Book Review – Poppy’s Planet and Daisy the Donkey

Poppy’s Planet by Russ Brown

Poppy’s Planet is a children’s book centred around Poppy the flying Penguin. Poppy’s ability to fly takes her on a journey around the planet where Poppy discovers what years of humans causing harm to the environment is doing to Earth. Poppy files over smog filled cities, melting ice caps and forests that are being cut down to sell the land. Poppy highlights the wrongs that man has caused through carelessness and a perception that the planet is ours for the taking.

This book is aimed at pre-schoolers and sends a positive message that we should be doing all we can to recycle and look after our planet so children of the future have something to enjoy.

A colourful backdrop accompanies Poppy’s travels and the book is engaging and can be used as an interactive tool with parents and teachers using its message in everyday activities. I would recommend all play groups and crèches having this book to encourage early learning of environmental issues.

A well thought out and interactive story for all children to enjoy.

Daisy the Donkey by Russ Brown

Ever wondered what the donkey was thinking when she carried Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to welcome Jesus to the world? Russ Brown writes the journey to Bethlehem from the perspective of Daisy the Donkey. Reminiscent of Rudolph and his dream to help Santa, Daisy the Donkey enjoys her life helping in the stables ensuring that the highly thought of camels whose job it is to ferry important people across the land. One day a couple arrive at the stables requesting a ride to Bethlehem but all the camels are too tired to help. This gives Daisy the opportunity to show she is more than a helping hand at the stable.

An insightful read that adds another dimension to the birth of Jesus. A light hearted story that is aimed at children bordering junior school with an understanding of basic Christianity. The pictures that accompany the story paint the picture of the journey that Mary and Joseph encountered before arriving at the Inn Keeper’s stable.

Both books are available on Amazon.com and russbrownauthor.co.uk

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The Curse of the Mummy Tummy

There are many things that worry new mothers – health and safety of the baby, childcare and money worries, but there is one that shakes the majority of women to the core…the one that involves exposing parts of your body that spent nine months being plumped up to the point where the Pilsbury Dough Boy thought he was a bread stick in comparison!!

Yes fellow yummy mummies, the sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out to play. Unfortunately that implies that we have to indulge his sunny imposition and expose arms, legs and possibly mummy tummies that have been quite happily lounging under layers of jumpers, cardies and coats.

I have tried my best to shift the last of the baby weight but since Evie was 6 weeks old my weight has stubbornly bounced around and I can’t seem to lose the last 7 pounds. I shunned the car for the six months I was off on maternity leave opting to walk everywhere which involved numerous hills that could easily put me in pole position for the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge, I’ve been going to the gym at least once a week (albeit to catch up on gossip whilst casually strolling on the treadmill), tried the 5:2 diet (and failed…then cried), tried boot camp (I am not designed to bunny hop up a rain soaked hill) and I still have a belly that doubles up as a shelf to sit Evie on when I carry her! My other issue is my arms. Whereas once upon a time I could rock a vest top, after having a baby the only thing I rock is sleeves. I am seriously considering dragging the muumuu out of the wardrobe and parading around in that – at least I know it fits and will possibly have some sort of slimming effect on ‘the tyre’.

However, my biggest problem in the battle of the belly is my sister. The woman who had a baby the day before me and before I could present my first born to the world slipped back in to her size 6 skinny jeans!! I have a pair of skinny jeans that sneer at me from the top shelf and create what can only be described as an extra thick sausage effect with my thighs and a muffin top that Mary Berry would struggle to create. That is not to say that I own a pair of skinny jeans that when worn with a long length top make me look the size it says on the tag and not someone who has squeezed into something from Baby Gap!

If I follow the age old rule of 9 months on, 9 months off that gives me exactly 5 weeks to drop a dress size. Easy I hear you skinny minnies shout…the issue is if all has failed, how exactly do I accomplish this simple task?

