Thursday, 26 June 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow? - June

It's been a while since I wrote about our garden.  To be honest I don't know quite where June has gone.  I've been busy but not really in the garden and so I guess that's why it hasn't been high on my list of things to blog about.  Anyway, I couldn't let June go without doing a quick garden post.  I've only taken a few shots but wanted to share what's been going on out there.

Firstly I'm still loving the Aquilegia.  They've obviously seeded themselves far and wide and I've now found two different colours scattered around the borders.  They are just about the only thing flowering at the moment and they do make me smile.

Having said that it won't be long before they are joined by these beauties.  Daylilies.  I can't wait for their golden yellow flowers to open up.

Despite not much in the way of flowering plants we do have a rather rampant Photinia which is rewarding me with its wonderful red foliage.  It kind of makes up for the dead Acer earlier in the year, although I do have to keep chopping it back and losing the red leaves to keep it in check.  They soon come back though.

Next to that is this rather neat looking Honeysuckle.  Believe it or not this was a two inch high stump about three months ago.  We had to chop it down following the collapse of the fence and we had planned to dig it up.  DH put the wire conical around it to mark its spot but it rather loves growing up it now.  I'm not kidding when I say it grows daily and we have to keep trimming bits off.  It really needs something bigger to grow up but I'm reluctant to let it use the fence as I think this is why it fell down in the first place and I'm not prepared to deal with that again!

Lastly (and especially for Annie), I managed to get some good pictures of our Regal Fern which is now huge.  It is quite different to the other ferns as it unfurls.  I love the way it looks a bit like broccoli here but then the fronds become flat.  Sort of like the pop up tent of the fern world!

From this...

to this!

That's about it on the garden front, although I didn't want to let another week go by without mentioning that we attended the Ideal Home Show in Manchester a few weekends ago.  I was under no obligation to blog about it although I was sent the tickets but we had a fabulous day and saw lots of interesting things, including some garden related stuff to die for!  My mum and I fell in love with something called a Breeze House which is like a little grass roofed hut with seating inside.  It doesn't sound very exciting but they really are luxurious and we went to their stand more than once to stroke the lovely things and dream about owning one!  I won't post any links as I'm not doing any free advertising but I'm a bit in love with them if only I had a lottery win to spend. *sigh*

I also didn't take a proper camera as I'm such a noob (to coin a phrase used by DS1) and so when I actually spotted a real life famous gardening person giving a talk I only got this shot:

Look it's Diarmuid Gavin!

Never mind eh?  We had a blast though and it gave us loads of ideas (and blisters on my feet!).

As an aside, I'm using a different camera for my garden pictures this week.  What do you think?  Better or worse than usual?

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Talking Box (of Shame)

We've said (a virtual) goodbye to Pre-School, attended the taster sessions in reception (and forgotten the new intake evening but that's another story) and bought the uniform (oh yes!).  We are all set for school.  Send them off on their first day, don't cry, job's a good 'un.  Right?

Wrong.  So, the twins came out of school following yesterday's settling in visit clutching these:

Talking boxes.

The twins were so excited to present me with them and I displayed the appropriate delight despite knowing what was to come.  DD2 even squealed "Mummy, I knew you'd love it!".  Bless.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, I'll attempt to enlighten you.  Here's the letter that was hidden inside:

So, not only have I got to make sure I send them to school, getting there on time and with the correct uniform (which is fair enough), but now I have to spend my entire summer holiday stockpiling random things in a box, like some sort of oversized middle-class Womble, to show that we have used our holiday time in a wholesome and educational manner instead of watching Homes Under the Hammer in my pyjamas and eating biscuits in bed every day*.  You may think, well, so what?  Just take them somewhere, make some memories, put them in the damn box, but you see, I have done this all before (FFS).  Honestly, this is worse than having the class bear.

The Talking Box Mark 1

Yes, these are talking boxes Mark 2.  Mark 1 entered our lives nearly a year ago, accompanied by a similar letter, and made the summer holiday a misery challenge as we I tried to fill them with interesting things.  It wasn't easy. 

