Monday, 30 September 2013

Shredtober

Before the start of the summer holidays I invested in the Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred DVD and declared that me and my Other Half would get fit over the summer.  I think we did one day of the DVD and then never looked at it again!

Since I found out I was pregnant with Meg I have done very little formal exercise. I know that running after children who are trying to escape down the road and sprinting up the stairs to get a bottle to a screaming baby does count as some level of exercise but essentially I've spent the last 5 years doing not very much at all to keep myself in good nick.  I'm quite a small person and I've watched my weight creep up and my tummy getting rounder for a while now, constantly thinking to myself 'I need to do some exercise' without actually doing any exercise!

Which is why I'm joining in with Shredtober.  Together with a group of wonderful ladies, I am committing to working my way through the DVD this October and to put myself on the road to better fitness levels (as I sit here and eat my chip shop dinner it's easy to say!)

If you want to join us then we have a Facebook group where we can share updates and get support from each other.  Give me a shout if you want to join!!

I have taken 'before' photos but I don't think anyone wants to see them so I will keep them for myself to give me the motivation to keep going.

Hopefully this time next month I will be trimmer and fitter than I am right now!!

What's The Story: 29 Years...

29 years ago yesterday, my mum and dad got married in Huddersfield.  29 years!!  

I can remember laughing at the way my parents looked in their wedding photos when we were younger.  Now though, I look at my mum's dress and think I would probably wear something not too dissimilar if I was getting married again.  Funny how fashions come back around.  Maybe not the hair though...

My dad on the other hand, doesn't look a thing like this and I still can't believe he ever did apart from the fact that I can see my brother in him.

My parents are a great example of what it means to be married.  I think I have only ever heard them argue once in my whole life.  I don't mean that they didn't ever disagree and were an outstanding problem-free couple, but only that as children we were very much protected from anything that was going on around us.  Which I think is as it should be.

They have always been very real and honest and I like to think of them as ying and yang.  However much my mum might grumble about my dad being a numpty I think they complement each other very well!  

I remember watching a video recently of the UK's longest married couple and I like to think that this will be my parents eventually...her constantly interrupting him, him going off on random tangents answering questions that haven't been asked...

Happy anniversary Mum and Dad!!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Let's Go Hunting For Fairies...

Last weekend we decided to embrace all things autumnal and headed out for a walk in some woods local to us.  We'd received a tip-off that there was a very interesting looking labyrinth for children to explore and so we made a beeline for it.  Meg decided that there might even be fairies there, and determined that she was going to hunt some out!

On the way, we passed a huge oak tree with hundreds of green acorns hanging down.  Eli became very excited by this and spent a good 5 minutes hunting out ones on the ground.  I've already shared my favourite photo of him showing one of his collection, but it was amazing to see the look of wonder on his face as he made the discovery.  We talked about how the acorns will eventually turn brown, and how they are food for squirrels.  The kids called out for the squirrels but (unsurprisingly I'm sure with all the racket they were making!), we didn't see any appear.


We slowly made our way toward the labyrinth, it was a straight path from the car park to the labyrinth but we allowed Meg and Eli to go off the path exploring.  It's much too boring to walk in a straight line the whole time, especially when Alfie can find such great places to run to.  It's only natural that the kids want to follow him.


We eventually reached the labyrinth and Meg and Eli really did have a magical time exploring.  The labyrinth is made of twisted rhododendron bushes and there are hundreds of hidey holes and paths through off the main decked path.  It would be a fantastic place to play a game of hide and seek with slightly older children.  

The whole time we were exploring, Meg and Eli were just squealing and shouting with delight.  They loved disappearing into tiny gaps and climbing over twisted trunks.  It was a brilliant and natural environment for them to play in and they didn't need much encouragement to really go for it which was great to watch.  We just followed along behind them watching them make their own fun.


We found some wooden toadstools in the very centre and we sat and listened to a story called 'Tania's Tales' through an electronic speaker amongst the tangled branches.  We also had time for a little snack and tried out our the Barny samples we had been sent.  Barny is a bear shaped sponge snack and comes in two flavours, chocolate and milk.  Both got the thumbs up from Meg and Eli (and Mummy and Daddy too!)

I didn't manage to get a picture of the kids eating as I was, erm, quite busy enjoying my own Barny treat.  We particularly all enjoyed discovering the hidden filling, it was unexpected and delicious!


Unfortunately we didn't find any fairies, much to Meg's disappointment but we still had a lovely adventure off exploring and discovering.  Daddy saved the day by getting stuck in a magic tree and needing to be rescued by our two intrepid explorers plus one very keen pup!


