Saturday, 31 August 2013

The End of My Baby-Making: It's All Over

So, the time has come where I can now say that I am officially not having any more children. My husband has gone ahead, as discussed at great length, and had a vasectomy. Even the word makes me feel 'urgh.' As you know, we have our three girls, and couldn't be happier with them. I wrote about the birth of baby Rosie on this blog previously and I have always said that we do not want any more children. Three is

Friday, 30 August 2013

Easy Mum Recipe: Sunday Roast Beef Dinner

Before I begin, I reckon that I do the best roast potatoes, better than anyone. But of course, every mum says this! This is not a catch-all perfect recipe for a Sunday roast dinner this is just my version of it. I know that everyone has their way of doing things

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Communities Against the Bedroom Tax


Whilst out at the weekend with both babies and Emily in tow, I spotted Kirkby Community Group and their stand. I'd seen them out and about in the community before - I remembered being stopped outside the Inshops in Kirkby a few weeks earlier and asked to sign a petition against the bedroom tax.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Exciting Giveaway! - The Anagranimals and The Wishing Tree


I am really excited to let you know about an exciting giveaway for your kids here on my blog. I recently reviewed The Anagranimals and The Wishing Tree on my blog, you can read about that here.

So I was more than happy when the author agreed to let me give away Two Signed First Edition copies of the book!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Kids Book Review: The Anagranimals and the Wishing Tree

We are mad about books in our house. We all have our own bookcase each, they are on our shelves, and cupboards and under the bed...basically the whole house is covered in books, seriously. Somehow I just can't imagine being without them - and we love passing on the joys of reading to our kids. It's important that they sit and read, together or alone, and just have that quiet time, to feed their imagination.

That's why we were very happy

Friday, 23 August 2013

Liverpool Women's Midwifery Event in Kirkby Town Centre



Having two young babies, I am all too aware of what it means to have good antenatal care. I believe that it can have an effect on your mental well being as well as your physical health during pregnancy. I had three very different birth experiences with all my baby girls, but the care I received from the East Maple midwifery team, part of the Liverpool Women's NHS Trust was wonderful, especially from Jo Elliot, who was my midwife throughout both of my recent pregnancies.

Today, Jo and their team put on a great event in Kirkby town centre. They hired a shop out for the day and invited members of the public to come in to talk about their own birthing/pregnancy experiences. There was also face painting, free sweet treats and a little play area for the kids to enjoy.

Photographs from the event today
It was great to see familiar faces of the midwives, out in the community and also showing us about their hard work.

Home Births

One of the aims of the event today was to raise awareness for home-births. There are many benefits to choosing a home birth:

* Guarantees one to one midwifery care in labour
* You are less restricted with who can be present at the birth
* Women often feel more in control and relaxed at home
* No travelling involved

Last year I studied a module on the history of medicine, some of which covered midwifery, so I know that birth has essentially been medicalised over time and that it seems now a lot of women are keen to give birth in a natural setting, away from the hospital. After all, giving birth is a natural process, not a medical emergency.

I was classed as high risk with Rosie due to complications with Alice, so did not opt for a home birth, but it is something I may have considered more carefully had the complications not arisen. At the end of the day, it is a personal choice for yourself and your family and you have to do what is best for you. That is why it was great to see the midwives out today providing information and support to women about these decisions. Pregnancy can be difficult, emotionally and physically, so it's great to know that there is support out there. They're doing a great job.

The Maple East Team


For more information on homebirths, or for any other advice, you can catch them on Twitter

@Liverpoolwomens

or for the team covering Kirkby, Sefton and Croxteth

@East_Maple

They also host regular #TweetTheMidwife sessions, which I think is fab.

Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust
Crown Street, Liverpool,
Merseyside, L8 7SS

To book your first appointment with one of the midwives call 0151 247 4747.


*No disclosure, this was an event in my local community that I support*




Thursday, 22 August 2013

Busy Mum's Guide to...Make-Up

I know I haven't done a 'Busy Mum's Guide...' for ages now, I've been too frigging busy (see what I did there!) Anyway, I've done you a little video on how to do your make-up as a busy Mum for when you are going out.


