Thursday, 24 May 2012

Winning the war in the kitchen: 3 tips to help busy parents cook more from scratch!


This is a guest post from Rachel at Well Worn Whisk: simple recipes and food writing.

My blog is about easy home cooking, featuring mainly recipes and the occasional food article. I'm an ex digital marketing communications person, now full-time mum to a toddler with another one on the way. I want to spread the joy of simple home cooking and even, maybe, inspire busy people to cook from scratch more! 

It has to be said, I have everything on my side when it comes to cooking: I’ve got time as I’m currently at home with my son and expecting another baby soon; I have experience as I’ve been cooking since I was about 10; I like to think I have knowledge, from years of reading cookbooks; and most of all I have a passion for the subject. The only thing I am sometimes lacking right now, being 7 months’ pregnant with a toddler, is energy. But aside from being tired I have no excuse not to cook from scratch most days. Yet I don’t. I sometimes order a takeaway. Or I eat cake for dinner, sometimes a bowl of cereal! Personally I don’t tend to eat ready meals, unless baked beans count, preferring to go for toast or something basic rather than processed. The point I am trying to make is that, if people like me who really love to cook can’t manage to do it from scratch every day, what chance do people who work full-time, have more than one child, and don’t even like (or know much about) cooking have?

I understand why people don’t cook from scratch, I really do get it; however, I still don’t see that as an excuse for never (ever) doing it, especially as a parent. It’s not OK, in my opinion, to give your family processed meals every single day, even if you are the worst cook in the world. Anyone with half a brain knows that there are benefits to home cooking: it’s likelier to be healthier, probably containing less salt and ‘bad’ fats. At the very least, when you cook from scratch you know what’s going into a dish. But aside from health benefits, you are setting a good example to your kids when you cook, so that hopefully they will feel inspired to cook too. And if you include them in the cooking process then you are spending quality time with them as well. There really is no argument that I can think of not to cook more - we all know we should do it, but that knowledge alone might not be enough to make us get the pans out and actually start cooking.

Cooking from scratch is easy, I firmly believe this. For most people the reason they don’t cook is down to a busy schedule and a lack of knowledge. I think you can overcome these problems by choosing the right recipes - but to do that you must have some decent ingredients in your cupboards, ready to be utilised when you need them. If you give yourself achievable ‘cook more’ targets you are more likely to be successful. For example, if you don’t cook at all from scratch at the moment, then aim to do it once a week. If you’d just like to cook a bit more, then why not aim to increase your repertoire by learning three simple and nourishing new recipes?

Here are 3 simple rules that might help in your efforts to cook more from scratch. They may seem obvious, but I really think they work!

            1 -   Do some batch cooking (your freezer is your friend)
Your time is a precious commodity and you need to use it wisely. It’s just as easy to make two lasagnes as one, so try doubling up when you’re cooking and freeze one lot of whatever you’re making (if it’s suitable). It’s so gratifying knowing that your freezer has a few standby dinners and desserts (as well as the odd packet of fish fingers) for occasions when you’re too tired or busy to cook. All you have to remember to do is take it out the day before!

Batch cooking recipe suggestions:
>> Easy, healthy and freezes well (spice it up or down depending on who’s eating): Hearty bean chilli
>> Almost foolproof dessert (freeze before cooking): Rhubarb and blueberry crumble

            2 - Put time aside at the weekend for some family cooking and eating
With parents coming home late from work and the priority being to eat something – anything - as quickly as possible the minute you get through the door, I totally get that weeknights might not be the best time to think about getting stuck into a new recipe. Making time at the weekend is a no brainer. There’s not many people who don’t have an hour or two to spare, whether that means getting up earlier or sacrificing another activity: what’s more important than your family’s health and happiness? I think the two best times for a spot of family cooking are a Saturday breakfast / brunch or a late Sunday lunch. I’ve suggested two recipes here.

