Autumn Craft Fest!

Autumn in Cambridge is gorgeous and this autumn is even better than normal because it’s so lovely and warm! This past Tuesday we had a bit of a treat with the teachers strike which meant a random home day with all the kiddies. Now, before you start to think I’m one of those mothers who’s brilliant at being earthy and coming up with wonderful creative stuff, I need to tell you 2 important things.
1) This so called “treat” day started terribly. By 11am, everyone had been on the naughty step at least once and the dominant emotion in the house was rage.
2) All of these crafts were thought of by other people. There is nothing original in what I’m about to share.

Ok, so now that’s all out there, I can get on with sharing what we got up to. I have to say we had lots of fun and it’ll be a day I remember forever (in a good way!) Before we left the house I had a look on Pinterest and found some cool crafts that we could get stuck into but to do them we needed supplies, conkers, acorn hats and lots of autumnal leaves.

20131005-204426.jpgSo, at 11am, when everyone was on the verge of total meltdown, I finally hauled us all into our big box-bike and headed off for the Botanical Gardens in Cambridge. As soon as they were outside in the fresh air and cruising around in the bike, they stopped fighting and started chatting and giggling and plotting our adventures.

On arrival we decided to collect our supplies as secret agents which involved a lot of rather embarrassing (for me, the adult…) hiding behind bushes and whispering loudly, to be careful.20131006-202332.jpg We found lots of cool looking leaves, twigs, pine needles and acorn hats but no conkers, so we packed up our goodies, had some lunch and a play and set off on the hunt for conkers.

We eventually found an amazing hoard on a local road and filled up the bike with some beautiful conkers.






When we eventually got home and put Izzy down for a nap, the crafts finally began.


1) Leaf Creatures
image These are really easy, all you need is some good flattish leaves, card to stick them to (we used an old cut-up cornflake box and a regular card board box as the colours were quite autumnal), PVA glue, poster paints or felt tip pens and paint brushes (although you can use your fingers too!) All you do is stick the leaves onto the card and add the features to your little creatures. Here are the kids efforts…
image image







Sam made the leaf monster of many faces (left) and the leaf creatures on the right and Maisie made the top creative masterpiece!




Conker Bombs


These are brilliant and again, really simple. all you do is cut some strips of coloured tissue paper and glue the very top of the strips to each other like this;


Then make a hole in a conker (I used a BBQ skewer) fill the hole with glue and poke the tissue paper into the holes. Wait about half an hour for them to dry and then you can have competitions to see who can throw them the furthest. They’re pretty satisfying to throw and go pretty far!

Acorn Hat Jewels
image These were the least successful of our efforts but still pretty fun. What you’re supposed to do is use a felt tip pen to colour the inside of the hat and then put a little bit of PVA glue in the hat and leave it to dry overnight. I did eventually read the instructions but think I used too much felt-tip colour in the hat. Just use a little colour and it will bleed prettily into the glue. What I did before reading the instructions was mix some poster paint with some glue and add glitter. Still looks quite pretty though.
You can see all the original inspirations and get some more ideas by going to my Pinterest board.


Tasty Roast Chicken Rice

This is a great, tasty recipe that uses left over roast chicken. It’s ideal for tinys who are weaning, although you’ll probably want to use reduced salt versions of the stock and gravy granules. I just want to confess that my older kids wouldn’t eat this meal unless blindfolded but my nearly 2 year old wolfs it down. It’s worth noting that when the oldest 2 are blindfolded they love it…

A splash of sunflower oil (or whatever oil you use apart from olive oil)
Left over chunks or strips of dark and white chicken
Two sticks of celery chopped
An onion chopped
Chantaney carrots halved up into stock
Half a tin of sweet corn
A crushed clove of garlic
One chicken stock cube made
A desert spoon of gravy granules three quarters of a kids cup of rice.

Fry your onions in a stewing pot or saucepan, once translucent add the chicken, celery, carrots and sweet corn. Add about half of the stock, bring to the boil and let simmer on a low heat. Keep checking to see the stock hasn’t evaporated about every 10 mins and then after 30 mins add the rest of the stock and gravy granules for thickness. Then leave to simmer for another 30 mins and put the rice on to boil 15 mins before your 30 minutes are up. Once the rice is cooked just drain and stir into the meal. If your kids don’t like the look of this you can always blend it to make a yummy soup. Delicious. The good thing about this meal is that if the children don’t like it the adults will!


