It’s been a little quiet around this neck of the woods lately, so i wanted to let you all know why, even though i’m probably flattering myself to think that you’d even noticed my absence..
Those that follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know that we moved house a couple of weeks ago (we’re now living next door to my mum which is pretty awesome!) and whilst i had intended to blog as normal throughout the process, due to a monumental ‘cock up’ by BT i was left without a working phone line or broadband and consequently cut off from the cyber world.
During this time, it dawned on me just how much time i usually dedicate to blogging and social media and though the first few days were torture, by the time i was ‘reconnected’ i found myself completely uninspired and with no real urge or desire to blog. Blogging suddenly felt like a chore and something i had to do rather than something i loved and wanted to do.
And i realised……too much of a good thing can generally become a bad thing.
Like eating chocolate. And dipping your fingers in the sweetie jar. And hitting the gym. And watching YouTube videos of people that you’ll never actually meet.
It is also true of writing blog posts and twittering and Facebook stalking.
Because I’ve seen Mr B go to bed resentful. I’ve heard Riley calling for mummy again, and again, only to hear me say, “Hold on, i’m almost done.” I’ve had Harry tug at my trousers to get my attention only to find himself turned away and distracted with the TV or a toy. I’ve ignored dishes that should have been cleaned and dinners that got overcooked, and i’ve sacrificed sleep, only to be irritable the next day.
All for the pursuit of connection with a virtual community, more visits to my site, recognition from other bloggers, opportunities from brands and a louder applause from my Facebook insights or monthly stats.
And a good thing, then quickly morphs into too much.
My main problem is time, or really the lack of it. Mr B works away all week and is only home at the weekends, so the boys and i pretty much go it alone. Blogging is something that is usually done in the evenings when they’re in bed, but some posts take longer than others and i’ve been struggling to keep up with 3-4 posts a week while looking after the boys, managing a house move, juggling the housework, dealing with my CFS symptoms and holding on to my sanity. At some point, something has to give.
And the last couple of weeks, it has, blogging and social media. I’ve not written a single post, i haven’t checked my stats, i can’t remember the last time i was on Twitter, i’ve been less active on Instagram and i’ve barely used my Facebook account.
And you know what? I don’t feel guilty for it, in fact it feels pretty bloody good!
The boys and i have been for evening strolls along the country lanes, we’ve walked over to Nanny’s stables to feed carrots to the horse, we’ve had longer bathtimes and more bedtime stories. We’ve witnessed Harry learn to crawl, stand up and cruise all in a matter of days. We’ve had late night bbqs in the garden, watered the flowers and built dens. I’ve done more for me too and i’ve loved every single second of it.
I have accepted that i simply can’t do everything and i shouldn’t try to either.
I have accepted that i am never going to be a full time blogger and i’m not obligated to whip out posts on a consistent basis if i don’t feel like doing it.
I have accepted that the moment when something you love, look forward to or feel passionate about feels like a chore – it’s time to take a step back and give yourself a break. Stay away from writing blogs. Give yourself time to appreciate the blogging community and your place within it. Take some ‘Me’ time outside of your blog.
That’s exactly what i’ve done and it was the necessary reset i needed to come back with a BANG.
The beauty of blogging and being apart of this community, is the fact that everything written, is out there for always. Everything i think i have missed the past couple of weeks is still there waiting for me to see.
So, to my loyal readers – thanks for sticking around and bearing with me. To my favourite bloggers and usual ‘daily reads’ – i will be round to catch up and comment on all of your lovely blogs this week.
Photo Credit: PULLKATT PHOTOGRAPHY via Compfight cc
London is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, steeped in history and full of tourist attractions that will entertain visitors of all ages, but particularly teenagers and young children as there is lots to see and do in and around the capital. London has so much to offer, that you simply wouldn’t be able to do the city justice by cramming it all in to one day, so i would highly recommend making a weekend of your visit. Here are my top tips for visiting London with children:
1. Find a great hotel deal
Travelling with children in tow is never going to be a cheap affair and there’s no getting around the fact that London accommodation is expensive, so try using a specialist hotel booking service like Hotel Direct, which will give you instant access to the cheapest rates and latest deals available on accommodation. Choose a central location like Hyde Park in South Kensington that has good access to public transport and is within easy walking distance of many tourist attractions.
