Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A pound for a pound

Or ten pounds really

So it's the first day of Lent and as well as giving something up I want to give something back.

The "giving something up" is a purely selfish motive as I've eaten way too much chocolate since Iz was born (sleepless nights = massive chocolate need in my book) and I need an excuse to kickstart a more healthy eating regime. So no chocolate/sweets/cake etc as well as starting weekly gym sessions.

But I also want to do something positive, so for every pound I lose during Lent I will give £10 to a charity (added motivation!).

So this is where you come in - if you know any charities that you think are particularly deserving or close to your heart then please comment below. I've got a few in mind already but would love to hear more. 

I'm currently 25lb over my pre-pregnancy weight so that's a lot of charities that I will hopefully donate to :)

I will keep updating this post with number of pounds lost and which charities I've given to.

Thank you for your help xx


Friday, 13 February 2015

All you need for a perfect Valentine's Day...




So it's the big day tomorrow... Most romantic day of the year... Blah blah. Anyway in my mind it's an excuse to do some super cute toddler crafting and cooking :)

So here are our three favourite valentines-themed activities we've done over the last 2 weeks. We loved doing them and hope you enjoy reading about them! 

******

The present

I'd thought about making little hearts from salt dough (like our Christmas stars) but once I saw this idea on "Mum in theMadhouse"'s blog I knew we had to try it. Although, I hasten to add, this is not for the faint hearted. Trying to get a toddler (let alone a 5 month old...) to make their thumbprints into a heart shape (and then recreate this shape exactly the same with ink!) is no mean feat. So please bear that in mind when you compare our *very* homemade attempts to the ones done by Jen from MumInTheMadhouse!

I used the same baking soda clay recipe I used for the handprint casts but this time I left it on the heat a tiny bit longer as otherwise it was too sticky to cut shapes out of. Once I was happy with the consistency I flattened it between 2 sheets of baking paper using a chopping board (so much easier than using a rolling pin!) and then D cut out shapes using a heart cookie cutter. We then attempted to get D to make thumbprint 'hearts' on each and I finished them off by stamping his name along the top and poking a straw through to create a space for a hanging ribbon.

Pre-drying (not quite sure why picture has flipped itsiefl 90 degrees...)

 We then left them to air dry for 24 hours (turning them over twice in that time) before re-stamping the names (with red ink this time) and inking the thumbprints. D loved this bit - and especially when he got to do lots of practice thumbprints on some paper before and after!

Once they had hardened slightly I inked in the names

Perfecting thumb printing on paper first :)
 
 After another 24 hours I sealed them with some ModPodge Sparkle and then a clear sealant. 

Ready to be sealed

Add a ribbon and they're ready to be gifted :)

Ready to go
 
Don't forget to write the date on the back!

******

The card

What is Valentines Day without a card (apart from sad and empty. Lol)? There were soooo many ideas I wanted to try out, all of which I think D would've had great fun with, but in the end I settled on a "wax resist" card and love the results!

I can remember making pictures like this when I was younger - especially around Bonfire night as brightly coloured crayons under a blue wash make awesome fireworks. But for Valentines day we settled on a slightly  more topical shape and colour scheme...

These are super simple to make - this is all you need:

Simple set-up - this was for 2 kids

I drew some hearts on pieces of watercolour paper, using a white crayon. Then I diluted down the watercolours and let D paint the paper and expose the pattern. 

First experimenting

After a bit of trial and error (and a break for some pretend-pizza-making!) we hit on the best method. D did an initial whole-card-wash with a diluted watercolour paint and then added splashes of colour with his stamping paint bottles (probably not their correct name!). And look at some of the ones he made - I think they look great!

Some of the cards D made

Then I just mounted them on a piece of folded coloured card and there they are - perfect homemade cards :)

I love how these turned out :)
 
******

The food

I wasn't initially going to do any special V day cooking with D as we cook together quite regularly anyway. But when I saw this post from Messy Little Monster I couldn't wait to try it ourselves!

All you need - easy peasy
 
It really is so simple. We used food gels (rather than liquid colours) so I just mixed a small amount with water and voila - edible watercolours :) 

D getting stuck in

Finished hearts



Don't forget to use a new paintbrush though - however good my cleaning skills are I'd rather have a new un-painty one on my food!!
 
