A Mothers Ramblings: December 2011

Saturday, 31 December 2011

This was 2011, well sort of.

I first created this blog post in January. I have a draft open all year and as something happens that I want to remember for the end of the year I add it in. Normally I do that on the 25th of the month when I am doing some preparation for Christmas, I look to see which blog post I was most proud of or which one I thought wasn't read by as many people as I had hoped. This year I wanted to do something a little different, but I didn't know what. So for your amusement, here is 2011... sort of.

Once upon a time there lived a Mummy who was very smug. You see she had magic that allowed her to be super organised all of the time but mostly it was smoke and mirrors that hid the real chaos and most people realised this.

This particular Mummy was also very lucky that people sent her challenges via her email and to prove that she was a magic Mummy she would often let these lovely people see her making things at her super speed with her super little theme tune.

The Mummy was lucky because she had two fantastic children and they all enjoyed spending time together at home or on fun family evenings out and the children were happy with doughnuts and cheap treats which was lucky as there wasn't always a lot of money to spare.

In fact the whole family were the sort of family that sometimes you read about in books or magazines, where they seem perfect and make you feel sick because you wish you were like that. It wasn't that they were perfect though, it was just that they had discovered the secret to happiness.

Happy Family

Each other.

The family did lots of things together, that some might think as dangerous and others thought as being very wise. They even let the smallest of the family play with knives!

The family had 100's of free things to do (and lots of things that weren't free too) and lots of the things were things that other families liked to do or had forgotten that they used to do when they were young.

The family made silly crafts of themselves out of toilet rolls and got up to all sorts of antics. They liked to make something out of nothing and they always had plenty of toilet rolls stacked up.

Happy Family Made Out of Toilet Rolls

When the Mummy and Daddy were talking one night they realised that they had some rules that they followed for creating a happy family life and although the rules applied to them, they realised that lots of other people thought the rules were good values to aspire to.

When it came to showing each other that they loved each other, they came up with creative ways to show it. It wasn't that they didn't say I love you, or they didn't hug or kiss each other but sometimes they wanted to go the extra mile and that was when the Mummy would bring out the extra special treats of Friday Lunches where rainbows were a special way of saying I love you.

A Rainbow Lunch

Eventually some other families started to talk bad things about this family. Nobody knows why although several had a good guess, the playground gossip didn't bother the family though because they knew what the other families didn't know. That each and every family member was well and truly loved.

The family made sure that wherever they went that they made lots of lasting memories with each other as they knew that in time the places and people might not be the same, but that they would always have memories of the fun they had together on the beach, or at the park, or walking through the forests and that one day those memories would have to sustain them until they could be together again.

And at the end of the year the family were together. They were happy, they were pleased to be friends with each other and they knew that the traditions they made together would last all their lives.

Middle of the Night DVD Watching

It's currently 5am. I've been awake for two hours since Big Boy called out "Anyone? Help!" which is three year old speak for "I appear to have been sick in my bed, could someone come and clean it up and at the same time comfort me?". With Big Boys room out of action until everything smells better we have decamped to the living room where cuddling up on the sofa is mandatory and watching cartoons together is a necessity.

Big Boy and Mummy cuddling on the sofa

Even in this Modern Day World of 24hour Children's TV you can't guarantee that there is something suitable for a sick three year old to watch and so you normally have to turn to your pile of DVD's which lucky for me has recently been restocked with a pile of DVD's kindly sent by Warner Brothers. The DVD's feature some of my favourite characters from my childhood and Big Boy and I are making our way through a box set of Scooby Doo.

Scooby Doo Box Set

Now if you don't mind whilst Big Boy is wrapped up in working out just which of the suspicious townspeople is the one in the monster costume I'm going to see if I can catch a sneaky forty winks and when I wake up I think we might be be ready for another DVD. Anyone else want to join us?

Just in case it wasn't clear we got a stack of DVD's from Warner Brothers which have come in handy now that Big Boy is laying on the sofa feeling sorry for himself. Not that you would know looking at the picture of him smiling whilst cuddled up to me!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Making Chores Fun - Doing the Hoovering

I've already talked about having fun doing some hoovering tasks such as cleaning the stairs, (which in our house we do whilst pretending to be Mountain climbers), but hoovering in general is something that we love to make fun in our house and as it is something that we have to do as part of cleaning other rooms, such as when we clean our bedrooms, we know that this one chore has to be really good fun. There are two ways that we try to have fun when we are hoovering and the first is a game that my Mum used to play, but I'm sure has caused untold psychological damage to all the children she ever played this game with...

The game is Hoover Chase.

The idea is simple, whilst hoovering the floor you simple tell all children to "tease" the hoover by jumping in front of it and having to jump back out of the way before the hoover sucks them up. You can remain safe by staying on the sofa, dinning table, toy chest or anything else that the hoover can't climb up (it's like a Darlek in that respect!) and it is often accompanied by children's shrieks as they quickly rescue toys, rugs or shoes that have been left on the floor whilst they jump back on to the sofa.

Big Boy being chased by the hoover

The second game is something that Top Ender and I found quite by accident, but decided it was so fun we should carry it on and we adapted it slightly. I used to play silly games with Top Ender like hiding dried peas in the living room for her to find as a counting game. The problem with this game was I would quite often forget how many dried peas I had hidden and worst I forgot where I had hidden the dried peas!

We turned it into a hoovering game, we had to hoover everywhere, under the sofa under the book shelf, around the back of the TV unit basically everywhere that we could hoover we would. It's a fun way to do a deep clean of a room and now whilst we might not also be hunting for dried peas (that's the adaptation!) it is fun to find as many places as possible to fit a hoover nozzle!

