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The most important meals of their lives

For children in Africa, breakfast isn’t just the most important meal of their day, but it could also be the most important meal of their lives. Starting the day with a full tummy gives them the energy to go to school and the energy to concentrate on learning. Education has the power to break the cycle of poverty; it can turn despair into hope.

The UK charity, Send A Cow, have published an e-book celebrating the importance of the first meal of the day as part of their Break…Fast appeal to help children in the poorest parts of Africa start each day with hope, potentially changing their lives. The Most Important Meal of their Lives features women and men who have made remarkable achievements. These women and men, who changed the lives of others dramatically, all had the choice to eat breakfast. If they hadn’t started every day with a full tummy, would they have changed the world? Maybe not.

Send a Cow researched what these great people liked to eat for breakfast, writing down the recipes for the food that helped them reach their potential. Now you can also start the day just like some of history’s greatest women and men, including Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Mother Theresa and the Apollo 11 astronauts.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my versions of some of the Most Important Meals over the last few weeks. Here are some of them. I also breakfasted like Amelia Earhart and Jane Austin.

Mahatma Gandhi secured independence for India and inspired freedom movements all over the world. When he was in London, he liked to eat porridge and cocoa.

Send A Cow Most Important Meals of their Lives

My peaceful breakfast:

Send A Cow Most Important Meals of their Lives

Albert Einstein believed in the benefits of a vegetarian diet. When he lived in Germany he liked eating fried eggs for breakfast with something drizzled over them (download the book to find out what!).

Send A Cow Most Important Meals of their Lives

My brainy breakfast (I was initially sceptical of what Einstein poured over the top, but it actually works very well):

Send A Cow Most Important Meals of their Lives

Rosa Parks became an icon in the battle against racial segregation when she bravely yet quietly refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger. Her featherlite pancakes have an extra (very American) ingredient which make them very yummy (download the book to find out what it is!).

Send A Cow Most Important Meals of their Lives

My quietly strong breakfast:

Send A Cow Most Important Meal of their Lives

While the book is free to download, any donation you make, big or small, before the end of June 2014 will be doubled by the UK Government. Your donation will help Send A Cow provide seeds, tools and livestock so African families can grow enough food to feed themselves.

Tomorrow morning when you eat your breakfast, don’t take it for granted. Take a moment to think about the importance of food and take a moment to think about the power of food. Food has the power to change lives. Food has the power to change the world.

Read more about Send A Cow’s work.
Download The Most Important Meals of their Lives.
Make a donation to change the world.

The Kingsmill Great White Challenge

I do love a challenge, especially one that involves food, so when Kingsmill invited us to take part in their Great White Challenge I jumped at the chance.

For three days we had to replace our normal loaf of bread with Kingsmill Great White and use it as creatively and healthily as we could.  Our creations also had to have the ‘wow’ factor, kind of like The X Factor but with sandwiches instead of singers!

I don’t usually buy white bread, especially not for Nicholas, although I do secretly love a slice of white toasted and slathered in butter. Thankfully Kingsmill Great White contains as much fibre as wholemeal bread with 7.0g fibre per 100g (interestingly Kingsmill Tasty Wholemeal contains 6.2g fibre per 100g).

breadNicholas, unlike his Italian papà, loves toast and sandwiches, and happily eats them every day. However, he’s recently gone from happily eating his crusts to refusing to eat them.

But back to the challenge. As soon as I heard the bread’s name there was only one possibility for me – we were going on an undersea adventure in search of great white sharks!

Mask and snorkel? Check!

Mask and snorkel? Check!

Shark pjs? Check!

Shark pjs? Check!

We actually had a false start to the challenge as it was postponed a week at the last moment, but I didn’t want our efforts to go to waste. We had turtle toast with peanut butter and a teeny bit of nutella for breakfast to celebrate World Turtle Day. Then Nicholas very excitedly told me when I picked him up from pre-school that he’d eaten TWO sharks at lunch (and there were only crumbs left as evidence). Two great whites already spotted!

