Us mums should be more adventurous in the kitchen

I love to cook and always like to make sure that my family has a healthy meal to tuck into at teatime. Of course, being a mum means that life is hectic and often, I end up serving the same meals again and again. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as they’re healthy and packed full of all the essential nutrients my family needs.

However, serving the same food, again and again, can start to get a little boring. Plus, studies have shown that kids who are brought up in homes where the food choices are varied are more likely to have better appetites. I’m not saying that every night you should be cooking something new, but it could be good to mix things up once in a while.

For all the best tips and tricks for mixing up the food that you serve your family, have a read of this:

Try a new diet type

You may remember that recently I tried the 30-day vegan challenge. It was this that gave me the opportunity to try out lots of different foods that normally, I would never have eaten. If you want to mix up the types of meals you make for your family, trying out a new diet is a great option. For instance, vegan cooking is fun, easy to do, and most important, the meals are family-friendly. As well as learning to make various cakes and snacks that were vegan, I also got to try out lots of new recipes. Some of which my family love and still eat, others that we weren’t too keen on.

vegan custard powder

Attend a course

How about attending a cooking course? There are some fantastic courses out there that will give you an idea of new meals to try out and the best ways to cook them. There are even some restaurants, like L’anima, that offer specialist cooking courses with their chefs. These are great if you want to enhance your skills and learn to cook like a pro. You can even find courses that specialise in certain types of cuisine, such as Italian cooking.

Look for inspiration online

If you’re stuck for ideas for new recipes to try out, why not have a look online? Believe it or not, there is so much cooking inspiration online,  including on Pinterest. (This is the most amazing resource for finding new recipes, by the way!) If there’s a certain type of food that you want to try cooking, such as risotto, for example, all you have to do is Google it and lots of recipes will come up. The great thing about the internet is that there are plenty of recipes that you would never even have thought of on there. So when it comes to the types of dishes you try, the sky’s the limit.

basic herman cake

So there you have it, some of the best ways to make your family meals a little more adventurous. There’s nothing wrong with serving the same meals again and again, but sometimes, it’s nice to mix things up and try something new.

No Toilet Paper for One Year!

Recently I was discussing on the Huffington Post about how we have not bought toilet paper for one year. You may have seen it, it was talked about quite a lot. But why on earth did I make this lifestyle choice? It’s not really normal is it, it’s not like saying “hey, I’m going to be a vegan” or “That’s it, I’m never wearing a bra again!”.

In 2012 our first born daughter arrived. I knew we wanted to use cloth nappies, but I didn’t really have a clue about how to start. We purchased a really fab starter set of MotherCare nappies, that soon became my favourite item we had bought for the baby (and has since been used on our 2 other daughters and will never be thrown away because the set is still as good as new!). We didn’t use cloth nappies all the time, but I’d say about 80% of the time she was in a fluffy nappy. Once she was 6 months old and we were in full swing of this baby-caring malarkey we made the decision to switch to cloth baby wipes. A simple square flannel stored dry, and just wet when needed soon cut out the need to buy the nasty disposable version. I say ‘nasty’ because I am sure we have all heard stories of babies having allergic reactions to these wipes, they bock the toilets of dumb folk who have flushed them, you need to cut down trees and melt plastic to make them and they cost money. Money that I didn’t want to spent and then just throw away.cloth nappy week 2015 pretty nappies

It was also when Willow was 6 months old I found myself pregnant again. I knew our second child was certainly going be put into cloth nappies, 100%. We couldn’t really afford otherwise. Having 2 babies in disposable nappies would certainly put a dent in our wallets. And then to add the price of baby wipes on top, was a scary thought. I started to make my own baby wipes from old bath towels to double the size of our cloth wipes stash, ready for our new arrival. The wipes were soon used to clean smelly bums and another pile for sticky hands and faces, spillages, and furniture surfaces. 4 years later, I am still using the same original wipes that I started with. I must have washed them 100’s of times, and they are still serving their purpose perfectly.

During my pregnancy with my second daughter I discovered the world of Cloth Sanitary Protection (CSP). Ditching the Tampax and Always which can be scratchy, uncomfortable and chemical ridden, as well as causing infections and even cuts to the inside of the vagina and swapping to cotton sanitary towels and the Mooncup- an internally worn item, that collects menstrual blood rather than absorbing it, rather than tampons which can dry out the inside of the vagina, causing irritations. One cup cost just under £20 and lasts 10 years, and you only need one cup for the whole of that time. A product that definitely pays for itself after just a few months, and saves you a heck of a lot of money over the years! Cloth pads look a lot like a disposable, but without a sticky back, you fasten them into your knickers with poppers on the wings. You don’t sweat behind them, because there is no plastic to make you sweaty. You won’t get irritations down below, because all that touches your skin is soft cotton, unlike the weird materials used to top disposable pad. They also don’t make that horrible scrunchy sound that announces to the whole public bathroom that you’re on your period!