The idea of making chores fun is that children will be able to learn skills that they will use in the future. I mean one day they are going to have their own home (at the moment I don't want them too, but I'm sure in the future I will really want them to!) and they are going to need to know how to run their house, how to keep it clean, how to feed themselves healthy and tasty food, how to do basic DIY and how to manage their time so that they have the time to sit on a computer and blog or tweet or facebook and still have clean clothes, good food and a clean and tidy home. I might relax a little knowing that.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

This was 2011 - Wordless Wednesday

In January we had fun making Shampoo Sculptures and gave ourselves a brand new look!
Shampoo Hair Sculptures

In February we created a four eye monster

Our eyes looking down a tube made into a monster

Sunday, 25 December 2011

It's All Over For Another Year

Well it is all over for another year and as much as I love Christmas I have to say...
Cat in a Christmas Hat

Thank goodness for that!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Home Made Christmas Luminaries

Every Christmas I have wanted to make Luminaries to light up the drive way on Christmas Eve and this year we have made them! I have always loved the idea of Luminaries and think that Christmas is a great time of year to have them decorating the outside of the house, not just because there are lots of lights decorating homes at this time of year or because Jesus is the light of the world and it's his birthday but because they would make a great landing strip for Santa!

I had brought some paper sandwich bags from a discount store a few weeks back in anticipation of creating Luminaries (well them or some fun lunch bags for Top Ender!) and I explained what we were going to make to Top Ender and Big Boy and asked them what design they thought we should draw on the bags to cut out. Top Ender came up with a Star, Snowflake and Holly design (Far right third photo) whilst Big Boy decided that the best design for his was a Dinosaur wearing a Christmas Hat (middle photo) and the other designs were created by me.
Christmas Luminaries

Christmas Luminaries

Christmas Luminaries

As you can see I thought that the tin can tea light holders that I had made for Daddy would be a nice addition to the luminaries and added them too. The Luminaries are really easy to make, you simply draw your design on the outside of a paper bag and then cut out the design. I added a couple of cups of play sand to the bottom of the bags that I nestled a tea light candle in and also used to keep the bags weighted down. We had a quick test to make sure that they worked and to see what they looked like but we can't wait to put them out tonight along with our magic reindeer mix.

Things to do at Christmas - Christmas Traditions

I want to thank everyone who has taken part in my Christmas Traditions guest posts over this month, it has been lovely finding out all the things families do at Christmas. The common theme was that Christmas is a time for friends and family to come together, to forget the day to day tasks and to enjoy their time together.

I think that is what we have to remember, that Christmas for all of us when you take away the glitter is about love and sharing that love. There are so many of us who pin too much to Christmas Day, it is a day where everything is expected to be perfect and just like in the movies. Many think of Christmas to just be the 25th December and come the next day there is bitterness over an argument that spoilt the day, sadness that a family member wasn't there to celebrate with you, disappointment over a dry Turkey.

Christmas Hats

Christmas isn't just the 25th of December though. Christmas is a feeling, it is advent and going to the panto and everything you do as a family, decorating the tree, making mince pies or going to a carol concert. That warm feeling you get whilst thinking about all the fun you can have together, *that* is Christmas. And so with that in mind, here is a list of things that you might want to do every Christmas.

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Twenty-Four

Can you believe it? It's Christmas Eve already! Today is the last door on the Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar and I hope that you enjoyed the posts as much as we have enjoyed creating them. There isn't an Advent Calendar door to open tomorrow, but there is a little treat for those who have a few minutes to check it out...

Friday, 23 December 2011

What to do with Christmas Leftovers - Freeze Them!

So tomorrow is the day that I cook my Christmas Turkey (and I will prepare some of the vegetables for our big Christmas meal too) and this is the last idea that I had about what to do with Christmas Leftovers and it was something which I am sure we all wonder about, but aren't sure how to do safely. I decided that what we should do with our overly large Turkey was to freeze the Leftovers in portions suitable for what they were being used for and for my family.

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Twenty-Three

There aren't many sleeps left now until we will all be listening out for the sound of sleigh bells and then opening up our stockings having had them filled by Santa Claus! I'm hoping this year I will have my Christmas wish of a fat bank account and a slim body unlike last year where Santa Claus got the two confused...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

What to do with Christmas Leftovers - Roast Dinner Soup

Roast Dinner Soup is something that is so simple to make and so tasty that you will wonder why you don't make it all the time and not just with your Christmas Leftovers! This thick soup is great for filling you up and making you feel fuller for longer and is quite good for your budget too... Team it with Crusty Rolls for a more filling meal or sprinkle croutons and sprinkled cheese on top to make it special or try adding a swirl of cream to make the soup more indulgent!

Christmas Leftovers Roast Dinner Soup Simmering

The first thing to do is to gather up the leftovers that you are going to use. The soup in this photo was made from leftover Peas, Carrots, Roast Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, a bit of Gravy and some of the Turkey. I added the vegetables into a pan covered with a small amount of stock, the vegetables were only just covered. I then added the gravy and a saucepan lid and simmered for around 15 minutes. After the vegetables and Turkey had been simmered together I used my hand blender to make a smooth and thick soup.

Christmas Leftovers Roast Dinner Soup

If you like your soup to be a bit thinner, you just need to add a small amount of water to it. If your soup is too thin you can just add a small amount of corn flour to the soup and mix well! This very tasty soup can be frozen, but makes a great Boxing Day Lunch...