Kingsmill Great WhiteOn to the official challenge. On Friday we had ‘under the sea’ sugar-free French toast for breakfast, jellyfish and fish sandwiches for lunch and some shark fin carrot soup for dinner. I made the jellyfish tentacles from the leftover crusts and (shock, horror) they were the very first things Nicholas ate! Number of great whites spotted – 1

Kingsmill Great WhiteOn Saturday morning a fishy in a hole gave us lots of energy, then later our Playmobil friend went a little crazy when she spotted not one but two great whites lurking in our salad sandwiches. Number of great whites spotted – 2

Kingsmill Great WhiteWe started our final day of the challenge with crab toast (again with peanut butter and a little bit of nutella) inspired by one of Nicholas’ books (and the crab legs, made from crusts, were the first to be eaten!). I then used some of the bread chopped up to make healthy mini savoury bread puddings for lunch and I made Nicholas’ into another turtle (this is also a great way to use up any crusts or end pieces nobody eats). And finally, in the evening, we had summer pudding (another fab way to use up older bread). Unfortunately my octopus turned out more like a spider, but he still was very much appreciated! Number of great whites spotted – 0

Kingsmill Great White

Total number of great whites spotted – 5!

We had lots of fun making and eating our creations, and I loved see Nicholas enthusiastically eating his crusts 😉

You can see lots of other wonderfully original and healthy creations by other bloggers by searching #KingsmillGreatWhite on Twitter or Instagram. Kingsmill also have a fantastic free Lunch Book with recipes all created by kids (Hayley’s Funky Turtle is definitely my favourite).

Some of the other bloggers who did the challenge and their fabulous creations:
Boo Roo and Tigger Too
Mummy Mishaps
Mummy Mum Mum
Mummy’s Space

Disclosure: we were compensated by Kingsmill for participating in their challenge. My opinions are honest and my own.

Review: a2 Milk

For my regular readers you know one of the things I like experimenting with in the kitchen is making dairy-free versions of recipes I love. It’s not only because I have a dear friend who’s lactose intolerant, but also because I’ve had periods in my life where dairy has seemed to have been a contributing factor to horrible eczema.

Cutting out dairy products during those periods was incredibly difficult for me.  I love dairy! I love milk, I love cheese (the smellier the better!), I love yogurt, I love ice cream…

My Aussie grandparents had a house cow. ‘What’s a house cow?’ you might be asking. Well it’s when you don’t live on a farm, but have enough backyard for a ‘pet’ cow who keeps you supplied with milk! Because of my grandma and her love of dairy, I can’t eat cornflakes. This is because, as a very little girl, she got be used to eating cornflakes not with milk but with cream! I’d happily munch through a bowl of cornflakes and cream now, but it’s not the healthiest start to the day.

Anyway, I love dairy and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve married a man who loves dairy too. We get through 12 pints of milk a week (I think that’s almost 7 litres)!!! But hubby complains of bloating and I’ve also started noticing my tummy going from a reasonable size on waking up to being much bigger after even a small breakfast.

Enter the absolutely lovely Lindsay who hand-delivered some a2 Milk for us to try.

a2 Milk
A2 milk was actually introduced in Australia many years ago (here in the UK we’re a bit behind when it comes to allergy-friendly products) and many people swear by it. People say it’s cleared up allergic rashes, stopped bloating and even improved behaviour in children. But what is A2 milk you ask?

To put it simply, cows’ milk contains protein. There are two differents types of protein (A1 and A2). Interestingly all cows used to only produce A2 protein until a naturally-occurring genetic mutation in European cows changed the genetics, making A1 cows the predominant ones in European and UK herds.

The A2 protein is supposedly easier to digest. So it’s possible that for people who have a physical reaction from drinking milk (not those who’ve been medically diagnosed as lactose intolerant), may simply be reacting to the A1 protein in regular milk rather than the lactose.

Let me make that clear again, a2 Milk is not suitable for people with a cows’ milk allergy, galactosaemia or a diagnosed lactose intolerance.

Hubby and I drank a2 Milk for 5 days (and I also bought some more to use in cooking). While hubby said he didn’t notice any difference in his usual bloating, I believe I did notice a little reduction. The thing I noticed more though was the taste. We normally drink semi-skimmed milk and the semi-skimmed a2 Milk tasted far less watery and closer to whole milk. Cooking with the a2 Milk was no different to cooking with normal milk (well it is milk after all!).

A2 Milk range

Price-wise at £1.99 for 2 litres, a2 Milk is more expensive than the supermarket brands, but is similar to Cravendale and some branded organic milk, and cheaper than Lactofree.

I’m not sure if I’ll keep buying a2 Milk, but at least now in the UK we’re getting more choice. I think that’s the best thing about a2 Milk, giving people a choice and allowing some who’ve been affected by milk in the past to get back to enjoying dairy once again.

a2 Milk (whole or semi-skimmed) is available to buy at Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose and Ocado and is normally priced at £1.99 for 2 litres (the only size available at the moment).

