Saturday, 25 December 2010

An Almost Perfect Christmas

J has been an angel today - cooked the Christmas dinner, tidied up, washed up, helped loads with Little Liss.

I've chilled out, eaten lots and drank (a little) bucks fizz. We went for a walk across snow covered fields and Alicia 'sung' to us all the way. Lush.

Liss loves her Sophie the Giraffe teether, and we love her new Sterntaler boots. We tried them out on our Christmas walk and they stayed on the whole time! They have an adjustable elasticated inner sock which means they stay put on even the most wiggly baby.

Alicia chewing Sophie the Giraffe (tastes so much better upside down!)

Me and Liss - check out her new sparkly shoes!

Daddy and Lissy with her new Sterntaler boots

J loves his new telescope, I love my new jewellery, red slippers and promise of a child-free shopping trip to buy me a winter coat in the sales :-)

In fact, it's been a perfect Christmas. Actually, make that an ALMOST perfect Christmas - Els is with her dad this year and so we just had a Skype call with her. We miss her.

Unusually, we didn't have her Christmas Eve either (usually whichever parent doesn't have her Christmas Day has her Christmas Eve) because her dad wanted to take her to his girlfriend's parents and then to her Nonna (Granny) so he needed her for a good few days together. Ah well, our turn next year!

Hope you had a lovely Christmas too.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The True Cost of Cheap Food

I'm seriously thinking about going vegan again - anyone else see the Panorama programme last night? Eew those mega dairies...scary places.

Although it was an expose of the real cost of cheap food - the toll on the environment and on animal welfare - it also reminded me why I first became vegetarian twenty six years ago. It's easy to forget why we do something when that something has become an ingrained habit, something I rarely think about anymore. But I'm thinking again...

Maybe I'm still a bit hormonal, but seeing a sow feeding her youngsters in a tiny cage (yes in the UK, no they don't roam around in fields much anymore like we all think they do) made me cry. Properly cry. Perhaps cos I'm breastfeeding at the moment I felt an affinity with that mummy pig and her babies.

The babies are reared under artificial light, in small spaces, with no rooting opportunities (essential for a piggy's happiness). A mummy pig is allowed to nurse her babies for only two to three weeks before being reimpregnated and having her babies taken from her. The babies get killed at six months.

But of course my conscience is eased by the fact I don't eat pork or bacon. But J does (mainly in his sandwiches during the working week) and so does Ella (mainly at her dad's though as I only cook veggie and vegan at home). I blithely buy cheap factory farmed meat for him when I can't find any organic piggies on the shelves in Tesco. And it turns out that large scale organic producers raise their animals in a smilar way anyhow, just without the gratuitous antibiotics and growth hormones.

I will make it my mission to source local suppliers who treat their animals well. I'm also going to make J's sandwiches more often so he gets a few veggie lunches at work too. I'm lucky to have the True Food Co-op within a short drive and I think they do some organic meat reared in small-scale farms.

As for contemplating the vegan thing again. Well, I was vegalicious once and I know that diary cows have a hard time of it. Forced to be pregnant continually so they keep producing milk, slaughtered at around five years old when they're no longer 'useful' and their babies killed shortly after birth or raised as veal calves.

Not to mention the distress they must feel at having their babies taken away from them. And I'm not anthropomorphising:

"The harsh reality is that to produce milk, a cow must have a calf. To maximise production, each calf is taken from its mother within 24-48 hours of birth. Calves would naturally suckle for 6-12 months.

"Separation is a distressing process as mother and calf form a strong maternal bond. Dairy cow husbandry expert, Professor John Webster described the removal of the calf as the “most potentially distressing incident in the life of the dairy cow”. Webster points out that “the cow will submit herself to considerable personal discomfort or risk to nourish and protect her calf”. Examples of this are cows that have escaped and travelled several miles to find their own calf after it has been sold on to another farm"
Excerpt from The Vegan Society website

As a mother, I can't fail to be moved. But veganism can be a tricky thing to manage 100%. Which is why I'm going to approach it softly, softly and initially just aim to eat more vegan meals and use Kara, oat milk etc (I don't like the taste of soya milk much!) in my teas and coffees but not panic if I'm at a friend's house and have cow's milk.

