written down (or rather, typed) but I still haven't managed it. So this is me saying I am going to start making more of an effort to keep it together, to organise the chaos in my brain into words and get it 'on paper', so to speak. I have been taking an online Social Media Marketing course in a bid to branch out into freelance and make more use of the skills I have taught myself over the last few years, and to hopefully end up with a recognised qualification at the end of it - I'm currently busy reviewing the class slides and webinar recordings ready to take the exam. I'll be continuing with the Advanced Social Media Marketing diploma in January, in addition to a Blogging and Content Marketing course that I'll be taking at the same time.

The children are all growing up, and fast. Our home life has changed so much this year, both big changes and small but all making their impact felt in our day to day life. A has gone off to uni, J and L are both studying for GCSEs with J in his final year meaning college and sixth form applications and lots of revision, H is in his last year at primary and has just turned 11 a couple of weeks ago so it's all getting very real and emotional for him. E will have SATs next year, and is constantly at gymnastics squad training (she's up to five hours a week now) which is a lot of pressure for a six year old but she absolutely loves it and is so good at it too. The boys are all still playing sports which means lots of running around to their football, rugby, and tae kwon do, and I am also the admin for H's rugby which is of course extra responsibility for me but a role I really enjoy - even if just for the social aspect because that is the closest thing I have to a social life these days, we've made some great friends through rugby.

Now of course Christmas is coming, and I feel massively unprepared, it is only 18 days away and I am simply not ready. This time last year I am fairly certain that I was ready to go - everything wrapped, groceries ordered, everything prepared and in place for the big day. This year? I haven't even started, everything is half finished and half assed and I feel completely overwhelmed. I've made a mental note to begin preparing for next Christmas in January, I feel like I have dropped the ball this year and I have tried to spread myself too thinly with our family commitments - lesson learned.

So if anyone else feels like they are slowly losing their grip, that they have too much to do and not enough time or money to do it, then rest assured that you are not alone. Just think, in a couple of weeks we can start drinking prosecco at breakfast time and nobody will bat an eyelid. Hang in there.


A Very Shopkins™ Christmas

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

If you have a child in primary school then I am relatively confident that you will have heard of Shopkins™. I have been trying to resist but they are now very slowly infiltrating the house and E is completely obsessed - every time I hear the distinctive "Shopkins, Shopkiiiiiins" tune playing from the TV it is sure to be followed by a little voice shouting "MUUUUM - CAN I HAVE THIS FOR CHRISTMAS PLEASE?".

The new Shopkins™ Kinstructions sets offer hours of building and construction fun with a huge variety of colourful Shopkins™ locations and scenery. The mix and match buildable figures allow your child's imagination to run wild and create their very own Shopkins™ characters, and each Shopkins™ Kinstructions set contains at least two!
The sets start at £4.99 (just the right size for a stocking stuffer) and these mini pack assortments include two shopping trolley and two checkout sets, with two different characters inside such as the Shopkins™ Kinstructions Shopping Cart with Freezy Peasy & Wild Carrot. Larger sets, like the Shopkins™ Kinstructions Fashion Boutique are £9.99 and are perfect for 'on-trend' Shopkins™, featuring hairdryer, till, and two seats for Shopkins™ as well as including three fashion inspired Shopkins™.
The Kinstructions sets are also compatible with other construction kits to make for endless creative play, as well as lending themselves to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning possibilities. Trends UK have a wide variety of Shopkins™ Kinstructions sets including the larger £19.99 sets like the 175pc Cupcake Café with four cute little characters that can be separated and rebuilt.
The sets are hugely collectible and are the big thing in the playground at the moment, E is very keen to expand her collection and they are a great toy for hours of imaginative play so I am more than happy to encourage her and I have a feeling that Father Christmas will have a set or 2 (or 3 or 4...) under the tree for her this year.
E received Shopkins Kinstructions sets for review purposes. All words and opinions are our own.

Keep Cosy this Autumn with an Ollie and Leila Snuggle Sac

Monday, 24 October 2016

The nights are drawing in and there's a definite chill in the air, Autumn is very much upon us and we all find our minds turning to cosy evenings in at home in the warm with hot chocolates, snuggly warm clothes, and our favourite comfort foods.
E - like me - loves to cuddle up in front of the telly on a chilly, dark Autumn evening and so Ollie and Leila have sent her a Snuggle Sac to help keep her cosy & warm on the sofa. There are several different fun designs to choose from including polka dots, stars, pirates, and fairies, but E opted for their adorable Pony design in a super soft fleecy material with 100% cotton lining. It even comes with its own tote bag, which makes it ideal for taking to sleepovers or when she goes to stay at little Nanny and Grampy's house, all she has to do is slip her favourite pillow in the pocket at the top.