2. Make use of the public transport network
The tube network around London is fantastic and it certainly makes getting around the city much easier, but those travelling with babies or young children in pushchairs may wish to consider using buses instead as they are at floor level, have better access and designated areas for pushchairs/strollers. Trains run regularly and the city is well covered but i would suggest avoiding peak hours as it can get very busy and very overcrowded. (The same can be said for the tubes). Definitely take advantage of travel day passes which allow you to switch between buses and tube trains. It also helps to have an Oyster Card for efficiency on public transport – these can be purchased from various stations across London. Children under the age off 11 travel free on buses and the Underground when accompanied by an adult.
3. Take a bus tour around historic London
Speaking of buses, if you want to explore the historical side of London, then the thrill of riding on an open top tour bus is always going to be a winner with children. They’ll be able to take in the sights and see monuments like Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London. Plus, it’s the perfect way to captivate their minds and they’ll probably learn something without even realising it.
4. Visit the Sea Life London Aquarium
The Sea Life London Aquarium is home to thousands of sea creatures in over 2 million litres of water and there is hours of exploring to be had here by children and adults. You can explore Shark Reef Encounter, enjoy over 65 displays filled with 30 species of plant and foliage, interact with the animals in their diving displays and touch pools, visit 14 themed zones and explore the Antarctic in the new Penguins: Ice Adventure.
5. Explore Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens
It will be hard to believe you’re in central London whilst exploring Hyde Park – covering 350 acres it has a lake (complete with pedal boats), tracks for horse riding and the Serpentine Gallery. If you have young children, be sure to visit the Peter Pan statue and Princess Diana Playground in Kensington Gardens (essentially part of Hyde Park, at the Western end). The perfect place to go for a walk, relax with a picnic or simply jut to let the kids run loose.
6. Grab a bite to eat at ‘giraffe’ restaurant in Kensington
Giraffe are renowned for their child-friendly chain of restaurants, all of which provide a friendly and relaxing atmosphere making it the perfect place to enjoy a meal out as a family. They have colouring activities and a menu specifically tailored to children, featuring a kids meal deal at a set price of £5.65. Their Kensington restaurant is ideally situated within walking distance of Hyde Park and is also only a 10 minute walk away from the Royal Albert Hall
7. Stalk dinosaurs at The Natural History Museum
Dinosaur-loving kids will be fascinated by The Natural History Museum which is free to visit and understandably, one of London’s most popular family attractions. It has a huge dinosaur exhibition, a wildlife garden, an outdoor butterfly house and plenty of interactive activities to keep children entertained for hours. You can even borrow one of their free ‘explorer backpacks’ for children (aged 7 and under) which contain an activity booklet, a safari hat and binoculars. The museum is a popular destination for school visits during term time so you may actually find it better to visit in the school holidays.
8. Discover the Tower of London
A trip to The Tower of London is a MUST when exploring the city as it’s a place where the history of England comes to life and children will be fascinated by tales of Kings and Queens, can visit the Medieval Palace and even marvel at the crown jewels. Let them see if they can spot 1 of the 7 ravens that reside at the tower and regularly circle overhead as well. I would suggest booking your tickets in advance because this is one of London’s most popular attractions and it gets very busy during peak periods.
9. Go wild at ZSL London Zoo
Set in leafy Regent’s Park amid heritage-listed buildings and beautiful gardens, ZSL London Zoo is an oasis in the heart of the capital and the perfect attraction to visit with children. Simply let them roam free and go wild with the 800 amazing animal species that call this place home. There’s so much to discover at the zoo – interactive experiences, live shows, feeding times and exhibits including Tiger Territory, Penguin Beach, Gorilla Kingdom and Rainforest Life. This really is an unmissable attraction.