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Twenty-Two

We have been making it a requirement that we have to watch one film together every morning during the School holidays and it has been great fun sitting together eating treats and watching a Christmas themed film! It's almost as fun as opening up an advent calendar to see what is behind the days door...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

What to do with Christmas Leftovers - Turkey Curry

The thing that most of us are guilty of at Christmas is buying more food than we need and having mountains of leftovers. This is mostly because we are wanting to prepare a great big feast to feed our family and we over estimate how much we will actually need and partly because we don't cook large meals like this all that often. This week I have a few suggestions of what to do with the Christmas Leftovers so that by the time Boxing Day rolls round everyone can have a plan of action and a meal plan for the next few days too. One of the most commonly prepared meals is Turkey Curry and this is just my take on it!

Turkey Curry. Not the Turkey Curry mentioned below, but still a Turkey Curry

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Twenty-One

I have decided that come Christmas Day I have to have finished all the books that I got from the Library set at Christmas. Which means over the next four days I have six books to finish. I'm sure that I will do it... now where are those New Year stories I put to one side?

Painting Christmas Decorations - Wordless Wednesday

Big Boy and Top Ender painting Salt Dough Christmas Decorations

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

What to do with Christmas Leftovers - Turkey Salad

At Christmas I always buy a bag (or two) of Salad. This is normally for an accompaniment to something like a starter or for lunch on Boxing Day (when I am all cooked out) or even just to make Sandwiches more interesting  as there is only so much you can take of a Turkey and Stuffing Sandwich! What is good though is to use this with the Turkey to make a Turkey Salad.

Turkey Salad with French Dressing

Now I am guessing that you know how to make a Turkey Salad using up what you have in your fridge and my photo of a Turkey Salad with French Dressing is just the start of ideas for you... but just in case here are some more ideas!

*Add Croutons
*Add Feta Cheese or lumps of any Cheese from the Cheese Board!
*Add Cubed potato (Leftover from Christmas Dinner?)
*Eat with a Jacket Potato
*Add a Crusty Roll

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Twenty

With all the jobs that we have going on at the moment to make sure that our home is ready for Christmas I am starting to wish that there wasn't just five more sleeps until Christmas! You had better make the most of the guilt free advent calendar whilst it lasts...

Monday, 19 December 2011

What to do with Christmas Leftovers - Turkey Sandwich

I know that there is still a few days until most people will be cooking the Christmas Turkey and thinking about what to do with the Leftovers, but last year I decided that I was fed up of just picking at the Turkey carcass and decided this year would be different and I would have a plan. Every time I was thinking about what I could make with my Christmas leftovers an episode of Friends kept coming to mind. It was the episode where Ross loses his temper because a co-worker steals his sandwich. I know it sounds silly, but it is true that the best thing about that sandwich is that there is a middle layer of bread which has been soaked in gravy and so here is my perfect Turkey Sandwich recipe.

For each Sandwich that is required you need three slices of bread. This will make the sandwich rather indulgent, but if you can't indulge a little at Christmas then when can you?! Spread two slices of the bread with the spread of your choice leaving the third slice. Pour a little Gravy on one side of the third slice, and let it soak in a little. This gravy soaked slice will be the middle layer of your sandwich. Add a little cranberry sauce to one slice of bread. Add on top of this your shredded turkey and your slice of gravy soaked bread on top of this.

moist maker!
(Image borrowed from Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/gurana/3075172142/ )
Add some stuffing on top of the middle layer, (and if you want some leftover veggies sliced up) before adding the final slice of bread. Some people like to heat the sandwich in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds, but what ever you do make sure that you cut the sandwich diagonally as everyone knows that triangle sandwiches taste better than square or rectangles...

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Nineteen

There have been some brilliant traditions shared by the guest posters in the Christmas Traditions series and one of the best traditions in my opinion is opening a door each day on an advent calendar... which is lucky seeing as that is what you get to do in this post!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

What to do with Christmas Leftovers - Pasta Bake

We love Pasta here at A Mothers Ramblings, and at Christmas when I am tired from all the family visits, making a quick Pasta Bake is a great way to feed us all and to also use up some leftovers of the Turkey variety! I have a tendency to make more food than is strictly needed at most meals and so when I make a Pasta Bake I will often make two, one for eating now and one for freezing for eating in the near future. When I made this I made two different flavoured Pasta Bakes, a cheese one and a tomato one. The steps needed to make both are the same up a point so that is where I have separated the two out!

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Eighteen

One of the things that I love the most about the run up to Christmas is the growing excitement that seems to fill up everybody with good cheer. I am hoping that these jokes behind each calendar door are helping with the good cheer in your house too!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Cathedral City Chedds Range

I was sent a voucher to buy some of the new range from Cathedral City, called Chedds. They are three different cheese snacks aimed at children, although when my Mum was shopping the other day she picked some up for herself. I was pleased to be able to try them out as even though Top Ender and Big Boy love Cathedral City cheese they are quite fussy when it comes to cheese snacks preferring one particular snack sized brand.
Cathedral City Chedds Group Shot

As Top Ender, Big Boy and I were heading off to see the Christmas Panto in London I knew that we were going to need some snacks and so I grabbed from the fridge three packets of Cheese and Toasties that I had picked up from the Supermarket the night before. I hadn't actually paid much attention to what they were, but I had figured that if the children were hungry enough they would eat what they were given. It's a parenting 101 that is. As we sat in the theatre I opened up two of the packets for Big Boy and Top Ender and I was surprised to see that the toast was Melba Toast. I was expecting it to be a cracker, but then I suppose it wouldn't be called Cheese and Toasties! Big Boy and Top Ender have never had Melba toast so I was worried that they weren't going to enjoy the snack, but they were soon both eating their individual packs and crunching away.

Top Ender and Big Boy eating Chedds Cheese and Toasties

The Chedds Bricks I took to putting in Top Ender's lunchbox as part of the balanced and creative lunches I make for her (honest I do!). She loved them not just because of the joke or fact that she found on the packets but because they were just the right size for a bit of her favourite cheese as part of her lunch.

