A Mothers Ramblings: August 2013

Saturday, 31 August 2013

My 99p Summer - #Review #my99psummer

When Daddy and I were first married we didn't have a lot of spare cash and we use to have little "competitions" with each other to see who could buy the best gift for the least amount of money. If we'd had a 99p Store near us it would have made things a lot easier, especially if we had a theme like we did when the 99p Stores challenged us to have a 99p Summer... We happened to be in London near a 99p store at the start of the Summer Holidays so we popped in and looked round the store, to see what we'd buy.

The children decided to buy a water bottle and a sandwich box each. They figured that with all the picnics they had planned for the holidays that they'd come in useful and they were right!

99p Store Sandwich Boxes and Water Bottles

The sandwich boxes are brilliant and will be making a lot of appearances in lunch boxes over the upcoming school term. Top Ender's water bottle is going to stay in use as her water bottle for at home and during the night, but Big Boy has a rather bad habit of chewing the spout and his has met an early demise.

Big Boy with the watter bottles

Daddy wandered round the whole store and decided that the thing he'd like most would be some BBQ Sauce. Apparently he was planning on not only eating a lot of Hot Dogs over the Summer, but he had high hopes for the weather and was planning on getting the Barbecue out at least once a week. I have to say that the sauce was actually really lovely and the Hot Dogs we did have during the Summer were well covered!

HOT DOGS!

Big Boy had been walking round the store in a little bit of a grump because I had said we shouldn't buy any water balloons or water fight tools because he always got upset when he lost or was wettest out of us all, so I surprised him by allowing him to have two lots. We've had so many water fights over the Summer that I've lost count, the only problem of course is we don't tend to have pictures of them because cameras and water don't mix as Top Ender tested out for me a couple of summers ago.

Top Ender picked up some Hello Kitty Chocolate Milkshake, which she wanted because it was Hello Kitty and Chocolate Milkshake.  I put this in the cupboard and forgot about it, which was a bad thing because as soon we did remember and have some we realised that it was a really lovely taste and we've been making Chocolate Milk Ice Cubes from it to have melting into our Vanilla Milk.

The last thing we brought was a couple of white boards. The idea had been that the children could play on them in the car, that they could draw pictures or write messages to each other or people in other cars... but instead they got commandeered by me and I've been using them to play Guess The Song and Hangman and What's the Film and other guessing games on Twitter, Facebook and with guests in our home.

Guess The Song

I've even been leaving messages for Burglars just in case they break in whilst we're out.

A Note to Burglars

So far they haven't and as far as I know the neighbours are okay too.

I have to say that our 99p Summer has been fantastic and I'm rather sad to be saying goodbye to August. Can we pretend that it's still Summer for a bit longer?!

We were given £10 to spend in the 99p Stores and this is also an entry to win an ipad. I don't mind if I don't win as long as you all come and play Guess the song with me next time I play!

Back To School Meal Plan (W/C 31st Aug) - #Review

I didn't mean to stop Meal Planning over the Summer Holidays, but with the budget being super small I thought you'd get bored of seeing every other meal being Beans on Toast and an increasing dependence on eggs!

We were back to School this week and so the Meal Planning has started properly again, instead of the scribbled note on the fridge that we've been consulting during the holidays.

The only difference is, I'm now planning meals for Big Boy and Top Ender in the evening that are low carb (it's okay I'm not going all Gwyneth on you) and then a later meal in the evening for Daddy and I as he isn't back from work until just after 7:30pm.

The weekends though are all about the family time.

Saturday - Ragu and Pasta


We're loving the new Ragu range that we were sent to try*, the meat is already in the sauce so it's easy to heat up and add to your favourite pasta without having to worry about cooking meat to go with it and as it's so quick, it gives me enough time to do something else. Paint my nails was a suggestion, but I chose to hoover the stairs!

Ragu and Pasta

The children have asked for us to have a home Italian Restaurant, so I'm making garlic dough balls to start, having the ragu and pasta for our mains and then we'll tuck into a home made Panna cotta, which I'll blog the recipe for as it's so easy to make.

Oh and Gluten Free Friends, the only sauce that Daddy didn't eat was the Bolognese Sauce with Meatballs as that wasn't gluten free, the other two were.

Sunday - Sausage Roast


We swapped over from the usual Chicken to M&S Sausages with the Roast Trimmings (Veg, Yorkshire, sometimes some stuffing and Roast Potatoes). We like the Sausages because they are mostly meat, gluten free and a low price (compared to most gluten free sausages) and it's a lot quicker to cook.

Monday - Vegetable Omelette


The reason for the low carb is that we've noticed Big Boy was spiking with his blood sugars in the middle of the night, a Vegetable Omelette (something like Broccoli, peppers and onion) is really low in carbs (about 17g with the amount I use of the veg) and so that's enough to keep BB going but also enough to make sure that he is sticking to a low carb diet.

