Thursday, 11 December 2014

Baker Days, Cakes through the Post!

Everyone has that friend or relative who is impossible to buy for. Whether it's the person who's got everything, the minimalist, the fussy one, or, worse still (this one drives me crazy), the relative who is inconsiderate enough to live out of gift-giving range! I can't count the number of times I've pounded the streets, looking for something flat and light that won't cause me too much trauma at the post office! I think I have found the solution, though, to this annual headache and it comes in the form of cake. Who doesn't love cake? 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Corned Beef Hash

Corned Beef HashCorned Beef Hash is one of the first recipes I ever learned to cook and is brilliant if you are lacking fresh ingredients, but craving something home cooked. This is another recipe that is fun to do with children, as there's a lot of messy mashing and mixing involved and it all helps towards encouraging children to try new things and be confident around food. It's not the cheap staple it used to be because, unfortunately, corned beef has shot up in price over the years, making this dish far less budget than it used to be, but it is very convenient as home-cooked dishes go and it does fill a useful gap in the menu if you ever get snowed in!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Bristol Museum - Egypt to China in an Afternoon!

Enjoying the Displays at Bristol Museum
My son is getting a little bit obsessed with Minecraft. It's probably not the worst thing he could be doing with his time, it does seem to have some sort-of educational elements, but I needed to do the good-parent thing and limit his screen time, ideally without starting a war. One of the more educational aspects of Minecraft is a sudden fascination with rocks and minerals, which gave me an idea, so I hatched a plan to get him away from the game and out of the house on a day out to Bristol Museum. You see, amongst the dinosaur bones, roman artefacts and other exciting discoveries, Bristol Museum contains something that Minecraft fans will love.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Think it? Do it! Getting Motivated

Vase of White Roses
I'm talking about those little thoughts and ideas that creep into the head and settle down under a blanket of procrastination. Often, the only time we even remember these thoughts, is when we need something to blame for how unsatisfying our lives are. 'I'm so bored! If only I'd acted on that idea to start a new hobby', 'I'm so unfit! If only I had joined a gym like my brain suggested!, 'I'm worried about money! How I wish I had sorted out all my surplus stuff and had that carboot sale I was thinking about!' See? Thinking about doing something doesn't change anything. It makes you feel better for a little while, as you imagine how much brighter your life will be once all your plans are underway, but it won't last unless you act on it.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

An Alarming Experience - Family Fire Safety

Last night, our dishwasher caught fire. We are still not entirely sure how it happened, but I can tell you that it was very, very scary. Thankfully, we are all ok, a little smoke inhalation, but painfully aware that it could have been a whole lot worse. With that in mind, I wanted to share the experience with you, because I really, really can't stress this enough...

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Spreading the Cheer for Christmas this Year!

I just read a lovely post on Facebook from the gorgeous, and frankly brilliant, Jason Manford, who has suggested that it would be a lovely idea to donate advent calendars to a local Foodbank, in order to ensure a better start to the festive season for the vast number of children currently living in difficult circumstances. Now, I will admit, I am a huge fan of this man. I greatly admire anyone who has the
presence of mind to use their celebrity to further the awareness of charities and causes, particularly the lesser known ones that struggle to get noticed.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Homage to the Husband's Inventive DIY

Metal bucket peg holder, with title overlaidOver the years our family has been through some pretty tough times. From living in a two bedroomed flat with three children, to some fairly dramatic financial struggles, that took an epic battle on all fronts to eventually defeat. What has this got to do with DIY I hear you ask? Well, you don't get through those sorts of problems in one piece without two things. Firstly, a huge dose of solidarity and team spirit. Whatever you are in, you are in it together, that is the joy of families. You all pitch in, you all get out. And secondly masses and masses of creativity and imagination. To make things fit, to cheer things up, to make things better. That's what gets you through. So there follows some of my favourite examples of The Husband's handiwork. A man who has suffered for ten years from a wife who has all the ideas in the world, but no practical skills what-so-ever. I draw it, he builds it. 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Finding Nemo... at Bristol Aquarium!

