Monday, 28 May 2012

A fortnight in the life of a tiny taster

Oliver recently received his first Tiny Taste test for Little Dish and we were both so excited when the parcel arrived.  As you can see he couldn't wait to get his hands on the first meal.  

I decided to make him the cottage pie to start with as he loves anything with minced beef so I thought it would get us off to a good start.  I was wrong.  He quite happily sat and played with the meal, and even licked a bit to taste it, but he refused to eat it.  It did contain quite a lot of mashed potato, and not as much meat as he would have liked, but I was still really disappointed that he would barely try it.  It's hard to bribe make a 19 month old eat anything that he doesn't like the look of.  In the end I had to give up , but I did worry that this was just a taste of things to come (no pun intended).  Then that night he came down with an awful cough and cold and was off his food for a few days.  So at least it looks like there was a good reason for the refusal of the cottage pie.  It did mean that we had the put the taste test on hold for a few days though.

When he was fully recovered and eating properly again, I decided it was time for his second tasting.  This time we went for the lasagne and thankfully this was much more successful.  It looks delicious (I was a bit jealous that I didn't get one to try too) and Oliver ate it with gusto.  
In the next few days he tried a chicken korma which he enjoyed but didn't finish (my husband finished it off and said it was lovely), and a chicken & butternut squash pie (he was not so keen on this one but he did try it at least).

While we had been finishing the first weeks meals off, the second weeks worth of meals had arrived.  We got spaghetti & meatballs, pasta bolognese, chicken risotto, pasta with cheese, peas and broccoli trees, and enough fish pie for a tea party for Oliver and his friends.

The most successful meal was the pasta bolognese closely followed by spaghetti & meatballs.  He didn't like the pasta dish or the fish pie, and this made me realise something about my son.  He doesn't like white food.  Suddenly, it all made sense.  Since he was about 14 months old and started being a bit fussy with food (which, by the way wasn't supposed to happen as we did baby led weaning) he has stopped eating things like potatoes, pasta, plain chicken... anything with no colour.  On the other hand his favourite meal is spaghetti bolognese, and he'll eat chicken if it's in a curry sauce.  I know I should probably have realised it before, but I'd just never thought about it.  I suppose that's what happens when you spend all day running around like a maniac trying to do everything for three children, plus work, plus run a home (blah blah blah as my oldest son would say).  I kind of understand too.  I like colour in my food.  If I was given the choice between  plate of white food, or a lovely colourful dish of meat and vegetables I know which one I would choose.

Though I can say that Oliver's refusal to eat said white food is no reflection on the Little Dish meals.  At the fish pie tea party that we hosted for a few of Oliver's little friends, you can see that it was a huge success.
Fish Pie

So I think that overall we had a very successful taste test.  I learnt something about my child, and Oliver enjoyed trying lots of different things.  He seemed to get quite excited whenever I went into the fridge and got one of his meals out.  All I can do is apologise to him for the days that I chose a white one.  I don't think we'll be buying any of those for Oliver any time soon, though he'll definitely be having the pasta bolognese again.
He couldn't get it in his mouth fast enough!

Friday, 11 May 2012

What does Google+ really do?

I've got to admit to being a bit of a social networking junkie.  I never would have thought it as I used to think sites like Facebook were for teenagers; but then I had children and my whole world turned upside down.  Social networking sites have become my social life since having my three boys as most of my evenings are spent at home.  Developments have meant that I can chat, share photos, get involved in groups and even set up events.  In fact, they play a leading role in helping me to arrange nights out (and even the occasional weekend away) with my friends.

So where does Google fit in to all this?

Mumsnet were looking for bloggers to test and review Google+ and as I'd been a member for some time but still had no idea how to use it I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to try it properly.  I had already created a few different circles but only ever glanced at it occasionally.  I had recently linked my Google+ page to my blog but only because Blogger had prompted me to do this.  Again, I wasn't sure what this meant; all I knew was that Blogger gave me the option to share my posts to Google+ each time I hit the Publish button.

A quick scan of the apps on my iPhone found that I had already downloaded the Google+ app so I was ready to go.  I took a photo of my youngest boy directly from the app, clicked on the circles that I wanted to share with and clicked send...... and it didn't show up on my page.  I thought I must have done something wrong so I tried it again.  Still nothing.  Checked on my laptop to see if I could see it but it definitely wasn't there.  Further investigation of my phone identified that I hadn't actually posted a photo to the stream, but instead I had started a Messenger chat.  There's probably a few bloggers who barely know me wondering why I have sent them a photo of my child.  Twice.  The icons on the app aren't very clear, though at least I have learned by my mistake.

