Archive for July 2011

Thoughts from an intelligent woman Pt. II

Whilst holding a duck egg up to the window.

'There's a duck in this one'
Holding up another
'... and this one. 
And there's a duck feather on this one'. 

'I'm not having the one with the duck in!'

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Family Harvester Meal

Last week I made the manly decision of staying a few more hours at my mothers instead of getting caught up in rush hour traffic on the way home, which my wife agreed was a wise choice. Therefore to pass those few hours it was decided that we would head out and do some clothes shopping for the Munchkin then find somewhere to eat.

After the shopping was finished the Harvester was selected as our choice of eatery for the evening as it was close to where we were, we'd been there before and most important of all, it was cheap!

As it was only 5:30 in the afternoon when we arrived, the car park was about half full which made finding a space to unload a baby in easy. When the Munchkin was decanted into her pram we headed in and were greeted almost immediately by what looked like another diner. When I'd realised he was in fact a member of staff he seated us in a good area, if a little close to the air con unit (which to be honest didn't really need to be on, this is Britain not the Bahamas), with plenty of space next to the table to have the pram and not get in other peoples ways.

Within minutes the waitress had taken our drinks orders and returned with the glasses (self service on soft drinks!) and left us to decide what to eat. And what a choice there is! Of the five different menus we had the salad and grill menu, which gives you the option of a starter, a grill, a sauce, a side and a salad. Pretty much what you would expect as standard in any other restaurant, but at the Harvester you are given the impression that you can pick and choose without it being a problem. Which it is not. At any good restaurant.

One other small point about the menu, they have included calorie information on every dish, which I personally find completely pointless.

Before I go any further I want to highlight something that is on the menu, on their website and hinted at in their TV ad;

'We're always on a mission to use the tastiest and freshest food to ensure every Harvester meal is mouth watering'.

Lets hope so.

We decided to skip the starter and head straight into the main event that is the grills. Emz chose the 'Plantation Platter (920Kcal)' which consists of 'flame-grilled chicken wings, a baby rack of barbecue glazed ribs, half a spitroast chicken and crackerjack prawns, with grilled corn on the cob, grilled pineapple rings and sour cream & chive dip.' which can be had as a sharing dish or, in this case, as a dish for one.

I picked the premium burger (640Kcal) with cheese (70Kcal), burger sauce (150Kcal), crispy fries (380Kcal) and the surf and turf option (five king prawns served as a second side, 100Kcal).

Sounds nice doesn't it? It was. Nice and chunky, cheese positively oozing from it and surrounded by the crispiest golden brown chips I'd seen in a long time. Trouble was I couldn't tuck in just yet as I was feeding a baby. We had planned the meal so that the munchkin would just be getting hungry just as we were finishing our meals and didn't take into account the kitchen staff having their own idea of how long customers should wait.

When I did get round to tucking into the burger it was a little underdone but overall a very nice burger, for the price. The burger relish was a nice accompanier but tasted very much like the special sauce you get on McDonalds burgers.

As Emz was tucking into her chicken she pointed out that it was a little underdone too, but also could possibly be the light in the restaurant. She carried on with the meal regardless. It wasn't long before she started prodding at the spare ribs too. One of these, it turned out, were also undercooked and as she had got food poisoning before from undercooked pork she carried on very carefully.

Meanwhile back at the burger, I was starting to notice the meat wasn't slightly underdone as I had first thought. It was very well done in places and slightly underdone in other places. Now, I'm no expert but I'm pretty sure that was not supposed to be like that. Nevermind, It still tasted good.

I hailed a passing waitress (or do we call them servers now? someone better let me know so I don't go alienating the worlds waitresses/servers) who ambled over to our table where I explained the problem with the chicken and ribs to her in a polite, I'm not actually complaining I just wanted to point this out, kind of way and Emz pointed out that it was probably just the one piece that was like it and not to worry. We don't like to complain.

So we gamely carried on with our meals and Emz noticed that, of course, none of the ribs were cooked. Due to the aforementioned food poisoning she gave up, but I finished my burger and chips. We decided that we wouldn't have dessert after all and that we should probably head back to my mums before hitting the road for the long drive home.

