Mama OWL Blog: February 2017

The Best Books for Tween Boys | World Book Day 2017 #DoSomethingBooky

Thursday, 23 February 2017

I have mentioned many times before how important I believe it is to instil a love of reading in my children, and I have to admit I have found it much harder to do with the boys than the girls. Finding books that tween boys will enjoy can be tough task but I think we have finally cracked it with H (who is 11) as he has been building up quite a collection of stories he really enjoys, with titles by the amazing and hilarious David Walliams featuring heavily! I asked H to share some of his favourites:
  • Horrible Histories Blood-curdling Box of Books (Terry Deary, Peter Hepplewhite)
  • Mr Stink (David Walliams)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid Collection (Jeff Kinney)
  • Tom Gates Collection (L. Pichon)
  • The World of Norm (Jonathan Meres)
  • Gangsta Granny (David Walliams)
  • Tiger Wars (Steve Backshall)
With World Book Day coming up next week (Thursday 2nd March 2017) we have looked to his collection for costume inspiration, and with the help of Party Delights wide selection of fancy dress H has decided to dress up as Walliams' Gangsta Granny. The Burglar Granny costume comprises a dress with Velcro fastening, swag bag, and eye mask and is currently £13.99, with a grey wig available to purchase separately to finish off the look priced at £3.99. How to tell your son is a rugby player - he will always take the opportunity to join in with fancy dress, especially if it's drag. As my friend Alice said, we can only imagine what he's going to be like once he gets to Uni...
His other top choice was Mr Twit from Roald Dahl's The Twits, but due to his sister's reluctance to dress up as Mrs Twit he opted for Gangsta Granny and I think he pulls the ensemble off very well. I love his sense of humour and how keen he always is to join in the fun and have a laugh, I know I am biased but he really is such a lovely kid.
After her refusal to be Mrs Twit, E eventually decided that she would like to be Roald Dahl's Matilda which I thought to be very fitting considering she shares the character's love of reading. Her costume comprises the blue dress, newt, and book prop, and Party Delights also have tights available separately to complete the costume.
Will your children #DoSomethingBooky for World Book Day?
The children received complimentary costumes for review purposes. All words are our own.

Meal Plan Monday | 200217

Monday, 20 February 2017

Meal Plan 200217
Monday 20th
Gammon and chips
Tuesday 21st
Baked potatoes with salad
Wednesday 22nd
H is performing at the school dance festival this evening so it will be a case of whatever we grab after it finishes, it's going to be a late one
Thursday 23rd
Sausages and mash
Friday 24th
Spaghetti Bolognese
Saturday 25th
Chicken fajitas
Sunday 26th
No idea, as the Mister and H are off to Twickenham to watch ENG vs ITA which I am not remotely jealous of...

Meal Plan Monday | 130217

Monday, 13 February 2017

Meal Plan 130217
Monday 13th
Burgers and Chips for the Mister and kids
Tuesday 14th
Macaroni Cheese with broccoli (no romantic meal for two here on Valentine's Day...)
Wednesday 15th
Chicken Salad
Thursday 16th
Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread
Friday 17th
Chicken Curry
Saturday 18th
Homemade chilli with baked potatoes
Sunday 19th
Roast to welcome J home from skiing in Andorra

#FITin30 Update | Am I Fit Yet?

