A Mothers Ramblings: July 2014

Thursday, 31 July 2014

60 Free (or almost free) Things To Do In The Summer Holidays For Teenagers

I had a comment on my 100 Free Things To Do In The Summer Holidays, that suggested that my original list wouldn't work for children over ten. Whilst this may be true for some of the ideas on the list and for some families, there were plenty of ideas on the list that would work for teenagers, some that if you tweaked slightly would work and of course some that some older children would roll their eyes at but secretly love doing again.

However, I knew that a new list was needed and so here is my list for those teenagers who still hang around the house. Let me know in the comments if there is anything you would add!

60 Free (or almost free) Things To Do In The Summer Holidays For Teenagers

1. Visit a Museum, there are plenty of exhibits to suit various interests.
2.  Pop to the library and pick a book the librarian suggests.
3. Write a Book or a Story (Yes I know this is almost school work!)
4. Look up the answers to the questions nobody knows the answer to.
5. Make a head start on next years reading for School. Who knows maybe you'll enjoy it!
6. Research how to get the job you want in the future.
7. Ask if anyone needs a paper round covering for the Summer.
8. If you're going away research the area you're going to.
9. Sign up for a Pen friend, send them a letter.

Write a letter

10. Have a Marathon day and watch an entire series of an old TV show or series of Movies.
11. Have a family Games console day. Winner gets to pick the next game!
12. Create a video and upload it to youtube or similar.
13. Create a blog and use it like a journal.
14. Take photographs on your phone and upload them to Instagram.
15. Find the oddest sounding movie at the library (or video store or online) that you can and watch it.
16. Take apart an old electrical appliance to see how it works.
17. Listen to your Parents old music, some of it should be good!
18. Create your own Playlist.
19. Use some family photographs and create an online collage

Collage of old photos

20. Clean out your Bedroom, give toys you've outgrown to younger siblings or donate to a charity shop.
21. Clean the family car, do it with water guns!
22. Ask an Elderly Neighbour if they'd like your help in the garden.
23. Walk the Dog, or a Neighbours dog. Unless you don't like dogs!
24. Do some simple chores, your parents will love you for it and may be more willing to do something else.
25. Go through your socks and turn ones with holes into Sock puppets.
26. Mow the lawn.
27. Sort out the Junk drawer. Don't worry it's normal to find at least one questionable item in there.
28. Learn how to iron. Just don't burn yourself or the clothing.
29. Play with younger siblings to give your parents a chance to sit down.

Top Ender and Big Boy playing

30. Do a Marathon over several days, walk or run or cycle a mile a day and it will soon add up!
31. Play tennis on the local courts, in a field or against a wall.
32. Play a game of Quidditch, just don't fall off your broom!
33. Give your bike a once over, if you don't know how sign up for a course at Halfords or a local bike shop.
34. Follow an Exercise video without laughing or collapsing on the floor!
35. Go Geocaching, just wear sensible shoes!
36. Go for a hike in the local woods.
37. Ride your bike round the local neighbourhood.
38. Take younger siblings to the park, make sure they have a good time.
39. Teach yourself some tricks on your bike/skateboard/skates/scooter.

On a Bike Ride

40. Draw a self portrait.
41. Create a chalk masterpiece on the pavement.
42. Ask to move the furniture round in your room... or just tidy it!
43. Create a short show for your family to watch.
44. Practice or develop a talent. I still remember the summer I taught myself to juggle!
45. Design some bookmarks and colour them.
46. Try on everything in your wardrobe to see what looks good together.
47. Make something new out of something old. Turn a old sweater into a pillow, jeans in to shorts etc.
48. Recreate an old photo. Pretend to be you when you were a baby or your parents.
49. Make a Summer scrapbook or jar. Ticket stubs, pressed flowers, biscuit wrappers etc.

