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Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Original Stretch Armstrong is back!

Back in the 70's, Stretch Armstrong was all the rage - he was the iconic muscle man toy with ultimate flexibility that everyone wanted. Something about his super stretchy limbs and his ability to return to his original shape, even after being tied in knots, made him a real must have. Now, some forty years on, Stretch Armstrong is back, appealing to a whole new generation of girls and boys who will love stretching him and getting to grips with another great classic toy from yesteryear.

The design is true to his original 70's form, standing 30cm tall with his square jaw, blond hair and little, blue trunks. The unique play value of The Original Stretch Armstrong lies in his stretchy body, which can be pulled to four times its original size. You can also tie him in knots and squish him and squash him, safe in the knowledge that he will go back to his original shape after you've finished playing. It is an experimental and entertaining toy for hands-on play.

Freddy received one to try out and I'm not sure who was more excited, him or his daddy! Ian admitted that he had wanted a Stretch Armstrong as a boy in the 70's but his parents had never bought him one. So he was pretty keen to play with Freddy and experience the fun of stretching Stretch Armstrong at long last.

The Original Stretch Armstrong


Stretch Armstrong's body is rubbery and can stretch longways and widthways. You can wrap his feet around his neck, twist his body and tie his arms around his torso. Yet he always retracts back to his original shape. There is something quite satisfying about playing with Stretch Armstrong. It harks back to a time when toys were so much simpler.

Freddy pretended Stretch was a wrestling superhero and had him doing various fighting moves with other toys. He really enjoyed being able to stretch him, twist him and squash him into different shapes and positions. It is an action figure with a difference and is a very strong and robust toy that can withstand tough play. (Just keep it away from sharp objects.)

The Original Stretch Armstrong can be purchased from www.character-online.co.uk for £19.99.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Pea, Potato, Spinach and Vegetable Curry Recipe

It was recently Great British Pea Week, and to celebrate Bird's Eye challenged me to come up with a recipe using their peas. So armed with a bag of their finest garden peas I came up with a quick and easy family meal. Frozen peas are really convenient and versatile, perfect for keeping in the freezer. Just one serving of freshly frozen garden peas and petits pois contains as much vitamin C as two large apples, more fibre than a slice of wholemeal bread and more vitamin B than a pint of whole milk – just 80g is equivalent to one of your 5 a day, making them a healthy choice.


peas


Pea, Potato, Spinach and Vegetable Curry

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 can of coconut milk
1 can of chopped tomatoes
8 new potatoes quartered
2 carrots sliced
1/4 red pepper chopped
1/4 head of cauliflower cut into florets
1 sweet potato chopped
4 mushrooms sliced
4 cubes of frozen spinach
1 cup of frozen peas

Heat the oil in a pan.
Add garlic and onion and gently fry for 5 minutes.
Add spices and fry for 2 further minutes.
Pour in the coconut milk and tomatoes.
Throw in all the vegetables.
Simmer for 25 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Add extra water if it needs it during the cooking process.
Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.


This curry showcases the fresh taste of the ingredients and can be adapted to use your family's favourite veggies both fresh and frozen. It is packed with plant based nutrition and makes a delicious summer supper.


vegan recipe


Friday, 15 July 2016

Keeping children safe from online exploitation with Think U Know

As a mum of five, I have always considered open and honest communication with my children to be one of the most important aspects of parenting. My children have always known that they can talk to me about anything and that I will always approach any problem calmly and without judgment. I can draw on my own experiences to discuss situations and solutions to problems. But the world today is very different to the world I grew up in. The internet and social media has influenced our lives in so many ways, opening up a whole new world of potential risks to young people. Online pornography, sending nudes and online grooming are dangers that can pose harm to our children. At an age where their curiosity about relationships is growing and their hormones are raging, some youngsters may be tempted into doing something online without thinking about the consequence of their actions. These uncharacteristic actions can have devastating results. So it is more important than ever, that we are clued up about the internet and understand the need for digital parenting. Being aware of the possible ways in which kids today view sex, relationships and the internet can help us to support our children giving them the confidence and resilience they need in this modern world.

Think U Know is an online education programme from the National Crime Agency's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command. Providing education about sexual abuse and exploitation, it provides access to practical information and resources to help raise awareness and keep young people safe online. You can also report problems and incidents to the CEOP.

The Think U Know parent's site contains information and advice to support parents looking to find out more about keeping their children safe online. It also features a new video based on the story of Romeo and Juliet, set in the modern world. The famous love story is played out via social media highlighting that although the world changes, children don't. I think this is brilliant.


        


There are practical steps that can be taken as parents, including the use of parental controls on computers and changing privacy settings on apps, but that is only one aspect of keeping children safe online.  Children won't always access the internet from home so they need to be educated and made aware of the potential online dangers, and they need to know that if a problem arises they can discuss it with a trusted adult. There is an ongoing need to talk to young people about sex, relationships and the internet, and as technology advances, we need to keep up with the advancements in communication through the varying technologies and social media apps available to our children.


