Friday, 28 February 2014

The slowly but surely thing

It's been four weeks.
Four weeks since I walked into my first Zumba session.
I haven't lost any weight.

I've been eating better.
We've moved from full fat milk to semi skimmed.
I've been eating more regular meals.
I've replaced unhealthy lunches with jacket potatoes and cottage cheese.
I've cut chocolate, crisps and snacks out of my diet.
And now have a bowl of shreddies (with my semi-skimmed milk).
But I still do opt for a drink to unwind.
And I still love to bake.

I think, although it's hypothetical, if I had improved my diet without exercise I would have reduced my weight.

I remain, partially, convinced that whilst I am exercising well any weight loss is being offset with muscle development.
I have to be convinced.

Thanks to the TFL Plan in Barry (along with hubby support and a bit of personal kick of the butt) I am achieving my target of exercising three times a week.
Further encouraged to achieve this when TFL went and introduced Barry Bounce alongside the Zumba sessions which I have been converted to.
So, so far...
I started on the 3rd February, and did two sessions.
The next week I managed three Zumba sessions.
The following week I only managed two Zumba, but on the Sunday I got to a Bounce session.... Aaaarrrggghh.
And this week I've managed two Zumba and one Bounce- even though it's half term!

So, better diet, introducing exercise, reducing alcohol intake.
How could this not reduce my weight?

Hopefully because I'm exercising.
Because I'm thinking that my mummy tummy has changed from solid fat to flabby fat (TMI!).
Because my watch is too big.
Because my boots are tight.
Because, of course, muscle weighs more than fat.

And because there's that bit of me that says none of that matters.
If I am exercising.
If I leave that session drowning in sweat.
I am more healthy because of it.
And if I am more healthy, I will be around for my children for longer.
And that's really what it's about.

I would love to be a size 8.
Or a size 10.
Or content in a size 12.

I am a mummy.
With a flabby tummy.
And I want to be a mummy forever.

Canvas Design Review & Giveaway Ends 21/03/14

I love to capture memories.
Too often they remain forever on my laptop.

When Canvas Designs offered us the opportunity to review to capture one of our favourite images on a canvas we were a little stumped.

We decided, as we are surrounded by photos of the children's milestones that we'd go back to how it all began. 
With us.

We chose a photo, it was difficult, but this was the one that we both loved. 
Taken by an awesome photographer and awesome friend (and also an awesome gardener!).
Our final three photos were all taken by Andrea.

And so our photo was ordered.
Using Canvas Designs is really straightforward: upload your photo, select the best sizing for your photo and order.

And then it arrives, by the handy courier who lets you change the date the day before, and on the day narrows it down to the hour.
And you take receipt of your canvas, fantastically packaged (lots of rainy day cardboard and bubble wrap).

And the canvas?
I'll be honest.
I thought I had ordered the wrong image (I even double checked).
I had used a high quality photograph.
And had no idea from viewing it on my screen of the detail it held.
The canvas brought every detail to our lounge.

The canvas captures us on that day.
The smiles, the flowers, the confetti.
Of such high quality that a photograph misses.

I had wanted to have it in my office to look at on a daily basis.
No such luck.
Mr J decided he wanted it in the lounge and went to the extreme of hanging it without my help.

And the great fittings which Canvas Designs supply means it has taken it's place.
A reminder during our everydays of our special day.
And not only have Canvas Designs generously offered a 15% discount to any order placed using the code BLOG15 but they've also agreed to offer my lovely readers the chance to win their own canvas, of any size they choose, from Canvas Designs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Competition Terms & Conditions:
1. This competition is open to residents of the UK, aged 18 years or over.
2. All information detailing how to enter this competition forms part of these terms and conditions.
3. All entries must be received by the advertised closing time date.
4. After the winner has been picked you have 10 working days to contact us to provide details to claim your prize. If we do not hear anything after this time period another winner will be drawn at random.
5. One entrant shall win a Canvas Designs canvas. The prize is are non-transferable.
6. The winner may be required to take part in publicity.
7. All prizes are non-transferable and there are no cash alternatives. The prize is subject to availability.
8. Events may occur that render the competition itself or the awarding of the prizes impossible due to reasons beyond the control of the Promoter, and accordingly the Promoter may at its absolute discretion vary or amend the promotion and the entrant agrees that no liability shall attach to the Promoter as a result thereof.
9. Johnson Babies is responsible for the first part of the promotion, which is the publication and adjudication of the competition. All other facilities connected with the provision of the prize are the responsibility of the Promoter.
10. English law applies and the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts shall prevail.
11. This prize is only available to residents of the UK (No PO Boxes).

