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Mother Distracted

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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

How To Make The Most Of A Rainy Summer's Day With Kids

The British Summer can be wonderfully unpredictable. Whenever you decide to have a family outing in the sunshine, it rains! Every parent knows the value of a backup plan. So that’s what we’ve compiled for you here; fun suggestions for not letting rainy days dampen the family fun.

Dig Out the Board Games

Every family has a hoard of games. They’ve probably been neglected in favour of smartphone apps, but now is the perfect opportunity to dust off the old-school games! Nothing quite brings a family together like a game of Monopoly or Connect 4. A games board championship provides a new twist and can easily occupy the family all afternoon.

Kid friendly Bake-off 

There are lots of cake recipes which do not require kids having to use a hot oven. Rocky road, for example, is delicious yet very easy to make. Bring out your best Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood impressions for the taste test. The losing side has to wash up! Adult supervision will be required for cutting and heating ingredients. Or you could get involved too; boys vs. girls is always an interesting competition.

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Get crafting!

Arts and crafts are the most popular choice for beating boredom on a rainy day. You don’t need a particularly extensive craft box. Just a few essentials that can be re-used for lots of projects. If you do want to update your supplies, Glue Guns Direct is a great place to start for no-sew crafts. Other than that crepe paper, paints and crayons are some crafting staples. Browse the internet for projects that the whole family can do together- it’s not just for kids!

Family Scrapbooking

There’s never usually time to organize family photos. Have a good sort through all of your albums and loose photos. Have everyone pick out their favourite snapshots to be featured in the scrapbook. All you need is a plain notebook, scissors, glue and pens. Get everyone involved in the decorative process. The kids can draw illustrations while the parents add written quotes.

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Make a pillow fort

Watching a movie on the sofa is so overrated! Set up a pillow cave for a cosy home cinema experience. If the rain is particularly persistent, get kids to organize a mini-film festival. Handmade posters and popcorn are essential! You could even encourage children to write a film review after viewing. This will ensure their handwriting and literacy skills are being practiced during the holidays.

Get a head start on gifts 

Got a birthday or special occasion coming up? Check out these low-cost gift ideas. Even if you don’t make anything, planning the family schedule will keep everyone organized for the next few weeks. Pull down the calendar and write down everything you need to do before the kids go back to school. Remember to make time for more family fun too.

Have a jam session

Most homes will have a musical instrument laying around. If not, make your own! Pots and pans can be used as percussion. Rice in a cardboard tube can become an impromptu rain stick. Singing requires no accessories. You could even have a free karaoke session and use instrumental clips of popular songs from YouTube.
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Monday, 25 July 2016

Family Friendly Fun In Amsterdam

There's no denying that Amsterdam is a beautiful city.  It is one of the largest historical city centres in Europe and has over 50 museums.  You may know Amsterdam best for its vibrant nightlife but there is plenty to do on your family holiday.

Here are just a few of the things on our family bucket list.

Museums

Popular with kids is the Tropenmuseum (the Tropical Museum) where the displays (art, photographs, music and film) depict the lives of cultures outside of the West, focusing on the tropics and subtropics.

The Nemo Science Museum
Or there is Amsterdam's science museum, Nemo which is best suited for children over 6 and features interactive science exhibits, experiments & shows in a huge, waterfront, boat-like museum.

Amsterdam is a great destination to introduce your children to culture, both artistic and literary.  You could visit the Van Gogh museum which displays over 200 of his works, including landscapes, still lifes and drawings and letters. These are displayed alongside works from Van Gogh's contemporaries so that visitors get real insights into his life and work.

Vincent Van Gogh - A Self Portrait
And of course perhaps the most famous museum is the Anne Frank House. Perhaps more suited to older children, nevertheless, the story told by Jewish wartime diarist Anne in her diary is one of the most terrible and moving in the 20th century and to see the home in which she was imprisoned brings to life the ordeal she and her family endured.

Anne Frank House
Canals & Boats

Experiencing Amsterdam by boat will give you a different perspective on the city. There are loads of different types of boat tours - there's an Amsterdam Pizza Tour or an Amsterdam Burger Tour or you could take an evening canal cruise.  There's even a children's party cruise on the 'Pancake Boat' where the kids make and decorate their own pancakes.



Bicycles

There are more bikes in Amsterdam than there are people - over 800,000 bicycles! Cycling is a way of life in Amsterdam and the city has a great network of bike paths and cycle routes. Cycling is also a great way to explore the city.

