Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Reboot Day Two

I'll be posting regular updates on the Reboot as a kind of diary to keep track of my progress, as well as the normal things I post about. 


Day 2 went pretty well, I had one of the 'food' meals the plan suggests and the rest of my meals as juice. I had the rest of the Green Lemonade Juice from yesterday as breakfast and Carrot, Apple & Ginger for lunch. For dinner I had sweet potato & carrot 'fries' with a big green spinach and avocado salad. 
As I wasn't keen on the green juice from yesterday I made a Carrot, Apple and Ginger juice but added a cucumber, 2 handfuls of spinach, 2 handfuls of kale and two sticks of celery. This was really yum as the ginger masked a bit of the 'harsh' taste from the greens. I'll keep experimenting and trying out the recipes over the coming days! 
I also seem to have lost 1.8KG in one day, but I can only assume this is a fluke and to do with water retention. In a few weeks I'll post a weight chart so you can see how I've been doing.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Getting Ready To Juice

I like vegetable juice - I used to use up all my weekly veggie box leftovers to make a whole load of different yummy mixtures. I can't remember if I mentioned this time around, but I've once again being trying to diet. Since having the little one I've tried Slimming World, and in the past month Weight Watchers - my problem is, my metabolism sucks. I'll do ok for the first couple of weeks, and then even though I stick to the plans - I just seem to hit a wall. I think much of the problem is that these plans still enable you to eat the wrong kinds of foods, just less of them. I end up with even less energy than before and a lot of the time just generally feeling worse. I wanted to do something that would have two effects. I wanted energy and to loose weight. 
I've watched a lot of food related documentaries and read a lot of books too; Food Inc, Forks Over Knives, The Mcdougall Diet, Eat To Live, The China Study. The thing is although the food was great much of it took quite a while to prepare and with a family to look after I didn't often have the time to eat at all, never mind spending ages making something healthy. Don't get me wrong, I really wanted to! Making radical changes to your diet isn't easy. Yes I'm already vegan but I love coffee and cakes as much as the next girl.
Then I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. If you haven't seen it - you should, even if you don't plan to juice it's a really inspiring film. It follows two guys juicing and loosing weight - one looses over 200lbs which is amazing. I really wanted to try it, but I just didn't feel the time was right then. Back to now and I'm getting ready to go. My brand new shiny juicer arrives on Monday, I've printed my recipes and shopping lists from the Reboot website and I've been shopping and filled the fridge full of good ingredients. I don't think it's going to be easy, but I'm really hoping this will give me the kick start I need to loose weight and get healthy.


So it's Tuesday today - yesterday was my first full day. I decided I'd follow the plan from the Reboot website, but although I stuck to the food I swapped the juice recipes around a bit for more variety. Yesterday I had Carrot, Apple & Ginger juice in the morning and Green Lemonade Juice in the evening. The CAG juice was lovely, but the Green Lemonade was a bit too lemony. The 'meals' were nice, although I'm not getting attached too them as after day 5 it's just juice. They've given me some good ideas for the post juice only phase though. 
Day 1 wasn't too hard in terms of cravings (even when I made toasties for Small!), but I'm sure that won't be the case every day!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Toddler Toasties


This isn't so much of a recipe as such, but an idea. Whilst scanning our overfilled cupboards yesterday I spotted  our toasted sandwich maker (which we hardly use, then go crazy with it for a week before it goes away again). Small loves toast topped with all sorts of things, but thought maybe with toasties not as much would be lost!
I made both savory and sweet. It's kind of obvious but really important to let them cool down! I cut the finished toasties into smaller more managable strips.
Here are some ideas for none conventional fillings:

Lentil dhal
Beans & BBQ Tofu
Vegetable Mash
Spinach Mash Potato
Banana & Mango
Banana & Nut Butter

 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Baby Bottle


This is a super quick post, but I wanted to share this with you. We have tried many baby bottles since Small has been with us. Tomme Tippee, Mam, Born Free and supermarket brands - the issue I've had with them all is that they don't last long. I know you need to change the teat regularly, but I'm talking about the actual bottle. Most of the ones we've tried haven't lasted more than a couple of months  before having to chuck them out. Admittedly we do put them in the dishwasher so maybe that has something to do with it.
I saw these a while ago, but they are pretty expensive (£21 each in the UK) and due to our previous problems I decided to buy just one to try out. I'm happy to report it's stood up to use and washing in the dishwasher and still looks brand new after about 3 months. I like them so much (and so does Small) that we've just brought another so we can use them all the time.
I like the fact they are made from safe materials. The steel doesn't retain any flavours like plastic does - my grown up Kanteens clean wonderfully and these are no exception. I tried out glass baby bottles and although they do last longer than plastic I was scared for her to hold them herself in case of breaking.  These solve that problem. I wish they were more widely available in the UK as they are much cheaper in the US.

