10 Easy Steps Towards Sustainable Living

Reuse, Recycle and Reduce is today’s mantra. Last year, I promised to live more sustainably and make my home greener and more eco-friendly.

Here are a few ideas that I have no only tried and tested but also managed to follow for a whole year. These are the simple ways in which anyone can contribute towards a greener and healthier planet.

1. Wooden Washing Up Brush:

The synthetic sponges are so full of chemicals and toxic materials. They are a health hazard and environmental hazard. The toxins in them get into the waterways and are known to cause harm to small aquatic creatures.

I have started this wooden brush which is completely vegan. It is easy to wash and dry. It works well and is going to need replacing far less frequently than any sponges.

Here’s a link to checkout what I use.

2. Cloth Produce Storage Bags:

These are life changing for me. Not only do they make shopping easier but also storage convenient. They can be washed easily. It has a drawstring to tie it down but also a zipper at the bottom to take the veggies out. Just hang these pretty bags on your kitchen and you are good to go.

I love that they have labels too. Easily available on amazon and they will last for a long time. Here is a link to what I use.

3. Mentrual Moon Cup:

I have been using these for a long time. I started using these because neither disposable pads nor tampons suited me. They caused great discomfort and dryness.

But now I am absolutely thankful for this product because of its environmental benefits.

These silicon cups are easy to use and very economical. I brought it for £20 which is what 3 to 4 cycles would have costed me with disposables. But this cup will last me for years.

4. Composting:

This one is the most important to me. I as a self proclaimed healthy vegan produce a lot of food waste in terms of vegetable stalks, fruit peel and leftovers veg/fruit pulp after juicing. So I have been wanting to make my own compost with it for a while but unfortunately i still haven’t managed to achieve that.

But what I have committed myself to doing is to use the council food waste bin sincerely.

I know it is not the same but it is a start. Something is better than nothing.

5. Reusueable Straws:

If you follow us on instagram, you would know how much we love our green smoothies and fresh juices. We used to get through a lot of plastic straws and chucked them in the bin without a thought. Not anymore!

We use these cute metal straws that you can wash and reuse forever.  They came with a tiny cleaning brush which makes cleaning easier.

We even travel with these straws. Refusing a disposal or those single use paper straws feels pretty empowering.

6. Vegan Lifestyle:

I have been vegan for 2 years now. I started off on ethical grounds but over the past year the sustainability reasons have resonated the most with me.

The new work reveals that farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. The picture is even more stark for mammals – 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals.

We may not be able to afford an electric car or stop flying due to work purposes, but we can stop eating meat and dairy. It is one of the single most efficient ways to sustainability. The effects are far more immediate than using an electric car. So I urge you to atleast consider reducing your intake.

7. Jam Jars & Glass Bottles:

I got inspiration for this from bulk stores to be honest. Also, as an Indian I cook with a lot of spices and lentils and legumes and grains which unfortunately come packages in either plastic or in tiny jars which cannot really be repurposed. So I have started buying them in bulk packets and store a small portion in jam jars for easy access. In an ideal world I would take these jam jars to the bulk stores and avoid plastic altogether but bulk stores are not for my budget, not right now. Glass jars and bottles are really handy to keep. So start collecting them. I got a lot of them from my friends.

8. Cloth Nappies And Wipes

I used Theseus since Ro was a little baby.It is believed that in the UK, nearly 2.5 billion disposable nappies are thrown away each year. That clogs up the landfill horribly. Plastic we dispose off never will disappear in our lifetime or our great grandchildren. Isn’t that a horrific thought?

When using cloth nappies, you can further reduce your environmental impact by not using the tumble dryer and perhaps line drying whenever possible.

9. Repurposing Plastic Bags

But what do we do with all the plastic bags we have in the house already? If you are like me, you collect plastic bags for future use. I inherited that habit from my mother.

When I decided to abandon plastic bags, I felt bad about simply throwing the ones I already have into the bin so I gave a lot of them away to the thrift shops. They happily take it and use it. ofcourse these will end up in the landfill one day but I am trying to prolong the process as much as possible.

10. Thrift Shop

My current past time is to go to the thrift shops and find some amazing clothes and toys or cutlery. Some thrift shops have pretty high standards and so I was amazed at the quality and condition of some of the stuff I brought for us. Last year I decided to try and not buy new clothing for myself and my children. We made underwears an exception. We brought new shoes and invested in new winter jackets due to the lack of sizing in thrift shops and a jacket from an ethical brand is an investment as they do come with a long shelf life.

The trick with the thrift shop and kids stuff is to buy things when you see them. I have brought clothes and toys and books for baby Ro which he may not use until he is 4 years old but I know these things might not be available if I wait until he is 4. So my attic has a box full of stuff for the future. So whenever we run out of tshirts or trousers, we first rummage through the box in the attic before hitting the shops again.

Kids love thrift shops because unlike other shops, things are so cheap quite often I say yes to buying a small toy that they fancy. They feel special and our frugal lifestyle does not become a negative influence on them.

Also do not underestimate the power of social media. A lot of RoRo’s clothes are from Facebook friends. Bags of clothes arrive at my doorsteps within 24 hrs of me asking people. People with children  are always looking for homes for old clothes.

I hope you find these ideas easy and manageable.

Vegan Doggy Cake

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This is the first time I have attempted a birthday cake for my dog. It was not meant to be vegan but I didn’t have any eggs.

Anyhow this recipe went down a treat. It can be eaten by humans but you might want to add lots of sugar. Dogs don’t care for sugar. So here it is..

