Saturday, 31 May 2014

Get Crafty: Clay Opera

I have a renewed desire to try my hand at pottery again thanks to the hugely creative Marta at Clay Opera. She has some new additions to her lovely Etsy shop, which I'm sure will be snapped up quickly. Here are my absolute favourites:

Charles the Rabbit, £23.76

Maurice the Cat, £21.32

Aurelius the Pig, £23.76

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Chocolate Spelt Pancakes

A Sunday breakfast is an indulgent breakfast

During the week our breakfasts are pretty basic. Toast with a variety of spreads, a selection of cereals, porridge, smoothie and sometimes if we have time, scrambled eggs. I have always believed that breakfasts on the weekends need to be a little different. They need to be longer affairs, a time for a sit back and a chat with something more on offer for the taste buds. 

Below is my favourite Sunday recipe of the moment. It's a little cheeky chocolate number that when served with strawberries and creme fraiche makes me happy for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Newborn Sleep

I had never appreciated the importance of sleep until Lena arrived. When I worked in television, where days can start scarily early, I was fully aware that I was neither pleasant nor remotely useful if I had less than 8 hours sleep the night before. I very much operate in a haze of bewilderment and general grumpiness if I am not fully rested.

I find it incredible that after the business of giving birth, when all parties involved are beyond exhausted, that we are entrusted with caring for a little bundle. My whole body just needed a massive duvet cuddle and if I'm honest a good decade or two of undisturbed sleep. Unfortunately, newborn Lena followed the suit of all other babies by not knowing the difference between day and night. Once we did finally get her down in the evening an alarm would be set to wake her two hours later to feed her in order to encourage milk supply. I remember despairing that I would never get a good nights sleep again.

Below are a few things that I have learnt that I would like to share.

It is vital to acknowledge how sleep deprivation can affect your mood. I often found myself questioning whether I was in the depths of post natal depression, only to feel completely renewed after a good two hour nap in the middle of the day.

When the trickle of visitors start to arrive it is ok if your house is not spotless when you open the door. They are not there to judge the dust but to genuinely coo over the little being that you have created. When they ask if there is anything that they can do to help - hand them the duster/hoover/bleach immediately and if you're not comfortable letting them brush your toilet bowl - SLEEP. It isn't rude to just go upstairs for a little nap and let them get their fix of baby cuddles, if you know that they will be comfortable doing so. I have said to every one of my expectant friends that when we come to visit I will be there to either clean or look after their baby whilst they catch up on some rest.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Get Crafty: Getting my mojo back!

It has taken years for me to get my sewing mojo back. I would often walk past my old friend Bertha the Brother and sigh with a pang of lost love and guilt. My happiest time was about four years ago sitting in our box room in Chapel Allerton, Leeds, with my little radio blaring out some form of Pop music. In between mad crafting sessions, preparing for a craft fair or adding stock to my Folksy shop, I would sit in our little front 'yarden' (aka a glorified concrete patch) sipping on a nice cup of tea, sketching ideas. It was utter bliss. 

Over the years I lost the time to explore my sewing skills. Like baking, sewing is very much affected by my mood. I am at my best when I don't feel overwhelmed with life, be it work, house moves, having a newborn. Now I find myself with more breathing space and it's being filled with the desire and confidence to get back to crafting. I am ready to unleash my inner sewing Super Woman!! It started off slowly with a little bit of bunting for Lena's room, the clouds and stars, Amie's hoop and Renley's quilt.

I then managed to make a little dress for Lena, thankfully with a little help from my tailor friend who sent me a wonderful body pattern for an A-line dress. I felt hugely clever adding a collar to it. Well, I am not a dress maker. Although I enjoyed the time spent doing it, it made me realise that my favourite type of crafting is sewing little keepsakes.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Coconut, Spelt, Blueberry Biscuits

When I grow up I want to be the kind of person who has a biscuit tin

My best friend's weakness is crisps, specifically salt and vinegar crisps. My weakness is biscuits. The buttery goodness just makes me so happy. I can spend quite a long time happily munching my way through a packet of digestives, mixing it up a little so as to keep it interesting. A bit of dunking, a bit of non-dunking, some butter and cheddar on top, a bit of jam, or even cheddar WITH jam!!