When the waitress/server came over to see how the meal was we pointed out that in fact the ribs were undercoooked. Her reply came as a bit of a shock to us.

"They can't be undercooked. It's all cooked somewhere else and then shipped in and reheated here".

I was gobsmacked. feel free to scroll up the page and re-read that piece of advertising gumpf that I highlighted, I'll wait.

So. Yes. Freshest food possible. It may've been fresh when it was cooked but if it had been cooked on site in the expansive kitchens that they have, the chef - no strike that, no one that just reheats food should be called a chef - the COOK would've noticed that the meat was undercooked and done something about it before it got sent out!

The waitress/server took it upon herself to take the plate of undercooked food off to the manager and left us sitting wondering what to do. After a wait of about ten minutes the waitress/server returned, sans plate, and explained that the manager had told her that the food was cooked off site and therefore cannot be undercooked.

Oh well, we're terribly sorry Mr/Mrs manager, we didn't realise that cooking off site ensures food is never undercooked! We didn't, of course say this at the time, we are far too polite.

The waitress/server then went on to say that as we were not happy, the manager has offered us one free desert. As we had decided against desert we did what all good British people do, we apologised for complaining and explained that we were just a bit worried as Emz is breastfeeding and didn't want to poison the baby. We then paid the bill in full and left.

If this was a review then my recommendations would be to avoid The Harvester chain of restaurants as they serve undercooked food that isn't fresh, as they state in their adverts.

Incidently, whilst looking around on the internet for bits about Harvester restaurants I discovered that back in 2008 they were shown on a BBC one show called 'Rouge Restaurants' for 'operating without regard for certain food hygene regulations'. Nice.

Daddy-Blogs Directory

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Parenting Enhances Paranoia

When we first brought the munchkin home from the hospital my in-laws were here for the first hour or so just to make sure we were OK, especially mum and baby. Everything had been textbook so far. Straightforward pregnancy, simple labour then a relatively normal birth. At one point there was a small audience of doctors and midwives but that must have been due to a broken staff room telly or something as none of them seemed worried at all and it was all very social.

There we were then, the three of us. Our little family. The in-laws had gone home. Myself and the wife just sat there staring at the baby in her moses basket. She was sleeping soundly and was the most beautiful and amazing thing I'd ever seen, her mum being a very close second.

As the hours started wearing on, the tiredness was really starting to kick in and our eyelids were getting very heavy. After being awake for 48ish hours and my wife being in labour for nearly 24 of those, we were both extremely tired but neither of us wanted to sleep. The reason we didn't want to sleep was a 6lb 10.5oz bundle of new human that now was the center of our lives, not to mention the center of the living room.

That afternoon/evening is a bit hazy now but I seem to remember us talking about how we didn't want to stop watching her just in case anything happened to her. We were so paranoid/worried, whatever you want to call it, that neither of us could relax. I was starting to get worried about my wife not relaxing, after all it was less than 12 hours since she'd given birth and other than being spaced out on pethadin for a few hours she hadn't had any rest.

What were we going to do? We couldn't spend the next few months not sleeping. Then I realised something. Two weeks before we had been shopping for a baby monitor had ended up buying a movement sensor pad! Our dilemma was solved, we set the sensor pad up and got some sleep.

Fast forward 6 weeks and 3 days. We're sitting watching the end of 'Kitchen Nightmares USA' with the munchkin asleep in her travel cot next to the sofa. She is due to wake up for a feed then we are going to go to bed.

Instead the movement sensor alarm starts going off.

My world is ending.

If ever a moment has moved in slow motion I had never noticed it. This I noticed and those few seconds seemed to last an hour.

My wife and myself both jumped up and her first action was to check the baby was breathing. She was. Our beautiful little girl was OK. She looked very grumpy at being woken up by us but she was OK.

I have read so many stories of parents losing their young babies and every time it breaks my heart. I feel for those that have to go through the hurt of losing a little one.

For about half hour after our little moment with the movement alarm all I could think was 'what would I have done if we'd lost her?' and I still don't have an answer.