Ingredients:

1/4 cup of coarsely grounded oats

1/4 cup of gram flour

1 cup of self raising flour

1/2 TSP bicarb

1 TSP baking Powder

1 cup grated carrots

1tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup of soy milk (might need more if too dry)

2 tbsp peanut butter

1/4 cup melted coconut oil (any oil really)

Method:

Mix all ingredients together and cook in a preheated oven at 160 degrees for about 30 minutes. Voilà!!

 

Rhythm, Reverence and Repeat

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A few weeks ago, I was really struggling with parenting three children, two dogs, looking after the house, homeschooling, attending playgroups and managing my own work. A lot of it was because RoRo was going through a developmental stage and there were a lot of changes in his father’s work schedule. Reuben starting school took a toll on all of us. RoRo missed his big brother, who played a very important role in his morning play time. There were too many abrupt changes in our lives and toddlers often struggle with abrupt transitions.

I was exhausted, I could never keep up with appointments or schedule and was struggling to get on top of things. So I started reading and implementing rhythms into our lives. Introducing rhythm is inspired by the anthropologist Rudolf Steiner or well known as Waldorf. My husband is Waldorf educated and we have a a lot of influences and resources of Waldorf in our household. So Rhythm was not a new concept but now felt like a good time to introduce rhythm into our lives.

As soon as I introduced rhythm into our lives, I started to get more sleep or rest, RoRo was enjoying independent play for longer periods of time giving me enough time to have a cup of tea, sometimes while it is still hot. We feel a better connection which leads to better cooperation.

So what is a rhythm?

Rhythm is everywhere. Our nature works rhythmically like the sun rises and sets, the seasons change but gradually, our heart beats rhythmically, we breathe in and breathe out in a rhythm too. We, as human beings function better if transitions happen rhythmically and not abruptly. This is truer in cases of children. Children thrive on predictability and slow transition from one thing to another.

We can add rhythm in our daily lives or on a weekly basis, we can add rhythm monthly or seasonally. Introducing rhythm throughout the year is incredibly beneficial for the kids.

What is a difference between rhythm and routine?

Rhythm inspired slow transition from one activity to another whereas routine or scheduling adds stressful and abrupt jumps from one activity to another. Rhythm is influenced by our mood and sensibilities whereas scheduling is dependent on the clock.

Rhythm is calming whereas scheduling is full of anxiety and rush.

How to apply Rhythm in our lives?

One of the key things to remember – rhythm is about enjoying and living in the moment. How long the moment lasts is up to you and not the clock. So for instance, in your daily rhythm breakfast is followed by reading and reading is followed by a nature walk. When it comes to rhythm no two days will look the same.

Today breakfast might have taken a bit longer than yesterday and you may have read four books instead of two. If it is raining outside, perhaps your nature walk was very short whereas on a sunny day it might be a bit longer. Because you are not scheduling your day, it gives you the sense of freedom to do things at a natural pace.

Our Autumn Weekly Rhythm

We have a lot of mini rituals that help us transition from one thing to another. We have a morning ritual and a night ritual. And everything else fits in the middle very gently. I don’t have it written down but it is far too predictable for us now.

But I do have a weekly rhythm. I introduced a weekly rhythm to ensure that I find enough time in the day for some deep connection with my children.

Weekly rhythm is easy to introduce. Weekly rhythm basically means introducing one special activity to each day of the week. This activity can take place at any time in your day depending on how your day is flowing.

If you think about it, the days of the week make no sense to a toddler. It is a totally abstract concept. But by adding a special activity to the day it becomes more relatable and it grounds the child, thereby making the household a bit more peaceful.

Here is how our weekly rhythm currently looks like:

Monday: Baking day

We bake a cake or a bread. We sometimes bake cookies. Sometimes this happens after roughhousing with the siblings to calm down or before a long walk, so that we can enjoy the baked goodies as a snack on our return.

Tuesday: Arts & Craft

I work on tuesdays. So my mind seems preoccupied. My work is pretty physical too. So I feel very tired at the end of the shift.

A rhythm is most helpful on this day. I run my own dog walking business so I spend the afternoon walking dogs. I bring my children along with me. So when we come back home we sit down and do some art work. This activity is brilliant because Irene and RoRo can happily do this together whilst I can choose to sit with them or carry on with chores.

Wednesday: Swimming/Park

Wednesday Irene has violin lesson in the middle of the day. There is a park outside the violin teachers house. RoRo absolutely loves going to that park. It is a bit of a novelty. So wednesdays we call it park day. In the morning we go swimming. I added two things on a wedneday because currently we have taken a break from swimming. RoRo’s friend has broken his leg and it is something they do together. We will resume swimming as soon as his friend is healed.

Thursday: Allotment Group/ Stone Soup

Thursdays we go to a local cabbage patch group. It is a playgroup in an allotment as the name suggests. Two hours of outdoors play. We also make stone soup on this day. The idea of stone soup is that everybody brings in a veggie and we have a special stone we put in a pot and we make soup. RoRo and Irene pick a veggies either from the allotment or from the green grocer and we make a soup with it. More on stone soup in a separate post though.

I forgot to write down stone soup in my chart but I incorporated this into our rhythm because the allotment group is very exhausting. It is fun but it is also high intensity and there is nothing more calming and soothing than a pot of soup. It slows us right down and makes us all feel connected all over again.

Friday: Playgroup

Friday we go to another playgroup. And rest of the day is kept free because playgroups are intense. I do not like to do indoor playgroups more than once or twice in a week. I think it is important for younger children to spend a lot of time outdoors and also do activities that are earthly, spirited but not very high in intensity.

Saturday and Sundays: Family Time

We keep our weekends free. Those are the two days daddy is home and we do as he pleases.

Do you have a rhythm in your household? Let me know in the comments what do you think about rhythms.