Daddy will be having Stirfry with me :)

Tuesday - Spam Kebabs


During the holidays we were sent a tub of new easy open Spam*, it was brilliant as we all know how accident prone I am with sharp things (I cut my hand on the sink during the holidays!) and the Spam cans were a little dangerous when not handled properly.


Spam Curry

I had ended up making a Spam curry for Daddy and I and the children had Spam Kebabs, which is what I'm making again tonight. All I had done was stick cubes of Pineapple, Peppers and Spam on to bamboo skewers along with Button Mushrooms and Baby Plum Tomatoes.

Wednesday - Beans on Toast


I know, I know I said that you'd be bored if every meal was beans on toast, but I still have to include it as the children have got quite used to having this as an evening meal!

Thursday - Smoked Haddock Omelette


I love smoked haddock and in an omelette with a little tomato and chives from the garden it tastes fantastic and even better it's so low in carbs that Big Boy could eat this until it came out of his ears if he wanted to. Thankfully he won't be eating that much of it though, as if he did I wouldn't have enough for me to have too!

I'm going to do a main meal of Smoked Haddock and Salad for Daddy and I.

Friday - Honey Mustard Chicken Drumsticks


Big Boy quite likes a drumstick of chicken because it's easy to hold and so tonight we're having Honey Mustard Chicken Drumsticks with peas and I'm going to attempt courgette chips/fries so wish me luck!

What are you looking forward to eating this week?

We were sent the tub of Spam and three jars of Ragu to review.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Daddy's Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Pizza #Recipe

A very simple recipe that takes only a few minutes to prepare, and turns out a very respectable pizza, free of Wheat and Gluten.

Ingredients

200g gluten-free plain flour (we use Dove's Farm)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon caster sugar
4g dried active yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
115ml warm water (1 third cool, 2 thirds just boiled)
Toppings of your choice (we like it with passata, grated cheese and chopped onion)

Method

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Stir in the olive oil and water until it forms a dough.

All gluten-free flours vary, so if it seems a little sticky, add small amounts of flour and keep mixing.

Press out by hand into a circle on a non-stick pizza tray (the ones with the holes work best), turning up the edge to create a lip.

Add the toppings and then cook at the top of a pre-heated oven (200C / Gas Mark 6) for 25 minutes and voila!


Cheese and Onion Gluten Free Pizza Recipe


Thursday, 29 August 2013

HP Slate 7 Tablet - #Review

I've said before that we're big on using Tablets in our family, there are actually more tablets in our house than there are people and as we each use them in different ways, we knew we could test out the new HP Slate 7 Tablet to its full capacity.

Daddy set the tablet up. He's the go-to guy for things like this, manly because he knows all the WIFI passwords (we have several) and also because when there is then an issue he's the one to sort it out and so if he knows how the tablet should be set up, he can find out what's wrong more quickly! Daddy used the tablet to tweet and to check his emails and do some general web browsing. As it runs Android, he found that it was just the same as the other tablets we have in the house (which all run Android) and although it wasn't the most up to date version it was more than capable of doing what we all needed it to do. The web browsing wasn't the most comfortable experience, but as Daddy said if he wanted to do some serious browsing he'd use a PC because the screen size is better and he wouldn't have to worry about waiting for the tablet to catch up with what he'd asked it to do.

Top Ender on the HP Slate 7 Tablet #Review

Top Ender managed to get hold of the tablet next. She installed Minecraft and a couple of other games that she loves and played away on a car journey happily. She noticed a little lag in some games, but overall thought it comparable to her Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, and she thought that the screen wasn't as bright or as clear, but Daddy thought they were much the same.

Top Ender and Big Boy playing Chess on the HP Slate 7

Big Boy got hold of the tablet next, he's a fan of Youtube and loves to watch Youtube on his tablet (he had a Acer Iconia B1 and he now has a Samsung like Top Ender) and make his own videos. The quality of the video was blocky, but then Big Boy is 5 so he didn't care.

When I eventually got the tablet I wanted to catch up on some TV shows that I had missed in the last few days. I tend to do this over breakfast in the garden (when it isn't raining that is) and try not to wear headphones because that way I can hear the children. The problem with the HP Slate 7 is the same as I have with my Google Nexus 7, unless I'm wearing headphones the speakers just aren't good enough.

I did think the battery life was disappointing, I used it as my "work" tablet for a day and found I had to charge it after about five hours. If this was Daddy's, then I think watching something on his commute to work, doing a few bits and pieces during the day and listening to music would wipe it out before his commute home and leave him looking miserably out the train window.

The tablet is only £99.99, which is one of the cheapest tablets on the market and as always you do get what you pay for. Personally I think the tablet is worth the money if you are looking to buy something for your children to use and to keep them off your device.

Candles With A Twist - #Review

It's coming up to the time of year, where I start thinking about gifts, not just gifts for Christmas but gifts for friends next year and gifts for ME, seeing as it's my wedding anniversary in September and I know that if there is something I'd really like that I need to either tell Daddy or drop a really big hint! I was asked if I'd like to review a Jewel Candle, and I said yes. I thought that it was a cute idea and I like candles too!

