Thursday, 30 August 2012

Fun things to do with your baby - Part 2: Fabric play

It can be difficult with a small baby to find fun things to do with them to fill the many hours of the day that you now suddenly have to occupy, My baby is now just over 6 month old and I feel I am well versed with providing entertaining activities for him and think you might be interested to find out what they are if you are ever stuck for ideas. This is the second in a series of posts like this with different ideas for fun things to do with your baby, often each activity could only last a few minutes, or sometimes they might be much longer activities.

This time I am looking at fabric play.  Exploring the qualities of fabric can be both a stimulating and a learning experience for young babies, they can learn about the different textures and weights of fabric as well as it's flexibility or stiffness and a number of other qualities.  I bought a selection of different fabrics with a variety of textures for Orren to play with, he likes to scratch on them as well as put them in his mouth and run his tongue (which is super sensitive right now) over in order to have a really good exploration of it's qualities. I also made some into little comforter cloths which are a more manageable size for taking out with us or for playing with in locations where letting the fabric drag on the floor is not appropriate, like in the garden.  (I will do a tutorial on how to make on at some point!)

I also play with the fabrics with Orren to make the play experience more interactive.  I gently stroke different textures across his face, (he especially likes the net), and I wave the silky fabric over him so he can experience the way it changes in the light, as well as the feel against his skin.  The fabric also gives an opportunity or playing peek-a-boo games.

Here is Orren enjoying the comforter I made for him (is that what they are called?)

And here is Orren with his friends enjoying the net: 

Fabrics that are fun and interesting for babies to explore include:

Net, satin, corduroy, velvet, leatherette, hessian, chenniel and faux fur.

Be sure to hem and fabric you give to babies and make sure any of the pile won't come lose because it could be a chocking hazard. 

Can you think of any other fabrics to add to this list?   What other games could you play with fabrics?

Monday, 27 August 2012

40 soups - 2. creamy chicken

Hi folks, so sorry for my absense, my laptop charger cable has broked and my hubby has been using the main PC in the house so haven't been able to get online much the last few weeks, also I have just been so busy; and not the kind of  "look how fun and exciting my life s I am far to busy for such trivialities as blogging" and more like a "I am so damn busy cleaning up poo and doing laundry and making dinners I literally havn't found a second to do a blog post, as soon as I sit down I fall asleep!"  kind of way.  Anhyhow, lets get going with a long awaited blog post that I started weeks ago and might noe finish:

A few months ago, a lovely lady from one of the blogs I follow, Elise Blaha, posted a series of recipes entitled "40 Loaves" where she baked 40 different bread recipes, blogged about each of them and included recipes for each.  After finishing this project she decided to embark on a new one.  Initially she thought "4 Soups" would be a fun idea, but she realised her husband didn't enjoy soups and thought the project wouldn't be so much fun to do alone, so instead she decided to a project called "40 pizzas"!  I however LOVE soups and make them often, so I thought it would be a really fun idea to blog about each of them and give you a recipe and photo to go with.

My second soup in this series is Creamy Chicken Soup.  I made this soup after wanting something tasty to do with leftover chicken bits and carcass.  As per usual, weights and measurements are approximate.  (You know me!)


Olive oil,
1/2 onion,
1 clove of garlic,
Chicken carcass and bits,
1 chicken stock cube,
1/2 cup double cream.

Bring a large pan with the chicken carcass and pieces to the boil then let simmer with enough water to cover the bits.  
Cook until the chicken falls from the bones.
Leave to cool then remove all the chicken from the bones.  Take out any skin and fat that you can.
Fry the roughly chopped onion in a little olive oil, add some roughly chopped garlic.  Pour into the chickeny water and mix, heat till the mis if heated through.  Add the stock cude and stir it in.  Remove the chicken mixture from the pan and blend in a blender or leave in the pan and blend with a stick blender to a fine soup.  Add the double cream and stir in being careful not to let the soup boil.  Serve immediately with toast, yum!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Sexism at the Allotment

