Monday, 31 August 2015

When days become weeks

This summer has whizzed by.  Our son has seven weeks off school this year, and although I approached the holidays with some trepidation about childcare while I was working, amusing him and fitting in a holiday or two ourselves, here we are nearly at the end.

I'm very grateful that our son is looking forward to going back to school.  Toddler girl has been at nursery for her three days over most of the holiday, but I think we'll all be glad to get back into a stable 'know where we all are' routine again.  The constant juggling of work and holiday clubs has been somewhat tiring.

Even though it's not a new calendar year, that start of the academic year does feel like a new beginninng.  Summer is drawing to a close and the seasons are starting to turn.  We have something to think about soon - our son's next school.  And at Christmas time we'll start wondering about pre-school for toddler girl.

I often think time is a funny thing.  Hours take an age, but the weeks seem to fly by in a flash.

This has been a lovely holiday, full of outside play, but as the days grow shorter and the routine comes back, I'll be glad to start thinking of Christmas and the next steps for our family.

How has the summer been for you?

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Family life is...

Leaving your toddler alone for 30 seconds...

...and coming back to find she's been trying to unlock your phone!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Glimpses into unknown lives

Walking on a busy road in London today on my way to and from work, it struck me how many glimpses of conversations and people I passed by,

"Did you send the report to him?" [working man, on his phone looking distracted]

"I told Ginge, and he was like..." [young student type]

"Clark told me it was like that, I don't know why" [couldn't see who said this]

And when I arrived at a busy pedestrian crossing where everyone was waiting for the road to clear, I took a look around.  There were people from so many different walks of life.

Young slim women looking trendy, overweight men in suits, a woman with a pushchair looking harrassed, an old man with white hair, who looked familiar.  Even more besides, that I couldn't take in.

I wonder how many lives we pass by everyday, without even realising?  All the glimpses of conversations we hear, I wonder if I'm alone in never before wondering what the full story is?

Sitting on my sofa right here, right now, I will never again hear about Ginge, and I will never find out what he said or thought.

As people, as a race, we pass each other by, mostly without acknowledgement.  Clinging on dearly to the few people we know and love.  And when people reach out, even in a small way as they did to me earlier -

"Free Stylist?" [distibutor looked me square in the eye]

"Hello, how are you?  Do you have a minute to help?" [homeless person, sitting down outside Euston]

- it's all too easy to ignore and pass by.  Safe in anonymity.  Safe in the knowledge that we won't see these people again.

But wouldn't it be nice to interact with everyone, or even just a few people, just a little bit?  Eye contact, a smile, maybe even a compliment.  £5 or a sandwich for someone in need.

Anything has to be better than ignoring the people, the characters, stories and unknown lives that pass us in glimpses every day.

What do you think?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Aldi Alcafe vs Kenco Millicano whole bean instant coffee

Like so many busy people, my day starts with coffee - every day! I don't have time to make fresh coffee in the morning, but I do love the taste and kick it gives you.

 So I thought I'd try the 'premium' instant coffees, and put Aldi's Alcafe Whole Bean Instant Coffee against Kenco Millicano Whole Bean Instant to see which one came out top for me in the morning.

Both come in a premium looking tin, which has a nice metal feel to it.  The design on both is very siimilar and looks like a higher quality product.  I'm not sure which design came first, but you can see some elements are very similar.

I sometimes think when an own brand and branded product have the same format best before and batch date, it's a bit of a giveaway that they've been made by the same company in the same place.  You can see here that the formats and codes used on these products are different, which suggests to me they're made by different companies.

The metal seals on both tins are a nice touch and add to the premium feel of the coffee.  Although the seals are tight to keep the coffee fresh, they're easy enough to pull open if you have full dexterity and don't need loads of strength.

So onto the coffee.  Aldi's Alcafe mentions on the back that it's made of 'instant Arabica coffee and finely ground coffee beans'.  Arabica coffee is known for its less harsh taste than the other common coffee bean Robusta.  My view is that this makes this a nicer, more balanced coffee.  Kenco doesn't state its coffee variety source on pack.

Aldi's Alcafe whole bean instant coffee (pictured above) also states on its pack that it's a balance of 90% instant coffee, and 10% roast and ground coffee.  You can see in the picture this results in a reasonable even mix of similar size particles.