Summer holidays for us are mostly about doing nothing.  Getting up late, playing in the garden, going for a scoot around the block and eating cheap ice cream from the freezer.  Not dissimilar to my childhood in the 80s (which never did me any harm).  Days out rarely figure in to this equation and even when they do, they usually end in disaster.  Take this picture, which I printed off for the talking box Mark 1.  Note that only four children feature.  One is missing owing to a pre-teen strop of such magnitude that it actually ruined the whole day.  I printed the picture off for the twins to take in their boxes anyway, but I often wonder just how much the teachers at pre-school knew about that day.

Happy Families

There was also the day when DS3 decided he liked collecting corks after finding one at my mum's house and being allowed to keep it.  Since then he has amassed handfuls of them, some from non alcoholic wine substitutes, and most some from proper fizzy daytime wine, although it's impossible to tell which is which.  You've probably guessed that he insisted they all went in to the box.  For everyone to count judge see.  Oh, the shame.

In addition to that, being a twin mum of course means that as you have already seen, I have to deal with two boxes, which don't always have identical contents.  It makes my brain hurt.  You obviously can't have the same stuff in both because each child is an individual, right?  So I end up having to do twice as much as all the other mums - so not fair.  Penance perhaps, for having overactive ovaries and a uterus like a bin liner.  As if paying for two lots of uniform at once wasn't bad enough.

So what shall I stick thoughtfully encourage them to put in their boxes this year?  As most of our holiday action (ha, ha who am I trying to kid? We all know I'm going to be watching Homes Under the Hammer) will be played out here I'm half tempted to simply put one of my blog business cards inside and let the teachers look it up for themselves.  It is the modern way, after all.  But that might land me in the Head Teacher's office by first break.  So, I think not.

I'm just going to have to accept that, while I've said goodbye and good riddance to pre-school, I will have to suffer another summer with the boxes of doom, safe in the knowledge that a whole new lot of teaching staff will be grading me on my abilities as a parent based on the contents of a small cardboard box or two (and we all know that's what the boxes are really for).

I am partly annoyed by this but also secretly can't wait to see what the twins come up with.  As long as there are no more corks.

* which probably still will happen 

Friday, 20 June 2014

My Kitchen Story - A Step Back in Time

I was recently looking through some old photographs and came across some that I'd forgotten I'd even taken.  Opening the paper envelope I was hardly expecting to feel as nostalgic as I did, but inside were some pictures from our very first home together, bought just six months before we got married, 18 years ago.

(For this next bit, you need to imagine wiggly lines going up and down your screen, a bit like in that series of Friends where the script writers all went on strike and they made episodes up out of lots of flashbacks.)

Our house was a little starter home on the outskirts of Macclesfield, overlooking the old Hovis Mill by the canal, and we loved it.  I mean we really really loved it and thinking about how I felt about it at the time, it was far far more exciting a purchase than out current home.  It was possibly made slightly more exciting by the fact that everything inside it was chosen by us.  Every spare minute we had was spent thinking about our new home, how we would furnish it, what colour carpets we would have, from the moment we signed on the dotted line to reserve our plot.

Our house being built!

The Hovis Mill in the distance - taken from the end of the road

Further up the street - our house was the fourth one up on the right

We chose a plot with a Kitchen/Dining Room, largely because I fancied myself as a bit of a chef and wanted a bigger space than just a galley kitchen.  I imagined how we'd entertain our friends in it and cook delicious meals.  I chose white units (I say chose, but there was actually only one other style to choose from) and insisted on white tiles rather than the patterned tiles that were on offer.

This is the show home kitchen

My kitchen being put in

We were really pleased with our choice and when we finally moved in I can remember us sitting on the floor in the kitchen (no furniture!) and eating a pizza which we'd cooked to try out the oven.  We were so thrilled - it was all ours!

A few years after we'd moved in - note the cat on the worktop
which is the reason why we no longer have a cat.

We forged friendships over dinner parties with new friends and neighbours there.  We shared our first Christmas meal together alone in that kitchen.  Drank coffee at the kitchen table with the newspapers on a Sunday while nursing a hangover there.  It was the heart of our home.

We had planned to keep the house for only a few years and move into something bigger but then we had a surprise.

Little did I realise on that first night in our kitchen, sitting on the floor eating pizza that just four years later I would be using that same room to sterilise bottles, to warm them up in the middle of the night, to make tea and coffee for gatherings of new mum friends and to feed our baby his first taste of food.