Then you can eat them plain, make them into a sandwich, cook them as toast...

Someone else didn't want to be left out...

Both enjoying a Valentine's-themed snack

What a simple but cute idea?! And could be tailored for any occasion. Imagine all the kids at a birthday party designing and "painting" their own bread? Love it!


As an aside this is what the kitchen roll looked like that I used in the tidy up - how cool is that?! Next time I'm going to let D do some "painting" on kitchen roll and see how the colours all swirl together
 
******

So what about you? Would love to hear any Valentines Day crafts you've tried recently. Or if you try any of the ones above I'd love to know how it goes :)


Thursday, 12 February 2015

5 days... No television...

My children are telly addicts, I admit it. Even Iz at 5 months old will arch her back and crane her neck to see what's happening if I dare to have her sitting facing away from it.

*wiggle* *squirm* I want to see the TV!!!!!
Previously I blogged about the impact MTV could be having on Doof but that was during the good old only-one-child-to-juggle days when the TV was not on that much and we only narrowly exceeded the AAP's super strict guidelines...

Then Iz was born. And suddenly I needed a million more pairs of hands. And at least 2 more bodies. And another lap. It's tough for you, toddler and baby when you're trying to breastfeed one, cuddle the other, have a glass of water so you don't get mastitis (again) etc etc. So TV can be a godsend. Entertains D while I feed Iz. Or while I make his lunch. Or load the washing machine. Or dishwasher. Or... anyway, you get the picture.

But somewhere along the way the TV lost its "off" button. It was just on all the time. Constantly. Peppa. Ben and Holly. Frozen. Ice Age. Timmy Time. All on constant repeat. And D started to ask for TV all the time. Every time he walked in the door. Even if he had friends over to play. Not good. 

So I set us a challenge. 5 days. No TV. Cold turkey. 

[for the kids obviously. Once they were in bed we could watch as much Storage Wars and Say Yes to the Dress as we liked :)]

So how did it go?

So much better than I could possibly have imagined!

When D came down in the morning of the first day he asked for TV. I simply said "TV not working, broken". He looked at me and then as if to double check said "TV holiday?" which is what he says when anything goes away. I nodded and he trotted off to find some toys to play with.

That first morning he played with his toy kitchen and rearranged all the food. He found a threading game he hadn't used in ages. We went out for a walk and read some books together. At 10.30 we had about 3 minutes of "Frozen now!" and then "TV broken". And that was it. In the afternoon he played with his alphabet magnets, made a collage with some stickers, built a den out of the sofa cushions and went for another walk. No more mention of TV. And much better quality play, which he instigated himself.

Doofy's Den
DVD boxes were the closest he could get to TV ;)

And so the pattern continued over the next few days. It was amazing - no background noise, D playing with toys he hadn't looked at for months (and *properly* playing with them, getting engrossed and going down to a deeper level of play because he wasn't constantly distracted by the TV) and most surprisingly of all, no real protests from him about the lack of screen time... To be honest apart from just stating "TV not working" a few times he didn't even seem to notice it anymore.

Learning his alphabet
Amazing!

The only concession I made was him being allowed to play on my iPhone during Iz's feeds. He didn't always do it but if he asked when I was breastfeeding then I did let him. But 5-10 minutes of listening to nursery rhymes on an iPhone versus 12 hours of TV? Not even comparable.

So what's happened now?

I'm ashamed to say since finishing the 5 days, the TV has crept on a bit. Mainly in the mornings between 7 and 8 (when we're all a bit brain dead - Iz is not a good sleeper!) and in the evenings just before bath time. Yes ideally I'd like the TV to never be on but the most important thing now is that we think about it more. It is no longer background noise - we either have it on for a finite period to watch a particular program, or it is off. 

No square eyes here anymore :)

Quality sibling bonding sans TV :)

******

What do you do about TV? Do you have rules or just go with the flow?

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

What Iz loved - January 2015

Ok so I am officially rubbish at doing this post in a timely manner... *but* I love doing these monthly summaries so will continue doing them albeit rather late!



Here is what Iz loved this month...



