Triathlon result!

Thursday was the big day: Andrew completed his mini toddler triathlon in aid of Sport Relief. I said last week that I would blog about how it went, so here I am!

Boat Collage jpg
I think both boys might have been expecting some boat rowing to feature in the events too 😉

We set off just before 9am to Newbold Comyn Leisure Centre in Leamington for the aquatic bit. After filling in a form to give us permission to take photos, we got changed and Andrew kept his t-shirt on over his costume so we could take some photos with it on the poolside. He was keen to jump i, so while Granny got into position to take some action shots on her camera, the boys and I got into the pool at the ‘beach’ side, and made our way across to the side wall. Andrew swam with his noodle float all the way across to the other side and back again, encouraged by me a few steps ahead of him, holding Joel who was laughing him on too. Despite an almost detour around the island in the pool, he achieved two full widths of the pool, which is about 20m in total. After that we had our usual fun swimming, and Granny joined us in the water so we could each keep an eye on one boy whilst they were swimming and splashing.

Swim Collage jpg

When we’d finished, it was time for a quick refuel and then back home for some rest and lunch. Once we were ready again, we headed out to the Memorial Park in Coventry. Andrew’s task was to ride his bike over there, around the top field in the park, and back home again – approximately 1 mile in total. While we were there, he also completed his run – approximately 500m across the top field. This was the part that he needed the most encouragement for, I think he was getting tired, but I jogged too and cheered him on.

Cycle Collage jpg

He can’t have been that tired though, because he still had an extra reserve of energy for his usual go on the playground too! This brought a welcome opportunity for Joel to burn some more energy too, as he’d been in the sling for the bike riding and running. We stayed at the park until it started to rain and everyone was getting worn out. Andrew completed his cycle home and then enjoyed a special treat snack and drink whilst chilling out on the sofa.

Run Collage jpg

So there we go: one mini triathlon complete, one very tired but happy athlete having spent the day doing what he loves – burning energy in the pool and the park! And that’s what Sport Relief is all about – getting active, having fun, and raising life-changing cash.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about our 3 year old’s sporting challenge, please consider donating whatever you can to Sport Relief via our Just Giving page. To find out how the money will be spent by Comic Relief, have a look here. Thank you!

Also linking this post up, as usual, with the fab #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Toddler Triathlon for Sport Relief

I’ve been hearing all about the charity that is Sport Relief through the adventures of Team Honk on twitter and their blog. Then when Granny came back from Sainsbury’s with a red Sport Relief t-shirt for the boys and their cousin, it gave me an idea for helping to fundraise. On the back of the t-shirt there are three words printed at the top: run, swim, cycle. Aha, I thought, that’s a triathlon, and wouldn’t it be cool if Andrew did a mini triathlon and we got people to sponsor him. He loves all 3 of those activities, and would be more than wiling to spend a day doing them. So here’s the plan…

On Thursday 20th March, we will head to Newbold Comyn Leisure Centre in Leamington for the aquatic bit and then come back to the Memorial Park in Coventry for the terrestrial bits. Andrew will:

– swim 2 widths of the splash pool (roughly 20m)

– cycle (on his balance bike, not confident enough on his new pedal bike yet) to the park and around the top field in the park (approximately 1 mile in total)

– run across the top field in the park (approximately 500m)

IMG 1547
In training – on the bike
IMG 1572
Leggings made by Mummy, upcycled from two of my jumpers. Thought they went well with his t-shirt. They’re really Joel’s but just about fit Andrew too 🙂

Now comes your chance to help this charity, who give shelter to young people living on the streets or affected by domestic abuse in the UK and who give the chance of an education and fresh water to children abroad in poorer countries – these are just some examples of what they do. I’ve set up a Just Giving page where you can sponsor Andrew in his mini triathlon attempt. Any amount, whether £1 or £10 can make a difference, and we’d be very grateful if you could spare some change.

I will of course do an update on the blog when he’s done it, and let you know how much we’ve raised. I’m sure we’ll all have a lot of fun, especially a very active Andrew.