 

 

 

Vegan Pumpkin Risotto

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This autumn is the first time that RoRo has actually noticed pumpkin and expressed a desire to eat it. My oven isn’t working very well so I couldn’t roast it but the weather was asking for something comforting and my busy schedule desired a one pot dish. We hadn’t eaten rissotto in a while. My kids couldn’t even remember what it was , so it was the perfect thing to cook.

Ingredients: (served 4 – 5)

300-400 grams of pumpkin, diced

2-3 sprig of fresh thyme

1 cup of risotto rice

5 cups of water

3 tbsp vegan stock powder

1 chopped onion

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tsp sugar or maple syrup (optional)

5 tbsp oil

handful of freshly chopped coriander

Method:

In a pan, heat 3 tbsp of oil and add the thyme. Let the thyme cook for a few seconds and then add in the pumpkin. Add some salt and turn the heat down and put a lid on until the pumpkin is cooked. Alternatively, you could roast it.

Once cooked, mash it up roughly with a bit of sugar. My pumpkin wasn’t quite as ripe. So I thought it needed sweetening. Remove all the sprigs of thyme at this stage.

Now in another saucepan, heat the rest of the oil. Cook the onion and the garlic until translucent. Once the onions lose its raw smell add the rice. Let the rice cook for a few seconds and then add one cup of hot water. I mixed in all the stock powder in that cup of water. Keep stirring the rice and when the water dry out, add another cup of hot water. Keep adding one cup of water at a time. By the time your fifth cup of water starts to dry out, your rice will be perfectly cooked. Soft with  bite to it. At this stage add the semi-mashed pumpkin and a handful of coriander. Stir and cook for another minute. Serve hot with some freshly baked garlic bread. We also sprinkled a good spoonful of nutritional yeast but that is optional.

Hope you enjoy the recipe. Let me know in the comments below.

 

Our Morning Ritual – Gentle Waking Up

We like to ritualise as many things in our daily life as possible. It brings a sense of peace, joy and spirituality within us. Gentle waking up ritual is not only beneficial for children but also for the adults.

We all know how important it is to get a good nights sleep, but we also know the importance of waking up on the right side of bed and how it is crucial to setting the tone for our day. A lot of the times, toddlers wake up earlier than the adults. Toddlers might be jolly but the grown ups feel tired and are very unwelcoming of the joyous spirit the child wakes up with. It is a common and a natural response. But with a morning ritual, you can change your mood around.

If RoRo wakes up grumpy or scared because of a nightmare, this ritual transitions him back to the reality very gently and if RoRo wakes me up without my will, this ritual helps bring positivity within me and also helps me connect with RoRo and sets a nice gentle tone for the morning.

So here is what we do:

1. Morning Verse

I quite often sing a morning verse on repeat. It goes like this

“Good morning dear earth

Good morning dear sun

Good morning dear flowers 

and fairies, everyone

Good morning dear beats

and birds in the trees

Good morning to you

Good morning to me”

A song provides a rhythm to a child’s breathing. It helps them to stay calm and transition from one thing to another without any stress. Verses and songs really really work for us in any given situation. We have a song for everything.

While I sing this verse to RoRo, we make a trip to the toilet and we clean our teeth. We come downstairs and open the curtains. We see where the sun is rising from and appreciate the colours of the sky. We point out at the birds and the planes. We also wave at the neighbours off to work.

2. Light a candle and an incense

Next thing we do is we light an incense stick and a candle. Lighting a candle symbolises a beginning of something. We light a candle after dinner which is when we start our night time routine. And without any word, the candle speaks and informs the child that we are about to begin enjoying our morning.

I just love the smell of incense stick, it brings a lot of childhood memories back and it also comforts me and soothes me. I am hoping my children will grow up associating incense with it being a positive and happy, and a cosy feeling.

3. Reading a book

After we light the candle, I make myself a cup of tea and RoRo brings a couple of books to read. He sits on my lap with a fruit or a breakfast snack while I read to him and sip on my tea.

4. Independent Play

After reading, RoRo either carries on looking at his books on his own or brings a couple of toys to play with whilst I wake up Reuben for school and pack his lunch.

5. Breakfast

After Reuben is all dressed and ready, we sit down to eat our breakfast. Irene sometimes joins us or else we wake her up for breakfast after Reuben leaves for school.

6. Play with Irene

Once, breakfast is taken care of, Irene and RoRo go upstairs into the toy room and spend a good hour or so playing. In that time, I wash up and tidy up. I get some emails taken care of and then I get dressed.

7. Dog walks

The last activity of the morning is usually a dog walk. We go on 2 hour long walks into the woods or the beach everyday. RoRo quite often has a nap on the way back.

8. Special Activity of the day

We also have a weekly rhythm. We have a special activity for each day of the week. For instance, mondays are for baking. So on Mondays, we would bake something before dog walks and savour it after we come back. Cakes and Breads are often still quite warm on our return and make for a perfect pre-lunch or post-lunch snack.

This morning ritual has been the same since RoRo was only a baby. The predictability of how the morning is going to look like makes a toddler feel in control of his environment and he doesn’t depend on an adult for any instructions. So if you find yourself in our household in the morning, you will see our mornings are not very noisy. We don’t have to constantly say what is happening next or shout out instructions. Actions and the slow transitional movements that this morning ritual creates guides RoRo enough to do what is needed at that particular moment. Ofcourse, after the candle is lit, sometimes the routine of things flow differently. RoRo may not want to read or want a snack but simply start playing. If we are running a bit late for school run then the order of things may change but the idea that all of these things will happen is empowering. For RoRo, it really helps if he has one to one time with me (reading), one to one time with big brother (eating breakfast) and some one to one time with Irene (play time). As long as all of these things take place, order of things don’t matter so much. We try to stick to the plan though. There is always room for flexibility but it more or less looks the same.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and if your mornings feel chaotic, perhaps creating a ritual will make it less stressful. Children will not ask for constant attention because they know exactly what is going to happen. Ofcourse weekends and holidays are different. But if one practices gentle waking up for a long time, waking up gently becomes second nature.

