Monday, 14 December 2015

Meal Planning Monday - 14th December

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I just had to share this picture, not everyone was loving the meal plan this week.

Another week, another meal plan stuck to, feeling rather smug about it. Which of course will be my complete downfall. Although, we are being super duper frugal this week as Christmas is expensive and we need to do the big Christmas shop. So this week we will be eating odds and ends from the cupboards and freezer where we can, so look out for some weird combinations!

Monday: Moroccan Chicken Thighs with boiled new potatoes - The thighs will be marinaded in a maggi flavour thingy I found in the cupboard. They are too salty for Zoe but she eats at nursery on a Monday.

Tuesday: Breaded fish with mushroom and garlic risotto - random freezer/cupboard meal at its best right here!

Wednesday: Paul is out for a work Christmas do, so I will throw some pasta/pesto/pea concoction together for me and Zoe.

Thursday: I am out for my work Christmas do, so Zoe will be having spaghetti on toast, and Paul can sort himself out.

Friday: Breaded chicken with mash and veg.

I have a shoulder of pork in the freezer which I plan to use to make pulled pork at the weekend, or endless sandwiches and maybe a pie.

So our weekly shop this week will be practically non existent as we have most of the things we need. We'll just need bread, milk and loo roll really.

This is what I love most about meal planning, you can easily spend £50-60 a week, or do a quick inventory and plan your meals around what you already have and save a bunch.

Friday, 11 December 2015

I'm Sorry (not sorry) my Baby Sleeps.

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There is a camaraderie in Motherhood. A shared experience, a sense that only those who have been in your shoes can really understand fully. Since having Zoe I have made some truly wonderful friends, serious BFF material, I have also joined a fair few groups and clubs, I have made an observation based on my experiences in parent-y circles;

There is a camaraderie in the struggle, sleepless nights? I'm right there with you, pass the coffee. Tantrum-ing toddler, Hell yes, pass the gin. If you are having a hard time or one of those days where you just want to stick Cbeebies on and hide there is a crowd of Mums in a similar situation ready with a latte (double shot) and sympathetic ear. Don't get me wrong, this is brilliant and most days exactly what I need to get through to bedtime.

However, flip it around, you've had one of those rare golden days where your baby naps beautifully, eats all their dinner which you had time to prepare from scratch, the house is tidy, and you even managed to put a few loads of washing on. Then bedtime goes without a hitch and she sleeps through the night! As a parent these moments are fairly rare (at least for me) so when the stars align you just want to sing from the rooftops. But do you really want to be that parent 'bragging'?

Theres been a big bump in the number of parenting humour blogs I've spotted recently that seem to focus on the bad, the lack of sleep, the mess, the hilarious yet naughty things our kids do... I mean they are a great read, but it seems to be perpetuating this cycle of sharing the bad, but not the good out of fear of sounding like 'that Mum', you know, the one with the perfect hair and an answer for everything.

I'm as bad as anyone else at this, its such a British mentality of focussing on the negative. I'll be the first one on facebook moaning about my lack of sleep or having to clean spaghetti bolognese off the lampshades BUT I also want to be able to scream from the rooftops that MY BABY SLEEPS!

So I am sitting here planning a mini revolution, lets share the great things our kids do, without self-deprecation or sarcasm. Lets sing from the roof-tops when they eat their vegetables, nap in their cots or sleep through the nights - and not just the first time either, every single bloody time! Zoe has been sleeping through the night from 6pm - 6am for 3 months now and every morning I am still ecstatic! Yet I still feel like I should apologise for bragging.

So lets hear it! What have you been afraid to share for fear of coming across like you're bragging? What do you hide from your parent friends for fear they'll hate you a little bit? I want to hear you sing from the roof tops! Whose with me?!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Lemon Bars and oh how I miss baking.

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I never bake anymore. Probably a bit of a first world problem here, but I really do miss it sometimes.

I used to spend weekends planning, tweaking, tasting, enjoying, sharing and relaxing. I really enjoyed it and loved sending Paul off to work on a Monday with a box of treats for the office. There is something so lovely about taking the time to perfect a recipe, or coming up with a delicious sounding concept and seeing it to fruition. I still have slightly filthy dreams about my caramelised white chocolate profiteroles and people still talk about my after eight brownies with longing.

I know your probably thinking, if I love it so much why don't I just get my bum back into the kitchen and dust off the Kitchenaid? Well, I just can't dedicate the time or brain space to it! Having a toddler is 24/7. Any baking I do needs to be broken up into 10 minute bursts between singing wind the bobbin up and duplo building. On the rare occassion she does nap upstairs through the day I have to prioritise cleaning or prepping actual meals.

Sadly I just don't have enough hours in the day at the moment. I am hoping that as she gets bigger, she'll be able to help in the kitchen and will love it as much as I do.

So I guess this is a long-winded way of saying sorry for the lack of delicious baking at the moment, the recipes I will be posting will be more family-friendly meals and the odd quick bake. So, in light of this I though't I'd share the last thing I baked before I found out I was pregnant, I never got around to blogging them... Lemon Bars! They were completely delicious, the tartness of the lemon cut through the sweetness nicely and the buttery base just melts in the mouth.

