Forget-me-not-Friday #67

Forget-me-not-Friday It’s not actually Friday, it’s Saturday but I didn’t have the chance to write this yesterday due to being a BUSY MUM. However my 4 year old was demonstrating some remarkable negotiation skills this week which I must share…

It was Thursday or thereabouts and I had bought a Kit Kat – a four-fingered Kit Kat. I gave one finger each to the girls as a treat, then thought we would save the rest for Mr EC when he got home from work.

4 year old and her little sister were busily eating their tea and said Kit Kat was resting on the kitchen worktop, calmly awaiting Mr EC’s arrival. Here’s what transpired…

4 year old: “Is that the Kit Kat, Mummy?”

Me: “Yes, that’s Daddy’s bit for when he gets home isn’t it? It’s his favourite.”

4 year old: “Can I have some?”

Me: “No – you and your sister ate yours earlier. That’s for Daddy. You can tell him as soon as he comes in that he’s got a Kit Kat.”

4 year old: “But I’ve eaten my tea really nicely!”

Me: “Yes you have. You can have a satsuma.”

4 year old, after a short, sullen silence: “But can I just hold it?”

Me: “No, you can’t hold it.”

4 year old: “But I just want to hold it!! Then I can give it to him when he gets home from work!”

Me: “No. You’ll eat it. You won’t be able to help yourself.”

4 year old, indignant: “I will NOT eat it!”

Me: “Well I think it’s best it stays there.”

4 year old: “But it’s lonely, Mummy. And we must always be kind to people and look after things.”

Me, thinking ‘bugger!’, as these are 2 of her school rules and technically she’s right. Although the Kit Kat isn’t a person, surely?! And not a thing that needs looking after as such??: “I still just think it should stay where it is, as I am sure it is quite happy where it is.”

4 year old: “Well you’re MEAN!! You’re being MEAN to the KIT KAT!”

Me: “I am not having this conversation anymore…”

Oi1 Extra Virgin Olive Oil (review)

Oi1 Extra Virgin Olive Oil

We tend to cook most things from scratch here in the Expression Confession household (cheese strings aside) and that means cooking with oils, which we use for frying, braising, roasting or dressing.

Recently the lovely folks at Candiasoil sent me a lovely tub of Oi1 Extra Virgin Olive Oil to trial.

What’s different about their oils is that they’re produced from one single variety of olive from individual farms (in Crete, I believe – great holiday destination) which gives them a more distinguished flavour and character. Most oils we see in the shops are blends of a range of olive varieties as this is more economical.

They also carry something called PDO- ‘protected designation of origin’ which means the olives have been picked out for their high quality.

I tried Oi1 Peza from Koroneiki olives from Peza in central Crete – billed as smooth and slightly fruity and good with red meat, vegetables and homemade dressings. It’s also genuine extra virgin – which means it’s produced from a genuine mechanical pressing process rather than adding chemicals.

Due to its extra virgin qualities, we didn’t want to use this as ordinary frying oil. We tried it firstly as part of a marinade for some lovely lamb chops (I say lovely – I’m vegetarian so these were for husband/children), using the remaining marinade to create a sauce. We also used it mixed with lemon and balsamic vinegar as a dressing for an accompanying salad.

We would definitely agree that the oil is a lot more flavoursome than the oils I usually buy. Much like buying a bottle of wine with different grape varieties, you can certainly tell the difference in character from the single grape variety used.

Also unique is the tin the oil is provided in (rather than a bottle) – this prevents sunlight reaching the oil and breaking down some of its natural beneficial chemicals.

Cost: The oil is £6.50 for 500ml bottle (available in Tesco stores) which I think is reasonable for an extra virgin oil (we use normal olive oil for cooking and extra virgin for marinades and salads).

I think we would definitely purchase this again and keep it as the ‘special’ oil – reserved for dressings and marinades so we can appreciate the flavour!

Disclosure: I was sent a run of Oi1 Extra Virgin Olive Oil to review, free of charge. All opinions expressed are my own.

Made with Love Designs Christmas Cards (review)

imageWe’re gearing up for Christmas in the Expression Confession household. At least I think we are – I’ve started my present list, booked a few exciting events and started a list of food? Ok, I actually haven’t done anything.

However, I did get the chance to review some gorgeous handmade Christmas cards from Made with Love Designs.