As is often the case during the colder months, poor E has been suffering with one of the many bugs that has been going around and her Snuggle Sac has been a godsend - she's been wrapped up on the sofa without me having to lug her bedclothes up and down the stairs, and for ease of care it is machine washable as well as able to be popped in the tumble drier. E is a typical girly girl and loves pink, flowers and ponies, the bunting is a gorgeous embellishment on the horse & stable design and E adores it.
Ollie and Leila boast a huge range of products exclusively for children in many stunning designs including beautifully crafted furniture handmade to order as well as soft furnishings, bedroom accessories, and storage options of all shapes and sizes.
E received a complimentary Snuggle Sac from Ollie and Leila for review purposes. All words and opinions are our own.

FRIGHT NIGHTS at Thorpe Park Resort - DO YOU DARE?

Saturday, 8 October 2016

On Thursday night Thorpe Park Resort held a preview evening of this year's FRIGHT NIGHTS, which is also an anniversary celebration of 15 years of FEAR! I attended with the Mister, our eldest son J (15) and his friend C. As the experiences are quite intense, they are not recommended for children under the age of 13 or for those with a more sensitive disposition so we left the younger kids at home with their grandparents.
Our evening started with being chased across the car park by zombies and verbally abused by a bad tempered clown, the characters throughout the evening were brilliant and not a single cast member broke character even when they were simply crossing the park from one attraction to another (making eye contact usually resulted in you being chased or growled at!). We enjoyed wonderful hospitality from Thorpe Park on our arrival with delicious refreshments at Fin's Bar & Grill before making our way in to the park to face our fears & see just what #FRIGHTNIGHTS2016 had to offer!

My biggest fear is clowns so I admit that visiting The Big Top was not particularly appealing, but if you're going to do FRIGHT NIGHTS then you absolutely have to give everything a go - that's all part of the fun! We enjoyed several turns on all of the big rollercoasters - SAW: The Ride (my first time, and it was absolutely gut wrenching!), Stealth, Colossus, Nemesis Inferno, and The Swarm - as well as a turn on the Samurai, and we managed to get around all of the mazes except Containment over the course of the evening. A highlight was Derren Brown's Ghost Train, I won't give anything away but it's an intense and exciting new experience that must been seen to be believed.

The Big Top was as petrifying as expected with lighting effects that played with your mind, so when clowns leapt out of nowhere it was even more terrifying because you couldn't possibly have seen it coming! It was fantastic and frightening all at the same time, we ran out of there not knowing whether to laugh or cry! The Cabin in the Woods was equally as freaky, after choosing a door to go through we were met with lots of weird and scary characters throughout making us jump out of our skin at every turn. Blair Witch left us screaming in terror as we walked through the darkest woods I think I have ever been in, as cast members appeared from the shadows and frightened the bejesus out of us - my live feed on Facebook might have been shot in complete darkness but the viewers were left in no doubt as to how scared we all were!

So much work has gone into the creation of these attractions and experiences, the attention to detail from props and sets to characters and stories is phenomenal and the actors are flawless. Thorpe Park have pulled out all the stops to ensure that this year's FRIGHT NIGHTS is the scariest yet. The mazes are cleverly thought out and will have you torn between shrieking with fear and screaming with laughter. Fantastic fun and spookily brilliant - FRIGHT NIGHTS 2016 is absolutely not to be missed!
You can book tickets online at, and don't forget that my competition to WIN 4 tickets to FRIGHT NIGHTS is open until midnight on October 12th.
We visited Thorpe Park Fright Nights for review purposes. All words and opinions are our own.

