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Commonwealth Fun

As you all know, I've been trying to find activities to keep Agent M amused this summer without breaking the bank and today was a fabulous day for just that. Loads of entertainment and I only spent £2.50 total on activities. 

First off we were running late cause Mama got distracted with washing so we had to Bus it into town instead of walking. We had to be at the Library for 1.30pm and although Agent M was Superman themed, he can't rush over a mile in 20 min. I'm all for Public Transport but its money i didn't really wanna spend when i technically didn't need to.

Luckily the bus stops right outside the Dick Institute so we got there in time for the mini Commonwealth games they had put on for the kids.

Tickets were £2.50 but the women running it were really energetic and the kids had a great time.

Ive never been disappointed with the activities the library put on. Agent M always has a blast which is the point at the end of the day.

They focused on 4 countries Scotland ... Jamaica ... Canada ... Kenya and Agent M was chuffed to bits he got to be the Captain for Scotland. We sang songs, danced about and took part in some mini sports like the relay race. All the kids got wee medals for taking part too which was a nice touch.

While we were still at the library, we got told about a storytelling in the gallery so we decided to go have a look and I'm so glad we did.

A group called Books on a Bike are going around Scotland for the commonwealth games and are stopping in at different venues to read to the kids on their way to Glasgow. 

They aim to read the complete works of the fabulous Julia Donaldson (no small feet when you consider she is into the triple digits for her published works).

Today they read "The Rhyming Rabbit" and my personal fave "Room on a Broom"

Story telling along with singing and musical instruments is such a fantastic way to bring books to life for kids I think. Much better than my tried and tested funny accents ... I always do the Gruffalo in a Scots accent. It just works some how and my owl always sounds like Stephen Fry lol.

I'm a big advocate for reading to kids. Its something I've always done since Agent M was a newborn. I believe reading to children not only helps bond but shows them how magical books are. They can teach you, entertain you or even distract you from the sometimes too stressful parts of life.

Above is a link to their website so you can see more about their brilliant challenge or can follow them here on twitter. Why not check out where they are going to be by clicking here and pop down for a story and a sing song. Its great fun :)

After the story time we took a walk into the town centre as they were holding a Commonwealth Carnival to celebrate the Baton coming to Kilmarnock. 

We walked through the Burns Mall and found The Creation Station running an activity workshop to make a flag or a baton. Agent M went straight to the flag table and create a design with his latest obsession ... "Pokemon".

While he was getting his craft on I spoke to a lovely woman called Rona, who was helping run the workshop, and found out LOADS about the classes and workshops they are doing. 

I was in kiddie crafty heaven!

  • They have a "baby discover" class aimed at the 6 to 14 month olds every Wednesday in Prestwick and Friday in Ayr.

  • There is the "Little Explorers" class which is aimed at the 14 month to 5 year olds every Tuesday and Thursday in Ayr. Every Wednesday in Prestwick and every Thursday in Troon.

  • For older kids or families with kids in different age groups there is the "Family Fun" class which is for 2 to 11 year olds every Monday in Prestwick and Thursday in Ayr.

In Kilmarnock they are planning to run workshops every Wednesday in the Burns Mall that are Free of charge.
I'm hoping take Agent M down to after we come back from our "English-land adventure". I'll be sure to write a review to let you all know what the kids get up to :)

At the cross there were alot of different things going on. A boxing ring set up with junior boxers then wrestling and a group of dancers performing. Walking about the streets were lots of entertainers. *My faves were the ones below*. There were tables set up with balloon models, making flags, people juggling, weightlifting, basketball, clowns *shudders* and some food stalls.

The boys were more than happy to stand in line waiting for their turn to get their face painted.

Agent M got a Pokemon theme and his little cousin J got spiderman. Long gone are the days of pandas and tigers I think. My boy is definitely growing up fast.

I really liked watching the Street Artists. They give the kids a chance to join in too. *If only i had a wee go*. It seems I'm constantly on creative mode wanting to get in about anything artistic lol. You have to admit though. These colourful bricks beat the plain grey.

We had to head back home to get dinner started which devastated Agent M cause he loves Clanadonia who were going to play at some point but needs must I'm afraid *and I let him listen to the CD we bought in Glasgow when we got home to compensate :)

All in we had a fantastic day for next to nothing. We were thoroughly entertained and we found out about some fantastic classes to get crafty. Good times had by all :)

Do you know about any other activities in East Ayrshire for the kids over the summer. Get in touch via email or comment below. I'll be sure to have a look and post for others to see :)

My Three and Me

Mythical Maze Summer Challenge

Every year to encourage kids to read the Reading agency host a "Summer Reading Challenge".