DS1 eating in the kitchen

Our house wasn't a big one but it was just right for the three of us.  It was cosy.  I really miss that house.  In fact, in a recent rose-tinted spectacled moment I decided to search Right Move using our old post code as a starting point.  Right at the top of the page was a familiar sight - our old house!  I couldn't resist having a look around (after all, that's what Right Move is meant for isn't it?).  Of course, the kitchen has long since been ripped out, replaced by one rather similar to our current one.  The house looked rather empty and unloved, not like the family home it was when it belonged to us.  A few things remained - the blackout blind in DS1's room and despite the new kitchen, the light fitting that DH put up above the dining table.

We couldn't live there now of course - there are far too many of us!  We now have a very grown up bigger house which has one thing our old one didn't (apart from lots more bedrooms) - space in the kitchen for a dishwasher.  I love my dishwasher nearly as much as my first home.  DH loves it too (as he does most of the washing up) and has recently discovered Fairy Platinum tablets for it.  They are not only good at cleaning the plates as you'd expect, but they leave our dishwasher smelling fresh and clean too (which is a bonus as it is probably the most used thing in our kitchen apart from the washing machine).  It's no wonder they've been awarded Best in Test 5 years running by Which?

Our first home has since been re-sold to a new owner (I checked Right Move again - its addictive isn't it?!).  I really hope they love it as much as I did.

This post is an entry for the "My Kitchen Story" Linky Challenge, sponsored by Fairy Platinum (find out more here).

We were sent some Fairy Platinum tablets by Britmums to enable this post.  All opinions are our own.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Shoutykid Book Review

We were recently sent a copy of Shoutykid - How Harry Riddles Made a Mega-Amazing Zombie Movie by Simon Mayle for DS2 to review.

The book is about 10 year old Harry Riddles who writes some very funny letters to the Queen, Harry Styles and even applies to Dragons Den to try and get some help following his father's redundancy.  The book is written in a series of letters, e-mails and text messages, mainly between Harry and his cousin.  Harry is very attached to his Xbox and doesn't want to sell it despite his family's financial problems and he plans to use any celebrity help he gets to make a zombie movie so that he can save his family and get things back on track.

Harry also likes a girl at school called Jessica, and in a bid to try and impress her he writes to some more famous people to ask if they'll come and watch the school play (which Jessica is starring in).  As with his other letters, he doesn't always get the response he hopes for.

This book is pitched perfectly for DS2, who at nearly nine years old can relate to some of Harry's problems (as well as his love of Xbox).

So, what did DS2 think?

"The book was great!  I liked that there were zombies in it and Xbox too.  Harry's idea for a zombie movie was very cool, and it was funny when he turned his sister into a zombie in it.  I thought it was good when him and his cousin got the bully banned from World of Zombies - I wish I could play that game, it sounds fun.  I'd give this book 10 out of 10!"

In addition to the book, there is also a Shoutykid website with more information about the book, Harry's blog and resources for children to use once they've read the story.  You can buy the book from Amazon and at its current price it is a bit of a bargain as it retails for £6.99 usually.  Having had a quick read myself, I think it would make a really good birthday party gift for DS2's class mates (9 is a bit of a difficult age for presents I find).  It certainly held his interest and made a really nice change seeing him read in the sunshine we've had recently, rather than playing on the Xbox!

You can also watch the trailer for the book here to find out more.

We were sent a copy of Shoutykid - How Harry Riddles Made a Mega-Amazing Zombie Movie for the purpose of this review.  All words and opinions are our own.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Should we let him go?

This is a funny sort of post really.  I kind of know the answer already, or at least I know how I feel but  somehow I also know that I'm going to feel a whole lot better if I get it off my chest here.

So,  DS1 is 13, in Year 8 and its coming up to the end of year school trip.  These trips are the only non educational, open to all trips that the school run and I suppose if I was 13 I'd be looking forward to a day out with my friends, on a school day with no parents in the way.  This is exactly the way that DS1 feels and although £25 is steep as far as school trips go, I don't mind paying for him to go.  Except I have one issue.

The trip is to a theme park.  One with a lot of thrill rides.  DS1 wants to go on the thrill rides.  DS1's friends will want him to go on the thrill rides.  He can't.  At least, he can't go on 8 of them because, according to the theme park website, they have a warning stating that they are unsuitable for people with heart conditions.  DS1 has a major heart condition which doesn't affect his life on a day to day level, but which may be affected by these rides,  we don't know.  That's why there are safety guidelines in place.  To me this seems a non-negotiable point.