This is clearly part of the DURING bit...


Just follow these easy steps and you can't go wrong. It's dead simple. Thanks for watching!







Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Easy Mum Recipe: Fo' Shizzle My Chicken

Great recipe name, I think you'll agree... I don't know where I got this from - I think it is a mix-up of recipes that I have read, and me just experimenting with what works. We all love a one-pot recipe, right? It's easy, saves on the washing up and you just whack it in the oven and leave it - no stirring or messing involved!

So, first off all get all your ingredients together. I have not specified quantities here, like I said last time in my Egg Fried Rice recipe, it's not an exact science - just adjust the quantities to suit and play around with it.

So first, get it all together and do your preparation. We cut the oregano from what we have grown in our back garden but you could buy it dried if you wanted to.

My hands are looking rather manly today don't you think??






These are your ingredients:


So - really there are only three steps to this.

1. Peel your carrots, sweet potatoes, onions and potatoes if you want. I like to leave the skin on, but it's up to you. Chop everything up. You could leave the chicken breasts whole - whatever you like it's up to you.
2. Put it all in a big pot, stir up add a little olive oil on the top, but not too much - the fat from the chorizo sausage should help cook all the vegetables and give them that rich smokey flavour as well. Yummy.

All the raw ingredients ready to go
 3. Whack the pot in the oven. I'd say about 180 degrees, middle of the oven for around an hour. Keep a check on it, and just stick a fork in to check that the vegetables are cooked how you would like.

That's it!



Food photography skills!



Fo' Shizzle My Chicken - Chop everything, one pot, oven at 180 for an hour - DONE!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Cow & Gate 100% Fruit Pouches: A Review

This is a Netmum's sponsored review.To find out more click the button:




Like all Mums I want the very best for my children and I feel the same about the food they eat. Although I am not a super-strict parent when it comes to food, and my kids do have treats, I do like to make sure that they are getting their 5-a-day and that we sit down to good wholesome home-cooked food. Of course my kids also eat some trashy foods, but I'd like to think that about 90% of what they eat is actually nutritionally good for them.

So when we were chosen to sample Cow & Gate's new 100% fruit pouches, we were very excited. Rosie is 5 months and just coming up to tasting-time, and Alice is almost two and absolutely loves her food. The samples arrived in a beautiful peach of a basket box and we also had a bib - the bib was a must on every occasion that we sampled these!

Our fruit pouch pressie!


The Product

The pouches contain a fruit puree, made of 100% fruit, Vitamin C and nothing else. As a mum, when I look at packaged foods for my children, I am always so surprised at how many ingredients are actually in something that is supposed to be just fruit, or just a meat and two veg meal. So with these you literally are just getting the good stuff for your kids, and they count as one portion of fruit towards a 12 month old's five a day.

They are available in the following flavours:

* Apple
* Pear
* Apple & Pear
* Apple & Banana
* Apple, Strawberry & Banana
* Fruit Mix

They are suitable for babies starting at 4 months old. Official recommendations for weaning your kids in the UK suggest starting them on food at around 6 months - as I have weaned two children I know that all babies are different, so if you are going to use this or any other product to help you weaning do seek advice from your health visitor if you are unsure.


The texture of the fruit is smooth - they are perfectly blended.

This is the Apple one!


Convenience

What I liked about the packaging was the convenience. You can just chuck them in your bag when you go out, and know that your kids have a great healthy snack to hand. The pouch has an easy twist-off lid, so you can put it in a bowl if you like, or, for older children, just give them the pouch to eat from themselves. This is where a bib comes in handy!
Once the pouch is opened you don't have to use it all, you can store it in the fridge for 24 hours to be used again. We tended to do this with them - the pouches are 80g - I'd say just about the right size for a little snack.

Our Testing!

We used the pouches both at home and when we went out for dinner. I found them really convenient for outside the home. Alice is still exploring new foods, and sometimes the restaurants we go to are a bit too 'adult' for her, so we do like to take our own food with us. These fruit pouches were really handy just as a snack - especially since she could feed herself so it did keep her occupied as well.

