Friday, 14 August 2015

Skip the sippy cup

I have been doing a bit of cleaning out recently (delayed spring cleaning?!). One thing I was pleased to get rid of was the clutter of old baby bottles and beakers/sippy cups at the back of a cupboard. A couple of the cups had never even been used and the couple that had, were only ever used as a regular cup, not with their lids.

With all three of my children, I introduced the Bickiepegs Doidy Cup as soon as I introduced water with weaning/meals. I would begin by holding the cup for them (holding underneath so if and when they wanted to take the handles themselves, they could) and then let them hold it as soon as they wanted to. You can't put a lot of water in it anyway, because of the shape so any spillages were not a big deal.

I don't know about you but finding a cup/beaker that is non-spill for carrying out and about is not as easy as it sounds! I rarely bother taking drinks out with us. I either get a glass of tap water from a cafe or buy a bottle of water that all the children would share. With supervision, my 1-year old drinks from a regular unscrewed water bottle with no problems. When I remember, I will fill up and take out one of our stainless steel water bottles that the children share.

Starting off early with the Bickiepegs Doidy Cup meant that we could then move onto regular cups at home and my youngest handles a regular cup by herself, just needing help setting it back down on the table sometimes.

My advice to those of you with babies: save your money and cupboard space and skip the sippy cup! It also makes life a lot easier when you don't have to think about bringing a certain cup out with you, knowing your child can drink from a regular cup in a restaurant. If your child is the type to make a strong attachment to certain objects, you don't need to worry about them getting upset because you forgot/lost their beloved sippy cup!

What is your experience? Did you move your child onto regular cups quite early on or did you rely on a sippy cup for a while? Did you find a non-spill cup that you and baby both liked?
photo credit

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Cook together this summer!

The lovely Riverford, where our weekly veg box comes from, are running a great campaign at the moment that I felt compelled to share. Quite simply, they want parents and their children to cook together from scratch and have given the added incentive of some prizes on offer for those people who submit a photo or video of their children in action in the kitchen. You can read all the details on their website and the competition runs until the end of August.

Coincidentally, the day I first read about the campaign, was the day our veg box gets delivered. I decided to get stuck in immediately and with no plans for dinner that evening, had my 3-year old and 6-year old unpack some of our veg and started them washing, preparing and chopping. Between them they made a salad and my son topped and tailed an entire bag of green beans that we ate tossed in oil and vinegar with the rest of our meal. Whilst I gave them instructions, I didn't once help them or try to change the way they were doing something. They did it all themselves and were really proud of themselves for it! An added bonus for me, was that they were genuinely a big help and it meant I had less dinner making to do myself - win, win!

My son asked if they could help with dinner the next day. He ended up being too exhausted after his sports camp that day but my three year old daughter helped again and made these cheesy courgette and carrot balls that we ate with pasta that night. At the weekend, they helped make this tart, mostly by podding the broad beans and then podding again once cooked. 

I have always involved the children with baking and the odd thing here and there like podding beans and occasional chopping but now I hope we can keep up the participation with meal preparation a bit more regularly (when moods and time permits).

A few tips when working with young children in the kitchen:

Manage your expectations. There will likely be more mess, things won't necessarily get chopped or prepared the same way you do it but that's ok! 

Make it fun! If possible, have in mind a variety of tasks they can help with to keep their interest up. Nobody likes scrubbing/podding/peeling/chopping the same thing for a really long time so divide up longer tasks and give them something a bit more fun/creative to do after a more boring task.

Involve them in choosing a meal. If your children are old enough, ask them for suggestions of what your family could eat that day. If it is something they have chosen, they are more likely to be enthusiastic about helping prepare it. Alternatively, give them a choice of two meals that you know you have the ingredients and time to make and let them choose which one.

Be brave! Let them use sharp knives, just gently instruct and demonstrate first. You will be surprised that they can probably handle them better than you imagined. I don't think I ever let my son use a sharp knife at age 3 but I let my 3-year old daughter use one and so far, there have been no unpleasant incidents! If she is struggling to cut something, she will just ask her older brother or me to take over. Let them crack eggs, if you get shell in with it or if one drops on the floor, it is not the end of the world. They need to practise these kinds of things to get better at them.