2. Mealtimes
3. Door bouncing
4. Meeting her new monkey friend 
5. Swinging (with a little help)
6. Drinking - soooo much water. No idea why!
7. Being a tiger

******

If you want to do your own "What baby/toddler loved" then link up with Rachel @dinkythinks - you can see her latest post here :)






Sunday, 1 February 2015

"Ready-made" cooking - learning in the kitchen


So my cooking with D over the last 2 weekends has been slightly different to usual. If you've read any of my "Toddler cooking" posts before you'll know that we normally cook from scratch, pretty basic things but usually healthy and easy for a toddler to do most steps.

Well as part of my end-of-year clear out I went through all our kitchen cupboards and found 2 Sweetpea Pantry boxes. I'd bought them ages ago and then completely forgotten about them - luckily their BBE was 31st January 2015 so we had a plan for the next 2 weekends :)

And in the end they ended up being much more than just a packet mix. They ended up being the vehicle for lots of learning in the kitchen.

******


These are gluten-free with no added sugar or salt and full of wholewheat goodness. We followed the packet instructions but added extra goodness in the form of a banana and fresh blueberries (mmmmm nutritional superfood). D did all the steps himself, except cooking the pancakes on the hob.

 
Slicing up the banana - knife skills

Whisking the egg after cracking it

Mixing carefully

Counting in the blueberries

Final mix

Yum!


These were really tasty and I ended up eating lots of them because OH and oldest child were put off by the fruit in them I think! These are supposed to be healthy because they're gluten-free and have more omega oils etc in them but I wouldn't go as far to say they are actually good if you're on a diet (360kcal per 100g)… If that's the case I'd stick with my my three ingredient pancakes (see here) which really are guilt free!

******


These are packed with quinoa and oats to give “long-lasting energy”. You just need to add butter and honey so again, these were very simple to make and D could make them on his own (just needed some help with measuring out the butter and honey).

Careful (or not if you look closely! lol) pouring

Counting in spoonfuls of honey

Transferring mix from one bowl to another

Proud baker!

End result

The end product was okay but not delicious. The good point was I felt quite virtuous eating them (even though they had loads of honey in them!!) but they did leave a bit of an after-taste in the mouth. An advantage of that was that the kids were happy only having small portions and they lasted for several days – unlike when we have other cakes in the house!

******

So what learning experiences did D have?

We used the time to practice simple kitchen tasks and combine it with language skills – this toddler age is amazing as D is learning new words and picking up different phrases everyday.

These are some of the things we did:
-          he told me about all the different ingredients needed to make pancakes (flour, sugar and milk) – I was pretty impressed!
-          we talked about the importance of mixing gently but making sure everything had dissolved/missed thoroughly. He used words like “round and round” and “mix carefully”
-          he practised his pouring and whisking skills
-          we discussed various types of fruit and he counted out each blueberry before adding it to the mix. He used words like “more banana” and “blueberry gone”
-          he helped crack the egg – a skill that I think is pretty good for a 2 year old :)

So something different in the kitchen for us over the last few weeks. Taking the focus off the actual cooking made me realise just how many learning opportunities there are in our day-to-day lives. So in future I’m going to think about how to make all of the process as fun and educational as any end-product :)

******

I'm linking up with the #LittleChefs linky with Baked Potato Mummy here :)


Monday, 26 January 2015

Top 10 weaning & feeding essentials



So as the time starts to wean baby number 2 I'm reminded of a post I was going to write when Doof was weaning but never got round to... So here it is, second time lucky (and doubly as true I guess as these are still my top 10 second time around!)

******

Vital baby bowls with sucker

Once your baby learns that the bowl moves and how fun it is to watch things fly off the highchair you're in big trouble. So we loved these bowls that clip onto a sucky base (that actually stuck to the highchair tray unlike some other makes we tried!).

Before we had the sucky bit...

Yay - no mess once the sucker is in place :)

Temperature spoons

I don't heat food very often (aka never when D was weaning) but obviously do if making ready brek or a half-uncooked dish. These tommee tippee temperature sensitive spoons are great - orange when the temperature is ok and quickly turning yellow when the food is too hot.

So simple but visually so effective

Square morrisons bibs

We were given these as a present. Initially I was a bit meh but then once I tried them, loved them. The square design allowed a lot coverage of D when he was at his super-messy eating phase, the neck fitted snugly so no food escaped down there (and was comfy as made of fabric) and lastly no amount of tugging from D would remove it :)

Mess mess mess!