 

Mental Health Day – Post Adoption Depression

Today on World Mental Health day whilst all mothers talk about post natal depression let me introduce to you something new, something not spoken about at all and something that is so uncommon that speaking about it brings the fear of looking absolutely ridiculous and therefore be shamed for it.
Let me introduce to you what I call, ‘post adoption depression’. Post Adoption Depression, in my experience is a sort of space you reach after adopting a child where you feel very unattached, angry, sad or sometimes absolutely numb. You may feel anxiety, insecurity and loss of pride ultimately leading to depression.
Becoming a parent is bloody hard and adopting a child that you didn’t even grow in your own womb is much harder.It is especially hard when those kids were strongly bonded and close to their biological mother. Oh and when you are the girlfriend of their dad, who is dealing with a lot of emotions himself after a broken marriage is just the cherry on top.
Whilst, I drank my sorrows in to a bottle of rum, I tortured myself by secretly reading all of my husbands personal diaries, I even tried to cut myself….and guess what? No one, not even my loving husband knew about any of that. Everybody including my in laws would call and check in on my husband and their grandchildren. No body ever asked how was I holding up?
They all labeled me , ‘brave’, ‘god sent’ ‘angel’, thereby closing all doors to communication and it took away my freedom to speak up and ask for help.
Today I speak about it because like me there must be a lot of step mothers or adoptive parents who may struggle but wouldn’t know what it is …they may think something is wrong with them….i don’t know if like PND there is a chemical reaction in our body, if hormones act out. There is not much information out there about this, but all I know is, it is possible and everybody who knows a new parent biological or not, must check on them and offer support just like you would to a new biological parent.
I never suffered post natal depression but I post-adoption depression was a killer. It took me 8 years to feel like myself, it took me 8 years to speak up and to tell my husband how I felt. I feel content and within my own body all over again. For my husband, knowing and realising that I went through all of that has changed his perspective and his support towards my mental health has helped me so much that I can now own parenthood with pride. I don’t even feel the anger I felt for all around me for not noticing me. I don’t feel ashamed about speaking up and I urge for you to speak about your struggles too. Sometimes, people need to be told explicitly that you need support.

Vegan Apple & Cinnamon Cake

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When I was not vegan, I used to bake a lot. I was actually a very good baker of cakes and bread, particularly Apple Cake. It all went pear shaped since going vegan. My cakes have been, hit and miss.

Yesterday when somebody put up a recipe of a “no egg” cake, I had hope. I thought, I could easily replace the dairy and turn this recipe vegan but when I looked at the ingredients I lost all faith. It had no rising agent or binding agent in the list. And I did not fancy a stodgy plate of cake.

Anyhow, the recipe inspired me enough to make one of my own. I was having a nurturing and slow day with my toddler at home. And what better way to nurture a child than to bake. We had been apple picking at the weekend, so there was no problem in the apple supply department. So we began experimenting with a new recipe. And guess what it couldn’t be perfected any more. I am assertive!

And when good things happen to me, I like to share them. So here is the recipe. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! Trust me!!

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Ingredients:

2 Apples (one sliced length wise, one chopped into bite sized pieces)

1 tbsp chia seeds, soaked in 5 to 6 tbsp of warm water.

1 1/5 cup of plain white flour

1 cup of demarara or brown sugar (I put a little less because we don’t like it too sweet)

1/2 cup of coconut or any oil of choice

1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/4 tsp of bicarb

1/8 tsp of salt

1/2 cup of almond milk or any other of your choice

a few drops or a tsp of vanilla extract/paste/bean; anything or nothing is fine too

2 tsp ground cinnamon

3 to 4 tbsp of soy yogurt or any yogurt of choice

Method:

Preheat the oven at 160 degrees (Celsius). Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl nicely with a wooden spoon.

Then add all the wet ingredients along with the chopped apples, and combine together.

Spray the baking tin with some oil, pour in the cake batter, level it well. Now start placing the sliced apples lengthwise along the edges slowly filling in the middle to resemble some sort of circle or a spiral if you may.

Now, I added a tbsp of sugar on top of the apples to caramelise them but it is seriously optional.

Bake it in the oven for about 35 mins and check by piercing a skewer. Cook until the skewer comes out clean. Take it out, cool down the cake and serve. (Don’t forget to take a picture).

Going apple picking for this recipe is not compulsory but if it is autumn where you are, try and go apple picking with your fam-jam. It is great fun. Hope you enjoy it and let me know in the comments if you like it.

10 Tips For Camping With Toddlers & Dogs

Camping, although is a new concept for me; my husband has grown up camping throughout his childhood. Our very first camping experience was eight years ago when my husband and I went on a rather romantic weekend away. We couldn’t afford a hotel so we camped. It was not glamourous and it was freezing cold, but it was a good excuse for us new love – birds to get cosy in that tent. A few years later, we took our kids and dogs camping for the first time to Wales and it was a brilliant experience.

This year, we went camping but with an addition of a toddler. We went to the Lake District. It is surrounded by some of England’s highest mountains and a lot of beautiful lakes. We camped in a small town called Keswick. It was a hidden gem as all the places we wanted to go were already booked up. Our campsite only allowed families and couples. They had a strict ‘no group’ policy and requested absolute silence after 10pm.