Grab the bib!


We also gave her some after breakfast with a bowl and a spoon - she really loves to feed herself using utensils.



Alice's favourite was apple. Oddly, she pulled her face at the fruit mix flavour 'don't like eeeeet' - but I tried this with Rosie and she actually smacked her lips together at the sweet taste!

With Rosie only just beginning weaning, I just gave her small tastes. Obviously everything is new to her, and she did pull her face at first, but after a few spoonfuls over the course of a couple of days she really enjoyed it. I think it's important to be happy with what you are feeding your babies, and to encourage them with smiles and kisses, and this is where it was so easy with the Cow & Gate pouches - no guilt (for a change!) I knew that I was feeding them what they need.


The Brand

I wouldn't normally write about the brand, but I was actually really impressed with the whole package (literally!) The box the pouches came in  the lovely box pictured above and the whole product has an air of 'caring' about it. I know that as parents, it's our job to decide what is best for our children, but sometimes we do need to trust in a brand and certain products to help us along the way and this is one that I really trust. I will definitely be purchasing more of these to have handy in my bag for snack times when we are out and about.

The pouches cost 79p each and can be bought from major supermarkets.

If you want to read more about them visit http://www.netmums.com/family-food/cow-gate



Disclosure: I am a member of the Netmums Blogging Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team to review products and brands on their behalf. I have been paid expenses and supplied with a product sample for this review but retain all editorial control. All my Netmums Reviews will display the Netmums logo within the post.







Saturday, 17 August 2013

Russian Around: Holiday Blog

When I read about Travel Supermarket competition to blog about your favourite holiday for a chance to win £1,000, my first thought wasn't about winning the cash (honest.) I just thought what a lovely idea for a blog - namely our honeymoon back in 2010. Yep, we've been married three years now, and never a cross word. (ish)

Where and When?

Well in August 2010 a few weeks after we were married we embarked on a bit of long-winded and exciting trip to Russia. The main reason for picking Russia was the amazing rich history and culture. To be honest I let Warren deal with all the fine details regarding the booking. Back then, you couldn't fly to Russia direct, there had to be two flights, and we wanted to go to both Moscow and St. Petersburg, so I left the logistics to Warren!

The Trip

We arranged for us to fly to Moscow, and spend three days there, then get the overnight train first class to St Petersburg. We had a truly amazing experience. It was made more surreal by the fact that we expected both Moscow and St Petersburg to be mild in temperature in September, but we hit a massive heat wave. Forrest fires were ravaging most of the countryside and Muscovite locals were drowning in the Moskva River whilst trying to cool off. I had imagined the snow-covered onion-domes of St Basil's cathedral to greet us. Instead the coolest place we found was the underground tomb where Lenin is still kept - the ventilation fans to keep the air the correct temperature cooling us off, providing relief from the scorching sun above ground in and around the Kremlin.

The main memories of our holiday were captured on camera - each shot brings back the memory of an experience I will never forget. I am not saying that it is the most fun-packed, or relaxing holiday I have ever had. But it was certainly the most unique and exciting.

Moscow

On arrival in Moscow, we quickly set about exploring. We knew that one week to do everything we wanted to was not a long time and wanted to cram in as much as we could.


We travelled using Moscow's complex and vast underground network. Pictured above is Warren pointing to where we were on the rail map. I can honestly say I never knew where we were at any point. I'm lucky if I can get from Kirkby to Central Station in Liverpool, so I don't think I would have had much luck in Moscow. Again, I let Warren deal with the logistics (can you see a pattern emerging here??)
Unfortunately we have no photographs of these beautiful underground stations, as it is not allowed, Statues of Lenin and Stalin adorn the vast network, highly detailed and intricate murals line the walls and floors at every step, immaculately clean and cared for.


