Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Shredded Wheat and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Shredded Wheat and Chocolate Cookies




What do you do when you buy a cereal for your kids and then they don't eat it?

My answer - I make cookies from it, I used shredded wheat in these cookies, a twist on adding the classic oatmeal and I really like the crunch and savoury tone they gave to the cookies.

I would love to know what you all think of this recipe and what has been the strangest item you have added to cookies?


Ingredients 


1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Caster Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla
1 1/3 Cups Shredded Wheat - crushed 
1 Cup Plain Flour
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup Chocolate Chips

Method

1.Pre-heat oven to 170Fan, Gas Mark 4 and pre line two cookie sheets

2.Cream together soften butter and sugar

3.Add in egg and vanilla and mix again

4. Add in shredded wheat, flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt

5.Add in chocolate chips

6. Place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes

7. Using an ice cream scoop, place 6 per tray



8. Bake for around 8-12 minutes, depending on how chewy you like them, for me 9-10 minutes is perfect




9. Place on a cooling rack and enjoy.

















Sunday, 11 August 2019

Homemade Rakhi - DIY using Leather Cord and Beads



I have been making my own Rakhri for the last few years, I love the fact you can personalise them, put a bit more effort in than just buying the standard ones on the Indian highstreet and that I get to be creative for one evening.

This year, and last year I used black leather cord, which in terms of durability lasts forever. My son kept his on for ages, last year I used colourful beads but this year we went for a classic gold and black format.

Although the knot involved looks complicated at first you will get the hang on it very quickly. I will give the sizing for an adults rakhri but for a childs one I would reduce the measurements by 5-10cm depending on the size of their wrists.

Equipment

1mm Leather Cord
Letter Beads
Ruler/ Tape Measure
Scissors
Sellotope

Method

1. Cut one 40cm piece of cord and one 60cm piece of cord

2. Sellotape the 40 cm piece down


3. Thread all your beads onto the centre 40cm piece of cord in the correct order you wish for them to appear


4. Fold the 60cm into half and knot it onto to the 40cm piece around 7cm from the top


5. To make this explanation easier I will label the strings 1,2 and 3 going from Left to Right


6. Take S1(string 1) and place this over S2(string 2) and under S3(string 3)


7. Hold S1 and S2 together in your left hand and in your right hand take S3 under S2 and up through the loop made between S1 and S2


8. Pull S1 and S3 together to form a knot across S2


9. Repeat but this time taking S3 over S2 and under S1

10. Take S1 under S2 and up through the loop made by S3

11. Pull together and keep on repeating on alternative sides until you have formed 10 knots


12. Thread up your first bead and continue knotting across form a knot around the bead, I did two knots between each bead to ensure they are securely held


13. Once you finish all the beads, finish with another 10 loops to match the loops at the top


14. Knot the cord for one final secure hold and cut off any remaining cord


15. You can slide the knots down to ensure the are in the center and that is it, one rakhi made















Tel Aviv with Toddlers Part 4 - Beaches

The Beautiful Beaches of Tel Aviv


Location


There are 13 beaches along the coastline of Tel Aviv, generally they can be dividend up into different sections.
1)Religious beaches - segregated on different days such as Nordau Beach.
2)Hipster beaches - for younger, single, party people such as Hatzuk, Hilton and Aviv Beach
3)Central local and tourist family friendly beaches such as Gordon, Frishman and Bograshov Beach.

We spent most of our time at Gordon and Bograshov Beach, both of which were busy but in a lively, happening way rather than a no space for my sunbed way. The sand is amazing in Tel Aviv, having travelled around the world, this was some of the softest and cleanest sand I have seen especially considering it is a public beach.


Facilities and Lifeguards


Each beach has its own changing rooms, bathrooms, official kiosk and lifeguards. The lifeguards are very vocal and thanks to their microphones very loud too. They make it more than obvious if you are doing something you should not be.

Along the beach are several wooden pergolas which are perfect for providing shade, you can also rent out chairs and sun beds from official agents who work along the whole length of the beach for the day. They will give you a ticket, in case other agents walk past later in the day to check it has already been paid for. A really well organised system, compared to other beaches where this is normally just done by private individuals. We rented lounge chairs both times, rather than sunbeds as we knew we would not be doing much lying down.





Food and Drink


Each beach has its own Kiosk selling water, snacks, ice cream and drinks, all with an official price list posted to ensure that everyone is selling at the same price. The more central beaches are also located next to lots of beachside restaurants to grab lunch or a snack and some of the bigger chains too. We took a picnic to the beach one day which was great and also grabbed McDonalds from opposite the beach another day.

