Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Gallery: Friends

This week, over at The Gallery we've been asked to focus on friends.

I recently posted about this as part of #DoSomethingYummy but with the focus on photos, I decided to dig up our history- past to present.
So here goes:


The most recent photos, unsurprisingly are of us behind the camera, as we choose to let children have the limelight, it's odd how many years are missing between these photos, the photos span from 2000 to 2012, and yet the memories of Sam's Bar are like yesterday, and whilst my last photo is from 2010, I can't help but wonder why I don't have any more recent.
Good friendship is, unfortunately, taking things foregranted, knowing that you can pick up where you left off, no matter how long ago it was, knowing that friends are willing to overlook your flaws, as long as you laugh long, and loud.

Why not pop over to The Gallery for other takes on friendship

Guest Post: Jennifer's Little World; The Witching Hour

Picture 13

Welcome to the first Multi-Coloured Blog Swap, the brain child of Trouble Doubled.

This is my first ever guest post, written by Jennifer at Jennifer's Little World, Jennifer has two gorgeous children in Harry and Mia, who are round about the same age as my little ones, but! As well as writing some fab posts about parenting, Jennifer also manages to inspire with gorgeous craft posts and activities for little people.

Jennifer has kindly written a post about 'the witching hour', I think pertinent for the majority of parents. So, without further ado!

I have a toddler and a baby, and when I’m at home with my little ones the most difficult time of the day without question is late afternoon. At 4pm, when tea is a long way off and bedtime even further away, the afternoon can feel as though it will never end. The winter months are even worse, when it’s too cold to face going outside and it gets dark mid-afternoon. I find that my toddler becomes either hyper or whingy, and I can’t concentrate on him because the baby is whinging and grizzling in the background.

So here are a few ways that I have found to make those long hours bearable, and sometimes even enjoyable.

If I can, I get outside. Even a quick trip to the shops or the post box can fill a large chunk of the afternoon by the time I’ve got everyone to the toilet, nappies changed, handbag and keys located, coats and shoes on, babies into pushchairs and so on. Everyone feels better for some fresh air, toddlers can burn off some energy if you can persuade them to walk, and I’ve found that at this time of day babies are quite chilled out in the pushchair.

If I can’t get outside, I raid the toy cupboards and wardrobes for toys that haven’t been out for a while. I keep some toys rotated away, so when I get them out they receive a lot more attention than those which surround us every day. I try to find something that they can both play with, or that at least won’t harm the baby when she chews on it. Sometimes the living room ends up a sea of coloured plastic, but at least everyone is contented.

I've also discovered that, strange as it sounds, even just moving to a different room in the house can really perk babies up. I forget sometimes that they get bored of the same four walls, and taking their toys to a different location can work wonders.

Snacks are another helpful diversion. We try and eat our dinner together at about 6pm, which is quite late for little ones, so at about 4.30pm we have snack time. My preferred snacks are those which are made up of lots of small pieces that take a while to eat, especially for babies that are just developing their pincer grip. Think raisins, cereal, halved grapes or other small pieces of cut fruit. I sometimes also use this opportunity to make a start on the dinner preparations while everyone is strapped into a highchair out of the way.

Finally, sometimes there comes a point where it just has to be the television. Yes, I was one of those smug mothers-to-be who was never going to let her children watch television. That lasted about as long as using cotton wool and water instead of baby wipes - I have found the television invaluable at this time of day. I can’t get my little ones to sit down and watch it, but somehow it just seems to calm them down a bit and they will play happily with it on in the background.

So there you have it, my ways of getting through those long afternoons!

Jennifer's Little World

Monday, 27 February 2012

Product Review: Sweetcorn Bites

Last week I opened the door to a package of Sweetcorn Bites, I don't actually think the postman wanted to part with them.
Sweetcorn Bites
Sweetcorn is definitely one of the OH's favourite vegetables, and one of Seren's as a result. Seren enjoys using her fork, but struggles with some of her favourite veg: trees (broccoli), leaves (green beans or spinach) and balls (used equally for sweetcorn and peas). Many times we have gone out for dinner and she has resorted to 'drinking' a bowl of peas:
Toddler eating peas
The arrival of Sweetcorn Bites has cheered Seren up immensely, we are equally going through a phase of Seren liking to use her hands to eat, and it's difficult to enforce rules given it's ok to eat toast and cake with hands, but not vegetables... when we want her to eat vegetables.

Sweetcorn Bites are the perfect compromise, made for eating with hands! They are perfect for ensuring little ones (and adults) are getting their daily veg, with the added bonus that they are straightforward to prepare.