The recipe is a combination of my standard shortbread recipe, and an adaptation of Joy the Baker's recipe for the filling;

Ingredients

Butter, for greasing
Icing sugar, to dust

Filling.
4 eggs
350g caster sugar
Juice of 2 lemons and the zest of half
35g flour
1 tsp baking powder

Buttery Base
260g flour
60g icing sugar
225g unsalted butter, softened

Butter a 25cm pan/tray and line with greaseproof paper, ideally you would like paper to stick out of the sides to allow you to lift the bars out once cooked.
Pop the base ingredients into a processor and blitz until it forms a dough ball. Or if you don't have a processor you can go old school and rub the butter into the flour/sugar and bring together into a dough. Try not to over-handle though as it is a shortbread dough so needs to stay cold to be crumbly and short.
Push the dough into the pan/tray, covering the bottom with an equal layer, it doesn't need to be completely flat but try to be as level as possible to end up with consistent bars.
Whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice until combined, then sieve in the flour and baking powder, fold until no flour is visible.
Pour the lemon/eggy mixture over the raw dough base and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes until set (a slight wobble in the middle is good as the residual heat will finish it off.
Once cool lift the bar out of the pan and chop into whatever size or shape you wish.

For my fellow bake-y parents, how do you find the time or energy?! I'd love to hear your tips.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Healthy Salmon Egg Fried Rice.

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A quick egg fried rice is one of our go-to week night meals, it is so versatile and you can pretty much throw whatever you have in there and it'll be delicious. I have made it with leftover roast chicken, pork and beef. Salmon, king prawns, veggies... See versatile!

I do use a fair few shortcuts, which you don't have to do, but for me it is a case of trying to quickly throw something healthy together before Zoe manages to climb something or get into mischief. I am a fan of the Tilda microwavable sachets, I tend to go for the wholegrain or brown varieties. Its perfect for this dish, as its pretty dry when it is cooked, and I don't know about you but when I cook rice from scratch it tends to retain moisture.

So here is the recipe for the salmon egg fried rice I made last week;

Ingredients

2 cooked salmon fillets (I oven cook mine for 15-20 minutes)
1 sachet of microwaveable rice (you can use fresh, which you've cooked yourself if you prefer)
2 medium eggs
Finely chopped garlic and onion (or in my case blended to a paste for fussy eaters)
A couple of handfuls of frozen peas
Tsp of chilli oil
Soy Sauce (to taste)

Pop your rice in the microwave for the time specified on the packet.
Heat your olive oil in a large pan or skillet and fry off your onion/garlic until lightly browned.
Flake the cooked salmon in and add the chilli oil.
By this point the rice will be cooked, tip it into the pan, stir around to combine.
Create a well in the middle of the rice with your spatula, crack in the eggs, stirring slightly to combine the yolk/white. Leave for 30 seconds or so to allow the egg to cook a little on the bottom, you're looking to have bits of cooked omelette/egg through the dish, so gently stir allowing the egg to have maximum contact with the bottom of the pan, keep going until all of the egg is cooked, stir well to combine everything.

Throw in the peas and add a dash or two of soy sauce to taste.

You can pretty much add any flavour or extra spices you like to suit your tastes. I find it so easy to adapt this to what I have in the fridge, or what needs using up.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

On your First Birthday.

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My darling Zoe Jean Danger Chops (to give you your full title), today you turned 1.

My Dearest Sweetpea, it has been my greatest privilege to be called your Mummy this past year. I don’t know how many times throughout the day I stop in my tracks and think, She's mine? Wow.
Zoe, you have taught me so much about myself, about life and the things that matter most. Watching you grow from a tiny 7lb squish into a 22lb toddler has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for being here, for being your happy beautiful self and for making your Mummy and Daddy's world that much brighter.

We love you flobbitygillions, times infitinity, no comebacksies.

I can't wait to see what the next year has in store...

Monday, 7 December 2015

Meal Planning Monday - 7th December

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HOW IS MY BABY 1 TOMORROW!! It feels like I was pregnant 5 minutes ago and now she is a fully grown toddler! I am not ready, if time could please slow down a bit I'd really appreciate it.

On a slightly more meal-planny note, we 100% stuck to the meal plan last week! First time ever I think! Go us!

Lets hope this week is as successful;

Monday: Sausage and Mash - We get these yummy caramelized onion sausages from Aldi, really delicious.

Tuesday: Spag bol with garlic bread - its Zoe's birthday so we are out all day and need something fairly quick to make, plus it's one of Zoe's favourite meals.

Wednesday: Salmon egg fried rice - this was a big hit last week, so making it again. Will be blogging the recipe soon as its a great speedy mid-week supper.

Thursday: I am out for my Christmas party with work and Paul is out at a gig, so no tea needed (except something for the babysitter)

Friday: Slow cooker stew - sadly Aldi didn't have any beef in yesterday, so will need to nip in through the week. A great winter warming meal though, served with fresh bread.

We spent £36 in Aldi this week, but this included our Christmas ham which has gone into the freezer.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Christmas Wishlist for her (Me)

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This year I have devoted 99.7% of my Christmas planning time on making it special for Zoe, buying gifts, planning traditions, booking visits to santa etc...

Don't get me wrong, it is very fun and I hope she comes to love this time of year as much as I do. However, I hadn't really given much thought to what I wanted gift-wise.

People keep asking me and I honestly hadn't even thought about it until right this second, compiling this list. And while I love the fact that Christmas is going to be all about Zoe and making it magical for her, I need to also remember all the things I love about Christmas, from the first christmas coffee and mince pie of the season, the occasional snow fall (hopefully), decorating the tree, wrapping everyones gifts and seeing them open something I chose just for them.

With this in mind I decided to put together a gift guide, I say its for 'her' but its pretty me specific.

1. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling - I absolutely adored Mindy's first book, and cannot wait to get stuck into this one. I am getting back into reading in a big way recently, after a year of having zero attention span.

2. BENEFIT! - I am a total bene-babe, cannot get enough. These three products are high on my wishlist. I love the Oh La Lift as it hides those mummy eye-bags, the porefessional primer is a miracle worker on open pores and the foundation is feather light but gives great coverage.

3. LUSH - Again, total lush bath bomb addict over here. I love the Comforter bubble bar, Intergalactic bath bomb and Angels on Bare Skin face wash most of all.