They are washed in the machine just like your clothes and reused. The amount of toxins you expose your body to is drastically reduced and many ladies who previously reported heavy and painful periods have been relieved of their symptoms with lighter, less painful bleeds and even shorter bleed times. It really does make you wonder what these chemicals are doing to our bodies.

Your skin is the largest and thinnest organ of the human body. It soaks up all of the chemicals and toxins that it comes into contact with. These chemicals enter your bloodstream and can cause significant damage to your overall health. One of the reasons that I am trying to cut out many household chemical ridden cleaning products, as well as hygiene products. Worryingly, the companies that manufacture sanitary pads are not required to tell us what the ‘ingredients’ are that they use when manufacturing these pads. I recently made a video asking why we are also not informed about the ingredients of disposable nappies, something I still have not been given a definitive answer to, despite lots and lots of googling!

By the time I was pregnant with our third daughter, I was well and truly onto a hard core journey of frugality and saving money. We were spending around £12 a week on food for our family of 5, sometimes even less. hardly any of the food that we purchased was full price. We were buying loaves of 5p bread and packs of vegetables for 10p, all of which were thrown into our large chest freezer and used as and when we needed them. By refusing to buy disposable sanitary products my periods were costing me nothing ( a set of cloth pads can be purchased for very cheap, or made at home from cloth scraps on the sewing machine) as were my baby’s poops other than the price of running the washing machine- which I had also tweeked to working on an absolute minimum, but that still worked effectively. I was washing many items by hand, we had ditched the microwave and there was still a lot more I could be doing. I also discovered the Ecoegg, a new laundry detergent replacement that requires no liquid, powder of gel detergent in your washes. For £20 the Ecoegg lasts 720 washes… the average amount of washes a family uses in 3 years!! That’s another huge saving in our house.

What had to go next? What one thing was we buying regularly, and just throwing away? Kitchen roll? Na, we never bothered with that. It had to be the bog roll. Good quality, luxurious, double quilted, smells like roses and illustrated with bears loo roll. I was already using the cotton baby wipes and we hadn’t bought baby wipes in 4 years, so why should cotton wipes used as loo roll be any different? I started cutting up more old towels into squares, and they were stored in their own ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ boxes in the bathroom. Using them on the kids was easy, they took to it straight away, although I did have to fish a few wipes from the bottom of the toilet bowl a few times.

I am not writing this, urging you all to ditch the toilet roll, or even to bin your microwave but I would hope I have opened the eyes of you all to make a switch from one of your daily disposables to something a little more eco friendly. Baby steps can make a huge difference, not just to your bank balance, but to the environment and even what we bring our children up like. Our children should learn to cherish the planet we have been given so that we can all enjoy it that little bit more. I also firmly believe that if we can teach our children how to be more self sufficient, that should they find themselves with no money, or living in a world where Tampax isn’t on tap they would know how to get by, and still be happy. I know we shouldn’t have to live in a ‘Victorian’ manner, but the times have changed and while cloth may seem a basic and old fashioned all of the options I have covered above are now available to us with modern twists, are pretty and make us feel fantastic.

reusable products

Incubating our first Quail

8 days ago we starting incubating some Chinese Painted Quail aka Button Quail. The tiny grey eggs are no bigger than my thumb nail, so tiny and precious. We are just under halfway through our incubation period so far, as Button quail tend to hatch after around 18 days.

Image source:  https://uk.pinterest.com/thebritfarmer/button-quail/

Image source: https://uk.pinterest.com/thebritfarmer/button-quail/

We chose button quail to hatch as a fun project for our kids, as we already keep chickens but I firmly state that they are my chickens but the kids do help out collecting eggs and feeding them. I figured Quail are a simple pet that they girls can have much more involvement with, due to their size and needing much smaller housing. The eggs that they lay are tiny, but they can still be eaten as a fun snack for lunch. The adults are only 4-5 inches in height, but they can jump a very impressive 6 foot!

Button quail eggs are notoriously hard to candle due to their size and dark grey shells. We do have a super bright torch that I figured might give us some insight to what’s going on inside the eggs. After 3 days of incubation we candled the eggs to find that every single one of our 9 eggs were fertile and growing well. The picture below shows the strong network of veins and the little black spot in the middle is the baby quail. With a careful eye you could even see the flicker of a heartbeat. The girls think it looks like a spider, and I think they are right!

