It is definitely BBQ weather at the moment with all this heat. It seems like everyone is wanting to get outdoors and enjoy it while it lasts. Luckily for me, MoneySuperMarket had given us £50 towards hosting a barbecue for their #thecharcoalchallenge competition (see here for more details)
To make the budget go further we got together with friends and contributed jointly to the barbecue. I was in charge of bringing the vegetarian foods:
I got a mixture of quorn burgers, bean burger, bbq salmon and bbq prawns. This was all bought from Tesco at 2am the night before as I was in a bit of a rush and knew I wouldn’t get much time in the morning either. Thank God for 24 hour supermarkets 😀
I also wanted to have halloumi and falafel as they are always nice for a veggie BBQ, but couldn’t find it at the time. Never mind though, all was nice, especially the sweet chilli prawn skewers.
My friend’s flat has a large communal garden so that is where we held the barbecue. Luckily one neighbour had all the barbecue equipment, which they kindly lent so we did not need to buy any of that. My friends provided all the meat, which was delicious as you can see below
To make the barbecue more fun for all the children we put out lots of activities like slide, tunnel, paddling pool with loads of plastic balls, and a small bouncy castle and decorated the place with balloons.
It was a lovely barbecue and a great way to spend a sunny afternoon with friends and family. We will definitely keep doing more barbecues in future.
Twinkl is a website offering a wide range of printable education resources, including worksheets and much more. I have been signed up to Twinkl for quite some time now, and find it really useful to have loads of worksheets all in one place, to save me having to google for different ones all over the place. Recently I was given a premium subscription to try out, and this enables me to have unlimited access to all of the resources on Twinkl and to print full sets at once, saving time.
My 5 year old has been a fan of work sheets since he started nursery at 3 years old, and he loves to have extra to do at home. He will come to me himself and ask if I can print him out some worksheets, his favourite being anything maths or numbers related.
At the moment, Twinkl has a great section focusing on Under The Sea which is quite appropriate for my boy as his school arranges the classes with names after sea creatures. At the moment he is in Shark and will be going up to Whale in September. I had a look through the Key Stage 1 resources, as he is going up to year 1 in September so I would like to encourage him in this level of work. There are some lovely worksheets which he enjoyed doing:
In the collage above you can see
Shark Portrait Page boarder – A simple sheet which comes with the option of being fully lined, half lined or narrow lined. Decorated with a shark border. The border made it more appealing for Mr Z so he was more keen to practise his writing. He seems to be progressing really well with this at the moment and getting more confidence with his writing. He was happy to show me what he can write and spell by himself. His finished work did made me laugh, he had put a sentence about “I like my mum wen she less me to have the copooter and aPad” – clearly a child of the modern generation! It came complete with an illustration of Bejewelled! May I add I don’t let him play on these all the time!
2. The jellyfish page from Under The Sea Description Writing Template. This is a premium resource pack and there are 14 different sea creatures included. I found this set really good, to encourage reading, writing and careful thinking about the characteristics of each animal. The sheets include a word bank at the top and then room for the child to write their own paragraph, using these words as inspiration. This is something a bit different from the usual worksheets I have seen.
Mr Z has not worked through all 14 yet but he enjoyed writing a couple of sentences about some of the sea creatures and felt quite pleased with his finished results. I’m sure he will be asking to do the rest of them soon.
3. Rockpool counting activity from the Seaside theme. This is another premium worksheet and it gives a picture with lots of things to spot and count, then write the number next to the word. I knew Mr Z would love this as it is number related.
I have printed loads more out too for him to use over the Summer holidays, and I am sure I will keep going back to the site to replenish my supply!
For teachers there are also loads more handy resources for in the classroom, for displays and more. I focused more on the worksheets myself but I can see that this would be a really great resource and definitely worth looking into if you are in teaching.
The other area I was really interested in trying out from Twinkl is the SEN section, and I found there are some visual time tables, including editable ones which is useful!
My 3 year old has Autism and has been recommended to use visual timetables at home and at school, and has also started off with using PECS (a picture exchange communication system). It is always good to see resources like this available in case he needs to expand on the words in his PECs folder or for me to make some extra time tables to help with certain situations. I will definitely need to make more for him over the summer holidays to help with his transition from being in a routine of going to nursery and speech therapy sessions, to being at home in a slightly more unstructured routine. I know it will help to keep him calmer if he can see the visual structure of the day and then take the pictures and put them into a “finished” post box once they are done.
