|FUN|planet 'bounce' painting

The last of our space theme activities today.
I love how activities with T can now be more interactive and how I initially set out to do something evolves as T make suggestions or asks questions which lead to a change in direction from the original objective.
For this activity we started out by looking at T's planets and space book together, we talked about the differences in the planets, that the sun was fire, that the earth was land and sea, that the moo had lots of craters and that Jupiter has rings around it.  T was getting really interested and when we progressed to sizes we started to find balls which represented the different planets we were discussing.
We found suitable balls for the sun and Jupiter but couldn't find anything smaller for earth and the moon so we blew up balloons to use instead.
Once we'd discussed which planets were bigger and smaller etc, we moved on to the colours we would use for our painting, I got all the paints down and planet by planet we talked about what colours were needed.  As we did this activity outdoors I let T squirt the paint into trays and mix it which he thought was wonderful.
When I told him to dip the ball into the paint and bounce it on the paper (a roll of backing wallpaper I'd already rolled out!) he thought this was fantastic, when the ball double bounced onto the patio, I'm sure he expected to get told off!
Instead of bouncing the balloons, we just dipped them into the paint and then squidged them onto the paper, those results were much better but not so much fun.
Once we'd painted our planets, T decided that he wanted to do some conventional painting and painted over the sun and Jupiter and started to paint anything else that he liked, so although were weren't left with a big frieze of planets which is what I envisaged, I loved the fact that T was involved and making decisions and seemed to be having fun doing that.
This was definitely one of my favourite activities. 
This months theme is 'space' we're exploring the planets, doing some fun space themed activities and eating some inter-galactic food! You can see all our space blog posts here.
Check out our space themed pinterest board or follow us on #booboxspace on Instagram and twitter

|CHALLENGE|spring bucket list - sunflower update

So back in April T and I grew some sunflowers from an out of date Suttons seed grown your own pot.  You can read all about it here

Only 2 of our plants made it through, the other 2 were eaten by slugs :(. Anyway the 2 that did grow are now flowering, one is about a meter high and the other about 70 cm. I appreciate that they won't win any awards but they are lovely and the first ones that T has grown so mean a lot.

|REVIEW|aldi magnum dishwasher tabs

We used to be a strictly finish quantum household, we never paid full price for them but they still worked out quite expensive per cycle!  For years I ribbed my Mum & Dad for shopping in Aldi, I have to confess I was a complete snob and thought that everything was cheap and nasty... Until a store opened in our local town.

How could I refuse to have a look at the bargains advertised on the TV and in newspapers, that was a couple of years ago and now I'm a total convert.  I admit, we couldn't do a complete shop there every week, there are some things they just don't stock and the vegetarian range is quite poor, I can only stand eating nut cutlets and veggie burgers once in a while!!!  But on the whole I'm really impressed with the quality of their own brand goods and the price of their branded items.

When I was recently in there, on a complete whim I purchased some magnum Allin1 complete dishwasher tablets, these were £3.99 for 40 10p each - amazing!   Now, consider that we've been using finish quantum for years and quite honestly have been disappointed in the results of those, I don't know why on earth I tried these, but I did and do you know what?  They are fantastic, there really is no other word for them, I'm not even going to say 'for the price...' They just are excellent and clean just as well as the more expensive ones in our opinion, The Hubs agrees 100% with me on this one!

If you are looking to save a few pounds, do give these a go and see how you get on.

We have not been paid for this review, all opinions are our own, when we find something we like, we like to share!

|COOK|meal planning Monday - 27 July 2014

Stayed on track 100% this week, except a few snack changes.  We had no plans for the weekends meals, so we enjoyed 2 lunches out, one a surprise treat from the MIL.  Very little waste, half a loaf of bread which was already stale when we bought it (grrrr) and a bag of manky salad, both of which went to the chickens which meant saving on chook food, I really don't mind that kind of waste!  Also had to throw out 2 sausages, very annoyed by this because it was purely bad planning on my behalf and I should have popped them straight into the freezer.