Weekend cooking recipe suggestions:
>> A fun breakfast / brunch recipe (add bacon or blueberries for brunch): Healthy American style pancakes

            3.  Perfect an adaptable store cupboard recipe (or three)
There are some ingredients that you will almost always find in my cupboard: a tin of anchovies, tinned tomatoes, a bottle of capers, some extra virgin olive oil, and pasta of some sort, plus a head or two garlic. If I don’t have these in, I feel slightly panicked as it means I can’t make quite a few variations of my own go-to store cupboard dinners, which are mainly pasta. If you can master an easy recipe that you normally have the ingredients in for, then once every week or so (not so much that everyone gets sick of it!) you know you can knock up something good from scratch as the mood takes you. It might be a simple omelette with eggs and cheese and perhaps the addition of a vegetable like peppers or courgettes. This is the essence of good store cupboard cooking: you can make it with or without one or two of the ingredients. Here are two deceptively simple, adaptable store cupboard recipes that could be made even without the main vegetable ingredient.

Adaptable store cupboard recipe suggestions:
>> Surprisingly easy store cupboard supper (don’t let the word souffl√© put you off!): Leek, cheddar and penne souffl√©(eggy bake)

A quick note about fussy kids, as this can be a problem when trying new recipes (we’ve all been there). If you’re worried that your kids won’t eat new foods then my advice is to take it slowly. Start with foods that all kids like: fluffy pancakes with blueberries; homemade fish fingers; homemade chips and dips (search out simple recipes). Get them involved in the cooking, standing on stools breaking eggs, whisking batters, even slicing vegetables with your help - and then encourage them to watch their dinner come to life in the oven. Give lots of praise when eating it: “You’re so clever for making fish fingers with me, this is the best lunch I’ve had all week!” As they start to get more adventurous, try new more interesting recipes with them – you might be surprised. We should stop assuming that kids will only eat bland and uninteresting food – they have palettes too! Kids imitate their parents, so if you show enthusiasm for what you’re cooking and eating, they probably will do too.  

Monday, 21 May 2012

#MedalMonday - May 2012

medal

Fall in, troops!! 


Welcome to another Medal Monday, that day of the month where we celebrate our parenting victories, no matter how small. 


Whether you've produced a meal your child has actually eaten, won a battle with your child's school, or done the most awesome-ist ever craft activity, we want to hear about it. Link it up below and share your glory with us.


You can grab the victory badge from the sidebar if you want, and tweet us your blog post url @ParentFrontLine so we can pass it on. But most importantly, link it up below so we can read and learn from the best. 

AT EASE.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Everyone failed!!


This is an anonymous guest post


We went on holiday recently with my husband’s family including his nephew who is an only child. I knew from the time that we started organising it that it was a bad idea! Our 4yo nephew doesn’t like our 2yo daughter at all and has an antipathy towards our 5mth old son. I knew in my gut that I should have put my foot down and I expressed these concerns to my father in law when he began organising the holiday. I was told not worry about it because by then 2yo would be talking properly and it wouldn’t be an issue. Yeah right!


Everything was sweetness and light when we got there (mostly because the children were too tired!) but on the Sunday, it started Big Time! 4yo’s mother lets him listen to really heavy metal music and it makes him really aggressive! It didn’t help that Sunday was a miserable day and we were all too tired from the 5 hour journey the day before to do anything, but that didn’t excuse 4yo’s behaviour! He decided that he really didn’t like 2yo doing anything!


When they went into the garden, he pushed her over and she slipped on the grass and hurt herself. When it started raining, they came inside and it carried on. He didn’t even like her playing with her own toys because he couldn’t hear his music! She was sat on the floor singing to herself and he shouted at her to shut up! If she went anywhere near him, he’d shout at her and push her away because she was ‘taking his stuff’! If she was colouring in next to him at the table and she went to pick up one of her crayons, he’d yell at her to leave his pens alone when she was nowhere near them! At one point, I went over and put my hand on the table so that I could bend over and pick up one of 2yo’s crayons and he shouted at me because my hand was touching one of his numerous colouring books that he wasn’t even using. My 2yo had one, he had about ten! He wanted to use my laptop to access the internet and lost his temper when I said ‘no.’ The internet didn’t exist when we were children! This went on all day and nothing was done to stop him, apart from the odd, ‘oh stop being silly!’ In the end, I took my children out to protect them from the constant abuse they were getting!