4. Coffee, coffee, coffee - I have thoroughly embraced my inner Lorelei Gilmore during maternity leave and love a decent cup of coffee. I have a great coffee machine with a steam arm for making perfect lattes, so would love some yummy flavoured syrups. These Taylorson's syrups come in some delicious flavours I'd love to try (bah humbug, egg nogg and gingerbread seem festive!)

5. Unicorn Slippers - Because, unicorns.

6. Lucky Dip Club Subscription - I stumbled across these guys through a friend and follow them on instagram, its such a cute idea and every time I see the latest box I wish I'd subscribed. Its such a lovely gift to get each month through the year too, spread the christmas joy 12 months of the year!

What's on your Christmas Wishlist this year?

Monday, 30 November 2015

Meal Planning Monday - 30th November

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Last week started so well, I made a delicious risotto on Monday, then Zoe got sent home from nursery with a fever and cold symptoms, and we all had caught it by the end of the week. Luckily she is well again now, but me and Paul are still struggling with sinus pain and general snottiness.

So, the rest of the week was a blur of spaghetti on toast and lemsips.

Oh well, it means we can carry over some things to this week, and save on shopping.

Monday - Fish and chips, shop bought breaded fish with homemade chips. Quick and easy yet delicious.

Tuesday - Pork chops with mash and veggies.

Wednesday - Slow cooker beef casserole. This will be the first outing of the slow cooker this year. I'd love any tips you might have on adding flavour as I can find beef stew a bit bland sometimes.

Thursday - Salmon fried rice - carried over from last week.

Friday - Homemade Pizzas - also carried over from last week, looking forward to this one.

My plan is to blog one of my meal plan recipes a week, so last week was risotto, what would you like to see blogged this week?

Friday, 27 November 2015

Leftover Roast Chicken, Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto.

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In an effort to enjoy cooking again I have been on the lookout for new recipes to try. Risotto is one of those things that I have never tried to cook myself, it always sounded high maintenance and faffy so I avoided it. However, it is one of Pauls favourite meals and zoe eats it regularly at nursery so I decided to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was, it is heavy on the stirring but in just 25 minutes I had a delicious and comforting dinner for the whole family (not to mention cheap!)

I loosely followed Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto recipe from his Veg Everyday book. I adapted it to our tastes and preferences but followed his rice to liquid ratio.

Ingredients

  • 120g risotto rice
  • 450ml chicken stock
  • 500g carton of passata
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Leftover roast chicken
  • Ball of mozzarella

  • Salt and pepper to taste

    I started by blitzing the onion and garlic in a processor, until it was more of a lumpy paste, this is due to a fussy eater who doesn't like lumps of onion. You can skip this step and simply chop them if you like.

    Put the stock and passata in a saucepan on a simmer, keep it simmering while you get on with everything else, you want it to be hot when adding it to the rice.

    Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil or butter (your preference) for 5-10 minutes, until starting to go golden, then stir in the rice.

    Start adding the stock/tomato mixture to the rice gradually, I started with a couple of ladlefuls, adding more once the previous amount was absorbed. This took about 20 minutes from start to finish. You need to stay close by and stir every few minutes to ensure it doesn't dry out or stick to the bottom of the pan.

    Once the rice is cooked (give it a taste to see) add the roast chicken, I tore mine into strips.

    Then just before serving add torn up bits of fresh mozzarella and let it melt slightly.

    This recipe served two adults and a baby, with one adult portion leftover for lunch the next day.

    I will definitely be adding this to our meal plan again, I might even try a non-tomato one, as tomato + baby = MESS!!! What are your favourite risotto flavours? Inspire me!

  • Wednesday, 25 November 2015

    Our experience with Baby-led Weaning.

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    Being a bit of a foodie, or at least a lover of food I was really keen for Zoe to love food too. Pretty much as soon as she was born I was googling weaning. I was totally clueless about when you were supposed to start introducing real food, I had images of pots of puree filling my freezer and shop bought pouches, as that is what I had seen friends and family do. However, lots of late night research led me to the phrase "baby-led" and I was intrigued. I had gone down the on demand breastfeeding route and this seemed like a natural extension of this.

    For those unfamiliar what baby-led weaning is all about I strongly recommend starting with the Gill Rapley book. Yes, most of the information is available online, but there is something about reading it all together in a book that cements the knowledge, and it puts it all into easy to understand (for sleep deprived mums) terminology.

    We waited until around 6 months, which was the advice I was given by my health visitor, the recommendations seem to change regularly but from my research I agreed that waiting was what was best for Zoe. The guidance said to wait until she could sit unaided, so at 24.5 weeks we took the leap and sat her in her highchair, offering her suitable bits of our meal. The first meal we shared was a Sunday roast. We offered her boiled carrot, broccoli, roast chicken, roast potato and yorkshire pudding. She played with it for quite a while before attempting to put it into her mouth but eventually she grabbed a bit of yorkshire pudding and we haven't looked back.

    For the first few weeks we kept offering her bits of our meals, usually just one or two meals a day. The majority of it came straight back out or made her gag, but from reading the book I knew these were normal parts of the process, and she was simply learning through doing. At this point she was still getting all she needed from her milk, so I wasn't too worried about quantity of food being eaten. Although, from her nappies I knew she was eating something.

    One thing that puts people off BLW is the choking hazard. I'm not going to say I never worried about choking, as its 100% normal (even with puree) to be scared. However, it is important to know the difference between choking and gagging. Gagging is normal, babies gag reflex is really far forward so in those first few weeks they gag a lot, despite the gagging Zoe would always go back for another go and didn't seem put off by it, so I took her lead. I did take a baby first aid course, and found this video from St Johns Ambulance really helpful in knowing what to do if she ever did choke.

