The Five O'Clock Apron by Claire Thomson - Tasty Meals for Hungry Families


The Five O'Clock Apron

Claire Thomson works as a chef in her busy Bristol restaurant, Flinty Red where she is co-owner. She is also the author of one of the loveliest recipe books I've had the pleasure to review, The Five O'Clock Apron: Proper Food for Modern Families, a book which tackles the never-ending dilemma facing many parents every evening - what to feed her own three hungry young children! 

This is something I completely relate to as I have four children each with very different tastes of their own and much as I enjoy trying to feed them healthy home-made meals, often it's easier just to reach for a bag of potatoes, a few carrots and a packet of fish-fingers or chicken nuggets.

Many evenings I lament the fact that I rarely get to experiment with food these days as more often than not someone will find fault and spend the entire meal picking out minute slices of onion or pushing the tenderly prepared chicken to one side. Not quite what I want to see when I've laboured for half an hour peeling, chopping, cooking and wishing I hadn't bothered when I see the resulting pickiness!

As you might imagine therefore, I was delighted to have a beautiful book full of wonderful fresh ideas for mealtimes and all put together by a professional and highly successful chef! 

Catch-All Lentil Soup

For my first meal I flicked through the book, which is teeming full of absolutely gorgeous photos of highly tempting meals, feeling spoilt for choice. Should I try the delightfully fresh Summery Fattoush, the temptingly colourful Piperade or perhaps go for an old favourite such as Egg Fried Brown Rice? In the end I settled on a rather lovely sounding Catch-All Lentil Soup, one of the recipes in the book which didn't have a photo but for which I knew I did have all the ingredients.

 I set to work following the well-written and cohesive instructions. As I chopped and measured and finally began cooking the soup, the smells in my kitchen were most definitely stomach-pleasing and the resulting soup was a great success with all the family, much to my delight. The children used words such as tasty, delicious, scrummy and yummy when describing it for me and hubby and I thought it tasted beautifully rich and very moreish. In fact it was thick, flavourful and filling, like a well-made stew and could definitely be served as such if you are careful not to add too much liquid.

Already I have marked out several pages for meals to try over the next few days and weeks and am planning to make Roasted Crisp Chickpeas this afternoon for the kids to snack on before our dinner which this evening is Green Pea Pesto served with Pasta!

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The Allergy-Free Baby and Toddler Book by Charlotte Muquit & Dr Adam Fox

The Allergy-Free Baby and Toddler BookThe Allergy-Free Baby and Toddler Book is the guide that worried parents have been waiting for.

Written by Charlotte Muquit, a mum whose own son has severe food allergies, and Dr Adam Fox, one of the country's top allergy specialists, this book explains everything you need to know about allergies, from navigating the diagnosis process to the practical steps you can take to manage allergies in the longterm.

Find out how to:

- Identify the source of an allergy
- Treat reactions
- Communicate with GPs, nurseries and playgroups
- Enjoy social events without worrying
- Adapt weaning and diet to avoid reactions

You'll also find 30 delicious allergy-free recipes for everyday and special occasions. Comprehensive, accessible and informative, The Allergy-Free Baby and Toddler Book gives parents the knowledge and reassurance they need to stop allergies getting in the way of a fun, full and active childhood.

Published 3rd April 2014 by Vermilion and priced at £12.99

The Blissful Baby Expert by Lisa Clegg

The Blissful Baby Expert
The Blissful Baby Expert by Lisa Clegg

As a first-time mother or father, having a baby often comes with a huge dose of the unexpected. How can such a tiny little being cause so much upheaval and mayhem and how on earth do they manage to thrive on what seems like next to no sleep? Do they really need so much stuff? How will I cope and bond with my baby in the early hectic days after birth? How and when do they need fed? When is the right time to wean onto solids and how should I do it? Is my baby developing at the right pace and what toys are useful during this time? 