There are two types of Jewellery that you can get in your Jewel Candle, a ring or earrings. I asked if I could review the rings because I don't wear earrings these days and then had to make the hardest choice, I had to decide what scent I'd like! I went with Cherry, as this is one of my favourite scents and then a couple of days later my candle arrived. I was surprised firstly at the size of the candle and secondly at the strength of the scent.

Jewel Candle Pink Cherry

I thought that the candles were going to be small, sort of a couple inches tall but seeing as how the candle can burn for 130-150 hours I should have put my previous experience of working in a shop that sold candles into practice and realised that it was going to be huge!

Lit Jewel Candle Pink Cherry

The candle scent was really lovely, it wasn't overpowering but was strong enough that I could smell it whilst it was burning and when I first pulled the lid off the candle too.

It took roughly 11 hours to burn the candle down so that I could get the heat proof package out of the candle, I had decided early on that I wasn't going to dig it out with a spoon like some Jewel Candle fans have done according to posts on the Jewel Candle Facebook page. I would have to show patience!

Jewel Candle Heat Proof Package Almost Ready To Come Out

I discovered a beautiful ring in the candle, it said that it was £35 according to the value label on the ring and everyone who has seen the ring has been surprised that I got it out of a candle but have agreed that it's a nice idea and a nice way of giving a gift of Jewellery.

The one thing that I was disappointed about was that you couldn't choose the size of the ring, or the style of the earrings. When I do wear earrings I tend to wear studs instead of long earrings and whilst I do have "normal" sized fingers and the ring I got fitted me I would be worried if I was Daddy buying this for me as I couldn't guarantee that the ring I was sent would fit.

Overall I think that the idea of the Jewel Candles is brilliant, combining two great gift ideas and something which I would quite happily buy for friends, teachers, Secret Santa gifts and just about any other female I'd need to buy a gift for really!

We were sent a Pink Cherry Jewel Candle to review. It's in my living room on the fireplace making my living room smell nice especially at this exact moment because I've just taken my trainers off.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

I Solemnly Swear I'm Up To No Good

Big Boy and Top Ender are rather big fans of Youtube videos. They have realised that if they have a problem getting through a level on a computer game, or they want to learn how to do something, or they want to watch a favourite music video that YouTube normally has the video they are after. I don't mind, I think it's good that the children are learning to be independent, and if it means that I don't have to go and finish a game level for them, then all the better.

We do have a rule though.

If the person in the video swears, we turn it off. No ifs no buts (no coconuts).

Commonly Asked For Words to Type into Youtube by Big Boy

We make it a little easier, by selecting videos by people who don't swear and videos on channels we have watched before and so have "vetted". So it was a little bit of a surprise the other day when Big Boy was sitting in the back of the car and I had to break a little faster than normal and he exclaimed;

"WHAT THE BEEP!"

That's right, he beeped himself.

Apparently one of the no swearing videos that he watches on Youtube, is no swearing because it uses a tone to beep out the swearing words.

"It's okay though Mummy, I'm not swearing am I!"

Well, actually no, it's not okay and now this particular Youtube channel is banned from our house.

Pouting Big Boy

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Ideas For The Last Week Of The Summer Holidays - #Review

So what are you up to in the last week of the Summer holidays? If like us, you haven't really got any plans, here are a few ideas of things that we've got up to and that we're planning on doing again if we can muster the energy!

A Trip to the Science Museum


We went quite early in the Summer Holidays, and had a brilliant time walking round looking at the different exhibits and asking the Children to answer questions based on what we were learning from the exhibits. I've said several times before that the Science Museum is a more than one day visit so don't feel bad if you don't see everything in one trip.

If you do have some funds left this close to the end of the holidays, then consider going to one of the paid for shows at the Science Museum, which we were kindly invited to. Big Boy (aged 5) and Top Ender (aged 9) loved The Energy Show and are still talking about some of the concepts they learnt.

Science Museum - The Energy Show

Top Ender in particular is quite fond of telling us that she can smell CH4 and asking if she can light it...

Arts and Craft


It doesn't have to be crafting with things you've brought (although some of the things Yellow Moon sent us have been great fun to play with) you could just do some junk modelling or turn shoe boxes (from the new School shoes) into houses or treasure chests.

Yellow Moon Baker Ross Foam Kit

Or you could do something as simple as draw your favourite characters like Daddy and I did with a bit of coloured paper we found.

Mike and Sulley Drawings by PippaD and Daddy


Play A Board Game


We love playing board games, although I have to admit the most fun we had was playing the Guess The Song Game on Facebook with all my friends on my personal profile. It was made possible by a 99p White Board (from the 99p Stores, very kind of them as they gave us some great bits to play with over the Summer) and of course my brilliant friends who are always game for a laugh!

Firework Guess The Song Drawing

And don't forget that my Facebook profile is public, so if I do play games again in the future (I will!) then you can join in even if you don't want to add me as a friend!