    By the time Zoe was 7 months she was on 3 meals a day, and clearly enjoying her food.

    Now Zoe is in nursery two days a week and we get a lot of comments from her key worker about her love of food, and how she's not at all picky and will at least try everything she is offered. I thought I would share a list of first foods we gave Zoe when starting weaning to help anyone starting out;

    Boiled carrot - cut into fingers, so she could hold it in her fist which a bit sticking out to chew. I boiled until soft, but not so soft that it would fall apart.

    Roast sweet potato - Zoe goes wild for sweet potato, I roast large wedges or fries for her.

    Porridge fingers - A great first breakfast finger food, if you don't want to offer too much bread at first. There is a recipe in the BLW cookbook but we followed this recipe we found online and it worked great.

    Raw cucumber, carrot and pepper sticks - Zoe loved gumming on raw veggies, especially straight from the fridge. Not a lot got eaten in the early days but its good to give different flavours and textures early on, and Mango - One of Zoe's early favourites was mango, cut into fingers/slices with a bit of the skin left on to make it less slippy to hold on to. She would suck every scrap of flesh from the skin with great glee!

    Melon - As above, Zoe inhales melon. It was a good early food as the skin provides a better grip.

    I would definitely recommend baby-led weaning to anyone, however I would say, do what works for you. We did the occasional bit of spoon feeding with yoghurt or weetabix (because OMG mess!) but still followed her lead with it. Do what feels right for you and your baby and you can't go far wrong.

    Monday, 23 November 2015

    Meal Planning Monday - 23rd November

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    Following on from last weeks whinge about how disorganised my life is, I am back on the meal planning bandwagon and determined to stick to it. The way my schedule works at the moment means that Zoe eats at nursery all day Monday and Tuesday, so I don't need to worry about her on those days.

    I am actually looking forward to each of these meals this week, lets just hope I remember to get everything out of the freezer the night before.

    Monday: Chicken & Mozzarella Risotto - This is an adaptation of a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe from his Veg Everyday book, but with added leftover roast chicken.

    Tuesday: Pork Chops with garlic mash and veg - I love adding some roasted garlic to my mash, makes it a bit fancy with very little effort.

    Wednesday: Lasagne or Chilli - I have minced beef so will do either a lasagne/bolognese or chilli, depending on how I feel on the day.

    Thursday: Salmon fried rice - A firm favourite in this house, with a bit of chilli and ginger, and a dash of soy sauce.

    Friday: Homemade Pizzas - I haven't made these for ages, but its so easy and cheaper than a take away.

    I have a load of lunch related things like sandwich meat, baked potatoes, soups, spaghetti or eggs on toast etc... And for breakfasts we'll be having english muffins (Zoe's new favourite thing), or toast.

    This weeks weekly shop came to £38 from Aldi.

    Sunday, 22 November 2015

    A lesson in being thankful.

    Yum

    I've started buying lottery tickets again. I've never been a big gambler or lottery player, but with the current economic situation a big influx of cash would be very useful right about now... (childcare is HOW MUCH!?).

    My problem with the lottery is that each and every time I buy a ticket I am absolutely convinced I am gong to win. I spend the money in my head, I browse Rightmove for the ideal house, I plan holidays, I imagine who I will gift money too and how... So, as you can imagine, when I inevitably don't win I am devastated and watch the dream house and holidays float further and further away. It actually a really disheartening experience, which leaves me feeling pretty deflated. I need to remind myself about all of the wonderful things we have, things that money can't buy.

    So here it is, my things to be thankful for, something to look back on when my numbers don't come up...

    1. Family - I don't have the biggest family in the world, immediate family can pretty much be counted on one hand, but the ones I do have are the absolute best. Paul is my best friend in the world, while he can infuriate me beyond belief at times I couldn't imagine life without him in it, and hope I never have to. Together we created the single best tiny human in the whole universe. My sister, where do I start? I am struggling to put in to words how much she means to me; everything. My Auntie Hilary, the best great Aunt Zoe could ask for! The in-laws who welcomed me into their family with open arms... I am incredibly lucky and thankful, I am a better person for having these people in my life.

    2. Health - I may not be a size 10, or the fittest person on the planet but I have a strong and healthy body. In Pregnancy and since having Zoe I lost a fair bit of weight, not entirely intentionally but a combination of breastfeeding, healthier eating and a heck of a lot of walking while carrying an increasingly heavy baby has had an effect. My main goal in terms of my 'health' is to have a good sense of self worth and confidence in how I look and while I know a lot of people would look at size 16, make-up less, tired mum and not immediately think #bodygoals I am really happy with how I look AND feel right now. My main concern is being a strong role model for Zoe, I want her to grow up with self confidence.

    I love this post from Brittany Gibbons which ends simply with the line "How do I teach my daughter to love her body? By loving the hell out of mine." Could not have said it better myself.

    3. Friends - I really have some of the most wonderful friends, from people I've known since middle school who I may not see very often, but when I do its like we've never been apart. To people who I met only recently but I can't imagine my life without. During pregnancy and maternity leave I have been lucky enough to meet some incredible women, strong, like-minded Mums who have been my life-line. I really struggled going through these last two years without my Mum, not having that person to turn to with questions, the person that raised you and who I aspired to be as a Mum. So I will be eternally grateful to my friends for filling that void with their awesomeness.

    4. Cake - This has been a rather intense post, so how better to end it than with cake? Because. Cake.

    Wednesday, 18 November 2015

    Wear all the babies!

