Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Born to be Beautiful

Save the Children are currently running their "No Child Born to Die" campaign and they are asking people what they were "born to" do. The first thing I thought was that I didn't know what I was born to do and I tweeted as much. The lovely Sian suggested I was "born to be beautiful" and while at first I blushed and was flattered, the more I thought about it, the more I realized maybe I was.

Now I'm not being cheeky here and pretending I'm some sort of aesthetically perfect goddess, I'm talking about a different kind of beauty. In high school in the States we each pick a quote our final year of school for our yearbook which is supposed to sum up our view on life: the boys all pick some Tupac, the girls pick from the most popular songs of the moment. My senior quote was lyrics from a Carole King song:

"You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
and show the world all the love in your heart
then people are gonna treat you better
you're gonna find, yes you will
You're as beautiful as you feel"

Beauty isn't about glossy hair, white teeth and good bone structure, it's about who you are as a person; when you make eye contact with someone on the street and smile at them; hold a door open for the person behind you; chat to a little old lady on the bus; tell a salesclerk to "have a nice day" or say "Sorry, no thank you." to a telemarketer, instead of just hanging up.

It doesn't take a lot of effort or money to make a big difference in someone's day by being nice. A smile is free and takes seconds, but how many people do you see walking around with a sulk on their face all day?

So yes, I think I was born to be beautiful. I was born to smile and say thank you and help out others however I can. I might not be able to give lots of money, but I can give my time, my enthusiasm and my smile.

You can learn more about the No Child Born to Die campaign and how you can help by visiting the Save the Children website or following them on Twitter. I'll be attending their blogging conference this weekend and I can't wait to see how I can help make the world a little bit more beautiful.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Take a look, it's in a book: A reading rainbow

Blondie Boy loves to read. Every morning after breakfast he holds a book up to me and climbs into my lap for a story. He'll sit and flip through pages by himself laughing and babbling. Both NotBlondeHusband and I are keen readers and it seems we've passed our love of all things literary on to Blondie Boy, too!

We recently got some new children's books for him to review. Blondie Boy can only really read board books on his own (he's not very gentle with pages) so we were more than happy to sit down and read them to him!

Professor Frank Mouse is very clever, very inventive and very ... lonely. Though he loves collecting, making and mending all sorts of things, shy Frank would love to have a friend to help him, so one day he makes Teddy! But Frank doesn't realise that what he really needs is a true friend - someone to teach him that real friendship is all about sharing, and Teddy might be just the fellow to do it.

We loved the bright colours and charming illustrations. The story is easy for children to follow and teaches them what being a friend is about without being overly preachy or sappy. It's a lovely story for younger and older children.

Scruffy Bear meets six terrified white mice in the woods; it's getting dark and the mice are sure they're going to be gobbled up. But Scruffy Bear has a tall tale for each passing predator about what the furry little balls actually are.

This story has a repetitive theme that reminds me of classic tales and nursery rhymes so it feels like a story you read as a child yourself.

Peely Wally was a small bird who lived high up in a tree . One day she laid an egg. This is the story of Peely Wally and the adventure of her egg! Follow the dotted line and see where the egg goes! Spot the animals, find the butterfly on each page, and don't miss the special surprise at the end!

NotBlondeHusband told me that "peely wally" means pale in Scots, but this book is bright and colourful. The illustrations are textured and feel more like art than drawings for a book. The story is simple and the lines and illustrations allow you to help your child learn and you can adapt dependant on their age.

All three books are published by Random House and available at book stores and online.

Transatlantic Blonde was provided these books for review, but opinions are always honest and our own.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Blondie's Buttermilk Berry Muffins

I had leftover buttermilk from pancakes so I wanted to do some baking, but once again I couldn't find any recipes that sounded yummy, but also were Weight Watchers friendly. So I adapted this recipe to suit my needs and tastes.

I really like authenticity of hand-written recipes so I'm trying something new and uploading my recipe rather than typing it out. If you totally hate this please let me know and I won't do it again :)

Blondie's Buttermilk Berry Muffins

The muffins are very moist and not too sweet. I used raspberries and blueberries but you could use whatever suits your tastes or whatever you have in the fridge! The recipe yields 12 muffins, at 3 ProPoints per muffin. I'm freezing half of mine for a later date!


