I’ve gone self-hosted

After talking about it and talking about it, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and gone self-hosted. My new blog can be found at:

http://allpastmidnight.com

Hop over and see me there.

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Meal Plan: 20/09/15 – 26/09/15

Meal planning monday: 20/09/15 - 26/09/15 @allpastmidnight
Another quiet week blogging-wise, but we’ve just been getting on with cooking and eating. The noodle soup and the mussels have both been bumped to this week, although the noodle soup was meant to use up the other half of the tin of black beans left over from the beef and black bean burgers. That plan was slightly scuppered by me using the entire tin and not realising until the burgers were half-cooked. Whoops.

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How to Get ‘Free’ Stuff for Your New Blog Without Brand Contacts

How to get free stuff for your blog without brand contacts @allpastmidnight
Are you a new blogger and want to start doing reviews on your blog? In theory, you could just buy something for review, or just review the things you would be buying anyway, but perhaps money is tight and nothing you own or are planning to buy is particularly inspiring. So how do you start getting free stuff to review on your blog? Well, I can’t help with brand contacts just yet, but I can suggest a few ways to get items for free or next to nothing.


1.) Free Trials
From Amazon Prime to Graze, once you start looking for them, free trials are everywhere, but do be careful, as it will almost certainly renew automatically and you could end up paying. There are scams around as well, which make it extremely hard for you to cancel, so before signing up google the offer first to make sure it’s legit.

2.) Supermarket Loyalty Points
I’m stretching the definition of free a little bit here, but often loyalty points sit unused and wasted. Why not write them off and think how you could put them towards your blog instead? For example, at the moment £2.50 of Tesco Clubcard vouchers could equal £10 to spend at a variety of restaurants, including Strada, Chimichanga, and Bella Italia, or you could spend your points on a trip out to somewhere like the Eden Project. Tesco Clubcard Boost could give you double points on books and entertainment, so it’s worth checking their website to see what they offer.

3.) Shopping Reward Apps
These can be hit and miss but I do quite like CheckOutSmart. This is an app which offers a variety of cashback offers on your shop, along with a handful of freebies. At the moment, for example, I can get a free chocolate drink from Morrisons or a Kingsmill Farmhouse loaf from Sainsbury’s. You have to snap the receipt afterwards, but so far the process has been easy. Payments up to £19.99 incur a fee of 5%, but if you can get your balance up to £20, there is no fee. Shopitize is worth a look as well, but tends to have fewer freebies.

4.) Mumsnet
There are other sites that run product tests, but I’ve been part of a number of product trials through Mumsnet, including one for Little Dish toddler meals and another for Mini Milk lollies. They also run regular book giveaways, and I’ve just received Purity, Jonathan Franzen’s latest, as part of their book club scheme. They also have some trials for more expensive products as well: there was one for an expensive Kenwood mixer recently, and last time I checked there was a trial sign-up running for a Miele tumble drier.

Unlike competitions, it is assumed that you will participate in the product threads on the forum, and if you do not, it may mean that you will not be considered for future trials. With the more expensive trials, if you do not participate you will probably have to give the product back.

5.) Goodreads
Every day, Goodreads runs quite a few competitions to win books of varying quality. Remember my review for Carla Norton’s Hunted? That was a book I received through their First Reads program. The odds for the UK only giveaways in particular are usually quite good, and there’s a real mixture of books on there. Well worth a look if you’re interested in doing book reviews. You don’t have to review the book, but it is expected that you will.

6.) Survey sites
I’ve found a lot of the survey sites are basically just rubbish and not worth it, however I have found that Valued Opinions is well worth joining with regular surveys that aren’t too tedious to complete. I recently received a £15 Amazon voucher from them, and it’s possible to build up your balance fairly quickly. Keep your eyes peeled for adverts for one called Pinecone as well, as they have an excellent reputation and pay extrememely well.

7.) Tesco Orchard
I love Tesco Orchard, I really do. I haven’t been a member for long, but I’ve just been accepted for my third program with them, this one for fresh fish. My recipe for date and raisin ‘truffles’ came about because of the Bioplan program they were running, and I’ve also been part of a program for their fruit and vegetables. The current one is for fresh fish. I particularly like it because it often focuses on fresh food, which is rather refreshing in a world where you are constantly being pressed to buy processed food. They send you vouchers (usually around £4, with extra vouchers for friends and family. Or husbands), which gives you the freedom to try something you wouldn’t ordinarily buy.

