Weeks Eats {7.5.17}

So my diet went completely out of the window for the early part of this week.

I did start with good intentions. I made some really tasty and healthy banana flapjacks. I love this recipe because while so many healthy flapjacks I’ve made are dry and bland, these are moist and delicious!

Banana Flapjacks

Ingredients

90g low fat butter spread

2tbsp honey

2 bananas

60g sultanas

240g oats

1tsp cinnamon

Method

Grease a square cake tin, around 20cmx20cm. Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

Melt the butter spread and honey together in a saucepan.

Mash the bananas thoroughly with a fork. Add the oats, cinnamon and sultanas & mix.

Add the melted honey & butter spread. Mix thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin. Gently push into the corners and flatten so that the mixture fills the tin evenly.

Bake for around 25 minutes, until golden. They will still be a bit squidgy but they’ll firm up as they cool so don’t panic!

Leave to cool a bit for around 15-20 minutes. Then slice into 12 flapjacks and carefully remove from the tin.

These are delicious warm but they can be kept in an airtight container for about 3 days.

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Then it was Bank Holiday Monday. We had a family day out, starting with breakfast at McDonalds (shock horror) then seeing Boss Baby at the cinema (obviously involving a large bucket of popcorn) then a nice walk around town. On getting home, knackered, we quickly decided on ordering Chinese takeaway for dinner. Oh dear!

On Tuesday Husband and I had a day off together to celebrate our wedding anniversary. So we went for brunch at Ed’s Easy Diner then another cinema trip to see Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2. I might have skipped on movie snacks but that brunch was epic and packed with calories – I don’t even want to think about how many. Although as it was our anniversary, I’m not going to feel guilty about treating myself!

breakfast

I’ve managed to rein things in a little later in the week. Yesterday I made a cous cous and chickpea salad that will last me 3 lunches. Meal prepping definitely helps keep me on track when dieting as there’s healthy food all ready and waiting in the fridge so I’m less likely to be tempted by unhealthy stuff.

Chickpea & Cous Cous Salad

Ingredients

150g cous cous (uncooked)

40g raisins

300ml chicken or vegetable stock

2tbsp vegetable or olive oil

2tbsp lemon juice

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp ground coriander

1/2tsp ground ginger

1 carrot, grated

1 tin chickpeas, drained & rinsed

Method

Put the cous cous and raisins in a bowl. Heat the stock (or use while still hot after making it), then pour it over the cous cous and raisins. Leave for around 8 mins or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Use a fork to mix up the cous cous.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, cumin, coriander and ginger. Add this and, the chickpeas and the grated carrot to the cous cous mixture.

And that’s it! This will make 2 whole lunches or 4 lunches if you add some veggies (I had mine with steamed broccoli).

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What do you eat to treat yourself? How do you stick to healthy eating?

 

 

Lush Bath Bomb Review

I generally shower rather than take a bath – mostly due to lack of time. However, I do love a bath. So relaxing and it’s always good to take some time for yourself. And what’s better than a bath? A bath with a lovely Lush bath bomb, of course!

We recently visited the new Lush Cardiff store. There’s also a new spa there, which I really hope I get to try out in the not too distant future! For now, we picked up some bath bombs.

A groovy looking set called ‘Great Balls of Bicarb’, which included the Avobath, Blackberry, Honey Bee, Dragon’s Egg and Sex Bomb. We also picked up a Lava Lamp bath bomb seperately.

Here’s my vlog review of the Lava Lamp, Dragon’s Egg & Honey Bee:

My favourite out of these three was the Lava Lamp, followed closely by the Dragon Egg. Both had gorgeous scents and created wonderful baths. The Honey Bee smelled good but the combination of bright yellow water and brown splodges of mud did not look very appealing to step into, plus it left a yellow oily residue around the edge of the bathtub which was a real pain to clean off – not really the relaxing experience I was looking for!

