Tuesday, 24 July 2012

50 Shades of Grey?

There’s a certain irony that the summer’s big blockbuster book seems to share its name with the way most of this summer has turned out, isn't there? I’ve seen at least 50 shades of grey clouds of late. I know the sunshine has finally made a very welcome appearance, but until the last couple of days, I thought we'd skipped straight through to November.  I meant to post this last week while the weather was still all miserable, but I've been busy, so here you go now.

I saw something recently about 50 Shades of Grey, suggesting that because seemingly the entire female population of the country is engrossed in reading a rather mucky book and, well, getting a bit jiggy, there’s going to be a baby boom in about 8 months time. Hmmm. The entire female population except me, obviously. I honestly have no interest in reading about someone else’s made up sex life, I read the first couple of chapters as a free download, and I prefer my reading matter to be a bit better written. If you want to read it, that's your choice, but I've never been one for over-hyped bandwagons - I still haven't read Harry Potter for the exact same reason.

Anyways, I then spotted something else while I was randomly clicking around the outer regions of the internet, saying that a deficiency in vitamin D can affect men's sperm counts, and as we all know, vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, made by our bodies on exposure to the sun, something there's been a lack of this summer thanks to the 50 shades of grey clouds. So, is there going to be a baby boom or not then? Maybe mother nature is just making sure that even if the women of the UK are getting a bit frisky, there’s no real risk of a population explosion because the blokes are all shooting blanks due to the weather!

Well, I can't do much about your fella's little fella, I'm afraid. Tell him to pop to the shops & buy some supplements if you're worried that all your jiggy might go to waste. But there's a more serious side to all this cloud. The months of April - October are the only time in the UK that our bodies have chance to make vitamin D, which we store up for the rest of the year. In adults, that's one thing, but in children, with their growing bodies, it can present a major health risk.

Leanne Olivier, nutritionist and spokesperson for growingupmilkinfo.com, comments: “Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. The cloud cover on rainy days has an obvious effect on sunlight, making the sky dark and grey; however, what are less obvious are the knock-on effects of a miserable summer’s days on our toddlers’ health.

“It doesn’t just mean less time playing outdoors; this reduction in exposure to sunlight can be really significant - especially between the ages of one and three years, when toddlers experience a huge period of growth and development and need essential nutrients to support this.”

With the poor weather we’ve been experiencing, it’s more important than ever that toddlers get enough vitamin D from their daily diet.

British children’s vitamin D-poor diets1, combined with low uptake of supplementation, a lack of knowledge amongst parents about their specific nutritional needs, plus a typically British summer, mean toddlers could really be missing out. All toddlers are considered to be vulnerable to low vitamin D in the diet while those who rarely play outside, don’t eat oily fish, don’t take supplements, or who have darker skins2 or cover up for cultural reasons are thought to be particularly at risk.

In the absence of summer sun, nutritionist Leanne recommends a simple combined approach parents can take to ensure toddlers are meeting their vitamin D needs:

· Take a daily children’s supplement of vitamins A, C and D

· Give two 150ml beakers of Growing Up Milk daily providing about 70 per cent of a toddler's daily recommended nutrient intake of vitamin D

· Include food sources of vitamin D in the diet: oily fish once a week and fortified margarines and breakfast cereals, egg and liver!

· Enjoying the summer (April-Oct) sun safely, while taking care not to burn, can provide the benefits of vitamin D

Statistical information in this post comes from the Toddler Census, a survey of  over 1000 mothers carried out in July 2011.  
1 Bates B et al. National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2008/09-2009/10
2 Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Update on Vitamin D. Position statement by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. London. TSO, 2007

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Credit where it's due - Schwarzkopf

I'll be the first to admit I spend more time ranting on my blog than giving praise where it's due.  But that's about to change with this post.  I really have to share a piece of wonderful customer service I recently encountered, in the hope that other companies might take note.

If you've met me, or looked through my photos, you'll notice that I like my hair dye.  My natural hair colour is very dark brown, and it's been going slowly grey since the grand old age of 16.  I've been colouring it ever since, and have pretty much worked my way through all the brands on the market.
My hair, with added grumpy expression!