Bristol Aquarium
I've never been to a 'proper' aquarium before. I've been to a couple of seaside efforts, but they've always been hugely anti-climactic, consisting of a number of unimaginative fish tanks welded to the wall, housing tired-looking specimens, that are either ailing from something or very, very depressed. So, it was with some trepidation that we trouped off to the bus stop, in search of Nemo and his scaly pals. The Aquarium is conveniently situated in the popular Harbourside area of the city, next to @Bristol and helpfully signposted by what I think is a huge Dung Beetle. Oh, actually I've just googled and it's a Rhinoceros Beetle. All you need to know is there is a huge pointy-nosed creepy-crawly to show you where you need to be. Which is handy.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Best of Scotland with Caledonian Hampers

I love hampers, I do. I love the element of surprise and anticipation when you first open the box, and the indulgent contents that you wouldn't normally buy with your weekly shop. What I most love about hampers, though, is the versatility they provide as a gift idea. Everyone has that relative, usually far away and not often visited, but still important, who is a bit of a struggle to find the perfect gift for.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Ghost Post #1

Readers have been dropping off their dilemmas and guilty (or not!) confessions over the past couple of weeks, so here is the first of an occasional post, where we ask you, our lovely readers, to offer advice, sympathy, and occasional applause! 

My first reader would really appreciate some advice on how to handle the inlaws since her third child was born. Situations like this are becoming more and more common in our society, as 'blended families' arise due to new relationships, but there isn't always a rule book on how to handle it, particularly where the 'step inlaws' are concerned:

Sunday, 12 October 2014

My Favourite Movie Soundtrack, with CurrysPCWorld

I recently heard about a competition from CurrysPCWorld, the suppliers of all things swanky in the world of sound, including the competition prize, from Bose. The competition really captured my attention, because it was on one of my husband's favourite subjects; movie soundtracks. So, there follows a guest post by said husband, on the subject of Singin' in the Rain. Best of luck, dear!


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Bra-illiant Bras and a First-class Fit with Triumph!

Have you ever been faced with someone who has a really badly fitted bra? Someone, who, perhaps, unknown to them, resembles The Incredible Four-Breasted Woman?! Do you ever wonder if you should say something, or just let it pass, unnoticed? If you do decide to bring it up, in the hopes of saving further embarrassment, how do you broach the subject, to rescue them from this unfortunate fashion faux pas? Let's have a look at some different approaches:



Monday, 22 September 2014

Lemon Cheescake and Meeting Mary Berry...

I was lucky enough to receive tickets to The Grape and Grain Festival in Bristol last weekend. It was brilliant. First, there was a champagne breakfast, attended by the lovely Mary Berry and Lucy Young. It was a really relaxed atmosphere and Mary and her little family of helpers were really friendly and made a real effort to speak to everyone at the event. Walking around all the tables and signing books. We really enjoyed the event and I even discovered something I never knew before. Cheesecake is actually really easy to make! Read on below for the recipe. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Note to Self...

A Guest Post by Jade...

A new year for most people will begin in January with a list of resolutions, written in good faith, to improve yourself. Everyone looks to improve in the same areas. Resulting, in special offers at gyms and magazines promoting the New Year’s sale in every clothes shop to help you to find the ‘New You'.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

40 Days of Summer - Day 31 onwards

Day 31: Make Soup!

While we were away, L discovered he really liked Carrot Soup. This doesn't sound very exciting, but if you have read Top Ten Tips for Fussy Eaters you will know why this is news. L has really grown in confidence with his eating, but this was a real surprise, as he knows he doesn't like cooked carrots, so I was amazed he wanted to try it. I promised we would make some when we got home and thankfully, I have a really easy recipe that takes hardly any ingredients or effort. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

40 Days of Summer - Days 21 to 30

Day 21: Paint a Face!

