Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Product Review: Plum Oaty Chomp Bars

The lovely people at Plum recently sent Boo some of their new Oaty Chomp bars to try. Did they pass the taste test? Let's find out...
Nom, nom, nom...

We took two of the bars with us on a recent trip to Glasgow. Although the train journey isn't that long, you can always guarantee that 10 minutes into the journey Boo starts shouting for food. I gave her the first one, the Strawberry Cheesecake Oaty Chomp Bar and it went down a treat!

Full of appreciative sounds she handed the empty wrapper back to me and continued on with her drawing. We were off the the Kelvingrove Museum and Gallery which both of the kids love and on that particular day we were off to see their new AC/DC exhibition.

Later on after lunch and a nap for Boo we headed back into the City Centre. Someone was peckish again so I tried the Pumpkin Pie variety on her and it went down as easily as the first.

As a family we have always used Plum products and included them in weaning Boo at 6 months old as well as having the toddler pots on hand for emergencies and fussy phases where she would not eat the dish that I had cooked.

The ethos of the brand appealed to us: at Plum, we make sure our meals nourish every aspect of a baby’s development – the parts that help them learn and explore, grow and develop motor skills, build their immune system and communicate and interact with others – the texture even helps exercise the tiny muscles used for speech. Because if we feed every part we can, your baby has more chance of being all he or she can be.

Boo would recommend the new Oaty Chomp Bars to all of her friends and to our readers.

Friday, 27 January 2012

If you had ONE pearl of wisdom to give to expectant parents, what would it be?

We have just had the most fantastic news. Dear friends of ours are expecting their first child.

I was going to write a post about that lovely expectant phase when we're all apprehensive and giddy with excitement about the prospect of becoming parents. That phase where your hopes and dreams are bundled up in this imaginary child. Children really are the most wonderful, joyful, rewarding challenge that will ever undertake and I wanted to convey that to our friends.

I was going to write that post but I've had one of those parenting weeks. One of those weeks where you find yourself scraping vomit off of bed clothes in the middle of the night, whilst trying not to vomit myself. One of those weeks where your toddler refuses to eat anything green or anything that contains a vowel. One of the weeks where you can't remove the poo stain on the carpet. One of those weeks where to spend the entirety of a meeting covering up a giant snail trail of snot down your arm. One of those weeks where you could carry home your weekly supermarket shopping in the black bags under your eyes.

It will pass and normality will return but in the interim I thought that I would ask all of you out there what you would say to these expectant parents.

What would you one pearl of wisdom be? What have you learned long the way? 

I'll collate your replies later on the week and send it to the expectant parents and I'm sure that they will love them!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

...and the winner is...

The winner of the £50 Experience Days UK Gift Voucher is....Tiddles120561

The winner was drawn using the website Random.org. There were over 350 entries and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who entered!

True Random Number Generator  140Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Och aye! It's Burns' Night!

Today sees one of the most exciting, patriotic nights for us Scots. It is Burns night, our annual celebration  of the poet Rabbie Burns. 

Burns has been at the forefront of my mind for a while as Miss B has a small anthology of his poems which she loves to have sung to her if she is finding it hard to settle for her daytime nap. Her favourite is A Man's A Man for A' That. This time last year we took part in a Burns Flashmob organised by the Scottish Poetry Library as part of their Let's get Lyrical campaign, which was a great day and we made the tea time news! That's us with the buggy and I'm in the red coat holding Boo.

Who was Robert Burns?
Robert Burns, affectionately known as ‘Rabbie’ Burns, was a Scottish farmer, poet and lyricist in the 18th century. A pioneer of the Romantic movement, and famous for incorporating the Scots dialect into his work, Burns is celebrated over the world as the ‘Bard of Ayrshire’ and ‘Scotland’s favourite son’. Here is an excellent link to a blog on Burns for Bairns, if you want to get the kids involved.

The recurring theme of freedom and the spontaneous, humorous nature of his works, as well as his humble beginnings as a farmer, have led to Burns becoming an icon of liberalism and socialism in not only his native Scotland, but also in countries like America and Russia, where he is known as the ‘people’s poet’.
Some of his notable works include: Address to a HaggisTo a Mouse, A Man’s A Man for A’ ThatScots Wha Hae,Ae Fond Kiss, Tam O’Shanter, and The Battle of Sherramuir. Perhaps his most famous work is Auld Lang Syne, though Burns himself is on record as saying that this was an existing song that he simply wrote the words down for. The BBC has a fantastic site with most of his poems, read by famous Scots.

