Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Have you had "the chat" with your daughters yet?

Did you spend at least part of last week mopping up tears or trying to cheer up depressed teen/pre-teen daughters who had just discovered that Zayn had left One Direction? If not, then you can probably move along to the next blogpost because I assume you have boys and you won't need to have "the chat" any time soon !

Oh yes, "the chat". Words that strike fear into any mother. No, not the one involving the birds and the bees. I mean the one involving periods ... or the chances are you'll call it something else like "monthlies" or "the time of the month" or, as my mum used to say, "your bad week". I had "the chat" with Sophie a few years ago but, now that she's 10, I'm going to have to have it with Juliette some time soon as well and I'm not really looking forward to it. I'm not a prude but it's so hard to know what to say and how to get the right balance between friendly chat and biology textbook.

 Luckily, with perfect timing, the Tampax press office got in touch with me last week to share the findings of some recent research, conducted to coincide with the launch of New Tampax Compak Pearl. Amongst other interesting facts, I learned that over 60% of girls don’t talk to other women about tampons and that, although Mum is still the “go to” person when young girls have period concerns, bloggers and vloggers beat the school nurse as a source of advice. They've therefore asked bloggers to share their pearls of wisdom (no pun intended !) on having the puberty chat with their daughters. I've put my thinking cap on and come up with my top tips, but if you have any others, let me know !

1. Try to drop it into a normal conversation, rather than making it into something big and important and scary. Maybe take advantage of your daughter saying she's got a stomach ache to say that, sometime soon, that could be a sign that she's about to start having periods, or point out that she's getting grown up now and will soon be changing school, allowed to have a mobile phone, turning into a young woman and and having periods.

2. Find out what they already know (or think they know). Maybe they've got an older friend or a big sister who has already started periods. In our house, they noticed the dog being on heat and losing blood, which was a great ice-breaker ! The chances are, they'll already have some idea of what periods are all about so now's the time to set the record straight, debunk myths they've picked up along the way and offer answers to any questions they've been secretly harbouring and worrying about.

3. Don't go into too much detail, let them set the pace of the chat. Some girls are very curious and open about their bodies while others would feel extremely uncomfortable going into it with their mum. Just remember, you're only one source of information and they can pick up the rest online, in books/leaflets, at school or from friends. Make sure you leave the conversation open and say that you're always happy to answer questions at a later date.

4. Keep it practical rather than theoretical. Point out where the sanitary towels/tampons are kept for when they're needed. Suggest that it might be an idea to stick to dark clothes just in case at that time of the month and broadly cover the advantages and disadvantages of tampons versus pads - particularly if you're going on holiday or your daughter does swimming at school. Remind them that sports teachers will know all about the time of the month, even if they're male, so not to feel embarrassed if they need to be excused once in a while, especially if they're swimming. (You could even have a laugh about it being one of the rare advantages of having your period !). Suggest carrying a few tampons or pads and maybe a change of knickers with them in their school bag (although I'd have been mortified about my friends or the boys in my class discovering it at that age !) or suggest marking on a calendar "the time of the month" and planning ahead, wearing panty liners for a few days in advance to be on the safe side. Making it a "problem" to be fixed rather than a big scary life change can make it easier to talk about for mum and daughter !

5. Don't limit it to just what goes on "down there". You might want to mention mood swings (maybe you could admit to being a bit of a PMT-monster sometimes yourself, when you're particularly short-tempered with the kids ... you'll get knowing looks and smiles from your teen daughter next time you're being unreasonable!), spots and the sudden desire to eat a family-sized bar of chocolate as possible side effects. Without labouring the point, drop into conversation that this means they're now ready to have babies so need to bear that in mind when the time comes for them to have boyfriends (but don't overdo it - they'll have enough to be dealing with, without combining two major chats into one !)

As you'd expect, Tampax also have loads of useful guides for both mums and daughters - you could start with Mum's Period Questions Answered by Dr Radha Modgil or Everything You Wanted To Know About Your First Period and Beyond guide or maybe send your teens over to the Being Girl Youtube channel. Take advantage of all the free samples available too to help your daughter experiment and find the size/shape/brand that works for her.

Disclosure : We'll be receiving some Tampax Compak Pearl #perfectfit goodies for both Mum and daughter.

The Naughty but Nice March Degustabox has arrived !

The Easter bunny's on his way and he was actually hiding in this month's Degustabox, which the postie dropped off last week. Unfortunately for you lot, it was a special bonus gift for the Degustabox bloggers so you won't get a Lindt bunny in your Degustabox, I'm afraid - sorry !

