Sunday, 21 February 2010

Breastfeeding older children

I'm reading this book, which is about breastfeeding toddlers. I'm still breastfeeding Michela who is three in April so I have a personal interest, aside a 'professional' one. This modest looking publication caused a stir when the author, Ann Sinnott, appeared on GMTV to promote it.

A mother who breastfeeds a four year old was there and they also invited Clare Byam-Cook, who uttered a few controversial statements against breastfeeding older children. These caused a commotion in breastfeeding circles and several outraged comments from mums appeared on the GMTV's website. Click here to see the video that sent breastfeeding mums on a virtual warpath.

I have been busy with writing, so I have only had a chance to buy the book recently. My first impressions are that it's really sad some mothers have to hide the fact they are breastfeeding a toddler because they fear criticism from people and even health professionals. But then I remember that program called Extreme Breastfeeding where mums breastfeeding older children were treated a bit like freaks.

And if I'm honest, the first time I went to a breastfeeding cafe when Michela was weeks old, there was a mum breastfeeding a toddler and I did think it was a bit weird. So it's poetic justice that I now think it's perfectly normal - all I'm doing is waiting for my daughter to stop rather than imposing my decision.
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Friday, 12 February 2010

Penny-pinching parenting

I feel like I'm becoming the Queen of Mean. No, I am not embarrassing people with putdowns Anne Robinson style, I'm just trying to stretch the pound further in our household. Sign of this condition appeared as I grew up in a penny-pinching household (my parents married for love and my mum was 20 when she had me). Going on a tangent, the other day I shocked myself making a parallel between me and her. I have a little girl who is three in April, while my mum was age when I was 23 and at university.

Anyway, back to the development of my mean streak. After I graduated I decided to move to London and lived there for 14 years. The first years I didn't have much money, but managed to save. Eight years later the savings joined a mortgage in the purchase of a Victorian terraced house that needed refurbishing.

Around two years later I met my current partner, sold the house and we bought a house together, our combined savings financing a step up on the ladder and getting us a Victorian semi. When we decided to move out of London in 2008, we sold the house and lived in rental. When the credit crunch cornered us, our savings became both a lifeline and a future deposit on our next house.

It's safe to say that I have been penny-pinch for years for a reason or another. Having already done the renovation on a budget thing, in 2007 I was ripe for the next challenge: budget parenting. This (ironically) was easier in London, where there are plenty of places where you can buy things second hand. I did a lot of freecycling too, which worked out very well as I disposed of things I didn't need anymore and acquired items I needed. This continued in Rugby, where there were plenty of shopping bargain to be had (I became quite fond of charity bazaars and school fetes). And let's not forget the NCT Nearly New Sales, which have been great everywhere I have been. I have been singing their praises in NCT newsletters and online.

So what about Cambridge, my new ciy? There is an NCT sale coming up on 28 March, which I'm very excited about and there are plenty of charity shops (Burleigh Street is a great place for bargains). Freecycle is present here and there are plenty of shopping opportunities, especially with the sales, which have been lasting longer this year. We have been to a few charity bazaars, too. I'm a sucker for homemade jams made by sweet old ladies.

Of course shopping at different shops, chasing bargains and comparing prices require time and effort. So I was particularly excited about John Lewis's new value range as it's one of my favourite department stores. I have already bought three lovely pans for £12 and two really good paring knifes at £1 each. I'm quite tempted by their bedlinen and other bits and pieces below...

John Lewis Value Plain Polyester Cotton Duvet Cover Sets, Blue

John Lewis Value Toaster, 2-Slice, White
John Lewis Pancake Pans  (complete with free online recipe for Pancakes to celebrate Shrove Tuesday) 

And this is an article for baby on a budget with lots of ideas for new parents

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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Chocolat sans frontieres

After Italy won Snowmen Sans Frontieres, I knew there was going to be a rematch. The new challenge was however a friendly international and the team colours were green and black. You guessed, it was chocolate testing with Green & Black's bars, a match made in heaven!

The chocolate challenge
The Italian (moi) felt all superior about it - after all I'm the dark chocolate lover and not a fan of sickly sweet, milk chocolate concoctions with low content of cocoa. The English (my partner) was so cocky he decided to test blindly. So while he turned his back to the eight delectable chocolate bars, I read aloud the instructions kindly provided by our sponsor, Green & Black's, for expert chocolate tasting. The English (nicknamed philistine for his low opinion of most contemporary art) predictably snorted hearing the suggestion that you should put the chocolate in your mouth and pinch the nose (temporarily) to appreciate the taste. The Italian complied, glad there was no mention of spitting in a bucket (like you do for wine tasting).

Testing times
Let's hear it for the flavours! Of the range pictured above, the teams tested Almond, Butterscotch, Cherry, Creamy Milk,  Dark 70%, Dark 85%, Milk and White. The testing order was not alphabetical (sorry but I'm an analist) but, as recommended, we started from the lightest variety and worked our way to Dark 85%.

The (cocoa) scores
At 30% we have White; at 32% we have Creamy Milk; Butterscotch and Milk are 34%,  Almond is 37%, Cherry is 50% and the name says it all for the Dark varieties (70% and 85%).

The match
We started with White as it has the lowest percentage. This was a controversial move as the English (who decided to play with blinkers) proclaimed it was a nice take on the Milky Bar. Italian called for arbitration. Upon discovery that Milky Bar has a whopping 57.7g of sugar per 100g while Green & Black's White has organic raw cane sugar and higher cocoa content, the Italian was feeling pretty confident.
Next on was Creamy Milk, which the English (and self-styled philistine, not to mention fan of Cadbury chocolate) identified it as a Cadbury Dairy Milk tastealike to the horror of the Italian who although not a fan of dairy chocolate could taste the difference (no Sainsbury's pun intended).  
Butterscotch created a truce as both teams agreed it was very tasty, although the English made a sneaky reference to Crunchie bars. Milk chocolate went down a treat, with the Italian muttering about smokey flavours, while the English uttered the C word again! Almond was again an equalizer, despite the suspect reference to peanut cookies from the English, which the Italian deemed a failed Jilly Goolden interpretation as talking about peanuts when almonds are involved is not comme il faut.  
Cherry was our third winner, so moreish, the Italian kidnapped it after the match and had a saucy affair behind a closed bedroom door. The English thought it was like Cadbury's Fruit & Nuts without the Nuts. Last but not least the Dark varieties. Dark 70% was again smokey and sexy for the Italian, while the English reckoned it tasted like the nice dark one at LIDL. The last one was the Dark 85%. Well this was for connoisseurs so as the Italian chewed slowly and a tad pretentiously, the English was not impressed.

The hat trick
Three were the winners: Butterscotch, Cherry and Almond.

Thanks to the sponsor!
Both teams wish to thank the sponsor, Green & Black's for supporting our friendly challenge. Below are wonderful images of Belize, where the cocoa comes from. Willy Wonka, eat your heart out!

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