Monday, 28 July 2014

Drink up!

Of course, the best health drink there is, is good old water. It will keep you hydrated (the brain is about 90% water, the body is about 70%), flush out toxins and without it, you'd die after three to five days. But that's not to say that once in a while you don't fancy a little liquid treat to fit into your healthy lifestyle. Something tasty, that gives you a boost, maybe with some bubbles and ideally looks like summer!


And that something could just be a new all-natural energy drink called SUPER!NATURAL. Best served chilled, a can of SUPER!NATURAL combines fruit juice and caffeine extracted from green coffee beans. There's no added sugar and no artificial colourings to worry about, which immediately places it above some of the fizzy drinks or canned energy drinks you might be familiar with (and probably try to avoid!). Best of all it looks pretty enough to serve as soft drink at a classy gathering, when it's too hot for tea or coffee.  Cheers!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Seven days of summer craft

Yipee! It's the long summer holidays - time for you and the kids to kick back and chill out. Ummmm, except they're kids - they don't actually do that - they like to run and jump and sing and play and make and make and make. Yes, it's the loooooong summer holidays, time for you to abandon the idea of a tidy house and alone time. Thank goodness for craft supplies - stock up now and you'll stay sane until September!

Here's an idea for every day of the week:

1. Mini garden

Beach hut craft
Our school recently held a little competition alongside the Spring fair. The kids were asked to make a tiny garden in a tin lid using anything they liked, from lego to twigs. The results were amazing (I think maybe some parents might have helped just a little bit...) - with everything from dino-scapes to fairylands being proffered. My girls immediately set about the task (in fact only one had to, the other joined in because it was such a fun idea) - requisitioning these little beach hut money boxes as the focal point to their gardens. You don't have to stick to a tin lid either - you could use a box, a tray or just get your offspring out into a quiet bit of your garden to build the habitat (mine have spent the last few weeks building a fairy city underneath some trees).

2. A puppet show

Puppet show Which child doesn't enjoy performing a puppet show to a rapturous audience (that'll be you!)? But while the show may be over fairly quickly and simply involve lots of giggling and puppet bashing, the preparation can potentially keep little fingers and minds busy for a fair few hours. For the puppets you could use simple cardboard shapes, decorated by your child and stuck onto lolly sticks (or straws). The shapes should lend themselves to the performance of a well-known story or song (for the safari theme think The Animal Fair - for the farm animal shapes you could try Old MacDonald). Your children might also want to construct their own puppet show booth - with a large cardboard box and some spare fabric. And if you want them to practice their writing and number work, why not get them to make some posters and sell some tickets?


Bookmark kit

My kids have really taken to the 2014 Summer Reading Challenge theme of a Mythical Maze - and by the look of the library the last few times we have been - we aren't the only ones! To further encourage your children to spend some quiet time reading over the holidays, why not equip them with some bookmark kits. Relatively simple to construct - with self-adhesive parts (no glue necessary), the bookmarks are great for fidgety fingers in the back of a car - and simple enough for younger children to complete too.

4. Old magazine bunting


Some kids just love to cut up and cut out (and then leave all the offcuts all over the floor, oh yes, I'm talking about my kids). If you have plenty of old magazines, newspapers, catalogues or junk mail you'd like to recycle, why not let the kids make some unusual bunting for their rooms or the garden. Provide a triangle template for younger ones, or let them go freestyle and then use tape, wool or string to display them all. If you wanted to, you could even add some paint, stickers or glitter to 'enhance' the individual pictures.

5. Finger skateboards

finger skateboards

If your child really wants to be doing rather than making, long car journeys to the coast and meals out might be a nightmare over the holidays. But these finger skateboards can be easily decorated with PicTixx pens, some stickers or temp tattoos, and then played with in a relatively confined space. Believe it or not your can even download books about how to master finger skateboard stunts...

6. Suncatchers

suncatcher decorations

Who doesn't like the sun to shine over the summer hols! But that doesn't mean you or your kids want to be out in it all day, every day. When you want to worship the sun from the shade, try some acrylic sun catcher decorations. Colour them in with porcelain and glass pens and then string them up in a line at the window or from a tree in the garden to catch the rays and watch them sparkle.

7. Wild dreamcatchers

Wild dreamcatcher craft

If you do want your kids to get out of the house for a while, a good way to encourage (okay, trick) them into walking further than they realise is to distract them with a scavenger hunt. Create a list of items for them to find (four feathers, 3 twigs, pretty stones, some vine and dandelions or daisies) - and then take the treasure home to make a dreamcatcher. This could just as easily be done on the beach too, with some seaweed, shells and driftwood (probably best to leave the finished item in the garden if it has a seaside theme though!).

Do your kids love to craft over the holidays - and do you encourage them? Please share any comments on this post - and ideas for other holiday craft activities in the comment section below.

Thank you for reading

The people at Yellow Moon were kind enough to give me some craft supplies to help with this post (but we made the items all by ourselves!).

