Friday, 28 February 2014

Word of the Week

I've been sitting here for over half an hour now, thinking about my word for this week.  Usually it comes to me very easily, but this week there are so many things going on in my head that I have too many words!  (Not all of them are polite so I'll be keeping those to myself)

Anyway, I better choose one otherwise I'll be absent from this linky yet again and so this week my word will be



Why surprised?  Well, I've a few reasons.

1.  Yesterday I had a bit of a home emergency and was due to pick ds2 up from an after school club.  Knowing I couldn't be in two places at once I decided to ask ds1 if he'd mind going to fetch his brother for me.  School is only round the corner and although I've seen countless older siblings collecting other children from school I have always felt that it is my job to be there for my kids at the end of their day.  I'm usually picking up several at once so this really isn't an issue for me.  So, rather surprising to me, ds1 agreed and went and picked up his brother for me,  making sure he walked safely home.  I would never have let him do that six months ago, but he is suddenly quite grown up and was also surprisingly OK with the responsibility. (He didn't help carry any of the bags though and moaned that ds2 walked too slowly - still a typical teen at heart!)

2.  Having had an ongoing issue with a certain treasury backed savings organisation for the past six months, they did finally confirm that the account I have had with them since birth does actually exist and they are writing with confirmation and an account number.  Shocked would be a better way to describe how I felt, but surprised covers it too, bearing in mind that I was about to give up because I didn't think they would ever be able to track it down for me.  

3.  Major surprise of the week, some very lovely people somewhere have nominated me in the MAD blog awards!  I really was very surprised to see my name on the list and also thrilled that somebody thought of my blog when filling out their nominations.  I've been nominated in two categories, Best Schooldays Blog and Best Family Travel Blog (not sure about that one, maybe for services to Micro Scooters?!).  Still, thank you whoever you are, I would send gin but apparently that's against the rules so this will have to do.  Incidentally, I wasn't going to blog about these awards because I'm realistic enough to know my blog isn't as popular and long running as some and there are so many brilliant blogs out there.  I'm now going to do something very unlike me and let you know that nominations are still open, so if you'd like to send a nomination or two my way then you can click on the MAD blog awards badge in my sidebar and fill out my blog details on the nominations page.  You will have my eternal gratitude, plus you can look upon it as services to housework because the winners all get a shiny trophy and those things need to be dusted! (and I need all the encouragement I can get there!)

Why not click on the badge below too and check out some of the other word of the week posts!


The Reading Residence

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Heroes of the City - Review and Competition

I was recently asked by the creators of Heroes of the City if I'd like to review their app which is aimed at children aged 3-7.

I'm always on the look out for new children's apps for our iPads so that the twins can use them.  I like games that offer some sort of educational benefit or something that encourages them to play in other ways rather than just using the iPad alone.  Heroes of the City is perfect for this.  Not only is there an app but there are also story books and DVDs available.  There are die cast character toys too.  We  received a pack containing a book, DVD, and two toys and we were sent a code to download the app as well.




The twins were very excited and wanted to watch the DVD straight away!  There were five short episodes of Heroes of the City on the DVD and we watched them back to back.  The stories are all about rescue vehicles in a small town and have some lovely messages about helping each other out and friendship.  DS3 was particularly enthralled by the DVD and watched it intently, his sister less so, although she was quite busy playing with one of the Heroes of the City toys at the time!

Once we'd watched the DVD both children asked me to get out their playmat which has roads all over it so that they could drive their toys all around it and play Heroes of the City for real!




We then had a look at the app.  DD2 really likes the train game the best - the object of which is to make a track for the train to get it to the finish line, using the track tiles provided.  There are nine games in all and three on the free version of the app.  All the games seemed easy for my two pre-schoolers to pick up and they had a lot of fun with them.  There are movie clips too, which DS3 rather enjoyed watching.  It is a great app to have as part of our collection and I'd really recommend downloading and trying it out.  The app can be downloaded from the iTunes AppStore here, or the GooglePlay Store here.  One thing I really liked is that the app runs on our two original iPads which we let the children use - not all apps seem to do this so I was rather glad that I didn't have to let them loose on my shiny new iPad instead!