FRIGHT NIGHTS 2016 at Thorpe Park - #WIN 4 TICKETS!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Thorpe Park Resort’s FRIGHT NIGHTS returns in all its gore-y for the nation’s premiere Halloween event’s 15th Birthday celebrations on selected dates from 7 October – 31 October with an all-new scare maze, Platform 15. Platform 15 is set in the Park’s woodlands; it is the largest scare maze to date covering 450 metres. Guests will depart on a one way ticket along an overgrown railway line which is the last known route of the Sleeper Express, a locomotive that disappeared into thin air with all passengers still on board... Take your turn to walk the Island’s backroads which have never before been accessible to the public. Guests will face a deserted railroad, explosions, séances, Ouija boards and pitch black forestry. They may also find themselves hunted and chased in the depths of the forest, so they must tread carefully and not disturb the grounds – zombie ‘Sleepers’ hidden amongst the trees may awaken. The scare doesn’t stop there, in partnership with Lionsgate the Blair Witch scare maze has received an overhaul to tie in with the new film’s twisted tale.
This year’s Fright Nights offers guests five free scare mazes included in Park Entry:
• Platform 15: New for 2016 an off the track dark experience into the Park’s woodlands
• Blair Witch: In partnership with Lionsgate this Fright Nights staple has received a 2016 update in keeping with what looks to be 2016 scariest horror movie yet
• The Big Top: the carnival comes to town once again this October. Reimagined for 2016 with even more clowns
• Cabin in The Woods: Based on the Lionsgate movie, visitors will tour a seemingly innocent rustic cabin, but what lies behind each door is not so pure
• Saw Alive: The Maze: Another Lionsgate special, visitors will come face to face with the sadistic Billy puppet and face his nightmarish games
And one paid for scare experience, Containment, where guests must escape the horror under timed conditions (£10 per person). As part of the Park’s birthday celebrations, roaming scare actors will be unleashed on the Park after 6pm, so the scares will continue outside the mazes. Guests can choose which characters arrive at the Park by voting on the Thorpe Park Official Facebook page. They can choose from a selection of frightful fiends who have graced Fright Nights mazes over the past 15 years, and bring them back to the Park for one last scare.
In addition to the Resort’s Fright Nights attractions, the Park’s flagship rollercoasters will be open until late too including Stealth, Colossus, Saw-The Ride, Nemesis and SWARM. Tickets prices start at £29.99 and you can book here:
  • FRIGHT NIGHTS begins on 7 October and runs through 7-9, 14-16, and 21 – 31 October
  • Park opening times: 10am – 10pm, Fright Nights attractions open at 3pm
  • Prices: Adult tickets start from £29.99
  • Overnight Experience packages start from £249 for two and includes two day Park tickets, complimentary parking, free access to CONTAINMENT, exclusive maze FastTrack between 3.00-3.30 pm (excluding Blair Witch, the 28th-30th of October), exclusive campfire stories and hot buffet breakfast
  • For more information and to book visit - Pre-booking is strongly advised
  • NB: THORPE PARK Fright Nights may be too intense for young children and is not recommended for anyone under the age of 13. Experiences are subject to availability
Guests can experience THORPE PARK Resort’s famous horror attractions into the night and ride five world-class roller coasters (THE SWARM, Stealth, SAW – The Ride, Nemesis Inferno, Colossus). Or trick or treat yourself to a VIP package including back-stage horror passes and the scarily-popular Face it Alone experience, returning for its second year at Fright Nights.
Cabin in the Woods: The Maze Winner Best Halloween Scare Attraction SCARS 2014 Experience a frightening live recreation of this ground-breaking satirical horror film. Visitors will tour the seemingly innocent rustic cabin, within which lies a secret facility that unleashes nightmarishly hideous ‘beings’. A fully immersive, brilliantly themed maze where visitors can influence the outcome and come face to face with the nightmare and devastation that is, The Cabin In The Woods.
Following Lionsgate's recent release of Blair Witch, the highly anticipated sequel to horror classic The Blair Witch Project, FRIGHT NIGHTS reintroduces BLAIR WITCH Experience the game-changing horror movies for yourself as you venture deep into the Black Hills Forest to discover the truth behind the legend of the Blair Witch. Remember: Never spend the night. Never look in her eyes. Never turn away from the corner. There’s something evil hiding in the woods - dare you enter after night fall?
SAW Alive: The Maze
Guess who’s coming to play? From the twisted minds that created the world’s most terrifying rollercoaster SAW - The Ride, comes the world’s most extreme live action maze – now with even more evil for 2015! Visitors will come face to face with the sadistic Billy puppet and face his nightmarish games…winding their way through this brilliantly themed multi-roomed maze.
Grab your ticket to the greatest scare on Earth as the carnival comes to town once again this October. Reimagined for 2016, twist your way through THE BIG TOP, a carnival comes back to life to terrorise those who dare to trespass. Will you succumb to the torturous antics of the wicked Figaro Bros. as they return for another year of crazed debauchery?
Face your fears and make the ultimate timed escape inside THORPE PARK Resort’s newest scare experience CONTAINMENT. In groups of ten, you’ll be locked inside of four haunt rooms, inspired by many of the UK’s worst nightmares, and tasked with breaking the codes to make your way through to the end… all in hopes of finding the antidote to a spreading infection. Will you and your team surrender to the outbreak or have what it takes to breakout of CONTAINMENT? A combination of special effects and live actors will help guide, or disturb, you in this unique scare experience. This is a paid for experience, and costs £10 per person.
Campfire Stories
Join us at Campfire Stories and hear some of the untold stories of FRIGHT NIGHTS. We delve deep into the past 15 years and uncover some of the darkest secrets that haunt over the Island. Did you know THORPE PARK Resort was built on Chertsey Abbey’s ancient burial ground, disturbing the monks buried beneath? Legend has it that the monks were possessed, given that their monastery was built way back in 666AD. Some say their spirits still haunt THORPE PARK Resort - and that FRIGHT NIGHTS was a guise to cover when they’re most active. We’ll tell you the stories of what happens when the island changes after dark and is being possessed by the paranormal…
Are you brave enough to enter my giveaway? I am pleased to offer my readers the opportunity to WIN FOUR TICKETS to Thorpe Park Resort's FRIGHT NIGHTS to experience the thrills first-hand, but hurry - the competition closes on October 12th!
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 FRIGHT NIGHTS @ Thorpe Park Resort.
  • The giveaway ends at midnight on 12th October 2016.
  • All entries will be verified before the winner is announced.
  • The winner will be notified via email.
  • 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.

