31 Oct 2014

Parenting a 3 Year Old

You know you are a parent to a three year old when:
  1. You hum the Topsy and Tim theme tune in your bath. And don't even realise it.
  2. You are oblivious to the latest chart busters, but you know the words to the Postman Pat song. Jess the cat sound effects included. Meow!
  3. All that you ever watch during the day is CBeebies. Or nothing.
  4. You have heard the story of the Billy Goats Gruff at least five times every day since you bought that CD.
  5. You join in animatedly at each telling, pretending to be the troll under the bridge.
  6. The only time you go to the cinema is to watch the latest offering from Disney Pixar.
  7. A night out means another three year old's birthday party. At 6pm.
  8. A day out means a trip to the park.
  9. You empty your coat pockets and an assorted collection of plastic frogs, chocolate wrappers, snot-soaked tissues and dry daisies fall out.
  10. Ditto, your handbag.
  11. You never leave home without a shiny back-pack with a month's worth of food rations packed in. And wipes.
  12. "Now," becomes your life's mantra.
  13. Date night means watching catch-up TV while dining-in on the sofa.
  14. You find yourself beginning to doze-off at 10:30 pm even when child-care is sorted.
  15. Sharing a bed means fighting your corner to claim bed-space that rightfully belongs to you and is being threatened by the habitual midnight/early morning wanderings of your precious offspring.
  16. The only child-free space in the home is the shower. When you are in it. Mostly.
  17. All that once belonged to you is now facing a take-over bid from a myriad of books, crayons and construction bricks.
  18. You can issue instructions and mend broken toys when on the toilet. Simultaneously.
  19. Forget the souffles and the creme brulees, puddings now mean jelly and ice-cream.
  20. And food generally means fish fingers and chips.
  21. You leave the house without an iota of make-up on, glowing in the knowledge that you managed to get a brush to the child's unruly locks.
  22. You realise that your jeans and the rest of your clothing are a very handy substitute to hand washing. Or hand towels, if you are lucky.
  23. You are struck by the futility of doing your hair. For your head is perceived to be the perfect perch when the child is being helped into his shoes.
  24. You find yourself saying things on a loop. Over and over. And over again.
  25. Almost all your writing tends to revolve around the shenanigans of your three year old offspring.

The List
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30 Oct 2014

Changing Seasons

My second offering of Haikus. A tribute to the seasons. And I am in love. 

Gold leaf hazy sunshine
Dancing to gusty winds falls
Crushed under feet.

Glistening icicles
Shards of diamonds by night
Melted nothingness.

Drops of the first rain
Pearls drench a parched earth
Long awaited Life begins.

Lazy midday sun
Slumbering in green meadows 
Shattered reverie.

Buried seed bitter snow
Green shoots struggle, break forth
Silent resilience.

mumturnedmomProse for Thought

29 Oct 2014

Storytime Sounds app by notonthehighstreet.com

We are not huge fans of Halloween in the C-household. There is something about ghosts and ghouls that spooks me out. My little boy is as yet too little to get into the swing of all things halloweeny. That said, we love listening to stories. Well, I tell them and he listens. Although there are times when I have to be a patient listener as J narrates a recent adventure.

Most of our tales tend to revolve around spaceships and aliens. Good old-fashioned fairytales are quite to our taste as well. We have yet to embark on a ghoulish story-telling adventure, more because I get spooked by them even when I am the one telling the story, let alone listening to one.

Our story-telling now comes sprinkled with background sound effects courtesy of the Storytime Sounds app. I came across this iPhone app launched by notonthehighstreet.com, as part of a promotion by Mumsnet.

The app is free to download from the app store and is designed to add an audio dimension to make story time even more fun for families with kids aged 3-7 years.

The app currently features 5 soundboards for different storytelling themes. They have pirates, fairytales, lost world, space and monster.

There has been an update to the app with the addition of a sixth soundboard for Halloween. Each soundboard has nine different sounds to choose from. You can play them singly or merge them for an ongoing sound effect.

So whether you are reading from a storybook or spinning your own yarn to regale the children with, you can count on the Storytime Sounds to bring your story to life.

