No-Go November

No-Go November

So, how is everyone holding up?

Let me start by saying that lockdown 2.0 has hit me hard.

During the first lockdown, I felt focused and on the ball. Some days were tough, but we managed well; we played, we home-schooled, we walked through miles of countryside and spent quality time as a family that we otherwise would not have had.

Second time around, I have felt so deflated, lonely, isolated, and overwhelmed. Anybody else the same? I think with kids still at school, there has been no distraction from the void created in a national lockdown. I’ve struggled to write, study, post, keep up with Instagram. Some days, I’ve even found it hard just being an adult. I had two major deadlines for university assignments which were hard to do with no motivation. The routine at home is gone, mum-guilt is off the charts, and my mood is more down than up.   

The best reference I can use which parents will understand is the ‘Inside Out’ paradigm, which is not a recognised term, just something we say in our house. Inside out is a 2015 animated movie produced by Pixar Animation Studios. It personifies emotions, displaying them as actual people. The main characters are Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. Honestly, parents, if you want to teach your children about emotions while enjoying a family-friendly movie, I highly recommend it. It is absolutely fabulous. So, through lockdown, for me, it’s like Joy has gone missing and Sadness has taken over. I’ve gone from being an optimistic and fun-mum, to a gloomy, grumpy old lady mummy. I hate it.

I’ve been looking through all of the mummy accounts and bloggers that I follow and feel so inadequate. Everyone will tell you that you can’t believe everything you see on social media platforms. Behind every perfect picture, there will be an exhausted parent with their own struggles. Hiding out of sight will be a sink full of pots, a messy drawer (we all have those right?) and crap that is not shared with the adoring public. Still, I have felt that even if these parents have stuff going on behind their accounts, they are better than me in the sense that, at least they are good enough to keep up appearances. Over the past six weeks, I couldn’t even be arsed to fake it. So, I just stopped and been in some kind of lockdown limbo, existing from day to day with little to no enthusiasm or spark.

Enough. It’s time to shape up or ship out, and I’m choosing to shape up (figuratively speaking) I tried starting the couch to 5k not too long ago, and I thought I might actually die. 3 children, 2 caesareans and one severe lack of pelvic floor do not a good runner make.

The point I’m trying to make is that bad days are part of parenting. Trying to find a positive in each day can sometimes feel impossible, but it isn’t. Take this post, for example, this is my ‘there is still a spark in there somewhere’ post. We are all in this storm together, and while some may have mega yachts and others may just have a dinghy, you’re not alone in feeling like you might capsize at any moment. The month of November, hell, the whole of 2020 has been one monstrous no go. The past six weeks for me, have been hell. I’ve not felt myself at all and want to show that in these circumstances, that is ok. If you feel alone or are struggling, reach out. If you need someone to talk to, The Samaritans are available anytime, day or night, just call 116 123. They offer several ways to contact them.

Their website is in the link below. I found their website very useful.

Samaritans | Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy | Here to listen

In the coming weeks, I am hoping to share some positivity. Christmas is approaching and just because it’s going to be a bit different this year, shouldn’t mean it’s any less magical. I will be sharing recipes, ideas and our family’s Christmas traditions. We also have a milestone moment coming up in our house as our eldest Kiki turns 10.

I hope everyone stays safe and well. Keep fanning your sparks guys! The storm will pass.

Until next time…..Hannah XO

This Is Halloween!

This Is Halloween!

Halloween, whether you love it or hate it, is everywhere.

Each year it gets bigger and more ridiculous.

Would you believe I saw a Halloween Advent Calendar in the supermarket last week? The world has gone mad!   

Despite my shock at the items on sale and annoyance at the cost of them, I am usually 100% down for the spooky season. My plans are only ever hindered when my Halloween hating husband steps in. His opinions are firmly rooted in the thought that it is an American holiday, it doesn’t have the same ring in the UK and that trick or treating feels like begging. I can’t say I disagree with everything he says, but to me, it’s a good excuse for a bit of spooky fun with the kids.

Although trick or treating is not something we have ever done (that definitely doesn’t have the same feel where we live), I’ve always found other ways to have Halloween fun. With 2020 going into the books as the year that it all went wrong, we have decided to lean into the spooky season more than ever before.

We have decorated with hanging bats and spiders (which I keep thinking are bloody real!!). We are going to be doing spooky baking, pumpkin carving and face painting. Halloween night (while maintaining our rule of 6) we have invited a little friend of the girls over for a freaky film night.

I honestly feel like this year more than ever, the kids need to have fun at every opportunity. The differing rules in differing areas are keeping us apart from family, we’ve missed birthdays and celebrations. Even school is now different from what they recognise.

So, if you are with me in thinking that the kids need some fun, this post shares a few ideas on how to inject a bit of Spooktacular merriment into your Halloween weekend.

