Beanies Coffee – A Review

A while back, we were sent a selection of items by Beanies Coffee to taste-test and review. For those of you who haven’t heard of Beanies, the company makes flavoured coffee, both roast ground and instant, in a wide selection of flavours. I opted for Cherry flavour and Maple Syrup flavour in the roast ground, and Amaretto Almond in the instant.

I would definitely class myself as a coffee drinker; I drink instant at home at least twice a day, and usually have a latte somewhere if I leave the house, plus Husband and I stick the pot on for a “proper” cup of coffee a few times a week, too. I also have a personal filter coffee machine which makes a thermally insulated flask of coffee for one person which I often take with me when I’m out and about. See – definitely coffee people!

I was worried at first that the sweet flavours of Beanies coffee meant that they had added sugar; being a diabetic means I have to avoid excess sugar, but I needn’t have worried. Beanies sweetness is explained on the website’s FAQ:

Your sensory cells for taste and aroma respond to the sweetness of the flavours and although they contain no derivatives such as dextrose, fructose, lactose or syrups the receptors tell the brain that the product must surely contain sugar. Therefore when you taste our coffee you in fact smell the familiar flavour notes and your brain is automatically tricked into thinking the drink is sweet. Clever eh!

Each of the three flavours I tried were very authentic – the cherry really tasted of cherries, while the maple syrup and amaretto versions definitely tasted of maple syrup and amaretto! All three flavours smelled amazing, too. It was almost worth brewing a pot just for the amazing aroma that permeated around the house! 

I have to admit, none were sweet enough for me, despite the Beanies claim that you shouldn’t need to add sugar or sweetener, but then I do have my coffee pretty sweet on a day-to-day basis, adding two sweeteners to a normal mug, so it may well be sufficient for someone who doesn’t like their coffee as sweet as me.

All in all, I was really impressed. I’m not sure that flavoured coffee could replace every mug for me, across the day, but it definitely makes a lovely mid-morning treat and I could happily see myself tempting a guest to try something flavoured rather than our usual brew!

If you want more info on Beanies, head to their website, or take a look at their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages.

Do We Expect Too Much From Our Kids?

As parents, there’s definitely a certain amount of “do as I say, not as I do” that we get away with on a daily basis, and it’s a natural part of child rearing, to an extent. However, there are certain things that I’ve observed other people saying to their kids that absolutely baffle me. Obviously, I’m not advocating letting your children behave badly, but sometimes I think adults really do expect too much from their kids. More, in fact, than they’re even prepared to do themselves. Here’s just five of them.

1. Cheer Up

As adults, we aren’t expected to be permanently cheery and it’s accepted that everyone has a bad day. But for some reason, when it comes to kids, we expect them to be constantly cheerful. I even hear people say to their kids “what have you got to be unhappy about?”. Sure, kids don’t have the stress of work or a mortgage on their plate, but they do have the stresses of learning and developing socially, as well as getting their little brains around day-to-day life. Everyone is entitled to an off-day, regardless of their age.

2. Stop Showing Off

It’s human nature to feed off of the rewarding feeling of other people’s praise or laughter. Kids will often exhibit behaviour that adults perceive as negative or “showing off”, but they’re simply soaking up the feedback they’re getting for their behaviour. As an adult, I guarantee YOU show off at times too, but you don’t have a larger adult around to belittle you for your behaviour. Everyone likes feedback. Full stop.

3. Be Nice

Kids are expected to be sweet and kind all the livelong day, and don’t get me wrong, these are great traits to instill in your babies, but are YOU nice all the time? Do you ever ring your bestie or your Mum to have a bitch about someone? Do you ever give major side-eye to the Mum in the school playground who’s dressed wildly inappropriately for the school run? If so, that’s YOU not being nice, and if you can’t do it, why should your child? Being unkind may not be a desirable trait but it is human nature.

4. Give Them a Cuddle

There was a fair bit of controversy around the article in The Guardian which said we shouldn’t be forcing our kids to hug grandparents, but I have to agree. As adults, if we don’t want to hug, kiss or shake hands with someone, we simply don’t; we’re afforded the agency over our own bodies and personal space to say no. Kids should also be afforded this right. If they don’t feel like being affectionate, we shouldn’t be forcing them to.

5. Eat What’s On Your Plate

I’m a firm believer that, if they like what is on their plate, kids will eat as much as they need and then stop. I know this doesn’t cover kids with food issues or extreme fussiness, but if a child has a good relationship with food, we should be allowing them to dictate when they’re full, rather than forcing them to overeat. Ultimately, this will ruin a child’s own sense of when they are full and lead to a poor relationship with food as an adult.