We start by choosing the soundboard that goes best with the story that is about to be narrated. Then J has a go pressing the buttons to produce the sounds. Sometimes quite at random. The effect is a more interactive story-telling session.

You can download the app for free from the i-tunes app store.

Disclaimer: I downloaded this free app for the purposes of this review and to be eligible for the £400 Mumsnet prize draw. No other compensation was received for this post.

24 Oct 2014

Baked Wholemeal Olya Naralachi Karanji (Ghujiya)

Diwali. The Festival of Lights. A time to celebrate with family and friends. And lots of delicious home-cooked food. From besan laddoos to chaklis,  Diwali is not complete without the traditional array of sweet and savoury delights.

I have been busy in the kitchen all this week, rustling up some traditional and some not-so-traditional dishes. Here I present my unconventional take on the  Maharashtrian Naralachi Karanji, a very traditional pasty from the western fringes of India, filled with a sweet coconut filling.

It is my Aai's (Mother's) recipe, modified to suit our changing palate. I have used wholemeal flour to make my sweet coconut pasties, instead of the more traditional Maida (refined flour). And I opted to bake rather than deep fry my Karanjis as a healthier alternative.

To make the sweet coconut pasties, you will need:
For the filling:
2 cups finely shredded fresh coconut
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk
1/2 tspn freshly ground cardamom powder

For the pasty cases:
2 cups wholemeal flour. I used Pilsbury Atta, available in most Asian shops
4 tbspn warm ghee (clarified butter)
1 cup semi-skimmed milk

For the bake:
Flour to dust, as needed
Ghee to grease the baking sheet
Milk to brush

Start by finely shredding the flesh of a fresh coconut in a food processor. (Break it open and separate the flesh from the hard outer shell before putting it in the processor). Cook the coconut with the milk and sugar on a medium-high heat, till the sugar melts and the mixture starts to bubble and splutter. Now reduce the heat to low, and continue cooking with intermittent stirring till the mixture thickens. Take the pan off the heat and mix in the cardamom powder. Allow the mixture to cool down completely before you use it.

Make the pasty dough by mixing the flour with the ghee and milk. If the ghee is solid, warm it for 20-40 seconds in the microwave to make it runny. The dough is kneaded to a firm consistency. Cover it and allow it to rest for at least an hour before using it to make your pasties.

Divide the rested dough into little balls and flatten them in the palms of your hands. Roll out each of these flat discs, dusting with flour to avoid sticking. Go as thin as you possibly can without allowing the dough to crack.

Naralachi Karanji (Sweet Coconut Pasties) - the dough

Spoon a generous amount of the sweet coconut filling into the centre of the rolled out dough. Bring the edges together, almost like a taco, and stick them firmly together.

Naralachi Karanji (Sweet Coconut Pasties) - the filling

Naralachi Karanji (Sweet Coconut Pasties) - fold and stick
Now, you can either do the filling and sticking with the dough sitting on the rolling platform, or it can  be done with the disc sitting in the palm of your hand. I find the latter method a lot easier and quicker.

Naralachi Karanji (Sweet Coconut Pasties) - filling it

Naralachi Karanji (Sweet Coconut Pasties) -sticking it

You can crimp the edge to make the pasties look just that little bit nicer.

Naralachi Karanji (Sweet Coconut Pasties) - crimping it

Place the pasties on a baking sheet greased with a small amount of ghee. Brush the tops with a little milk.

Naralachi Karanji (Sweet Coconut Pasties) - baking it

Bake the pasties in the centre of a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees (fan-assisted) for about 20-25 minutes, or till the tops have browned.

Allow to cool before tucking into your scrumptious baked sweet coconut pasties.

You don't really have to wait for Diwali to make these delectable delicacies. Any occasion is good enough to make, bake and eat Naralachi Karanji.

Naralachi Karanji (Sweet Coconut Pasties)
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Wholemeal, baked, vegetarian Naralachi Karanji (Sweet Coconut Pasties) for Diwali

21 Oct 2014

With a Little Bit of Luck

Are you one of those people who believe in luck? Or are you one of those who believe in making their own luck? Either way, there is no denying that a little bit of luck can go a long way in brightening up our lives.

From the little things to the big and important ones, we all need a sprinkling of good fortune to see us through. Whether it is having an umbrella on hand in a rain shower or landing that all-important contract for your company, luck does play a part in everything.

