Tuesday, 21 January 2014

99 Problems (with food!) but sugar ain't one...

Just watching the Sugar programme on television with the oldest. I was astonished that the family didn’t know a wholegrain strawberry yoghurt had lots of sugar in it. They assumed because it was wholegrain it was healthy. I was amazed that they didn't think to look at the label and voiced my opinions loudly. Then they had Nutrigrain bars for breakfast, Really? Sam told me if I didn’t calm down we’d have to switch it off. So we watched it and I ranted on Facebook to Richard from school who thought a sugar tax was a great idea.
This was followed by a programme that told us that Vanilla Extract actually contained other things than just vanilla pods, well that’s a no brainer surely? What on earth do people thing they’re eating?!

 I have to say that advertising doesn't help - the Nutella ad' conveniently forgets to mention the sugar in that concoction and isn't their strapline ''wake up to Nutella'' well you can sod off Ferrero - oooh, what else do they make? - I think NOT. People seem very detached from their food. 

''Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies said: "We think it is misleading to tell people about the hazelnuts, skimmed milk and cocoa, but not mention that it's over half sugar."
"You would have to eat a whole jar of Nutella just to get the claimed 'equivalent of a glass of skimmed milk'. That would also mean consuming over 100g of sugar, even for the smallest jar of Nutella." The consumer group said Nutella was 55 per cent sugar and 31 per cent fat.
An Advertising Standards Authority spokeswoman said the watchdog had launched an investigation following the batch of complaints.
"The nature of the complaints is that hazelnuts and milk aren't the main ingredients.' she said.'' From the  Daily Mail (yes, I know!)
I’m not a skinny min in any way shape or form. My weight has always been a yo-yo but over the last few years it is going down with the big yo-yos getting less and less. I do know WHAT I am eating though. I’ve always cooked from scratch. My Mum was a fairly simple 1970s cook; Bolognese, shepherd’s pie, roast on most Sundays but only pudding when we had visitors and the only bought food was a pasty from Grooms the bakers on a Saturday for a treat. That was made at the bakers not shipped in and cooked. We didn’t have biscuits or yoghurts or squash. If we went to Grandmas we had homemade cakes and they ate jugged hare and pheasant and things Granddad had shot.

Dad had the local newsagents and the shelves behind the counter were lined with those big glass sweet jars. All our friends thought we could help ourselves to sweets and crips but we were only allowed a quarter pound of sweets on a Saturday night for a treat.

Photo from The Guardian

When my Mum met her second husband he loved to cook and introduced us to Indian and Chinese food – there were no takeaways in our part of North Norfolk at the time except for the two fish and chip shops on the quay. Then my Step-dad set up a wholesale greengrocers and we regularly ate what he called ‘Queer gear'; veg we could hardly pronounce the name of let alone had ever seen before. He would buy anything unusual and see what he could make with it. When I got to about 18 I went off the texture of meat and gradually over the next couple of years stopped eating it completely and by the time I was married had stopped eating fish too.
I nannied for two families who were dentists and they reinforced what my own childhood had, no squash, no fruit juices, water to drink, no sweets or puddings. Lady Colwyn introduced me to the Cranks cook book and wholefoods. I didn’t know that flour came in any colour other than white!   Cranks Creamy Leek Croustade is still one of my favourite all time recipes. I also nannied for David Bruce who had the Firkin pubs and he taught me all about red wine, but that's another story!
So by the time my own kids came along we were well into wholefood vegetarian cooking and just like my Mum, cooking from scratch. My twin babies had whatever we ate liquidised. I remember the Health Visitor told me I must not give them curries as it would upset their tummies. They weren't madras style and when I asked her what Indian babies ate she didn’t know what to say. So I continued to give them our food and stuck with sweets and treats only on a Saturday too.
When I had my third baby Judy came to look after the twins now aged 2 ½ and she took them to the park where they ran up to another child who was carrying some sweets and indignantly said ‘You can’t have sweets, it’s not Saturday!’

First time out with Daddy on his own - Castle Coombe circuit and ice-creams! 
We moved to the States a few months later and the Mums there were shocked that my kids were veggie; they thought that was very wrong whilst they fed their kids out of jars, gave them burgers and pizza and coke. Wheras my English friends and I had met at the park, garden centre or for a walk at Westonbirt the US Mums met in Chuck e Cheeses Pizza 'restaurant' 

We kept up with being veggie. Once I bought the kids Lucky Charms cereal and they wanted to know why it had coloured things in it. The first time we ordered a pizza to be delivered they were astonished. We also met a family there who gave their son ketchup sandwiches everyday and microwave chips. Literally EVERY day because ‘that’s all he’ll eat’. Children will seriously eat what you put in front of them if they haven’t had loads of snacks, don’t think anything else is an option and you present it beautifully and sit down and eat with them. Just call me Supernanny.