We climbed some really high mountains. We went on some rather dangerous freestyle hikes (the ones with no ropes etc, it is not recommended at all). We swam in pristine clean lake waters and went on some great walks in the fields and farms that surrounded our campsite. Children had a lot of fun simply playing in the company of sheep, horses and cows.

It rained two nights that we camped, but there is something so cosy and magical about being huddled up inside your tent while the pitter patter of the rain puts you gently to sleep. We got woken up by galloping horses or the bellowing sheep all of which is so much better than the garbage collectors that make rounds on our street back home at 6am. All in all, our experience of camping with a toddler, plus two children and two dogs was spectacular.

Having said that, toddlers are pretty unpredictable and unreasonable. So you never know how would they take camping if they don’t know what it entails. A little bit of preparation and some planning goes a long way. I totally winged it this time, but it was so successful that I have chosen to write down a few tips that might come handy if you are planning a trip with a toddler.

1. What is camping?

I highly recommend familiarising your toddlers with the concept of camping. It all starts with picnics. Introduce the idea of enjoying picnics and outdoor bbq. Take them out in the evenings or visit enough people for a stay so children are used to falling asleep outside of their comfortable bed. For us, because we co-sleep, RoRo never has a problem falling asleep. But he has also been taken out late at night and visited a lot of people including a trip to India. So he is used to change in sleeping circumstances.

I also remember watching Peppa Pig talk about camping. Everytime, Peppa Pig went camping, I told RoRo about our upcoming trip and made it sound all so exciting, “Should we go camping? It will be so much fun sleeping in a tent.” Within days, RoRo started saying, “Just like RoRo”, everytime Peppa Pig went camping.

This way when we were actually headed to camping, he understood what we were doing. We were going camping.

This was on the side of the motorway when we stopped for a wee and a quick cheeky tickle.

2. Plan Long Drives

It was just over 10 hrs drive for us to get to our camping destination. It is unrealistically long to expect a toddler to enjoy the drive, whilst being cramped in with all the luggage, dogs and very excited and noisy siblings.

So we broke the journey half way by stopping over at my mother in laws for the night. So we had two 5 hrs long drive in two days. It was easier than one 10 hr long drive.

I would highly recommend breaking up the journey one way or the other. Book a travelogue or stay at a friends/family. Also try and stop every 2 hrs in between journeys for toilet breaks and to stretch everyone’s legs. It is not only good for children but probably safe for the driver too. Nothing worse than a tired driver.

3. Naptime

This is part of planning your drive. Don’t drive just after the baby has woken up if your child has a tendency to be boisterous after sleep and restless in the car. I always take my children and dogs for a play in the park or a walk around the block before our drives. We drive just before naptime, so that 30 to 40 mins into the drive the toddler falls asleep and we can cover most of our drive whilst the baby is asleep.

Our camping kitchen

4. Service Stations

We love a bit of service station time. We often stop after the toddler wakes up from his nap, by which time we would have covered more than half of our journey. Once we have fueled up car and humans alike from the service station, we get back in the car with another couple of hours tolerance for the drive.

5. Snackages

Always carry plenty of snacks. We went through four bags of crisps, a whole bag of dates and plenty of oranges and apples. It is a no brainer and we might have indulged a bit too much on those crisps but because it is a bit of a novelty in our household, the crisps were a great distraction when the toddler was struggling.

Walking down the mountain.

6. Think Layers

In terms of clothing, always think layers. Even in summer, camping can get very cold at night. We went up north and the weather can be pretty unpredictable and cold over there. Be prepared for the rain if you live in a country like UK where it rains throughout the year.

We carried enough jumpers and blankets and even though it felt like we had over-packed; we did not regret it because it did rain and it did get freezing cold.

baby carrier was a life saver. highly recommend it.

7. Baby Carrier

If you are planning hikes and long walks, pre-plan how you are going to carry your toddler. I would highly recommend using a baby carrier especially if the area you are visiting is all woodland and mountains like ours. A stroller would only make your life difficult. We climbed some seriously dangerous mountains. And whilst RoRo did an incredible job at climbing some parts of it, for his safety, we had to stick him in a baby carrier and carry on climbing the slippery, rocky bits.

Dogs are such lovely travellers

8. Accessories For Dogs

I could do a whole separate blog about camping with dogs but I will throw this one in here.

Dog stakes, are a well worth investment. They are stakes are like poles that you dig into the ground and it comes with a long line that you can tie your dogs to. This gives the dogs the freedom to move around the tent area, without you having to worry about their whereabouts. 

Collar and Tag: This one is a given, but believe it or not my dogs did not have a collar because they wear a harness. But somehow collar makes more sense when camping because it is more comfortable to sleep in and you don’t want to faff around with a harness at 2am when your dog needs a wee. Update your tag or get a new one if the details on your existing tag isn’t visibl, incase your dog decides to do a runner.

Food & Treats:  My dogs eat a raw diet. I tried carrying raw frozen food with me last time but my dogs didn’t want to eat it. i think they went off after 24 hrs of being thawed. And when you are hiking with them, you want to make sure, just like you they are nourished enough. So I switched them on to dry kibbles a week before camping. Those were easier to carry and ofcourse, my dogs loved them because of the novelty factor. Also remember to carry enough treats that you can pop in your backpack on your walks and hikes to keep their energies and enthusiasms up.

Remember, climbing up a mountain and reaching up the top may give you a sense of achievement, but it won’t do the same to your dogs. If the hike is difficult, all they will feel is tired. A treat would be a fabulous reward.

9. Potty Training/Nappies

If you have a potty training toddler like ours, you do not want to ruin that by putting them back in nappies and undoing days of hardwork. We carried our potty with us and we brought heaps of pants with us. To our surprise, RoRo I think got himself potty trained on his own in this trip. He was always good about asking for a potty for wee or stopping by the side of the road but he also asked for a potty on our trip in times of no.2.