The summer holidays offer the perfect opportunity to spend more time in the kitchen with your children and #cooktogether, so why not give it a go and get involved too? Do you already cook from scratch sometimes with your children? What kinds of tasks do they enjoy most and do you have any additional tips to add to my list?

This is not a sponsored post, I just really like Riverford's idea and wanted to spread the word!
You Baby Me Mummy

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A few of my favourite (vegetarian) things!

National Vegetarian Week has come around again, here in the UK. As a result, there are lots of delicious recipe ideas floating around online, which I am enjoying!

This time last year, I shared a recipe for rice bake and in previous years I have listed some of my favourite recipe books and online resources for vegetarian food and some simple salad ideas.

I don't know about you but I realise I tend to go through phases with cooking and meals. Dishes I might have cooked a year or more ago, I might rarely make nowadays. Perhaps because I like to try new recipes, we find new favourites and our stock repertoire of dishes in any given week therefore changes.

Something I have discovered very recently (since getting a copy of Leon: Fast Vegetarian) is scrambled tofu. I have never been much of a tofu eater, only occasionally throwing some in a stir fry or with this egg fried rice recipe but for whatever reason, I still tend to have a block in the fridge. The Leon recipe is in the breakfast section of the book but I have only ever made it for supper! I have followed their recipe but then also adapted it to use up the last odds and ends of veg I have lying around. The tofu takes on the flavours of the vegetables and also the chilli, turmeric and cumin, making it really tasty. The children like it too!

We have also started having 'taco night' (as my husband calls it!), in just the last month or so. Tacos have definitely become another new family favourite meal. See this post for what I tend to put in them.

For breakfast (or lunch) I now love to eat avocado on toast a couple of times a week. I literally just spread it onto the toast and season with salt and pepper and it is delicious!

I usually make a quinoa salad most weeks. In an ideal world I would have cooked a batch of quinoa at the weekend for the week ahead but in reality I most often turn to the conveniently ready cooked packs that are great to have on hand for speed.

So there you are, a few of my current favourite vegetarian things. I would love to hear about any of yours!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Cooking for baby and family

Three years ago I wrote a post about cooking for baby and the rest of the family, with six suggestions of family meals that can be mashed or finally chopped to suit a baby of around 9 months upwards. It is great when they get to the stage of being able to eat a wider variety of foods, can handle a bit of texture and you can cook for the entire family without having to prepare something different for the baby.

My youngest is one now so we have been at this stage for a little while and I was looking back over my old post recently and decided I had another six suggestions to give! 

Soup: anything goes with soup but you can add beans, pasta or grains to make it more substantial. You could also crumble in some cracker/rice cakes/bread into the baby's bowl.

Tacos: these have become a new favourite in the Mummy Zen household. We get the crispy corn taco shells and fill them usually with some kind of black or pinto bean mixture often with a bit of covert veg, finely diced or mashed avocado, sour cream and grated cheese. Baby gets the filling and you could break up bits of taco or give them some softer bread or rice with it.

Shepherds/cottage pie: as a vegetarian, my version of these is with lentil or aduki beans but whatever your main ingredient, the rest is finely chopped veg and mashed potato, so nice and easy for baby to eat or you can even mash it all up further if needed.

Jacket potatoes: popular with many children, simply scoop out the soft potato for baby and mix with your choose of toppings.

Savoury pancakes/fritters: potato pancakes, sweetcorn fritters, or grate carrot, courgette into a batter or anything else you fancy. Make smaller ones for baby to hold (or cut up larger ones), these are a great finger food.

You can see my previous six meal suggestions here.

What are some of your go-to meals to prepare for the family that can be easily adapted to baby?
photo credit
You Baby Me Mummy

Thursday, 23 April 2015

6 tips for a longer life!

I have been reading the book, A Short Guide to a Long Life by David B. Agus. The author is one of the world's leading cancer doctors and researchers, amongst other things. The book is a very easy read and compiled of short chapters, each one about a healthy habit he advises people to adopt, or something he thinks we should try to avoid.

As I have found it a really interesting read, I thought I would share a few of his suggestions of things we should all be doing, ones that I think are especially relevant to parents:

Have children: Obviously, not for everyone but the thought behind this one is that raising children keeps us active, both mentally and physically, which are both recommended for good health.