Disclaimer: I haven't been paid or reimbursed in any way for this post. I purchased products with my own money for personal use.


Hillfields Animal Sanctuary Open Day 2013


Yesterday we went over to the Hillfields Animal Sanctuary Open Day. We've always thought it is really important for Small to see and understand what animals are, but we're not very keen on zoos, petting zoos and children's farms. We thought this would be a perfect chance, as well as supporting a good cause.


As you can see from the few snaps  I took, she's really finding her feet now!

Apart from an incident involving a quite large turkey I think Small really enjoyed it. There were lots of stalls including Lakeside Ethical Treats and The One Earth Shop - we picked up a selection of Go Max Go bars and had ice cream cones too!

It was lovely to see a few friendly faces  and enjoy the sunshine (it's looking very dull again now!).  I hope they raised lots of money to continue the work they do. All the animals rescued live out their days there and they have over 300 animals. If you'd like to help out you can Donate here.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

This Week's Gluten Free Treat Haul

Buying foods in the UK which are both vegan AND gluten free isn't impossible, just takes a little planning and some things are easiler to find than others. Pre made bread is a tough one - almost every loaf I've picked up in the 'Free From' asiles has contained either milk or eggs. The only exceptions so far I've found is the Dietary Specials Ciabatta and Dietary Specials Brown Loaf. If there are more you have found, please let me know!


Whilst shopping last night I had a good look and found some products I'd not noticed before. Hale & Hearty have quite a big range of gluten free mixes, but these are the only two I could find labelled vegan. I've not tried the cookie mix yet, but used the pizza mix last night. It was easy enough to make up, but you only get enough mix to make one pizza around 12" (unless you make really small pizzas!). It was ok, better than pre made ones I've tried - but I think it wasn't quite right due to not being designed to rise at all in the oven. In terms of making pizza though fast, it's an option I wouldn't rule out.


What can I say? I love Orgran products. Everything they make is vegan & gluten free - many are even soy/ nut free too. I'd tried quite a bit of their stuff in previous years (Falafel mix, Egg Replacer, Pasta) but I've rediscovered it recently. I have to admit, I get excited when I see it on supermarket shelves as it's a lot cheaper than online or in health food shops. If you REALLY like one of their products or use it a lot you can buy in bulk on Amazon, it doesn't work out as cheap as the supermarket but they have quite a bit that's hard to get elsewhere.


I picked up Orgran 'Outback Animals', 'Premium Deli Crackers' and Spaghetti.


I do try not to eat too much packaged gluten free foods as many of them are quite high in fat/calories as they seem to replace the missing gluten with fat! They are more like a treat as let's be honest being able to have treats every so often makes it easier to stick to any way of eating.
The 'Outback Animals' are aimed at children and come in small packets (I think you get 8 per packet). They're nice, and I actually like that they come in small bags so you don't eat so many! They're also Soy & Nut free.
The Deli Crackers are amazingly good with dips. I like them with houmous. They're also soy free.
The Spaghetti? It's a guilty pleasure, it tastes good (especially on toast) and it's soy free!

 
 
 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Mr Singh's All Vegetarian Pizza

This weekend we just happened to be hungry and in the area so we popped along to Mr Singh's to check it out. I'd heard about it before, but due to it being in the Oldbury area of Birmingham and not somewhere we ever really go we'd not been.


First impressions - the building is a little scruffy but the staff were really lovely and helpful and it only took about 10 minutes for our order to be made. If you live locally they'll even deliver!


The 'Vegetarian Pepperoni' was my favorite. They have green V's on the menu which means they can make something vegan. I'm almost certain our pizzas were topped with Cheezly.


We also had a 'veggie sausage'  pizza which Mr B ate most of as it was a little too spicy for me with the jalapenos (i am a wimp when it comes to spice).

I really enjoyed this rare treat as it's been years since I've eaten takeaway pizza. The toppings were nice, however I think the base could have been cooked a little more. I think if I went back I'd try the thin base. 
If you are in the area it's certainly worth checking out.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Dear Small.....