I'm never quite sure who this entertainment is actually for. It's always mooted as a wet weather activity that will keep L busy for ages. However, I think Jade gets as much, if not more, enjoyment out of using him as a walking colouring book! Today's effort is Spiderman, and only required the 'reduced to clear' Snazaroo England face paints I found in Tesco, left over from the World Cup (don't get me started!) and, ahem, eyeliner. The latter isn't really recommended, but it was a spur of the moment thing. Obviously, be wary of sensitive skins and if you do decide to risk it, for goodness' sake don't use the waterproof stuff, you'll be scrubbing for hours!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Panakalty from Sunny Sunderland!

Since the weather is being most unruly at the moment, this guest post features a regional recipe from my lovely friend Sue. It is a traditional North-East English delicacy and not one I had heard of until this post arrived! As with all regional cuisine, I am sure there are some slight variations to this dish from person to person, but this is the version that is popular in the Sunderland area where Sue hails from and one she has been feeding her family for many years.  I haven't tried it yet, but it looks delicious. Proper warming comfort food, perfect for the cool autumn evenings. I can't wait to try it!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

40 Days of Summer - Days 11 to 20

Day 11: Building a Den!

We had planned an exploring expedition today, but it's been raining on and off all day. In the end, we went for den building instead. We've been doing a bit of decorating lately, so all the dust sheets made a brilliant canopy for our dining table and chairs. We used the chairs to create an entrance, with our big crafting board for the 'porch' roof. I don't know why children are so fascinated with hidey-holes, but I do know he will happily sit in there all day, with his torch and a pile of sausage rolls! This is also a great way to play board games. We attempted the card game Monopoly Deal. It may just be me, but it seemed very complicated! I don't think either of us worked out how he won! 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Easy Spelt Biscuits

Rolling out the doughThis recipe uses Spelt flour, which is an ancient grain, containing a different type of gluten. Some people find spelt flour easier to digest, easing the irritation that some people suffer from eating gluten-based products. It is, however, still very much gluten for the purposes of Coeliac disease, so should be avoided by sufferers. I found these needed icing, as the flavour isn't as strong as with other flours. If you prefer, you could substitute for wholemeal. I love the rustic texture that these create, they seem to taste a bit healthier and more wholesome than white flour biscuits!


My Sunday Photo; Relaxing in a Homemade Sun Hat

 Relaxing in a deckchair wearing a homemade hat

Sunday Photo; A Perfect Cup of Tea

A Perfect Cup of Tea


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Bristol does Summer!

Running through the splash pools
This week we had a lovely day out in Bristol. We headed down to The Habourside and spent a couple of hours relaxing in the conveniently placed deckchairs, in front of At-Bristol, the science museum we love. You can read our review of At-Bristol by clicking the link. Meanwhile, highlights of the Commonwealth Games were showing on the big screen, while L frolicked in the splash pools. It was such a lovely, laid back atmoshpere and all the children played really happily together. This brilliant facility is provided free of charge and there were plenty of people unpacking picnics and settling in for the day. 


40 Days of Summer - Days 1 to 10

Today is the first day of the summer holidays for us. It's amazing how quickly the time goes. It doesn't seem five minutes ago my son had his nose pressed up against the window, praying for snow, yet now, here we are, waving another school year goodbye. He is eight now and today we were talking about making the summer holidays count. Even he is beginning to notice how quickly they fly by! So, we came up with a plan. 40 Days of Summer. The idea is to make a point of doing something fun every day of the holidays. As he is getting older, I am aware that it won't be long before he is off doing his own thing and won't be so interested in the little activities together as a family. I thought this would be a great way to make some memories and share some great summer adventures!

Day 1: Make a Rocket Cake!

L has a bit of a cold and it was insanely hot today, so we stayed in for some of the day and made a rocket cake. It was a variation of our trusty Pizza Cake recipe, because I found this brilliant new cake tin in Sainsburys in the sale for just over £5! It's great for the money, sturdy and the cake comes straight out of the tin every time.

