Thursday, 27 February 2014

Fruit kebabs & Strawberry, apple and almond crumble!

Last week was half-term and therefore a week off school for my son. When I was offered a half-term SOS pack from Viva Strawberries, I gladly accepted and was keen to try their strawberries that are a variety akin to the British strawberry, grown in Spain and Morocco.

We received a lovely box of goodies, that in addition to the strawberries, included some grapes, a mango, an orange, some skewers, straws, a small bottle of wine and even a fun food-related game and some stickers for my children. We were most grateful!
With the fruit and the skewers, I decided fruit kebabs made the perfect excuse to let my five year-old practise some knife skills with one of my proper cutting knives. While he carefully cut off the ends of the strawberries and halved them, then diced the mango, my two year-old pulled off grapes from their stalks - great team work! They had fun putting the pieces of fruit onto the skewers and of course, even more fun getting to eat the fruit kebabs!

It goes without saying, these make a healthy, tasty snack or dessert and are something that can be made almost year round with whatever fruit is in season.

Strawberry, apple & almond crumble

I had saved some of the strawberries and was wondering what to make with them. Some of the typical desserts I might make with strawberries seemed too summery for February so I opted for a crumble. I found a Nigella Lawson recipe for strawberry and almond crumble that I adapted. I threw in some apples as we had plenty lying around. I reduced the sugar considerably, as I knew the fruit was quite sweet already and we prefer our crumbles less sweet than some. I also reduced the amount of flaked almonds in the topping. Here are my ingredients:

500g strawberries & apple, sliced
25g ground almonds
4 tsp vanilla extract

110g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g cold butter, diced
75g flaked almonds
75g demerara sugar

For the method and a pretty picture (as mine were not blog-worthy!), I will refer you to Nigella's recipe online.

Read more about Viva Stawberries and find lots of inspiring strawberry recipes to try from their website. 
Disclosure: We were sent a box containing the items described above, but with no obligation to blog about them.

I'm linking up our fruit kebabs with Kids in the Kitchen over at Raisie Bay.

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Monday, 24 February 2014

Ending the day on a positive note

Since joining Twitter, one of the regular things I enjoy participating in is the nightly, 'Be Positive Before Bed' #bepbb. At 9pm (UK time), anyone can share something positive from their day and there is a nightly host who retweets it and replies to you. Fellow mum and blogger, Jetta came up with the idea and on 5 March, it will have been running for a whole year! As a celebration, she has asked other bloggers who enjoy joining in, whether occasionally or regularly, to share what they like about #bepbb.

In a post about being thankful, I mentioned #bepbb and the fact that some days it is hard to think of something positive from the day, but that those days are exactly the ones where we need to dig deep and think of something. I think that is what I like most about #bepbb - the simple but effective challenge it gives us to find one good thing from our day, no matter how small. Some days it is easy to share a positive, other days it can be really hard but it's such a great exercise to look back over the events of the day and find something good. We can all too easily overlook the little things that we sometimes take for granted and forget how much they really mean to us.

The beauty of a tweet is that it is short and sweet, so no need to share elaborate events from your day. This makes it a very quick, simple way to end the day on a positive note. The other nice thing about #bepbb is reading what other people have shared. There are things that make you smile, things you can identify with and things that can make you recognise something from your own day that you perhaps dismissed as not being 'positve' enough.

Do you do anything similar to end your day, as a way to reflect on the good things in your life or to simply remind yourself of what has been positive from a day filled with challenges? If you ever join in with #bepbb, what is you like about it?
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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

This week: apple and cinnamon muffins

My son is on his half-term holiday from school this week. It's only day two but so far, so good. We have a few things scheduled for the week but also plenty of time to do whatever takes our fancy and to enjoy some unprepared time together. This morning he was off to a play date at a friend's house and so after breakfast we decided to make some muffins for him to take with him.

We had a couple of apples lying around that were past their best and so opted for some apple and cinammon muffins. It's a recipe I have made a fair few times in the past. It's a blueberry muffin recipe from a cookbook I have, but substituting the blueberries for grated apple and some cinnamon. Both children were keen to help and did a great job!
Apple and cinnamon muffins - makes 6 large muffins / 10 mini-muffins


100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
40g caster sugar
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp milk
50g butter, melted & cooled
1 apple, peeled & grated
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • Heat oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. Line your muffin tin with paper cases.
  • Sift flour and baking powder together in a bowl and then stir in the sugar and cinammon.
  • Whisk together the egg, milk and melted butter.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix briefly.
  • Add the grated apple, stir in gently.
  • Divide the mixture among your muffin cases and bake for 20 mins / until muffins are well risen and firm to the touch.

You could enjoy these muffins for breakfast (they are not too sugary), or for a sweet treat at any time in the day. Easy to make, great for the children to help out with and the apple keeps them nice and moist (although they are best eaten on the day you make them).

Have you been doing any baking this week?

I am linking this post with the following two recipe linkys.

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Link up your recipe of the week

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Play dates and younger siblings

One of our neighbours has a six-year old and a three-year old. She is often complaining to me about the difficulties of managing play dates with her older child without the younger one getting in the way. She even said she was trying to do most of their play dates on weekends when her husband could take out or play with the younger one and leave their daughter and friend in peace.

