My name is Lily-Sue, but my mummy calls me Munchkin (or 'Munch' for short!) I am 8 years old, and this is where my mummy will help me write all about all the fun things we do together. I hope you enjoy reading about the adventures of my mummy and me, Munchkin, with the occasional appearance from the siblings - Beastie and Plumlet.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Creatively Fruity with Robinson Crusoe

My Fussy Eater

Anyone that knows Munch will know that she is an immensely picky eater. She'll eat fruit ... as long as it's bananas or strawberries. She'll eat meat ... as lolng as it's minced and served with spaghetti. She'll eat vegetables ... as long as they're not, well, vegetables! (in other words, she likes to claim that she eats vegetables, but in reality, she really doesn't!) As parents, we often find ourselves trying to sneak fruit and veggies into her food, but more often than not, we try to make fruit and vegetables more appealing to her. After all, we want her to be aware that she is eating the foods that are good for her. We want her to look at these foods and get excited like her little sister does rather than recoil and immediately decide that she will not like it.

Films like Robinson Crusoe (2016) can really help with such battles. Fruit plays such a major part in the film, and children will watch as the characters, all living together on a small island, satisfy their hunger with delicious fresh fruit that they find around them. We were asked about our fun, fruity ideas for delicious, healthy snacks for children (and grown ups!) which has seen us eating more fruit than usual.

Quite often, when asked what she would like as a snack, or for breakfast, or for dessert, there is not much that appeals to Beastie's tastebuds more than this ...

This was actually her lunch choice the other day! She loves to select 3 or 4 different fruits and ask for a bowl with them all chopped up into a fruity salad. Nothing particularly adventurous here, just apples, bananas and strawberries all sliced up and tossed into a bowl. Easy to make and relatively 'mess free'! However, when she asks for this, so does Plumlet. Also, Munch sees how excited she gets and how much praise she receives for choosing something so healthy, and it has been spurring her on to ask for her own version. Ok, so hers (for now) would be minus the apples, but we're working on that!

Munch, Beastie and Plumlet all love yogurt. however, whilst Beastie and Plumlet are happy to try pretty much any flavours that are placed in front of them, Munch tends to stick to what she knows, preferring to stick with the strawberry or apricot flavours. We tried something different, and served up fruits of the forest yogurt. Initially, Munch turned her nose up at the thought of trying something different, until we served it up like this ...

All it took was a few plates with a selection of fruits and the instruction to "help yourselves" ... and this happened ...

It really was a hit, and second helpings were requested! Again, a simple yet effective way to encourage Munch to eat fruit.

Another favourite fruit, especially with Beastie, is watermelon. She absolutely loves it, and would eat it slice by slice until there was no more!. Munch, however, likes the flavour of watermelon, but is put off by the texture and by the fact that it has pips. Because of this, she refuses to eat it. I thought it was a shame that there was a fruit which Munch enjoyed but rejected due to its texture and appearance, which prompted our next little idea ...

... A recently discovered favourite, the watermelon smoothie! Well, watermelon and strawberry. It is super easy to make and so delicious. The best bit is, Munch can enjoy the flavour and the goodness of watermelon which she loves, without having to worry about disliking the texture! Here's what we use to make it:

3 cups of diced watermelon
2.5 cups of strawberries
1 cup of vanilla greek yogurt
1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Simply place all of your ingredients into a blender and blend until completely smooth. Your smoothie is then ready to pour into glasses (or plastic beakers in our case!)

In the past couple of weeks, we have found that Munch is eating more fruit. Partly because we are being a little more adventurous in how we serve it to her, partly because she is playing a part in choosing the fruits we buy when we are out shopping and partly thanks to her younger siblings and their love of fruit! After all, she wouldn't want to be the one missing out on anything good now, would she ...??

We'll have her scoffing fruit like Robinson Crusoe and his island friends in no time!

Robinson Crusoe is now available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray. So whether you have a fruit picker or a fruit scoffer, this fun filled family film is definitely one for the collection!

We were sent a selection of Robinson Crusoe goodies in return for writing this post.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Getting Snap Happy!

When the lights are low ...

Anyone that follows us, especially on Instagram, will know that we love taking photos here in the Munchkin Patch. And lots of them! I will admit that it has only really been a love for me for the past few years, and growing up, I never appreciated the science behind a good photograph. My dad has been a photographer (and a damn amazing one!) since long before I was born, running his own photography business throughout much of my childhood. Until I was nine years old, we lived above his studio and shop, and he will today tell you stories of waves of inspiration that would consume him in the small hours which would find him downstairs in his studio, snapping away before the moment slipped away. And today, a year into his retirement, it would be extremely unusual to see him without his camera bag attached to him!

Today, here I am, thirty-something years old, living away from home with a beautiful family of my own, parenting three wonderful children with ... a photographer! Someone else who will grab his camera at any given moment, day or night, so as not to miss that magical moment. Because that is what photography is all about ... the moment. Miss that moment, and what could have been an amazing shot could quickly turn into a mediocre one. The right photograph tells a story, stirs an emotion - long after it is taken, and takes you back to that moment no matter how much time has passed.