Burns supper

Burns suppers are traditionally held on the 25th of January, the poet’s birthday. These can be simple meals at home or more lavish affairs, such as the ones that take place at official Burns Clubs and Scottish Societies.
Official Burns suppers often have a welcome speech by the evening’s host, before saying the Selkirk Grace:
“Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.”
After this, a soup course is served, typically Scotch Broth. After this is the the main course, a traditional Scottish haggis. Everyone stands for the entrance of the haggis, which is commonly accompanied with a bagpipe player, who may play A Man’s a Man for A’ That or The Star O’ Robbie Burns.

The host, or another speaker, then recites Address to a Haggis before the meal is served, usually with neeps and tatties (swede and potatoes). A dessert course may be served, usually consisting of a traditional Scottish recipe such as whisky trifle or cranachan.
Speeches are given after the meal, commemorating Burns’ memory, and ladies and gentlemen toast each other. Some of Burns’ songs and poetry may be recited as well, before everyone joins hands and sings Auld Lang Syne, bringing the evening to an end.
Are you and your family having your Burns supper at home? Here’s a traditional meal, courtesy of the Hairy Bikers for you to try!


For the clapshot
  • 500g/1lb 2oz floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or King Edward, peeled, chopped
  • 500g/1lb 2oz swede (it's a yellow turnip), peeled, chopped
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 75ml/2¾fl oz double cream
  • sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
For the whisky sauce
  • 500ml/17fl oz double cream
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp whisky
  • sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • ½ lemon, juice only

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Wrap the haggis tightly in aluminium foil and place onto a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to one hour, or until cooked through.
  3. Meanwhile, for the clapshot, boil the potatoes and swede in separate saucepans of salted water for 15-18 minutes, or until tender. Drain well. Add the drained swede to the drained potatoes and mash thoroughly. Add the butter and cream and mash again until smooth and well combined. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Stir in the tablespoon of chives. Set aside and keep warm.
  4. For the whisky sauce, heat the double cream in a pan over a medium heat. Add the wholegrain mustard, Dijon mustard and whisky and stir to combine. Increase the heat until the mixture is simmering and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Stir in the tablespoon of chives, then whisk in the lemon juice.
  6. To serve, divide the clapshot equally among four serving plates. Place a spoonful of steamed haggis alongside each. Spoon over the warm whisky sauce.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Scottish Children's Book Awards 2011

Friday the 27th of January is the last day to vote in this years Scottish Children's Book Awards. Scottish Book Trust is seeking to encourage teachers, librarians and booksellers to set up reading groups of children in each age group category in schools, libraries and bookshops across Scotland. The groups will read the shortlisted titles between the shortlist announcement on 6th September 2011 and the voting deadline on Friday 27 January 2012, and will be able to vote online for their favourite books. They can also enter the review competition for the best reviews of shortlisted titles to win author visits for their school and book tokens for themselves.

The winners of both the awards and the review competition will be announced at a special awards ceremony in Edinburgh on Tuesday 23 February 2012.

The Scottish Children’s Book Awards (formerly Royal Mail Awards) were originally set up by the Scottish Arts Council in 1999 and are now run by Scottish Book Trust. The awards allow children and young people across Scotland to vote for their favourite children’s books across three categories:

Bookbug Readers (0-7 years)
Younger Readers (8-11 years)
Older Readers (12-16 years)

Books published in these categories between 1st April 2010 and March 31st 2011 by authors and illustrators resident in Scotland are eligible for the 2011 awards.

The winners of the awards are decided entirely by children and young people in schools and libraries across Scotland, reading, discussing, reviewing and voting for their favourite books. In 2010, over 40,000 young voters registered to take part from all of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

Key Facts about the 2010 Awards
  • Over 17,000 children and young people voted for their favourite book
  • Children and young people from all 32 Scottish Local Authorities were involved in the awards
  • Nearly 1,000 copies of accessible versions of the shortlisted titles were distributed to young judges across Scotland by the RNIB and CALL
  • Over 850 reviews were submitted for the review competition

Why get involved?
The Scottish Children’s Book Awards promote contemporary Scottish children’s and young adult book to children across Scotland. They are a fantastic opportunity to find out about new and established authors and illustrators living and working in Scotland.
Scottish Book Trust makes it easy for teachers, librarians and book group leaders to inspire their children to read books written for them, in the same country they live in.
We do this by:
  • Providing handy learning resources containing activities and tasks to draw in children
  • Providing videos of authors and illustrators reading their books (in the Bookbug Readers category) or read excerpts from theirwork
  • Providing videos with a short Q & A with the authors and illustrators talking about their work
  • Giving away 30 sets in each age category to help you get started (register your class or group by Friday 16th September to be entered into the draw)