10. Make memories
Children really do grow up in a heartbeat, so it’s important to live in the here and now. Explore all that London has to offer and don’t be discouraged by the costs. Buy souvenirs, take too many photos, stop by Buckingham Palace and let them think they’re visiting the Queen, indulge the ‘i wants’ occasionally, be silly, have fun and most importantly make memories with your children that will last a lifetime. Do you have any top tips for visiting London with children?
*Disclosure: This post contains a sponsored link
On 7th June, i, along with some other bloggers, attended a Little Dish Tasting Workshop in London, hosted by CEO Hillary Graves and Consultant Dietician Lucy Jones. Little Dish was co-founded in 2006 by Hillary, after she spotted a gap in the market for producing a range of fresh and healthy ‘home-cooked’ meals for toddlers and young children made with only 100% natural ingredients. The company has gone from strength to strength since then and their range is now stocked nationwide with 100,000 little dishes being served across the UK every week.
Recent research commissioned by Little Dish of over 1,000 parents with children aged one to three, found that 76% of parents worry about whether their child is getting all the nutrition he or she needs in their meals. The results also showed that:
- 79% of parents are unsure on the recommended salt intake for children
- 40% are confused by nutritional guidelines on packaging
- 20% worry about what their other half feeds their children
- 82% are unsure of the recommended overall calorie intake to provide their children
As a parent myself, i have to say i agree with all of the above. The boys are approaching ages where they are growing rapidly and are very active so i know that they need lots of energy and nutrients as part of a healthy, balanced diet but i’m clueless as to how much or little they should be eating of everything. Riley will eat anything you put in front of him, but prefers to snack rather than eat a whole meal which can be incredibly frustrating when i’ve spent ages slaving over the cooker. Harry is a notoriously picky eater and i know that most children grow out of it by the age of 5, but that’s a long way off and as it stands at the moment he has a very limited diet, dislikes purees and refuses to be fed from a spoon. Suffice to say, mealtimes often leave me deflated and tearing my hair out.
Lucy Jones, expert in children’s nutrition and Little Dish ambassador, says: “It’s clear from the research that many parents are lacking confidence on the nutritional guidelines for feeding their little ones and it’s an issue that’s at the forefront of their minds. I’ve been working with Little Dish to further develop the brand’s nutritional profile in its chilled meals and ensuring each meal provides nutritional balance, in addition to great tastes and textures. This helps the Little Dish range to nurture young palates whilst providing peace of mind for mum and dad on days when they need a helping hand with feeding their children.”
Interestingly, Lucy also informed us that a child’s eating habits can often be linked to their emotional state, so a laidback baby will be more likely to eat anything, whereas an emotional and needy baby will be more likely to have fussy tendencies. Her top tips for reducing fussiness included getting children involved with the food prep, growing your own food in the garden, baking together, introducing reward charts and disguising fruits/vegetables in sauces or soups.
Little Dish have been working closely with nutritionist Lucy to ensure that their nutritional guidelines are best in class.
Lucy Jones says: “It has been really interesting for me to work with Little Dish to further develop its nutritional programme. This refresh was about further enhancing the already strong nutritional profile in their chilled meals and paying even more attention to not just nutrients but also tastes, textures and proportions which are all important to the development of young palates. Parents can rest assured that Little Dish provides meals that are well-balanced and that their children will love to eat.”
This month they relaunched their entire range of Little Dish meals and each recipe has been created in partnership with Lucy to ensure that they provide little ones from one year plus with the perfect balance of nutrition for a main meal. Every Little Dish meal provides 20-30% of a child’s daily calorie needs and 70% contain at least 2 portions of fruit and veg. The range is made from 100% natural ingredients and they never add salt or sugar.