We did bring nappies with us in case that was the route we had to take. We used cloth nappies but for the convenience of this trip, we took biodegradable but disposable nappies with us. But if you want to cloth nappy during camping, why not. Just carry a clothes line to air dry your nappies. If it is sunny, your cloth nappies will thank you.

10. Toys, Books & Snuggly Toy

Even though the car is often jam-packed, always make space for your toddler favourite toys, books and atleast one cuddly toy. These things don’t just don’t come handy when camping but are great companions for road trips if your child is anything like RoRo, he’ll keep himself busy for hours with his own books.

Camping is a big adventure. It is a new place, a new living situation, long days, new people, new everything. A bit of familiarity would go a long way in grounding them when things get overwhelming, which we all know is a very frequent occurrence in a two year olds life.

We also brought our colouring set with us. All the toys, books and colours are a great way for parents to have some downtime. It is also a nice way to keep them occupied when you are packing up or simply wanting to wake up a bit slowly in the morning.

Bonus Tip:

If you are like me you would not plan your camping around your monthly cycle. My period started literally the day we arrived. So plan your trip carefully. But again, if you are like me, it won’t really bother you that much. Just carry supplies and look for a camping site with better facilities and perhaps pitch your tent near the facilities.

 

If you have any tips and experiences to share, let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Baby Led Weaning – A New Parenting Flavour

Annaprashon – first taste of food

Introducing solids to our babies is one of the most exciting experiences in anybody’s parenting journey. It is also the babies first step towards achieving independence in terms of feeding himself. And whilst for years, spoon feeding and puree foods were the go to options, the tides have changed and now we have a new style of feeding called Baby Led Weaning.

Baby Led Weaning is a method by which babies are expected to play with their food and feed themselves. They are given the freedom to eat whatever they want from the table and decide how much or how little they want to eat. This method is now known for helping children develop a positive association with food and hence, help raise children who are not picky or fussy with food.

RoRo’s Journey

I have chosen a rather easy going parenting style with RoRo. I have also never had any children of my own before, so I had a fresh clean parenting slate and I wanted to go with the new style. So RoRo, in my care practiced a lot of baby led weaning and I do give this method a lot of credit for his eating skills from very early on and how fuss free he has been so far. At age two, I can take him to any restaurant and not panic. He will eat what is on the plate and he behaves relatively well for his age. Partly nature, partly nurture!

My husband, on the other hand, has two older children and when they were little, he practiced the bog standard old fashioned method of feeding and well they have turned out good eaters too. So my husband was pretty convinced in his spoon feeding method. Hence, over the weekends or whenever he was home, he would request me to puree his food and insist on spoon feeding him. I grudgingly let it happen, as a lot of bonding took place and to be honest, RoRo didn’t mind. I think he is a bit of a foodie from birth.

So the lesson learnt from his journey is that whilst I vouch for Baby Led Weaning and today, my husband would also agree that it is the way forward, no matter how bloody scary it is to see your baby gagg (only to realise it is a reflex that is important to develop) at times, there is no need to be a purist. I hand fed the older children from age 4 to 7 years, they have perfectly developed cutlery skills, table manners and eating habits.

Baby Led Weaning or BLW has a lot of benefits and it would be a shame to not make the most of it, but traditional methods does help bond if nothing, when done right (i.e no force feeding or feeding in disguise like puree).

Food Before One Is For Fun

I was told this by my friend and it stayed with me forever. And before we as parents even start thinking about introducing solids to our children we must remember that babies do not have to eat big meals or half of what is on offer to fill up their bellies or to get the appropriate nutrition. It is highly recommended that babies get their nutrition and fill themselves up on milk (breastmilk preferrably).

Please try to enjoy the process of introducing new flavours, textures and colours of food to your baby in the first year than worry about how fussy they seem. If you put up with the so called fussyness now, you are likely to get less fussiness when the baby grows up.

Oh, and be prepared for the mess! You might have to wash them three times a day. I would highly recommend getting a dog who can hoover up the floor and lick the food off the legs of the chairs and tables. Just kidding! (not really)

Choking Hazards

One of the biggest concerns with blw is chokind hazard. So whilst this method is relatively hands off compared to the traditional method. Parents are still suggested to cut the food into tiny pieces or into very large pieces. BLW does not cause any more choking than spoon feeding.

The rule of thumb is to make sure that the food is either smaller or larger than a pound coin but as I always say use your instinct. So foods like grapes or cherry tomatoes will need cutting into halves before offering it to your baby.

Anything small will pass through the airways and come out the other end. I remember being surprised by RoRo eating a cherry with the pip in. He ate the flesh around it and he knew that the pip was not to be swallowed. This was at age one I think. So as time passes with blw you will know your child’s abilities and you will feed him food by judging his skills level.

It is also important to note that blw should be introduced only when the child is ready. The signs include sitting up unassisted, being able to hold the head up without help, being able to reach out and grab things and being able to do the whole hand to mouth thing. All these skills develop around 6 months of age, in some cases it may take longer.

Iron

Iron is another thing most parents worry about a lot especially with BLW. Now triple that pressure when feeding your child a vegan diet. There is a myth going around about protein, iron etc or lack of it in vegan diet. Let’s not even go there.

Anyhow, if breastfeeding on demand, you should not worry about iron in your baby at all. And formula’s are fortified so there we go. I am not sure why is there so much of a muchness.

If not breastfeeding, make sure your baby consumes food rich in iron. You would be surprised how easy it is to feed iron rich food to kids.

