Monday, 16 February 2015

Review: Domino's Pizza

I have a a confession to make. I've never ordered in a pizza. Yes. That's right. There are reasons for this - cheese may be one. (there is a family member who won't eat cheese, unless it's cheese cake or crisps, or ... but generally, no cheese) But even when I was single, it never occurred to me to order in a pizza.

My children are a well of information and so I know that other families have things like Friday pizza night. How very curious. Of course, they have been pestering until my ears fall off a tiny little bit to live up to the Jones' so when we were offered to try it out with the money on the PR company, I knew that I couldn't deny my sprogs the excitement of the Friday pizza night.

And guess what? You can order without cheese (though personally, I don't quite see the point of pizza without cheese, but hey that's another blog post)!

Not being used to ordering pizza, and being a perfectionist (ahem), it took me about an hour to select our perfect meal. It also appeared that there were special deals on and it was all quite complicated to make sure that we got all the deals and paid every penny of the maximum amount given to us. It got a bit ridiculous and under normal circumstances, this process would have taken a few minutes max. However, the whole family enjoyed being able to order their very own special pizza (rather than being presented with the healthy stuff mummy usually decides to cook without proper consultation) - which was made possible by a range of sizes, one pizza with 2 differently topped halves, and a family where every person eats exactly what nobody else eats. I mean, we could have just ordered one massive pizza that everyone ate and paid half, but no no no, that wouldn't be us. Fortunately the choices on the order site were endless and pretty easy to make (although with all our toing and froing, an edit function for pizzas already in the basked would have been useful).

3 pizzas it was, one with two different halves, one without cheese and one for me. Throw in some of my favourite ice cream and a starter to share and we were all pizza'd out (and didn't manage to eat it all, so we got two meals out if really). Delivered to our door, no cooking required.

Some fun family games were thrown in, and the kids loved being able to run about and not sit at the table for once to stick the nose onto the clown (not part of your usual Domino's order). And to turn their parents until dizzy to see them stick the nose miles away from the clown. We had a great night in. Oh yes, the pizzas were pretty yummy.

I'm told there's a Domino app to order now as well. Apps are a bit advanced for me, and I have an odd windows phone, where most apps don't work, so don't know about all that, but I'm sure the young ones will love the app.

Jee, I'm hungry now talking about all this pizza.
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full disclosure: We received a set amount to buy anything from the Domino's menu and £5 Amazon vouchers for buying apps, the latter I spent on a nice CD instead, making Bruce Springsteen a bit richer. I'm clearly showing my age here.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

On yer bike!

When I said that the afternoon at Freewheel North did heaps for her confidence to try out her big girls bike rather than her balance bike, I didn't quite expect that a week and 2 outings later, I'd see this:




She's so tiny, the size of a 3 year old, and I can't get my head around that she's even able to cycle, and that she learned it so quickly as well. I guess we're all set for our summer cycle around Cumbrae then! Here's to the end of bike seat and hello trailgator/trips to the park for a wee cycle.

She was very keen to let her grampa know on the day (he is a keen cyclist) and can't wait for getting a start for it at nursery. Her joy was quite something to witness!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Freewheeling in the Green

It's the time of learning how to cycle again. It was pretty straight forward with Cubling, but Snowflake likes her balance bike and isn't all that keen just yet, although I have a feeling it won't need much practice to get her pedalling about.

We'd heard about this organisation called Freewheel North, both from cycling enthusiasts with children and it's also kind of right next to my work and I'd passed it on my lunchtime walks. So we took us there one Sunday afternoon because that's when they have a family session (on dryish days).

It's a simple enough idea, there's a small path network just for bikes and a whole range of pedalled vehicles, and kids can have a go on as many as takes their fancy, for the cost of £1 per person. Freewheel North also runs sessions for disabled people and people with additional needs during the week, so there are lots of accessible bikes as well.

We had amazing fun - first in the family bike (for 4 people, only the back row pedals, clearly the girls loved being moved about by us), then on go-carts, different bikes and balance bikes. There is a mud track too which Cubling was plainly in love with. It was just brilliant to have a decent track which was totally safe and fun, without any worries of traffic, pot holes or children entering the roads. A fab introduction to cycling for sure.

