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    Bonnets, Bungee, Bicycles, and Yarn-Bombing - Happy Holidays!

    July has already started, and with high summer comes the proverbial bonnets cast asunder as the school holidays commence.

    Many parents feel an ever-changing mix of emotions, between missing the school run, and the mild adrenalin-fuelled sense of panic with the weeks stretching out in front, September's far horizon being a good way off.

    We all love spending quality time with our children, but parental burn-out can hit after only a few weeks of summer holiday. A little inspiration can be a welcome resource when the repertoire of ideas is all but used up.

    Everyone's children are different, in terms of temperament and moods, and children differ in their abilities to entertain themselves, or concentrate for longer periods on projects or tasks. Some children can immerse themselves in intricate drawing or colouring for an hour or more, whereas others barely wish to sit, no matter the weather.

    Thus, it is a good idea to plan ahead and have plan B's, along with C's and D's in place before the holidays actually begin. And, in today's fiscal climes, we unfortunately must keep a weather-eye on the purse strings, too.

    So..... What to do for those six-ish weeks? Well, for a start, parents have differing views on whether they should be "occupying" their children at all; some consider that from boredom springs creativity and self-sufficiency, while others scurry to fill every moment of their child's imaginary "diary", without prior consultation. And, circumstances vary widely, from having acres to spare, to city dwellers with but a balcony ledge. No matter, as on days of sunny skies, parks and gardens are free and sometimes offer fairs, bazaars and festivals, too.

    Make the most of long days by packing drinks, snacks, and a picnic, using shade and remembering hats and sunscreen for the zenith of the day. Some playground areas even offer water play, where swimming gear and towels are de rigeur, and keeping cool thus effected. Don't forget to hone park and yard gaming skills - take along frisbees, jump rope, and chalk for hopscotch.

    If wheels are the thing, don't forget roller skates/blades, skateboards, and scooters - unicycles for the more adventurous! Stilts and Pogos aren't in vogue, particularly, but may offer a modicum of amusement. Once bored of swings and slides, there are museums, galleries and libraries to discover, and many of those have free entry, unless you want to see something specific.

    With time on your side, you may wish to go further afield and walk the countryside highways and byways, even taking in a child-friendly B&B. Your children may enjoy such things as working historical farms, stately homes and their surrounding gardens, or larger monuments like Stonehenge or Hadrian's Wall? Beaches are not only for sunbathing. You can hunt for fossils, collect shells, stones, and bits of fascinating flotsam.

    While you are out and about, don't forget your camera, and pencils, pens, and paper. Outdoor sketching is great fun, and can provide a springboard for later artistic creations. When the storm clouds roll in and the heavens open, one needs to be prepared. Paper and scissors can provide simple fun, just by folding and cutting concertina-ed people and animals for decoration, and for older children there are specialised paper cutting kits for purchase online. Coloured paper can be folded, sculpted, and decorated.

    Why not prepare a box of fabric remnants cut to size in small squares for the budding little mosaicist. Bright colours and patterned or shiny pieces can be further decorated with foil wrappers, old buttons, glitter and sequins. Plenty of colouring pencils and fibre pens are a must, along with sharpeners, rulers, rubbers.

    If a metaphorical hand up is needed there are now beautiful colouring books for children; Dover and Buster are two that come to mind. If your darlings can play nicely together, there are plenty of board games that offer hours of fun, and there is always an opportunity to teach Chess or Draughts, or have a family Monopoly or Scrabble tournament. Then, there's the likes of Twister or Wii.

    Picnics and Camps can always be relocated to the veranda or front room, guaranteed to foment frivolity and giggles. Something for parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles is the imparting of traditional skills such as knitting, sewing, crochet, embroidery, or more obscure crafts such as macramé.

    Tapestries are absorbing, and available in simpler designs for beginners. If you have the facilities, pottery is exciting - why not visit your local potter or glass blower? Movies are a great diversion, and often seal memories of association. If the cinema isn't possible, make popcorn in a pan and bring the cinema atmosphere to your lounge! Movie Sleepovers muster major excitement, whispering, and glee into the small hours. If your gang need a gentle bit of encouragement to be bookish, libraries have their annual Reading Challenges that are often themed, and come with prizes, certificates, and the pomp and excitement of ceremony in September. Stack the shelves with chapter books, but also comics, magazines, and anything else that might snatch their attention - all reading is good.