20 Oct 2014

What I Learnt at Blog Camp 2014 #bcuk

October 18, 2014. The day I headed off to Birmingham to attend my second Blog Camp organised by Tots 100. Unlike a baby, where all the novelty has worn off by the time the second one comes along, my second Blog Camp experience was every bit as, perhaps even more enriching than my first one.

And as, in my technologically-challenged old-fashioned way, I took down all my notes with a pen on a piece of paper rather than use my phone, I am now having to type everything over. Hence I present the abridged version of what I learnt at my day out at Blog Camp.

Here are the highlights from three very useful sessions I attended. The Pro-Blogging session with Lindy (Squidgyboo) and Kiran (Mummy Says), the session on Blogger Collaboration with Penny (A Residence) and Chris (Thinly Spread) and the Brand Partnership panel comprising of Jacqui (Mummy's Little Monkey), Claire (Cheshire Mum), Vicky (Honest Mum) and Katy and George from Frank PR.

  • Be confident about who you are.
  • Believe in yourself and know your worth.
  • If you expect to be treated as a professional, act like one.
  • Stick to deadlines like glue.
  • Communication is key. Always keep all involved parties in the loop, whether it is your editor or PR.
  • Master the art of negotiation. You will need it in the world of pro-blogging.
  • Be unique, be original.
  • Highlight your expertise.
  • Collaborations work in the world of blogging. What one can do, two can do better.
  • Collaborate on everything, from linkys and hangouts to blog clinics and competitions. 
  • Be nice, honest and help others.
  • Contact people, but don't hound them. Not on social media, not in real life.
  • Consider writing for free or guest posting to gain some experience.
  • Content is key. Make sure it is good.
  • Use photos and videos to add to your writing.

Here is how I got on with the Food Photography session.
  • You can pipe a fairy-cake if you set your heart to it. Even if you have never filled a piping bag before in your life. There is always a first time for everything.
  • A photography workshop at Blog Camp is not the time nor the place to come to grips with the fancy new camera that belongs to the OH. The one that you have never used before.
  • You can work photography magic even with your trusty old i-phone. Just as long as you know what you are doing.

  • On a more serious note, the focus was on styling with props, picking up the little details, and the use of lighting to make the most of your food photos.

And here are a couple of essential survival tips I learnt.
  • You will never go hungry at Blog Camp. 

  • There will always be enough cake to feed a multitude of hungry mum bloggers. And coffee.

The day was made even more special as I got to meet quite a few fellow mum bloggers in person for the very first time. It is one thing commenting on each other's blogs using on-screen avatars. It is quite another to be able to chat face-to-face about food, writing and all things Mum.

For me, the take-home message of the day was 'Be nice and collaborate'. I intend to stick with this mantra for the rest of my blogging life. 

So, dear people, if you are reading this and are looking for a collaboration with someone nice, please do get in touch. We might just end up doing something good.

(A huge thank you to Sally and her team for organising Blog Camp. I look forward to the next one, and not just for the biscuits x)

17 Oct 2014

The Twelve Joys of Parenthood

There is no denying that being a parent is a joyous occurance; many a word has been written about the exuberance that newfound parenthood bestows on the most archaic soul. 

Once the initial outpouring of parental euphoria subsides, life can become pretty mundane. Days merge into an endless cycle of feed, clean, entertain, ferry and feed again. With the occasional bout of illness thrown in to break the monotony.

But fret not. It is never too late to inject a shot of chirpy cheerfulness into your parenting. All it takes is the memory of that first unseeing smile.

And if that doesn't work, here are 12 often overlooked reasons why parenthood can continue to overflow with happiness. Or thereabouts. 

16 Oct 2014

Win Tickets to The Ideal Home Show at Christmas, Manchester 2014

The Ideal Home Show came to Manchester in spring this year for the very first time. We were there, along with a host of other people and some very famous faces. The stupendous success of the spring edition means that the Ideal Home Show is set to return to Event City in Manchester from Friday 14th November to Sunday 16th November 2014 with a spectacular Christmas special.