8.) Competitions
This one is the biggie, even if it is also a bit controversial in the blogging world. While it may take a bit of getting used to, Loquax is an amazing site, packed with competitions for all sorts of prizes, from holidays to books to vouchers to tickets to events. And ultimately it’s a numbers game; the more competitions you enter, the more likely it is that you will win one, particularly if you are entering for the smaller stuff, such as books or tickets to one-off events. Exactly the sort of stuff that would make excellent blog-fodder, in fact.

I say this is controversial because some bloggers hate the idea of this sort of organised comping. It’s a shame because many people can and do discover new sites through entering competitions, but bear this in mind and be respectful and polite. A lot of the blogs that run regular competitions are excellent, and if you are a blogger yourself, being a committed member of the community can only benefit you.

If you’re thinking of running a competition on your blog, this could also be a good way of getting a free prize to give away, however be mindful of ASA guidelines: you are responsible for making sure the winner gets their prize, so if it gets lost in the post, you could be left out of pocket. I also wouldn’t recommend this if the win was from another blog: that would just be rude.


Do you have any suggestions? Please share them in the comments.


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An Hour in the Life of a Parent Blogger

An hour in the life of a parent blogger @allpastmidnight
Have you heard about the new linky over at Mummy Tries yet? It’s a different kind of linky, one where you are expected to share posts rather than commenting on them. Reneé talks about linky fatigue, and that’s something that really resonates with me, because I am terrible at linkys. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love them, and not just because they’re a great way of bringing traffic to my blog. I love how through them I’ve discovered a wide range of blogs I would probably never have otherwise stumbled across, but commenting? Yeah, that’s a problem.

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Things my Daughter has Taught Me: Autism Quotients and the Broader Autism Phenotype

Autism Quotients and the Broader Autism Phenotype @allpastmidnight
One of the consequences of Wee Girl’s diagnosis of autism is that it has made me reconsider myself in a new light. While no one really understands what causes autism, it is clear that there is a genetic factor involved. In his 1943 paper Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact, Leo Kanner made some observations about the parents of children with autism which later led to the now discredited theory of the ‘refrigerator mother’ being at the heart of the condition.

‘One other fact stands out prominently. In the whole group, there are very few really warmhearted fathers and mothers. For the most part, the parents, grandparents, and collaterals are persons strongly preoccupied with abstractions of a scientific, literary, or artistic nature, and limited in genuine interest in people. Even some of the happiest marriages are rather cold and formal affairs.’
From ‘Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact – Leo Kanner

So what’s going on here? It’s possible that these parents may have been part of the Broad Autism Phenotype (or BAP), a term used to describe mild autistic traits in people who do not have autism.

Recently, I have been wondering if I could be part of it. These days I care much less whether other people accept me, but even so I still find social situations hard, often at a loss when it comes to keeping a conversation going or starting one up. Social chit chat with people I hardly know just doesn’t come easy to me; I don’t have the knack.

And there are sensory issues as well. In noisy situations, I find it extremely hard to make out words. I mishear things if people talk too quietly, and I find it very difficult to make out dialogue on the TV. Of course, it could just be because I’m a bit deaf, and that’s what I always assumed, but now I wonder. I have to squint in not-all-that bright sunlight. I get anxious in crowds and places where I am likely to be jostled. And I have a terrible memory for faces.

The Autism Quotient test was designed to test whether adults with autism are just extreme outliers on a spectrum that runs through the general population.

I’ve taken the test three times recently. The first time I scored 14, which is an average score. The second time, thinking more carefully about the questions, I scored 22, which shows autistic tendencies slightly above the population average. The final time I scored 27, which is actually a borderline score for autism itself. The discrepancies lie in how I interpret the questions at any given time. I often find tests like this frustrating, because how I feel about social chitchat, for example, depends an awful lot on the mood I’m in. Still this is meant as a guideline rather than a diagnostic tool.

So what have I learned? Well, for a start to be easier on myself, particularly on those days where I don’t feel much like socialising. It’s also given me a bit of an insight into my daughter’s autism, and more of an understanding of where it has come from and where its roots lie.

Have you taken the test? What’s your autism quotient?

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Cauliflower and Macaroni Blue Cheese Soup

Cauliflower and macaronu blue cheese soup recipe @allpastmidnight
I mentioned a few posts back that I had restarted my journey to lose weight. I love soup at any time, but particularly at lunchtime, because they are filling, often packed with veg in a way that a sandwich can never be, and provide the psychological benefits of a hot meal that is more than the sum of its parts.