I’m looking forward to trying out the bath bombs in our set and I shall probably make another vlog for them too!

What’s your favourite Lush bath bomb?

Note: I was not asked nor paid to review these bath bombs.

Let’s Talk About PANTS

The PANTS rule was created by the NSPCC as a way to talk to your child about being in control of their bodies and keeping their private bits private. It’s a way of preventing abuse without having to talk about abuse specifically.

P stands for Privates are Private. This is about teaching children that their pants cover up their private bits. Those are the bits that aren’t for other people to see, unless it’s a parent or medical professional and then they should explain why and ask the child for permission first.

A stands for Always Remember Your Body Belongs To You. A vitally important message and one that really needs to be taught from a young age. Children should not be made to do something with their bodies that makes them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

N stands for No means No. Even if it’s a trusted family member asking for a hug, a child has the right to say no and it’s our job to teach them that. And if they say no, their choice should be respected, not treated like a bad thing.

T stands for Talk About Secrets That Upset You. Children should feel that if someone tells them a secret they feel uncomfortable with, they can tell another grown up they trust. Two of our key values as a family are honesty and being open with each other. If it’s something like a birthday surprise, then we say it’s a ‘Good secret’, to make clear that it’s not something bad that’s being hidden.

S stands for Speak Up, Someone Can Help. This is about making sure a child knows they have a range of people to speak to if someone does something to make them feel scared or uncomfortable. Again, this is about making sure there’s open discussion and that any problem or worry can be talked about and wherever possible, we’re here to help.

The NSPCC have also created a fun character – Pantosaurus – complete with his song about PANTS. This makes the whole message that bit more child friendly and hopefully memorable too!

I cannot overstate how importantly I view this conversation. It’ll take a bit of time and maybe there’ll be some awkward questions but you’re keeping your child safe. I know it’s not something we want to think about but child abuse does happen. I think many people have some stereotype in mind of the kind of family abuse occurs in but this is simply false.

If you read my last ‘Let’s Talk About…’ post, you’ll know that I’m a survivor of child abuse myself. I can tell you that from my personal experience, if I had been told the PANTS rule, I might have told someone right when the abuse began, before the serious damage had been done. Instead I just felt scared and confused, convinced to hide what was happening. I, and many other people like me, could have been saved from a horrific childhood, as well as a lifetime of consequences to deal with.

Please have this conversation with your child today.

Thanks for reading.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Mental health has been in the news quite a bit recently, with the Heads Together campaign by the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge and Price Harry.

I listened to Prince Harry’s frank conversation about his mental health with Bryony Gordon on her Mad World Podcast. It was inspirational and deeply moving. This is exactly what’s needed for the stigma of mental illness to end: people talking about it openly.

I’ve been fairly open about my own mental health issues. I suffer from PTSD, caused by childhood abuse. This causes anxiety, depression and panic attacks. I cope with this much more effectively than I used to. I spent pretty much all of my teenage years trying to hide everything I was feeling. When I realised that this coping technique wasn’t going to work long term, I had to face everything that had happened to me. I became very introverted, I spent most of my time at home alone for a couple of years. Even when I had my daughter, I’d force myself to take her to play groups only to sit in the corner and hope that nobody would try and approach me.

Moving to Cardiff was a big turning point. I tried making friends for the first time since high school. But I still needed help. I went to my GP, was prescribed anti depressants and put on a waiting list for counselling. The medication did help. The counselling was better, even if I did have to wait a whole year for it and even then only got six sessions. My counsellor suggested lots of books I could read. Books about other abuse survivors and how they cope with PTSD. I also read up on why people abuse, which was difficult but did help me realise that it was nothing to do with me and everything to do with my abuser’s issues. Late last year, I stopped taking medication (which was very difficult). These days, I still have bad days (and the odd bad week or even fortnight) but I’m better equipped to deal with it now.