    Where there's space and time aplenty, why not build a tree house, or turn your loft, basement, or spare room into a model railway extravaganza. And if you don't, there's always bounding out with rock climbing and outdoor specialist camps. If abseiling and canoeing isn't their bag, other summer school offerings abound; there's everything from musicals and dance schools, to languages, BMX tricks, art and craft, parkour, and a myriad choices waiting to be discovered.

    Past Summer holidays are evocative and halcyon, indeed. I have fond memories of my grandparent's cottage with marigold bedecked borders, a heady sunny greenhouse filled with the intoxicating aroma of tomatoes, and the sound of buzzing aphids, rainy afternoons with a Spirograph and a button box, jelly and icecream and cheese spread on toast for supper, and laying in bed watching the town lights twinkling far off to the sound of drop forges in the distance. Grans, aunts, and uncles are often keen to have time with their smaller relatives, and parents can do well to accept offers and use the time to recharge batteries.

    Children often love time away testing their independence; they delight in the similarities and differences of others' homes, and enjoy expanding and enriching their parameters of experience.

    If forging experience is a goal, why not foster political and citizen awareness with active engagement or protest - put newly acquired craftiness to good use with a spot of yarn-bombing, or just get on the march!

    Find a cause and campaign for it. Share the load with play dates and stopovers, and return favours; a good network is crucial. Remember to relax and have a good time - holidays are for recuperation and kicking back (and not just for the kids, hopefully....) Whatever's your bag, be it bivouacing, bicycling, or bungeeing - Happy Holidays!



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    Fabulous Fenugreek


    Fenugreek, or 'trigonella foenum graecum' is, for our purposes, a fabulous galactagogue - that is, it boosts breastmilk production!

    And, humanity appears to have been harnessing the benefits of this spicy legume for some time. Charred fenugreek seeds have been unearthed in ancient Iraq dated to circa 4000 B.C., and desiccated seeds found in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Cultivation of fenugreek began in the Near East, with all parts of the plant being used - the leaves as a herb, the seeds as a spice, and the sprouts and micro-greens constituting a vegetable. Our fascination with fenugreek need not stop at tisanes.


    For, fenugreek has featured as the key ingredient in many cultural dishes throughout history, and herbal medicines have lauded its various benefits, claiming to aid a myriad ills from digestion to diabetes.

    Remedies using fenugreek included those for bronchial ailments, tuberculosis, swollen glands, cuts, and sores, and fenugreek was added to unguents for its role as skin softener.

    The ancient Greeks knew the herb as 'telis'. Hippocrates, Cato and Pliny all list fenugreek as an ingredient in varying prescriptions and remedies intended for everything from dyspepsia to cattle fodder. Roman garum, the much-beloved pungent fish sauce, was laced with fenugreek pulp as it was believed to be effective against headaches, and potent as an aphrodisiac!

    When its herbaceous elements are not being employed within a farrago of far-flung cuisine, fenugreek seed wields its ribald allure flavouring sauces, condiments, and relish.

    But, the farthermost fenugreek delight is bestowed upon us in the form of something called 'hilbe'. Hilbe is made by soaking, rinsing, and processing fenugreek in various stages for several days - protracted, but worthwhile.

    Once achieved, hilbe is incredibly versatile, and can be used as a spread, a flavouring in soups, or as a base within which to make a fiery sauce. Hilbe ubiquitously bedecks flatbreads, falafel, and any fried vegetables or fish, and is used with 'zhug', a Yemeni hot sauce to make countless dishes. This fabulous fenugreek concoction can also be used in sweet baking to flavour cakes, pastries, and biscuits.

    Making Hilbe

    If you would like to make hilbe you need to soak around three or four tablespoons of fenugreek for three days in a jar or bottle, and change the water several times a day.

    Twice daily, rinse and refresh the seeds under running water in a colander or sieve, and return to soaking. At the end of the three days, the fenugreek seeds puff up and lose much of their darker colour and raw bitterness.

    To the swelled seeds then add approximately one cup of water and blitz the soaked fenugreek for a couple of minutes in a food processor, to produce a thick paste, and follow by sitting in the fridge for three hours.

    This process needs repeating once or twice more, before the fenugreek becomes frothy and consistent with egg-white.

    Store your hilbe in a jar, chilled, or freeze it until you need it.