    Yum

    Anyone who follows me on instagram or facebook will know that slings and 'babywearing' are a big part of my life. I do get a lot of questions and people asking for tips, so I thought I would post a little backstory to our experience with babywearing. (I am trying really hard to avoid using the phrase 'babywearing journey' as it makes me cringe a little)

    I used a sling for the first time when Zoe was 2 weeks old. I had a few friends who had used stretchy slings and I was keen to try it, especially when Zoe was having her colic-y moments in the evening. I bought a cheap stretchy from a lady on FB, it wasn't a brand one and I really didn't know enough about them to know which were the best to get. If I was to have another baby I would definitely buy a branded one like a Hana or Moby, mine isn't the most supportive or comfortable. It is completely safe, just having tried other stretchy slings since I can see how much better other makes are.

    I watched youtube videos to learn how to use it and gave it a go. I instantly fell in love with wearing Zoe, she felt so close and safe, but I had my hands free to eat, do housework (ha!), or just to give my tired arms a rest. It really was a lifesaver in those early "4th trimester" weeks and I do feel that Zoe really benefited from being cuddled in close.

    By the time Zoe was about 3-4 months my stretchy started to feel less supportive and I wanted to see what else was out there. I joined a local Sling group on facebook and my eyes were opened to the vast array of options. I am really lucky that where I live there is a HUGE babywearing community. There are lots of sling meets and I started to venture out to meet other slingy mums and try out different carriers. We eventually settled on buying a Hop Tye, which is a brand of Mei Tai carrier, it has wide wrap straps which I preferred to the padded versions in terms of comfort.

    I loved our Hop Tye, it was so soft and supportive, with lots of adjustable bits to tailor as Zoe grew. It was very easy to take on and off and I felt confident using it daily. You can do back and hip carries in a mei tai but to be honest by the time Zoe was big enough to experiment with them we'd already moved on to other things. In terms of size and comfort I can still carry Zoe in a Hop Tye now comfortably, so they do last well, but I discovered the world of wraps and stopped reaching for my Hop Tye as much.

    I knew I wanted to try woven wraps pretty much as soon as I saw people using them at meets, they looked so pretty and also really diverse in the different ways you can use them. I was a bit intimidated by the world of woven wraps, there are so many acronyms and figuring out what to buy and what was a good price etc... Is a minefield. Luckily I found a lovely group of wrap wearing mums to guide me through and put up with my many "Is this a good price?" messages. I also booked onto an 'introduction to wrapping' course with a local organisation called Parenting North East. This course was amazing, and really helped build my confidence. The photo above was taken in the loos during the course, its my first ever kangaroo carry.

    I also participated in a 30 day wrap challenge on facebook and instagram, which was basically trying a new carry everyday, some were awesome, some not so much. It definitely help me to practice all the basics daily and I found my go-to carries that I use all the time. I'm even quite tempted to do the challenge again now I am a more confident wrapper, would anyone be interested in participating?

    So that brings us to today really, I have recently purchased a Connecta, which is a buckle carrier, but this is mainly for other people to use when carrying Zoe. I am also in the market for a ring sling. I can feel a second post coming on!

    I have recently completed my peer support training with the school of babywearing, so can now volunteer at local meets and enable others to fall in love with carrying all the babies!

    So, I just wanted to conclude by sharing a little safety information from the school of babywearing along with this post, specifically the TICKS guidelines; Tight, In-view, Chin off chest, Supported back. These are the basic priciples of safe babywearing. You can read a bit more about it here.

    Do you baby wear? I'd love to hear your experiences!

    Monday, 16 November 2015

    Zoe's Christmas List.

    Yum

    Although technically this isn't Zoe's first Christmas, she was 17 days old last time and had zero clue what was happening and couldn't really enjoy anything except boobs and naps. This year however I am beyond excited to share the joy and magic of Christmas with her. Growing up Christmas was a BIG DEAL in our house, we went full on tacky with decorations, ceiling streamers, flashy lights and tinsel up the wazoo. Board games were mandatory and christmas morning was the absolute best! I can't wait to do all these things with Zoe (minus the tacky ceiling streamers and tinsel) and see her face light up on Christmas morning.

    With her birthday being so close to Christmas this list will be split between the two, we're not crazy extravagant.

    1. I am a sucker for wooden toys and I love this little bike and trailer from Early Learning Centre. We got it second hand from a local facebook selling site (brand new condition). It reminds me of the bikes in Santa Claus the Movie; although lets hope this one wasn't made by Dudley Moore and doesn't fall apart when she rides it for the first time.

    2. I bloody love Boden baby clothes, if only I had the money she would wear nothing else. We've bought this gorgeous intarsia cardigan which I want her to wear on Christmas day itself.

    3. Happyland, this was something I had never even heard of until recently. Whilst researching what to buy for Zoe I surveyed all my friends with kids and 99% of them said Happyland. Apparently its something they play with for years, so we grabbed this super cute fairy treehouse on sale for £20.

    4. This wooden kitchen walker is so cute! I came across it when Jules from Butcher Baker Baby posted that she'd bought it for her little ones birthday. I was dying to get her a kitchen, so she could follow in my foodie footsteps but was put off by the "suggested" age kids play with kitchens. So when I found this I couldn't resist.

    5. DUPLO! Now I am pretty sure this one is more for me. I love playing with lego and duplo, its so imaginative and fun. Similar to the happyland stuff it'll last a while too, I mean if I still love it at 29, its a pretty good investment.

    6. Annual Pass to the Centre for Life. There are loads of great places in and around Newcastle to take kids, from national trust, to Seven Stories children's book centre. I spent ages weighing up the pros and cons of each before settling on the centre for life. Given the fact that we don't drive we ruled out national trust, as a lot are quite rural. The Centre for Life has more activities for Zoe's age range, and a few friends have a pass so we can go for play dates.