Linking up with #CountryKids as usual

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Chocolate and marzipan star cupcakes

When an email popped into my inbox the other day, from a friend asking if anyone could bake cakes and/or sell them to help her and her sister raise money for charity, I thought that I could help. Baking is a great way to keep Andrew from getting bored and makes a change from the DVD and youtube watching that goes on at the moment. And we get to help raise some money, so it makes it even more worthwhile. The charity they’re fundraising for is Asthma UK, which supports asthma sufferers and their families. My friend’s sister is asthmatic herself, and despite this she is running the London marathon in April as part of her fundraising efforts too – now that sounds much harder than baking cakes! 

As it’s nearly Christmas, I decided to go for something a bit festive but not the traditional mince pies etc. as we already have so many of them at this time of year. I think it’s easier to sell little individual cakes rather than whole ones or slices of whole ones, so I went for cupcakes. They are chocolate sponge, with chocolate chips, and have a marzipan star on top (that’s the festive twist, in both flavour and shape!) The star is held on with a bit of buttercream icing, and on top of the star there is a little swirl of glittery purple icing to finish it off. The sponge has ground almonds in, partly to make it a nice moist sponge, partly to blend with the flavour of the almonds in the marzipan. Oh and the cupcake cases are silver, to make them extra sparkly for the festive theme.

Andrew enjoyed helping me – he stirred the mixture a few times at different stages, and he rolled out marzipan and cut out stars (his favourite job). During our baking session, I noticed that he has a new phrase to say: “Mummy do it” and, more often, “Andrew [A-tar] do it”. I’ve given the recipe below, if you’d like a bit of inspiration to have a go at your own Christmassy cupcakes. This made 16 cakes. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 170g sugar
  • 170g margarine
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped into chunks (or ready done chic chips)
  • ready to roll yellow marzipan
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • glitter sugar

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan) and place 16 cupcake cases into muffin tins.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs until well combined.
  4. Add the four, cocoa, ground almonds and baking powder, and mix until well combined.
  5. Add the chocolate chunks and stir until evenly distributed.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cake cases to about two thirds full.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until risen and a skewer inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  9. Meanwhile make the buttercream icing by mixing the butter and icing sugar until smooth and stiff; then add the splash of milk to make it a little less stiff and a good consistency to work with.
  10. Spoon a small blob of icing (at this point without colour) onto each cupcake; then add the glitter sugar to the remaining icing (I chose a purple glitter sugar).
  11. Roll out the marzipan to a few millimetres thick on a board dusted with icing sugar.
  12. Cut out 16 stars, and press them down quite firmly onto the top of each cake.
  13. Finish by putting the remaining glitter icing into a piping bag and piping a small swirl onto the top of each star.

Fun times and lots learnt at BritMums Live 2012

Finally I’m getting round to thinking and writing about what experienced at the BritMums Live 2012 blogging conference. I hope I’m not too late to join the linky….. I’ve seen (via twitter) so many people posting on there already. But as I said in my last post, the past week (and the week before the conference) have been incredibly busy with one thing and another, so I’ve only just had time to gather my thoughts and look back it. Luckily I have a pretty good memory, though pregnancy is clouding that somewhat, so I can still remember (most of) what I did.

Granny and Grandad kindly looked after Andrew on the Friday, and Daddy did his usual Andrew entertaining stint on Saturday until I arrived home in the evening. So a big thanks to all three of them for enabling me to go in the first place. This was the first time that I have ever been away from Andrew for more than a working day. I did miss him, and wouldn’t want to do it often, but there was so much going on that my mind was kept occupied.

