Friday 30 January 2015

Is fruit juice bad for you?

We seem to be steering away from drinking fruit juices.  With stark newspaper headlines about toddlers having tooth decay; sugar being the government's latest bogeyman and our obsession with 'super drinks' such as coconut water and now birch sap water, we're shying away from old fashioned fruit juices.

But I fear we're in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater here.

It seems to be reported as some kind of revelation in the press that a glass of orange juice contains sugar.  There's screaming headlines about some juices containing more sugar than a can of coke.

Fruit juice - the kind from pure fruit, with no added anything does contain sugar.  It contains naturally occurring fructose that is present in the oranges or apples or whatever fruit it happens to be.  How do you think fruit tastes sweet ? Fairy dust?

Personally I'm a firm believer in everything in moderation - hell, even water can kill you if you drink too much.  I am happy to include pure fruit juice in my family's diet as part of a balanced intake.

Read beyond the headlines and you'll see the young child who had to have milk teeth removed because of tooth decay was drinking loads of fruit juice.  Drinking it all day long, through a sippy cup that was pretty much permanently against the teeth all day long.

There seems to be a media witch-hunt against fruit juice at the moment.  But honestly, there's a hell of a lot worse food and drinks out there with all kinds of added sweeteners and artificial nasties.  I know what I'd prefer to drink.

Unlike a lot of squashes and fizzy drinks, pure juice does actually contain a lot of good stuff.

I'm not suggesting you drink gallons of the stuff.  Just one (very) small glass of 150 ml of orange juice (to put that into perspective, most kids cartons contain 200ml of liquid) will count as one of your 5 a day and gives essential vitamin C, folate and potassium.  This amount of juice will typically provide around half of your daily requirement of vitamin C.   

One small glass folks. That's all.  Drinking one glass of fruit juice will not suddenly make all your teeth fall out or instantly inflate your ass to the morbidly obese section of the scales.  Despite what the Daily Mail says.

Everything in moderation.

With studies showing that only around 10% of pre-teen children are reaching their 5-a-day, then pure fruit juice is a very useful way of upping their fruit and veg quota.  The vitamin C is also essential for girls as they reach puberty as it helps with the body's absorption of iron.

Now, orange juice can be bad for teeth.  Of course it can.  Both the naturally occurring sugar and the acid in the juice can affect dental health.  Some simple ways to reduce the impact on teeth are not giving children juice in a bottle with a teat or in a sippy cup.  You can also dilute pure fruit juice with water before drinking. If you're having fruit juice as part of your breakfast, brush your teeth first.  This will remove all the bacteria that the acid reacts to.  And brushing teeth at least an hour after drinking juice will prevent any damage to the enamel of the teeth which can become softened by acid.  

It's true to say also, that not all juices are equal.  Those containing 'bits' or cloudy juices are better than the smooth variety because they will also provide some fibre from the fruit.

Citrus fruits such as orange and grapefruit contain a much higher amount of vitamin C than apple or grape juice.

So, choose your juice wisely, go for citrus fruits, no added sugar but extra 'bits' and drink just one small glass as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Disclosure: I attended a round-table event with Tropicana to discuss the merits of fruit juice as part of a healthy lifestyle.  It confirmed my pre-held beliefs on the subject.

Friday 16 January 2015

Disney On Ice - Magical Ice Festival (New Frozen dates now added)

Pssst.  Got an Elsa-mad small person running around your house busting out 'Let it Go' at full volume?  Olaf-obsessed infants?  Kids not interested in anything unless it's in that oh-so-frozen-particular shade of blue?

Well then you absolutely have to get yourself tickets for the brand new Disney On Ice extravaganza coming to the UK this Spring.

The Magical Ice Festival will be the first Disney on Ice show to feature Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven from the blockbuster Frozen.

Seriously, could any other Disney film be better translated into an ice performance?  It's just a match made in Disneyland.

Join hosts Mickey and Minnie, along with other characters including Ariel, Rapunzel and Belle for this high-tempo, all-singing, all-dancing performance.