On the way back to the car whilst we were talking about the different kinds of leaves that were on the ground, a caterpillar happened to float down directly in front of my face so we caught it and Meg and Eli were equally thrilled with this discovery and spent a long time *gently* passing the caterpillar backwards and forwards.  It, in turn, did some very caterpillar like crawling on their hands which they found hilarious and kept up shouting 'it's sticking it's bum in the air!'


Eventually we popped the caterpillar down on a leaf and the kids shouted their goodbyes and good lucks.


So, we didn't find any fairies but we did have a very good woodland adventure exploring the labyrinth and finding the caterpillar.  Which I would say is pretty good!


Disclaimer: This post is an entry for BritMums 'Little Adventures Challenge' in partnership with Barny, the bear-shaped snack providing a little discovery in every bite.  Find out more about Barny here.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Making A Tough Decision

A while ago I wrote this post, about the arguments discussions we had been having over whether we were going to have any more children.

I'd like to say that we have reached a unanimous decision but that wouldn't be entirely true.  It is, however, something I have been thinking over a lot recently and I have come to the decision that right now, at this moment, having another baby wouldn't be the correct choice for us as a family.

Being at home with Eli these past few weeks has made me realise that by spending my time thinking 'oh you're not a baby any more' means I'm missing out on who he is now.  Feeling nostalgic about all the things he will never do again seems ridiculous when I could be concentrating on all the amazing things he is doing and will do.  I don't know what's going to happen in the future, I can't say definitively that we won't have any more children, perhaps we will.  But I think it's important that I stop wondering over the babies that might have been, or might be, and instead spend my time and energy loving and enjoying the children I do have.  Perhaps the overwhelming sense of broodiness I get when I hear that a friend is expecting or when I see a tiny newborn baby will never fully disappear but I hope it will get better with time.

I love our little family unit.  I love that now Eli is older we can hang out and enjoy each other's company.  I don't want that dynamic to change any time soon, and I can't wait for the fun things we are going to get to do as they get even older.  Meg and Eli are such amazing characters with their own unique personalities, I can't imagine adding a third into the mix at the moment.


So, although saying it out loud doesn't necessarily change the way I feel entirely on the inside, I think it gives it more 'oomph' and it really is the best decision we could be making at this particular time. 

Truthfully, and honestly.

This is probably the part where I pick my husband up off the floor after he reads this and realises I'm actually agreeing with a decision he has made.  So, for the record, I am fully within my rights to change my mind at any time (just kidding!)

What's The Story: Black & White

I'm going back a bit further in time than I have on previous What's The Story posts...a whole six and a half years!  This photo comes from my Other Half's 21st birthday and was really the point that sparked my interest in party planning and going that extra mile when it comes to birthdays and the like.  

I picked Jimmy Spices in Birmingham for the venue and we made the theme black and white.  Everyone dressed in the relevant colours and I made sure I bought decorations on the theme.  It was amazing when the waiters brought the cake out, everyone in the whole restaurant was singing along and drumming on the tables.  Had it been my party I would have been cringing in the corner (in fact, the following year that's exactly what I was doing!) but my Other Half thrived on it.

Six years isn't really that long but we look like such babies in this picture!  It's the first time I'd ever had my hair curled too believe it or not.  I have really fine hair and before this, I'd never found a way to stick.  It's amazing what £40 can buy you!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Let's Bake: Berry & Yoghurt Traybake

We had some fruit sitting in the fridge waiting to be used up so my Other Half decided to do some baking with Meg.  She loves to bake (read: she loves to lick the spoon after baking) so it was a lovely opportunity for some daddy-daughter time.  The results were rather delicious too!

Here's what they did.

Ingredients
175g self-raising flour
150g butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
1tsp baking powder
1tsp nutmeg
150g Greek yoghurt
1tsp vanilla extract
50g porridge oats
1 apple, chopped
150g blueberries
100g raspberries

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl and put to one side.

Beat the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Crack the eggs and add them to the mixture gradually.  Add in the flour mixture, the yoghurt and the vanilla essence.  Mix well.


Stir in the apple, oats and blueberries.

Pour the mixture into a tin and smooth over.  Scatter the raspberries and gently press them into the mixture.


Bake for 20 minutes at gas mark 4 or 160c, then cover with foil and bake for a further 25 minutes.  Allow to cool before slicing or removing from the tin.  Enjoy the spoils whilst you wait.