It's been my goal to write one of these every so often so I can keep track of all your milestones so one day when you are old enough you can look back on mummy's blog and see all the adorable and amazing things you used to do. Things have come along a bit since I was your age - only the other day I sent a video of your first steps straight to nanny and grandad's phone. When I did this for the first time most people didn't have mobiles and certainly not ones that had video! It's nice that your grandparents don't miss a thing as they love you dearly. 
The past year (and a bit) with you in our lives has been so special and it was a gift to have you as a beautiful bridesmaid at our wedding. We couldn't even leave you out when it came to our wedding cake - here you are in tiny robot form with mummy & daddy.


You have really blessed our lives and now that you are starting to walk I've realised that you are no longer that tiny baby cradled in my arms. I couldn't have predicted how fast that phase would fly by. As we enter a new toddler phase your laugh and smile are beautiful and  you spend so much of your time being joyous and filling other people with joy by just being around you. So Small, we love you.

What A Difference A Year Makes


This picture was taken around this time last year. Small was about 9 weeks old and we went for a little paddle in our local park. She enjoyed cooling off (and so did mommy!).




This was last week - and yes she's wearing the same bathing suit! Don't ask me how that's possible given that she's grown like a beanpole. 
Once again I look at things like this and can't believe how the time has flown by. She's 14 months now and starting to give up her knee bouncing in favour of walking - it's only a matter of time before she's walking well enough for us to venture outside on foot! 
I like to take these moments to look back and reflect. I guess it's because (for reasons I can't discuss) I'm going to have to spend some time away from her the next couple of weeks. I wouldn't if it was my choice - I'm really dedicated to my choice to be a SAHM. Luckily she'll be in good hands with my parents whom she adores. I know it won't be for long, but I'm going to miss her like crazy!

Gluten Free Chocolate Mint Cake

I've been learning to bake this week. Well, RElearning I should probably say. It seems I've done this several times - when I was young making fairy cakes with my nan, when I became vegan and now again to make it all gluten free. It's certainly been a learning curve and I've thrown out quite a few trays of doughy mess due to too much Xanthan Gum, too much flaxseed or maybe not enough liquid. Now there's a lesson, gluten free flours tend to be much more 'thirsty' than regular ones.
On my continuing quest for yummy cakes this week I came up with these mint chocolate 'fingers'. They are cake, except made in a tin and cut like brownies so they're in smaller portions (I AM trying to eat healthier). 

Ingredients

170g Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
170g Caster Sugar
230ml Soya Milk (Rice & Nut milks work too!)
100g Mint Chocolate Shavings
1 TSP Baking Powder
1 TSP Vanilla
Pinch of salt
2 TBSP Agave
1/4 cup of oil (I like raw pressed coconut, but sunflower is ok too)
2 TSP Ground Flaxseed


Start off by weighing your flour and sugar into a big mixing bowl. Mix a little to combine. Then add the rest of your dry ingredients.
Melt your chocolate in the microwave. If you are using coconut oil you'll want to warm this a little too as it's solid at room temperature.
In a seperate bowl measure the milk, oil, agave and vanilla and combine a little. Add wet to dry and combine into a nice cake batter.
Now add your chocolate, mixing well.
Place in a well oiled tin and bake at 180C for 25 minutes.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

My Little Helper



I know that there are a lot of moms out there who blog, whether it is about their kids or not.... how do they manage it? I often don't blog about everything I want to because I'm playing with/ feeding/ changing Small - and that's no bad thing, but when it does come down to it where do you get the time?

Small is into everything at the moment. Climbing the sofas, almost walking and playing with everything. She especially likes my Macbook. Hitting the keys, aiming wooden blocks at it, or just trying to generally climb on my lap whilst I'm typing. It's adorable really (but not so good for the Macbook!).

After she's gone to bed, I relish a few moments to myself when I'm not elbow deep in nappies, laundry or anything else. As a SAHM time to myself is in short supply. I don't exactly miss time to myself, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't frustrating having Small climb up the sofa and use my back/ears/nose as a foothold to get over the back and explore the radiator for the millionth time in a day.

So we go out, explore and play. I am in awe of her every single day and feel so lucky that I am at home to see it all instead of stuck behind a desk missing out on daylight (my former pre baby life). I catch myself staring at her and just can't believe I have such a wonderful daughter. I don't even mind all the lumps I still have in my thighs from injecting several times a day (you can read more about that here), she was totally, utterly worth it.

