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Use Your Garden to Make Extra Space

Our GardenAs you can see from the picture above, our current garden is pretty vast (paddling pool for scale!) and although it has a huge amount of potential, there’s not really a lot going on out there at the moment. Our house has three bedrooms and when we moved in Sausage and Burrito Baby were determined that they wanted to share, but how long this will continue, I don’t know! This means there’s a good chance that Husband and I will need to use his office as a bedroom and give one of the girls our room.

Having a home office might seem like an unnecessary luxury, but when you’ve got two freelancers in the house, it becomes pretty essential. I tend to bash my work out amongst the chaos, but Husband is definitely in the “no distractions” school of thought, so sacrificing the office altogether isn’t really an option. Oeco Garden Rooms are a fantastic way of adding space to a house without needing major building work or planning permission, and if you’ve got the space are a really excellent option. cuberoom1

One thing I love about the Cube Room is that it’s actually really beautiful – a lot of “added space” looks incongruous and not hugely attractive, but Oeco Garden Rooms have clearly made it their mission to make practicality and looks an equal priority.

The best part of all is that all of the rooms are designed specifically so that you don’t need to obtain planning permission, cutting costs even further:

“All our garden rooms are specifically designed and installed to meet the requirements of the current planning permission permitted development rules and building regulation requirements. Our garden rooms comply with the 2.5m maximum height requirements. Garden rooms up to 15m2 internal floor area (5.5m x 3m) are installed 0.5m from any boundary. For construction purposes the installation teams require a minimum of 0.5m around the garden office. Garden rooms over 15m2 internal floor area (5m x 3.5m) and up to 30m2 (8m x 4m) internal floor area are installed 1m from any boundary. It is our responsibility to install our garden rooms to the above guidelines.”

To be honest, the idea of having a space to retreat to, not just for work, but for five minutes of peace and quite is lovely too! I’m already imagining myself sitting in our garden room, reading a book, watching the bird coming and going and enjoying the view. Having read more about them, it seems that Oeco Garden Rooms are idea for use in winter too, as they’re fully clad and insulated, meaning that it’s not like a draughty old shed, but a proper room which will keep you warm.

And the best part? When we’ve got a 12 year old and a 17 year old in the house, we can banish one of them to the garden room to stop all the bickering!!

Charity

Impact of climate change on agriculture may be underestimated, study suggests

climate changeIn the UK with our well-stocked supermarket shelves, it’s easy to forget that many parts of the world are affected by a lack of food. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 800 million people across the globe don’t have access to the nourishment they need to enable them to lead healthy lives.

Children can be especially badly hit. On its website, the charity humanappeal.org.uk highlights the shocking statistic that each year, over three million children die because of malnutrition. One of the factors contributing to food shortages is extreme weather. From flooding to droughts, a range of environmental factors can affect food supplies.

New research

Research in this area generally focusses on how weather changes hit crop yields in particular areas. However, a recent study by a team from Brown and Tufts universities suggested this may underestimate the impact of climate change. Publishing their findings in the journal Nature Climate Change, the scientists stated that as well as looking at how much food can be harvested in given units of land under particular weather conditions, it’s important to examine the number of crops farmers choose to plant each growing season and how much land they cultivate.

Senior research author Leah VanWey warned that looking at crop yields alone can miss significant factors that affect overall food output. She stated that this approach omits farmers’ reactions to climate shocks. For example, farmers might respond to falling profits by reducing the amount of land they use. They may also be less inclined to grow two successive crops in the same field within a single growing season.

‘Worrisome’

Taking these factors into account, the team looked specifically at Mato Grosso, a state in Brazil that produces around a tenth of the world’s soybeans. They suggested that if current trends continue, an average temperature increase of just one degree will cause a nine to 13 per cent drop in the production of soy and corn.

Commenting on this finding, research leader Avery Cohn said: “This is worrisome given that the temperature in the study region is predicted to rise by as much as two degrees by mid-century under the range of plausible greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.”

Creating incentives

According to the researchers, one way to reduce the negative reactions of farmers to climate shocks may be to increase incentives for growing crops. For example, if governments subsidise or insure farmers for growing particular foods, this could have the effect of minimising cuts in production.

With major climate change widely predicted for the coming decades, governments and organisations around the world are searching for innovative ways to minimise the problems this could cause for food production.

Family

Getting Organised for the New School Year

I don’t know about you, but September always seems to be a time when I vow to get organised for the year and autumn always leaves me feeling super inspired about how to do it. I don’t know if it’s an overflow from when I was at school and September meant a new academic year but I love the process of getting everything in order, especially ahead of the busy winter months where the whole family seems to have something going on.