Kenco Millicano whole bean instant however, states that its product is made of 85% instant coffee and 15% roast and ground coffee.  I think you can really see there's a much greater mix in the picture above.  The 5% difference means 5g - or a tablespoon more of ground coffee in Kenco than Alcafe.  The picture shows 5g, although it is hard to judge scale!

Coffee is a very simple product to buy Fairtrade, if you want to.  Neither of these products are Fairtrade, but Kenco works with the Rainforest Alliance, which promotes good farming practices to protect the environment and farmers.  The pack carries the Rainforest Alliance frog logo.


And what about the taste?  In truth, I like them both.  I find Alcafe a slightly milder cup of coffee (milk, no sugar please), which leaves less of a bitter aftertaste.  But Kenco makes a stronger cup that some mornings you just need.  I don't notice the 5% difference in ground beans between the two, and suspect the taste difference is because of the beans used.

For me, both are better than your average freeze dried instant and come close to the fresh coffee taste that's so nice on lazy mornings when you have time to make it.

So for me it comes down to cost.  At £4.39 for 100g tin for Kenco vs £2.69 for the same size Alcafe tin it really is a no brainer to choose the Aldi version.  Having said that, Kenco is regularly on offer and for a similar price as the Aldi version I would buy it too.

Do you have a favourite coffee?  I'd love to know which it is.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

A non-change table is #MySundayPhoto

I've been clearing out some of our baby gear over the last week or two, and trying to tidy toddler girl's bedroom up.  This nice and tidy looking book case used to be a change table, that I've converted back into a bookcase.

Being free of nappies is very liberating, I don't miss them at all!  And it's nice to get some space back in toddler girl's bedroom.  I love that she can see her toys and books much more easily now too.


Saturday, 13 June 2015

When firsts become lasts, and you don't even realise

Our son had a shower tonight.

This might seem normal to you, except for the fact that he normally has a bath with his sister.  But tonight, he wanted to shower.  On his own.

It struck me that he's growing up, and is no longer a young boy.  He'll be seven later this year, and the preference for showering on his own I guess is the start of a long line of independent behaviour that we've been waiting for, for so long.

I think the last times seem much more poignant than the first times.  Of course first teeth, steps and words are moments to remember (in a sleep deprived haze), but I'm wondering how we remember the lasts, when they happen without us realising?

Has our son had his last bath with toddler girl?  Will I ever need to wash his hair again?  Maybe next week he won't want to kiss me just before he heads off into his classroom with a spring in his step.  Or he won't instinctively reach for my hand as we cross a busy road anymore.  When will the last time I tell him to 'stop, look and listen' be?

And worse of all, he'll stop confiding in me about his day and all the good and bad things that happened, instead preferring to keep it to himself or talk about it with his friends.

It's all inevitable, I know.  And it's a sign that we're doing a good job, that he's preparing for one day standing on his own two feet.  I know this too.

But being a parent is a funny thing, you see.  I've longed for peace, space and to not be depended on by so many people for so long.  And now we're on the brink of getting some space back, from our son at least, I'm not so sure I'm ok with him being self sufficient.  My big, little, all grown up baby boy.

Please stop growing up quite so fast.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Buttercups and daisies are #MySundayPhoto

This week toddler girl has loved running free outside.  The sunshine, the smell of freshly cut grass and the warmth of the early summer sun has meant more time outside for all of us.  She loved it all!

One of the things she enjoys most of all is to stop, look and pick buttercups and daisy flowers.  Today, she brought me a daisy back from the park that she'd picked specifically for me.  Even though it's just a daisy, I had to put it in water so it would last as long as possible and remind me of her kindness.

So, buttercups, daisies and my toddler girl are a very sunny and warm #MySundayPhoto this week.


Friday, 5 June 2015

Time is my #WotW

Doesn't time feel like the enemy some times?  When there's so much to do, the kids are demanding attention, work is spilling over into home time and yes, it's 9pm you still haven't eaten.  Time is fast, slow, misleading and reassuring, all at the same time.

Over the last couple of weeks I've really been feeling time slipping away, always feeling rushed and busy.  So this week I've tried really hard to take a step back from the jobs that aren't essential, giving husband some of the things I do without even realising, and even taking a lunch break from work - unheard of!

All this has helped to slow me down a bit, and calm some of the rushing that takes place all the time in my head.

Don't you think that finding time and some room in your head is essential?  I'd love to know how you achieve it.

The Reading Residence