Dad’s Musings Before The Big Ski Trip

Here’s what I thought before we took a ski trip with a difference. We’re back now, but I’m not letting on how it went just yet. I want you to read this first!!
It’s almost half term, the big trip to the USA beckons, and still not a bag packed. One of these years we’ll be organised, everything will be ready a week or two in advance and all we’ll have to worry about before the big push is how early in the day is too early for an alcoholic imbibement to get into the holiday spirit!

Bags packed and ready to go on a special ski trip!
Bags packed and ready to go!

This year we’re taking a break from the Alps and heading for New England and some Dad and lads skiing Stateside, as well as some well-earned r&r for Mum as she recovers from some serious back trouble. We’re not quite sure how this is going to pan out to be completely honest.

We’ve been utterly spoilt for the past few seasons, having holidayed with specialist family companies. They really are superb at what they do, for instance we holidayed with Esprit last year in Austria, and they made the whole week an absolute pleasure. The boys were looked after from just after breakfast, right through ’til late, and had great fun with various activities and clubs based around their ski lessons. The biggest lesson being, if they’re having fun, you’ll have fun too.

Toby’s ski lessons finished for the day

This year is different. There are no kids clubs planned, the boys will be with one or both of us 24/7. I think it will be OK as they’re older now and much more accomplished and ‘into’ their skiing. We’ll see. The biggest worry that I have is the journey. The boys do have a tendency (like most boys of a certain age) to be silly when in each other’s company, so how to keep them occupied? These days it is electronic gadgetry that we rely on, but it’s good for the brain (and the eyes) to have some additional armaments, including a good book, actual games (rather than virtual ones), and something artistic to keep them occupied.

Giving them an item that they’re personally responsible for is a good idea too. For instance, there’s no way Mum will be able to transport anything apart from herself (and even that is a worry!). So I’m planning on them each being responsible for a luggage item. Carrying some documents is another, although I will make sure we have duplicates, just in case…

The kids will have some responsibility for their luggage
The kids will have some responsibility for their luggage

So, with some apprehension, I’m looking forward to this year’s ski trip. It will be different, but it will be great to ski for the first time with the boys. We’ll keep you posted. I’m pretty sure though that we’ll be back with a specialist family company next season!
Now, back to packing for this ski trip.

Packing for the ski trip
Packing for the ski trip

Goodness me, those salopettes have really shrunk quite badly since last year…

Would you like to save this for later?

We're planning and packing for our big ski trip to the USA. Read about it here.
Planning our ski trip


Snapped Up Linky February/March

Welcome to the new Snapped Up linky!

Snapped Up Linky for shopping hauls
Snapped Up Linky

If you love shopping – and snapping up bargains (and you’ve blogged or vlogged about your latest buy) the #SnappedUp Linky is for you!

Home and Horizon has teamed up with us here at Family Makes to bring a fantastic new monthly linky which celebrates all your best shopping buys; from thrifty finds through to one-off pieces and unique gems.

In her new role as Shopping Hauls Round-up Editor for BritMums, Lauretta will be picking a selection of the best ones to feature on the BritMums site, promoting your blog posts to thousands of readers!

You can link up a blog post or a vlog (or both) with a maximum of two links.

But wait, there’s more….every month we’ll be picking a random winner to win a fantastic prize!

This month we’re giving away a ticket to the 2017 Traverse Conference in London worth £89!!

The conference takes place from 24th-30th April and offers a week of events, culminating in a weekend conference.

Follow the 3 simple rules below for your chance to be featured on BritMums AND win a ticket to Traverse!

**** Please note that linky entries will only be considered as eligible competition entries if all three rules of the linky have been met. ****

(YouTubers can post a link to the linky on social media or mention in their video description)

The Rules

  1. Comment on the hosts’ posts. (If there)

  2. Comment on the post before yours PLUS at least one other (it would be great to comment on all if you can – sharing is caring!)

  3. Grab the badge below and paste it at the bottom of your blog post

You can also tweet @FamilyMakes and @LaurettaCWright with the link to your post and the hashtag #snappedup and one (or both) of us will retweet it and leave a comment on your blog/vlog.

Feel free to follow our social media accounts plus as many of our great linkers as you can, to show them your support and help to grow the #SnappedUp community!

