Sunday, 30 March 2014

Perfecting a Roast Dinner with Scrumptious Side Dishes!

We love a roast dinner on a Sunday but often cook the same vegetable dishes time after time. So I've been on a mission to find tasty but simple alternatives... here's the first one!

Roasted Root Veg with Parmesan - serves 4
Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. In a roasting dish put 1 swede and 2 potatoes, all peeled and cubed, and 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped. Sprinkle over 50g Parmesan (or Cheddar if you prefer), grated, 2 tbsp. fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme and 2 tbsp. olive oil. Roast for 45-50 mins, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden.

Source: The Co-Operative instore magazine.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Smile ~ Mother Teresa #wednesdaywords

"Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other - it doesn't matter who it is - and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other."
Mother Teresa
Crazy With Twins

Monday, 24 March 2014

Win a family ticket to The Sooty Show at Rhyl Pavillion!

'The Sooty Show' is a long standing family entertainment show - I do remember it from my childhood and if I remember correctly, I had the set of puppets and a Sooty Magic Set! I also thought that Sooty had melted away into the middle distance along with Thundercats and Button Moon but I was wrong!

Thanks to 'Ask The Usher', here's an opportunity for you and your family to win tickets to see The Sooty Show at Rhyl Pavillion on April 13th. It will be afternoon of fun for both adults and children - those of a certain age will enjoy the nostalgia whereas the younger ones will giggle away to the antics the trio get up to!

Enter via the Rafflcopter below... and good luck!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 23 March 2014

A box full of fun! Weekend Box Club Review

The Weekend Box Club is a company who provides letter-box sized activity boxes delivered fortnightly to your door packed full of activities to last you over the weekend. Now, we always hope for lovely, dry weekends filled with sunshine and long walks on the beach... but that isn't a guarantee in the UK! These activities are ideal to give you new ideas and how to be a good 'finder-outer' when it comes to child-friendly science tasks. The boxes are aimed at ages 4-6 years and contain 4 different activities; something to cook, something to make, something to explore and something green.
We were lucky enough to receive a Weekend Box to review - so here's what we thought!
The content looks great, with clearly colour coded activity packs and instruction sheets along with almost everything that you need for each activity. The handy sticker sheet helps you to see which activities you have completed - all kids love stickers, right? The larger poster also helps you to track how many boxes you have received and completed, with a free gift in store when you have completed 6 packs.
Pot O' Gold
My son loved making this little game and enjoyed playing it with his older sister. After getting the hang of the force required to flick the coins and a few coin-chasing and coin-ducking moments, he soon became an expert!

Rocking Spring Bird
Craft activities are always a winner in many homes and this one was no exception. Everything you need is contained within the pack (except for scissors and a plate to draw around!) - even the glue stick was included! The kept my son happy and he was able to complete the full activity alone, with just a bit of supervision with the scissors! He's decided to make more of these birds to place on the table over Easter as place-markers for our family Easter dinner.
Green Pancakes
My son loves to cook - not just cakes and biscuits, but savoury foods as well. He was really looking forward to making these pancakes. The spice mixes are included in the pack and the rest of the ingredients are basic store cupboard items so most households would have them in anyway.

He wanted to make the recipe himself, so with just me to overlook what he was doing, off he went. He collected the ingredients and read (with a little help) what to do. Now, I can cook and can definitely follow any recipe I am given, but this recipe for green pancakes just did not work for us. There was no mention of chopping the spinach (which we ended up doing as there was no way that it was going to work otherwise!) and the finished mixture was definitely not something that you could ladle into a pan and fry like a pancake. We did persevere and cooked a little in the pan; the taste was nice but was more like fried spinach leaves than a pancake!
We then tried to analyse what we *thought* was wrong, so we added some milk as non-green/normal pancakes use milk... this resulted in a slightly better pancake but I'm sure something was still wrong! So overall, we were disappointed with the recipe but enjoyed the kitchen experiments we ended up doing instead!
Sound Explorers
This activity sheet taught us how sounds travel and helped us to use our other senses (touch and sight) to hear sounds. The link to the YouTube video for the alien-voice maker was definitely a hit and we had an afternoon of funny voices all round! Everything was included in the kit and the fun lasted longer than I'd have expected from straws and a balloon!
Overall, the Weekend Box Club is a great idea and great fun - just on this occasion we didn't seem to make a good go of the recipe activity. I'd still recommend the box to other families, so why not give it a try? Using this unique promo code (KATIE94) you can try your first box free - redeem here.
You can see what other families have been getting up to on their Facebook page here or via Twitter here. Pop over and give them a 'like' - they really are lovely people!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Visiting @Bristol, At Bristol!