Last month, I popped into our local supermarket to pick up a new box of hair dye, but didn't get to immediately doing the colour.  Lost the receipt somewhere along the way (honestly, who actually keeps receipts they need? Yes, there's dozens in my handbag, but they're invariably for sandwiches & cans of pop).  When I opened the box to colour my hair, I was frustrated to say the least when I found that there wasn't actually any colourant in there, just the developer and conditioner.  Oh Noes! Grey roots!  In days of yore I would have had to say "Sucks to be me" and buy a new one, probably muttering bad things about the brand & not buying from them again for a few years, even though they're a favourite.

However, this is the 21st century, and we are all citizens of the digital community, or something.  So, I did want any self-respecting netizen would do, I took to twitter and facebook.  I found the company's pages, and told them.  They replied and gave me an email contact.  I emailed them with the full details.  Next day I got a phone call asking me for a little bit of extra info, and lo & behold, by the weekend, they had sent me a brand new box of my hair dye to replace my dodgy box, and a personal letter as well.

So this post is a big "Thank you" to the lovely people at Schwarzkopf for making hair colours I like, and for a fantastic piece of customer service.  A few other companies could learn from this.  I'll definitely be buying from them in the future.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Squeaky the Media Starlet

Now, I always knew Squeaky was going to end up a mini-media star.  After all, my twitter handle is @meedja.  And SqueakyDaddy works for the BBC, and used to work on the radio.  There's no escape for her, really, is there?

Well, it's come true.  Squeaky is officially a media starlet, appearing NOW in a Real People magazine near you!  Because I'm a bad blogger, with too many other things to do, I haven't given you much time, this issue is only out until Wednesday 11th July, so pop into your favourite corner shop, supermarket, or wherever you prefer to buy your magazines from, and grab a copy.

Our starring moment

We responded to a call for help from the magazine, for mums to take part in their Mum To Mum advice page, and as Squeaky had recently had a mammoth breakthrough in the hairwashing front, and gone from believing she was being murdered to finding it actually quite good fun, we thought this was the perfect topic to share our experiences.

The whole process was really easy, I sent them an email, they called me a couple of times to take the information from me, and to read back the story to make sure I was happy with it all, and I emailed them a selection of photos (yes, they used my least favourite, where I have complete Hair!Fail, but hey), and we had a very happy evening taking photos in the bath for the one on bottom left.

The whole page
So, pop to the shops on Wednesday, and grab yourself a copy before our moment of fame disappears into the recycling forever!  I'm keeping our copy, it's something Squeaky can look at/be desperately embarrassed by when she's older.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Shame

Thanks to our summer holiday, Squeaky has a new favourite song.  It makes a change from constant demands for Peppa Pig, but, really?  This has been on repeat on YouTube all day, and even I'm going mad.  And, for full disclosure, I own a copy on vinyl, and have met one of them.

Enjoy, or share in my pain.

Sacla' Review

Anyone who's known me for a while will know that I used to work in an Italian restaurant while I was at uni. You might think that would put me off, but I honestly still love Italian food, so I was very happy when my good friends at Sacla' got in touch to offer me the chance to try out some of their new ranges.

The day after getting back from our recent holiday, I was greeted by a courier with a smile and a box of yummies!  Look.  A jar of very essential pesto, and two of their newest products, a dried pasta & a big tub of Italian Tomato Sauce.  Wow.  I honestly don't know where to start.  How about the beginning?

The first thing I did, after getting very excited, was to make some home-made(ish) pizzas.  I'm not good at pizza bases, much to my former employers' disappointment, but I've always got a box of ready rolled pastry in the freezer.  Out it came, and I whipped up not one, but two pizzas, a classic cheese & tomato, with a little ham, and a pesto pizza, just for me!  (Squeaky and her Daddy like their pizzas red, and I can't convince them otherwise).  I'll post the recipes for these another time, but it's about as simple as it sounds.