If you want you can just pop them in the microwave for 4 minutes with a dash of water, I think this makes them perfect for a snack when the need arises. Or you can roast or boil in a pan.
Sweetcorn Bites on the hob
They do look so tempting, and I think little people would agree given how much Seren seems to love the colour yellow. We had ours with our main meal:
Potatoes and sweetcorn bites
Now, usually I focus on green veg for us from a nutritional view, but for the 'science bit' there's no arguing with sweetcorn:
"It’s rich in carbohydrates and sugars and contains useful amounts of vitamins A, B3 (which supports metabolism, the nervous and digestive systems) and C. It also contains Folic Acid, fibre and protein. Perhaps the most surprising thing about sweetcorn is that’s it’s even better for you when it’s cooked! The antioxidant activity of these little golden niblets is significantly increased when cooked, helping to battle cancer, heart disease and protect against cataracts (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, August 2002)."

Sweetcorn Bites are available from Ocado, and selected stores at Waitrose, Tesco and Co-op. 
Barfoots run an environmentally and socially acceptable farming system, ensuring continuity of supply of wholesome, affordable food and enhances the fabric and wildlife of the British countryside.
They are made on a working farm in Sussex, so whilst it may not be 'buying local' it is 'buying British'. Which, in this economy, can only be a good thing.

These are the perfect size for the family, being quick and convenient is a huge boost to us, and giving variety and encouraging independence are a great bonus.

The results from our family were a resounding 'yes'. Seren loved them, especially being allowed to eat with her hands, Mr J and I love the idea of snacking on them as we focus on loosing weight through eating better, and my teething babies love that they can get a good hold them and chomp their gums down. It's rare that we get the five of us giving thumbs up to one thing, but this is a resounding success.

Disclosure: We received a package of Sweetcorn Bites for the purposes of this review. All views and opinions contained are our own.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Project 366 #8

Johnson Babies

Johnson Babies

Sunday: Seb tucking into pizza
Monday: Tom challenging Seren to a race
Tuesday: Seren's cakes
Wednesday: Pay day spends arrive
Thursday: Seren's new hat
Saturday: Afternoon tea at the Celtic Manor

and my favourite:
Friday: Babies outing to Roath Park

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Silent Sunday

Celtic Manor Afternoon Tea

Silent Sunday

Friday, 24 February 2012

Family Frolics #7: Make your cake and eat it!

This week we've been put in a difficult situation, I've had laryngitis and been off work all week, fortunately it's not been too bad, just a lack of a voice. This has been complicated by Mr J having to go up north for the week, so I've been able to spend lots of time with the little ones and figure out how to keep them entertained. My first time of being a stay-at-home mum for six months, and my first time of a week solo parenting.

I have loved every minute, and will probably be posting photos from this week for a long time, so being able to get involved with Family Frolics on Multiple Mummy's blog is so good. Trying to figure out which activity to include, well, it had to be making cakes.

Seren never liked cakes, she used to eat the icing off the top and leave the cake (rather embarrassing at birthday parties as she collected cakes, missing the icing). Since she has started making cakes she has enjoyed participating in the eating as much as the making.

These cakes were made with the intention of my mum's birthday. I sense this was a ploy by Seren, we do not have any cakes left to give my mum... but it has allowed a little added incentive to eat all her meals if she can have cake for dessert!

As always, these are our best attempts, as much as I love Masterchef- we're a long way off!
Baking at 2!

Baking at 2

Baking fun

Why not pop over to Multiple Mummy for more ideas for Family Frolics?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Gallery: Landscapes

This week's theme over at The Gallery is landscapes. Before I met the OH landscapes were places I visited, I most loved the skylines of cities: London; New York; Paris; Cardiff.

The OH grew up in the Pennines and appreciated the peace in a landscape. The house he lived in represented this, the previous owners had adopted 'Pleasant View' as its name.

When it came to moving to Wales I quickly realised when house hunting it was not likely to come down to which house we chose, but the location. We would no longer suit the busy life, with three children, a dog and two cats on tow, we need an environment the children could grow up as children.

We found the ideal location, and next came the house. And when we found this one, whilst the house was perfect, it was the view from the garden that made it the home we wanted for our family.

We live in a village that boasts being the most southerly point on the mainland of Wales, this is our view, that over there is England.

