Thursday, 23 October 2014

Our Thursday Photo #24

This week has been somewhat busy, but in a good way. We looked at a house on Saturday and loved it, so we decided it was time to put ours on the market. On Saturday, we spent the day in London, visiting the poppies at the Tower of London. It was a lovely day, but exhausting for us all and we got back home very late. 

On Monday morning, I put in an offer on the house and it was accepted on the condition that it would remain on the market until we sold ours. So then it was all go to get the house ready for the estate agents to come round, and the for sale board has gone up today. I've had this house for 11 years now, and it has been up for sale a few times during that time, but for one reason or another I've ended up not having to sell. I can't help thinking that the same thing is going to happen again, the house we've offered on will fall through and we'll end up staying here. I think I would be happy with either outcome, because we love it here and it would be nice to stay a little longer, but I love the other house too, it's a beautiful area, near to great schools and I know we'd be happy there too. 

So with things all up in the air, it is nice that the girls are still on an even keel. Lia has completely mastered staying upright when we sit her up now. This seems to give her a bit more freedom, because she can sit with the other children at playgroup and watch what's going on. Her sleeping is getting slightly better too, so I'm starting to feel a bit more human. 

Our Thursday photo #24 has a photo bomber. Pluto and Lia have a strange sort of bond, which perhaps is based on the fact that Libby and Soxa get along so well. So when I sat Lia on the floor next to Libby, Pluto insisted on coming to keep an eye on her. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Letters from Santa

This year is quite a special Christmas for us, because it's Lia's first Christmas, and it's the first time that Libby has been really interested in Christmas, Santa and what's going to happen. Libby, in her usual manner, is blissfully unaware that it's only October. She has dug out her Christmas books and we are reading them on repeat. So when I was given the opportunity to review some letters from Santa, I reluctantly agreed.

The Lapland Mailroom website gives you the opportunity to choose between different letters so that siblings don't receive the same letter, and there is even one for baby's first Christmas. Whilst I know that Lia would only try to eat her letter this time, it will be a lovely thing to keep. You are also able to personalise the letters, so that Santa knows a little bit about each child. I've added a little P.S. to Libby's letter, just thanking her for being such a good big sister to Libby.

As well as the letters, children can have a little activity pack to colour in, including a sign to put out make sure that Santa stops here. Libby will enjoy doing this, but I don't think she is yet old enough to colour it in to a standard that she would want to keep. Next year though, I'm sure an activity pack will be ideal.

At the moment, the letters also include a free certificate to say that they are on the nice list. The letters arrive in the post, which is even more exciting. Here is a little sneak preview of Libby's letter.

My next plan for Christmas is to get around to making my cake and also make an advent calendar for the girls. I want to do an advent calendar on the front of a Christmas present sack, and I also want the girls to share it because I think it's good for them to get used to sharing and to open their presents together. I'm not really a Christmas person, but it seems that I'm going to have to persevere, and I think that letters from Santa are a great start!

Please note, the Lapland mailroom kindly sent me these letters for the girls free of charge in return for an unbiased review. Views, opinions, Christmas loving children and half hearted attempts at becoming Christmassy myself in October are all mine.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

More healthy meals

I'm very aware of how lucky I am that Libby loves healthy food. I see other parents struggling to get their children to eat anything, while Libby sits there happily munching on salad or fruit. I don't think this is anything we've done right or they've done wrong, her tastes have just developed to enjoy healthy food.

One of the only things that Libby wasn't keen on when she was younger was eggs. We persevered with them though, because as a vegetarian, eggs are such a key part of my diet, especially for protein. Luckily, they are now one of Libby's favourite foods. Most days she asks for either hard boiled eggs or egg and soldiers for lunch, but luckily, she also enjoys my favourite, poached eggs.

What I love about poached eggs is that they're so versatile. I'm also really keen on the fact that I have some control over the source of eggs. In order to carry the British Lion Eggs logo, eggs have to meet a certain standard. One of the most important things is the labelling, so they are not allowed to say that they're "farm fresh" or indicate that chickens are free to roam if they are in fact battery hens. This gives me the confidence to buy free range eggs, safe in the knowledge that chickens are kept in good conditions and I'm not inadvertently supporting a cruel practice.