Bake


We were lucky to have a set from Hobbycraft sent to us, (which was brilliant as all we had to do was add an egg and some butter and we always have eggs and butter in the house!) this kept us amused for the best part of a day with using the cookie cutters, the actual baking and decorating of the biscuits, and then of course the eating of the biscuits.

Hobbycraft Baking Set

It was a lot of fun, even if some of the biscuits did burn a little.

Get Out In The Garden


I'm really pleased with our garden at the moment, I've put some effort in and got it looking better and with the help of the children we've managed to take part in the Riverford Big Worm Dig and find a Fairy Door. 

Fairy Door in the Garden

Talking about the Big Worm Dig, I never knew there were so many different sorts of worms, I learnt something this Summer Holiday!

Watch a Film


You might have missed going to see the Summer's Big Blockbusters in the Cinema when they were first out (Planes, Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 were all fab!) but there is still plenty of time to see them now (the cinema might quieter now) or even to buy a film to watch at home, or you could enter one of my competitions to win a copy of Barbie Mariposa and The Fairy Princess or All Stars.

Barbie Mariposa And The Fairy Princess DVD CoverAll Stars DVD Cover




What are you planning on doing (or have you done) in the last week of the holidays?

BT Home Hub 4 - A #Review By Daddy

If this summer has taught me anything, it's that children (and Mummy) and their gadgets are hard to part. Even if it's 30 degrees outside, with weather men laying odds on a second  Cretaceous Thermal Maximum*, you are often to find the family on the sofa clinging to a Tablet PC, Nintendo DS or Phone.

Fortunately, most of these devices are portable (with the exception of the Xbox, but even then I swear Big Boy is making plans to put it on wheels), so the garden is not out of bounds. When we were given the opportunity to test the new BT Home Hub 4 ADSL Wireless router, I said I would definitely be interested - because this version of the Home Hub is being advertised on the basis that it offers a better WiFi signal, and for me - in a moderate suburban house - the only real "slow spot" as far as WiFi goes is the Garden.

BT Home Hub 4 Review

We have had the previous version, the BT Home Hub 3, since our fibre-to-the-cabinet based ADSL service was installed about 18 months ago. Cosmetically the two devices are mildly different, the later device slightly smaller in most dimensions - small enough in fact to put through a letterbox, negating the need to wait in for the delivery. Unfortunately it still doesn't have the ability to wall mount it - typically a device like this, once set up, doesn't need to be revisited - so I can't imagine why I would want to display it on a windowsill or tabletop; much preferable to hide behind a curtain!

Installation of the Home Hub 4 is straightforward - BT Infinity customers do not require a username/password for the connection, so it was as simple as disconnecting the Home Hub 3 from the VDSL modem and connecting the Home Hub 4 in its place, and entering the new WiFi password on connected devices.

The main technical difference relates, as I said before, to the WiFi capabilities. The Home Hub 3 was compatible with 802.11 b, g and n devices in the 2.4Ghz band. This covers all the devices we have that use wireless, from Tablets to Phones, Games Consoles to Sky boxes and Laptops to Wireless CCTV cameras. The Home Hub 4 has the same capabilities, but has introduced a new 5Ghz band - the new frequency is - for now at least - clearer of WiFi congestion, and not affected by interference from Microwaves, Baby Monitors and Fluorescent Lights.

The downside is, it requires your "device" to support 5Ghz connectivity - with the exception of some of the latest Android phones and the iPhone 5 (none of which we own) which support this, the only other way to benefit is with a 5Ghz dual-band USB adapter in your PC - but I have to admit our main PC is connected by a wire to the Home Hub because I find it pretty important to squeeze as much speed from the internet connection as I can, and a wire is still the best way to do that.

So, bearing in mind I had no ability to test the 5Ghz functionality, I conducted some (largely un-scientific) tests to compare the more commonly used 2.4Ghz WiFi on the Home Hub 4 to the older Home Hub 3 to see just how much better the signal would be around my house, and importantly in the garden. In all these tests, I took 3 readings and report the average, and both tests were conducted independently (ie. only one of the two devices powered) and with other internet use suspended.

BT Home Hub 4 Review

BT Home Hub 4 Review

What this reveals, disappointingly, is that the Home Hub 4 is sub-par to the Home Hub 3 on both range and speed - and unfortunately the signal was so poor in the Garden, where I was hoping it would excel, I couldn't even perform a speed test.

It is entirely probable that the Home Hub 4 would excel on its 5Ghz band, if I had such a device to test it, however it is telling that on the BT website they advise that the 5Ghz band has a SHORTER range than the 2.4Ghz band, and that most devices will drop down to the slower band the further you get from the router.
With this in mind, I have retained the Home Hub 3 as just a simple WiFi access point, as that offers the best overall speed and signal strength. As I update and change the rest of my devices over time, I expect to find the Home Hub 4 will come into its own due to the 5Ghz band... just not in the garden!

(*opposite of Ice Age)

We were sent the BT Home Hub to review and as you can see Daddy's been totally honest!