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

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Twins at 3 years- growing up too fast

The thing about your second (and third) child is their speech development might be slower (maybe that's boys) but due to an older sibling their vocabulary is so much more advanced.

At Seren's 30mth assessment, due to my insecurities, she had a referral to a speech therapist. It was all fine.

In Wales, a similar assessment happens at 36mths. And I was assured I had nothing to be concerned about.

And having spent so much time with Tom & Seb lately I know that to be right, and have fallen a little bit more in love with them because of it.
Tom & Seb, I think, just don't have the span of language they so evidently want, I watch them, I watch them as they are trying to speak to them:
"Mummy doesn't understand me".
I don't.
And they are so excited as they try to make me understand their messages.

Tonight, as I put them to bed.
They were telling me about something.
I didn't get it.
It began with 'b'.
I decided it was that daddy had promised them their proper 'b'eds.
They got frustrated.
And upset.
It turns out they are convinced that Seb left his 'b'us and 'B'en's.
From Tom, Seb and me.
Tom and Seb were happy that I would phone Ben's mum to retrieve the bus.
I was so happy I had got to the bottom of their unhappiness.

They are 3.

I manage my expectations.

Compared to Seren they are my babies.
I don't want them to grow up as fast.
I will never get to relive this again.

And yet, they know so much more than Seren did.
And yet, they never seem as she was.
Never quite as big for their tender age.

Seb remains the pusher of boundaries.
Moving on from the two-year old with the bottom lip.
To a three-year old with bossy tendencies.
Which need to be reigned in.

And yet, in the same breath, has taken over Tom's role, after three years, as mummy's boy.

And Tom.
Tom remains my baby.
The child likely to get more poorly, quicker, and for longer.
Tom, who has a wonderful consultant, who phones his mum to let her know the ECG was ok (We love the NHS!!!).
Tom, who thinks that if he shouts "mummy" everything will be ok. Even when he's being really naughty.
Tom, who has his mummy's drama tendencies.
Everything is a crisis.

Boys who can be so mesmerised by 'Paw Patrol' that they don't hear mummy offering chocolate buttons.
Boys who love their Fireman Sam bedroom but who asked for the light shade and clock to be moved in from their nursery because they belong in their room.
Boys who love playdough and painting.
And retain their love of wrestling

I cannot take anything away from them.

These are my boys.
Who go to sleep at 7pm.
And, when they're getting up early, get up at 7.15.
But most days are up at 8am.

And they fight.
And know they have to say "sorry" and hug and make up.
And know their own way to the naughty step.

And love being outside.
And love swimming.
And love practicing forward rolls.

And whilst they can both eat independently.
From time to time they still want mummy to feed them.
And whilst they have the hang of potty training and can cope with pants, they can't cope with trousers.
And they love 'Knock Knock' jokes, as long as their punchline is "pooey bum" it remains hysterical.

And so, they remain my babies.
Even if they are three.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

#LoveMum - supporting Oxfam's Mother Appeal with M&S

When I received this I was that intrigued I didn't mind that it was happening in London and I wouldn't be!
Not only does it seem a great idea to raise interest in, but maybe if it's successful the next stop might be Culverhouse Cross (Cardiff, Wales!!).

So in London from 6th- 8th March, M&S and Oxfam are, for a limited time, doing a pop-up called the 'Kids Shwop Boutique'. It will have kids clothes for sale that have donated by Abbey Clancy, Zoe Ball and lots of other celebrities including Rochelle Humes from The Saturdays and Peaches Geldof.

The point? To raise money for the Love, Mum campaign.
For the specifics, it's at the M&S Marble Arch store and the Shwop Boutique will sell the best childrenswear items donated to the Shwopping campaign.

