11-04-2014

Making homemade Easter eggs

making homemade easter eggs

We’re into the preschool Easter holidays now, so my plan was to save this homemade chocolate Easter egg making task for rainy day entertainment – when I struggle most to find fun and engaging things to keep Arlo busy.

But when Sam saw the contents of the box, he declared that he wanted to be involved too. So, it became a family activity, which was just as well in the end as the process is quite delicate and it was useful to have someone else on hand to juggle egg-making with Rory’s needs.

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The goodies were all supplied by Waitrose, who have loads of inspiration on their Easter for children page. It’s obviously been a long while since I had a good peruse down the baking aisle (I tried to make this sound less like a euphemism. I failed.) because there are all sorts of exciting items that I didn’t even know you could buy - We did this in the midst of packing for our holiday, so we just made Arlo’s egg. But had we more time, Sam was eyeing up a butterscotch number, whilst I was intrigued to try out a dark chocolate and rose petal infusion.

No smiles in these photos – chocolate is serious business to Arlo. It was actually a pretty good exercise in patience for this chocolate-fiend. The moulds need a few layers of chocolate, and in between that you have to wait for it to set (we stuck ours in the freezer for around 5 minutes each time).

making homemade easter eggs

 

The first layer of chocolate going into the mould

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Nope. You can’t eat it yet.

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Arlo chose to hide secret milkybar buttons inside his egg

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Dada gave someone a chocolate-covered spoon. (Classic case of second child syndrome – the first bit of chocolate Arlo tried was the tiniest sliver of low-sugar chocolate cake on his first birthday. And then nothing until he was almost two)

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Nope. You can’t eat it yet. I need to take a photo. 

Once his egg was ready and decorated, Arlo wasted no time tucking in. You can see a video of the grand egg-breaking moment on my Instagram.

If you are going to have a crack at making chocolate eggs at home, my ‘top tip’ would be to make sure you layer the chocolate lots towards the edges so they are thick enough for a good join – we neglected this bit on our first attempt. If you have several children who all want to make eggs at once, buy more than one mould so that you don’t have to make your eggs one by one. And be prepared for the constant “Is it ready yet?” line of inquiry ; )

We really enjoyed our chocolate egg-making experience. For various reasons, we don’t often do cooking or baking with Arlo, so it was great to try something a bit different with him. And homemade eggs are definitely a much more personal gift than the aisles upon aisles of generic chocolate eggs at the supermarket. Although those are good too. If anyone wants to buy me chocolate, I’m not fussed. Any chocolate. Chocolate…. (Can you tell where Arlo gets it from?)

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Here is a step by step guide from Waitrose to help you make the perfect homemade Easter eggs:

Ingredients
250g of good quality dark or milk chocolate – remember to save a little extra for decorating

What you’ll need
2 chocolate egg moulds
Flat pastry brush or small paintbrush
Heat proof bowl
Spoon
Pan

Step 1  - Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water in a pan.
Step 2
- Paint a thin layer of chocolate inside the egg moulds, making sure it meets the edges of the mould. Depending on the size of the moulds you may need more chocolate, have plenty on standby!
Step 3 - Chill for 5 minutes or until the chocolate is firm.
Step 4
- Spread another even layer of chocolate over the first layer and let cool for another 5 minutes or until firm.
Step 5 - Gently ease the mould away from the chocolate. Join the chocolate halves together with a little melted chocolate, using a flat pastry brush or small paint brush – That’s it! Well done, you have made your very own Easter egg!

Decorating tips:
Melt a little extra chocolate and use this to stick on chocolate buttons and small light sweets that won’t fall off like marshmallows or sugar-coated jellies

Using icing piping to draw on simple Easter shapes such as chicks, rabbits and lambs to give your egg a fun farm theme

Personalise your egg by writing the recipient’s name in icing piping and use decorative sweets that represent their personality

Why not turn you egg into a person or an animal?  For example use sweets and chocolates for eyes and fur. For an Easter afternoon activity, make an egg that resembles a family member

Dip your finished egg in melted chocolate and roll in hundreds and thousands or popping candy for a textured knobbly effect

Why not try white chocolate to make your Easter egg

Before sealing the two halves, hide an Easter treat inside? Maybe some small sweets, a surprise Easter toy or just a note to say Happy Easter!

