Guest Post: Surviving A Camping Trip With The Kids

Dave McDonald from The Kayak Critic pops by The Bandwagon to share his wisdom and encourage parents to take the kids camping.

Going on a camping trip with children can be fun, but it can also be a challenging one. Not all kids love the outdoors and if your tots are like most of the children nowadays, it is probably difficult to take them away from their tablets, mobile devices, or computers; much more from accessing the Internet!

You’ll need the ultimate guide for camping with youngsters if you want to overcome these challenges and make your camping trip not just push through, but most importantly, make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.

While things may not be all smooth, it’s still worth the try because of the various advantages that you can get from this adventure. You’ll have a closer relationship with your loved ones and this is also the perfect opportunity to bond with them.

Kids who are first-timers in camping can be prepared for the real trip by bringing them outdoors during the day. This will familiarize them with the setting that they will be in on the campsite. Backyard camping is also a great idea as they will feel more comfortable sleeping in a tent on the actual camping day.

To help you plan for a fantastic camping trip with your little ones, here is an amazing infographic for you. It contains great tips and guides on what you can do to make this experience memorable and as hassle-free as possible. You will become more confident in bringing your kids at the campsite.

 

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Not A Diet: Spicy Yoghurt Chicken

It can be hard coming up with recipes that tick both the yummy and low calorie boxes – especially when it also needs to serve as a lunch to take to work. Last week, bored with my usual fare, I searched the internet for inspiration.

Spicy yoghurt chicken is exactly what it sounds like – it’s spicy, it’s covered in yoghurt, and, well, it’s chicken. It’s a pretty simple recipe, and it can be tweaked to suit your own tastes. This recipe makes about 6 meals, and served as one dinner and two lunches for myself and my partner. (For the dinner, we didn’t have pitta but instead added cheesy chips, because reasons.) If you want to make more or less, simply adjust the ingredients accordingly.

Ingredients

  • 650g chicken
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 200g low fat Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp single cream (optional)
  • 1 pitta

For the chicken, you can use whichever spices you prefer! We used:

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Hot chilli powder
  • Garlic granules
  • Paprika
  • Cajun

Nutritional Information

Calories: 362 Protein: 36g Carbs: 41g Fat: 7g

Method 

Chop peppers, onion, and cucumber into small chunks. On a baking tray, place peppers and onions, sprinkle with a pinch of paprika and Cajun spice, then put in oven (200 degrees) for approx. 5 minutes.

Cut chicken into bitesize pieces. Add spices (enough to coat, but to taste), then put in oven (200 degrees) for approx. 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked thoroughly.

In a bowl, combine cucumber chunks, Greek yoghurt, single cream, and, once cool, roasted peppers and onions, to make the vegetable sauce. Add pinch of black pepper, paprika, and Cajun spice, and stir well. Put in fridge.

Lightly toast a pitta bread, then cut open. Once chicken is cooked, remove from oven and place inside pitta bread. Spoon a liberal amount of the vegetable sauce over the top of the chicken, close pitta and cut down the middle. (I actually prefer less of the sauce, so I don’t smother my chicken, but it’s all relative.)

(Sorry for the rubbish picture!)

This is a great light lunch, perfect for transporting to work. The chicken and sauce comes in at a mere 197 calories per serving, and one pitta (we used white pitta bread from Tesco) is 170 calories. It’s also a great source of protein.

What are your favourite workday lunches? Let me know in the comments below!

Ask The Author: M.K. Williams

Author M.K. Williams joins The Bandwagon to talk about her writing process.

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MK Williams is an Indiana-born, Philadelphia-raised, Florida-transplant working and living beneath the sunny, and often rainy, skies of Tampa. Williams’ writing influences include a lifetime of watching suspenseful mysteries and action movies and reading Stephen King, Ian McEwan and J.K. Rowling.

What inspired you to start writing? 

I’ve always enjoyed writing, some people like to paint or draw, I have always liked to write. I find that I genuinely enjoy the creative process of writing and I think I would keep on writing even if I didn’t keep publishing my work. I have always liked to read and my mom was always encouraging to me to write. I dedicated my most recent book to her, she definitely inspired me to pursue honing my craft.

What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process? 

I wish someone had asked me about my goals sooner. My husband was actually the one to ask me to define my goals. Did I want to be an international bestseller? Did I want to just have my book published? That actually helped me to define my goals and what success would look like for me. If someone had asked me sooner I may have been able to get to where I am now years ago.

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Tell us more about your book.