We came back from the states  with another baby who had somehow absorbed some US-meat-DNA because as soon as he could walk he wandered over to our friend’s BBQ. Rich looked at me and asked if Charlie could have a chicken leg. I have to say with the older three I’d waited until they understood what meat was before they tried it but Charlie was the youngest and I let a lot of things go with the youngest. So I said yes and the story is still told of how Charlie stood at the BBQ saying 'Chicken leg, chicken leg' over and over. He loved meat, and still does.
Until my kids went to school they thought pudding was a glass layered with natural yoghurt, cereal and fruit with a drizzle of honey on top. Sam recently said that when he had packed lunches at school he thought we were poor because he didn’t have crisps and Petits Filous (how much sugar is in those? And people use them as baby food!!)
I don’t mind cooking meat, I try and source it locally and used to say it was a happy chicken or pig until Sam told me it wasn’t happy, it was dead. The household is pretty much veggie except at Christmas and Charlie has the odd bacon butty. I started to eat fish again a couple of years ago just to try and get some more protein into my diet. I eat it maybe once every six weeks because if I think about it too much I just don’t like the thought of it. It just gives me another option if we’re out.

Christmas Day turkey, chorizo and stuffing pie.
Recently we’ve been going back to brown rice and pasta as we had gone a bit white in this house. But when I went to buy pasta there were only two wholewheat types and years ago there used to be lots.
The kids have all worked in pub kitchens and have cooked at home so they are all pretty good cooks – Ella is the best baker, Joe eats meat and can do anything from extravagant sea bass to a cheap cut of beef depending on where he is in his Student Loan cycle, Sam is the veggie curry king and Charlie can knock up a great omelette or mushrooms on toast and is really interested in flavours (I didn’t like his cinnamon phase I have to say!) They have over the years said that friends don’t know how to cook; someone asked Joe if it was ok to eat a banana with brown skin and Sam knows someone who has never made an omelette.

Schools are trying and there are various Healthy School agendas - Bath and North East Somerset have a lovely video about children growing and eating their own produce.

Ella's homemade salads and pizza
Which brings me back to the sugar programme. If parents don’t know what they are actually feeding their kids and children don’t learn how to cook from scratch and people think it is ok to drink sugary drinks everyday and let children have a big choice over what they eat then I’m really not sure where we’re going. We generally need to bring people back down to earth and connected with their food. I’ll be out shooting hares like my Granddad before you know it!
If you’ve got little ones, cook with them, eat a rainbow of foods, make food look beautiful, don’t snack on crap, drink water and sit down and eat with them. Use that time to chat about their day. We used to play ‘What was your best thing today?’ and go round the table asking each other which was always a starting point for a conversation. Make meal times a social time; take the emphasis off the food and make it about the people you're with.
If you make a big deal out of food or use it as a reward it becomes entangled with emotion (that's probably a whole BLOG on it's own!) and that doesn’t lead to a good relationship with it. Make it about the people and the food is just fuel for life.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Since Keep It Simple...

Thought I'd update you on what has happened since the Keep it Simple pdf . I launched it as the final piece of a project I'd been working on and had to create a platform to 'launch' it from hence this blog. The pdf itself seemed to go down quite well, I had a wonderful response from friends and family and they were very kind and shared it all around. One of my favourite comments was from Pam

 ''What a beautiful and useful book!! I am going to give a copy to all my friends with children and then give it to all those without children and all the teenagers I know and then go and do some of the things myself- seriously- what a fantastic resource for everybody and so well put together :)''

But I also had some great feedback from colleagues and 'likers' on faceyb too. People I didn't even know were very supportive and kind. Several people said it made them laugh, which I really liked! 

Then Liz Knowles at Muddy Faces said she'd put it in her Free Resources spot on her website, Michael Follett shared it on facebook and so did Kierna at Learning for Life. I knew I loved the pdf and I really tried to stay true to what I liked when I was writing it and putting it together. For me it was quite scary putting it out there to be kind of judged by my peers especially as there's such a lot of outside information on offer already and the ideas in the book weren't exactly new. But people  liked the writing style and the strong visual image.

So since then I've been working on a similar style photography project, I was walking along the beach between Christmas and New Year and saw loads of shells and began playing with them which gave me a few ideas. So I've generally started exploring with light, shadows and perspective....

