Saturday, February 20, 2016

MM Approved: Nappies, Oaties, Laundry and More

I've decided that my first MM Approved post was flawed; I need to have some sort of a rating system, because I'm not going to love everything that I review. I'm going to work on a 5-star rating system, meaning, I'll give products 1 to 5 stars (5 being best) based on my own review of them. I also decided to do a side-by-side comparison this week, because we bought so many biscuits recently that it's possible. So, without further adeiu, here are this week's reviews:

Lidl - Toujours Nappies 
£2.49 for 44 (size 2)

I was surpremely disappointed with these nappies, especially after I had been so pleased by Aldi's. I guess I just assumed that they would be similar? I don't know. Anyway, they felt stiff and papery, and leaked two nights in a row, just from normal wetness, and don't we all love a 3am full clothing change? Sorry Lidl, these get 1 star and I won't be buying them again. In fact, I didn't even finish the pack we bought - went back to the Aldi ones (which are the same price, in case you were wondering).

Aldi Oaties vs Lidl Oaties
Oaties are totes my fav lately (Did I just say those words? I think I'm having a midlife crisis and trying to "keep up with the young people"). Plus, I've been told that oats are great for breastfeeding, so these Hobnobs knockoffs have been next to me for every cup of tea over the past 6 weeks. Aldi are by far my favorite - more oat-y, slightly salty to balance the sweetness, crispy and fantastic, and are extremely simliar to their branded cousin. Lidl gets points because they have chocolate covered Oaties, but they just don't taste as... oat-y? I can't put my finger on it. I suppose the ones from Lidl seem more like a sugary crispy cookie type biscuit, while the oaties from Aldi are really flavorful and you know you're eating oats. I can go through about a sleeve a day if no one stops me (please don't try to stop me, you might lose some fingers).

Asda Little Angels Washing Powder 
£3 for 30 washes

I'm really pleased with Asda, because they're the only supermarket that makes their own label of 'baby' washing powder. I'm wary of the heavily-scented Persil and Ariel, plus, this has a light smell that just screams "baby" and makes you want to sniff everything. Dermatologically tested, we've had no issues with eczema or rashes from this powder, and it keeps whites super white, even when washed with other (light) colours. This will definitely be my go-to washing powder (or liquid, or gel, which they also make!) for baby clothes.

Waitrose Toilet Roll 
£3.50 for 9 rolls (240 sheets per roll)

Ok, call me crazy, but I'm really picky about toilet paper. Like, really picky. I had one type I liked in the States, and it has taken me about 18 months over here to find one that I liked. Too thin, too rough, too plush (which means you don't get a lot on a roll!), the reasons I have for disliking toilet paper go on and on. In a pinch the other week, Steve had to run to Waitrose, which is our closest supermarket, to pick some up. He came home with the store's own brand - I scowled a bit, and then I totally changed my tune. It's not quilted but it's super soft, it's not thin but you feel like you get a lot on a roll, so it seems like a great value too. Much cheaper than the branded alternatives, and I like it so much more. 5 stars without hesitation. And, I made it through the entire review without making a poop pun. Win.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Going Green Smoothie Bowl

It's a really rainy, dark, dreary day. Not that that's surprising weather for England, though.

I woke up this morning with a case of the sniffles, and decided to bust out the Nutribullet and make something really vitamin-packed for my breakfast so that I could nip these sniffles in the bud. I keep seeing all of the hype surrounding smoothie bowls; I'll admit, I didn't really understand the concept of eating a smoothie out of a bowl until now. It makes perfect sense now, though - it's all about the toppings. Sort of like eating soup with croutons, I suppose. You get the contrast of textures and flavours, instead of just blitzing everything together into the smoothie. I didn't buy anthing especially for this smoothie, just looked around the kitchen for things I always tend to have on hand (organic baby spinach, fruit of some sort, cucumber, etc) and voila! Smoothie bowl.

Spinach: High in niacin and zinc, as well as protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese.

Bananas: High in dietary fiber and potassium.

Pecans: Contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B, and E, folic acid, calciummagnesium, phosphorus,potassium, and zinc. Just one ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the daily recommended intake of fiber. Pecans are also rich in age defying antioxidants.4

Chia seeds: Protein

Cucumber: A good source of copper, potassium, manganese, vitamin C, phosphorus, magnesium, biotin, and vitamin B1. They also contain the important nail health-promoting mineral silica.

Kiwi: An excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K as well as a very good source of copper and dietary fiber.

If you have some on hand, try using orange juice instead of water (or fresh pressed apple juice, which is what I used because it's what I happened to have in the fridge) in your smoothie. The vitamin C in orange juice is great when you're under the weather.