I will fully and freely admit that my 2yo worked out really quickly that her 4yo cousin was really easy to wind up and took every opportunity to do so and I disciplined her for that, but I did mention to my father in law on more than one occasion that I felt that his grandson’s behaviour was totally inappropriate and that I was concerned about the fact that his mother was doing nothing about it. The response I got was that it was 2yo’s fault for deliberately winding him up! I told him that he’d better say something or I would and he refused. ‘Oh it’s just kids!’ 4yo was bullying my daughter and that’s all you have to say?!? I held my tongue until Tuesday and again spoke to him about my concerns. Again he refused to say anything to his daughter about her son’s behaviour and neither would my husband! They all agreed with me, but refused to do anything about it!


On Wednesday, I finally cracked and told my husband that if something wasn’t done about it that day, I’d be going home first thing in the morning. ‘Don’t go home. It’s not fair on everyone else.’ What about my children? Was the bullying and abuse they were receiving fair to them? I replied that I would be going home as I’d had enough! 4yo’s mother heard it and said that it was all 2yo’s fault for not leaving her son alone. What about the constant barrage of abuse that he was levying at my 2yo even when she was playing with her own toys?


Wednesday afternoon, 4yo’s mum went out for an hour by herself because she felt that she ‘needed time alone’. The whole time she was out, 4yo was constantly shouting at 2yo to shut up (she was singing one of her dolls to sleep) and then he started on my 5month old. A baby! He told me to stop him crying because he wanted to hear his metal music. He had ear phones on!


Just as his mother was coming up the drive, we had sat our 2yo in the high chair and given her dinner and she was shouting. I had left the room for two seconds to get some wet wipes and could hear him again shouting at her to shut up. Their uncle turned around and also started shouting at her to shut up. I have to admit, I really lost it then and went into the room and really laid into him for punishing my daughter for her cousin’s attitude. He threw his iPod at me and stormed out. 4yo’s mother came into the room at this point and told me that telling 2yo to be quiet was not punishing her. By then my blood was boiling so I responded in kind! ‘If you disciplined your son effectively then we wouldn’t have a problem! The fact is: he’s a spoilt little bully!’


Her response, ‘How dare you call MY SON a bully!’


‘Well it’s true!’ You can imagine what ensued!


I picked up my son, who was crying, and went to leave the room. My husband went to take him off me because he thought I was going to leave the house with him. 4yo’s mother came along and tried to take him off the two of us. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘why don’t you concentrate on telling your son that this argument is his fault!?’ which verbalised as ‘Get off my son, you bitch!’ I surrendered the baby to my husband and went to sort 2yo out 4yo’s mum was taking him upstairs because he was in hysterics.


My mother in law started having a go at me, justifying what her daughter had done, saying that she was having a bad time at the moment. What about me? There are THREE, count them THREE, social workers on my case! I have a husband who’s incapable of work and a son with a potentially life threatening illness and you think she’s got it hard! All of her problems are self-inflicted! While I was telling her this and helping 2yo eat her dinner, my husband came into the room and took me by the arms and in front of my own child, dragged me out of the room!


I screamed as he knocked my knees against the door post. He opened the front door and tried to push me out of the house. I grabbed hold of the banister. He ripped my arms away and tried again. He screamed in my face, ‘Get out! I don’t ever want to see you again!’ I refused and again he shouted, ‘Get out! Just go!’ I gave in and walked out into the rain in my socks and with no coat on.