My favourite poached egg meal (call me a heathen if you wish!) is this one:

Good old poached eggs with beans on toast. This is making me hungry just looking at it. But I also have a trick for sneaking poached eggs into a posh meal, and it's also a vegetarian meal that people tend to be quite impressed with at a dinner party.

I make a risotto with assorted mushrooms and sundried tomatoes. I fry the mushrooms in the oil from the sundried tomatoes and add a little white wine before they go into the risotto. The vegetable stock is then complemented with a bit more white wine (do you see the theme??) while the risotto is cooking.

When the risotto is virtually cooked, I put on a pan with some butter and a drop of water to sauté some asparagus and samphire. This only cooks for a couple of minutes, and then I add a twist of lemon juice and some pepper to the pan, stir it around and take it off the heat, so the asparagus and samphire are still nice and fresh and crunchy. To serve, the risotto goes on the plate, followed by the asparagus and samphire. This is then topped with a poached egg and then a few shavings of vegetarian hard cheese. This is quite possibly my favourite dinner party meal, easy to make so I'm not stuck in the kitchen, but the fabulous ingredients make it relatively impressive none the less. I'm afraid I don't have a photograph of this masterpiece, as it would be sacrilege to cook it when asparagus is out of season!

Please note, I was sent a small gift for writing this post, but views, opinions, health food loving children, dinner party recipes and an undeniable love of wine are all mine. Sadly, this beautiful looking dinner wasn't mine, it was my sister's.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Salad for lunch

I've recently been thinking a lot about healthy eating and exercise. One of the main reasons for this is because I'm finding it so difficult to fit in exercise at the moment and cooking healthy meals has to be a quick process because I'm so short of time. In the winter, I usually gravitate towards soups at lunchtime, but perhaps it's because our summer lasted so long, but this year I'm still totally hooked on salad.

One of my favourite books of all time was Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It's a few years since I've read it, but it often comes up in conversation and recently, I was discussing it with my sister, who mentioned the use in the book of chia seeds. I had already bought some of those when we had the conversation, but chatting about it made me think about seeds in general and how beneficial they are, particularly if you're vegetarian like me, because they can provide nutrients like calcium that are so important and often missing in the vegetarian diet.

The other way to get both calcium and iron in a vegetarian diet is through the use of green leafy vegetables. Of course, my love of salad at the moment is making this easy to achieve. I've recently discovered a new type of salad that has just been introduced by Florette. Baby kale is a relative of curly kale, but it's much better for eating raw. It tastes great and contains calcium and iron. And aside from anything else, it's new, so it makes a bit of a change from the usual salad leaves. 

It's pretty rare for me to eat lunch on my own, but the other day Libby went to my mum's for lunch. For Libby and I, our usual routine is to have boiled egg and salad, sometimes with some bread or some crisps. In the absence of egg or bread and owing to a lack of willingness to go to the shop, I used avocado to make the salad more filling and sprinkled hemp seeds on the top for protein and texture. And I came up with this beautiful creation, I wasn't quite sure whether to eat it or photograph it, so I did both!

Please note, I was given the opportunity to sample some baby kale for the purposes of an honest review. All views, opinions, salad addictions and beautiful edible creations are my own.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Our Thursday Photo #23

Every week since Lia was born, I have been posting a photo of my two girls together. The more I think about it, the more delighted I am about the photographic record of them growing up together. I also keep wondering when it will be that the girls go off each other!

Yesterday, I ordered a personalised letter from Santa for both girls. One of the options for the letter was to add in a little note to say well done to the child for something in particular, or to give them a special message. I sat and thought about it before writing anything for Libby, and I realised that her huge achievement for this year has been how amazing she has been with Lia. She is genuinely helpful, particularly when it comes to looking after Lia when she is upset or grumpy. The other thing that always amazes me is that Libby always wants to be with Lia. I thought it would be the opposite, that she would crave one to one attention from me or her dad but actually, she would always rather have her sister with her. I hope that as they grow up, they will always be just as close.