Children Playareas


Along the entire beachfront are several large children playareas, all free to use with equipment that has been well looked after. They are however most often than not, in direct sunlight, so maybe better suited to early morning and late evenings. Just another factor that makes Tel Aviv so child friendly.


Check out the rest of the travel series in Tel Aviv below:


Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Real World Weekends - Tate Modern

This Sunday, we visited the Tate Modern to check out the Olafur Eliasson exhibition which is currently being displayed across the Gallery.

It is an amazing collection of works, across lots of different mediums and great to expose kids to the world of art. Especially since many of the pieces are interactive and perfect for opening their minds not only to art, but also science and the world around us. The exhibition is on until Jan 2020, it includes a waterfall outside the gallery, an interactive Lego display in the Turbine Hall and the main exhibition is made up of around 7 rooms on the 2nd floor, it took us around an hour to explore it in detail. Each room displays a different theme from his life and works, lots of different materials are used and a family friendly leaflet is also provided with key points for children to look out for during the tour.

We had not taken the kids to the Tate before, but they both loved the open spaces and little areas to explore all over the gallery, it is a great way to spend an afternoon at the weekend.

We finally managed to get the kids to leave the exhibition, which took a while since the last installation is an interactive table to build models at. We had initially planned to head up to the fifth floor members bar, however as per normal the youngest wanted a snack which were in the rucksack stored in the ground floor cloakroom. As we were already near the exit we decided actually to head out for coffees instead.

A normal Sunday afternoon, suddenly changed, within minutes the main turbine hall had to be evacuated and all exits to leave the gallery were closed.

It was only once we headed up to the first floor and saw the air ambulance arrive, did the news stories start coming in of the incident that had occurred just a few floors above us, whilst we had been busy looking at art work with our kids. My immediate reaction was that it was a terrorist attack or a drill, before we were told it was a medical emergency, saw the ambulance waiting and stretcher taken out, but the exits still did not reopen, which seemed strange since the helicopter had already taken off by now. It makes sense now, but at the time a lot of mixed messages were coming out.

What happened, could have happened to anyone. A six year old boy, could have just as easily been my 5 year boy. That is what is so scary, as a parent your first extinct is to protect your children, but how do you protect them from dangers like this. If I think too much about it and how close to home it was, I start to feel sick. Since having kids, news that involves children being hurt or passing away is just too much to often deal with. I would rather only think about them at the surface level.

The Tate Modern is filled with children, an amazing space in London where they should be able to be free to explore, learn and be kids, which was what one family was doing, expect this was snatched from them in a split second and their world changed.

As parents, or even as humans, what do we do? Dangers exist everywhere, even in the most unlikely locations. The Tate Modern, is like a giant middle class Waitrose on the weekend, its not somewhere that your guard is automatically up for. What is the balance between keeping our children safe but still letting them discover the wonders in this world?

Around the same time, the other news that dominated the headlines were the shootings in america. Again in a supermarket, a normal everyday, real world location that people should feel safe going to.

We have traveled to more remote locations in the past, often places that are stereotypical considered 'unsafe', and been questioned as to why we are taking kids to these places. But no one would question why you would take your child to the supermarket, or to an art gallery in London, or to walk across a bridge, visit a Christmas market etc. These are just everyday, real world parts of our day, but these can often be the most fateful. We had to explain to my oldest, what had happened. Our approach to parenting is to be honest with him, so we told him what had happened. On the day he did not quite understand what it all meant, for him it just meant he could not have his babychino. But then the next day, he asked if the little boy was still in hospital, showing that it had sunk in the seriousness of what had happened. The world he will grow up in, will not always be pretty, this is unfortunately a reality that as parents we cannot always shield them from.

I really hope the tragic events that occurred this weekend do not stop other families from visiting, the exhibition is truly magical for children of all ages, and one persons disgusting actions should not ruin that. At first I was not going to write this post, or even promote visiting the Tate, but then after receiving lots of messages from people who care to see if we were ok etc. I changed my mind, people should take time out and visit the Tate. Nothing happened to us on Sunday, our children were not hurt, I have no idea why that teenager did what he did but we cannot let our children live in fear of tomorrow.

The real world is often unfair and I hope so much that little boy recovers completely.







