Category Archives: Parent & Child

children are growing up

My children are growing up and I’m not sure that I like it




My Children are growing up

I have three beautiful boys. Dylan (DJ, Deej, Dyls) is nine, has two years left at primary school. He is a football nut who plays for Cambridge United Academy, solid as a rock defender and midfield. Dylan is good at all sports (even chess, darts, pool, you name it!), amazing at maths (got that from me). He is a sensitive soul with the determination and focus of Karen Brady.

Josh (JJ, Joshi, Squash) is seven and has four years left at primary school. Also a football nut and also plays for Cambridge United Football Academy, and is a left footed goal scorer. He is creative and can make anything, from recipes to cards to artwork, and he is amazing at spelling! He is so stubborn and has such a temper. Jack (Roo, JackJack) is four, who starts school in September this year. Jack is the baby and always gets his own way. He loves Paw Patrol, Ninja Turtles, Power rangers and the colour pink.

children are growing up

Mobile Phones

I had a long conversation with Josh, yesterday about mobile phones. He wants to know when Dylan and he can have a mobile phone. I used to work for a mobile phone company and understand some people lets their seven-year-old children have mobile phones. Not us, the rule goes, the moment you start walking to places by yourself is the time you get a mobile phone. We live in a village and assuming we stay living in this village, Dylan will be able to walk to school by himself when he is ten-eleven. Boys,you have a bit of wait for that desired mobile phone.

children are growing up




Football Tour to Germany

Next weekend sees Dylan travel to Germany on a football tour with his Cambridge Academy Football team. We drop him off at 4am on Friday morning at the airport and collect him at 11pm on Sunday night. The rules are strict, no contact is allowed as this might distract the boys and make the time away stressful if they are worrying about contacting their parents, updating their parents. I get this. Dylan has been with the academy team and coaches for 18 months now and we trust them implicitly. So, off Dylan goes to Germany, what an incredible opportunity to play against teams like Bayern Munich, Galatasaray, Watford, Leicester, Man City.

But he is only nine. So much responsibility and grown upness required from my son who is only nine. Being the eldest of three brothers he is responsible and does a lot himself, but then you see cracks of the child coming out. The emotional outbursts, the silly behaviour, the not listening, the smirking. My children are growing up too fast.

children are growing up




The Troubles of a Four-Year-Old

Jack is 4 and is just about to finish pre-school. Bring on the emotional graduation ceremony (um really a cap and gown ceremony from PRE-SCHOOL!). Emotions will be high; my baby is leaving little school and is off to big primary school with his older brothers in September. Jack has an issue with buttons, which means he will only wear joggers. I have already started talking about the fact that he must wear grey shorts, just like his brothers, that have buttons. He is not impressed. School dinners will also be another potential mind field, he is fussy, I might just send all three of them in with packed lunches. I know it will save money (school dinners are £2.30 per day for Dylan & Josh, Jack is free until Yr. 3)

children are growing up

Emotional Parents ( I mean mum!)

I am an emotional person at the best of times these things I talk about are going to make me cry. But not in front of the boys, with them I am strong protective mummy. Of course, they see me cry. I cry at Britain’s Got Talent, The News, The Good Dinosaur,  Fast and the Furious 8 (yes, the car chase film!). But when it comes to things with them, I want them to see that I am strong and confident. I even managed to talk to them about the Manchester bombing without cracking, but then went to the toilet and cried my heart out.

children are growing up

How do you feel about your children growing up?



goHenry

goHenry and how it can help your children to manage their money

goHenry and financial education

I am very open with my children about money. They know how much things cost, they understand when times are a bit tight with money and they know when we have money to spend on nice things like holidays. They know that mummy and daddy are working hard to earn as much as possible, saving cash to repay some money we owe. They also know the value of things, they know how much the mortgage costs and how much work its takes to pay for the mortgage. I really think we as a nation of parents should be open and discuss these things with our children.

Let us have our children growing up knowing that money must be earned which then pays for the house, the food, the after-school clubs, the football boots. I don’t want them thinking they can have whatever they ask for and there is unlimited pot of money. Because there isn’t.