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Fit as in fitness not as in hot, by the way, to clarify...
I have been doing my #FITin30 workouts at home as promised, and I have to say - it's good. I am enjoying them. They are doing exactly what they say on the tin. Or booklet. I should also point out that I do go to the gym and use weights as well as using the #FITin30 program so my progress should not really be measured against anyone solely using the at-home exercises, also - I have been doing this for two years. My fitness levels are not equal to someone just starting out who wants to start this program before perhaps progressing to a gym, or joining in with local fitness classes. With that said, #FITin30 is a perfect stand-alone fitness program too.
As I said in my introduction to the home workout plan - "The #FITin30 plan comprises 3 sets of exercises and a stretch routine, and you're added to a private Facebook group for support, advice and information with other members who are using the plan", and that is exactly what you get. You can adjust the on/off timings between sets to suit your level of fitness, so I personally would do either 40/20 or 50/10 depending on how energetic I am feeling, but 30/30 is a good place to start off I think.
I can honestly say that I am enjoying the plan. I like the simplicity, I like that it is quick (so you an easily squeeze it into a window of free time - no excuses!), and that I can adjust it time-wise to suit my needs with shorter rest periods etc.. I like that I can also challenge myself further by incorporating weights if I feel the desire to. The #FITin30 program is good all-rounder and suitable, in my opinion, for everyone. It's not the same as attending Project 6 Pack because you don't have the group dynamic and it rests solely on you motivating yourself, but the exercises and the idea behind it are the same, and just as good as attending the classes if you are willing to kick your own ass.
Nutrition and a good, balanced diet is a huge part of any healthy lifestyle, even more so than the exercise. You can't out-train a bad diet, as they say. You can't work out for half an hour, then go home and stuff your face with junk and wonder why you're not seeing results. You cannot cheat the grind - what you put in, you will get out. You have to be motivated. You have to earn it. You have to want it.
Do you want it? Visit Laura's LP Training Body Confidence Coach page and see what the #FITin30 workout program is all about, and what it can do for you.

Meal Plan Monday | 060217

Monday, 6 February 2017

Meal Plan 060217
Monday 6th
Burgers and Chips for the Mister & kids, squeezed in between the school run and Y2 & Y6 parents evening
Tuesday 7th
Macaroni Cheese
Wednesday 8th
Chilli with baked potatoes
Thursday 9th
J was too poorly on Sunday to celebrate his birthday so we are off out for a family dinner tonight to celebrate his 16th
Friday 10th
Chicken Curry with rice
Saturday 11th
To be honest, not a bloody clue because I have one kid at a birthday party, one at a Gymnastics competition all afternoon, another off on his school ski trip right at dinner time, the Mister is at football and I am meeting a friend for drinks. McDonalds?
Sunday 12th

Creating a Wall Gallery - Printing Your Photos at Home

Friday, 3 February 2017

Taking a million photographs, and then never getting them printed... Sound familiar?
I'm pretty sure that I am not the only one guilty of it. So many of our family memories are purely digital, all stored online for that 'one day' that I will get them printed and framed and up on the wall, or into albums for future enjoyment. My parents have several of these old brown eighties style albums with pictures of me and my older sisters when we were small - family holidays in the Canary Islands, childhood memories of climbing trees, Christmases with our late Grandparents... I love to sit and look through them, because to be honest these days I struggle to remember what I did last week never mind what I did when I was seven and having these albums to look at brings it all back as if it was yesterday (actually, we'll say 'this morning' because sometimes I also forget what I did yesterday... or where I put my keys... or anything my husband says that is related to work or football, though that is often on purpose).
We have recently redecorated our living room and I decided to create a wall gallery in a bid to actually get some of our photos off the computer and up on the wall for us and visitors to our home to enjoy. I purchased some new photo frames in various different designs - including collage style, and single photo - and colours to match our new décor. Getting photos printed can be costly and time-consuming particularly if you order online and then have to wait (and pay) for delivery, and the all-in-one Epson XP-960 printer has turned out to be the perfect solution to finally getting our favourite images off of Facebook and framed to fill those blank spaces on the wall.
The Epson XP-960 boasts impressive specs with the ability to produce HD-quality prints using Epson’s six-colour Claria Photo HD Ink, for 'superior quality and long-lasting photographs'. It's a nice compact machine too (though heavy, so go careful when taking it out of the box), despite being able to print sizes up to A3, and it's easy and convenient to use with the ability to switch between photo and A4-sized prints with two front-loading paper trays. Printing onto thicker media is also made possible with the rear speciality media feed, as is printing directly onto suitable CDs/DVDs.
I installed the software using the CD provided and followed the simple step-by-step instructions to get everything set up ready to use. It's possible to download the software from the website if you don't have a disc drive, as well as an option to download the iPrint app to a range of devices including your smartphone or tablet for wireless printing and scanning. You can print from anywhere in the world simply by emailing documents and photos directly to the printer using Epson Email Print, and if you download the Creative Print app you can access Facebook photos to create custom greeting cards and stationery, and turn photos into colouring book templates.