Do you have any more to add? Leave me a comment below.

Personal Responsibility

RibenaI’m guessing by now that everyone has heard about Tesco banning Ribena and several other products from its shelves? In fact Ribena is just one brand that the store has axed, also choosing to shun brands such as Capri-Sun, claiming that both are contributors to the childhood obesity epidemic. According to the newspapers, health campaigners are lauding the supermarket chain for its decision and is urging other retailers to follow suit.

Am I the only person who thinks this is absolutely BONKERS?

What happened to parental responsibility? Should it not be down to the parents of these obese children to say “No”, when they try to pour litres of sugary drinks down their necks? Should we not be teaching our children moderation, rather than an outright ban?

Let’s look at other things that Tesco sell – seriously; take a stroll down the confectionery aisle and browse the HUNDREDS of other products which have high fructose corn syrup as their main ingredient. Why is Ribena worse than ANY of these? In fact, let’s go one step further – what about the tobacco kiosk or alcohol aisle? Do we need to eradicate these, lest irresponsible parents allow their kids to drink or smoke? Or, do we rely on the fact that there are people out there with an IOTA of common sense?

The fact that Tesco has chosen to be so specific about one particular product smacks of outside lobbying; someone, somewhere, within a very wealthy company has told Tesco that they’ll make it worth their while if they drop certain brands. How long will it be before we’re bombarded with adverts about some amazing new brand of sugar-free drinks that are ONLY available from Tesco? Something, as they say, is rotting in Denmark.

The fact that Tesco has taken it upon itself to supposedly tackle childhood obesity seems like an overly grandiose gesture to me. Who the hell asked them to make themselves The Juice Police? Especially when they continue to sell other items high in sugar, alongside processed meat, high fat convenience food, confectionary, alcohol and tobacco? In fact, isn’t it Tesco which has a franchise option with KRISPY KREME DONUTS? Excuse the caps, but I’m getting incredulous.

The absolute, glaring hypocrisy of Tesco for pretending to be the shining light in the fight against childhood obesity makes me sick to my stomach and I think it’s a seriously sad measure of modern society when we ban things rather than allow people to moderate themselves or display any sort of personal responsibility. When the litigious culture which prevails in The United States started to creep over here to the UK, anyone with any sense knew that it would lead to bad things, and here we are, in 2015, banning sugary drinks. Is the move so that Tesco can’t be named in lawsuits by parents looking to make a buck off of their wildly unhealthy child?

Am I looking at this all wrong? Should we be applauding Tesco for its responsible action? Or are you with me in thinking that this is a bullshit move and that there’s probably more to it than meets the eye?

Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I Used to Hate Myself…

I used to hate myself.

I hated my annoyingly-too-large hands…until I realised that they were the hands my daughter reached for when she was nervous.

I hated my tummy, covered in stretchmarks and seemingly permanently distended…until I realised it had provided a safe place for my babies to grow.

I hated my ears…until I realised that BB has held onto my ear to comfort herself since she was tiny.

I hated my arms…until I realised that they were the arms which had held on to Sausage and BB for thousands of hours, never letting go.

I hated my smile…until I realised that my girls are what make me smile, a natural reaction to their wonderful personalities.

I hated my hips…until I realised they were where my daughters have sat whilst being carried around when little legs were too tired to walk any longer.

I hated my eyes…until I realised they were what allowed me to watch my babies develop and grow.

I hated hearing my voice on video…until I realised that was the voice which had read stories, sung songs and whispered comfort to both girls for the past 7 years.

I hated so many things about myself. Until I realised that my babies loved those things about me, and if they could love them, all of my perceived flaws, then maybe I’m not too bad after all. I hope that other parents can take a moment to see themselves through the eyes of their babies and realise that, once you strip away all of the self-criticism, there’s someone in the world who thinks you’re pretty perfect.

Ideas for Rainy Days

rainy dayI am so happy to be able to FINALLY say that the holidays have begun! Sausage has had an amazing year at school, thanks to her own hard work and her fabulous year 2 teacher but now we’re looking forward to 6 and a bit weeks of fun, relaxation and adventures. We’ve got a whole bunch of things planned for the break, such as trips to the park and the beach, weather permitting! Often, though, it’s rainy days which can be the toughest to fill, so we thought we’d give you a few suggestions of what to do on days when outdoor fun is out of the question.

