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I'd really love it if my child ate nothing processed and happily ate all the fresh whole foods I offered her on a daily basis but sadly she prefers things that come out of a brightly coloured packet. As processed foods go, you could do worse than the Organix brand because they don't contain too many horrible ingredients. Also they are widely available which makes it easy to find a snack for your toddler when you're caught out with no food if you're as disorganised as I sometimes (usually) am.
My toddler likes many items from the Organix range but her total favourite is the carrot cake oaty bar, or as she calls them, 'flapjacks'.
The ingredients are:
Wholegrain Oats 46%, Raisins 32%, Sunflower Oil 12%, Carrot Juice Concentrate 7%, Apple Juice Concentrate 2%, Cinnamon
Pretty much all of the toddlers I know are also fans of these bars, so they are obviously popular. I find them to be quite an expensive food product at around £2.50 for a box of six bars but Tesco often have them on special offer at two boxes for £4 which is a little better.
The packaging is nice a bright and the individual wrappers make it convenient to carry one in your bag for a handy snack for your child. They are a substantial snack for a small person and seem to fill my little girl up for quite a while. She really does enjoy them and I think they are quite tasty too.
Other than just a straight up chunk of dark chocolate, this is my go to after dinner vegan sweet treat. These desserts are delicious. They are made from soya beans, and are produced by Alpro, the Belgian company who have pretty much cornered the market on soya based products in the UK.
These desserts come in packs of four little pots with a peel back aluminium lid covering. There is a cardboard packaging around the plastic pots. You can choose from a range of flavours including 'milk' chocolate, vanilla and gingerbread but I think the dark chocolate wins hands down. These desserts are available for around £1.50 in major supermarkets in the UK and are occasionally on special offer for £1 each.
These desserts are suitable for vegans, they are low in fat and don't contain gluten or artificial sweeteners, colours or preservatives. Having said that they are obviously still a highly processed product and I only indulge in one of these once or twice per week. At 94 calories per 100g they are pretty much average for a sweet treat.
Alpro claim to be environmentally friendly as a company which is nice to know, because I plan to continue to buy their products for a long time! The chocolate mousse itself is lovely and smooth in texture. It is rich and sweet but not overly sickly. I find the amount to be comfortable after a big meal - I always crave something sweet after a meal even if I'm quite full.
This is a really good granola. Which in my opinion means it's not overly sweet like the Jordans country crisp style cereals, it doesn't contain raisins or other dried fruit, and it's very crunchy.
I like dried fruit but I'd rather buy a plain granola and add fresh banana and berries.
The oats and grains aren't bunched toget her in large clumps like some granola, they are quite small and you can see the individual oats.
The bags of Lizi's granola have a nice packaging with a good quality feel to them. You would expect no less considering this is an expensive product. Lizi's granola are priced at £3.69 in Tesco for a 500 gram bag, so are an ocasional treat for me, although I would love to buy these every week and eat them most mornings. In fact, I really like granola as a snack before bed.
Lizi's granolas come in a range of flavours, I have bought the begin chocolate one before, which was just delicious and seemed really decadent. I was impressed that their whole range is suitable for vegans.
When reading the ingredients of this range of granola it's clear they are intended to be a cereal with good health in mind. As well as oats they contain a variety of nuts and seeds, including linseed,pumpkin seed, cashew,hazelnut, and walnut. They also contain vanilla for extra deliciousness.
Granola doesn't have to be just eaten with milk poured on, Lizi's has a serving suggestion of added to ice cream. Sounds good to me.
Everyone should see the documentary Blackfish in my opinion. This powerful film documents the captive Orca Tilikum at the sea life animal park, Sea World in San Diego, USA. More widely it documents the policies and practices of Sea World itself, which are shown to disregard wellbeing.
There have been three high profile deaths of trainers working at Sea World, involving Tilikum, who the film argues has a tendency to violence following his captivity in 1983 and subsequent mistreatment.
The film includes footage of trainers working with Orcas and footage of some of the attacks. It makes it point very powerfully via insightful interviews with past trainers. Sea World is accused of being highly negligent not only in its treatment of the animals it keeps captive but also towards its staff. Dawn Brancheau, for example, was blamed for her own death in 2010 because she had worn her hair in a ponytail.
For me the most moving scene was an interview of an ex employee of Sea World describing the capture of Orca babies from the wild, chasing them, and taking them from their families. This man breaking down in tears of regret and shame was unforgettable.
Blackfish received an overwhelmingly positive response from critics for its passionate style of documentary making. It was released in 2013 and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite.
