Thursday, October 16, 2014

Almond Power Bars

These Almond Power Bars are amazing. A perfect pre-workout \ post-workout \ lunchbox \ elevenses snack.

Incredibly delicious it's hard to believe they are actually healthy. But they are.



Almonds help boost energy. Hazelnuts are stuffed full of B vitamins. Sunflower seeds give us Vitamin E and folic acid. Coconut oil helps boost metabolism. Honey aids our immune system. And cacao is packed with antioxidants.

This recipe below is adapted from this one by the very lovely Emily at The Nest, who in turn adapted it from this one.

So see what you have in the cupboard, pick the one that suits you best and then go ahead and make then. I promise you wont be disappointed. Isn't that right Emily?

Bars:

1 cup whole almonds
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted) 
2 - 3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Put the dry ingredients along with the almond butter into a food processor and pulse for approx 20 seconds. Mix the melted oil and honey into the mixture. Stir well. Put the mixture into a square baking dish and place into the freezer for 30 minutes.

Topping:
1/2 cup cacao powder (I used Natasha's Living Food cacao)
6 tablespoons organic coconut oil (melted)
2 tablespoon organic raw honey

When the bars are ready to come out of the freezer, mix the topping ingredients together and then pour over the bars. Even out the topping and place back into the freezer for another 20 minutes. 

Store in the fridge (dangerous), or freezer (mildly safer). They won't last long either way though. 




Monday, October 13, 2014

Nintendo DS2 and Nintendo 3DS XL Review


Nintendo has long been loved by children everywhere. I remember playing Tertris on a friend's Nintendo Gameboy as a teen and being ever so jealous that I didn't have one myself. When I told my kids this their eyes widened in wonder that they actually had Nintendo consoles 'in the olden days'. 

Thanks kids. 

But things have moved on quite a bit since those Tertris playing times it seems, so Nintendo sent us out a few consoles to test out and put through their paces. Kaya (10) and Marley (8) both received a Nintendo 3DS XL and Baxter (6) received the Nintendo DS2 to review. 



A set of games were also tested - Mario Kart 7, Tomadachi Life, Phonics Fun with Biff, Chip & Kipper and Super Mario Bros 2. Yes, Christmas came early this year. To say they were excited was the understatement of the century. 

Once the screaming and running around the house was finished we got to work setting them up. Now I say work, but in fact these are the ultimate plug and play consoles - and for a not very technically minded mum that is a huge plus. On both the DS2 and the 3DS XL you simply switch them on and within a few simple instructions (inputting name \ date etc) you are ready to go. The set up option also gives you the chance to set parental controls and wifi details, but naturally my kids weren't patient enough for all that so we chose the 'set up later' option. 



The Console.

The consoles come with a Mii Maker similar to the Nintendo Wii. All three of mine jumped straight in creating themselves, their friends and each other.

Also available is StreetPass - an online world where their characters can connect to each other over the internet. Very clever and they had a lot of fun exploring it. This feature can be fully controlled and switched off if you are not comfortable with it (or if your kids aren't very fond of each other and don't want their brothers Mii character following them around the plaza...) 


Both the Nintendo DS2 and Nintendo 3DS XL have cameras that can be played around with, and Marley in particular enjoyed the Face Raiders preloaded game where you get to blast your siblings faces out of the sky. Also - did you know that you can actually take 3D pictures with the 3DS XL? Me neither. *mind explodes*


There's a heap of other stuff loaded onto the consoles too that the kids enjoyed finding and exploring. 



The eShop. 

The eShop allows you to browse and download games via your console. This is a brilliant feature for pocket money spends or even birthday gifts from grandparents who might not know what to buy for them. Games can be paid for via a voucher code or credit \ debit card, and again parental controls can be set to ensure no unexpected purchases are made. 



The Games

Mario Kart 7
Baxter the 6 year old adores car \ racing games so I knew this would be a hit with him. His older brother however was a bit put out until they discovered that - wait for it - if you have 2 consoles you can use the Download Play feature to explore local multi-player using just the one game cartridge! Amazing! No more fights over whose turn it is anymore (just fights over who is winning this time).





Tomodachi Life
A simulated life game that really taps into their creative juices! It's great for any child who likes role-play and imagination so Kaya loved it.  The more this game is played the more that is unlocked.