Consequentially, I am supportive of any tools that will help the boys to understand the value of money. The goHenry pre-payment card was mentioned to me last year. There was a Facebook debate on Mrs Mummypenny about amount of pocket money, yes or no to pocket money, is it dependant on chores. I turned it into a post here. A couple of people mentioned the Go-Henry card.

What is goHenry?

It is a pre-payment card that is suitable for children of Josh’s age and over. Josh is 7 and he is quite comfortable with money and the value of things. Judge your own child and their acceptance of the value of money. According to Cambridge university children form their money habits and beliefs from the age of 7 so it is a good age to start.

You set up a parent account where a balance of money sits, then add your children’s accounts. I set up one for Dylan and one for Josh and set up a weekly transfer of £5 per week into their accounts. The pre-payment cards can be used at the cash machine to withdraw cash, used in shops via chip and pin to pay for things.

You can transfer in a one-off chunk of money and drip feed in weekly pocket money. And you can set up other people, family members to transfer money in as well.

The website and the app are simple to use and track your children’s spending and if you do have any queries the customer service team are friendly and helpful. I was struggling to get any cash out at the cash machine and couldn’t work out the pin number, I called goHenry and everything was resolved within 5 minutes.

What I like

  • The control that it gives you over pocket money and money given to your children. In the past, the boy’s grandparents transfer money to the boys by using my bank account and the money ends up lost in my account.
  • The boys love having their own pre-payment card and feel really grown up. They chose a football designed card, a nice feature.
  • The website and app are both easy to use and understand.
  • From a financial education point of view, it’s such a fabulous concept. Just the act of using a card to pay for football boots or sports clothes (as we have done) is such an important concept for the boys to learn. Mummy I have £50 on my gohenry card, and I want to buy a fidget spinner for £15. Okay Josh if that’s what you want. Do you have enough money? And how much will you have left?
  • It’s a great mathematical educational tool to help with the value of products and basic addition and subtraction. Perfect for thinking about money building up, saving for the future or the consequences of spending all your money.

What I don’t like

  • The customisable cards are £5 each. That felt like a big cost for a bit of plastic and I assumed it would be free, until £10 was taken off my balance.
  • The monthly fees are £2.50 per card, so it would cost me £5 each month. As a person used to free business banking I don’t like this charge.
  • There is no interest payable on credit balances. I understand that my current account also pays me no interest though!
  • There was some initial confusion with the boys calling it a credit card. This term is so commonly used, so I found myself correcting them a lot. I want them growing up understanding that credit card is money you are borrowing from someone else that has to be paid back.

Overall I really love the concept and what it stands for as a financial education tool. I can see it being an essential tool when the boys are at secondary school where they will have money for lunch/getting the bus or train. It’s a great tool for times when your child is being independent.

Dylan 9, is off to Germany at the beginning of June on football tour with his Cambridge United Academy Football team, no parents allowed. He is to take 30 Euros for spending money and he will take his goHenry card to use in the airport and to spend his 30 Euros. The card works in the EU.

There is a free trial goHenry offer available so you can try it out for 30 days. If it’s not right for you then you can walk away. I will get a small referral fee if you did decide to sign up.

Easter Holiday Ideas that are money saving or free




Easter Holiday Ideas

The Easter holidays are here and have arrived as a bit of a surprise for us. Mainly meaning that I havn’t really planned it properly from a work or children point of view. Last week was my birthday week, so much time was taken up with birthday fun and party planning. However, here are some no fail idea to keep the children amused during the Easter holidays that require little spending of money or are free. Writing this post has helped me plan out the holidays.

Baking at home

We love baking in our house and will often spend some time on a Sunday afternoon baking a cake or making some biscuits. Here are a few that I have tried recently with the boys, normally Josh.




A few weeks back we made Easter cake, it was the most yummy fudgy cake and we plopped in some mini easter eggs for a chocolate surprise as you bit through the cake. Here is the recipe and link to our vlog on YouTube.

One of our most favourite recipes ever is chocolate chip cookies and we have a most amazing recipe for these on my blog. Is there anything better than warm gooey cookies?