Decorate

We’ve found loads of small, cheap Halloween decorations in places like Poundland and Aldi. Even some of the bigger named supermarkets have some affordable decorations.

Normally I refuse to spend a fortune on decorations; however, my one splurge this year has been a fall leaf garland. I bought it from Amazon for £12.99. I wanted to give the living room an autumnal vibe, and the 2 pack that I bought were beautiful. I was very impressed with the quality, and I love how they look.

To take the house from an autumnal abode to a haunted home I bought some extremely cheap Halloween additions.

Spider Webs £1 (Poundland)
Halloween Sticks £1.49 (Aldi)
Orange Battery Lights £2 (Poundland)
Mini Squash 49p each (Aldi)

Hanging bats, spiders webs, mini pumpkins and something that was literally labelled as spooky cloth have all been purchased for as little as £1 each. You can go as big or as small as your budget allows. I gave myself £8 for Halloween tat. Watching the kids and their giddy reaction to hanging the decorations and spreading web all over the house suggested that it was probably the best £8 I’ve ever spent.

Pumpkins

I have heard so many parents complaining recently about the clean up that comes with pumpkin carving. You are my people. I see you!  

Some parents are so on the ball, they collect the seeds of the pumpkin and roast them for healthy snacks or use them for sensory activities. Unfortunately, I am not that mum! To me, the inside of a pumpkin is sticky, slimy and stinky and while I bow down to those who can utilise every bit of the fruit, this is one thing I am happy to sit out on.

Having personally tried pumpkin and trying to feed it to the family on more than one occasion, I can safely say it isn’t to our taste. 

So, if like me you are a pumpkin waster, fear not because bin bags and masking tape are the answer.

Before you start with the hollowing and carving of the pumpkins, cover the table you are using with the bin bags taping the edges down so that no surface is left exposed. It’ll look a bit like a scene from Dexter, but it makes it so much easier when it comes to clean up. You can just peel the bags off and your table should be pumpkin free. 

Decorating pumpkins is such a good laugh. It is something that everyone can get involved in and I love seeing each of the kids personalities pour into their designs.

Pumpkins can be bought from supermarkets for really reasonable prices. If you are lucky enough to live near a pick your own pumpkin patch, I would imagine that this would make a great day out. Regrettably, it’s something we are yet to experience. Perhaps next year once the world has calmed down a bit, it is something we can finally do. For now, though, it’s little pumpkins from Aldi for us.

Check out this year’s designs.

Bake!

If in doubt, bake it out. Baking is such a fun pass time for children and Halloween is one of the best times to bust out the baking gear.

Cakes, biscuits, krispies and bark are some of the easiest yet most versatile things you can do. The ingredients are cheap and the recipes simple.

Some of my personal favourites for Halloween are shattered glass cupcakes and mud pit bark.

Recipes for a host of delicious treats can be found in the link below.

https://budget-mum.com/category/treats/

Dress Up

There is never a better time of year than Halloween for getting creative with the make-up. Even if you don’t go out, it’s so much fun face painting and turning each other into spooky creatures and creepy characters. Over the years my children have enjoyed being all kinds of twisted things, from a slashed up red-riding hood to a creepy clown. It’s the time of year to let the dark side of your imagination run wild.

So, while we’re talking about ‘fancy dress’ I must ask; does anyone else get frustrated with the cost of the costumes? Or is that just me?

The outfits in the shops are usually priced at £10-£12 EACH! (and that’s the cheaper end)

With three children to include in spooky dress-up fun, the words ‘F that’ are quietly muttered.

To get around this, for the past few years I have made tutus for the girls using a tulle fabric that I purchase for £1.50 per metre and a strip of elasticated ribbon for £1 per metre. The fabrics come in a range of colours so you can match the tutus to most costume ideas.

Simply cut the fabric into strips and tie around the ribbon. So easy, so effective!!

Below are some of the looks we’ve done through the years.

Wicked Witch
Slashed Red Riding Hood
Cracked Doll
Death Clown

Snuggle Up Spooky Style

Depending on what area you live in, trick or treating this year is a no-go. Every year for us is a trick or treating no-go. It’s not something me or my husband are comfortable with, particularly in our area. Where we live is full of retired or elderly country folk. The last thing we want is to be held responsible for scaring dear old Gladys to death. It’s a small village and blame travels quicker than news. We do, however, always buy sweets for anyone who does decide to brave trick or treating.

Every year instead of trick or treating, we have a themed movie night. It is so much fun sharing our favourite (family-friendly) horror movies with our kids. We go heavy on the snacks with popcorn, crisps and homemade treats (see above links). This year we have been lucky enough to borrow a projector. This has made our spooky viewing bigger and better than ever before.

This year, try busting out the blankets and cuddle up together for a family fright night.

See below for our Top 10 favourite (family-friendly) Halloween movies.