Some of the other sections of the SEN area seem to be still under construction with more needing to be added but I am sure that soon there will be more and I will definitely keep checking back as this is a really important area to me. There should be ideas for sensory games, motor skills, communication choice boards and more.
I had a look around the forum too, where you can discuss ideas for educational activities or ask for help locating any resources and also make suggestions for the site. I saw some discussion about adding Makaton or signing resources on the site in future which would be something I would really welcome!
Twinkl are currently offering a free trial of Premium for schools. I can see how handy this would be for schools. I know my son comes home with a lot of Twinkl resources, so obviously his school have already discovered Twinkl!
With the Premium service, there are 10,000 extra resources that you have access to. Without the premium subscribers, Twinkl would not be able to make any resources at all! So by getting Premium you can also feel good that you are helping to support this brilliant service.
It’s definitely worth considering as something beneficial to keep your child busy and keep them learning over the Summer holidays. I will be printing out plenty more worksheets for my 5 year old and I will also be getting ready to print out some of the Eid resources for Eid coming up.
MoneySuperMarket are running another competition, to find out all about what is on our “Bucket Lists”, what are the ultimate things we would love to achieve and tick off our lists during our lives.
It’s easy to think of ideas if money is no object. There are so many places in the world that I would love to see, so the first things that jump to mind for me are travel related, however the first item on my list is a journey that is made not just for sightseeing or enjoyment purposes. Rather it is a journey to fulfil a spiritual goal and to reconnect. This is something that I have wished to do since I was much younger; something that fills the heart with longing and hopefully changes it for the better on it’s return. A journey that will give a sense of peace. A journey which has famously changed the lives and outlook of others who have gone before, such as Malcom X.
This journey is the Hajj. The Islamic pilgramage. My ultimate bucket list aim.
I have been fortunate enough to go and do Umrah (the smaller pilgramage) before we had children, so I have seen the kaabah and done tawaf. I have prayed in the Haram, and in Masjid an Nabawi and I am so glad I was given the opportunity to do this. (Alhamdulillah) The moment of seeing the Kaabah for the first time is something really special. It is in this direction that we turn to pray 5 times each day so to finally see this in front of your eyes is so surreal.
But Hajj would be on the next level. It is a much more challenging journey. To think of all those who have gone before and completed the same journey, every year for more than 1400 years so many people have been coming, from every country in the world, all with the same purpose. And to then think of our children and children’s children and the future generations continuing this as time goes on – to me this is an amazing thing and it must be my ultimate bucket list aim.
However, knowing that money is an issue for a lot of people at the moment, MoneySuperMarket have also asked us to come up with a budget bucket list. There are loads of simple things I would love to do which I have not yet achieved so here is mine:
The back to nature list:
Camping – I have never done this but we will be going this summer, so that will be one thing ticked off the list already! I quite fancy roasting some marshmallows under the stars 😀
Take the kids to a bluebell woods – Somehow we have never done this! We have been to normal woods, but the bright blue of the bluebell woods is really beautiful and I would love to take them, great for photos too!
Ditto Lavender fields! I loved the smell of lavender since I was little
Stay in a lake house – secluded and relaxing and calm. After running around after the kids and rushing from appointment to appointment all the time, I sometimes crave something like this. Somewhere that is just quiet!
The practical list:
Pass my driving test – I have been learning now for well over a year and had about 3x the amount of lessons most people have! 3rd attempt coming up and if I finally pass I can stop spending so much on lessons every week and get more freedom and spontaneity to go where I want, when I want. I really really do hope I can get this one ticked off my list soon!!
Making a decent biryani – My cooking is not too bad but this is one dish which never comes out so well, and I feel like it is the mark of a proper mum who can cook biryani when guests come over, so I would like to master it!
Finish fixing up my garden and redecorating my house – It would give me a lot of satisfaction to feel that there is not so much left in the house which drastically needs doing! I will be making a few steps in this direction so do look out for those posts coming up soon 😉
The just for fun list:
Take the kids to Butlins – I keep meaning to take them. I used to go every year as a kid so it is something I would just like to do with them
Take the kids to see some peacocks – Maybe in Richmond Park. I love peacocks! Again its something I remember enjoying when I was a child so I want to go and experience with the kids
Go on a big holiday with the kids, their cousins and all of the close relatives
Take the kids ice skating
Take a break and go on a mini holiday with my best friend (Mumtographer)
The long term list:
See my kids grow up, get married and have kids – Obviously don’t know what the future holds, but I hope they experience this and I would love to see it
Travel all over the world with my husband – Once the kids are fully grown, we are looking forward to seeing some of the world’s great places together. As we had them young, I am hoping we have plenty of years left do this once they are bigger!