Sunday, 13 February 2011

Dear Lover Give me one last Painful Kiss

I know a lot of people don't like Valentine's Day, but single or taken I've always loved it. Holidays were a reason to dress up, have a special breakfast (pink milk anyone?) and get presents in my house growing up. I looked around for a cute Valentine's Day shirt for Blondie Boy but I literally didn't see one child's Valentine's shirt, so I took matters into my own two hands!

I like to think Blondie Boy's style is as punk rock as a 13 month old boy can get so I immediately thought of putting an edgy twist to a normally pink and fluffy holiday. I love anything with skulls so I drew out a pattern for a heart and crossbones.

Skull Bones Template
I free hand every pattern I make- sometimes it takes a few trys, but it's definitely better to screw up a pattern then to waste fabric. I just use a bit of thick paper (or an ad for DFS in this case) so it pins on nicely to the fabric without ripping and then trace around it and cut out.

Normally I just use fabric glue but I decided to challenge myself and hand-stitch the edging. I was a bit worried since I knew there was no chance of each stitch being even in length and spacing, but I kind of like the kitchy homemade feel it brings. I won't lie it did take me almost an hour and a half to stitch, but I think it was worth it.

Punk Valentines Handmade
I can't wait to try it on Blondie Boy tomorrow maybe with a faux-hawk and a jean jacket and have a photoshoot while he dances around to some Social D.

Punk Skull Valentine OnesieI also made a rose corsage for Blondie Boy's Grandma as she and her fiancé were kind enough to babysit him while NotBlondeHusband and I went out for a Valentine's date on Saturday. I found the tutorial here and it was slightly time consuming, but really simple to follow. It is for a ring but I just made the circles slightly larger for a corsage.

Penguin ValentineI hope y'all have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Blondie's WW Buttermilk Pancakes

Pancakes are kinda my thing. I love them and I'm good at cooking them. I can still remember the first time I ever saw chocolate chip pancakes and was amazed. My Mom had dropped us off at her best friend's house before school for one reason or another and her sons were eating chocolate chip pancakes and they looked amazing. I started making chocolate chip pancakes for my friends and boyfriends at Uni and I've even made egg-free applesauce pancakes for Blondie Boy. Like I said, pancakes are kinda my thing. My Grandpa also used to make Mrs. Butterworth talk to me, but that's another story.

When it comes to pancakes you want them to be light and fluffy, so when I saw the Best Buttermilk Pancakes recipe in my Google Reader I knew I had to try and make them AND make them Weight Watchers friendly.

Here is my Weight Watchers Buttermilk Pancakes adapted from the recipe by Brown Eyed Baker which was adapted from Cook's Illustrated. I halved the recipe to make eight golden, fluffy pancakes, but here is my adaptation in full. I've include metric measurements in parentheses for those who don't have American baking cups.

(Photo © Brown Eyed Baker)

Blondie's WW Buttermilk Pancakes

Yield: Sixteen 4-inch pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour (125g)
1 1/2 tablespoons Splenda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk (1 pint)
¼ cup sour cream (56g)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 tablespoons Lurpak lighter unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Non Stick Cooking Spray (I used Fry-Light, but in the US Pam would work)

16 servings, 2 pro points per serving

1. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.

2. In a second medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla, eggs and melted butter. Make sure your butter isn't too hot or it will cook the eggs. (I find it's best to microwave the butter for 15-20 seconds and then swirl it around so the liquid butter melts the remaining butter.)

3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; gently stir until just combined (batter will be lumpy and quite thick). Do not overmix. Allow the batter to sit for 10 minutes before cooking.

4. Spray a pan or griddle if you've got some super cool stove with the non-stick spray and allow to heat up. You'll know it's hot enough when if you flick water on it, the water sizzles.

5. Using ¼ cup measure, portion batter into pan. My pan was big enough for 2 pancakes at the time, but you know your pan, you judge.

6. Cook until edges are set, first side is golden brown, and bubbles on surface are just beginning to break, 2 to 3 minutes. Resist the urge to poke, prod or flip early. Walk away if you have to!