You will get a whole bundle of other naughty-but-nice things to sample inside though - this was a really popular box with lots of oohs and aahs and "can we try those now, mum?" comments as we unpacked the box. I always love boxes like this one that introduce us to new products from well-known brands and also some lesser known brands that we'd never heard of. 

So here's what was in this month's box :

Juiceburst (2 x RRP £1.25) - Juiceburst Cranberry ("cram-berry full of goodness") and Juiceburst Skinny Mango & Lime (only 99 calories) were in the box, but there are 14 flavours available in total. I'd never seen or heard of these before but we all loved the flavours so I'll be investigating the rest of the range, particularly the Skinny Ones, to keep the sugar/calories down to a reasonable level. They count towards your five a day which is always good to know too.

Crabbie's Fruits Alcoholic Raspberry & Rhubarb / Black Cherry ( 2 x £1.50) - Yum ! The first thing I tried from the box ! I've loved the other flavours of Crabbie's that we've received in previous boxes and these didn't disappoint. They have a lovely sweet, fruity flavour, perfect for chilling out in the garden waiting for the barbecue to cook (roll on summer !). They contain up to 10% fruit juice so you can even kid yourself that they're good for you !

Jordans Lighter Granola (RRP £3.69) - Jordans have come up with a granola that is 30% lower in fat while remaining high in fibre and still tasting great. We reviewed this a while ago and loved it (you can see what we thought here). It's great with milk or yogurt as well as used in flapjacks, apple crumble topping and muffins. Love the chewy, crunchy texture and the fruity taste.

 BBQUE (RRP £3.99) - I wouldn't have associated barbecues with Germany but this BBQUE sauce is from Bavaria. I would think of beer when I hear Bavaria though, and this sauce does contain some of that, along with cranberry, honey and apples. That sounds delicious so I'm reserving this for the first barbecue of the year, hopefully not too far in the future, and I'll be using it to marinade chicken thighs, pork chops and pork ribs. It can also be used as a dip and as it's a big bottle (393ml), there's plenty to get experimenting with. It smells lovely and smoky (and I dipped my finger in for a taste - it has a smoky but sweet flavour that is really nice).

 Lindt Lindor Mini Eggs (2 x £2) - With all the recent furore about Cadbury changing the chocolate in their Mini Eggs, maybe you're looking for a new fun-sized Easter treat. Well, I highly recommend the Lindt ones - they're delicious and you get a nice mix of milk, white and dark chocolate. I planned on using these to top Easter cupcakes but the kids (oh ok, and the grown-ups) polished off both bags before I could get my mixing bowl out !

 Bassetts Jelly Baby Berry Mix (£1.48) - A bag full of red, purple and pink (blackcurrant, raspberry and strawberry) jelly babies is what got the biggest oooh from the kids ! These are lovely but I don't know who decided these were the most popular flavours - I prefer the green ones ! You might like to build them some little cars using fun-sized milky ways and smarties like we did !

Maynards Sour Patch Kids (£1) - These are pleasantly sour sweets, not so stupidly sour they make you pull silly faces and swear to never eat them again though, because after the initial sour hit, you get the sweetness of the jelly sweet inside coming through. When you've overloaded on Easter chocolate, you might fancy some of these for a change ! The Madhouse kids loved the fact that they look like the Jelly Babies sugar-coated cousins.

 Kent's Kitchen Posh Noodles (RRP £1.75) - Basically a posh pot noodle, just add boiling water, stir and leave for a few minutes. I'm not very inspired by the thought of this one to be honest but I have loved the other Kent's Kitchen products that we've tried so I may be pleasantly surprised. Sophie's excited about eating this anyway so it's ideal for a quick and simple teen meal or something to keep in your drawer at work for a quick lunch. Spicy Szechuan flavour sounds nice and the fact that it only contains 222 calories is another bonus.

 Natvia Sweetener (£2) - Zero calories and made from 100% natural sources. What's not to like ?! The packaging says that it is great for tea and coffee but it can be used in anything, including baking. This is made from stevia, which we've tried before and which I was impressed with because it's versatile, natural and doesn't have a background taste.

 Brioche Pasquier Baked Bread Bites (2 x 50p) - A brand new product that hasn't even hit the shops yet. Each 20g bag contains under 90 calories and they're being marketed as a healthier alternative to crisps. They are lovely as a snack - the bacon flavour is delicious - but I'd prefer eating them sprinkled over soup or salad as croutons. 

