Beetroot Soup and #JanuaryJoy roundup!

One of the things about starting to wean Bea is that it has made me re-evaluate my own diet. That and New Year optimism made me think I should be making more soups and when my friend Jess said she had made beetroot soup I thought I’d give it a go too, fascinated by the idea of the colour it would come out. I really enjoyed it and as they say it’s good to include a variety of different coloured vegetables in your diet, I think this will cover pink and red for a while. ;)

Adapted from this Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe

Makes 1L soup

4 large beetroot, cut into chunks
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
500ml low salt stock
1 can of plum tomatoes

1. Chop the beetroot and throw into a roasting tray with the garlic clove and some olive oil. Roast at 200 degrees for 30 minutes or until soft.
2. Dice the onion and soften with some oil in a large pan.
3. Add the beetroot and garlic, then the tomatoes and stock.
4. Simmer for ten minutes
5. Blend or blitz to a smooth consistency before storing in the fridge or serving with crumbled feta cheese on top or a dollop of creme fraiche.

Let me know if you try it! Now lets recap #JanuaryJoy so far…

So far I have done:
(Another) new recipe (for Gingerbread!)…
Talked about a few of the smaller projects I plan to tackle this month/year…
and I have embarked on learning a new skill with the Pen and Peplum #52handlettered challenge.

Erin also talked about your style updates for January (see how she’s wearing them here,) and Esme shared how she gets organised as a working mother.

Other posts from around the web:
Sarah from Glasgow Mummy set some health and fitness goals
Sian from Little Star & Me captured the memories with a round up of baby books.

How are you getting on – please do leave a link to your #januaryjoy moments (- even if they are just photo’s, it doesn’t have to be a whole blog post!) Or tell me about what has been making your January Joyful in the comments box!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

#JanuaryJoy: Get Organised

So often, ‘get organised’ New Year prompts are about diary management – something I’m always keen to improve… I must double book myself at least once a week. The thought of returning to work and having to plan not only where I am but where Bea is on a daily basis, frankly terrifies me and so I will be fascinated by todays post and all your comments. I’d love to hear how all of you (working mum or not,) balance your life and various commitments and any pointers you have! Over to Esme…


Have you read Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please? In it she talks about how motherhood changed her and some of the things she finds hard, and she suggests a mantra for mothers to use that I really like: “Good for you, not for me”. She calls us all out for saying things that, at first, sound supportive, but are actually us being judgemental over someone else’s choices or working patterns. She tells us that we should support each others decisions, even if it’s not what we would do. Taking this advice into account, it’s difficult for me to offer advice for how to regain balance in your family life, because maybe you want to make very different decisions from me. If that is the case then I hope that you will respect my choices, just as I would respect yours.

At the beginning of 2014 I decided to set myself up as self-employed in order to stay at home as much as I could with Freddie, while still bringing in some money. “It’ll be a really good balance,” I thought to myself and told everyone who would listen, “Once I’ve got a good set of clients and regular work coming in, Freddie will go to nursery for a couple of slots a week and I’ll work around him. I’ll have time for everything!”

Best laid plans, and all that. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t get enough work, or that Freddie didn’t settle into nursery, it was that after doing a temporary freelance full-time post in an office I realised that I wanted the structure of an office job again. I was very lucky to find a part-time job somewhere I wanted to work very quickly, and, suddenly, we had a very different routine to work out. Since I went back to working structured hours, I’ve been trying to work out the conundrum of being part of a family with two working parents. The only thing I can conclude is that there are not enough hours in the day to be able to do everything you would want or even need to do. Being a working mother and the ‘issues’ and the guilt that entails is part of the struggle (but not the subject of this post, so I won’t dwell on this), but really it’s about trying to find a way not to let anything slide. It is about finding a balance, a balance that works for your family.

When I became a mother I kept trying to work out whether I’d changed or not. Was I the same person as I was before? Had this new person coming into my life dramatically altered me? I came to the conclusion (and still think this now) that being a mother simply became another part of me, an addition to what was a whole person before. But if I used up all of my time being an employee, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a blogger and a woman, how could I possibly fit in another incredibly time consuming role?