Thanks for taking part – and remember to pop back soon to see more great buys and leave your comments and support.


Family Makes Snapped Up Linky

This linky has now closed, see the current linky in the series here

New Hampshire in the Sunshine- My Sunday Photo

We’ve just spent the most amazing week in New England. We love this part of the world, we were even married here.

The main reason for the trip was to ski, but we’ve done some sight seeing too. There have been some snowy days, but isn’t it lovely when the sky turns bright blue in contrast to the crisp white snow?

Old railway bridge over Connecticut River
Old railway bridge over Connecticut River
 Covered Bridge between Vermont and New Hampshire over the frozen Connecticut River
Covered Bridge between Vermont and New Hampshire over the frozen Connecticut River


Why I Don’t Like Valentine’s Day (it’s not what you think!)

No, I don’t really like Valentine’s Day. I’ve waited until today to share this revelation however, as I didn’t ‘t want to spoil it for all you lovers out there! There is some romance in this old soul!

Nope, the reason is not because I’m single or feeling unloved. It isn’t because I hate slushy sentimentality. I’m a sucker for it actually, a real girly hearts and flowers kind of girl. It isn’t even that I resent the commercialism (although I do, a bit!).

I hear all the arguments about not needing a particular day to show your love for your partner, and I get that too, but there again I don’t have a problem with special days for any reason. Why not get swept along with the idea? It’s fun, it’s sweet, and card companies need something to keep them going between Christmas and Mother’s Day.

No, my problem with Valentine’s Day is a little more personal – I just find it really hard to get Valentine’s day right!

I failed again this year. I knew I would. Every year we agree not to bother, or to get ‘just a card’, or ‘just a little something ‘, but whatever I do it’s never quite right. This year we were away skiing, so I got him some lovely merino wool base layers, plus ski socks and a neck warmer from the kids. Not romantic, but thoughtful and practical.

What did he get for me? A pretty little eternity ring, a diamond crossover, presented from the kids. Toby even went down on one knee to give me it! They said it symbolises my two boys, and that they will always be mine, for eternity. I cried. Of course!

My husband is so good at this stuff. Although to be fair he always breaks the rules! Whenever we agree to not bother, he always does. Or he’ll tell me not to worry or do anything fancy, when he’s been planning something for weeks. I know this already, but I’m still always unprepared. I should know better. I DO know better! But I still find it really hard.

The truth is I love my man so much that I just can’t find the right gift to show it. Or maybe I could, but I certainly couldn’t afford it! Plus, he’s not really the sentimental kind (unlike me!), so a lot of things would just get me laughed out of the room, if I was dumb enough to buy them in the first place. Men are so hard to buy for at the best of times, but when you’re trying to reflect your complete respect and utter adoration for someone, and do it in a non-sentimental and relatively inexpensive way, the task becomes nearly impossible.

So that’s why I don’t like Valentine’s Day. The pressure is too great. Ok, it’s self-imposed pressure, but that’s even worse! I’m doomed to fail, because I love my man more than any pink heart or red flower can convey. Next year I’ll be more organised. I’ll read more gift guides and Pinterest posts. But for this year I still don’t like Valentine’s Day because I failed again!

Six Things To Do With Your Old Books

Is it still the time of year for having a clear out? I’m sure any time is good for a de-clutter, but especially between the new Year and Spring Cleaning time. We’ve had a big sort out of our old books recently, and our children have too. So what to do with all of your old books?

Your old books could be loved by someone else, and make you some money!
Your old books could be loved by someone else, and make you some money!

We have a few ideas to share with you, whether you’re having a massive, ruthless sort out or just letting go of a few books you know that you won’t read again. Let’s get started with the suggestions:

  1. Sell to an online agent. I recently sold some books, plus some CDs, DVDs and Xbox games, via an online company called Ziffit. They are advertising on TV at the moment, but there are other sites which offer a similar service. They don’t accept everything, and some offers are really low (literally pennies), but it’s very convenient to just type in or scan the barcode, print off a postage label, and send the whole lot off to them. I set a price limit below which I decided I’d rather give the item to charity, but I still managed to send off two parcels worth approximately £25 or so. It’s £25 I otherwise wouldn’t have had, so why not?