I texted him: ‘I’m not coming back. If you can be bothered to call the police, tell them they’ll find my body in the lake!’ and I meant it! I really meant to go off and end it all because everything was being forced onto me. I was being made responsible for everything and no one was thinking about me. No one cared about me! It took him half an hour to reply and instead of coming to look for me, he sent me a text asking where I was. A text! In the meantime, I tweeted my opinion on only children. (Spoilt bullies!)


When, he finally came to get me, I was frozen to the bone and soaked through, He accused me of emotional blackmail. When I got back to the house, 5 month old was screaming for a feed (I breastfeed) and I instantly knew that this was the only reason they wanted to find me. I was forced to sit in the living room in my wet clothes and listen to everyone telling me how stupid I was and how it was all my fault! At no point did anyone suggest that I go for a bath and bed.


4yo’s mum was doing her best to drive a wedge between us all evening by commenting on my faults and failings. And commenting on our children’s behaviour!


That night, I blogged about my feelings about social services and spent most of the evening begging my husband to let me go home. ‘It’s not fair on the children.’ Was his response. So it was fair that 4yo was subjecting them to verbal, emotional and physical abuse whether he knew it or not! It wasn’t the fact that he was doing it that was bothering me, it was the sheer volume of abuse!


Next day, 4yo’s mum noticed my tweet and without taking my mood at the time into consideration, she blocked me on Twitter and Facebook. My husband dragged me upstairs and told me off about it. ‘Why did you have to do that?’


‘Because that’s how I felt at the time!’


‘Well, it’s not nice!’


‘And her behaviour is?’ He confiscated my phone and laptop and deleted all of my social networking apps from my phone. I felt like a child.


Ten minutes later, I went downstairs to find 4yo’s mum holding 5month old. How dare she touch my child? So I took him off her and put his coat on and put him in his car seat and picked my keys up. Hubby shouted, ‘Where are you going?’


‘Out! No one wants me here so I’m going!’


‘Are you coming back?’


‘You don’t care!’


‘Yes I do! Are you coming back?’


‘No one wants me here because I’m ruining everything for everyone!’


‘Are you coming back?’


‘Let me go home!’ I walked out. I had to leave 2yo there because he wouldn’t let me take her. I drove off vowing never to return and to fight to have 2yo returned to me! I don’t know where I drove or where I went but I ended up in a car park crying my eyes out! No one knew or understood or cared about how I felt! They were too wrapped up in their own self-loathing from their self-inflicted problems to even think about what I was going through! Why should I go back? What was the point? The thought of 2yo and the abuse she was enduring with no one to stick up for her made me return. The trouble was: I’d started to believe that it was all her fault and that I was wrong because everyone had told me that so many times!


4yo’s mother had read my post by the time I returned and was crying about it and how she felt that she couldn’t even begin to imagine how I was feeling and that she was so sorry! She still hasn’t unblocked me from Facebook or Twitter yet so she can’t be that sorry. My father in law told my husband that it was probably better for us to go home a day early because he didn’t want any more arguments. Well, if he’d spoken to his daughter there wouldn’t have been any in the first place!


We came home the next day and I have to say, I was never so glad to come home from holiday in my life! Everyone’s blaming me for ruining the holiday, but I think in our own little way, we all did. We all failed all three children that week not just me and I wish the others would admit to it!


So next time someone expresses their concerns to you, do something about it!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Fight the boredom this summer


School is nearly out and summer is fast approaching. The idea of having the kids at home 24/7 may induce a multiplicity of feelings, whether you’re a stay at home parent, or timed your annual leave to coincide with the inevitable. If  you’re trying to avoid the monotonous drones of “I’m bored” from your teenager, having to play dress up one more time with your four year old or tripping over your toddlers trike, then you will need to be armed with some ideas to keep these lot busy. That’s why as a fellow parent hailing from the front line, I have come up with just a few ideas.