I had a rather unpleasant experience at the allotment this afternoon with an older gentleman whose allotment is opposite mine; leaving me thinking that sexism is still alive and kicking in certain corners of the UK.  Fortunately I learnt a lesson from the experience so it wasn't a total waste.  Let me tell you what happened.
I was happily pulling up harvesting nettles when I saw a car approach, I had pulled my car as far over as possible and went over and asked if there was room.  He criticised my parking with the usual adage "women drivers" and said "well move then" I tried to be all jovial and jolly and all "ha ha isn't it funny, silly old me, what a terrible parker", and got in my car to move it, of course stalled and got all faffy trying to squeeze into my space and in the end gave up and reversed into another allotmenter's space.  He passed and I began to move back to my space (I didn't think I should park in someone else's spot) and he said "lazy bitch" and something about not walking a few meters.  I wasn't sure how to take this.  He still seemed to be jokey and talked as if having a laugh, but I didn't really appreciate being called a bitch, I said something about wanting to park near my baby and said to him that I was leaving in a minute anyway.  I started packing my things up feeling a bit cross and annoyed at myself for not saying something sensible and he came over and said "leaving already, you have only been here 10 minutes"  (bearing in mind I had been there over an hour and who the hell was he to criticise my time spent there when he had only just arrived)  He actually often says this and it has become a bit of a running joke.  Yes I can only spend a short time at the allotment, I have a 5 month old baby!  Anyway, I didn't take it amusingly this time, I was quite annoyed and said "yep off home now" still trying to be polite.  He then asked if I was on my school holidays now (I am an art teacher) I said I was still on maternity leave and he then proceeded come up with all manner of criticisms for my being on maternity leave, complaining that he was paying for me to be off, the bemoaning the fact that men can only have a couple of weeks.  I said I had payed my taxes and he joked that I had hardly been out of school long and that I hadn't payed my dues.  This went on back and forth, him throwing out some sexist criticism and me trying rather pathetically to defend myself, and I got more and more annoyed, in the end I said "Look, when men start lactating then they can take a year off work"  and closed my car door and left. 
On my way home I felt really cross and upset and suddenly felt like all my energy had been zapped from me, I felt cross at myself for not coming up with some witty response or argument to defend myself better, thinking about what I had said, re-running the scene in my mind wishing I had said something else.  I almost felt like crying, I just wanted to go home and sit in front of the TV.  I had to do some shopping so went to Asda and got a few bits, and as I was walking round feeling totally drained from the whole thing, I suddenly realised, "it's not me, it's him".  He has never been horrible to me before, in fact he has been quite kind, lending me his strimmer and black plastic to cover my weeds, I had done nothing wrong to provoke such a response.  I thought to myself, maybe he had had a bad day, maybe his wife had upset him before he left, maybe he has had some kind of unpleasant run in with a woman that has left him feeling emasculated, maybe he needed to make himself feel big and manly, what ever it was, it wasn't my fault he felt that way so why was I carrying the upset and the anger that he had put onto my shoulders, and suddenly I felt lighter, relieved, like a weight had been lifted, "it's not me, it's him"  "it's not me it's.......(inset name of someone who has upset me in the past)".  If only I had realised this a long time ago I could have lived my life without carrying other people's burdens.  I am so glad that I have realised it now, and just hope that I apply it to similar situations in future,  it has enabled me to feeling forgiveness, sympathy almost for people who have hurt me.  "It's not me, it's them". 

Friday, 10 August 2012

New eco parent's essentials list

When I was pregnant I did many many searches on the internet for lists of things I needed to buy for my impending birth, often I would come back with lists telling my I needed nappy bins and baby wipes and dentinox etc., all things I wasn't keen on using.  I wanted a list of the basics, the minimum required for a parent who was not only environmentally aware but also keen to keep as many chemicals away from their baby as possible.  It can be all so easy to get carried away when shopping for a new little one, so I thought it would be useful to put together a list of items that I have found essential, while also noting what one could do without is necessary.  I hope you find this list helpful, please let me know if there is anything you think I have forgotten.

1. Pushchair:

We used a travel system which included a car seat, pram and pushchair attachment, all for the one frame.  You can read more about buying a pushchair on a budget here.  However, having said that, if you don't have a car, you won't be needing a car seat so you could save even more space and money by just getting a pram that turns into a pushchair seat. If you can buy one second hand then all the better.