Grow a garden: Agus writes, "This should be a mandatory rule for anyone with children, especially young ones". He believes it is the best way of teaching children how food grows, what it looks like in all its stages and therefore encouraging healthy eating.

Speak strongly to the next generation: Whilst our children might not be very keen on listening to us tell them what is good for them and what is not, Agus believes it is a matter of finding the right words or images that can convey the message in a relevant way to them. He gives an example of showing his own children the Jamie Oliver video where he fills a school bus with the amount of sugar added into Los Angeles Unified School District's flavoured milk each week. It worked in keeping them off the chocolate milk!

Deal with sickness smartly: "Part of the art of dealing with sickness means sticking to our routines as much as possible". Agus advises against lying in bed all day with the curtains closed if we want a quick recovery because if our body is not moving around, the lymph system which helps fight infections will not be in action. This made me smile, as a busy mother to three young children, I never have the chance to lie in bed all day if I am ill and generally, I get over things pretty quickly. My husband on the other hand definitely follows the lying in bed in the dark route and doesn't get over things as quickly I would say...!

Practise good hygiene: Something we can pass along to our children is the importance of hand washing throughout the day. It will help you avoid germs that could make you ill, as well as prevent spreading germs to others.

Have a glass of wine with dinner: There is plenty of talk of wine o'clock amongst the parenting community so this point might interest you! One drink a day for a woman (two for a man) is considered a sensible amount to reap the benefits, particularly of red wine, in reducing your chances of heart disease. Binge drinking at the weekends is not however permitted!

Do you do all or some of the above already?

If you are interested in reading what else helps you lead a long and healthy life, as well as what is to be avoided, do get a copy of the book, A Short Guide to a Long Life. It is very readable and full of lots of fascinating facts too.
photo credit 
I am linking this post up to The List
You Baby Me Mummy

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Fear of abandonment

Recently our three and a half-year old daughter has been getting quite anxious, not wanting to be in a room without mummy or daddy during the day time, being a bit scared of the dark at bed time and wanting the bedroom door left wide open... This all sounded very familiar to me, as I remembered my son going through a similar fearful stage around this age. I looked back over the blog to see how old he was at the time, and he was just four. His big issue was waking at night time, scary dreams and thoughts.

Having gone through a similar phase with my son, I know (as with all these things) that it will pass with time. With my daughter however, it is a little more full-on for me as a parent, as she is mostly affected during the day and whilst awake. She is fine once in bed asleep. I literally can not leave her to play for a few minutes while I am cooking dinner or getting the baby ready for bed. Sometimes she is ok if her older brother is with her, but more often than not, only mummy will do.

I am trying to remain patient and understanding. It is a little wearing but I am aware that she needs reassurance and plenty of love and respect for her feelings while she is going through this stage. It is the flip side of a preschooler's independence, whilst happy to go off and do their own thing at times, they can then get worried that mum or dad will go off and leave them. If I tell my daughter I'm going to do something like change the baby's nappy, she'll say, "and then you'll come right back?". Of course, she will follow me anyway....

One day she might not want to come anywhere near me, or be in the same room as me! So for now, I'll try to enjoy the closeness and cuddles as much as I can.

Can you remember your preschooler going through a similar phase? Was there anything you think helped them get through it or was it just a matter of time and patience?
photo credit

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Back to business!

Somehow it has been almost a month since my last post! The Easter holidays kept us busy and we had a great couple of weeks off from school/nursery and the daily routine. I have always loved the holidays but I have also enjoyed the return to the routine and the structure that brings to our days. This time, I was more reluctant to get back to school and the routine than usual, although that feeling may change I suppose.

Spring is full swing now and with that, lots to do! I began my gradual spring cleaning a month or so ago but it is by no means finished and I need to get get back to it. The garden needs some more attention too and I am probably moving my tomato plants outside this week. We planted some potatoes and cucumber plants last week and my neighbour gave me a red pepper plant. The outdoor toys all need a good clean now that the weather is permitting their use once again.

Back to school for me therefore means lots of catching up! The fun and relaxed pace of the holidays definitely takes a toll on the jobs around the house so I guess it is a good thing they have come to an end! 

What about you? Are you glad to have the children back at school and do you also have lots of stuff to catch up on?
photo credit