One thing I’ve promised myself is a new family planner board like these ones from Teacher Boards:

white board pin boards

There are loads of brilliant methods of setting up a whiteboard and I’ve already been scouring Pinterest for ideas of how to do ours. A mixed board with half whiteboard and half cork would be perfect for us as it would allow me to pin all school letters, hospital letters and club letters to one side whilst using the white side to write reminders and make notes.

Sausage is going into Year 4 this year which means a more intense homework schedule as well as the fact that we’re planning to get her an 11+ tutor in readiness for next year, so setting up her own dedicated section of the board like this one below would also really help us to help her keep on top of things:

homework

I also love the idea of having a dedicated whiteboard to allow me to make meal plans and store recipes in the kitchen. It would give the whole family a clear view of what’s going to be happening with meals and would also allow me to make a shopping list for the week so that I stop overspending on groceries we don’t need!

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Do you have a whiteboard or a chalkboard in your house? Do you have a hard and fast system which works really well for your family? I’d love to see your examples and get advice from any pros on how you make it all work!

 

Eating Out · Food · Review

Strada – A Date Night Gem

It’s not often that Husband and I go out for dinner, just the two of us…in fact, I’m struggling to think of a single time it’s happened since Sausage was born, so when Strada asked if the two of us would like to come along for dinner, I got very excited! Our nearest Strada is at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock and it’s right next to the lake, so it was the perfect setting for a relaxed evening meal.

We were given the choice of where to sit and although it was the hottest day of the year so far, we chose to sit inside – the outside area was already filling up when we arrived a few minutes before 6pm and by the time we left it was absolutely heaving, whilst inside was almost empty, so we definitely chose well. We got situated and were brought our drinks plus a jug of water for the table, which was much appreciated in the heat.

I wasn’t drinking alcohol because a) I was driving and b) I’m on strong antibiotics for the hideous tooth situation so I opted for a San Pellegrino Limonata, which is basically the most refreshing thing on the planet. Husband had a glass of Primitivo, a full-bodied red (which I said smelled like Christmas in a glass!) and although it was on the pricey side, Husband was impressed enough to be looking it up on the internet on the way home to see where he could get a full bottle for me to try when I’m able again.

So, onto the food!

Because Strada is Italian, I wanted to go for things which I felt were quintessentially Italian, so for starter I opted for the bresaola while Husband went for the antipasti, both of which were incredible. The beef carpacchio part of my bresaola was so, so tender and flavourful and the combination of parmesan, rocket and balsamic reduction were to die for. Husband’s antipasti (which I may have sampled…!) was just perfect; little nibbles of different flavour and textures, cured meats combined with the freshest pesto and mozzarella – I almost wish I’d opted for the same.

Strada - Starters

For our mains, we both decided that we were in the mood for seafood after such a meat-based starter so Husband had the sea bass while I had the seafood risotto. I’m going to make a confession here; I’ve never actually tried sea bass before…until now. The fish was served with thyme roasted fennel and herby potatoes and was a perfect choice for a hot evening as it was light and summery but full of flavour. The bass was served ‘canoed’, which meant that it’s gutted but left on the head, so there were still a lot of bones in it, which made it a little bit of a faff to eat, but Husband didn’t mind; it’s just worth bearing in mind if you aren’t a fan of bones.

Strada - Mains

Seafood risotto is one of my favourite dishes and it’s not something I’ve ever been brave enough to cook myself so it’s always a treat when I have it in a restaurant, but it does mean I’m quite fussy about it. Strada’s seafood risotto was really top notch. The risotto itself was creamy and absolutely packed with tiger prawns, mussels and squid and had the slightest kick from a hint of chilli, a very welcome element to cut through the creaminess a little. The seafood was all very well cooked (I’m often a bit wary of squid as it can be rubbery, but this wasn’t rubbery in the slightest) and the fresh parmesan which was grated over the top at the table added a lovely edge to the overall flavour.

Strada - Dessert

Dessert was an absolute delight. I opted for the tiramisu because I’m a bit of a fan of anything coffee flavoured while Husband opted for the golden polenta cake. My tiramisu was exactly as you’d expect it to be; sweet and soft with a strong coffee flavour, the perfect end to the meal for me. Husband’s polenta cake was probably the exact opposite of my dessert in many ways; grainy and textured rather than soft and creamy, zesty and spiced opposite my rich and velvety, however we both agreed that it was one of the nicest desserts we’ve ever tasted, and promptly came home to find a recipe so that we can try making it at home!

In terms of the bill, by my calculations it would have come to £67.60, which included three courses each, Husband’s large glass of wine, my two soft drinks and a bowl of marinated olives for the table, which I really don’t think is too bad at all. There is also a “Classics” menu which offers 2 courses for £10.95 or three courses for £13.95 every single day between 12pm and 7pm, which means that you could effectively have a three course meal for two for under £30.