The beauty of it is, it's really fun to decorate and very appealing, especially for boys who need dragging away from the iPad or Playstation! I recommend Cadbury's Giant Chocolate Buttons for the port holes and we used orange Midget Gems for the fiery tail!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Make a Kite

Kites are a cheap and easy way to while away an afternoon. You wouldn't believe how much enjoyment my children (and the grown ups!) get from watching a little square of plastic soar above the rooftops! There's a real sense of achievement from actually making the thing fly, but it's actually not that hard. The smaller and lighter the kite is, the easier it will fly, which is why I always buy really cheap kites. It also has the added advantage of not being the end of the world if they get lost or end up stuck in a tree. If you don't have access to a cheap purveyor of kites (such as Poundland) or need one in a hurry, it's pretty easy to make one. This is my husband's 'recipe', just in case you think I am the owner of those hairy hands!


Friday, 25 July 2014

Family Life with Sensory Processing Disorder (Guest Post)

There follows a guest post from my lovely friend Emma, who has kindly agreed to write, in her own words, about her experience of a condition that affects up to one in twenty children, to varying degrees. I think she's amazing and I hope her story will encourage other families facing similar challenges. 


Sunday, 20 July 2014

My Sunday Photo; Messing About in a Wheelbarrow

Two chidren palying in a wheelbarrow.


Can you believe I'm not on Bloglovin'? Apparently, according to my wiser blogging friends, this is a travesty and should be corrected. Which sounds like a good excuse for a new competition! If you would be so kind as to hop over to the Giveaway Tab and give The Parent Game some Bloglovin' love, you could be rewarded with some awesome Muppet goodies! In the meantime, I have been ordered by the Bloglovin people to post this link on my blog in order to activate my shiny new account.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin and don't forget to enter the competition!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Holiday Memory (sort of!)

Nothing's ever straight forward with me, is it? I can't just write a holiday memory, I just have to make it complicated! It's basically because we haven't had a holiday since 2010, and that was with my Dad. We haven't been on holiday where it's been just us, as a family, for eight or nine years, I can't quite remember. It's mainly a financial issue, along with my husband's tricky working hours. As much as I feel horribly guilty about that, it's not all bad news. My chidren have an advantage that a lot of others don't have. We live in some of the best countryside the UK has to offer.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Sensible Censorship: Young Adult Literature

Open book on a forest floorI've been reading a lot lately about censorship and children's books. Censorship is an issue around the world and Young Adult fiction features prominently, accounting for six of the ten most challenged titles last year alone. As always, with any healthy debate, there are arguments for both sides. Literature is an important part of our culture and a valuable tool to allow young people to share in other people's experiences and develop a more rounded view of the world. Also, censorship in general is something that should be considered very carefully. Do we have the right to dictate what young people can, or can't, read?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Julie is Raising Money for Matilda Mae!

I have a good friend, named Julie Roo
She's jumping out of a plane, what a fun thing to do!
But it's not just for fun, it's an important day,
Because she's raising money for Matilda Mae.


My Sunday Photo; The Moon From my Window

The moon viewed through an upstairs window

Sunday Photo; This is Wheely Good Fun!

The Human Hamster Wheel at At-Bristol

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Easy Peasy Cake for Baking Emergencies!

Chocolate iced cake
We have all encountered a baking emergency at some stage in our lives, it's a thing. I'm not making it up! These are the kind of emergencies I mean; 'Mum, it's bake sale day at school tomorrow' 'Don't forget it's the husband's/sister's/dogs birthday on Saturday', Happy Anniversary, Darling!' That kind of emergency! Or, there's the other kind of cake-based drama, which is a more hormonal kind; BRING ME CAKE NOW!!! Either way, this cake is low on ingredients and high on efficiency, so you can have your cakey fix quicker than ever!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

What Has Happened To The NHS?