1. Online Games

Sausage is the owner of several electronic devices, such as an iPad and a laptop, and although we like to limit the amount of screen time she has, the holidays seems like a good time to allow her a little extra. She’s very excited about going to see Inside Out and these games give her a great little preview of what to expect.

2. Den Building

If there’s one thing my girls love, it’s building a den. Even something as simple as hanging a large sheet over two dining chairs creates a precious little space that they can retreat into to pretend they’re in a cave or a spaceship. BB may not be quite as conscious of what is happening but that doesn’t stop her having a whale of a time with her big sis!

3. Cinema

Going to the movies is a classic rainy-day activity and there are some great kids films in theatres at the moment, including the Minions movie and Inside Out. There are lots of deals for cheap cinema tickets if you look for them, and taking your own sweets and drinks (frowned upon in some cinemas but by no means illegal!) will help save the pennies.

4. Take a Bath

Okay, so taking a bath might seem like a chore to a lot of kids, but that usually because they’re short and punctuated by a lot of washing! Sausage loves nothing more than being given the time to sit in a nice warm bath, playing with her toys, making potions from shampoo and pretending she’s a mermaid. It costs nothing and will easily pass an hour when the weather is grim.

5. Mummy Makeover

This one is only for the brave! Sausage is at that stage where she likes to play at being a grown up, and while we’d NEVER allow her out of the house in make-up, letting her experiment at home is fairly harmless. I’ll let her use my make-up, or sometimes do it for her…but the really brave part is when I let her put make-up on ME! I’ve been given some very interesting looks in the past but it amuses Sausage no end.

Making ‘Back to School’ Less Stressful #tipsandtricks

walk to schoolAs we approach the summer holidays, I can feel the stress of the year melting away; we’ve had a good year, all in all, but with SATs and homework and school runs and everything else in between, it’s definitely time for a break. We’ve got a lot of plans for the holidays and are lucky enough to live in a coastal town, so lots of trips to the beach are in order, as well as having both Husband and Sausage’s birthdays to look forward to. However, the ‘back to school’ process is never far from our minds and we thought we’d share a few tips for making the whole thing a little easier, in collaboration with Marks and Spencer.

1. Have an Anthem

Sausage and I listen to music together quite a lot and one of the things that helped her to deal with separation anxiety when she was in Reception class was having our own personal anthem. At the time, we drove to school and we listened to our favourite song every single day, singing along and taking her mind off of things in the process. Choose a song as your anthem, the happier the better (ours was “Let Me Love You” by Ne-Yo!) and sing your hearts out on the way each day.

2. Play Games

Sausage and I are masters of the travelling game and have even invented a few of our own. Eye Spy is always a favourite but we sometimes modify it by playing by colour instead of letter. We also play guess who, the alphabet game and the rhyme game: for the alphabet game, choose a theme (Disney characters is a fave of ours) and name one for each letter of the alphabet.

3. Tell Stories

Telling stories is a great way to distract little ones, and getting them involved in the story is even better. Take it in turns to tell part of the story and their minds will be completely away from any potential school related anxiety.

4. Buddy Up

If you know someone else with kids at the same school and happen to walk a compatible route, why not link up and walk together? The kids will inevitably go off into their own little worlds and will distract each other for long enough for the school run to go by in a flash.

5. Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Often, parental anxiety can really rub off on kids and even without saying anything, you can add to their worries. It may seem easier said than done, but try to be as happy and positive as you can in the mornings, don’t mention any negativity and with any luck, your positive outlook will be what influences their mood.

Do you have any fool-proof tips on how to make the mornings a little easier? We’d love to hear all about them.

A Moment in Time

Husband and I are both keen photographers; we don’t tend to carry around huge bags of photography equipment, but we both take photos on our phones almost every single day and also both take our cameras with us on days out, to document our family fun. We also spend time looking at our photos a lot, rather than just consigning them to the archives never to be looked at again. Quite often, once the girls are in bed, we’ll sit at Husband’s PC and look through all of our photos together and think back to times past, when Sausage was little, or even before both girls were born.

Photobox has asked a bunch of bloggers to create a post around “A Moment in Time” (and yes, before you ask, I’ve been singing the Whitney Houston song in my head almost constantly since the email came in!) asking bloggers to share a photo which has captured a magic moment in our lives. I’ve thought long and hard about which photo to share and I think it has to be these ones:

ted

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I don’t share photos on the blog of either of my girls, but the one photo of Sausage ever to make it onto the site is the one above. This is the first time I ever got to hold her without tubes and breathing apparatus in the way, the day that we were told we could take her home in 24 hours, after a week in the neo-natal intensive care unit. There’s another picture, of the first time I ever held her, but that’s super personal and not something I often show anyone.