If you're not a veggie or vegan but would like to reduce the cruelty content in your diet, how about having a Meatless Monday? It's easy to achieve and, as they say at Tesco, every little helps...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Homemade Christmas

There's a lady in the village next to mine who works from home as a florist. Every December she runs wreath-making courses. I was intrigued, so went along.

Bless her, the old dear is registered blind but still can whip up an amazing bouquet in a matter of minutes. We were shown how to make a wreath using an oasis and loads of greenery. There was a cornucopia of festive fruits and flowers to then adorn your wreath with. I loved it all so used a bit of everthing she had on offer. After all, less is definitely not more at Christmas.

Here's my effort, what d'ya think?:

Beacuse I'm not back to work until January, and SMP is a bit pants to be honest, I'm making my family's Christmas pressie this year. Well, apart from the little kids' presents which are more appreciated if they are plastic, expensive or both.


I'm making massage/moisturising oils with organic sunflower oil from the supermarket, these fabulous blue bottles which become squeezy bottles because when you first screw the cap on it automatically adds a clear plastic top with a hole. It looks very professional, but I'm not sure you can re-use them so may not be good for home use.

Boys will get a 'muscle rub' made by adding orange, ginger and black pepper essential oils from Aromantic and the Soap Kitchen to the sunflower oil base. I'm going to play around with quantities but plan to use a total of 30-50 drops of essential oil to 100ml of base oil.

Girls will get a relaxing, feminine massage oil (can also use as a body moisturiser and bath oil) with a combination of rose, jasmine and ylang ylang essential oils.

I'vbe bought kilner-style jars from Tesco for just over a pound each, and am planning to fill them with homemade chocolate chip cookies, white chocolate and cranberry cookies or bath salts made with equal parts sea salt, epsom salt, bicarb of soda and essential oils to scent.

Maybe lavender and rose for relaxation, mandarin and cinnamon for a warming, Christmassy soak. Again, all ingredients sourced from Aromantic and the Soap Kitchen (although I'm sure you can get them from a supermarket and health food store too).

The other things I'm planning to make are bath melts - so lovely and so easy. The recipe is from The Holistic Beauty Book and you can find it here along with a recipe for a sugar scrub which would also be great in one of those kilner jars.

Finally, I'm planning to do little bags of what I call 'biscuit bites' loosely based on Nigella's Rocky Road Bars. I use the little plastic food bags, pop four or five squares of the biscuit bites inside and secure with curling ribbon. Looks pretty, tastes divine and is super quick and easy to make. Fun to do with your kids.

Are you doing anything homemade this Christmas - presents or decorations? Do share your plans...

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

I'm British Mummy Blogger of the Week :-)

Oh. My. God.

I'm soooo chuffed.

You see, I blog because I enjoy it. Part as a release, part as a record that my family and I can look back on in years to come. Of course, I hope to entertain and inspire my readers too. And I would love to have more readers. Many, many more.

But, I don't spend enough time on promoting my blog (typically marketeer hey?!) to get an impressive number of readers. I'm not high profile in the illustrious ranks of the top Mummy Bloggers - the ones who get book deals and freebies to Disneyland (Florida, not Paris BTW). I wish...

In fact, I marvel at some of the blogs I follow whose readers run to several hundreds - and that's just the readers who follow publically. I must confess to being a teensy bit jealous. OK, let's be honest, completely green eyed.

So, it was a huge surprise and a lovely compliment to be nominated as the British Mummy Blogger of the Week. If not 'fame at last!' then definitely some recognition.

It's confirmed that I'm not just writing for myself, my mum and my close mates. Other (high profile) bloggers and blog readers have noticed me. Yay! It feels good. Really good.

Now where's my trip to Florida?!

P.S. If you read me from time to time please subscribe or follow me publically. It does a girl good to see who she's writing for. Come on and show me some lurrve!! Use those Subscribe and Follow links. Mwaw xxx

Free Organic JASON Products for Adults and Kids!!!

By the way, this is NOT a sponsored post. I'm just genuinely excited by this product and the free stuff promo. Sad but true!