'At Bristol' is a great city centre science museum perfect for a family day out. We spent the later part of an afternoon here recently and thought we'd share with you what we thought!

The museum is over 2 floors and is well spaced to allow easy access for prams and wheelchairs. The exhibits are all hands-on; so much in that it was difficult to decide where to start! When you buy your tickets, you receive a wristband which you can scan on various exhibits as you go along and then by visiting the 'At Bristol' website from home, you can download your results and 'experimental findings'!

Our favourite part of the museum that we saw was the human body area. There's lots of different experiments to take part in - everything from hearing and smell to bones, muscles and energy!

There's also motion and physics displays showing how pulleys work and problem-solving, for example transferring kinetic energy to light energy. I've always loved science and my children seem to be taking after me in that way! They were really interested in everything that we saw and we will definitely return to see the remaining exhibits that we didn't have time to explore.

My daughter especially liked reading the weather forecast using the auto cue and 'blue screen'. There are also different activities at various times throughout the year - live Science shows and 'Spring Alive' are running at the moment so keep an eye on their website for up to date information.

Just one tip - we arrived late on in the afternoon and purchased a late entry ticket (available 1 hour and a half before closing) - this didn't give us enough time to see EVERYTHING but saved us about £8 per adult and £5 per child (approx. £34 for our family!) so I'd recommend either arriving as early as you can to see everything in one go or if you only have a short amount of time to spare, arrive 1 1/2 hours before they close. There's no mention of this discount anywhere that we could see in the reception/booking area so make sure you ask!

Also, if you Gift Aid your tickets, you receive vouchers to spend in the gift shop - a win/win situation! There are lots of different things to choose from, ranging from pencils and rulers up to larger items and toys/science kits. 

Overall, this was a great afternoon out in a great part of Bristol - why not visit if you're in the area? You'll be amazed at what you will learn!

You can keep in touch with them via Facebook here or Twitter here for regular updates and fun!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Magic Memories - Canvasdesign Review & Competition!

They say a picture tells a thousand words and so does a canvas print! Canvas prints have grown in popularity over the past few years, with almost every household owning at least one showing off beautiful scenery or a lovely family member.

Canvasdesign are a company who specialize in canvas printing with prints available from just 6 inches square up to 40 inches square - the choice is yours! We had the opportunity to receive a canvas print from Canvasdesign to share our opinions with you and pass on a great discount code.... as well as giving one of you the opportunity to win a canvas print of your choice absolutely free!

It was a really difficult decision as to which image to choose for our canvas - eventually we settled on a landscape taken this winter from the beach opposite our house.

We were really pleased when the canvas arrived. Quite often you see a perfect picture with your eyes, take the photo with your super-duper camera but then when you see it in print, the colours just aren't 'there'! With the canvas from Canvasdesign, the colours are really vibrant and the sky-blue really shows the quality of the print. The photo is not at all grainy and we were definitely impressed!

Now for the boring, but essential, bits - the ordering was really easy and simple to do, delivery was quick and the communication from both the courier and Canvasdesign was very good. Overall, I would recommend this company and definitely use them again.

So, here's your opportunity to do just that! Canvasdesign have given me an online discount code to share with you all - just use BLOG15 at the checkout to receive 15% off your total order and delivery is free too! Click here to shop now!

But first, you may want to enter my competition to win a canvas print of your choice. Just complete the Rafflecopter entry below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: We received a canvas print free of charge from Canvasdesign for the purpose of review.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Friday Flapjacks!

To celebrate the arrival of Friday (after a pretty busy week, we definitely need a treat!), here's my favourite and extremely simple recipe for flapjacks.