It’s a bittersweet thing, seeing your baby in an incubator. Tubes and wires look so wrong against a tiny human, but knowing they’re helping her to breathe and eat makes you feel grateful to all of it at the same time.

Five and half years later, along came Burrito Baby, our little pocket rocket!

02.17.2014_12.30.50The first few weeks of their lives couldn’t have been more different. BB’s birth was relaxed and uneventful, and the photo above is of me holding her when she was just moments old. Whilst Sausage was still in hospital on day 8, BB was coming along with her big sister and I on the school run!

I know it’s probably a bit of a cliche and it’s something that the vast majority of parents would say, but these two moments are the most special of my entire life. Meeting Husband and getting married comes a close second, as does when we adopted Chuck, but nothing will compare to the two precious moments where the bonds with my daughters began.

What is your ‘Moment in Time’? Do you have more than one? Were you lucky enough to be able to capture it on film? I’d love to hear about it, so leave me a comment below.

Pink Jobs/Blue Jobs?

pinks jobs blue jobsOne of the things on which I pride myself is my willingness to give things a go. I come from a family of do-ers, choosing to mend cars, decorate houses and generally fend for themselves, rather than hiring someone in, and Husband’s family is like this even more so than my own. Husband has an aunty of whom I’m constantly in awe, who’s a true role model for my girls. She’s genuinely one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to cars that I’ve ever met and she’s never fazed by a building project or getting her hands dirty in a multitude of ways.

I know that in a lot of houses, there are jobs which are characterised as ‘pink jobs’ and ‘blue jobs’, with domestic chores such as cleaning and child-rearing falling firmly in the female camp, whilst the men do the heavy lifting, car maintenance and rubbish-taking-out. This isn’t the case in our house. Husband is just as at home changing a nappy as changing a tyre, and I’m certainly not shy when it comes to getting involved in DIY.

A few months ago, I was talking to some friends at Sausage’s school when one of the Grandads who regularly does the school run approached me. He mentioned that he’d noticed that my break light was out and suggested that I “get the Husband to look at it” for me. I had to laugh. Yes, Husband would be more than capable of changing a bulb, but as it happens, I’m the only driver in the house and actually deal with car maintenance myself. When our car needed a new battery, I bought one from BuyCarparts.co.uk and fitted it myself, with no more than a YouTube video to give me confidence that I was doing it correctly and it never even occurred to me to think that I wouldn’t be able to do it myself.

For me, I’ve always tried to be as independent as I can be. Husband and I are a team and pitch in together with everything that needs doing, but I still like to know that I can do things myself. It’s also hugely important to me that the girls see Mummy as a capable human being; I remember, as a kid, seeing my Nan and Grandad living an oddly symbiotic life; he’d NEVER set foot in the kitchen and conversely, she never used a cash point, set the video and rarely even changed the TV channel. It worked for them, as it so often does in marriages from a bygone era, but I also remember worrying about how they’d cope if the other wasn’t around. I had visions of Grandad living on fish and chips every night, or my Nan only ever watching one TV channel!

A few years ago, my Uncle kindly gave us his old Honda Civic as we were without a car at the time and although he didn’t need it anymore, it was far too good to scrap. It really invigorated my thirst for independence and I relished taking care of the car myself, doing the vital maintenance as well as the non-vital things like fitting a new stereo, something I’ve done myself in almost every car I’ve owned.

I’ll definitely be encouraging Sausage and Burrito Baby to learn these kinds of self-sufficiencies, so that they’re both able to take care of things for themselves, as well as having the comfort of knowing they’re capable enough to do so. Having that confidence can be the making of a young woman and I can only hope that by seeing other family members doing things themselves rather than always deferring to someone else, they’ll see that there are so many things that you can do at home, without spending huge amounts on labour.

5 of the Safest Places for Important Legal Documents

legal documentsDo you have a shoebox tucked under your bed that stores all your highly important and legal documents? This may seem like a good idea – because they are together and seemingly organised – but keeping them stored this way is actually not very safe.

Even in this digital age, where everything is online, many legal documents cannot be stored here, they also require a physical copy. However this opens them up to physical damage such as fire or flooding.