Find out more information about a2 Milk on their website.

Disclosure: I was given a2 Milk to try for the purposes of this review. My opinions are honest and my own.

Review: My 1st Years Personalised Chopping Board

My 1st Years sent us a gorgeous personalised chopping board to review which is in the shape of Nicholas’ favourite animal. We’ve been having fun over the last couple of weeks using it, not only for cutting but also as a serving board (my favourite use for it!).

Hop & PeckHop & Peck

My 1st Years sell lovely baby gifts, clothing and accessories, many of which can be personalised. An English company that was founded in 2010, they pride themselves on quality products at affordable prices. But they don’t just cater for little people. With Father’s Day (in the UK) just less than a month away, they also have beautiful gifts for dads which can be made extra special with personalisation.

Hop & PeckThe chopping board is handmade in solid oak (sourced from sustainable forests) by the English company Hop & Peck. It feels and smells wonderful,  the design is super cute and it’s a wonderfully solid little board. Size-wise it’s quite compact (approximately 28cm x 18cm x 2cm) with its ears not being much use if using it for chopping. However, it’s perfectly big enough for little budding chefs and a good size when using it as a serving board.

My 1st YearsI was a little concerned before using the board that it would slip around when we were using it because there aren’t any gripping feet. However, we’ve used it on several different surfaces and had no issues at all (it also means you can use both sides of the board).

The extra touch of being able to personalise the board at no extra cost (most of My 1st Years’ products can be personalised) is great. Nicholas loves recognising his name on it and also loves his title of ‘chef’! Most importantly for him, is that the board is his (not for mummy or papà). I’m learning children love having their own implements to use in the kitchen and just getting out their cooking things is an activity in itself.

All products from My 1st Years come beautifully wrapped in a sturdy gift box. If you’re buying a gift for someone else, you can have it sent directly to them.

My 1st Years gift boxI have absolutely no negatives about the chopping/serving board. What I would have liked though, was some information about taking care of it included. If I was sending it to someone as a gift, I’d also like the recipient to know that the board was handmade from oak by an English company.

You can browse My 1st Years lovely range of products on their website, and follow them for updates and competitions on Facebook, Pinterest, and @My1stYears on Twitter and Instagram.

Disclosure: We were sent a personalised chopping board from My 1st Years to review. My opinions are honest and my own.

 

Easter in Bruges

We had a really enjoyable Easter in Bruges. It was our second time visiting and I loved it just as much as the first, perhaps even more because I had so many memories of Nicholas toddling around and tucking into various delicacies for the first time from our trip two years ago.

Beautiful BrugesBruges is a gorgeous city with lots of wonderful green spaces as well as amazing architecture and very pretty canals. The fact that the centre is small and flat makes it super easy to get about walking (although you can rent bicycles or even Segways if you don’t want to walk).

Bruges MarktWe went with our dearest friends who also have a little boy (our cheeky godson) and they found an amazing house just outside the centre. There was a bus stop right in front of the house, although it was cheaper to drive and park at the station (just 3.50 Euros for the whole day with a free bus into the centre) then either jump on the bus or just walk into the centre.

Hunting for Easter eggs in the garden

The house we rented had the perfect garden for an Easter egg hunt (I must remind the Easter Bunny next year that he can hide them in trickier places).

Bruges from the canalsWhen it comes to eating there are lots of yummy options to try, from the famous fries and waffles you can buy on the street to the amazing number of Michelin-starred restaurants.

De Wijngaert Grill Restaurant BrugesA restaurant we wanted to go back to was De Wijngaert Grill Restaurant. We stumbled across it by chance last time, following the delicious smells of grilled meats (is there anything better than grilled meat or fish?). And it didn’t disappoint this time. I also love the fact that locals eat there. It’s tiny so if you go during a busy period of the year, pop in earlier and book a table.

BrugesIt’s very close to De Halve Maan Brewery where they make the famous Brugse Zot beers as well as the richer (and more dangerous!) Straffe Hendrick beers. You can take a tour of the brewery (the only working one that remains in Bruges) and either enjoy a drink in their lovely courtyard or a meal in their large bistro (the dishes that are cooked with beer, such as the famous Flemish beef stew, are particularly good).

De Vlaamsche Pot, Bruges

 

A ‘new’ restaurant for us this time, thanks to a friend’s recommendation, was De Vlaamsche Pot, close to the large ‘t Zand square. It prides itself on slow cooking so not good if you want to eat quickly, but perfect to savour their mouth-watering slow-cooked dishes. The Flemish beef stew was amazing here (and could have fed two people!) and all main meals came with bottomless fries. Be careful when ordering beer though as most of them are sold in large 750ml bottles.