Monday, 5 August 2019

Mini Banana and Nutella Marble Cake

The recent hot weather has meant we have so many bananas going black each week, and as my kids know now these extra brown bananas make extra yummy cakes, so this weekend we whizzed up this quick banana and Nutella cake, using my favourite 5 inch tins.




A great easy bake to do with the kids, especially the messy chocolate part


I left my cakes with no topping but an extra swirl of Nutella on top would be great to go all out on the indulgence.

This makes 2 5inch cakes or one large 9inch cake.

Bake at 170 fan 


Ingredients 

120g Stork
150g Caster Sugar
2 Eggs
2 ripe Bananas
120g Self Raising flour
120g Plain Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
Large Pinch of Salt 
30g Nutella

Method

1. Preheat oven and grease and line your cake tins.
2. Combine together stork and caster sugar for 5 minutes in an electric stand mixer.
3. Whisk eggs and mash the bananas.
4. Sift together flours, baking powder and salt.
5. Add in eggs and bananas and mix for 2 further minutes.
6. Add in flour and mix until just combined.
7. Pour into tins, add dollars of Nutella and swirl for marble effect.
8. Bake for 25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
9. Leave to cool before enjoying. 


Sunday, 4 August 2019

Sleeping Secrets and the biggest secret of all....... we CO-SLEEP


Preparing for Baby


Before I had my first baby, we did the big John Lewis Nursery shop, which by the way is an amazing service offered to new parents and I highly recommend it. During the big shop we brought a Moses basket and cot in eager anticipation of our new arrival. I remember when choosing the mattress for the cot, we had a choice between three and obviously went for the most expensive one, as this would guarantee our child would sleep through the night. Back then sleepyheads and other such devices did not really exist but I am sure if they did I would have brought that too.
In my head, I knew that newborns mix up night and day and need feeding every few hours, so I anticipated for sleepless nights when he was first born, but as a first time Mum I also thought that these would end as he got older.


Baby Number One



He started of sleeping in his Moses Baskets, and as predicted would wake every few hours for feeding, burping and nappy changes, but we would all have long lie-ins in the morning and lots of squishy newborn smelly cuddles so life was not so bad. I had a great support network around me, which meant lots of visitors and parties in those first few weeks but I did not have to cook, clean up etc. After around 2 weeks, my husband went back to work, but the visitors continued. It was at this point that I had to step up. As lovely as it was that so many people wanted to see our little baby, the problem would be he would be asleep in the evening whilst people came over to see him and then just as they would leave, he would wake up and we would not get any sleep or rest until the early hours of the morning. I just felt that as a family we were having no down time, or a normal routine. So I put in place a 7pm curfew, as many visitors could come before then, but after 7pm was our time. This meant he got into a 'routine' quite early on, low lights, baths, massage, milk, bed etc.


This all worked pretty well, and at around 3 months old he was doing those amazing 5/6 hour stretches at night, sometimes even longer. His first 10/12 hour sleep coincided with my brothers wedding weeks, which was great for us, as we felt refreshed and ready to party for the many functions.


At around 4 months, everything changed and he went back to waking and feeding every few hours like a newborn. Nothing we tried helped and eventually as he outgrew his Moses Basket and we wished to maximise our sleep, we ended up co-sleeping. His beautiful cot, complete with mobile and safari animals that I was convinced he would love to sleep in, ended up being a wonderful second storage wardrobe for all those too small or too big outfits.


This is how we slept for around 10 months, at which point we turned his cot into a cotbed and putting him to sleep would involve around an hour of patting, then trying to escape the room before he realised. Being in a cot bed, meant that at some point in the night he would always wonder back into our room and jump into the middle. Something a lot of parents can relate with. In the end we moved his mattress into our room on the floor and he would sleep the whole night through. He has since moved into a normal double bed in his room, but still co-sleep with his Papa. More because we only have two beds at the moment, but he will fall asleep absolutely fine by himself and as I write this on a sat morning, is still fast asleep at nearly 9am. Those nights of constant waking, trying to get him to settle and as a toddler trying to get him to sleep, seem so long ago now.