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More competitions at The Prize Finder.

Turning 13 at Thorpe Park - L's Birthday Celebrations

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

L's birthday has been and gone and we have now welcomed (??!!) teenager #3 to the house. His birthday has always posed a dilemma in terms of celebrations with it being smack bang in the middle of the school holidays, and with his additional challenges it hasn't always turned out how we would have liked so instead we opt for family days out in lieu of a party and we always have a great time. This year being Thorpe Park Island Ambassadors has provided us with the perfect venue for his 13th birthday, such a special milestone that he will always remember and a fun family day out.

I think the whole family's favourite ride is King Pig's Wild Hog Dodgems in Angry Birds Land, they would happily go around and around on them all day long if they could. They are definitely L's favourite ride and always the first thing he asks to go on. We also love the Rumba Rapids and were lucky enough to manage several turns on the ride right at the end of the day though we were pretty soaked by the time we made our way back to the car (which is why we always take a change of clothes! - top tip).
It was a beautiful sunny day & we managed to get around most of the rides that we wanted to have a go on, though unfortunately the Mister's favourite - Stealth - was not in operation that day and neither was the new attraction, Derren Brown's Ghost Train, which J had been very keen to try out. These things happen though and while it's disappointing, safety is paramount so we are looking forward to riding them on our next visit. The Ghost Train promises 'a revolutionary multi-sensory virtual reality experience, reinvented for the 21st century' so the older kids are chomping at the bit to try it - we're planning another visit very soon so they'll not have to wait long!

Our day was action packed, with rides on Colossus, the Rocky Express, Zodiac, and the Flying Fish to name just a few. We had a great time, and ended our day with a family dinner in the all you can eat Pizza & Pasta Buffet where Annual Pass holders can enjoy a 20% discount. Pizza is L's favourite food and I think we will be eating there at every visit from now on. Back at home we celebrated with an Angry Birds cake, which was store bought and then personalised at home with his name and age. All in all, it was a fantastic day and one we all thoroughly enjoyed - we can't wait until our next trip so we can do it all over again! Although next time sadly won't include birthday cake...

We are Thorpe Park Island Ambassadors 2016. All words and opinions are our own.

Packing for University

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The A-level results are in and I am delighted to share that A achieved the required grades to secure her place at her first choice University studying her chosen degree subjects. No panic, no clearing, no last minute changes. It's in the bag, she has done it, and her Dad and I could not be more proud.
Now the time for her to leave is fast approaching and it has all suddenly become very real. For the past two years throughout her time in the Sixth Form we have discussed Uni and what will happen next, and here we are days away from loading up the car, driving her up there and dropping her off. Her father & I have booked a nearby hotel overnight for her first night there and will head back the next day, leaving her to settle in to her new home. She definitely needs to be independent now and I think living alone so far from home will do her the world of good, it will give her the space and time she needs to find her feet - and learn to stand on them. She has studied and worked since she turned 16 as was our expectation and she has managed well, the trick now will be doing everything else at the same time. I have faith in her ability to juggle it all & while it will be a steep learning curve I think it will be the making of her.
However, with all of that said I did watch her put her shoes on the wrong feet the other day when she was getting ready for work...