We haven’t got it all worked out. I don’t have it all, not even by a long way. But we do have something that resembles a balance that we’re happy with. The key for me has been realising that I had to find a new way of working things out, making the things that were a priority for me an actual priority. I also had to let go of spending all day with my son if I wanted to work. I will never be able to see every milestone Freddie reaches, just as I can’t be there to hear about every achievement my husband has at work. I can’t be at work for every meeting because I don’t work on Mondays and I have to leave by 4.15. I have to balance the emotions about missing out with the knowledge that me working part-time is what is best for me right now, and – by association – best for my family.

Making an effort in my marriage is important to me, so we ask friends to babysit and have even had our parents take Freddie for a night or two on more than one occasion. Having time to myself is important as well, so I say yes to meetings friends for drinks in the evening and book in the odd Esme-only Saturday morning to go shopping or just read in bed. I admit that my friendships have taken a back seat over the past almost two years, and I have to hope that those people who are true friends will understand and will still be there when I emerge from this period of having young children.

I work hard when I’m at work (and have been rewarded for it already in a small promotion in my current role), but I endeavour to always leave on time. This is partly because Tom’s job has long hours and quite a lot of travelling and so, between us, we balance the responsibility of dropping off and collecting Freddie from nursery and being the ones who see him in the morning and in the evening. Sometimes it’s both of us, sometimes it’s me every evening for two weeks. The balance isn’t always perfect, but we try. And when something goes wrong we just scramble together a temporary solution. There is usually an ‘exceptional’ day at least once a week.

This is our regular weekly routine:

Monday: My day at home with Freddie, Tom normally travels on Mondays and often leaves very early and returns late. I try not to do too many jobs around the house and concentrate on having a fun Freddie-focused day.

Tuesday – Thursday:
7.30 I leave the house and travel to work, arriving at 8.30
8:15 Tom takes Freddie to nursery and goes to work
4:15 I finish work, run to the station and travel home
5:15 I collect Freddie
5.45 Everyone is home.

Friday: Every other week Tom has Friday off and has a daddy and Freddie day, the other week my in-laws travel to look after him and Tom works a shorter day. If I have to work late, I make sure it’s on Fridays.

This year I’m going to work on being more relaxed about the routine, about finding the perfect balance. I want to say no to spending too many weekends away from home, but yes to sometimes pushing the boundaries of nap times, taking all my holiday from work to have adventures and the occasional ‘personal day’ or day with friends. Having reflected on the balance of work/family/relaxation we currently have by writing this post, I have to say that I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. Ultimately, we have a happy and healthy son who is developing well, and that is what matters. Isn’t it?

Because I’m nosey, I really want to know: how do you feel about your balance right now? Are you trying to readdress it?

Love, Esme.

Find Esme on her blog Esme Wins or on Twitter @esmewwins

Would you: Do Baby Led Weaning?

It’s a big month for us this month. Aside from #JanuaryJoy (yes, it’s still going on and there will be more posts this week!) Beatrice turns 6 months soon and we’re thinking about weaning. It seemed the perfect time to get these discussion and sharing posts going again and hear your thoughts on weaning. Please do share your thoughts and experiences – both myself and the readers find these posts so helpful I know, so thanks in advance!


Image from Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food

So, weaning. I think I’ve said before that I live in quite a hippyish area of Manchester and I could be forgiven for thinking that everyone does baby led weaning. Before having Bea it seemed like BLW was just the thing to do but I wasn’t sure if I was fully on board with it – it looked messy and I wondered if it was just the latest middle class fad. Since having Bea my thoughts were that I couldn’t do BLW; I’m going back to work when she is 8 months old and as she has thus far been exclusively breast fed (and I have no plans to add in formula once she’s over 6 months,) I’m aware some of her milk feeds will drop, even if I express and that she will need to be getting some nutrition elsewhere.

So I bought the baby led weaning book, fully expecting to disregard it but I am strangely drawn to the idea now. For those not familiar, the book suggests allowing your baby to start eating soft but normal foods (like steamed broccoli for example,) anytime after 6 months that they show an interest. No purees, no spoon feeding, just let them feed themselves. The catch is that the first couple of months or more are very much about learning and playing with food. Babies don’t know how to chew food or pass it back to their throat to swallow initially, but then slowly learn and improve. Milk feeds remain the vast if not entire basis of their nutrition which on reflection actually makes more sense as breast or formula milk is way more nutritious than a bowl of pureed carrot or apple will ever be.

