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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Helping Freddy to catch up at school with Lexia

Freddy has recently helped review a series of reading and writing workbooks from Lexia.  I try and do some home learning with Freddy on a regular basis, because he is still struggling a little with learning to read and write.  His first year at school was hindered greatly because of a misdiagnosed eye problem resulting in him being unnecessarily patched.  Poor boy couldn't see a thing for three hours a day, and then had strained eyes all afternoon.  It didn't help him take in the visual cues needed when embarking on learning to read and write. He is now in year one and the penny is starting to drop, but he is still playing catch up.  Aside from being behind when it comes to reading and writing, Freddy is a bright spark.  He can tell you how an aeroplane flies, he can explain why tunnels are round and he can discuss the effect of gravity!  So I have no worries about him academically as a whole.  He is just playing catch up in reading and needs a little help to get there.

As well as making workbooks, Lexia has an online home reading course, which Freddy has been given three months access to.  The programme has two elements, the Lexia Reading software itself plus an ongoing pro-active support and advice service.  Progress reports are given to keep parents updated as to their child's usage and progress.  The course is suitable for pre-schoolers through to teens, with each child assessed before being given an individual personalised program to follow.

The Lexia Reading software is a phonics based program taking the form of interactive games with fun animations.  It covers a range of reading skills including phonological awareness, phonics, sight word recognition, sound-symbol correspondence, word-attack skills and comprehension.

Freddy was really eager to get going with his Lexia home reading course, which in itself is a really positive thing.  He loves using the computer, and he finds it much more appealing than using a pencil and paper!  Getting him to sit and write can sometimes prove a bit of a battle, whereas using the computer is seen as a fun activity.

I was impressed at how user friendly the program was and Freddy was able to complete his assessment completely independently before being placed at the appropriate level for his ability.  The animations and the theme of the program are very appealing, but this does not distract from the actual content, which I found to be excellent.

home education, reading, phonics


We have tried other online reading programs before, but I have always been frustrated by the fact that if a child got something wrong they would not be told why.  A wrong answer would just mean losing a point and the game would move on without the child really understanding why.  Lexia's home reading course has an excellent function which, if a child makes a mistake, goes on to offer further help.  It lets children look at things another way, simplifying the task until the knowledge is consolidated.  Freddy struggles with sight word recognition of high frequency words, and this function really helped him to recognise the words - their shape and their letter formation.  He was able to continue the task and he really understood what he was learning. I was very impressed by his determination to get it right and the program's ability to recognise that he needed extra help before moving on.  I also really like that children can see their progress and know how far through the level they have gone.

We are only one week into the Lexia home reading course and already I can see Freddy's confidence increase and his enthusiasm for the course is still strong.  Just 20 minutes three times a week can help a child's progress, and I am hoping that by the end of the three month programme, Freddy will have a skill base that will put him on a par with his peers.

I will continue to update my blog regarding Freddy's progress.

If you want to check out the Lexia products you can visit the website at everybodylearns.co.uk.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Save money on baby essentials at Aldi's Baby and Toddler Event

Aldi


Having a baby or a toddler does not come cheap!  The seemingly never ending need for baby wipes, nappies and other baby related paraphernalia can really add up, but thanks to Aldi's Baby and Toddler event, parents can save  money on a whole host of essentials.

On January 29th, Aldi stores will be selling a great range of baby and toddler items, all at low prices. 

Mamia is Aldi's award winning baby range that is available in store everyday.  Their nappies and wipes are much cheaper than the big brands on the market, but perform every bit as well.  Mamia also sell a range of 100% organic baby food at great prices.  Saving money on baby essentials does not mean having to compromise on quality when you choose Mamia. 

Mamia, babycare


During the Baby Event there are some specialbuys on a range of baby essentials and equipment in store.  You can pick up a twelve pack of sensitive baby wipes, each containing 64 wipes for the special price of £5.99 making them less than 50p a pack!  And remember, Mamia wipes have won awards for their quality, so this is a great buy that will keep baby clean for weeks.  I still use baby wipes for when we are on the go, for mopping up messy hands and faces, for make-up removal and even for cleaning my leather sofa!