Monday, 26 August 2013

I Was Katniss Before Katniss Was Katniss

Long before Katniss Everdeen ever picked up a bow, I practised Archery. I mentioned it to Top Ender as we watched The Hunger Games together as a "if this ever happened I'd be Katniss and survive" kind of thing. You know the normal parenting reassurance that we all give whilst watching PG13 films with our daughters...

Inside my Archery Bow Case

It was sort of never mentioned again, until last weekend when I was in the Kitchen and Big Boy ran in demanding I tell Top Ender off for lying. What had Top Ender lied about? She had simple mentioned that I knew how to do Archery and had a bow in the garage like the one they had just crafted in Minecraft. I told Big Boy that Top Ender wasn't lying, that I did have a bow in the garage and that if he'd give me a few minutes I'd show him. Big Boy looked at me with astonishment, it was as if he was just realising that I had a life before him.

A few minutes later, when I'd worked out how to put the bow back together again, I let the children fire an arrow down the garden and started wondering what might have been had I kept up my Archery practice. I decided that I'd probably still be exactly the same, although I might have a slightly better aim!

Fired Arrow hit the ground

So, I was Katniss before Katniss was Katniss and what about you? Did you do something before it was popular and cool?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

A Friends Day Out At Thrift Farm

I always love getting texts from friends, especially when they are suggesting that we meet up during the Summer Holidays. I got two texts last week, from two of my social circles suggesting meeting up with our various children for a bit of Summer Holiday fun and the first meet up was last week.

Top Ender and Big Boy at Thrift Farm

We agreed to meet up at Thrift Farm, which is really a rural training centre for adults with learning difficulties, and is well thought of in the community as being a brilliant place to go for a couple of hours at a reasonable price, it's also a brilliant place to go if you want some nicely priced free range eggs!

It was brilliant.

We petted Guinea Pigs and Rabbits, we fed Chickens and Goats, we stroked Donkeys and Sheep, we looked at a baby cow and it's Mum, marvelled over the size of the pigs and tried to count Baby Ducks and Baby Chicks who didn't help by sitting still and instead jumped over each other and probably got counted more than once. Either that or there really were 137 baby chicks in one of the coops. The best animal by far was the Mexican Wrestling Mask Wearing Sheep though.

 Mexican Wrestling Mask Wearing Sheep

The prices have stayed the same for a while, it's £3 per adult and £1.50 per child and 30p for a bag of feed. If like us you take a picnic and go on a sunny day you can spend a couple of hours petting the animals, feeding various animals and feeding your own little animals with the picnic, but of course there is a great on site cafe if you don't feel like taking a picnic.

We ended up hanging out at the farm for four hours with our friends and it was GREAT. We had chatted, we had eaten lunch, we had let our children play together and of course we got to feed animals which is always a bonus.

If anyone else is in the Milton Keynes area and fancies going to Thrift Farm, then let us know and we'll come and join you... if you want us to of course!

Welcome To Thrift Farm

Friday, 23 August 2013

Barbie Mariposa And The Fairy Princess - #Review #Competition

Top Ender is a big fan of Barbie and all her movies, I've mentioned before that she knows when new films are coming out and has them marked on her calender, so it was great to surprise her earlier this month with a chance to watch the new film Barbie Mariposa And The Fairy Princess, which isn't out until the 26th August 2013 here in the UK.

Barbie Mariposa And The Fairy Princess Packshot - #Review #Competition

Top Ender was thrilled and even Big Boy sat to watch the film because whilst he pretends he isn't that keen on the Barbie films they are secretly something he enjoys!

The story of the film follows Mariposa who has been sent as an emissary to Shimmervale from Flutterfield, (both remote kingdoms in Fairytopia) to reunite them after both Kingdoms had a falling out many years before over a misunderstanding about Crystals belonging to Shimmervale. The Fairies of each Kingdom believe the Fairies of the other Kingdom to be the bad ones, with fairytale (ha!) type stories of the evil deeds that the others do.

It's not long though before Mariposa makes friends with Carania, the Princess of Shimmervale, and the two girls learn about each others kingdoms and customs and Carania explains why she doesn't fly, but instead either rides her Pegasus (called Princess) or is pulled in a chariot pulled by the flying Pegasus.

Of course it wouldn't be a Barbie film without a real evil character that threatens to destroy the kingdom offilm is sweet Shimmervale and an evil fairy fills that role quite nicely. Mariposa and Carania must find a way to save Shimmervale and all the fairies who live there.

The film has a Universal rating and is available on DVD and Blu-ray from August 26th, although you can pre order now or enter my competition to win a copy of the DVD.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We were sent a copy of the DVD to review.

Brownies and Top Ender

Many Moons ago, Top Ender wanted to go to Brownies. I enquired and the local group said they'd get back to me and they didn't. At the time it was probably a blessing in disguise and when I was thinking over the Summer Holidays over how to help Top Ender have more interactions with children of her age I thought about her joining Brownies again. So I applied online and a few days later a letter arrived in the post for Top Ender.