Made with Love Designs offer a range of beautiful personalised greeting cards, alongside wedding and event stationery and selection of unique gifts.

I admit I’m not great at sending Christmas cards. I admire people who sit for a good hour or so churning out around 30 cards to send to friends and family, but I’m not that person.

So when I do send a Christmas card (for me, usually to friends and relatives who I don’t often see face to face and have a chance to shout “Merry Christmas!” to) I like to take my time choosing a good quality card.

image
Made with Love asked me to choose a card design, so I chose the Venice Snow Flake from their site which looked simple, elegant and festive. I also sent them details of the wording I would like on our cards – a simple “Merry Christmas” from our family on the front, and some further greetings inside the card.

We were amazed and really pleased with the quality of these cards when they arrived. They are created with good quality card, the design is excellent and the typeface really appealing.

The website includes an option to send the cards either to yourself or directly to the recipient, which is great for loved ones who don’t live nearby. I would say they are quite pricey at around £5 per card for this particular design (including the postage), but if you’re looking for just a few to send out and would like them to be really special, these are perfect.

I’m looking forward to sending mine!

Disclosure: I received a sample of cards in return for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Teenage girls and Rihanna: fledgling action plan

The other day, Mr Expression and I were talking about something (must have been important) and I idly switched on a music channel, thinking this was a good idea as my 4 year old loves music.

What I saw was Rihanna doing this:

Teenagers and Rihanna's gyrating: fledgling action plan
Ok she wasn’t really doing that. She was doing something like this:

Teenagers and Rihanna's gyrating: fledgling action plan
And possibly a bit of this:

Teenagers and Rihanna's gyrating: fledgling action plan
Obviously I turned this utter nonsense off immediately, not wanting my lovely 4 year old girl’s head filled with gyrating banal claptrap.

She wasn’t bothered in the slightest. She asked for Hercules instead (current favourite film).

It did get me thinking, however – what am I going to do when/if she wants to watch this stuff? When she has access to the Internet that she controls, even a TV in her room (the horror- but I think I had one around age 12).

I began to devise a fledgling action plan, with the aim of such a plan being realistic and not too machiavellian. It so far reads something like this:

– When I first see her or my younger daughter viewing music videos which show the above images, make generously disapproving comments whilst still seeming like ‘trendy mum’, such as “I really wish women didn’t feel the need to do that. I mean Rihanna is clearly beautiful and talented as we can all see – there’s absolutely no need for her to wear that REVEALING clothing and dance in such a NEEDLESSLY PROVOCATIVE way.”

– Leave magazine articles about inspirational women (clothed, non-gyrating) all around the house at various ‘hotspots’ (thinking next to fridge, near Mr Expression’s nut jar, adjacent to kettle).

– Cannily encouraging involvement in as many positive activities as possible, thus leaving little time for tv/unnecessary Internet usage. I don’t care what it is – Girl Scouts, chess, basket making, helping old ladies cross the road – as long as there are no gyrators around. Or boys.

– Also encourage geekiness. Shouldn’t be too onerous as Mr Expression works in geeky digital field. Rihanna + geek generally don’t mix = good thing.

– Finally, and most obviously, talk about the issue of women in society with both my daughters and ensure all family members do the same in some shape or form.

– Oh I thought of another one. Talk about female members of our family who have all done pretty well for themselves during their lives – without taking their clothes off to please men/meet perceived societal expectations (well I hope not anyway – that would be news to me!).

I think those actions are a good starting point. Hey maybe I could add a sticker chart in somewhere (maybe not…).

Photo credits: I just googled it. Please don’t sue me.

The ‘spreading myself thin’ Smart Art Graphic

spreading self thin

It’s amazing what inputs and outputs we have as mothers. What better way to demonstrate them than via the hugely brilliant Microsoft PowerPoint Smart Art Graphic? Ok, I’m having a bit of geeky fun that perhaps only fellow geeks will find even remotely amusing, but I was sat at work, preparing such as graphic for something or other, when I thought “why not try this at home?”

Apparently, this particular graphic demonstrates ‘multiple steps or parts that merge into a whole’. I think that safely applies to me. I’m a whole, and I have many, many multiple steps and many, many parts in my life.

I could have made this graphic a lot bigger, but I felt a) I would bore you b) it would be too big for a mobile browser and c) I would look like a knob.