  1. Hocus Pocus (in my opinion THE greatest Halloween film of all time! – it’s my favourite)
  2. Wallace and Gromit. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  3. Coraline
  4. Monster House
  5. The Adams Family & The Adams Family Values (a fabulous choice for a double feature)
  6. The Haunted Mansion
  7. Hotel Transylvania
  8. The Burbs (better suited for older children)
  9. The Witches
  10. Beetlejuice

As a bonus suggestion, you won’t go far wrong with The Harry Potter series (obviously)

So there we have it, some simple and inexpensive suggestions for how to keep it creepy this Halloween. I hope everyone has a spectacularly spooky time while staying safe and following the rules.

Let me know what your Halloween traditions are in the comments and if you try any of the ideas out tell me how it goes.

Until next time..XO

Mud Pit Chocolate Bark

Mud Pit Chocolate Bark

This Spooktacular recipe is great for Halloween. While it looks like a huge pile of mud, I assure you it tastes divine. The quick and easy recipe is cheap to make and will be the perfect treat for your little monsters.

You will need:

4 100g bars milk chocolate (I used the 30p bars from Morrisons simply because they were cheap, whether you choose to use branded or baking chocolate is a choice I will leave up to you)

1 pack Oreo cookies (I use Aldi’s own brand which me and wonder husband have dubbed pooreos – they taste exactly the same and cost a matter of pence)

1 bag fizzy cola laces

1 bag chocolate covered raisins

1 pack munchies

Note: The above listed sweets are simply the ones I chose to use, you can add any sweets in any quantity – which is the best thing about this recipe!

Method

Break the chocolate into a large bowl and melt. I usually melt my chocolate in a heat proof dish over a pan of boiling water. You may choose to microwave your chocolate. If you do decide to microwave, I would recommend 30 seconds to start then stir and continue to microwave at 10 second intervals stirring in between and repeating until the chocolate is smooth.

Pour the melted chocolate onto a sheet of parchment or baking paper and spread evenly until you have a thick layer of chocolate.

Cur the fizzy laces into 3cm strips and sprinkle over the melted chocolate along with the chocolate raisins and the munchies.

Gently grate 1 or 2 Oreos over the melted chocolate.

Allow to cool slightly and then leave in the fridge until set.

Once all the chocolate has set, roughly chop into shards.

Other Ideas

So. Many. Options!

You can literally top your bark with anything. The options are endless. You might want to try using white chocolate with red sweets to create a bloody effect. You can also add candy sticks as bones or draw faces onto marshmallows and use them as ghosts. Be as creative as you like.

Cupcakes

Cupcakes

Cupcakes are such a simple delight. This straightforward recipe is so cheap and easy to do. The best part is that cupcakes are delicious served either with a basic frosting or used as a base taste and jazzed up with extra flavours. Be as crazy as you like!

You Will Need

6oz/170g butter

6oz/170g caster sugar

3 eggs

6oz/170g self-raising flour

1 tsp vanilla essence (for vanilla)

1oz cocoa powder (for chocolate cupcakes)

Method

Beat the sugar and butter together until pale (I use a stand mixer however an electric hand whisk would also be suitable)

Add the eggs and whisk again (careful not to curdle the mix). Once you have a smooth mixture add the flour and vanilla essence or cocoa powder (whichever you’re using) and whisk again.

Place muffin cases into a muffin tin and spoon the mixture evenly between the cases.

Bake in the oven on Gas mark 5/190C for 10-15 minutes (or until springy and golden)

Allow to cool.

Decorate however you like and enjoy.

Other Ideas

Once your cupcakes are cooled, try filling the centre with your favourite jam. Simply cut a hole from the centre, fill with a tsp jam and replace the cut-out piece. Frost over the top and enjoy the flavours of the delicious filling.

These cupcakes are a great base for any flavour of frosting.

With vanilla cupcakes you might try lemon frosting with a curd filling or a white chocolate frosting with a raspberry jam filling.

For chocolate cupcakes you can add chocolate frosting. You can jazz it up even more with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a pretzel.

You may also wish to vary the cupcake flavour altogether. To make a Bakewell flavoured cupcake, substitute the vanilla flavouring for almond, fill with a cherry jam and decorate with white icing and a glace cherry.

Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and Potato Soup

This is by far one of the easiest and cheapest soups to make. It matches my formula of minimal input for maximum output perfectly. A classic dish that has always and will forever remain a firm favourite in our house. Enjoy on a cold blustery day with warm bread and butter. Bliss!

You Will Need

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped (I prefer to use 1 tsp garlic granules)

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (I prefer to use chicken stock for extra flavour)

700g white potato, peeled and diced

2 leeks, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Method

Over a medium heat, lightly fry the onions and garlic until the onions are soft.

Add the stock and bring to the boil.

Add the potatoes and the leeks, lightly season and simmer until the potatoes are soft. (this should be approximately 25-30 minutes)

Once the potatoes are soft, blend the mix until smooth.