I use Aldi’s Super 6 a lot, and think it’s amazing.  Even if you don’t normally shop in Aldi, it’s worth popping in purely for their Super 6 alone, a selection of fruit and vegetables at very low prices (usually around 39-59 pence) that changes fortnightly. If you think reaching your five a day is expensive, then you need to try Aldi: it’s as simple as that.

Their last Super 6 included cauliflower, one of those vegetables I didn’t think I really liked, mainly because I never knew what to do with it. I’m still learning, but it does go very well with cheese, particularly the stronger blue cheeses like stilton. And the stronger a cheese is, the less you need.

If you’re doing Weight Watchers, this soup works out to around 5 PP, based on 2 servings.


Cauliflower and Macaroni Blue Cheese Soup

Ingredients (Serves around 2-3 depending on how greedy you are)

– Spray oil or a splash of olive oil
– 1 onion, chopped
– 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 cauliflower, broken up into florets
– 1 ltr of chicken or vegetable stock
– 60g macaroni pasta
– 30g of stilton

Method

1.) Spray the oil into a saucepan and place over a low to medium heat. Add the onions and fry gently for 10 minutes or so. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more, then chuck in the cauliflower and turn up the heat a bit, letting it cook for another few minutes.

2.) Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover the pot, and let it cook for 10 minutes.

3.) Add the macaroni and cook for another 10 minutes until the pasta is cooked. Use a hand blender to whizz the soup up a bit. Leave it a bit chunky if you prefer that sort of texture.

4.) Crumble over the stilton and stir until it melts into the soup. Serve as is, or with a bit more cheese crumbled on top.

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

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CBeebies and Special Needs: Why the BBC Must NEVER Axe CBeebies

Cbeebies and special needs: Why CBeebies must never be axed @allpastmidnight
This week parents across the country were rocked by the horrifying news that the BBC could consider axeing CBeebies, their channel aimed at preschool children. Cue lots of blog posts and the #savecbeebies hashtag on Twitter about how mums and dads are never going to be able to have a shower or blog in peace again. Which is true, by the way, but that’s not the point of this post.

In fact, we’re not likely to lose CBeebies any time soon. A recent blog post from the BBC Children’s Director, Alice Webb, seemed to confirm that CBeebies would be staying as most children still watch it on television.

‘As long as kids and parents continue to watch our output on our TV channels, we’ll continue to put our programmes there. CBBC and CBeebies are the most-loved channels in the UK for their target age groups and we’re incredibly proud of that.’
Alice Webb, Alice Webb, Director, BBC Children’s

Well, that’s great and all, but the underlying message seems clear: if children start to move away from watching CBeebies on tv and towards iPlay, then the channel could be in danger.

CBeebies is and remains virtually the only space on television which regularly caters to and involves children with disabilities of all kinds. It features a number of programs created with children with special needs in mind, including the wonderful Something Special, Magic Hands (poetry translated into BSL) and Melody (which introduces children to classical music using carefully designed animation and voiceovers to make it accessible for children with a visual impairment).

I have a child with autism. She’s four and a half years old. She does not talk. All the Makaton I know I learned from Justin Fletcher, and seeing children with disabilities on the channel has been an enormous help in coming to terms with having a child with a disability.

I’m sure a lot of children will start using iPlay But many, many children will not be able to, either because of a learning or physical disability, or perhaps because their parents feel uncomfortable about allowing their children to control their own programming in that way.

If the BBC are thinking that they will be able to axe CBeebies when more children start to use iPlay then it’s clear that they are thinking about ‘normal’ children and are not taking into account the needs of children like mine. It’s also assuming that everyone has access to broadband at home, so inevitably the poorest members of society will miss out on the educational programming that CBeebies provides.

Many others have spoken about what a wonderful resource CBeebies is; it is the only channel aimed at young children which provides quality educational programming WITHOUT endless advertisements, but it is also much more than that:

‘At CBeebies we believe passionately that what we do should be enjoyed by all children, including those with additional needs. We believe that it’s important for children a disability to see themselves positively represented on the channel, so we make every effort to do so. We also produce shows, activities and parenting resources for children with a range of different needs.’
From the CBeebies website

Obviously this is talking about the aims of an existing channel, but if that channel were to be lost these goals might be lost with it. I’m sure programs for children with disabilities will still be made, but being truly inclusive isn’t just about creating programs for people with disabilities to watch and download in the privacy of their own homes.  How many people whose lives haven’t been touched by disability will actually watch those downloadable programs? Only by incorporating disability into everyday programming do you reach everyone and make steps towards creating a more tolerant and inclusive society.