Photo Credit

Trust.  I trust DS1 in as much as I know he wouldn't put himself in any danger willingly.  But, do I really?  What if we let him go and he's sensible until his classmates make him go on the rides because to them, they aren't that bad.  What if they manage to convince him that nothing bad will happen?  He is like most 13 year old boys in that he is desperate to be seen as cool, part of the in-crowd and popular.  This may sway him.  If nothing terrible happens to him will he come home telling us that he did go on them?  Will he lie to protect our feelings?  Will he never believe us when we say he may be in danger again?

What if his friends tease him because he can't or won't go on them and then they ditch him because they want to go on the rides anyway?  13 year old boys are not known for their empathy and I worry that this is the fate that will befall him if I let him go. I feel it would almost be better if we didn't
let him go, because if he's not there then none of these scenarios will exist.

If we don't let him go then he'll of course be teased about that too.  You can't win.

He's upset, because on the one hand we are saying he can go, but we are stipulating that he can't have the sort of fun he so wants.  No wonder he's upset, I'd be upset if that happened to me too.

The thing is, I want him to be happy and I want him to be safe.  I can't have both.  Nobody tells you about this kind of thing when you have a child with a heart condition.  They might tell you about diagnosis, treatment, prognosis but they don't tell you how to handle this.  I should know the answer, I'm his mum, but while I know I shouldn't wrap him up in cotton wool forever, I wish I could, or at least make everything OK.

In truth, I wish that I didn't have to be the bad cop, to be the one that always says no.

An Update:

I wrote this post about a week ago now, and since then we have sought the advice of DS1's cardiac team.  As things stand, he is perfectly safe to go on the rides he wants to.  So, we have booked and paid for the trip and have a happy boy (well, as happy as a teenager gets when you tell them they have to save their pocket money for spends on the day).  I wasn't therefore going to post this but then I thought it might be of interest to other parents going through the same thing.  The cardiac team at Alder Hey have been, as ever, amazing in explaining things to us.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

So long, farewell - 10 reasons why I won't miss Pre-School

I can remember the first time DS1 went to Pre-School and I was torn between feeling anxious to leave him and being fairly elated at the thought of having a few hours to myself for once.  Obviously with five children to my name I've been through the whole Pre-School phase a few times now and each time I've been less anxious and more grateful of its existence.  Last week the twins started back at their Pre-School for the final half term and suddenly it hit me.  In seven weeks there will be no more Pre-School.  The end of an era.  I'm not sad about it.  I'm happy.  The kids have mostly enjoyed their time there but me?  There are so many things that I won't miss.

Doing the school run in the middle of the day.  We go, I drop them off and then by the time I've got home again and got stuck into a juicy convo on twitter a big pile of ironing its time to go and pick them up again.  It's like doing a perpetual school run.  In the rain.  Some days it's actually easier to have them at home I'm sure.

Filling out loads of forms.  Why are there so many?  Every term there are forms for the free 15 hour element for each child, then there's forms for taking and using photos and for going out of school and all sorts of other seemingly ordinary things.  Why can't there be just one at the start of the year?  Don't even get me started on the accident book.

Looking excited at all the interesting Mother's Day/ Easter/ Valentine's gifts.  And having to eat some of them.  Yes I pretend they are delightful, but once you've seen one badly iced biscuit you've seen them all. Trust me on this.  And buy some Ovex (because you never know where else those fingers have been...).

No, I didn't eat these...

Having approx 247 pictures of a blue scribble on the notice board every week.  Every week.  Can they not encourage some form of recognisable drawing?

An egg?  A rock?  Just a load of scribbles.

Ruining their nice clothes and shoes.  Send your kids in something old you say?  All of their clothes are old but some are really rather nice, having been handed down from child to child - I do not enjoy trying to remove marker pen from them and I inwardly wince when we've bought new shoes and they come home with the inevitable scuff on the first day of wearing.  What are they doing in that place, mountaineering?

