Thursday, 25 September 2014

Our Thursday Photo #20

This week we have been deliberating and agonising over what to do about school for Libby. We don't want her to go to the local school where we live at the moment, and this would be our catchment area. The only way to guarantee that she will get into a nice school is to move house. We love the house that we live in, it's a great location, close to family and it's just coming together as we want it. Ultimately though, the school that Libby goes to is too important to take a risk on, so we have reluctantly decided to move house.

So today, we had an estate agent round to value our house. We've been looking at some lovely houses lately and all being well, Libby will go to my old school, we're just on the look out for the right house in that village. Libby's speech is coming along amazingly well, and the girls are really happy to play together now, spending ages just giggling and playing together.

Our Thursday Photo #20 was taken just before their afternoon nap, so they were both exhausted but delighted to be together.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Establishing a routine

Libby and Lia are much too young for school, but that doesn't detract from the need to establish a good tea time routine that will make life easier when they do start school. The most important thing for me when it comes to tea time is that we all eat together as a family. I think this encourages children to eat well, enjoying the same food as us and eliminating the need to cook several different meals at different times.

I like to cook fresh food, using a variety of ingredients, particularly fresh vegetables to make sure that the girls get used to eating things like that. As I work from home and look after the girls as well, this can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, particularly when I'm snowed under with work or hubby is finishing work late.

That's when I just love the ease of frozen food. I've heard that frozen vegetables can actually contain more of their original vitamins and nutrients than fresh ones as they are frozen straight away, whereas supermarket fresh vegetables have been sitting around for a while by the time we eat them. When tea needs to be prepared in a hurry, a helping hand from the freezer can mean that we end up with nutritious food rather than a takeaway or a sandwich.

Another tip for establishing a good tea time routine is to get children involved with buying (or growing) dinner. We have grown some beans and peppers in our garden this year, and Libby is always delighted to eat those. She is equally delighted to eat something that she remembers buying from the shop. Shopping trips can be a little hazardous for Libby, here she is demonstrating how to get around the supermarket in the same trolley as your baby sister without getting your hair pulled!

Dinner today was courtesy of Birds Eye, as we were lucky enough to be sent some vouchers for Birds Eye products. Here are just a few of the delicious meals that are now gracing our freezer.

I have to admit to being a little addicted to the Birds Eye potato waffles, so I had to convince myself not to cook those for dinner today. We had loads of potatoes to use up, so I decided to make a mash with potatoes and parsnips. Combining the two is a great way to incorporate vegetables into the tea time routine, since even the fussiest child will never notice some parsnip sneaked into the mash. The beauty of the potato waffles is that they will last for another day, unlike the potatoes. We combined those with fish fingers (for Libby and hubby), peas and sweetcorn, and vegetable fingers (for me). Even Lia had to get involved in the mission to use up the potatoes, so her dinner was mashed potato and parsnip.

Here is the end result. Please feel free to comment on the beauty and tasteful decoration of Libby's bowl. This was the product of Libby's biggest tantrum EVER, so she treasures it and insists on eating from it most days. I tend to pick my battles, if she wants to eat dinner from a bowl then so be it, as long as she eats her dinner.

When I became vegetarian, I wasn't much older than Libby - I was four years old. The only things I was upset about being unable to eat were fish fingers. The discovery of Birds Eye vegetable fingers was therefore somewhat of a victory for me, as they are a great alternative.

Another quick tip from our household for tea time is to let kids know what's for dessert whilst they are eating dinner. Libby knows that she only gets pudding if she eats all her main meal and today it was home made blackberry and apple pudding, so she was keen to eat up. Despite this, the fish fingers were much more of a hit than my mash. I didn't mind this though, I worry that Libby doesn't get enough Omega 3 because we rarely eat fish, so the fact that she happily munched her way through the fish fingers before touching anything else was fine by me.

We are very lucky with Libby because mealtimes really are a pleasure, she eats well and is always polite. I hope that we are equally lucky with Lia, and long may enjoyable tea times continue!

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

Saturday, 20 September 2014

When things aren't quite as they seem...