Baby Number Two


Second- time around, we were staying at my parents house when our youngest was born, so the Moses basket got set back up (rather quickly as she made a fast and early entrance into the world); in my old bedroom. As a newborn, she was great, she would wake on cue every 3-4 hours, feed and fall back asleep again. Even when we moved back home at around 8 weeks, she would sleep through the night, sometimes so deeply she would wake up with a dry nappy and I was actually getting more sleep than when we had just had a toddler to look after. As she was exclusively breastfed, my last baby and because I was more confident as a mother; when the time came for her to move out of her basket and into the cot, I did not bother. She just came straight into our bed, where she would feed and we would both fall back asleep. Apart from a handful of nights, which were normally due to illness or a big growth spurt etc, on the whole she has been a great sleeper, never really causing a fuss. We also never had the whole pressure of trying to get her settle in her own cot or in her own room. In terms of bedtime routine, being the second child she has just slotted into her big brothers routine from birth for bathtime and bedtime. She is now nearly two years old, no longer feeding to sleep, and very much enjoys being a princess and sleeping through the night on her king sized bed in the master bedroom.

So what did I do different between these two babies, what is the secret of getting them to sleep through, what is that golden secret we all long for on those nights of hourly wake ups??

The Secret

In my opinion (obviously an expert after 2 children), every new parent needs to do whatever works for them to get the maximum amount of sleep. We did not sleep train either of them, as it was not for us. But I know so many parents and children, who love the routine and for everyone's sanity need to stick to it, so sleep training works a treat.


We have very busy social lives, love travelling with our children and just feel life should carry on after you have them, hence it would not be fair for me to put a routine into place when at the moment they spend so much of their week taking life as it comes. This has its advantages and disadvantages.


The biggest plus point for us, is their ability to sleep literally anywhere and through any noise levels, they have both slept through parties, done flights they have no idea about and enjoyed many naps around the globe. It also means we do not really have any issues when it comes to getting them to sleep in new surroundings or with big time difference.


The disadvantage however is they will ask us to put them to sleep, but as parents this is a lovely time to bond with them. The youngest loves to talk and talk and talk when it comes to bedtime, I then have to tell her its now bedtime and she will scoot over to her side of the bed and fall asleep. With my oldest, if I am putting them both to bed alone, he will happily get tucked into his own bed after a story and fall asleep himself. If he knows his Papa is around though he will ask him to sleep next to him, which I know that Papa loves to do as it means a 20 minute power nap for him everyday.


Sunday to Wednesday are our 'On' days as a family,. In terms of routine for both, since they were a few weeks old, had dinner, a bath, massage, milk, a book and then lights out. But Thursday - Sat, they may not be at home for bedtime, or we maybe out and they will fall asleep at dinner. I found with the warmer weather recently and much more of the day spent outdoors, they both fall asleep within minutes. Also although we are not regimented with nap timings or durations, I do believe that sleep aids sleep, so ensure they still have one even sometimes for my oldest on busy weekends.

Co-sleeping



With both, we have co-slept. With my second it was conscious decision that I was very secure and confident in making and also in telling people. With my first however I always felt that we were doing something wrong, there is a huge pressure to get your baby to self soothe, sleep through the night and in their own cot.

Every night they do not do these, you feel like a failure.

But why do they have to fall asleep all alone, as grown ups would we rather get into a cold bed alone, or share our bed with someone else, talk about our day and fall asleep feeling warm and loved. As adults, do we sometimes wake up in the night and find it hard to fall back asleep. In the end, my eldest slept the best when he was in the same room as us and that meant we got the most amount of sleep, so guess what that's what we did. Why are parents made to feel bad, feel as if they are spoiling their children or causing them long term damage.

My oldest went to bed last night and told me he loves sleeping by himself in his own room, he can now fall asleep alone and wakes up when he is ready too (at the weekends anyway), this meant second time around I was confident enough to make the decision from the being but without the gift of experience or time I would have never know this.

One of the most common questions you get asked with a new baby, is are they breastfeeding, are they good sleepers, are they sleeping in their own cot? All of the answers to which make no difference to anyone except you and your baby.

The majority of babies and toddlers I know will start off the night in their own beds and rooms but 80% of the time before the sun rises the next day they have found a way to scoot close back to their parents.

The Lullaby Trust provides some great safety standards to have in place if you do choose to co-sleep, and it is a shame that there is not more practical advise available for new parents who do choose this method, rather than making them believe there is no alternative.

The NHS website also has guidelines on what to avoid to prevent SIDS, as a first time and second time mum I did not feel comfortable co-sleeping when both of mine were very young, but I was happy having them close by in the moses basket instead.


Reflections 

My oldest took a lot longer, probably until he was around 2 and half years or three years old to begin to fall asleep easily and sleep through the night. With my youngest she feel into this routine a lot quicker, she was fed to sleep until she was around 18 months old, and then when she moved over to a bottle would never fall asleep on it, but after a few cuddles and pats does fall asleep. The same with naps too, at weekends these are often car and pushchair naps, but if we are at home she will often fight going up for a nap as playing is just far more important. And after a quick cry will fall asleep, normally for 2-3 hour long naps.