We visited the historical Red Square in the centre of Moscow. This holds St Basil's Cathedral pictured above. The inside of the Cathedral is just as breathtaking. It is very large inside and consist of lots of labyrinth-like corridors, dark rooms and arched doorways. When we were there an all-male vocal harmony group were singing. Their voices rang through the building in perfect pitch - it really was something special.

The square itself it just a sight to behold. The leader of the Revolution in 1917, V.I. Lenin is kept underground in the Mausoleum in the square. He is embalmed and kept preserved in a glass case. Visitors are allowed in to see Lenin, but you literally have to keep moving - the Russian guards stand over the case and you walk around in a square at a slow pace. It was an amazing sight. He is perfectly preserved - I even noticed the grit still under his fingernails.


We also visited the Kremlin. Overlooking the Moskva river, the Kremlin (translation: fortress) is a fortified complex, the equivalent of say The White House or 10 Downing Street, but much more majestic in my opinion. It houses many beautiful buildings, including cathedrals and small churches, and was home to many of the Tsars. The picture above is one of the cathedrals in the Kremlin.

One thing we found difficult in both Moscow and St. Petersberg was language. We spoke no Russian, other than what we learned while we were there, namely how to order two beers. If we went again we would be more organised and learn some Russian, I suppose with the build up to the wedding it wasn't something we thought about. The letters are all Cyrillic, which makes it difficult to even read Russian words and pronounce them correctly. 



Izmailovsky Market


We also did a lot of walking in Moscow. We visited the vast market and viewed all the goods. We bought two Russian fur hats (of course) and a couple of fridge magnets (We collect magnets from everywhere we go.) As we were walking through, we saw these random statues of Lenin and Stalin just chucked in with these odds and ends at the back of the market. 

 


We also saw this amazing chess board pictured below. It is World War Two all over again, with the Kings as Stalin and Hitler, their women and henchmen at their side all playing their part. Speechless.

 



The Overnight Moscow - St. Petersburg Train


Pictured above is the temperature in Moscow train station. I honestly thought Russia would be cold. Maybe I've just been watching too many American action films.

We caught the overnight train to St. Petersburg, which for me was one of the best experiences of the whole holiday. I would definitely recommend it.  The train is called the Red Arrow and was previously used by the Tsars and Soviet leaders to travel between Moscow and Leningrad (as St Petersburg was formerly named.) Pictured below is our train cabin for the night. We awoke to fires still smouldering in the countryside as we entered St Petersburg and as we disembarked, the Hymn to the Great City playing over the speakers. The hottest day in their history was just beginning. Perfect for people as pale/ginger as us...


This is the train journey route
St Petersburg

We spent a lot of time walking around St. Petersburg and we stumbled upon an outdoor wedding or ten, as you do. These little courtyards were lined by canals and were popular for wedding parties. A few minutes after the photo below was taken, the groom popped the cork on some champagne and it hit me in the face and everyone laughed. #Awkward.

Dostoevsky's classic book Crime and Punishment was set in and around St. Petersburg, so we walked to the street where Dostoevsky was born and where the novel was set. The building pictured below was where the fictional main character Raskalnikov was said to have lived.




We also visited the Winter Palace. Pictured below is me being all touristy. The Winter Palace was the place that Lenin and the Bolsheviks stormed in 1917 to take power. The Tsar and his family were held here, including Anastasia, who was made famous by many bogus claims to her identity years later, or by the Disney film, whichever! The whole family was eventually removed from the palace and executed to remove Tsarist absolute power and to make way for Bolshevism and eventually communist rule in Russia.
The Winter Palace is now home to the famous museum The Hermitage which holds many pieces of art by artists such as Picasso and the famous Faberge jewelled eggs. A permit was required to take photographs - we just enjoyed being there. You wouldn't believe how many rooms the palace has - we were there all day. I think we were more impressed by the building and the rich history of the rooms themselves more than the art. We visited the main hall with the throne, the Romanov nursery, just everything about the history was fascinating.
These photos are just a few from a massive collection. We literally did not stop exploring for the full seven days - we really did cram everything in to one week.



Not forgetting the last photo. A woman in the park just opposite the palace. Feeding spam to the birds, topless. 