The result should be a very crumbly, very fruity and very yummy traybake!


We've all had this in our lunchboxes this week and everyone has given it the thumbs up!  It's a very handy way to use up fruit that may be on the turn.  Or just a good excuse to get your kids to eat some fruit under the guise of giving them cake!

Link up your recipe of the week

International Day Of The Girl - The Dove Self Esteem Project

On Friday I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the International Day of the Girl event at the Southbank Centre which was sponsored by Dove in connection with their Self Esteem Project.

As regular readers will know, body image is an issue which is very close to my heart and I believe that it is never too early in your child's life to start putting the right building blocks in place to ensure that your children grow up confident in who they are and knowing that they are beautiful inside and out.

At the start of the event we were treated to a performance by NĂ©rija, an all female jazz band followed by opening speeches and interviews with Jude Kelly, the Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, Jessie Ware and Chibundu Onuzo.  As Jude Kelly was explaining the reason behind the day she said 'each one of us is entitled to be exactly who we were meant to be' and that really stuck with me throughout the whole event.  Whether we were looking at body image, or talking about self-esteem or hopes and dreams for the future, the overriding message was: be who you are and don't try to be anybody else, and I loved that.


Since it was founded in 2004, the aim of the Dove Self-Esteem Project has been to ensure that young people grow up secure and confident, knowing that everyone is beautiful and unique and that they don't have to conform to the unrealistic ideals the media would have us believe is achievable and 'normal'.

I was shocked to learn that 47% of young girls in the UK aged between 11 and 14 are missing out on activities such as swimming and answering questions in class because of low self-esteem.  Recent findings even highlighted that these young girls would avoid going to friend's birthday parties because they don't like the way they look.  I find that such an incredibly sad statistic.  As the mother of a young girl, I find it heartbreaking to imagine that Meg would ever turn around and say she wanted to miss out on something because of how she viewed herself.  However, I can remember being 12 years old and making my parents cancel my place for a school trip to France because I didn't want to go...because I was terrified of having to go swimming at the beach and everyone seeing how I looked, so I can fully understand the mentality.

On Friday, in conjunction with the International Day of the Girl, Dove announced their partnership with Girlguiding which aims to boost low self-esteem amongst young girls with a body confidence workshop and badge.  They hope to reach 400,000 girls in the UK and 3.5 million girls worldwide.

I attended one of these body confidence workshops at the event and really enjoyed it.  It was eye-opening to hear how many young girls wish they looked different and were unhappy with their bodies.  I thought it was particularly good how the workshop didn't focus on this but highlighted it and then encouraged the girls to think about how they were unique.  One of the activities they did, was to write some positive things about one of the people on their table.  It was lovely to see the girls faces lighting up when they read what other people had written about them, and was a reminder of how vital it can be to speak positively to young people and make sure we are constantly boosting their self-esteem by encouraging and speaking well of them.

I listened to some of the conversations between the girls on the way out and was really pleased to hear them talking about what they had learned and some of the things they hadn't considered before.  I hope that those girls are able to take that forward with them.


Another part of this campaign was a 'Missing Out' installation which was in place from the 9-13 October on the Riverside Terrace at the Southbank Centre to highlight some of these issues.  Unfortunately it was raining when I visited it so my photos don't do it justice but there were quite a lot of people around looking at it which means it's serving it's purpose, to get people to talk about these issues.  There are also lockers at the installation for people to share their own 'missing out' stories.



Dove have also launched a new interactive part of the Self-Esteem Project's website which has fun and educational activities for parents, young people and those who work with young people to make use of to highlight some of these issues.  Dove are hoping to reach over 15 million young people by 2015 with this new resource.


Although designed for girls a lot older than Meg I will certainly be taking these statistics and information on board and considering how best to talk to her about these things over the coming years.  I will also be making use of the available resources online to take inspiration on some of the issues we might face in the future.

There are a great many ways that you can find information on this topic and some of the links are below.

If you have young girls, or young boys, I would certainly recommend having a look at the website.
For further information on Girlguiding visit: http://www.girlguiding.org.uk/home.aspx
For further information on what we got up to at International Day of the Girl visit: https://www.facebook.com/DayOfTheGirl
You can also tweet about anything related to this using #doveselfesteem

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend this event in conjunction with the partnership between Mumsnet and Dove.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Bento Lunches: Turkey Pinwheels

I know, you know, that Meg starting school this September was a BIG DEAL.  I've probably mentioned it more times than people care to know but one of the things that made me really excited was the discovery of Bento packed lunches.