    Your old books can be put to better use!
    Your old books can be put to better use!
  2. Sell to Amazon. They offer a similar service, but only on text books, not fiction (plus games, phones etc). The offer can be quite high on something sought after, but I didn’t have any luck this time with any of my books.

    Old text books can be useful to others
    Old text books can be useful to others
  3. Sell individually via Amazon, Ebay etc. This is a little more time consuming, and you have to handle all of the postage yourself, but you may get a better price for them at least. Alternatively, you could sell them as a job lot, but bear in mind that postage costs may be quite high. Perhaps you could offer them for collection only, or sell via something like Shpock or Gumtree, which expects people to pick up items from you.
  4. Trade in at your local book store. This may just be my personal favourite since I discovered a store called Barter Books. Followers of our blog or social media will know that we discovered this marvellous book store in Alnwick by accident a few weeks ago. We returned last week to trade some of our own books, and were delighted to receive £55 of Barter credit! OK, so it’s not real money, it is credit to spend in store, but what a wonderful store to spend it in!

    A section of Barter Books, my new favourite place!
    A section of Barter Books, my new favourite place!
  5. Book Crossing. Have you heard of this? I’ve done it a few times over the years with old books, but had forgotten my account details so I set up a new one. It was very easy. Then you register a book and get a unique ID number, which you write onto the book or a printed label with a message encouraging the person who finds the book to go online and register it. The recipient then reads the book and ‘releases’ it back into the wild. Then the original owner can track its journey. This is really good fun if you leave the books in random public places or on holiday for example. Some people also arrange Book Crossing meetings where books can be exchanged.

    Book Crossing
    Courtesy of Bookcrossing, Inc
  6. Donate to charity. This can mean anything from taking your old books to a charity shop, which is what we did, to donating them to a jumble sale.  Many organisations may have a use for them – perhaps a hospital, refuge or school.
    You could donate your old books to a good cause
    You could donate your old books to a good cause

    Did you like these ideas? You can Pin them for later:

    Make your old books work for you! Are you having a clear out, organising or spring clean? Here are some ideas to help put your old books to good use, making you money or helping others.
    Pin these ideas for later – 6 things to do with your old books


You Baby Me Mummy

Books Galore – My Sunday Photo

We’ve been having a massive book clear-out, and have a post coming soon about it!

In the meantime, we’ve shared some images on social media from a fantastic place we discovered a couple of weeks ago, Barter Books in Alnwick. It is inside an old railway station, and has toy trains going around on tracks above the book shelves, plus vintage seating, open fires, and a waiting room with tea and coffee.

We were there again on Friday, and will definitely be regular visitors now! We’ve even traded in some books of our own.

A section of Barter Books, my new favourite place!
A section of Barter Books, my new favourite place!
Hugo by one of the cosy fires, with his new books, at Barter Books in Alnwick
Hugo by one of the cosy fires, with his new books.

Wouldn’t you want to be a regular visitor to a bookshop this great?



Reception At Balmoral – My Sunday Photo

Our Sunday Photo this week is a throwback one – to memories of our wedding reception at Balmoral Castle. If you saw our Burns Night post this week, you would have seen that we held our wedding reception on the 250th Anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth. What a very special day to have a Burns Night supper, and at a very special venue. OK, it was just in the Piper’s Hall, but our guests got a tour of the castle, and we got to take some photos on the lawn too!

Our wedding reception, Burns Night at Balmoral Castle, Scotland
Our wedding reception, Burns Night at Balmoral Castle, Scotland

We had our actual wedding in New England in the Fall. ‘Back home’ we lived close to Balmoral at the time,  so to have a big party for all our friends and family when we returned was just amazing. Hope you enjoy sharing our memories!

A kiss at the castle, Balmoral, Scotland on Burns Night
A kiss at the castle, Balmoral, Scotland on Burns Night


Nethermined – Ticket Giveaway For This North East Event!

Nethermined is back for its 3rd year, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever!

Win tickets to the 3rd Nethermined at NSU Newcastle 11-12th Feb 2017
3rd Nethermined at NSU Newcastle

***Please note – due to unforeseen circumstances, the Sunday event has been cancelled. Nethermined will now be Saturday 11th February only***

Arriving at the NSU Newcastle on 11th & 12th February 2017, Nethermined is an unofficial Minecraft Convention aimed at 5-16 year olds and their families, and indeed anyone interested in Minecraft and gaming.