I travelled down to London with Amanda from The Family Patch, and her husband kindly drove us so it was a much more restful journey for me than getting the train. After a slight hold up on the way (due to a gridlocked service station car park!) we arrived just after Ruby Wax’s talk had started. We decided to go straight into ‘The Hub’ rather than try and creep into her talk unnoticed – I’m never confident enough to do that and risk disturbing someone else’s view or ability to hear the talk. The Hub was a room with several stands run by reps from various companies which might be of interest to mums/dads. I soon got chatting to a few of them whose products interested me, and it was nice and quiet at that point so we could actually hear each other without shouting! I picked up a few freebies whilst chatting, like some Nurofen syringes (which are so handy because you can only get that stuff out of the bottle with that specific syringe and they’re easily misplaced around a toddler-inhabited flat), and a Lego goody bag with a Duplo set that’s perfect for Andrew right now (actually, they had run out of bags on the Friday, so I got one the day after, although I was told off by the Lego rep who I hadn’t spoken to the day before for just asking for a bag without talking to her first – cheeky her, I’d already done the chat!)

Duplo set in the Lego goody bag - perfect for Andrew, he loves it!

We managed to sneak into the main room between Ruby’s talk and the next one, which was a discussion between various top bloggers with different genres of blog about ‘British blogging now’. This was very interesting to hear, particularly as I’m still such a newbie and I’m still getting to know the blogosphere out there. They gave some useful tips from their ideas of what blogging is all about. The tea/coffee break that followed gave me a chance to find my way around the venue a bit more (e.g. locate the toilets – essential when you’re pregnant!) and be amazed at how posh it was! I’m not used to being called ‘Ma’am’ by a gentleman in a bowler hat as I’m welcomed through the door. For an old brewery, converted into a conference centre, it all looked very plush and sparkly. The cake during the break was yummy; the worst part was having to choose between all the different kinds which all sounded lovely.

Once I’d re-energised with a slice of cake, I headed to my first workshop of the conference. There was a choice of four, and I chose the one entitled ‘Crossing the Chasm – how to bring your blog to the next level’, which was given by a group of five top bloggers. I was a little unsure before going as to whether this would be relevant – would the ‘level’ they were going to talk about be the one I’m interested in getting to next? But this turned out to be one of the best workshops I attended. Rather cleverly they talked in general terms about improving your blog/blogging, as well as giving more specific tips for particular different stages of blogging that individuals in the audience might be at. I got a lot out of it, both things to work on in the future, and (perhaps more importantly) confirmation of things that I’m already doing right/well.

That brought me to the end of day one. It would have been nice to stay for the BiBs awards party, but I knew I had quite a trek across London in Friday rush hour to reach my overnight sleeping place (thanks to my brother and his girlfriend). As I’m still getting exhausted by early evening, I thought it would be unwise to stick around much longer with bump, and instead headed to the tube where I stuck bump out in the hope of getting a seat – nobody obliged, but I grabbed one quickly as someone got off a few stops down the line.

Day two started bright and breezy for me, because even without Andrew to wake me up, my own body managed to do it instead. I made the trek back east across central London, and turned up at about 8.20am, just a bit too late to join in with Bloggercise. I felt like I’d done my own muscle workout by lugging around my laptop and overnight bag all day though. A tasty almond pastry and a sit down in the again quiet Hub was just what I needed to prepare me for the long day ahead. The day started officially and promptly with a talk by Sarah Brown (as in the wife of the former Prime Minister) who does lots of work for charity through Piggy Bank Kids. She was an inspiring speaker, who honestly and genuinely spoke about her experience of finding her voice and making a difference. It was so refreshing to hear that these things don’t just happen overnight, even if you’re more publicly well-known than me, and that even as someone who now comes across so confidently as a speaker, she struggled massively with it to start with.

Then I went to another workshop on photography – how to use lighting and household objects to take better pictures for your blog. This was a fantastic presentation, given by Julia Boggio, professional photographer. She talked us through some pretty basic concepts of light, positioning and using various filters (like a white shower curtain or a little black dress) and compact mirrors to reflect light. I learnt a lot from this, and photography is something that I’d like to work on, particularly for my food shots, so I’ll try to put it into practice and achieve some good results. Not only was she an excellent and easy to follow speaker, but also she revealed at the end that she had taken all the amazing shots she showed us on her iPhone, to prove that you don’t need expensive specialist photographic equipment to get great photos. I was definitely inspired by this talk and, when I get around to it, will be constructing a white screen and transparent mat to start using for photos of objects.