Agent M took part in the "Story Lab" challenge 2 years ago but due to me working so much last year he missed out on the "Creepy House" one. This year the theme is "Mythical Maze".

Saturday was the launch and it didn't disappoint!

We went down to the library and watched the show put on my Macastory.
Agent M, along with all the other children, were enthralled the entire time and all the kids were encouraged to join in the singing and doing the actions. He had a brilliant time.

While we were there we got out his next lot of books (he takes out 5 every week) and signed him up for  "Mythical Maze" so he can get started right away.

The premise is over the summer holiday, the kids have to borrow and read 6 books from the library and for each one they review they get a sticker to put on their chart. 
After all 6 books and all 6 stickers they will have completed the challenge and will be awarded with a certificate and a medal.

I know he can do it cause hes a wee book worm just like his mama :)

They also have alot of activities to coincide with the challenge. Ive managed to book Agent M into some of the activities before and after our holiday so hes going to be kept busy and entertained. Some of the activities are free but even the ones that aren't are great value for what they do. 

Why not check out the website or pop down to your local library to see if they are participating and get the kids signed up. Its free to join and a great way to encourage kids to read :)

You cant beat a freebie!

Lets be honest, you can't beat getting something for nothing and we literally did this weekend.
Ive stopped reading newspaper recently due to all this political aggression surrounding the vote for Scottish Independence.

**I don't discuss my views with anyone purely because I have friends who have known each other years and family members who have grown up together now completely disowned each other over this. Ironic that whatever the outcome of the vote Scotland will be divided when its supposed to unite us.

But I digress ...

My dad has continued to read the newspapers and came across some fantastic offers from one on particular ... The Sun.

They ran a Superday's promotion for tickets to Legoland Winsor this summer.

He collected tokens for us and through the post the other day came our 2 free tickets.


Saving of £93 right off the bat and the dates we were given happen to coincide with when we will be down in England anyway. We only need to buy a ticket for Agent M which if we book in advance will be £31.05 ... saving £10.35 (they give 25% off when you book in advance). Plus it came with some extra vouchers to use in the park. 

Not only that, my sister got some free tickets too which amazingly are for the same date so we can all go together. A fun family day out for minimal cost (we can pack a lunch and save fuel by taking one car).

So needless to say I was in a good mood. Then he turned up this morning with another treat for us.
The Sun has run another promotion where you collect the vouchers and get £9.50 worth of food free from Iceland! 

Now yes its called a "footie feast" and we care about the football in our house as much as we care about the 'Britain's got the x factor celeb talent in the Jungle with someones big brother' ... aye that show lol ... But its all food that we like and can do us a good few meals. 

Not to mention its COMPLETELY FREE!

Safe to say i was a very happy mama :)

"No Spend June" Update

So we're almost 2 weeks into the month which means I should have in theory saved a nice little chunk of change. 
My target was £50 per week (leaving some wiggle room for the food shop and emergency power since I'm blasting through the washing).

Having tallied up my holiday fund I've managed £144!

How have I managed that?

*scratches head*

Well boys and girls I'll tell you my theory.


Looking through my receipts for the first week I spent £47.13 on the shop for the week ... for the second week I spent around £11.

All the meals have been things we had in the freezer or cupboard. Both making room for new stock and using already bought in food so I'm saving. 

Instead of paying for Agent M to have school dinners, I've been sending him with a packed lunch (guaranteed healthy and saved £20).
His lunches have been a mix of tuna sandwiches (can get 4 sandwiches outta 1 regular sized tin), egg mayo (homemade with spring onion *delicious*) and ham ... along with homemade cupcake or banana bread as a treat and some fruit and a piece of cheese. 

Agent D has been getting his lunch made for him too ... though he gets the luxury of crisps in his packed lunch and a cookie instead of the banana bread cause he doesn't like bananas *strange man*. 
I know i sound like a cruel mama not letting Agent M get crisps in with his lunch but I'm funny about sending him to school with junk food. I would rather he eat proper healthy food and get the occasional handful of crisps with a sandwich or wrap at the weekend. 

Homemade Bread

We've swapped out fizzy juice for diluting juice and when we go out, we take a bottle each with us so we don't have to buy one while out. *Semi related note here ... Ive noticed that my skin has got seriously soft and less prone to break outs since cutting out fizzy juice. BONUS!

Chocolate has been provided by left over Easter eggs (yes we still had some ... not cause we got loads but cause we make it last). I used some of mine to make the chocolate fudge frosting on these cupcakes. They went down a treat :)

The meal planner has been tweaked a little due to getting home late or mama forgetting to take something out of the freezer *doh* but all we done was moved one day to another. Whatever food we did buy was on clearance and if not eaten that night was frozen and I'm very happy to say we have all eaten really well. Got meat in most meals and some form of vegetable in all (salad counts surely).