Talking does help. Husband was the first person I confided in about the abuse. He was, simply put, brilliant. But talking to a professional was important too. We need to encourage people to seek help for mental health in the same way as we all would for any physical illness. With 1 in 4 adults suffering mental illness of some kind during their lives, we need to stop viewing this as a weakness or abnormality.

I’ve taken this into consideration in how I talk to my daughter and encourage her to talk to me. She knows it’s okay to say that she’s not okay. She knows that if she has any problems, little or big, she can talk to me and/or her Dad. Even if she’s done something wrong, it’s always better to talk about it than try to hide it.

As adults, we might think that children’s problems can’t be nearly as big or important as our own but we need to remember that what might look quite insignificant to us can be overwhelming for a child. We need to at least attempt to see it from their perspective.

I still struggle with how to discuss my own mental health with my daughter. She knows very little detail about my life before she was born. She asks questions that I don’t know how to answer. I want to set a good example of being open and honest about feelings but I know my issues are just far too complicated for her to understand, even aside from her being too young to be burdened with such things. It’s that tricky balancing act of protecting children while also introducing them to the real world and properly equipping them to live in it.

How have you approached the subject of mental health with your children? Have you suffered mental illness and, if so, how have you coped with it as a parent?

Weeks Eats {24.4.17}

We had some more gorgeous weather in Cardiff for the second week of Easter holidays. It’s at this time of year that I love to dig out our picnic bag and head to the park!

On Tuesday, we went to Cefn Onn Park to meet some friends for a picnic. Here’s what we packed….

These picnic recipes are really simple but perfect for sunny weather. Just make sure you pop an ice pack in your bag to keep everything cool!

As my daughter usually goes to her school breakfast club during term time, I like to put a bit more effort into breakfasts during the holidays. We get more time to make it together and relax while we eat and chat about what we’re getting up to that day. However, holidays are still busy and the time is precious! So to make these special breakfasts quicker and simpler, I’ve been using packs of frozen fruit. Cheaper than fresh and providing a supply of fruit that won’t suddenly spoil, I love this idea and I’d definitely recommend it to all! Here are a couple of breakfast ideas that I’ve used with frozen fruit.

Crumpets with fruit, yoghurt and honey

I got this idea from the Hairy Bikers diet series. You simply heat up a mix of frozen berries with some honey in a saucepan. Once they’re entirely defrosted and nicely warm, spoon the mixture onto two toasted crumpets, then add a dollop of greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey on top. Simple yet delicious!

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Oat Pancakes

Ingredients: 

100g oats

1tsp baking powder

1.5tsp cinnamon

100ml milk

1 egg

1tsp vanilla extract

Vegetable oil, or whichever oil you prefer, for cooking

Frozen fruit (we went with mango)

Method: 

Warm the frozen fruit in a saucepan (or you could use the microwave)

Meanwhile, put the oats in a blender (check that yours is suitable for the job, not all are) and turn them into flour (If you can’t do this, you can buy oat flour instead). Add cinnamon and baking powder.

Whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly. Add a little milk if it thickens too much. Warning: this mixture does thicken as it stands.

Heat some oil in a pan, then add the batter to make small pancakes. You should get about 6 altogether and if you’ve got a large frying pan, you should be able to cook 2 or 3 at a time. Cook for about 2 minutes before flipping over then cook for another minute or so, both sides should be a lovely golden colour.

Serve with your warm fruit and a dollop of yoghurt, if you wish. Of course, you could try whatever toppings you fancy!

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The next edition of The Weeks Eats will be all about simple family dinners. If you have a recipe you’d like me to feature, do get in touch!

Let’s Talk About Religion

Another tricky subject to discuss today: religion.

I’ve had a tricky relationship with religion personally. I was raised Christian until about age 9 when my parents seemed to give up on the whole thing (I’m not sure why, they never really spoke to me about it). I was then what I’d probably describe as agnostic through my teens. In early adulthood, I briefly became religious again but then realised that hadn’t been because I really believed in it, it was because I felt isolated and depressed and wanted to belong to something (not good reasons for belonging to a religion, I now admit). These days, I’m an atheist.