    So these are her "main" presents. I may have gone a bit nuts on smaller gifts, although I am very bargain savvy so despite having an overflowing cupboard full of toys I haven't spent more than £100!

    What's on your Christmas list? I might do one of these posts for me too, give Santa a few hints. lol

    Saturday, 14 November 2015

    What's for Tea?

    Yum

    The dreaded question, whats for tea? Strikes fear into the heart of disorganised people across the world.

    Since returning to work, and lets be honest, even a bit before then, I have struggled to find a rhythm to meal planning and actually finding time to cook nice healthy meals to satisfy three hungry tummies seems like the impossible task. I like to cook, not to sound big headed, but I even consider myself to be good at it, however I have completely lost all passion and interest in cooking. We are so far into this food rut that I can't see a way to claw myself out.

    It doesn't help that Paul is a picky eater, he doesn't like most vegetable and has issues with texture, so lumps of onion or mushroom are a big no no, so if I want the deliciousness that these ingredients bring to things like pasta sauce or stew I have to blitz them, which is time consuming and annoying. I personally love chunky vegetable in my bolognese and whole baby onions in my stew but short of making two entirely different meals I have to pander to the most fussiest in the family.

    In a fit of frustration last night I took to twitter for some tips, sadly most assumed the fussy eater was a child and advised the "eat what you're given and like it" approach. Which, for a three year old is fine but when the fussy one is 41 it doesn't really work.

    His fussiness is not the only issue, I am also pretty lazy, especially after being at work all day and doing the nursery run/ bedtime routine. After all that the idea of starting to cook fills me with dread and the chip shop starts to look pretty tempting.

    So, after my twitter plea and some fairly heavy pinterest reading I have come up with a plan of action;

    1. Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers; always make 1 or two portions more than we need to pop in the freezer, or for lunch the next day. For those really busy or lazy nights having a few homemade freezer options would be great. Theres only so many fish finger sandwiches a family can eat!

    2. Meal plan every single week, and stick to it; most weeks I do jot down a vague meal plan based on the meat we have in the freezer but often I forget to defrost it and we end up not sticking to it.

    3. Routine, cook, clean, prepare; at the moment we cook, maybe do some of the dishes after, but mostly we don't. It is a really bad habit as by the following day the stack of dishes puts you off making more and demotivates me from cooking even more. I need to stick to a routine of cooking, cleaning up and then preparing for the next day.

    4. Research; I need to find more recipes that excite me, things I look forward to eating. Boredom with the same old things puts me off making the effort to prepare them.

    So now I know what I need to do, I just need to huge kick up the bum to actually do it.

    I'd love to hear any tips you may have, blog posts, words of wisdom, recipes for fussy eaters. Thanks!

    Tuesday, 10 November 2015

    Unexpected break

    Yum

    Well, I took a completely unplanned but massively needed break from blogging. I really enjoyed my final 6 months of maternity leave and while I have missed the blogging community and all it brings, its been good to just relax and enjoy time with my best girl.
    So what have you missed? LOADS!

    I honestly don't even know where to start. Zoe is 27 days away from being 1 years old! Seriously I know all parents say this but... Where has this first year gone? She has started walking and saying words and doing tiny human things that signify that she is no longer my little baby. It is amazing watching her grow and develop all of these new skills, but also pick up mannerisms and habits from me and her Dad.

    I am back at work now, which I am actually really enjoying. I work three days a week and find I enjoy the time away to be me again. Cliched but true. I can go to work and tick things off a to-do list and feel a sense of accomplishment which you never really get from parenting. I mean you can have good days, but you never feel like you've completed anything, there is always something else to do or another hurdle to jump. Another cliche but parenting really is the hardest job in the world. While I love being a Mummy and cherish the days I spend with Zoe, I am definitely a better parent now I am back to work.

    Another thing that dominated the last 6-8 months was my new found love of babywearing/slings. Those who follow me on Instagram will be painfully aware of my obsession, I found a lovely local community of like-minded and awesome Mums, and have now even completed my Peer Support Training through the School of Babywearing, so I can help enable other parents to become equally obsessed.

    I am planning on slowly easing back into the world of blogging again, although at this precise moment in time I really have no idea on what to write about. Anything you'd particularly like to see from me? More recipes? Parenting posts? I suppose I am still trying to find my niche here, but hopefully we'll get there eventually, or at least have fun along the way.

    I'd love to know people are actually still reading, so as well as obsessively stat-watching (we all do it) I would love a few comments, yep, that's right, I'm begging for comments... it would help to know I am not just talking to myself up in here.



    Monday, 2 March 2015

    Finding your Tribe

    Yum

    *repost of a post lost during some technical issues on the site*

    When I was pregnant I spent a lot of time perusing Pinterest devouring everything I could find about parenting, coping with a newborn, survival tips, etc… Seriously, any blog post entitled “Top 10 things no one tells you about becoming a mother” or “The secret to surviving with a newborn” was bookmarked and read over an over again whenever a moment of panic came over me. I frequently found myself wondering how I would cope, especially since I lost my Mum 3 years ago, not having that person who raised you to turn to for advice is difficult.

    A lot of the blog posts were repetitive and fairly obvious, but occasionally I came across a gem of advice that stuck with me.

    One such piece of advice was “Find your tribe”… Let me explain…

    There are literally thousands of different parenting styles – breast vs bottle, attachment parenting, tiger moms, baby wearing, cloth nappies, SAHM vs working, baby-led vs routines…everyone has their own style that works for them.

    …But at the end of the day we all want what’s best for our babies, and despite our own preferences we all are the same deep down; parents.

    With this in mind I wanted to share my experiences in finding my tribe, the groups of women without whom I could not have coped half as well in those early days of motherhood.