Serve and enjoy!

Other Ideas

For a creamier soup you could blend some cream into the mix or for those who prefer a creamy flavour but are counting the calories (as I often am) you can blend through some fat free fromage frais. Be sure if you’re re-heating you do so gently, being careful not to bring the soup to the boil.

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

I love soup season. This soup, with it’s seasonal veg, warms my very soul. ‘It is absolutely yum’ (the Master of Mischief, age 4) and when served up with warm and buttery crusty bread it is always a hit with the kiddies. Even my husband (Mr ‘I’m not bloody eating that’ gave it a thumbs up) Enjoy!

You Will Need

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (I prefer to use 1 tbsp of garlic granules)

1 tsp ginger

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp tomato puree

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and diced

3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

600ml chicken stock (you can use vegetable stock if you want, I prefer to use chicken)

1 can coconut milk

Chilli flakes to garnish, if preferred

Method

Over a medium heat, start by cooking the onion for 1-2 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin and oregano and continue to fry for a few seconds while stirring.

Add the tomato puree, butternut squash and sweet potato chunks and fry for a further 2 minutes.

After this, add the stock and bring the whole pot to the boil.

Reduce to a medium heat and simmer until the butternut squash and sweet potato are cooked. (I usually give it 30 minutes; you may wish to leave it longer or less depending on the size of your chunks)

I also like to give it a stir halfway through.

Once the squash and sweet potato are cooked, add the coconut milk and simmer again for a few minutes.

Using a hand blender (or food processor) whizz the soup until smooth.

Serve with a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a side of warm crusty bread.

Other Ideas

I love the flavours of this soup. I serve it with a sprinkle of chilli flakes to add a dash of heat, but not too much, as I usually serve it up for the kids. If you wanted to add extra kick you could add a deseeded and chopped red chilli at the same time you add the garlic and herbs. If you’re really brave, bung a second one in there.

If you want to bulk up the soup and add some extra hidden veggies (its all getting blended so why not eh?) you could add things such as mushrooms, peppers, carrots and celery with the onions to create a veggie base for the soup.

How We Got School Ready

How We Got School Ready

Today, the Master of Mischief started school. He left the house this morning bursting with excitement. With his book bag and lunch box in hand, he walked into the school playground no trouble at all. I ugly cried in the car for a solid 5 minutes afterwards. This is the last first day of school we will ever have. It has been what feels like a long time coming, yet also I can’t escape the feeling that this moment has arrived all too soon.
Over the past few months, a large amount of my time, effort and budget has gone into ticking everything off the school starter ‘kit list’. As well as worrying about the uniform shopping, I’ve also done as much as I can to make sure that the Master of Mischief was what they would deem ‘school ready’.

In this post, I share some of the activities and things we have been doing to practice school skills and nurture independence in everyday tasks. By sharing a few tips and tricks that we’ve used with the Master of Mischief I hope that you too can get your children school-ready.

Dressing and Undressing
This is something that we have been encouraging my son to do since he was old enough to try. Unfortunately (for me) my son is both lazy and an amateur comic. In the mornings and at bedtime, we usually get some version of “I don’t know how to do it” followed by him trying to put pants on his head. This is something he finds utterly hilarious. The only thing that has helped us through this is encouragement and an abundance of patience. While the Master of Mischief sits and wails that he doesn’t know how to put socks on (when he does) I simply reiterate that he should try. After a few attempts of me telling him to have a go, he usually succeeds, and all is well once more.


For younger children, shoelaces can be tricky. I prefer to buy Velcro fastening shoes for ease. However, I do try to make time for shoelace practice. There is a range of tools available; however, a practice shoe is easy to make from cardboard.
Motivating your child to dress and undress independently will help them so much when it comes to changing for PE, removing jumpers in hot weather and putting aprons on for painting (not that they ever use that particular skill).
Another thing that your child might need to practice is getting their coat on and off independently. All reception children are given access to an outdoor area, having the ability to get their coat on themselves will mean they can get straight to playing without having to ask an adult for help.
Another aspect of developing this skill, particularly if your morning schedule is a busy one is practising getting up and dressed for a particular time. In the week before starting school, I made sure the children were up, breakfasted and dressed for 8.30 am. Please don’t think I’m like a drill sergeant marching the landing with a whistle and clipboard shouting for my troops to be front and centre. It’s not like that. I simply wake them up earlier to ease them into their new routine. This has been beneficial for both them and me as it prepares us all for the shift in routine. Once the new school year starts again, we will be well seasoned in our early morning routine which will (hopefully) prevent the dragging of heels when we need to be up and out.