I couldn't wait to try them out!  I haven't done the full scale Bento thing as frankly, I don't have the time but I love the principle behind it, of offering variety and going that little step further with making lunches more attractive.

Mostly we have utilised cookie cutters to make different shaped sandwiches but we have tried to branch out and offer her alternatives to sandwiches each day.

One of our new endeavours was to try out turkey pinwheels.  I'd not even heard of pinwheels before researching bento lunches, but this is our take on it:

Ingredients
Tortilla wraps
Sweet chilli sauce
Soft cream cheese
Spring onions
Turkey ham
Lettuce

- Mix the sweet chilli sauce and cream cheese together.  Our sweet chilli sauce had a slight kick to it so we did this to taste.
- Spread the sweet chilli cheese mixture onto the tortilla wrap, leaving about 1 inch around the edge.
- Finely chop the spring onion and sprinkle onto the wrap.
Lay the turkey ham (or whatever meat you like) onto the tortilla wrap.
- Place a lettuce leaf on top and wrap the tortilla.  
- Wrap clingfilm or foil around the wrap tightly and place in the fridge for a minimum of one hour (I made this the night before so did the next step the following morning)

Hopefully when you remove the foil the wrap will stay in place, allowing you to cut it into several pieces, creating the pinwheels!

Additionally in this lunch I offered strawberry yoghurt sprinkled with granola and strawberry bits, chopped cucumber and cherry tomatoes.


My Other Half also had this for his lunch and although dubious about the mixture he said it tasted really nice!  Meg didn't offer much by way of critique but she ate it all which is a good sign.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Autumn Bucket List {2013}

I saw an idea similar to this a while ago on Facebook and couldn't wait to try it out once I'd finally accepted that summer was over! 

To make our autumn bucket list we cut out leaves in the typically autumnal colours of orange and yellow and my Other Half diligently drew a tree on the side of a large cardboard box we had and cut it out.  I painted a remaining side of the box white, to give it something to rest on and then sat down with Meg to talk about what we could put on our list.


The results are a mixture of Meg's ideas and mine.  Some only apply to myself and my Other Half.  The majority we tried to keep family-orientated.  

The idea is that when we have done the activity, we will stick the leaf at the bottom of the tree.


This type of activity is ideal for those with younger children as they can appreciate the visual element of it.  Meg would quickly forget a list we just made on paper, whereas this way, she is reminded every time she comes into the dining room that we have chosen a lot of fun activities to do!

It's also a perfect lead in for talking about this season and what we can expect to see.  This helps if you have summer children like mine who want to wear their shorts all year round.

What do you think of our autumn bucket list?  Have you got a bucket list or any other suggestions for us?


Just in case there are any grammar-police reading this post.  I do know how to spell woodland, there happens to be hyphen hiding underneath the orange leaf!

Monday, 16 September 2013

What's The Story: Butterflies

It's funny, the things that stick in people's minds.  Especially the minds of children.  Meg can't remember the simplest detail and yet she can tell you all about what we had for dinner three years ago in some obscure restaurant we visited only once!

One of the amazing things she can recall is our trip to the Butterfly Farm in Stratford last year.  Now, I will hold my hands up and say that this might be ever so slightly linked to the fact that I traumatised her by yelling to keep still when a butterfly landed on her neck.  Naturally she didn't, she reacted by pushing her shoulder into her neck and the butterfly sadly met it's end.

Prior to that occurrence, however, we'd had a great time and Meg had loved experiencing the butterflies landing on her.  It was difficult to keep moving as she wanted to stand for as long as possible to stop the butterflies from fluttering off.  For a clumsy 'just turned 3' year old she did incredibly well at not thundering through the place scaring butterflies left right and centre!

She looks nervous in this picture but she's really not, she was just going through a 'doesn't know how to relax and smile' phase.  I don't know why it's one of my favourites, I think because of the clarity of Meg and the butterfly, they really stand out in the picture.

If it wasn't so far away, I think it would definitely be somewhere we visited more often.  Weirdly, it's quite relaxing having them land on you!

Back to School Review: BIG Family School Year Diary

I love being organised, truly I do. I especially love it when I first get hold of a new diary and all the pages are crisp and blank, just waiting to be filled in. It's sad I know, but I do like it!

So I have had great fun making use of the BIG Family School Year Diary we were recently sent to review from MUM's Office. With reptile-effect glossy covers, the diaries come in a choice of three colours: Raspberry, Blackberry and Peppermint. We were sent the Blackberry to review and I was very impressed with how sleek it looked.


