Sunday, 24 November 2013

Harry Potter Day at Stockeld Park

Last weekend we headed up to Stockeld Park after a tip off from a friend that they were having a Harry Potter weekend. After checking it out online we thought the boys would enjoy it and there were a few free events, so off we popped.

We eventually decided (upon arriving) to get a family day pass to the park, as there was a show in one section and a maze in another that we'd have had to pay for. That was the only negative of the day really, that getting into all the parts of the park was a bit cha-ching, and it wasn't really checked. We could definitely have gotten away with at the very least just buying a pass for me and Ethan. We were only checked twice, once on the way in to the 'Enchanted Forest' and once at the bean planting station (which would only have cost £1 without the pass). The maze and sorting weren't checked at all, which was a bit irritating after we forked out for it!

Anyway, back to the good stuff!

First off we had broomstick training, with 2 wizards and a witch from Hogwarts. They were brilliant. An aside, all the... actors? characters? anyway, they were all from Make a Wish Entertainment (facebook here) and they were amazing. More about them later.

This is Wesley Wizzo, who looks and acts freakishly like my brother-in-law Jonny. So much so that Sam shouted his name. Ethan did some magic spells, the group fought a swamp monster, practised flying, and helped a wizard earn his golden hood.

 There he is flying around, with adults acting as quidditch hoops and the whomping willow. He had a blast, and it was good imagination exercise!

Next there was bean planting, with very dry sparkly soil - points for lack of mess - and a white bean, planted with a wish in a small pot. Simple and enjoyable.

In the same area was an animal rescue/welfare group who'd brought some owls along for the event, and they were lovely about the children touching the owls and they both even got to hold the smallest one.

I can't adequately convey the pure joy this brought them, especially Sammy.

After this we stopped for a snack, and then went into the Maze. We were given a quiz and the answers were hidden in the maze, but, being Harry Potter questions, I knew them already ;)

We loved it, it wasn't too difficult, if you looked at the maps posted here and there throughout. There were a couple of bridges and a tower to see the maze from above too, which was fun. We made it through in about 20 minutes, though we did pass an arguing family who'd been in there an hour! 
 After the maze Ethan went for sorting, which was fab, the hat's face moved and it spoke, and he loved it. He got Gryffindor, so was made up. After this we had the Harry Potter Catwalk, which I have no pictures of because I was Sam-wrangling. All the dressed up kids basically did a fashion parade, with a guy introducing each one. I was impressed that they both had a crack at it, Ethan struck a spell pose, and Sam raced up and down. They were both outdone however by the only girl dressed up as Luna Lovegood. She was spot on, stripey tights, tutu-esque skirt, sprectre specs. She strutted down the catwalk, turned, and dropped into a perfect split. Naturally, she won, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Quick stop to hug a reindeer (Sam is slightly obsessed with these kind of costumed people), and then off to the Harry and Hagrid show in the Enchanted Forest. The show was fun, though Rich had to take Sammy out. When Hagrid called on Harry, he kept shouting "No Hagrid, I Harry Potter!" So they went off to look at the lights in the forest and Ethan and I watched the show. It was great, the actors were absolutely spot on, little bit of magic and great rapport with the kids.

Ethan was so excited, it was very cute. 
After we went through the Enchanted forest it was time to head home. There was a small ice skating rink, but it was busy and we needed to get back, which was a shame. Anyway, on our way out to the car, Harry and Hagrid were waiting for a pick up off somewhere else when we bumped into them and another witch (Polly Potions, from broomstick training) and the second we approached, they immediately turned it back on, and were more than happy to spend a few more minutes with the children. They were absolutely brilliant, and made the day. Very good with the children, really happy, enthusiastic and just seemed to really enjoy their work.

Then it was home to bed where two sleepy boys went to bed without Daddy washing off any Harry Potter scars :)

Make a Wish Entertainment apparently do parties and events, and I would absolutely recommend them and as soon as I can afford it I'll book them to do a birthday for Ethan!

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


We were lucky enough to get two chances the dress the kids up this year, for the trunk and treat at church and for trick or treating. So first, for the trunk and treat...
We had last minute vampire who decided he wanted this cape from the 99p shop. Thrifty!