We read the story book that we were sent at bedtime. It seemed a lovely way to end a day that had been filled with Heroes of the City play.  The twins enjoyed the story and asked lots of questions about the pictures.  I have a feeling that I will get to know this story book very well as it has been requested a few times since!  In fact we haven't really stopped playing with any of the things we were sent which is a good sign that it is a hit with them!

Heroes of the City have offered a book, DVD and toy set like the one we received (as pictured at the top of this post) to give away to one of my readers.  If you'd like to be in with a chance to win just enter via the rafflecopter form below.  I'll draw the winner shortly after the competition closes and announce it on Twitter.  Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We were sent a Heroes of the City book, DVD and toy set and app code for the purpose of this review.  All opinions are our own.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Postman Pat and Glitter Glue

One afternoon a few weeks ago I was chatting to a couple of other bloggers on Twitter, whiling away a bit of time prior to the school run, as I often do in the afternoons.

Prompted by the question "if you could kill one children's TV character, who would it be?"*, "Surely its gotta be Postman Pat?"  I quipped.  "He breaks and or loses stuff all the time" finishing my tweet with the hashtag #worstpostmanever.  Other bloggers tweeted a dislike of Bob the Builder and Mr Tumble (they have a point tbh, although Bob's not too bad, at least he can build a house in a day).

The conversation soon took a new direction as I pointed out that if we got rid of them all then I'd have to actually entertain my own children, which would never do!  I was reassured that I could give the children glitter, glue and some paper and let them get on with it instead.  I recoiled in horror at the mere thought of this and that's when I suddenly realised,

I have become to crafting with children what Postman Pat is to accurate postal delivery.

I used to love arts and crafts with the kids.  When ds1 and dd1 were both small we used to have a craft box, filled with the contents of the ELC's craft section including glitter and glue!  I used to enjoy shopping for that kind of stuff and planning what to use it for.  That was a good ten years ago and I've only refilled the box once since then despite having five children.  We are still using quite a bit of the craft paper and paint (when I occasionally get the box out, that is).

When the eldest two were at pre-school they used to skip out at the end of each session and hand me a new picture that they had created.  By the end of the school year I had carrier bags full of pasta and lentil pictures and my cupboard under the stairs, where the bags were kept, smelled heavily of poster paint.  I like to think that they enjoyed doing Art because we did it at home.

The younger three children have been to a different pre-school, but there were no paintings or drawings, no junk modelling and I suppose I've just kind of got out of the habit of doing it at home too.  What used to be an exciting new activity is now something I feel so jaded about.

Is it Pat, or is it me practising craft avoidance with my kids?
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org)

The mess is another big factor for me - I really can't stand it.  I wince at the thought of glitter in the carpet, the dilemma of how best to clean up all the little pots filled with ready mixed paint and where to put the brushes when they dry.  There are times when I am prepared to put up with it for a bit of peace and sanity but then, what do you do with all the things that they make and decorate?

The children are oblivious to this.  They don't see the mess in the same way, or the storage issues surrounding their artwork.  They probably do see a grumpy killjoy who won't indulge their creativity and that's what makes me feel so bad.  I wish I still had even a bit of the enthusiasm I had as a mother of two.  I wish I wasn't Postman Pat.  Speaking of which, I bet I could take him out with a well timed glitter glue stick to the head.


* Don't worry, I think this was meant in jest, besides the majority of children's TV characters are made from some sort of modelling material and that kind of makes it OK.