While both boys are away to I've been spending time with my cooker making loads of treats which I account for the high electric use on the first week but the use of my slow cooker has brought it down noticeably and I've been cooking a bit more than we need. When cooled I've been putting the leftovers like Macaroni cheese or Bolignaise sauce in small tubs and freezing it for a later date. Came in handy a few times when I've been too tired to cook from scratch.

Blueberry Muffins

I'm so surprised at how much we were wasting if we're able to save this much in only two weeks.
Think this definitely needs to be addressed to find a more permanent solution after the holiday.

**On an over all note
I did a comparison on all our utilities to make sure we have the best deal and I called our broadband/TV provider and reduced our monthly package from £76 to £41. This wont really make a difference to the monthly challenge but its nice to know I'm saving from now on.

My only stumble really was on the Agent M front cause he has a school trip I had to pay £2.50 for but I'm not sure if I should could that as a fail cause its a school thing (and I'm still £44 ahead).

Did any of you try the No Spend Challenge? 

How did you do? :)

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

This No Spend June is working out good so far. I've only had to buy the the basics in this week ... Bread, Milk, Sliced ham for packed lunches. Some more Bananas cause Agent M has devoured the previous loaf of Banana bread and is desperate for more. 
But nothing over and above.

Only problem is I ran out of biscuits. Oh Mama ... how could you?!

So instead of walking into town again to get some treats to add to the boys lunches, I decided to make something for them.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes!

To start with, I'll tell you all my recipe for Basic Vanilla Sponge.
For all my cakes I use this basic sponge recipe then add to it any 'extras' I want. In this case Orange.

•4oz Self Raising Flour
 •4oz Caster Sugar
 •4oz Soft Margarine
 •2 eggs (at room temp)
 •1 tsp of Vanilla Extract

Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla till its a lovely pale colour. Add in the eggs then the flour and mix together till light and fluffy.

*I use an electric whisk cause I think its easier to make it light and fluffy but you can use a good old wooden spoon and beat the ingredients together.

The timing on the cakes is really dependent on what your baking in for example, cupcakes will take less time than a round cake. A good rule of thumb is to bake in a pre-heated over (mine goes in 180c) till golden brown (always doing the cake test - insert a skewer or knife to the biggest part of the cake and if it comes out clean, your good to go). 
A general approximation is 10-15 minutes for cupcakes and 25 - 30 min for a large round cake.

This mix makes about 12 cupcakes.

The only thing for these cakes you need to add is Orange ... the juice of two oranges and the zest of one to be exact.

I mix it in at the very end and try a tiny bit after the zest and the juice of the first orange *please be careful here cause you are eating raw egg* and see if its strong enough in the taste. You can add all the juice to make them very orange or only one to give a slight hint. Its your call :)

Once your happy, dish out into your preferred container and bake till lovely and golden.

For the icing, You cant beat a bit of Chocolate Fudge now can you? Its rich, creamy and delicious. Its best to make this while the cakes are cooling as it does take a little while for the icing to thicken (does this as it cools)

You'll need
  • 110g butter
  • 90g of chocolate (i used Dark with Orange pieces 'infused')
  • 425g icing sugar
  • 175ml milk.
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (optional if using flavoured chocolate)

Place the chocolate and the butter in a glass bowl and place over a pot of boiling water. Stir till its all melted. *In theory you could melt the two in the microwave together but I've never tried that when making icing so I cant say how long it would take. 10 second blasts would be my best bet.

In a large bowl, mix the icing sugar, Vanilla (if using) and 120ml of the milk then gradually add in the chocolate butter mix. Add in the rest of the milk bit by bit until you get it to the thickness you want. I recommend having it thick enough to hold over your head without pouring out if your wanting to pipe the icing. Other wise its gonna be too runny. I always have a little milk left but the amount changes depending on the cake I'm making. I like it thick for cupcakes and a bit thinner consistency to go in a large cake.