Image credit:  Anna & Michal
You can hire bikes called 'bakfiets’ (cargo bike) which have a wooden compartment in which your kids can sit.

What a cute way of sightseeing!
Foodie Treats

There is a vast choice of restaurants featuring international cuisine and street markets a plenty where you can sample local fare such as Stroopwafels or Poffertjes.

Stroopwafels are chewy syrup waffles first made in the town of Gouda in the Netherlands during the 18th century. They are made from two thin layers of batter with a sticky syrup filling in the middle. In Amsterdam you can find freshly made stroopwafels at Amsterdam street markets like Albert Cuypmarkt and Noordermarkt. Stroopwafels are a great accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea and come in various sizes. The most popular size fits perfectly as a lid on your coffee which softens the cookie and melts the syrup. Yum!

Poffertjes are small, fluffy pancakes made with yeast and buckwheat flour found at outdoor markets and on many street corners in winter. They are typically served topped with powdered sugar and butter. Usually served on a little paper plate with a tiny fork for smearing the butter, they can be really messy to eat if it's windy as the powder sugar will cover your face and clothing!

Image Credit:  Nenyaki
Flowers

We all know about tulips from Amsterdam but it's great to see the street markets awash with a riot of colour. Why not visit the floating flower market or Bloemenmarkt. All the stalls are located on floating barges along the canal, which is how the flowers used to travel from the fields to the city.

Fresh flowers are still brought in daily, but these days come by lorry! You are sure to find your favourite flower here, from the traditional Dutch tulip to the more exotic varieties.  In December you'll also find Christmas trees.

It is also very easy to reach Amsterdam with more than 300 direct flights to Schipol Airport which is 20 minutes from the city centre by train.

As you might expect for a major tourist destination, there is a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets but be sure to do your research to check what is included in the cost of your stay. For example, with some of the family friendly hotels, bike hire is included in the price.

Have you taken your family to Amsterdam?  What sights would you recommend?  What is your favourite family friendly hotel?
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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Reinventing Family Favourites With Branston Pickles & Sauces

Most of us know the name Branston and the saying "Bring Out The Branston".  The original Branston Pickle was always on our table to liven up ploughman's lunches and sandwiches.  My dad was a particular fan and in fact, his pet name for me was Pickle - which may, or may not be linked.


Branston Pickle was first made by Crosse & Blackwell in 1922 and is named after the small village near Burton in Staffordshire. Over 17 million jars of pickle are sold every year and the range now includes relishes and table sauces.

But did you know that you can use Branston products to liven up a whole range of dishes, including family favourites such as lasagne or beef stew with dumplings?

There is a great selection of Branston products to choose from such as the new Branston Sweet Chilli Pickle, Spicy Tomato Relish, Caramelised Onion Chutney, Orchard Fruit Chutney and Tomato & Red Pepper Relish.

You can use these to jazz up your leftovers - for example, you could use up leftover cheese in a Cheese, Spinach & Caramelised Onion Chutney Quiche or how about some Mediterranean Bubble & Squeak Cakes - a great way to use up leftover potato and veg.

Branston's website has a comprehensive range of recipes to try, including five created by Andy Bates, the star of Food Network’s Street Feasts which are tasty takes on the hot sandwich. Andy, who is known for his modern twists on classic dishes, fuelled by his international travels and passion for street food, has created a recipe to complement each flavour in the Branston Relish range.

How about Cider & Fennel Braised Pulled Pork, Mango Salsa Roll with Branston Sweet & Spicy Brazilian Relish or Mushroom & Grilled Cheese ‘Burger’ Muffin With Branston Caramelised Red Onion Relish?

It's a very long way from the humble Ploughman's!

If you would like to try Branston's recipes for yourself, you'll find them at www.bringoutthebranston.co.uk.

We tried Sticky Pork Chops but substituted the Branston Orchard Chutney for the Branston Sweet Chilli Chutney.

Simply make a marinade with 4 generous tablespoons of Branston.


Coat the chops with the marinade and chill for 30 minutes.


The Marinade at work
Then whack in the oven for half an hour while you prepare some rice with the broccoli and courgette.


The tomatoes are added to the chops about 10 minutes before serving.

The result was pork chops with quite a kick and the added veg are great for the kids.


You're sure to find a way to add some extra taste to your meals with the Branston range.
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