Pop over to The Gallery for more amazing landscapes.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Listography: Things that make me happy

Listography at Kate Takes 5 this week is about things that make you happy, so without further ado, let's get smiling:

1. Seren's bedtime routine: I love taking Seren to bed, it is no longer the trauma it used to be to settle her, instead it is a negotiation on the subject of "how many books?". Seren always tries for three, we negotiate at two. She then gets to choose which two, this is a longer process as three books are placed on the bed. As a child I was a bookworm, I love that she loves books. The times where either the OH or I attempt to get away with one book results in shutting the bedroom door, the pitter patter of feet, light on, and half an hour later, lights off. Come morning time her books are all in bed with her.

2.  Sunday afternoon walks: we must do this more, but this year we have been trying to make a habit of going for walks as a family, we are surrounded by the most amazing places, and just to get out as a family, and to get some fresh air, coming home re-energised.

3. Coming home after being away with work: As much as I may enjoy a night's sleep without interruption, there is nothing like the feeling of coming home. Being away makes me appreciate my family so much. There is no place like home.

4. My mum: of course my dad as well, but there is no-one who can make me laugh quite as much as my mum, and this is probably because it includes the ability to laugh at herself. My mum is well meaning, wears her heart on her sleeve, and will do anything for her grandchildren. She nags like no other. But acknowledges it. My mum's ability to do the best for everyone, and the fact she is my mum- what's there not to be happy about?!

5. My husband: this is a difficult one, he is my husband because he makes me happy, but we must do more to remember this, that we were a couple first and foremost. Becoming parents has changed us irrevocably, but our relationship with each other is more than this. He makes me happy because he can take the mick out of me, and everyone else, with an easy style, sometimes too quick for the naked eye. He will spoil me with the most random presents, and he is never predictable. He is yin to my yang.

Head over to Kate takes 5 for more things that make people happy:


Monday, 20 February 2012

Product Review: Higher Nature Mineral Bath Soak

When we were offered the chance to review a bath soak I instantly saw a way to score brownie points with the OH and volunteered to put his views forward.

Higher Nature are a supplier of vitamins and supplements and we were sent Alka-Bathe to review. In our house baths are a real luxury for adults, which contrasts to the routine of baby baths.

As I'm not a fan of baths the OH was very happy to be given the opportunity for an excuse for a bath. He loves baths, probably becuase he understands how much they can help a body reccuperate. He plays squash every day, he'd play more often if he could. I get tired just watching a game.

So, one morning when mum had the twins and Squeaks was at pre-school, Mr J went up for a bath. Not that we have routine in particular, but when I realised that it was getting on to the time he gets ready to pick Squeaks up I went to find him. And there he was, snoozing in bed.

I asked him how the bath was, he seemed disappointed: "There were no bubbles and it didn't smell of anything but my skin does feel tingley, in a good way". I broke the news gently that this ok, this was how he was meant to be. He looked confused so I found the jar and read out the label:

"Alka-Bathe provides alkalising minerals (Potassium, Sodium bicarbonate and Silicon dioxide) for a complete detox. Cleansing and detoxifying the skin by drawing out acid waste products, it is also relaxing and soothing - comparable to a hot spring spa."

And the penny dropped, he couldn't believe he had fallen asleep, it had done its job at relaxing, but I have created a monster- he went on that night to win his match, and he has decided to make the link with the Alka Bathe, it's a wonderful logic, but as it's worked two weeks in a row I've got no way out.

So, our bathroom has been transformed, bye bye baby toiletries, hello Alka Bathe.

For anyone who wants a bath to make your body feel healthier this seems to be the business. To me the fact it's not fragranced adds to the benefits- it doesn't contrast with your aftershave or perfume.
Given it seems to have balanced Tony's diet with looking after his body on the outside, it has provided the mssing link.

Alka-Bathe is available in jars of 650g or 450g. For the purpose of the review we received the 650g jar, which is packaged in an airtight container, and comes with a separate scoop. The larger jar retails for £20.95, while the smaller jar is £14.95. These are available from Higher Nature, a supplier of vitamins and supplements.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Project 366 #7

Sunday: Squeaks becoming happier with the camera pointing in her direction
Monday: Packed ready for London
Tuesday: View from hotel
Wednesday: Day time view
Thursday: As a baby she'd cry the place down when put in a high chair- whole different story now they're for the boys
Friday: pile on mummy as she tries to go into the office

And my favourite, Saturday's folding clothes chore became more fun:

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Thursday, 16 February 2012

#DoSomethingYummy Week 3: Getting together with friends

So, it's now week 3 of the blog prompts from Nickie at I Am Typecast . Nickie has invited bloggers and readers to support the CLIC Sargent charity. Nickie is promoting CLIC Sargeant and Yummy Mummy Week which takes place from the 10th to 18th March 2012.