We saw the 100 years of Magic show over Christmas so we can't wait to see Elsa and Anna on the ice.

Tickets are selling super-fast, but there's new dates just been added for London, Cardiff and Birmingham and tickets for the additional Birmingham date go on sale today so grab them while you can.

New dates added:

Genting Arena, Birmingham 
·       Wednesday, April 1, 7pm performance

SE Arena, Wembley, London 
·       Wednesday, April 22, 7pm performance

Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff (29 April – 3 May):
·       Friday, May 1, 11am performance

Disney On Ice presents Magical Ice Festival is appearing across the UK from 11th March - 17th May 2015 in Aberdeen, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham, London, Cardiff, Nottingham and Leeds. See for ticket details and show times.

Check out our review of Disney On Ice 100 Years of Magic

For Frozen fans, see my Frozen inspired party ideas

Thursday 15 January 2015

Recipe ideas for your leftover Christmas booze

'Leftover alcohol?' I hear you cry.  'What leftover alcohol?'

Well, bear with me, I'm sure we've all done it.  Picked up a bottle of Aunt Maud's favourite tipple in case she comes to visit over the festivities. Bought bottles of spirits you've never heard of, perhaps you've even got a cupboard full of Snowballs?

You can either leave them gathering dust in your drinks cabinet til next year(ooh get you with your drinks trolley), or you can get 'em open and slosh them into one of these delicious recipes.

Crunchy toasted almonds on top of moist boozy frangipane - what's not to love?

The perfect way to welcome the warmer seasons ahead of us, hints of elderflower, cucumber and gin make this a perfect combo from Cheetahs in My Shoes.

Woah, this is a seriously good looking cake from Belleau Kitchen.  Who doesn't have a bottle of Bailey's knocking about after Crimbo?  I can't think of a more delightful way to consume it.

If you're not man enough to drink vodka neat, how about adding it to this light, citrus cake for a grown-up teatime treat?

Dark and Stormy Cocktail Cupcakes

Using dark rum, these lightly spiced, gingery cupcakes from Fuss Free Flavours look devilishly good.

Bailey's Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

More Bailey's, this time in a rich cheesecake topped with chocolate orange segments from All You Need is Love and Cake (I say all you need is this cheesecake personally).

Bailey's Chocolate Cupcakes

Frugal Family has a whole post of ideas for leftover Bailey's cream, and just look at these glossy little babies!

Cranberry Vodka Muffins

If you're not quite ready to give up on Christmas yet, then these Cranberry infused vodka muffins are perfect - just not sure you'd get away with them for a healthy breakfast!  From The Crazy Kitchen.

Snowball Cupcakes with Advocaat Frosting

Remember those Snowballs I mentioned?  Well Diary of a Frugal Family turns that most peculiar drink into something altogether totally delectable looking.

Chocolate Choux Buns with Bailey's, Maltesers and White Chocolate Mousse

This recipe will not only use up your Bailey's but helpfully any leftover chocolate you may still have *whistles*.  A very grown up take on the traditional eclair from Mummy Mishaps.

Oreo and Bailey's Chocolate Petit Fours

Mummy Mishaps does it again with these divine little bites, so small you're surely allowed more?

And ya know, if you're looking for something to serve up with these beauties, you could do a lot worse than Mummy Mishaps' boozy ice cream.

If all this is getting a bit too unhealthy for you, how about piling on ALL of your five a day atop this super luxurious cake from Belleau Kitchen.  Yes, it's a 'summer' cake, but we all know we can get soft fruits all your round now.

If baking's not your bag, then you could try out these romantic Valentine's cocktails from The Ana Mum Diary.  Sure to get pulses racing!

And hold on to your Guinness for St Patrick's Day to make up these rich, moist cake pops with suitably green decorations.

Which is your favourite?  Have you got any half opened bottles lurking around?