Blackfish has sparked controversy over the ethics of keeping Orcas in captivity and following the film's release Sea World's Chief executive resigned and Sea World has experienced a drop in profits.
Tiana extra virgin coconut oil is available for around £12.50 in Holland and Barrett for a 500ml jar. You can sometimes get this product in their penny sale, where you buy one and get another for one pence, which is really worthwhile as it's a fairly expensive product.
Coconut oil seems to have grown in popularity in the UK and USA in recent years. Of course it has long been a staple in Asia, even being used as an alternative to fuel to run motor vehicles with.
Despite its high saturated fat content coconut oil supposedly has some amazing health benefits. In fact there seems to be some controversy about the pros and cons of coconut oil for our health.
I do like to cook with coconut oil as it has a lovely subtle nutty flavour and is particularly good in curries, which I make a lot. It also works very well in making raw snacks instead of baking as it is solid at room temperature. Well, the usual room temperature in the United Kingdom, anyhow.
There are lots of ways you can use this coconut oil besides cooking or eating it. I use it directly on my daughter's skin at the first sign of dry skin or eczema and it has fantastic results. I know it has no added strong chemicals either so it is a great choice for babies and children, it also doesn't matter if they happen to swallow some either. I have used it as a massage oil to relax my little girl before bedtime too.
Other uses apparently include a low spf sun protector when used on the skin, to make soap, use as hair conditioner, to treat insect bites and as a lip balm.
The very busy spider is a children's book by Eric Carle, of the very hungry caterpillar fame.
I have bought quite a few Eric Carle books for my daughter as I knew and loved the very hungry caterpillar from my own childhood.
The very busy spider also has beautifully charming illustrations in Eric Carle's trademark style.
The book shows a spider spinning a web. Each page sees a different farm animal invite the spider to go and to something fun with them. For instance the horse asks if she wants to run in the meadow. Each time we find, 'the spider didn't answer. She was very busy spinning her web'. We meet a dog, a pig, a cat, a cow, and a rooster, among others. This gives babies the opportunity to learn the names of different animals as well as the sounds they make, as each animal opens with 'neigh' or 'moo' and so on.
The spider web itself is textured, adding a nice sensory element to this book, and we can see how it grows as the pages turn.
This is a board book, and can be enjoyed from a very young age.
At the end of the story the Web is complete and the spider falls fast asleep after such a busy day. This makes this a perfect bedtime story. Exciting books are great but all parents need ones like this in the collection to help with winding down for bedtime.
I like this book, and my daughter has had it from a very young age and is still entertained by it now.
The Cabin in the Woods was written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard and was directed by Drew Goddard and produced by Joss Whedon. I was excited to see it because I'm a bit of a Joss Whedon fan, having enjoyed Buffy, Angel and most of all Dollhouse.
I wasn't disappointed with The Cabin in the Woods, it retains Whedon's clever teen dialogue and was an original take on the horror/ slasher genre - no easy task.
The action takes place in a cabin where a group of college students are holidaying. They are unknowingly being watched and manipulated by a group of lab technicians in a high tech bunker who are evidently controlling an annual ritual to appease some unspecified higher power. This seems to involve creatively sacrificing some teenagers around the world. The stakes are high as we hear that other nations have failed in this year's task.
The teens play a part in their own demise, their actions can trigger different monsters and we see the workers at the facility taking bets on which monster it will be this year.
This is all done with a lot of dark humour which I really enjoyed. The cast are solid, with stand out performances by Fran Kanz who plays the intelligent consipracy-theorist stoner Marty and by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins who are the duo we follow at the facility. This pair have some very funny scenes.
The Cabin in the Woods was released in 2012 and received a positive reaction from critics.
I bought one of these sleeved bibs for my Daughter when she was approaching six months and I was starting to think about offering her solid foods. I knew it was going to be a particularly messy process as I was skipping the spoon feeding of pureed foods and was planning on letting her get stuck in to baby led weaning. This meant she would be given a variety of food that she could pick up, mash up, taste if she wanted and generally play with and explore a range of different foods.
In my excitement I bought this massively overpriced bib - what was I thinking? I hadn't yet discovered the sleeved bibs available at the pound shop that would become my go to shop for bibs in future. Jojo Maman Bebe is a relatively expensive high street store but I do admit that their products are very pretty, and this bib was no exception. It was a soft plastic in yellow with a print of little pink birds. The sleeves had elasticated wrists and the neck fastens with velcro. There is a plastic pocket on the front of the bib to catch spills.