 We also had a last minute gruffalo who refused to wear the ghost costume he'd asked me to make. Still, he had a gruffalo dressing gown and slippers already so all it took was a green felt tip for the poisonous wart at the end of his nose, and we were done. We had a fun time at the trunk and treat, I made a coconut shy with skulls in the place of coconuts in our car boot for the kids to knock down, they got sweets, bosh, done.
Then for trick or treating on our street we managed to get Sam into his ghost costume.
 He's 'woo'-ing. Ethan wore this Harry Potter costume, only with scar and glasses.
 We had a fun time visiting the decorated houses on our street and getting far too many sweets and chocolates, but to be honest the boys enjoyed opening the door the most. Sam spent as much time as possible with the door open, leaning out and shouting "come trickle treating!" across the street.
Henry wore this for both occasions and had no opinion. Unless you count spewing on it, which I don't, considering he is non-discriminatory with his barfing habits.

I did 3 pumpkins,  one of which when I took the 'lid' off the insides were so perfect I saved them for pie.

The pie was delicious and supremely easy, I just googled for a recipe and done. Except for the part where I forgot I had already bought nutmeg and ginger ages ago and bought them again, giving me a cupboard full of it. 

And that was halloween :) Lots of fun, a bit of mess and thankfully no damage done to my hands while carving the pumpkins - a first!

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Magic Chocolate Cake

 I've had a few requests so here it is, the un-killable cake. I made more this week (goodbye waist!) and forgot to take it out of the oven for like 15 minutes, and it was still fine. I'd turned the oven off at least. Right, let's get to it.

200g/7oz self raising flour
225g/8oz caster sugar
1/2tsp salt
25g/1oz cocoa powder
100g/4oz margarine
2 eggs
150ml milk
splash of vanilla

Preheat the oven to 180°c.

Mix the dry ingredients then rub in margarine. Mix the wet ingredients and beat. Combine.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. I usually stick it in what I think is a 9 inch round tin.

This is how the recipe pretty much reads in my book. It originally came from the Be-Ro baking book via my lovely friend Jannine, and I have since had and lost 2 Be-Ro books. They sell for about 80p, but last time I was in morrisons I couldn't find a replacement. Luckily I had it in my recipe notebook, although it looks like this through my terrible handwriting and overuse:

The original calls for 5tbsp of evaporated milk and 5tbsp of water, but Jannine and I both thought, nah, that's just milk, and replaced it. Because evaporated milk is gross, and I never want to buy it. I also usually have to cook it a little longer as the batter is really quite runny. I've swapped butter in for the marg, and I've never used caster sugar, just bog standard granulated, because when I make cake it's usually on a whim, and who has caster sugar just in the cupboard? Aside from you know, grown up people who bake properly.

Now for the icing, because of reasons.

9oz sieved icing sugar
2.5oz butter/marg
3tbsp hot milk
1tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp vanilla

Melt the butter, add the hot milk and vanilla, then the cocoa powder and sugar. Beat it to death, done. If you want it thick enough to spread (like the above picture) add a bit more sugar. I can't tell you how much more really because I just go til it looks right. Also I tend to guess with the cocoa too, but basically, you can't go wrong with this either.  Both last a few days, which is more than enough.

So there it is, make it, eat it, and curse me on the last slice. If you intend to take it somewhere or share, and you have willpower like mine, make it right before you need it, because it is very much moreish.

Also if anyone does manage to ruin it, let me know and I'll make you some kind of award, because seriously, you've got recipe destroying skillz.

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sam's Birthday Week

 My boy is 3. THREE. Insanity. You may recognise this cake. He had the same last year. We didn't have cake candles then either, but it was sparklers then, not tealights. Bad mummy!