Check out 2011 Shortlisted Books

The 2011 Scottish Children's Book Awards shortlists are:

Bookbug Readers Category (0-7 years)

The Loon on the Moon by Chae Strathie and Emily Golden


Dear Vampa by Ross Collins


Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray


     Dear Vampa by Ross Collins

Younger Readers Category (8-11 years)

Zac and the Dream Piratesby Ross Mackenzie

(Chicken House)

Slightly Jones and the Case of the London Dragonfish by Joan Lennon


There's a Hamster in my Pocket by Franzeska G Ewart

(Frances Lincoln)

There's a Hamster in my Pocket by Franzeska Ewart   

Older Reader Category (12-16 years)

Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin


Wasted by Nicola Morgan


The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin

     Wasted by Nicola Morgan

Extra videos: We have interviews with Theresa Breslin and Teresa Flavin.

Highly Commended for the 2011 Scottish Children's Book Awards

The Scottish Children's Book Awards judging panel has also highly commended the following titles:
Bookbug Readers Category (0-7 years)
Cave Baby by Julia Donaldson and Emily Gravett (Macmillan)
You Can't Play Here by Angus Corby (Floris)
Younger Readers Category (8-11 years)
Red Fever by Caroline Clough (Floris)
The Flight of Dragons (Book 4 in the Tales from the Five Kingdoms Series) by Vivian French, illustrated by Ross Collins (Walker)
Older Readers Category (12-16 years)
Firebrand by Gillian Philip (Strident)
Belle's Song by K M Grant (Quercus)
Louis Night Salad by Metaphrog (Metaphrog) - Graphic Novel

Warning! Meltdown!

“Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.”

I was shopping in my local supermarket during December when I witnessed an incident. An incident so familiar to parents of a child or children with autism. A meltdown.

I've wanted to write about it since but wasn't sure of what to say. I'm still not really sure how to articulate my point but I may as well write anyway. 

I was shopping in the produce section when I heard someone screaming. I looked down the aisle to see where it was coming from and I saw boxes being thrown into the aisle by a teenager. He was screaming at the top of his lungs that everyone was to get away from him. His mother, standing next to a toddler in a buggy was red faced and staring at the floor. Staff were buzzing around the scene and hoards of shoppers were standing around either shaking their heads or staring alternatively from the boy to the mother. I stepped into to watch the toddler and said that I was look after the little one while she calmed him down. He was physically tall and quite big and was having a very physical reaction to something that had just happened. His mother was trying to get him to regain his focus and to look at her to break the cycle of the rage. Eventually after he ran out of the shop and then came back, he calmed down and started to sob with the extreme emotion of the experience. I'm going to list more information at the bottom of this post to try to illuminate what these things actually are and different strategies to cope with them. It's not those things that I want to cover in this post but what was happening on the periphery of the meltdown.

In the post-diagnosis years, A had plenty of these at home, at nursery then at school. A meltdown can be hard to describe to a lay person and can be hard to distinguish between something that cannot be helped and something that can. Their striking similarity to an extreme toddler temper tantrum can often mean that they are generally misunderstood by onlookers and the general public. A child with autism can be very prone to meltdowns in public and unfamiliar places. Meltdowns can caused when the child is confused or stressed due over loaded sensory inputs or an unfamiliar place and situation. A meltdown can be difficult to control and can be a very emotional trauma for both the ASD child / person and the carer. This trauma is only exacerbated by the reactions of others around them. 

When I saw her face as she took in the reactions of the people stand around her and her son, I could've cried. That used to be me. I knew exactly what she was feeling. As a person who doesn't like to draw attention to themselves and can be quite shy, when your child explodes in a fit of irrational rage and fifty passers by stop to stare at you, this is one of the worst feelings. While I felt upset for the mother and of course for her son, it was interesting to look at this from the other perspective, that of an observer rather than a participant. Years of the TEAACH method of schooling and ABA therapies with A has given him enough of a sense of appropriate public behaviour that we no longer have to go through extremes like this. Will still have episodes but they're a bit more of an internal struggle which we have to calmly work through. 

The boy's reaction was so volatile that not once did the surveying public actually think that there was more to the story than meets the eye here. They all stood glaring at his mother, their expression saying it all. They instantly perceived this to be bad behaviour and looked to her as the cause of it. Perhaps if they hadn't been so quick to judge then this might of occurred to them. It's hard trying to teach children empathy, especially when certain specialists believe that all children with autism lack the ability and even more so when those around you lack it.