Crafty time

Crafty time is something we often do and I have 2 huge boxes of bits I collect for the boys to be creative with. Coloured paper, glitter, stickers. I love to print out pictures for the boys as well. Handily I have a great Epson Ecoprinter that run off pots of ink, and it will print 4000 pages ebfore the ink runs out!! Handy as I always used to hate printing out things when I had the old regular ink cartridge printer.

We have already made our Easter bonnet in this house. Josh created this pink birdnest. We used all sorted, stuffing from a recent goodie bag from a Mrs Mummypenny job, feathers from a feather boa, also a create your own Easter bonnet set from Aldi.





Make Use of Clubcard Vouchers and Nectar Points

I have a Tesco Clubcard and a Nectar card that I use in applicable spending. I have a Tesco credit card for all our regular monthly purchases, food, petrol, bits for the boys, eating out. This means I get around £20 worth of clubcard vouchers each quarter. I use my Nectar card whenever I shop at Sainsbury’s, Debenhams, Argos and the many other shops that use Nectar as their loyalty scheme.

Using these vouchers is a brilliant way to help with Easter holiday fun as you can exchange you vouchers and points for days out with the children. Here are a few ideas for uses with the Nectar card

  • 500 Nectar Points can redeem £5 off a ticket for Madam Tussauds and Warwick Castle, Legoland Windsor
  • 500 Nectar points gets you £2.50 off the total ticket price at Vue cinemas
  • 500 Nectar points saves you £3.75 on a meal at Pizza Express
  • Nectar card holders can save up to £30 off Safari tickets at Longleat Safari Park

Check out the fab range of bargain Easter fun toys at Aldi this holiday

Aldi have some bargain toys available to keep the children amused over the easter holidays, they have something for everyone all available from this Thursday 6th April.

We have been trying out the skateboard, which Josh says is the best present he has ever had. He has been out on it every days since it arrived and has just about learnt how to ride it standing up. Jack adores the skwooshi stretchable dough. We have 3 D fun lab where the dough can be pumped through and moulded into cars and shapes. Perfect for the little ones. Of course the colours are already mixed up and they no longer so yellow, red and purple! We have also been sent a kite, just waiting for a windy day to try that one out.



Treasure hunt/nature trail

A perfect free thing to do on a bright spring day is to head out for a nature walk. To keep the boys amused I like to send them on a hunt for things whilst we are out. This is a little list I have prepared for later this week.

  • A daffodil
  • A blackbird
  • An oak tree
  • A dog
  • A field of corn
  • A flat skimmer stone
  • A pheasant
  • Stickman
  • A white flower
  • A branch of holly

A trip to the coast

I was brought up by the sea, I lived in Penzance until I was 18. I love the sea and the beach and its just the most perfect place to spend time with children. The beach means endless and free entertainment for the kids. Why not head off on a day trip to the coast and spend the day building sandcastles, chasing a kite around a beach and paddling in the ‘warm’ sea.

 

Please share your freebie or money saving ideas for Easter for other parent to be inspired by.




5 things every dad needs to know before the birth of their child




5 things every dad needs to know before baby

Its Monday so its guest post time again so I hand over to Bec and her latest post on 5 things every daya needs to know before the birth of their child.

Since having the Baba bu I’ve reflected long and hard on the differences in terms of support and indeed experience of being a parent that men and women have.

As a woman, you’ve carried the baby around with you for 9 months. You’ve been thinking about baby things all that time, reading, attending classes, talking to friends and generally preparing for birth (and panicking a bit about what comes after!).

The bump

As a man, or certainly as my man, you’ve seen your woman grow a bump, you’ve touched it and tried to get your head around the fact theirs some weird fruit sized creature in there that is partially of your making. You’ve felt it kick. You might’ve read a book or a few blogs; your mates have joked with you at the pub about how awfully your life is going to change, you maybe went to the first few midwife appointments and were, in the main, ignored, as they talked predominantly ‘to mum’. You’ve maybe done NCT classes but probably not the NHS birth prep ones cos they happen when you’re at work and there’s really only so much time your boss is going to accept you dipping out of the job for.