From when she attended nursery at a Catholic Primary School, to going on trips to Church with her current school and being friends with children of a range of different religions and beliefs, my daughter has always been full of questions about religion. While I give her the facts where they’re available, with this subject I try to help her reach her own conclusions. We’ve always said that if she wanted to follow a religion, we’d support that but from a pretty young age, she came to the conclusion that she didn’t believe in God. She does enjoy some Bible stories (although she’s found some pretty disturbing). At her school, there are children of different religions and she’s learnt a great deal about them (something I am very much in favour of).

Recently at Easter, as well as at previous Easters, I had to answer some rather difficult questions. She wanted to know how rabbits and chocolate eggs are connected with the story of Jesus. I told her they’re not really. The way Easter is celebrated in UK is very much a mixture of different traditions, stemming from different beliefs. Celebrating new life in Spring is an extremely old concept, much older than Christianity. I also told her that while Christians are celebrating Easter, Jews are celebrating Passover. We didn’t go into much detail with that but I’ve made a little note to maybe learn more about it next year. I have noticed that while she’s learnt a lot about Christianity plus a bit about Islam and Hinduism as school, she’s learnt pretty much nothing at all about Judaism, Buddhism or Sikhism. The concept of atheism hasn’t been mentioned at all and was met with confusion from her classmates when she told them she’s an atheist.

I will make clear now that I like my daughter’s school. We researched it, it was our first choice and we were happy when she got a place. For the most part, she’s been happy there and she’s making excellent progress in her education there. I like that she’s socialising with people of various backgrounds and faiths.

However, I have an issue with how non-faith schools in the UK are required to promote Christianity. I do not agree that ‘daily collective worship’ of a ‘broadly Christian character’ should be a part of the school day. I am uncomfortable with my child, either in school or on trips to churches, being told about Christian beliefs as fact. It is my opinion that education in school should be secular in nature. This isn’t just because I do not share these beliefs. This is because I feel children are not mature enough to think critically and form their own opinions, especially when their teachers (who they should be able to trust to give them facts) are actively promoting religious beliefs. From my experience as a parent, my child has regularly felt isolated and uncomfortable when told to take part in Christian worship in school. I did not ask her if she felt this way, she volunteered the information when I asked her why she was upset on coming home from school on several occasions. Logically, I can only think that she won’t be the only one.

Learning about religion is important. It helps us to understand and respect other people. It gives us a wider perspective of the world and helps us to see things from different points of view.

Celebrating traditional British holidays is also important, as well as enjoyable. As with Easter, people have been celebrating the Winter Solstice for far longer than Christianity has been around and a lot of the celebration of Christmas in UK reflects that. We’re not Christian but we celebrate Christmas, as do many other atheists and non-Christians. It’s a part of our national culture. Nativity plays are a great way of teaching children a key part of Christian belief. It’s also a story that children enjoy. Therefore, I see no problem with it. Certainly in my daughter’s school, they also put on celebrations for other religious holidays, such as Divali and Eid. I see that as a fun way to learn and again, see no problem with it.

If you want your child to have religious worship be a part of their school day, there are plenty of faith schools, covering different denominations of Christianity, as well as Islam and Judaism. You have that option. I, on the other hand, have no option at all to send my child to school where religious worship does not feature. I have friends who have given this as one of their reasons for home schooling their child. I considered it myself, although we instead decided on sending her to school but making sure she can form her own opinions and think critically about what she’s told – an important skill in all aspects of education.

I end this post by making something very clear. I have no issue with other people having religious beliefs. If a parent wishes to have their child follow a religion, that’s their choice and I respect that. However, I should have the choice to send my child to a genuinely non-religious school. While it’s a requirement for UK schools to have collective daily worship, that is not a choice I have.