Other bargains include bath toys, baby bottles, cups, socks, tights, blankets, towels, clothing, bibs, dummies and toiletries (including top branded products such as Sudocrem 125g pot for £2 and Calpol 100ml bottle for £1.99). Many everyday essentials are available at low prices.

Other specialbuys include:

Hauck buggy for £22.99
Lindam stairgates for £14.99
Mamia Comfort Baby Monitor for £19.99
Avent Electric Steam Steriliser for £19.99
Mini baby food blender for £8.99

There are also some absolutely gorgeous Very Hungry Caterpillar gift sets available for just £14.99, each set containing different products such as a money box, photo frame or tableware. They would make great gifts for new babies, christenings or birthdays.

Specialbuys are available from January 29th while stocks last.




Novelty Valentine's Day Gifts from Toxic Fox

Valentine's Day is the one day of the year where everyone has the excuse to unleash their inner romantic.  Immersing yourself into the saccharine sweetness and sentimentality of the day is wonderful if you are happily in love, but what if you're not?  Maybe a dozen red roses or a heart shaped box of chocolates isn't an appropriate gift for your other half.  Perhaps you are more interested in something more risque or would prefer to buy a novelty gift, and have a bit of fun with your Valentine's gifting this year.

Toxic Fox has a selection of crazy and unusual gift ideas that may just fit the bill when it comes to buying a gift for your significant other or for yourself this Valentine's Day.  Some of it may not be to everyone's taste but if you are looking for something that is a bit off the wall then you might find the perfect prank or novelty.  They sent me a couple of their quirkier, alternative Valentine's gifts to test out.

Personal Revenge Voodoo Doll 

For the jilted on Valentine's Day - "Don't get mad - get even!"  Featuring nine uncomfortable revenges ranging from constipation to halitosis, this voodoo doll comes with ten pins and can have a photograph attached to its face to personalise the experience.  Personally, I'm not one to mess with the occult, black magic or voodoo (I've watched too many horror films where dabbling in the unknown has opened up a very evil can of worms), but my daughter thought this little doll was 'cool'. I guess it could be a good device for getting rid of your own negative energy after being cheated on by a bad boyfriend - and is definitely better than causing criminal damage to his property or inflicting GBH on him in person.  

At £4.99 it is a well priced unique, novelty gift with a difference.

Toxic Fox


Stress Balls

If your other half is driving you nuts, these stress balls may well provide you with the relief you need. You can crush them, prod them, squeeze them and poke them to offload your tension and send a clear message to the man in your life.  You get all the satisfaction of having him by the balls, without actually damaging his family jewels!

Toxic Fox


These stress balls are strangely comforting to cup and squeeze!  Inside is a gel liquid with two rubber balls suspended within it. You can squidge them, twist them and generally take out all your frustration on them!

Toxic Fox


Freddy found the Stress Balls and with all the innocence of a child gave them a squeeze or two before announcing that he wanted to take them in for Show and Tell this week.  Not sure how his teacher would react to that!  Needless to say, I steered him in another direction.

I took a sadistic pleasure watching Ian squirm every time he saw the Stress Balls being squeezed to near bursting point!  He now knows that it is in his best interests to never get on the wrong side of me.

Toxic Fox, stress balls


The Stress Balls are £4.99 and are a fun novelty gift idea!

Find these and other novelty gift ideas at the Toxic Fox website.  They also have a great range of personalised gifts and romantic gifts if you want something a bit more cutesy or sentimental for your Valentine.

Toxic Fox are offering readers a code to get 10% off any Valentine's gifts (except those that are included in the 3 for 2 promotion).  Just use the voucher code TFLove to receive the discount (valid until 15th Feb 2015).

