New bike!

December 31, 2012 at 14:31 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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weeride balance bike boxChristmas was a very exciting time in the Chillikebab household. A new bike was waiting underneath the Christmas tree! Unfortunately, it was not for me – but for my daughter, who has now reached an age where her full indoctrination can begin. Actually, in many ways I was more excited than if it had been for me.

She was very excited by her new balance bike, and had several goes – although was rather disconcerted that it didn’t stay up on it’s own. ‘It’s a bit wobbly,’ she kept saying, as it leaned one way then the other. Hopefully she’ll soon get the hang of it and be scooting along.

Balance bikes are the new way to teach kids to ride. Apparently giving them a bike with stabilisers (training wheels) creates a dependence on them, which is then very traumatic when they are removed. Reading some web sites you’d think that no-one ever learned to ride in the 1970s and 80s without significant mental scarring. Frankly I don’t really remember that going from stabilisers to no stabilisers was that big a deal, but balance bikes are the modern thing – they can learn to balance and steer first, and then add the pedalling later. I’m not so bothered about the metal scarring (harden up, toddler!), but when I see small kids scooting along on their balance bikes they look like they are having a ton of fun (compared to frantically pedalling some tiny bike and getting nowhere) so we gave it a go.

The balance bike I bought was a ‘Weeride’. I chose it for three reasons – because it is small (my daughter is small for her age), that it had pneumatic tyres, and that it was quite light and easy to carry. This last point is important; there are lots of very cool wooden balance bikes out there, but they are heavy and hard to carry. And as I realised when reading about other families’ experiences with these bikes you are going to end up carrying it quite often when little legs get tired on the way back from the park.

toddler_on_bikeIt also has a brake, which is a complete waste of time. Kids use their feet to slow and stop, and in any case the brake lever is a full sized-affair, meaning my daughter can’t get her fingers anywhere near it when she’s holding the handlebars. That notwithstanding, I felt obliged to spend half an hour on Christmas Eve adjusting so it worked reasonably well. I should have just taken it off.

So how has she taken to it? Well, she loves having a bike of her own, but I think is a little put off by how hard it is to ride. It does take some practise. Still, she has a little go most days, so I’m sure it won’t be long before she’s scooting along with confidence. At least, I hope so. The alternative is that she’ll be mentally scarred and traumatised by the thing, and will refuse to ever ride a proper bike – stabilisers or no.

Jatz

December 30, 2012 at 17:27 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Arnott's Jatz  boxChristmas. A time of good cheer, over-excited kids and, in our house at least, cheese. All sorts of cheese bulging out of the cheese box – blue veined, soft rinded, hard crumbly. Maybe it’s just us, but we always overdo the cheese.

Still, that at least gives me a chance to test some cheesy biscuits – and I’m going to start with the Arnott’s Jatz. The Jatz is a small round cracker that comes in a smart box, and is to all intents and purposes exactly the same as the Arnott’s Savoy, which comes in an identical box (and before the pedants jump in, yes, I know they are different – the Savoy has golden syrup vs malt extract in the Jatz. But still, to have two such similar lines in similar packaging is really the kind of thing only Arnott’s would do. We’ll return to the Savoy at some point in the future).

arnott's jatz biscuitThe Jatz is a small, round cracker with a sprinkling of salt on the top. This salt, together with the slightly sweet, crispy biscuit, makes them very munchable even without cheese. I’m a big fan of such snackable cheesy biscuits. In terms of cheese pairings, I suggest a soft cheese with chives, or perhaps a creamy blue. Yum. You get a good serve of Jatzs in the box, but it’s quite easy to much through the lot. Even my young daughter agrees, carefully selecting the last few Jatz from the cheese biscuit barrel whilst eschewing the rest.

The Jatz is a solid contender for Arnott’s. Highly snackable, tasty, moreish and good both with cheese and without. I like them, and am going to give them an eight out of ten.

Merry Christmas!

Sao

December 9, 2012 at 11:09 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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sao biscuit packetWhy is a Sao (or ‘SAO’, as it is written on the packet) called Sao? Does it have anything to do with the mysterious Catherine Sao? Is it a reference to the Salvation Army? Myths and legends abound, but the real history is shrouded in the depths of the disappearing ‘SAO’ page from Arnott’s website.

sao biscuitSo what is a SAO? Well, it’s a cream cracker, plain and simple. Cream Crackers were invented by Mr Jacob in 1885, so it’s a bit of a stretch to call the SAO ‘the original’, even if it does hark back to 1906. Cream crackers, of course, have no cream in them – but apparently trading standards were more lax in 1885 and you could get away with that kind of thing. They are quite airy, dry biscuits that really do need a topping on them – ideally something with some moisture. A plain SAO is a dry affair, indeed I have vague recollections of competitions to eat such a biscuit, plain, with no water, as fast as possible. It’s not as easy as it sounds, let me tell you, even for an accomplished biscuit eater such as myself.

I have now put such juvenile pursuits behind me, and enjoy my SAOs topped with cream cheese, avocado, tomato slices and the like. When partnered with such luscious ingredients, the SAO is very agreeable, although the preparation time does really move it away from the ‘snack’ genre and closer to ‘meal’.

I’m going to give the SAO five out of ten.

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