All in all, I'm pretty satisfied (and really full!) from my smoothie bowl. I can see what all of the hype is about, and I'm excited to make it again. Have any favourite smoothie bowl recipes? I'm looking to try some more, so let me know!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday Musings: On Going Dairy Free

I spent my entire pregnancy dreaming of the wheel of Camembert that I would eat as soon as I came out of the delivery suite. And I did. Literally. Steve went to the supermarket the morning I gave birth and brought me a fresh baguette and my favourite bleu, Camembert, Brie, and butter and I stank up the postnatal ward with my beloved and much-missed cheeses. But in the midst of my funky-smelling bliss, I was completely unaware that I was wreaking havoc on my precious little girl's digestion.

Chloe didn't have her first bowel movement until she was 2 days old, and was growing increasingly fussy and colicky by the hour up until she finally was able to. When she came home, the pattern continued and she went another 4 days without a poo. At a week old, she developed jaundice and looked like she'd been smothered in Fake Bake. Then she had another 4 (or was it 5?) days of constipation and increasing discomfort, breaking my heart to see her so unhappy, as ourselves and the midwife became increasingly concerned. 

Fresh pressed apple juice and prunes became my new go-to snacks, and we were eventually able to get Chloe pooping regularly by 2 weeks old. On a hunch, I decided to cut dairy out of my diet. I had noticed that her fussiness increased after I had eaten cheese, and sure enough she was feeling better within a few days. After a week without dairy, I had milk in my tea, and the problems started again! I conferred with the health visitor at our next appointment and we decided that it was best if I continued a dairy-free diet until she's a bit older (most babies grow out of a dairy sensitivity before 1 year old). 

So, it's almond or soy milk in my tea, and avoiding cheeses, and reading labels (Waaaa! Nutella!). I posted a recipe last week where I made pasta without using Parmesan, and for snacks I've opted for fresh fruit (kiwis are in season, somewhere, according to their sudden presence and low prices in every supermarket) and the Aldi equivalent of Nature Valley granola bars. I really want to use my Nutribullet more this week, but I've avoided it thus far because Chloe is usually asleep when I'd like to make a smoothie and it sounds like a jet taking off. 

Here are a few more dairy-free meals I've made this past week (and yes, I was a little heavy-handed on the Asian theme; it was Chinese New Year, after all):

Left: Roasted potatoes, radishes and chorizo with baked eggs and salad. Right: Chili and lemongrass salmon and prawn fishcake (from Aldi) with salad. 

Left: Korean beef bowl over rice, with steamed broccoli and courgettes in a soy dressing. Right: Homemade roast pork ramen with mushrooms and spinach.

Left: Smoked haddock risotto with asparagus, courgettes, and an egg. Right: Thai red curry chicken and veggies with sticky rice.

I mentioned my struggle to find a dairy-free butter alternative, so I gave this one a try: 

And it's ok. I say ok, because I don't really know what I was expecting, but I felt a little let down by the lack of creamy buttery-ness. I guess I just assumed that it would taste like margarine? I don't know. Maybe I should have opted for the not-so-healthy looking one (Flora now makes a dairy-free spread) so perhaps I'll give it a try next time. After all, if I'm being naughty and smothering something in "butter", I might as well have the one that tastes most like butter. This does the job for now, though; I'm not saying it's bad, just that it's a bit light in flavour for my liking. 

If you'd like me to post any of the recipes from the meals above (except the fishcakes, obviously), let me know! And please feel free to comment if you have any tips or stories about living dairy free :) 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Baby Stuff: What I Really Use/Need

Everyone has a thousand suggestions of what to buy as soon as you announce that you're pregnant. It can be super helpful, or it can be incredibly overwhelming. Actually, it's usually the latter. Pretty much always the latter. That's why I'm making this post - to add to your all-consuming anxiety as you create a baby registry. No, but in all seriousness, I truly hope this helps. Every baby is different, though, so you might find that your list ends up being completely different. You can leave me a comment below to add any thoughts on your baby must-haves (or things you think are totally unnecessary). I didn't include super obvious items, like clothes and diapers/nappies, because you already know that you need those without being told.