There are now 13 Little Dish Meals to choose from, including:
- Fish Pie with Salmon & Pollock
- Mini Cheese Ravioli in a Tomato & Veg sauce
- Classic Beef Lasagne
- Alphabet Pasta Bolognaise
- Cottage Pie with Seven Veg
- Spaghetti with Mini Meatballs
- Mild Chicken Curry with Rice
- Chicken & Butternut Squash Pie
- Chicken & Veg Risotto
- (NEW) Creamy Tomato & Mascerpone Pasta
- (NEW) Pork & Apple Bites with Beans
- (NEW) British Lamb Hotpot
- (NEW) Fruity Lamb Tagine with Couscous
The British Lamb Hotpot is currently in stores with a special celebratory sleeve in anticipation of HRH Prince George’s first birthday on July 22nd , when he’ll be old enough to enjoy his first Little Dish.
During our time at the Little Dish Tasting Workshop, we were given the opportunity to participate in a blind taste test with some of the new Little Dish meals against competitor meals. And let me tell you, i was shocked, SHOCKED, by the competitor dishes which in my opinion all had a distinct lack of taste, smell, texture and quality. In fact, it was blatantly obvious from looks alone which was which and we all guessed correctly in each round.
What i loved about the Little Dish Meals is that they were just smaller versions of what mother’s, like me, would cook at home in our own kitchens. There’s no textured purees, piles of slop or mashed up ingredients, it’s just simple, honest, home-cooked food in ‘little people’ portions. They smelt divine, were packed full of flavour and tasted delicious.
Whats more, they can be ready to eat in three minutes. THREE! Perfect for mums with a busy lifestyle. They can also be cooked from frozen.
Little Dish is available from the chilled aisles of Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and online at Ocado, RRP £2.50
For more information, healthy recipes and fun for kids, visit www.littledish.co.uk
With 2 small boys to my name and a hubby (to-be) that works away all week, being a mum is a constant juggling act. Parenting is hard enough in itself, but throw freelance working in to the mix and it makes an already hard job, that much harder. Trying to find the right balance between at all can be a struggle at times, but, there’s this inner strength and instinct that kicks in and seamlessly pushes you through.
Motherhood makes you almost superhuman. We’re made of magic stuff and have tricks up our sleeves that Houdini himself couldn’t master. Little tips and tricks that lend a helping hand in making our lives easier.
Healing ‘Boo boos’ with magic kisses or plasters.
Transforming a pile of cardboard boxes and blankets in to the most amazing dens.
Stopping lolly mess and sticky fingers by using a cupcake case to catch the drips and dribbles.
Using a lidded plastic cup for spill-free painting or an old shower curtain on the floor to catch messy drips.
Carrying baby powder with you when visiting the beach to remove sand from baby’s feet. Trust me, it works. Also comes in handy for refreshing your hair/hiding greasy roots when you just don;t have the time to wash it.
Teaching your children which feet to put their shoes on by cutting stickers in half and placing them in the inner soles of their shoes. Riley loves doing puzzles where he has to match two pieces together and it was a regular activity during his physio sessions, so this works really well for us.
Adding powdered aspirin to the water in a vase to make the flowers stay fresh for longer.
Attaching a velcro strip to the wall for storing soft toys and teddies. I also use a magnet strip in the bathroom to store hair grips, tweezers, baby nail clippers and baby nail scissors.
Filing clothes in drawers. Seriously it makes it so much easier to see what’s in there and find what you’re looking for, rather than going through it all to get to the bottom of the pile.
Another great thing which makes my life so much easier is the NatWest Mobile Banking App. I’ve been a customer of theirs since 2003, so was thrilled when they brought this app out. It is not only easy, fast and secure to use but for a busy mum like me who rarely gets time to visit the bank, it helps me manage my finances and everyday banking needs from the comfort of my own home or wherever else in the world i happen to be. I really couldn’t be without it now.