My latest book is a collection of short stories called The Games You Cannot Win. I love writing in all of its various lengths and forms and short stories are where I started out before I wrote my first novel. The four stories in this collection all follow a different character as they feel trapped in their career, trapped in their goals and what society expects, trapped in a scandal, or trapped in the past. In each one they feel that they are part of a game that someone else is playing with them, or on them, that they can’t get out of. Each story delves into the characters and tackles some serious issues in our society today.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t plan that writing will replace your day-job. When you write with the mindset that you are going to make a million dollars and quit the job you don’t like, you write from a very different place. Write because you enjoy it, that joy will come through in your words and will lead to your success.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu. It is a non-fiction book on marketing in the 18th and 19th centuries and how advertisers are constantly finding new ways to steal our attention. I am reading this as research for my next book.

You can buy The Games You Cannot Win on Amazon, Nook, and iBooks. Visit Williams’ website, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

#GirlCrush: the feminist subscription box for all your beauty needs

#GirlCrush is the new subscription box that focuses on girl bosses, sending out a monthly box to subscribers that contain beauty products, clothing, jewellery, and many more fabulous items. The company also donates 10% sales to a chosen charity. I signed up to receive the first box, and I was not disappointed.

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Each box is despatched on the 14th of every month, and usually arrives within a few days. I was so excited to come home from work last Friday to see mine sitting on the side. I ripped it open to find multiple luxury beauty products (including a lovely red nail polish that I tried immediately!), a pair of yoga pants, and a candle.

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Sadly, the yoga pants were a tad too small for me, so I sent them to my sister, who definitely needs reminding that she is gorgeous. This box is the perfect pick-me-up. You can personalise it, and discover new brands by female entrepreneurs. Body-positive, feminist, women-centred, it’s everything you could want in a monthly subscription box.

I spoke to director Sienna Rose about this amazing new box.

What inspired you to start the #GirlCrush box? 

I think that usually someone thinks of an idea first and then they think of an appropriate name for it, but for me it was the other way round. I’ve always loved the Girl Crush hashtag as I love the idea of being supportive of other women, instead of viewing each other as competition, so I tried to think of a concept that would embody that.

I’ve always been passionate about business and I love to listen to podcasts of women with great start up stories, so I wanted to provide a service that would help these women promote their products in a way that would highlight what they’ve created.

The #GirlCrush box gives them the chance to do so. Our members can crush on their products, and girl crush on the women behind them via the interview series we run alongside the launch of each box. I love the fact that I know any woman who subscribes to this box isn’t just doing so to receive the beautiful products inside, but also because they believe in our overall ethos of women supporting women

As the company grows I want it to turn into more of a community to celebrate women and their achievements, so I can’t wait for everything we have coming up over the next few months.

What can subscribers expect each month?

For just £20 a month our subscribers can expect at least 8 different luxury quality products created by women owned brands. The box includes beauty, lifestyle products such as stationery, tech and home accessories, and clothing or jewellery.  Whenever we can, we’ll personalise it according to your personal preferences, such as your favourite colour.

The value of our box is up to £150. You can either subscribe on a monthly basis, treat yourself to a one off box, or gift one of our boxes to the main Girl Crush in your life.

What made you choose Women’s Aid as your first charity?

I chose Women’s Aid as the first charity to donate to, as I myself have been through abuse, both as a child and then domestically during my adult life, and so it was really important to me to give back to an organisation that helps us to grow from victims to survivors. As #GirlCrush progresses I’m looking forward to being able to get more involved and give back in an even bigger way.

Tell us more about your background. 

I’ve worked for myself for the past 9 years within the creative digital space, doing a variety of things including website design and influencer outreach. Prior to that I worked in corporate sales. I’m not sure what it’s like now, but 9 years ago it was definitely a male dominated area, so I would often find myself being the only woman in an office filled with men, who would mostly ignore and side eye the 19 year old petite girl consistently smashing her sales targets. This definitely gave me the self motivation to create a business for myself, where I could always be comfortable and have fun doing whatever I wanted, and I’m proud to say I’ve been continuously able to do so. #GirlCrush is already becoming the most fulfilling part of my entrepreneurial journey so far.

Which Girl Bosses are you crushing on right now?

I’m obsessed with beautiful stationery, so I’m really inspired by Kristina Karlsson (the creator of Kikki K) and Erin Condren. I love wrestling so I’ve always loved Stephanie McMahon (WWE), but overall I’m able to draw inspiration from all the Girl Bosses I discover on a daily basis through work and listening to podcasts such as Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher, or watching Youtube or reading a blog. I particularly crush on Mimi Ikonn and Alex Beadon, they’re both amazing women. I love visiting markets in my local area and being able to see Girl Bosses selling beautiful and unique creations that they made with their own hands. I believe there’s always an opportunity to learn and be inspired by fellow women, because each of us is a Girl Boss in one way or another.