Need - The First Month
  • Muslins. Like, a thousand of them. I think we have about 30. We never used them for swaddling, because we have a wiggle worm who likes to sleep with her arms up as if she's announcing a touchdown, but we use them as burp cloths and to drape over just about anything we put baby on (bouncy swing, boppy pillow, me) to prevent spit-up from creating Mount Everest out of dirty laundry. I love the 3 Aden and Anais ones I have, because the prints are pretty, but they're fancy and expensive and I use them when we go out in public because they're huge and double as great nursing covers. The rest that we have are all multi-packs from Amazon and they do a great job, too. 
  • A Good Pram/Pushchair. I sort of got into a battle with my mother-in-law over this one, because I thought I was perfectly happy with a secondhand Graco one that the car seat clips into (there is literally nothing wrong with it, and we still use the car seat), but I'm glad I lost the battle and we got a nice big one that she can lay flat in while she's still little. Here it is! We have the matching footmuff, so it eliminates the need to buy a separate carrycot pram that is only used for a short while, and then it easily converts to a sit-up pushchair, and can be either front- or rear-facing when she's bigger. But the real winning factors on this one are how compact it is when folded, how easy it is to collapse and set up, and how smooth the suspension is; it is super lightweight and easy to push, but still feels really sturdy and well-made. And that gorgeous Liberty print! GAH. It was love at first sight.
  • A Swing. A lot of my family members suggested this, and I'd seen how helpful it had been when my siblings were babies, so we splurged on one (it wasn't that much of a splurge, though; here's the one we bought). This thing has earned it stripes in the middle of the night, like a thousand times over. Plus, she loves it. Turns a gassy baby into a content baby who sits still while you read to her. Must, must, must have. 
  • Boppy Pillow. I got a cheap one for £10 at Aldi - as long as the cover zippers off for washing, there's no need to splash out for a name brand one. Sure, I didn't want a yellow one with brown spots, but after a week of breastfeeding I also didn't want my wrists to feel like they were falling off. You will use arm muscles that you previously did not know existed. This thing will really take a load off. 
  • Pacifiers/Dummies/Binkies. There's a lot of debate about this, I think it has to do with "nipple confusion", but my baby has a Dyson for a mouth and she likes to comfort suck, so these were the alternative to having my nips fall off and be surgically replaced later down the line. We have the Philips Avent Natural Newborn ones. They come with handy dandy caps so they stay clean after you wash/sterilize them, so they're super convenient to keep in the changing bag, too. 
  • Comfort Bras. Nursing bras are uncomfortable, expensive, and fiddly with those snappy things. There. I said it. Plus most stores in the UK don't carry maternity clothing, so I have to order 5 types/sizes online and pray that one of them fits, then return the rest, blah blah blah. I gave up and bought a couple of the super comfy thin-strap sports bras and just pull them up on one side to nurse. And, they're pretty cheap and you can get them anywhere (here's the kind I'm talking about, but my favourite so far is a seamless one that I picked up at Sainsbury's, though it's not online). And when milk drips/runs/gets spit up on me, which it will, it doesn't get all over my bra and leave me with soggy undergarments for the rest of the day. Win-win-win. 
  • High-Waisted Yoga Pants/Leggings. Not the most practical of items, I suppose, but it helps to retain some of my self confidence with my post-baby body so I feel like they're worth their weight in gold.  I'm still wearing my maternity leggings a month later, and you know what? They're so comfy that I'll probably keep wearing them forever. They're from Target (in America) but fear not UK readers! Target now ships to the UK. Their maternity clothes are fantastic quality and true-to-size, so if you need to order maternity clothing online (which you inevitably will, since most stores here don't stock it for some reason, but that's another rant for another day), I highly recommend Target. Anyway, yeah. Back to the actual item: high-waisted yoga pants and leggings will cover up that not-so-perfect mummy tummy when you have to yank up your top to breastfeed (if you breastfeed), and thus they eliminate the need to buy special "breastfeeding" tops, and they look 'normal' enough to pop out to the supermarket without feeling like you've worn pajamas in public. 
I can go on and on, but those are a few items that I got the most use out of, so far. If you have more suggestions, please leave them in the comments!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Midweek Meals: Tri-Tomato Spaghetti with Prawns

I mentioned before that I was struggling to cook my favourite Italian recipes without being able to eat dairy (I miss my Parmesan and mozzarella!), but I came up with a recipe today that ticks all of the flavour boxes without any cheese. Here is a super quick and refreshing pasta dish, which can be cooked and eaten during baby's naptime with time to spare. I made it as a lunch today but it is certainly hearty enough for a dinner! You could also add fresh clams, mussels or squid to this, if you're lucky enough to be able to get your hands on some.  I picked up the tomatoes, spinach, basil, prawns and spaghetti at Lidl this week, and the Puglian olive oil, [leftover] rose wine, and garlic are from Aldi. That's literally all there is to this dish - and it has the Husband's Stamp of Approval.