We have been busily compiling lists of things that she will need to take, things that we will need to buy to kit out her room in halls, and starting the mammoth task of sorting out all of her belongings - what to pack, what to store, what to throw away. I've been scouring the Uni website and all of Google trying to figure out what she is going to need and to be honest I'm not really any the wiser for my searching but we have a basic list and will add to it as and when needed. Her halls will have a shared kitchen, so we are waiting until moving in day to see what everyone else has brought with them, hopefully avoiding ending up with six toasters, three kettles etc.

Her room is a standard one with single bed, and shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. We need to kit out her whole room and have started off with a Silentnight Complete Bed Set package comprising a 10.5 tog duvet, pillow, and mattress protector (which are all machine washable) from for £28.99, to go with her new duvet set. We opted for a two pack duvet set so that she has one for washing and one for using (in theory...). Also on our list is;
2 pop-up laundry baskets (one dirty, one clean)
Desk lamp
Storage boxes/Tubs
Hair dryer/Straighteners
Toiletries (Shampoo, shower gel etc)
Medical supplies (Paracetamol, plasters etc)
Cleaning supplies (Anti-bac wipes, sponges...)
Comfy cushion & throw (for taking to the common room)
Air freshener (a must for a teenager's room!)
Clothes Airer
Bath towels
Make up mirror
Bathroom cleaning supplies (particularly for a shared bathroom)
Plates/Mugs/Bowls/Glasses (two of each)
Cooking utensils/Measuring jug
Pots/Pans/Oven dishes
Slow Cooker
Grater/Peeler/Masher/Wooden spoon/Whisk
Kitchen knives/Scissors/Chopping boards
Can Opener/Pizza Cutter/Corkscrew/Bottle opener
Tea towels/Oven gloves
Microwave Soup Bowl
Sticky labels
Thumb tacks/Blu tack
Sewing kit
My living room currently looks like her bedroom has exploded in there because she has brought everything downstairs in order to make sure it's packed correctly and that she has everything that she needs, and she is even using her sister's gymnastics chin-up bar as a clothes rail. Chaos is definitely winning in my house today.
Although it is the start of an exciting new chapter for A, it is the end of an era for me. I remember her being placed into my arms and meeting her for the very first time, this beautiful, tiny mewling pink bundle that relied on me for everything... Watching her grow  has been bittersweet, and Saturday will be another of the many times I will have had to stand & watch and simply wave her off as she heads out on her own - from the very beginning when she went to nursery, to starting primary school, and then up to senior school. Now she is moving 3 hours away, and despite the butting heads and disagreements, I will miss her terribly. She might be 18 and she might think she is a grown up now, but she will always, always be my little girl.
A received a complimentary bed set for review purposes. All words and opinions are my own.

Family Fever

Meal Plan Monday 220816

Monday, 22 August 2016

Another E meal planning special, I've bought myself alternative things to eat because frankly I can't be bothered to argue - if this is what they want, this is what they can have. It's Summer, I'm all about a quiet life and happy kids with full tummies.
Meal Plan 220816
Monday 22nd
Spaghetti Bolognese with garlic bread
(I had steak, halloumi and rocket salad with cherry tomatoes)
Tuesday 23rd
Variations of Brinner*
Wednesday 24th August
Mac & Cheese with crispy bacon bits
(I'm having pulled pork burgers with salad)
Thursday 25th
Cottage Pie
Friday 26th
Chicken Fajitas with mixed peppers and red onions in tortilla wraps (served with rice for me) and quesadillas for E
Saturday 27th
Fish Fingers & Chips with peas
(Steak for me & the Mr as it's his birthday)
Sunday 28th

Meal Plan Monday 150816

Monday, 15 August 2016

E wanted a turn writing the meal plan as H did it last week (anything for a quiet life) however she is put out that we have a very busy week and so she hasn't been able to plan the entire week, which means that she will also be doing next week's meal plan. Take a wild guess at who runs the house. Yep. Not me.
Meal Plan 150816
Monday 15th
Macaroni Cheese with broccoli & bacon
Tuesday 16th
We are going to the beach today, so probably fish & chips before we head home and a picnic on the sand during the day
Wednesday 17th August
Thursday 18th
Chicken Fajitas with mixed peppers and red onions in tortilla wraps (served with rice for me) and quesadillas for E
Friday 19th
It's L's 13th birthday today so he gets to pick
(I'm willing to bet it will be pizza or KFC)
Saturday 20th
Fish fingers served with chips and baked beans
Sunday 21st
We're off to Thorpe Park for the day today, so whatever we fancy when we get there!