Nowadays, so many people rely on the trusty, handy smartphone camera to take their everyday photos. This is still sometimes the case for The Man, even though he has a whole host of expensive equipment to use. The quality of smartphone cameras has improved so much in recent years, and many can achieve incredible results with them. However, they are still limited. We need to rely on a number of other natural factors around us, ones which are often out of our control, especially in the absence of good post editing knowledge.

One of these biggest factors is light.

We're now rapidly reaching the end of September which means shorter, duller days and much earlier loss of natural daylight. The evenings draw in suddenly, the curtains are closed, and very rapidly, those wonderful, vibrant photos we were taking just a few weeks ago are not so easy to capture. I own a bridge camera which has many fantastic features that can combat these often murky conditions, but artificial light can be a killer. It changes the temperature of a photograph, its shades, its overall quality. And the smartphone cannot always handle the conditions. Although I often have my camera nearby, my smartphone is still more handy, especially with our passionate use of Instagram, the phone is the trusty go to. In cases such as this, simply knowing how to use Instagram's range of filters and quick basic editing tools can help rescue a photo that lacks in quality, but even these can only enhance what is already there.

When I have photographs to take for a blog post, especially when I am taking product shots for a review that don't require the presence of the children, this is quite often what my front room will look like once they have gone to bed. However, by this time, I have usually lost the luxury of the light pouring through the windows which  would normally give the subject a much more pleasant appearance in the finished photo. This set up is ideal in this situation, as the flash and the light box overrides the unstable, artificial light and can create a more consistent glow exactly where I want it. However, I am aware that this is not an everyday arrangement of equipment and not everyone is lucky enough to have this kind of apparatus to hand. And with the darker evenings drawing in, many will be looking for ideas of how to achieve good quality photographs when natural positive elements are not on our side.

When you experience poor quality lighting, it is very important to keep the camera as still as possible in order to achieve sharp images. Travel tripods are inexpensive and can ensure a steady, stable camera, and when coupled with a remote shutter, there is not even any need to touch the camera to fire shots. I love using the remote, as it means I can be close to the subject, controlling its position and angle, whilst taking the shot without causing any extra camera shake.

In the absence of a tripod, there are a number of ways in which you can keep your camera still, and  when using a proper camera rather than a smartphone, facilitating a timer mode can also help to reduce the movement of the camera and to prevent the blurry effect in your photos.

This photo was taken in the evening time, with no daylight at all, but the natural highlights are achievable on any subject. Without the use of a light box or an off-camera flash, you can attempt to create your own light using a torch or a lamp, which allows you to direct the light at your desired angle, and using something as simple as a sheet of white card can help you to reflect the light onto the subject to really make it pop.

Essentially, getting to know the camera you are using and becoming familiar with  the settings available to you is very important. Whether you are using a DSLR, a bridge or a smartphone, explore the functions thoroughly so that, when that moment presents itself, you are ready to catch it in all its glory, without having to fiddle about too much either before or after the shot is fired. If you have a camera that is equipped with a selection of modes such as shutter priority, aperture priority or a manual mode, you can override the automatic settings to capture higher quality photographs.

If you are ever in doubt about the way your chosen camera works or about the different features it offers, YouTube can provide a wealth of information, and you may be pleasantly surprised about what you are able to do with the flick of a switch! It is such a valuable resource as many will upload reviews and 'How-To' guides relating to the equipment you have and the task you are trying to complete. These videos can often be more helpful and much easier to understand than the instruction booklet that is provided with your camera!

The biggest thing to remember is explore and experiment with the equipment you have. Many things can be possible in poor light conditions with just a little bit of knowledge and creativity!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Dear Miss L ...

She's a Beast, but ...

Two years ago, almost to the day,
I wrote a letter here to Dear Mrs O.
Now I'm here again with a bit more to say,
With one or two things I think you should know.

First it was Munch, my baby Number One,
Who was cautiously leaving the nest.
Now we have Beastie, a bundle of fun,
But each day can be quite a test.

Me and my Beast, from the start of her life,
Have been through the good and the bad.
She's a whole lot of wonder and a huge lot of strife,
An emotional rollercoaster for her mum and her dad!

But Beastie is a joy to all that she knows,
Even when she is proving quite a task.
She's adorable in her highs and cute in her lows,
"Why Beastie" they will usually ask.

Beastie was born with a cute little growl,
As her teeth were already cutting a bit.
This cute little sound has evolved into a howl,
And the nickname has become a perfect fit.

Testing us daily with her tantrums and tears,
Melting us with her quirks and her smiles.
A joy to have round as the days turn to years,
And the little steps turn into miles.

But Beastie can fool you, as what you can see,
Is not always what's there inside.
Sometimes she'll go quiet, and between you & me,
This may be when she has something to hide.

She'll appear to be confident, trouble-free and bold,
She'll be everyone's very best friend.
But sometimes she just wants a caring hand to hold,
And a listening ear if you have one to lend.

She loves to be helpful, this gets her quite psyched,
She loves to be part of a team.
She loves to be challenged and wants to be liked,
And on her best days she can be quite a dream.