Last night, my sisters and I went to our favourite restaurant, The Terrace on The Hill in Malvern, as a last evening out before my youngest sister goes to university. While we were there, we overheard someone talking about a poor review on TripAdvisor that had rated the service badly. This got us chatting about TripAdvisor, and how one person who has taken offence to something innocent can have such an awful effect on the success of an establishment, just by writing a poor review.

I honestly can't think of anywhere with better service than The Terrace on The Hill, we have been there several times with both Libby and Lia and were always served quickly. The staff are so friendly that they even remember us when we go. I admit, I'm a little addicted to their cakes so we have been a few times! Prior to chatting to my sister about this, I would probably have been the sort of person to see a bad review on TripAdvisor and avoid the restaurant. I'm just glad I hadn't seen this before I went. Not only is the service amazing, but they are incredibly reasonably priced, both for the delicious evening tasting menu and the gorgeous (and HUGE) afternoon tea.

My sister mentioned that she had served a table a few weeks ago in the pub that she works in. Someone had complained about the portion size, so she took it away and gave them double the amount. She also took the cost of that meal off the bill, so not only did they effectively have two portions, they didn't even pay for it. Despite that, she heard them discussing how they were going to give the pub a poor review on TripAdvisor. I know I'm biased because my sisters work there, but the food is amazing, the service is excellent and the pub is a lovely, friendly local pub. They even won the title of the best beer pub in Britain this year and yet people could be put off by one bad review on TripAdvisor.

I also read an article this week about a student who used social media to convince her family that she was travelling around South East Asia, when she was in fact in her bedroom for the duration of her five-week "trip". This was a very, very clever university project, which is reminiscent of the videos shared by CEOP to highlight the risks of meeting up with someone you met online, who isn't necessarily the person you think they are.

So I've learnt something this week; always to take things with a massive pinch of salt when they're online, however convincing they may seem. So on that note, is this a massive milkshake or a tiny head?! Answers on a postcard!

Hello School!

Libby was only two in June, but already we are starting to get concerned about her going to school. Our local school isn't a place that I'd like to send her to, and getting into a different one is going to be difficult and may involve a house move. We will need to apply next year, and if we only get offered our local school I'll home-school Libby until we manage to move to somewhere with a nice school. One of the best chances she'll have of getting into a nice local school is if she goes to the nursery, so we are already looking at nurseries to send her to when she turns three, and she will probably start going at least one day a week as soon as after Christmas.

That's why I jumped at the chance to review a new book from Campbell called Hello School by Angie Rozelaar.

Whilst Libby isn't ready for school yet, she does love reading, and getting her used to the idea of school as a positive thing seems like a fabulous idea. When I first had a flick through the book, I was unsure as to whether it was aimed at Libby's age group. Libby now understands and enjoys a basic storyline, but is a long way off reading for herself. I felt that this book was aimed more at either older children about to start school who could read it themselves, or younger children who weren't yet ready for a story since it is more informative than narrative.

Having said that, the book is really interactive, with lots of things happening with flaps that you pull, push or spin. After a couple of times reading the book, Libby is getting the idea about school, as she asked her dad today whether she would be going there. The other thing I have learnt from this book is that I'm making a mistake by not bothering to tell Libby the title of the books we are reading, I tend to just plough on into the book without mentioning the title.

This evening though, Libby decided that she wanted to read this book again and she had to explain to her dad "I want to read the school book, you know school, where Mary works". Dad didn't understand this and I had to translate and explain which book she wanted. She seems to be really enjoying the book and has read it numerous times now. I am really hopeful that by the time it comes to longer hours at nursery or full time school, she will be raring to go! So here is Libby enjoying a bit of educational bedtime reading.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Our Thursday Photo #19

I'm struggling to believe that it's Thursday again already, it only seems five minutes ago I was posting last week's photo from my phone. We came home from our holiday on Monday, having all had a fabulous week. Libby's speech is developing every day, and she is at a stage now where she generally talks perfect sense, so the odd word of utter nonsense or silly mistake can be really entertaining. Here are a few examples from this week:

Libby: I want to go on the radiator.

Dad: The radiator?

Libby: Yes, I want to go on the radiator (points at the escalator)

Libby: Oh look it's the yellow magazine.