I check it every morning without fail to check my account balances and it also allows me to search through statements and see all recent transactions. I even have alerts set up so that i receive a text once a week with my account balance or a text whenever a new payee is set up etc. I have been the victim of fraud twice, once where a substantial amount of money was withdrawn from my bank account online and another where my debit card was cloned and used abroad. Security is everything to me so tools like this help me to keep an eye on things.
I can use it to pay friends, family or bills at the click of a button or even transfer money between accounts. It helps me to locate nearby cash machines if i’m ever in an unfamiliar place and can be used to top up mobile phones. Plus, thanks to ‘Get Cash’, if i ever leave home without my bank card, which happens, alot, i can still withdraw money at a NatWest, RBS or Tesco cashpoint.
The Natwest Mobile Banking app is free to download from the app store, easy to set up, fast to use and secured by a passcode of your choice. What more could you want? It’s a must for mums everywhere.
* Disclosure: This project is in conjunction with Britmums for their #MumsMagicTricks challenge with NatWest.
So we’re back with part 3 of ‘The Weekly Wean’ featuring the Babymoov Nutribaby. You can catch up with part 1 (warming) and part 2 (sterilising) by clicking on the links. This week we’re focussing on the ‘defrosting’ function.
Since we began weaning Harry at 6 months, something we quickly came to realise was that he wasn’t overly interested in food. He’s a milk monster, what can i say ?! Our weaning journey hasn’t been an easy one, at the beginning he flatly refused any form of homemade purees and out of every brand of baby food we tried, the only ones he would take were Ella’s Kitchen and even with those he was extremely fussy when it came to flavours and texture, sticking to sweet, fruity tastes over savoury. He disliked being fed from a spoon and finger foods made him physically sick. There were so many times when i felt like giving up but i’m so glad we persevered because things are going much better now.
Harry is now almost 12 months old and we are doing a combination of homemade lumpy/mashed purees and baby-led weaning. He wants to eat the same foods as us and prefers to feed himself using his hands which is messy business but it make him happy so that’s all that matters.
The Babymoov Nutribaby has been invaluable to us over the past few weeks. I love the fact that i can use the machine to not only blend and steam cook ingredients (more to come on these functions soon) but i can also defrost which means i can cook up meals in bulk and then freeze them for use at a later date. And it’s all done with the same machine and at the click of a button – quick, easy and practical. What more could you ask for?
Now, the defrosting section of the instruction manual is vague, really vague and all it tells you is to follow the same process as you would for the steam cooking. There is no mention of what container size or type you should use for freezer storage or defrosting so i’ve used my Munchkin Fresh Food Bowls with lids which i know are freezer and microwave safe.
To use the defrosting function, you have to pour 350ml water in to the tank, place the cooking juices receptacle (this collects any juices from the food, allowing you to preserve its nutritional value) above the water tank and then place the trays in the basket as desired. Retrieve your frozen meal from the freezer, remove the lid and then place it on top of the tray.
Once this is done, all you need to do is replace the lid on the cooker and turn the Babymoov Nutribaby on using the switch on the back of the blender. The LCD screen on the front lights up and you just have to press the ‘Mode’ button to choose the desired function, which in this case is ‘defrosting’ and this is depicted with an icon of a snowflake.
Press ‘OK’ to start the defrosting and at the end of the cycle, an alarm will sound to inform you that the process is complete. Just hit ‘OK’ to cancel the alarm. There is a pre-set defrosting time of 15minutes which i found to be more than adequate but there is the option to increase or decrease the time if necessary using the plus and minus buttons.
And that’s it – one fresh and nutritional meal ready to serve!
The defrosting function is a really great feature of the Babymoov Nutribaby and compliments the other functions really well. I’ve only been using it for a few weeks but the Nutribaby has already reduced the amount of time i spend preparing and cooking meals and is definitely a welcome addition to the kitchen.
I’ll be back next time with a review of the steam cooking function.
In the mean time you can find out more about the Babymoov Nutribaby at www.babymoov.co.uk or visit Babymoov on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
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