Finding Calm Amongst The Chaos

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

This year has been... Challenging. So many changes in my life and at home, lots of ups and downs, new beginnings. The kids are all in for some big changes this coming school year and the stress of it all has been hard to manage. My brain has felt chaotic for months, trying to navigate my way through as well as steer the kids at the same time whilst still managing the day to day has been hard work. But I've done it and we are all still in one piece. The Summer holidays were welcomed with open arms, some days the end of July felt a very long way off. Though perhaps ask me again in a couple more weeks I'll probably be counting down the days until they go back to school...

A couple of weeks ago our eldest turned 18 and a month today, it will be Uni 'moving in day' for her - depending on those A level results next week of course. I think that A thought that turning 18 turned her into an adult, she has yet to realise that that actually comes from experience and she has a while to wait yet, and a lot of growing up still to do. In a few weeks she will have to go and stand on her own two feet, manage her own finances and pay her own way - rent, bills, her own mobile phone... The bank of mum and dad is closed, except in cases of emergency. I've talked before about how to raise a successful human being, now it's time to put it into practice.
After starting his GCSEs way back in year 9, it's now 'game day' for J with him going in to year 11 in September. He's got lots to look forward to this year - turning 16 in February and going on the school ski trip to Andorra not long after that, and of course the prom after his final exams but there is also a lot of work to be done and he's got to knuckle down and really put his mind to it. I know he is capable of achieving good results, the trick will be getting him to realise this too. Wish us luck!
Year 7 was very difficult for L but I am pleased to say that year 8 was a vast improvement. In September he will start year 9 and begin his GCSE studies. He chose his options at the end of last term, and has been supported well at school to make the best choices for his needs. He has grown up so much in the past year, physically and emotionally. I'm looking forward to seeing where the next year takes us and the progress he will make, he is growing up to be a funny and lovely young man and I am so proud of how far he has come after a very difficult start to school life.
It's the final year of primary school for H starting in September, year 6 is looming. He was emotional on the last day of term with all of his friends in year 6 heading off to new adventures at their chosen secondary schools. I also think the realisation that that will be him next year had started to sink in, he's a strapping lad for 10 but he is also very sensitive and thoughtful, the transition to 'big school' could be a tough one for him but we have a year to prepare. I know he will love it, but I'm glad he still has another year to be a little kid and enjoy primary school. They do change once they get to senior school and I'm not quite ready to let him grow up just yet.
Last but by no means least, E will be starting year 2. She has absolutely flown through the past two years at school and I struggle to keep up with her at times. She's a whirlwind and constantly needs things to keep her inquisitive mind occupied. She wants to see and know and do, and while she is still a little sponge I will keep feeding her with everything she needs to flourish (though it's bloody exhausting at times). She managed to complete all of the reading levels at school by the end of term to become a 'free reader', and so far through the holidays she has had me printing off crosswords and word searches as well as making up spelling tests for her. She's completed this year's Summer Reading Challenge, and brought home three more books from the library to celebrate. There is just no stopping her, she is a real force of nature.
It's such a cliché but I honestly don't know where the time has gone. Next week I'll have three teenagers with L turning 13 on Friday, and then this time next year I'll have only one child left in primary school. At times I find myself sitting at the kitchen table at mealtimes just watching them all and wondering where the bloody years went. Where are my kids? Who are these huge hulking men taking up all the room on the sofa? Why do I have no food left when I only went shopping yesterday?

With things a little calmer at home for the next few weeks, I plan to try and get back into blogging, I've missed having the time to put my thoughts into words and I think for me it helps keep the noise in my brain down to a dull roar to have an outlet for it - hopefully it will help me find some calm in amongst all of the chaos. Right now the Summer is in full swing and we are making the most of it - we've enjoyed the beach, the park and some swimming as well as fun at home in the garden and trips to the cinema which I'll look forward to sharing with you soon.

The Summer Reading Challenge 2016 | The Big Friendly Read

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Summer Reading Challenge 2016 is well underway, but there is still time to join in. Every year, thousands of families all over the country take part in the UK’s biggest reading event for children in libraries run by the charity The Reading Agency.

The idea of the challenge is to encourage children to read any six books (fact or fiction, or even magazines or audio books) of their choice from their local library during the summer holidays. Every year there is a different theme - last year was Record Breakers and the year before was the fabulous Mythical Maze; this year it is The Big Friendly Read, linking up with the global year-long Roald Dahl 100 celebrations, to honour the world's No.1 Storyteller.