 That face though. So happy to have blown out candles that they could have been anything with a flame.
 He is still all about the nee naws and choo choos. ONLY MORE. Especially the trains. We got him this Thomas 'take n play' set, and mum (who came up the night before and stayed for the birthday) got him a couple of trains to go with it. Ethan chose some chuggington trains, and he was good to go. For literally days. And that's only so far.
 Today was family dinner at the Brown's house, and therefore 'proper' birthday cake was required, which was good, because atleast half of the Peppa Pig cake went in the bin. Quite frankly, it was disgusting, and tasted faintly of plastic.
 Thomas cake was requested, and I made my idiot-proof and delicious Milk Chocolate Cake. It always works and is moist and delicious, without going soggy. Proof: I made this one at 8pm after a hugely busy day and an iffy night with Henry. I put the ingredients in in a different order, because I was tired and couldn't remember what I did last time. I baked it at a different temperature by accident. I had not quite enough cocoa and added a bit of hot chocolate powder to make it up. 
It was perfect. I'm going to rename it the magic cake, because I literally cannot mess it up. substitutions, whatever. It's unstoppable in it's quest for chocolatey satisfaction.
 I slightly messed up my proportions with the decorations which is not unusual for me - Ethan had a race track cake 2 years ago and I managed to make the track only wide enough for one car - but I think I am getting better! And yes, that's a tiny Tardis. I had a little blue left, and what else :) Ethan thought it was great, and Sam liked it enough that as soon as he'd blown out the candles (proper ones this time, thanks to Grandma) He grabbed it off and ate it. He didn't even have any of the cake itself, just that and a tree! I also - typically - couldn't find any of his Thomas toys, so it had to be a James Cake instead.
He then had a few more presents, another Thomas that lights up and moves, and a wooden train whistle (which may disappear now and then) from Grandma and Grandad, a colouring and sticker book, and a CD and book of nursery rhymes which we've already had on and he's danced to, from Aunty Joanne and Uncle David, and this from Aunty Stella and Uncle Carl...
 I've just noticed Henry's demon eyes in the background!
It's a bull shaped space hopper! The advantage being it has four feet, rather than a round bottom, nice and stable. He's been bouncing around on it for about half an hour (about as long as you can do anything when you're newly three and have eaten a large chuck of icing) before being forced to dismount and get ready for bed.

We had a visit from the Dummy Fairy too this week. It went well... until bedtime. He didn't want his new glowy nightlight, he didn't want the fairy to take his dummies to make new ones for little babies, apparently the babies don't want his dummies. There were a few wakings that night. However he only asked once or twice the next night, and not since, so hurrah!

Three years. He still loves ears for comfort, especially now he has Henry's. He still has trouble keeping his covers on, not only himself, but his entire bed. He still curls his little body up and sometimes sticks his bum in the air in that classic sleeping baby pose. And yet he's also so grown up. He sings. He loves numbers and counting, and is starting nursery school after Christmas. NURSERY SCHOOL you guys.
 It's flown by since he was a little dot, the littlest of my three, none of whom were particularly small. He came speeding into the world with his little crop of dark hair and hasn't stopped since. We spent a few hours in hospital (a 3am birth will do that) and then phoned around to let everyone know at about 6:30 before beating a hasty retreat from the postnatal ward. We took him back to Grandma and Grandad's house to meet his big brother who adored him.
He still does, most of the time. They are wonderful playmates and well matched verbal sparring partners, though thankfully mostly the former. There's the same gap between them as between Sam and Henry, and Sam has that same adoration for Henry, it's lovely to see, the circle of brotherhood continuing. 

Happy birthday mad boy. We love your crazy dancing and mad debating skills, even if they do usually just come down to simply insisting you are right until we give up. Don't change too much my darling.

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Diver in a bottle

Ethan asked to do some science today, so I pulled out an old favourite of mine.

 This is supremely easy, and easy to play with, so great for little hands. Bonus - it doesn't make a mess.
You only need 4 components, a bic (or very similar) pen lid, blu tack or similar, a clear plastic bottle and the water to fill it.
Use a tiny blob of blu tack to clog the hole at the top of the pen lid, and a slightly larger blob to weight the tail. This will be your diver.
Fill the bottle to the brim. We used a 2 litre bottle as it's easier to see and the diver has further to go up and down, but I guess it would be fine in a smaller one. Test your diver's weight. Keep adding blu tack until it floats like this -
 You want it to just float, with just the tip poking out. Too much weight and it'll sink to the bottom and you've got to start over, though I suppose you could test this part in a cup. Probably should have thought of that while doing it! Screw on the lid, wipe up the overflow, and your done!