She likes to be a Superhero and a girly girl too,
Her loves can sometimes seem quite a muddle.
She'll dress like a princess then out of the blue,
She'll twirl into the muddiest puddle!

She loves to please everyone, she'll wear you all out,
She'll find hidden heartstrings and give them a tug.
But when you work out what she's really about,
You'll see what she loves most is a reassuring hug.

This tells her you're happy and she's doing ok,
This pushes her to do her very best.
She'll try hard when working and be kind through play,
And she'll make you appreciate your short times of rest!

Beastie is such a big character, you'll see,
A huge impact on every long day.
She'll leave a big hole where her antics would be,
A quiet space once filled with her noisy play!

I'll miss all her craziness in our daily routines
Endless demands for strange this and that.
Now she starts school, this big change means,
For a while things here may seem rather flat.

She's a whole host of feelings, in the most positive way,
She'll make every day interesting at the very least.
And through this letter what I'm trying to say,
Is enjoy our wonderful, beautiful Beast!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

When a Superhero shares your lunch ...

Which side will you choose ...?

It's no secret ... Munch, Beastie and Plumlet are all big fans of superheroes. They each have their favourites, and they get all excited when they see any related merchandise in the shops, online or on the television. Being a little young at the moment to enjoy the films, The Man, being the good dad that he is, takes on the task on their behalf, and watches every film for them, in the hope that one day, they will each sit with popcorn on their laps to enjoy the movies with him!

Next week sees the release of the hugely successful and much awaited Captain America: Civil War. I have to say, after watching this particular Marvel offering at the cinema, The Man returned home buzzing. By his own personal admission, he is a bit of a film geek, but he is definitely a huge lover of superhero movies. This one shot straight to the top of his list of favourites!

As for the kids, all three of them like to see themselves as superheroes! Munch zips around the room, using whatever she can as a shield whilst claiming to be Captain America, Beastie crashes around, punching the furniture whilst shouting "HULK SMASH!" and Plumlet will chase them round in fits of giggles, mimicking their crazy movements, reminding everyone that he is Spiderman!

However, how Super can a Superhero truly be without a good, healthy diet?!

We quite often find ourselves using the method of reasoning

"If you don't eat your fruit, you'll never have the speed of a superhero ..."

"Do you think Hulk would be that green if he didn't eat all of his peas ...?"

"Spiderman can only climb those walls because he finishes his dinner ...!"

The kids love a themed lunch. Cut their sandwiches into fun shapes using simple food cutters, and all of a sudden, they taste better and are altogether a hundred times more appealing! We are more likely to be presented with empty plates when they have a themed meal! Munch is also a fussy eater, often avoiding vegetables whenever she can. However, create pictures on her plate with them or cut fruits into novelty shapes, and she will make more of an attempt to at least try them. Star shaped sandwiches are a favourite. Apparently, this is a superhero's sandwich of choice! Especially when they are filled with strawberry jam! Every superhero feasts on star shaped jam sandwiches before embarking on a mission to save the world (or destroy it, in Beastie's case!)

Recently, we had a Superhero themed 4th birthday for Beastie followed by a Superhero themed birthday party. Superhero food was requested, regularly, during the weeks of her birthday! Luckily, I could be quite varied with it for her as she is a wonderful eater. Hulk Smash would be proud of her colourful diet!

Watermelon slices cut into stars using a simple cookie cutter is a firm favourite. Throw in a few blueberries, and it's even better. In fact, if I throw blueberries into anything on a plate, it's a winner with the Smalls! Munch still needs some convincing, but we'll persevere! Beastie loved these in her lunch for nursery, and I am sure I will find myself popping them into her lunch as she starts school this month too.

Scotch pancakes are loved by all 3 kids. However, I don't always want to serve them with some sort of sweet, sticky drizzle. Place a non-complicated shape such as a lightening bolt made of cheese on the top, and it instantly becomes the food that is preferred by the Flash before an important mission!

Other ideas that are quite simple, include adding a superhero temporary tattoo to the skin of a banana, cutting or drawing on the wax casing of a Babybel cheese, adding little capes to drink bottles and using piped icing to add masks and faces to fruit items.

Unfortunately, with the return to school this week for Munch and the preparations needed to get Beastie ready to start Reception, the time and imagination needed to prepare themed lunches for my little superheroes has been limited and has not managed to stretch very far beyond what I have done in the past. However, as far as ideas are concerned, there are some genuine supermums (and dads) out there that do this on a daily basis. One that springs to mind the very moment I think of themed lunches and healthy foods is the incredible Grace over at Eats Amazing. The inspiration any parent can take from her is limitless!

Photo by Grace: Eats Amazing
To top the most awesome superhero themed lunch, you need a most awesome lunch bag to contain it all!

To celebrate the much awaited release of Captain America: Civil War on DVD and Blu-Ray, there is a wonderful selection of merchandise available to purchase, all of which has got my three (four, if you include The Man!) very excited!

So, one question you need to ask yourself ...

Which side will you choose?!

What would be in your Superhero lunch?

We were sent the above selection of Marvel merchandise to celebrate the upcoming  DVD/Blu-Ray release of Captain America: Civil War. No other payment was offered or received in return for the writing of this post.