All money raised go to charity partner Oxfam as part of their Mother Appeal initiative and over 1,000 shwopped childrenswear clothing will be on sale over three days

If you have any clothes to shwop you can pop by over the three days and gain entry into the Kids Shwop Boutique. You can contribute to Oxfam’s Mother Appeal campaign – which is being supported by M&S - that aims to raise £10 million for projects that help mothers around the world lift themselves and their families out of poverty for good. And, thanks to the UK government, every pound raised for the appeal will be doubled.*

And each celebrity-donated item will include personal words of wisdom stitched into the fabric of the item allowing advice to be passed onto the new owner.

The rate my children go through their clothes and the opportunity to support the Mother Appeal and kit the little ones out in clothes that fit? It's just good sense!

* The UK government will match the value of everything you donate to the Mother Appeal, doubling the difference you're making. Matched funding is up to a maximum total value raised of £5 million.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

5 Star Drywipe & Cork Board #ShopletReviews

Being organised in our house is a must.
In the kitchen we have our family calender.
By the back door we have two chalk boards for shopping and must do's.
In my office I have my thinking board for work.

So, of course I knew what I was going to do with a drywipe and cork board.
It's gone on the wall above my desk.

Mr J is always forgetting things even though they're on the calender. Because of course once you've written it on you never revisit it (?!?).
I'm finding it quite therapeutic to take 5 minutes on a Friday to make sure we've got things planned.
And as you can see it by just opening the office door, Mr J can have a quick look whenever he's sorting things to avoid the inevitable double-booking which seems to happen (but only be him!).
I especially like that where we have it means it's easy to take on and off the wall. Our other boards require screwing direct to the wall, which means I'm usually leaning over things or on tiptoes trying to write.
This is a perfect planning tool.

The 5 Star Drywipe + Cork Board is great value at £6.87 (plus VAT), it is good quality, and a basic design.
It is the type of wood which you could paint to glam up, or leave as is.
It's easy to lose the pen, especially as little hands patrol my office. It would be useful to have somewhere to hold the pen, but still make it easy to scrawl across the board.
It is a great size, big enough to add plenty of information, small enough to not take over the wall.
This has proven a really good organisational board for the family, and also allows me to make sure I know when I'm getting my family time!

Disclosure: We received a Drywipe and Cork Board for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Disappointing nights

Last night I went out for a girlie night.
Plans to go out in Cardiff.
I struggled to remember the last time I had a night out in the city.
I remembered it to be my hen night.
In 2010.
As I prepared.
And worried about what would best hide my weight gain since that night.
And where we would end up.
In one of those clubs where I could queue to get in.
Pay to get in.
And spend a fortune of alcohol.
And dance out of beat to a plethora of songs I've never heard.

I got stressed.
I checked out the ASOS clearance, and invested in a new dress to instill confidence.
Don't tell Mr J, but I siphoned monies to fund my night out.

And then we met.
And we were there.
And we were as we always have been.
As for nearly half my life.

Not queuing as my body goes numb with cold.
Not hopping from one foot to another, as my feet got more numb in the shoes that I love but infrequently wear, for good reason.
Not freezing because coats are an unnecessary extra.
Not gasping at extortionate prices.
Not getting uncomfortable as I realised my personal space has increased and I feel invaded.

Here we were
Back to where I spent so many uni days and nights.
Back where I spent many reunions on trips home over the years.
Back to where we remember the last menu but not the food on the new menu.
With subject matter so different than it was at 18.

We are still.

Laughing. Opinionated. Outraged. Accepting. Missing the point. Changing. Growing. Living.
Above all we are still accepting.
We are individuals.
Bonded not only by the years gone by.
But where we are now.
A ridiculous sense of loyalty which knows no bounds.

And yet, every other day, we live our own lives.
We get on with it.
We go into battle.
We accept.
We might challenge.
We are individuals.

We no longer have to suffer fools.
To smile inanely at "mesmerising" conversation.
We do not have to check over our shoulder.
"Is He still watching me?"
We are talking without ulterior motive.
And it is honest.

I am reminded of the second song Seren learnt the words to.
(Please don't say you recognise it, I have grappled with acceptance).

"Days like these lead to...
Nights like these lead to"

And I conclude with....


Too many years to remember.
Not enough years to forget.
Not as many years wiser.
But as many years accepting.