The pesto was fresh & zingy, strong without being overpowering.  It makes a nice change to a traditional pizza, if you haven't tried it, give it a go!

The tomato sauce was a revelation.  You know how when you order a pizza or pasta meal out, it tastes really tomatoey?  And if you do the same at home, it's a bit flat?  Well, not any more.  The new Italian Tomato Sauce is more than just tomatoes.  It's actually a soffritto base - celery & carrots sauteed in olive oil, mixed with tomatoes, and it tastes like SuperTomato.  I've made plenty of home-made pizzas over the years, but this was the best one I've ever tasted, and the closest I've come to making one that tastes bought.  These were gobbled up in no time at all, and I need to go shopping for some more bases.

The pesto and the tomato sauce went into the fridge.  The tomato sauce is a really big tub, which apparently serves 10, and will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks after opening.  That's a relief, as I wouldn't want to waste it.  My only query with the jar is it doesn't say whether I could freeze it.  I'm guessing I can, so I may freeze some into ice cubes to throw in to later recipes.

Next day, and time to try out the pasta.  I'm so used to supermarket food being completely carbon-copy identical, it was quite the novelty to see that the bronze die-cut fusilli shapes had some variation, much more authentic, and better for catching hold of the yummy tomato sauce.  Oh yes, more tomato sauce.  If I'd had a little more inspiration, I could've added meat & made a bolognaise, but quick & easy was the order of the day, and I stirred through some more of the Italian Tomato Sauce to make a simple dinner for all of us.

Well, some of us had the pasta.  One of us prefers her Hello Kitty shapes, but that's another story.  A garlic bread from the supermarket & we're done.  Even the pickiest eater around tucked in.

On to day 3.  Meatballs!  I've never been a fan of that creamy sauce they sell in certain Scandinavian furniture shops, and much prefer my meatballs with a tomato sauce.  Sacla' to the rescue again.  Once the meatballs were cooked, I tossed them into a saucepan with some of the tomato sauce, warmed it all through, and hey presto, dinner was served.

There, a few days insight into our family's diet.  Honestly, I love the tomato sauce, and that's going to be a regular on my shopping list now on.  And if I'm running low on inspiration, Sacla' have a whole host of recipes on their website to help.

Sacla' also recently sponsored the Guild of Food Writers' blog of the year award, won by Emma Gardner at poiresauchocolat - a blog filled with incredible photography, and really mouthwatering recipes & descriptions.  Puts my photos to shame.  And right now, over at Sacla's website, you can enter a competition to win a luxury holiday to Italy (yes please!)

I was provided with the food items detailed free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme, and will not receive reward for their use..

Monday, 2 July 2012

Great Garden Moments!

I know, there's not much summer happening out there at the moment.  But dodging the rainshowers, freak hail storms and the crisp packets that appear over our fence from next door (I'm watching you!), there's nothing better than getting outside for a bit of fresh air in your own space.

Really, I'd hoped this post was going to be about Squeaky & I enjoying our new garden in our new house, but the fates seem to have decided that's not going to happen, or not yet anyway.  Never mind.  We still have a yard, we still have fresh air, and we can still have some fun.  You don't need a manicured lawn, or beautiful borders to enjoy the garden, especially when you're a toddler.  That's what I love the most about my garden, grey as it is, the fun Squeaky has with nothing more than her imagination!

Remember back in March, we had a week of really nice weather?  Cast your mind back.  Think about those few days when you put on your cropped jeans & left your coat at home.  Well, we made the most of them.  Squeaky chose her own outfit, and headed out into the back yard to get on with some much needed yard work.  Honestly.  I put the kettle on, and when I looked back, this is what I saw!

That's right, a cotton shirt dress, sequinned leggings, snowboots, gloves and a bobble hat.  And once I'd recovered from my fit of giggles long enough to get the camera, this happened.

Do you think she's trying to tell me something?  Now, if only I could get her to use the hoover as well!

This post is my (very last minute) entry to the great garden moments competition with Furniture Village.