I think I need to book our next trip back!

 

 

 

When Perry came to visit

If you follow The Gingerbread Mum on Instagram or Twitter, you might have noticed that for the past three days we’ve been having adventures with a gingerbread biscuit. Yes, a gingerbread biscuit. A biscuit that goes by the name of Perry the Penguin.

Perry the Penguin, Costa Coffee’s newest gingerbread offering, comes all the way from the Antarctic so he’s perfectly suited for our chilly weather. (Actually he’s made and hand-iced in a small independent Cheshire bakery, but that’s just between you and me.)

Costa Coffee challenged us and nine other bloggers to take Perry on tour for three days and share our adventures with him. You can see his other adventures by searching for #perryontour on your favourite social networks.

I don’t know why, but when we were first invited to take part in the challenge I thought we’d get a toy Perry to bring with us. Later it dawned on me, no, we’d be entertaining a biscuit for three days.
Perry the Penguin #perryontour

So yes, I did indeed spend three days carrying Perry wherever we went (along with Perry’s stand-in and Perry’s stunt double). I did indeed make boardshorts for a biscuit. And I did indeed make bungee and rock-climbing harnesses for a piece of gingerbread. Ah, the varied life of a mummy to an adopted gingerbread! But we, all three of us, actually had a lot of fun with Perry, thinking up new things for him to do, incorporating him into our family life, and sneaking nibbles of him when we thought no one was looking.

I was happily surprised by all the love and comments our photos got during our challenge, which showed me that it wasn’t just us enjoying Perry’s adventures. It was great that a gingerbread penguin doing silly things could brighten up other people’s day too 🙂

So, without any further ado, drum roll please (or maybe a heart-stirring piece of instrumental music would be more appropriate to set the tone?!), here is what we got up to with Perry.

Friday – a safari, an evening cruise and a touch of homesickness

We awoke to find Perry had arrived by train, ready and eager to have lots of fun.
Perry the Penguin #perryontourAfter a quick breakfast (Perry prefers a ristretto to start the day which immediately put him in hubby’s good books although also meant hubby was late to work as he enjoyed having another coffee connoisseur in the house), we kitted Perry out with binoculars and went to our local safari park to see what we could spot.
Perry the Penguin #perryontourWe were very lucky to see various wild animals in a grassy glade, all happily together. Although looking at the photos now, the lions do seem to be crouching ready to pounce in the background (thankfully we left before any animals were eaten).

Trekking back through the woods made us all hungry and before I could stop it, Nicholas had chomped off Perry’s head! Thank goodness Perry has more than one life or our adventures would have been over on the first day.
Perry the Penguin #perryontourPerry had been telling us what he normally gets up to in the Antartic and sounded a bit homesick describing his wife Paula and their two baby penguins, Paige and Perry Jr., so I made him a special lunch to help him cheer up.
Perry and his special lunchPerry finished his day with a relaxing bath cruise followed by Nicholas reading him Pinocchio (I hid ‘The Gingerbread Man’ book).
Perry the Penguin #perryontour
Then Perry was tucked up in bed with his teddy bear.
Perry the Penguin #perryontour

Saturday – false hopes, a toe dip, a surfing dude and bungee-jumping

We woke up on Saturday to find Perry had already made himself breakfast and had discovered Ruby the Reindeer. I tried not to eavesdrop, but I did hear Ruby enthusiastically reassuring Perry that gingerbread was indeed safe in our house as she was still uneaten after Christmas (ah…).
Perry the Penguin #perryontourPerry came with us to Nicholas’ swimming lesson and was very excited to join him while we were in the changing room, but then chickened out when he tested the warm water with his toe which quickly proceeded to dissolve.
Perry the Penguin #perryontourWe took him out for lunch to try to take his mind off his missing toe and then a walk along the Thames. He was a little sacred when we held him over the edge to see the very large geese and swans, so Nicholas gave him his favourite toy (a rabbit called Barch) to hug.
Perry the Penguin #perryontourTo make up for Perry missing out on the swimming fun earlier, when we got home we made him some boardshorts and tried to teach him how to surf, which he was quite good at.
Perry the Penguin #perryontourWith his adrenaline pumping, Perry wanted more fun so he bungee-jumped off our stairs!