Monday, 17 February 2014

A bad day... made good

I saw it coming,
A mile off.
Everything builds up.
Nothing makes sense.
Overly sensitive.
With no rationale.

I decided to change our routine.

Not to avoid it,
To find our way around it.

We had a mother-daughter, granddaughter-grandma day.
It wasn't a walk in the park.
Within ten minutes my mum asked when was the last time it was that I brought my daughter to Cardiff.
Retail therapy isn't what is used to be.

We tried to accommodate everyone.
Mummy was in desperate need of a sports bra.
Grandmother and daughter were in need of being spoilt for forthcoming birthdays.
Daughter was in need of being spoilt because that's the way life works.
All were in need of a coffee shop.
There's a reason why it's been three months since our last retail therapy.

And why it will be twice that long till our next.

I got to visit the fantastic Bravissmo.
We all got to fall in love with Tiger and treat ourselves.
We got to find Grandma the perfect birthday gift.

We got our coffee break.
I got to revisit the Disney Store and Hamley's with the eyes of a 4-year-old.
So, yes, shopping in Cardiff is still best left to the grow-ed up.
All Seren wants is to visit Disneyland.
But as a change in routine it definitely ticked the box.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

"Millie Shares" by Claire Alexander

"Millie Shares" is just the book my family needs from time to time.
A book to reiterate what happens if you don't want to share.
Written and illustrated by Claire Alexander, I love how much is appeals to all three of my children.
I love that I can walk into the lounge after putting the boys to bed to this:
And that Seren can talk me through the pictures.
About favourite toys, about best friends.
And that when I sit down with my 4 year old, she is happy to read to me.
And the font in the book lends itself to this.
And so this has become a regular at joint bed times.
A book that 3 and 4 year olds enjoy.
A book that mummy hopes conveys how much happier life can be if we share.

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

Saturday, 15 February 2014

She will turn 5 next month

... and she is still my baby.
She is still the person who has changed my life more than any other.
She made me a mummy.
A mother.
She made me admit I am not in control.
For nearly 5 years she has controlled me.

She has her daddy wrapped around her little finger.

And she amazes me.
As she arrives home from school and reads her school books to me.
As she speaks Welsh and English as is convenient to her.
As her love of her brothers shines through.
As she plays out her scenes from school, with her as teacher.

She will turn 5.
She has learned to crawl, walk, run and jump.
She has moved to a bed.
She has given up dummies.
And bottles.
She has learned to use a toilet.
She has a full set of teeth.
She is conversant, with anyone who has the patience to listen.

She is amazed by her knowledge.
She loves to teach.
She had taught us how to count to 10.
She has taught us our 2's and our 10's.

We still rely on the 'naughty step'.
We still struggle with not prioritising our singleton, when the boys are also singletons that were born on the same day.
She remains 'daddy's girl'.
I have spent nearly five years trying to raise a child to not differentiate between male and female.
And somehow I have a nearly five year old who loves pink and princesses.
And rainbows, and mermaids.
And numbers.

I look at her.
And some days.
Some days I want to say to Mr J this is what you created.
Some days I want to wrap her in my cotton wool forever.
Some days I look at her and see so much of me.
Every day I am proud.
I am proud that she expresses herself.
Whether she be an extrovert or introvert.
A tomboy or a girl's girl.
She is a part of me.
She will be free.
But more importantly.
She will be five.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Making progress at Zumba

Ok, I knew I was the last on the bandwagon.
But, my life has been overtaken by Zumba.

For some reason, I have no idea, at 3.45am on Tuesday morning Seren woke up crying.
It took me ages to figure out what the noise was, it is so unlike her.
I went into her room and settled her.
I crawled back into bed.
But could I get to sleep?
Hell no! My brain chose this moment to get earworm for a track from Zumba.

This Valentine's my wonderful husband bought me this:
Because, of course, a drinks container is going to get me through.
(Don't tell him but water is the only thing that gets me through- the pretense of drinking as I attempt to catch my breath).

And so, I aspire.
To replace my Teva's with trainers.
To replace my 5 year old jogging bottoms with ones that fit.
And to wear my own tops instead of Mr J's squash shirts.

But all of that is detail.