Coming up next week: the SharePoint Workspace of family organisation. No? Ok then.

The Primal Kitchen Paleo Bars (review)

The Primal Kitchen (review)I’m always looking for healthy snacks to eat when I’m out and about, both for myself and my children, aged 2 and 4. That’s not always easy, as they tend yell for cheese strings, biscuits and chocolate.

We love cereal bars, but more often than not they tend to have a higher refined sugar content than I’d like. I also often grab one in the morning – when I’m getting the girls ready for school and then setting off to work, I rarely get the chance to eat a decent breakfast. Quite a few varieties of cereal bar contain chocolate? I mean really – I don’t fancy having chocolate for breakfast!

I was intrigued to try The Primal Kitchen Paleo Bars. I didn’t have a clue what a Paleo bar is, but according to their website, it’s all about the Paleo lifestyle – that is food that tastes good but with real food ingredients and no added junk. Food we were ‘born to eat’.

The Primal Kitchen was founded by nutritionist Suzie Walker. She makes bars that don’t use dried fruit that contains vegetable oils, sugar or sulphites as is apparently commonly found in other snack products (alongside chocolate!). Each bar is made with 4-5 Real Food ingredients, is hand made and cold pressed rather than heated. They are also gluten, grain, refined sugar, soya, dairy, GMO and vegetable oil free.
Paleo
Both my husband and I tried the Almond and Cashew, Brazil Nut and Cherry and Hazelnut and Cocoa varieties. We both really enjoyed them! I’ve tried many health food bars previously and think they can taste bland, but the Paleo bars are really tasty.

Plus, they retail at around £1.49 each which I think is reasonable – it’s certainly on a par with a certain brand of children’s bars that I’ve been buying a lot of recently. I think I could add a few of these to my weekly shop – as they taste so good and are healthy I find them good value.

My girls didn’t get a look in at trying these as we snaffled the lot, but I think they would enjoy them as an occasional snack (not too much – teeth issues and fruit sugars and all that!).

I also think these would give a good energy boost before exercise, should I be a champion marathon runner (actually I have been doing a lot of Ashtanga Yoga recently and try not to eat dinner until after the class, so one of these would be perfect).

Try them if you’re looking for a healthy snack – we enjoyed them.

Disclaimer: I received some Primal Kitchen Paleo Bars in return for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Forget-me-not-Friday #66

Forget-me-not-Friday
Since starting preschool, my 4 year old is asking a lot more questions. It’s great that she’s curious about the world, people and the way everything works, but sometimes it hurts my brain?

We’re just leaving a car park on a VERY rainy day, where a poor car park attendant had the joy of standing for hours on end ushering drivers to the relevant available parking spaces and dealing with many who had ‘car park rage’ (myself not included).

Me: “Poor man, having to stand there in the rain all day dealing with that.”

4 year old, pondering on this: “Does he ever go to sleep?”

Me: “Oh yes, he’ll go home at the end of the day and go to bed.”

4 year old: “But why do we need to go to sleep?”

Me: “Well, so our brains and bodies can rest for the next day.”

4 year old: “But why do they need to rest?”

Me: “Because otherwise they get very tired and can’t play or learn as much at school.”

4 year old: “But why can’t we play as much?”

Me: “Well if we haven’t had enough sleep, our bodies get too tired.”

4 year old: “But why do they get too tired?”

Me, just beginning to tire slightly: “That’s the way our bodies and brains work- they need sleep at night to work.”

4 year old: “But why do they need sleep?”

Me, now performing a silent scream in my head: “Because that’s the way our bodies work- we need to sleep and rest every night.”

4 year old, pondering again: “I get lots of sleep don’t I?”

Me, thinking she could probably get a little more sleep at times, but breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect of the conversation drawing to a close: “Yes, you do.”

4 year old: “Shall we watch Frozen when we get in?”

Me: “Certainly!”

10 things that make winter better than summer

A couple of weeks ago we resigned ourselves to putting the clocks back on a Saturday evening, bracing ourselves for the long, dark nights ahead – plus quite a few mornings of being woken early by young children who are still on British Summertime in their heads and rejoice in bounding into the bedroom like wildebeest gone 5:30am.

But is winter really so bad?  For some it is.  According to mental health charity MIND, up to 10% of us suffer from the debilitating effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, such as fatigue, anxiety and depression and linked by researchers to lack of light during the winter months.

