30 Sep

SCREAM! It’s Soreen!

It is always a good day when a box arrives in the post which has the word ‘Soreen’ printed upon it – I used to eat the regular malt loaf when I was a little one, and now H also loves the stuff. Even better, Soreen is low in fat and high in fibre, plus some are low in saturated fats – ideal if you’re like me and need to keep an eye on them due to cholesterol problems.

Soreen Scream

We’ve been sent a few new varieties, including the Toffee Apple Scream variety (which is also available in chocolate from most Asda stores) and the new Orange loaf, which is available from most Sainsburys stores (see link above).

I’ve never seen the Scream variety before – they’re in handy lunchbox size, and perfect for those snacks between school and heading out for an activity – and of course perfect fun for Halloween.. I’m now trying to think of a good way to use them on the big night… I quite fancy trying to coat the Orange Soreen in Milk Chocolate for Christmas… mmm!

Soreen Scream H

I allowed myself a whole slice of the Orange Soreen (well, I have pilates tonight so I won’t be eating until 8pm!) – I love that the loaves contain slow-release carbs, so I tend to stay fuller for longer – seeing as my rumbly stomach tends to sound like it’s singing…

Scream Soreen and Orange Soreen are available in stores now. Having been allowed to taste both by H (so kind…) I can confirm both are damn fine too – don’t leave it too late!

We were sent a selection of Soreen products – this review is just me letting you know they’re available, and is our own opinion.

29 Sep

After School Chefs with Birds Eye

Year 1 has kicked in properly now, which brings afternoons rushing home from school then heading out to various activities – and also that mad rush between finishing school, having a snack, going to an activity then having no more than twenty minutes to get the evening meal ready. We’ve always made a point of eating together as a family in the evening, so when Birds Eye started an After School Chefs challenge, I knew it was right up our street.

We’re lucky that H isn’t a fussy eater – she will generally eat whatever is put in front of her. I have a fairly set routine of food I cook which could do with a tweak. Fortunately Birds Eye are here to help. I was having a browse around the After School Chefs recipes and came across this one for Waffle Nachos – so simple and the perfect food when you’re in a rush. Even better, we have everything in our food cupboard. Here’s the recipe :

birds eye after school chefs waffle nachos

So how did we get back into our routine? It helps doing activities every night – the earliest one starts is 4.15, the latest 5pm. School dinners are on a three week rotation, so I need to make sure our evening meal is properly planned – I have three ‘meals not to cook’ lists so I can stay on top of things as last year I’d often put the food on the table only to find H had it during the day as well.

Towards the end of the week I have more time, so cook things which take a bit longer, for example, a risotto. The start of the week is quicker foods like stir fry, soup or spaghetti bolognese. I’ll often mix vegetables that cook quickly (like courgette) with frozen vegetables when I’m pushed for time.

We were given £20 in vouchers to try some Birds Eye foods to take part in the After School Chefs challenge – and from that I chose both types of potato waffles (large and small) – they’re low in saturated fat which is good for me with my cholesterol issues, plus they cook quickly. I chose some soya beans, petits pois and sweetcorn, as well as some field fresh vegetables which all come in resealable bags – handy as our freezer drawer often has stray vegetables tucked in the bottom thanks to badly fastened bags!

Birds Eye After School Chefs

Shaun chose some chicken and fish dishes from the Inspirations range for him and H to share. Being vegetarian I was disappointed that Sainsbury’s Cheam didn’t have any of the Birds Eye vegetable options in-store, considering what a huge store it is. The chicken cooked quickly and both Shaun and H ate it all, and confirmed it tasted delicious!