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Disney On Ice - 100 Years of Magic review

A while before Christmas I booked us tickets to go and see the Disney On Ice Show as an extra Christmas treat.  We went down to the O2 at Greenwich between Christmas and New Year and with a stopover in a hotel, made a mini holiday of it.  It was a great way to break up the Christmas holiday and I remember the magic of being taken to Disney on Ice when I was little over 30 years ago, so I thought this would be some great memory making.

The show itself is a montage of many different hit Disney films, stretching back to Pinocchio and right up to modern times with Toy Story and The Incredibles.  I guess the idea is to offer something for everyone, but I can't help thinking their choice of stories and characters missed the mark for the majority of the audience.  I can think of more loved films to have included, and as a parent I was too old to remember many of them, and the younger audience (mostly 3-6 year olds dressed in Disney Princess dresses) were too young to recall the likes of Mulan and Aladdin - I heard lots of children around me asking their parents "who's that?".

However, you didn't need to be familiar with all the shows to enjoy the spectacle and become enthralled by the skill of the skaters.

The costumes were spectacular.  I have no idea how some of the dancers even stood up in them, let alone perform on the ice.  I spent a lot of time staring at feet to see if they actually were wearing skates because the boots and blades blended in so well with the costumes.  Some of the animal characters who were two people to an outfit astounded us in their synchronisation.

Disney on Ice Mickey and Minnie Mouse

The show is hosted by everyone's favourite mice, Mickey and Minnie who are greeted with smiles and cheers every time they appear.  It opens with an Aladdin spectacular and a whole rink full of Genie's which is a captivating start to the performance.

Then we have fabulous costumes in the Finding Nemo section, with the smoke breathing Bruce the shark and bubbles falling from the sky to make us feel under the sea.  The costumes of all the underwater creatures were just incredible.

Disney on Ice Finding Nemo

Next we moved on to some princess action with Beauty and the Beast and a moving rendition of the touching tale, which moved seamlessly into a whole gallery of famous princesses with their partners all dancing in pairs.  There was Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Snow White and Pocahontas, and this was Ruby's favourite part.  So romantic!  I'm no Jayne Torville so I can't tell you the technical names but the lifts and jumps these guys did where breath-taking.

Disney on Ice Beauty and the Beast Belle

Disney on Ice Beauty and the Beast Belle

We had a quick zip through Toy Story with Woody, Jessie and Buzz and a whole platoon of green 'plastic' soldiers before ending the first half with a tribute to the famous Disney 'It's a Small World' ride. Again, lots of the children around me were a bit confused about this, but it was spectacular dancing, illumination and national costumes from around the world.  It's only now looking at the picture I'm realising quite how phallic those arches look, I can't say I noticed it at the time!

Disney on Ice 100 Years Of Magic

Disney on Ice 100 Years Of Magic Mickey Mouse Balloon

The interval came at about the right time for youngsters and it was time to get fleeced for merchandise and refreshments.  This was my biggest grumble about the show.  I know you've got to expect high prices for official merchandise, but let me warn you, if you want to buy drinks and refreshments, get them outside the arena itself.  Everything came with something else so it wasn't possible to just buy a drink.  Ruby wanted some candy floss, but the seller insisted you had to purchase it with a plastic gold crown with Mickey ears, and for that a bag of candy floss set us back the princely sum of £9.  She also wanted a drink and the slush she chose had to be bought in a grotesque flashing light-up cup with a Mickey gloved-hand straw and scoop, and that robbed us of a further £11.  Seriously, I've never paid so much for a bag of sugar and air and some frozen flavoured water in my entire life!

Anyway, after being relieved of the weight in our wallets, we sat down to the second half.

It reconvened with Pinoccio which I'm not sure was the right choice.  I think at leaf half the audience had no clue who Jiminy Cricket was and it wasn't really up-tempo enough.  When we moved on to Mulan I thought we might be bored through that one too as it's not a film we're familiar with.  But I couldn't have been more wrong.  It actually turned out to be my favourite part of the show with brilliant dancing, a tension building battle scene, an incredible Chinese dragon, great pyrotechnics and a very clever costume change for Mulan right in the middle of the ice.  I'm really not sure how they managed that so seamlessly, it reminded me of a magic show.  I was so enthralled I totally forgot to take any pictures.