Top Ender's Ho! Ho! Ho! lunch with Chedds Brick

The Chedds Nibbles were little cubes of cheese in a pack. It was Big Boy who liked these the most and was found one snack time seeing how many he could fit in his mouth at one time... I just wish I had taken a second to grab a photo of him looking like a Hamster!

The three different snacks were a great hit with both Top Ender and Big Boy and I liked them too. I liked that it was a brand I already knew (and trusted) and I loved that the snacks were different variations on the cheese snack theme. I think out of all three that it is the Cheese and Toasties that were the biggest hit and we will be adding them to our trolley in the future.

All three packs are around the £1.99 price mark... well in the supermarkets I went to they were!

What to do with Christmas Leftovers - Turkey Pie

In a few days time (if any Christmas past is to go by) there is going to be a glut of Christmas leftovers in kitchens up and down the country. Just in case you have no idea about what to do with these leftovers here is a suggestion for a Turkey Pie which can use up leftover vegetables, some of that leftover Turkey and even your leftover Roast potatoes! Don't worry if you don't have individual pie pots like I am using, you can easily make a big pie in a pyrex dish or anything else that you normally make similar things in (like Lasagne or Shepherds Pie). This was a meal that I made last Christmas with my leftovers.

First things first you need to work out what you are going to put in your pie. I decide that we had a lot of peas and a lot of Turkey so I added a serving of each to each pie pot and then added a little more turkey. It looked quite full and I was quite pleased as it was effectively going to be a "free" meal seeing as it is mostly made from leftovers.

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Seventeen

With School having finished yesterday, we have got a few days to get our Christmas on! We have some salt dough ornaments to paint, some biscuit trees to make, bedrooms to tidy and we still have a few Christmas gifts left to wrap!

Friday, 16 December 2011

The UDraw for the Wii

We were sent a UDraw and some games to review.

In our house there is normally fighting over who gets to play what Wii game with who. I have become very proficient at racing games and games where I have to shoot the baddies cheered on by Big Boy who normally likes to play my side kick (ie I do all the work and he gets to pretend he helped win) and the strategy games that Top Ender enjoys are second nature these days. Over the last week there has been an eerie quiet from the children and instead of constant "Mum can you play on the Wii with me?" Top Ender and Big Boy have worked together playing on the UDraw.

The UDraw Game Tablet for the Wii

How to get the Cindy Lou Who Look

One of the most popular search terms every Christmas here at AMR is Cindy Lou Who. I believe that the pictures of Top Ender dressed up in our version of Cindy Lou Who is the reason as to why so many people look here, so I thought I would offer a quick tutorial on how to get the Cindy Lou Who look.
Cindy Lou Who

The Cindy Lou Who dress is easy, any dress that looks vaguely like it is for Christmas will do. Every year I buy from a discount store a Mrs Christmas costume for Top Ender to wear to Christmas events. This dress cost £2 from a bargain basement type store. It was too big and itchy but Top Ender wore it over her ordinary clothes and found it kept her really warm, which is handy seeing as it is normally cold here at this time of year!

Cindy Lou Who

The best part of our Cindy Lou Who costume is Top Ender's hair, which as you can see rises out from her scalp at an odd angle. This is the easiest thing to do ever. Take two pipe cleaners and plait into your hair, leave the end a little away from your scalp or the pipe cleaner will keep poking you, which can be sore! When you have plaited the hair just bend the pipe cleaners into the shape you want your Cindy Who Lou hairdo to be.

Top Ender has really fine hair so I spray hairspray into her hair first and then plait it so that it is "sticky", I don't think it makes a difference if you don't do this, but I thought I had best mention it just in case!

That's it! A simple Cindy Lou Who look for Christmas!

What to do with Christmas Leftovers - Turkey Soup or Scottish Broth!

When you think about using up the Christmas Leftovers do you think about using the bones and fat of the turkey carcass? To be honest I don't always think about using up every last bit of meat despite thinking of myself as frugal. Using the Turkey carcass to make soup or broth means that you are going to use every last bit of flavour and meat from the leftovers and get some tasty food too! Making Turkey Soup this way was taught to me by my Mum. My Sister and I always called this Scottish Soup even though it was more of a broth as it was only made by the Scottish side of our family (my Mum, her Sisters and our Gran) but it is really simple to make!

Carcass with a lot of meat on it!

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Sixteen

For a lot of Schools it is the last day of term today, which means that the next few days are going to be even busier for some! I'm very excited about what is going on in our house, not only do we have Christmas treats planned but we also have snow forecast for today and great news for nearly every family member! Oh and I just remembered... I really, really, really, apologise for this one.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Best Hot Chocolate In The World

There is a threat of snow tomorrow for here in Milton Keynes and walking to collect Top Ender from her School Disco this evening there was a definite nip in the air. The promise of a mug of The Best Hot Chocolate In The World when we got back had Top Ender and Big Boy hurrying home.

The Best Hot Chocolate In The World

The secret to the best Hot Chocolate is the toppings. I used ordinary hot chocolate powder (although I do love making it with proper chocolate but that is a post for another day) made up with milk in the microwave. I then add Whipped Cream, Marshmallows, Chocolate Sprinkles, and a Rice Paper Flower. Everything melts together, the cream gets frothy at the edges and the marshmallows start to plump up and turn into a gooey sticky treat.

Right now Top Ender and Big Boy are finishing off their drinks before they go to brush their teeth and head off to bed... I think I might sit here with the Christmas lights on and drink some more Hot Chocolate.

Why Big Boy isn't getting the toy he wants for Christmas thanks to The Hut

Over a month ago I placed an order with The Hut for an Imaginext Dinosaur. This was the toy that Big Boy had desperately wanted, had found and sat happily playing with when we went to the Fisher Price Baby Show Party and was so sure that Father Christmas would get it for him that he has cleared a space in his bedroom for where this T-Rex will live.