    Facebook – I have always been a fan of online friendships, you don’t necessarily have to meet someone face to face to have a connection and my birth group on Facebook is a prime example of this. When I was pregnant I downloaded the Babycentre app which included a forum with groups for each month you are due. So I joined the November forum and enjoyed sharing my experiences of morning sickness and worries over lack of symptoms etc. It was invaluable in those early weeks when we weren’t telling people. However, the danger with open online forums is trolls and drama, so a private facebook group was set up and I can honestly say they are the loveliest bunch of women in the world. It is brilliant having a tribe of 200 mothers to connect with during night feeds, people to share experiences with, share and seek advice and most importantly have a laugh with.

    Instagram – I’ve always been a fan of Instagram, but since having Zoe I have discovered a whole new side to it. When posting all the initial newborn baby spam I came across a tribe of mums and dads, all full of advice and eager to share their own lives. Also when you are sleep deprived the picture-based social media is much easier to take in.

    Classes and clubs – I have signed up for a few classes in the last few weeks, I went to my first one last week (actually with a couple of ladies I met through the above facebook group) and I loved getting out and socialising and seeing Zoe socialise with other babies. I have also been along to a “sling meet” to try out different slings and to meet other baby-wearers. Getting out of the house is important for my sanity, and meeting up with adults and having proper two sided conversations; priceless.

    Existing friends with kids - Once you become a mother you gain a new found respect for your friends with kids. I am lucky enough to have some wonderful mummy friends who have imparted their wisdom and helped me more than they know. I suppose this post is part advice, find a group of parents you connect with, either online or at local groups and utilise their wisdom; afterall it does take a village. It is also part HUGE GREAT BIG THANK YOUS! to all of the wonderful mothers (and fathers) who have reached out to me and helped me come to terms with this life changing event. Oh, and if you are a parent (or chronic insomniac) feel free to reach out to me, I can usually be found on Instagram and Twitter (@nellyscupcakes) during night feeds, desperate for something to keep my eyes open.

    Monday, 12 January 2015

    Meal Planning Monday - 12th January

    Yum


    Cute picture of Zoe, just because...

    I started back with the meal plan last week, which went well for 3 days, then I had a take away or 2 out of tiredness and not wanting to cook. With this in mind I have decided to make extra of meals and freeze portions, to make sure I have options on hand for those tired/lazy nights.

    Without further ado, on with the show!

    Breakfast for me will either be porridge, toast or fruit, and lunch will be either leftovers, pasta or soup.

    Monday
    Homemade soup and crusty bread (2 x portions for the freezer)

    Tuesday
    Tuna pasta bake (leftovers for lunches)

    Wednesday
    Toad in the hole with mashed potato and carrots. (leftover for lunches)

    Thursday
    Gammon steak with homemade wedges and a fried egg.

    Friday
    Cottage pie (2 x portions for the freezer)

    Quite a simple winter warming meal plan, with meals that can be prepared in stages throughout the day, as the baby has been a bit clingy and grumpy over the weekend, although I am hoping that doesn't continue.

    I have linked my plan with Mrs M's linky, which has lots of great plans and recipes for inspiration!

    Friday, 9 January 2015

    Leftover Roast Chicken Pie.

    Yum

    Part of my 2015 plan of action was to be more frugal and meal plan. This is one of my favourite frugal recipes, and is a really simple way to use leftover roast chicken and veggies. We tend to have a roast chicken dinner on a Sunday evening, so this is the ideal Monday night meal.

    I always have butter and flour in my kitchen so whipping up a simple shortcrust takes 10 minutes.

    This is the perfect recipe to do in stages throughout the day, inbetween feeding the baby, nappy changes, cuddles etc...

    It is really adaptable too, you can throw in any veggies you have to use up, I usually just go with carrots, turnip and peas as those are the veggies we like, but I have also tried leeks, onions, sweetcorn and butternut squash.

    I am not going to share my shortcrust recipe again, as I have blogged it many times before, click on the link if you need the pastry recipe, but any shortcrust will do, even shop bought.

    print recipe
    Leftover Roast Chicken Pie
    Ingredients
    • 60g Butter
    • 60g Flour
    • 1 pint Chicken Stock
    • Leftover Roast Chicken, shreaded
    • 2 Carrots, diced
    • 1/4 Turnip, diced
    • a handful or two Peas
    • A pinch Salt, pepper, mustard poweder (to taste)
    Instructions
    Melt the butter in a large saucepan or skillet.Once melted add the flour, and stir until it comes together into a clump/paste, cook off for 3-5 minutes.Add chicken stock a bit at a time and stir to incorporate. It will look a little lumpy at first but keep stirring and adding until fully incorporated into a nice smooth sauce.Add the diced carrot and turnip to the stock and cook on a gentle simmer for 10 minutes until the veggies are tender.Once the vegetables are tender add the shreaded roast chicken and peas.Take the filling off the heat and cool, ready for assembling the pie.

    This pie lasts us one evening meal and lunch the next day, it is one of our favourite meals. It may not be the healthiest but its one of the few meals with vegetables that Paul will eat, so I chalk it up to a win!

    I'd love to see any frugal, family friendly recipes you love, feel free to share them below!

    Thursday, 8 January 2015

    One Month in the World.

    Yum

    One Month in the world, where on earth has that time gone?!

    In the last 4 weeks Zoe has gone from a squashy little newborn to a slightly bigger squashy little 4 week old. She is starting to hold her head up on her own, she is making different facial expressions (although no smiles yet), and she is getting so much bigger! She no longer fits into her newborn sleepsuits! (WAH!).

    I am looking forward to seeing her grow and develop, but I also want her to be this small and wonderful forever. I'm planning on doing one of these posts every month for her first year, I think it will be a lovely little record of her development. Seeing how quick this first month has gone has made me realise that its going to be very easy to forget the little things, so these "In the World" posts will act as a reminder for how far Zoe has come and how much she has grown each month.