Talking of manky salad I've joined a new (to me) challenge over at vegplotting.blogspot.co.uk it's called 52 week salad challenge and challenges you to grow or forage something to form a salad each week throughout the year, I must admit I'm actually just planning to grown 'something' not necessarily salad but that's the gist.  I started this weekend with some salad leaves, basil and cress and of course what's already growing! Can't wait to let you know how I get on!!

So I guess onto this weeks plan:-
Monday - chicken kiev, sauté potatoes and french beans (just realised how very continental this sounds!! Nut cutlet for me)
Tuesday - chip night
Wednesday - puttanesca bolognese, look out for the recipe on the blog next week! (Lentil version for me)
Thursday - out for dinner with friends
Friday - teens are back for the weekend, sausage, mash and honey & lemon glazed carrots (quorn sausage for me)
Saturday - fish finger and chip butties with mushy peas (just chip butties and mushy peas for me )
Sunday - pizza's

This post will be linked to Meal Plan Monday at athomewithmrsm.blogspot.com a lovely little community of homemakers and a fabulous resource for meal ideas.

|CREATE|sun prints

A while back, I saw some sun prints on familyandcrafts Instagram feed, Leah had used solar print paper. I didn't want to buy any specific paper, but got me thinking about how when we were at school (a loooong time ago) when the teachers took down the wall displays, the paper behind was always faded!

I'm sure we used to call that particular paper 'sugar paper' but it would appear it's now called craft paper,  I knew I had a pack so T and I got started!  I've just gone back to the post and people subsequently mentioned that you can also use 'construction paper' to do this - not sure if this is the same as craft paper in the UK but thought it was worth mentioning!

I did this a couple of weeks ago when we were having storms and rain was predictable, so we set it up in a very sunny windowsill, I'm sure the process will be quicker if outdoors in full sunlight. I started by sorting out a few item which would still be distinctive once the paper was sunbleached:- a toy saw, a spoon, a toy banana, some coins and a baby coat hanger. It was my intention to use all the items and do multiple 'photos' but T just wanted to do one of his saw - the joys of giving toddlers choices eh?!?

We placed the saw on the paper and left it.  After 3 days, this had happened!!!

The paper had dramatically changed colour and had left a print of the saw!! There was also a slight shadowy outline, I'm guessing this was caused as the sun moves and caused shadows.

As you can see, our images were not nearly as defined as Leah and her babies created, but I'm happy with the results more for a science project than anything. 

T and I checked on the progress everyday and it was good for his short attention span to have to wait a while for the results. I guess results would vary depending on the amount and intensity of sun and if done indoors could easily be a year round activity. We also talked about how hot the sun is to have faded the paper.

I'm so pleased we tried what we had on hand rather than buying the special paper.  When T's at school, I'd like to try this again but in a more 'scientific' way, placing objects on different windowsills, recording the results and analysing how the solar patterns affect the results.

If you give this a try, I'd love to see your pictures, leave a link in comments for us to take a look.  Have a great day Lx

This post is linked to Link & Learn at no time for flash cards.


|FAMILY|summer break staycation 2014 - the details

Thought I'd just put a post together to detail what we've done during our summer break, what we achieved, what we didn't and basically a catch-all post for our individual posts!
Our summer break started on Saturday 19 July this year, The Teens finished school on Friday so after a very special McDonald's breakfast treat for T we picked them up Saturday morning and went over to my sisters to help set-up our Nephews birthday party, K & H helped out loads, sadly I've not captured any photos of them helping set-up or tidy away, but here's one of H helping T decorate his gingerbread man.

After the party, we headed to the pub with my sister and her family and in-laws for a couple of drinks, the small boys played in the pub garden 'supervised' by the teens, they actually ran around playing with them much more than this photo implies! Then we headed home to a BBQ.