Apart from looking pretty, I didn't actually rate this bib that much. Poundland bibs don't have elasticated wrists but food and drink never seemed to go up my daughter's sleeves anyway. Plastic is wipe clean, but the towelling bibs are better for mopping up, in my experience. Also my daughter found it more uncomfortable than other bibs. Maybe it would be worth having one of these in your collection if you are planning to go to a posh function where you need to feed your six month old and you know it's going to get messy.
The Way Way Back is a lovely, funny coming of age movie in my opinion.
Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, this was new territory for me as the only part I was familiar with of their previous work was Jim Rash's Community.
The Way Way Back brings us a shy teenager Duncan who is spending the Summer at with his Mum, her arrogant boyfriend and the boyfriend's obnoxious Daughter, at their seaside vacation home.
The opening scene skillfully introduces everything you need to know about the dynamics of this family and the subtle bullying taking place. The pace is slow but steady with this movie, and there is a lot of low key humour as we follow Duncan in his self development over the Summer.
Duncan finds himself a job at a local run down water park, and here he finds a place to belong. The park's owner, Owen, is brilliantly played by Sam Rockwell and becomes an unlikely father figure for Duncan. This friendship enables Duncan to develop confidence and there are some really touching scenes between them.
As well as Sam Rockwell, the rest of the cast are also very good. Steve Carrell is perfect at the mean boyfriend, but not too heavy handed. Toni Collette is great as the passive but loving mother, this could be a really two dimensional role but she has depth.
I would definitely watch this movie again, I really liked it.
The Way Way Back was released in 2013 to a mostly positive reception.
I use rice a lot in cooking, it is one of the staples in our household. Usually therefore, it makes sense to buy in bulk and cook the rice from scratch. However, in the interests of convenience and to save time I sometimes buy these pre cooked steamed rice packs from Tilda.
This 250g pack makes a good serving for one person at lunch, or as a side at an evening meal. I would never normally have time to cook rice at lunchtime, so this is a really handy product to have in the store cupboard.
The pack is super easy to open, it has a handy strip to tear off at the top. The rice is kept fresh by the packaging and I've never had any problems with this rice packet.
I usually add other ingredients to the rice. Brown basmati is a nice grain and does have a good nutty flavour as stated on the front of the packet, but when fried in coconut oil with some soy sauce and a handful of chopped spinach and some spring onions it really comes to life.
Tilda make a variety of these rices and I have tried a few of these including lime and coriander, brown basmati and quinoa and sun dried tomato basmati. They have all been tasty.
As a convenient pre prepared food item I would expect these rice packs to be on the expensive side, but they are often on special offer for two for two pounds so I tend to look out for these offers and stock up a little.
Written and directed by Richard Linklater, Bernie is the portrayal of Bernie Tiede, an undetaker / mortician in a small American town. The story is based on real events and real people in Carthage, Texas, where Bernie was a much loved local pillar of the community. He befriended many of the townspeople and particularly the wealthy widow Mrs Nugent. Semmingly Bernie's polar opposite, Mrs Nugent is portrayed as a mean spirited sour old lady, and no one has a good word to say about her. In her friendship with Bernie she is generous and seems to find happinnes, but her controlling nature starts to take its toll on Bernie. Without adding too many spoilers to the review, it's safe to say the people of the town are sympathetic to Bernie over Mrs Nugent.
Bernie enjoys a solid, if unconventional, cast. Jack Black plays the lead role of Bernie himself, and gives a good performance. I think Jack Black's movie choices and performances are sometimes good, sometimes not so much, but I like this one! Matthew McConaughey has a role as the local law enforcement and Shirley MacLaine is the formidable Mrs Nugent.
In a stroke of genius the local townspeople are played by themselves. I didn't realise that before watching the movie, but they were so oddball and convincing I checked and found they were real. This made the movie for me, their interview style scenes were often hilarious.
On the whole I really enjoyed this movie.
Bernie was released in 2011. It enjoyed critical acclaim and was nominated for one Golden Globe award.
When my baby moved into her own room at around 9 months old, I wanted a light that would meet our needs when going to her when she woke throughout the evening and the night. I couldn't find a night light to suit our needs, it had to be bright enough to see what I was doing when I went in to her to feed her in the night but I didn't want it to be so bright that it disturbed her or woke her up more than necessary.
The babytec autofade bedside lamp was the ideal lamp for us. It has quite a few features so that you can adapt it to meet the needs of your family and your baby. I paid twenty eight pounds for it which I thought was quite expensive but worthwhile if it did the job I needed it to. It is currently less expensive on Amazon and available for twenty four pounds.