Journal Jars for Summer

50. Make Lunch or an evening meal for everyone using a new recipe.
51. Make cookies or a cake, don't forget to decorate them!
52. Ask to learn how to make a family favourite.
53. Clean and sort out the freezer and have some ice cream for your trouble!
54. Host a lunch party, ask your friends to bring one dish to share with them.
55. Go for a picnic.
56. Buy one food from the world foods aisle and then try it!
57. Learn how to cut, peel and cook vegetables.
58. Make your own Ice Lollies.
59. Check out your local Councils events. They normally have events planned that are free.
60. Call up a friend and go round to their home!

So there you go, my 60 things. Just ask me in a few years for some more as by then I'll actually have a teenager.

A Water Gun Fight

Over the weekend, when we were at a Goodbye Neighbours/ Birthday party the children acquired two new water pistols. I have no idea how the children managed to restrain themselves from filling them up at the party (the children spent most of the two parties in a fabulous paddling pool with an attached slide!) and shooting at various guests but somehow they did.

Two new Waterpistols

Eventually the children could wait no more, and so after suggesting that Big Boy remove his insulin pump for the duration of the water fight the children ran to the garden intending to soak one another.

A waterfight between Top Ender and Big Boy

It was a glorious water fight, and it only paused when I asked if I could get a few pictures without being soaked myself.

Top Ender and Big Boy posing with their water guns

This is Big Boy's menacing face, I sure wouldn't want to meet that in a dark alley!

A waterfight between Top Ender and Big BoyA waterfight between Top Ender and Big Boy
The great thing about water fights in the summer is that you dry off so quickly that it really doesn't matter how wet you end up, not does it matter if your sister is a crack shot and you just get lucky at close range. It all comes down to just having fun in the sunshine.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Painting Suncatchers

Today it seems like we've been on School Summer Holidays for months already. I think that after the weekend of family fun with both Daddy and I, a party to say goodbye to some neighbours and friends and having the Missionaries round for dinner took it out of us. Top Ender was the first to suggest that we have a PJ day, but I explained that it wasn't possible as we had some chores to do outside of the house but that we could have a lazy day and mostly hang out at home instead of one of the many activities I had earmarked for this week. I did insist however that once we were all dressed and had done a couple of chores (we had to pop to a couple of shops) that we had to do something fun as a family, but that I would make it as easy and painless as possible. The children knew that if they didn't agree that I could make them miserable and so agreed quite readily. We carried out our chores and when we returned home we took our places at the Garden Table to paint some Suncatchers that I'd picked up in Hobbycraft a couple of weeks ago.

Drying Suncatchers from Hobbycraft

I didn't take any pictures of us whilst painting, as the children both stripped off to minimise the risk of the paint/stain getting on their clothes but I can report that we had a good giggle together whilst we contemplated where we would put various colours, if it would be worth mixing the colours together to make different colours and of course having our usual daft conversations about everything in the world!

Our Suncatchers spent a few hours drying in the kitchen, because it was busy trying to rain in the garden and after a few I noticed that they appeared dry and took a few snaps!

Suncatchers from Hobbycraft

Suncatchers from HobbycraftSuncatchers from Hobbycraft

The instructions suggested they needed overnight drying so 24 hours or so later, I added some ribbon and we hung them up in the window in the Living room.

Suncatchers in the window

Suncatchers in the window

Suncatchers in the window

Now we just need some Sunshine to make the most of them!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Salad Bar - Parragon Book #Review

If there is one thing I know how to make, it's a salad.

They aren't hard are they? You get some green leafy stuff (lettuce generally) and if you've cheated you open the packet and drop it in a bowl, and rearrange the bits of carrot or other healthy vegetable type things to make it look less like you opened a bag and dropped it in a bowl. Of course, there are times when you want something a little more personalised and for me that involves cutting up lettuce and other green leafy stuff and adding chopped carrots, slices of mushrooms, raisins, radishes, cucumber... you name it from the first few aisles of the Supermarket and I've put it in a salad at one point of another.