175g butter
175g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
250g porridge oats

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas 2 (150C) and line a 20cm square tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a large saucepan over a low heat until completely melted and combined.
  3. Add the porridge oats and stir well to mix.
  4. Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 35-40 mins.
  5. Remove from the oven, and place on a wire rack STILL IN THE TIN. Don't make the mistake of trying to take it out of the tin as the flapjack will still be soft.
  6. After about 10 mins, score the flapjack into squares/rectangles. Only lift from the tin when completely cool.
  7. Cut along the score lines into squares/rectangles. Enjoy!
If you wish, you can add some dried fruit, chocolate chips or nuts in step 3 and/or drizzle melted chocolate over the top once cooled.

This is probably the simplest recipe which anyone can make - get the children involved too, just take care with melting and oven parts! The only problem is, you can't just eat one piece...

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Barmouth with kids - through our eyes!

Barmouth is a great place to bring your children up or to visit for the day, or even longer on your family holiday. Barmouth is visited by hundreds of families each year - too many to count! The beach here is fantastic and a classic place to while away the days on holiday but what else is there to do?

Here's a quick guide to some of our favourite places within walking distance from the train station....

Places to eat

The Bath House on the promenade has a convenient sheltered outdoor patio area which provides great shelter on those windier days! There's room for pushchairs and dogs are welcome too!

Davy Jones' Locker on the harbour is open all year round and busy with visitors and locals alike. There's just enough room inside for a pushchair, but the outdoor seating is also sheltered - whether you need respite from the sunshine or the sea breeze. P.S. dogs are welcome here too!

The Captain's Table is a family-friendly place to eat both during the day and in the evening. It's not a huge place so it's best to book a table. The menu is simple but with enough choice and if your child cannot spot something which takes their fancy, always ask and you'll find that the chef is pretty flexible with his dishes and will aim to please! Space is a bit tighter here than in a pub but the owners will accommodate you as much as they can!

Super shops

The Weigh-Out is a must for any visitor and local! You can find pretty much any ingredient for day to day cooking and baking and the 'pic and mix' sweets are a huge temptation! If you're like me and love muesli but hate dried fruit, you can mix your own and enjoy to your heart's content! The massive gobstoppers are a hit with the children although I don't think I'd manage one!

Luv It is probably my favourite shop in our town. It stocks lots of different gifts, everything from stylish holiday trinkets to bigger presents perfect for special occasions. I especially love the scarves that they stock - I am seldom without a scarf and I'm collecting quite a range!

Fudgeridoo has a great selection of fudge, all homemade with the spectacular additions of anything from Smarties to Oreo cookies! The shop is also spectacularly pink in colour and has some lovely items, mainly for the girls in your life but anyone can enjoy the fudge! Their sister shop Knickerbockers, just around the corner, also sells fantastic ice cream - try the lemon curd ice cream, delicious!

Secret places

Barmouth's play park is hidden away down a side road (Park Road) and not really visible from the main road. Although pretty small, there's a variety of equipment suitable for ages up to about 12. The old tennis courts are currently undergoing a revamp to provide more equipment for older children as well as all-weather pitches for football and basketball. Watch this space for more updates!

Just a little further along from the park, you'll find a great outdoor space called Wern Mynach. This is an area of Barmouth that allows nature to grow wildly! There are well maintained footpaths suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs, with benches placed around the area - perfect for a picnic in the sun! There are many, many different flowers and plants here, see if you can spot as many as we did!

A new heritage trail has just launched in Barmouth. This uncovers many of the secrets of Barmouth in an easy-to-follow format. Even if you have visited the area many times, I'd still encourage you to have a look and I'll bet you still learn something new!

Coming soon!

Our family (and many others!) literally cannot wait until Barmouth's newest, family-friendly venue opens for children to play indoors in a safe environment. Bendigedig is due to open at the end of March so we'll update you once we have had a play and found out for ourselves how good it is!

And on top of what I've shown you here, we also have the Bronze Bell Shipwreck museum (up a small flight of steps above Davy Jones' Locker but worth a look if you're interested in maritime history), the library (visitors most welcome!), Barmouth & Dyffryn United football club (check the fixtures and catch a game while you're here) and our world famous bridge, perfect for a family walk over the estuary!