7. Using a thin, wide spatula, flip pancakes and continue to cook until second side is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

8. Put on a plate and cover with tin foil until ready to serve. Repeat with remaining batter, using non-stick spray as needed.

These were seriously the best pancakes I've had or made since I moved to Scotland 6 1/2 years ago and they are vaguely healthy--SCORE!. I had my pancakes as part of "Breakfast for Dinner." Some people call it Brinner (not me) but they'd be a great as part of a lazy weekend breakfast or brunch.

Two pancakes, two rashers of Bacon, 1 tsp of Lurpak for my pancakes and 1 tablespoon of real Maple Syrup

8 pro points!

I'd advise having your syrup on the side and dipping your pancakes in as you will use less, I certainly didn't use my full tablespoon. You could also top them with fruit, honey or your favourite topping. Next time I think I will experiment with making a strawberry sauce to go on top!

Friday, 11 February 2011

If you're Appy and you know it

If you follow me on twitter you'll have seen that my amazingly generous friend Allyson gave me her old iPhone! NotBlondeHusband has had one since shortly after Blondie Boy was born and since then I've pretty much coveted it! One of the best things about it is all the different apps you can get so I was super excited to try Annabel's Essential Guide To Feeding Your Baby & Toddler by Annabel Karmel!
Annabel Karmel is the UK's best-selling author of seventeen books on baby and children's food and nutrition. She is an expert in devising tasty and nutritious meals for children without the need for parents to spend hours in the kitchen. Y'all know that I'm meticulous about what Blondie Boy eats and love to make his food whenever possible so this app seemed right up my street!
First off the app is really stylish. I know that's a strange thing to say, but the graphics and layout are very chic which I found nice. Recipes are broken down into: first foods, 6-9 months, 9-12 months, toddlers and toddler desserts. Each recipe has gorgeous photos a list of ingredients, a summary and easy to follow step by step instructions.

It also has a shopping list so you can add recipes to the list and edit as needed which is very handy when you are out and in the shops trying to remember exactly how much of what you need!
There are loads of videos, articles and a planner to store your favourite recipes as well. The app is really easy to navigate and use. The only thing I would have liked to see was a search ability. So let's say you already have chicken or maybe your child is allergic to strawberries; it would be nice to be able to search for all recipes with chicken or all recipes without strawberries.

Annabel's Essential Guide to Feeding your Baby and Toddler is available from the iTunes store for £4.99

Transatlantic Blonde was provided this app to review.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

If I were a boy

You've heard me talk about NotBlondeHusband, but now he's joining me here and will be posting from his point of view! So please be nice to him and show him some love on his first post!

Let's start with a confession: I'm a dude and I need to diet.

There's some stigma attached to the statement. Diets are for girls. It's "girly", particularly in the UK, to go for a drink with the lads and to pick a light beer or a glass of wine or a spirit with a diet mixer over a pint of your usual or a spirit and "full fat" mixer. If you grab food of course you grab the biggest burger or kebab you can find, why would you ever order chicken or a salad?

I've slowly been gaining weight over the last 10 years, over the last two years I've gained 20+ lbs. While I still play football once a week, it's been longer than that decade since I was playing proper competitive sports and burning all the excess calories that a typical "lad's diet" gives you. I'm generally not very good at moderation. If I feel like a bar of chocolate, I'll have it; of course regular Coke tastes better than diet crap, so I'll have that too; that salad is never going to come close to that burger, so it's not really a choice. Blondie and I are also terrible influences on each other. Both had a long day and don't feel like a trip to the shops? There's nothing wrong with a third takeaway in a week then...

Unfortunately, I've finally realised that I'm not at the age my body can handle that anymore, so it's time to try the alternative. Which is where Weight Watchers comes in.
Two weeks ago if you'd asked me my opinion of WW I'd have probably told you it was a bunch of overweight, middle-aged women sitting in a church hall commiserating each other when they put on a couple of ounces a week, calculators out ready to work out the calorific content of that rice cake they're holding. Not really my scene, and not something I could see fitting in the diary of a busy person. As it turns out, I wasn't even close.