I had ordered it with a retailer online the night before the Fisher Price Baby Show Party and they wrote to me via email to me to let me know they were really sorry but they didn't have it in stock and they didn't think they were going to get any more before Christmas and so I should probably look else where. By really quickly I mean when they got into work the next morning they emailed me straight away.

Annoyed? Well yes, but Christmas was still a good month and a bit away and so I knew I could afford the time to look for another retailer selling what looks to be one of the most popular toys this Christmas. This is when I found The Hut with a slightly more expensive price for the toy, but I didn't care and I found a discount code and so the toy was actually going to cost the same amount as it was with the first retailer.

Then I waited for it to be delivered along with all the other items I had ordered online for Christmas.

I waited anxiously.

And I waited.

And still I waited.

I checked the account, it said it was awaiting a stock pick and that it would be sent out December 20th. Okay cutting it fine, but it would get here in time for Christmas. I wasn't sure why it was taking so long, but you know awaiting stock pick means it is in stock.

Today however I got a little bit bored of waiting. I mean, I have things to do next week. I want to bake and deliver cookies, go for walks with the Children, go sing Carols at the Neighbours. All things that require me not to be waiting in for a delivery. So I tweeted The Hut and asked if they had my order in stock and why they couldn't send it out this week instead of next.

A few minutes later I got an email. The email below.

Email from the Hut
Click to see it full screen

So basically what they are saying is they don't have my order in stock and I might not get it for Christmas.

Great. Brilliant.

I don't accept this, I don't want to order anything else from The Hut seeing as they said what I had ordered previously was in stock and yet it appears that they lied. I want the order I place fulfilled, I want my son to be able to open his gift on Christmas morning and know that Santa brought him the toy he wanted, just like he asked.

I guess this is my own fault for thinking that a online retailer would be a good way of ordering my Christmas gifts. Next year I will be only be buying items I actually have my hands on and I hope that nobody else has to worry about orders not being delivered by The Hut this Christmas.

What to do with Christmas Leftovers?

I know, I know, I know! You haven't even thought about Christmas Dinner in all that much detail let alone what you are going to do with the Christmas Leftovers! The thing is that this one meal (The Christmas Day Roast) is probably one of the most expensive meals that you are going to make all year and making sure that you get your moneys worth means that you do have to start planning now about how to use the leftovers. Maximise the number of meals that you get from the leftovers and suddenly the extravagance doesn't seem that bad. Hopefully my suggestions of a few recipes will help you decide what to do with your Christmas Leftovers!
A Christmas Dinner - What would you do with the Leftovers?

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Fifteen

There are a lot of Christmas things that I still need to do, I realised last night that I haven't made the Christmas Cake and neither have I finished off a scarf I was knitting! I think that the next few days are going to be a mad rush for a lot of people making sure that they have everything ready for Christmas Day, so let me know if there is something you haven't done to make me feel better!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Fourteen

I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get really excited about Christmas. Yesterday I saw the Coca Cola Lorry, it snowed and I circled all the programmes I wanted to watch in the TV Times, other listings are available (I've always wanted to say that!), over the Christmas period. And then I realised there are only ten days left on the guilt free chocolate advent calendar!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Bananagrams Blogger Challenge - Christmas!

Earlier this evening Daddy disappeared into the kitchen, which I thought was strange seeing as how our kitchen is freezing. He came back into the living room half an hour later claiming that it was my turn. I had no idea what he was going on about but when he told me he had been working on the Bananagrams challenge for the week and expanding on what Top Ender and I had already done I was really excited. We spent another half an hour adding the last few letters so that this final challenge like our first used all the letters! Some of the words are a bit of a stretch, but we could link them all to Christmas with a simple explanation.
Bananagrams Blogger Challenge - Christmas

Now I have to explain a couple of words because we are aware that not everyone thinks quite like us...
  • Jab is because every Christmas someone gets the flu and so they need to have a jab!
  • New Year is because you always wish a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!
  • Rio is because sometimes you have to get away on holiday at Christmas!
  • OJ is because there are a lot of special cocktails that use OJ!
  • Box is because we wrap up gifts in boxes
  • Ho is what Santa shouts
  • TV is because most of us watch something at Christmas
  • Cows and Ox were in the Stable at Christmas
  • Wii is because you might play on it at Christmas if the adverts are to be believed
  • Board is because lots of people like to play board games at Christmas!
  • Hid is because that is what you do with some gifts
  • Lid is because you use a lot of them on Pringles, Pots...
  • In is because you spend a lot of time in at Christmas!
Whilst we were finishing up Daddy and I were chatting, we loved working together on creating the crosswords and so we are going to keep doing them to publish here on the blog for different holidays and seasons and we are going to play more Bananagram games together at home. I'm really excited about it and so I would love for you all to come up with general themes for us to play with each month and if anyone else wants to join in then just let me know and we will make it a linky.

Vimto Limited Edition Hot Mulled Berry Punch

I received a bottle of the Vimto Berry Punch.

Today has taught me many things, mainly that if I want something to happen bad enough then I'm stubborn enough to make it happen. So when I was watching yet another Christmas film which had a young couple joyfully drinking some mulled wine after having been ice skating and before going home to a sumptuous Christmas feast and I felt that I was missing out again, I knew I had to come up with a plan. I don't really want to start drinking alcohol (and I was never really interested in red wine when I did drink alcohol) and the last mulled wine alternative I didn't like, so I was going to have to find an alternative to try. Then I remembered that Vimto had sent me a Limited Edition Hot Mulled Berry Punch earlier in the month and I could try that!
"...Vimto’s much-loved original flavor has been blended with an enticing concoction of aromatic cloves, warming cinnamon and sweet nutmeg to pack a seasonal punch. Just add hot water for a warming non-alcoholic drink or use as a mixer to create a hot winter cocktail..."