Binky Linky

Monday, 24 February 2014

What's in the Fridge? Soup for a Rainy Day

Brrrr, its still a bit cold outside (I thought that the miserable weather would leave with the end of January).  After a particularly wet and windy school run recently I decided to see what I could cook up for lunch to warm myself back up.  I love soup and one of the greatest things about it for me is that it is so easy to make, especially if you want to use up a load of veg from the bottom of the fridge.  Can you believe I used to buy cartons of soup?  They are such a waste of money when you consider that for much less you can make a gigantic pan of fresh soup which tastes so much better.  It is the perfect rainy day food too.

I had a bag of carrots in the bottom of my fridge so googled soup recipes and as usual didn't have all the ingredients for the recipe that had taken my fancy, so I changed it.  Original inspiration came from BBC Good Food's Carrot and Lentil soup (although my mother gave me a hand written copy passed off as her own - rumbled!  Google is my friend too mother!) but here's my version.

Ingredients

Olive oil
A pinch of chilli flakes
A couple of teaspoons of cumin seeds
5 large Carrots peeled and chopped
140g Red Lentils
1 litre Chicken Stock (made using a cube is fine)

Method

In a large pan fry the spices off in the oil until the fragrances are released.  Add the chopped carrots and the lentils and coat in the oil and spices.

Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Take pan off the heat and then using a stick blender, blend until smooth.

Return pan to the heat and add some extra water or stock to the soup to thin it and give it a good stir.  Season to taste.

Serve with a bit of chilli oil drizzled over the top



This made at least two huge bowls with a bit to spare but could make more depending on how thick you like your soup.  I was so hungry that I ate the lot, then waddled to the school gate for pick up at 3.30 pm (oops!).  It really is very filling!

We're going on a bear hunt...

Finally after all the bad weather recently we got a chance to go outside this week.  I had agreed to take part in the Barny #littleadventures challenge over at BritMums and so our package of yummy cakes had been waiting for a moment like this.


My mum came to the rescue with an invitation for Sunday lunch and so bearing in mind (see what I did there?) that her garden is 100 times better than ours and currently has all it's fences intact (unlike ours), I decided to smuggle some of our Barny snacks along with us and hide them in the garden for an after lunch bear hunt.  They are perfect for this because they are individually wrapped and so I could hide them without fear that they would be inedible once found!

The children were very excited and searched busily for all the bears...


Some were in among the spring flowers...





Some were harder to find....

(I honestly forgot were the last one was and so it took a little bit of time to locate!)


DD2 managed to find it though!



At last when all the bears were found, we set up camp in Grandma's summer house to eat them.



Teddy even had a bite too! (He said he liked the Strawberry ones the best, although I did like the apple flavour too!)


We had a lovely day, not only eating cake but looking at all the lovely Spring flowers Grandma has managed to grow - I really must get some tips!

This post is an entry for BritMums "Winter Little Adventures Challenge" sponsored by Barny, individually wrapped bear-shaped sponges with a hidden filling.  Find out more about Barny here.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Word of the Week

This week my word of the week is

PERSEVERANCE


You may have noticed I've been a little quiet this week but so much has been happening at home that I haven't had a chance to blog as much as I'd have liked.  Perseverance seems to fit in well with this for several reasons.

1.  My husband has been working hard on a project at work for over a year now and although the end is very nearly in sight, there always seems to be something that stops him from finalising it.  It is really difficult for me to watch from the sidelines.  He takes a great deal of pride in what he does for a living  and does not like setbacks!  Perseverance is definitely the key here - I'm sure it won't last forever!

2.  My eldest daughter is going through the "I hate school" phase.  She really needs encouragement to do homework in particular.  It seems to be paying off though and despite her hatred of school in general she has had a great report this week and is doing well in several subjects.

3.  My youngest son has never been one for colouring in.  He is always far too quick to finish to achieve any really good results.  This week we found a picture that he really wanted to complete and so I printed it off and let him loose with the crayons.  He really tried very hard and instead of a few random scribbles, he managed to sit still long enough to colour it all in!