And now I don’t know what to do. I think I want to do BLW. It seems right for Bea and for us. Everything we have done so far has been based around listening to her – her sleep routines and so on but is that because they suited us? Some passages in the book liken giving purees to force feeding and make it sound awful, when like many other baby methods in various books on sleep or behaviour, millions of children have been brought up like that without damaging lasting effects. I don’t really buy into the theory that BLW makes kids less fussy and choose healthier options in later life – surely fussiness is natural toddler behaviour thats inevitable as they get to exercise some choice combined with a bit of boundary pushing, and once a child is exposed to sugars etc, won’t they need some parental moderation of those things naturally? I do however like the idea of her self moderating her intake, just as she has whilst BF. On the other hand with pureeing Bea would eat what I gave her, I wouldn’t have to worry about the salt or sugar contents as I’d be making it and she would no doubt progress easily to being less milk reliant as I go back to work. I still plan to keep feeding her as long as expressing, feeding when I’m home (which is going to be 4 days out of 7 after all,) and my milk supply allows. I wonder if my leaning towards BLW is partly emotional attachment to BF – I do feel guilty that my return to work may impact on her feeding even though I know I should hold onto it as long as possible given the benefits to both of us. Many people tell me that their BF baby just has water or initially some expressed bottles when they are apart, then BF as usual when they are together, but is that me being selfish and hanging onto it, when she might actually really miss it or be hungry in my absence?

So, there’s lots of food for thought there and I’d love to hear your experiences, particularly around your return to work. In case it’s relevant, she won’t be at nursery initially but with my mum at our house or with Pete, so whatever we choose will be easy to continue in my absence.

Wade in readers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

5 months with Bea

Morning readers! Apologies for the lack of posts this week, I’ve had 2 and a half days of my internet being down for some unknown reason and Erin is having the same problem. Today it’s back, hurrah! So here’s an instalment of life with Bea for you all today. Thanks for bearing with me!

When I last wrote about life with Bea, things were pretty much rosy. We had just got back from Florida, I’d transitioned her into her cot in the day without any problems (Hello smug face). For about a week after we got back she was the perfect baby then bam! It all went south.

4 to 5 months was tricky. It was probably also the hardest time I’ve had with Bea. Before then, bad days had been just that, days, not weeks but in early December (around 19 weeks) something happened with her naps… er, what naps? For 5 days Bea napped steadily less and less. She had been having about 3 hours in the day and day by day she went from 2.5, then 2 then at the worst only 1.5hrs. Those with babies will be feeling my pain already, those without, let me just tell you there’s a very fine line between a very happy well rested baby and the cliff top drop over the edge into over tired, distressed angry screaming baby. Nuff said. After about 5 days she improved slightly and the nap times started to go up again. But they only made it to about 2 hours and that’s where they stayed for that month, on a good day.

It was really hard. Hard because there is nothing more soul destroying (for me anyway,) than pacing around rocking and shushing in a darkened room for 45 minutes trying to get a baby to sleep. You emerge shell shocked, only for them only to wake up 30 minutes later. It was heartbreaking watching her so desperate for sleep that she was banging her head onto my chest and crying with frustration. And hard because amongst all this I steadily beat myself up that I was creating bad habits (rocking her to sleep because it was the only thing I could do or feeding her to sleep,) poor sleep associations and emotional scars if I ever left her to cry for a few minutes to see if she would learn to sleep by herself. The latter was a particularly useless tactic as eventually I always caved and went back, only to rock her to sleep anyway; Cue more beating myself up for letting her cry and for reinforcing that if she cried she would get what she wants.

