Thursday, 30 October 2014

There’s a shard of fright at London’s newest iconic landmark this Halloween

Don't panic! Please remain calm, yes we know it looks like the Shard has been taken over by giant web weaving spiders but if that really were the case do you think Mumsnet Hackney would have paused for a photo? Not a chance. However, we are very pleased to have been invited to the Shard by Cadbury this afternoon, who are really getting into the freaky Halloween festivities with their spooky spider and web installation on the top floor. 
Look out for Mumsnet Hackney's tweets on this @MumsnetHackney

The Shard is not an obvious choice of outing for me as I have always thought it somewhere to take my 2 boys when they’re a bit older (they are 2 and 4) However, I have to say watching them squeal with delight over the incredible birdseye views of railways, trains and boats made for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and that was before we’d even ascended to the 72nd floor to find the giant spiders. 

This will be here for one day only so if you’re at a loose end tomorrow and the good weather forecast should make for some spectacular views of London, this is definitely worth a visit. To book tickets click HERE

MUMSNET HACKNEY received free tickets to this event in exchange for an honestly spooky review

A yummy product review of Mr Organic Pasta sauces

I don’t mind admitting that pasta sauce is something generally that does not appear on my shopping list for a specific reason, my partner is Italian and therefore pasta sauce out of a jar is classed as blasphemy in our household. So what exactly was my logic on agreeing to test a product that I wouldn’t usually buy let alone feed my children? Well as a self nominated pasta sauce expert, i felt this mindset meant I was very well placed to give an impartial review and try something new. 

The timing of the arrival of the box of sauces couldn’t have been better, it was a frayed Friday afternoon when I was exhausted and completely lacking in culinary inspiration or organisation, so it was without snobbery I gratefully cracked open a jar. 

Before I talk about flavours etc the first thing I always look for on the labels of food my children are the sugar and salt content. Having spent 3 months of this year on Sarah Wilson’s 'I quit sugar' detox I am now extremely mindful of sugar levels in both mine and my children’s food. All the information I was looking for was easily found on the jar labels as all the ingredients, allergens and nutritional information were clearly described. All of the products I was given, bar the ketchup, contained zero sugar and were all suitable for vegans, vegetarians and were also gluten free. This was a good start. 

Our first sample was the Veg A'more Tofu: ‘A delicious pasta sauce with Tofu, sweet red peppers and sun ripened tomatoes’ I don’t usually give my children Tofu so was interested to see what they would make of it. They cleaned their plates. It’s quite a roughly textured sauce with a beautifully deep, rich flavour from the peppers and tomatoes. I have to say that this is something I would buy again to keep in the cupboard as not only did it taste great it offers something I wouldn’t usually prepare for my family.  The next pasta based meal we tried was the Authentic Italian bolognese sauce ‘sun ripened tomato, fresh onion and mediterranean herb sauce’. Again, this was nice and my children happily tucked in. In particular what I liked was the freshness of the flavour which is the one thing I’ve thought would be difficult to find in jar. If this was something that I didn’t make myself for a fraction of the cost (these retail between £1.99 and £2.30 a jar) then I certainly would consider buying it for both taste and good quality, organic ingredients. The last sauce to try was the 'Authentic Italian Basilico: sun ripened tomato and fresh basil sauce’. As a basil junkie my high hopes for this were certainly upheld as it did not disappoint on flavour nor was it overpowering. Again this is one that I would consider buying as again it offered something a little different to my own sauce creations. 

The product I found the most disappointing was the ketchup (£2.49 a bottle). This is absolutely a product which, based on the packaging alone, I would buy, as it contains a gram less per serving of sugar, compared to Heinz. However, I felt it didn’t deliver on flavour and had an almost grainy texture that I found distinctly unappealing. 

The star products in my view though, were the basil and sun-dried tomato pestos (£2.99 a jar). This is a product that I do buy, as I rarely have the motivation to make my own because quite simply I am the only person in our house who eats it however to my complete shock, both my kids really enjoyed the sundried tomato pesto. What also really impressed me were the ingredients. My usual brand of Italian pesto contains a long ingredients list including a variety of chemicals, cheese and sugar however Mr Organic contained just 6 ingredients and is both sugar and dairy free. This is definitely a product you will be finding in my cupboards.

So, while I would never advocate shop bought over home made I don’t have a time machine that facilitates me being able to create everything I feed my family from scratch, so bearing this in mind I would buy some of the jars of sauce as my plan B and will be replacing my pesto purchases with Mr Organic from here in. What’s great about these products? They are good quality with organic ingredients produced in the UK giving you automatic air mile brownie points and the packaging is clear and easy to read. If you are catering for a specific diet or an intolerance these will certainly be your friend. Unless you shop at Ocado, Budgens or smaller niche health food stockists you might be hard pushed to find them on your shop shelf, but of course they are all available online

So there you have it, a pasta sauce review - in a pine-nut shell. Mumsnet Hackney was given a selection of sauces to try free of charge, in exchange for an honest review 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Putting the silly into Dalston - A children's theatre review.