It was very inclusive because of the variety of bikes and other vehicles, there's something for every age and ability, including wheelchair users, and looking around it was great to see both people with special needs and those without cycling together. Cubling even made a friend and was off on a 2-person go-cart with her.

The staff and volunteers helping out were amazing, really making sure everyone had a good experience by choosing the right sized bike and knowing the basics for operation.

And what's more, Snowflakes confidence has really come on, we're still not close to cycling but she's now happy to pedal with just someone holding on to her jacket, so it actually worked to build confidence and move us on a few steps closer to the future of family cycling tours.

Freewheel North also offers led bike rides.
They are based at Templeton Street on Glasgow Green, right behind the adventure playground.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Waving, not drowning

It's pretty obvious that I've more than slightly withdrawn from blogging, other things have become more important and admittedly, I may have that sort of midlife crisis where I really wonder what I could possibly add to the debate when there's plenty of articulate people out there, would anyone really want to read what I have to say?

At the same time I've been busy. After almost losing my job once again (the joys of the voluntary sector where even a permanent job is not particularly permanent), I managed to reduce my working hours to something resembling a work-life balance (I now work 3 days a week term time, at least until Snowflake starts school, which is in September. What happens then, I don't yet know but it doesn't worry me too much), I signed up for some courses. At the Open University I'm working towards the Certificate in Promoting Public Health which won out of 10 different modules/courses, because it didn't just sound super interesting, but it also led to a qualification within 9 months which sounded doable. And if that wasn't enough, an opportunity presented itself that I just had to go for, and 3 months of training later, I am now a breastfeeding peer supporter with the NCT. Which actually fits in incredibly nicely with my course of course.

And with all that public health talk, it's high time that I did something about my health, and so I'm on course to move from totally sedentary to moderately active, and enough weight lost to no longer be in the obese category which I know means a significant lower risk of a whole lot of illnesses.

And then there's the stuff that was kind of always on my to do list and got pushed back by procrastinating on blogger, facebook and whatever else presented itself on the computer. There's a whole pile of books that's been waiting to be read, yarn wanting to be turned in to garments, and it's not that I do much more of it, but even that tiny amount of reading and knitting/crochet simply wasn't happening when all I did every evening was blogging. Somehow, that's no longer attractive and that's ok. 

It's also getting a bit tricky these days exploring the challenges of parenting when your children are growing and respect and confidentiality are more important. So much of this blog was about the thinking that was triggered by new challenges, and to some extent I don't feel like baring my soul or "using" my experiences, and with them, my children, in that way. It just doesn't feel right. It may be time to introduce Cubling to blogging and involve her in it in some way because she's pretty inspirational. I know I'm biased.

But giving this space up completely? I just can't consider this at all. So here it goes, a little toe in the water, a little update for those who may not know (because truth be told, I've not told many people what I'm up to these days).

So hello there, I may be back. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

The artist

Sometimes, she disappears for hours and I know that I am not to disturb. The creative juices are flowing and this child who usually bounces about, runs from adventure to adventure, and is the loudest kid on the block (which means I usually hear her if I can't see her) cannot be heard or seen. If I get too close to the door it's a panicky "mummy DON'T look" that greets me. Of course I don't because I know when she wants to be left alone until her project is entirely finished. It's a big secret and a work in progress is never shared with anyone.

Her favourite book ever is Hoglet the Spineless Hedgehog, which according to her is absolutely amazing ("Mami, it's so so so good that story")

And she is a self declared artist. She loves the fancy paints, like acrylics on canvas.

Next up she creates houses for cats, with built in toys.

After this, she's back to her usual bouncy self, like a switch that's been turned one way and then the other.


 It's not an easy task keeping up with this kind of energy!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Downsized

I have downsized.