Food source: brown rice, tomatoes, collard greens, kale, tofu, legumes, lentils, ), quinoa, oatmeal etc.

Just eating food rich in iron will not do. One must consume enough vitamin c daily inorder to absorb iron. Just one orange a day will cover your daily intake of vitamin c. It is that easy! Also, if in doubt, supplement.

Trying Street Food In India

Feed Whatever You Are Eating

The benefit of this method is that you do not have to cook or prepare separate meals for the baby. And please do not tell me making purees only takes a minute. Sure! And please also do not tell me how you puree everything you are eating, so basically it is the same as blw. Feeding a child a homogeneous mush does not appeal to me and I am sure it does not appeal to most babies either. They eat it because there is no other option, they don’t know any better or they simply spit it out and end up fussy. Sorry if I sound judgemental. If I can’t eat what I give to my child, I simply won’t give it to my child. I think that is cruel.

Anyhow, in the early days I remember cooking baby friendly meals for the family. So we ate a lot of roasted vegetables cut up lengthwise, thick soups, stews, dal, beans, couscous and rice etc. The food became more and more complicated as he grew older and we became more confident. But I never cooked him a separate meal. Not that I can recollect.

Eating Together

This method also encourages families to eat together. Monkey see monkey do. So the idea is if your babies watched you eat nicely at the table, they are likely to imitate you. So this is a good opportunity to get those table manners, cutlery skills and table talk practiced and polished.

I do not eat with my kids, because my kids eat at 6pm and that is way to early for me. But I always sit down at the table with all my three kids with a cup of tea. Babies learn a lot and a lot quicker from their siblings. But over the weekends, we eat together no matter what time. It not only develops positive association and great bond  between family members, it also teaches babies how to share as they watch us pass the food around, eat off each others plates (ofcourse we all do that, no?) etc.

It is recommended that one uses a high chair to make meals times less messy and so the baby can reach the food easily. But a parents lap works equally well. We progressed from a bumbo chair with a tray to highchairs to now just a regular chair.

Healthy Opportunity

Babies do learn a lot from watching us. And because blw encourages eating together, babies are likely to pick up on bad eating habits from us. Hence, this blw is a good opportunity to get back on the healthy diet plan and boycotting the naughty junk food culture. Eat a bowl of salad or drink some smoothies instead of a milkshake or a bag of chips. The baby is watching. He may not be ready to share that bowl of salad yet but trust me, he is watching and eagerly waiting to try it when he is ready.

Food Ideas

It is recommended that we must introdube one or two food at a time and only introduce new food every 3 to 5 days but I’d say go with your instinct. We like variety and RoRo grew up on that.

. always offer fresh water with your every meal

. do not give babies juice or squash until they are atleast a year old.

. No dairy, honey or whole nuts.

. cook spinach and other leafy veg, remove peels from apples as they can get stuck and cause discomfort.

. don’t shy away from bold and spicy flavours but do not make anything extra hot. If you want a spice loving child, introduce the flavour gradually.

6 months to 8 months

RoRo was always offered a piece of fruit, dates, avocados or roasted veggies, hummus etc as his standard meal. But we always let him have a taste of whatever that we were eating too (if something was too spicy, we would still let him have a lick from our finger). For instance, aloo bhaaji (potato curry), or indian breakfasts like poha, sabudana or aloo parathas etc.

At this age, they are just so pleased to be given this opportunity to eat that they don’t care whether you are eating with them or not and if what you are eating is different from theirs. They are using this opportunity for sensory explosion.  They are developing fine motor skills ( picking up green peas), and gross motor skills like reaching the food and bringing it to the mouth or even oral motor skills, chewing and then deciding whether to swallow or to spit.

8 to 10 months

This is an interesting age. At this age, they can almost express happiness at the sight of the food that they are familar with or like. They also start to develop the skills to use a straw or drink from a cup. I gave RoRo straw at around this age. He couldn’t do much initially but they are clever little things, he started using the straw like a pro by the time he was 9 months old. This is when I introduced green smoothies to him.

This is also the age where their spoon to month skills also start to look more purposeful. So go all out with the yogurht pots, bowls of soup or porridge or cereal. It is messy and little to no food may go into the tummy, but a lot of other learning is taking place, so encourage that.

Dal and rice, sushi, steamed veggies, nut butter and toast, cooked or uncooked tofu etc go down very well. We also started offering him a variety of beans and legumes and pulses. He devoured them. Chickpeas being his favourite.

10 to 12 months:

This is the age of cooked food. As vegans, we always have fresh uncooked fruits and veggies on offer and we eat them throughout the day. Up until 10 months, RoRo would be satisfied with just those but now he was interested in cooked food more. We actually started eating good portions of his cooked food be it fried mushrooms for breakfast or scrambled tofu, fried rice or naked burgers for lunch or beans curry and rice for dinner.

1 years and up:

He would eat everthing at this age apart from nuts. We offered nuts in energy balls made with dates. It was around 20 months we realised RoRo could eat whole nuts. And this may be too early for some children so I would watch out and use parental judgement and instincts.

Tips for Spoon Feeding

As mentioned earlier, We aren’t purists and so we have helped RoRo a few times by feeding him. But when I say feeding, we don’t mean we kept shoving spoonfuls in his mouth and depositing food in the top half of his mouth and wiping the excess from around his mouth with the spoon.

We offered a spoonful a few inches away from his mouth whilst asking him gently if he’d like to eat it, we then either waited for a cue from him, i.e, a forward lean of the head or hands reaching out for the spoon and as he grew older, we’d let him grab the spoon and bring it to his mouth all on his own. And we always respected the fact that if he is not opening his mouth, he is not hungry. Period! There was no silly aeroplanes or televisions or birds in the sky to trick him into eating.