Perhaps now is the time to admit that I have a problem with biscuits. Bearing this in mind I am always on the hunt for a 'healthier' alternative. One that satisfies my biscuit craving without the sugar hit that keeps me munching. These little numbers are not only great for me, but I can happily feed them to Lena without worrying she will follow in her mother's footsteps. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Making mum friends

Not since walking through the doors of Bodington Halls of Residence on my first day at University have I felt like such a rabbit in the head lights. Every time I enter a local playgroup I feel the same. I experience a terrifying need to befriend every single person that I interact with. In Fresher's week I approached far too many people with a genuine expectation of forming true bonds. It only dawned on me during our one to one 'friend date' a week later that we had absolutely nothing in common, apart from the place in which we had chosen to study and those dance moves that we roared with laughter about for hours on Tuesday night.

When I first ventured into the land of baby groups I gave my number out like some desperate suitor trying their luck with as many prospective dates as possible, in the hope that someone would bite. My checklist before giving out my details were as follows; do they have a child? CHECK Have they said Hi to me? CHECK.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Get Crafty: My First Quilt Experience

Quilting. Oh my word! I have only recently discovered the art of modern quilting, thanks to the very talented soon-to-be mother in law, and I am in love. Granny Mcintyre very kindly made this delightful piece for Lena.

It is backed with a  gorgeous piece of Cabbages & Roses cotton and surrounded by the neatest hand stitched binding I have ever seen.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Get Crafty: Charley Harper Fabric

When Lena was first born we were given the most beautiful book by a fellow new mum. When I opened it the pictures absolutely took my breath away. I knew when I brought it home it would bridge the gap between what I wanted to read to our red head (Angelina Ballerina, Mallory Towers etc) and what Dominic would want to read to her (The Way Things Work, Norse Mythology etc)

Since we received the Colours Book, we have also invested in the ABCs and 123 book. Pop over to Amazon where you can buy all three.

Lena absolutely loves these books. His use of shapes and colours are not only intriguing for me, but for her each read is one of true exploration. Certain pictures do require some serious detective work to see the animals, and once discovered she really does squeal with delight.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Snapshot : my little ladybird

Get Crafty: Chevron Baby Blanket

As soon as Lena arrived we found ourselves absolutely inundated with gorgeous blankets to wrap her in. Blankets that were truly as stunning as her newborn self. Of all the knitted pieces that we were lucky enough to receive my absolute favourite is the chevron blanket from Amie. I genuinely believe that she is the speediest knitter in Sussex and she may have actually finished this piece in record time.

I found the pattern from Purl Bee. If you haven't yet discovered this website and subsequently added approximately twenty new projects to you craft to-do list, you may thank me in chocolate gifts!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Chia Seed, Apricot and Raisin Mini Muffins

When a toddler refuses all meals, better pack those snacks

Breakfast is my happy time. Lena loves breakfast, so I love breakfast. This is a guaranteed meal for her. Ever since the little dove learnt to sleep through the night (which to be honest wasn't that long ago) she wakes standing in her cot rubbing her tummy excitedly proclaiming 'nom, nom.' 

The remaining meals of the day, however, can range from bad to ugly. Lunch and Dinner are not her happy time. Snacks on the other hand are pure bliss. She goes bounding towards the changing bag, often then dragging it towards me, almost quacking 'NAK!NAK!'