Monday, 26 January 2015

A Burn's Night Veggie Haggis Wellington

Every Burn's Night we embrace the tradition of enjoying a haggis, tatties and neeps together (it must be the McDonald blood that courses through my family's veins!)  Being vegetarian is not an issue because I have a fabulous recipe for vegetarian Haggis packed with veggies, lentils, beans, nuts, spices and oatmeal, that is absolutely delicious.  Not a scrap of offal or a sheep's stomach in sight!

This year I decided to try something a little bit different and encase the haggis mixture inside puff pastry.  I topped the haggis with some grated Wensleydale cheese to keep it moist and cooked it at GM6 for 25 minutes.  It made a delicious change served with creamed potato, mashed swede and vegetables. It was also fabulous served cold.

Burn's Night


I still remember being in grammar school and having to learn the Robert Burn's poem "My luve is like a red, red rose".  I can still recite it to this day and my rendition of it is my Burn's Night party piece, much to my kids' amusement (especially when I recite it with an attempted Scottish lilt!)

I really enjoy celebrating special days throughout the year and serving up themed meals for my family's dinner.   It makes me more mindful of the passing days and punctuates the year with plenty of memorable family occasions.  It's all done light heartedly with plenty of laughter and fun, but it still lets the kids learn about special events, other cultures and different cuisines.

I'm looking forward to sharing plenty more recipes and family occasions right here on my blog throughout 2015.



Vanish Gold for Whites - three shades whiter whites

Crisp, dazzlingly white washing hanging on the line, blowing gently in the breeze is an evocative image of laundry perfection.  Unfortunately, the reality is often very different. Greying, dingy whites, often peppered with stand out food stains are more likely to be found in my laundry pile.  Kezia's white shirts started off so crisp and white, but over time the brilliant whiteness has given way to dull discolouration.  It's the same for white school socks and Freddy's vests.

Thankfully, I have joined the Vanish Blogger's Club in celebration of the launch of their latest innovation - Vanish Gold for Whites.  It can help get dingy whites up to three shades whiter and can remove stains in just 30 seconds.  No longer the bane of the laundry pile, my whites will soon be dazzling again!

Over the next couple of months, I'll be celebrating my whites and finding out how the Vanish Gold for Whites can reverse the process of greying.  I'll also be discovering how it can help keep whites looking as good as new for longer in the Bed Linen Challenge.  I'm very excited to test this product and hopefully it will revolutionise my washing experience and help keep my family looking smarter in their whites!

I'll be blogging all about it, here Inside the Wendy House!

Let's hope I get Kezia's white school shirts as sparkling as her smiles!

whites, shirts, school girl


Friday, 23 January 2015

Using Frozen Food - Convenient, versatile, healthy and cost effective #coolcookery

When it comes to convenience in the kitchen, frozen food is one of my favourite go to ingredients.  It comes ready to use straight from the freezer and you can use as much or as little as you need.  The variety of frozen food available goes way beyond ready meals, pizzas and frozen chips, you can also buy a huge amount of vegetables, herbs, fruits and Quorn products (plus of course meat and fish) to use in recipes to feed the family, and the freezing process retains more nutrition in fruit and veg than when bought fresh.

frozen, Iceland
Frozen food - versatile, convenient and cost effective


Using frozen fruits and vegetables takes away a lot of the hard work with produce peeled and chopped and ready to use straight from the bag.  Peppers, mushrooms, spinach and onions are so easy to incorporate into meals.  Just use what you need and save the rest for another day meaning there is no waste. This makes it really cost effective and research shows that families could save up to £250 a year by making the switch to frozen!

onions
No More Chopping or Peeling!!