How do I feel about it now? Well, like I said in my end of the year post, a few days do not a bad habit form. Bea went from going down with no fuss, awake for at least 2 or 3 of her 3 or 4 naps a day, to needing rocking or feeding to sleep for every single one and guess what, for some unknown reason, she is now back to going down without fuss for most of her naps in the cot again. Every couple of days I would try and after a few weeks she just kind of got over whatever was wrong. I’m able to beat myself up less now, but it’s always better with the benefit of hindsight. For whatever reason, she needed me. I did a lot of reading in these weeks about sleep patterns, needs and training and whilst I didn’t try to ‘sleep train’ her, I did leave her to cry a couple of times – more frustrated shouting rather than real crying with tears, wondering if she would settle herself in the ‘ten minutes’ or whatever some sleep expert recommended. A couple of times she did, but more often she didn’t and it ended up feeling like a wasted episode of crying as we achieved nothing. I definitely know more about the likelihood that she will settle now though by listening to her different sounds. She does sometimes, shout, chatter or cry before she sleeps, but it’s more of a whinge and it’s part of her dropping off, as much as her sucking her fingers is.

And why did it happen? Who knows. Do we ever really understand babies behaviour? Some would say it was the ‘dreaded 4 month sleep regression‘. I don’t really believe in sleep regressions as I read a blog post and it makes much more sense to me that she was simply dropping a nap. After all, babies sleep requirements don’t change in a day and throughout this period she would have 3 or 4 naps a day, whereas now she generally has 3. I found that site really helpful with info about bedtimes too and ideal sleep requirements. It makes much more sense to me to work around her sleep patterns, noting how long she is awake before she needs a nap, rather than prescriptively saying she should be napping at X o’clock. I also wonder if it was all made worse by the fact I was busy (more reasons to feel bad… the 5 month picture we have below is also her ’21 week’ photo as for the first time ever I forgot to take her weekly photo :( ) – things were worst at the beginning of December but the week before Christmas was also pretty bad, exacerbated by builders and tradespeople banging, ringing the door bell and generally taking my time up. There were times she was crying and they needed me to speak to them about something, and lots more times when I cursed them for being noisy and waking her from a much needed sleep. Or was it a wonder week leap? Who knows what it was all about, but it’s also over!

There were great things about 4-5 months too though. Bea learned to blow raspberries and bubbles, she’s laughing more and more and at 20 weeks she rolled over. In a classic moment, I returned from being out of the room to find her on her front when I had left her on her back.

Right now, we’re having a glorious 6th month and I’ll be back to tell you more about that soon. How are you getting on with your little ones? Does any of this sound familiar?!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS
4 months, 3 months, 2 months and the first month with Bea

Welcome in the #JanuaryJoy


Image via

Happy New Year readers!

I gave some serious thought to doing January Joy this year… it’s the third year now and a lot has changed in that time here on the blog. I wasn’t sure I could commit to a regular daily post anymore so thought I might have to let it go, but I know so many of you enjoy it and I do myself – I just love the possibilities of a New Year. So I’m going to do it differently this year…


Background glitter image via

I usually blog about 3 or 4 times a week now so there are 13 prompts. That’s enough for 3 per week and one for good measure. You’ll notice there are no numbers so you are free to pick and choose which prompts you do when, working through them as January progresses. I think this might work better for lots of you as it means you can plan a family day out at the weekend when work isn’t an issue and also use the weather to your advantage. There’s nothing better than a Sunday lunch with friends or family when the weather is cold outside, or a walk on a crisp sunny day. And if you can’t or don’t want to get through them all then that’s fine. January Joy is about embracing the New Year, a spirit of optimism and joy for life, so just fit it around yours.

As always, the whole point is to join in, so feel free to download the image above to share by clicking it, or clicking here. Please let me know when you’re taking part – blog about it, or tweet or instagram using the hashtag #januaryjoy and you can see who else is joining in and how, by searching the hashtag in your social media feeds.

Oh and for those of you needing a bit of additional inspiration, I’ll be pinning January Joy appropriate challenges, tips and fun on my January Joy Pinterest board – do follow along and tag me or the hashtag on Pinterest too and I’ll add your ideas and pin your January Joy activities too!