I try to make a few home made treats for her that offer a little more given how little she eats during the set meals of the day. I tend to freeze the muffins below and in the morning pop one into her snack box which then acts as a cooler for the cheese and fruit that is also in the same container. By the time she is ready for her Nak, it has defrosted whilst also ensuring the rest of the box doesn't get mushy in the heat.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Get Crafty: Flower Girl Crochet Collar

Finding unique pieces for little Lena can be costly. I found myself in Selfridges last weekend skipping around the Babywear Department, oo-ing and ah-ing far too loudly at all of the gorgeous goodies. I think I could spend hours stuck between Caramel Baby and Bonpoint, just staring at the cuteness. I would love to dress her in these brands, matched with a sumptuous pair of Rachel Riley button strap slippers. This is of course a total fantasy and will never happen. I am, however, extremely lucky in that Lena has been gifted with two Fairy Grandmothers who can knit and crochet like nothing I have ever seen before. I will be posting a few of their fabulous makes soon but in the meantime I would like to share with you an amazing tutorial that I have just stumbled across. Head on over to CrochetLatte and take a peak at this free (yes free!!) pattern.

I adore the darker grey version of this.

How cute is the flower in the nape of her neck!

And look at how it really lifts a dress from ordinary to boutique.

Make sure you pop along to her blog!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Toddler Approved Hidden Veg Pancakes

I have become the 007 of hiding vegetables in food

I never expected vegetables to be a problem for Lena. I had been forewarned by many a mother before we embarked on our journey of solids that I should prepare for a picky eater. She consumed her sprout puree with such gusto that I just assumed all would be fine. I was wrong. 

Not only does she struggle with the often slippery texture of vegetables she just simply shows no interest. We had a brief moment of excitement munching on 'trees' aka broccoli, but she soon realised that we weren't exactly telling her the truth and she responded with appropriate disdain. Disdain is in fact her main reaction whenever I offer her a vegetable. Luckily she adores fruit so I'm not in a total panic about her not eating her five a day. However, I am determined to feed her a range of food and as such I am now extremely skilled at finding ways of sneaking in some greens to her meals. 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Mine, Mine, Mine - Learning to Share

Lena has most certainly learnt her possessive pronouns. As she approaches her 22nd month on Earth suddenly everything is Lena's. She often reminds me of the squawking seagulls in Finding Nemo who screech 'mine' over and over again. Except instead of mine she shouts 'LaLi' which is the almost celeb-couple-like name she has chosen to call herself, like Brandgelina and other such figures.

She is very clear that her toys are hers and shows clear distress when others, even her regular playmates reach for them. Even if the toy isn't actually hers but she has played with it and she then sees another child approach she will waddle-run towards them shouting 'LaLi' at the top of her little lungs. She has perfected the wounded soul scrunch of the face and the desperate plea-like tone of voice. I find it absolutely heartbreaking to witness, but I also find it terrifying. Not just because of the upset that it causes her, but because I fear that I am somehow raising a bossy, selfish, spoilt, social outcast.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Get Crafty: succulent felt

Today I stumbled across the most fantastic decorative piece on Etsy. Available from Miasole is this fabulous succulent vertical arrangement, made entirely from felt. How creative!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Fixations and Obsessions

I can recite word for word Peepo. I can sing the theme tune to Raa Raa the Noisy Lion with the same accuracy as I can belt out a bit of Beyonce. I have acquired an almost 'Spidey Sense' when it comes to spotting trains, helicopters, police cars or aeroplanes. These are new talents that I firmly thank my daughter for. At 20 months old my little red head is obsessed with all of these things. But she is the most obsessed with her yellow wellingtons. These little luminescent rubber boots have to be worn daily, even on a warm sunny afternoon, they must be taken from the hall cupboard and slipped on to her little feet. If this doesn't make up part of her 'leave the house' routine and some other form of footwear is offered...... well all hell breaks loose and The Toddler Hulk is unleashed. The photo below is merely a gentle representation of how angry she can get. To reveal to the world her true rage face I believe would simply be both terrifying and a little cruel.

Needless to say these obsessions show me that little Lena finds comfort in routine. She finds security in knowing what is to come.  These things give her a true sense of control during a time when she has very little and faces frustration daily.  She has been fixated on having her bunny during nap and bed time, and after months I have found that it not only comforts her to have it whilst she sleeps but she also uses it as a communication tool; waving it in our faces in a frantic manner which simply means 'I'm so tired, please let me snooze.'