Monday, 14 July 2014

End of term gifts for sporty teachers

Chocolates, wine or a teddy that reads 'World's Best Teacher'. I don't know about you but I usually feel pretty uninspired when it comes to shopping for end of term 'thank you' presents for my daughter's school and clubs teachers. Until I realised that for once, I did know a little about the interests of teachers in question - and even had something in common with them - we'd all run the Reading Half Marathon earlier in the year (and one of them did it in an amazing time too!). With this is mind I could finally hope to buy a present that would be great to give - and receive!

cycling books

Reading between the lines

Since my eldest daughter loves to read, and one of the super fit teachers I was buying for takes her for literacy, it made sense to start at the bookshelves of Amazon. Running Shoes Are A Girl's Best Friend, tells the stories of 53 women who run (they share their reasons, motivation and tips too) and would be just the sort of book I'd love to settle down to. While something like The Extra Mile would be a great inspirational read. Of course if you're buying for a keen cyclist, a swimmer or yoga enthusiast, then there's plenty to choose from too (I looked for titles under £10).

compression socks

Cool workout wear

I could look at gym clothes all day. And then some. So shopping for some sporty teachers was pure pleasure for me! Amazon has some great basic sportswear, which I'd probably been missing out on in the past. If you happen to know teacher's size you could consider buying a decent workout vest, some standout compression socks or trendy shorts. You might even want to get together with a few other parents and get a personalised hoodie made up so your gift can be practical and personal.

pilates socks

Little extras

If you workout regularly there's always another little bit of kit you have your eye on - and fortunately a lot of these items aren't expensive. There's always room in the kit bag of a fitness fanatic for another water bottle, new earphones or a cute towel. And depending on their interests a teacher might also appreciate pilates socks, protective gloves (for weight lifting, cycling etc), a stunning yoga mat bag (again a great 'clubbing together' present) or some Zumba toning sticks. gift guide


Perhaps your child has taken after-school activities to an altogether different level and is training hard in a sporty discipline with a more specialised teacher? Or maybe you happen to know that golf, horse riding or tennis is the field that a particular teacher enjoys? Yep, Amazon has pretty much something for every sport and healthy hobby out there! And it's guaranteed to go straight home to be used - not left in a staff room sink awash with mugs ironically all declaring 'No 1 teacher'!!

Do you buy teacher gifts? Or will there be a class collection? Do you have a killer idea for an original present - or are you against the idea totally? Perhaps your child takes the time to write a thank you note or make a present? I'd love to know how other parents deal with this time of the year - and the sheer amount of thank yous required! Please add your comments in the box below.

Thank you for reading
Vanessa. x

Monday, 7 July 2014

Farmed salmon vs wild Alaska salmon

Salmon - the super food containing those all-important omega-3 fatty acids, plus protein, vitamins and minerals (like potassium, selenium and vitamin B12). Surely you can't go wrong with a piece of fish like that on your plate? Well, no you can't - even the NHS is urging us to have a least two portions of oily fish a week. But you can go one better and choose wild (and co-incidently sustainable) rather than farmed salmon.

In fact many seafood species with the highest levels of omega-3s come from Alaska, one of the few remaining wildernesses on earth (and the largest US state). The pristine waters of Alaska also mean that wild Alaska salmon have among the lowest levels of mercury of all seafood. The unspoilt marine conditions means Alaska seafood remains additive-free with a superior flavour that comes as a direct result of the species feeding on a more natural diet. The texture is a result of annual migrations in the cold North Pacific sea. Put simply, the Alaska wild salmon is a fitter fish by far.

In contrast farmed salmon contains less omega-3, has a higher fat content (11-20 per cent compared to 7 per cent for a wild fish), is subject to higher levels of pesticide use and has a different texture and taste because the movements of a farmed fish are restricted by aquatic cages. Which is why several bloggers were asked if they'd like to test out the taste difference for themselves - and A Happy Healthy Mummy was one of those lucky bloggers!

The two samples - fresh from the oven

It's impossible not to notice the difference between farmed salmon and wild Alaska salmon. In some ways you could be forgiven for thinking you had two different fish species lying side by side! While farmed salmon is a pale pink when raw (and more so once cooked), wild Alaska salmon is far more vibrant. I baked both types of salmon very simply in the oven (15 mins at 200℃) and avoided any marinading or spices that might affect true taste. Once out of the oven, the colour difference was still apparent. And when you tuck into the salmon the difference becomes more apparent - and it's not hard to tell that the wild salmon has flexed its muscle on the open waves! Wild Alaska salmon is far meatier in texture than your bog-standard farmed salmon, which is far oilier and softer. While farmed salmon has quite a delicate fish flavour (which is why we usually think of adding flavours like lemon, chilli, garlic) - the wild Alaska salmon tasted properly fishy! It was really very different to the salmon I am used to.

Simply served with green veg and noodles so the true taste would shine through

To be honest, buying wild fish over farmed fish was not something I had ever considered. I'm aware that we are over-fishing our seas of course, but was blissfully ignorant of the impact that has on the quality of the food we find on our forks. I'm keen to include omega-3 in my diet and am shocked to discover not all fish are equally nutritious! I'm not even sure I knew how salmon was supposed to taste, since I have always just bought what I now know to be Alaska salmon's poorer (and flabbier!) relation. I feel a bit sorry for those salmon not able to splash about as they please in unpolluted waters. So I guess I'm hooked (pun totally intended!) on Alaska seafood now - it's more nutritious and tastier than its farmed friends - and sustainable to boot. It's a no brainer!