15 Oct 2014

Wholewheat Savoury Pancakes with Primula Kids Cheese

All of us in the C-house love pancakes. We can have them for breakfast, for brunch, for lunch, for pretty much any meal of the day. We do not wait for Pancake Day to make pancakes. We make them when we feel moreish and start craving, well, pancakes. We eat them with sugar, we eat them with lemon, we eat them with bananas and we eat them with chocolate sauce. We also eat our pancakes with cheese.

So when the craving took hold early today morning, we decided to flip some pancakes for lunch. To keep them nutritious and tasting delicious, I always use wholewheat flour to make my pancakes. You can have a peek at my detailed, yet ridiculously easy pancake recipe.

But today was not just about making pancakes. It wasn't even about just eating pancakes. It was all about playing with our food. And getting creative.

So armed with a squeezy tube of Primula Kids Cheese, we had a go at decorating our pancakes. Cheese and tomato is a match made in heaven. And my 3-year old little boy loves the combination. So we decided to keep things simple.

Each pancake got a treatment with Primula Kids Cheese from me, and then my son decided where the tomatoes would go.

Up first, a smiley face with rosy cheeks and what I can only imagine to be a tongue sticking out.

Wholewheat Savoury Pancakes with Primula Kids Cheese

For the next one, I wanted to add a touch of hair to our smiley face. J decided to omit the tongue and stick on a nose instead.

Wholewheat Savoury Pancakes with Primula Kids Cheese

2 pancakes down, and J was beginning to flag. Eating pancakes is hard work after all!

So we did the third one for me. With a touch of basil to make it a little bit grown up. And replaced smiley faces with a garden in bloom under a shining sun.

Wholewheat Savoury Pancakes with Primula Kids Cheese

We have a couple more tubes of Primula in the fridge. Going by the success of today's lunchtime menu, I know I will be creating more fun food with this squeezy cheese in the not too distant future.

Disclaimer: We were sent samples of Primula Kids Cheese to take part in their promotion. All opinions expressed are my own.

11 Oct 2014

My Morning Win

Here is what it takes to make my mornings perfect. Little things that go a long way to set the tone for a lovely day.

My Morning Win

An undisturbed all-night slumber
A leisurely relaxed awakening 
Not a whinging protest in sight,
Now there's a Morning Win.

No clocks to sound the alarm 
Cuddles in bed and a little lie-in
Smiles and kisses to start the day, 
There's my Morning Win.

Birdsong to break the reverie
Golden sunshine streaming in
Not a rain cloud for miles around, 
Certainly a Morning Win.

All dressed, ready to face the day
No hint of nagging and yelling
Chores done, messes tidied away,
An absolute Morning Win.

Freshly brewed steaming hot coffee 
Soft eggs, buttered toast to dip in
Yogurt with fruit and runny honey,
Another Morning Win.

Crunchy crumbly Belvita biscuits
Flavour and nourishment packed in 
Hazelnut, apricots and choc chips,
Surely a Morning Win.

This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. 

10 Oct 2014

The Mistake

I am writing my first ever piece of flash fiction in response to this week's The Prompt. I have tried to do it as the 100 word challenge.

"You are making a mistake." The words rang in her ears. Coming from those closest to her, they had impaled her conscience like a blazing arrow. 

Now, as the sharp pain seared through her fragile body, she could not help but think that perhaps this was a mistake. Too late to do anything about, but a mistake nevertheless.

She let out a blood-curdling scream as the next wave of agony swept away all conscious thought. A desperate attempt to quell the rising tide of despair that was engulfing her.

There was nobody to hear. She was alone. With her mistake.


8 Oct 2014

A Crippling Cold

Have you ever been gripped by a crippling cold? The kind that makes your nose drip like a leaky faucet. That has your ears ringing louder than the bells of St Paul's. The one where your tonsils swell up to the size of lemons so that swallowing your own spit becomes a gruesome ordeal. I have. Several times over since I was a child.

Life was simpler then. My parents would call up school to report my absence. Then keep me warm in my bed. I grew up, got a job, and did my own calling in to report sick. Curling up after under a warm blanket, box of tissues on hand, sipping on warm honey and lemon water as I drifted in and out of bland daytime television dreams.