Phonics Fun with Biff, Chip & Kipper
I was delighted that my youngest Baxter received this game. His entry into school life was when we were living in Spain so he missed out on the first half of the year's learning back here. Although he's caught up with most things his foundation into phonics was delayed, so he struggles a little with this. Having a game to play rather than sitting down at a table for extra homework is a very welcome option and we're looking forward to moving through the range of games available. 

Super Mario Bros 2
Impossible to fault, Kids of all ages adore it. Probably Marley's favourite game of all - but they've all been Mario fans for quite a while now.  


What I liked best.

I have to say there were loads of aspects about the Nintendo consoles that I love. 

As mentioned the set up and use of both were incredibly easy. I've found other devices far more difficult to get up and running with - and the stress of it almost takes away from the joy of their 'new toy'. 

I love the sturdiness of the Nintendo DS2 and the double screen design of the 3DS XL. The 3D feature of the 3DS XL really needs to be seen to be believed. No glasses are required and the quality of, erm, 3D-ness is amazing. You can also control the level of 3D that is used, or turn it off entirely. 



The activity log feature is also fantastic. So simple but so affective. Basically it allows you to monitor what they have been playing and - joy of joys - for how long.




Parental controls is another feature that I love. I find computers, ipods, iphone and ipads all very scary when is comes to setting restrictions and often it is really only an 'all or nothing' choice. With Nintendo however it is far easier and more straightforward. You can set restrictions on the eShop, on friends through the internet feature, and on age range for downloads. I feel much safer knowing that they are playing on the Nintendo unsupervised than I would with any of the devices listed above. 

One of the great aspects about the Nintendo consoles is that all the old games can be played on the new ones. So if you are upgrading your child console their existing games aren't rendered useless. There are so many money-making schemes employed by other manufacturers that mean an upgrade of one thing requires an upgrade of everything, so as a parent it's really nice to see that Nintendo have bucked this trend. 

I also loved the fact that I got a Sunday morning in bed in peace whilst they all played together perfectly. 




The only thing I did find strange is that the re-charging kit isn't included with purchase of the console.

What the kids liked best. 

Kaya nearly burst with excitement when she saw Tomadachi Life.
'What's Tomadachi Life?' I asked.
'Well, you get to make people, create your own world and The Vamps play it!' she squeeled in response.
I couldn't quite bring myself to ask who The Vamps were. I am so not down with the youth.

Kaya loves coming in from school, getting her homework done, and then settling in for a little wind down session before dinner. 


Marley loves the Mii Maker, the online features and how amazing the 3D is. He's adding new games to his Christmas list already. 'Do I really have to turn it off? But I've only made 51 Mii characters!'

Baxter loves just about everything but especially Mario Kart 7 and the fact that he now has his very own games console.



The consoles are all so handy and portable, they can be brought along to the different activities they all do, so that when one is say playing football in the rain the other two can keep themselves amused inside the clubhouse while I have a relaxing coffee. Double win.

They are also a great way for the kids to have some downtime at home without me worrying about what they might be doing on their screen time. 

Recommended?

100%. The only thing I think that may put some parents or children off the Nintendo DS2 or 3DS XL is that technology on other devices has moved on so quickly. But for children up to 11 or 12 I think the Nintendo consoles are perfect. As a mother I don't want to have to be worrying about what my kids are inadvertently viewing online. Or that younger siblings are being drawn into older siblings more extreme online games. The Nintendo's allow this age group to have their very own, safe, portable, fun and educational device, that can be easily controlled by a parent and has a long life span due to the range and affordability of many of the games on offer. 

If only we'd had such a thing ourselves way back in the olden days....





This is a Netmum's sponsored review.To find out more click the button:


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Listography: Top 5 films on Netflix

As part of the Netflix Stream Team I was lucky enough to be sent out an Apple TV and yearly subscription to the wonderful Netflix. The Apple TV simply allows you to connect to Netflix via your internet connection - but this can be done through lots of devices such as DVD and blu-ray players or some gaming consoles. For more on the techy bits click here.

Since returning to Ireland we have a very basic Sky package that the kids are extremely unimpressed with - so being hooked up to Netflix has gone down very well indeed. Next month the kids are going to give you their own Top 5 films from there - but this month it's my turn.

If you'd like to join in with your own suggestions please come back and linky up below. With the colder weather on the way and the pennies being put away for Christmas I need all the suggestions I can get.

