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.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Octonauts at the National Sealife Centre Birmingham

This morning we were lucky enough to be invited to the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham to take part in an Octonauts mission. The Octonauts are children's television characters who have underwater adventures and rescue sea creatures who are in trouble. So a mission at the National Sea Life Centre is ideal!

Libby isn't really into television and I've never really pushed her because a lot of the children's television programmes don't really hold that much educational value in my opinion. However, having heard a bit about the Octonauts today, I will be getting hold of a DVD or checking it out on television, because I think that marine life rescue - and animal rescue as a whole - is a really important lesson to learn. Despite not knowing the characters, Libby was pleased to see them today and both girls had a fantastic time at the Sea Life Centre. Here we are meeting Peso Penguin.

We've always loved the Sea Life Centre, and Libby has been on numerous occasions but it is quite a while since we last went and there are some new attractions there. Of particular note is the new Gentoo penguin exhibit. You can see the birds both on the surface and underwater as they swim past the windows. I made numerous attempts to take a photo with both Libby and the penguins, but failed dismally, so here is a fabulous photo from our press pack of one of the penguins.

The Octonauts are at the Sea Life Centre from now until the 30th November and after that, the penguin area will be transformed into a winter wonderland from the 13th to the 24th December. There will even be a Santa's grotto with presents for children who have been good. I can't think of a better place to see Santa than in an icy winter environment with exciting interactive things to do.

One of the things I love the most about the Sea Life Centre is their commitment to marine conservation. I do think that educating children about marine life in places like the Sea Life Centre is exceptionally important, this is the sort of thing that inspires the marine biologists and conservationists of the future. However, the ongoing conservation work that they are doing is equally, if not more important as it will preserve certain species from extinction all together. The Sea Life Centre are champions for the need for plastic-free oceans as well as other conservation projects. This was further reinforced in the 4D Happy Feet film that they are currently showing and is another important message for children.

Both girls had a thoroughly enjoyable day, even Lia loved all the colours of the fish and managed to stay awake for almost the whole morning, which is pretty good for a five month old. But who wouldn't be fascinated by fish as beautiful as this?

I am officially terrible at photographing fish.

Please note, the National Sea Life Centre were kind enough to let us have a look round for free so we could tell you all about the Octonauts' mission. All views, opinions, children and terrible photos of fish are my own.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Our Thursday Photo #22

This week has been well and truly exhausting. Lia appears to be teething so none of us have had any sleep (except for Libby, who would sleep through a nuclear war). I've ordered a Sophie the Giraffe for Lia, I've heard good things about them and I'm willing to try anything, so although I wouldn't normally pay £12 for a teething toy, we're desperate!

Our house hunting has taken another interesting turn. Because I'm now self employed, my wages as it stands won't be taken into consideration for a mortgage. They take the self employed average of the last two tax years, so until I've been self employed and earning a reasonable amount for a while, they will only go on hubby's wages. This has brought us back round to the idea of staying put for now, with a view to trying to get Libby into a nice school and then if (or when) we get told she can only go to our local school, we might have to privately educate her for a year until we can move. Whilst it's not ideal, at least I'll have been working for long enough for my wages to be taken into consideration.

Libby is doing well as usual, and is particularly helpful with Lia if she's getting a bit grumpy with her teething. Libby can almost always manage to make Lia smile, even when she's really upset, which is a real blessing. Our Thursday Photo #22 (posted on Friday - it's been one of those weeks) sees Libby teaching Lia to drive using her rattle. They say you should never teach your children to drive, but it seems to be less of a problem for siblings!

Monday, 6 October 2014

It's the small things after all

I love a challenge. Usually it's a physical challenge like beating my husband in a half marathon, beating my husband in an open water swim, beating my husband in a triathlon... you get the picture. Today though, I'm taking part in the #MorningWin Challenge sponsored by Belvita.

Blogging, on the whole, is more of a relaxing pass time than a challenge, but Britmums and Belvita have thrown down the gauntlet by asking people to write about a small victory that makes the morning better. I love a post that really makes you think!

So I started off by thinking about my best morning ever. Of course, there's the mornings when I had Libby and Lia. Wonderful though it was to welcome my daughters into the world, I don't think I would describe either of those as my best morning ever. After all, I was in agony, initially unable to walk and stuck in hospital.

So after much deliberation, my best morning ever has to be the day I woke up in a hammock in the jungle in Venezuala.

Aside from being pretty pleased to be on the holiday of a lifetime, my small victory of the morning was one of the best ever. I had just been informed that the deafeningly loud roars that had woken us up were in fact howler monkeys not monsters. Result!

That got me thinking about how much things have changed, and how a small victory these days is notably more low key. In fact, I had a minor little victory this morning.

I love working from home, it's the right thing for me because it means I get to spend as much time as possible with the children. Waking up each morning and being there for them instead of having to rush them off to nursery so I can go to work is a victory itself. I don't think this counts as a minor victory though, because having returned to work initially when Libby was just three months old, being able to spend every day with my children has to be regarded as a momentous victory.

The one thing that does slip with working from home though is sleep. I work in the afternoons when they nap and sometimes I manage to get a bit done when hubby is home from work. Most of my work is done in the evenings though, and last night was no exception. When the children were in bed (a little later than usual), Jamer and I settled down to do some work.

As tends to be the case when we've had a busy day, I had a fair bit of work to catch up on, so I ended up working until 1.15 am. Lia woke me up for a quick feed at about 4.30 am and usually, we are woken up by hubby's alarm at around 7 am. Today though, hubby was off to work a little later, both girls were having a lazy morning so I was still watching the back of my eyelids until 8 am. This, I feel, is a minor victory!

Another thing that I always feel is worth celebrating is when I manage to get both girls up, dressed and off to their morning activity on time. This is rare. BelVita breakfast biscuits help, as Libby will eat them nice and quickly so breakfast is done in a jiffy and off we go. Unfortunately, we liked the new apricot, chocolate chip and hazelnut flavours a little too much and we've run out so my minor victory was thwarted by turning up late at their singing group and missing Libby's favourite song.

This brings me on to the final thing that I regard as a small morning victory. A cup of tea and a biscuit in bed. On hubby's days off, everyone troops into our room and one of us goes and makes some tea and gets some biscuits. When we've got belVita's, that's breakfast done and dusted and we're ready to head out for the day. These are Libby's favourite mornings, and quite frankly, I think they're my favourites too.

So, perhaps it's a sign of my age but these days, the best mornings are the ones that see the small victories. Hence the title - it's the small things after all. If you now have the irritating song stuck in your head, I'm genuinely sorry, particularly because it's stuck in my head too.

This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. Learn more at