Lunchtime Practice
Whether you’ve decided to opt for hot school dinners or are sending your child with a packed lunch, it is always a good idea to practice using a knife, fork, and spoon. The more confident they are, the easier it will be for them to eat their dinner. If you’ve decided on packed lunches, you might want to encourage your child to practice opening their packets and containers. Depending on how nice your school’s lunchtime staff are will depend on how much help your child will get. We will all remember that one troll-like dinner lady that was zero help at all when you couldn’t open your damn yoghurt pot!


With all of my children, I have found it beneficial to see how long it takes them to eat their dinner independently. I don’t sit and time them on a stopwatch! As I said, I’m not a drill sergeant. I merely make a mental note of how long they sit and eat for. I also make a note of how much they eat. This kind of information is useful to pass onto the school, so they know what kind of portion to give your child. It’s also good for you to know how much to pack in their lunch. Too much might mean your child misses out on after lunch playtime and too little might mean they are hungry or irritable when they finish school. Nobody wants that!

Names, Letters and Words
I don’t think for a second that teachers expect children to start school having read Homer’s Odyssey, reciting the Latin alphabet, and counting to 100 in French. I believe the Master of Mischief will be taught what he needs to learn at school. Still, for a teacher to build a child’s knowledge, it can’t hurt to have a basic foundation to build on.

We’ve spent a lot of time encouraging the Master of Mischief to read and write his name, recognise the letters in it. This has also helped him practice his pencil grip. Once at school, his vocabulary will grow rapidly. To prepare for this, we encouraged him to learn new words. While out walking we collected items which we then talked about at home. This was a great way to introduce describing words.
Sharing songs, poems and stories is another great way that we encouraged him to recognise sounds and patterns in words. Repeated storytelling seems to have fostered a strong interest in books. This is always a good thing.
You’ll be surprised how quickly reception children start learning to read.

Counting
As before, I don’t think any teacher expects a child to march through the door on their first day chanting the 9 times table. Nonetheless, being able to count verbally up to 10 or even 20 is a tremendous benefit to a child.
This is something that we’ve managed to teach the Master of Mischief without even designing to do so. Counting throughout the day with our children is so easy to do. For example, how many cars drive past while you’re walking to the shop, how many lampposts you see on your way into town, how many stairs are in your house, how many windows, how many doors and so on. The possibilities of things to count are practically limitless.
One activity that we did actively do to help with counting (and colour) was graphing.

I made a chart on large floor paper and labelled the sections with colours. I then asked the Master of Mischief to find as many items around the house with the colours. We sectioned them on the chart and then counted how many of each colour we had. I then got him to practice writing the numbers on a separate sheet of paper.


Another way to set a foundation for mathematic skills is to try ordering numbers. One resource for this that has been invaluable for us is a simple deck of playing cards. There are so many ways that you can promote mathematics skills with a deck of cards. Number ordering, shape sorting, adding and counting to name a few.

Sharing and Turn-Taking
This is something that I was quite concerned about with the Master of Mischief. My girls are very close in age so have always had to share. My son, being younger and the only boy, has a range of items that are his and his alone. He also, unintentionally, gets more one to one attention at home. This is particularly true while the girls are playing with their friends. When it comes to sharing and taking turns, he can be a bit of a ‘give it to me gremlin’. He also HATES to lose. Something attributed to his dad, with whom I have had many an argument over games of Frozen Frustration and Ludo. (He cheats, I don’t, it’s now on the internet so it’s true. End of!)
One way to overcome this is through socialising children, which during the COVID-19 lockdown has been near on impossible to do (and at times illegal).
It has been a relief to have multiple children, having three at home has helped immensely throughout lockdown. Although tough at times, I think it would’ve been even harder dealing with one bored child. I don’t take my ability to say ‘go and play with your sister’ for granted. To those dealing with one child through this pandemic, I see you. You are warriors!
One thing we have done to practice turn-taking and sharing has been Sunday afternoon games sessions. Every Sunday through the lockdown we have brought out the board games to play together as a family. I invested in several age-appropriate games for the Master of Mischief including a variety of Orchard Toys games.


When we started with our newly appointed tradition, he was very demanding and would get quite worked up waiting for his turn. Through patience and practice, he is now a polite and easy-going gamer. The improvement in him has been great to see. I suppose like many things in life it was simply a case of ‘practice makes perfect’.

Sit, Listen and Do
As well as sharing and taking turns, children need to be able to sit and listen to teachers and each other. Carpet time, storytime and assemblies will be new experiences for school starters. Listening to spoken instructions and shifting the attention from what they are doing to what the teacher is saying will be a big skill to master. Practising this before starting school can only be beneficial.
Something we’ve done with the Master of Mischief to practice listening has been going on ‘noisy walks’.
This kind of walk is where we listen to all the noises we can hear while we are walking. As we go, I make a note of the sounds we have heard and at home, we will recall the noises and talk about our journey. It’s quite fun to do.
Another way we’ve practised sitting and listening has been through reading. Something I have done with the Master of Mischief has been sitting him on a chair opposite me while I read a story. Having him sat away from the book has meant he has to listen to what I’m saying to follow the story. (obviously, I show him the pictures at the end of each page, I’m not that mean)
One more thing that is beneficial to practice, as well as listening to instructions, is following them. To encourage this we have played games like ‘Simon Says’. It’s a terrific way to practice instruction following. The better your child gets at the game the more challenging you can make it.