Easy enough, right? It's a great option for a Meatless Monday recipe, or a Fish Friday during Lent. If you can't find a good variety of tomatoes this time of year where you live, feel free to Pin, print, or save the recipe above for a warmer season when tomatoes are plentiful. And if you're not a fan of seafood, this recipe would work great with diced chicken breast as well!

All of the ingredients I picked up at Lidl, minus the spinach, which was busy getting washed in the sink!

I love this Italian olive oil from Aldi; highly recommended!

If you try the recipe, let me know how it went below in the comments!

1 Month Old

I'm two days late posting this, but my little angel is a month old and I have no idea when that happened. Call me crazy, but when I look at photos of Chloe from her first week I can't believe how different, how much bigger she already is. 

Current advancements
She's holding her head up like a champ (see below selfies, taken late last night with my new selfie stick!). She's starting to make discernible baby noises that aren't grunts or cries, like, goo-goo-ga-ga type noises, and I can't wait for full-fledged baby talk. That jet black hair is coming in thicker every day, and we've nailed down a routine and sleep schedule. Believe it or not, once I put her down for the night (usually between 12 and 1 am) she only gets up once to feed in the night, and goes straight back to sleep until about 9am. Last night I got 7 hours of sleep, I kid you not. How on earth did I get so lucky?!

Current struggles:   
Baby acne. No clue where it came from, it just showed up out of the blue the other day. I've been told that it normally is at its worst between 4 and 6 weeks, but I'm really hoping it clears up soon. I know it doesn't bother Chloe, but I feel like it does (as if it's a rash or something). But our (my) biggest current struggle is with little miss Chloe's intolerance of dairy. In any form and quantity. It took a lot of discomfort on her part, poor thing, before we discovered that she was getting painful gas/trapped wind and constipation every time I ate dairy. Once I cut it all out of my diet, it took about a week to fully get out of my system, and she's sweet as can be (though she can still make quite a rumble in her nappy after I eat chili - learned that lesson the hard way when she went through 5 nappies in the span of about 10 minutes).

I think my biggest dairy struggle is finding a butter substitute, but I'm also having to re-think a lot of my classic Italian go-to recipes as well. I'm planning to do a post on dairy-free-ness soon, but if you've had this issue with a newborn being dairy intolerant before, drop me some wisdom in the comments! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MM Approved: Nappies, Steak, and Selfies

So this is the first part of a weekly segment that I've wanted to do for AGES. See, I'm a thrifty shopper. Always have been; I guess it's just how I was raised. Note: thrify does not mean cheap; it just means that I like to save where I can without sacrificing quality. If you're one of those people who only shops for name brands, then this weekly segment is for you! If I could convert my mother-in-law, I'm convinced that I can convert anyone. If you're like me, and you like to occasionally opt for the generics/store brands of things (when they're as good as/better than the name brands), then this is also for you!

Call them store brands, generics, whatever you wish - I had this idea a while ago to review them! You see, aside from the occasional good fortune of finding the Good Housekeeping seal on something, you never really know if it's worth the price cut to buy a store brand item. My plan is to incorporate a few things into my weekly grocery shopping as I always do, sometimes things that I buy regularly and sometimes completely new items, and to try them and review them here for you. These posts are completely unsponsored - I do them because I want to help others to shop smartly, and for no other reason.

This week's review includes something that I picked up at Lidl, and yesterday was my first time doing the weekly grocery shop there. This won't really apply to readers in the States, but allow me to briefly explain: Lidl is just like Aldi. In fact, they're owned by two brothers, and the same one who owns Lidl, owns Trader Joe's. We have an Aldi within walking distance, but I've found a Lidl  in a nearby town that stocks a wider variety of fruit & veg, so I felt like shopping there this week. I'll try to change it up each week with groceries, beauty products, etc from different stores (and Amazon, because I order just about everything from Amazon). So, without any further delay, here's my weekly MM Approved review!

Lidl: Deluxe Ribeye Steak

I'm sorry I don't have an image for this; just know that if you're going to Lidl, look for the meat in the black packaging. I thought I could Google an image of it, but alas, Lidl sources from small producers of grass fed beef and outdoor bred pork for their Deluxe range, so the selection can vary really widely from store to store and isn't the same nationwide (and therefore isn't available on their website). Just know that it's the meat in the black packaging, and you're good to go.

First of all, before I even review the steak, let me say that I was really impressed with the meat selection in Lidl. I'm used to shopping at Aldi, though we usually buy meat from Waitrose (3 for £10, we're not rich) or our local butcher. I loved how many cuts of grass-fed, free range, and organic meats were available. Such a wide variety of cuts, especially for the lamb, but I digress... back to the steak:

The finished product!
It had really gorgeous marbling and was pretty big; I'm going to guess somewhere around 10 to 12 oz, which you really can't beat for something like £4.60. The sirloins looked great too at around £6 per steak. I cooked it medium rare on a cast iron grill pan, salt and pepper, and it cut like butter. Steve is a steak-a-holic and it got his approval as (and I quote) "best steak yet". So, there you have it.  A big glaring two thumbs up for the Deluxe range of steaks from Lidl. 