For me the problem comes when I want to be a bit more fancy. What am I supposed to serve as a posh salad when I have friends round or I'm taking something to a potluck dinner or a munch and mingle and that's where this book The Salad Bar has come in useful... well and also as healthy bedtime reading!

The Salad Bar Book (on my lovely green lawn)

The recipes in the book are simple and easy to follow and even the ingredients which seem slightly more exotic were easily found at one of my local supermarkets (rainbow chard anyone?) even if it wasn't available at all of them.

The pictures in the book are amazing, and really give you something to aspire to when recreating the salads but I've consoled myself with the thought that they were professionally prepared, style and photographed when my salad doesn't look anything like the one in the book.

A random sample page with amazing Salad pictures

The book has an RRP of £10 and you can read some more about it on the Parragon website.

We were sent this book to review, it now lives on my bedside table where I often drool over it.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Little Cracker Drinks #Review

One thing that my children have got used to is finding new drinks in their Lunchboxes. I love to be able to give them different flavours, rather than always going for the same traditional drinks and this coming year you're going to see some great lunchbox ideas on this blog, so make sure you come back when we're back to School this September!

Big Boy had been asked if he'd like to try some new juice drinks recently launched by Cracker Drinks and whilst I said yes on his behalf I knew that Top Ender and myself would also be slurping on them this Summer. 

Little Crackers Juice Drinks

When Big Boy first saw the drinks, the first thing he noticed was that each 200ml carton would give you 1 of your 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. He was quite excited about this and was trying to work out if he had a juice and some fruit in his lunchbox and a fruit snack earlier in the day what he could also eat to get him up to his daily total. I thought that this was so cute and just proves that children really do pay attention to what they read around them.

Cracker themselves say 

"We offer unique yet tasty fruit blends and most importantly provide parents with a healthier alternative to other drinks on the market. Our Little Cracker drinks meet school approved guidelines, have no added sugar or any artificial nasties. Each 200ml carton represents 1 of your 5 a day".

We were sent the following flavours, Orange and Lemon, Blackcurrant and Cherry, Pear and Vanilla and finally Apple and Raspberry to try. I so daft that I didn't realise at first and so grabbed out the Pear and Vanilla and headed off to a family day out.

When I read what the flavour was I was worried that Big Boy was going to refuse to drink it. I shouldn't have worried however, he grabbed a carton as soon as it was offered and happily drank it down.

Big Boy slurping on a Little Cracker Juice Drink

Even Top Ender has been found drinking the drinks happily!

Top Ender eating fruit with a Little Cracker Drink

The drinks are all delicious, the Pear and Vanilla is Big Boy's favourite (Mine's the Blackcurrant and Cherry) but he declared the Orange and Lemon to be "outstanding in flavour" and Top's is quite taken with the Apple and Raspberry saying that the blend was "perfectly balanced". 

I say that the drinks are going to be in our lunchboxes this year and I just hope that they keep up the brilliant taste combinations!

We were sent the drinks to review as part of the Mumsnet Panel.

A Meaningful Birthday Gift- HELP! #SponsoredPost

It's my MIL's birthday this week, I shan't embarrass her by saying how old she is but lets just say it's a significant birthday. So what kind of gift could we get her to mark the occasion? Well, I did what all normal people do, after I had a good think and came up empty handed I called my Mum and asked her for suggestions. The first thing my Mum suggested was a jewellery, something we could have engraved with something meaningful or lovely, you know like the below;

Happy Birthday Mum, All our Love xxxx engraving image

And so I thought about it a bit more.

Fruit Picking At The Farm

One of the things that was on my bucket list to do this Summer was to take the children to a local Pick Your Own Farm. As this past week has mainly been spent by the children equally divided between our house and Neighbour Mums house, I thought it would be nice to ask Neighbour Mums boys if they wanted to come with us. It's bitter sweet that the four of them are getting on so well at the moment as with Neighbour Mum and family moving in the next few weeks it's almost like we are trying to cram in as many memories as possible before they are too far away for the children to be running down the road barefooted into each others homes.