The problem is, that the original version of such documents are the only legally binding versions as they have your original signature. This means that if they are to be damaged or lost then they will be rendered invalid. Likewise, if they fall into the wrong hands this could have serious implications, including highly confidential and personal information being leaked.

Therefore it is important to choose an extremely safe place to keep these, so here are five of the safest, for those all-important legal documents.

1. Document storage

One of the safest places to store your documents that also ensures they are easily accessible when you need it, is in storage. Places such as Kelly’s Document Storage will ensure your documents are protected by the most up-to-date systems. Access is controlled by secure online management, which also allows the owner the ability to instantly gain access to electronic copies anywhere in the world.

2. A home safe

If you want to keep your documents at home where you can see them, then invest in a home safe. But first, ensure you have the following things in place: check that if your safe requires a key that it is well hidden and if it uses a code it is memorable one but not one that is easy to guess. The safe itself should be both fireproof and waterproof, as hidden away as possible and securely fitted to ensure it cannot be simply taken out of your home to crack open at the thief’s leisure.

3. Filing cabinet

A filing cabinet can also work as a safe way of keeping important documents at home organised and secure. As with the safe, make sure it is always locked and the key is kept on your person or somewhere hidden but memorable. Again it is important for it to be waterproof and fireproof, to protect your important documents from being destroyed, should anything happen to your home.

4. Leave them with your solicitor

You could leave the original copy with your solicitor; this is a good idea because if you require the document you will more than likely also require them. With your solicitor, you can feel safe in the knowledge that your important documents are being looked after and all in one place together. You can also instruct them who has access to your files should something happen to you.

5. Safety deposit box

These are secured containers held within a larger safe or bank vault, which can be used to store everything from jewels to your legal documents. There are rigorous identity procedures before allowing access to the box in some places, that could include swiping an identity card, photo check, fingerprint scan followed by passing through an airlock before entering an explosive-proof strongroom and opening your box with a key. Seems a little Mission Impossible, right? But for some it’s the safest way of keeping valuables locked up tight.

Breville Halo+ – My Hero

When we moved house, back in March, one of the things which appealed to us was that the landlord was leaving the appliances in-situ, meaning we wouldn’t need to buy a cooker or dishwasher, and could sell our old washing machine and fridge freezer, giving us more money towards our move. Somewhat typically though, the dishwasher and cooker have both died since we moved in, leaving us with the expense of replacing them so soon after shelling out thousands to move. The dishwasher was easy to replace and we picked one up in a good deal from Appliances Online, but the cooker has been trickier to deal with.

The once which broke down (and when I say “broke down”, I mean condemned by the gas board and disconnected for leaking gas) is a 90cm range cooker which means we have to buy another 90cm range to fill the gap in the units. This means that it’s twice the price and when we leave, we’ll be stuck with an expensive cooker which probably won’t fit into another kitchen. The oven part still works, but the hob and grill are completely kaput and the thought of feeding two kids with no hob was a scary one.

In steps my hero; The Halo+ Health Fryer.

Breville Halo+ Health Fryer

Breville sent us one of these to review absolutely ages ago, and beyond using it to make chips and melt the cheese for cheese on toast, we hadn’t used it that much. However, since the hob died, I’ve used it to make the meat and sauce for lasagne, cook curries, stir-fries, grill steaks and chops, cook bacon, fajitas, even S’mores! The Halo+ is SO much more versatile than I gave it credit for and it’s stepped up and done the job of both a grill and a hob at a time when I would have been truly stuck without it.

One thing I love about cooking in the Halo is that, because it’s a sealed unit, when you cook things like chunks of chicken for Enchiladas, the chicken stays nice and moist. The direct heat from the element inside cooks things speedily and the fact that the inside rotates constantly, moving the food around means that everything cooks evenly and I never have to stand a stir things for ages.

The non-stick bowl inside the Halo+ means that I barely every use oil when I’m cooking in it, other than the small amount needed for chips, so everything we’ve been making has been just that extra bit healthier, too.

At some point, we’re going to have to bite the bullet and buy ourselves a new cooker, which will be nice but the expense a little eye-watering, especially as we have Sausage’s birthday and the school holidays coming up, but in the meantime, our Breville Halo+ Health Fryer has done us proud. It is SO much more than a gadget for making chips and we would have been genuinely stuck without it, these past couple of months. If you’re thinking of buying one for yourself, please don’t hesitate. If you’re brave and experiment with new things, it can change the way you cook. Even when we do shell out for a new cooker, I’ll continue to use the Halo+ for lots of the things I use it for now. It’s my little kitchen hero!