Emergency stash of pouches

Yes yes I know, real mums hand steam every vegetable that passes within 5 yards of their baby. Except sometimes (often!) that's not practical. Sometimes you're out unexpectedly and need something now. Sometimes you're on a long joinery and so you want something that travels well. Sometimes you're just too tired to cook from scratch... Anyway a stash of emergency pouches has always saved this household!


Tommee tippee milk bottle or Nuby 

We tried nearly every cup in existence when weaning D off the breast (he skipped out the bottle phase) - you can read about all the different ones we tried here. By far our favourite were the standard Tommee Tippee and the Nuby. Both of which I've already bought for Iz :)

Fully mastered his TT cup by 6 months

Highchair cushion

Most simple yet ingenious invention ever! £5 in Ikea buys you a blow-up 3-sided cushion which you can slip into any highchair when out&about, instantly transforming those far too big wooden ones into something even your 5 month old is secure in. And it rolls down into practically nothing so easily fits in your nappy bag. Definitely as essential if you eat out with a little one.

Love the simplicity of this cushion - brilliant!

Brother Max pots 

There are so many different pots available for freezing food in. I loved the Brother Max ones because the 2 sizes were perfect portion sizes for early weaning (5-7 months) and the larger ones for later (8-12 months). They also had space to write on them and came with a pen. And even better they have a squishy rubber bottom so it's very easy to "pop" the food cube out once it's frozen. Although equally they double up as fab little pots to feed from - very handy if out as then you don't need to faff with more bowls etc.

The smaller sized pots


Ikea Antilop highchair 

Why spend anymore than £15 when that will buy you the best highchair out there?! The 2 reasons that make it the best in my mind are:
- it is all plastic so very easy to clean without any edges for food to get stuck in (you can even put the whole chair in the shower if it gets particularly messy!)
- it doesn't have a big "lip" on the tray so even small babies just starting out can try reaching for food and can see what they're being offered
Both of these also mean its perfect for using during painting or crafting activities when you want some sort of control over your toddler!

Perfect for crafting
The downside is that it doesn't fold away but as I'm using it 3 times a day I'd be far too lazy to fold it down anyway!

Great for finger feeding (and mess making!)

Floor mat

Essential of you want to stand any chance of keeping your carpet clean under the highchair. And can also double up as messy play mat for painting, gluing etc. Perfect!

Protect your carpet!

******

So those are my top 10 feeding/weaning essentials. What do you think? Any others you couldn't have lived without that I've missed out? I'd love to hear them :)




Thursday, 22 January 2015

Dear Grumpy Old Man on the bus



Dear Grumpy Old Man on the bus

Thank you for your invaluable help today. Indeed I could actually hear my baby crying before you pointed it out to me.

The fact that I had already heard you muttering and complaining about the noise to your neighbour did not enamour you to me.

Thank you for having no clue what was wrong with my baby but still managing to suggest things that would "definitely work". And for repeatedly commenting that "he" had a good set of lungs.

I know you think I'm an awful mother because I didn't give her a dummy the moment she started crying. And an even worse mum that (shock horror) she's never used a dummy so I didn't have one with me. Even after I explained that, thank you for continuing to repeat that I needed to give her a dummy and why wasn't I...

You know, I'd never even thought of stroking her or trying to comfort her until you suggested it. Or maybe your eyesight is really bad or you would've realised I'd been doing nothing else for the preceding few minutes. 

And thank you for imparting that magic secret that all mums need to know - the one thing that is guaranteed to always work and stop your child crying, whatever the cause - rubbing their tummy. I’m really glad that always worked when you were a baby. And your mother was certainly lucky to have a one-thing-fixes-all-ills cure. I'm sorry I didn't try it on her after you suggested it but she was tired and hungry. If you're tired and hungry I doubt you want someone poking your tummy.

I know it's shocking I've managed to raise 2 children thus far without your invaluable advice... But I have.

So Grumpy Old Man on the bus, next time you hear a child crying and want to share your pearls of wisdom... just butt out. *That* is the most helpful thing you can do for that mother.

Thanks,

Yours lovingly 
MFDS