She had a place in a local group if she wanted it. Which of course she did. So when Daddy starts his new job, Top Ender will start at Brownies too. I'm going to need to get organised aren't I?

I'm sure that a lot of you reading this blog have children who go to Brownies or Girl Guides or Cubs or Scouts and know the things I need to know, little tips to help me make sure that Top Ender gets the most out of going to Brownies, how to sew badges on the best way (do we have to do that at Brownies?), what the uniform sizes up like and what pieces are the best buys and probably a thousand other things that I've not yet thought of, so please do share the tips in the comments below!

Until then Top Ender has been practising her best smile to show the others in her group that she's a friendly soul.

Top Ender practising her smile for Brownies

A Little Secret And A Picasso! - #Review (of sorts!)

We have had a little bit of a Secret here at A Mother's Ramblings, which we're about to share with you... so it won't be a secret any more.

Daddy has got a new job.

For the first time since Daddy and I have been married (bar a few days here and there, that trip to Sweden, that trip to Chilie, a few blog trips and the odd weekend to the seaside) we'll be more than 15 minutes apart. Even when we worked at opposite ends of Milton Keynes, we weren't more than ten minutes apart and so with Daddy's new job taking him about a 75 minute drive away it's going to be a little bit of a shock to the system for me at least!

To start with Daddy is going to mainly take the train to work, but he's hoping that around Christmas we're in the position to be buying him a new (to us) car and seeing as we love our Citroen Xsara Picasso so much he's looking to get a C2 or a C3... and not just because he's lazy and wants an automatic with lots of toys!

Inside of the New Citroen C4

Earlier in the Summer Holidays, we got to test drive the new C4 Citroen Picasso and we loved it. Compared to our Xsara Picasso it seemed smaller and Daddy thought the front window was small but then seeing as our window screen is humongous (that's the technical term) I'm not sure what he was hoping for! Daddy did love all the gadgets, which I have to admit were lots of fun even if I do think the Park Assist is a bit freaky! The children loved that all the hidey holes they have managed to find are still there and there are a few more new ones too and that the trays on the back of the front seats are still there.

Tray on back of seat in the New Citroen C4

I'm going to be as honest with you guys (as I always am) and as I was with the guys from Citroen, the only thing that stops me from buying a new C4 Citroen Picasso is the price. I would dearly love to be able to afford a brand new car, but unless something really magic happens, it's not going to happen for me. If however, you're looking to buy a new family car then the C4 could very well be the car for you.

We got to spend the day at the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, we got to drive around in a Citroen for a bit and there was more food than we could shake a stick at on our day with Citroen.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Fairy Door

As promised the other day, I knew that I had to get back out into my garden and start tidying it up before it got all overgrown again. I went out there and the hot weather started again (You're Welcome) and we mowed the lawn, pulled weeds, stuck our tongues out at the ivy and generally made our garden more welcoming to be in. Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram probably saw my updates and may have seen that it took us all day... but it was worth it.

The garden looked so brilliant, we decided to camp out in the garden in our two tents and read and watch butterflies and a couple of friendly Sparrows and then it was noticed.

The Fairy Door In The Pear Tree

At the bottom of our Pear tree there was a Fairy Door and none of us put it there.

Fairies had moved in, Fairies are living in our garden! Just like they do in Nanna's garden (who may have had something to do with this door arriving in our garden, but Sssh!) and so now we have to keep our garden neat and tidy or the fairies might move away and we don't want that.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Family Home Evening - Dobble #Review

Unlike the lovely Jen, we don't have a no tech after 6pm policy in our house. We do however have Family Home Evening, where we have an evening at home as a family... it's one of those self explanatory titles isn't it? It's actually something that is positively encouraged by the leaders of my Church and so whilst we have a religious element to ours we always end up playing a game or having an activity and so I thought that I'd share them with you over the year, just in case you're looking for something fun to do with your family of an evening.

Recently we were sent Dobble by Esdevium Games, (you can buy the game in Waterstones and in most Toy Shops too) as they were sure that it was something that our family would love to play on Family Games Night and they were right.

Dobble Game Review

Dobble is designed to be played by 2-8 players aged 6+, although Big Boy at 5 played it and understood what to do rather well. The game comes with instructions that are easy to understand although out of the mini games that it explains how to play our favourite is the third, which is a version of Snap.

We had great fun playing the game, sitting on the living room floor together and we ended up playing for a lot longer than we had intended to and bedtime slid to roughly an hour later than we as parents would have liked, but it didn't matter. The children were in such a good mood from the game playing that they quite happily went to bed and have played Dobble again themselves and more importantly without arguing about it!

Dobble by Esdevium Games

The game is all contained in a little tin, so little that it's easy to put in my handbag to keep us amused if we have a spare ten minutes when we're out and about this Summer and it's small enough to throw in the floor of the car (our Citroen Xsara Picasso has hidey holes for things like this) to keep us amused when we're out and about. The game has an RRP of £12.99 and as I mentioned it's available from Waterstones and most Toy Shops.