And what of the moment sensor? We don't know why it went off. We're still using it, along with the other one in her cot upstairs. After all, we're parents and that makes us paranoid.

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Thoughts on Green(ish) Parenting

Being somewhat of a hippy one tries hard to reduce the impact one is having on that poor old chap the environment.

Well, I bloody would if it was a bit easier. In our house what we want to do to reduce that impact and what we actually do are two completely different things. For a start there's the recycling.

We collect all manner of plastics, paper, card, glass and food waste all to be taken away and turned into other things. Or at least it would be turned into other things if the local council took most of it. Yes they take plastic, paper and glass each week and they have even given out small boxes to put them in, although invariably those boxes will always be overflowing by the time they are due to be put out.

Except even that's not how it happens in our house. We don't have those boxes. I don't know why we don't have those boxes but I do know it's our own fault really as we could easily call the council and ask for new ones. It's just one of those things that we just never get round to, like cleaning out the study, it can wait till next week. In our house it all gets stored up until I can't take anymore and throw it all in the car and drive it to the local recycling center.

Straight away there goes a little bit of hippyness. I'm using a) fuel that doesn't need to be used as the council will drive round and collect the stuff and b) fuel I can barely afford. Factor in all the nasty chemicals that our car spews out and then the resources and carbon used to keep the recycling center running plus the time wasted and ... well, now I should be feeling so guilty that I start flogging myself on a daily basis. I would if I was a better person.

But that's all day to day stuff that even a non-parent would have to deal with, and we did deal with that kind of thing before becoming parents. Now that the munchkin is here we have other things to consider when it comes to environmentalism and general 'being a hippy'.

So, what do we do for the environment as parents?

Reuseable nappies? No thanks, the water and electric bill after cleaning nappies until baby is out of them would be astronomical, not to mention the environmental impact of all that extra washing. We use disposable nappies but don't like the idea that much as, like radiation, they have a half life of a few thousand years. So instead we had a look around and chose to use the Nature Babycare ones as they are 100% biodegradable. They are made from, among other things, maize (the entire sweetcorn plant, if you didn't know what it was).

We also use the same breed of nappy sacks which are also biodegradable and then there's all the shampoo and baby hot wax (or whatever some of that stuff is) that the wife bought. All of their products are good for the environment so that makes them about the best brand a hippy parent could buy. Or any parent for that matter. After all, what is the point in having a child if you are just helping to destroy the world it has to live in?

Another thing that makes them good is that they're cheaper than other brands. No really, they are. Go check your local shops.

(I should point out that I have no affiliation with the company and they're not paying me to write good stuff about them. Which is a shame.)

Another way of helping the environment and being green is looking at what food you eat and where it is sourced. If I had my way everyone would grow their own veg and learn to forage in the hedgerows and fields, but that is a rant for another day.

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Thoughts from an intelligent woman

I love my wife more than anything but I worry about her.
She is the most intelligent person I know and yet she comes out with things like this;

"What if there was a conspiracy where batteries were all rechargeable. Yet they only sell some as rechargeable and take all the others back, from those recycling bins, and recharge them to resell them."

And she meant that seriously.

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Silent Sunday


Emotional Rollercoasters

For years I've tried not to be too openly emotional  in front of friends and family and it seems to have worked. I don't think I've picked up a reputation for being someone who will burst into tears at the drop of a hat, or even as someone who doesn't have any emotion. I think I've struck a nice balance, but of course those closest to me would probably tell you I'm talking crap and I'm a big girls blouse, hopefully that's not the impression I give though.

In the past there were only a few things that could get the tears flowing, two that I can think of right now just so happen to be movies, and even then only one scene in each movie.

First up is 'Click'. I'm not a big fan of Adam Sandler, really really not a big fan. He is one of those people that seems to play the same role in every movie and to top it off he tries too hard to be funny. That said I still watch his movies and do laugh at a lot of it. Anyways, click. He goes fast forwards through life with a remote control and ends up a sad and lonely man - bummer. The part that gets me every time, well the two times I've watched it, is when he's lying in the rain dying of a heart attack. For some reason I just well up and start blubbing like a teenage girl watching Beaches.