My top tips for quick meals after school –
– if you don’t have long to cook and get your meal to the table, don’t rule out frozen food. Frozen vegetables cook quickly – you could probably knock up a quick pasta dish in less than ten minutes. Even better, get your child to become one of the After School chefs and help! (supervised, of course)
– pre-bought food to prepare is always a quick option – pad it out with fresh vegetables if you feel like you need to add more. I often do that with my stir fry kits.
– If you have a few vegetable leftovers in the fridge, make a chilli – I always have some Taco Shells in the cupboard for chilli leftover emergencies!
– trying to fit in reading for school as well as making the meal, after getting in from some activity? Get your child to read at the table, where you can hear them – we have a hatch from our kitchen to the main room and will often do our daily read there. See also : practising recorder… that’s always handy when the dishwasher is on ;-)

This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye. Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook Page.

24 Sep

A Healthy Me?

I’m overweight, probably borderline obese again since we got back from Australia where I ate to my heart’s content (and the seven hour time difference threw things a bit as well). I need to lose that weight, so I’ve been doing little things here and there to make a difference – while in the back of my mind knowing that one day I will fit into THE dress I bought out there (for approximately £5).

fremantle dress

So here’s my plan:

Swimming – I keep clicking my back out, and I’ve had a stinky cold so I haven’t been as much as I should do. I intend to go back this week though and get kicking up and down the pool again. Because of the lack of swimming I’ve been trying to walk more and make sure I do a certain number of steps a day. The Fitbug hasn’t been used since I hurt my back, so I need to get back into that again.

Being Active – I like to think I’ve an active life, in fact I get told off sometimes that I never stop. Now school is back we’re into the regular routine, Rainbows (with me helping) on a Monday – this week I showed them how to skip… Tuesday is Football with my pilates class an hour afterwards. Wednesday H has swimming and it isn’t convenient to watch her without running over half of the gym to get a decent seat. Thursday and Friday I collapse…

Getting Out – on the weekend we’ve been trying to do trips and walks around a bit more. Last Saturday we went into Central London to visit the British Museum, and on Sunday after a party we had time to go to Nonsuch Park to finish H’s home learning for school.

Yumbox Panino

Food – I’m one of those meal deal people a few times a week and it has to stop. On the other days I’ve been buying a sandwich from M&S, a low calorie one with vegetables, however, I’ve had it so much now that I’m at the point of feeling sick if I see it again, and I’m bored of egg. The low calorie sandwich options are not great out there. So I’m taking things in hand – and have bought myself a Yumbox Panino. Two or three days a week I’m taking my own lunch in, on the busiest days so I’ve had some food beforehand. After a couple of weeks the Yumbox will have paid for itself. I was mocked today for having one, then praised at the layout and how ingenious the silicone seal on the lid is, so that was good! Today’s lunch was a sandwich and some vegetables and hummous – something I’d have probably paid up to a fiver for before now. How silly is that? Add some fruit and it’s all good.

I’m also on the lookout for an air fryer, or one of the kind of fryers which uses no oil at all and makes chips from scratch in no time at all.

So that’s the plan so far. Every few days I get an urge to start running, but then my back gets a bit clicky so it’s put to one side – I’ll concentrate on the swimming for now I think!

I weighed myself this morning, and after coming in around 13 stone 4 when we got back, I’m now weighing 12 stone 11 – so something is working somewhere. I have to add, the difference moving around when your back doesn’t constantly hurts is a big one too.

So this is my September update – back in October. Maybe I’ll try get the dress on….

22 Sep

Rainbows!

Back around 1977 my journey into the world of Girl Guides started. I was a Brownie and then a Guide and did it for quite a while. I’m not sure why I loved both groups, but I had lots of friends and I think it gave me skills I probably still use to this day. In addition, I remember being the first Brownie in York to do the Friendship badge – I had to go to a Guide group to be tested and it was my first glimpse into the older Guiding world.

rainbows logo

So H recently turned 5. A lot has changed in the Brownies since I was young – there are Rainbows now. In actual fact, Rainbows have been going since 1987 – and are for younger girls, aged 5-7. The groups tend to meet at the earliest time of day (we meet just after 4pm) and the meetings last for an hour, where you work towards your Roundabout badge – one the group does as a whole rather than individually (like in Brownies).