As of next month, I've reduced my working hours to effectively 3 days a week term time only. It may be temporary, but there's no guarantee, so I've good and proper taken the plunge. I'd wanted to do this for ages, but alas, it wasn't possible - there were targets not achievable on 3 days, a restructure, more targets and now finally an opportunity to at least spend a bit more time with Snowflake in the last year before she starts school. Oh and the summer holiday: This past summer was so incredibly wonderful, there was so much on and I was stuck in an office without much work to do (which was a first to be fair), a lot of time to think and reassess what is important to me and to allow for my priorities to shift. Realising that due to the restructure, my work had changed to an extent that there was a real chance of getting a request for reduction of hours approved, the idea grew and grew, and I finally had the courage to ask for the biggest reduction to my hours I'm comfortable with. I now also have the summer to spend with the girls which is the real biggy - not just will I save on particularly expensive childcare, but actually be able to do stuff with them that I really want them to experience, as good as our local holiday club offerings are, I don't want them cooped in the same place they spend their school days and after school hours.

For as long as I can think, I've been working hard and playing little. Even as a teenager I worked after school and in the holidays, and every conceivable opportunity to make money to finance my travels was grasped.

Later I was ambitious, not hugely so but I kind of wanted to move up a bit on the career ladder. Having reached the motherhood glass ceiling or something like that, or failing to identify where that career ladder people talk about actually is, I don't see this happening any time soon. So it made sense to just let go of ambition and enjoy this moment, right here, right now, the last year of freedom for Snowflake, and who knows what will be after that.

I'm full of excitement and full of plans for this extra free day and the summer. I have to hold myself back not to fill it up straight away with all the things that I haven't been able to do because of lack of time and actually focus on the stuff I really want to do. So much to do - get back into growing, sewing, studying, volunteering - but above all just being with my children, reconnecting and being able to say yes more often, being able to follow their pace instead of the rat race's pace.

I might even find the time to blog again, whoop.

Both Snowflake and Cubling did a little dance by the way, which is kind of good, just imagine they'd have responded with "oh no mum, I'd really rather go to after school care/ forest kindergarten". 

All the while I am happily humming Chris Wood's song:



Monday, 1 September 2014

Plums, glorious plums

This year has been a bumper harvest of my little Victoria plum tree, the one that is happy to grow in our north facing blip of a garden, in the heaviest clay soil you'll ever have seen.

Last year there were 14 plums. This year... Too many to count. So what to do with them all? Well, while I consider, I harvest as they get ripe, halve them and put them in small freezer bags to keep my options open. I like plum cake, and the portion size is sufficient for a nice big cake.

But I think we may have more than we need for cake, so this year I'm planning to dig out a nice German recipe for Pflaumenmus (plum compote.. well sort of, it doesn't translate well, I've seen it translated as plum cheese, but there's nothing cheesy about it). In fact, there's plenty of German plum recipes, I'm sure plum/damson cake is omnipresent in German bakeries, with the fair accompaniment of wasps who seem to like plums as much as we do.

Plum compote is a bit like jam, just with less sugar and longer boiling at lower temperature, and the addition of spices which make it perfect for winter days.

3 kg plums
500 g jam sugar
1 unwaxed lemon, cut the rind into strips
2 cinnamon sticks
ground ginger, cloves or all spice to taste

 
Wash, halve and remove stones. Put into a casserole dish and sprinkle with spices (cinnamon, cloves etc). Add sugar and stir. Put into preheated oven at 175 degrees C for at least 1.5 hours (stir after every half hour), and put a wooden spoon in the oven door to allow the water to evaporate. The mousse is done when the plums have disintegrated, the water evaporated and the compote is nice and dark. You may need to extend the time in the oven up to 2.5 hours. Fill into sterilised jars and close.

(How to sterilise jars: wash them in hot water, and put the wet jars into the oven for 15 minutes at about 100-150 degrees. You can also boil them in a large saucepan for 10 minutes, or use a baby bottle steriliser if you have one. Sterilising reduces the likelihood of mould developing).

You can use the mouse just like jam, or bake with it or...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Competition: Rockin' Baby Slings and Pouches

 My children are growing and growing and here I am, being offered to review not one, no, two slings. I quickly did a weight check and tick, my smaller than average almost 4 year old (what????) is still within the range. The range of being carried in a sling. Would you believe it.

So we had a bit of fun tonight, for the first time ever I tried out a ring sling. It worked although I'm not sure I want to be carrying 15 kg worth of child any length of time even with the prettiest of ring slings. And neither does she, it was fun for 10 minutes and that was that.