H loves cooking on the BBQ, so once it was going he did the cooking.
On Sunday we didn't really do a lot, we had to do a grocery shop, then went to get some new shoes for T but it was heaving and horrible!  We got home with the intention of going geocaching but The Hubs cut down a tree for our neighbours and that took a lot longer than we expected, so we got out the paddling pool (now re-named the piddling pool by H!) blew up the rainbow shower, got out the water pistols and away they went!  The Teens played with T whilst I made dinner.
Day 1 summer staycation
You can read all about or day here.
We didn't make ice cream in a bag because the boys and I went out in the garden again whilst The Hubs took K to get a new swimming costume.
Day 2 summer staycation 
You can read all about day 2 here
When we got back from T's check up The Hubs was back out with his saw cutting down more trees!  Whilst waiting for the chip van to arrive we all spent the afternoon/evening in the garden...again!  So no movie night.
Day 3 summer staycation
You can read about our museum visit here
We didn't stay at the museum as long as planned so we got a few jobs done in the garden and finally went geocaching and more water fights!
Day 4 summer staycation
You can see the gruffalo here
Yes we completely forgot to check for geocaches in Wendover Woods! The break with The Teens came to an end, I think we all felt it wasn't long enough but circumstances were against us this year with J's birthday party at the beginning and The Hubs golf tournament Friday (hence them going home early)
Back to normal days again now, at least there's still 3 days before we have to go back to work, it feels good that we've done so much but without feeling as though we've had to stick to a strict timetable, I suspect that today's (Friday) plans will change, but that's fine.  I really want to try and keep up momentum now we've got into it.
On the whole the week cost so little, we used about a quarter of a tank of petrol, about £23 for us, we did a grocery shop which was £115 in total (about £60 more than a 'normal' week would cost us) and spent £90 over the 4 days (£45 in one day!) the only other expense being the swimming costume for K, some crocs for H and some new shoes for T all of which they needed anyway so I'm not counting those.  So about £170 in total for our 'staycation'.  Now considering in the past we've spent £500 - £750 just on accommodation you can see how it can mount up.
I genuinely think I could easily have filled the other 3 day's if needed, and we were blessed with fantastic weather so afternoon and evening entertainment wasn't really necessary this time. 
And our break isn't over yet, for the coming weekend I'd like to achieve the following:-
- make bug hotel
- make ice cream in a bag
- do the ironing :(
- visit the local fire station open day
- varnish the patio table
- change the outdoor light
So that's it really, I'll be back soon with some more detail about how I plan and prepare for the summer break.
If you've had a staycation, I'd love to hear all about it!  Have a great weekend, Lx

|COOK|iced coffee frappe

I love coffee frappuccino's from Starbucks, I don't really drink a lot of coffee, not even one a day but when I do in the summer I do love a good coffee frappe!  Can you remember the Nescafe Frappe's from the 90's?  We used to make them when I was in the sixth form, oh how we thought we were so sophisticated!
So onto my own iced coffee frappe 'recipe'
Take your serving glass and fill it 3/4 full of ice.
Make a shot of espresso to taste.  If you don't drink espresso, you could use 1 tsp of good quality instant coffee (I use kenco millicano) in a small cup or shot glass.
Pour the 'espresso' on top of the ice, and top up with milk.
Pour the ice, espresso and milk into a blender and blend until smooth.  You'll know when it's ready, because the sound changes when there are no more ice cubes to crush!
Pour back into your glass and top with squirty cream.

For a nice blended cocktail, you could also add a shot of alcohol for a nice liqueur coffee cocktail!  Try some of these...
Irish Coffee – Irish Whiskey
French Coffee – Grand Marnier
Italian Classico – Amaretto
Baileys/Sultan Special - Baileys
Calypso Coffee – Tia maria
Cuban Coffee – Rum

If you try to make one of these frappes do let me know, I'd especially be interested in hearing your liqueur coffee cocktail combinations :)
Hope you are enjoying the weekend with a lovely liqueur coffee frappe!

|COOK|fun food friday - space 'dust' sandwich

A simple star shaped jam sandwich with sprinkle 'space dust' in the centre, served with carrot sticks in a star silicon mould and cocoa pops rocks.

