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  1. bplannercoverWe are pleased to announce 'The Birth Planner' has finally gone to print! It has taken months of hard work but we were so passionate about the idea of not only showcasing small businesses but also providing information and offers for parents in what is a hard economic climate.
    Today we went to the printers and saw a full copy of 'The Birth Planner' and are so pleased with how it looks. The planner will be back from the printers on the 4th April and we are pleased to say we will be doing a launch at the JoJo Maman Bebe Store in Leamington Spa on Saturday 16th April at 10am till 12 noon.
    Check the event out on Facebook and please do let your friends and family know that they can pop down on the day and grab their FREE copy!
  2. Food

    by Doctor Jo Jones, Paediatrician


    Children, Eating, Sleeping…a triad so emotive as to strike fear into so many parents‟ hearts! I‟d like to deal with Sleep another time, but, why do we take it so personally when our children refuse to eat, andhow can our attitudes affect their health in the long run?

    We‟ve all heard it said to us; “Children will never starve themselves!” but I remember feeling pure despair and not a small amount of fury as the plate went on the floor yet again with my first born. I think it is because feeding one‟s child is a primeval need within us, and it feels like personal rejection when a child refuses the breast, pushes away the bottle or sits mutinously in front of their full plate.

    We worry about how much they eat. The rolls of chub on our babies‟ thighs don‟t stop us worrying if they feed poorly, however briefly.



    Some toddlers seem to literally live on air as they gain weight, charge round the room and continue to develop beautifully, much to their parents‟ disbelief. But we don‟t always worry what they eat…Does it matter? If the kids look good and play well, can‟t we leave the healthy stuff till later and just concentrate on getting something, anything into them?

    The trouble is, it does matter what we choose. Not only are many chemical body processes, such as the way our bodies use sugar, fixed in early life, our children‟s taste buds are primed to prefer what they are introduced to early on, and changing their eating habits becomes harder and harder as time goes on, as we‟ve all found.




    So how have the marketeers solved this problem for us, and have they done a good job? There‟s a whole range of special convenience foods just for kids and the choice is overwhelming. I don‟t understand it - I guess I‟ve never quite understood why my young children should eat food so very different from my own. But how they differ! Brightly coloured, fantastically shaped, cutely sized, often in dinky little throwaway mini-lunch boxes - kids just love them! “But just what is in them?” The Observer asked a number of months ago, in a „naming andshaming‟ article on the rubbish inside the food we unwittingly feed our kids.

    It wasn‟t a surprise to see that most of these „shameful‟ foods were dubious „dippers‟, food in „shapes‟, „cheese‟ in incomprehensible forms, and „real fruit drinks‟ in unnaturally fluorescent colours. As well as too much salt and sugar, the article revealed the myriad chemicals that make these things taste so good to young, uneducated palates. Not all contain nasty chemicals but some still have almost zero nutritional value - fine if an occasional treat, but they are marketed to replace the real thing. Like fruit winders - don‟t be taken in by the “10% real fruit!” – the rest is sticky sugar which glues like cement to young teeth, and the „10% real fruit‟ is best eaten straight from the fruit bowl. Some parents can be tremendously wary of letting their kids play out in the cul-de-sac alone (see previous editorial!), but then feed them poor quality food which is far more likely to end up as a health issue. This is why so many children can find it hard to make the leap from „kids food‟ to eating a varied range of „adult‟ foods.

    And how else can the food we give our children affect them?

    Educational achievement and behaviour are intimately linked with a good day‟s grub, and good school meals are at the heart of it all. But what can we parents do that mucks it all up?

    Let‟s talk about blood sugar. There are a lot of myths about blood sugar, but it governs our mood and the mood of our children enormously. I often hear the same story – child in absolutely foul mood when picked up from school, is then fed sweets or biscuits and cheers up to everyone‟s relief. We as adults do the same – feel tired or low? The temptation to reach for chocolate or a handful of custard creams is irresistible. And boy does it work!....briefly.

    And this is why…. There are slow release sugars and fast release sugars. Slow-release sugars steadily increase the blood sugar to a sensible high and basically keep it there for many hours, with a gradual decrease. That makes for a calmer child who concentrates well, and who is hungry for his next meal at the right time.


    On the other hand, fast release sugars are a quick fix but not a very good one. They make the blood sugar zoom up to a far greater high than is sensible…then it comes crashing down only a few hours later with all the associated symptoms that you see in your children at picking up time – crabby, aggressive, tearful.



    This happens to many children because of the pattern of their meals and their snacks. Some children eat poorly at breakfast. To compensate, they are given cookies, Kit-Kats etc (all fast-release sugars) for break. These make the blood sugar go up so high that appetites are suppressed and poor at lunch time – so they eat poorly.



    Little in the way of slow-release sugars (more complex carbohydrates such as pasta, oats found in flapjacks and cereals, rice, potatoes, decent bread) are eaten so their blood sugars are at rock bottom at pick up time, and so they appear „starving‟, crotchety etc. Giving even more fast release sugars at pick up time continues the cycle, and so it goes on.







    Katie aged 9 said, “If you want a toy in a cereal box and it looks really big, it always turns out to be small and crummy.” Appearances are deceiving – read the small print and feed your children‟s brains, not their buns!

  3. With rising gas prices, freezing snow storms, and a still tough economy, many families are trimming their vacation budgets in response. Instead of purchasing expensive airfare, lodgings, and more, many have opted to take their vacations closer to home. Dubbed “staycations,” they can be far cheaper than the traditional ones and packed with just as much fun.

    As with many things, planning a staycation of your own is easier said than done. To help out, we have the below 20 creative staycation ideas for winter. Whether looking to save some money on or off the slopes, get the kids learning during school break, or make the world a better place, they are full of ideas for everyone.