4.  Blogging - always something I need to persevere with.  Some weeks I am full of ideas and others just fly by without any.  I've been playing with my blog layout a bit this week but have ended up taking all my changes off again.  I am going to go back and have another go at it when I'm in a better frame of mind.  My main problem is that I get bored very easily.  With so much to get my head around and learn, it would be very easy for me to throw the towel in with frustration but in order to get my blog looking the way I'd like I obviously need to persevere!


The Reading Residence

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

You know you are the mother of a pre-schooler when...

1.  Your clothes have glitter glue/paint/baking ingredients smeared all over them.  Permanently.

2.  Your back garden looks like the ELC summer catalogue.  All year round.

3.  Your dining table has an oddly coloured leg, as if someone has coloured it in with felt tip pens (everybody knows the blue ones never quite come out).

4.  You cannot be alone for a second.  You get dressed so quickly in the mornings (before they force their way into your bedroom) that you don't realise you have your underwear on inside out until you finally manage to go to the toilet (alone, for the first time that day!) at 4.30 pm.

5.  You have a supply of gin in the kitchen cupboard.

6.  Behind the gin there's a secret stash of chocolate too (or underneath the salad drawers in the fridge, they never look there).

7.  You have to eat the secret chocolate with your head inside the cupboard/fridge very quickly so that they don't realise you have food in your mouth.  This moment will almost certainly coincide with the question "Mummy, what are you doing?".

8.  Your mascara has a bent wand because someone used it to "get ready" by jabbing their face repeatedly with it while you were attending to point 3.

9.  All of your favourite lip balms have a deep finger print in the middle, also half the original contents have been scooped out.  You are yet to find where they ended up.  This also may apply to freshly baked cakes and bread, except you know where the contents of those most definitely have ended up.

10.  You get through so much milk that you wonder whether it might be more cost effective to buy a dairy cow.

11.  Every piece of furniture you buy has to be wipeable or have a removable, washable cover (ditto floor coverings). If they have both, you consider this to be an added advantage (see point 3).

12.  Despite all of the above you feel permanently broody and think that this would be the optimum time to add to the family.*

Baked goods are not safe...


*apart from me, not this time, no, no, no, no, no...**

** absolutely not, dh if you are reading this.


Binky Linky

Friday, 7 February 2014

Word of the Week

My word of the week this week is


SCOOTER 


Specifically the one belonging to my daughter.  Last Saturday dd1 was so bored she decided to go and visit her grandma on her scooter.  A couple of hours later she was returned to my doorstep by my mother who had driven her home. She was carrying a very broken scooter.



To say she was upset was an understatement.  She loves her scooter and goes everywhere on it whenever she can.  To be fair the scooter has seen better days.  I was about to get her a replacement back wheel for it from the Micro Scooters website anyway, and so I thought I'd send them an email asking if there was anything that could be done about the broken bracket too.

I had an email back on Monday.  A replacement part could be bought.  Dh and I decided on reflection that despite this we may as well get a new scooter.  On closer inspection there was also a missing bolt, which was probably the reason for the bracket breaking in the first place. There were so many parts needed that the cost of them equalled more than half of the retail price of a new one!

So my very lucky girl got a nice shiny blue scooter.  It arrived yesterday and I instantly felt compelled to open the box and take it for a spin (round the kitchen only!).  It really is so nice and I feel rather envious.  Maybe I should buy one for myself?



The Reading Residence

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...

It's off to Alder Hey we go, or at least we did last month.  If you've read my blog before you might remember that we had an appointment at Alder Hey last month to review ds3s heart condition - Aortic Stenosis.  The appointments are always a regular six month affair because he has had no major surgery to fix his condition yet.  This means that any changes need to be monitored and then, should his heart change in any way a plan can be made for further intervention.  I was, if you also remember, very nervous about this appointment.

My nerves stemmed partly from the fact that I had postponed the appointment so he had gone longer than usual without a check up, and also because having been by ds3s side throughout every scan, I know exactly what to look for in terms of measurements that the consultant takes.  I also know what the borderline figure is for intervention.  Ds3s measurements have been getting closer to this since his original Balloon Catheter procedure four years ago and so, being realistic, I thought that there would soon come a time when the outcome of his scan might not be good.