The diaries are designed to run from school year to school year so this one is dated August 2013 to August 2014.

This diary is literally bursting with ways to be organised. Sections include:

Need to Know: for information such as phone numbers and websites.
Important: a page for each member of the family to record personal info, a pocket money record and dates to remember (i.e. birthdays and anniversaries)
Our Plans: calendars and planners for the current year and following year, including future travel plans.
Our Week: one for each term to record regular weekly occurrences.
The Week: this is a double page with one side for you and the other in a grid format for the remaining members of your family.
Notes: Because we always need space to jot things down!


I don't think there is another diary out there which offers the amount of planning that this was does.  If you can think of something which needs to be noted down, there is a space for it in this diary.

I have found it so useful, particularly the 'the week' section as it allows me to see where everyone will be at a quick glance.  With Meg not doing full days immediately, this was very helpful for making sure we turned up at the right time on the right days!

  
There is a decent amount of space in each section for information (I hate diaries which give you a teeny tiny space for each day which is bound to overrun) and there is also an elasticated loop on the side for a pen which again, is a very useful tool.  I also liked that it comes with two different coloured ribbons so you can mark more than one page at once.  This has been handy for marking the 'Our Week' and 'This Week' sections which are the two we use the most.

The diary has pride of place under our landline and even my Other Half has remembered to write down when he makes arrangements.  I have kept my personal diary in my handbag otherwise I wouldn't remember appointments I make when out and about and as the diary is quite big, I couldn't fit it in the handbag I currently use.  I'm not sure I would carry it around with me, but we certainly make use of it at home. 

Overall, I was very impressed with the diary and know it will make our lives a lot easier.  Definitely a recommendation for busy mum's who need to keep track of everything!

You can buy the diary from MUM'S Office and is priced at £16.95 which I think is very reasonable.

Disclaimer: We were sent the BIG Family School Year Diary for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Event: Tatty Puppy Launch Party

We were very excited when we received our invitation to the Tatty Puppy Launch Party at Hamleys.  I am ashamed to admit that despite numerous visits to London, I have never before crossed the threshold of Hamleys so it was to be a new experience for 3 out of 4 members of our family!


When we entered the doors we were greeted, not only by a giant Tatty Teddy, but also by a huge array of gorgeous pink fluffy puppies.  I'm sure you can imagine what Meg's reaction to that was.  It was a little girl's heaven.


We were able to wander around Hamleys at our leisure, taking in the toys (and making mental shopping lists), we had been given a piece of paper on entry which featured many of the Blue Nosed Friends and we were encouraged to try and find them hiding on the various floors.  I have to say, I think I took this a bit more seriously than Meg and Eli and ended up finding most of them on my own.  It reminded me of an event we used to have in the village where I grew up and various characters were hidden in shops.  It was a competition to see who could find the most and I was never very good at it.  Apparently I have improved with age!



We then enjoyed some delicious cakes and treats in the Party Room.  Okay, I enjoyed the cake and Eli enjoyed some fruit whilst Meg waited patiently to have her face painted just like Tatty Teddy joining him for an in-depth discussion and a cuddle whilst she queued.





So what is all the fuss about?

Well, Tatty Puppy is the latest interactive toy to join the Tatty Teddy & Blue Nosed Friends range.  He makes a variety of sounds and sits, stretches, wags his tail and lifts his ears.  He can also interact with the Blue Nosed Friends app responding to the games as they are being played.



Aimed at girls aged 8 and under, Tatty Puppy can be dressed up in his very own outfits which can also be stored in his wardrobe/carry case.  I can fully imagine that this cute puppy will feature on many Christmas lists this year!

The app itself costs £1.99 with six mini-games.  Most importantly there is no in-app purchasing so if, like me, you have finger happy children who swipe and click and work their way through apps at the speed of lightning without you having a clue what they are doing, there's no risk of a huge bill at the end of it's use!

We were really impressed with the range of Blue Nosed Friends toys.  Meg is just coming up to the age where she is interested in this kind of thing, in particular she seemed quite taken with the figures you can buy.  Eli also seemed to enjoy them and made himself quite at home with the car (no surprises there) - we received two of the figures in a gift bag and Meg has been playing with them a fair amount.  I guess it makes it easier for me to know what she might want under the tree in a few months time!


 I think Tatty Puppy will be appearing in a great many houses, if the reaction at the launch party is anything to go by.

Disclaimer: We were invited to attend the launch party at Hamleys, London.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.