A well-timed tea/coffee break (I don’t know why I’m calling it that when I didn’t drink any tea or coffee – still not fancying it for pregnancy-related reasons) meant that I could refuel with some yummy cake and visit the ladies. Talking of cake, I also came across the cupcake decorating competition at the Lego stand, so gave it a shot. Even if I didn’t win the grand prize of a load of Lego that I’m sure Andrew would have appreciated at some point, it was a tasty thing to come away with. It was then time for more workshops.

My decorated cupcake for the Lego competition

The second and third workshops of the day ran back to back, so there was a lot of info to take in before the lunch break. For the first, I chose ‘Blogging for the greater good – using your voice for a worthy cause’. This was a discussion, with time for questions from the floor afterwards, between some amazing bloggers who do great works for various charities. Although my blog isn’t officially involved with any charities at the moment, this is something that I have been thinking about recently, particularly since taking part in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding scavenger hunt. I do feel passionately about spreading the word about breastfeeding, and I wondered whether I could do more through the blog for this than what I’ve so far written. The speakers gave some very useful advice, were inspiring in what they had themselves achieved for others, and also confirmed some thoughts that I’d had myself, so it was just what I needed. I’ll have more of a think, again when I get time, about what I could do along these lines.

Blogging for the greater good workshop - some fab top bloggers telling us all about using your voice for a worthy cause

The next workshop I attended was completely different. It was more of a technical talk about Google+. I’d seen the g+ symbol on quite a few blogs, but had never had chance to figure out exactly what it was and why I would want to use it. The speakers talked us through how it is another social networking tool, but explained how it is different from facebook and twitter. As I had my laptop out anyway, I was convinced enough to register there and then. Admittedly I haven’t had a chance to do anything else with my account other than create it, but I hope to one day find some time to sit down for an hour or two and get it set up properly. With only 24 hours in a day and only a small fraction of that available for blogging, I have to prioritise what comes first. Although Google+ looks interesting and useful for connecting with other bloggers, there are currently more important things to do in my blogging time, like actually doing some writing, since that’s the bit I love 🙂

It was definitely time for a spot of lunch after that morning of mental action. I should have guessed that a venue as nice as that would provide more than a sandwich buffet for lunch. Indeed as I walked towards The Hub I could smell that lunch was more than cold finger food. Normally I would be impressed by this, but since I can’t stand the smell of cooking still, it was a turn off. But I knew I needed to eat something, so thought I should brave the queue and see what there was – maybe there was some bread or salad lurking in amongst the hot dishes? All the meat dishes looked too meaty for someone who doesn’t really eat meat, so I moved on to the veggie end of the table. The choices were something with goats cheese (not allowed), a korma curry (not a massive fan of korma anyway, but definitely not into curry at the mo) or a pasta thing with a cheese I hadn’t heard of. So I decided to ask the staff if the pasta was suitable for pregnancy. The lady was very helpful and went off to ask behind the scenes; after a few minutes came back the answer that the pasta wasn’t suitable, and the only thing I could have as a pregnant veggie was the korma. Great! I explained that I really wasn’t feeling well enough to want curry, and without hesitation she offered to get me a salad made up. Within 5 minutes appeared a salad – an ‘interesting’ combination of flavours I have to say, with rocket, watercress, olives and blueberries, and a chilli dressing. Olives have never been something that I’ve enjoyed eating, but I thought I would try one, just to confirm that I still didn’t like them. But I was surprised to discover that I actually liked it! Amazing what pregnancy does to your taste buds – I’ve completely gone off one of my previously favourite fruits, bananas, but now I like olives! So I ate up the whole salad willingly.

During my time waiting for the salad to appear, I bumped (pun intended) into the lovely Louise Lloyd of Team Lloyd who is also pregnant. She had tried to organise a bump meet-up for any pregnant mums there, but despite initial interest on twitter before the day, it only ended up being the two of us. I think there was just too much else going on. Nevermind, it was great to meet a fellow pregnant blogger, whose blog I really enjoy reading, in person. After I’d eaten and chatted to Louise and her friend Kelly, we all decided to enter a competition run by Acer to win an Android tablet. I was feeling quite left out as I seemed to be one of the only ones there who didn’t have an iPad or iPhone, so I thought it would be a handy prize if I won. To be in with a chance of winning you had to stand in a photo booth and pose how you wanted for four different photos. I decided to do some baby signs, thinking it was a bit different, but sadly I didn’t win.

