Creating a Nursery

When you are pregnant no matter how hard you try, you definitely hit a ‘nesting’ phase. Quite often this involves creating a beautiful nursery! I mean Danny is 6 months soon and yet to spend more than 5 minutes in his room, but still at least it is lovely! Haha! Quite often you have a particular character or theme you would like to follow and it is just knowing how to make it come across. There are lots of stickers and wallpaper you can buy to put on the walls of your nursery, but that can become quite costly quite fast. We chose not to find out the gender of our baby when I was pregnant, so we were looking to use a neutral character or design for our nursery. I absolutely love  drawing and so decided to have a go at creating one of my favourite characters, Humphrey from Humphrey’s corner, on our nursery walls. If you are not confident at drawing yourself, check to see if any of your friends are happy to have a go. Alternatively, my Mother in law borrowed an old OAP to project an image onto the wall and then just traced around it.

I used an old Humphrey’s corner calendar to practice the images first. Then I selected three designs I liked to draw directly onto the wall using pencil.

Once I was happy with the drawings I used Dulux tester pots to paint onto the wall directly. I used black and white tester pots to darken and lighten colours as it suited me. I made sure I used brushes of different sizes to help create shading and show the delicate details in the designs. Once I was finished painting I used a black permanent marker to draw around the edge to make the designs sharp. It did take some time as I was struggling to get up and down with PGP, but it very much was a labour of love! To complete the look I used three of the pictures from the calendar and put them into three white frames from Ikea and displayed them on the fourth wall above a chest of white drawers. The cot bedding and the curtains were all Humphrey’s Corner designs I found on Izziwotnot a fabulous website with some lovely items for your nursery.

Which designs did you go for in your nursery? How would you suggest decorating the nursery to expectant parents?

Factor V Leiden

I have been putting off writing about my DVT because it is still a pretty raw and painful topic for me. However, it is also important to share it as it may help someone else with similar symptoms in pregnancy. To understand that part of the story I really need to start when I was 17 years old.

I had asked my mum if I could go on the combined pill and in most families this would have been a visit and a prescription. My mum is thankfully on the ball and queried with the Doctor about a history of blood clots. My maternal Grandmother and some of her siblings had had blood clots or DVTs and my mum wanted to check before I went on the pill. The Doctor said that there was a blood test they could do now which would show if there were any genetic conditions linked to blood clotting. So instead of a prescription I had about 5 tubes of blood taken (I’m such a wimp about needles, so took my younger sister who kept me entertained as they removed what seemed to me like all my blood!) My mum and both my sisters had the test too. The results came back as having Factor V Leiden, which meant no combined pill for me!

So Factor V Leiden is a specific gene mutation and effects 3-8% of Europeans. It increases a persons chance of having a DVT, although only slightly. Of these 3-8% only 10% of people will have a DVT or other blood clot. The issue for women is that estrogen increases your chances of clotting if you have Factor V Leiden, hence I wasn’t allowed the combined pill. One of the biggest increases of estrogen you could introduce is being pregnant, which is why you need to be aware of your family medical history. If you are aware that you have a genetic predisposition to clotting or a history of clotting in your family you must have it investigated. There is some more information about different types of Thrombophilia on the NHS website. There is also information available about DVTs and pregnancy including how to identify some symptoms.

I have always been clear about having Factor V Leiden and any medical appointment. In my experience having Factor V Leiden has not been taken particularly seriously, which is why I think it is important to be very vocal if you do have it! In order to understand the rest of the story leading up to my DVT we have to start here. Hopefully as I share each stage with you it will spread some awareness as well as healing some ghosts.

Easter cake – Hot Chocolate Cake

I love chocolate……I mean Easter! Who am I kidding?! I LOVE chocolate in all its beautiful forms! I would bathe in the stuff if I could! Christmas 2015 went spectacularly wrong with me having been hospitalized with my DVT and just before I was hospitalized again on Boxing Day; it was a brief window where I cried all day in agony terrifying my four nieces (as well as the rest of my family). So for Easter 2016 we decided to try and recreate Christmas in some form! I love a good roast dinner, so I was thrilled to be able to actually eat this one (my brother in law is a superb cook!) This time the emphasis was on puddings though! I volunteered myself for a chocolate cake and took to the internet for inspiration! A quick Google search and I found a cake design I loved! I then went in search of a recipe and settled on the Hot Chocolate cake recipe in my Hummingbird Cake Days recipe book (the cakes all look so amazing I drool over the book!)