Finally we had appearances from charters from The Lion King and a slap-stick routine from The Incredibles which left us on just the right note - all smiling and giggling.

All the characters returned to the ice for the finale and to wave a sad goodbye until next time.  We've already decided that seeing the Frozen special is a MUST this Easter.  Check here for tickets to Disney on Ice Magical Ice Festival.

One of the most surreal sights is to see hundreds and hundreds of mini Disney characters spilling out from the O2 and roads jammed with little girls in princess dresses and boys in Woody outfits, but after fighting our way through the crowds we headed to our hotel, The Holiday Inn Express which was only a 10 minute stroll away from the arena.  It was the perfect location for us and we had a very comfortable family room for the 3 of us for £90.  We all had a great night's sleep and with free breakfast thrown in I was pretty impressed with the hotel.

That evening we hopped on the bus using our travelcards and headed to Greenwich village, one of my favourite places in London.  We had a fabulous Italian meal at Bianco 42, a small independent string of pizzerias.  A rather lovely chilled Orvieto and a delicious pizza, the place was cosy and the staff very friendly and attentive to children.

Greenwich is a fabulous place to spend the day, with plenty to do from exploring the Cutty Sark to the wonders of the Royal Observatory.  Enjoy the peace of the park and the spectacular views from the top of the hill, or mooch around the many independent shops and vintage boutiques around the market before catching the river boat into central London.  If you're planning a trip to the O2, it's definitely worth a stay over.

Disclosure: We paid for all our tickets ourselves and any views expressed are personal.

For more reviews on the Disney On Ice show, check out Mari's World and Tired Mummy Of Two to see what they thought.

Monday 5 January 2015

Magpie Monday - A Clean Sweep

Happy thrifty new year to you!

As promised before Christmas, Magpie Monday is back on the first Monday of each month, sharing my second-hand finds and helping us discover other's treasure and beautiful new blogs through the linky, so do please hook up any pre-loved items you've rescued lately.

The new year is often a time of resolutions, promises to do and be better.  I'm not huge on resolutions, but I am going to make a concerted effort to live by the doctrine of the great William Morris - have nothing in your home you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

Incidentally, we visited the William Morris Gallery just before Christmas and had a fabulous day out, if you're in London pop along to Walthamstow and go see for yourself.

Anyway, I digress.  The annual-panicked-clear-up-the-house-before-Christmas - which generally consists of cramming everything into boxes and stashing them into the loft or garage - proved to me that I have waaaaaay too much stuff.  I must be more disciplined and stop buying things just because they're a bargain.  Unless I absolutely HAVE to have it, it's staying on the shop shelf, and that includes charity shops.  I know, I've said it before, but this is the year of the garage conversion and pretty soon I won't have anywhere left to hide things so I'm going to have to try.

These beauties were bought at a jumble sale before Christmas, and even with my new self-imposed rule, I think I'd have still bought them. Especially as they were only 50p each!

The little dustpan and brush is for sweeping crumbs from the table.  Our table tends to be covered more in splashes and spills than delicate little crumbs so I doubt that it will be used for it's intended purpose.   However, with a small child about, there's always little accidents to sweep up, so I'm sure it will come in handy - see useful AND beautiful.

The little silver plate dish was also too pretty to leave behind, and I'm sure you'll see it cropping up in a blog photo or two in the future.

Incidentally, Christmas and January sale shopping reinforced to me the fact that I abhor 'normal' shops.  I find them so uninspiring with their rows and rows of identical products.  The only thing I've found in one lately to make my heart sing was these tiny little fairy dust stoppered pots of glitter.  Only £1 for 8 from The Works.  Who knew you could be so happy for such little money?!

Please join me and link up your second-hand finds so I can pop over and say hi.  Grab the badge and join the linky.

See you back here on 2nd February - happy thrifting.