Take them on Holiday
If you can afford it, even if it’s just at the end of the street, taking the kids on holiday is always a good solution for keeping them out your hair and off your back. A change of scenery can do wonders for not only their moods, but yours as well. When making a choice on which hotel to stay in, be sure to consider your options. Depending on the age of your children, make sure there are things for teenagers to do such as bowling, discos, snorkelling etc. as you certainly don’t want them repeating that all familiar phrase whilst you’re trying to soak up the rays in Barbados. If you have younger children, you should make sure the hotel has a kid’s club where they can meet other children on holiday, making for hours of uninterrupted play for them and rest for you. With babies, making sure that the room you choose is safe i.e. covered sockets and child safe crib, mattress etc. Another thing to consider is a self catering option as heating up bottles in the middle of the night won’t be that thrilling if you have to run down to the reception desk to do so. 

Send them out in the Garden
Depending on their age you should probably take them. How does this get them out your hair you might ask? Well it doesn’t really, but the games you can play outdoors are countless and I can guarantee will not become boring. Playing hide and seek in the garden shed, building a tree house, dressing up the dog or even planting a few vegetables are all activities that will keep your children busy this summer. Depending on where you live and if the hose pipe ban is in operation, then filling up the paddling pool, having a picnic lunch or making mud pies for the hedgehogs are also options for hours of fun in the garden.  The possibilities are endless!


Ship them Off to Grandma and Grandad 
So, grandparents are also lifesavers when having the kids all summer is becoming a bit of a drag. Your children will always enjoy being spoilt rotten by your parents so having them visit will never be like convincing them that taking a trip to the dentist is fun. Grandma always seems to have an endless supply of cakes and sweets, whilst Grandad tells the funniest jokes that have them falling off their chairs, no matter what age. Your parents will hardly ever say no, because unlike when they’re with you, your children to your parents are like angels. Plus, they have the added benefit that at the end of the day, they can pack them back to you, breathing a sigh of satisfaction and waving an enthusiastic goodbye.

And so it’s on that note that I wish you all the best of luck keeping your little ‘uns entertained this summer. Have a good one!


This post was provided by Anika, working for Tiger Sheds. If you need a shed to hide in this summer holidays, they're your people!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Parenting Room 101: Things that give me Mummy-rage.

Mummy-rage - it's not good. There are things I encounter as a parent that make me very stabby. I would love to put them in Room 101. Here are my top five....


1) Lunch-box police. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that children turning up to school with nothing but crisps and sweets for lunch is a good thing. Buuuuuttt, I do think that teachers have a hard enough job without having to do checks of the lunches that parents have made for their own children. Some parents find food enough of a battleground without having to be told that sandwiches can only consist of cheese or meat - no jam, no peanut butter (i.e. stuff your child might actually eat). The guidelines that schools have to try and get the children to adhere to are set down by the government and it's various advisory bodies - and I say, Oi, Cameron, butt out will ya!!




2) Celebrity Mums - not celebrities who are mums, because that would be silly, but those women who have a perfectly good career in showbiz or whatever, and because they have suddenly become a mum start milking it for all it's worth - releasing fitness DVDs so you can get your figure back, clothing ranges for pregnant women and their soon-to-be offspring, food ranges, appearing with their little darlings in adverts for questionable freezer shops. What happened to the woman taking some time off for maternity leave and then going back to doing what she was doing previously, like all us lesser mortals have to? Oi, Klass, give it a rest and go back to being a perfectly good classical musician, will ya!



3) Lelli Kelly. The cutest shoes. Lelli Kelly, they are so cool, oh yeah! They may well be but  they are also hideous, and hideously expensive. On top of that they have the most annoying advert of all time, ever. It doesn't stop my girls wanting them so much - they seem to love the Lelli Kelly song and the shoes that go with them. I say, Oi Kelly, shove your shoes up your backside!