For this, this is the real aspiration.
The real challenge.
And believe me, I have given this much thought.

Two weeks in.
This week, I achieved target and got to three sessions.
And so, five sessions in, and I know the truth.

It is not about weight loss.
It is not about being healthy.
It's not even about catching your breath.

It is this.
At the end of week two.
Of each 60 minute session.
This is my progress:
30% of the time my legs are doing what they're meant to be doing.
30% of the time my arms are doing what they're meant to be doing.
And 5% of that time, my legs and arms are doing what they're meant to be doing at the same time.
And as long as I'm sweating for the other 40% it must be ok.

So, it's not about the 2 stone.
It's about teeny tiny steps.

In 2 weeks I've gone from no co-ordination to 5% co-ordination.
I deserve a beer. Or an Oreo.
Or maybe I'll just do some baking tomorrow!

Thinking about the dress, thinking about the dress...

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Making a difference with @Team_Honk

Maybe it's taken longer to recover from then I imagined.
Maybe I couldn't figure out where to start.
But I do have some great photos!

A couple of weeks ago we got to play our part in the fantastic Team Honk Relay.
Making it's way from Land's End to John O'Groats we made the join between Claire from Diary of the Evans-Crittens and Emily of Twin Mummy and Daddy.

And so there we were.
Meeting Claire and her lovely family at Margam Park.
The little ones in fancy dress, and me in my fancy tutu.
It hailed and rained as we made our way around Margam Park to the Fairytale Park.
No Peppa Pig episode could compare to the Muddy Puddle Jumping competitions ours had.
So much so, I ended up carrying three sodden outfits back to the car as the children could wear them no more.
And whilst all of our puddle jumping baton-passing fun was underway.
Mr J was cycling the 26miles back to base.
And amazingly, in spite of the strength of the hail ringing his bell, he made it back before us.
And in the process perfected selfies (and approaching Sunday afternoon drinkers) for photo opportunities.
Fortunately I had tucked a tenner in his jacket. For emergencies. So he rewarded himself with a pint of Guinness whilst he brought his temperature back to normal.
The week did not go to plan.
For, of course, I had great plans.
Which missed the bit where Tom's visit to hospital the previous week would result in norovirus encompassing our home.
And so, as illness crept around the home, we took full advantage of those recovered.

Seren managed to make it to Barry YMCA for a gymnastics relay on Tuesday.
Mr J & the 'Men' managed to get their opponents to use their text facility on Thursday night at their Squash match.
And the amazing Rhws Primary took part in a gymnastics relay on Friday morning, full of sequencing and bunny hops.
Before my wonderful boys agreed, in pouring rain, to pass the baton over to two gorgeous girls, and Emily, as the baton continued its journey across Wales.
We are so incredibly grateful for those who supported our part of the Team Honk Relay.

And, of course, we are still making up for our lapse in commitment.
I managed to attend my first Zumba class. And have been to another two since.
I still have to do my cake bake, as promised to the lovely peeps in our London office.
And I still want my lovely children (and me!) to ride across the Cardiff Barrage.

Maybe, this really means we need to sign up to the Sport Relief activity at Barry Island in March!!

And of course, as the baton continues its journey from North Wales to England, you can still sponsor the Welsh team!

Team Honk 2014 blogger Relay

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Loosing or finding a little bit of me

This week I stepped on the weighing scales.
A lot of thought went into whether I should commit this act.

It had to happen.
I used to get on it at the doctor's and look the other way.
I just don't bother anymore.

It's one of those things.
I can blame on everything.
Two pregnancies in quick succession.
A twin pregnancy.

But really. It's:
Bad diet.
Bad habits.
Lack of exercise.

And so.
It has begun.

I decided I wasn't going to diet.
It would be great to lose all of this weight.
But it will come back.

It has to be about improvements.
Which are permanent.

And so it has begun.
Thanks to a friend I have discovered a Zumba class I am happy to attend.
Enjoying. At the moment.
Not overwhelming.
The fantastic instructor is unnoticing of my lack of co-ordination.
And inability to make my legs and arms work at the same time.
I leave exhausted.

And from there I've started cutting things out of my diet.
The comfort food.