Anyway.

We arrived at the Farm and after a quick divvy up of the fruit baskets amongst our party of five we headed off to the fields to collect as much as we could manage. We had a hoot.

Top Ender picking Strawberries

Big Boy picking Strawberries

The children, despite all chattering amongst themselves, were suddenly becoming very competitive with each child wanting to pick the most, or see who could find the reddest strawberry, who could find the largest, who could fill their punnet the quickest (it was me for that last one and I had a HUGE basket) and it really didn't seem like long before we were pretty much all Strawberried out and we headed over to the Raspberries.

The children took great delight in picking only the nicest berries, and they spent ages examining each fruit before they put them into their punnet. I could have easily just sat down on the edge of the field and supervised them all afternoon as they were so great with each other, helping each other to find patches of ripe berries and just having a conversation with each other.

Big Boy and Youngest Neighbour Boy

Top Ender and Oldest Neighbour Boy

We went to queue and pay for our harvest, knowing that we had an absolute fortune to pay but knowing that it didn't actually matter that much about how much we were going to pay out because whilst we were technically paying for the fruit we had picked, we didn't pay for the fun we had, the memories we made or the friendships that were made stronger.

I'm sure we'll go back before the Summer is out to pick a few more different crops, but until then we'll be busy eating up what we've already picked!

Pick Your Own Strawberries

Do you go fruit picking with your family? What's your favourite thing to pick? I love a farm in South Buckinghamshire (you know the posh end) where you can pick berries, plums, apples and nuts!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Bedtime Stories

Top Ender didn't want to go to bed. I can't really blame her, all afternoon she and Big Boy had played at the Neighbour Boys house and then all evening the two boys and my children had played at ours. It took around twenty minutes to get the four children into their respective houses and several promises that they could sleep over one night soon. Just not tonight. My children had eventually followed my advice and got into their pyjamas, but Top Ender had decided to try just a little bit harder to stay up a little longer and came to find me in the garden, where I was tidying up from the meal we'd had with the Neighbour Boys.

"Goodnight House!" she said. "Goodnight Kitchen and Goodnight Door. Goodnight Garden and Goodnight Trees" all followed soon after.

"Top Ender, this isn't the book Goodnight Moon. Get to bed please!

Then Big Boy appeared and they sat in the garden chairs smiling at me and I knew. I knew then that they had won, I couldn't send them to bed just yet. So I sent them off to find blankets and pillows and I quickly popped some popcorn and found a good book to share. We set up camp in the garden under the lanterns in the Pear Tree and I started to read.

Fidgeting Top Ender and Big Boy

I'd decided to read The BFG and Big Boy having seen part of the cartoon film at School, was very excited everytime I read a part he remembered. Eventually though, they both quietened down, stopped fidgeting and listened to me.

Big Boy and Top Ender listening to me read and looking asleep

I read and I read and eventually I realised that it was so dark and the lanterns whilst beautiful just couldn't provide enough light for me to read by, so we picked up our things and came inside.

a glowing lantern in the treea glowing lantern in the treea glowing lantern in the tree

 It was the most fun and we can't wait to do it again tomorrow. Although tomorrow I'll be prepared and bring a torch with me so we can carry on until the children fall asleep.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Indoor Outdoor British Weatherproof Beach #Review

After we had been to paint our Moneyboxes at Frosts Garden Centre earlier this week, we had booked in two places at the Beach, for Top Ender and Big Boy. We were excited, normally we pop to the beach in Middleton Hall in Milton Keynes Shopping Centre, but this was a beach that was outside, but was still British Weatherproof and not two hours away like the "real" nearest outdoor beach is.