H isn’t a games person. She doesn’t take to playing competitive games very well at all – however, I’ve noticed a change in her since Rainbows started. She doesn’t mind losing – as it’s done so nicely and everything is fun!

I know it’s something she’s going to benefit from, helping her confidence (which does need a bit of help) – as well as making new friends. The majority of the girls in our group are from the same school, though fortunately we know a few of them already.

H rainbows

Oh yes, I say ‘we’ as I’m helping out there too. That’s been interesting – H isn’t allowed to call me ‘mummy’ (my rules) and can only refer to me with my animal name. Which she chose. Which is kangaroo. Sigh.

I’m really enjoying it, I just need to learn the songs and the actions. The only way to do this is by me typing them up, so here goes…

Look at the world around
Learn everything you can
Laugh as you go along
Love this world of ours.

Look, Learn, Laugh, Love
Rainbows has begun
We’re all here now
Come and join the fun

phew.

If you’re interested in signing your child up for Rainbows, bear in mind it’s popular – we were on the waiting list for a year – so sign up your child around their fourth birthday. You can do this via the Girl Guiding Website.

20 Sep

Glow in the Dark Stars from University Games

I’ve always been a big fan of Glow in the Dark Stars – the kind you stick on your ceiling and they really come to life once it’s bedtime and the lights go out.

In fact, were you to go to my mum’s and into my old bedroom, you can still find the odd one or two up there – mind, I’m not sure what this says about my mum’s lack of decorating for the last 25 years!!

milky way from AustraliaWhen we were offered a chance to review Great Explorations  Glow in the Dark Stars from University Games, I jumped at it – while H does have a selection of stars on her ceiling already, we recently went to Australia and were out in the bush where there is no light pollution, and just the stars and the milky way – something I had forgotten about and something which H found amazing. In fact, when we went to Scitech I bought the Great Explorations Milky Way – which has 200 self-adhesive stars which we are using alongside these stars.

glow in the dark stars

The glow in the dark stars are very straightforward – various colours, 50 stars in varying sizes, plus you get putty supplied with it. The Milky Way set are simple self-adhesive stickers – and there are 200 of those. You also get a map so you can plan out a proper galaxy.

sticky glow in the dark stars

Of all the glow in the dark stars we own, these ones have come up the brightest and best – I’ve been really impressed. We found the green and blue stars show the strongest and brightest, whereas the pinks and oranges are a bit more subtle. The stickers are a nice bright clear shape and you can make out what everything is. Sadly, photographs are proving impossible to take, so you’ll have to take my word for it – it’s definitely worth spending a bit more to get as good a quality glow as you do with these.

You can buy Great Explorations Glow in the Dark Stars and Milky Way from University Games from Amazon and all good retailers. Their range of products start from £3.99 upwards.

The Glow in the Dark stars were sent for the purpose of review, the Milky Way was bought by us beforehand.

15 Sep

Back to School – A Digit-ill Guide

I am a firm believer in your child getting as many of the illnesses you can out of the way as young as possible – if only to build up their immunity for school. However, there are still things you can catch repeatedly, and I’m here to tell you more. Boots UK have put together a Digit-ill Healthy Guide which has some handy hints and tips for anyone starting out at school.

Digit-ill – get it? Let’s face it, most of us have touch screen tablet kind of things at the moment – how often do you wipe the screen clean? I know H’s one gets grubby to the point I’m almost ashamed. Those germs! This has certainly made me be a little more conscious where I could be making more of an effort.

Boots Digit-ill guide

Here are our (non digit-ill) additional ones:

Last year at H’s school there were three big things which spread around – headlice, threadworm and verrucas.