Thankfully, a new book addresses all of the above plus many more of the concerns that millions of parents all over the world fret about every single day. The Blissful Baby Expert, written by mother of three Lisa Clegg, a qualified nursery nurse and nanny with over 15 years of experience, is teeming full of information that is written in such a way that you almost feel she is sitting at your kitchen table chatting to you over a cup of tea and slice of toast! The author comes across as knowledgeable, friendly and her advice is reliable and spoken in the tone of one who has been there, learnt the lessons and who is keen to pass on her wisdom.

Lisa helps parents of babies aged from 0 to 2years old recognise that each child is unique and to trust their own instincts, build confidence and to recognise what is best for their own individual child. With her help parenting will become a much more enjoyable and calm experience and you'll be rewarded with a blissful, settled baby!

To find out more about The Blissful Baby Expert, visit The Blissful Baby Expert.

Published by Vermilion, you can buy The Blissful Baby Expert now, priced at £10.99.

Bébé Gourmet - My Baby Recipe Book

BeBe GourmetRecently I reviewed Annabel Karmel's latest recipe book and it's certainly become one of our family favourites. Full of tasty and easy to adapt recipes, there's something to suit everyone's tastes in the family. So, I was excited to receive another baby recipe book to review recently, namely Bébé Gourmet - My Baby Recipe Book, by mother of two Jenny Carenco of Les Menus Bébé.

A stunning book to look at, it is full of tempting and very beautiful photos of delicious meals which aim to help parents raise adventurous eaters from the age of 4 months upwards!

I'm proud of the fact that none of my children have ever been particularly picky eaters, something I firmly believe breastfeeding has helped with, although that's not to say they don't have certain preferences. For example, my eldest daughter prefers plainer foods and also eats raw rather than cooked carrots whilst my son absolutely adores spicy foods. My second daughter isn't keen on mushrooms but will take them if chopped up very small. And Sophia, the toddler, well she'll eat anything and everything. Consequently, Bébé Gourmet looks like a good bet for us.

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Homework is Exhausting... and Not Just for the Kids!

Is it just me or do all parents find helping the children with their homework an exhausting, not to mention daunting, task at times? Having spent yet another night of broken sleep feeding my baby girl and all day running around after her, I have come to dread when my other three return from school needing help with never-ending homework! As they sit around the kitchen table squabbling with one another over who has the most or who has the least to do, I find myself inevitably rolling my eyes and wondering who to start with and how to explain all the things they need help with in a way which doesn't completely contradict how their teachers' have taught them. Of course they are all are exhausted too after a full day of learning and that doesn't help things... At times like this I can only be thankful we have the internet to help us - especially with maths which most definitely isn't my forte. At the moment my middle daughter is struggling a little bit to get to grips with fractions but fortunately, after a quick search online, I've found some great teaching resources to help her and me to deal with this particular subject. However this in itself also got me thinking about just how precious my pc is to me these days and how I'd be lost if anything happened it. Thankfully our home insurance covers it in the event of accidental damage - and with a very inquisitive toddler grabbing at it at every opportunity I'm just relieved it is covered!

Back to the homework though. After almost seriously considering joining a running club yesterday to help me cope with the stresses and strains of parenting, I've made up my mind that I do need to do something just for myself. Running isn't it though as my poor old knees just aren't up to it!

A few years ago I took some photography evening classes which I enjoyed immensely but because my hubby doesn't get home in time for the classes in his current job, that's a bit of a no-no for me these days. I love my blogging too but it's not exactly stress-relieving especially when I'm trying to write with a baby tugging at my leg wanting to go to the park. So I'm considering brisk walking. Before Sophia was born I walked a very brisk half hour every morning after dropping my other children off to school and before starting on the housework. It was a wonderful way for me to start the day, plus the joy of losing some excess weight and listening to long-forgotten favourite albums undisturbed always left me feeling invigorated afterwards. Since having Sophia however, I've found the motivation to get up and walk somewhere has gone. But with stress creeping up on me and all that homework help required at the end of the school day I know I have to just grab that pram by its handles and drag myself out that door. I know I'll feel all the better for it and hopefully, just hopefully, homework time will soon become a less stressful event for us all.