We walked through the garden centre, past the toys (okay so we stopped for a bit) and through the lovely new look restaurant and made our way out to the garden. I didn't think to take a picture of the garden but it was beautiful, and the raised borders were full of edible plants (I recognised Rhubarb) and ones that were ever so pretty. And just behind them was the beach.

The beach was covered over, but in a way that still made it seem like it was outdoors, with floating cotton wool clouds and bunting and seagulls hanging from the ceiling.

The Indoor Outdoor British Weatherproof Beach at Frosts Garden Centre

Top Ender and Big Boy wasted no time in taking off their socks and shoes and getting to work building Sandcastles together in the wetter part of the sand.

Top Ender and Big Boy at the beach

After a story (it was aimed at children younger than Tops but she joined in anyway) where the children had to act like Dinosaurs (the theme this week is Dinosaurs) and a go on the Carousel that is turned by hand, where Big Boy sang "I believe I can fly" for all to hear as there wasn't any music playing they were soon back in the sand.

Jack and Mark two ponies on the Carousel


Top Ender decided to be a Sand Angel, and suddenly four or five other small children stopped and copied her, with only one child brave enough to question why Top Ender had pink hair ("Well, I asked my Mum and she said yes and pink is my favourite colour!"), the rest just looking on in awe at a Big Girl having as much fun as they were in the sand.

Top Ender laying on the sand

No parent seemed to question when Top Ender started burying her legs in the sand to be a mermaid and the rest of the children started to copy her.

Top Ender burying her legs in the sand

The other children soon joined in when Big Boy started playing with a Beach Ball, for he was with the Pink Haired girl and so surely he was just as cool.

Big Boy with a beach Ball

And when Big Boy decided it was time to have some of the unlimited and free Squash and Fruit, suddenly there was an influx of children munching on Apples, Bananas and Oranges and nobody noticed that Big Boy was most thrilled about being allowed a Banana without a blood test.

Big Boy at the Beach

The two staff members (one dressed as a lifeguard and the other in normal Frosts Uniform) were brilliant with the children, and the photograph I have of them playing with Top Ender and Big Boy and other children is pure joy (but unfortunately too blurry to be shared) and I've already written a letter to commend them to their managers for being so brilliant.

Access to the beach can be paid for via the Frosts Website in advance and costs either £4.99 for a two hour session in the morning or afternoon or £6.99 for lunchtime, but lunch is included.

We'll probably head back to the beach after one of our crafting sessions over the next few weeks, but it won't be until I've cleaned all the sand out from the car from this trip!

We were given access to the beach for our review.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Visiting Teachers and Relief Society

I'm so aware that half the time things that I mention are alien to people who don't follow the same faith as me so today I'm explaining something that seems so normal to me but probably sounds a bit weird to you. Then again seeing as you are already here on my blog, you probably know I'm a bit weird and like it! ;-)

One of the great things about belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that there is this programme called Relief Society for women over 18 years old. I read a description once that really made me laugh because it is true;

Relief Society... a sorority for nice, married, sober girls

I love being part of this community, the women are like me. I don't mean that it's full of a bunch of crazy women (although some of them make me look sane) or women who have a really stupid sense of humour, just that we share the same beliefs and unsurprisingly this gives us a bond that you might not get with another group of women. 

Another part of being a member of Relief Society, is that you get a pair of Visiting Teachers assigned to you. I love this because it means that you get to have friendships with women that you might not have normally spoken to. My current visiting teachers are fantastic ladies and I'm not saying that just because they occasionally read this blog! They are lovely, I've known one of them for several years (she actually knew Daddy before she knew me as they went to School together) and the other I've got to know quite well in the last few months. 

Anyway.

When they last came to see me they brought with them some gifts for me. The first was a lovely reminder of a talk that had been given at General Conference, one that I really loved AND the Rainbow was a pack of Skittles! I love Skittles!

Visiting Teaching Gift relating to talk Grateful In Any Circumstances

The second gift was something just for me (not that the Skittles weren't!), a little bling for me to wear round the house, whilst I was doing the dishes or watching TV or even on the School run.