Oh... there goes that wooden block again.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Flip Nappy System by Cotton Babies (Bumgenius)


This week I was lucky enough to be sent a complete birth to potty system of Flip nappies to trial with Small. As we are already cloth nappy users I was keen to give these a go - I'd seen them around before, but didn't really know how they worked.
They're a pretty simple '2 part' nappy really - there's an outer waterproof wrap, a choice of stay dry insert or organic and you can also get disposable inserts for holidays etc. The only 2 part I'd used before is the Tots Bots Bamboozles with the Tots Wraps which we've been using at night. They've performed well over the past year, but the nappies & wraps now look awfully tatty and wouldn't hold up to a second child (not that we are planning one!).


I was sent - 6 wraps, 18 stay dry inserts and 3 packets of disposable inserts. I preferred the look of the stay dry inserts as they require no folding (apart from sizing which doesn't apply to us as Small is on largest popper setting), unlike the organic ones which are like normal prefolds (similar to Econobums) and I know how much Small wriggles during nappy changes - I didn't need the extra work!


The first thing I'll say is that the wraps really do have a lovely fit. These are the first I've used with snaps, all our others are velcro. I was put off snaps because I thought it'd be fiddly and wouldn't provide a good enough fit, however after using cloth nappies for over a year almost all our velcros have gone tatty (and Small can undo them!) and I kind of wish we'd had snaps to begin with. If you are planning on having several children and hoping the nappies will last for all of them - I'd say get the snaps! The Flip wraps have lovely stretchy tabs so despite being limited by snap placement they provide a nice snug fit.



I gave my inserts about 4 quick washes using Ecozone Ecoballs to prewash them. I prefer to wash with these as there is no chance of having problems with build up. I use Bio D Nappy San every couple of washes as well. I hung them out to dry on the line and the wraps were dry in about 30 minutes, and the inserts a couple of hours later - but it was a very hot day (27C!). I think a more average drying time would be similar to the inserts from my Bumgenius V3 - about 6/7 hours on the line or overnight inside on an airier. The inserts can be tumble dried - I do this every so often to soften them up, but try not to too often. I always air dry the wraps as tumble drying is bad for the elastic!



I have been genuinely impressed with the performance of these nappies. We have to boost every other nappy we use - Little Lamb bamboo boosters in Tots Bots, Pop Ins and the newborn insert as well as full size one in Bumgenius V3. With the Flip we easily lasted 3/4 hours between changes using just the stay dry insert, and with the addition of a LL booster they last us all night! Since receiving these I haven't bothered to reach for any other type as I feel these are so reliable! I've actually cleared out our nappy draw so I'm just left with Flips and Bumgenius - the Tots Bots and Close Pop Ins have been packed away.



When I first had a look at how to put them together I was a little worried about the insert moving around inside the wrap - I'd read reviews about them bunching up in the middle, but I haven't found this to be the case. The insert fits snugly under flaps and the front and back of the wrap - I think this helps keep it in place and stops leaks. I've been using them with a disposable paper liner on top of the stay dry and everything stays in place. Each wrap I've found is good for about 3 nappy changes - I just give the wrap a wipe and pop a new insert in (unless the wrap is soiled). I guess you should aim to have about 3 inserts per wrap, and a birth to potty typically comes with 6 wraps and 18 inserts which supports this ratio. If you find you need a couple of extra wraps you could always look at the Econobum ones, they're made by Cotton Babies too and fit the Flip inserts but are about £8 each instead of £10.95. I've not tried these out yet but am dying to get a look at them.


The disposable inserts - now where do these fit in? My only issue with these is that I wasn't sure why you'd use them to begin with. If I wanted to use a disposable wouldn't I just use an Eco disposable nappy? If you were on holiday surely it wouldn't be convenient to have to deal with soiled wraps?


On opening the packet I wasn't quite sure what to do with the insert. A bit of Googling later and I worked out that the 'diamond' pattern faces up and the extra bits of the sides need to be tucked behind.


They fit in the wraps really well and they're compatible with Bumgenius and Econobum nappies too. The absorbancy I found to be average - Small is quite a heavy wetter and whereas I found the stay dry inserts lasted 3/4 hours these lasted about 2/3 instead - which is fine during the daytime, but means I wouldn't be able to use these at night.
I guess they would be handy to have around the house in case you get behind on the washing, need to use nappy cream and don't want to ruin your cloth inserts or have a disaster like the washing machine breaking down - but I can't see that I'd want to be washing wraps in the sink whilst on holiday, even if they do dry really quickly. In practical use for me I think a packet of these will go to my mum's in case I forget to pack enough of the stay dry's and the rest will be stored away until I need them.