So with no further ado - here are my Top 5 Films on Netflix (as discovered do far)

1. Drop Dead Fred.
I could barely contain my excitement when I saw Drop Dead Fred appear on the menu. Having not watched it for about 20 years I wasn't sure it would live up to expectations. But of course it did. I'm not sure it was such a good idea to let the 5 year old watch it too though. The intro of a gentle bedtime fairy story lulled me into a false sense of security - which the 'what a load of shit!' line from snot-face quickly woke me up from. Naturally the kids were all sold on it immediately.

Image

2. The Royal Tenenbaums.
2 stars! I can't believe this film has only 2 stars on Netflix. There must be a conspiracy. A delight to the eyes and senses - this Wes Anderson's story about a family of eccentrics stars Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller and Gwyneth Paltrow. All in crazy outfits. What's not to like?



3. Fargo
You're darn tootin' it's in my top 5! Impossible to fault. Round of applause to the Coen Brothers once again.



4. Stand By Me
Another movie-I-can't-wait-to-show-the-kids. Starring an impossibly gorgeous and talented young River Phoneix, it's a coming of age story that will stay with you forever. As will the barfing scene unfortunately. Keifer Sutherland as the evil older brother and Corey Feldman as the unfortunate Teddy Duchamp also put in Oscar winning performances.




5. The Godfather
We all know how good it is. We just need to find the spare three hours to watch it.



So what have I missed? Linky up with your favourite Top 5 films currently on Netflix and I'll share every post on Twitter under #streamteam.

Looking forward to reading and watching!

Monday, September 29, 2014

London Calling

At the start of the summer I was lucky enough to be able to see my all time favourite band The Libertines for the very first time in Hyde Park London. 

Myself and my sister managed to nab a couple of VIP tickets, the sun came out, the stars aligned, and it all lived perfectly up to my very high expectations - and then some.

So when they announced on stage that they would be playing Alexandra Palace in Sept I came straight home and, still on the post gig high, booked a couple of tickets for us for the next date.

Which was this weekend.

And so I escaped. For 48 blissful hours there was to be no cooking, cleaning, ferrying, mothering or working. 

On gig day we slipped in a 5 mile run in the morning and then lazily got ready for London Town. 

A hop, skip and a jump on the tube and we were strolling around the fantastic Borrough Market. You could easily spend an entire day pottering around the stalls laden with cheeses, wines, olive oils and meats.



But we had a date with a boozy late lunch so hotfooted it up the stairs to Roast which overlooks the market - perfect for watching cool Londoners and trendy tourists wandering below.



The meal was incredible. I took on an enormous slow-cooked roast pork belly and I'd like to say I won the battle, although I'm not sure my jeans would actually agree with that. 



After that, plus more wine, cheese, port and coffee it was time to waddle ourselves out of there and head on to the one and only Ally Pally. 

We arrived early, watched the support acts, briefly met some friends and then on they came.


Image credits: Gigwise

From the off it was a riot of heat and noise. Waves of both poured over us. The guys in the crowd shed their t-shirts and the girls fought their corner admirably. Mosh pits appeared and disappeared and we were carried along by the music for 24 perfectly executed songs. 

In the thick of it I looked around at us all - strangers with dripping bodies and smiling faces and realised - posh dinners are really, really lovely, but sometimes in life you've just got to go for it and get a little down and dirty to really have those marrow sucking moments. 

I'm sure Pete for one would agree. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Avoca dreaming

Oh Avoca. Is there anywhere else in the world that can make me feel worse about my domestic sluttery than you?



I wander around your gorgeousness and dream of a kitchen with a huge Aga, where mismatched antique dinner plates and bountiful floral arrangements would sit effortlessly side by side.



My living room would have coordinated cushions and luxurious blankets strewn across a big beautiful sofa, and all would be clean, stylish and perfect.



However....seeing as I am over 40 and still borrowing money from my mother it's a pretty safe bet this is never going to happen.


And so instead I look to see what little piece of beauty I can take home to buy into the dream - even on a small scale.

I consider the lovely ceramic door knobs for a moment. Using these I could upcycle the cheap plywood dresser we have and it would look wonderful - eclectic and artistic.


Or perhaps I could make my work desk a place of inspiration and nostalgia with these.



Or the bathroom - reorganised with beautiful bottles and old fashioned lotions and potions.



After much procrastinating and price tag checking I wander into the food area and wonder whether I should just settle on the big chocolate and pecan cake instead.


Time to go

Eventually, when the kids are well and truly over it all, I go for something cheaper than the phone, easier than the door knobs, and longer lasting than the cake. Something that not even I can go wrong with - two sweet little china cups that I can use for morning coffee. Not too expensive, not too grand, but enough to bring a little of the dream back with me.