Generally I think we are quite relaxed with our approach to parenting, and in turn to bedtime and naps. When they need to be in bed on time they will be, but on the days that we can afford to wake up later then we do chill with them. I think the vibe you give off does play a big part, and often on the days I need to head out in the evening and want to get her to bed quicker she will sense this urgency and obviously do everything apart from go to sleep. So staying calm with them does help, obviously it is hard to do when they wake up 3 or 4 times a night.


As babies, they both had the same routines, slept in the same basket and bed, drank the same milk through the night but yet were such different sleepers, as parents we did nothing different apart from being more relaxed and confident second time around - was this the key?


Well to be 100% sure I would have to have a third to test it and my expert opinion, which we are not planning on doing. So I guess it comes down to the age old argument of nature vs nurture, girls vs boys, first born vs second born?


I therefore have no secret pill, or solution, but all I do know is that they now both sleep pretty well and we have our evenings back to ourselves, something as a new parent I never thought would happen, so their is an end in sight no mater what your babies are like as sleepers when they are young. Parents know their own children best therefore should feel confident in making the best choice for them and their children to wake happy and refreshed in the morning, even if this goes against social norms.


To all the sleep derived parents that have taken the time to read this far, I wish you all a wonderful nights rest tonight, and to always remember that in less than 15 years time, instead of them waking you at 2am, these will be the same babies that you will be shouting at to wake up at 2pm in the summer holidays.



Saturday, 3 August 2019

Tel Aviv with Toddlers Part 3- Parks and Playareas


One of our favourite activities in Tel Aviv, was to spend the late afternoon and early evening at the park whilst watching the sunset and letting the kids build up an appetite before dinner. We found generally people ate a lot later too in Tel Aviv and this was a great way to spend a few hours outdoors before dinner time.


The parks both on the weekend and during the week were always busy, filled with families and groups of friends enjoying the amazing weather and views.

One evening we even witnessed an entire elaborate proposal being set up, lots of red roses and a candle lit walkway. After all that effort and if front of a park full of strangers she thankfully said yes.


In addition to the larger parks, Tel Aviv also had lots of random play areas dotted around the city. Most of the streets had large central pedestrianized boulevard down the center which often had smaller play areas cut out, the kids loved these little pit stops and we found they were fab for them to left off a bit of steam and for us to have a breather and cool down.

Some of the best parks we found were:

1.Independence Park

One of the largest childrens' play areas with equipment suitable for all ages. Located in the northern part of Tel Aviv, just past Gordon Beach and very popular with families.


2.Siegal Park

Right next to the Independence Park on the other side of the Hilton Hotel, an amazing spot to catch the sunset, it has a sloping grass area with views of the sea. This also provided the backdrop for the romantic proposal we witnessed. One evening we took a picnic dinner down to Siegal Park and spent nearly the whole evening there. Top tip - at weekends it gets really busy so make sure you get there early with your blanket to reserve a spot for sunset viewing.

3.Haryakon Park

A very large park with a lake, petting zoo, bird park and water park, we only saw a small section. Often described as the Central Park of Tel Aviv.


4.Rothschild Boulevard


One of the most iconic streets in Tel Aviv, we began our morning at the famous Benedicts before walking down Rothschild Boulevard stopping often at the many play areas dotting along the center and also at the famous Coffee Kiosks for a iced coffee to cool down in the heat. Many of the bauhaus buildings that line this street used to be homes but they have now been converted into offices, galleries and boutique cafes. A leisurely stroll is a great way to spend the morning in Tel Aviv.


5.Sarona Market Playground

After visiting the epic food market we wondered outside to find a hugeeee playground completely empty. I would say a lot of the equipment is more suited for older children, however our little ones still had lots of fun adapting it. This part of Tel Aviv during the week was a lot quieter with lots of little boutique restaurants with outdoor seating to chill in.




I found that every second person walking down the street in tel aviv either had a pushchair or a dog, so family life is very much a part of the culture as a whole, as is outdoor living. From all the open terrace at the coffee shops, to the great use of city space to provide small playareas and shaded chill out zones. It was the perfect beach city break for us to enjoy as a family for a few nights.


Check out my other posts in our Tel Aviv with Toddlers Travel Series:

Brunch in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv with Toddlers