A Princess Tiara and Necklace for blinging up the house

Do you think those girls know me well or what? I'm actually wearing the Tiara now as I type this blog post, I've noticed that I work better whilst wearing it!

So that's that explained. Sort of. Any questions?!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Summer Activities at Frosts Garden Centre #Review

One of my favourite places to go during the holidays with the children is Frosts Garden Centre. Our local branch is in Woburn Sands, a short distance away from our home in Milton Keynes and every holiday it has some fab activities on for the children to enjoy.

Summer Activities at Frosts Garden Centre

We were asked if we'd like to pop down to experience the new Beach first hand and also to try our hand at painting our own money boxes, of course we said yes and after taking Dotty (my Mum's cat) to the vets and having some lunch with my Mum, we popped off to the Garden Centre.

We knew where to go for the Paint Your Own Moneybox session, as we guessed it would be in the Party room where we had painted Bird Boxes earlier this year. We were enthusiastically greeted, directed down the fun and colourfully decorated corridor, where we met an enthusiastic helper who was so much fun.

colourfully decorated corridor

Top Ender had decided to paint a pig and Big Boy a dinosaur and whilst they happily sat side by side painting they were given some chocolate and a drink and were more than happy with me bouncing around to the music and naming Marvel Superhero characters that were on the wall.

Big Boy and Top Ender painting

We had a brilliant time and the piggy banks are now in pride of place on the Fireplace in the living room ready for regular deposits to be made over the Summer Holidays.

If you live near a Frosts Garden Centre, check out what your local branch has on this Summer for your family to enjoy and if you're from the Milton Keynes area like me then remember to book up your sessions at £5.99 per child for the next few weeks and maybe we'll see you there!

We were given free access to this activity, but I've paid for the activities for the rest of the Summer as we always have so much fun doing them.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Top Ender's Own Unique Style

I was never really into clothes, make up and different hair styles. Top Ender however is different. She is into clothes and make up and different hair styles and for the most part I respect that and her choices. I let her wear what she wants within reason, I let her accessorise and do her hair in styles that are questionable to say the least!

For the last few months, actually almost an entire year, Top Ender has been after me to let her dye her hair. Each time that Top Ender has asked me I've said No. I've had a millions reasons. You're only nine (well ten now), you can't have your hair like that for School, you can't really have pink hair unless you're a cartoon character.

I've tried to reason with her and come up with a compromise that suits us both. You can have your hair cut into a different style, you can have tips in the Summer, you can  have it coloured with food colouring. We'll get clip in coloured extensions.

Until last night.

Yesterday I gave in and we dyed her hair purple and pink.


It was a way to mark the start of the summer and hopefully by the end of the Summer, when Tops is about to go back to School it will have faded enough/washed out that she's back to normal and if not we'll dye her hair brown until it grows out!

Of course right now, Top Ender thinks I'm the best parent in the world for not only letting her do this, but helping her to do it.

I didn't do it because I wanted to be the cool parent. I didn't do it for any reason other than I want Top Ender to be able to express herself and know that we support her and love her. And I have to admit, the colour is growing on me.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Let's Start Summer

Today is the last day of the current School year for Top Ender and Big Boy and I decided I really wanted to celebrate and do something special. So the children came home to a sign on the door. Just a simple sign that I printed off on my new printer (I'll talk about it in a post in a couple of days, but I got it free so just declaring that now) and stuck to the front door.

Let's Start Summer!

One of my neighbours was just popping up to the school along with her children who left the School last year. They are sweet children, but they did think that my front door was a little weird... mainly because I've forgotten to tell you about something I did to the front door. You see there wasn't just a sign.

There were streamers too.

Top Ender and Big Boy loved the taped up door

The children loved it and after we managed to unlock the door without destroying the streamers, they ran into the house.


Okay so kind of walked... The good news is that Summer has started, so lets get busy doing nothing!