So even before the baby is here there’s actually a staggeringly gendered divide in experience, some of which is obviously unsurmountable. But below is my manifesto for the sort of preparation and support I think should be in place for dads-to-be…..




Bottle feeding and soothing for boys

We’re all down with the ‘breast is best’ rhetoric but I think there needs to be more focus on expressing (for women too), including how to, when to, how much to etc., and then on how, as a dad, you should administer a bottle to your baby. Knowing how to do something and what the logic is behind doing it that way would be super helpful. We all know it’s a good bonding experience to feed the baby, why are we not doing more in the pre-birth prep to put this in as an expectation for our men and train them accordingly?

What happens to your woman

I ended up having a frankly awkward conversation with my partner about the devastating impact bringing forth a life into this world could potentially have on my body. He listened, somewhat mute with shock, about the likely stitches, the 6 weeks of bleeding afterwards, the certainty of stretch marks, the recommendation that we don’t have sex for at least 6 weeks after, the fact it would possibly hurt me the first few times we made love afterward. He knew none of this. I heard one man describe the physical impact on his wife as being akin to having his favourite pub firebombed. Savage. Oh and that’s before we even start to consider the emotional challenges and changes….

Where to turn for advice/help

When I was pregnant I was given no end of information on where to turn to for support – and that was in addition to the NCT group, the girls I met during preggo yoga, my own girlfriends who were already mums etc., but not once did anyone pass over a leaflet to my partner saying ‘Here you go mate, we meet in the back room of the pub twice a week, straight after work, if you want to pop in for a pint and a chat’. Not once. Why is that exactly?

The Return to Work challenge

So men get a couple of weeks paternity leave and of course they can share in the maternity leave allowance if needs be (how many ACTUALLY do that? Where are the role models? Do we see this behaviour on telly etc.,?).

But in the main after two weeks of being totally absorbed in this new life, as a man you are thrust back into the world of work, where you are expected to function exactly as you did before, work the same crazy hours, attend the unofficial after work meetings in the pub and do it all often on broken sleep.




Meanwhile back at home the love of your life is trying to get her head round the enormous changes to her daily routine (routine??? Ha!) and she feels adamantly that her man ‘has it easy’ and just ‘doesn’t get what she’s going through’.

In addition to this, your bundle of joy can be a bit crochety with you as you become more of stranger to her/him, so that it becomes quicker and easier for mum to do things for her/him (how annoying for her), or to tell you what she needs (how annoying for you) and so the resentment builds.

Where, I ask you, is the preparation and support for both parties, but especially the men, to handle that???

How devastatingly and amazingly in love you’re going to feel with your new family

To be fair, nothing can prepare you for this. This is the golden glue that holds you together when all the other chaos is happening. It’s something you can’t stop and it’s something society can’t deny you. This one you have to experience all by yourself….

So come on NHS, NCT, any other parent support groups, when are you going to add these modules to your classes???

You can follow Bec on Twitter and Instagram and check out her rather fabulous blog here.

Next week its your “8 point survival guide to breastfeeding”

Revealed: What really changes when you have a Three month old baby




Three month old baby

Its Monday so its that time of the week for a new guest post from the most fabulous Rebecca Megson. And this time she talk about that magic time of when she had a three month old baby and the changes for the positive that she noticed. And a big whoop to things being more easier.

Over to Bec

Everyone said, ‘Just make it to three months and you’ll feel like a different woman, it’s amazing.’

What I could never get them to do – and this frustrated me – was define what specifically changed with my three month old baby and why this was such a vital change point.

Everyone is Different, but

Now, everyone is different and so your experience is likely therefore to be different to mine but here are a few changes I’ve definitely noticed since the Baba bu turned the magical three month corner…


  • She sleeps more at night and only wakes once or twice for feeds, so I feel loads more refreshed
  • I’ve been able to introduce a daytime napping schedule (and I found the advice in this article incredibly helpful) which means she’s more refreshed and I have time to do things with both arms and all my senses!
  • She is alert and interested in the world in a way that means she is occupied without needing anything from me for longer periods of time – e.g. in the baby gym, or starring at the star lightshade in our bedroom!
  • She’s also therefore happy to sit in her bouncy chair for longer periods of time whilst I do a few jobs around her chatting to her.
  • She feeds less and for shorter periods of time

I know this isn’t the case for all my mummy friends. For some the nights are still pretty broken (on the other hand their babies are more likely to go down at 7 or 8pm whereas our nightowl won’t settle to sleep much before 11pm despite any amount of bathtime/room darkening/book reading/lullabying routine).