Will you be joining in readers?! I hope you all enjoy it! :)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

What I have learned: In 2014

The end of the year always makes me sentimental. This one more than any other seems to have passed by so quickly. I was 11 weeks pregnant this time last year, keeping everything crossed that my little baked bean stayed put and at the same time terrified of the future. I couldn’t see past the sea of ‘last’s’ Pete I and I would experience to the joy of the firsts that were yet to come. I have changed tremendously in this year – I suppose motherhood does that to you, but I’ve also had time to reflect on it all and what I’ve learned in that year…

Unconditional love does exist.
I think we all hope for unconditional love from a partner or spouse and I hope we all receive it, but the awe of the way your baby looks at you is true unconditional love. I realised that one morning, sat in my pyjama’s, a bit puffy from lack of sleep, obviously makeup less, could have been cleaner… the list of imperfections goes on. But Bea had never been happier to see my imperfect face. She didn’t care and that is unconditional love.

Human kindness is everywhere.
When you have a baby everybody is interested, in the same way people are interested when you’re getting married. Advice is impressed offered, wry stories told about their first born or new parenting experiences, and sadly much of it is passively negative. Since having Bea in contrast it’s the kindness and human nature of strangers that has struck me. On my errands about my local community or into Manchester, never a journey passes without a kind enquiry. Surprisingly many a man has engaged with Bea and I when we’re out and about. So many people have offered help with the pram, or give up a seat, or to get things for me and it’s enough to restore my faith in humankind but also wonder why we all are not so polite and kind to each other every day.

Letting go is freedom
The times I’ve felt most trapped by motherhood, the days when I’ve not been able to leave the house, or get something done, or just settle Bea as usual, giving up and letting go has always been the key. Often, with the benefit of hindsight, just to stop fighting battles that can’t be won is immensely relieving.

My work does not define me
There have been times I’ve felt insignificant since I stopped work to go on maternity leave, without purpose or direction, I suppose because I haven’t felt I was contributing. As time has gone on I have realised the contribution every mother makes to the future of society, or taking a microscopic as opposed to macroscopic view, just the future of their child. Work is only a part of me and didn’t define me before, but it does even less now.

One bad day does not a bad mother make (and nor do bad habits form in one night.)
And neither do two, or three bad days for that matter. It’s hard to remember on a bad day, but Bea crying doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong. She won’t hold it against me in the future and it doesn’t make me bad at my new role. I learned not to be afraid of picking her up from her cot when she cries, (in case she starts doing it every time I put her down,) or feeding her in the night if she wakes up in the early hours (in case she wants a feed every night.) It’s so easy to make yourself feel bad. Sometimes babies just need cuddles. And so do mummies :)

Pete will do anything for me and together we can do anything
This isn’t the first year that Pete has supported me unconditionally, but it’s the first time I’ve realised it at the time. He has physically supported me through late pregnancy and in the weeks and months after my c-section. He’s emotionally supported me through my doubts before having Bea and worries about motherhood after. He’s worked day and night to get the house finished or cleaned or tidy, when I was hugely pregnant or when Bea needed me. He’s fetched and carried a million different things when I was immobile or feeding. And when towards the end of the year we’ve been back to working together again, we’ve knuckled down and achieved a lot in the house, even when mountains have needed to be moved. I wouldn’t want to do it all with anyone else.

It’s been a truly amazing year, in the awe-inspiring sense of the word. It’s been difficult, frustrating, intense, frightening, exhausting but totally fulfilling. I have no idea what 2015 will bring but I know just being in my little family will be just fine with me.

How has your year been readers? Did you have any big revelations?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

*All the photo’s in this post are by Peter and Laura Lawson taken when Bea was 7 weeks old.

Driving me crackers…

Sorry. Festive pun. But I’m not sorry…

If I didn’t laugh right now I would cry, things are so unfinished in the house. I think a few people who have heard me say this have wrongly assumed it was a need for perfection that was stressing me out pre-Christmas, but in fact it’s a need for safety – we have children visiting and wires, boxes and heavy/breakable items (granite hearth propped up against a wall anyone?) everywhere wasn’t my idea of a relaxing Christmas for me, or I imagine their parents! We are so close to having the lounge finished but there will then be a gargantuan effort to tidy/clean in time for relatives arriving on Christmas eve. Then I might just curl up in a corner with Bea and let everyone get on with it!