Once the cakes and icing has cooled, decorate the cakes as you like :)

Our cakes lasted about a day (keep in mind there was 12!). Nothing I ever bake lasts long in my house cause these two run on a "you snooze you lose" principle but hey, that can only be taken as a complement :)

More than "JUST" a Mama

Ok, so I wrote this out last night at 3am
Am not sure what to write on this personal statement.
Its kinda like having to write up an academic ebay listing
"For sale, one creative mummy with good cooking skills, a creative flair and a determined mind"
"Still for sale, one tired ass mummy who is fed up feeling like she's not using her potential and wants to make a good life for her and her boys"
Im not entirely sure what marketable skills I have.
I've been a mama longer than ive done anything else but im not sure thats gonna make me worth having in a hairdressing course.
Pretty sure a personal statement that includes
"I can change a nappy in under a minute, a pro at hiding veggies in 'junk food', can distract a toddler long enough to defuse minor tantrums (dont ask me to help with the hardcore tantrums!) And I can entertain and feed a small family on a minimal budget" isn't gonna land me the gig.
Im feeling the pressure a little cause I don't want to mess this up. I want to make things better for us
At 1pm, after a couple of hours sleep and 4 jumbo mugs of coffee, ive realised that perhaps im good at more than I realised but im not saying it right.
For "change a nappy in under a minute" - read "have good time management skills".
For "a pro at hiding veggies in 'junk food' " - read "I am creative".
For "can distract a toddler long enough to defuse minor tantrums" - read "quick thinking and able to solve problems".
Ive been a single parent, able to work and run a home at the same time which shows time management skills, patience, a hell of a determination and ability to work hard.
Ive come to realise that it doesn't matter if u feel ur better at being a mama over anything else cause being a mama is no small feat. I have brought a little person into the world and raised him to be the happy, healthy, very inteligent kid that he is while still showing him that you have to not only love others but love yourself and be the best you can. I tell him all the time that its only failing if you dont try. Time to put that into practice!
Im not "just" a mama* ... Im a Crafty Mama :)
Dont sell yourself short ladies cause your better than you think! Its all about wording :)

*perhaps its not such a great blog name after all lol ;)

Photo Challenge Madness

It was a few months ago that i was introduced to Instagram by my bestie K. She was always liking these pictures that would show up on her facebook page. I asked her one day ... "what is this Instagram that keeps popping up?" "oh you have to join Instagram" she said. "Its great!" ... And she didn't lie!

So i joined and started taking a few pics but it took me a little while to get into the habit of taking photos all the time. Mostly i enjoyed looking at all the beautiful snaps and seeing what people were doing with their planners/Filofaxes. If i found someone i liked, i followed. simple. 

One day i noticed a few people i was following posting #photochallenge on some pictures. So i clicked and as introduced to the wonderful world of monthly photo challenges.

I found one i liked the look of and at the beginning of that month i started snapping away. Now I'm taking photos of everything. getting some lovely snaps of daily life, some nice glimpses of nature, some fun visual reminders of days out or fun activities we done.

To remind myself of the theme of the day, i have notes in my Filofax and i have the screen shot saved in my phone. Agent D has been known to remind me to snap and post. Usually to be told "No worries babe, i got it covered" :)

Since then however, there are more and more photo challenges produced. some of them with different themes i.e food or planners. some have just a random selection of prompts for each day and some have a prompt for the whole week.

Because i enjoy the photo challenge so much I've decided to do not only another one ... but another 2! I know, i know ... that's alot of pics but if u seen me on a daily basis, you'd know these days, I've always go my phone in my hand ready to take a pic at a moments notice. I reckon i can cope :)

So here's my June Photo Challenges ...

Lets get to know a bit about them shall we?

First up is one of the new challenges I'm taking part in. Its by the lovey Erin who can be found on IG as @hobbylane. Below is the June list or you can search #hobbylanePOTD

This challenge is themed to planners/journals/stationary etc. Its my first time doing a specific theme challenge but I'm always working on my Filofax so its about time i joined in and gave my A5 'Crimson King' some IG love (Yes i have given my filo a name. I had to. Hes like my assistant and his little brother had a name. He was my personal 'Purple Prince' lol).


Next up is another new one for me. One I'm kinda intrigued about. Its by @SunnyMatilda who has her very own blog and can be found on twitter and Facebook too.

This is her first time switching to a weekly challenge giving you more freedom to post when you get a chance and not feel like you've fallen behind. Her list is below or you can search #sunnypicchallenge on Instagram.

I love this challenge because it gives me the chance to concentrate on one theme that i could do for an end of week collage or throughout the week as i find something i like. Its flexible and i love it!

For more info and other pretty things have a look at her blog.


Last but certainly not least is the @FatMumSlim challenge by Chantelle . *I really hope she doesn't mind me talking about her. I like to get permission first but she didn't reply to my tweet.

This was the first challenge i ever took part in and it seems to be the one that crops up on my news feed the most. She too has a blog and is on many social media places. Her June list is below or by searching #fmsphotoaday on Instagram. 

There is more info on her blog about the photo challenge (inc "the Fab Four")  as well as some lovely posts and recipes.

So that's my fave three and my Instagram shall be filling up slowly but surly with some photos from the life of Crafty Mama :)