The recipes in this month's box are for BBQUE Spare Ribs (great minds think alike!) and Double Chocolate Strawberry French Toast that isn't quite as naughty as it sounds because it uses the Natvia sweetener.

The total retail value of this month's box is £22.41 so the £12.99 subscription fee is great value, especially as you can use code 4DOQ7 to get a £3 discount at the checkout.

for more information :

Disclosure : I received a free box in order to write an honest review.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Picture book review : Daniel O'Dowd Was Ever So Loud - Julie Fulton

Daniel O'Dowd Was Ever So Loud is the latest book in the Ever So series - we've already reviewed Tabitha Posy Was Ever So Nosy and Miss Dorothy-Jane Was Ever So Vain.

In this book, we meet a little boy called Daniel who really needs to turn the volume down !

He's so noisy that he causes all sorts of havoc, upsetting the animals at the zoo, annoying his teacher and even destroying the town's lighthouse.

However, his extreme noisiness turns out to be a blessing in disguise when he looks through a huge telescope made of cheese (yes, you did read that right !) and spots a huge meteor about to crash into the Earth. He whizzes off into space and shouts so loud that it disintegrates.

Daniel is a hero ! But he has to remember the wise words of his teacher about listening being even more important than speaking in order to get back to Earth !

It's a lovely fun story with an important life lesson for young readers and a huge dash of silliness thrown into the mix. Daniel is a bit of a rascal but his heart is in the right place and the crazy scientist is great fun too. Elina Ellis's instantly recognisable illustrations make it a delight to read at bedtime, with Pierre pointing out things that he's spotted in the pictures as I read. As it's written in rhyme, it's a really enjoyable book to read aloud.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing (28 Jan. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848861184
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848861183
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 0.3 x 26.3 cm

Disclosure : We received the book in order to write an honest review.

Madhouse recipe : Creamy Cheese, Potato and Bacon Quiche

You may have seen my recent blogposts about the Japanese recipes that we tried and that I was pretty sure we wouldn't like (and 100% sure that the Madhouse kids would turn their noses up at !) so this recipe developed from a look in the fridge to see what I could come up with as a plan B meal ! It's the first time I've put potato in a quiche but it worked quite well so it's another great way of using up leftovers.

Creamy Cheese, Potato and Bacon Quiche

1 ready made puff pastry sheet
1 pack bacon lardons
5 leftover boiled potatoes
100g grated cheese
4 eggs
20cl liquid crème fraîche
milk (skimmed, full-fat, almond or rice, whatever takes your fancy)
a handful of cherry tomatoes

Use the puff pastry to line a flan dish and prick all over. Pop in the oven while it preheats at 180°C. Use this time to cook up the bacon lardons. Drain off all excess fat.

Remove the pastry from the oven and cover the base in sliced cooked potatoes.

Cover with the bacon. Crack four eggs in a pint glass, beat and add 20cl crème fraîche. Top up the glass with milk, mix and pour into the pastry.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and arrange halved cherry tomatoes arround the edges.

Bake in the oven for about half an hour until completely set and the cheese has melted and gone golden.

This can be eaten warm or cold next day, when you realise that Japanese food is better than you expected !

Monday, 30 March 2015

Picture book review : Robopop - Alice Hemming


Having already reviewed, and loved, The Black and White Club and Bibble and the Bubbles, we were delighted when Maverick Books sent us a new picture book from Alice Hemming to review. This one is called Robopop which made me smile because I'm sure the allusion to Robocop will go right over little readers' heads.

The story introduces us to Dylan and Daisy who think their dad is a bit rubbish because he's no good at football and doesn't have a sensible job like the other dads at their 'Bring Your Dad To School Day'. All together now - awww !

Well, he may be rubbish at football but he is good at inventing things so he comes up with Robopop, a robotic dad who is excellent at getting the kids in top form for playing.

They may initially be happy but the kids soon discover that the robot dad is just a bit too full on and they'd rather have their own dad back after all.

I loved the fact that all through the story, the real dad is hanging about behind the scenes keeping an eye on his ungrateful offspring. Pierre also loved looking out for him and his weird and wacky disguises and hiding places.

All's well that ends well when they manage to transform Robopop into a lean mean cleaning machine - I quite fancy having one of those myself !

It's a lovely story about appreciating the people in your life, quirks and all, and also about what being a dad is really all about. I found it slightly odd that there is no mention of a mum anywhere at all in the story but the Madhouse kids didn't pick up on this and there are plenty of single-parent families out there anyway.