Photography: Jemma Watts // Styling: Laura Sawyer // Styling assistant: Rosanna Johnson

Getting back to that pun… This year I decided it might be nice to DIY some crackers (because I have so much free time…) and I’m persisting with the idea dispute the chaos as it’s turning out to be keeping me sane whilst I’m stuck in with tradesmen, trawling the internet for little gifts and ideas. I was fully braced to completely DIY them after seeing a DIY featured in 91 magazine (the latest issue is out now!) and so I asked Caroline to share the stylists tips here…

Cracker Snap pulls were sourced from Ebay at £5.99, and you’ll need some toilet paper tubes. The stylist stuck a snap pull to the inside of a tube, filled the tube with presents, then wrapped the whole thing up in beautiful wrapping paper from Paperchase, and tied it off at the ends with ribbon from John Lewis.

How easy does that sound? Unfortunately in my disorganised state I hadn’t pre-collected the necessary loo-rolls and didn’t have time for snaps to arrive so I ended up with a DIY kit from M&S but I’m still happy filling them. I love that if you make your own you can label them for each individual person and gift accordingly, as well as tying them in with your table decor scheme. I’m planning on activities to keep the kids busy at the table, chocolate and treats for the ladies, with possibly a lottery ticket or something for the men. Crackers are always full of rubbish anyway, so why not fill them with stuff your family and friends will love and even tweak the jokes or motto’s into dinner games for between the courses?

Makes sure you check out the new issue of 91 magazine (there are some really great interiors and printables for Christmas in this issue,) and thanks to Caroline for sharing the crackers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

4 months with Bea

I’m a little bit behind with these posts and time and development marches on apace so it’s almost hard to remember what was happening in Bea’s fourth month. Last time I wrote about her naps being problematic and her first real changes that made her less of a newborn and more of a baby. The month that followed seemed like a godsend of perfect calm and enjoyment.

Bea had her first cold at 14 weeks but we seem to have emerged relatively unscathed as she was mild and just snotty with it really. Fortunately it didn’t affect her sleep. Throughout the month she was smiley and happy regardless and it cleared after about a week.

Probably the biggest change of this month was to feeding. I had noticed that Bea was getting more and more fussy when she fed, pulling off and messing around instead of taking a good feed. I was still feeding her 2 hourly at this point (not on a schedule, thats just about when she wanted it,) and whilst travelling when I didn’t take as much notice of the time, I noticed she fed much better when she showed me she was hungry. As a consequence now she is fed about 6-7 times in 24 hours, 2.5 – 3 hourly in the day, then a dream feed at 10 or 11 pm and she feeds much better.

As you can see here, Bea is getting more and more active. She loves standing up and supports her own weight with only a finger supporting both of her hands, even stamping her feet up and down sometimes! It’s much more clear too what she likes and does’t like, as she kicks and wriggles with excitement or pleasure, or gives us a downturned mouth or wobbling lip before a cry (usually when she’s tired!)

Best of all, after what felt like weeks of waiting, Bea finally laughed! I had been feeling like she was on the edge of laughing for a couple of weeks and was sure she would do it while we were on holiday, then on the very last day she did, out of the blue! I had worried I was missing it amongst the other sounds she makes but it was a proper peel of laughter, although it caused me to shout so loud that she stopped just as suddenly as she started! It’s taken a while but the laughs are coming more and more often now. It’s a cliche to say it, but it really is the best sound in the world.

The other big change has been to napping in the cot now. We switched to a grobag when we got back from Florida and I also immediately started putting Bea down to nap in her cot instead of the crib, mainly so I could do things in our bedroom while she slept elsewhere. It’s been a pretty seamless transition – she doesn’t seem to have noted any difference to the crib and if she’s tricky to get down sometimes I can’t say it’s any different to when she was in the crib. We still have her in our room in the crib however in the evening and overnight.

When we got back from Florida naps were brilliant and we started getting some 1.5 hour naps in the morning, both while we were away and when we got back. The last month however has been another story… I’ll save it for next time!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Essentials for up to 4 months

This morning I’m continuing my list of essential (for us) items as we learn what we did and didn’t need and use as Bea gets bigger. This isn’t the obvious essentials (see more on that here,) for a baby, but the things that have been used every day and made a big difference to our lives, the things I’d recommend to every new mum. So here you go, the up to 4 months edition!