Spend some time focusing on helping others – I have thought about volunteering for Home start, training to be a portage home visitor, or even fostering children once mine are quite a bit older. I would have to consider the best way for me to do these things and balance it with my own children’s needs but it is definitely important to me to make sure I achieve something worthwhile and have the opportunity to help others as others have helped me in life.
There are so many more things I could add to my lists, and endless extra categories I could add. I hope I manage to achieve as many of these as I can, but I know that as long as we enjoy each day spending time with loved ones, making the most of our time, making memories and helping others along the way, letting our loved one know and feel how loved they are and enjoying each moment – then the specifics and details of the lists do not matter, we will have no regrets.
This is my entry for the MoneySuperMarket Budget Bucket Lists Competition and I would like to tag the following 3 friends to take part in the competition:
Orion Books recently sent us a lovely picture book: Nanny Fox by Georgie Adams and Selina Young.
Nanny Fox is all about Arnold the Fox who unlike the rest of his community, loved chickens as friends not as food!
It’s a lovely book about friendship and how Arnold and the chicks forged a great relationship despite foxes and chicks normally being foes! It’s a positive message for children about not judging people by first impressions and giving them a chance. The chickens could very well have sent Arnold packing but instead they gave him a chance and they ended up forming a great bond! It also shows how Arnold was not afraid to stand up and be different from the rest of his family, by sticking to what he believed in rather than just following the pack and munching down all the chicks.
The illustrations are colourful with lots of character and expression and are very appealing and the way the text is written is also really good with lots of humour. It kept my 3 and 5 year olds entertained throughout. My 5 year old really enjoyed the bit where all of Arnold’s family start talking about how delicious they find eating all the chicks, and all the different comments his family members made.
This is a great story book to add to any young child’s collection and I could see it being really popular with most preschoolers
Any regular readers might remember that I recently reviewed a couple of early reader books from Orion. These are for age 5+ and although they were more on the challenging side for Mr Z he did enjoy them and I am keen to have slightly trickier books available for him to help him to push himself and progress more with his reading.
As another month has passed and Mr Z has now turned 5, I decided to give it another go with another new Early reader – This time “Shumba’s Big Adventure”
This is of a similar length and level to the Early Readers we previously reviewed. I felt like it was slightly easier for him to read from the first chapter and a little more complex as it went on, both in words and content. It starts off telling you about a naughty cheeky like lion cub, then suddenly he ends up kidnapped and heading for a zoo far away from his family. It does have mild peril in it due to these happenings, and I would say a child of a really sensitive nature could be quite upset – although it does have a happy ending with Shumba being reunited back with his family!
Mr Z enjoyed the story. He was still not able to read the full book independently but he has had a good try, both at reading aloud for me, and sitting himself with the book and trying his best to read through. I’m really happy with this so I want to keep encouraging him to try these kind of books as I can’t wait til I can see him able to sit and read a full book like this by himself – I will be so proud! I know how much enjoyment he could get from all the stories out there, and I feel that these books are a great step on his journey towards independent reading. I hope to try more of these as time goes on so I can see how Mr Z is progressing with them.
I would recommend any of the Orion Early Readers to children of around 5years+ as the guidelines state. There is a lot of variety available so you can easily find one that will appeal to your children’s interests. Mr Z liked the idea of this book as he felt the name Shumba reminds him of Simba from the Lion King. I must say I found the name Shumba so cute myself! If we happen to get any new Lion cuddly toys any time soon it will definitely be called Shumba! 😀 Mr Z also recognised the message from the story that Shumba should have listened to his parents and not kept wandering off, then he would have avoided getting into such a difficult situation!
I’m sure everyone knows Swizzels Matlow Love Hearts, the iconic sweets that many of us remember fondly from our youth and are still going strong today!
To celebrate the occasion of the royal baby, Swizzels Matlow are ready and prepared with their factory poised to start producing either Royal Prince or Royal Princess limited edition boxes of Love Hearts – with each sweet reading “Royal Baby”
Jeremy Dee, managing director of Swizzels Matlow, said:
“We want fans to join us and celebrate the birth of the Royal baby. We’re getting ready to produce celebratory Royal Prince or Princess Love Hearts. As soon as the baby is born we’ll be putting the right colour into production.”
The royal baby was apparently due on Saturday so I’m sure we will all be hearing news quite soon!