Nickie posts about why this is important to her and how you can get involved

The prompt for week 3 is Getting together

Not to sound like too much of a loner, when it comes to friends I am definitely a less is more person. I am a rubbish friend, and where some people will make me green eyed as they recall texts every day, phone calls all the time, regular coffee sessions, and plenty of nights out, I have to keep my foot in reality. It is sad to say but working full time, three children, the husband, and all the chaos and mess which follow us mean that I honestly do not have a clue where I could find the time.

So, I am fortunate enough to have the best friends, the ones who put up with me and are always there for me when I need them.

I have my work friends. The clue wasn't in the title. I have learned in ten years of working at the same place that the real friends are the ones who keep in contact after you stop working together. I can now boast that I have probably spent more time not working with these lovely peeps than working with them. And, typically, they have both gone on to be so much happier since we have stopped working together. When I lived up North we tried to get together often, and I must get my butt into gear and arrange another meet. This was the last time I saw them together at Tatton Park:

And then I have my 'homies' (oh how this is the most straightforward way of referring to them), the lovely peeps whom I have known since college. And as far as 'getting together' is concerned, I even have a New Year's Resolution to cover this. Last Sunday was the first get together, and as suspected, life does get in the way and only two of my three homies could make it, this was my sad attempt at a photo (sad as it misses half the participants- note to self: use the view finder!)

And yet, probably the best get together of late has been that of New Year's Eve, as always it is the ones that are organised at the last minute that are the best- even though I can rarely cope with last minute plans.
New Year's Eve this year was at ours, with two 'homies' and their OHs. We began a tradition in October involving J├Ągermeister, and as it was New Year's Eve 'the men' decided to add fireworks to the equation. Key highlights included:
  • J slipping over in a bid to light a firework and mud applying itself to his gorgeous new coat
  • Man popping his head over the fence to introduce himself as our neighbour, at about 2am.
  • 'Someone' claiming "You'll never get me at this" as the Yes/ No game commenced, she'll say 'no' next time.
  • From "We're not staying S isn't feeling too good" to "Well, if he's drinking, we're staying"
The best times always do come from the least well prepared, because there are no expectations.

The next day four of us went for a brisk walk at Barry Island.  And unlike being a teenager you appreciate that a bit of fresh air does sort a 'bad pint'.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Working Mum: working away

When I met Tony, he was a social worker doing respite care and my job at that time was covering England. We accepted each others work and spent time together around shifts and travel.
Jobs changed and by the time I was pregnant with Seren Tony was teaching and I was still working away.

Every Monday I would leave at 5am to travel to Norfolk, on a good week I would leave Norfolk on a Wednesday evening and spent the rest of the week working from home. Other weeks I would be fitting in meetings in London and wherever else. I stopped doing this probably at 35 weeks- I have no idea where I found the energy looking back, but it was just the way it was.

When I returned to work after Seren, life had changed. My priorities had changed and the recession had taken hold. We were given additional technology to encourage working from home. I no longer had to be in Norfolk so often and so on average, as things got busy I was travelling a few days a week but overnights were only a few nights a month.

In the run up to the boys I was still staying away but I had cut back on travel, and the likelihood was if I was travelling I needed an overnight for energy conservation.

Since being back at work the same routines are in place. On average I work two days at home for every three days travelling. As I finished for Christmas a potential new project was mentioned, and in the New Year I have been asked to lead on it. I am very excited. I have been working on the same thing since 2006, it is 'my baby'. It was something I was involved in since inception and it is now core business, although it's a constantly evolving 'thing' and keeps me motivated and my brain occupied. But I spoke to my manager before Christmas about how I worry about being too precious of it, in my world my team is small and we are good, we recognise the need to keep getting better so we are not perfect, but perfect because of this recognition.

But, the new project will take me away from this, not entirely but enough. And already it is impacting on my travelling. The next couple of months will be absorbed in developing a proposal that works, and should it be successful it will move to developing systems and processes, and then into delivery. I love the prospect, but I worry about maintaining my precious work life balance.

But the one thing that makes life easier, that makes me wonder how people coped in 'years gone by' is the wonder of MMS I have just come back from two days in London, and these are the photos which I received whilst so many miles away.
I won't include the words which accompanied the texts, but they made me smile.