Well I love Vimto, so adding the spices to the drink and then serving it hot seems like a great idea! I will often drink cordials with hot water when I am in the mood for a hot drink. I boiled the kettle added a small amount of the Berry Punch to a mug and poured in the water. I could smell the cloves and the cinnamon and taking my first sip was prepared to recoil as I had before.

Vimto Limited Edition Hot Mulled Berry Punch

A Family Fun Night Out at Panto

We were given a family ticket to go to the Panto at Milton Keynes Theatre.

One of my favourite family Christmas traditions is going to the Panto. When I was younger the company my Dad worked for would take a coach to the nearest local panto. The coach would be full of employees and their families and it was just a lot of fun. I'm pleased that this tradition is something that Daddy and I have been able to keep going with our family and last night found us at Milton Keynes Theatre ready to watch Aladdin, which is this years panto. At least I didn't turn up a week early...

Aladdin curtain at Milton Keynes Theatre

This year in the Milton Keynes panto we have Gareth Gates (Yes, Gareth Gates) as Aladdin, Paul Burling (Yes, him from Britain's got Talent) as Aladdin's brother Wishee Washee and Nicola Brazil as Princess Jasmine along with the Genie of the lamp being played by either Russell Grant, Anita Dobson or Camilla Dallerup depending on when you go. Gareth Gates has an amazing voice and whilst I have never really seen his sex appeal seeing him topless at one point was a rather nice Christmas treat! Paul Burling was as funny as I remembered him from on TV and slipped seamlessly into impressions which had Top Ender and Big Boy giggling manically as they recognised cartoon characters and people from TV shows.

The whole cast was great and worked well together and Adam Pearce who played the evil Abanazar was fantastic, the level of boos and hisses that he got was brilliant recognition for a role well played and he gave as good as he got with his disses to the audience and his performance during his solo song where he gave a full on rock scream deserved more applause than it got, but it is Panto and he was the baddie and so most of the audience booed their appreciation. Abanazar was easily my favourite character and I may have started stalking him on Twitter...

Adam Pearce as Abanazar in the Milton Keynes 2012 Panto

Even with my favourite character being the baddie it has to said that it was Paul Burling along with Chris Nelson as Major Pong and John Barr as Widow Twankey that stole the show with a side-splitting funny adaptation of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The climax resulting in Big Boy who had fallen asleep just before the interval waking up, opening one eye to look at me and asking why someone was squirting the audience with a water gun... be prepared.

Big Boy asleep during the Milton Keynes Panto

Top Ender was almost beside herself with excitement when asked if she would like to go up on stage towards the end of the show to help stock Aladdin's farm with animals. Tops and three other children from the audience had the rest of the audience in stitches in the way that innocent young children do when answering simple questions. Paul Burling skilfully handled the youngsters on stage with equal amounts of support and gentle teasing and has finally convinced Top Ender that she does sound a bit posh at times.

I don't think there is anything quite like a Christmas Panto and as the children, Daddy and I spent the journey home repeating lines and singing songs from the Panto I would have to say that this was a really great family night out and if you find yourself in the Milton Keynes area before the 15th January 2012 then book tickets to see Aladdin and enjoy a bit of family fun!

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Thirteen

With a trip to the panto last night, you would think that Daddy and I might have found some new jokes to share with you... we haven't though!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Coppella Winter Warmer

I was sent two vouchers for the Coppella Winter Warmer.

As you might have guessed I love Christmas. Being a non drinker though I always feel like I am missing out when Mulled Wine is handed out in snowy street scenes in films as I have never seen a non alcoholic version. Copella must have been thinking about me when they made the new Copella Winter Warmer as it is in their words
"...a delicious spiced apple juice blended with clove, cinnamon, cassia, nutmeg, bay, allspice, and juniper berry. You can heat it up in the microwave or on the hob - the perfect drink to keep you cosy this winter and a nice alternative to mulled wine..."

Sounds like perfect stuff for these cold evenings and I get to try a mulled wine alternative that smells delicious. I heated a small mug of the juice in the microwave and tentatively sipped it. Well, I could smell the cinnamon and I could taste the clove but I wasn't quite sure. 

Copella Winter Warmer

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Twelve

Just think in 12 days time we will be on the final chocolate of our guilt free chocolate advent calendar. I'd like to think that the standard of our jokes has gone up in this time, but if I did say that then I wouldn't get any gifts from Santa as he doesn't think good little girls should tell lies!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Eleven

Are you still getting ready for Christmas or are you all done with your preparation? Don't worry if you aren't done yet, there is no reason to stress as a quick count of the doors left to open on the guilt free chocolate advent calendar shows 13 more days to go and that isn't even including today!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Ten

I think that with all the Christmas movies I have been watching and with all the Christmas jokes Daddy and I have been making that this advent is quite possibly the funniest yet. Don't forget to enjoy this little guilt free treat everyday between now and Christmas Eve and we will continue our Family Fun all next year too!

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Parenting Blogger Calender Plea (Bargain?)

When I was at Cybermummy earlier this year I posed with a few other amazing women for a picture or two for the Parenting Blog Calender which Jay and Tara foolishly cleverly came up with. Anyway in order to get one (for the small £1.99 post and packaging fee) the lovely ladies want to see a picture that is the reason behind my blog.

Darn it.

This blog is really a "spin off" from several blogs that I had where I wanted to bring everything together. I guess though that AMR has taken on a life of it's own now and it is about the fun that we have as a family and so I think that this picture sums it up.