As usual, the story is really brought to life by the fun, colourful illustrations (courtesy of James Lent).

star rating : 4.5/5

  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing (28 Jan. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848861664
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848861664
  • Product Dimensions: 11.6 x 0.3 x 26.1 cm

RRP : £6.99

Disclosure : We received the book in order to write an honest review.

Our cupcakes using Betty Crocker Carrot Cake Mix

After sampling the delicious carrot cake at Costa, I remembered that I had a box of Betty Crocker Super Moist Carrot Cake Mix from my hamper of American goodies. This is the version "with pudding in the mix" (whatever that means !) that is, as far as I can tell, not the same one that we usually get in European supermarkets. Inside the box, you just get one big bag of cake mix.

You need to add 2/3 of a cup of oil (I used the healthy rice bran oil from a recent Degustabox) and 3 eggs.

Pierre cracked the eggs, poured in the oil and got stirring. It all blends together easily and doesn't create lumps.

I decided to make individual cupcakes rather than one big cake so we divided the mixture into 16 cupcake cases. If you look closely, you can see little round orange dots. I was dismayed to see that, once again, after our Jiffy Blueberry Muffins Mix, this cake mix uses "imitation carrot pieces" rather than real carrot. What is it with American cake mixes and their artificial fruit/vegetable pieces ?!

After 15 minutes in the oven, they were ready. 

They are extremely soft and light but a little bland - they taste of cinnamon but not a lot else. I could have frosted them but decided against it, so that might have helped them out. They're still quite reasonable - I've been eating them and Sophie and Madhouse Daddy like them, but Pierre and Juliette aren't keen.

Footprint painting crafts

You may remember our recent handprint crafts session when we transformed Pierre's handprints into a variety of creatures. I made a throwaway comment that it could be good fun to try with footprints too and he's been begging to have a go ever since so I finally relented and we got the paint pad and some sheets of paper out in the bathroom, so I could plop him straight in the bath when he was covered in paint ! Once they'd dried, it was time to see what we could turn them into.

This was my first attempt. I'm not really sure what it's supposed to be - a duck with legs maybe ?! I had visions of turning the toes into eggs and drawing a nest around the bottom of the duck which would make more sense.

This was my favourite (of my efforts) - a sealion balancing a sparkly ball on its nose.

Pierre decided to turn his first one into Barbapapa.

Then we got the feathers out to create a fluffy bird.

I saw this idea for a tractor online (by googling "footprint paintings").

So Pierre had a go at making an aeroplane.

This bearded man is very cute.

But I have no idea what this one was supposed to be !

Or this one - it's got colourful feathers though, what more could you need ?!

It's amazing how much fun you can have with a simple paint pad and I love seeing how inventive kids can be.

Globe-cooking recipe : Kyuri No Sunomono (Japan)

This Japanese starter, combining rehydrated seaweed and cucumber, really didn't sound very appetising but it was surprisingly tasty. Each individual ingredient separately wasn't particularly nice - the seaweed had a pungent fishy taste like anchovies, the cucumber strips were salty and the vinegar sauce was very acidic - but they all come together in perfect harmony. The star ingredient that really makes the dish is the surprising Ume Plum Sesame Seeds that add a lovely nutty topnote.

Kyuri No Sunomono

ingredients :

4g (half a jar) of dried Wakame seaweed
2tbsp Ume Plum Sesame Seeds
1/2 cucumber
100ml rice vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
1tbsp sugar
1tbsp soy sauce

This month's Japanese-themed Kitchen Trotter box included a jar of dehydrated Wakame Seaweed.

It looks a bit like tea leaves when you put it in a bowl, but it has a very strong fishy smell, reminiscent of the sea.

Add cold water and leave for 10 minutes to rehydrate. It will double or even triple in size so a little goes a long way. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.

Peel and thinly slice the cucumber into strips. Lay out on a plate and sprinkle with salt, then leave for 20 minutes, to remove excess water. Rinse thoroughly to remove as much salt as possible (but they will stay quite salty). They should go quite soft and ploppy. Carefully squeeze out excess water with kitchen roll or a clean tea towel.

Combine the vinegar, sugar and soy sauce to create a dressing. Stir until the sugar has totally dissolved.

Put the cucumber strips in the bottom of individual ramekins, put a dollop of seaweed on top, drizzle with the vinegar dressing and sprinkle generously with Ume Plum Sesame Seeds.

It's a surprising blend of flavours that creates a light, refreshing and undoubtedly healthy starter.

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! *** 

Fancy trying some other Japanese dishes? How about Horenso No Shira-aé and Kamo No Teriyaki & Yakisoba (Teriyaki Duck with Soba Noodles)?