Verdict
I love these nappies and think they'd be a really good choice if you are unsure as what you want to buy. They're also a good choice when it comes to cost - because you use the wraps for several changes you don't need as many so a full set will cost around £125 (plus a little extra for nappy bucket and nets if you don't already have them), whereas a full set of Bumgenius would cost you between £285 and £330 depending on which type you went for. I know we personally spent around £250 on Totsbots before Small was born and I feel like it was unnecessary - part of the appeal of cloth nappies is supposed to be the money you could save after the initial outlay, however with us having to buy several types before we found what really suited us plus laundry costs I'm not sure we will have saved anything. I'll be using these until potty training!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Since going gluten free the only cake type food I've eaten are Cat & The Cream Cupcakes. They are really lovely, but I used to be a really avid baker and wanted to be able to whip up something at home. So.... I read lots of Gluten Free baking books (even took a look at Babycakes as I enjoyed their cookies on my recent trip to NY) but they all involved expensive flours I could only find online. I'm all for sourcing things if they are nice, but I wasn't sure about spending £20+ when I had no idea what the outcome would be. I had a selection of Dove's Farm stuff in the cupboard (you can get this for a very reasonable price in almost any UK supermarket) so I came up with this.


Ingredients

170g Doves Farm Self Raising Flour
170g Caster Sugar
235ml Soy or Rice Milk
5 TBSP Cocoa Powder
60g Dark Chocolate (smashed into chunks)
2 TBSP Peanut Butter
2 TSP Ground Flaxseed 
5 TBSP Oil (Sunflower or coconut)
1 TSP Vanilla
1 TSP Agave
1 TSP Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt


Sift the flour and cocoa into a large bowl. Mix in the sugar, baking powder, flaxseed, chocolate and salt until well combined.
Measure out your soy/rice milk into a jug and into it add the vanilla, oil and agave.
Pre heat your oven at 180C.
Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well until everything is evenly mixed and glossy.
Spread mixture into an oiled baking dish and bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool before eating.

Friday, 5 July 2013

B. Skincare @ Superdrug

A little while ago I wrote about Superdrug's new (at the time) range of makeup. I was in there yesterday picking up a few things when I noticed a range of skincare to match! I'd not seen this before as they don't stock it in my local branch (but they do have the makeup). In the store I found it they didn't stock the makeup - it seems a little mix n match which stores stock the B. range so you might need to explore a little to find it.


I picked up B. Ready 'stage 1' face cream, B. Quick 4 in1 cleansing wipes, B. Pure Cleansing Water and B. Refined Exfoliating Cleanser. As with the makeup range everything I picked up seemed to say it was suitable for vegans & vegetarians, though I didn't look at absolutely everything so can't say for sure every since product in the range is vegan. 


I've tested out the products I purchased and quite like all of them. They certainly feel a little bit more premium than the standard Superdrug own brand range. It all seems quite reasonably priced, and it all had 1/3 off this week. I think the Day Cream was the most expensive item, but whilst on offer was under the £7 mark.


Ever since Simple was taken over I've been looking for an alternative at a similar price point - and I think I may have found it. They seemed to have 3 different skin 'stages' and a little chart in store so you can judge which is best for you. The range is certainly worth a look, and is what I'll be buying.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Vegan Park Picnic

Yesterday we spent a lovely afternoon in the park surrounded by vegans! We went to a picnic arranged by The Moseley Vegans group. Even though we aren't that local, we thought it's make a lovely day out and we are really keen for Small to meet other vegan children.

I whipped up my famous vegan mac n cheese recipe tweaked to be gluten free (I'll post the recipe soon!) and I even topped it with Pepper-jack Daiya... yum. Mr B made some of his delicious chocolate topped peanut butter rice crispy bars (also gluten free!). Everybody took something to share and it all got laid out. I find these opportunities really lovely as it's not often I get to sample other vegan's food and share ideas.

We got lucky with the weather and it was a lovely day. Small enjoyed playing in the grass and made several attempts to get stuck into all the food that was out! She had great fun playing in the grass and meeting other children. As she gets older I'd love her to have lots of friends from nursery, school etc - but I do think it'd be lovely for her to know other vegans so she knows she is not the only vegan kid out there.

We all had a really lovely afternoon and hope to do something like this again soon!