The recipe was for 12 cup cakes, but I thought it would work to make a cake! I cooked it for longer than the recipe suggests, as it was a larger quantity! I made two cakes to sandwich together. Exact same ingredients. Same mixer. Same oven. Same me. Same, same, same! They turned out two completely different sizes!! Hilarious! So glads I don’t bake for a living!! Still, buttercream covers all right?!?!?! I spent a lot of my time making the decorations for the top; it’s modelling, but with icing which is fun and delicious! (You really do have to test these things!) It was a battle as I had to keep stopping and sorting my sad boy who was not having a good day! I find the best thing to do when modelling with icing is to have lots of icing sugar powder available because the heat from your hands can make it all really sticky. I also just use cold water as “glue” to hold the different parts together. Also I think the homemade look is important!

I made the buttercream icing (which covers ALL  – my sister is now using it as foundation!!) I added half again to the recipe so i definitely had enough…..to eat as I made it! I carefully and gracefully applied the buttercream (kinda threw it at the cake and hoped it would stick!) then I placed the Orange Matchmaker ‘fence’ all the way around the outside to further disguise any mistakes! Then I sprinkled a crushed up Flake chocolate bar on the top as the mud and added the decorations. It looked pretty good if I do say so myself! Everyone seemed to really enjoy it! Although there is a lot left over…..so will take it for Easter mark two at the in Laws I think tomorrow!!

I would love to see other Easter treats! What did you make? What was your favourite Easter treat?

Using Bottles for Sensory Play

Playing with babies doesn’t always have to be about using expensive toys and equipment. I’m not saying that they aren’t useful to a child’s development; what I am saying is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create something children will love to play with! Sensory bottles are one example. I love sensory bottles and they are so easy to make!

First you will need some small bottles of water, you will need to drink the water (useful aid to breastfeeding!) Once you have emptied the bottles the labels will need removing and any sticky residue taking off as well. You can do this by soaking them, but if you do use something like ‘Sticky Stuff Remover’ remember to clean the bottles carefully so no harmful chemicals get transferred to your baby. The bottles need to dry out and then once dry you can add whatever you want or have handy that will interest a baby or small child! Colourful, noisy and shiny objects are a few things you can add! I chose to add colourful buttons (which make a fabulous noise), sequin shapes, pompoms, bright feathers and foam animal shapes. Danny loves them and my friend’s daughter who is 18 months old really enjoyed them too!

The best thing about sensory bottles is that you can develop them and use them with children of various ages. For example if they are learning letters in Reception, you can create sensory bottles containing objects which begin with a certain letter. You can also create ones that represent the seasons, different places (such as a beach, wood etc), different colours, different themes (hot, cold, day, night) they are a great tool for encouraging discussions as children get older. I look forward to developing my sensory bottle range as my boy grows!

What would you use in your sensory bottles? Do you already have some? If so which one does your child enjoy the best?

Diam Bar Brownies

Continuing on my quest for an awesome ingredient for my brownies I decided to try Diam bars. Now I love Diam bars, can even remember the advert from when I was little (Armadillos!!) but my husband doesn’t – he still ate most of the brownies! Initially I used 2 bars, but that was not enough, so I remade them with more! The ingredients and method don’t change, it’s just the one final ingredient that does! What do you think? Would you try it?