And so, we'll see.
Ten years ago, I carried a third less weight than I carry now.
Ten years ago, I was three dress sizes smaller than I am now.
Although Mr J and I have mentioned 'lollypop head'.
So I'm going for targets.

I'd like to get to Zumba three times a week.
I'd like to loose two stone in weight.

I'd like to keep it real.

I like this photo.
I still have the dress.
I'd like to fit back into it.
Bear with me.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Getting out no matter what the weather

This weather is definitely getting me down.
Working from home a few days a week means some days I realise I have not left the house at all.
Not good.
Fresh air does everyone the world of good.
Your hair may be blown in all the wrong directions.
Your raincoat may be soaked through.
But you feel better for it.

There seems an obvious link to the children all taking swimming and gymnastics classes.
Come rain or shine.
What I know about my children is.
They don't care.
They love the park no matter what the weather.
A couple of weeks ago we went to Margam Park.
We had rain, hail, and wind.
And two of three were quite poorly.
It didn't matter.
They all cried on the way back to the car that they didn't want to go home.

And the news that Rickets is on the increase means not only am I paying more attention to the children's opportunities for fresh air, but also focusing on their diet.
Making sure Vitamin D is a consideration, whether it be from home cooking or supplements.
And, so, on the basis that the weather is not improving, it's blueberries, fish, and broccoli all the way. Which could make an interesting concoction.

Disclosure: I have received this information as a Growing Up Milk Info Mum and thought, given the weather, it was definitely worth sharing!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Will you support #EndFGM please?

Sometimes, I receive emails about things to write about on my blog, I think about it and decide whether it is a good match for my family oriented musings.

Having worked with ActionAid for the past 18 months, because they are a charity which I have always felt attuned to, I always consider how I can get involved with their campaigns.

And so, they got in touch to let me know that today, February 6th, is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.

And, for me, my instinctive reaction was- why would I want to blog about something which makes my gut wrench?

And, then I realised it is because it makes my gut wrench, because there shouldn't be things which makes my gut wrench, because I am fortunate that I can bury my head if I wish, but what makes my family more important? If there are things which are unacceptable to me, I am probably not alone.

And so, I am supporting ActionAid as they look to end violence against women and girls this year.

And this starts with the #EndFGM campaign.

And so these are the facts:
It happens to young girls all around the world even though it is outlawed in many countries.

This is one girl’s story
Credit: Kate Holt/Shoot The Earth/ActionAid
Christine, 17 years old, was subjected to female genital mutilation when she was 15, before being forced to marry a much older man.

“My mother and brothers said it was the only thing for my future. When it had been done to me and I was in seclusion, an old man came to my brothers and gave him 15 cows to marry me.

“When the time came for the marriage ceremony his relatives and some guards carried me away. I didn’t want to go and cried. The old man had a wife before me too. She was much older and just treated me like one of her children.

“On my first night in the house with the old man we were left alone together. He forced himself on me and I felt so much pain that I cried. The other wife was waiting at the door and he asked her to come in so that she could make me bigger using a cow’s horn. The eldest daughter of the man also came in to help. It was very shaming and I felt sad afterwards.”

Christine escaped the house and ran to Kongelai where she sought help from the head of the mixed primary school who subsequently contacted ActionAid. By working with the Kongelai Women’s Network, ActionAid was able to help Christine find a place at school. The chief of Christine’s village was contacted and alerted to what had happened and her family is beginning to accept the wrongdoing. Christine is building a relationship with her family.
Credit: Anastasia Taylor Lind/ActionAid
Actress and ActionAid ambassador, Emma Thompson supports International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, she said:

“I have, most unfortunately, seen and heard at first-hand about the devastating effects of female genital mutilation. The initial trauma, the high chances of infection, the hell of sex and childbirth, the loss of all sexual pleasure, the sheer violation of every natural and humane instinct – the stories I have heard beggar belief. We can no longer turn a blind eye.

ActionAid’s work is impactful. We work very closely with communities. We educate boys and girls about how damaging female genital mutilation is for both sexes, finally. If we want to make a dent in this habit of mutilation, we have to support those long-term programmes, they’re the only thing that produces lasting change.”

Please consider how you can support #EndFGM -whether it be tweeting, using the hashtag on social media, supporting ActionAid, but whatever, most importantly, doing whatever you can.