What I do know for sure though is that we’ve all lost that wild-eyed look of terror brought on by the sense of ‘yes I’m holding it together in this particular instance but it could also all go to hell again any second’ fear.

My theory with three month old baby

My theory is that we’ve all done that most amazing and most human of things, we’ve adapted. They say it takes 90 days to embed any change you want to make in your life and having a baby join your family is a pretty big change. It stands to reason that 90 or so days in, you are starting to normalise having this chaos-inducing, sleep-stealing, heart-stoppingly-amazing creature in your life.

So if you’re not there yet, just hang on, it really does get better. And few things are certain in this life but time passing IS one of them.

You can follow Bec on Twitter and Instagram and check out her rather fabulous blog here.

Next week its ‘5 things every dad needs to know before their baby arrives’



Review of Educational Quizzes – Parents 999 Emergency Info

Where do you turn when you have a problem relating to your children?

I mean a problem like dealing with bullying or helping your children to prepare for exams or maybe you want to understand more about Asperger’s?

Parents 999

The team over at Educational Quizzes has put together a toolkit of parents 999 useful resources to help you with just that. These subjects might be something you talk to your friends about, but maybe some online research is a safe place to go before reaching out to others, particularly when the subject area might be more sensitive or maybe just an area you want to know more about.

They are planning on adding a lot more content but at the moment there are 17 articles to browse through and then at the end you can take a quiz for a bit of fun or to ensure that the information has been digested.

I am particularly interested in the following articles on emotional resilience in children and children’s brain development.

Emotional Resilience

This is particularly important in our family as two of my three boys play a lot of football to a high level and they are faced with constant pressure from team mates, coaches, competitive games, school mates, parents and each other. I want my boys to grow up resilient to all challenges and to bounce back whenever things go wrong as inevitably they do.

I also want to prepare them both for the fact that what they are doing now, playing for a football academy, might end one day, and they must be able to accept that possibility and likely event happening. After all most boys in the FA youth system do not make it through to be a professional footballer.

The article is laced with useful advice and pieces of information like

Allow your child to face up to challenges and go through them. Support them with suggestions or guidance, but do not over-protect them. With every challenge they face, they will learn new strategies to deal with difficult situations that will help them in the future.

Encourage your child to be an individual and seek out like-minded friends who share the same interests. Having a support network – whether friends or family – helps to build up emotional resilience and mental wellbeing.

Celebrate the positive things your child says and does. Feed their dreams and aspirations. Do not dwell on the negatives. If something negative happens, face it head on together. Teach your child to deal with it, and then let it go.

After reading the article there is a quiz to complete if you want a bit of fun to see what you have learnt and information you have digested. I took the test and got 6/10. I loved the last question which talks about how your child should feel loved and valued.

Children’s Brain Development

This is another area I am really interested in, particularly as I see the differences between my two eldest with their learning ability at school. My eldest Dylan, has often struggled with reading and spelling, but excels at maths when Josh my middle son is more balanced and does well in all learning areas.

According to research, 80% of a child’s educational achievement is determined by parental support for learning at home.

By the age of 8 the human brain already weighs 90% of its full capacity, according to scientists’ estimates. However, although the brain might be almost fully grown in size, it has not matured and developed enough to deal with all of the pressures we all face on a daily basis.

Another really interesting article that goes on to talk about teenage brains, and that looks like a huge time of change which could be quite dramatic for our household!

Overall Impressions

I really liked the variety of subject areas discussed and the length of the articles at 999 words was just perfect. The articles are full of useful links to more information is you wish to explore further.

Some subject areas are difficult to fit into just the 999 words particularly when referencing different ages of children,  e.g. the article about brain development could be split into two with pre-puberty and post puberty maybe?