Unfortunately H didn't want to take part in the challenge this year, which is aimed at children aged between four and eleven and is run at nearly all libraries across the UK (and is completely free!). As a compromise, he and I chose a new book each for him and for L and they are both reading them over the Summer. At the end of the holidays they will be writing me a short book report. I think it is so important to encourage reading through the Summer to prevent any 'dip' in progress during their break, and also just because I want them to learn to love reading and all of the adventures books can take them on.

A photo posted by jooleroo (@jooleroo) on

We have made several trips to the library already and E is ready to go back and choose books five and six, she loves the little Roald Dahl collector postcards - brilliantly illustrated by Quentin Blake - that she receives for each book she finishes, which also come with a folder to keep them in. Some of them are even scratch 'n' sniff!

A photo posted by jooleroo (@jooleroo) on

E can't wait to receive her certificate and medal at the end of the challenge, this is her third year of taking part and she is always so proud of her achievement when she finishes. She is an amazing reader for someone so young and I love that she shares a love of reading with me. Long may it continue.

Meal Plan Monday 080816

Monday, 8 August 2016

H wanted to choose this week's meal plan, frankly he's given me an easy life with his choices so I'm not complaining! Might let him do it every week...
Meal Plan 080816
Monday 8th
Burgers, chips and salad
Tuesday 9th
Wednesday 10th August
Thursday 11th
Macaroni Cheese
Friday 12th
Chicken Fajitas with mixed peppers and red onions in tortilla wraps (served with rice for me)
Saturday 13th
Fish fingers served with chips and baked beans
Sunday 14th
Roast Gammon

Education & Support during Pregnancy and beyond from The Daisy Foundation

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Whether you are expecting your first or your fifth baby, pregnancy can be an emotional and overwhelming experience. As a mother of five I know that advice and information can change enormously over time - for example some things recommended during my first pregnancy in 1998 were no longer recommended in 2010 when I had my youngest - and so finding good sources of unbiased education and support is very important. The Daisy Foundation offers expectant and new parents a community of friendship, support & information with a range of classes & workshops around the United Kingdom.

The Daisy Foundation visited The Baby Show at Birmingham NEC in May this year, offering workshops to visitors to the show. My sister Emily is expecting her fourth daughter in September this year and was delighted to be offered the opportunity to sample one of their classes. With workshops based on pregnancy, birthing, and baby care as well as relaxation methods, yoga and baby massage, Emily opted to attend the Sleep Workshop as she could then apply it to her older three children in order to build a good routine for the whole family, especially when the new baby arrives. Emily enjoyed the Sleep Workshop, finding that the teacher was friendly and informative, providing all of the attendees with information and advice for encouraging good sleeping habits and safe sleeping. Emily thinks that the workshop would be particularly useful for first time parents, and enjoyed the opportunity to find out the latest advice being offered.

To find your nearest class or workshop please visit The Daisy Foundation website, or you can follow them on Twitter or Facebook for all of the latest news and information.

#LoudnProud - 070716

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Welcome to this week's #LoudnProud - giving you the opportunity to share something that you are really proud of, to note 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, sports or musical achievements, first steps, first words - 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 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

Encourage Your Kids to #EnjoyMoreWater

Sunday, 26 June 2016

As an active, sporty family it has always been important to me to encourage the children to enjoy water and I think I have been quite fortunate that all five of them are happy to drink it without wanting or needing to add anything to it, and without any battles. They will always choose water over other drinks and we have a ready supply of bottles of water in the fridge to grab and go on our way to all of our various sports and activities.

My husband and I choose to lead by example and we both drink between 2-4 litres of water a day, often more. My husband is a tradesman so is very active throughout the day as well as a keen footballer for a local team, in addition to coaching our eldest son's football team, so staying hydrated is a priority for his health and wellbeing. I myself am also very fit & active, attending the gym and fitness classes throughout the week meaning I need to ensure that my body is hydrated to keep everything in tip top shape.

The children all have their own favourite sports and hobbies, and always take at least one bottle of water with them. During any given week, between them we can often spend 3 hours at gymnastics, 2-4 hours at rugby, 2 hours at swimming, an hour at tae kwon-do, 2 hours at after school sports clubs, and between 2-5 hours at football as well as their usual school PE lessons. (No, I don't know how I get anything else done either...)