These are just some ways that we have prepared the Master of Mischief for school. I hope that your preparations have gone well. Sending your child to school for the first time is a big deal. Well done to all the parents who have navigated what has been a truly crazy year so far. We did it!
I also want to wish good luck to all the new school starters that are joining or rejoining classes post-pandemic. You’ve got this!

Until next time
Hannah
XO

Chores for Children

Chores for Children

Let’s talk about chores for children.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the jobs that my children do at home. Honestly, her reaction was what you’d expect if I’d told her I had sent them to a Victorian England workhouse.

In defence of myself, I explained that I want my children to understand responsibility. The significance of working together as a household to look after our home and the importance of keeping the place tidy. I also want them to know the value of their belongings and how looking after your things is crucial, whether you are 4, 44 or 104.

She didn’t seem convinced. Some mothers are happy to do everything for their children and while I’m sure she now thinks I’m a modern-day Miss Hannigan, I stand by my decision to give my children chores.

Now, please don’t think my children spend their days in rags, scrubbing the floor until it “shines like the top of the Chrysler Building”. My husband and I do most of the jobs around the house, and when I say me and my husband, I mean my husband. That bloke gets gold in all cleaning events. 10s across the board. He’s ex-army, so cleaning is as natural to him as breathing. Everything from dishes to ironing is done to an exceptional standard. That said, we are a household of five. We have three children, a house, and I’m doing a degree. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do everything for everyone at home. Which is why my children are asked to chip in.

To teach and promote a bit of independence and responsibility, the kids have a few simple things that we ask them to do to help out. Jobs such as, feed the cat, put your washing away, make your bed. They are straightforward, five-minute things they are perfectly capable of doing that make a huge impact. It means there is one less job for me ( or husband) to worry about and honestly, my children love that they are an important part of our unit.

After my conversation with the child chore hater, I asked my eldest daughter if she thought it was unfair that she had to do things like put her washing away. She replied with the best answer I could have ever hoped for. She said “No, why would it be unfair, they’re my clothes, why shouldn’t I put them away.” Her response filled me with pride (and reassurance that she didn’t feel like a 21st Century Cinderella). When I looked further into it, there is so much information online about how great it is to get children involved with household chores.

Below is a list of some age-appropriate chores that you could allow and encourage your children to do.

Children aged 3-5

  • Tidying toys away: It usually helps if they have a large box to put their toys into. You can even make a game out of picking up toys by counting each one, or if you have more than one child, see who can pick the most up.
  • Making their bed: Encourage your child to pull up their covers and tidy the bed. You may need to help younger children with straightening the duvet.
  • Cutlery sorting: Getting your child to put knives, forks and spoons into the correct compartment of the ‘cutlery drawer’ is an easy sorting activity as well as a big help. I always supervise when doing this and remove anything sharp or weapon-like.  
  • Sock pairing: This is another great sorting activity that will help your child with matching and pairing. It’s also a great starter chore that your youngster can do alongside you while you’re sorting laundry.
  • Plant watering: A great activity in the summer to keep the plants fed. The Master of Mischief has loved watering the plants in the evening. Especially as they have grown so much. It’s been a great way to visually teach him about looking after things.

Children aged 7-9

  • Setting the table for dinner: This is something that Little Fairy is an expert at. You can also encourage them to make drinks to go with dinner. (I’d avoid anything hot or alcoholic)
  • Take out rubbish: I usually ask my girls to take bits of recycling out to the bin on their way out to play.
  • Putting washing away: Everyone is responsible for making sure their clothes get put away properly.
  • Make their breakfast: I’m not talking a full English or continental, but my girls can make themselves a bowl of cereal or a slice of toast. Life Skills!
  • Feed a pet: We have a cat; at 9 years old, we have recently entrusted my eldest to make sure the cat gets fed. The cat food is ring pull so there aren’t any major mechanics involved. The cat’s still alive, so it’s going well so far.  

For children aged 10+

  • Set an alarm: Taking responsibility for making sure they are up on time is a great skill to teach your child.
  • Keep the bedroom tidy: This means no toys or dirty washing on the floor, beds made and curtains OPEN!
  • Help with cooking: Depending on how trusting you are you can ask your child to help prepare dinner or allow them to cook a basic meal. Teaching them recipes will also set them up for adulting in later life.
  • Washing up: If you don’t have a dishwasher, you do now. I joke. Seriously though, at this age, you can allow and encourage your child to clean after dinner dishes or wash up their breakfast pots.