It made me look back though at her baby days, when slinging her was a daily occurrence, it was the quickest and most convenient way of getting about, esp. with a preschooler in tow. I didn't carry Cubling half as much (she didn't like it, not that she liked the pram either but forward facing, the devil of all baby transport modes, was her clear favourite and who am I to argue), but Snowflake ... it was just practical, cuddly, warm and all good.

I'm also rather partial to nice fabrics and if sling manufacturers are good at something, it's definitely choosing fab fabrics.

Which brings me to the slings currently in my box. The Rockin' Baby slings and pouches look a bit different to anything I've used so far, so I was curious. They are handmade in the US and reversible and they are now entering the UK market through a deal with Mothercare who will be stocking them.

The company also has a charitable initiative going, with a strong partnership with mothers in Haiti, a country still very much suffering from the consequences of the earthquake. Every Rockin' Baby sling bought will mean a free sling for a mum in Haiti, to make everyday life a little bit easier, while reducing high infant mortality rates through kangaroo care.

The ring sling is one size with 4 different ways of positioning baby, while the pouches come in different sizes. They also allow 4 different ways of positioning baby, so there's not really much in the two, it's a matter of preference. There's quite a range of fabric prints, all really pretty. Yes, you've guessed it, I wish I had a baby to carry in one of them!

I won't need slings anymore (sob) so one lucky will have the chance to win either the sling or the pouch (size S-M which should fit most mums, you can check on the Rockin Baby website) - your choice, while the second one will be donated to the local sling library. Both sling and pouch are as pictured here with the bold black and white print which is definitely one of my favourites.

To enter the competition to win either the sling or the pouch, please leave a comment below. UK entries only (I'm paying postage myself, and can't really afford to send overseas unless you want chip in the postage through paypal, in which case I'm happy to accept non-UK entries). For an extra entry, share this post on twitter, adding @cartside, so I can see it. You can also share on facebook for an extra entry, please tag @NatureKidsGlasgow.

Of course feel free to follow Rockin' Babies on Facebook. If you don't win, Rockin Baby slings and pouches are available from Mothercare.

Competition closes midnight 31st August 2014. Draw will be by random number generator. Good luck!!!

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Disclosure: I received a pouch and a sling to review, one of which will be given to the lucky competition winner and the other one will be given to the Glasgow sling library.
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3rd Sept: I finally managed to draw the lucky winner, by random number generator. There were 39 entries and I counted them as well as I could chronologically. The random number 18 came up which on my list is Lorna Templeton. Congratulations! The other sling will go to the Glasgow sling library, so people can try it out at sling meets across Glasgow.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Confessions of the car dependent family

Listening to the radio discussing the continuous rise of car journeys and the reasons for this, I felt rather caught out. In that life that is but a distant and faint memory, where I was childfree, almost all journeys in the city were done by bike. I'd cycle to commute, to go shopping, to go out at night. It was so convenient, and yes, so cheap. I'd know exactly by the minute how long it would take me from my front door to my work, and it was faster than any other form of transport.

Fast forward 8 years, from the point where I was hit by a bus when 16 weeks pregnant (no damage done other than total panic and deciding I couldn't continue commuting by bike), I'm one of those infamous people who are totally dependent on the car. I leave in the morning at 7.50am to get Cubling to school by 8am for breakfast club, than 3 miles down the road to Snowflake's nursery (8.30am), which is about a mile from my work, where I arrive at 8.45am. I have to leave at 4.45pm as my nursery hours only extend to 5pm, back to after school care and home. We're always in a rush, I'm always worried I'm running late for work or nursery, but I've long been resigned to the fact that once in the car, it's outwith my control, so I don't tend to get stressed about while driving. Then there's shopping: shopping for 4 in a busy week juggling work and family always translates to one big shop which necessitates a car boot and attached motor.

At the weekend, there's swimming classes to get to, and trips to the family to be made. The pool (thanks to the closure of our local one 13 years ago) is too far for Cubling to cycle to, and the extended family is definitely a car journey away too. Even on my day off, we attend a play group which I can only get to on time after school drop off if I take the car.