The thing I liked about Strada is that their menu isn’t ridiculously massive, but each dish they do, they seem to do VERY well. I also like the fact that they have dishes which are very traditionally Italian, but they also do dishes like burgers and plainer pizzas, so dining with a fussy eater needn’t be a worry. The one and only area where I would mark them down SLIGHTLY was the cost of drinks – Husband’s glass of wine was £8.15, which is a little steep in my opinion, but we often find the alcohol to be higher priced in chain restaurants, so I guess it’s to be expected. Other than this minor thing, we had a really lovely evening; the staff were incredibly polite and friendly, stopping by to offer their suggestions while we were perusing the menu, the setting was really pleasant and the food was enough to make Husband say “we’re definitely coming back here again!”.

Thanks to Strada for having us – we’ll be back soon!

Baby · Family · Health · Pregnancy

Busting Pregnancy Myths

SpatonePregnancy can be an absolute minefield of “advice” coming from a multitude of different sources. If it’s not your Mum, your mother-in-law, your Nan, sisters, friends or extended relatives sharing their collected wisdom about what your pregnancy should be like, it’s random old ladies in the supermarket stopping you to tell you what they did “in their day”! Sometimes, anecdotal advice can be the best thing in the world and there were a few things that my mother in law and sister in law told me when I was carrying Sausage that I still pass on to others because the advice was so sound. However, sometimes, it can all seem a bit much when you’re hearing different things from every person you speak to.

The awesome people at Nelsons, makers of iron supplement Spatone, have been speaking to proper midwives in an effort to bust some of the biggest pregnancy myths around, and we thought we’d share some of them with you:

Myth #1: How you are ‘carrying’ the baby can tell you the sex.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The shape and height of your bump is determined by your muscle tone, uterine tone, and the position the baby is in, not by the sex. The only way to know is via an ultrasound scan or amniocentesis and even then it is not always possible to be completely sure.

Myth #2: You shouldn’t drink coffee while pregnant.

You don’t need to give up caffeine entirely, the current advice for is to limit yourself to (ACOG 2010, FSA 2008, Jahanfar and Jaafar 2013) 200mg of caffeine a day – this equates to drinking approximately two mugs of tea, two mugs of instant coffee or one mug of filer coffee a day (or five cans of coke!). If your habit exceeds these amounts try a de-caf version in the afternoons, it may help you sleep better too!

Myth #3: Heartburn means baby has lots of hair

Heartburn is a common discomfort during pregnancy because your stomach is pushed higher by the growing baby. It is no way an accurate predictor of baby being born with a full head of hair. Lots of women who experience heartburn give birth to bald babies!

Myth #4: You shouldn’t eat smoked salmon when pregnant

Pregnant women can eat smoked fish and not advised to avoid it currently. Fish is good for mothers-to-be because it is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, as well as essential omega-3 fatty acids like DHA. There are some types of fish you should limit to 2 portions a week, this includes oily fish like salmon. There are also fish you should completely avoid like swordfish. The NHS website provides a full ist.

Myth #5: You are eating for two

In the first six months of pregnancy our energy needs do not increase. The average woman of normal weight pre-pregnancy only needs about 200 extra calories per day in her third trimester to promote her baby’s growth. That’s roughly the number of calories in a piece of buttered toast and a banana. Gaining too much weight can result in gestational diabetes and a struggle to lose the weight post birth so think twice before eating a double helping of dessert!

Myth #6 Lying or sleeping on your back will hurt the baby

While you won’t harm your baby if you lie on your back for short periods of time, lying on your back after 16 weeks can be uncomfortable. After 16 weeks it can make you feel faint as the baby presses on major blood vessels. Sleeping on your side might be more comfortable and as your bump gets heavier you might find it better to prop yourself up with pillows so you are almost sitting.

Myth #7: Guinness is a good source of iron

Mums and nans are forever telling us about the daily dose of stout they consumed during pregnancy because it is a good source of iron and a lot of people still believe this old wives tale. In fact Guinness and similar stouts contains no more iron than standard beer and you would need to drink a whopping 35 pints to get your daily intake of iron. But more importantly pregnant women should avoid alcohol altogether as not only does it carry an increased risk of miscarriage but may be harmful for the unborn baby.

Guinness in pregnancy

If your doctor or healthcare practitioner says you may need to supplement your diet with iron, why not try a sachet or two of Spatone, which contains iron rich water sourced from the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia National Park. The iron naturally present in Spatone can help top up your iron levels whilst causing fewer of the unpleasant side effects often experienced with conventional iron food supplements. Generally, iron is a very difficult mineral for the body to absorb. However, the iron naturally present in Spatone has been shown to be easily absorbed, with an average of 40% bioavailability, compared to 5- 20% from food and other iron food supplements#. Always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements if you are pregnant.

Spatone is available from Boots priced at £11.49 for 28 sachets (4 weeks supply) and Spatone Apple is priced at £12.49 for 28 sachets.

For more info visit www.spatone.com