Ingredients:

  • 400g caster sugar
  • 250g melted butter (nice and easy because it is a block of butter!)
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or a few sprinkles!)
  • 4 Diam Bars

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (gas mark 4)
  2. Melt butter, mix in bowl with sugar.
  3. Add cocoa powder to the bowl and mix well.
  4. Pour in the vanilla extract and mix well.
  5. Crack the eggs into the bowl and mix.
  6. Measure out flour, add baking powder and salt to the flour.
  7. Add the dry ingredients a bit a time and mix well. I add about a quarter at a time and mix in so as not to overwhelm the mixture.
  8. Smash up the Diam Bars and add to the mix. Stir well to ensure it is even.
  9. Grease tray (mine is 11 x 7 inches) using the butter packet.
  10. Split the ingredients in two (for a tray the size of mine). Pour one half into the tray and flatten.
  11. Put into the oven, check after 5 minutes. Put in for another 5-10 minutes depending on your oven!
  12. Put on wire tray to cool. Repeat with second half of mixture.
  13. Cut into squares however big you fancy!
  14. Test a piece (or two) with a nice hot cup of tea!!!

Definitely my favourite so far!! But I must further my quest……..what should I include next?

 

What To Do On Due Date Eve

The night before your due date is one filled with excitement and worry! Although the due date you are given is mostly not the day baby arrives; in my case Danny arrived two weeks later and on the eve of induction instead! Still when given a due date, you sort of hope that you’ve made it and that baby will be appearing soon. People do all sorts of different things on their due date eve; clean the kitchen floor, check their hospital bag for the millionth time or google hospital routes. For me though, my creative juices were flowing and I wrote a poem to capture how I was feeling, the structure should be familiar to many! What did you do on the eve of your due date?

The night before due date

‘Twas the night before due date, and all through the house,
Every creature was waiting, including a mouse;
The hospital bags were by the front door with care,
In the hopes that the baby soon would be there;
The parents to be were nestled warm in their bed,
While visions of labour danced in their heads.
Will it be tomorrow, or maybe tonight?
As anticipation filled their heads with delight.
When suddenly a feeling that was strong and tight,
Gave Mum to be a terrible fright.
Is this it? Has it started at last?
But then it fades and quickly has passed.
In the dark a sudden large wriggle and kick;
“Darn” says the wife “it’s just Braxton Hicks”.
Now here comes the heart burn right on cue;
She sighs “get the gaviscon, I need the loo!”
The journey to the bathroom is dangerously long,
If the baby kicks the bladder it could all go wrong!
Now back to bed amongst pillows galore,
With little room for anything more;
The husband was waiting for her to just be,
So he could put a pillow under her knee.
Back down they both settle and cuddle the bump,
As baby’s limbs respond in small little lumps.
Both smiling they drift off, the swinging crib in sight,
“Happy due date to all, and to all a good night”.

 

 

 

 

5 Ways To Communicate With Your Baby

It is hard becoming a new parent and no matter how many times other people try to tell you, you just won’t understand until you are in the thick of it. Quickly you will fall in to patterns of feeding, changing nappies, pacing whilst you try and get your newborn to sleep and going round and round in this loop. It can become frustrating fast, so try to add some communication into your day, it is very rewarding. You can communicate well with babies from new born; these are my top 5 ways that Danny loves to communicate with us:

  1. Repeat sounds – when your baby starts making gurgling noises and sounds help them practice by repeating the same sounds back to them. Wait for them to finish their sounds before you repeat them back, so a back and forth happens like a conversation. When Danny started smiling, he beamed at us when we responded to his sounds.
  2. Singing songs – nursery rhymes are a nice and easy place to start with singing songs, if you need a refresh on these then most libraries in Gloucestershire do a bounce and rhyme type of session which are free to go to, if you’re not in Gloucestershire, still check at your local library or community centre for similar groups. Don’t get embarrassed about singing anywhere and everywhere, your baby will love your voice and really does anyone else matter? I also have Heart fm on in the car and use YouTube at home for some modern songs which I enjoy to sing and dance to with Danny. I have also been known to make up songs when nothing else is working to calm my shouting boy, with awesome lyrics like “please go to sleep” and “Mummy is sleepy too.” They will soon be in the charts I’m sure!!
  3. Using facial expressions – babies LOVE faces! With newborns you will have to be close to them as they cannot see very far; think approximately a 30cm ruler. Pulling different faces will help your baby practice interpreting and making the expressions themselves. As they grow it’s fun to see which ones make them smile and in time laugh! They will also start to reach out and touch your face as they grow an develop. Danny personally likes being made to jump, we get a wicked laugh out of him when he does! We try lots of different “BOO” faces! At 5 months he is currently going through a phase where he likes mouths and wants to touch them; particularly obsessed with teeth!!
  4. Using physical communication – I have seen a lot of articles recently about lack of positive touch in children’s lives. It’s quite sad really, but hopefully exaggerated! Hugs is an obvious form of positive touch and physical communication; honestly you cannot spoil your baby with hugs! You can never have too much love! There are groups you can go to to develop your physical communication skills, such as Baby Massage. Me and Danny enjoyed going to the Mini Moments Baby Massage course, where you learn how to massage correctly and use singing to enhance the communication with your baby. Other ways we use physical communication is allowing Danny to touch and explore our faces when we are near him, tickling him (he is particularly ticklish in his neck and his Auntie can get proper belly chuckles out of him tickling him there!) an important part of our day is bath time too. We like to take it in turns to bath with Danny; we hold him in the bath so he won’t sink, but by having us in with him we can have the bath deeper and so he can swim around. This is a massive bonding time where physical contact is continuously maintained, it certainly gets a lot of smiles!
  5. Talking – babies brains are working hard to develop quickly and learn a lot of new information. Talking is really helpful in their development. We already have the competitive “Mum” and “Dad” words, but there are so many more to learn! I walk around the house with Danny pointing out different objects and saying what they are. I also have full blown conversations, which especially in the supermarket looks like I have gone slightly mad and am talking to myself! However, I am happy to look mad because it makes my boy giggle! Quite frankly my life has become about finding ways to make him laugh and be happy!

What is your favourite way to communicate with your baby? Have you got any different ideas you could share with other new parents?

Giving dining furniture new life

I was looking at my dining room furniture this summer when I decided that we needed a change. I didn’t like that the seats were worn and stained and felt that the dining set needed some attention (ok, so maybe I was “nesting” somewhat!) When you want to redecorate, sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest difference and impact on a space. We had already painted a feature wall red; my husbands choice, but actually a fabulous colour and as he did all the painting I didn’t mind!! The blue and red striped chair covers were what really needed changing.

I visited Dunelm Mill to explore their fabrics and see if there were any that leapt out at me. As luck would have it there was a fabulous red material which I thought would work. When recovering dining chairs you do not need a massive amount of material, and the 3m I bought was a bit too much! Still I wanted to be safe than sorry!

All that you need is:

  • A screwdriver
  • A pair of sharp scissors
  • A staple gun
  • Staples
  • Staple remover
  • Your choice of material

Being a teacher I already had these items, but they are easy to get hold of at shops like Staples. You need to unscrew the chair seats and use the staple remover to remove the previous cover (if you have covered them before!) if this is the first covering you have done, then this job has been done for you! Place the material in a large flat space; such as the table or the floor, and then lay out the seats top down so you can ensure you cut enough material for each. Make sure you pull the material tight when you are stapling. It doesn’t matter where you start the stapling, but I found the straight back the easiest place to start! If there is too much material in the corners to staple effectively then simply cut away some of the bulk, being careful not to cut too much away. Once you have stapled the whole way round and it is secure, screw the newly covered seat back to the chair.

It really is that simple! The dining set has a new lease of life, without having to be replaced. After I had recovered my set I had many people comment on how great it was looking and some even query if I had new chairs! Best part is, if I get tired of the red and want to change the colour of the room again, I just have to recover the chairs to match….tricky part would be getting my husband to repaint the walls!!

Garden Project

We moved into our house a couple of years ago and one of the first projects my husband wanted to start was the garden. As beautiful as the garden was, it would have taken a lot of time to care for and was not a child friendly space. We were very clear in our minds that our next step was to try for a baby and so my husband wanted to make a start on the space. Garden projects take a great deal of time, energy and money, so it is good to spread out the cost and the labour! We had a massive bush at the back of the garden and so we wanted to remove it. I would recommend begging (bribing!) friends and family to help where possible! We were lucky and a mixture of friends and family helped strip our garden back to almost a blank canvas.