Aldi: Mamia Newborn Nappies
£1.49 for 24

These are worth every single award on that picture (again, sorry for the stock Google image, the only pack I have left is open and half-empty, as I'll be trying out Lidl's own brand of nappies this week - stay tuned for that review next time!).  

In all of my freebie new-mum packs, I got samples of nappies from Asda, Boots, Pampers, and Aldi. Aldi won my favourite pick! And at £1.50 per pack of 24 (size 1, newborn) you can't beat it. The price didn't even influence my decision; I tried all of the samples before going out to buy what I thought was best. I'm going to have to run around knocking on every wooden surface in the house after this, but I'm going out on a very risky limb and stating that not a single poo has exploded out of an Aldi nappy. They even have the yellow-to-blue wetness indicator stripe that is usually only present on the more expensive name brands. Highly recommended and MM Approved!

Aldi: Mamia Sensitive Baby Wipes
57p (or 50p/pack if you buy a case in the Baby Event!)

Another winner from Aldi. I can't do much to describe them, except that they're fragrance-free and get the job done. The real reason they win is the price - at 57p per pack, they're almost half the price of most other brands and are just as good. 

Lastly for this week...


I was super excited when this arrived today. Admittedly, I've only used it for about 3 minutes before Chloe demanded to be fed, but it was easy enough to set up and test in those 3 minutes that I'm giving it an approval. I simply turned it on, turned on the bluetooth on my phone, chose the device, and stuck my phone onto the selfie stick. It worked perfectly from the first try, and is so much easier than setting a self-timer on a regular selfie stick. For £4.99 (plus 99p for shipping) you really can't beat it. I will definitely be getting a lot of use out of it... make sure to follow me on Instagram (@munchiemummyd) for some of my upcoming stick-enabled selfies!

I know that I haven't reviewed a lot this week, but that's because I just did the grocery shopping last night at Lidl. I'll be sure to update next week with some of the things I picked up this time. And in the future the reviews won't be so obnoxiously long; I just wanted to fill some space since I was only reviewing a couple of items this time.

I shop regularly at all of the big 6 supermarkets, as well as Aldi (and now Lidl, occasionally) so if you have anything you'd like to see reviewed, or that you're skeptical about buying, comment below and I'll let you know if I've tried it, or if I plan to in the future!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hello There!

So this is my new blog. I've been brainstorming up a new blog idea for a while; I've wanted something to meld together the personal and lifestyle blog I've had since 2011, and my food blog that I started in 2013. Now that I'm a mother (does that mean I have to grow up now?), my goal of being a happy housewife and my passion for cooking can be combined in one place with my love of just about everything else (shopping, cat lady-ness, travel, wine, etc).

I sort of decided that the Disowned blog was a chapter of my life that I was ready to turn the page on. I mean, it simply doesn't apply anymore. It was based on my vintage clothing shop that no longer exists, and my New York City life which also no longer exists. I've moved on, so my blog(s) have had to as well. And I am so excited about this new one, which I can mold to fit my "new" life from the start!  

I'm just trying to get a grip on this whole "mummy" thing, to get my body back into shape (even though, as I do often remind myself, round is a shape), and keep cooking delicious, healthy family meals on 2-3 hours of sleep. And occasionally doll myself up and go out into the world to do something less boring than the usual nap-eat-nap. So if you want to read about motherhood, food, health, style, and whatever shenanigans I can get up to, please do follow and share. 

My goal is to keep this blog true-to-self: no fluff, no glamour, and to appeal to as many readers as possible. I don't want it to be a blog just for mums; I want it to be for savvy shoppers, healthy eaters, DIY-ers, hobbyists, and everyone in between. I intend to bring a little bit of everything for everyone, based on my day-to-day living, and I really hope I can deliver. Please leave comments, email me post suggestions, even complain! I want this blog to be as enjoyable for you as it is for me to write it, and knowing that my readers are happy gives me the motivation to keep improving.

As for the layout/appearance... well, it's still in the early stages. I will continue to update and improve it as I find the time/energy, but for now, my priority was simply to get it up and running. I love a pretty blog as much as the next person, so this is high on my to-do list for sure. Until then, I've kept it pretty minimalistic and I hope that's OK for now. 

I really and truly hope you enjoy this blog as much as I'm going to!