It's not for willingness of leaving the car. I know that my main carbon footprint is due to transport and I probably went grey over trying to figure out if and how I could live without a car. I can't, unless I become a stay at home mum, and even then we'd still need it here and there.

So my kids are in the car a lot, too much even. Since we can't change this at the moment, at least we can make it into an opportunity to make the children aware of the rules of the road. We are both cautious drivers, but it can get a little bit annoying if the occasional driver in another car isn't. To be fair, I think most drivers around here are courteous and decent, it's only as a cyclist that I've been subject to irrational abuse, but not really as a fellow car driver. As with everything, I try to be a good role model too, and often explain things about driving and taking care on the road to the children while we're in the car, because kids pick up stuff they see so quickly.

The Scottish Government and Road Safety Scotland has launched the Kids in the Car campaign to raise awareness of how important it is that parents and carers are a good role model when children are in the car, to keep everyone safe but also to teach them good driving habits as early as possible. Calm driving, not using mobile phones, clearly no drink driving, always using seat belts, not jumping red lights, and teaching the kids how important it is that the driver needs to focus on the traffic are the golden rules, and it's amazing how the kids pick this up. Even Snowflake at 3 knows that she needs to wait for us to stop at a red light before I can change the CD or pick something up that she dropped. And no question that her doll gets strapped in the doll's car seat too.

The campaign raises awareness of the great influence we as parents have on our kids in the car, and the opportunity for role modelling safe and good driving practice. It's still the case that there are far too many road accidents young children or young drivers are killed or seriously injured. Definitely don't miss out on watching the video.

You can also take the parent promise and complete a questionnaire. Why not get the children involved by asking them to draw a picture of an adult driving and then upload it on to the gallery section of the website? You can also join the discussion at #KidsintheCar or visit the facebook page.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Sponsored Post: Newcastle

Whenever we make our way to Germany, our journey takes us via Newcastle, now our nearest ferry port for the ferry to Europe, after Rosyth was discontinued a few years ago. It's a mere 3 hours to the ferry port, and I quite enjoy the drive, especially along the Hadrians Wall between Carlisle and Newcastle. There is a lot of history there, and a lot of little villages that are hidden away just off the A roads and just waiting to be explored. And of course in and around of Newcastle, there is so much to discover. Stepped in thousands of years worth of history, it was the northernmost territory in the Roman empire, was known as the powerful Kingdom of Northumbria, endured hundreds of years of border raids from the Scots and saw the industrial revolution reshape the north during the last few hundred years. There really is history at every turn, and it's easy to book with Travelodge and head to the North East to see it for yourself. Some great places to start are:

Flodden 1513

Here you can visit the site of the infamous battle of Flodden Field, where the Earl of Surrey defeated and killed James IV of Scotland. There is a fantastic open air ecomuseum, which encompasses around forty sites that were involved in the battle in some way. At Flodden Hill you can discover the area in which the Scots camped, follow the Flodden Battlefield Trail, visit the Flodden Peace Centre and the memorial. There are lots of other sites of interest contained within the ecomuseum, which were of importance to the battle itself, from churches and keeps to huge castles and ports.

Barnard Castle

Set high above the River Tees, Barnard Castle has played a big role in the history of not only the North of England, but of the UK too. It was built in the 12th Century, was home to Richard III and played a part in the Northern uprising during the reign of Henry VIII. It features an impressive round keep and even a sensory garden for the visually impaired, although that's a more recent addition of course. Now largely in ruins, some of the masonry was used to extend the nearby Raby Castle.

Tynemouth Priory and Castle

Located on a rocky headland overlooking the North Sea and the River Tyne, the castle and the priory at Tynemouth form what was once one of the most heavily fortified areas in the North of England. The early kings of Northumbria were buried here at the priory, yet it was attacked by the Danes and abandoned. A monastery was later built on the site, but again it suffered at the hands of Henry VIII's reformation and only the remains can be seen today.

There has been a castle on the site since before 1095 - the original was of course built from wood and mud, however what remains today is the fortress built in medieval times. It's had many guises over the years, with the remains of the stronghold being used to house a lighthouse, barracks and most recently the local coastguard station, so it has certainly had a varied past. 

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