It transpired that the series of events that led to the meltdown were thus: while his mother looked around the toy aisle, the older boy had been playing with a loose toy an repeatedly banging it off of the shelf. An elderly male shopper who was standing perusing the magazines at the end of the next aisle grabbed him by the arm and took the toy off of him and put it back on the shelf. This gross violation of the boys personal space, coupled with the bright lights and noise of the supermarket sent him into a meltdown. He knocked toys off of the shelf and the man shouted at him to 'behave'. Upon hearing the man shout a security guard tried to intervene and ask the boy where him mother was. The boy tried to run away on the sight of the authoritarian figure and he grabbed him, making things worse. He felt cornered and started screaming at the top of his lungs. His mother could do nothing except try and make sure he was safe and wait until the screaming subsided and he broke free of it. 

I felt sadder still when his mother was genuinely surprised by my reaction to the events. She was mortified and checked to see if the toddler was okay. I said to her it's okay, I understand and pointed to A's head which was poking out of the end of the aisle. He had run away when he heard the screaming and hid under one of the shelves. I could see him from where I was standing and so left him there until everything calmed down. We exchanged knowing looks and went our separate ways, the family went home, presumably exhausted by the days events.  

If you think that you have every seen anything like this and would like to know more about the causes and the best way to help deal with a meltdown then read on. Thanks for reading.

One of the most misunderstood autistic behaviors is the meltdown.  Frequently, it is the result of some sort of overwhelming stimulation of which cause is often a mystery to parents and teachers.   They can come on suddenly and catch everyone by surprise.  Autistic children tend to suffer from sensory overload issues that can create meltdowns.  Children who have neurological disorders other than autism can suffer from meltdowns. Unlike temper tantrums, these children are expressing a need to withdraw and slowly collect themselves at their own pace. 

 A child with autism in the middle of a meltdown desperately needs help to gain control.

* During a meltdown, a child with autism does not look, nor care, if those around him are reacting to his behavior.
* A child in the middle of a meltdown does not consider her own safety.
* A child in a meltdown has no interest or involvement in the social situation.
* Meltdowns will usually continue as though they are moving under their own power and wind down slowly.
* A meltdown conveys the feeling that no one is in control.
* A meltdown usually occurs because a specific want has not been permitted and after that point has been reached, nothing can satisfy the child until the situation is over.

Unlike tantrums, meltdowns can leave even experienced parents at their wit's end, unsure of what to do. When you think of a tantrum, the classic image of a child lying on the floor with kicking feet, swinging arms, and a lot of screaming is probably what comes to mind. This is not even close to a meltdown. A meltdown is best defined by saying it is a total loss of behavioral control. It is loud, risky at times, frustrating, and exhausting.

1. Tell him/her firmly in one word that they are out of control. This word should be agreed upon and understood between the neurotypical and autistic individual.  This will avoid hostility or hurt feelings. It could be anything that holds meaning to the autistic individual, emotionally or conceptually.

2. Don't touch an autistic individual if they are melting down.  Your touch adds to their sensory overload and can farther aggravate the meltdown. Wait until he/she is calm before approaching.

3. Don't lecture him/her. If an autistic person begins to meltdown they will not be able to truly understand what you are saying. Higher brain functioning shuts off and understanding words and phrases becomes nearly impossible (this is why one word with strong meaning should be used to alert the autistic that they are losing control, not a whole sentence or abstract concept).

4. Leave the autistic individual alone. Let him/her have the last word. He/She will feel bad and apologize later. There is no need to tell them they are being rude or inappropriate. Let them say what they want to say, don't respond, and don't take it to heart. They can clarify when they are calm and can act appropriately.  Sometimes silence will help effectively fizzle out a meltdown.  Either way, talking through a meltdown will not improve the autistic's behaviour.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Meal Planning Monday

Heaven, I'm in heaven... as the song goes.

I've always thought that I am one of the dullest people in the world because I meal plan every week. Little did I know that there is a huge hoard of similarly boring efficient people out there.

My meal planning comes from my love of cooking but dislike of shopping and having to manage gourmet palates on a tight budget. If I get a trip to the supermarket or take an on line delivery once a week then I can cope with that. Dinner is this house is rarely a dull affair and never is from the freezer.

Mrs M has a wonderful link up each week were everyone shares there Monday meal planning activities. I am beside myself with joy because no longer do I feel alone and boring.

This week has been a particularly frugal week because I did a huge store cupboard shop last week to stock up on spices, pluses and tins and this week we have a residential school trip to pay for. This week using stuff from my store cupboard I managed to get six dinners and lunches for a grand total of £31.64! Ta da!

This week we are eating:

Homemade burgers and wedges
Baked potatoes with roast gammon and winter slaw
Sesame and ginger pork stirfry (not my recipe - to celebrate Chinese New Year)

What are you guys eating this week?