Sometimes the quiz questions were difficult to reference in the text, but simply clicking on any answer will tell you the correct answer and why.

It’s a useful toolbox of information that can be used as a great point of reference when you are first considering issues or have questions.

Pocket Money – Should you give it to your children?




Pocket Money – The debate

Sometimes a debate gets going on my Facebook page which promotes a huge response with everyone keen to give their views and feedback. A few months back there was a discussion about pockets money so I wanted to share some of the discussion on here. Read on for some ideas or maybe to see if what you do is similar to others.

We currently do not give pocket money; our boys are 9,7 and 4. I started off the debate as I was not sure if pocket money was the right thing to do or not. I discovered there is a wide range of viewpoints out there amongst you readers.

Press findings about a gender gap in Pocket Money!

I had also read in the press that a gender gap was already appearing with boys getting more pocket money than girls and that £6 was the average amount of pocket money. I was interested to see if this was true.

Mrs Mummypenny Facebook Discussion

24 people commented to tell me what they did with pocket money and their family. Ages ranged from little ones 4,5,6 all the way up to teenagers. Most people gave money to their children. 4 out of the 24 didn’t give pocket money, mostly quoting that they couldn’t afford it.

Of the 20 who did give money it was mostly given in return for doing jobs in the house. Here are a few comments

Facebook Comments

AH says: – My older 2 boys which are 7&5 get 20p per job they do around the house and an extra £1 each day they are good they have those tins you need to open with a can opener so they don’t actually get their money it goes in a tin as they want to save up for something they really want my 7yr old wants an Xbox and my 5yr old wants a Wii u console so they have to earn it.

AS says: – My two eldest aged 14 and 15 have £10 pw, and two youngest £5 each per week, all have to save 25% of what they earn, and they love seeing the achievement of saving.

SH says: – No pocket money but earn money through jobs and achievements etc. usually increments of 20p boy 9, girl 5, boy 2. The two older will be using their money to buy their sweets at the cinema today. Works for us….




HL says: – I pay £20 a month into each of my boy’s bank accounts as pocket money. They are 4 and 6 years old. I will do the same for my 6-month-old daughter once I get an account set up for her. It means if they see something they want they can use that money rather than I pay for it.

KD: – I’m a Foster carer and have 2 boys both aged £15 and I HAVE to give them a minimum of £10 per week. On that basis, there is a chore chart, the rest of us have to go out and earn our money so they need to learn it’s the same for them. They take bin out / bring it in, load / unload dishwasher, lay/clear table and keep their rooms tidy. This is on a rota basis to give it a bit of variety!

Its seems that most under 10 are getting around £5 for their chores or pocket money with the teenagers earning more like £10.

It’s great seeing lots of financial responsibility for our children with it mostly being earned rather than given.

What Will I do?

I want to formalise what I do with the boys. It’s important to install a sense of responsibility and there being a consequence to their actions of helping with jobs. Maybe £5 per week in return for 5 jobs like keeping bedroom tidy, putting away clean clothes, emptying dishwasher, putting out recycling and cleaning football boots. There is a regular requirement for football things like boots, water bottles, shin pads etc. so this money can help go towards paying for them.

Financial education is so important to children. I have written my top tips for ideas on how to broach the subject with children here. I also featured in The Times with the same information.

Educational Quizzes Review – Fun Quizzes to help support learning

Educational Quizzes

Looking after the educational requirements for our children is a huge priority however I will be honest it’s also a huge chore. Life is busy, we have lots of after school and weekend commitments with the boys and their football which leaves little down time. A significant proportion of that down time is spent doing homework. The homework is a challenge, there is a lot of it and often its not fun.

I am always on the hunt for fun educational tasks for the boys so finding a tool like Educational Quizzes was perfect. This is a monthly subscription service with so much content that it’s never ending.

Suitable for all children

There are different sections for each age group, so its split into key stage 1, 2, 11 plus, key stage 3 and GCSE. Then within each age group there are different subjects containing quizzes. The quizzes follow the same plans that the children’s school uses for the key subjects of maths and English plus all the other areas that are covered at school such as art, design and science.