Perfect for a trip up Ben Nevis

Attending Christmas open days/concerts/plays.  I love hearing my children sing, who doesn't?  It is extra cute when they are small, but having attended lots of Pre-School concerts I can tell you categorically that the only people you will ever hear singing are the overly cheery staff as the kids kind of mumble in the background while shaking a set of bells or some maracas.  If you ever have to endure this along with weak lukewarm tea (it can't be hot on account of the children) while sitting on one of those extra teeny chairs then you have my full sympathy.

DD1 looks cute here but I am crying, not because she's cute but because of
the stupidly small chair and the fact that I can no longer feel my legs.*

The overwhelming smell of disinfectant as the door opens.  Yes, I know why there's a smell of disinfectant and my kids have on occasion had their fair share of accidents while at Pre-School, but can no one open a window?  I can practically feel my brain cells dieing as I inhale.

Waiting for the door to open.  Also on the subject of doors, I am so looking forward to not having to spend hours of my day waiting for the gates to be unlocked and the doors to open.  I know its for the children's safety, but I feel like I'm entering a prison every time, and the waiting, the endless waiting... (Nobody there owns a watch).

Parking.  Oh how I love the creative parking by some of the parents in the middle of the day.  Parking at the bus stop, double parking and parking so close to the yellow zig zag that you can barely see where it ends.  I realise that small people have a very limited capacity for walking distance but that doesn't mean that you need to park next to the gate (or in a resident's driveway).  Add a few late for work dinner ladies into the mix and we're at gridlock.

Being told off by my own children.  "No mummy, at Pre-School we have crackers and apple and raisins for snack, not breadsticks". *Sigh*. Nothing beats being told off by your child for not doing things the way that Pre-School does - which of course is the right way.  Speaking of snacks, I'm also blaming the Pre-School staff for introducing my children to prawn crackers during Chinese New Year.  I cannot now open a bag without having to share it with them.  They no longer believe that they are special crisps that taste of vegetables/are for grown ups only.  Honestly, that place spoils all my fun.

So bye bye Pre-School, it's been fun an experience.  Time to bring on the endless school trips, school dinner menus and PTA fund raisers - I can hardly wait.

*  I should mention that I've edited the other kid's faces out here so that their parents don't hunt me down for reproducing pictures of their offspring on the internet.  Pre-Schools don't generally make children wear grey plates over their faces during concerts as far as I'm aware.

Friday, 6 June 2014

What's on my shelfie?

Disclaimer:  No shelves were tidied in the writing of this blog post.

This is my favourite shelf.  It's in my kitchen.  When we bought our house 12 years ago I was very excited that our kitchen was going to come with built in display shelves.  They were going to be the place where I displayed my fancy Alessi pointless juice squeezer kitchen gadgets and all my good cook books.

As you can see, things didn't exactly turn out that way.

Here we have paper, and biros, because children seem to use/lose a lot of these, so I have a plentiful supply.  Also some colouring books in there somewhere.

On this side some other random stuff, a smelly candle (handy for removing the stench of teens) glue (because as you know, I have pre-schoolers so glue is an essential).  There are a few cannisters of lovely ink cartridges because a few weeks ago I decided that I was going to use a proper pen and paper to plan things and maybe even write letters to people I know, but that hasn't exactly panned out.  Not enough time in the day.  So they are here, to keep them safe or until my 11 year old steals them to use herself.

Here we have books (at last!) and an empty wine bottle.  It's Friday night and so that's a given.  Kids are finally in bed.

A closer look at the books.  We like Jamie Oliver here.  A lot.  Also, for information, the Gordon Ramsay book and the Ainsley Harriott barbecue book are signed copies.  The Ainsley one is the second book he signed for me.  He spelt my name wrong in the first one and so did another copy.  What a nice man.

You can tell a lot about a person from their shelves I'm sure.  I'm pretty sure mine says disorganised mother, needs more storage, but I went to the Victoria Plumb website to take their Great British Home Quiz and find out for sure.  It revealed that I am in fact, Mrs Quirky Cool.  Apparently my style is most like Jess or Nick from New Girl (whoever they are/whatever that is).  Anyway, if you head on over to their website you can take the quiz too and enter their competition to win £250 of John Lewis vouchers, which would definitely be handy for doing up your home and even buying some new shelves.

As for me, well I'm going to go and have a rummage in the kitchen cupboards for some of my forgotten Alessi gadgets to see if I can make my shelves a little less shabby and a little more chic.  I'm sure they are in there, somewhere...