Luckily we don’t all suffer enough for this to affect our quality of life, but most of us will experience feeling low at some point as summer ends and winter begins.

Last week, I was discussing with a close friend how we both really enjoy winter and feel that we’re in the minority. I began to list out the reasons why I feel I love winter. Ok, so most of them involve having an excuse to wrap myself up warm, switch all the lights on and generally be quite lazy, but they still demonstrate the unique quality of winter in allowing me to rediscover things about myself that I don’t really experience in spring and summer.

1. Being cosy in bed and hearing the wind and rain bashing the windows.  Add in a great horror film on the TV and I’m in winter heaven.   The feeling of being warm, safe and protected from the elements is so comforting. Maybe one day Mr Expression will allow me to go even further and purchase the much-coveted electric blanket…
Leaf collecting in Autumn2. Leaf collecting. Okay this is an autumn one but it’s been so cold on and off it’s practically winter in autumn anyway. Sort of.  My little ones love going to the park and will spend a good half an hour hysterically throwing leaves up into the air and cackling.  Leaf craft is also another winner – sticking the leaves onto paper, drawing round them, tracing the veins with pencil.
3. Bonfire night.  Last year, I wrote about a great bonfire night we attended nearby. Bonfire night is a fab family event which involves wrapping up, watching a huge, blazing bonfire and the best fireworks display you can find. Add toffee apples, candy floss and BBQ sausages for ultimate family excitement.
4. Christmas. We did so many things last Christmas and New Year that I can’t wait to see what this season brings. I’ve already purchased some new decorations and started my geeky ‘Ultimate Christmas Planning Spreadsheet’ and I’m looking forward to making new decorations with my two girls. Christmas is a family event which develops its own ‘life’ each year with trials and tribulations along the way – I love the whole experience.
5. Generally having an excuse to be lazy and drive everywhere.  Speaks for itself really.  I mean, no point walking with the pram if it’s windy and rainy is there?  This is where my tiny Yaris comes into its own – a Mary Poppins-esque car that at times has been known to contain a double buggy, many, many shopping bags, two small children and myself.
6. Feeling really cold…and then feeling really warm again. The contrast is just amazing.  Going for a walk to the shop in the freezing cold weather, feeling your face turning red with the cold and your fingers practically hurting inside your gloves…then coming inside again.  It’s like a free Swedish sauna – just no torturous ice bucket.
7. Snow and its endless opportunities for child (and grown up) entertainment.  Snow produces such unrestrained glee for everyone.  Building a snowman, throwing snow balls, making footprints in the snow, feeling snowflakes on your face – it’s just fun!
8. Sponge puddings.  I do love a mean sponge pudding with custard and it just doesn’t feel right to eat them during summertime (although you may occasionally find me scoffing a spotted dick on a night in on my own in front of a good horror film, even at the height of summer).  My favourites are: jam roly poly (actually a suet pudding I guess), spotted dick and treacle sponge.
9. An excuse to lie in bed at about 8pm.  If it’s cold, what better excuse than to get in bed at 8pm complaining that you can no longer move as your toes don’t work, and instructing your husband/partner/better half to fetch you dinner (and maybe even wine) in bed?  It’s an excuse to slow down and do nothing.
10. Making pies and stews. After all, we need to carb up in winter, burning off all that energy by taking the car everywhere and lying in bed…ahem.  Today I saw a great recipe for a meat and potato pie which I intend to use for favours impress husband with.  It was actually called a Humongous Meat and Potato Pie. I’ve also already given the slow cooker an airing and made a couple of beef stews.

So winter isn’t so bad, surely? I intend to wrap up, make a few stews, eat pudding and enjoy some family time.

Who needs Halloween? This is just as scary…

I do like to scare myself silly, as I’ve said very often over the past week or so in my eager Halloween anticipation. Tonight I will be sat in front of the TV, on my own as husband is out, watching Paranormal Activity.

But you want to see something scarier?

Check out my inate inability to carve a pumpkin.

My daughters love cats, so I very much wanted to carve a cat face in the Monster pumpkin purchased from Sainburys. I googled a few ideas. Seemed easy enough.

You ready? Here it is:

Halloween cat pumpkin

I hope I’ve not scared you too much…happy Halloween!

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