Southmead HospitalI have always been very understanding of our Government-run services. I am fully aware that it's a difficult job, with limited budgets that have to be shared out amongst, often equally deserving, candidates, but I am becoming increasingly bemused by the lack of common sense involved in serving the most basic needs of our nation. Take, for example, something as simple as a GP appointment. This is no criticism of the staff I see, they all do their best, but there is something very wrong with the current system at my surgery. I have long term medical needs and these are the hoops I have to jump through, in order to see my doctor;

Monday, 7 July 2014

Lazy Eggs Brunch

My son is very interested in cooking and has been helping me in the kitchen for quite a few years now. It has always been quite important to me, however, that he learns about cooking more complex recipes and actual meals, instead of just making cakes. So when he suggested this easy ham and egg recipe, I was very keen for him to have a go. I want him to learn that cooking meals can be fun and doesn't have to be difficult, just like making cakes. The beauty of this recipe is that he can make it more or less independently. It's very cheap, with just four ingredients, so would make a perfect nutritious meal for a student who is learning to cook.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Techy Mega-Giveaway!


Thursday, 3 July 2014

Juice Plus, A Sceptic's Perspective

Juice Plus ProductsRecently, a few of my friends have been extolling the virtues of Juice Plus, so I thought I'd try some, to see what all the fuss was about. I will admit, I decided to try it before I'd really investigated the process properly, but once I'd committed, I just had to see it through! Read on, to find out how I got on and what I learned about myself. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Unconditional Love

Little Girl Skipping through a forest

I like it when you cuddle me and when you hold my hand, 

I don’t like it when you’re cross with me, cos I don’t understand.

I try to listen carefully to everything you say,

But sometimes there are lots of words and I start to lose my way!


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Sunday Photo; Finding an Irresistable Iron Man Mask!

An adult in an Iron Man mask.

Depression, Postnatal and Beyond.

School Uniform, with Matching DollA new study, conducted by researchers in Australia, has really got me thinking. It was about depression, and how new research shows that mothers are more likely to suffer depression when their child is four, than when they are newborn. You can read more about it here. The focus for many years has always been on the post-natal, first few months after giving birth and, in my experience, access to the right services to deal with mental health issues falls away dramatically after this time. In the very early months, Health Visitors and other professionals are trained to look out for the signs that you might not be coping. They know what questions to ask and can arrange help fairly quickly, should things go wrong.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Effort-Proofing the Garden!

Overgrown garden space
Late last year I organised a project to redefine a garden area at the school where I'm a Governor. I was very lucky to have the help of Almondsbury Garden Centre, who were brilliant, generously donating loads of materials and designing a low maintenance, tactile, visual area, that really appealed to the senses. Here is the 'before and after' picture, so you can see what I mean...

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Morrisons Monday with Britmums

Something really fab happened to me during the week. I got a lovely letter from Britmums, saying I had been selected as a #MorrisonsMum! They were giving me a generous amount of  Morrisons Money, or gift vouchers, to put it another way, to spend in store on a fabulous Bank Holiday banquet! I was ridiculously excited at this prospect, as it combined two of my favourite things, shopping and doing something special with the family.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Shoeps Can Make All Laced Shoes into Slip-Ons.

I heard about this new alternative to shoelaces as a fashion accessory, but I approached the company and asked if I could review them for a different reason altogether! They do come in a pretty amazing range of colours, so I understand how they would be popular as a fashion item. However, I saw a world of infinite possibilities for these. Take, for example, children's hobbies. It is very difficult to buy footwear such as football boots or golf shoes, particularly in the smaller sizes, with velcro fastening. Shoeps are reusable, so each time they grow out of them (or switch to a new hobby!), their shoeps go with them!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

A Secret Agent Saves the Day!