So, how did he get on?

Well, we arrived at hospital, cutting things fine with ten minutes until appointment time, packed car park, there were no spaces.  Dh dropped us at the door and he and dd2 lurked in the car park eating lunch (alright for some!) which I had packed to help us with grumpy children and the logistics of stopping along the way, which we usually do.

Ds3 and I went in and no sooner than I had given him a bag of crisps and a drink to keep him distracted, we were called in!  Always first the nurse weighs and measures his height.  When he was a baby this used to take ages because it involved completely undressing him and then putting him on scales, a sort of length measuring device and then re-dressing him partially so that I didn't have to take everything off again for the scan.  This time we were quick, shoes off and just a few minutes before all the measurements had been recorded and then we were told to wait outside the consultant's office.

As soon as we had sat down, our consultant ushered us into the office and asked ds3 if he could look at his heart.  Ds3 readily agreed which was rather a surprise for me as usually he just cries.  He was a little put out that he had been prevented yet again from resuming his crisp consumption, but for a four year old, who didn't quite understand what was going on, he was remarkably cooperative.

One hand holding ds3s and my eyes on the monitor I awaited the crucial measurements.  They were the same.  Exactly.

Our consultant sat down at his desk reviewing the file, as we cleared up the jelly from ds3s chest.  "Good" he said, "How do you feel about leaving things for a year next time?"  I could hardly believe it.  A year.  Twice as long as normal, this was good news.  Agreeing quickly we said our goodbyes.  I didn't even have to wait for an appointment at the reception desk before leaving.  "You'll get that in the post" said the receptionist.

Back in the car park, waiting for dh to drive round to the pick up point, ds3 finally got to finish his crisps.  "But you've only been in there ten minutes!" said dh, rather stunned.  Happily I relayed the conversation I'd had with the consultant.  Feeling like a weight had been lifted, I allowed myself to grin, to really really grin on the way home. 

This appointment always hangs over us as a reminder that ds3 is not a normal healthy child, but for the next year at least, he can be.

Ds3 - Totally normal...


Mad Mum of 7 - Living It Large

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Adventures in Baking - Shortbread Biscuits

Ok, so I haven't done too much in the way of baking recently, although I have managed to make a few things here and there they just simply weren't worth blogging about.

I found a really foolproof shortbread recipe a while ago and so I thought I'd share it here.  I can't take too much credit though, as the original recipe comes from Mary Berry, but I've adapted mine slightly to make biscuits rather than petticoat tails.  I find that the portion control is easier that way, also you can make them as thick or thin as you like.  I like them to be thinner if I'm serving them with a nice pudding or some ice cream, but thicker with a nice big mug of tea - Yum!



Ingredients

4 oz plain flour
4 oz butter
2 oz caster sugar
2 oz cornflour (Mary uses semolina in hers but suggests a substitute of cornflour, I always use cornflour because it is more readily available and still gives a nice short texture to the finished biscuit)

Method

Measure all the ingredients into a food processor and process until combined into a ball.  You can do this by hand, rubbing the butter in with your fingertips too.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and crack free.

Roll dough out (you may need more flour as the dough gets sticky as it warms up) to desired thickness and cut out biscuits using a cutter.  I usually get 12 thickish biscuits from this recipe.

Place biscuits on greased baking sheet, spacing them out a little.

Transfer baking sheet to fridge for five minutes or so until the biscuits are firm.  I've not always completed this step but if your house is warm or the biscuits are very thin it really helps them to keep their shape.

Bake the biscuits in the oven at 160°C for as long as it takes for them to start colouring at the edges slightly.  I don't have an exact time when I do them, I've found the key to a nicely baked biscuit is to keep watching!  Don't worry if the centres are a bit soft when you take them out, they will firm up.