We were sent Dobble to review, it's surprisingly addictive.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Incredibly Sweet Things My Children Do - #Review

I was sick yesterday, technically I could still be sick today but I'm thinking positively. I had gone downstairs with Big Boy when suddenly I knew I had to get to the bathroom and QUICK! It wasn't a surprise because Top Ender had suddenly been ill on Saturday evening and all through Sunday, meaning I'd gone to Church alone Sunday afternoon.

After having been sick, Big Boy bestowed the ultimate honour upon me telling me that he'd get his own drinks today, seeing as how I was ill. If you know how much water or squash Big Boy drinks then you know that this is a big deal. The morning passed in a blur and as the children ate lunch, I went for a rest on my bed (seeing as how Top Ender had been in bed all day Sunday I thought twenty minutes would be okay) and when the Children came upstairs with a gift for me I was so touched that I felt better.

Baker Ross Daffodils and Vase Foam Kit

The children had worked together to make one of the Baker Ross Daffodils and Vase Foam Kits for me that Yellow Moon had sent through to us. It was something which we'd planned to do together as a craft later in the week, but I didn't mind that they had worked together to do something incredibly sweet for me.

The kit was sent to me by Yellow Moon and was rather easy to put together seeing as the children followed the instructions themselves.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Lollibop 2013

I'd never been to the Lollibop festival before so I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I did know that we were going to have fun as a family, especially when we had a last minute addition of Daddy to our party! Daddy was originally supposed to be at work, but surprised us with a day off which was especially good as it meant that I could let him drive and I could concentrate on... well whatever it is I concentrate on when I'm not driving.

Lollibop 2013 Information Point

When we got to the Queen Elizabeth Park, which is where Lollibop has moved to this year, we were all very excited. We'd been walking with a lot of people towards the festival and the party atmosphere was growing as we got closer, we were even more excited when we peeled off from all the other attendees and went down the VIP lane... I always knew I was a VIP.

Daddy was mainly excited because he was going to be able to shout BOGEY at Dick and Dom again and sing along the songs with the tunes he knew from the Go! Go! Go! Show.

Dick and Dom at Lollibop 2013

Big Boy was mainly excited because he wanted to have a try on the new Skylanders Swap Force game, which he did (It's out this October Mummy, can we buy them all Mummy?) and to meet Eruptor.

Big Boy and Eruptor Skylanders Character

Top Ender was mainly excited because Hello Kitty would be putting on a show and wandering around the site, although we didn't see her or get a chance to see the show and so Tops put up being excited about the promise of an ice-cream

Top Ender at Lollibop 2013

And I was excited because I hadn't paid for the tickets, but Little Tikes had and they were also showing off a rather large Adult Cozy Coupe which I couldn't get near because of all the little children having a go in it.

Little Tikes Adult Cozy Coupe

Sob.

We actually had a great day. It was busy and we didn't actually "do" anything other than wander round, talk to some people, try free yoghurt, dance a bit and watch the main stage for about three hours. It was a family friendly setting as was safe and contained and although there were some rather horrid looking queues (as in length) as far as we could see everything was fast moving.

Would we go again? Hmmmmmmmmm, yeah possibly although I'm glad we're at an age where our Children aren't that fussed about queuing.

Our tickets and travel for the day were covered by Little Tikes, well if I remember to send my receipts the travel will be.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Tank! Tank! Tank! Wii U Game - #Review

I wasn't around when Tank! Tank! Tank! was first discovered in our house, it was downloaded by Daddy and Big Boy who despite the negative reviews they had found online thought it looked rather cool. It was the only thing that Big Boy wanted to talk to me about when I got home and after my first go I must admit I was hooked too and had to persuade Daddy that it was worth the £1.99 to open up the game to be played more than three times every twelve hours.

Despite there being four different areas to the game (once you've brought the fourth section "My Kong"), the idea of the game is really simple. You are in a tank and have to shoot the other players and destroy them, before they destroy you. If you are destroyed you are soon re-spawned, or deployed as the game screen states, and the loss of a tank is just counted against you in the final tally of how many you destroyed (or how much damage you dealt out) versus how many times you were destroyed.

Tank! Tank! Tank! Wii U Game Review

One of the best parts of the game is using the Wii U console to take a photo of yourself with superimposed helmets or face paints on, which should/could be a game all in itself and No, I didn't mistake a picture of Top Ender for me for the best part of two days...

We have spent £12 so far on the game, as we brought a couple of extra locations to do battle in (£1.99 each), in addition to buying the My Kong part of the game (£7.99) so we could play more frequently than every twelve hours and also the My Kong game too.  For a grand total of £12 I don't think that is bad, although I can see it costing a lot more as Top Ender and Big Boy start requesting yet more locations to fight in with the promise of giving us their pocket money to cover the purchases.