I then decided to try the photo edit tool on my laptop.  I uploaded a photo, clicked on edit, and was amazed at how easy it is to resize, add effects and text.  There's even the option to add speech bubbles.  I recently started using Instagram but I found the Google+ photo edit tool even easier to use.  There are so many different options from standard stuff like cropping and changing the exposure to adding doodles or a fake beard.  I think I'll be enjoying hours of fun with this tool.  My photos are finally going to look cool!  You can see my before and after photos below:


As you can see, I still need a bit of practice (I don't know how I ended up with a speech bubble in the middle of my photo), but it gives an idea of what this really useful tool can do.

After all this excitement I went back to my stream to see what was going on; the answer was not a lot!  I've currently got 33 people in 5 different circles, and there's just not enough activity on there.  Most of my friends don't use it, and the ones that are on there don't use it very often.  My stream hardly ever changes.  I post on there and don't get any replies. It makes me feel quite lonely.

I had a good look at how it all works to see if it's easy to use and there are some features that I really like.  I find it far easier than Facebook to group your friends/acquaintances into circles, which in turn makes it extremely easy to share what you want with exactly who you want.  The main problem I found with this is when you make a mistake.  When I shared the above edited photo, I accidentally hit 'public' so went back to the post to try to change it and found that I couldn't.  The only way for me to change this appears to be to delete the photo and re-add it.

So back to my circles.  How do I get more friends?  It took a bit of clicking around the screen for me to find the 'find people' function.  I can only assume that the suggestions that Google+ display have come from my Gmail account which is a bit useless to me.  These days, I only ever email businesses as I contact my friends through Facebook and Twitter and so don't know their email addresses.  There is an option to type in someone's name to see if they are on there (similar to Facebook) and it will also suggest people you may know.  As I've already said, most of my friends aren't there (yet) so all I could do was send emails to those that I have email addresses for and add a few from Google's suggestions.

I had a look at the Hangouts guide and this looks quite clever as it allows the opportunity to video chat to up to 9 people at the same time.  Great in theory, but I don't know if it's something that I would use.  I've never used Skype because I would feel that I'd have to look perfect to be able to use it, and not sat in my pyjamas and no make-up as I usually am in the evening.  I do think it's a great function for people who like that sort of interaction, especially as it allows so many people to be part of it.  It may be a feature that would be more useful to me as my children get older as I could chat to them if I was ever away from them.

Overall, I like the set up of Google+.  I think that in time it will be a great asset to my blog but I'm less sure about how it's going to fit in with my personal life purely due to the fact that I don't know many people who use it.  Google has developed some great features that do make it stand out from the likes of Facebook and Twitter such as Hangout and the photo edit tool, but it is unlikely that most people will abandon one social networking site for another, so there needs to be a way for them to fit together.  In saying that, I thought the same of Twitter when I joined that and it's now become a massive part of my life and I have made some good friends there, so I'm hope that Google+ will fit in the same way.  Google just need to find a way to tempt more people to join.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Blogging Network, a group of parent bloggers picked by Mumsnet to review products, services, events and brands. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retail full editorial integrity.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Feeling scared

As I get older I’m getting increasingly afraid.  Things that I never thought about when I was younger now bother me to the point that it makes me feel ill.  And the main reason for this fear?  My children.

I’ll give you an example.  I've always loved driving.  In my teens I used to dream about driving.  I couldn't wait to learn and I had my first driving lesson on my 17th birthday.  I passed five months later and then drove everywhere.  When I turned 18 I would be the designated driver on nights out.  I loved the freedom of being able to jump in the car and going anywhere I wanted to.  I still love that freedom.  The difference now is that my children are usually in the car with me.  I didn't realise what a massive sense of responsibility I would feel by having little people in the car.  I try to make sure everything is safe for them.  I drive a decent car; I have breakdown cover and get my car serviced when needed.  I don’t drive too fast, and am generally as careful as I can be.  I researched the safest car seats for the children and I make sure they are fitted properly.

I do all of this and I still get this overwhelming feeling of panic when I think about the fact that this is my whole family in one little container.

Of course, it’s not just driving that makes me panic.  You could relate this fear to lots of things that never bothered me before.  I always say that I can’t wait until my children are old enough to take to a theme park as I am looking forward to taking them on a rollercoaster, just like my parents did with me.  Though there’s already a part of me that thinks “what if something goes wrong?”

Even taking my children to school has got really mixed feelings.  I love that they’re learning and developing, I love a little bit of a break from them (don’t tell them I said that!) but there’s also a slight hint of panic at releasing them into someone else’s care.  I know I look after them well.  I will try to do whatever I can to make sure they don’t come to any harm.  But what happens when they’re not with me?

Am I the only one that feels like this?  The sensible part of me knows I’m being silly.  The mother in me will probably always worry.  Isn’t that what mothers do?

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