Headlice, we’ve covered so many times on here already, but it’s all about being sensible. We’ve found Tea Tree helps keep them away, with various types of creams to get rid of them. A comb through at hairwash time, and a comb through with an electric comb in between helps a lot. They’re horrible little things and anyone who gets them has my sympathy.

Threadworms are awful. Even if you don’t think you have it, if your child catches it (and it’s VERY contagious) you have to take the medicine. This is a medicine which doesn’t agree with me at all, and made me quite ill. One preventative measure is to keep washing your hands at every available opportunity (and of course to wash all clothes and bedding well!) – we bought H a Method Mickey Mouse soap to make sure she remembered, which worked. That and having a scrubbing brush handy, and keeping nails short. Boots also have a great pump for cleaning hands when you don’t have any soap near you (like when you’re out and about).

Verrucas are a less common one, but still crop up. H caught hers at swimming, and we were able to successfully Bazooka it over three months – but it didn’t occur to me that children will do PE barefoot at school occasionally, so I didn’t let them know. If your child has a verruca, make sure you let the teacher know, if only to help prevent it spreading.

With the three I’ve mentioned above, you can still go to school. I know scarlet fever was doing the rounds, and indeed one of her classmates has it at the moment, so we’re not over that one yet… it is easily treated with antibiotics, and the child can go back to school once they feel well enough again.

We were asked if H could have her picture taken to show what she thinks germs look like – with a little help (from me!) this is what she reckons! I had to chant ‘digit-ill! digit-ill! digit-ill!” in the background while it was being taken – and she has never watched Dr Who (I felt quite like a Dalek…)

germs
We were sent a selection of Boots vitamins and cold remedies (already in use…!) for the purpose of this post, all packaged lovingly in a sparkly satchel. 

14 Sep

Storytime Magazine

I recently popped into WH Smiths near work to pick up Storytime Magazine. It comes from Luma Creative, the people behind Magic Belles and it’s a lovely, back to basics traditional storytelling magazine. Read on to find out more!

Storytime Magazine

Storytime Magazine is fabulous. In an age of children’s magazines being bright colours, free toys, adverts and an entire aisle of plastic and lots of “BUY ME ME ME” I didn’t know where to start looking for Storytime. Fortunately it was around the corner – away from all those kids magazines. I know there are campaigns to remove magazines with boobs away from children’s eyes, but I’d like the majority of children’s magazines toned down too.

The first thing I noticed were the lack of adverts inside. This is a great thing – Storytime is a magazine we will love alongside H’s Okido subscription which also has no ads and no free gifts – just fun things to do and plenty of facts.

Then there’s the stories – we have a lot of story books; indeed quite a lot which are covered in here; but as H progresses as a reader I’m a firm believer in her reading the same story in as many different ways as possible. The length of stories in Storytime are the kind she would read on her own with no trouble.

Storytime Magazine Owl

Issue 1 has The Hare and the Tortoise, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Alice in Wonderland, The Owl and the Pussy-cat, Aladdin, The Fairy Bride and Perseus & Medusa. There are also puzzles and activities.

You can subscribe to the magazine and will save 25% on the cover price – as well as getting delivery direct to your door.

If I was to compare it to any other magazine, remember the Story Teller ones back in the 1980’s which included a free cassette, and featured classic stories? It’s like that without the cassette. That’s more than okay with me.

If you’ve been missing a magazine which is one you’ll keep going back to with plenty of stories, then please consider Storytime Magazine. We love it, and I’m going to subscribe to it – in fact, I believe this kind of magazine should exist so I’m going to buy one for H’s school as well to help spread the word.

Storytime Magazine is available now in WH Smiths and all good supermarkets. All libraries have been sent a copy of Issue 1, and they offer subscriptions for schools and libraries too. As well as this, you can subscribe digitally via the App Store.

Their official website is here with extra printables and activities based on the stories in the current issue. Issue 1 has 50 pages and sells for £3.99.

09 Sep

Wemb-er-lyyyyyyy!