Mr Nutcase Review

I was recently approached by Mr Nutcase and asked if I'd like to review one of their personalised phone cases.   "No problem!" said I, after all in this house there are now four of us with smartphones and various other touch screen devices used by us all.  I was sure I'd find something that someone would like.

The trouble is DH and I rather like our phones as they are and the teen and pre-teen already have cheap silicone cases for their smartphones.

Now, I could have ordered myself a case to review but really what would be the point of that if I was happy without one in the first place?  So, hunting around the Mr Nutcase website I discovered that they don't just make cases for every smartphone you could ever think of (including the ancient one that DH forces me to use I still have) but they also make cases for tablets and iPods too!

DD1 has had her iPod touch for nearly three years now.  To be quite honest it has a fair few scratches on the back of it from her putting it down all over the house and sticking it in pockets and drawers too.  I decided that I would order her a case to give it a new lease of life and protect what was left of it.  So, off we went onto the Mr Nutcase website to design one.

My pre-teen is fussy.  Fussy beyond belief.  There are literally hundreds of permutations on the Mr Nutcase site which you can have to make your perfect phone case.  Personally had I been designing one just for me I would have had some family photos or one of my children's pictures (doting mother that I am) on the back.  I uploaded several images to the website to see how they would look and I can honestly say that it was not only easy but that they looked pretty great too.  But, DD1 didn't want that, no.  She wanted this...

The checkout process via their website was simple (although there is an app too!) and our case arrived a few days later.

DD1 was pleased with her Minecraft themed design.  The case fits the iPod nicely and all the holes are in the right place, allowing easy access to all the buttons and sockets.

The case is thin and light and doesn't get in the way like some do and I think it works well to disguise all the scratches our iPod Touch has picked up and hopefully will help to protect it in the future.  DD1 hasn't taken the case off since she got it so that means it has been a hit with her too.

At £14.95 for our case it is a reasonable price for something that has been made to our specifications. If I ever manage to get a photograph of all my children where they aren't killing each other are all smiling at once then I shall be straight back to the Mr Nutcase website to order an iPad case for Grandma.  A personalised case would also make a nice Father's Day gift too.

If you'd also like to try one of their cases then Mr Nutcase have offered my readers a discount of 10% off any of the cases on their website by quoting the code "Thanku10".

We received a free case from Mr Nutcase for the purpose of this review.  All words and opinions are our own.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Hotel Chocolat H-Box Everything Selection Review

If you've been reading for a while you might remember that just before Christmas Hotel Chocolat asked us to review one of their Christmas chocolate selections.  We loved them and in fact it lead my husband to go searching in our local store for something gorgeous and grown up to eat after Christmas lunch.  He came back with some of their selector boxes, all of which were delicious, in particular the Gin Truffles (yes, you read that right, GIN TRUFFLES, with actual Gin!).  You can tell then, that we are really big fans of Hotel Chocolat here.

A few weeks ago I was asked again to take a look at their selection of chocolates with Father's Day coming up.  Knowing we would be in for a treat I was only too delighted.  We chose to review their H-Box Everything Selection Chocolate Box which boasts 14 different chocolates.

The chocolates came wrapped in tissue and inside an elegant gift bag.  Perfect for dads.  So much so that DH immediately unwrapped his parcel to see what was inside.  The chocolates are in a single tray presented in an understated box, the front of which states - Making a choice can be the hardest thing, so why bother?  Don't deny yourself - enjoy a bit of everything.  If I was choosing a chocolate gift for my own father, father-in-law or DH this is the type of thing I would buy (although with my own father no longer here and a father-in-law with lactose intolerance there was really only one man for the job so sadly it fell to DH to tell me what he thought of them - such a tough job).

Inside, the chocolates themselves are all different from one another (a bit of everything, as the box says!).  There are quite a few caramel based and praline chocolates in the selection.  I must admit I'm a big fan of this type of chocolate, so I was very happy when DH said I could share his gift (ha ha, yes he really did say that!).  DH's favourite type of chocolate is white chocolate, but in this selection there is only one, Eton Mess which he quickly snaffled before the children got in on the action!  There are however, a nice mix of milk and dark chocolates in the box and so he was more than happy with what was left.