2. Wrap or baby carrier:

I found this totally indispensable in the first few weeks of my son's life, I carried him for a lot of the time.  You could actually do without a pushchair if you can manage to carry your baby with the wrap at all times.  It did my back in so I needed a pushchair as well.  I can highly recommend the Moby wrap because it spreads the weight evenly across your shoulders and hips. Again, buy one from ebay, cheaper and just as good.

3. Cot or bedside crib:

We were give a Moses basket when Orren was born, but he very quickly grew out of it.  In order for us to keep him in our bedroom for that little bit longer we bought a sort of bedside cot that looked like a normal cot with wooden bars, but much smaller.  If we could have we would have got this from the start.  You can buy there second hand off ebay or gumtree, but make sure you purchase a new mattress.

4. Changing mat:

You could just use a muslin or a towel but a wipe clean changing mat will save on washing.

5. Washable wet wipes:

For the first 5 months we used cotton wool and water but I wish I had made washable wet wipes sooner because they are more effective for wiping up poop (sometimes a little piece of cotton wool feels like you are trying to mop up the ocean with a flannel!)  They are dead  easy to clean even at 30 degrees, soft on their skin and unlike commercial wet wipes they contain no nasty chemicals.  They are better for the environment because they only have to manufactured the once thereby using less energy and of course they won't be going to land fill.  You can read my tutorial of how to make your own here.

6. Nappies:

If you can buy into a washable nappy brand then that's great, it will save you stacks of money compared to disposables and are far far better for the environment (even when factoring in energy used in washing them).  You can get them for a reasonable price second hand as buying them new is quite a big investment.  Get recommendations.  We bought into a brand called Bambino Mio, but I couldn't get along with them, they were too much of a faff having to put on with three separate components, and they leaked.  We couldn't afford to buy into another brand so ended up using bio-degradable disposables.  Slightly better in that they will eventually bio-degrade, but being buried under all that plastic on a landfill site will mean they won't have access to air and water (essential for degradation), BUT they will degrade eventually unlike the plastic kind.

7. Baby Clothes:

To begin with all your baby really needs are Baby-grows, also known as onesies, playsuits etc, you probably need about 10.  We got almost all of ours second hand apart from one new pack to take to hospital. We also bought a pack of little hats to keep his little bonce warm.  When baby gets a bit older you will want to put little trousers/skirts and dresses on them etc.  Again, almost all the clothes we have were given to us from friends.  I have seem lots of job lots of baby clothes on ebay selling for very reasonable prices.  Also look at NCT sales, car boot sales and charity shops.

8. Washable breast pads:

Washable breast pads are far nicer to use than disposables because they contain no plastic and don't have a thin papery skin that can get stuck to your nipples and cause all sorts of problems.  I bought washable bamboo breast pads, they are soooo absorbent and soft.  I have 10 pairs and bought them here.  Ultimately better for the environment and your pocket.

9.  Blankets:

Three or four blankets are really useful because they often get sick on them etc. We were give a LOT of blankets when Orren was born, but if he hadn't I would have made some just from some fleece  in the fabric shop, nothing fancy.  If you were feeling creative you could make a quilt like this one I made a few years ago!

10: Muslins:

Lots and lots of muslins, they are so useful for protecting their clothes, protecting your clothes, they act as sun shields, I have used them as changing mats, bibs, play mats, cloths...the list goes on. Again there is no reason why you need to buy these, you could always just buy a couple of meters of cheese cloth from a good fabric shop and cut it and hem it yourself.  We were given most of our as gifts.

11. Baby monitor:

We bought a baby monitor with a sensor pad, we hardly used it at all for the first few months but when we established a bed time routine at about 4 1/2 months we thought it would be good to put it on because he was sleeping upstairs while we spent the evening downstairs.  We could hear him cry straight away the and could respond immediately.  The sensor pad has been good for those times when only sleeping on his front would do.  I suppose a baby monitor isn't essential but it does give peace of mind.