4) Me too! Why oh why did they shelve Balamory and wheel out Me too! instead? What a crock. It's awful. the songs are shit. The acting is chronic. The children are marginalised. Even the dog looks like it knows it got the shitty end of the stick after doggy drama-school. And I don't know about you, but Riverseafingle looks suspiciously like Glasgow to me. I say, Oi, Granny Murray, just shut up you old bag!



5) Useless baby equipment. There are things you need, like a pushchair, a high chair, and a cot, and things you don't need. Unfortunately you don't learn you don't need them until after you've bought them and not used them. Here are things we had that hardly got any use - a moses basket, cot bumpers, bloody flamin' bumbos. Don't bother. I say, Oi, shops, stop selling us stuff we don't need!

So, what would you like to send into parenting Room 101?

Friday, 11 May 2012

#FailFriday - May 2012

Sorry! Been really busy. Doing successful parenting stuff obviously. I'm not a failure.

However, if you've been feeling the pressure recently and achievement has given way to a disaster or two, then this is the place to be. 

Link up your fail posts below, tweet us with #FailFriday, and let us all share in your self-pitying, wallowing mess of a life. The funnier the better, thank you! And something we can take the piss out of you for would be ideal. There's a badge over on the right if you want to increase your exposure as an inadequate human being. 

So, link up below and we'll all come and show you some support / sympathy / humiliation*

Thank you good people!!


*depends how we feel at the time. It's pot luck, I'm afraid.


Ignore this technical bit - PY3WCU7DS2BM

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Know what you're up against: Torture techniques

Children. Who'd have 'em?

It's like we welcome them into our homes and lives but then they start slowly turning it in to a war zone. Bit by bit, day by day, they do stuff that drives us nuts, and makes us want to run for the hills. Maybe their sole purpose is to make us abandon our territory so they can have it all to themselves. So they can steal our oil, or something like that.

But this doesn't have to be your fate. An awareness of the techniques they use to conquer us can help us to be strong and resist their advances. 

Today, we start with torture techniques. There are many techniques available for a soldier (i.e. little darling) to torture the enemy (i.e. you) with. While we can't tell you what to use to combat this torture, an understanding of how the little buggers can grind you down can keep you one step ahead mentally. 

Fully trained in ritual humiliation. Yours.

Blackmailing - You know it well. If you don't do something they want, or let them do something they want to do, then you will bloody well pay for it one way or another. With whining, or a tantrum, or just telling you they don't love you any more. The threat of having to hear their little whiny voice and look at their pathetic, hard-done-to face for hours on end tempts us in to giving in to their demands. Well don't! Be a man. Tell them 'no' and mean it. That'll teach them.

Humiliation - Argh, the pain! The torment! Just when you thought you were getting away with it all, the little darling decides to tell random strangers, at the top of their usually tiny voices, that Mummy was squeezing the spots on her face this morning. Or that Daddy was doing something equally (or more) disgusting than that. Or worse, they tell their teachers who have a very crafty way of being able to wheedle out all your family secrets with just one look. You will never have the same street cred in the playground again. Ever.

Sleep Deprivation - Oh God! This one needs a whole blog post in itself. We will come back later, I think.

Exposure to unpleasant sounds over a long period of time - Bong bing boo. Bing bong bing. Bing bong bingly bungly boo. Bong bing boo. Bing bong bing. Bing bong bingly bungly boo. Do I need to explain this one any further? Thought not.



Being subject to interrogation for long periods - Whhhhhhhhy? Like this.....

"Mummy, why is that lady walking funny?"
"Don't know darling. Maybe she's had a poorly leg and it's not got better."
"Oh. Why?"
"Well, I don't know. Some people just get poorly for whatever reason."
"Oh. Why?"
"Because people catch germs or hurt themselves doing something mental like parachuting or something."
"Oh. Why?"
"Because people sometimes like to do things like that."
"Oh. Why?"
"Because they JUST FRICKIN WELL DO THAT'S WHY!!!!"

And relax.

So there you have it. Some of the more common torture techniques you will encounter as a parent. Do you have any more to add to help out your fellow trooper?
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