A review of the party offering at Cheeky Monkeys Play Barn in Fulbourn

I’ve been meaning to write this up for ages. Maisie celebrated her 4th birthday at Cheeky Monkeys and we had such a fantastic time that I wanted to shout about it!

We’ve been going to Cheeky Monkeys for nearly seven years now and one of the things I love is that at least 2 of the key staff have been there for at least as long as we’ve been going. The lady who looked after us during the party even knew my children’s names which was above and beyond in terms of good customer service.

There are 2 offerings, exclusive use, which is £10 per child (Mondays only) and shared use where you share with the public. This costs £7.50 for weekday parties and £8.50 for weekend parties. Included in the price is 90 minutes in the Playbarn or outside and 30 minutes for the party tea. The party tea includes a selection of sandwiches, mini sausages, crisps, cheese cubes, grapes, cherry tomatoes, cakes, biscuits, raisins and unlimited jugs of squash. All parents have to do is to bring a cake and the party bags.

There are 2 venues for the party tea, one is in a little barn just outside of the main Playbarn. This is decked out with twinkly lights and party decorations and is a lovely cosy room for a party. Ours was in the extension on the right hand side of the Playbarn and was perfect as it was large enough for our group and nice and bright so we could enjoy the sunshine and the view of the fields.

The day of Maisie’s party was beautifully sunny so we were all able to make use of the fabulous outside space. There are climbing frames galore, tractors, roundabouts and slides so the kids certainly didn’t struggle for entertainment. Inside is ideal for smaller kids as it’s not huge like some of the other local play barns. This means you can easily find and/or control the children and they don’t tend to get overwhelmed.


The party tea was stress free, I just sat back nattering to other mums while the team served food and drink to the children. The food itself was fine, just what you would expect for a party and with enough fruit and veg to help you feel you’re at least tipping your cap to healthy eating.

They’ve got the whole party thing down to a fine art. There’s a box for presents when you arrive and all the staff are keen to help and make the party run as smoothly as possible.

I would definitely recommend Cheeky Monkeys as a party venue and it’s not just ideal for the tiny ones. In fact Sam’s going to a friends 7th birthday party there next week and I’m sure they’ll have a blast.

One of the best things about it is that I trust the staff. I know that if I leave one of my children there for a party they’ll be absolutely fine, because the ladies who run it are quietly authoritative and don’t put up with any dangerous play or nonsense.

Thanks Cheeky Monkeys, Maisie had a fantastic time and so did we!


Win a £25 Sainsburys Voucher!

Hi All!

I’m running this competition as a member of the Family Blogger Network. You could be in with a chance of winning a £25 voucher, thanks to Sainsbury’s Bank Car Insurance.

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How to make an easy R2D2 Cake.

I want to start off by saying that I am NOT a baking queen. Cooking generally horrifies me, but now and again I fancy a challenge and when Sam mentioned he wanted a Star Wars themed birthday cake, I decided to trawl Pinterest to get some ideas. Initially I was horrified, most of the cakes on Pinterest aren’t even flat! They’re properly 3D, standing up replicas of the little chap – I kid you not. Thankfully though there were some flat ones that looked pretty good, so I looked up some actual images of R2D2 and came up with my own version.

So, I bundled the kids in the car, nipped off to Sainsbury’s and bought the ingredients. Here’s what I bought;

2 Packs of Sainsbury’s basic sponge mix
A pack of Sainsbury’s soft white ready to roll icing
A pack of Dr Oetker colour pack of rolled icing
A pack of icing pens

To make the body of the cake, I used a round tin and a rectangular tin, one pack of mix in each. When they had cooked and cooled, I cut the top of the rectangle off (the cut off bit will become an arm) and cut the top off the circle. I then stuck the top of the circle onto the top of the cake with some icing sugar mixed with water.

I then used the cut-off piece of cake as a template for R2D2’s other arm and stuck both the arms to the main body of cake with icing sugar. Once the arms were stuck on I just cut out the feet from the remainder of the circle cake. At this point when you have the true shape of the cake you can roll out the blue and white icing and cut out the blue shapes (I just did it freestyle with a sharpe knife) It’s important to sprinkle some icing sugar on the table so that the rolled icing doesn’t stick. I also used a long flat metal thing (what’s it called?!) to help unstick it from the table.