Image via
So, if you're planning a visit to the Welsh coast anytime soon, pay us a visit and say hello! The kettle's always on!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

You know that you live at the seaside when...

Oh wow, you LIVE at the seaside! Yes, we do and it's great! Not to brag(!) as it's hard work too sometimes but I wouldn't change it for the world!

But there are some things that only people who live at the seaside will understand...

  1. All members of the family have a least one pair of shoes permanently half full of sand!
  2. Even after a post-beach evening shower, there's always a bit of sand in your child's bed in the morning!
  3. There's always a bucket and spade strategically placed by the front door.
  4. You can (and do) take your children to the beach straight after school.
  5. When the sun decides to shine, you know that the sea won't be warm enough for a paddle for about a week! Only the non-locals jump straight in!
  6. You still can't walk along the shore line without collecting at least one shell or pebble.
  7. Following on from #6... you'll always find a seashell or pebble in the pocket of a jacket that you haven't worn for ages!
  8. You feel like an expert when you can tell the non-locals where the best place to crab-fish is... and the secrets of which bait to use!
  9. You know which RNLI launches are 'real' and which are practices because everyone knows someone who is on the crew!
  10. Finally, an impromptu walk along the prom can be done at a minutes notice and doesn't require military planning!
But... no, we don't go to the fun fair everyday - that's still a treat! And, no, we don't eat fish and chips on the harbour every day - that's still a treat! And, no, we don't eat sticks of rock, donuts or candy floss for dessert every day - they're still a treat!

But one thing we do still do is holiday at the seaside! We appreciate and respect what we have where we live but we still like to explore other coastal areas. But after all the trips we have made, I still love that view when coming into our home town - priceless!

Well, I hope I haven't made you feel too jealous! If you're having withdrawal symptoms from the beach, come and visit! There's a lovely B&B you can stay at.... Crystal House Hotel! (not-so-subtle hint!)

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Wednesday Words: To Serve, Martin Luther King Jr

"Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve.
You don't have to have a college degree to serve.
You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace.
A soul generated by love." 

Martin Luther King Jr

Crazy With Twins

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Half term fun at Danger Point, Talacre, North Wales

Over the last half term, we were lucky enough to win tickets to a great new style 'museum' on the North Wales coast. Danger Point is a state of the art, interactive learning centre for children (and adults!) of all ages. The centre was previously just used for educational group visits but has more recently opened it's doors to the general public.

Without giving too much away, you are firstly introduced to K-Os, a naughty little gremlin who LOVES to get himself into trouble and often gets up to some pretty dangerous activities. You can then 'follow' him around the exhibition as he leads you through the dangers of everyday life!

If you are visiting with a group, Danger Point can tailor your visit to what you and your group want to get out of it. For example, schools can have before and after sessions to track the increase in knowledge of the pupils and uniformed groups (Brownies, Cubs, etc.) can follow the syllabus of one of their interest or challenge badges. For individual visits, you get a clipboard and activity pack to work through as you travel around.

Teaching children about the often hidden dangers of life can be difficult as sometimes, I feel that they don't actually believe you that something bad could happen and you are just being a mean parent by not letting them have some 'fun'! At Danger Point the risks are shown to the children but in a measured and safe way. There were actually a couple of times that my youngest (6) was a little bit scared but with reassurance, he was OK but it did make him understand that there are dangers out there in the big wide world. Sometimes, a bit of controlled fear is a good thing as it really brings the danger and/or risk to life!

My daughter (9) loved all of the exhibitions within the centre, but her favourite was definitely The Co-Operative checkout! We felt that all of the sections were relevant to our lives, from the kitchen safety though to the beach and sea safety.

For me as a parent, the most useful part of the exhibition was the digital safety area. With so many children now fully proficient in the use of laptops, iPad's and other digital online gadgets, digital risks are now amongst the most dangerous and it certainly makes me as a parent stop and think about online safety. The way Danger Point explains these risks to the children is done in an excellent way. Using an online computer game as an example, they show how strangers can hide behind a 'friendly' character who quickly becomes your 'best online friend' and can lead you into real-life danger!