Me: What magazine?

Libby: There on Lia's bib!

Me: Ah, the yellow submarine.

Me: We'll go blackberry picking tomorrow.

Libby: Can I go blackberry picking now?

Me: No, it's too dark outside.

Libby: Will we have to turn the light on?

Talking of entertaining, Lia now thinks that Libby is the funniest comedian the world has ever seen. For anyone who is trying to get a baby to smile for a photo, don't underestimate the hilarity of the fake sneeze. It works every time for Lia. So here is our Thursday photo #19, smiles brought to you courtesy of the fake sneeze!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Things to do in Pembrokeshire with a baby and a toddler

Last week, we had a lovely camping holiday in Pembrokeshire. I always find it difficult to know quite what to do with the girls when we're somewhere different, so I'm writing this in the hope that it might help someone else who pays a visit to the area with babies or young children.

We stayed at a campsite in Manorbier, a ten minute walk from the beach. At Libby's pace it was more of a 20  minute walk though, and if we'd had a buggy we'd have had no chance! The walk was through a beautiful wood and avoided the roads, but it was down some really big steps and a tricky hill. Perfect for us walking the dogs and Libby and carrying Lia, but the thought of dragging a buggy down there makes me shudder. Its safe to say though that for us, arriving at the beach to views like this made it all worthwhile.

The weather was incredibly kind to us, so we didn't need to check out the bad-weather options. Hubby took Libby on the boat from Tenby over to Caldey Island which they really enjoyed, but I stayed with Lia and the dogs and did some walking around the coastal path instead. As it turned out, there were dogs on the boat and we could have gone, but it's always a bit hard work with two dogs, a baby and a toddler so I enjoyed a day of walking and sunbathing.

Since going to Drayton Manor a couple of weeks ago, Libby has been raving about going on the rides, so we thought it was only fair to take her to Oakwood Theme Park while we were in Pembrokeshire. What I loved about Oakwood, was that there were some fairly exciting rides that Libby was able to go on. This included the treetops roller coaster, which was really quite quick and I was surprised how much Libby enjoyed it, she went on three times!

There were also some great water slides, a log flume and some flying rides in the Peter Pan section that Libby loved.

For Lia, things weren't quite so exciting. The thing I loved about Drayton Manor is that they let me take Lia on everything that Libby could go on. It was perfectly safe to do so, she enjoyed it and it meant that I was able to enjoy the day as well rather than being a spectator. Whilst I wouldn't expect Lia to be allowed to go on things like the roller coaster, I would have expected her to be able to go on some of the more tame rides. As it was, it didn't matter to Lia, but we definitely won't be going next year because she'll be old enough to want to go on them, but you had to be at least two years old to go on virtually everything so she'll miss out. That said, she did enjoy the little indoor play area, particularly the ball pool.

We were lucky enough to be in Pembrokeshire when the Ironman Wales event was going on, so we passed a pleasant day cheering on the cyclists between dog walks and trips to the beach. I had massive sports envy that day, and I don't mind saying publicly that I WILL be doing an Ironman one day! I'm realistic enough to know that it won't be until the kids are in school though so I have time to train. To everyone who completed Ironman Wales last week, massive congratulations.

We are home now after a lovely holiday and slowly getting back to normality. Jamer cat is delighted to see us, and plans are afoot for her to have her own blog, so watch this space!

N.B. This post is NOT sponsored or promoted in any way, just a review that I hoped might help other people visiting the area.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Our Thursday photo #18

On time with my post today, but posting from my phone as we're on holiday in sunny Pembrokeshire. Camping with two smalls is exceptionally hard work, but we are managing and enjoying the change of scenery.

In particular, Libby has enjoyed the beach and a boat ride, hubby is enjoying being of work and spending time with the girls and the dogs are getting plenty of fresh air and walking. For me, I've loved the change of running scenery. I managed to run down to the beach yesterday, have a short swim across the cove and back and then run along the coast path for a few miles. Beautiful.

The girls are getting closer to each other every day now that Lia is managing to interact a bit more, and our Thursday photo #18 depicts bedtime in the plutonium sox camp!