Squeeze the bottle, and he dives. Let go, and he comes back up. Simple! If you hold it just right, you can even make him stop at any point.

 Yes, the diver is red in this photo and the video. I didn't take progress shots while doing it and couldn't be bothered to fish him out afterwards. And the boys wouldn't have relinquished him had I tried.

How does it work? The science is actually really simple too, in case you were wondering. Squeezing the bottle forces water up into the diver, compressing the air. This increases the density of the diver, and he sinks. When you release it, the reverse happens, the air re-expands, the diver is to all intents and purposes lighter (technically, less dense) and he floats. I love science!

Instant hit! It's quick, mess free, and they can help do it without causing a stress. The only downside, if you can call it that, is that if they get too excited and knock it over or shake it, the air bubble comes out and you have to get it all out and start over. However it's so fast to do that it's no big deal.

For Science!

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!
Squeezing the bottle causes the diver to sink because the increased pressure forces water up into the diver, compressing the air at the top of the eyedropper. This increases the mass, and density, of the diver causing it to sink. Releasing the squeeze decreases the pressure on the air at the top of the eyedropper, and the water is forced back out of the diver. - See more at:

queezing the bottle causes the diver to sink because the increased pressure forces water up into the diver, compressing the air at the top of the eyedropper. This increases the mass, and density, of the diver causing it to sink. Releasing the squeeze decreases the pressure on the air at the top of the eyedropper, and the water is forced back out of the diver. - See more at:
Squeezing the bottle causes the diver to sink because the increased pressure forces water up into the diver, compressing the air at the top of the eyedropper. This increases the mass, and density, of the diver causing it to sink. Releasing the squeeze decreases the pressure on the air at the top of the eyedropper, and the water is forced back out of the diver. - See more at:

Monday, 14 October 2013

Dad's Birthday

This weekend was my Dad's birthday, so we went down to Reading to spend some time there. Oh I miss Reading. It was my home town for so long that it still feels like it is.

 We had some present opening, and then all went to Coral Reef - super retro childhood memory-inducing fun! It's a swimming pool, with rapids and slides and jacuzzis. We had a whale of a time (no pun intended!) and it was Henry's first swim. He adored it, and stayed in for over an hour, when mum got out with him and Rich and I got to play with the biggies. They both went down the water slide, Ethan 3 times, despite being scared. Sam had a lot of fun sitting by the tipping bucket and watching it dump a load of water on people, which he thought was hilarious.
 Ethan got on well with his arm bands, with a third one used as a float. Handy really, as he and I got separated in the rapids :S It was horrible, really awful. He got out of the 'current' for want of a better word, and I didn't. There was another parent there who saw and tried to help me out, but I ended up just asking him to watch Ethan while I swam round (panicking the whole way) as I couldn't swim back. When I got round, he was gone, and the man said he'd floated just around the corner... which he hadn't. In my head, he had already drowned. Luckily, he's made of sterner stuff than me, and had spotted Auntie Jess and was trying to swim towards her. Meanwhile, Rich had found me and we were both panicking when I spotted him and Jess got to him just as he was starting to get a bit upset. He is fine about it, not bothered at all. I feel sick when I think about it, and wouldn't wish it on anyone. It's done now though, and over. 

 After swimming we had party food picked by dad with the kids in mind, on muppets plates and cups, and had this surprise Kermit cake made by mum and Jess. Please excuse the pyjama clad legs. 

Sunday brought church and a chance to see friends, albeit fairly briefly for most, as the rest of my little clan are all for leaving immediately. Delicious dinner with more desserts and it was time to pack up and head off again, but not before Sam found Grampa's ear. He's got a bit of a thing for ears, especially when he's tired.

Then came the long trek home, which wasn't too bad actually, and we are back to the routine of Ethan at school, Sam begging to be allowed to go to school, and Henry just being a great big gorgeous sausage.
Life is good :)

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


School has begun again, new term, new start. But what's this?

