Let's talk about bedtime routines and sleep

29 July 2014

So its funny, because before Jack was born I had this vision in my mind about the sort of Mom I was going to be.  I knew exactly how I was going to handle things, I knew what I definitely would not do and I was not going to be one of those Moms that made situations worse by doing the "wrong" thing.  The wrong thing being what I thought was not the right thing to do.
Well, I have news for you people.  It all goes to hell when sleep (or lack of it) is involved.

At around 5 months we put Jack in his own room as he was getting too big for his crib.    I started the transition by getting him to nap in his cot in the day so he got used to it. At about this time too we started to feed him "supper", bath him and have quiet time. The first few weeks went alright, I mean he still woke in the night for feeds but it was all good.  He would be downstairs with us until we went to bed.  Either asleep on us or on the couch.

Then we decided that we needed to establish more of a structured routine when it came to bedtime and actually put him down in his cot so we began to put him down at around 18:30/19:00.  We did this by either feeding him to sleep (yes, this was something I was never going to do) or feeding him and then rocking him to sleep.  He would fall asleep really easily and we would lay him down to sleep.  And everything was just going swimmingly.  Until 30 minutes later he would wake up and then again and again and again.  Basically, we would put him down to sleep and Jack would wake at least 5 times up until about 9pm.  Some nights it has been known to reach 9 times.  And it would be a bit bearable if I knew from 9pm he would sleep through but he doesn't.  The poor little bug wakes sometimes every hour, other nights every 2 - 3 hours.  Once it gets to 2am I do the thing I said I would NEVER do and that is take him into the spare bed and co-sleep. SHOCK HORROR people.  But you know what - when you are tired, actually beyond tired.  Exhausted.  You do things you never thought you would do.  You will do anything to get back to sleep.
I mean anything.

And tonight I have reached the end of my tether.  I am being selfish and I want my evenings back.  I want to be able to lay Jack down in his cot, while awake, and kiss him goodnight and watch him fall asleep by himself.  I want to be able to hear him briefly wimper over the monitor but then hear him soothe himself back to sleep.  I want to be able to sit down and finish my meal without being interrupted.   I want to relax.  And I want a good nights sleep. I can't remember the last time I got more than 3 hours straight let alone a good 7 or 8 hour stretch.

Basically, what has happened is Jack associates sleep with either being on the boob or being rocked to sleep and whats even worse is that it is only me who can do it now (well obviously the feeding part was me anyways but even the soothing has to be me now, Jack gets hysterical if I don't go up).  So when he stirs and briefly awakes, he realises he is in his cot alone and begins to cry.  I, of course, run upstairs, pick him up and shush him, soothe him and cuddle him and often put him back on the boob.  He falls asleep and I put him back down.  This routine is basically on repeat all night.  And I am tired.  And it needs to be sorted out.

So this is me sharing something that really makes me anxious, overwhelmed and worried.  To be honest I am not sure how we are going to "fix" this but I know we can.  It just involves a lot of hard work, crying (not only on Jack's part I would say!) and consistency.  And when you are tired those three things seem beyond reach.

Also, this is me saying to all those moms out there - "hey, we all have a vision of what this parenting gig is going to be like and then we become parents and realise it is nothing like that at all!".

Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

25 July 2014

Inspired by Catherine and Emily these brownies are delectably gooey and chocolatey and you then you get a hit of tangy raspberry too.  And with some vanilla ice-cream it is absolute heaven.  Perfect for dessert or as a naughty treat in the afternoon.

Chocolate Raspberry Brownies
Makes 10-12 squares
adapted from this recipe

200g dark chocolate
250g butter
250g soft brown sugar
3 eggs
100g plain flour
50g cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
Carton fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 180 degrees, grease and line your baking tin, I used 20 x 30cm.
Put the chocolate, butter and sugar into a pan and melt gently and remove from heat.
Stir in the eggs, then sieve in the flour and cocoa and mix until combined.
Pour into your baking tin and scatter the raspberries over the mixture.
Bake for approx 30 minutes.
Cool before slicing and store in the fridge.

Enjoy ♥

A letter to my husband

23 July 2014

Dear Mani,

Sometimes it is so hard to say all the things I want to say, I either forget or I am too tired.  Life gets away with you, you know?  Time used to go so slowly before, but now, days turn into weeks, weeks into months and before you know it another year has come and gone.  I find that as we get older time ticks faster.  And now with Jack in our lives, weekends are a whirlwind of nappies, playing, nurturing and sometimes just surviving the days.  And that's OK, we will get this parenting thing - I mean I think we are doing a pretty good job already but we will eventually get our lives back on track.  We will.

And then I will fall pregnant again.

But seriously, in about 20 years, give or take, we can sit down with our feet up like we used to.  Have a cup of tea and sigh with relief.  I am sure of it...

But in the meantime, I want you to know that you are the best husband a girl could ask for.  And you are the most amazing father.  Doting, full of love and selfless.  You do everything you do for me and Jack and it does not go unnoticed.  I know it must be so very hard getting up every morning and going to work, waving goodbye to us in the mornings.  We also wish you could be at home with us and miss you everyday.  But I hope the photos I send to you on a daily basis brightens your working routine somewhat.  And the best time of day for us is hearing your car in the driveway.  I will be honest, I often sigh a breath of relief when I hear your key in the door.  Parenting is definitely a two-man job.