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Lena Loves: Baby Bjorn Babysitter Balance

I'd heard so many great things about the Baby Bjorn bouncer, but I simply couldn't justify parting with over £120 for the seat and toy bar. We already had a perfectly good rocker from Red Kite  and spending so much cash on something that appeared to do the same job just didn't seem logical. Oh how wrong I was! 

After many a night researching this little number it started to seem more and more sensible to invest in one. Firstly it didn't rock, it bounced (which just looked so much fun) then there was the fact that it can be used until she is approximately 2 years old. Lastly I found many a comment about how good it was for the babies development, especially their motor skills.  Not only does it help them understand cause and effect, but the bouncing action helps muscle development too.  Plus it has washable covers, a godsend with a reflux baby!

Convinced that the price was still outrageous I went on an eBay hunt. This lasted several weeks until a lovely person posted a chair on Gumtree for £30. BARGAIN! £30 for the chair and £7.98 on eBay for the wooden toybar...... BOUNCING TIME IS A GO! 

Anyway the Baby Bjorn arrived when Lena was 3 months and it has been a wonderful purchase so far. I think even if I'd paid full price for it I would still be singing its praises. Our little tinker is just so happy in it. Firstly the toy bar really got her thinking - the intense concentration as she figured out her hands were hitting Mr. Cookie was a joy to watch. She went on to having bounce time every day and it keept her entertained in the kitchen whilst I sterilised bottles, cooked dinner or attacked the endless pile of laundry.

In short it made for a happy mummy and an even happier, smilier and gigglier Lena!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Get Crafty: An embroidery hoop for a special Amie

My mum is Dutch. It is something I absolutely adore about her. Not only do I think it makes her super cool, but there are various aspects of her personality that are TOTALLY Dutch. It's only really noticeable when you spend a bit of time in the Netherlands, or with another person who is from the land of giants. (I am 6'2" and feel teeny weeny over there)

Her 'Dutch-ness' presents itself in ways such as:  her love of orange trousers and lime green sandals, the response of 'yes,yes,yes' when a simple British singular 'yes' would do, her quizzical face when you use sarcasm against her, her love of cheese with Jam, her love of mayonnaise with chips.....

She is not a Grandma or Granny.... She is Dutch! Dominic and I joked about trying to get Lena to call her Opu which is their version of Nan. Mum did not laugh at this suggestion. But the thought of a 2 year old in an adopted Brighton accent shouting O-pooooooo across the playground tickled me no end. Anyway, Team Baby agreed that her name was to be Omie; a cheeky version of Oma.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Lena Loves: Koo-Di Sun and Sleep Stroller Cover

Now this little bit of kit may make other non-parents look at your pram like you're an overly concerned celebrity, intent on shielding your baby from being papped by the press. However, those with experience in the art of 'trying to get a baby to sleep out and about because they've point blank refused to do so in the comfort of your own home, hence I'm pounding the streets like a zombie' will stare in envy.

The Koo-Di shade does exactly what it says in the title. It is a cover that fits over the hood of your pram, secured with velcro loops and patches, covering your baby. On really very sunny days this was perfect at protecting my little red head from the rays, without the fuss that comes with re-angling a parasol every time you change direction by a millimetre.

Most importantly it was an absolute life saver when trying to get her to nap. Initially I found the pram my noble steed. Lena refused many a time to sleep away from my snuggly warmth and it was a quick stroll in the pram that would send her off to the land of nod. This changed when she hit about three months, she was enthralled with the world, everything was given an inquisitive look and even when she was utterly exhausted she just couldn't help herself but stare. It was absolutely ludicrous how over-stimulated she became. This is the very reason why you see mums and dads pushing, with such gusto, a buggy that has a giant muslin clipped to the hood. They and I have something in common; we have all come to the same conclusion that sometimes you just need to make the world a little more boring for them, a little less overwhelming. This shade helps to partially block out the excitement of the streets, without fully blocking your view of them. It also folds up very neatly like a pac-a-mac with a handy popper loop so that it can be secured to the buggy handlebar when not in use.

It eventually turned into a great 'sleep trigger' for her. She knew that when the shade went on and the squishy bunny was taken from the nappy bag and placed in her grasp it was 'sleepy time.'