Introducing Baby Lit: Classical Counting and Colour Primer Board Books for Babies!

 Every once in a while I'm asked to review something rather special, something which I look at and think to myself, "Wow, that is a very good idea indeed!" This is exactly how I feel about Baby Lit books, a range of nine colour and counting primer board books based on famous works of classical literature but aimed at babies and young children.

As a literature graduate and English teacher maybe I'm biased, but if so I make absolutely no apology for it!

I truly think Baby Lit is a lovely and very original idea. Take a great piece of literature, one that has withstood the test of time, and turn it into something unique for little ones to enjoy. That has got to be a recipe for success. Not only is it a thoughtful way of introducing children to some of your own favourite works of literature, but it is also a very individual method of bringing colours and numbers into their lives too.

Having studied and throughly enjoyed Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre at university, I was more than thrilled to review the two Baby Lit books based on these original classics, namely Little Master Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet and Little Miss Bronte: Jane Eyre!

My youngest daughter is just 17 months so I was excited to introduce her to these very beautiful and stylish books. In fact, I must confess, I don't think I'll be leaving her alone with them any time soon as I might just want to display them as pieces of art on my old dresser later on!

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FINAL Elsie artwork 280312[1]More than a fifth of smokers admit to lighting up in front of their children in the home or car, is the finding from a new Department of Health survey. And almost 15 per cent believed that their children’s antics in the back of car makes them reach for a cigarette.

The findings come following a raft of tough measures unveiled by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley this spring designed to cut the biggest cause of premature death in England. This includes a new hard-hitting national campaign on secondhand smoke.

The adverts show how children are exposed to smoke in the home even when their parent moves away from them - for example by smoking by an open door or smoking in the car with the window open.

The new findings also suggest that parents think they are protecting their children from the harmful poisons of secondhand smoke by opening a door or car window - without realising that is not enough. Figures show one in four open the car window when children are in the car; and one in five said that they smoke out of a window or door when children are at home.

But up to five million children across the UK are still regularly exposed to secondhand smoke in the home. People don’t realise that they could be breathing in deadly smoke because more than 80 per cent of cigarette smoke is invisible. Opening a car window or smoking out of the house door just isn’t enough to protect children.

Even the school run isn’t a smokefree zone as almost one in ten smokers admit to smoking in the car which exposes children to the harmful cancer causing toxins and poisons of secondhand smoke whilst making the daily journey to school.

Three hundred thousand children visit the GP each year, in the UK, due to secondhand smoke with 9,500 visiting hospital. This costs the NHS a staggering £23.3 million every year.

Children cannot protect themselves from secondhand smoke and are particularly vulnerable to it due their higher breathing rate, less well-developed airways, lungs and immune system.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more at risk of respiratory illnesses, asthma, meningitis and even cot death.

They are also 90 per cent more likely to become smokers themselves. In the UK, 23,000 young people each year start smoking by the age of 15 as a result of exposure to smoking in the home

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said:

“It is important that we help parents protect their children from possible harms to their health. We want parents to know that by making their cars and homes smokefree they can protect their children's health.

“Figures show that 9500 children have to go to hospital each year because of the second hand smoke and toxins they breath in. It's hard to quit but worth doing for your children. Get more information by getting a free Smokefree Kit at, or for help quitting get in touch with your local stop smoking service, GP or pharmacist.”

Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation Dame Helena Shovelton said:

“The harm caused by second-hand smoke to children is irreparable. Once the damage has been done, their lungs will never fully recover.


3 Mistakes Parents Often Make in Their Child’s Early Childhood (Guest Post)

Being a parent is undoubtedly one of the nicest and hardest things. Part of what makes it so difficult is constant worrying whether you’re doing the right thing. My mom told me a funny story about when I was little. There was a period when I absolutely refused to eat and she was having a really hard time figuring out what to do with me.