    Creative Cultural Staycation Ideas for Winter

    Combine education and fun in these staycation ideas.


      1. Museum

      Learn all about science, history, and more by visiting a local museum. The Museum Spot lists tons of locations in all 50 states, along with a little about each museum. You can also find loads of other fun stuff for your staycation.

      2. Zoo
      Get a look at a living museum by checking out a local zoo. This site gives a directory of zoos by state. You can also find natural habitats, botanical gardens, and more in your area.

      3. Visit a Park
      With hundreds of thousands of square miles in parks, there is sure to be one near you. The National Park Service offers this tool to help you find one your area. You can also choose by activity or topic. Be sure to learn more about Fee Free Day while you are there.

      4. Find a Festival
      No matter what the season, there are festivals constantly being held around the country and even in Canada. Stop at this site to find over 22,000 events in North America. They include music festivals, art and craft shows, home and garden shows, and many other specialty events.

      5. It’s Fair Weather
      Visit here to get the official site of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions. Simply type in the name of the fair you would like to go to, or select by state, Canadian province, or other country to get results. The site also has more about the fairs it lists.

      6. Organics Can Be Cheaper
      Love fresh produce as much as you love cheap vacations? Then going to an organic farm just might be the answer to both. Many organic farms are willing to exchange room and board for volunteer help. The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms was started in 1971 in the UK to help peoples and farms connect. It has now grown to loads of options around the world, including North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

      7. Workaway
      Similar to the above, this site helps those who are willing to work find vacation opportunities. With a philosophy of a few hours of work per day in exchange for food and accommodation with friendly hosts, there are many options across the world. Current offerings include help needed in a Chateau, Spanish resort, and Scottish Highlands. Choose by most popular countries such as Portugal, Italy, and Canada, or by your preferred location.

      8. Volunteer 
      Use your vacation time to benefit others by volunteering. It can be a great way to help families connect and help out the community. This site matches volunteers by interest and location. There is also a resource library with tons of ideas on volunteering.

    Creative Outdoor Staycation Ideas for Winter

    Get in touch with nature during your staycation with the help of the below.

      9. Make it Campy
      Who needs plane tickets and fancy hotels when a family can get loads of vacation fun with their own car and a tent? Visit here for a premier source for information on private parks and campgrounds nationwide. Whether you’re looking for the perfect park, traveler’s tips, or things to do when you get there, they are there to help. There are also sections for camping rentals, park reviews, helpful tips, and even a kid’s corner.

      10. Get Your Hunt On!
      Whether up in the mountains or down in the swamps, there are loads of hunting options to choose from. Hunt Find provides a listing of guides, camps, and outfitters to help in your hunting staycation. There are also items for other outdoor adventures, leases, and:

      11. Gone Fishing
      With a tagline of “no day spent teaching a child to fish is wasted,” this site helps everyone from first timers to experienced fishers find a spot. Simply choose your state to begin. You can also get tips for freshwater, saltwater, and fly fishing.

      12. Trail Mix
      The experts at keep track of all the country’s top trailing destinations. There are options for hiking, backpacking, bikes, ATVs, and much more. You can choose by state and even most popular trails.

      13. SE7EN
      Is your love of the outdoors fueled by Mother Earth? Then this is the staycation spot for you. The members of SE7EN help provide free and low cost opportunities for volunteers who are interested in social and environmental engineering. Projects can be at schools, orphanages, wildlife reserves, parks, and many other choices. Visit to learn more.

      14. If You Build It…
      Put your handyman skills to use by volunteering to build a Habitat for Humanity home. They accept volunteers at all levels. Simply type in your zip code, affiliate name, or other location to begin.

      15. Because Gravity is Free
      So too should skiing be. However, nowadays it can be the most expensive vacation a family can take during the winter. But if you live close to the slopes, a skiing weekend can cost less than $100 per person. The site Sliding on the Cheap constantly features the lowest in skiing prices and links to them all. You can even find out which places are giving away lesson packages.

    Other Creative Staycation Ideas for Winter

    Think outside the box with these cheap staycation ideas.

    16. Couchsurfing
    This is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit. Use the site to find someone willing to host you in your area. There are over two million people currently using the site with nearly three million successful experiences. Check out the testimonials of those who have done and/or are doing it.

      Similar to the above, this is a site to help cyclists find cheap and free places to stay while biking. There is an introduction section, as well as an FAQ, with much more. The site is also available in several different languages.

      18. Can You Dig It?
      Archaeological digs are not just for George Lucas movies. Real digs often take on volunteers. In exchange for some tedious work, staycation-ers can view the world and history like never before. Visit this resource from Biblical Archaeology Review to learn more about current digs and who needs volunteers.

      19. Time it Right
      Do you have an invulnerability to high pressure sales tactics? Then a timeshare vacation may be right for you. With enticing introductory offers, many sellers of timeshares get loads of people to visit and stay for free or cheap in exchange for hearing a pitch on purchasing a timeshare. Check out this blog entry by Rob Zucker with more on the timeshare industry, as well as where to find deals.

      20. Plant Your Flag
      Younger staycationers will have the time of their lives at one of the many Six Flags theme parks located across the United States. Rollercoaster previews, deals, events, and more are listed on the homepage. You can also get group discounts and learn more about Season Passes with a visit.

    And the above top 20 creative staycation ideas for winter are just the beginning. With a creative mind and a flexible schedule, there are loads of options available for cheap, memorable vacations. To learn more about the idea of staycations, check out this article from the experts at CNN. There is also this blog that is entirely devoted to coming up with and sharing inventive staycation ideas.

    by Debbie Owen