There will be workshops, game zones, exhibitions and live shows. You will also find an increased number of special Guests around the venue.  Your favourite gamers and YouTubers will gladly stop and say hello! There will be opportunities for pictures and signings throughout the event, as well as taking part in the live shows and interactive sessions.

Nethermined Convention
Nethermined Convention

A large number of Minecraft educators, innovators and mentors are collaborating to provide the best workshop experiences. Local developer Coatsink will also be bringing their newly launched game Shu to the event. There will also be a large LAN area hosted by Club Minecraft, and a Parental Education area.

Nethermined LAN area hosted by Club Minecraft
Nethermined LAN area hosted by Club Minecraft

This year’s guests have been announced. They include Ibxtoycat, PhoenixGG2, Markoodle, SeaPeeKay, PerpetualJordan, Victoriarghhh, WhiteWolfEm, Dragnoz, AdamYT, LolaLove33, TheOrionSound, SirCutieYuki, Cheridet, TheTurkeyDinosaur, Ivexushd, DangThatsALongName, JackSucksAtLife. Visit the Nethermined web page for more details and links to all of their channels, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

We are so delighted that such an amazing and fun event is taking place here in the North East, and even more delighted to be able to give one lucky Family Makes reader a pair of tickets to the event!

Winners can choose a pair of standard entry tickets to either Saturday’s 11th or Sunday’s 12th February 2017 event. All you need to do to enter is complete one or more of the actions in the Rafflecopter widget below. Each action gains you an extra entry to the draw. Draw closes on Thursday 9th February. Tickets will be sent electronically.

***Please note – due to unforeseen circumstances, the Sunday event has been cancelled. Nethermined will now be Saturday 11th February only***

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you are not our lucky winner, you can still buy tickets from the Nethermined website.

Burns Night – How and Why We Celebrate It

A Family Makes Burns Night Supper

January 25th 2017 is the 258th anniversary of The Bard’s birth and the 103rd anniversary of my Dad’s birth. Also the 8th anniversary of our wedding reception at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the land of our children’s birth, and my home for approx. 25 years of my life. Yes, our wedding reception was a Burns Night supper, in the Piper’s Hall at Balmoral Castle, on the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robbie Burns. Very special indeed.

Raising a glass to my Dad on Burns Night
Raising a glass to my Dad on Burns Night
Our wedding reception, Burns Night at Balmoral Castle, Scotland
Our wedding reception, Burns Night at Balmoral Castle, Scotland

Just in case anybody was wondering why an Englishman was interested in celebrating Burns Night!

A kiss at the castle, Balmoral, Scotland on Burns Night
A kiss at the castle, Balmoral, Scotland on Burns Night

So, here we are, exiled 100 miles south of the Border, contemplating our meal on Wednesday night. How do you celebrate Burns night when the attendees total 2 adults and 2 primary school kids? The meal itself is simple enough. There’s tatties (mashed), neeps (champit), and of course, that most revered of Scottish delicacies (not including deep fried mars bars…), the Haggis*. Although the kids haven’t quite developed a taste for haggis yet, so we have sausages on standby for them! So that’s bangers and mash then!

*Rough translations – Tatties = potatoes. Neeps = turnips (or swede). Haggis =  a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach[1] though now often in an artificial casing instead. According to the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique: “Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour“.[2]

*Wikipedia also tells us: the dish came to be considered traditionally Scottish, even the national dish,[6] as a result of Scots poet Robert Burns‘ poem Address to a Haggis of 1787.

Burns Night gone posh - fancy Haggis, neeps & tatties by Paul
Burns Night gone posh – fancy Haggis, neeps & tatties by Paul

Traditionally, the rest of the evening for a Burns supper would consist of whisky, poetry recitals, whisky, songs, whisky, toasts, whisky, funny stories and anecdotes, and more whisky. Followed by even more whisky…

Things are slightly more sober in the Family Makes house. Yes, I dress in full Highland Regalia (and refuse to confirm or deny whether I dress as a true Scot would)! These days we also manage to quell the cries from our children of “It’s a skirt! Daddy’s in a skirt!”. And I also ‘Address the Haggis’ and say the Selkirk Grace before the meal.