Louise and me posing with our bumps (thanks to Kelly for the photo)
Babysigning in the photo booth: top left = cow, top right = dog, bottom left = cat, bottom right = sheep

Lunch was followed by two more workshops. The first one I chose was all about how to make money with your blog. It took me a while to decide on this because the other choices also looked relevant and interesting, and I don’t want to make money from my blog at the moment. But in the end I thought it would be useful to go along and find out more about making money, in case I decide this might be a route to go down in the future. Although the main speaker was very fast, I did manage to get enough info out of it to confirm that I don’t want to turn this blog into anything commercial. She said, as I thought, that parenting blogs are not usually the right place to make significant amounts of money, but that niche blogs that spin off from them can make quite a bit. For now blogging is something I do for fun, and I really don’t want to bombard my readers with adverts and marketing, because that would go against why I started doing it. But I might find in the future that I could look into making money from blogging and writing, using another blog or website set up for that purpose.

The last workshop was a rather disappointing choice, after all the other good ones that I’d been too. But I guess 5 out of 6 isn’t bad! The problem was that the title gave a false impression of what the speaker was going to talk about. It was called ‘Writing about your life for non-fiction and memoirs.’ I was interested to hear about this, because I’ve been saying for a while that maybe one day I’ll write a book about our breastfeeding (and early parenting) experience because we seemed to hit issues that aren’t widely written about beyond postnatal breastfeeding support group literature. However, the speaker only made points that were relevant if you were writing a biography (how is that ‘your life’?) or auto-biography, and focussed on researching genealogy and historic events. By that time I was exhausted anyway, so I switched off for most of it and just played around on t’internet (incidentally the wifi was soooo much faster there than our home ‘narrowband’ connection! – sorry Tom, it had to be said, again 🙂 )

This workshop was disappointing - the title here was misleading

Although there were a couple more things on the program for the evening, both I and Amanda were more keen to get back home to our boys and a good night’s sleep. So, after one last walk round the stands in The Hub, where I was drawn to the freshly-made bread from the Panasonic breadmaker and interested to know how I could be involved in testing/tasting in the future, we headed out of London. Oh, how could I nearly forget? – first we picked up a heavy goody bag full of bits and pieces to take home with us, most of which I or Andrew will find very useful. He’s already enjoyed the Tilda Kids risotto and Winnie the Pooh rice cakes (full marks on a review of taste from him!), and read the children’s books. Lugging in my goody bag, I arrived home to one very happy little (and one very happy big) boy who greeted me with a big hug. The littler one was all ready for bed, and we had a nice long milky snuggle to make up for the time we’d been apart.

Most of the goodies that I got in the BritMums goody bag, plus a few extras that I picked up at various workshops/stands
Andrew (hand on the right, sneaking into the picture) already spotted a Nurofen syringe and started chewing it! The syringe in itself is great for teething, even without the medicine!

Overall I’d say my experience of BritMumsLive was excellent, and I am definitely thinking of going back next year (though it may not work out with an 8 month old baby). I learnt a lot! The only problem I have now is finding enough time to put everything I heard, and frantically took notes on, into practice; that’ll be quite a slow process. My reason for going was primarily to hear some amazing bloggers, who have been around longer than I have, share their experiences and tips, and I wasn’t (generally) disappointed in the quality and quantity of what I heard. For me, the event wasn’t so much about who I could meet (both bloggers and companies), but I was happy that I did get to put a few faces to names and chat with speech rather than online media. I’m sure a lot of effort goes into organising an event that big, and I think BritMums pulled it off well. It seemed like there was something for everyone with all the different workshops, and if I go again, I hope some of the same or similar ones will run so that I can go to the ones I missed this time because they were on at the same time as another one that I chose. So that’s an overall positive review from me!