The 'toss the beanbag' stall
Who would have thought that in the heart of Dalston lies the concealed rural village of Silliton, where they are in permanent state of May Day celebrations. You will be lead to the bunting adorned village green by singing Morris dancers (with a distinctly West Country twang) and invited to play ‘toss the bean bag’, ‘splat the rat’ or find out if the raffle ticket you’ve been issued with on arrival wins you a prize, all whilst being serenaded by harmonised folk song. Yes, I think we can definitely say so far the children’s production at the Arcola Theatre of ‘The 3 Sillies’ started off with a bang - or should we say splat. 

This tale of love and potential heart break begins with our hero announcing he is unable to marry his love Rose because, after an incident in the cellar involving a mallet, she and her family are just too silly and so he sets himself a challenge whereby he must travel the earth and discover at least 3 people who he deems sillier before he will consider returning to take Rose’s hand.

So he travels the winding roads of England, the year is 1914 and he quickly discovers numerous acts of completely hysterical silliness with intermittent and brilliantly subtle intimations of the onset of the first world war. A delightful twist is the silliest, silly of all, when our hero travels to France and witnesses the needless mass loss of life. How do you portray the corpse-littered battlefields of Europe tastefully without distress to little ones whilst maintaining warmth and more importantly fun? Watch this production as this was seamlessly achieved. 
Welcome to bunting land!

In this show there was no formal stage and instead the cast with their puppets and musical instruments mingled with the audience seated on the astroturf green. My sons, aged 2 and 4 were captivated especially when some of their ad libs were even adopted into the script by the cast. This was a genuinely enjoyable and charmingly heartwarming production. It is a rare thing indeed that will capture my children’s concentration span past its official expiry time of about half an hour but they loved every minute - all 60 of them! I don’t usually see the ending of most theatre shows as I have invariably had to defect half way through in the name of entertaining my restless children however, this was not the case today. THE THREE SILLIES is being staged at Arcola Theatre as the theatre’s contribution to the National Family Arts Festival in October half term 2014. If you want a morning or an afternoon of thoroughly enjoyable silliness get your tickets here as the village of Silliton is well worth visiting! 

Mumsnet Hackney received a free ticket to the is event in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

WARNING: This review may cause you to reinstate your soap dish

So Mumsnet Hackney was very fortunate indeed to receive a bundle of goodies from the Maldon Soap company, in exchange for an honest review. I had quite forgotten about the humble bar of soap, having long been converted to liquid hand soap and shower gel, probably since leaving University.. too long ago then I care to mention. Soap is surely something that’s just one of those items that in a few years time our children will see in books or programs about the 80s which they’ll point and laugh at right? Well, after languishing in numerous long baths all in the name of ensuring I gave a fully informed review (yes it was tough), I expected to come out of this experience with confirmation of soap’s fall from fashion and probably considerably drier skin, so I am pleased to say I was proved very wrong indeed. Actually my first thought was one of dismay as I realised I would need to invest in a soap dish!

A little further information about The Maldon Soap Company taken from their website ‘All of our soaps, shampoos and cosmetic products are handmade using only the finest ingredients, locally sourced wherever possible. We use Maldon Sea Salt and Maldon Honey in some of our products. We use pure aromatherapy quality essential oils so you can be sure that each product will be beneficial for your skin, hair and wellbeing.  We do not use palm oil, parabens, SLS or other nasties, nor do we add extra foaming agent to our cold process soaps. We use vegetable glycerine from palm free sources and nothing we use has ever been tested on animals.
I have to say it was a pleasure to test all of the soap and cream pots I was sent, however there were some that were exceptional so what can be more ideal at a time of year when skin is prone to being dry and the subtle hinting of ideas for Christmas commences I thought I would give you my top 5, all neatly linked should you wish to click on their names to find out more or maybe just treat yourself to one or two:

5)  Skin saving balm - beautifully creamy balm with tones of citrus and lavender. Sweet tasting but possibly a little too acidic to be a lip balm but perfect for dry hands and elbows. I also used this on some dry patches on my face, another perennial symptom of the onset of autumn which I usually find can only be resolved by Nivea lip balm and this stuff worked a treat!

4)  Glycerin and lavender hand cream - texture of a lip balm, wonderfully calming scent and just lovely on washing-up liquid addled hands

3)  Parma violet soap - Did I say soap belonged in the 80s? Well this particular soap will take you back there with it’s retro aroma that really does smell like parma violets. It’s positively glorious and it’s rich lather leaves your skin both cleansed and moisturised.  

2)   Coconut and oat soap. My favourite soap of all in terms of scent, lather and beautifully soft outcome despite being roughly textured. I felt like I’d not only washed my hands but also used a moisturiser! This has replaced my kitchen liquid hand soap

1)  Minty scrubby foot gel. Ok so I’m not sure I’ve ever used any kind of foot scrub in the past but this I can genuinely say this stuff is amazing. I never thought I would use the word invigorated to describe my toes but that’s certainly how they felt after using this. Give your feet a treat, this stuff is magic. 

From this there is only one thing I can deduce - the soap shaped hole in my life is now most certainly filled. 

Mumsnet Hackney was given a selection of Maldon Soap Products in exchange for an honest review.