It can look a little daunting at first, with its interactive LCD touch-screen and motorised control panel & output tray, but it is actually quite easy to navigate as everything is step-by-step and instructions on-screen are all very clear and simple.

We have been lucky enough to have enjoyed some amazing trips in the past few years including New York, Paris, and Australia as well as Corsica and Greece, and I have hundreds of photos that I wanted to print and frame but never got around to it. I bought a three-photo frame for 7x5 sized prints to go on my wall and knew exactly what pictures I was going to choose - one of me and the Mister at Cleland Wildlife Park in Adelaide with a koala, one of all seven of us together standing at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, and the last one is of me and the Mister standing at the top of the Empire State Building. The quality of these three prints is equal to those in the surrounding frames, all of which I had printed from an online company (though the ones on the right were A's Christmas gift to me & her Dad) and it makes me ridiculously happy to be able to print whatever I need and get them framed & up on the wall straight away.

I love seeing our memories smiling back at us from the frames, snapshots of the kids as babies and toddlers, newborns in car-seats waiting to go home for the first time and small children laughing and playing at the zoo, or on the field playing sports. I have a zillion wall gallery inspiration pins on my 'Ideas for the Home' board on Pinterest - at last my own will soon be complete. I still have more frames to go up, and have interspersed the collage frames with single photos and a nice wooden plaque with a quote, but I am so much closer to getting it finished now I am able to print at home.

 We received a complimentary printer for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Cherished Memories - How to Choose a Family Photographer

Thursday, 2 February 2017

sponsored post.
This morning brought with it a thick offer letter from a nearby college, addressed to J who will be turning sweet (?!) sixteen at the end of this week. Almost every day on Facebook I am greeted with 'on this day' memories that show me pictures of the children who used to live in my house. The children who used to crawl into my bed in the middle of the night for reassurance after a bad dream or just for a cuddle, the children that I used to push on the swings in the park, and watch scoot full pelt through the narrow part of the river down town screeching with laughter and soaking everyone within six feet of them (sorry, if that happened to be any of you...).
I sit at the table now and instead of little hands pulling at my sleeve asking for a biscuit I have these hulking six footers asking what's for dinner at the same time as they are filling their face with a loaf of bread's worth of toast or an entire pizza (I have never known anything like it). Parents of teenagers or young adults will all tell you - the days are long, but the years are short. Before you know it, you will be driving them three hours away & dropping them off at uni, and attending college interviews.
I think that my one regret from when the kids were smaller is not having more family photographs taken. I have thousands of snapshots of all of them, from birth to now, but there are painfully few of the seven of us together and as time ticks on and life gets in the way there are even fewer chances of us managing to get some. Choosing the right family photographer is important, take time to find someone who captures real moments - especially those candid ones others might miss - and who really knows their craft, and they will give you memories to cherish for a lifetime.
Ask For Referrals
Speak to your friends and family, they will love to recommend their favourite photographer and be able to show you examples of their work.
Check Out Portfolios
All professional photographers will have galleries of their previous work and will be more than happy for you to look through. Do you like their style? Does it fit with your family dynamic? Are they the sort of pictures you would like of your own family?
Meet your photographer before your shoot to discuss your needs and what you want from your photos to make sure that you are compatible, but also to make sure that you are happy with their methods and with what they will expect from you - it works both ways!
Pricing & Budget
I know so many people who end up being stung by companies enticing them in with "special offers" of supposedly free sessions, and then finding out that the prints cost hundreds of pounds after the company insisting on a 'cinema viewing' of their shoot. Reputable photographers will either have clear prices on their website, or be happy to disclose to customers on request before the shoot.
Choose Independent
Exactly for the reason above, always choose an independent photographer over a big studio style company. You will be supporting a small and probably local business (though lots of photographers are willing to travel particularly if shooting on location), you will know what you are paying for beforehand, and you will get a personal service tailored to you and your family. Studios are often bound by time, whereas an independent photographer will have booked their time specifically for you and your circumstances, and won't want to rush you through your session.
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