I probably don’t have to state the obvious, but I’m going to, my children don’t do all the things listed here, these are simply ideas.

Are there any chores that your children do that I haven’t listed? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

Hannah XO

Dates with My Daughters on A Budget

Dates with My Daughters on A Budget

The bond between mother and daughter is something unique. For me and my girls, the bond runs deep and strong. It’s like I have created two small besties. I’m not talking a ‘Weird Science’ set up, but since the moment I had them, I have given everything to make sure they are loved, cared for and that I bring a smile to their faces every chance I get. Having them in my (very) early twenties, we were a household full of girls for a very long time. Bringing the smiles was easy. It was fabulous, even though they were young, we would spend our afternoons cuddled up in our pink blanket dens, watching Disney movies and throwing glitter around like we were actual fairies. I wore wings a lot!
After meeting my husband and having our son, the girls had to readjust to having boys in our house of girls. With a new baby, we had fewer den building days, the glitter was put away and my attention shifted. The smiles were still there but I would be lying if I said that the change in dynamic was a breeze. There were plenty of bumps along the way. We endured through them all and looking back, all the bumps, that seemed like roadblocks at the time, are irrelevant now. I couldn’t imagine not having our chaotic little family unit. The girls are wonderful big sisters, and my husband is a fantastic dad to our beautiful blended family.
Despite the fact I couldn’t live without them, a new dynamic is still a juggling act. My son is the youngest and by far the most demanding of my children. With a ridiculous amount of energy, he has two settings. 1 and 11. There is no in-between. I’m proud of my daughters and their acceptance that mummy has to give attention to the Master of Mischief because he is younger and still learning. However, my mum guilt is given a little boost every time I have to split myself, meaning that the girls are left to play together (without me).
It is wonderful that they have each other, with only 16 months between them, they are more like friends than sisters (long may that continue). I do think it is important though, that I plan to give them uninterrupted ‘mummy time’. I usually aim to plan to do something together once a week. This is usually a little bit of cooking or baking, doing face masks, watching a movie, or heading out together for a walk, just the three of us.
Once every couple of months (budget allowing) I plan a girls day out. This is usually in the form of a shopping trip. We leave the lads at home, grab some lunch, browse through the shops and enjoy well-deserved girl time. I always budget to give each of them a bit of spending money which allows them to splurge on friendship bracelets and fluffy notepads, which they never wear or ever write in. However, this is a different story for a different time. Our retail therapy days are always fun and are a way in which we keep the bond between us strong.
Budgeting plays a large part in what we can do though. As a low-income family, I don’t always have the money to keep the kids flush with fluffy notepads. The juggle is a struggle.
When I started this blog page, I wanted to share with others, ideas and things that I do with what little money I have left after the bills are paid. Below is a list of ideas for dates with your daughters that won’t break the bank.

Movie Nights


Who doesn’t love a good movie night? From big-name blockbusters to the straight to TV films they show on channel 5 in an afternoon. I adore films. Sharing flicks with my girls is such a special thing for me. Growing up, both my parents worked shifts, so we were never a ‘sit down together for dinner’ type family. Movies were our thing. Both my mum and dad would share their favourite films and directors with me. With my mum, it would be the chick flicks. Legally Blonde, You’ve Got Mail, Dirty Dancing, Sleepless in Seattle and the rest. When it was movie night with my dad, it would be the best action or cult classics with the likes of Jaws, The Lost Boys, The Usual Suspects, Die Hard and The Untouchables. With the latter still being a firm favourite today. I had stacks of VHS (yes, I’m now that old) and for the ones we didn’t own, we would have a weekly trip to Global Video! This was pre-Netflix DVD posting, which was pre-Netflix streaming.
I’ll bet some of you younger readers might not know that before Netflix was built into your Smart TV, they were a DVD postal service. You had to wait 3 days to get your chosen film, so think before you next complain about your 3 minute buffering time!
Movie night is a cheap and easy thing to do on a rainy afternoon. To some, sticking a film on is just ‘something to do’ but when you share a film from your own childhood it becomes so much more than that.
If you’re willing, you can also splash a little cash on some movie extras. I usually set myself a budget of £5. Whatever treats we do have, I put them onto one large platter (this negates the dreaded packet crinkling through the film).

Walking and Talking


This is a completely free activity that you can enjoy with your child from birth to any age. When my children were babies, I loved walking out with them in the pram. The fresh air and the sounds around them were like a knockout drug. They would sleep for hours after. As they got older, we enjoyed exploring the local woods armed with backpacks filled with water bottles and biscuits. Walking is a therapeutic tool that is great for clearing the mind and getting a bit of exercise into your routine. If I’m honest, it’s something I wish I did more often.
Taking a walk and spending some quality time with your daughter is a great way to bond. I recently went walking with my eldest daughter and we talked about everything, from her feelings about lockdown to what her favourite character on Once Upon A Time was. When we set off she seemed sad, like the weight of the world was on her shoulders, yet after walking, talking, laughing and breathing in some (smelly) country air, she skipped home like a completely different kid.