There has been a paradigm shift since I decided to be a full-time stay-at-home mother after the birth of baby J a little over three years ago. Now there is nobody to report my sickness to. Apart from the OH, who decides the cold is not crippling enough to justify his carer leave. And my snotty-nosed three year old, who decides this is the day of all days, the day when his mother has all but lost her voice, when he will wake up at three in the morning and cry himself hoarse to be allowed into my bed.

Ever wonder how these crippling colds always seem to make an appearance at the beginning of the school term. And how your child becomes snot-free only when half-term approaches. They need to have some sort of quarantine in place for school children, to protect their poor parents from these rather virulent viruses that seem to go round in circles around school playgrounds, mutating as they get passed from one snotty nose to the next, exploding in all their fury only when they reach an unsuspecting adult.

For heaven forbid, if that unsuspecting adult is a stay-at-home mum with no nanny/grandma/child-minder/neighbour/friend to turn to in her hour of need, she will be left fighting her cold battles all by her own lonesome.

That will precisely be the day the OH will work long hours. That will invariably be the day her child decides to fall in a muddy puddle five minutes before the school run, so that she is left wiping her nose with one hand while trying to pull soggy clothes off a squirming little boy with the other.

It will be the day when, sneezing and spluttering behind the wheel of her car, she struggles to find a parking spot near the school gates. So she decides to park further along and walk some distance on the pick-up run. Only to discover that the child has drawn up picket lines and is on the verge of staging a sit-down protest in the middle of a very busy road over being denied the pressing of a button at a pelican crossing. 

Even the Rain-Gods have aligned against her on this of all days. The cold rain lashes down on her unprotected head. By the time the umbrella is unfurled in all its B&M glory, her teeth are chattering in her head.

Back in the warmth of her home, she dreams of a hot cup of tea and the comfort of her sofa. Alas, it is not to be. As if sensing her indisposition, the child is on the warpath. Tears and tantrums lurk around every unsuspecting corner even as she waits for the clock to tick over the long minutes of the last few waking hours of the day before the child is safely ensconced in his bed and she can finally nurture that crippling cold. 

3 Oct 2014

Mythical Maze Summer Reading Challenge 2014

I have said it before and I am saying it again. It is never too early to start reading books to your little ones. 

I am not the only one saying it. The Reading Agency says so too. Every year, more than 800,000 children in the UK aged four to eleven take part in the Summer Reading Challenge hosted by the Reading Agency via their local libraries.  Every year there’s a different theme. The aim of the challenge is to get children to read six books from their library during the summer holidays.

This year, toddlers and pre-schoolers had the opportunity to participate in a Mini version of the challenge. At 3 years old, J was very willing to enrol. There was no set theme for the little ones. They could pick any six books of their choosing and read them (or have them read out to them, which is more the case given that toddlers and pre-schoolers cannot actually read for themselves unless they are child prodigies. Which J isn't).

So these are the books J read as part of his Mini Mythical Maze Summer Reading Challenge 2014. There were a couple in there that I grew up with. Clifford and Paddington Bear were hot favourites when I was little. That might have influenced J's choice just a little bit. But Elmer was introduced to me after I became J's Aai (Mother). As was Eliza and the Moonchild and Baby Owl. So they were definitely his choice. I am ready to claim part responsibility for picking Kipper. I like the funny little dog as much as the next person.

Mythical Maze Summer Reading Challenge 2014

Overall, J had an excellent variety of books to keep him going through his extra-long last summer holidays before his first ever year at school (nursery).

He had to collect 6 stickers on a little card, 1 for each book he had read. Here is how he got on.

Mythical Maze Summer Reading Challenge 2014

And at the end of the challenge, my little boy got presented a certificate and a gleaming golden medal to say he had successfully completed this year's Summer Reading Challenge. I am not sure who was more proud, J or his Aai.

Mythical Maze Summer Reading Challenge 2014

I have waxed lyrical in the past about the benefits of reading books to children. It will suffice to say that books have the potential to unlock the mysteries of the universe and to open doors to mysterious, magical and mythical worlds. They can enrich minds and trigger imaginations. They can be your friends for life.
For the love of the written word is a love that grows stronger with nurture and repetition. It is a love that never falters. A love that stands the test of time and changes you for the better.


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