Without CBeebies not only will there be virtually nowhere left on mainstream television where children with disabilities can easily see themselves positively represented’, but there will also be nowhere left that strives to normalise the sight of children in wheelchairs, children with Down Syndrome, children with autism, children with visual impairments, children who for one reason or another are not able to speak or walk.

This is why the thought of axeing CBeebies is jawdroppingly awful. You can make jokes about never being able to have a shower again or roll your eyes at lazy parents sticking their kids in front of the TV, but the reality is that CBeebies has been a godsend for me and for many other parents like me. Because it shows children like mine when virtually nowhere else does.

Please sign the petition over at Change.org and let’s keep this wonderful inclusive channel going.

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Meal Plan: 13/09/15 – 19/09/15

Meal Plan 13/09/15 - 19/09/15 @allpastmidnight
I had a bit of a quiet week last week, blogging-wise, and didn’t post the meal plan for the week, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t eating well. We had a gorgeous bit of roast pork on the Sunday, and have been polishing off the leftovers all week, with  pork fajitas, the bahn mi from Save With Jamie, and an off-the-cuff pasta dish which used up the lemony, cidery gravy for the roast. So that was four different recipes out of one £6 2kg boneless shoulder joint from Sainsbury’s. I don’t know about you, but I’m quite impressed with that, and they were ALL delicious.

We also had some lovely chicken kebabs, pictured in the image above, and these I posted about yesterday. Wee Girl helped me cook them.

This week I’m trying to get back on track with Weight Watchers. I’ve been following the plan on and off but have been struggling with energy dips and headaches due to lack of sugar. I’ve finally come through that, and I’m ready to knuckle down and concentrate on weight loss now that my body is no longer screaming ‘Where the buggering fuck has my bastard sugar gone?’


Sunday
Asian beef cobbler with coriander dumplings (From Gok’s Wok)
& Creme Caramels

Monday
Spaghetti with Weight Watchers roasted tomato and garlic sauce, vegetables and prawns

Tuesday
Beef and black bean burgers with salad and wholemeal rolls (From Weight Watchers magazine)

Wednesday
Curried noodle soup using the leftover black beans from Tuesday (I may use a mixture of courgette and normal noodles here).

Thursday
Sausage cassoulet (From 30-Minute Meals)

Friday
Not sure yet. Probably leftovers of some kind.

Saturday
Moules marineres with shoestring fries and salad

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Cooking With Children: Honey and Soy Chicken Kebabs

Honey and soy chicken kebabs recipe, cooking with childres with autism @allpastmidnight
One of the most educational activities you can do with your child is cooking, but so often that seems to mean baking biscuits or cookies and cake. That’s fine every now and then, but doesn’t teach them about how to eat a balanced diet. After my last post about baking with a pre-verbal child I had been wanting to try cooking some more savoury food with my daughter and these chicken kebabs are ideal.
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Our Tiger Haul

Our Tiger Haul @allpastmidnightHave you ever been into a branch of Tiger? It’s one of those shops that sells things you never knew you wanted until you see them. Like Clas Ohlson or Lakeland. Going in can be a bit risky. Everything is excellent value, but then you get to the till and find out you’ve somehow managed to spend twenty quid on tealights and novelty cake tins.

It’s a great place for picking up the bits and pieces for your bucket session if you do Attention Autism. I find it’s great for sensory stuff as well, and I picked up a few things for Wee Girl to play with.

  • A 3D shape modeller – She picked up the display model and refused to put it down, carrying it all around the shop with her. So that was a must-buy, and it was only £3. Bargain. She’s even progressed to using it on her face. She loves the sound and the feel of it, and I’ve even started showing her how to make letters on it.
  • A cardboard castle – A crafty thing for us to play at putting together, building her attention span and giving us a chance to work on fine motor skills and communication. And who knows, possibly even some imaginative play if we’re lucky.
  • A magnetic dress-up doll – Lovely idea. It has plenty of dress-up options and comes with a little pouch to hold everything. Unlike paper dolls, it’s easy for Wee Girl to play with without tearing the clothes or the doll.
  • A mix and max faces sticker book – To build on Wee Girl’s interest in drawing people and faces

image

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