Sunday – Australia Day disappointment, a hangover? (surely not), rock-climbing and karaoke

Very late last night on hearing a strange sound, I went to check on Nicholas and Perry. Nicholas was fast asleep, but I found Perry in a hoodie, trying to sneak out! I put him back to bed. But when I came downstairs the next morning I found Perry looking rather queasy and about to take some painkillers. (What on earth did he get up to last night?)
Perry the Penguin #perryontourTo make his tummy feel better I made him some fun pancakes, which he scoffed very quickly.
Perry the Penguin #perryontourPerry found our Australian toys celebrating and they told him all about their culture. Perry was more than a little disappointed that we didn’t have a barbecue all day, and pointing out the pouring rain didn’t seem to make any difference.
Perry the Penguin #perryontourHe did, however, do a spot of rock-climbing (where does he get all his energy from?)…
Perry the Penguin #perryontourfollowed by some karaoke before bed (and I’m not making any comment on Perry’s singing ability).
Perry the Penguin #perryontourMonday

We were woken at the crack of dawn by the sounds of bugle-playing. Perry was afraid we’d miss his departure.
Perry the Penguin #perryontourAfter lots of hugs, a few tears and promises to keep in touch, Perry left to go back to his family in the Antartic. I did spy his boardshorts and his rock-climbing harness in his bag which made me wonder if he was going to make a detour on his way home 😉

Disclaimer: some Perry the Penguins were harmed and/or eaten during our adventures. Thankfully Costa Coffee sent us 10 Perrys.

A couple of outtakes from our three days:

Perry the Penguin #perryontour

Perry’s stand-in (or was it his stunt double?) gets nibbled during our safari shoot

Perry the Penguin #perryontour

Nicholas wasn’t impressed with Perry’s singing

If you’d like to have your own adventure with Perry, Costa Coffee are giving away gift cards to their favourites. Check them out on Facebook or Twitter for more details.

Costa Coffee are choosing their two favourite blogger adventures tomorrow and then you can vote on Wednesday and Thursday for your favourite via their Facebook page.

The Monster Books of… – book review

Over the Christmas holidays we were lucky enough to receive two books from My Little Big Town (MLBT) to review, both of which are perfect for early readers.

‘The Monster Book of Colours’ and ‘The Monster Book of Numbers’ are from a series written and illustrated by MLBT’s founder, Calvin Innes, who’s a dad himself. The publishing house, based in Yorkshire, prides itself on producing books children WANT to read, so you’ll find lots of monsters and creepy crawlies, along with the odd pirate, in their books.

Nicholas loves both his ‘The Monster Book of…’ books. They’re a good size for small hands (16cm x 16cm), with lovely thick glossy paper. I love how the wonderfully fun illustrations take up the whole page (actually it’s a double-spread for each colour or number) with their vibrant colours.

My Little Big TownThe monsters in both books have fantastic names such as Squiddlepuss and Twiddlypuff, which Nicholas loves repeating. They’re more silly-looking than scary and sometimes even cute.

The books are a quick read (perfect for readers with short attention spans!), but also have lots of scope for engaging your little ones in more than just identifying the colours or counting. I love the double-spread of monsters at the end of ‘The Monster Book of Colours’ which has monsters from the other books in the series; we’ve had lots of fun trying to remember their names and find them in the other pages, and make up names for those we can’t.

I like that ‘The Monster Book of Colours’ also includes navy, lilac and maroon, while ‘The Monster Book of Numbers’ not only has 1-10, but also 15, 20, 25 and 50 (although two of the 50 eyes are tucked away in the spine, unfortunately).

These two books are dedicated to Calvin Innes’ son Cohen. Calvin was unable to cuddle Cohen when he was a newborn because Calvin was going through treatment for thyroid cancer which made him radioactive. Thankfully they can have lots of cuddles now.

‘The Monster Books of…’ (RRP £4.99) are currently on sale on the MLBT website as well as on Amazon, and you can enjoy more of Calvin Innes’ wonderful illustrations on his website.

If you’re a budding writer or illustrator, and not just of children’s literature, MLBT want to discover and nurture new talent – go to their website to submit your work for review.

I’ll leave you with Nicholas’ favourite monster which I think is probably mine too. Can you guess what his favourite colour is?!

My Little Big Town, Calvin Innes

Disclosure: We were given a free copy of each book to review; my opinions are my own.

We're going on an adventure
I’m linking up with Tried and Tested Tuesday, a weekly round up of reviews hosted by the lovely Kate at Family Fever and Colette at We’re going on an adventure.