I would definitely recommend paying them a visit - we were there for a couple of hours so it was a lovely afternoon out. One good point was that there's no hard sell at the gift shop! This may sound a bit silly, but the gift shop is really quite small, situated near to the welcome desk. There's a nice selection of pencils, pens, stickers etc. but nothing extravagant that makes you feel that you HAVE to buy something!

Pop over to Danger Point's Facebook page here and you can also keep up with K-os and his friends here on Twitter. Why not have a little explore of their website too - there are links to useful resources covering all the different aspects of safety in everyday life.

If you do visit, make sure you say hello to K-Os for me!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Our visit to the National Trust Property Tyntesfield, Bristol

To start our half term fun, we took a trip down to Bristol to stay with my family for a couple of nights. After a long drive we finally arrived ready to have some fun!

We took the opportunity to visit Tyntesfield, the National Trust property near Bristol. Tyntesfield is a spectacular Victorian gothic revival house with large gardens and parkland. There's plenty of room to explore outdoors; we especially liked the kitchen gardens where we could show the children the veg plots and herb gardens which are still in use today.

During the school holidays, they have activities on for the children - we took part in the Fab Feb Finding Challenge which was simple enough to complete but not too easy that it was boring!

Whilst at Tyntesfield, you can also explore the house and chapel. Although there are plenty of things to look at but not touch(!), there are children's boxes strategically placed around the house. Children are openly invited to explore these activity boxes - some contain dressing up costumes, games and traditional Victorian toys amongst other exciting child-friendly things! This kept our children occupied for the most part... although my youngest (6yo) did exclaim rather loudly, "Does this house EVER end?!?!"

The volunteer staff were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, even talking to the children as well as the adults in our group which gave them smiles all round! They were ready to answer any questions - silly or not!

My favourite part of the house was the kitchen (of course!). It's still used today in mostly an original state, with the addition of a new electric cooker and dishwasher!

Here are some photos from our day:

One point just be to aware of, the house wasn't fully open when we went and so didn't get to see as much as we could have done. The reason was that it was early in the year and everything would be fully open from Easter time. My only gripe was that this isn't noted anywhere until you have already paid (full price) and have made your way down to the house. With the children, just the downstairs of the house was probably enough, but I still would have liked to have seen the upstairs!

We have fondly renamed Tyntesfield as 'Tinsle-field' as my children much preferred this name! We have planned to return at Christmas time, just to check out the presence of tinsel!

Have a look at the webpage here to check out the prices and events throughout the year. It's well worth a visit but just make a quick phone call first to make sure everything's open!

Twinkl Half Term Activities - How did we do?!?

Well, we had great fun this week - a couple of days out in Bristol (Tyntesfield & At Bristol) and one a bit closer to home (Danger Point) along with plenty of activities indoors too!

We used the 'Weekend Activities' decision mat to help us to decide what to do through the week... my children closed their eyes and pointed randomly on the decision mat. We covered going to the countryside, sleepover, visiting a museum, writing, drawing and cooking!

The mat was really useful to stop any arguments about what to do - you can find the 'Weekend Activities' mat here. There are other words mats available to print too; why not have a browse and use them yourself?

My youngest really enjoyed making the Astronaut from the Twinkl website (link to instructions here) - he managed to complete it himself with just a little bit of help piercing the holes for the split pins. Actually, he wanted to (and was pretty sure that he could!) do this himself but it was me who decided the 'piercing job' was mine to do!

To get a bit of reading/writing/drawing into our half terms days, we used the 'At Home I See...' writing frames. These are ideal to use for any theme and for any age. We used each room as a theme but you could ask your children to find things that are blue, or begin with a certain letter - the scope for this activity is endless!

Lastly, we had great fun with the Science Sparks experiment sheets. I have to admit, I love the science of how things work and why but it's often difficult to explain to a child. With these experiments, you can actually SEE the science and so my children were fascinated by the experiments, so we felt that these worksheets were really engaging.Pictures to follow as we had a bit of a glitch with the camera!

There are plenty of other great ideas on the Twinkl website - make sure you explore the site and start planning your Easter break!