Back garden sunset

Lincoln Cathedral
A few other opportunities have arisen too

  • I have been invited to go and run training with some outdoor providers 
  • I am working with two other 30 Day Challengers using the leaf photos for some hammock designs
  • I have been asked to take photos throughout the year for an Early Years publication
  • I have been asked to take photos in our local community for a calendar
I met up with the other 30 Day Challengers in Bristol last night and came away feeling very inspired and creative again which was marvellous. I think everyone needs to do something they love even if you can't do it all of the time. On the back of that, and with them all giving me the 'You can do it' talk and virtual shove, I am going to run a couple of outdoor workshops locally which I'm hoping will be light hearted but informative. I'll pop them on here and faceyb so subscribe to the blog or like Niki Willows - Outside if you want to be kept informed.

So fingers in a few pies which is a nice place to be. And if you like stats the blog has had over 3,000 views, the pdf has been downloaded almost 2,000 times and shared around a fair bit by email too. I didn't look to see how many likers I had on faceyb when this began but it's just topped 600. Earlier I googled Rounded & Grounded and it came up in the top four google searches which is pretty cool although I have no idea how google search actually works. I am constantly surprised that anyone is happy to read what I write so if you've got this far, thank you very much :)

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Safety Surfacing

A bit of risk – risk being what we’re all supposed to be doing with children, right back from Lord Young’s Common Sense, Common Safety report in 2010 and the Play England documents that came out to support the Playbuilder scheme Managing Risk in Play Provision   'Children need and want to take risks when they play. Play provision aims to respond to these needs and wishes by offering children stimulating, challenging environments for exploring and developing their abilities''  to the current guidance on play from the HSE Promoting a Balanced Approach to Play  ''When planning and providing play opportunities, the goal is not to eliminate risk, but to weigh up the risks and benefits'
So why are schools and nurseries still putting in safety surfacing and trim trails and trying to eliminate all risk and FUN? Hopefully you've read the marvellous piece by  Michael Follett on trim trails and why he thinks they are installed, if not, go and read it.
 That ‘safety surfacing’ in my mind is the worst thing that anyone can put down, I hate it with a vengeance, although I do equally hate that green ‘carpet’ that they put down too. I like an outside space to be pretty much green and brown;
Snowdrop Cottage Nursery
I think that we have enough plastic tat inside without letting it ruin an outside space too. So let’s look at some of the options
 Green Carpet
I spent a few years working in a pre-school specifically for SEN children some of whom were autistic, deaf/blind, complex medical needs, walking, non-walking, on wheels – a whole range of children. Someone (before I’d got there) had decided it would be a great idea to put down that green carpet which was done at great expense. It’s kind of astro turfy and has a layer of sand underneath and is supposed to stop any mud getting on children and be a good surface for crawlers. At one point we had to call the army out – they are local and had offered to help – to literally scrape the moss off the surfacing. It took 5 of them about 3 days to clear quite a small garden.
DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY. It gets covered in moss, it holds water, and it becomes very, very slippery. It is rubbish for crawling on, as it holds water like a sponge, unless you are in full waterproofs in which case you may as well be on mud or grass anyway! The only place I have seen it used well is on small high use mounds in a baby garden which also had mud and grass.
West Knoyle Children's Centre
‘Safety’ surfacing
Why anyone thinks that children want bright primary colours blasted in their face all day everyday is beyond me. I went to a nursery recently which is all cream with squishy snuggling up sofas, twigs hung from the ceiling to hang art work from and they were just getting some mirrors and plants delivered. It felt like a home – and this was a big nursery which was part of a chain. I was well impressed. Have a google of Reggio if you want to find out more about the environment children are in – and remember some of those children are in a nursery all day, every day for several YEARS. Think about that for a minute.
But back to surfacing – it’s bouncy, it’s bright and it’s slippery as hell in the ice and wet. Aside from the horrendous colours why would anyone want to walk, run and jump on a surface that gave you wobbly feedback? It’s not hard and flat. If you’re autistic – you know the ones that walk up on their tip toes, is this because the ground feels too weird or because they like the sensation of tip toe walking? Who knows – or have cerebral palsy how odd must that bouncy surface feel. If you need bounce on the ground put in a trampoline. If you need surfacing, put in paving slabs for bike riding and chalking on, mud for digging, grass for lying on and the BIGGEST sandpit you can afford. Put in texture and shape and up and down levels. If you’ve got space, put in a hill! 
Springboard Garden
That horrible ‘safety’ surfacing was invented to go under fixed kit like slides to prevent serious head injuries. It was never meant to replace playgrounds. It will not prevent children breaking their arm or leg and some people say it makes a worse break. If you fall on paving slabs you get a clean sharp break but if you hit the ground and bounce… well it’s horrible to even think about.
So that’s my ranting on surfacing. If you’re a school and have some funds to spend or want to change your outdoor space do look at the OPAL project as a whole school transformation. It has a huge impact on local community, school play ethos, gives the children a real sense of being involved and has a very positive impact on learning too. Happier, healthier people learn better, no surprises there.

Acorns Pre-school, Christian Malford