12.  Moisturising oil or cream:

We use wheatgerm oil as a massage oil and also for dry skin, but you could just as well use organic olive oil or sunflower oil.  We used pure shea butter for nappy rash and haven't had any problems with it. Whatever you choose it is best if it is totally natural, babies don't need all those chemicals on their skin.

Have I forgotten anything?  Please let me know if I have.

Things that I don't think you will need (or at least I have bought but not needed) include:

1. A breast pump.  If breast feeding goes to plan and you are with your little one all the time, I don't see any reason why you need a breast pump.  Some people get them so they can go out for the evening or go away for a weekend, but I decided that I have get my baby as a baby for a very short time so I might as well forego the weekends away and enjoy feeding him all the time.

2. Sterilising equipment.  Again, for the reason above, and only if the breastfeeding goes to plan.

3. Baby towels.  We just use normal towels and hand towels.

4.  A baby bath.  We just use the big bath and only fill it a few inches full. Sometimes I bath in the water after him.

5. Scratch mits.  Most baby grows have little mit covers a the end of the sleeves.  Mits were a waste of time and money it was like putting paper bags on his hands and hoping they would stay on!

6. Bubble baths, shampoo, body washes and moisturisers.  Babies don't need soap or washes of any kind, plain water is enough.  As for moisturisation, see above and use olive or sunflower oil.

Any other thoughts on what you don't need?

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Fun things to do with your baby - Part 1: Bubbles

It can be difficult with a small baby to find fun things to do with them to fill the many hours of the day that you now suddenly have to occupy, My baby is now 6 month old I feel I am well versed with providing entertaining activities for him and think you might be interested to find out what they are if you are ever stuck for ideas.  I hope to do a series of posts like this with different ideas for fun things to do with your baby, often each activity could only last a few minutes, or sometimes they might be much longer activities.

For the first part of this series I thoughts I would begin with a really fun activity (especially for mums and dads)  and babies find it fascinating too.  Blowing bubbles!
I sit my little by in the garden in his bumbo or lie him on his play mat on the grass, or even sit him in the door way and blow small bubbles from a cheap 99p tube over him, in front of him, on top of him... he finds it fascinating, he tries to catch them and looks for where they are going.  It is a complete sensory experience as he can not only watch them, but also feel them popping on his skin and hear the delicate popping sound they make when they explode on the patio or against a fence etc.  This is a great activity which you can do with your baby from birth and I hope when he gets older bubbles will be a fantastic educational tool to aid in learning.

Here is my little bubba watching the bubbles with interest:

What simple, cheap but fun activities do you do with your baby?

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

First time at the seaside!

Thought I would share with you some photos I took a couple of weeks ago when we ventured to the seaside on a sunny day in July (one of the few!) We drank elderflower champagne, and our little Orren dipped his toes in the big blue for the very first time.  He wasn't sure at first, then didn't seem to mind, he wasn't happy about the small waves crashing and the froth running over his feet and then he realised it was reeeeally cold, and got a bit upset!  Bless him.  

Elderflower champagne,

little toes on the pebbles, 

Having a little look,

First little paddle with daddy.

All these new experiences feel so special and I want to capture them all!  I didn't even get to have a photo with myself at the beach with him! We both felt so sorry for him when he got upset about the cold, and I desperately wanted to protect him from sunburn, keeping him shaded with a large umbrella and lots of blankets and muslins.  I was so focused on protecting his beautiful white skin that I totally forgot to protect my own!  Very bad sunburn ensued.  So bad that I had to fill the bath with cold water and kneel in it in the middle of the night!  Wear sunscreen folks!

Monday, 6 August 2012


3 years ago, I married the man of my dreams!  Now we have a little baby!  I can't believe it, I feel so blessed.
We met on 25th August 2000 at Reading Music festival and became boyfriend and girlfriend one month later.  He was in his first year of Uni and I was still in school!

Who knew that at just 17 years old I had met the man who would later father my baby! It was an old fashioned romance and he was my childhood sweetheart, still is!

9 years after we met we finally married in the most perfect wedding ever (I know everyone says that, but it's true!)