For a more indulgent egg why not add to the melted chocolate when you’re still preparing the egg, try butterscotch chunks or honeycomb pieces for a real treat!

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Our ingredients were provided by Waitrose for the purpose of this blog post. 

10-04-2014

Siblings in April

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This is the photo I was going to pick for April’s Siblings project.

Rory dotes on his older brother. When he laughs, Rory laughs. And when he cries, Rory will no doubt follow suit. At first, his forehead furrows and his expression turns from smiley to a quizzical  as he studies his brother’s sobbing face. Then, the panic sets in in his eyes, and his bottom lip starts a slow and steady tremble that signals the crescendo of wailing – a sympathy cry for his brother.  If you happen to be passing us as this occurs, you might wonder why Sam and I are grinning like loons at our two red and sobbing children. But it’s incredibly endearing.

That is the photo I wanted to pick. Because it tells the most about Arlo and Rory’s relationship. But  I also couldn’t resist sneaking in a few more …we’ve been busy behind the camera this past month.

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Now, I’m not sure that she needs any introduction, but just in case anyone is living under a blogging rock, it is now my pleasure to direct you on to the awesome Mammasaurus, and her blog full of pretty things.



 

 

08-04-2014

120 days of Baby Led Weaning – A video

baby led weaning

Our experience weaning Rory has been super easy. It took a long time for my head to get back into ‘weaning baby mode’. Rory didn’t try any food until he was almost 7 months old. We then took a big break over Christmas whilst we were staying away from home –  I just couldn’t be bothered to think about it. By the time we started up again in late December, Rory was attacking the food in front of him with real enthusiasm. It turns out that ‘weaning baby’ mode is no different to ‘usual baby mode’, especially if it involves little thinking or extra preparation as the baby is eating the same foods as you (Arlo had been on a restricted diet as a baby due to food intolerances).

Rory is fine with dairy. He does have small amount of eczema, and it did get noticeably worse at the same time we introduced foods, but after a bit of trial and error this seemed to be more to do with skin irritation from the food (tomato-based, in particular) rather than because he is ingesting dairy.

One baby. 120 days of Baby Led Weaning (…or thereabouts).

I haven’t filmed every day, and I quickly gave up on the tripod (so apologies for the shaky-cam effect), but I had to stay true to myself in terms of what I knew I had time to achieve….and setting up that tripod every day whilst the children were clamouring for lunch was the first idea to get the axe.

This video has been four months in the making. I have been regularly filming Rory’s meal times, right from his very first tastes, to now. The result being a collection of clips in one video, to show the sort of meals a baby-led-weaned baby might eat, and how their eating naturally progresses as they hone their skills. (The highchair is a Cosatto 3Sixti, read what we think about it here).

Of course, every baby is different (I can see that just from Arlo and Rory’s different eating habits), and Rory’s video is an example of just one baby – but considering I had no clue  about what a baby could eat before I started weaning Arlo, I thought it could be useful viewing for parents about to embark on the weaning journey.

And for me, it’s a sweet documentation of Rory’s growth over the past four months.

(If you are reading in RSS you may have to click through to the blog to see the video)

 

06-04-2014

A Britax B-Motion 3 as a London pushchair – our review

britax b-motion 3

As part of my role as a Britax Mumbassador, we’ve been testing out the Britax B-Motion 3 pushchair for the past few months, here’s what we think.

Things I love:

The seat is large, and there’s lots of space under the hood. This is a seat that both my boys can use easily – the three year old and the eight month old (now ten month old!) – this versatility suits my growing family very well at this point in time.

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It works with Britax infant car seats, making the B-Motion a viable travel system option from birth onwards – this means that it’s much less bulky and much faster to put up/fold down than my existing travel system, the only consideration for me is the forward facing seat, as ideally I prefer to have my very young baby facing me.