    Ancient lore is borne out by modern science - fenugreek is indeed fantastic!

    A nutritional breakdown shows the remarkable nutritional content of this legume, which boasts a rich store of minerals including iron, calcium, copper, selenium, and is incredibly vitamin-dense, containing a host of B vitamins, folic acid, A and C.


    Fenugreek's polysaccharides, saponins, tannin and pectin all work together to keep our cholesterol levels where we would like them, and amino acid 4-hydroxy isoleucine benefits those with diabetes; mucilage aids digestion, and Not stopping at that, the choline in fenugreek will keep your mind sharp, and ease symptoms of PMS and menopause, and the compound diosgenin increases milk flow. Wilder rumours claim fenugreek can promote breast growth.

    It is a good job that fenugreek features in recipes, sweet and savoury, in teas, spreads. And spice mixes. For now, I think I will have a cup of tea.




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    Neuner's Organic Nursing Tea Joins Forces With 'Peak Health Food' Store To Show Support For Breastfeeding Mothers in Rugeley


    Neuner's UK have joined forces with an independent health food shop, in support of a campaign to raise awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding.

    Recent controversy erupted after an unknowing breastfeeding mum was blasted with derogatory comments after being secretly photographed breastfeeding her 8 months old baby in public. The image went viral after being published on social media website, facebook, yet received a deluge of support which became the catalyst for a pro-breastfeeding campaign in Rugeley.

    To show their support for the rights of breastfeeding mums, 'Neuner's' are showing a united front with one of their stockists, Peak Health Food, by supplying the Rugeley store with hundreds of free samples of their award winning tea. 'Neuner's Organic Nursing tea' is the UK's most popular breastfeeding tea with mums of all ages and are looking to positively support the rights of mums.

    Marie Longman, owner of 'Peak Health Food' commented " We're thrilled to be showing our full support for breastfeeding and would like to invite all breastfeeding mums to drop in, take the weight of their feet and enjoy a complimentary cup of Neuner's Organic Nursing Tea, courtesy of the company! There's no catches, customer or not, all breastfeeding women are very welcome."





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    Tips to encourage your child to eat more vegetables


    In the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of talk about how bad too much sugar and salt intake especially for children really is. So every parent has a desire for their child to eat a nutritious diet. After all, it’s what will help them to grow into the strong and healthy human that will be one of the goals of good parents.

    The trouble comes when the toddler years arrive and parents may not have quite so much control over what their child is eating. Other children in nursery are allowed crisps, grandparents who spoil them…your little cutie has tried a few unhealthy treats, and now they want more of ice cream, fried chicken and cheese cra
    ckers. But their interest in green vegetables may be regrettably non-existent.

    Fruits and vegetables contain the vitamins and nutrients that will provide your child with a protective immune system and will also help them to grow as they should. But how do parents encourage their toddlers to chow down on those vegetables? Here are some tips to encourage more eating of the green stuff for even the pickiest of eaters:

    • Presentation goes a long way. Children are more likely to eat plates of food that look fun and exciting, so therefore present fruits and vegetables in that way. You can arrange the foods in an arty way- for example, create images of faces, vehicles, butterflies, dogs etc. Anything that will grab the attention of the children.

    • Hide vegetables in the food. You can put grated carrots into Shepherd’s Pie or other minced meat dishes and they will be practically undetectable. Quite often, just cutting up vegetables into small pieces can make them look all that more approachable, whether you hide them or not.
    • Explain to them why vegetables and fruit are so important. Children understand more than we think. It might be difficult to reason with a toddler but the more often you repeat that this is really good and healthy and makes you strong.. the more likely it is that the message will be heard (one day).
    • Give a reward. Give them a ‘carrot’ for eating that carrot. You can offer a little reward in exchange for a clean plate. Once they build a habit to eat their vegetables then it will become easier. They will then eat them whether there is a special reward to look forward to or not.
    • Set a good example. Show them that you eat vegetables and that it’s so that you can remain strong and healthy. You could also explain how it helps you to feel good, helps you to look good and be strong.
    • Humans are born with a natural suspicion towards foods that they are not familiar with. Scientist say that it can take up to 5 presentations of vegetables for children to get familiar with them, so just keep trying. It’s best to start early by offering vegetables to your baby. In that they get familiar with the different tastes early on.

    By using these tips, you should be able to encourage your toddler to eat more vegetables.





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