This post is an entry to Travel Supermarket's holiday blogging competition. If we won we would take the kids on holiday to Barcelona, as this is where we got engaged.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Easy Mum Recipe: Egg Fried Rice

Yep, I've called it Easy Mum Recipe, and I'm sticking with it, don't care about the connotations. It might even be a little series that crops up now and again. I am a mum and a wife after all and I can actually pass on some real tips.  The longer I'm married and the longer I am a mum, the more things I pick up along the way. I won't ever post recipes that I just find on the internet, I'll just do ones that I use. Cheap, cheerful mid-week teas and things like that. How to make it quicker, healthier and probably cheaper.

So here is the first one: Egg fried rice. I've tried Gok Wan's, Ken Hom's and none of them compare to chippy egg fried rice. Over the years I have tried loads of different ways, and this is the way that I like it. I'm not saying it's better than anyone else's or that I have perfected it (nothing nicer than chicken fried rice from the chippy.) But, if you want to make it yourself and have never tried, here might be a good place to start. It's easy, quick, healthy and cheap. All the family will like it and you can pretty much chuck in whatever you fancy, or serve it with a curry or whatever.

I have not put any quantities. I don't weigh or measure, I just do it by taste and sight, I tend to use 3 eggs and 4 spring onions in mine with enough rice for 4 people - the peas I just add in until I think there are enough - I don't have an exact science with this - or anything come to think of it!

You will need:

Brown Rice
Eggs
Soy Sauce
Spring onions
Frozen peas
Groundnut oil
Salt



We used to buy the groundnut oil from a Chinese supermarket in Liverpool, but you can find it in your usual supermarket now. Peanut oil also does the same job, but don't use a usual vegetable or olive oil - you need the nutty flavour. Everything else you can just buy from the usual places - Home Bargains usually stocks what we need to be honest and you'll usually get it cheaper there than in a supermarket.


You can usually get brown rice from your supermarket. It is a bit more expensive than normal white rice, but we tend to buy this anyway as it is healthier. It also cooks up firmer - you know when you cook white rice sometimes it can be too fluffy - well this doesn't happen with the brown rice.

Method

* Boil your rice for 30 minutes. Stick it in the sink in a collander and rinse with cold water. This just cools it down quickly. If you want you can just leave it to cool, but it takes quite a while, so I rinse it to speed the process up.



* Chop your spring onions roughly


* Crack your 3 eggs and whisk them up. Heat enough oil in a wok to fry the egg 


Keep stirring the egg quickly, and separate it into 'strands.' The picture below was probably taken a bit too soon - I like the egg in thinner strips than this, but you get the idea:


* Chuck in your onions and peas, fry them. Add more oil if you need it. Keep frying until the frozen peas have softened. Using a ladel, put the cooled rice in gradually. Put one ladel in, cover it with the oil as you stir, then add more rice, stir, until all the rice is in and coated with the oil. Taste it to see if you need more oil, add salt or pepper if you like.


* Keep stirring and mixing until you feel that the rice is coated. Then add your soy sauce to your taste. You can always add more peas, sweetcorn or any other meat you like.

Once it is done it should look something like this:


I tend to keep mine quite plain and light, but you really could add anything you like. So that's it. That's my easy fried rice recipe - took YEARS to get it like this!



It gets the Alice seal of approval - so that will do for me!


*I am not affiliated with any brands mentioned in this post. Recipe is my own, I am just sharing*

Jungle Dogs Hot Dogs

If you remember, a few weeks ago we were invited to the launch of Jungle Dogs hot dogs at Knowsley Safari Park. They had a taster session where we met celebrity Tina O'Brien, and then we went on to have a fun day in the park. You can read about that here.

Anyway, the lovely chaps from Jungle Dogs gave us lots of samples of the hot dogs along with a recipe book.



So, when we got home, I planned on testing out some of these recipes:


The recipes above are designed to be balanced meals for the kids - let's face it not many kids turn down hot dogs! So I started planning a great dinner for the kids, but Emily suggested that perhaps we just keep it simple and do a really easy dinner. Just usual hotdogs on buns!