Make Overs!


In our house, with three girls, pampering and makeovers are a regular occurrence. Places like Poundland, B&M and Home Bargains have some great (and cheap) makeup products. Most supermarkets also sell them (if you’re happy to pay a few quid extra). Hair, make-up, music and laughs are always a good combination. This kind of activity is great for mother-daughter bonding and special moments.
Trying out a new hairstyle with my girls or letting them do my make up is something that they always enjoy. It rarely costs us anything and always results in giggling. Usually, because I end up looking like the lovechild of an Estee Lauder saleswoman and Pennywise. Although they are getting better with age, I don’t think either of my girls has a future in the make up industry. Special effects, maybe, but I’d predict some serious Ofcom complaints if my two were allowed to do the makeup of the Good Morning Britain hosts.


Baking and Cooking


Baking is something that I love to do with or without the kids. In the interest of bonding though, it’s usually best to involve them. I have a range of ‘fake baking’ recipes listed on the site, however, there is something special about baking from scratch and sharing a recipe with your daughter. I remember my own mum teaching me how to make a cake from a recipe her mum (my nana) had given her.
Even if you’re not a confident or keen baker, you can pick up a pre-prepared cake and biscuit mixes from most supermarkets. They are usually very reasonably priced as well, so you don’t have to break the bank to share an afternoon of baking with your child.


It can be tricky for busy parents to allow for an afternoon of baking or certainly, baking from scratch. If using a pre-prepped mix is better for you then do that. Your child won’t care whether your cake comes from a generations-old recipe or a 99p supermarket mix. Cake is cake. The time you give them though, that is what they will remember.
Another excellent bonding activity for mothers and daughters is cooking. Sharing a recipe for your favourite food or teaching your daughter how to make a simple meal is a wonderful thing to do. I can remember teaching my daughter to make a basic Bolognese. She did everything from ingredients prep, to making the sauce and serving the whole thing up. She was so proud of herself and what she had made. It was a lovely afternoon that we shared. There is a range of easy and cheap to make dinner recipes that you can share with your children here. Click the link below.

Afternoon Tea


Afternoon tea is something we have done a lot more of through lockdown. Boredom has been rife and I have found that presenting sandwiches and sausage rolls on a cake stand has become something that can brighten even the drizzliest of afternoons.
It’s never anything fancy. I have found that I can get everything I need for around £5. I usually make sandwiches from what I have in. This can include anything from ham and egg to jam or cucumber. I usually add a cake slice, a punnet of strawberries, and some crackers with cheese or buttered fruit scones.
It doesn’t have to be extravagant; you can spend as much or as little as you like. If you do decide to do afternoon tea with your daughter though, make it an event. Plan ahead, pop on a pretty frock, make your sandwiches, whether that be with a fancy filling or just a spread of jam. Sit down together with a bit of music playing and enjoy your afternoon together as if you were sat in the window of Betty’s.
Although all of the above-listed things are what I have done with my daughters as a way to make sure that not all my attention goes to my (more demanding) son. Do not think that these ideas are only for mothers and daughters. I would encourage you to enjoy all of these things with any of your children.

Until next time…
Hannah XO

Vanilla Fossil Biscuits

Vanilla Fossil Biscuits

These delicious biscuits are great for baking with children. They require few ingredients and are extremely easy to do. This recipe has been used in my family for generations. One of the great things about the simplicity of these is that you can vary your shape and design for any occasion.

You Will Need

200g Margarine

150g Caster sugar

400g Plain flour

2 eggs

½ tsp vanilla essence

Method

Mix together the margarine and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Rub in the flour until you have ‘breadcrumb’ texture.

Lightly whisk the eggs with the vanilla essence and add to the dry mixture. Mix together until you have a dough (the dough with be slightly sticky at first – or at least mine always is).

Tip the dough onto a floured surface and lightly knead. Roll the dough out to 1-2cm thickness.

Cut out whatever shapes you wish to use and place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment or baking paper. For a fossil effect, press small dinosaur and other toys into the biscuits to create prints in the dough.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 4/180c/160 fan for 15 minutes or until a pale golden brown colour.

Allow to cool and enjoy!

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to make fossil biscuits and instead chose to keep your pattern plain, here are a few ideas for you.

When not making fossil effect biscuits, we usually use icing made from icing sugar and water and top the biscuits with sprinkles.

You can add 100g of currents to the dry mix before adding the egg to make current biscuits.

You might want to try dipping the biscuits into chocolate for an even sweeter treat.

You could also experiment with different flavours in place of vanilla. For a zesty twist, try adding the rind of 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 tsp lemon essence.