How much more bearable working away is when you have a mobile phone at your side.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Product Review: #Symply Dog Food

Miller is a little bit excitable. We hear from people who meet him that all cocker spaniels are.
Miller is part of our family, and whilst Tony and I don't necessarily agree on where he sits in the importance chain (the children first every time- surely!), it has to be said that Miller can put a smile on everyone's face, whether you've had the worst day at work, or horrible mummy won't let you have your own way.

We've had Miller since a pup, he'll be five this year. From the early days we knew he had a sensitive digestive system and needed plenty of fibre in his diet- we started with weetabix and bananas- Seren thought it very funny that they both had the same breakfast. And regardless of how long the walks were that Tony went on with him and Seren, we have always had to be vigilant of his weight and the food he eats.

When I was offered the opportunity to let Miller review Symply dog food from Pets Corner I jumped at the chance, finally, Miller's vigilant watch, next to me as I sit tap, tap, tapping would be rewarded- Miller would benefit from my blog!

Miller has lived on dry dog food since the visits to the vets about his digestion became frequent. By ensuring he had a balanced diet he would feel better. I remain unconvinced on dry dog food, and maybe some milk gets sloshed in from time to time.

We were sent Adult Lamb & Rice food for the purposes of the review. The ifrst thing we noticed is the lack of smell, this is a benefit in my world, I am not sure about Miller's world- but if it doesn't detract from him eating it- it's not really a problem.

Symply boasts that it is "Proudly made in the UK and containing only the finest, 100% natural ingredients, Symply is the healthiest pet food on the market today. With no artificial colourings, flavours or preservatives and a high meat concentrate that your dogs and cats will love, Symply offers pet owners a way to give their companions a nutritional meal for a fair price."

And I can't help but agree. Compared to other dry, healthy dog food we have offered Miller, there has been no difference in his enthusiasm to eat (this is not an area Miller struggles with!). Miller does seem to eat at a more steady pace with this dog food, but this is a benefit in my world, he is not sniffing around at meal times, and making me think he needs to be fed more.

 I am still always tempted to slosh milk on, and this didn't change with Symply.

The dog food will definitely go on our list as Miller was fine in terms of digesting the food. We visited the vet last week for a check up and he agreed with the postives of the dog food in terms of giving Miller everything he needs. The vet did stress not too give him additional treats (does milk count as a treat?!).

So, Symply for me is definitely a new option for Miller's food. We will still continue to rotate as we do now, Symply does come in three different flavours, so it can offer enough variety in itself. But I still think Miller deserves textures of food, so we'll see.

But this review did also open my eyes to Pets Corner an online store provided by a family run company which opened its first pet store in 1968. An added bonus of the review has been discovered the wealth of products it provides. This may help in our efficiency drive- and stopping running out of cat and dog food at the most inconvenient times.

For the purposes of this review, we recieved Symply from Pets Corner.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Listography: Mugs

Listography at Kate Takes 5 this week is mugs... of the drinking variety.

In my strive for the perfect contents for the perfect kitchen we had fitted when we lived in our previous house, I went out and got a collection of mugs, that all sort of matched.
We got rid of a load of random mugs but some have stayed the distance:

1. My Mr Bump mug captures a family memory. As children we each had a place mat and matching flannel (I have no idea!) which was ours. Whilst my brothers had Mr Strong and  Mr Tickle, I had Mr Bump, I am not sure of the link with my mum calling me 'Calamity Jane' throughout my childhood.

2. My Little Miss Lucky mug is something I bought when I had my first job, it came in very useful at my second job where the coffee machine gave 1/2 cup measures- this cup gave the impression my cup was always full.

3. My mum gave me this cup, probably in 1999, the year I moved to England, as a piece of my heritage When giving it to me she stressed how expensive it was. To this day, she is the only person to have used it, I guess my reluctance goes back to Mr Bump.

4. This was the set of mugs I bought on the way to meet the removal company when we moved here- having heard that you need to ply the team with tea and coffee. Now it is this set of mugs which the hubby uses to make me a coffee in the mornings.

5. And my favourite:
This is my favourite, not because it is a great mug (it is, but that's not the point). When I moved in with the OH I had two perfect mugs, one was a really long mug which I used for coffee in the mornings, the other a normal mug for afternoon coffee- Can you see how stuck in my ways I get! He managed to break them both. This mug was the replacement, its nothing like the mugs he broke, but it still reminds me of my flat, the first place I bought of my own- oh yes, once upon a time, I was independent!

Pop along to Kate Takes 5 for more mug stories!

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