There is a very roomy and easily accessible basket. As well as the generous basket, there’s a huge pocket on the fabric on the back of the buggy which is really handy for all the bits you like to have quick to hand, and works very well as a ‘parent pocket’ – for money, phones, beakers, travelcards, cameras, etc.

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On this particular outing, we had my rucksack/changing bag, lunchbag, raincover, and snoozeshade all fitting easily into the basket.

It’s really nice to push. It feels light and easy. The first time we took the B-Motion out, I kept saying to Sam how nice it was to push. It was a real surprise as, to me, it doesn’t particularly look like the niftiest of buggies. The big wheels worked great in the park, providing a really smooth ride. This is a worthy off-road option.

I have mentioned in the past that I prefer four wheel pushchairs to three wheel pushchairs, however the B-Motion is a really sturdy buggy, even when ‘off-roading’ – it doesn’t seem to matter that it is a three-wheeler, I don’t notice a difference. There is also a four wheel version available, the Britax B-Motion 4.

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Arlo – an average 3.5 year old – in the B-Motion 3,  with plenty of room left under the hood. The b-motion will definitely see your child through until they no longer need a pushchair.

Things I don’t like so much:

I don’t particularly like the backrest adjust mechanism. It seems fiddly at first, and I still haven’t managed to adjust the seat position smoothly. Sam gets on better with it, so maybe it’s just me. It’s different to any other backrest adjust I’ve used. But I like that it means you can adjust the back to any recline you like rather than be stuck with three settings, none of which might be ideal for your child.

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I don’t think the B-Motion would work well with a buggy board. There is no room for a standing child to fit between the handle and the seat, they would have to stand in front of the handle, meaning the adult would be too far away from the handle and would have to stoop to push. As our current buggy needs are buggy plus buggy board, this affects my decision to use the B-Motion on a regular basis, but it is great as an occasional-use pushchair, when I know Arlo will be on his bike or walking the whole way.

On one hand – this could be a really good buggy for public transport, as it has the mega easy one-handed fold, and the fold is compact. On the other hand, unfolded it’s not as compact as a Maclaren so not the best for squeezing into the buggy park on buses, etc.

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Sam’s opinion (I’ve left this in his own words):

“Smooth enough steer. Like the fact the seat can be lowered into any angle, and smoothly too. Means if you had a kid in there that was fast asleep you don’t have that drop to the flat setting you can just lower it to where you want. Likewise, the option to have the hood at all different angles, with the mesh zip panel bit, are all nice options.”

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“Quite wide when collapsed, I had to take a wheel off to get it in the boot. This might just be because Arlo’s bike was in the way - I can confirm that it was because the buggy had been awkwardly placed in the boot with Arlo’s bike. I have since been able to fit the B-Motion with wheels attached into the boot of our Ford Focus (and Arlo’s bike too. Hah.)

“A lot of velcro connections for the material, Could get tattier and less sticky with frequent use.”

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The Britax B-Motion in the back of our Ford Focus (excuse the other junk – confusingly, the bumper bar is from another pushchair and wasn’t being used with the B-Motion). I was particularly impressed with how much space was left in the boot. Our travel sytem takes up every inch of available space in the boot.

If your terrain is mainly towns and cities, the B-motion will provide a smoother ride, but you may find that a smaller, umbrella-fold pushchair would fair better on public transport and in shops with tight spaces, etc. If you need a really roomy pushchair that will last your child until past three years of age, handles well off-road, and folds down compactly for small car boots, the Britax B-Motion is one to strongly consider.

The factors involved in choosing the right pushchair will be different for everyone. Personally, we have been using the B-Motion for park trips and for trips out of London where we know there will be rougher terrain. When going into the city, we have hesitated in using the B-motion, opting for the safer public transport bet of our Maclaren, but I always miss the smoother ride and ease of pushing that the B-Motion offers over an umbrella-fold pushchair.