 I appear to have a full on child of five. How did that happen then? Look at that teeny 3 year old on the left, surely that was only yesterday, when he was heading off to nursery and then coming home with a painting of a yellow digger and asking where the tree was on HIS jumper mummy, eliciting a midweek trip to the uniform shop.
He has a lovely teacher again this year, who I handily know a little from outside of school, and can therefore skip the authority figure awkwardness at parents evening next month. He's enjoying it so far and hasn't yet complained at the conspicuous lack of toys in his classroom - a fairly big change from reception last year. His reading ability is improving which is brilliant, we have far fewer frustrations when he's sounding out (a...n...d............ I stop myself from snapping AND. It's AND.) and he can actually remember the beginning of the story at the end, because it wasn't half an hour ago. I love books and I want him to love books too, so I try and let it be a fun experience.

We've had some fun baking. I found a cake pop baking tray in our farm shop yonks ago and thought we'd finally try it out for a spotty cake.

 Not bad, though I'm not sure quite why that red spot rose quite so much. I slightly over filled the cake pop tray, and this greeted me when I took off the top half:
There was a bit of carving involved! the problem is there's nothing stopping the top rising away with the cake. I might have to bodge some sort of fix for it. We made rainbow fairy cakes too, super easy, and if you line the bowls with a sandwich bag before adding mix and colour you don't have ti wash up a millionty things and you have a makeshift piping bag to squirt the layers in so it doesn't make a huge drippy mess on the tins.
 Also best tip - use paste food colouring. that yellow layer in fact has green liquid colouring in it as a test. I might as well not have bothered.

Last weekend we went to Leeds on the train. The boys were in their element and Sam almost passed out in Leeds train station, to be surrounded by trains and lifts and escalators was just his idea of heaven.

Other news, Henry finally let me take a picture of a full on grin.
Normally he spots the camera and goes into a serious brow furrow, which is frankly hilarious. He's currently 15 weeks, and 18lbs 9oz. He's quite a heft, but I still get to snuggle hands free, and I have a new carrier, thanks to kind birthday donations.
Why yes, I am a geek. What makes you ask ;)

I will really try to be better at blogging, but in the interest of keeping it real, having 3 children is HARD. Especially with one potty training, and the wee one having a cough/cold that keeps him up. This morning I was pouring out milk. I opened the bottle and poured, and nothing. Nada. So I looked at it in puzzlement and shook the not-empty bottle. It took me about 30 seconds before I realised I hadn't taken the foil off. It's a real shame Sam no longer naps.

I do have plans to try out these five recipes from Rachel's blog. I think it'll do WONDERS for my diet, but I'm in a baking mood, and it's unstoppable. Sorry waist.

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Family Holiday Episode Two - the countryside

 On their way to the holiday house, Mum and Dad found this gorgeous little river, full of waterfalls, so on the Friday when the weather wasn't really good enough for the beach they took us back to it. It was completely gorgeous, and fun for my little rock hoppers!

 There was a sign above the door on this wheelhouse that said open, though we didn't find out what it actually was. I just thought it was completely gorgeous, townie that I am.
 The boys were incredibly excited by these holes in the bridge, as you *might* be able to tell. It was actually a handy holding place as they couldn't get down to run off!

 See, good rock-hopping spot! Though it was pretty much only accessible by...
 This rather ordinary looking, but quite scary, bridge. It was only maybe 10 feet from the ground, but incredibly narrow. The gaps were quite big, so you had to look at your feet, and I had Henry on my front so you sort of have to plan 3 steps in advance. Mum refused to cross it altogether.
It was heaven, especially as no one fell in. We took a short walk upstream, Sam was excited by several passing dogs and Ethan had great fun throwing in stones with Daddy and sticks with Grandma.

The garden at the house was incredible, perfectly made for small boys. It was deceptively large, with trees and bushes, large rocks and a bridge, brilliant for hide and seek and playing monsters with Uncle Jonny. The house itself was also lovely, enormous (fairly necessary, as there were nine of us), beautifully furnished, and a better equipped kitchen than mine, seriously, the oven needed a degree to work it. We never really figured it out, something about telling it what you were cooking?!

All in all, we had a pretty fabulous time. So much fun and good company, I'm still on a comedown!

The way home was very peaceful ;)

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!