Weeks of anticipation, mounting excitement and endless playground chatter and it was finally here! Saturday night was long and relatively sleepless. Excitement crescendoed long after bedtime had normally passed and continued unabated until reluctant sleep finally arrived. Not sure who went first, if I'm honest! Sunday morning began inconsiderately early with the question; "How long is it til 2pm?". Errr... about eight hours, son! You know, as in a whole normal person's day?! Someone who is not expected to get up at ridiculous-o'clock on a Sunday, just because the most exciting party ever is occuring that day! I was feeling pretty pleased with myself by 9 o'clock. Cakes baked, and preparations in full swing. Then I got an email.... 

Friday, 21 March 2014

How to Make a Lego Cake

For my son's birthday, he wanted a Lego cake, because he is 8 and that is what 8 year olds like, apparently. There were definite advantages to this cake, in that it needed to be square, which took a lot of the hard work out of the design. I was also very lucky, because I managed to borrow a little brick mould for the fondant decorations, but I thought I would show you how I made the little Lego men. The cake is far from perfect, as I was struggling with my back at the time, but I imagine if you had more time, you could probably do a better job! The method for creating the figures was actually quite easy, as you will see.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

What Kids Learn on Holiday

Child building a sandcastle on the beach.  This is a tricky post for me to write, as it's been a long time since we've been able to afford a 'proper' holiday. We are very lucky though, as we live in a lovely part of the world, with easy access to other lovely parts of the world. Wales to the West, The Cotswolds to the North East, the Forest of Dean to the North West, Somerset to the South and in the South West is Weston super Mare and the South West coastline. So, for the last few years we have mastered the 'stay-cation', and had lots of lovely picnicky daytrips instead. That's not to say I wouldn't love a holiday somewhere different, away from our every day home life, but what's the point in wasting time thinking about what you don't have?

Sunday Photo; Messing About with Perspective

A giant tennis ball and tiny frying pan

Secret Agent Surprise for a Birthday Boy!

My son is eight on Tuesday! How quick the time goes. It's scary to think he's my last little one. I don't think it matters how many children you have, every milestone matters. This was no exception, but I have to say, I really struggle with little boys birthday parties! There's all that 'keeping up with the Jones's' stuff to contend with. I know we shouldn't care, but it's always hard to feel that you don't quite measure up in the Fab Parent Playground Xfactor. It's not really about the cost, I don't think. I've hosted every kind of party imaginable in my eighteen years in the parent game (see what I did there?!).


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Quiz Night Success!

I am really pleased to report that our very first Quiz Night was a roaring success! We raised £105 in two hours and everyone that commented said it was great fun! There were initially a few tweakings going on, as the format was untested, but over all it seemed to work really well and I was so pleased with the positive responses we received.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Make a Peg Bag from Baby Clothes

A homemade peg bag hanging on the line I originally came up with this idea when my son was a baby. I'm not claiming credit for it, there are probably other versions out there, but it all started, when I realised he would be my last baby. And my
only boy. So, I was kind of sad about throwing out his little tiny baby clothes. There was one item in particular that I was not keen to cast out, and crammed him into it for as long as I could, and that was his very first football shirt! I wanted to hang on to it, but I didn't want it to languish in a box in the loft. So I needed something practical to turn it into, so it could be used and enjoyed! This pegbag is so easy to make, and every household needs one.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Charity Quiz Night for Addenbrooke's Hospital!

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

! ! I t ' s  Q u I z  N i G h T ! !


Monday, 24 February 2014

A Day at the Etihad!

The Etihad Dressing RoomsYou may remember my lovely friend Lisa from the previous post Remembering Jack. She and her family have had a difficult year or so and have shown enormous strength and solidarity throughout. Not least, young Jesse, who, at just ten tears old, has had to endure more trauma and heart ache in his young life, than you would wish on anyone, big or small. So, when Lisa told me about a competition to win Jesse his dream prize, I was very, very glad to assist. ‘Help!’ she said. ‘I have to write about why Jesse is their biggest fan, but I’m HOPELESS with words!’ She’s really not, as you will see below, but anyway…
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