I love the idea of my boys doing the quiz then me having a go, it makes learning so much fun. One to one contact with learning is so important, with these we can sit down and do the quizzes and learn together. I will often create a quiz for the boys, a list of sums more than often. The great things about these quizzes is that you can focus on all areas of learning and subjects not just the ones that are easier to create the quizzes for.

Written by Teachers

You can relax about the content of the quizzes, it has all been written by teachers and fully reflects the current curriculum. The quizzes are multiple choice and you get an immediate result once answered.

Focus on Key Stage 2

The key stage 2 section is aimed at Dylan aged 7 to 11. We chose to do a quiz from the times table quiz, geography and design and technology. He really enjoyed the quizzes with the question stimulating further conversation about the subject areas from the questions.

Educational Quizzes is a subscription based service and cost £9.95 per month, this can be cancelled at any time.

This is a collaborative post with Educational Quizzes

Santa Claus and The Night Before Christmas at The Watford Colosseum

Santa Claus and The Night Before Christmas at The Watford Colosseum

One of our favourite things to do this time of the year is to go to the theatre. The boys adore a panto or a show with real life actors. They adore the singing, the cheesy jokes and the shouting out loud. When we got an invite to the first show of Santa Clause and the Night Before Christmas at the Watford Colosseum, we jumped at the chance.

We arrived at the theatre an hour before the show started for some mince pies and crafts. The boys were really good and channelled their Christmas excitement into making a fairy, an elf and Santa. Josh the crafty one loved it and did a great job with his elf. Jack, 4, wasn’t so focussed and preferred to drink as much apple juice as possible and run around the bar area!

After crafting we heading down to the show to take our seats in the small theatre. This show runs until Christmas Eve (of course!) and you can get hold of tickets here. It’s a short play with a few central characters, Santa of course, one cheeky elf and one girly elf and a little girl who is starting to think that maybe Santa doesn’t exist.

The Show Begins

7-12-16-watford-colosseumIt ran for 45 minutes which is a perfect amount of time for my 3 boys. There was a perfect balance of fun stuff, like magic, a snowball fight and Santa getting stuck in the chimney.

Here are the favourite bits of the show from Dylan, Josh and Jack

  • Santa getting stuck in the chimney, of course, and the only way to get him out was throwing snowballs. The boys properly loved this bit!
  • Dylan got to go on stage to help with a magic trick. A snowflake was made and magic turned it into lots of snow fall. I was able to take a video of this, have a watch on my YouTube channel
  • The snow became real, snow was falling over everyone in the audience. Josh loved getting covered in snow!
  • The bit where the naughty elf fired water guns into the audience.
  • When I asked Jack he simply said Santa was the best thing about it.

This show is perfect if you think your little ones may struggle with a longer panto. At 45 minutes, it was a perfect length and not one moan from any of the three boys of being bored. At the end the boys got to meet Santa and get a small gift from the elves.

7-12-16-watford-colosseum-santa

Here is the link for tickets.

I was not paid for this post but did receive the tickets to the show free of charge.

12-10-16-candle-time-boys-birthday-party

How to Save Money on a 7-year-old boys birthday party

Birthday Party Time

Its boys birthday time in our house. 3 birthdays in the space of 6 weeks, we didnt really think that one through getting preggers;-). Oct 9th is the first birthday with Josh my middle son turning 7. How he loves having the first birthday of the 3 boys! At the age of 7 a birthday party is important, rather it’s important to Josh. Fortunately he turns 7 at the same time as several of his best mates so we have always done a joint party. Share the workload and share the cost:-)

Football Party time

This year it’s a football party with Bobby, Josh’s best friend (the gate crasher in the Christmas Jumper above is Jack my 3 year old;-)). In the past we have done a hall & bouncy castle party  for 45 children and a pottery painting party. This year was the ultimate in a money saving party.

We hired a local Astro-turf pitch for 2 hours at a cost of £72. Hubby and a footy friend refereed and organised the boys. 4 mums stayed and we nursed the injuries and dished out drinks and snacks. We got the food, drinks and sweeties for party bags from Asda £34. My baker friend Emma and I made cake, which cost us £8 in ingredients from Aldi/Co-op (for the 2 bits I forgot to get from Aldi!). So all in cost of £114. £57 each.

