Categories
Product Reviews

The best Kitchen Gadget for any busy mum.

I am going to share with you my discovery of one of the best kitchen gadgets any busy mum can have. I think most of us use or have a slow cooker and since having children they have been a lifesaver in the kitchen allowing mums to still provide healthy meals but allowing us to work around our children.

What if I told you there is something even better than the much loved slow cooker!

That’s right a gadget that not only gives you amazing slow cooked tasting meals but in super quick time and low maintenance cooking.

I am talking about a pressure cooker, I was sceptical when my husband first convinced me to get one as I was a big lover of the slow cooker and I was not sure that the pressure cooker would ever live up to it, let alone exceed it. Now a year and a half on I could not be without my pressure cooker it is the best thing since sliced bread, especially now I have gone back to work.

IMG_20170604_183532

As you can see this is a picture of my well used pressure cooker

On our pressure cooker model we still have a slow cooking function so you can still prepare your meals in the morning and leave it cooking all day until you are ready for dinner. However if you are like me mornings with children can be hectic trying to get everyone ready for school and out the door on time so I do not have time to prepare the dinner and get the slow cooker on before leaving. If you are going off to work and not coming home after school run then the slow cooker is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

The pressure cooker has transformed my life and has solved my dilemma of providing healthy family meals with limited time. A perfect stew with soft falling apart meat can be made in just 35 minutes and homemade soups can also be made in the same amount of time.

Before I had my pressure cooker soup was something we made from a tin or if I was going to push the boat out I would buy the expensive fresh soup from the chilled aisle at the supermarket. I never dreamed that I would be making my own homemade soups that actually taste amazing and makes me, at least, feel so much healthier. All you need to do is throw in the vegetables add some stock, put the lid on and let it cook, once ready give it a quick blitz with the hand blender and there you have it one amazing soup is ready. (Read my post for the full recipe on my potato and leek soup)

potato--leek-soup

Potatoes and leeks into the pot ready to be made into soup

potato-and-leek-soup

The finished potato and leek soup

I love that I can spend 5 – 10 minutes prepping my meals then chuck them all in the pressure cooker and get on with the other 101 other jobs that I have waiting while dinner is cooking.

How the pressure cooker works!

Chop your meat and/or vegetables, if you want to brown any meat or onions before cooking you can use the Saulte button this will heat the bottom of the pot which you can then use as you would a frying pan, once done add all ingredients including sauces and seasonings, then put the lid on, seal the vent and push the button you want e.g. stew, soup ect. The pot will then fill with steam and the vent will seal itself once this is done it will then start to cook. After the 35 minutes the timer will sound and you then open the vent at the top releasing the steam, once the steam has dispersed out the small hole at the top, the lid will realise the safety catch and you can open it up and inside will be your delicious home cooked meal.

As well as Stew, Soup and the slow cooker settings there are also preset buttons for chilli, porridge, rice and yoghurt!! I have to admit, even though I have had my pressure cooker well over a year I have only ever used the stew and soup settings I have not branched out to the other settings and not even looked into the yogurt setting. The only time I have ever used the slow cooker setting was when I made homemade cider from the 100s of spare apples my uncle had from his garden and even if I do say so myself it was delicious, even before I added the alcohol we all enjoyed it as apple juice.

IMAG3202
IMAG3206

Even when we are not limited to time but are short on oven space we have used the pressure cooker  to aid us with the Sunday roast. While we use the oven for the traditional roasted potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and stuffing the pressure cooker makes the perfect fall of the bone full flavoured meat and the leftover liquid if you add some gravy granules afterwards to it will make the most amazing gravy.

I am not writing this post as I am in partnership with anyone selling pressure cookers or that I have been given one to try out. I, well my husband, genuinely bought a pressure cooker and have fallen in love with it. We have used ours excessively and it is still going strong. I wanted to share my experience with other busy mums as the pressure cooker has improved our family meals whilst still fitting in with the small window of time we have for cooking dinner. 

There are loads of different pressure cookers out there which I am sure will be just as good but the one that we have and swear by is the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker (aff link).

instant-pot

The instant Pot pressure cooker also has its own recipe book that you can buy or there are lots of other pressure cooker recipe books available.

Why not also take a look at some of my other recipes –

Homemade Potato and Leek Soup

Hearty Homemade Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

Healthy Chocolate Bounty Bars

Homemade Pizza Recipe

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.


Categories
Mental health & Wellbeing Product Reviews

Thrive the stress management programme App

I recently jumped at the chance to review a new app called Thrive which is a stress management programme.

The reason why I wanted to do this trial is because I have a lot of stress going on in my life at the moment. I have 3 children, I work full time as a property manager in a busy (and very stressful) lettings office, I am working hard in the evenings to build my blog and gain more readers and to add to all the above my partner works away from home Monday evening to Friday evening so I am on my own during the week.

I think I can be excused for feeling a bit stressed from time to time. While I can’t change my immediate circumstances I need to start implementing changes to manage and combat my stress.

stressed-selfie

That’s when I saw the trail to review the Thrive app and I was so happy when they picked me to try the app for a month’s free trial. (If you read on they have given me a code for you to try the app for free as well)

The app was very easy to download from Google play and sign up was quick and easy and the code for the month’s free trial was easy to add in.