Tank! Tank! Tank! Wii U Game Review

The game controls are so easy to pick up that Five year old Big Boy is able to play and beat Daddy and I (or maybe Daddy and I just let him win every so often to keep him interested) and we are still having fun because it really is a funny and addictive game.

We didn't get this game free, we paid for it, and I shouldn't have to declare this but I am because I want everyone to know how fab this game is and to know I'm not just saying that because I got it for free.

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Saturday, 10 August 2013

I'm Sorry Britain

Yes, I'm sorry Britain, it's all my fault.

You see, for the last few weeks Britain has been having a spell of beautiful weather and it was thanks to me, not those patches of high pressure or low pressure or it being Summer and therefore the weather should be sunny and warm...

Why was it me that was causing it?

Because I was gardening.

I had huge plans for my back garden, digging up the borders, getting rid of weeds, expanding the patio, clearing the junk off my driveway... and I ran out of steam with it or rather I lost heart. The effort I was making seemed to be disproportionate to the amount of work it seemed I had done.

I was doing the garden in sections, I figured it would be the easiest way and so having started outside the house on the patio and then moving up to the apple tree and then to the boarder space between the apple tree and the pear tree, the space between the pear tree and the plum tree, the space between the plum tree and the back fence... but the problem was as soon as I moved onto a new section the previous sections needed my attention again.

Weeds grow all the time.

Seriously, they grow overnight and at lunch and when I not looking because they want to wear me down and so I stopped gardening because it was all getting a bit much and I was taking the weed growth as personal and possibly having a little breakdown because weeds aren't malicious nor are they out to get me (Ivy is though, ivy is malicious and out to get me).

I wasn't standing outside in the heat getting muddy and sweaty whilst trying to dig up plants and weeds and border edges and suddenly the weather turned horrid. The only explanation is that I control the weather or that the weather fancies me and so is only hot when I'm out in the garden.

And people noticed, even Wilko's noticed and offered to send me a Garden Hamper to get back out in the garden because they knew that I am the reason the sun wasn't shining as brilliantly as it had been.

Wilko Garden Hamper

So I'm going back out into the garden for you people of Britain. I'm going to make use of the weed killer and the grass feed. I'm going to chop things up and water other things that I haven't chopped up and can you tell I still don't know much about gardening? 

And if there is another heat wave then you may thank me Britain by enjoying it, putting on your sunscreen and maybe doing a bit of gardening yourself.

Wilkinson's sent me the rather lovely Garden Hamper because they said they thought I deserved it after having worked so hard in my garden. We all know really though it's because they want the good weather back.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Family Cinema Trips

There is one thing that my Children love more than Minecraft and that's going to the cinema. I'm not sure if it is the Popcorn, the sitting in the dark or just the fact that we don't get to go too often that makes it special but when we were asked by Cineworld if we'd like to go and see Monsters University on opening weekend (I know it was ages ago) I didn't have to ask the children twice.

Popcorn at Cineworld

Cineworld have some Big Family Offers to make the experience even more exciting with 20% off family tickets booked through mycineworld and various prize draws and giveaways when you book tickets to see various Summer Family Blockbusters.

I've been a long time fan of the Movies for Juniors that Cineworld offers, where tickets are just £1 and for quite a while Tops and I used to go on a Saturday morning whilst Daddy was sleeping off his night shift, but seeing that we could possibly go on a Thursday morning too is making me really want to go today!

Movies for Juniors Logo

As well as being given tickets to see Monsters University, we were given a Family Snack Special which was two large soft drinks, a large popcorn and two munch boxes which contain a Capri Sun, popcorn and some Chocolate Milky Way Magic Stars. I was surprised when looking up the price on the website that this is only £9.95

I was chatting with the manager and one of the chaps on the concession stand, about the problems we have with BB's diabetes and Daddy's food intolerances when going to the cinema. As we carb count, we need to know what the amount of carbs in the various food items are and we need to know what they contain too or else Daddy misses out. Daddy and I are pretty good at guessing now, but it's always nice to be certain and seeing that the guys on the stand were able to check ingredients and the signs now have calorific values on it's very helpful for future visits.

The other great benefit of going to the Cinema in the Summer, is that no matter how hot it is outside, the air conditioning in the Cinema means you'll be nice and cool...

We received a family ticket and a family snack special too.

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Don't Take The Red Road - Big Boy Giggles

It seems like ages since I last did a giggles post, not because the children aren't being hilarious it's just that I keep forgetting what they say! Things were easier when they didn't talk all day, everyday... Anyhoo.

Home sign in Big Boy's room

We were watching The Wizard of Oz the other day, and Dorothy was advised to take the yellow brick road (as she always is) but for the first time Big Boy noticed there was a red brick road.

"I wonder where the red brick road goes to, I wonder if I could follow it." I said knowing that it wasn't in the books, and was more than likely just put into the film to make the yellow seem more vivid.

Big Boy paused for a second, looked me straight in the eye and replied;

"TO YOUR DOOM!"

I don't want to follow the red brick road any more, or after seeing this photograph sleep.

Crazy Eyes Big Boy

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