It’s not the first time that special royal Love Hearts have been made – they were also produced for the royal wedding back in 2011 and also for Prince Wills 21st birthday, as well as some being made in 1990 when Princess Diana visited their factory!
Mini rolls of Royal baby Love Hearts are available for a limited period from www.shop.lovehearts.com and cost £14.99 per box of 20.
To have a chance of winning a box of your own just fill in the rafflecopter below!
I have been using my Pyrex Round Casserole Slow Cooker for all sorts of dishes since I got it, including the slow cooked lamb dish that I’m going to share with you today. We enjoyed this lamb curry in Ramadan for iftar as my husband really likes lamb especially when it is done in a slow cooker and kept very soft! It’s also a handy evening meal all year round.
Ingredients for your Lamb Curry
3 or 4 Cardamoms, a few cloves, and 1 stick of Cinnamon
1 Kilo of lamb chopped into pieces, preferably including the bone
Coat the bottom of your pan with oil on a high fire
Fry your onion (1/2 a chopped onion) with green chilli, 3 or 4 cardamoms, a few cloves and a stick of cinnamon.
Add your chopped lamb
Add your powdered spices in the quantities mentioned in the ingredients list, followed by the tomato puree
Crush the 7 garlic cloves and add them on a slow fire
Optionally you can add some peeled and chopped potato at this point. You can put anything of your choice eg aubergine instead
Add another 1/2 chopped onion and your chopped tomato.
Make sure this is all getting cooked nicely then lower the heat and add some plain yoghurt
Add your 1/4 cup of water, place on the lid and then leave it to slow cook
You can leave for a minimum of 1 hour – longer if you like but check and top up the water if needed.
Later on in the cooking process you can add some spinach leaves if you would like them as they will need less time to cook
At the very end, add some chopped coriander.
This is an easy recipe for me as I am busy with the kids and can’t spend all day standing at the stove. Once you have left it slow cooking on a low heat, you can leave the kitchen and do whatever you need to do, and come back an hour or so later and check how it is getting on!
Serve with buttered naan or rice and this will be an easy tasty dish for the whole family to enjoy.
Together with 3 of my fellow bloggers (Et Speaks From Home, The Brick Castle and Red Rose Mummy) I have been working with Pyrex to try out their new ranges and help to spread the word about them. We recently held our Twitter party #CookWithPyrex which was great fun. It was really popular and was trending at #1 throughout the party. We heard many tales of well loved Pyrex lasting through the generations and making life easy whether at busy family dinner times or special occasions and dinner parties.
Pyrex have sent us their round casserole slow cookers to try out. I love to use a slow cooker as it’s very convenient for one pot meals and the meat comes out so soft and tasty. I had an electrical slow cooker before but unfortunately it got broken when moving house so until now I had been without one.
After trying this Pyrex cast iron casserole slow cooker, I prefer it so much to the electrical ones I had tried before. It is actually so much more convenient! When cooking meat dishes in a slow cooker, I would prefer to at least brown the onions, meat and add spices, garlic and ginger before adding the water and letting it slow cook. In an electrical slow cooker, I couldn’t put the cooker on to the hob to do this so I would have to do this in a different sauce pan and then transfer the mixture to the slow cooker to continue. The Pyrex cast iron slow cooker can be used on the hob or in the oven so if you need to do this kind of thing at the start of a dish it is so much more convenient (and less washing up!) Likewise if you need to turn up the heat a bit and reduce the liquid at the end of cooking, this is no problem as it is on the hob, so I found it more versatile than the electrical slow cookers I was used to.
The Pyrex slow cooker is very heavy. It feels really solid and well made. I can feel confident that this will not break, as Pyrex offer a lifetime guarantee which really does prove the reliability!
I also love the look of it with the cheerful shiny fire red. It is also available in Matt Black but I think the red has more personality, I love seeing it on my stove.
Now that Summer is here, the boys have been out in the garden loads. Our garden is not always looking its best and I am really trying to make more effort to sort it at the moment so that we can make the most of it, especially with this lovely weather.
I have recently had some more paving put down in the back garden, as we had some sections of gravel and this was a nightmare for keeping the garden tidy as the boys were forever digging into the gravel and spreading the stones everywhere. It looks so much neater and tidier now with the paving from edge to edge and I am hoping to get some more paving or decking installed in another part of the garden where we currently have loads of overgrown foliage. I am thinking if we rip all of this out and added another patio section with some decking, we would gain a lot more use-able space.