Family Fun

Can't take them anywhere can you?

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Nine

One of the best bits of doing the little videos behind each set of doors is the out takes of us telling our jokes, I'm pretty certain that everyone has cottoned on to the fact that if they do it wrong they get to eat a second chocolate!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Tumblekins Fire Station and Fire Engine

We were sent the Tumblekins Fire Engine and Fire Station to review.

There are some toys that I don't think some children will ever grow out of. Top Ender for example is never going to grow out of playing with dolls and soft toys. Big Boy is never going to grow out of playing with toy cars or vehicles and there are some such as the wooden Fire Engine Tumblekins by Great Gizmo that we were sent to review that I think will be as fun to play with in the future as they have been now.

Tumblekins product image

Big Boy has been cracking up with laughter over the Tumblekins Fire Engine and Station. You start the little figure off at the top of the Fire Station and then much like me when walking in the snow he tumbles head over heels until he lands in the Fire Engine which is then driven off to Big Boy's imagined emergency. Big Boy loves getting the man to land so that when the wheels move along the little man ends up rolling around in the back of the Fire Engine too.

I do love the squeals of delight that we get from Big Boy when he pushes the man down the Fire Station ramp and  the occasional times when he spins round the wrong way and gets stuck in the ramp just adds to the fun of the toy. I have looked online for more of the series as I have found Top Ender playing when she thinks we aren't looking and as I found Big Boy standing on the Firestation earlier today and it hasn't broken under his weight I'm going to have to say that they are really well made and so a good investment. 

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Eight

We have been having a great advent so far and we all hope that our guilt free chocolate advent calendar has been helping you to have a lot of fun too. Make sure that before you open door number eight today that you have opened up doors Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two and One and that  you come on back and open door number nine tomorrow and the rest of the doors this month!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Seven

Daddy, the children and I are taking a lot of care to make sure that you don't get any guilt with the chocolate treats behind the Advent Calendar doors. Every time we eat a chocolate for you we make sure we bury the guilt deep down inside too...

Christmas Card Photo 2011 - Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Bananagrams - Things that are Yellow

The challenge this week for the Bananagrams Bloggers was things that are yellow. Top Ender was cheating and using Z's as N's (She wrote blonde) so we were forced to beat her with a stick and Daddy insisted on adding Mucus and Coldplay because as he keeps singing this week "It was all Yellow"!

Things that are Yellow

What other words can you think of that you associate with yellow?

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Six

I don't know about you, but December seems to be hurrying past at an alarming speed! I've nearly finished all the Christmas themed fiction books I got out of the library but I'm not running out of Christmas jokes!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Sylvanian Families Review

Recently Top Ender and Big Boy were sent some dolls from the Sylvanian Families Collection to have a play with. They were sent The Celebration Wedding Set featuring Katherine and William Balmoral and the iconic Motorcycle and sidecar. I thought that it was going to be a case of Top Ender wanting to play with the Wedding set and Big Boy favouring the Motorcycle and Sidecar, but nothing ever works out like you think does it!

Top Ender and Big Boy loved The Celebration Wedding Set. They remembered earlier this year when The Royal wedding took place, and we all dressed up to be part of the fun and this toy set allows both children to act out weddings as they think they should happen with plenty of last minute objections from jilted lovers and people who think that the couple should marry them instead of each other. It's been great fun and has allowed both Children to let their imaginations take the lead.

Sylvanian Families Royal Wedding Set

The Motorcycle and sidecar have been used for almost everything since it arrived, with the maps and driving licenses being carefully folded and placed in the storage areas and even doubling up as the mode of transport for the wedding party to and from the church. I must admit though I was a bit worried when I found that they were also using the motorcycle and sidecar as a get away for a bank robbery...

Sylvanian Families Motorcycle and Sidecar Set

The toys are great fun, good value and well made. Top Ender has found that several of her classmates have Sylvanian families on their Christmas lists and there is even a bit of a grown up market if the after school Mums are anything to go by with one Mum actually looking at buying herself a Sylvanian House for Christmas...

The Wedding Celebration costs £24.99 (RRP) and the Motorcycle and Sidecar costs £26.99 ( RRP) and I think that this is well priced for toys that everyone loves to play with.

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Five

We are having a lot of fun with creating our advent calendar and in order not to let you have the guilt of eating chocolate we are taking on board quite a few extra calories... It's okay though as we know this is all in the name of Christmas!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Making A Gingerbread House - A New Family Tradition!

Last year my sister and I both wanted to start a new tradition in our homes, we wanted to make Gingerbread Houses with our children and have a bit of a competition about it. You know the sort of thing "My Gingerbread House is better than your Gingerbread House because..." normal sisterly competition nothing OTT about it at all. We decided to go with the Gingerbread Houses that you can buy from Ikea, they are normally on offer of buy two for x amount of £'s at this time of year and with Ikea being a few moments away from our homes it would be a time saver to buy the pre-made sides rather than making them ourselves. The Gingerbread House on the box looks fantastic, I mean how hard could it be to top this?

Ikea Gingerbread House Packet

Turns out really hard.

The pieces are impossible to stick together with boiled sugar so do yourself a favour and if you are going to make one buy a tube of three of writing icing like the ones Silverspoon make and I use a lot as this will allow you a sturdier "glue" use Mugs and bowls to hold the pieces in place and leave for an hour to allow the pieces to set.

Gingerbread house in pieces

If you do plan on putting detailed decoration around the outside of the house then be prepared for a lot of cursing and don't attempt it with your children if you are wanting something that looks perfect. Anyway eventually we made this...

Our Excellent Gingerbread house that we are very proud of even though it looks a bit naff!

And it's not that bad is it? Is it?