*I have been compensated for this post but retain all editorial control*

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Inspiring summer salad recipes

Sainsbury's are wanting to inspire the nation to be more creative with their vegetables after seeing a massive upturn in the sales of vegetables. Leading the way are avocado with sales up 147%, asparagus spears up 118%, broccoli up 40%, courgettes up 30% and bunched beetroot up 25%.

Sainsbury's has teamed up with raw vegan food artist and Instagrammer Amber Locke to create some gorgeous summer salads using seasonal vegetables and we were challenged to have a go at creating our own.

My daughter Megan has a plant based diet and is very creative when it comes to making delicious raw salads and vegan meals. So I enlisted her help to make a delicious salad using an array of seasonal salad vegetables, combining some wonderful flavours, colours and textures.

Megan's salad plate featured sundried tomato falafel; raw lemon, chilli, courgette & almond salad; lime, carrot, coriander & toasted cashew salad; tomato, avocado, spring onion & cucumber salsa with walnuts and home made houmous with smoky paprika. Everything is made from scratch and tastes delicious, making the most of the fresh salad vegetables available. The recipes are simple, but the combinations are full of flavour with zingy citrus or the heat of chilli to bring out the taste.


raw, vegan


Carrot, Coriander and Toasted Cashew Salad

3 medium grated carrots
grated juice and zest of a lime
chopped fresh coriander
sprinkle of chilli flakes
small handful of toasted cashew nuts
salt and pepper

Pop the grated carrot, zest, juice, coriander and chilli flakes into a bowl and mix together. Season with s & p and sprinkle over the toasted cashews.

Lemon, Courgette, Chilli and Almond Salad

1 large courgette
juice  and zest of one lemon
half a red, deseeded, chopped chilli
small handful of flaked almonds
salt and pepper

Use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons of courgette. Mix with the juice, zest and the chilli. Season with s & p and sprinkle over the nuts.

Tomato, Avocado, Spring Onion & Cucumber Salsa

4 tomatoes - various colours
1 ripe avocodo
half a cucumber
4 spring onions
chopped fresh coriander
chopped walnuts
one teaspoon each of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar and olive oil
salt and pepper

Chop the tomato, avocado and cucumber into small cubes. Slice the spring onions thinly. Combine together with the coriander, the dressing ingredients, salt and pepper. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over the salsa.

raw, vegan


Serving these salads with some home made falafel, houmous and some Romaine lettuce leaves makes a lovely, summer meal for four, packed with health giving vitamins and minerals.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Freddy is 7 Today

My son. My beautiful boy.
7 years of love, pride and joy.

Happy Birthday Freddy.


birthday boy



This year, Freddy loves:

DanTDM
Harry Potter
YouTube
Quorn 'Gammon' steaks
FAB lollies
the whites of eggs
gymnastics
Diary of a Wimpy Kid books
his family
my made up bedtime stories
dancing in the shower after his swimming lessons
superheroes
going to the cinema on a Sunday morning
playing XBox sports games
cartwheels
mozzarella and sun dried tomato panninis in Costa
the colour purple
toffee yumyums from Lidl

That's my boy xxx

Friday, 8 July 2016

A Real Parenting Guide for the Summer Holidays

Confessions of a Summer Parent

I adore my little people. But six weeks of unadulterated entertaining over the long summer holidays can take its toll on even the most dedicated parent. At first I am all eager and enthusiastic, planning themed activity weeks and encouraging the children to keep exciting holiday scrapbooks to document the well thought out day trips and character building experiences I have scheduled.  Within a few days, however, my highly motivated mothering gives way to a slightly more apathetic approach where laptops and iPad's feature much more heavily than the eco-friendly, super creative, mind expanding art project that I had in mind. A few days of rain and a few hundred 'what can we do now' comments and we are watching Peppa Pig on a loop and eating Pot Noodles for lunch. 

So, what is the answer when it comes to balancing your sanity while keeping the children happy during the long summer break?

Simple. Trick them into having the sort of fun that serves the secondary purpose of making your life that little bit easier. They will unknowingly be doing something useful and beneficial to you, while having a good time. 


  • Grab a big bucket of soapy water and a handful of sponges and excitedly sing the praises of wet play and making bubbles. Then point the kids in the direction of the patio furniture and watch in glee as one of those horrible summer jobs you've been putting off  gets completed under the guise of having some super, splashy sensory fun. If this works out well, you can escalate the 'game' to include washing the family car.

  • Get them in the kitchen for some exciting pizza making. Give them ready prepared bases, tomato puree, grated cheese and a range of toppings. Throw a few Italian phrases into the mix and get them shouting out 'Buon Appetito' and 'Multo Bene' to get them in the mood, while you sit back with a glass of Italian Chianti. Bingo...they are kept occupied and they get fed in the process.  And that's one less meal that you have to prepare! Win win!