Meetings are optional, you can manage your diet entirely online. If you need support, there are forums. If like me, you don't have time for that and just want to spend 5 minutes a day planning your diet you can. Want to eat from meal plans, that's fine. If like me you like to cook your own food the recipe builder lets you work out what your favourite recipes cost you and you can adapt and update them with lower cost alternatives. You can even search for recipes online and edit them to swap out ingredients you're not so fond of.

There is an element of point counting but it isn't really an onerous task. Weight Watchers own products have pro point values attached. Anything else you stick into a database and it tells you exactly what it costs you. You have your daily allowance but you also get extra pro points for "treats" throughout the week. I don't know what kind of things women use this for, but at 3 pro points a bottled beer or 6 pro points for a pint of lager it's more than enough for one decent night out at the pub a week.

So what has this meant for me? There's no point sugar coating it, to begin with I was hungry. I don't think there is a weight loss diet where you're not hungry to start. I was overeating before so obviously eating a normal amount felt like not enough to begin with. Two weeks in this isn't an issue any more. I eat a bowl of cereal for my breakfast instead of some junk and try to snack on fruit and veg. I can even still have a bag of crisps as a snack. Lunch is usually a healthy sandwich or something I can eat on the go. Dinner can be relatively normal. Last night I even got burgers. My biggest concession is cutting down on sugary drinks but I've even managed that. Watching the football midweek is pretty much the same without the two or three beers that I would sometimes have.

It is frustrating sometimes. I would kill for a pizza right now and the low point equivalents to that just don't cut the mustard. When I'm out and about it would be easier to grab the first thing to hand rather than think about what you're allowed but the iPhone app lets you check exactly how much that takeaway sandwich will cost you. So far, at the end of the week it's been worth it. After two weeks I've already lost over 5% of my body weight. I don't mind a little frustration when the results are so obvious. I've still a bit to go but I'm definitely sticking with it.

We still manage to eat pretty well. I'll stick up some examples of meals as we go along.

Transatlantic Blonde and NotBlondeHusband were provided a free trial of Weight Watchers Online to review.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Wordless Wednesday

I do, I do, I do

....and the winners are:

LouLoub22 & Tanya!

Please contact me within 48 hours with your postal address to claim your tickets!

After NotBlondeHusband and I got engaged, my wonderful mother-in-law went with me to the Scottish Wedding Show. It was there I stumbled across the company who made me the wedding cake all the other vendors swore couldn't be made. Now my mother-in-law is engaged and I can't wait to go back again with her as the Bride this time!

The Scottish Wedding Show, Scotland's best event for brides-to-be, will take place at the SECC, Glasgow on 19th-20th February 2011.The show will bring together over 300 of Scotland's leading wedding suppliers under one roof, who will showcase everything needed to make the big day just perfect.

There will also be…

• Free expert advice at the Inspiration Theatre

•The chance to enter The Real People Catwalk competition and take to the catwalk at the Autumn show

• The chance to Win a £1000 Gift List towards your 2011 Wedding from John Lewis Glasgow

Tickets start at £9 for a standard advance ticket

For more information on special offers or to purchase tickets visit or call 0141 587 6088.

I have two pairs of tickets to giveaway to two lucky Transatlantic Blonde readers!

To enter the giveaway:

Follow my Blog publicly (link on right sidebar) using Google Friend Connect and comment with your favourite wedding movie!

Extra Entries:

-Follow me on Twitter and tweet: "I entered to win tickets to the Scottish @TheWeddingShow with @Melaina25 &! You can too! " and comment to let me know (1 extra entry)

-Follow The Scottish Wedding Show on Twitter and comment to let me know (1 extra entry)

-Blog about the giveaway and comment to let me know (1 extra entry)

Make sure to leave each entry in a separate comment.

All entries will be verified and deleted if not valid so make sure to leave the usernames you subscribe or tweet with.

This giveaway is open to all UK residents and is for two tickets only (travel no included). Two winners will be drawn at random on February 10th at 12:00 GMT. Winners must contact me within 48 hours or another winner will be drawn.

Transatlantic Blonde were provided tickets for this giveaway.