Not really a lot more to say!! This is the last of our space themed fun food Fridays.

Plates - ikea
silicon mould - hobbycraft

This months theme is 'space' we're exploring the planets, doing some fun space themed activities and eating some inter-galactic food!   You can see all our space blog posts here.

Check out our space themed pinterest board or follow us on #booboxspace on Instagram and twitter

Eats Amazing Fun Food Friday

I'm linking up to #funfoodfriday with Grace at http://www.eatsamazing.co.uk.
I'm now off to enjoy a pimms or two in the garden, have a great weekend Lx

|FAMILY|summer break staycation - day 4

When we saw Mary and Monkey from over40andmumtoone on Countryfile enjoying the Gruffalo trail over at Wendover woods, I knew we had to take T during our summer break.  You can read all about their special day here

So for the final day of our staycation off we went to find the gruffalo!

Our picnic bag was packed with hotdogs, a saucepan, drinks and desert - our BN biscuits, we also took the picnic blanket and portable stove, oh and of course T's £1.50 gruffalo we got from a local Facebook sales page. I should point out now that I forgot to take my veggie sausages which was damn annoying!

When we got there my first observation was that it was bloody heaving. Pushchairs everywhere and cars abandoned wherever the driver fancied parking, I was shocked just how busy it was to be honest and it didn't seem to be school aged children either. 

We followed the trail and found the gruffalo, we waited about 20 mins for everyone to clear out of the way, and by the time it was clear and we had the gruffalo all to ourselves T refused to have his photo taken claimed to 'neeeeed a nap' and went into a 'I want milk in a baby's bottle' meltdown which was pretty stressful but we got over it eventually. At the moment I really can't see an end to getting rid of the sodding bottle, deep breaths... we will get there though. 

After a trip to the cafe to grab a sandwich for me we headed over to the BBQ area and set up the camping stove, I was really amazed how quickly it heated up the hotdogs, we actually borrowed this from friends but we are heading out this weekend to get one ourselves for our future camping trips, it was fab!  It was a nice alternative picnic and something we'll definitely be doing again. 

After the hot dogs, the raspberry BN biscuits came out, now, they really are lovely, certainly my favourites!  Everyone else had 3 each which says it all really.

When we got home, we did the big butterfly count

And guess what??  Played in the paddling pool and rainbow sprinkler!

At 5.30pm The Hubs had to take The Teens home, it was sad. They are coming back next weekend but I still think it's going to take T a while to get used to not having them around.

Total cost of day 4 staycation = £6.70, £3.20 parking £3.50 for my lunch (this makes me cross because it was unnecessary!).

This post is an entry for 42 Days of Summer Linky Challenge sponsored by McVitie's BN.  Learn more at http://bit.ly/1mRpMCL

|FAMILY|summer break staycation - day 3

For today's staycation, we visited a museum, this was also an activity from our summer bucket list. Originally I'd planned to go to Oxford Natural History museum during our summer break as recommended by one of my favourite bloggers Mary over at  over40andmumtoone you can read all about Mary and Monkey's adventure at the museum here but I was lucky enough to win a family ticket to MK museum for £5 on The Hubs' football clubs blind auction so as it's nearer we went there.   Its free at oxford natural history museum so I think we'll still pay a visit there sometime. Happy to mark the meseum activity as complete. 