Baby Sleep Timer app
A Mummy essential first… this sleep timer saved my sanity! Around the 8-10 week mark Bea started to cry more than usual, particularly before sleeps. We exhausted ourselves thinking about what could be wrong and after a few days I realised we were totally missing her sleep cues and she was getting over-tired. This app tracks the baby’s sleep and as a result I know what her patterns are. When I’m out and about I find it really useful to know when she is ‘due’ a sleep (as we don’t use a rigid routine yet,) and it helps me stop second guessing myself as to what’s wrong when she is simply tired. Being able to see the patterns also helps me plan. Now she is 4 months we’re working towards a 3-4 nap routine and knowing what time her last sleep of the day is and when bedtime is due has made life so much easier. It essentially means we work with her sleep routine rather than trying to bend her to ours – far less painful!

Giraffe Squeakaboo Squeaker and Rattle Toy
This rattle was a gift and is one of her favourite toys. It is the perfect size for her tiny hands and that’s why it’s a firm favourite for practicing her grabbing, plus there’s a bonus jingle when she finally gets there and safe gnawing!

Bigjigs Toys BB050 Mini Roll Rattle (Blue)
This is also a favourite toy – it contains a bell, a squeak and crinkle in the stick part and she love to stare at it when I shake the bell and try to grab it. There is also textured fabric and it invariably goes straight into her mouth!

Mamas & Papas – MAGIC – Stargaze Stripe Playmat
On the toys front, this is hands down the best, well actually the only ‘baby entertainment’ buy we made. There are many cheaper baby gyms on the market but we bought this at 6 weeks and having bought her no other toys thus far, I felt it was worth splashing out on. The other reason we went for this over standard gyms was the integrated lights and sounds. I reasoned that at 6 months she didn’t really look round much and certainly wasn’t grabbing, so a static gym with hanging toys wasn’t going to do much. This has lights built in to the canopy that twinkle with very relaxing (spa-like rather than nerve-jangling baby) music! There’s a kick plate to change the lights and music, and dangling bits that do the same. She is absolutely transfixed when she’s on it and after 3 days gave a big smile the minute the music came on. Every morning she goes on there while I get breakfast and have a bit of me time to plan the day.

GroBag We used to swaddle Bea but when we came back from Florida and the temperature had dropped, plus Bea had grown big enough, we transitioned to a GroBag. I actually bought a neutral one from Mini Club at Boots, but any brand with the side poppers to adjust the size is essential, particularly if you have a small baby, due to the large age range on them. It’s one less thing to worry about knowing she can’t smother under blankets, particularly now she naps in the cot and blankets would have been harder to tuck in.

Mamas & Papas Baby Snug Raspberry
Now Bea is 4 months she is napping less and taking much more interest in the world around her. She’s not even close to sitting yet but we wanted her to be able to sit with us sometimes, to get a different view of the world, as otherwise she is always lying flat looking up. We don’t have a bouncer so it’s great to give me some hands free time when I’m eating, or preparing food and I imagine it will be useful when we start weaning with the built in tray. I also like that this one grows with the child, as the coloured insert slips out – perfect if you have a big baby!

So readers, do you have any of these items? Have I missed anything that you found a life saver at this stage?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS!
Essentials for the first 6 weeks

Girl About Town: Gifting for Your Girls

I don’t know about you, but it’s getting close to that time of year when you start racking your brains for gifts for your best girls. Not just your best girls, but your best girls that have virtually everything and need basically nothing. Well, nothing that I can afford to buy them anyway so I’ve come up with some thoughts of my own.

Over the past year or so a couple of friends and I decided against buying things for each other, instead we’ve purchased and arranged things-to-do-together. Let me tell you about a few to get your mind ticking…

Tatty Devine Necklace making at SelfridgesBoth being fans of Tatty Divine jewellery, I decided to take my friend Laura to a Tatty Devine “pop up” to design a personalised necklace.

You pick up a little card, write the word(s) you’d like on the necklace, select your font, charm and chain by ticking the relevant boxes, and then, using the cute samples, select your colour scheme. If you’re like us – always in a state of FOMO-Decision-Paralysis – you’ll spend a good hour deciding on these various factors alone.