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Four

In the spirit of Christmas, the jokes that we tell every day in our advent calendar are the sort of thing that wouldn't be out of place in a Christmas Cracker. If you have any Christmas themed jokes that you think would be suitable for us to tell, then let us know in the comments!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Great Father Christmas Hunt

There are a lot of things that you can do at Christmas that are cheap or frugal and that mean that you have fun as a family or group of friends. I talked about Christmas Light Hunts last year, but there is also The Father Christmas Hunts that you can go on too. When my sister and I were small we would go in the car at Christmas in the late evening to go and find Father Christmas. At the time we didn't realise that my parents knew where Father Christmas was going to be checking up on Children and practising his route for Christmas Eve because it was a magical time (they knew as the Round Table had a bit in the local paper saying where they would be and when) and we were far more interested in spotting Father Christmas than trying to dissect the magic and children today are the same!

Santa playing a banjo Christmas Decoration

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Three

I have really loved the comments that we have been getting here, on Twitter and on our Facebook page about the Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar. In case you have missed our posts you can still go back and open Day One with me and Day Two with Daddy before opening today's door or you can just jump right on in here!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Top Ten Family Christmas Movies

One of the best things about Christmas is that you get to spend a lot more time with your family. It's sort of expected at this time of year and so more families are ready to embrace spending time together and because it is generally a bit colder here in the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year they are looking for things to do indoors. There are a lot of Family Christmas Movies and although some might be a bit soppy we have a lot of favourites here, so here are our ultimate Top Ten Family Christmas Movies to watch with your family!
Christmas gifts round the tree

Muppets Christmas Carol

This is Daddy's favourite Christmas film and it wouldn't be Christmas if we didn't watch it at least once during the Holiday period! The story is of course the classic Christmas Carol story with the Muppets twist, there is a fantastic performance from Michael Cain as Scrooge and if you haven't seen it before (which is unlikely!) then you are in for a real treat.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Any version of this story is fantastic, but in our house the Ron Howard version staring Jim Carrey as The Grinch is the one we turn to when we all want to have a family afternoon on the sofa. We love the message in the film that yes it's nice to give an receive gifts at Christmas but that isn't what the true message of Christmas is about. Plus I have my very own Cindy Lou Who every Christmas!


This is my most favourite Christmas film ever, the story of Buddy the elf who discovers that he isn't actually an Elf but a human! There are some fantastic moments, but the one that most children will want to try is when Buddy runs round and round in a revolving door before throwing up in a conveniently placed bin.

How To Create Fun Christmas Traditions For Your Family

I had been writing this blog post last year before jumping into a conversation with Jay and Sandy and Heather on Twitter. All three of them were looking forward to Christmas taking on a slightly different meaning for them now that they have children who are aware of what is going on around them and they are the grown ups in charge of creating special Christmas memories.

We are all lucky then we can create fun Christmas traditions that will be passed down to our children and to our children's children and to countless generations after too!

Christmas hats!

I was talking with my sister about Christmas and about why it is such an important event for us. We decided that it was partly to do with having had our family around us and partly because of the traditions and rituals associated with the season too. I knew exactly what was going to happen at Christmas as it seemed as if every Christmas we did the same things.

We ate the same food, we drank the same drinks, we watched the same TV, we made the same jokes and the same friends would come round and see our family. It was important for me that when Daddy and I got married that we created traditions of our own and that we brought traditions from our own families together, after all we were in charge of continuing these traditions down through the generations.

The traditions that Daddy and I have now are equally divided between those that we had with our families as children and those that we have created over the ten years we have been married.

That's right you can create Christmas Traditions all of your own and you don't need anything special in order to do it. Of course traditions don't become traditions over night and they don't have to be the sort of traditions that you think of as traditions either. Some of the best traditions that we have are the ones that are a little crazy!

The Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar - Day Two

I hope that you enjoyed the first day of The A Mothers Ramblings Guilt Free Chocolate Advent Calendar and I'm guessing that you are back here because you would like to see what is behind door two, so without further ado here it is!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Fish is the Dish Posh Fish fingers

I'm so bad, I should have blogged about this the other week but I forgot. 

The other week I made fish fingers with the haddock and cod fillets that Fish is the Dish had asked Delish Fish to send to me. The recipe that I was given was for posh fish fingers using breadcrumbs and whilst that is delicious I much prefer battered fish fingers and so Daddy and I had a cook off with me making the breaded fish fingers and him making the battered fish fingers. Then because he needed to eat his fish fingers whilst they were hot and I am a much better cook (no really I am!) I took over making the battered fish fingers!
Battered Posh Fish Fingers

The cook off was won by me but with Daddy's battered fish fingers. I found the breadcrumb ones to be too dry (even though the fish was moist the crumb just didn't do it for me) and even the battered ones didn't work that well. The fish was nice, but I think it would have been nicer making something else, or even just eating the fish without a coating.
Breaded Posh Fish Fingers

The whole point of this campaign though is about showing how easy fish is to cook and how many different fish dishes there are. It didn't matter that we didn't like the fish fingers, because now we know that we need to tweak the recipe a little before we serve them again and we will work on it because we do know that fish is an important part of our diet.

I loved that the haddock we were sent was caught in the North Sea (and has a Marine Stewardship Council Accreditation)  and by one of two different Vessels (I would have said boat, but I was told it was a vessel!). I love that you can track where the fish comes from because it makes me feel more responsible about what I am eating.

I know that I'm not always as inspiring as I could be, but I do hope that reading about how I am cooking with fish despite my lack of amazing cooking skills is inspiring others to cook with fish too.. In fact if there is a fish dish that you have always wanted to cook but want me to cook it first as a trial run for you let me know and I'll give it a go!