Our favourites were Billionaire's Shortbread, Dizzy Praline, Nutty Caramel and although neither DH or I fancied trying it, a Liquorice Caramel which 11 year old DD1 tried, telling us that it wasn't too overpowering a flavour paired with the dark chocolate (ok she didn't exactly say that, I'm paraphrasing, not raising a mini Nigella).

All in all this box is another hit from Hotel Chocolat.  If you are looking for something special for a Father's Day gift then this is it.  At £13.00 for the box they are something of a luxury compared to the chocolate we usually buy, but I would be prepared to pay that price knowing what a treat it is.

I was also quite taken with their Beer Selector boxes made with Belgian Blonde Beer, which are only £3.85 for six chocolates and would make a nice inexpensive and unusual gift.

Of course, once Father's Day is out of the way my birthday is next (and its a significant one), there are more than a few things on the Hotel Chocolat website that I have my eye on (apart from Gin chocs) I wonder if I should start dropping hints now?...

We were sent a box of chocolate by Hotel Chocolat in return for this review.  All words and opinions are our own.
Family Fever

Monday, 2 June 2014

A Pre-Schooler's Guide to Half Term

(by DS3, aged 4)

Day 1

Breakfast - make sure that you use all of the milk with your cereal in the morning, leaving the smallest drop in the bottom of the milk jug.  Encourage a sibling to help you if necessary.  That way mum will have a nice surprise when she comes to pour some into her freshly made mug of coffee and finds that there isn't nearly enough.  You can use this tactic to break her down as she will need to go to the shop for more (or send a teenage sibling if you have one).  This in turn will mean that she has to either bribe the teen or you with sweets in order to get the milk bought, or go without.  Which is better, kids on a sugar rush, or a day without caffeine?

Day 2 

If your Mum or Dad tell you that you need to wear a hat and gloves in winter then why not do it in summer too?  If its even the slightest bit rainy insist on wearing wooly mittens to do everything.  I mean EVERYTHING.  It doesn't matter that it is May and that you are indoors.  You may find it tricky to use an iPad without temporary removal of the mittens - if you really have to use the iPad then make sure you stuff the mittens down the sofa so far that they cannot be retrieved.  Then cry until they are.  A lot.

Day 3

If you have siblings with an Xbox (or a daddy, this works with them too) insist that today the Xbox belongs to you.  Throw even the mildest tantrum when anyone but you picks up the controller and suggests a game.  Make sure that you play Minecraft (widely acknowledged as the most irritating game in history by all the grown ups).  If you let a sibling play with you make sure that you argue with them.  The louder the better.  Feel extra pleased with yourself when Mum threatens to "put the damn thing on Ebay".

Day 4

Have a relatively normal day.  Be polite and pleasant to everyone.  Lull them all into a false sense of security by claiming that you are too tired.  Have a sofa day.

Then.  When they are all settled for the evening, get out of bed.  Prance around at the top of the stairs screaming and giggling and play knock-a-door run on your older sibling's bedroom doors.  This usually gets them annoyed.  When they start shouting too it will have the added advantage of eating into Mum's gin time because she'll have to come upstairs to tell everyone off.  When everyone is settled do it again.  Repeat as necessary.

Day 5

Last day of the holidays, you are nearly at the weekend.  The disadvantage of this is that with two parents available to police you, you may not be able to get away with quite so much, so make today count.

Ok so Mum has messed up your routine all week.  Its payback time!  You know how mums appreciate the holidays when they don't have to get up and take you to Pre-School.  They will probably be savouring their last available lie in by now.  Get up extra early.  Make sure all available siblings are awake too by repeatedly shouting their names until they answer you.  Then, demand to go downstairs and have your breakfast.  Mum will give in immediately because she will be fed up of the noise.  She will grumble and have to drink lots of coffee so, for a laugh, repeat Day 1 again.

There.  The perfect range of activities for the half term break, ensuring that you will get to do, eat and behave however you want.  For added tension you might also try mentioning how much you want to go to Cbeebies Land every time the advert appears on the TV (which is a lot).  Mum might get so frightened that you will repeat all of the above continually throughout the entire six weeks of the summer holidays that she will eventually crack oblige in purchasing the tickets.  Hooray!  Half term is really great!

How was your holiday?

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