This week has been another difficult one for me. I have to admit to being a huge fan of sleep. Before having children, I had been known to sleep from 10 pm to 11 am or later at every available opportunity. When Libby came along, we had eight weeks of sleep deprivation before she started sleeping through. Sadly, Lia hasn't taken after her big sister and she is still waking two or three times per night. As I'm generally working until around 1.30 am, sleep just isn't happening. I did manage to fit in a run yesterday though, a very slow 11 km but it was good to get out there.

This week's Thursday photo #23 was just a quick snap when the girls were playing together. Lia is sitting up by herself now, but they both still enjoy lying down on Lia's play mat together.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Encouraging a healthy lifestyle

I have a few blog posts to write this week that are around health and nutrition. This has always been something that was important to me, but it has become so much more important since having children. I know that opinion is polarised as to which is more important between diet and physical activity, but I can't personally prioritise one of those over the other. Without a good diet, it is difficult to find the energy to exercise, and exercise is important both for physical and psychological health.

Unfortunately as we get older, exercise doesn't feature so heavily in our lifestyles. This is rarely a conscious decision, but life gets in the way. As soon as you cut down on exercise, it doesn't seem unusual to drive to the shop or the doctor's and before you know it, you have become virtually inactive.

When I was given the opportunity to review the Ozeri 4x3 Digital Pocket 3D Pedometer, I jumped at the chance having always wondered how much exercise I did each day when you include running around after children and walking the dogs. Before the product arrived though, my dad realised that he needed to change his lifestyle, and in particular take more exercise. I therefore decided to test the item on dad, since it was probably aimed more at people who didn't exercise than people who were curious as to how many calories you burn running after a toddler.

The pedometer has just four buttons, so it is exceptionally easy to use. Dad and I set it up together, then he slipped it in his pocket and he was good to go.

The unusual thing about this pedometer is that it measures on all axes, so even if it turns around in your pocket, it will still measure your steps. It is also ultra small, so you don't notice it's there and finding somewhere to stash it isn't a problem. 

The first day that dad wore it, I think he got a bit of a wakeup call. I told him that most people aim for 10,000 steps per day with these things, and he did just 900. Within a week of using it, he has changed his lifestyle. He now walks to the shop and the doctors, and is already up to around 7000 steps per day. I'm shocked that such a tiny little item can make such a difference to someone's lifestyle. 

Please note that I was given this product for free in return for an honest review. All views, opinions, inactive fathers and toddler chasing exercise regimes are my own. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Doddle for Dogs Review and Giveaway!

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to review the Doddle for Dogs, a dog collar with an integrated lead. I thought this sounded quite convenient, so I said I'd give it a go. I decided to use it on Soxa, because being a Lurcher, Pluto can occasionally slip out of a collar so he tends to be better off with a slip lead.

In recent years, Soxa has aged quite quickly. She is fourteen years old and has had two strokes, In dogs, a stroke is something to do with the ears, so I'm told. This has unfortunately sent her almost completely deaf, so indicating to her what you want her to do has become almost impossible. Prior to putting the Doddle onto Soxa, I hadn't twigged how useful a lead integrated into the collar would be for a deaf dog. As soon as I put it on her, I realised just how much this was going to help her.

The collar incorporates a little disk that holds a lead. Until you pull the handle to take the lead out, it is safely stashed away inside the collar. When I need to attract Soxa's attention, I can just take hold of the handle and lead her wherever she needs to go. The lead is also great for Libby, as a normal lead that doesn't retract will get tangled up when Libby is leading Soxa along. The two of them seem to be getting on better than ever these days.

As you can see, the collar is a pretty, bright red colour and the lead just looks like a piece of ribbon. It is nice and robust though, and the handle on the end is easy to hold. The whole thing is nice and lightweight, Soxa doesn't seem to notice that she's wearing it. Although this has proved an absolute godsend to us because of Soxa's deafness, I would still recommend it to someone with a hearing dog as the convenience of not having to worry about bringing a lead with us when we go out is great.

If you like the sound of the Doddle and would like to win one, just enter the simple raffelcopter competition below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note, I was lucky enough to be given a Doddle to try in return for an honest review of the product. All views, opinions, deaf dogs, rainy days and independent children are my own.