One day when she was trying to push a spoonful of food into my mouth, and I kept shaking my head wildly, she cried out in desperation: “Ana, you will die if you don’t eat!” In that moment I froze, then started bawling my eyes out. She said she couldn’t calm me for a whole hour, and she started thinking: “What have I done?” She was worried she did some irreparable damage, where I’d start stuffing myself with food in order not to die. Luckily, that didn’t happen, but this just illustrates the dilemmas parents have when upbringing their kids. What can they say, and what shouldn’t they say? How to stop children from misbehaving, how to encourage them to reach their intellectual and artistic potential?

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Breastfeeding a 4 Year Old (Guest Post)

I have been a nursing mother for 4 and a half years now.  My son is a wonderful chunky outgoing little boy who loves his “boob drink”.  It has been fun asking him what he prefers “daddy or boob drink”?  Of course no matter what I put up against the milky stuff, the milky stuff always triumphs.  He loves it and is definitely telling me that he has no intention of giving it up anytime soon.

My son’s natural weaning process has been quite slow.  When my son was a year or so old, I often read about babies already sleeping through the night/not nursing by the time they were 11/2 – 2.  I was curious as to when I could expect my wriggly little monster to give me a full nights sleep without requesting the “boob drink”.  Of course though, despite reading about others experiences, mine was certainly different and my son didn’t give up the night feeding by the time he was 2.  It took a lot longer.  In fact I think it has only been in the last year (so potentially when he was 31/2) that he no longer feeds during the night.  He still likes to have a morning feed in bed though (we chose to cosleep rather than use a cot bed.

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Guys and Dolls - Sales of new Oobicoo soft toy Ollie outstrip Orla 2:1

Boys’ dolls are selling twice as fast as girls’ dolls according to Totseat founder Rachel Jones, who believes the media have been integral in helping to break down gender stereotypes.

The UK toy industry is worth £2.96bn and since launching the soft toy tots Ollie and Orla last year, multi award winning entrepreneur Rachel Jones has sold twice as many of the boy ‘doll’ Ollie. Sales of boys’ toys take 55% share of the UK toy market and Rachel believes sales of Oobicoo Ollie reflect society’s changing perceptions of traditional gender stereotypes.

Rachel says, “We live in a culture where many people look to the media as a guide to behavior and as a result many people conform to majority norms. Traditionally girls have been expected to play with dolls and wear pink and many parents have discouraged their sons from playing with dolls per se, however there appears to be a shift in this gender stereotyping which can only be a good thing.”

Oobicoo was originally developed and sold as a mannequin to display the multi-award winning Totseat; a safe, portable, fabric highchair for families travelling with babies. Rachel soon realised their appeal when they became the unlikely classmates of her daughter Freya and her friends, who loved the fact that they were so big and cuddly!

The adorable, soft toy tot Oobicoo is made from gorgeous soft plush fabric and, at 60cm tall, is the same size as a six month old baby - the perfect size to be an instant baby brother, sister or best friend. They come in their own wee fabric 'pod' and are designed to be dressed in hand-me-down-baby clothes. This simple idea not only saves money, it encourages the reuse of outgrown baby clothes, teaches children dexterity and provides Oobicoo with an instant wardrobe.

With sound eco credentials, Oobicoo is filled with recycled polymer, manufactured from recycleable fabric and is raising money for the Children's Immunology Fund - £1 from every sale goes to the charity. Oobicoo even has its very own dance tune, penned by Emily Philips and Josh Wilkinson who co-write for pop superstars One Direction and Alexandra Burke!

Rachel added, “Oobicoo not only helps your child’s development, they are perfect for imaginative play, great for teaching dexterity in terms of dressing and undressing and because of their realistic size, they give children someone to cuddle!

“We are delighted to announce the launch of Olwyn, our fourth soft toy tot, who has a different skin tone to the other Oobicoo tots. We are keen to encourage diversity and since launching Oobicoo Ed last year, who is entirely bald, we have had great reactions to the entire Oobicoo family.”