RoRo Now

Now RoRo is a total foodie. He will eat anything on offer and is open to trying new things. He loves spicy and savoury food items. His favourite flavour happens to be tangy. He will sit and suck on a whole lemon quite merrily.

 

 

 

 

 

How To Make A Green Smoothie That Kids Would Love

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Processed with VSCO with preset

We have been making green smoothies since the past two years. I come from a culture where a lot of delicious meals were cooked. There was hardly ever a green salad involved except the occasional cucumber slices . Having come to England, and being convinced by my husband the benefits of eating raw veggies especially greens, we have been consuming a lot of salads. I have to be honest that gulping down bowls and bowls of salad is not easy for me. I do it, (to set an example for the kids) but it is not necessarily my favourite way of getting those greens into my system. Let’s talk green smoothies!!

Since going vegan, the need for greens into my diet has become more pronounced than ever before. Everybody needs greens but once you go vegan you actually start thinking about your health and start watching your diet (if you are the conscious kind). Kids today need greens more than ever before with all the toxic substances and pollutants that are ingested into our system through various sources especially food.

Green smoothies are a great way to detoxify our system. Collard greens and kale actually have the quality of removing toxins from our body whilst adding a ton of nutrients into our system. So yes, let’s feed our kids those greens!

My baby is now 23 months and has been consuming green smoothies since he started solids really. He absolutely loves smoothies along with my big kids who are 11 and 10 years of age. I am lucky I have three beautiful, healthy and absolutely fuss free kids who would even drink a brown smoothie easily. But I do get asked a lot about how to introduce green smoothies to kids who would run a mile from anything that is green.

Let me give you a recipe for our go to green smoothie first:

Ingredients: (I don’t measure so please use your instincts)

two handfuls of spinach/kale/collards

2 – 3 bananas

1 mango or a cup of diced pineapples

1/2 inch of ginger (optional)

some spirulina or wheatgrass powder (optional)

juice of a lemon

Coconut Milk and Water (one or the other or both, adjust quantity according to the consistency)

Method:

Whack it all in the blender and boom! It is no rocket science to be honest.

Here are some tips that might help you along on your journey to green smoothies

1. Start Early And Practice Before Your Preach

As mentioned above, I started my baby on green smoothies when he was as little over 8 months old. He watched me consume green smoothies since birth and when he started solids, he obviously was eager to try everything he saw us consume. So when he could successfully drink from a cup or was enthusiastic about using a straw, I started giving him green smoothies. Hence, the love for smoothies persists.

But one can introduce green smoothies at any point in their children’s diet. I would recommend introducing it into your own diet first. Keep drinking it regularly and talk about your experience in terms of flavour, health and how good you feel. Share the excitement of how you are looking forward to your green smoothie etc. And offer some to your kids. They may say No but that should not stop you from drinking yours. They will come around.

When my daughter fussed about mushroom in her diet, that didn’t stop me from cooking mushroom stroganoff?! I always asked her to have a little bit just for my sake and then eat whatever else she preferred. After months of this, she now successfully can eat a meal of mushroom stroganoff with no alternative available.

2.Colour is key

Kids like anything bright in colour. Now green is quite often a likeable colour amongst kids. The trick to get bright green colour is to use fresh greens (organic if possible). Adding green powders like wheatgrass or spirulina will help you get a varied variety of green colours from light to dark to bright.

Having said that if you kid is not happy with green. Try adding beetroot and strawberries in their green smoothies. These two ingredients will dye the smoothie red. Now kids like red right?!

3.Ease Them Into It

If your children would drink a yellow smoothie. Make one. Yellow smoothie is completely fruit based including pineapple, bananas and mangoes. Now whilst it is highly recommended that we eat our fruits and not drink, it won’t hurt your kids to enjoy a glass every few days just to enjoy the idea of smoothies. Once they start enjoying it, start experimenting.

“Shall we try making a red one today? (add beets) Shall we make a purple one today? (add a bit of blueberries) and then say let’s try green one?” you get the drift!

4.Flavour

Ok, my green smoothies are not very sweet. My toddler never had very sweet smoothies so he never knew any better. But my older kids had to be eased into enjoying green smoothies without it being too sweet. Watching sugar intake is essential and hence it is recommended that green smoothies have more veggies and less fruits.

But in order to ease your children into the green smoothies I would suggest adding more fruits to begin with and gradually taking some out.

If you kids like tang, add a bit of lemon juice or pineapple so it overpowers the flavour of the greens (which can be a bit bitter)

5.High Speed Blender

This is a must. Green are super fibrous and hence very healthy for us. But the texture is not for everyone. A high speed blender blend things really fine. Also a high speed blender will blend things very quicky therefore, prevent the veg and fruits from oxidising.

6.Texture

Add atleast one or two creamy ingredient like avocado or bananas. This will help make your smoothie nice and creamy and take away the fibrous texture from the greens.

7. Get Them To Help

My kids love helping me out in the kitchen especially my toddler. I get my big kids to chop whilst the little one puts everything into the blender and presses the buttons. I am a huge advocate of letting children help and it’s positive effects on their eating habits. So get those kids to help. Kitchen gets a bit messy but it is worth it.

8. Keep Using Positive Praises

Always praise the children for trying something. Even if they drink just a few sips, praise them for doing so. Always ask them to taste it. And if they refuse it after tasting show them that you trust in their choice. Praise them for trying and if they are a bit older ask them what do they think would make this smoothie better. Try not to be harsh when they refuse to drink it or struggle to finish it off. And just because they refused it or struggled with it does not mean you have to give up. Stay persistent. It will pay off.

 

I hope you find this post helpful. Please let me know through likes and comments. 

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