Tuscan chicken with roasted vegetables

On Sunday I negotiated with my mother in law a trade off, she would cut and style my hair into something that didn’t resemble bed head crossed with frazzled mummy and I would whip up a tasty meal for the family. After hunting through the fridge and cupboards I found enough ingredients to create a Tuscan feast for 5.

There is something homely and cosy about Italian food and a rustic dish can stretch quite far (in our case everyone had two servings of the Tuscan chicken). So if you’re looking for a simple dish to dazzle the family look no further than here…

Tuscan Chicken with roasted vegetables

You will need:

500g of diced chicken
6 pork, smoked bacon and herb sausages (or any type with a mild herb flavour)
1kg sweet potatoes – peeled and chopped into inch thick cubes
4 small red onions – 1 finely sliced, 3 roughly chopped
1 tub mini garlic and herb bourskin cheese
1 carton passatta
2 tsp mushroom paste (optional)
250g chestnut mushrooms (quartered)
1 tbsp Italian dried herbs
1 tsp tomato purée
1 tbsp tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
Ciabatta or Artizan loaf to accompany meal

1. In a deep sauce pan or stock pot fill 3/4 with boiling water and poach the chicken on a high heat for 25 minutes. Whilst the chicken is poaching, place the sausages in a pre heated oven at 200 degrees and also cook for 25 minutes.
2. In a deep roasting tin toss together the sweet potatoes and chopped red onions. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside until the meat is cooked.
3. Once the meat is cooked, drain the chicken and clean out the pot. Remove the sausages from the oven, turn the oven down to 180 degrees and place the vegetables on the middle shelf for 30 minutes.
4. In the pot add 1 tsp oil (if you have garlic oil use that to bring out the flavours). Add the sliced red onions, chopped garlic and sweat until soft on a medium – high heat.
5. Add the mushrooms, passatta, tomato purée and sauce, chicken, sausages (chopped into chunks), mushroom paste and stir.
6. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer.
7. When the vegetables are cooked through remove from the oven and sprinkle with the bourskin cheese. Put back into the oven for a further 10 minutes and if serving bread put this in the oven on the bottom shelf to warm through.
8. Once the cheese is warm and starting to melt remove the vegetables and serve immediately. Take the Tuscan Chicken pot over to the table with the bread so people can serve themselves.

This meal goes lovely with a summer fruit Red or with a mild Sauvignon Blanc.

Let me know your thoughts if you decide to use this recipe x

Back to work…back to reality

Walking out of the office on my first day back I could have sworn that I had just taken a week off not a 6 month break to have a baby…

That morning as I walked into my new office in my new work clothes (which took two pairs of tights to create the illusion that I had lost the baby belly) I felt as if I had gone back in time but with a niggling doubt that something significant had happened. After an hour of being in work it was as if I had always been in the office, baring in mind that I had only been in my new job 10 days before I went off to have a baby. It was like being in a parallel universe at the moment that de ja vu hits.

I had witnessed other women coming back from maternity leave looking shell shocked and showing classic signs of separation anxiety. These women were treated as fragile creatures who were allowed to work reduced hours because the thought of being away from their baby was too much to take. As I did not show this level of distress (because I was quite glad to have a few hours away from being mammy) I was treated like any other normal worker and promptly drop-kicked into the deep end without question. All working mothers who are rapidly approaching their first day back will have many sleepless nights worrying how to juggle a full time job with childcare and trying to be the best mother all at the same time. I spent so much time worrying how I was going to manage that some days the fear that it would all fail would terrorise me, which in turn made me terrorise the other half with my exaggerated fears and multiple game plans.

I am now 6 weeks in and I can say (holding all lucky charms) that I have found a happy medium between work and home life. Yes there is still a mountain of ironing to be done but that has been the case for the past 7 months and all my clothes are now made of sheer non-iron material, and sometimes the working day gets too tiring so I order our tea in rather than make another pasta bake! It’s not an easy task finding the balance and I know full well that there will be days where it will all fall over but then if it didn’t go wrong now and again what would I have to write about?