Let them eat cake

With Valentine's Day on the horizon, I asked the children whether they wanted to make saltdough hearts or bake.
It's the equivalent of asking them if they want to sit on the thinking step or go to the park.
And so.
We baked.
I have learned that they must bake with me.
Otherwise the moment my back is turned the food mixer has been switched on.
Our cupcake receipe, known off by heart by Seren, is:

4 free range medium eggs
220g caster sugar
220g softened butter
220g self-raising flour
2tsps vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C/ Gas 4.
Place 30 cases into cupcake tins.
Cream the butter and caster sugar till smooth and pale.
Mix in the eggs, one at a time.
Add the flour, in at least three parts, ensure well mixed.
Add the vanilla extract and mix.
Spoon into the cupcake cases (1 and 1/2 heaped teaspoons or half full).
Bake in the oven for 20mins or until golden brown, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Place on a wire rack to cool.

For decorating we tried something new: Renshaw's Snip and Swirl Chocolate flavour icing.
I was pleasantly surprised on two counts.
Firstly, unlike my piping bags they are enclosed, so I could happily let the children use them independently without it splurging over the top.
Secondly, a sort of big plus- the children ate it. They hate icing, they hate my buttercream- whatever the flavour.
It is one of my biggest dilemmas. They love decorating cakes but then I end up scraping off the toping for them to eat the sponge.
No more.
Now my biggest problem is getting them to the bathroom quick enough to clean their mucky face and hands.

And so, they had lots of fun icing their cakes.
 And then I set them to work decorating the cake, with sprinkles and these were their cakes, and they were so proud of their valentine's gifts for daddy.
Seb was so impressed with his cake, that of course he started eating it as soon as he had finished (I expect nothing less of this eating machine).

And because I relented, because they were so proud of their efforts, that their reward was eating the cakes (poor daddy!), I decided to let my OCD have an outlet and make some Valentine's cakes with Seren for the week's packed lunches.
And what beats chocolate and flowers for Valentine's?
Disclosure: We received a Cupcake Frosting pack from Renshaw to create an entry for their Valentine's competition. As Mr J hasn't a clue on baking me treats, the children and I decide to bake for him... well that was the intention!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Baking with Fruit Book Review

I fell in love with this book the moment it arrived.
My most recent Parragon Book Buddy review is from the Love Food Cookbooks range.

'Baking with Fruit' has classic recipes as well as new ideas.
The photography in it is stunning.
And I love the range of fruits the recipes cover will not only make sure I get some more ways to give the little people what they love, but I can also introduce the children to fruit they may not necessarily like to eat as is (think lemons, limes and pomegranates).
Although the recommendation of any cook book is not necessarily in its breadth or photography, but whether when the receipe is followed it turns out well.

I went for an apple and cinnamon cake.
I love apple turnover, apple pie, so this seemed a great compromise with my children, who love sponge cake.
I followed the receipe to the letter, and bar not having a large enough flan dish I think it worked out perfectly (NB The smaller flan dish meant we needed to bake the sponge for longer as it was so well covered).
And so, most importantly, everyone ate it.
This book will not be gathering dust on the shelf.
I'm going for the Lemon Sponge Roll next weekend!

Disclosure: I received a copy of 'Baking With Fruit' for the purposes of this review. All views and opinions contained are our own.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Crafting for Candlemas

Yesterday was my second Sunday School with the older children.
Learning absolutely nothing from my first experience, I stuck with the idea of doing a craft activity after exploring the reading focused on Jesus' purification, and the traditions of Candlemas.

And I was over the moon that after collecting far more jars than I knew I would need that all of them were used.

As I knew that candle making was out of the question, I went with the idea of creating light holders.
Collecting glass jars for a few weeks, I used some battery operated tea lights I had got a while ago from ebay (although I have since been reassured that the older children are ok to have 'real' candles!), and found acrylic paint, tissue paper and glitter to decorate the jars.
After a practice at home I was happy with the results.
I think I watered down the pva glue slightly too much and I think the black jar would have looked better with one heart to capture all the light inside.
As it was, no-one wanted to use the glitter (phew!) or the tissue paper.
And it was great to see the consideration for how the light would shine brightest.
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