The lamp has a nice design, with a minimalist feel to it. The base is white and there is a large opaque glass dome which is the area that lights up. The base unit has two small buttons which are very sensitive to touch and there is no clicking sound - a huge bonus with a sleeping baby in the room who may be prone to waking up at the slightest noise like ours was!
The lamp is simple to use but also has a number of functions and settings - an impressive design. It has an autofade function so that there is no sudden change in lighting but it can also be left on safely without overheating.
The light can be dimmed or brightened easily and gradually. It can also be preset to the desired brightness. A 25 watt bulb is included in the purchase and ours has not needed replacing yet 16 months later.
I bought this DVD set of Troll and Troll 2 specifically to watch the movie Troll 2. Bizarrely, the two films aren't actually connected. Originally the movie was titled 'Goblins' but in order to try to market the movie they renamed it Toll 2 and tried to sell it as a sequal to an unrelated film. Amazingly, Troll 2 does not feature Trolls at all.
The Italian Director Claudio Fragasso made Troll 2 in 1990. Troll 2 has a reputation as one of the worst movies ever made. And I would agree, it is utterly, hilariously terrible. The child actor from Troll 2 went on to make a documentary about the making of the movie - it's amazing. The Best Worst Movie is well worth watching for an insight into the bizarre world of Troll 2.
Troll 2 was shot in Utah and the casting took place in one day. Some of the starring roles were given to members of the public with no acting experience. The director and crew spoke little to no English and the American cast had pretty much no idea what was going on. The script itself is clearly written by someone who is not fluent in English.
This plot is about a group of vegetarian goblins who turn people into plants so they can eat them - this was a personal attack by the director's wife who was angry that some of her friends were vegetarian. Everything about this movie is funny.
Thanks to it being a truly horrendous movie, Troll 2 has earned cult status. I loved it and will definitely be watching it again.
* I haven't yet watched Troll
I have been buying these vegan sausage rolls for years, they are an old favourite in my household.
Linda MacCartney sausage rolls are made with puff pastry and have a soya based filling. They come in packs of six sausage rolls and are found in the freezer section of most major supermarkets. They are often on special offer but even at full price they are a good price in my opinion.
The sausage rolls are useful to feed a crown and I usually provide a tray of these if I am hosting any kind of buffet situation. I have also taken them to contribute to work christmas parties and that sort of occasion. They have always been popular with vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike at functions and people have asked me for the recipe on more than one occasion, suggesting they are of a good quality.
For feeding a crowd I usually cut the sausage rolls in half then cook them, as they are easier to manage at a finger food style party if they are bite sized. The cooking instructions suggest placing them on a baking tray with the seal facing down, which is necessary or else they will open as the pastry cooks. I brush the top of the pastry with soya milk as directed which increases the flakiness of the pastry and helps them to turn a nice golden brown when they cook.
These sausage rolls are lovely after 20 minutes in the oven. I have knocked one star off because in my opinion they aren't as good as truly home made sausage rolls.
The ingredients are as follows:
Puff Pastry (56%): [Fortified Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Water, Palm Oil, Salt, Rapeseed Oil, Emulsifier: Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids]
Filling (44%): [Rehydrated Textured Soya Protein (54%), Water, Onion, Flavouring, Rapeseed Oil, Pea Protein, Rehydrated Textured Wheat Protein, Wheat Gluten, Stabiliser: Methyl Cellulose; Sunflower Oil]
This is another of our family's favourite bedtime stories. Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler appear to be on course for world domination through children's literature as they have another huge success with room on the broom.
This story is one of a witch and a cat flying on their broom. Each time the witch drops an item, her wand or her bow, she flies her broomstick down to the ground to look for it and each time she meets a new character who finds her lost item for her. She meets a dog, a frog and a bird and each of them join her and the cat on her broom.
This is essentially a really positive tale about altruism and friendship. When a dragon attacks the witch her new friends are able to rescue her and they all create a new magic broom together using items that represent them. Lovely stuff.
The rhythm and pace of the story is perfect. Like the gruffalo, it's fun to read aloud and the predictable repetitive lines means my toddler can join in too, which she loves to do.
As always the illustrations by Axel Scheffler are superb. There is much life and warmth to the characters.
The book itself is quite large and floppy. My toddler finds it a little bit cumbersome to manage herself when she wants to look through without adult help.
I would recommend this book to any parents of two year old and those with slightly older children too.