After that it was time to lift the rolled white icing off the table, onto the cake and gently press down all around, cutting off the excess icing.

Once I was satisfied that it looked alright I just stuck on all my cut out bits with some icing and added a few details with the icing pen.

Ta Dah!


I’ve broken my baby.

It’s official, I’ve broken Isabelle and not in an emotional/helpful/will now sleep through the night kind of way. A few months ago, in an attempt to sort her, “won’t sleep through the night” habit, we decided to just let her scream when she woke up at night. We’d go in once so she knew we were there and then tell her we wouldn’t come in again even if she kept on crying. It was horrific. For the first 2 nights she screamed for about 2 hours non stop and then after a few more days of crying between 1.5 hours and half an hour, it worked. The trouble though, is that 2 hours of full-on screaming is not good for a baby’s vocal chords and her voice, although always pretty deep, took on a new, sort of 60-Bensons-a-day croak.

On top of the scream induced ruination, there was also the incident with the dishwasher tab she sucked (have you called the social yet?) My Mum’s terrified that the tab has completely dissolved her throat and ruined her forever. So, in an attempt to appease Mum who has basically convinced me that Isabelle’s beyond repair, I took her to the doctors.

Now when you’re a new mother, it’s essential to visit A&E at least once a month for the first few months and thereafter the doctors for every sniffle and sneeze. When you’re a mother of three, your children have to be either unconscious or bleeding uncontrollably to warrant any medical attention. I think this, “pah, she’s fine” attitude is great most of the time as kids get ill and kids get better, but sometimes it takes someone who doesn’t see your child every day to see that medical attention might be a good idea.

Anyway, we’ve been advised not to let her scream at all if possible (er… ok). She currently has swollen tonsils and a fever, so we’re going back to see the doc in 3 weeks time when we’ll be able to see if there is still a problem with her tonsils when her illness has passed. If they’re still swollen then then we’ll take her to see a throat specialist. Poor little thing. I’ve given her a dummy which helps to stop her crying (just call me parent of the year) and some baby Nurofen to accompany the antibiotics. Now we just have to play the waiting game and hope she’s not destined for a life-time of Darth Vader voice over jobs. Ah guilt, my constant companion, come and give me a cuddle.

By the way, she has stopped sleeping through the night.



Can I have my boobs back please?

I started breastfeeding on the 6th of September 2006 and I’m still doing it. That’s almost seven years! My poor old boobs, they really could do with some time off for good behavior, they’ve “done us proud”, as someone might say if they were from the East End and very pleased with my breast’s achievements. But you know what? I think I’m done. It’s time to pack away the now grey and frayed nursing bras, and bring out the new pretty push-ups! Oh but I can’t, can I, because Isabelle is obsessed with breastfeeding.

Our word for it is dudu, which apparently is what they call milk in some parts of India. My dad was born in Burma and that’s what he used to call milk when he was little, it was therefore what we called milk when I was little and has now stuck for us. Unfortunately Izzy has also stuck, stuck to my knockers! Whenever she wants some she lies prostrate across my lap and squeaks, “dudu, dudu” just in case I’m not sure what she wants.

I thought when I went away to Sheffield for a few days, (with Mum for her op) that she might simply forget about the joys of dudu. Fat chance! For the first few hours of my return she didn’t ask for any, but then it was like she suddenly remembered what she’d been missing and demanded some right there and then. To be fair, I’m now only breastfeeding her three times a day (that’s still quite a lot isn’t it?) which is less than previously, but really I’d like to have stopped completely by the time she’s two.

The question is, how do I stop? With my other two I stopped breastfeeding at 14 and 19 months and it just sort of seemed quite natural. But with Izzy, I just can’t see an end. If I try to deny her she FREAKS OUT and not mildly, oh no. She SCREAMS and SCRATCHES and HITS and ROLLS ABOUT (too many caps?). We’ve tried formula with which we’ve had limited success but at the end of the day she just likes the real deal.

Really though, who can blame her? As the youngest of 3 kids she has to fight for my attention all the time, so I guess it’s her way of having me all to herself. I can’t really say I hate it either, she’s so cuddly and sweet and she is my last baby. I just hope she’s ready to give up before she starts school…

Any time, any place, any where. Literally.