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Healthy Highlights from Britmums Live

In case you didn't know, sometimes Bloggers crawl out from behind their keyboards and meet up in actual real life! A few weeks ago I too put on a dress (gasp!) and dragged my overpacked suitcase into the City to attend Britmums Live - a two-day conference that celebrates bloggers and serves to inspire them for another year of hard work. While I didn't win the BiB award I'd coveted, I did get to meet friends old and new - and speak to brands and sponsors that are keep to hop aboard the hot mess express that is mummy blogging. And this, dear reader is what I found to make you happier and healthier in the coming year!

Easy to swallow

I can't take another step into this roundup without mentioning a2 Milk - who was my Britmums Live sponsor (which means it gave me some money to cover some of the costs involved in going!). I actually felt quite proud to be sponsored by what I'd call an 'authentic' brand, there's no conflict of interest between me recommending a2 milk and what my blog (or indeed I) stand for - I might have felt different if I'd had to recommend a fizzy drink or fake food for example. But a2 Milk is a natural product that comes from cows that produce milk that contains a different protein than that which has become standard in this country. Since milk containing the a1 protein can cause digestive problems, a2 Milk is just a great way for more people to get back to dairy (and all the nutrition it offers). Loads of other bloggers were keen to try the milk too, so I was happy to direct them to the stand.

If it's good enough for Dannii

I was also keen to visit the Spatone people. I used this iron supplement after I had my first daughter as I was incredibly low in iron (as I was during my pregnancy!), and so was already familiar with the brand. I was rather pleased to see there's now an apple-flavoured water drink that comes in a handy sachet (take one a day!). It literally just tastes like apple juice (good for me, I think I've mentioned before how I'm not keen on the taste of the leafy greens we should all be eating!) - and contains iron plus vitamin C (you need that to be able to absorb the iron). Since something like 90% of women aren't getting enough iron from their diets, which can cause fatigue and weaken your immune system, it makes sense to just gulp this down to top up.

My next nutrition stop was at the Picota Cherry stand - where I could snaffle down some super-sweet cherries! Now classed as a 'super fruit', cherries are an excellent source of antioxidants, potassium, fibre, iron and vitamins E and C. And a cup of cherries contains less than 90 calories. Pop them in a salad with baby spinach leaves, apple and cottage cheese the lady recommended. Don't mind if I do...

More delicious nibbles were available at the Vitamix counter - where a very knowledgeable lady was using this blender (but that term doesn't really do it justice...) to make all sorts of delicious recipes, everything from soups and ice cream - all with amazingly healthy ingredients (some were very well hidden too so the kids would never know!).

Vitamix blender
Mix up your menu with one of these 

The eyes have it

Over at the Boots Opticians stand I met optometrist Victoria O'Connor, whose focus at the show was protecting our eyes from UV damage. We're not just talking about damage sustained when out in full sun either - since 40 per cent of all UV exposure happens when you are not in direct sunlight - with rays reflecting off surfaces such as roads, water and glass. Her advice to properly protect your eyes - and the delicate skin around them - is to look for sunglasses that offer 100 per cent UV protection and meet EU standards. A CE mark shows that they do. A high Eye-Sun Protection Factor (E-SPF) on the product translates to stronger protection from the sun. Boots can also add a 'Protect' or 'Protect Plus' finish to glasses and sunnies to reduce reflection and offer year-round protection.

A further company I was keen to visit was Aveeno - the makers of an oatmeal-based range of skin products. I'm familiar with the brand because it was the only thing that stopped my daughter's eczema when she was younger. While the countless steroid creams and bath additives the GP recommended did nothing, applying the Aveeno cream cleared the itchy rash up - and prevented it from returning. Since then I've been using the moisturiser myself in the hope I too can obtain baby-soft skin!

I was also looking forward to meeting the Run or Dye organisers at Britmums Live. This colourful 5k is new to the UK, and will be hitting the UK in August - with events up and down the country. The course is designed for everyone and all ages - so you (and your family) can run/walk/dance through a shower of safe, eco-friendly, plant-based powdered dye. By the end you look a little bit like you've wandered through a rainbow. I'm planning on taking part in the Oxford race in October if you fancy joining me - and you can get £3 discount if they use the code HEALTHYMUMMY to register for the UK Run or Dye events.

5k fun run
There is such a thing as a 'fun' run

And finally, Britmums Live isn't just about meeting brands and PR people - it's also about mingling with other bloggers - some you know and some you don't. One of the lovely people I met for the first time was Kathryn Grant of Bumps & Grind. As well as blogging, Kathryn is the group leader for the South London branch of PANDAS - a support and advice group for Pre and Postnatal depression. Just learning that 10 to 15 per cent of mothers will experience Postnatal Depression is enough for me to include a little shout out to the great work the group do. Pandas also offers a help line 0843 2898401 if you or anyone you know would like more information and help.

Thanks for reading
For more info on this Barnes Fitness event, please click here.