I love organic products but my budget doesn't always stretch to them. If I could, I'd only ever use natural organic lotions and potions on my and my family's skin. I'd also only ever feed us organic food. And we would skip through fields of daffodils, singing and laughing as we made our way towards an eternally rising sun...

Back on planet earth (not always as wonderful as Planet Anna, but a good deal less cliched nevertheless), I have been stocking up on my current fave (and very affordable)organic product. Well, it's 95% organic which is good enough for me.

I found JASON Vitamin E oil in my local health food shop and have been using it to help fade my stretchmarks and smooth my little under eye creases for the last three months now.

It's so fabulous it has now replaced my day cream, night cream and eye cream as well as being my 'much better than Bio Oil' anti-wrinkle and anti-stretchmark oil, hand moisturiser and my daughter's favourite steal ("ooh can I have some Mummy? It smells of marzipan!".

Here's a list of a few ways that Vitamin E oil can benefit your skin. It's famed for it's effectiveness in treating scars, stretchmarks and wrinkles. It's also very easily absorbed by the skin.

The stuff I was using is a blend of almond (hence the marzipan smell), apricot, avocado and wheatgerm oils giving 5,000 I.U. of vitamin E. I got 118 ml for around £5.50 and it has lasted me a good three months or so. And I use it a lot.

Imagine my excitement when I found out JASON do a super strength version - delivering 45,000 IU of vitamin E for less than a tenner. OK, so it's half the size (60ml) as the one I was using but you get a lot more bang for your buck. Weirdly, it uses completely different oils: blackcurrant, evening primrose, macadamia nut and borage so it's unlikely to smell of marzipan (no almond oil).

I stocked up on a few of these and as I went to the virtual checkout I noticed that the price of one bottle had automatically been deducted! There's no mention of a discount on the site, but once you've payed it confirms that there is a limited 'cheapest product free' offer at the moment because the website is new.

To celebrate the launch of the new JASON website they’re also currently offering Free Samples to everyone who requests them while stocks last.

All you need to do is email JASON your address to one, or both, of the email addresses below by clicking on the link and they’ll send you some sachets and travel size samples for free. I'm not sure what products you'll get as I've only just sent my emails today.

Children’s samples:

Adult samples:

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Real Postnatal Celeb

Thank you Kim Kardashian for speaking out and letting us mere mortal mamas know that celebs have postnatal bellies too. They just get photoshopped out to entice us to buy certain magazines.

Shame on you, OK magazine. Check the before and after photos here

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) - or OMG Look at the F**king Mess!

What is Baby Led Weaning?

None of my friends or family would ever use the words 'house proud' and 'Anna' in the same sentence. But even I have blanched in the face of the utter carnage that is Baby Led Weaning (or BLW as it's commonly known).

The principle is sound - skip the purees and go straight to finger food beacuse we're advised to wean babies later now (around six months instead of four) and self-feeding enables them to listen to their own appetite and choose what they want to eat.

With BLW, baby learns to chew before s/he swallows (with traditional spoon feeding it's the other way round), and experiments with a wider range of tastes and textures because BLW experts advise you let baby select their own meal from four or five different finger foods in front of them.

Baby Led Weaning is a method that supports babies in learning to love their food and develop a broader palate than if you choose to wean by what Gill Rapley's Baby Led Weaning book calls 'force feeding' (spoon feeding to us less militant folk).

BLW babies can usually eat the same thing as the rest of the family (without the sugar or salt) from about 7-8 months. So, it's a more sociable way of eating for baby and it's far easier for Mum who doesn't have to rack her brains for interesting puree combinations (sweet potato and blueberries anyone?).

Here are some of the benefits of Baby Led Weaning.

Why is Baby Led Weaning so Messy?

The friend who gave me The BLW book did make a vague reference to the mess. But, I brushed it off as I am no stranger to mess. Hell, this is the woman who has a fridge magnet proudly proclaiming 'A Clean House is a Sign of a Wasted Life'.

With Baby Led Weaning, you let your Precious Angel self-feed. I use the term 'self-feed' loosely. It's actually more akin to a food fight. Really, they're just playing with the food at first. Mushing it onto themselves (Alicia tucked some avocado behind her ear recently though I think she was aiming for her mouth), and spreading it liberally around the table and floor.