We exchanged cards and agreed not to give gifts, although he surprised me with flowers when he came home from work (naughty!) Then we went out for a meal with our little family.  A lovely afternoon. Thanks Hubby!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

40 Soups - 1. Spicy Lentil

A few months ago, a lovely lady from one of the blogs I follow, Elise Blaha, posted a series of recipes entitled "40 Loaves" where she baked 40 different bread recipes, blogged about each of them and included recipes for each.  After finishing this project she decided to embark on a new one.  Initially she thought "4 Soups" would be a fun idea, but she realised her husband didn't enjoy soups and thought the project wouldn't be so much fun to do alone, so instead she decided to a project called "40 pizzas"!  I however LOVE soups and make them often, so I thought it would be a really fun idea to blog about each of them and give you a recipe and photo to go with.

My first soup for this series is Spicy Lentil. It is a great recipe to make if you don't have much in the way of fresh veg in the house and good for tight budgets. Plus lentils have loads of wonderful vitamins and minerals.  The recipe serves 2 and I am afraid that (as with all my recipes and tutorials) measurements are approximate!  So I will leave you to be the judge when it comes to quantities and you can take my numbers as a guide.

1 tbs olive oil,
1/2 onion,
1 clove garlic,
1 cup red lentils,
1/4 tsp ground corriander,
1/4 tsp paprike,
1/4 tsp ground cumin,
1/4 tsp chilli,
1 chicken stock cube,
600ml boiled water.

Chop the onion, and garlic and fry in a little olive oil in a large sauce pan, when softened add the lentils and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the stock cube and water and sprinkle in the spices. Stir to mix everything together.  Cover and leave until all the water is soaked up.  Continue to add water until you achieve a pleasing consistency and the lentils and cooked soft. Take out half the soup and blend, add back to the mixture and stir together.  Serve with toasted wholemeal bread and butter.  Perfect, thick warming and tasty.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Attachment Parenting on Lorraine

The other day a friend informend me that there had been a segment on Lorraine on ITV about attachment parenting, I was intrigued as my husband and I try to follow the principles of attachment parenting, and thought excellent, the general public will find out how great attachment parenting is, how wrong I was.

Attachment parenting as I know it from the book by William and Martha Sears is based on the principle of the the 7 baby b's; Birth bonding, breastfeeding, baby wearing, bedding close to baby, belief in the language of your baby's cries, beware of baby trainers and balance. However upon watching the 6 minute segment on Lorraine, only 3 baby b's are alluded to; breast feeding, bed sharing and baby wearing thus leading viewers to gain an inaccurate understanding of the attachment parenting principles.  
The poor woman invited onto the show in defence of attachment parenting was given very little time to talk about these three principles and as she began to explain that you can still be an attached parent if you don't breast feed, she was cut off by the presenter and told to move onto the next point.  The same happened when she started to say that you could still be attached and not share a bed. 
After the first lady had spoken the anti-AP lady began her piece, bemoaning the principles, saying that attached children would not be able to cope in the real world.
I was very disappointed with the programme's presentation of attachment parenting, the time that was given to the discussion and the lack of truth in what was portrayed as being the main features of attachment parenting. The viewer was left feeling that all parents who follow AP principles breastfeed till their children are at school, share a bed at all times and carry their babies all day, everyday, there is so much more to attachment parenting than this.  
On a personal level, I am still breastfeeding my baby and will continue to do so until I feel that he is ready to stop.  I sometimes have him in bed with us, but to be honest I don't sleep as well as I do when he is in his own little cot, which is right next to ours.  As for baby wearing, I did this a lot when he was a few weeks old, but find I get a sore back now as he is quite heavy!  The other baby b's are so important, I can't believe they were ignored; maybe the most important one to me is responding to baby's cries, we don't let our baby cry if at all possible (although sometimes I have no choice like if I am on the loo or something!) and pick him up as soon as he does.  The principle of balance says that parents must approach each principle in a balanced way, it is not an all or nothing approach but a do what you can approach and make it work for you approach. 
One left the programme feeling that attachment parents were hippiefied weirdos who selfishly keep their children close by for their own benefit and not for the children's.  What a shame that yet again the media has failed to portray the truth and many many parents won't be able to take advantage of the benefits of attachment parenting.