First we looked at the Victorian and wartime gardens then we sat in an 'Anderson' air raid shelter and listened to noises from a war raid, T really enjoyed this and wasn't nearly as scared as this picture implies!  It was really interesting as I know my grandma had one of these in their garden in Coventry during the war. 
After looking round the Victorian farmhouse and transport exhibit, we sat down to eat our picnic. 
T was particularly thrilled with the chocolate BN biscuits which were on offer and were enjoyed by all!  I love the fact that they are wholemeal and less than 100 calories each, everyone else just loved the taste :)
It was such tiring work, someone needed a little rest!
We then took a look round the old shops, these were really lovely and I'd have liked to spend more time there but T's attention span was waneing so after a trip to the souvenir shop we headed home. 
It was mid afternoon by the time we were home and so we all got out in the garden, K & H did a fantastic job of rubbing the garden table down with the supervision of The Hubs. 
I made up the last 2 chairs to make 6, we've only had them sitting in a box in the garage 5 years!!! 😉 but now need an extra one for T when we are all out there, glad that's another job done. 
It was all too much for someone who actually succumbed to his first nap this week!
After we'd cleared up we finally got round to trying a spot of geocaching, apparently there was a cache just outside the village, so off we set, we looked and looked and... found nothing :( maybe it was our inexperience, maybe it just wasn't there anymore, anyway, very disappointing! This was also an item on our summer bucket list, I'd love to actually find one before it's crossed off, but at least we've given it a go, maybe wendover woods will be more rewarding.
We walked home to dinner and another waterfight for the boys, another bucket list item, after 4 nights of this I think we can safely mark that as achieved!
We ended the evening sitting on the patio reading and chatting until someone got tired around 8.45pm and I took him into bed, he didn't fall asleep until 10pm though, damn that nap!!!  Reading outdoors also an item on our bucket list!!!!
Total cost of day 3 staycation = £12.00, £5.00 tickets (should have been £22.00) and £7.00 from the souvenir shop on learning toys for T.
This post is an entry for 42 Days of Summer Linky Challenge sponsored by McVitie's BN.  Learn more at http://bit.ly/1mRpMCL

|FAMILY|summer break staycation - day 2

Day 4 of our summer staycation, we needed to stay quite local because T had his 30 month check at 3.30, so in the morning we went swimming to Danes camp, a local leisure pool, T was a nightmare, really clingy and didn't want to go in the deeper water, all he wanted to do is go in this 'baby's area'.  Suffice to say, he'll be starting swimming lessons soon!  Cost £17.50 for family ticket plus one toddler and lockers, with £3 back for returning wristbands.

After swimming we nipped into subway for lunch, they are currently doing a fab deal of 4 x 6inch subs, 4 x cookies/crisps and 4 drinks for £9.99, we didn't realise this when we went so that was a nice surprise.  Total meal cost £13.97 meal for 4, kids pak and a drink for H who doesn't drink fizzy and they wouldn't swap it in the deal!

T was showing no signs of napping again so as it was a lovely day and he wanted 'to climb the highest mountain' we popped across the road to Hunsbury Hill Country Park, we had a great time, the boys were off playing which meant that The Hubs, K and I could sit and enjoy the sun!  It was totally impromptu so we didn't have our phones, hence the lack of photos!

We took T along for his 30 month check, all fine, we weren't really expecting a lot, if you are a follower on Instagram you'll know that I take more notice of the nursery's quarterly eyfs checks than this.  I did think he might be a little bit underweight, but he's right on the 50th percentile so spot on for his age, same with his height.  He won't now see the health visitor again, just the nurse for his pre-school boosters in approximately a year 
(wow that seems weird!)

When we got home, The Hubs and I did some gardening, well, cut down a tree in all honesty, no before pictures sadly, but it's just soooo bare now, need to get a couple of shrubs that we can keep to a decent height.  The kids played in the paddling pool again, T got a bit tired so he and K went in for a cuddle, oh the joys of having he teens here - T is not needing to be entertained by us 24/7 so we get a bit of a break, even if it's to do gardening, actually by this time I was sitting with a glass or wine and my book and The Hubs was clearing up!

Just as we finished (8pm), the chip van arrived so it was fish and chips all round, we didn't really have time for anything else and were all in bed by 10pm - must be the fresh air (although at the time of writing this it's 1pm as I'm now wide awake!!)

Total cost of today's activities - ouch! A not so cheap £45.97 = £14.50 swimming £13.97 lunch & £17.50 fish and chips