Button Quail incubation day 3

I don’t want to over candle the eggs, because the eggs shouldn’t be handled and cooled down too much. The only time I should really touch the eggs is when they need to be turned, 3 times a day and that’s it. But watching what is going on inside the eggs is so addictive! I could sit and watch all day, but my husband Jay (who knows a lot more about poultry than I do) told me off when I reached for our torch after that first initial candling session.

I couldn’t resist on day 6 to just quickly check one of the eggs, in a brief candling session. Day 6 showed obvious strong movement, and the quail had doubled in size. The air sac had also grown much larger. I instantly became similar to a child on Christmas day, bouncing all over the house and talking very fast and high pitched. Time is flying by and soon our baby quail chicks will arrive, which I am told are only the size of a bumble bee when hatched. Once they have hatched they dry off inside of the incubator and are then moved under a brooder- a warm plate that mimics mummy-quail to keep the babies warm while they grow their adult feathers. I shall keep you all posted with their progress, when the time comes :)

 

The backpack that turns into a pushchair, with Omnio Stroller

Today, a new breed of pushchair arrives. And it’s rather special….

I’ve had my fair of strollers over the last few years since having my 3 daughters. Some were amazing, and some were a bit of a let down. I’ve never owned a car, so needing a durable pushchair for long walks across town was always a must. I occasionally hop onto the train into London, and working my way around the tube with any pushchair is always going to be a bit of a struggle.

I recently popped along to The Gadget Show live to meet up with the team rep-ing the all new Omnio stroller, and I was very excited. I knew I would get to see this super lightweight stroller, but I wasn’t quite sure what else about it would make it stand out from the crowd or other lightweight buggies. I rocked up with my Quinny, and 3 kids in tow to the Birmingham NEC. My Quinny is pretty lightweight and easy to use, so I figured it was my best choice of pushchair for wiggling through the crowds, up and down stairs and in and out of elevators. I wanted to be able to compare this new Omnio stroller with something I was truly used to.

Omnio stroller red

My first impressions were not something I had expected. It looked completely different to any of my other strollers. It looked compact and (in all honesty) a bit weird. The first feature that struck me was hold it folded down into next-to-nothingness, and turned into a backpack. Wow. Instantly I was mesmerised by it. The whole thing just folded in on itself with one swift movement, and was slung onto the lovely demo lady’s back. I instantly had flash-backs of sweaty struggles on the tube, carrying my toddler up an escalator while juggling a folded buggy. If the Omnio stroller meant I could carry my child in my arms, or safely walking alongside me whilst my pushchair was on my back until we got out of the tube station, I may avoid any future sweaty flash backs. Game changer. Want to know something better? The folded stroller even passed as hand luggage when flying with British Airways. Pretty darn useful!

omnio stroller folded

The tiny size of the Onimo stroller isn’t it’s only awesome feature. The stroller also has unique wheels that you will not see anywhere else. The great Omni-wheels are specifically designed to make pushing the stroller far easier than any other pushchair on the market. The wheels will not swivel and ‘jam’, meaning that they don’t have a mind of their own when pushing one-handed. I pushed the stroller one-handed with my 1 year old in, and then again with my 4 year old in too (She was the biggest kid they had sitting in the stroller to date!) and both times using it, I could easily steer the buggy with no problems. The Omni-Wheels are also puncture proof, so no need to worry about getting a flat tyre when far from home. The wheels have also won the British Invention Of The Year award.

omnio wheels

When pushing the stroller it felt light and smooth, with no effort needed to swiftly change direction or ‘get going’. An absolute breeze to push, even when tackling the hustle and bustle of the crowds within the NEC. At just 50 x 40 x 20 cm (17 x 16 x 8 in) in size and weighing just 16lbs  there really isn’t much to the stroller itself. Which actually feels kind of bizarre when pushing it around, as I am used to something far wider and heavier. It also looks stylish and sleek, with the designers paying every attention to detail to create one of the most styling and up-to-date strollers on the market.