The first day I downloaded the app I was having a pretty crappy day and was feeling quite stressed. I had the tightness in my chest and tension throughout my body so I was sceptical that it would be able to help.

To start with you are given a sliding scale that asks you how you are feeling today and on one side of the scale there is a stormy cloud and on the other a bright shining sun. On the first day mine was very near to the stormy cloud. After you have picked your mood you are then taken through a series of questions which go more into depth on how you are feeling.  There is a question at the top and then a range of answers below in these purple floating bubbles.

I started looking through to pick my answer and when I read some of the answers I could pick from I realised that my life and problems were nothing compared to some of the problems people are suffering from. After scrolling through I eventually picked work as a cause of my stress and then I was taken on to the next question as to why I am stressed at work and again from looking at the answers I realised that things are not as bad as I thought. So before I had even got into the app and carried out any of the exercises I was already feeling so much better about my life and a lot less stressed just by having things put into perspective.

I am using the app on my smartphone and the bubbles can be hard to pick as they move around quite a bit and having a small screen makes it difficult. If you were using a tablet then it would probably be a lot easier to see and manoeuvre the bubbles to pick your answers.

The home screen is a beautiful desert island with a palm tree and a deck chair, which I am longing to sit on. The background music is very gentle and calming and combines the sounds of the waves crashing against the sandy banks of the island with the soft music.

In the app you have this really cute alien/robot looking guy who is always there to guide you through and carry out the exercises with you. He floats around the screen and has a welcoming face.

thrive-2

At the very beginning and after a couple of weeks I was asked an in depth questionnaire about the past month and how I have felt over that time. As I mentioned I was having a pretty rubbish day the first time I tried this app so the results of my questionnaire came back that I was suffering from a moderate depressive episode which did not sound good. However, when I took the same questionnaire a few weeks later my results were a lot better and noticed that I was managing my stress levels better.

Every day after you have been asked about your mood the app sets you stress relieving exercise goals for the day. There are quite a few different exercises and also for different durations.

Calm breathing is the exercise that I was given the most. It sounds simple and it is quite a simple exercise but so effective. The lady that talks you through the exercises has the most calming and soothing voice.

After just 3 minutes of sitting still following the deep breathing guide and listening to the subtle music and the ocean I was feeling so calm and relaxed. When the lady announced well done I had finished at the end of the exercise it took me a minute to come back round as I was so relaxed it was hard to get up. After this I was already feeling a lot happier.

After you have completed the calm breathing you are then taken on to more in depth relaxation and stress relief exercises which are deep muscle relaxation and meditation. The deep muscle exercise is good as it gets you to think about how your body feels and the lady will talk you through the exercise asking you to tense different parts of your body then release and feel the relaxation feeling. 

You do really start to notice the difference between tense and relaxed and for me after every time I tensed when I released I felt more and more relaxed and heavy.

My favourite exercise is the meditation as when carried out correctly it can put you into a deep state of relaxation. It is the perfect exercise to carry out before going off to bed as it calms you down and also help to focus you so your brain is not doing over time thinking about everything that happened in the day and what you need to do tomorrow. The meditation exercise tries to get you to think of a word for example ‘relaxation’ so if your mind starts to wonder you say to yourself ‘relaxation’ and it should slowly bring you back to your chilled out position.

As well as the basic meditation exercise there is also Mindful Walk, Sensory, Mindful Earth and Mindful Body Scan each exercise focusing on a different area of meditation. The key with all of these exercises is to be in a quiet area without distractions allowing you to focus and drift away into relaxation. The app does advise you to use headphones to ensure that you are not distracted but I managed to find myself a few minutes quite time each night to be able to listen attentively however I would advise using the headphones if you feel that you may be distracted by noises.

The app also contains a mini Zen Garden, filled with sand for you to rake and add your stones, shells and even pools of water. I have a small Zen Garden at home with some sand and stones and a mini rake which I love so this was great. I find the raking very therapeutic. 

Also within the app you can send a message in a bottle which will pop up on other users home screens with messages of inspiration. The app will automatically generate you a name mine was ‘Compassionate Massive Wolf’ then you get to pick from lots of different messages to send off in your bottle.

You can check your progress at anytime to see how your moods have changed over the course of the week or month and also see what exercises you did on each day.

Review

I have been using the Thrive app now for a few week spending about 15 to 20 minutes a day on it and I can honestly say I am so much happier. I do still get very stressed during the day mainly at work but due to using the app in the evening I am feeling chilled out and going to bed relaxed, helping me to sleep better which means I am  waking up happy. 

Before staring this trial I would continually snooze my alarm as the thought of getting up and facing going to work and the day ahead was too much and then when I did finally get up it was a rush to get me and 3 children out the door and into breakfast club so I wouldn’t be late for work but now I am waking up before my alarm and waiting for it to go off. I feel I have a lot more energy and can face whatever life throws at me. I would recommend this app to anyone who is feeling stressed, depressed or anxious as if you are willing to really give it a go then you can come away feeling like a new person.

thrive-happy-me

Why not also read my other posts –

Self Care tips for busy parents

I am your friend, A book of Hope

Why parents need yoga

The benefits of Journaling

10 Cheap Activities to do with the Children this summer

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.