Clean, clear spaces and areas were important to us. We wanted a large, flat lawn where our baby could play and run around, but we also wanted to keep an area for plants. We used sleepers as a way of creating a back bed (this is a future project for me to fill and design!) We also had a large area to the side of the lawn that we didn’t want to plant up. It already had some trees in it, so we wanted to make sure it was a low maintenance area. At the time we were both working full time and we did not want to spend all our spare time maintaining a garden and our intention, when we had a baby, was to spend as much time with them as possible!! We put a membrane down and purple slate, which adds some colour and interest, but doesn’t require constant attention.

IMG_20160313_115843      IMG_20160313_115800.jpg

That is as far as the project has reached so far. Development was slowed with the arrival of Autumn and our son! However, now the seasons are marching on we will be returning to our big project! We have ideas of decking, or at least an area we can sit and enjoy the sun and a BBQ with family and friends, plants to encourage wildlife for Danny to explore when he is bigger, fruit (strawberries in particular) and I have reserved an area to turn into an outdoor learning area for Danny! I have many ideas for this area, I find pinterest to be a fantastic sight for collecting thoughts and ideas! I hope in the coming weeks to begin this area and share with you all the stages of development, hopefully inspiring you to develop a part of your own garden for your children to play in and have ownership of.

Until then I will sip my tea, watch the rain and collect more ideas for the garden to use on a drier day!

IMG_20160313_115831.jpg    IMG_20160313_115834.jpg

5 Beauty Essentials Every New Mum Needs

Now before you think I am suggesting that you need to look catwalk ready after giving birth or with a small baby, I absolutely am not! You will be tired, confused and worrying about getting motherhood right/wrong and your appearance will be the last thing on your mind. Once you muddle your way through those early days though and visitors start appearing (see my other blog post on visitors for tips and tricks!) you may want to look a bit more like your “normal” self, but one thing you still lack is time! What you need sometimes is a quick and easy fix to make you feel more confident without having to spend hours in the bathroom! My 5 cosmetic essentials every new mum needs are:

  1. Dry Shampoo – for me this is an absolute must!! I was finding that my hair was (and still is!) getting greasy much quicker after Danny was born. It was frustrating and made me feel a mess. I was introduced to dry shampoo by my sister when I complained to her about this. It was a real game changer! With very little effort your hair can look fresh again! I personally love the Batiste Coconut and Exotic Tropical dry shampoo, it smells delicious and is so easy to use.
  1. Concealer – most people have this in their makeup arsenal, but it is worth checking towards the end of your pregnancy to make sure that you have enough! Make sure it is one that you are comfortable using and one that does actually match your skin colour! I also have one I can keep in my handbag (on the off chance I am actually going out!) I have been using Bourjois Happy Light concealer, but if you wanted to spend a bit more, I would also recommend the bare minerals range, or Touché Éclat for floorless coverage!
  1. Vaseline – or any type of lip salve! If you are breastfeeding you will be thirsty (keep drinking water!) and getting dry lips, so it is soothing to rub Vaseline on periodically throughout the day. I personally used the original Vaseline lip therapy, but if you wanted a bit more they also do Cocoa Butter, Aloe Vera and Rosy Lips.
  1. Hand cream – this is another absolute must! The amount of nappies that you go through in the early days is phenomenal and washing your hands every time leaves them feeling pretty dry and sore. Having a good hand cream to hand (haha!) is a great idea! I used Neutrogena unscented hand cream and had great results. Try to make sure that the cream is not strong smelling in those early weeks, your baby is still learning your smell as a method of identifying you, so having more neutral smells prevents any confusion.
  1. Deodorant – again, essential! I personally went for Dove Invisible Dry, a neutral roll on meant that it wouldn’t be interfering with Danny learning my smell (natural aroma as opposed to stink!!) I also think that getting a 24 hour or 48 hour deodorant is helpful, because after some sleepless nights in the early days I did get confused as to whether I had actually used deodorant that day!!

Do keep an eye out when shopping as a lot of these products are often on offer! You may want to stock up! What were/are your top 5 beauty essentials?

IMG_20160311_093956.jpg