My children understand that drinking plenty of water is imperative to their health especially when taking part in sports and activities, but with two out of three (64%) parents saying that they don't know how much water their children should be drinking each day, and 42% saying that their children find the taste of water 'boring', Robinsons launched the Enjoying Drinking Water campaign in January 2016 to encourage those who might need a bit of help with their recommended daily intake. The Robinsons Squash'd range is a tasty way to enjoy drinking more water, with no added sugar and free from artificial colours and preservatives, the teeny bottles of super concentrated squash (tiny enough to pop into your handbag or picnic basket but containing 20 servings) are a great way to help you and your kids to stay refreshed this Summer.

The children were more than happy to give these six delicious Robinsons Squash'd flavours (including Summer Fruits, Lemon & Lime, and Orange & Peach) a go, and they were easy for them to use too - they just had to flip, squeeze, and enjoy. We took them along to their training sessions and classes, I popped two bottles in my bag each time so they had a choice of flavours to enjoy during their activity. My top tip to help your kids enjoy more water is simply to always have a bottle to hand, multi-packs of small bottles are very inexpensive and can be refilled - we always have a supply of water in the fridge chilled & ready to pick up and go on a busy day or to grab on our way out to classes or training, and if you have a Squash'd handy, water need never be "boring" again!

This post is an entry for BritMums #EnjoyMoreWater challenge, sponsored by Robinsons.

Celebrating Sporting Achievements | #LoudnProud - 200616

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The past couple of months have been exceptionally busy for us in terms of sporting achievements. With 4 out of 5 of my children heavily involved in various sports (while the eldest is nose deep in revision for her final A-level exams) we are out & about almost every day during the week and as the seasons for Rugby and Football have ended, we have also celebrated presentation day awards. There's been so much going on I don't really know where to start, so here is a round up of what 3/5 of the kids have been up to.

Firstly back in April, E was delighted to move up to recreational badge 5 at gymnastics after working hard to complete all of her badge work during her weekday class, which she has continued in addition to her weekend mini squad development training sessions where she is working towards national grading. She always works so hard and it's wonderful to see her efforts paying off as she perfects new moves. She's a little star.

Later on in April (after E's birthday celebrations) was the annual local large schools swimming gala which H was taking part in for the third year in a row. This year he competed in the Y5/6 (with him actually being the only Y5!) 25m front crawl and 50m freestyle races, winning third place in both in nail biting finishes (I managed to scream myself hoarse yet again this year, cheering him on from the spectators area). He is such a fantastic swimmer, he never ceases to amaze me with his power and speed and he's already committed himself and signed up to take part again next year, in what will (sadly!) be his final primary school swimming gala before he heads off to senior school.

In May, H's U10 rugby team finished their season after playing their final matches on the stadium pitch at Bath Rugby's Rec. It's been a great season and I have loved watching the children progress and improve their skills over the year. Although I am clearly biased I have been so proud of how H has improved this season, increasing in confidence and he seems to have really 'got it' this year. I'm excited to see them all move up to U11s in September, I think each and every one of them have done themselves and their club proud. H was delighted to be awarded the 'Most Improved Player' trophy from the four coaches, and I think it will really spur him on & inspire him to do even better next year.

And last but by no means least, J and all of his U15 teammates have had an absolute barnstormer of a season topped off with winning the league, and last weekend they celebrated all of their hard work with a presentation day whole team outing at FootGolf, where they all received their trophies from the Mister and his co-manager, Chris.

On the days where the running around seems endless, the pile of muddy, wet kit and towels seems higher than usual, and you're chilled right through to your bones after a particularly cold match standing out on the touchline (or sweating through everything poolside) - moments like these at the end, when all of their hard work pays off and all of the time you have poured into making sure that they are having fun, keeping fit and enjoying their chosen sports has so clearly been worth it, it just makes it all worthwhile. To see their daft grinning faces holding up their trophy or certificate, to see them laughing and smiling with their friends as they celebrate their wins and pat each other on the back, looking forward to the next season or competition, it reminds you why you do it. These moments, friendships and memories will stay with them forever.

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

Meal Plan Monday 130616

Monday, 13 June 2016

Meal Plan 130616
Monday 13th
Tuesday 14th
Caveman chilli served with brown rice
Wednesday 15th June
Pizza & chips for the kids per their request, chicken salad for me and the Mr
Thursday 16th
Lasagne served with salad and garlic bread
Friday 17th
Chicken Fajitas with tortilla wraps (served with rice for me)
Saturday 18th
Home-made beef burgers with salad and chunky sweet potato fries
Sunday 19th
Roast Beef

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