An area like this where we could keep the picnic table and seating area would be nice so the adults could sit and chat and relax while the children play. I am also planning to buy some deck chairs and loungers so we have more of a chance of relaxing in the garden. The decking pictured is from richardburbidge.com
I am also planning to treat the children to some new play equipment as I won some money to spend in B&Q (thanks to my room for improvement challenge by MoneySuperMarket which you can see here)
I am thinking of this play centre from Plum but I have not yet made my final decision, so any recommendations will be welcomed! I’m trying to get a balance between one that will be easy enough for the younger children to use, but then won’t be outgrown too quickly considering my oldest is now five. I might go for a trampoline and/or a playhouse too – depending how much space is left! As I mentioned in my chalk activities post, I want to add a chalk board section on one of the outside walls too
I also need to think about the plants and how to keep them well maintained. I admit, I don’t always find it easy to keep my plants in a good condition! There is plenty of advice available from Gardenhealth.com, covering plant care, bird care, lawn care and more – which I am desperately in need of. I would really love to have a garden with beautifully blooming flowers, always looking its best. We are very lucky to have quite a good sized garden so it would be better to really make the most of it!
I would also really love to add some cool features like a sensory garden or little sound garden, but don’t think this is feasable for the moment! I would love a water feature too but I will leave this for now as I would worry about the children and possible drowning risks if I turned my back for a minute so that will be something to keep in mind for when they are all older.
What are your plans for your garden? Please do share in the comments and pass on any ideas or suggestions
The sun is shining and summer seems to be well and truly here for the moment! Naturally the boys have been spending a lot of time in the garden. This morning we decided to get out the chalk and do some chalk activities, which they really enjoyed
I was struck by how long my 5 year old wanted to stay on the literacy and numeracy games we had started – just because it was outside and done in a different environment! For the younger boys it was a great chance for them to practise their mark making and explore the different colours and shapes.
We started off with lying on the floor and drawing silhouettes of ourselves, or for those who could not stay still for that long – just drawing around the feet or hands, although the whole body is more fun to decorate.You can do this by getting different colours and drawing on the face, clothes and adding any details like glasses. I don’t mind lying on the floor to let the kids draw round me – nearest thing to sunbathing I get! lol 😉
We also collected a few leaves to draw round. You could bring out different toys or items of loads of different shapes and experiment with drawing round all sorts of things.
After drawing on the floor, the boys wanted to move on to different surfaces. I’m happy enough to let them draw on the walls and fence, as it will wash off when it rains.
I am really meaning to make a giant chalk board to go over most of the space on the brick wall though. I am thinking just get giant piece of MDF or wood, paint it with chalk board paint and screw it to the wall? If anyone has done this, please do let me know how it went and pass on any handy tips! I have seen these kind of blackboards in some children’s centres and they are great for water play as well as chalk – using wet paintbrushs for mark making.
Drawing on both the wooden fence and on the brick and the stone paving did give them a chance to feel the different effects of the textures and surfaces though. In the end, the fence seemed to be the favourite as the chalk shows up really brightly.
My 5 year old wanted to play teacher and he started to write sums for me which I had to answer, and then he would give a tick or a cross. He loves numbers and learning but sometimes tires of sitting with a pen and paper for too long (he is only just turned 5, so is to be expected!). He absolutely loved this and we also reversed roles and I wrote some for him too but his favourite is to be the teacher and set me the challenges. Obviously I have to sneak some wrong answers in to make him laugh and see whether he notices and marks them wrong 😀
My 3 year old was also able to practise copying the number 1 which is really good for him.
As well as sums, we moved on to writing sequences and leaving gaps to be filled in and then moved it away from numbers onto literacy activities – done in a similar way by writing words and leaving some letters out to be filled in. I used this chance to help my 5 year old revise some of the “tricky” words he gets sent home from school (the high frequency words from reception year) and it worked really well for this.
There’s so much more you could do with the chalk too, the possibilities are almost endless which is what is so lovely about simple toys like these.
Some other ideas could be:
Draw a treasure map on the floor
Draw a scene of your choice, then you could add toy figures into it or if it is on a large scale then the kids could lie down on it – to make a cool effect for a photo!
Draw a road or train tracks, and bring the cars and engines outside to drive on it
Colouring in – You or your child draw a picture or shape, and then have them colour it in. This could work well with the older ones doing the drawing, and the little ones just colouring it in
A giant rainbow – Make sure you have all the colours ready, then use the chalks on their sides rather than the tips to make wide beams of each colour for a cool rainbow effect
Copying lines – bumpy, wiggly, zigzag, or circles. This is really good for developing pencil control later on!
Have you got any more to add? Let me know in the comments 🙂
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