James Martin Chocolate Fudge Cake

I have to share the recipe for the cake as it was amazing and from one of my favourite chefs James Martin. I have 12-10-16-finished-cakes-boys-birthday-partywatched him on Saturday Morning Kitchen for years and love his food, so was very excited to discover Children’s Chocolate Fudge Cake on the BBC Good Food Website.12-10-16-james-martin-boys-birthday-party

 

If you like James Martin as much as me maybe you want to see him in the flesh? He will be appearing at the BBC Good Food Show at Birmingham NEC on 24th & 25th November. Get behind me in the queue;-) For an exclusive Mrs Mummypenny discount of 20% use the code MP20 and get your tickets here from the BBC Good Food Live site

So back to the cake, Emma Wright, aka ‘baking princess’ made the cake with the support of Josh & Jack (until he lost interest). Josh stayed focused and helped every step of the way. Ems doubted the recipe as she has never made the chocolate mixture adding water at the mixing stage. She didn’t believe it would work, but we placed faith in James Martin. It did.

12-10-16-cake-mixture-pre-mixing-boys-birthday-party 12-10-16-cake-mixture-boys-birthday-party 12-10-16-baking-the-cake-boys-birthday-party

I have to show you mess my kitchen turned into. I am a messy cook! And at the the same time as Ems making the chocolate cake I was making chicken and rice tortillas from scratch, thanks to this recipe from Reduced Grub😉

12-10-16-lynn-and-ems-baking-mess-boys-birthday-party

For the full method I have copied and pasted it from the BBC Good Food website, full credit to them. The photos are mine at various stages of the making and baking process.

The cake takes a long time to bake and don’t forget, like I did, that you need to line your trays with greaseproof paper;-) Also don’t make the same mistake as me and buy evaporated milk rather than condensed. They are not the same thing!!

After baking and cooling it was 10pm so Ems had to go home. I did the icing and sprinkled on the hundred & thousands that Em has brought over. Josh chose a galaxy design with red, blue and white stars. Great choice.

12-10-16-mxing-the-icing-boys-birthday-party 12-10-16-pre-icing-boys-birthday-party 12-10-16-finished-cakes-boys-birthday-party

The cakes were a great success. Each tray contained 18 portions so there was plenty for the party boys, mum and dad helpers and a few siblings. And for me to bring home and eat 4 pieces sat/sun/mon;-) Turns out after a recent gall bladder op chocolate cake is fine:-)

Here are the cake ingredients and method from the BBC Good Food Website. I doubled up on everything as I made 2 cakes for 2 boys.

BBC Good Food Recipe

Ingredients

  • 200g plain chocolate, broken into chunks (use one with a low cocoa content – I used Aldi 79p for 200g
  • 200g butter (Aldi 80p for 250g)
  • 200g light brown muscovado sugar (already had in cupboard)
  • 100ml soured cream (bought from co-op as I forgot this ingredient)
  • 2 eggs, beaten (Aldi 89p for 6 free range large eggs)
  • 200g self-raising flour (45p for 1.5kg Aldi)
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder (already had in cupboard)
  • hundreds and thousands, to decorate (Emma brought these)

For the icing

  • 100g plain chocolate (see above)
  • 170g can condensed milk (bought from Co-op as I bought from milk from Aldi)
  • 100g butter (see above)

Method

  1. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Line a 22 x 22cm square tin with baking parchment. Put the chocolate, butter and sugar into a large pan with 100ml hot water and gently melt together. Set aside for 2 mins, then stir in the soured cream followed by the eggs. Finally, stir or whisk in the flour and cocoa until lump-free, then pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 50-55 mins until a skewer comes out clean. Sit the tin on a wire rack to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, make the icing. Gently melt together icing ingredients in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, then chill or cool until spreadable.
  3. To decorate, carefully turn out the cooled cake and peel off the baking parchment. Spread the icing over the top and scatter with hundreds and thousands, then cut the cake into triangles or fingers before serving.