I fried up some onions and got some big floury finger buns. I sliced them and just put out the usual condiments for the kids to help themselves; mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise.

 I think it's fair to say that they went down a storm with our kids.


Jungle Dogs are sold in Tesco in packs of 6 for £1.20. They contain more pork than other brands and no mechanically reformed meat. This is great for Mums - 'Guilt free for Mum' !


Disclosure: We attended the taster launch at Knowsley Safari Park. We had a great day and the kids were given goody bags including toys, animal onesies and colouring books. All views are my own - we enjoyed the yummy hot dogs. Visit their website for more information.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

What We Grow... In Our Normal Family Back Garden

I wouldn't say we are real gardeners or anything. In fact, I am fairly useless when it comes to the garden - rightly or wrongly I believe that I am so busy in and around the damn house that I just haven't got the time to be bothered about what goes on in the garden. This is a silly attitude I know, but it is one that suits me. Therefore, it is my poor long-suffering husband who does the garden and grows the stuff. So really, my disclosure here is that in fact, I grow none of these things. I just cook with them and then moan. Like any normal wife, really.

So pictured below are what 'we' grow. They are all really simple. We have a normal back garden, we don't have anything special to make things grow or buy expensive pots or plant food. It's all really straight forward and easily do-able. I often send the kids out to pick Rosemary or whatever and it just involves the whole family and makes them realise that not everything is bought from Iceland. Or Aldi.

Rosemary


How to Grow: This was grown from seed and has been there for about two years now.

What to do: I just take a few of the leaves, cut them up and throw them on the Sunday roast spuds just before I whack them in the oven.

Oregano (left) & Thyme (right)


How to Grow: These were both grown from seeds.

What to do: Oregano - we chuck this in pasta sauces or in a one-pot chicken, chorizo and veg bake that I cook. (I'll post the recipe for that one, it's dead easy, dead healthy and yummy.)

Thyme: To be honest I don't use this one as much as I would like. I have used it with chicken, but I've never made anything special with it - maybe I'll try it soon and report back.

Basil


How to Grow: We grew some from seeds, but then Alice decided that her grubby fingers would wreck the green-fingers of Warren. (She trashed the lot.) So this particular bush was grown from a pot from Asda - 58p - we planted it and it has just flourished.

What to do: This is one of my favourites. Pasta sauces, salads, or just with tomato and mozzarella cheese on a Melba toast. Omnomnom.

Garlic


How to Grow: Grown from seeds - these are not quite ready yet as the leaves are still green. The bulbs grown underneath and are ready once the leaves have turned brown.

What to do: Are you kidding? We have garlic in EVERYTHING you can smell us coming a mile off - can't wait for these bulbs to make an appearance!

Mint


How to grow: Grown from seeds

What to do: I put the mint in a mortar and ground it with olive oil to put on lamb - but mint is one I still need to experiment with to be honest. I suppose you could just add some chopped mint to ice cream. Yumyum!

Sage


How to Grow: Grown from seeds. Oh and can you spot the gnome hiding...?

What to do: I have never used the sage. It just keeps growing and growing. I need to make my own stuffing actually, but my blender has blown a fuse so I can't make the breadcrumbs to go with it, but once I've bought a new one I'm definitely going to try that.

Strawberries



How to Grow: These were grown from the off shoots from last year's lot. Clearly strawberries are out of season now, hence the plant looking a bit sad, but it should be all up and running in time for the next lot!

So, there you have it. This is what we grow. Warren waters the plants, the kids help with weeding and I stand at the kitchen window watching and tut-tutting at them messing around outside when clearly there are SO many other jobs to be getting on with inside...

Warren used a 'Grow Your Own Food' book to get started with this little lot a couple of years back. Oddly it has no author it is just published by Parragon Books 2010, created and produced by Ivy Contract - he recommends the book.


*All views are my own. Any brands mentioned are just mentioned, I have no affiliation with anything mentioned on this page.*

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