  • When the Lego box has been tipped out for the umpteenth time and the paraphernalia for the teddy bear's tea party is strewn across the floor mixed in with the felt tips, crayons and colouring books that had kept the kids quiet for five minutes earlier, you have two choices. You can scream and shout and pull your hair out as you survey the extreme mess that has been generated or you can unleash your inner Mary Poppins and make a game out of tidying up. As Ms Poppins so rightly said "in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and snap! The job's a game!" So instead of turning the chaotic scene of playtime devastation into a parenting warzone, give the kids a challenge. Who can pick up the most toys and put them back in the right box the fastest?! Hum the tune of  a "Spoonful of Sugar" as you watch your mini-mes compete to be the fastest tidier upper! Dangling a carrot (well maybe not an actual carrot, maybe a biscuit would be a more appropriate treat) and the whirling dervishes of destruction will put their energy into something useful. If they are really enjoying their tidying, extend the fun by popping a duster in their hand and watch as they do the housework.

  • Sometimes, you just want some peace and quiet. But kids need to let off steam and get physical or they'll be up past their bed times hyperactive and twitching with unspent energy. So it's time to have a silent disco! Headphones on, iPods playing, listening to Britney or Bieber or 'Let It Go' on repeat, the kids can dance as manically as they want to in absolute silence. (Remind them of the no singing rule before embarking on this or you'll have a cacophony of tuneless, overly loud voices, shouting their way through an assortment of songs simultaneously. No one ever needs to experience that!) They will wear themselves out in a noiseless fashion just in time for bed.

  • During the summer holidays, other parents can become your greatest allies. They are going through the exact same situation as you are and will be crying out for a hand of friendship and assistance to help them through the six weeks of child juggling. This is the perfect opportunity to initiate an unofficial childcare exchange. Invite some of your little one's pals over to play one afternoon. Prepare well for the onslaught of extra kids, providing some garden based activities and an outdoor picnic (keeping them outdoors means less tidying up indoors and the birds will eat the crumbs from lunch!) Then sit back as your good deed is repaid by way of future play date invitations from your little guests' parents. So that one afternoon of mayhem could be reciprocated with four or five child free days over the next few weeks. A fair exchange by anyone's standards!

  • Never underestimate the power of bribery! We can all strive to do our best, but we also have to be honest when it comes to our limitations. Sometimes we need a bit of leverage for ensuring the desired outcome when it comes to parenting. Kids love the concept of being rewarded for doing good things, most schools adopt a reward system, so embracing this idea at home can be a great tool for the summer. Get a nice jar and a big pack of marbles and tell the kids that whenever they have been super good they will be rewarded by popping a marble in the jar. (Naughty behaviour can also result in the removal of a marble if you want to exert maximum power!) When the jar is filled with marbles they can get a treat such as a cinema trip or a day at the zoo. The visual effect of the jar filling with shiny, colourful marbles will capture the kids' imaginations and hopefully inspire best behaviour. What the kids don't know, is that you would probably have taken them to the zoo or the cinema anyway (anything to get out of the house!) but if you can use this bribery reward scheme to your advantage, then why not!


However you cope this summer, I hope you all manage to have some family fun and make some wonderful memories together. Come September, we will hold on to the magical moments and all the bad bits will be forgotten, as we pack our little ones off to school, and we may even shed a tear from behind our rose tinted glasses.


"This post is an entry for the BritmumsConfession of a Summer Parent Challenge sponsored by Anchor."

Monday, 4 July 2016

Celebrate July the 4th with Heinz

Heinz launch New York deli style Yellow Mustard

The 4th of July is a great excuse to get out the barbecue and cook up some hot dogs and burgers (all vegetarian for us of course!) and enjoy an all-American meal. Accompanied by some fries, salads, slaw, ketchup and mustard, this is a great summer time alfresco treat that the family will love.

Heinz have a brand new Yellow Mustard that is inspired by the authentic taste of the mustard served in New York delis. Heinz Yellow Mustard is available in two flavours  - Mild and Honey - and comes in a squeezable bottle to make it easy to use. 

This great tasting American-style mustard has been specifically created to offer a mild flavour that the whole family can enjoy. The result is a deliciously smooth and creamy mustard that’s perfect for squiggling over sausages and burgers or adding a gentle kick of warmth to dressings and marinades.

Freddy loves a veggie hot dog topped with a squirt of ketchup and mustard so this is perfect for him. He loves the mild variety for adding a dash of colour and sunshine to meal times. The mellow Yellow Mustard is a great addition to the condiments we use daily.



mustard


Heinz Yellow Mustard is available in Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s, Waitrose and Ocado, with RRPs from £1.69.

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