The England Women’s Football Team play Germany at Wembley on Sunday 23rd November – I’ve just bought us tickets. £10 for adults and £1 for under 16’s – AND only £2.50 postage on top – no fees.

If only all events were like this!

I’m so excited to take H to Wembley – she kind of has been, but she was in my tummy at the time (when York City made the playoffs back in 2009)

We’re excited, anyway!

The Early Bird offer is on for the whole of September, or until tickets sell out.

08 Sep

Big Fish Little Fish Are Back!

After a summer break and a busy Camp Bestival, Big Fish Little Fish return to South and East London – here’s everything you need to know!

big fish little fish tshirts

September (theme – Pirates!)

14th – The Bedford, Balham with DJ Food
20th – Canary Wharf Spiegeltent with Joe Muggs
21st – Shapes in Hackney Wick with Tayo

October (theme – Halloween!)

12th – The Bedford, Balham with Terry Farley
19th – Shapes in Hackney Wick with the London Readers Wifes

On the 19th October, Big Fish Little Fish are hosting a group meet-up of Out With The Family, an organisation that arranges social events for LGBT parents.

Tickets for all the events except the Spiegeltent are available here: http://www.wegottickets.com/bigfishlittlefishproductions

 

We’re going along to Balham this Sunday for a little dance and a drink and a fun afternoon (and I expect newly-turned-5-H will want to try her new Oyster card) – and we’ll be reporting back! I’m particularly looking forward to trying out my new camera! Oh, and talking like a pirate of course… arrrr!

 

Big-Fish-Little-Fish-September-pirate
02 Sep

Monkey Music Beats Fundraising Target!

Monkey Music, the UK’s favourite music classes for babies and young children, is 21 years old this year. To mark the anniversary, Monkey Music classes across the UK have been raising funds for national charity partner, Nordoff Robbins music therapy, together with a selection of local charitable causes. Although Monkey Music set an original 21st birthday fundraising target of £21,000, to date a remarkable £30,000 has been received!

Nordoff Robbins

Among many activities, Monkey Music raised funds through a Birthday Card Colouring Competition that offered prizes from Monkey Music’s national corporate partners – including an iPad, a holiday and more. Then, when the coloured in cards were handed in at Monkey Music classes, parents were encouraged to put a donation in with their children’s artwork. In this way, funds were raised, both for Nordoff Robbins nationally and for a range of charities operating near individual Monkey Music classes – these included Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, the Haven Children’s Hospice and the Neonatal Unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Monkey Music’s national charity partner, Nordoff Robbins, is a music charity dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable children and adults across the UK through music therapy.

Receiving a cheque for £27, 359.14 from Monkey Music Founder, Angie Coates, Nordoff Robbins CEO, Dr. Marcus Stephan, said;

“We’re so very grateful for this generous donation from Monkey Music and from all the many Monkey Music classes and families all over the country. It really will make a difference to our work.

“Nordoff Robbins and Monkey Music both understand the power of music to transform lives. It’s great to be working together and we look forward to a long relationship. Happy Birthday Monkey Music and thank you!”

Monkey Music Founder, Angie Coates, said; “The success of Monkey Music’s 21st Birthday fundraising has been a fantastic demonstration of the family spirit that exists at Monkey Music, not just between our teachers and franchisees, but with our children and their parents, our corporate partners and, or course, our local and national charities partners too.

“We’re so proud of what we have achieved and the fact that it’s all been done by children, adults and organisations all sharing their love of music.”

Donations are still being received for Monkey Music’s 21st Birthday and, with record results predicted for the organization’s franchisees, Monkey Music’s 21st year looks like an amazing ‘coming of age’ for the business.

If you’d like to know more about working with Monkey Music, visit the Business Opportunity website at; www.monkeymusicfranchise.co.uk

Or, you can find the public Monkey Music website at: www.monkeymusic.co.uk

Monkey Music: Nurturing a Lifetime of Music.