You can sign up to #GirlCrush here, or follow them on Instagram, @hashtaggirlcrush

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

I review The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve.

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot’s Wife (an Oprah’s Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath–based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine’s history.

In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort.

The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms–joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain–and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens–and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

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Wow. The Stars Are Fire is an absolute gem of a book. It’s the perfect historical fiction – pick an event, and tell me about the people who lived through it. The concept – the fire that destroyed part of Maine in 1947 – is terrifying,

Grace is an amazing woman. Stuck in an unhappy marriage, Grace is bored, frustrated, restrained. Shreve approaches marital rape with the attitude of the time, but also with a modern perspective. Grace’s husband, Gene, views sex as his right, and cares nothing for how Grace feels. Their third child is conceived through what Grace comes to think of as “that terrible night”, but what readers of today would, rightly, identify as rape.

But then, the fire. Grace grabs her two children, both infants, and, together with her neighbour Rosie, runs down to the beach. Somehow, somehow, she manages to keep her children safe. I wonder if this part of the story is based on a true account, if some woman laid face-down on the beach, legs in the water, a wet blanket covering her and her children, waiting for help to arrive. I’m inclined to believe it. The bravery of women, the strength of mothers, is unimaginable.

Gene, along with other men who were helping fight the flames, disappears. Grace, homeless, injured, stays with friends while she heals, gets back on her feet. She remembers that Gene’s mother had left her house to him, and that Gene had intended to move the family into it. A huge house, belonging to them, is standing empty. So she, her children, and her mother, move into it. But the house is not quite as empty as Grace believed. There’s a squatter, a young musician, with whom Grace becomes friends, and then more.

Grace’s story is sad, heartbreaking. With the disappearance of her husband, the fallout of the disaster, she becomes independent. She gets a job at a local doctor’s office, she gets a car, she provides for her family. She is happy. But worse is still to come.

This is absolutely a feminist story. It’s about a woman who, having never been able to stretch her wings, suddenly finds herself free of her cage, and takes flight as if she was born to it. It’s about the restrictions of society, of marriage, and how women are the ones who suffered, who still suffer. The Stars Are Fire is a breathtakingly beautiful story. I strongly recommend this one.

The Stolen Child by Sanjida Kay

From the author of Bone By Bone, I review The Stolen Child by Sanjida Kay.

Zoe and Ollie Morley tried for years to have a baby and couldn’t. They turned to adoption and their dreams came true when they were approved to adopt a little girl from birth. They named her Evie.

Seven years later, the family has moved to Yorkshire and grown in number: a wonderful surprise in the form of baby Ben. As a working mum it’s not easy for Zoe, but life is good.

But then Evie begins to receive letters and gifts.

The sender claims to be her birth father.

He has been looking for his daughter.

And now he is coming to take her back…

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Unable to have children of their own, Zoe and Ollie adopted Evie (love this name!) from birth. They love her as if she was their own, but, a few years later, Zoe becomes pregnant with Ben. It doesn’t make a difference to them, but Evie appears to be affected by the presence of her brother. She starts receiving gifts from her Real Daddy, left in places only Evie will find them. And then, Evie goes missing.

Who was sending Evie these notes and gifts – is it really her biological father? Do they want to hurt her? Where have they taken her? Full of twists, The Stolen Child is a thrilling, atmospheric story.

Kay drip-feeds information to her readers, keeping them hooked until the very end. Kay is an incredible writer, and I’ve enjoyed both of her books. I look forward to her next work of fiction.

Goodreads | Amazon UK

Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

I review Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel.

Five stories – five lives

Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?

Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.

In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

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Just like my own collection, Weltanschauung, Leuschel splits Manipulated Lives into five short stories: The Narcissist, Tess and Tattoos, The Spell, Runaway Girl, and My Perfect Child. Each story is incredibly crafted to entice and cling on to the reader.

My favourite story was Runaway Girl. It shows that anyone is capable of manipulating you. In the story, Holly has been desperately saving money in order to embark on an adventure, to get away from her overcrowded house, with her overworked and underpaid parents. She finally has what she feels is enough to get her started, but things soon start to go downhill. A boy from school, Luke, starts taking an interest in her, and their relationship quickly becomes abusive.

I loved how Leuschel managed to pull so many strings together, to tell a complex, poignant story. All of the stories in this collection were interesting, well-written, and somewhat concerning. Leuschel shows that anyone is capable of manipulation.