    Monday, 5 January 2015

    Newborn essentials.

    Yum

    The second you announce your pregnancy you get inundated with advice from anyone and everyone, everyone has their tips and tricks for coping with a newborn, and while each baby is different, I loved reading everyones experiences and enjoyed figuring out what worked for Zoe.

    I bought a lot of things people recommended, and to be honest alot of it didn't work for us, but it helped to have options and things to try. So, with this in mind I thought I would share what worked for us.

    1. Moses basket and rocking stand - Cribs, cots, baskets, co-sleeping... Oh my! So many options. A lot of Mums I spoke to told me their babies hated moses baskets, so I was worried we would be wasting our money, but I wanted something that could go next to our bed to make middle of the night feeds easier and keep her close by. Cribs and things are pretty pricey and not as easy to move around, we carry the moses basket downstairs through the day.
    luckily she absolutely loves it and at this very moment is fast asleep next to me in her basket. I opted for the rocking stand, despite lots of people telling me their baby hated it, or they became reliant on being rocked etc... Zoe liked being rocked but isn't dependant on it to fall asleep, plus it looks really nice.

    2. Munchkin Pour and Strain Whales - Zoe loves a bath, we have started having one every night as it really chills her out at her fussiest time of day and I find she tends to fall asleep after a bath. The first couple of baths we struggled to hold her and wash her, so when we were bought these whales they were a godsend. They act like little shower heads, so we can easily rinse her hair and wash her little body. I can't wait until she is old enough to play with them too.

    3. Sleeping Bags - When we first brought Zoe home we were using blankets in the moses basket as she was too small for the sleeping bags I had bought. She never liked the blankets and kicked them off constantly. Since we started using the sleeping bags she is much easier to settle after a night feed, as I keep her in the bag to feed, so there is no loss of warmth when she goes back to her basket. An absolute lifesaver for getting back to sleep quickly (her and me).

    4. Nursing Pillow - We are breastfeeding Zoe on demand. So some days I spend hours with a baby attached to my boob. After a while this can take its toll on your back. I have found my nursing pillow a necessity, it makes the whole experience much more comfortable for both of us. If you plan on breastfeeding for any length of time, its worth the investment.

    5. Lansinoh - The most recommended product by a mile, every single mum I met when pregnant mentioned this dream cream and now I am one of them. The benefit of this product is that it is safe for baby to feed when using it. My over-used nips are eternally grateful for this little purple tube.

    6. H&M Nursing Vests - Finding fashionable and affordable nursing clothes is a challenge, so I am eternally grateful to H&M for their Mama range. Their vests are great, they have the clips for easy access and come in a nice range of colours and patterns. If anyone has any other nursing clothing recommendations, please shout!

    7. Dolce Gusto Latte - A no brainer for any sleep deprived parents, a lovely latte in the morning helps wake me up and feel human.

    8. Muslins - Puke, milky dribbles, leaky boobs... Motherhood is glamorous! I always have a muslin to hand wherever I am.

    9. Sleepsuits - Repeat after me... Integral scratch mits. Seriously, why don't all newborn sleepsuits have this? I have 7-8 sleepsuits with integral mits, and 35 without, guess which ones Zoe lives in? Newborn fingernails are sharp little suckers and separate mittens will fall off approximately 65,000 times a day.

    10. Benefit They're Real - I have not even thought about make-up since Zoe was born, I am lucky if I get a shower and can blowdry my hair! But sometimes you need a little something to make you feel like you made an effort. This mascara is a winner for me, lovely long thick lashes and a dash of lip gloss = One glamorous mamma.

    So there you have it, my top 10 things to help you cope with those first 4-6 weeks of motherhood. There is one more item I wanted to add but I decided to dedicate an entire post to it, as its something I love using and I want to really harp on about it. So there is something for you to look forward to...

    Hope you are enjoying these baby posts, as always, I love to hear your opinions and comments below.

    Thursday, 1 January 2015

    2015; a plan of action.

    Yum

    I hate new years resolutions, don't get my wrong, the idea of setting goals and making plans is a positive one, but the term resolutions is just so synonymous with failure and not quite achieving things that it is just depressing.
    So with this in mind I am deciding on a plan of action, things I WILL achieve in 2015.

    Save, save save - in 2014 I finally managed to get myself completely debt free and start saving, so I want 2015 to be the year I get some real savings behind me. It is going to be a bit of a challenge as for most of the year I'll be receiving only statutory maternity pay, which brings me to my next plan of action...

    Frugal is my middle name - meal planning, bargain hunting, less waste. I want to get organised, plan meals, keep costs low, sell on ebay... I want to keep my expenditure to a minimum and get frugal to help me save, save, save!

    Healthy mummy, happy mummy - No, I am not setting weight loss goals or making myself miserable on a fad diet, I want to eat better as I am breastfeeding and all the good things I eat get to Zoe through my milk, I want to keep fit and active, get out of the house, meet other mummys, go to classes; a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body.

    Feed my creativity - I am a creative person, I love to design, create, bake, sew, craft etc... I want to feed my creativity more in 2015. I want to get in the kitchen and bake again, get back into illustration, get sewing some bits and bobs for Zoe, knit, learn to crochet.

    Blog more - I sorely neglected my blog during 2014, with the pregnancy and newborn it just didn't take any sort of priority. In 2015 I want to blog more, not just about food, but more family posts, more creative posts. I want my little corner of the interwebs to be a reflection of me, without worrying about what others think or how it will be received.

    So there you have it, now I have written them down I feel very positive about being able to follow this action plan. Have you set yourself some goals for 2015? I'd love to hear how you feel about resolutions.

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