Cal also insists on a traditional Scottish dessert, as she is the dessert queen! It’s usually a raspberry cranachan (served in her vintage Mailing bowls!)

A traditional Scottish dessert, raspberry cranachan for Burns Night supper
A traditional Scottish dessert, raspberry cranachan, for Burns Night supper

The music is provided by Eddi Reader. She recorded a fantastic live album based on the works of Robbie Burns. Her rendition of ‘My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose’ was the song that greeted Carol as she walked into our wedding ceremony.  And of course we have a dram or two. Well, it would be rude not to, would it not?

“0, my luve is like a red, red rose,
that’s newly sprung in June.
0, my heart is like a melody,
that’s sweetly played in tune.
As fair thou art, my bonnie lass,
so deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
till all the seas gang dry.”

Wherever you are, Happy Burns Night (Nicht), and I’ll leave Robbie with the final word…

“May Freedom, Harmony, and Love, unite you in the grand Design,
Beneath th’ Omniscient Eye above, the glorious Architect Divine,
That you may keep th’ unerring line, still rising by the plummet’s law,
Till Order bright completely shine, shall be my pray’r when far awa.”

Pin this for later:

Burns Night - see how and why we celebrate it
Pin this for later…

Linking with:


First News Review – Our First Impressions

First News is a weekly newspaper aimed at children in the age range of 7-14 years. We’ve been sent two copies now, and they have gone down very well with my boys, ages 8 & 10.

What they like about it:

The boys felt very excited about something coming through the door which was for them. They also felt very grown up about having a proper newspaper, not just a comic which was full of cartoons.

Hugo looks very grown up reading his 'First News' newspaper
Hugo looks very grown up reading his ‘First News’ newspaper

They really enjoyed the subject matter – everything from World News and Home News to the science, technology, nature and sports. Every topic seemed to interest them. It was all explained in a clear and engaging way.

Toby, my youngest, especially enjoyed the puzzles and other interactive quizzes where he could get a pen out and take part, and Hugo, in particular, was pleased to see Harry Potter featured, as well as ‘coming soon’ type features that he could go to school and tell his friends about. Everyone wants to be the first to hear about things!

Toby enjoyed First News' quizzes and puzzles
Toby enjoyed First News’ quizzes and puzzles

What I liked about it:

They were reading! Yes, without my nagging or cajoling, my ‘typical’ boys who would rather be playing Xbox games or football, or doing anything but homework, were reading! Not only this, but they were happily reading things which were educational, informative and very useful indeed.

World news and features about animals were very popular
World news and features about animals were very popular

It was so good that I allowed them to record it in their school reading record, in place of their usual reading books. This is what they wrote (yes, they were writing as well!)

H: “This is a newspaper to tell me about my near future in 2017, and so far it has told me everything from Sweden to Turkey. It is brilliant as I know what is going on all around me and in other places.”

T: “A new newspaper for kids came a few days ago, with a lot of information in it. So I got straight to reading it!”…and then….

” Issue number 2  turned up at our door today and talked about protecting jaguars and celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. “

I also liked how much discussion and intellectual debate reading First News sparked in our family. We are always happy when topical discussion occurs, and are pleased to answer questions which show that our children are genuinely interested in understanding the world around them.

I’m really pleased that my children are also keen to share First News with their friends. I can definitely see this publication being very useful in schools too, either in the classroom or school libraries.

Lots of interesting facts to share from First News
Lots of interesting facts to share

Special Offer

If you are interested in having First News for your family, we have a promotion code so that you can access an exclusive offer for a subscription.  The price is 5 issues for £1 (on direct debit).  This is a trial offer.  After the 5 issues it continues as a price of £15.99 every 3 months.

Please follow this link to access the deal

Most people choose to continue with the subscription.  However, there is no obligation and the customer can call or email to cancel the subscription at any point and no further money will be taken.  (This is for the print edition of the newspaper only.)

We hope you enjoy your subscription as much as we are enjoying ours. I can see it being a very useful thing to have for a considerable time in our family.

With thanks to First News for giving us a subscription in return for this review. All opinions are entirely honest and our own.

Pin for later:

Pin this First News children's newspaper review and special trial offer of 5 issues for £1 here for later...
Pin this First News review for later…


Hannah Spannah