Frozen mashed potato is so convenient.  Frozen into small chunks, you microwave the amount needed...no peeling, boiling or mashing required.  As it only contains potato, butter and milk, it is exactly like the mash you'd make from scratch.  Frozen mixed vegetables provide a selection of different veg to add colour, bulk and nutrients to favourite family meals.  Frozen chopped onion is brilliant to use, as no peeling or chopping means no tears!

frozen food


The British Frozen Food Federation and Britmums have challenged me to come up with a Cool Cookery recipe for a family meal made using frozen foods.  I made a Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie using frozen sliced mushrooms, chopped onions, mixed vegetables, chopped garlic, mashed potato and Quorn Mince.  Using frozen food cuts down the preparation time, creates no waste and makes it quick and easy to make a nutritious and delicious family meal.  Great for when you are in a hurry.

frozen food, quorn


Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup of frozen chopped onions
1 cup of frozen sliced mushrooms
1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables
1 teaspoon frozen chopped garlic
1 bag of Quorn Mince
1 teaspoon Marmite
1 teaspoon chopped Basil
ground black pepper
1 vegetable stock pot
150 ml boiling water
1 bag of frozen mashed potato
grated cheese (optional)

Method

Gently fry the onions and garlic, add the mushrooms until softened.
Add the Quorn mince and continue to cook until it is cooked through.
Add the frozen vegetables, the stock pot, seasoning and boiling water.
Simmer for about 10 - 12 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated.
Meanwhile, cook the mash according to instructions.
Put the cooked Quorn base into an ovenproof dish and top with mash.
Grate over some cheese for a tasty topping.
Cook at GM6 for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Serve with frozen green beans, cooked according to the pack instructions.

frozen food, vegetarian, Quorn


Another meal I made using the frozen produce was a One Pot Mexican Dish incorporating frozen Quorn fillets, chopped onion, sliced mushroom, garlic, chilli, sweetcorn and mixed peppers.  As all the preparation was already done I just had to throw in a can of Pinto beans and a pack of Mexican rice (cooked according to instructions) and we had a super quick and easy meal, that can be eaten as is or served in a wrap with grated cheese.

frozen food


I am definitely an advocate for the use of frozen food as you can tell from my freezer (pictured below).  Frozen vegetables are often more nutritious, come ready prepared, are very convenient, last for ages in the freezer (which can result in a lot less waste than when using fresh produce) and are extremely versatile. It is a great idea to keep your freezer stocked up ready to make quick and easy family dinners. With big bags of vegetables costing just 89p in Iceland, they are a really cost effective way to get your family their five a day.  You can easily throw a handful of frozen vegetables into curries, stews, bolognese sauce or pasta dishes.  With a well stocked freezer, quality ingredients are always at hand and ready to use!

freezer, frozen
A well stocked Freezer!


I’m working with BritMums and Coolcookery.co.uk highlighting the versatility, economy and nutritional benefits of cooking with frozen food. All opinions are my own. For recipes and ideas visit http://bit.ly/coolcookery 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Smoky Chipotle Scrambled Egg Recipe

I love scrambled eggs, they make such a quick, easy and nutritious meal.  Using the Happy Egg Co free range eggs, I know that the birds are well looked after and are happy hens, which is very important to me as a consumer.
  
free range eggs


The happy Egg Co have challenged me to come up with a twist on ordinary scrambled eggs, using a vegetable, a herb or spice and a surprise ingredient.  So I have come up with a scrambled eggs recipe with a Mexican flavour:  Smoky Chipotle Srambled Egg using pinto beans as my surprise ingredient.


eggs, Mexican food


Ingredients

knob of butter 
half a chopped onion
3 mushrooms chopped
1 heaped tablespoon sweetcorn
1 heaped tablespoon tinned Pinto beans
2 eggs
ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 teaspoon garlic granules
splash of smoky chipotle chilli sauce 


egg recipe

Method

Put a tablespoon of butter in a pan.
Fry the onions until softened, add the mushrooms and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes.
Add the beans, sweetcorn and seasoning.
Beat the eggs in a bowl.
Add to the pan and mix until cooked.

free range eggs, egg recipe


You can enjoy it as it is or for a heartier meal you can serve the Smoky Chipotle Scrambled Egg in a warm wrap with a blob of salsa and some grated cheese.  It is delicious, hearty and nutritious!

quick meals, egg recipe

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