Tips for Easier Baby Led Weaning

Like any new experience though it gets easier with time. You develop better coping tactics. We've now abandoned the Tripp-Trapp style high chair (BTW, this highchair is less than half the price and is pretty much the same)and eating straight off the table thing.

It didn't work for us. Everything ended up on the floor within 30 seconds, and the five second rule doesn't really apply in a house where the floor gets mopped once every two months (I'm really not joking. I wish I were).

What works much better is sticking Little Liss in a Bumbo directly on the dining table, putting an array of finger foods onto the Bumbo tray. She was more interested in the bowl and mat than the food when we attempted that little combo).

The beauty of the Bumbo seat is that you can bung it in the (empty) bath and hose it all down with the shower afterwards. Sleeved bibs are another godsend.

Here's a link to some photos in Flickr of Alicia's Baby Led Weaning adventures (I'm having problems uploading photos in Blogger at the moment).

As you can see, I do occassionally give her purees too but I load up the spoon and put it onto the tray so she can self feed. Unlike some other BLW Mums, I don't think purees are the devil's work, especially when you have a hungry baby who won't really get much into her tummy in the first few weeks of Baby Led Weaning.

BLW Key Points

If you fancy giving BLW a try, here's a booklet on the key points. This BLW blog is a good resource too.

Don't get distressed if your baby coughs or gags on the food at first, just let it happen and watch them like a hawk for any signs of choking (although it's very unlikely they will choke).

Gagging generally doesn't upset them, and their gag reflex is a lot farther forward than ours. It's a natural reflex to help them expel food and doesn't mean they're choking(although when I first witnessed it I was convinced that she was).

If a baby chokes they usually don't make a sound beacuse the food is blocking their airway. To give yourself peace of mind, watch this vide on dealing with a choking baby Apparently, choking is more common when a traditionally weaned baby transitions to lumpy purees and food because they have learned to swallow and not chew. BLW babies do it the other way round - master chewing before swallowing.

Recommended First Foods

Although Gill Rapley recommends you try pretty much any food as long as it doesn't have sugar or salt in it (both very, very bad for babies - salt can even kill them), I'm playing it a bit safer and going with my favourite nutritionist's recommendations as outlined in Optimum Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy
. I'm also mainly sticking to organic foods as babies and pesticides don't mix very well (I prefer to eat organic myself too when availability and budget allow).

So, until she's nine months Little Liss will be making her way through:
*Vegetables except the nightshade varieties (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and aubergines)
*Fruits (not citrus)
*Pulses and beans
*Wholefood grains: rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat

If you aren't bringing up your baby as a veggie then you can also include fish (pref organic, wild or deep sea).

Patrick Holford recommends waiting until nine months to introduce the following:

*Meat & poultry
*Grains that can cause sensitivity ie oats, corn, barley and rye
*Live yoghurt and eggs
*Soya and nightshade vegetables

He also recommends you leave the following until 12 months: citrus fruits, wheat, dairy, nuts and seeds (but with peanuts wait as long as you can and then only organic varieties).

So, there you have it. BLW - makes sense (to me anyway), great fun (especially for baby) but a bit messy at first!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Yule Just Love These!

Excuse the appalling pun, couldn't help myself.

We've just been elfing ourselves and urge you to do the same. It's bloody hilarious.

You go to the website, upload some pics of your family - from your PC or via a link from your facebook account - and it will turn you and your loved ones into funky dancing Christmas elves.

You can then post the link to your friends' facebook walls, email the link and/or download the video. It's completely brilliant and makes a great (and free!) alternative to Christmas cards.

You can choose from several different dance styles including eighties, Charleston, Hip Hop and Country & Western. We went for Disco, despite (actually because of) hubby getting all the 'village people' style dance moves. I'm seeing him in a totally new light.

Another cool Yule thing to do is to check out the Portable North Pole site where you can create personalised video messages from Santa for toddlers, older children and grown ups.

It's not just their name that Santa uses, he will also talk about your choice of personalised messages and show their photo in his magical book. It's beautifully done.

We did this for Ella last year and she was totally awestruck. Shame she doesn't believe in him now - I'll just have to be satisfied with my jokey one for J and wait a few years till Little Liss is old enough to enjoy her digital message from the great white bearded one.