I had to stop by her house last week and was a little surprised to see the six-year old shut inside their conservatory with a friend while the three-year old, stood at the glass door looking in on them. The mother rolled her eyes at me and again lamented of how difficult it was with the younger child wanting to 'join in'. My two-year old stood with him at the glass door for a moment while I was chatting and I saw the six-year old say to her through the glass, 'no babies!'.

Having a five-year old and a two-year old myself, I am not oblivious to the challenges that can come with play dates and managing the younger sibling in a fair and peaceful way around the older ones. I don't however think the answer is to banish or separate the younger sibling completely from the room in which the older ones are playing. I think it's good for all ages to learn to get along, to share, to respect each other, whatever their age and to generally mix among different ages. Unless the younger sibling is destroying something the older ones are playing with, then why not let them be in the same room and play alongside?

I appreciate that sometimes the older child wants to go to their bedroom with their friend and be undisturbed. Sometimes I do encourage my daughter to stay and play downstairs with me to give the older ones some space. I recognise it is equally important to respect the older child and let them have a bit of private time with their friend, if that's what they want. As with most things, it is all about balance.

Occasionally I have to keep an eye on the older ones to make sure there is no, let's call it boisterous behaviour, towards the little sister. I'm thinking shooting toy cannons at her, even speaking to her in what I consider an inappropriate way. It is rarely a problem though. Some of my son's friends enjoy the novelty of his little sister and are quite happy to have her around. Those with younger siblings themselves are usually particularly at ease with having a younger one in the same room.

Maybe my neighbour's children being both one year older than mine makes a difference but even so, I hope I can continue to manage play dates without making a big deal out of the younger sibling being around. The ideal situation perhaps, which I know some of my friends with two children like to try to do, is to have play dates for both children on the same day. That way they both have their own friend to play with and occupy them, making them less likely to be interested in what the other is doing.

What is your experience if you have two (or more) children? Is it stressful / particularly difficult having a play date for your older child with a younger sibling there? Do you have any ways you manage the situation to make it easier / more harmonious for everyone?
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Friday, 7 February 2014

This week: babysitter angst

My husband and I don't go out all that often but when we do, we rely on a  babysitter as we don't have any family nearby. It's always taken our son some time to get used to a babysitter. There have been tears the first few times we have left him with someone but after some time, he gets more comfortable with them and perhaps they both start to learn what each other likes doing and start having more fun together.

Since moving to the house where we live currently, we've used someone who works as a nanny to a friend of our son's. She has lots of experience, she seems fun and she's pleasant and courteous. Our youngest child has always been in bed when she comes over and it's usually been shortly before our son goes to bed so he has only spent short periods of time with her.

This week, I had a rare invitation to join my husband at an art gallery event, through his work. Before children I spent a fair bit of time going to art galleries and museums, viewing exhibitions and have always enjoyed art. Since having children, that has almost completely disappeared from my life so I decided to take up the invitation and we planned to go to dinner afterwards. It meant I would need to leave the house around the children's dinnertime and for the first time ever the babysitter would both be looking after our daughter as well as our son, and also putting her to bed for the first time.

As a bit of preparation for my daughter, I asked the babysitter to come over one afternoon earlier this week while I went to an appointment and she was to play and give them dinner. It went very smoothly with my daughter, she didn't get at all upset when I left, she had fun and was completely at ease.

My son on the other hand, was distraught and crying when I left them! It has been a little while since he had spent some time with the babysitter, as I think the last couple of times she has come after he was in bed but still, she has looked after him quite a number of times and we were both shocked to see him upset. My two-year old daughter looked on in surprise and was hugging and kissing her older brother to cheer him up! He was fine in the end and it didn't last long of course.

Later in the week came the day I was going out at their dinner time and the babysitter was putting them both to bed. My husband and I had talked to our son about trying to put on a brave face and being helpful with the babysitter putting his younger sister to bed, as it was the first time anyone other than us had done so. He nodded in agreement and said he would do his best.

I made a nice dinner and some little cakes for pudding/dessert so the babysitter would be giving them something they both liked and something a bit more fun than usual. As soon as she arrived, the tears started again and my son became almost hysterical. I spoke to him and did my best to calm him down, my husband called and spoke to him on the phone, trying to do the same but he was still a mess! I left, not wanting to stay and prolong or worsen the situation for the babysitter but it was hard leaving him like that.

Thankfully after I left the babysitter started sticking stickers on her face and that got him laughing and stopped the tears! He was his usual happy self then for the rest of the evening and she said he was very helpful showing her everything when putting his sister to bed and he read his sister a bedtime story :-).

I'm glad it all worked out ok in the end and am proud of both my children - my daughter for being so great, trusting and happy with a new person looking after her and my son for coming through and being the fabulous big brother he is to his little sister. It does make me a bit sad though that we had to go through the tears and upset at the beginning. My son never shed a tear on his first day at nursery or school, he goes off to friend's houses without me quite happily so I find it hard to understand why he gets so upset in his own home. My husband thinks there probably is no rationale to it and that we almost need to do it more so he can get used to it. He is probably right....

What are your experiences of leaving your children with a babysitter? Did they get upset but were fine after you left? Did one child react very differently to the other, like mine? Do you have any advice for making my son more at ease from the start next time?
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