The other movie that gets me going is Armageddon, partly because of the terrible story line but mostly the scene on the asteroid where Brucey baby has the conversation with his daughter. Emotional stuff.

Moving swiftly on. A few recent events have made me realise that I'm not actually as stable emotionally as I thought I was.

First up there is a wedding. Not just any wedding but my wedding to my gorgeous wife. I'm not sure how many other guys felt like this (mostly because most of the guys I know that are married don't talk about emotions - they're 'for girls') but the moment I turned round and saw Emma coming down the aisle towards me I welled up. I was so close to bursting into tears of joy that I had to turn away for a moment and compose myself.

Then there was the birth of my baby daughter. Every man who has a kid knows how emotional this is. In fact just today I saw this 'universal birth reaction assessment tool' from the guys at Unfortunately it doesn't have the reaction I had when Willow was born. From my vantage point* I saw my little girl get lifted onto her mums chest and I just broke down. Tears were streaming, there were some strange noises coming from somewhere down near the bottom of my ribs and to top it off I couldn't see a bloody thing. Emotional does not do justice to that feeling of overwhelming happiness.

Now whenever there is a sad story about a baby or young child on the telly I get really emotional. I know that it is because I'm a dad and that's what dads (and mums) do, we get emotional because we have something to relate to, something to look at and think 'I really love that little human there and would not want anything to ever happen to it'.

*err, yeah, I was stood at my wifes head the whole time - there was stuff going on down there I did not need to see.

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World of Happy Stereotypes

I recently bought Willow a book that I could read to her just before bedtime. It's a great little book, if a little too close to the edge of hippy dippy peace and love for my liking. It is called 'the little penguin' (sic.) and is about a penguin who is scared of going into the water. It is one of a series that are apparently based on a T.V. series called 'World of Happy' and this book is all about being brave.

It really is a wonderful story with good morals and has lots of penguins in it (one of the selling points). There is however one part of it that bugs me. The father penguin is clearly the disciplinarian and is a tad gruff to the little penguin about its fear of the water, but that is all fine, what bothers me is the fact that World of Happy seem to imply that all fathers like nothing more than cocking a leg and 'floating an air biscuit' - to use a favourite phrase*.

Don't believe me?

(sorry about the quality, had to take a photo as my scanner is buried under baby things)

Kelloggs are at it too ... kind of. I have in front of me a box of their cereal which are offering the chance to win a year of family fun. In order to win said fun you must go to a website called 'whatson4mum'. I thought dads were the source of fun? Although in fairness it was my wife that bought the box of cereal for herself so the targeting advertising must work**.

There is also the curious case of the internet forums for 'parents'. A few days ago during the 'morning shift' with Willow I was reading through some parenting forums and came across one or two threads that I felt I could reply to. I posted my replies and forgot about them until the next day. Morning shift again. Having Willow fed, changed, settled, a full cup of hot coffee (it being hot is a rare thing lately), and 5 minutes to spare I had a look to see if there were any new and interesting threads. There were and so I replied and went in search of my other posts. No answers. Okay; I thought, no problem, people have new babies and kids and take time replying. Next day was the same. No posts after mine anywhere. Call me paranoid but I started to get the feeling that people were avoiding my posts. I  checked today and there is still no replies on all but one of them. Are mothers scared of dads posting on their forums? I hope not.

To finish off this odd collection of thoughts (if you think this is bad you should hear what goes on inside my head!) I'd like to share with you something my amazing and wonderful wife, Emma, said. Whilst looking on some dad forums the following conversation took place;

Wife - What's that site you're on?
Me - It's a website for dads.
Wife - Is it good?
Me - Yes, a bit quiet but a nice change from all those motherly ones.
Wife - Hmm, Yeah I really don't like those ones. Do you think they'd let me join the dad website as a mum so I don't have to put up with all those bloody annoying women?

I love my wife.

*My wife has just informed me, after reading this, that I am just like the father penguin with regard to my gaseous outflow.
** She also informed me that the Kelloggs cereal was bought because she likes sugary kids food and not for the competition.

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