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britax b-motion 3

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Disclosure: We were provided with a Britax B-Motion 3 for review purposes.

04-04-2014

True Detective – Last month’s TV

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Trying out a new thing, because I write a lot about TV and never publish it. Spoiler warning: This is only for people who have seen the whole thing, or don’t care about spoilers.

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True Detective gave us the eery, bleak landscape of Louisiana depicted in drawn out, silent shots. The brooding nihilist VS the hardened misogynist. An instantly intriguing flip between past and present timelines. Stories within stories within stories.

The build up to the finale of True Detective was one of the longest ever, as we watched the first half at quite a fast pace, caught up with America, and then had to break for two weeks right at the end, amidst lots of people alluding to things on Twitter, because the last episode aired during the start of Sam’s work trip, and I had to wait for Sam to get back before we could watch it.

Anyway, straight down to the important parts. Rustin Cohle, played by Matthew McConnaughey. I spent the first few episodes thinking “Definitely not”. Then “Actually, quite fancy him”, back to “Nope. Definitely can’t cope with moustaches”. It was really quite confusing.

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True detective doesn’t particularly portray women in a good light. But I don’t see that as it’s objective. Female characters are little more than plot devices. This is a show about men. About two men specifically, and their journeys.

Apparently a lot of people were disappointed that the show didn’t tie up all the loose ends of the case. Neither Sam or I felt like that, but then, neither of us are particularly into the detective/crime genre, so we weren’t searching for tiny details in every scene, we were more interested to see where the character development was going. The things we discussed at the end of each episode were the characters actions and reactions, and their world views. Writer, Nic Pizzolato, had warned that we wouldn’t see a traditional ‘whodunit’ ending. There would be no tricks or fancy twists. True Detective is first and foremost a character study.

Whether intended or not, there have been some interesting parallels between viewers and narrative. By some accounts, Reddit went a bit crazy dissecting every bit of murder case evidence, searching for symbolism and meaning – Theorising who or what the Yellow King was – incident the ‘king in yellow‘ was revealed to have originally been a story about a story that drives people to madness when they read it.

The series ends up with Rust – our obsessive nihilist – attaching some sense of meaning to life – is it a human affliction that we seek meaning? Just as viewers needed more clarification about the murder case?

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After the final episode aired, some criticised a sophisticated screenplay’s demise into a simplistic light VS dark” conclusion. But for a writer who intentionally set out to deeply entrench ‘stories’ as a central narrative theme, what could be more fitting than a retelling of the most classic thematic device of all – light VS dark, good VS bad?

The ending surprised me. I thought one or both men would die. I thought Rust wanted to die. I expected him to wake devastated that he wasn’t dead. His near-death enlightenment, his newfound willingness to consider that there perhaps is life after death, or more to life than he had convinced himself, SHOULD have been mega-cheesy. WHY did I not find it cheesy?? (Sam did, but then Sam didn’t think Rust seemed particularly optimistic at the end). All I can think is that it’s a testament to good acting – Matthew McConaughey does a brilliant job with such a challenging turnaround  - Rust’s converting to optimism.

And yes, there was an odd sense of Marty and Rust as a bit of a comedy odd couple/bromance that didn’t quite fit with anything we’d seen in previous episodes. But I found the last scenes pretty touching. His daughter had shaped the landscape of the case from the start - her birthday on day one of the case, to the conclusion and Rust’s near-death perception of her. Now there was hope where there had only been loss and bleakness.

As Marty said “We can’t get them all, but we got our guy” – in this particular case, a study of two men and the events that shape their life, light wins the battle that we assumed had long been lost to dark. The real twist was the note of hope we were left with right at the end.

True Detective didn’t “wow” me whilst watching it. But I found my thoughts kept returning to it long after we finished watching.

The miniseries – a great opportunity to carve out a strong, evocative mood and sustain it in equal measure throughout a small number of episodes. A neat little package with a distinct pace. A standalone, statement piece of drama. Two vividly drawn main characters. A Bildungsroman of sorts. The whole thing worked very well, and has stayed in my mind.