You then hand over your form, pay and within an hour or so it’s ready to pick up. The best bit was that the pop up was in Selfridges so whilst we waited we did some Christmas shopping (ahem… self gifting…) and spent some time catching up in the bar. We could have hung around to watch the necklace being made, but after perusing the rest of the stand and mentally spending hundreds of pounds creating bespoke charm bracelets and necklaces we thought it best to step away!

Keep your eyes on the Tatty Devine website or blog for news of their next pop up, or book on to one of the many workshops here for a more hands-on experience.

Gin Tasting at the London Gin Club
Laura and I share not only a love of quirky jewellery but also a love of gin. It was a bit of a no brainer then, that an evening at The London Gin Club was an experience to share!

I purchased a tasting voucher from their sister site London Peculiar and a few vintage-looking postcards to pop in the envelope with the voucher and then booked us a table.

The voucher entitles you to a tasting menu of a number of gins in little labelled vials (very Alice in Wonderland), bottles of tonic, large glasses of ice and tiny plates of fruity, floral or herby accompaniments chosen carefully to complement the flavours of the gin.

I’m not sure that I learned a lot, but we had a lot of fun!

Personal shopping at Topshop

This was a gift I received in return from Laura. She booked in to the Kensington store rather than the Oxford Circus one as we thought it’d be a bit of a calmer experience. Upon confirmation we were sent a form to complete with the usual details on height, dress and shoe size, eye/hair/skin colour and other vital statistics along with questions around the kind of outfits we were looking for (a special occasion, an interview, a festival, a holiday etc), style icons and any other relevant information such as a long-standing inability to find a particular item or a longing to try a certain style.

I was preparing for a number of big weddings, one of us was planning an Ibiza capsule wardrobe (hand luggage only!) and the other a new fancy work wardrobe, so we spent a delicious few hours together answering those questions with gusto. Those responses could form a blog post in themselves, but I won’t bore you with them now!

Upon arrival we were welcomed in to a private room, given glasses of champagne and instructed to relax on the couches, chat and flick through their stacks of magazines whilst they prepped the changing room with our dressing rails.

I’ll be honest, I was expecting to have a brilliant time and to try on some new pieces but I wasn’t expecting great, life-changing things from the stylist’s choices, as I like to think I know my own sense of style and how to push its boundaries myself. I have to say, she hit the nail on the head with almost every item she chose.  She managed to capture our signature styles perfectly and find a way to make each of us step out of our comfort zones. I walked away with what can only be described as a miracle – new jeans! – as well as some accessories and a fresher outlook on my personal style. Apparently I’m not too old for Topshop!

It was free to book, so buy a voucher for your giftee to spend on the day and it’s a gift and an experience all in one!

Butchery class at the Ginger Pig
Not one that I’ve taken part in myself, as I’m not in to cookery and I’m not a big meat eater, but it went down a treat with my husband. My friend and I purchased a voucher each for our menfolk to attend one of their classes, bought them both a Ginger Pig cookbook, popped the voucher inside the front cover and wished them both a very happy birthday.

They booked in for a “pork” class one Sunday evening, which started with a professional butcher talking them through the various cuts of meat, as he, well, disassembled the pig. Along the way he gave them information on each cut, how and when it’s best to cook it, what to ask your local butcher for and so on. The class were then tested on what they’d learned as they reassembled it under his watchful eye, and then moved on to more useable skills such as de-boning, wrapping and tying butchers’ knots.

The class finished with a mouth-watering meal and wine before they were all sent home with what seemed like their body weight in prime cuts of pork. Guess what we ate for dinner for the days that followed…

Like I said, not a personal interest for me, but if you’re in to cookery, this seemed to go down a treat!

Cocktail class at Harvey Nichols
Trying not to dwell on alcohol too much, I’ll refer you back to the blog post I wrote about this a little while ago. Again it was purchased for a friend’s birthday and the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning with two of my favourites doing something fun and memorable – Check it out here.

Other gift experiences that have I have received or gifted have included a night at the cabaret (with dress up accessories for the night included in the gift box), fascinator making, Segway racing and white water rafting and chocolate tasting (as described here.)

And so, as I enter the final stages of my Christmas shopping, have you any ideas to give me in return?

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.