The seat itself was fully adjustable to suit all babies and toddlers (up to 22kg) with a 5 point harness that could be made to fit perfectly and double up as shoulder straps when being carried on your back. There is also a shopping basket under the stroller, which is surprisingly large for such a small stroller. The hood is completely detachable, and gives excellent coverage from sun and rain alike and also has a useful window so you can keep a close eye on your little one. I especially liked the fact that the all of the stroller (except the frame- obv’s) can be thrown in the washing machine in the event of a messy mishap.

omnio straps

I had to check out the range of accessories also that can be purchased along side of the stroller. All of the accessories can be attached the stroller itself, and a changing bag which attaches to the side of the stroller eliminates the risk of the stroller tipping over from weight, something which many parents are all too well aware of (ooops!). The changing bag contains a useful rollout, slim changing mat, lots of useful pockets. There is also a unique stroller bag, to keep all of your personal belongings and useful gadgets and an insulated bottle bag.

The stroller is available to pre-order FROM TODAY at born.com, and is £389. You can choose from 3 unisex colours Black, red and teal. And the final bit of ‘awesome’ is that when it arrives, just pop it out of the box and you’re ready to go. No fiddly set-up necessary.

 

 

What is in a disposable nappy?

All new parents worry about the health of their children and do everything they can to make sure that their baby is as happy, comfortable and healthy as possible. We are told not to use harsh chemicals in their baths, and the best option for their skin is just plain water. We are told to put down the biological washing detergents and leave it out of the machines, and we are advised not to use any lotions or potions on their skin, because having healthy skin is far more important than having a perfumed baby.

There are special baby products lining the shelves of every supermarket and corner shop in the country. Brands like Johnsons and Johnsons offer harmless pure cleaning for our babies skin, but inside those bottles is still an extensive list of chemicals that can still irritate and upset the skin of our children. I myself can’t use Johnsons baby bath, because I come out in a nasty rash… and I’m an adult.

But we tend to forget about what is INSIDE of a nappy. You see many adverts on TV, in magazines and plastered all over shop walls and even bus stops. But behind that soft cotton feel layer, hides something quite worrying. Most disposable nappies work like this. Pee and poop travel through the top layer and get trapped by weird little wisps of dust which is just dried jelly. When moisture hits this dry dust, the jelly swells and becomes big sticky balls of p*ss. Have you ever seen a disposable nappy burst? That shit gets everywhere. It sticks to your skin, babies skin, every surface it touches. That jelly made of chemicals, and can cause burns. Which is why many parents have faced the dreaded ‘nappy burn’ on their babies bottoms. Prolonged exposure to urine, mixed with chemicals can literally burn your babies skin off.

I decided to do a little investigating. I wanted to have a look at the UK’s best selling nappies and their websites just to see if I could find a list of the ‘ingredients’ used to make their nappies. I wanted a full list, not just a rough generalisation. I searched Pampers, ASDA’s Little Angels, Aldi’s Mamia and Tesco’s Loves Baby nappies. I wasn’t at all surprised at what I found out.

Pampers

After scrolling for what felt like hours trying to find a list of their ‘ingredients’ I found… fuck all. Not a thing. Nothing on their site lists their ingredients, all I could find was the repeated phrase “It’s safe”. Reassuring but not what I was looking for, I was also reassured that the gel they use inside was ‘safe to swallow’ (jeeeezus, really?!), “normal” and once again “safe”.

ASDA’s Little Angels

I found very little on their site. In fact I found nothing. The only ‘useful’ information I found was that their nappies had a special ‘Time-to-change’ wetness indicator. Useful… if you don’t know how to common-sense. But again, no ingredients list.

Aldi’s Mamia

Winners of many awards, and well loved across the country with penny-wise parents. Even less on their site than ASDA’s. Oooh, but I did find out that they use ‘fibres from sustainable forestry initiative’. What ever that means, I can only hope its a good thing. And guess what… no ingredients list. What a surprise!? NOT.

Tesco’s Loves Baby

I thought I was onto something here when I scrolled down and saw the word ‘Ingredients’… then cried silently to myself when I spotted the ‘N/A’ after it. Balls. So, yawn, once again NOTHING. NOT A THING. Although I will give them credit, they stock MORE reusable nappy items in their nappy range than they do disposable, so I kinda feel a little better.

I quickly shot over to the Bambino Mio website. Bambino Mio are one of the biggest and most popular reusable nappy brands out there. They have 2 types of reusable nappy available. One that’s an all-in-one nappy, and another that’s a 2 part system which contains a prefold and a wrap (that’s the waterproof bit). I quickly discovered (with absolutely zero investigative skills, I promise you) that their pre-fold is made from 100% cotton. Wait, that was easy.

Why is it so hard to find out what exactly is inside of these disposable nappies? Surely us parents and carers deserve to know what we are putting on our babies bottoms. If it all really is as safe as they claim it all to be, why don’t they just say? Even if it is just a big list of things we’ve never heard of?!