Sprinkle some caster sugar over the tops of the biscuits while they are still on the baking sheet and then transfer them to a wire cooling rack after a few minutes.

Enjoy!

I've made star shaped biscuits at Christmas and you could of course make heart shaped ones for Valentines Day next week!  If you are doing them by hand you could get the kids involved with making the dough.  It might be a bit messy but it would be fun!


SuperBusyMum

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Feeling Brave

Today I have done something completely out of the ordinary for me.  If you cast your eyes to the sidebar on the right you will notice my new badge for Blog On which is being hosted at MOSI in Manchester on 4th May.

Ever since I spotted it on another blog (can't quite remember whose, I read so many these days!) I've been checking out their website and wondering if I should buy a ticket.  My dh wasn't keen initially, not really understanding my need to go and meet other bloggers and learn about the blogging world a little bit more, but after my mother said I should go, and following my exasperation that tickets might not be available for much longer he told me this morning to go and by myself a ticket before they sold out. He probably still doesn't understand it all though.

Feeling brave I bought my ticket.  The ticket email arrived in seconds and so now I'm going! I'm a bit nervous to be honest.  After a couple of my very favourite bloggers enquired as to if I had my ticket yet over on Twitter I felt that I should definitely go - after all there aren't many blogging opportunities like this for us Northerners.  This of course means that I'll be meeting people that I talk to a bit already on Twitter and also lots of new people too.

I'm definitely out of my comfort zone, but in a good way I think.  Also, I've heard there will be cake, and I like cake.  That kind of makes up for the nerves.


Monday, 3 February 2014

Bedroom Battles

For the past few months I feel like I have been waging a war against my two boys over the state of their bedroom. The teen claims it is nothing to do with him, he just sleeps there you see.  The clothes strewn all oven the floordrobe would beg to differ, if they could talk.

In all honesty, ds2, aged 8, is the main culprit.  He loves Lego, probably more than anything else.  He loves it so much that he is often late to the dinner table, we shout for him, but he is lost in a world of model creation.  As he creates, he leaves a path of destruction behind him.  Models litter every surface until nobody can get into the room without treading on them.

This doesn't just cause a disagreement between me and him.  The teen is getting pretty fed up of sharing a bedroom reminiscent of a post apocalyptic Legoland.  So much so that on the last occasion I asked them to tidy it, he proceeded to throw all his brother's carefully created models back into their storage tubs, smashing them to pieces in the process.  A tantrum followed.  Ds2 is terribly protective over his creations and so I learned that this probably wasn't the best course of action to take in future.

Over the last week the LSL (Lego Saturation Levels) had reached an all time high.  Time to tackle it again.  This morning I found myself at a lose end, and with both boys out of the house at school I decided to take on the tidying challenge.  I neatened, made beds, picked up clothes, sorted out earbuds (mine are the only boys who seem to practise knots on these - who needs Cub Scouts!), and made the very brave decision to tip a large tray of Lego models back into a gigantic storage tub where it belonged.  A few models wouldn't fit and were stored behind the bedroom door.  Picking up a smaller tub, I carefully moved them into it.  Finally I had finished.  The room was tidy.



Triumphantly, I sent a picture to dh, who responded that it wouldn't be like that for long.  I braced myself for ds2's return from school, and yet another argument over the removal of his precious Lego.  Ds1, I assumed would be joyous that I had returned his teen den to its proper state.

School ended and ds2 tumbled through the door.  He thundered up the stairs.  I waited (reasoning an argument in my head as to why I had done such a terrible thing).  He skipped back down the stairs, beaming, he said "Thanks, Mum".  "Thanks?" I said, not really expecting him to be so reasonable.  "Yeah, thank you for tidying and for putting my best models in the little boxes for me!"  I was stunned.  Then, a cry came from upstairs.  "Muuuuum!  Why have you put my stuff here?  It should be over here with the rest of my things!"  It was ds1.  

I suppose, as the saying goes, you can't please all of the people all of the time. But, I tried, I really did!

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