When I get home I arrange them artfully beside the kettle and stand back to consider them for a moment.

But much to my dismay the kitchen does not miraculously change into a Country Homes scene, where a three-tiered Victoria sponge sits waiting on the big wooden table and my smiling children in hand-knitted jumpers sit quietly reading.

No. It all still looks exactly the same. The dishes haven't been done. The washing is still hanging over doors and chairs. The floor still hasn't been mopped in a week. And the kids are still slapping each other.

Except now there are two little beacons of disappointment staring back at me amid the chaos.


Pfft. Next time I'm just going to buy the bloody cake.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Coconut and Lavender Body Scrub

Ever wonder why we spend so much money on products 'pretending' to be all natural?

Coconut, lavender, organic, natural - these are all words that are promoted on expensive lotions and potions that, when you look at the actual ingredients, read more like an evil scientist's test kit.

So why not simplify things with a home-made, all natural and very inexpensive version?

Last week I wrote about the wonders of cooking with coconut - this week it's all about bringing it into your bathroom. 

This gorgeous Coconut and Lavender Body Scrub can be whipped up in minutes and costs a fraction of the price of a bought one. Plus you know exactly what is going into it. 

It makes a fantastic gift too. 


All you need is coconut oil, a few drops of lavender oil, salt and a pretty container.

The quality of the ingredients used is entirely up to you but I like to use Biona Coconut Oil and Maldon Sea Salt. Maldon gives a courser texture to the scrub, but normal sea salt will work too.

Soften the coconut oil - but don't melt it - if it's too warm it will dissolve the salt leaving you with no scrub to your scrub.

Mix together a ratio of 3/4 coconut oil to 1/4 salt, then add a few drops of lavender essential oil.

I bought these lovely spice jars very cheaply in Tesco - they're a good size and perfect for gifts.

There's nothing more to it than that. You can play around with it to get the consistency that you like, and of course add different essential oils for different moods. Citrus is great as an uplifting boost in the morning. 



So friends and family - you now know what you're getting for Christmas this year. (Yikes - did I really just mention the C word in September...?)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

10 lessons I've learned from the recession

Let me start by saying this isn't an ode to the good ol' days of the recession - which I may add is still very much biting me in the ass - but sometimes it's good to look on the bright side, count the blessings, tot up the lessons, etc., etc. So with that in mind, here are 10 things I for one have learned from the recession.

1. Whether you have €400 or €4000 a month to spend, you will spend all of it. The 400-er will wonder how they got through the month and the 4000-er will wonder how they got through the money.

2. Road running is cheaper, healthier, and better for the soul than a gym. Plus you get to say "Meep! Meep!" in your head every time you pass someone out.

roadrunner
Meep, Meep!

3. Own brands are almost always more expensive brands repackaged (for example, Aldi's award-winning tea) or even just a better product (I’m looking at you, Lidl nappies) - so give the cheap stuff a go before committing to any particular brand.

4. But sometimes splashing out on the things you really love is worth it. Bombay Sapphire, anyone?

bombay sapphire g&t

5. Which brings us to the old and familiar adage – "Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves." That phrase has been around all this time for a reason, people.

6. As has "One person’s trash is another person’s treasure", so make like Eminem and start clearing out your closet. With local buy-and-sell FB groups popping up all over the country, there’s no better time to get rid of that foot spa you bought in the January sales five years ago.

7. Tesco school shoes are just as good as Clarks. For three kids, that's a bill of about €45 versus €150. Now think of all the Bombay Sapphire that could buy.

small red car in car park of nicer ones
Extreme edginess. I actually drove this car. 
8. Sometimes poor can be cool. I have a friend who is broke, but her daughter attends a very posh private school due to someone else paying the fees. She always felt embarrassed parking her beat-up Toyota Corolla amid all the black shiny SUVs, until one of the other mothers confided to her that they all thought she was being "edgy" with her car choice. After that, she started blasting Pulp's "Common People" from the clapped-out stereo and has never looked back.


9. Don’t bother spending your hard-earned cash on expensive kids' clothes. Kids look cute in a paper bag, so choose Primark over Prada every time.

10. The play park is just as much fun as the soft play centre. Plus there are less germs, less noise, and it’s free. Kids don’t agree? Bribe them with a cheap ice cream and pocket the rest of the savings.
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