I appreciate and am so very grateful for all that you do in the house.  I am so lucky to have someone who is willing to do the laundry, vacuum, clean, dust, mow the lawn, wash the cars, change nappies, do the bins, take Jack for walks and load the dishwasher without fail every weekend.  I like that we have taken ownership of certain chores and have done since we met.  And when I am feeling low or just not coping you are happy to do mine too. 

I love that each evening, when getting into bed you remind me how much you love me and kiss me on the cheek.  It may seem like I take it for granted but those words remind me how loved I am and how lucky we are to have each other.  I love how we drink endless cups of tea in the evenings and always have biscuits or cake to hand.  I love that you always look forward to my dinners even when they are crap and you always say my baked good are delicious even when I know they sometimes aren't.

I love that you believe in me, in all my crazy ideas and support me in everything I do.  I love that you will go for walks with me so I can take photos.  And I know that I am not always the happiest and sometimes I am a nightmare to be around what with lack of sleep, hormones and me just being grumpy.  Thank you for putting up with me through these 6 months (as well as the 9 months of pregnancy) - I know it has not been easy but your support, love and nurturing is what has got me through and continues to get me through. 

Having a babe has totally changed our life - for the better of course - Jack has added another dimension to our lives we didn't deem possible and that is {more} love.  We have so much love for the kiddo and seeing you smile and light up when he looks at you is the most amazing thing to watch.  These are just a few of the many things that come to mind that I want to tell you.  So thank you and remember:

I love you more than rainbows.

Burford Garden Centre in the summer

21 July 2014

My all time favourite place to go is Burford Garden Centre.  It is an oasis filled with flowers, plants, treasures, gifts, clothes, food, home decor and so much more.  I love the atmosphere there, I love walking around with the pram just oogling over everything and wishing I could buy it all.

It is such a lovely place to go with the babe and with kiddies of all ages.  The food and drink are divine, the restaurant area is relaxed and you can sit inside or out.  There is also a play area with swings etc. outside near the parking lot and the biggest vegetable garden you ever did see.  At the moment, the flowers are all in bloom and it is just simply beautiful.  And, apart from Christmas (because BGC really does Christmas on another level), summer is my favourite here.

Oh, and did I mention there is a clearance section?  I pick something up every time I go, there is always something to find!

We went for a visit the other day to meet a dear friend and her babe for tea & cake and I just had to share the photos I snapped.  These are just on my iPhone;  I so wish I bought my big camera and might have to sneak back early one morning on the weekend to get some proper photos.

Enjoy, and I sneaked in a little picture of Jack on the swings! ♥

Easy egg-free Chocolate Pudding

18 July 2014

This chocolate pudding type mousse is simply divine.  You will want to make this every time for dessert with friends or as a treat to have in the fridge.  It is simple yet decadent and is really a favourite of ours.  Plus, it is egg-free which is fabulous for us as many of Mani's family don't eat eggs and you would be surprised to know how hard it is to find shop-bought desserts without egg.

Egg-free Chocolate Pudding
Makes 2 - 4 portions, double the quantities for one large dessert to service 4-6 people.

1/4 cup cornflour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup dark chocolate pieces
3 cups milk
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon butter

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of milk to the boil.
In the meantime, whisk together the cornflour, cocoa and caster sugar in a bowl with the remaining 1 cup of milk until smooth.
Whisk the cocoa mixture into the boiling milk and reduce the heat.  Stir in the chocolate and mix until it begins to thicken.
Take off the heat and stir in the butter.
Pour into individual bowls or one big serving bowl and chill for at least 3 hours, ideally overnight.

Serve with fresh berries or as it is.

Enjoy ♥

half a cake for half a year

15 July 2014

Since Jack turned 6 months yesterday I thought it was only apt for a cake to be baked.  I mean come on, that is the only way to celebrate right?  Inspired by Elise (because who isn't?  She is a pretty awesome lady), I decided to bake half a cake to go with the whole half a year thing.

I used this recipe and the icing from this cake.  Gosh it was yummy and yes this was of course for mine and Mani's benefit and while Jack, although interested in food is a bit too young for cake just yet.  Next time my boy!

All I did was halve the recipe and baked one cake.  I let it cool and cut it in half.  I spread some apricot jam and icing on one half and stacked the other on top and then iced the rest of the cake.  It goes without saying that sprinkles have to be used.  And a little candle too.

I think half birthdays are fun and why not hey?  All our birthdays are in winter so its a good excuse to bake a cake and celebrate a half birthday in the summer.

Why not work out when your half birthday is and bake a cake?  Have fun.

 P.S. I did a chocolate cake challenge!  See my efforts here:
Chocolate Cake #1, Chocolate Cake #2, Chocolate Cake #3, Chocolate Cake #4 and the last one #5.

Jack: 6 months

14 July 2014

Half a year.  I am sure every mom reaches this point and wonders how they got here.  6 months of having a babe and wow, it is awesome.  Sometimes hard, challenging and plain exhausting but it is awesome.  Without a doubt.

And Jack you are such a character, your personality and your character are the cutest.  I think you are going to be like me.  You know what you want and you don't stop until you get it.  You have a strong character and I love that.  But it can be a tad tiring.  But it's OK that's what makes you, you.

You have mastered the art of sitting up and rolling over.  You love to stand and your new trick is to stand up against the couch or the chair in your room.  You are a bit wobbly but the smile on your face just melts my heart every time.  Changing your nappy has become somewhat of a challenge, you are much more interested in your nappies and wipes behind you than in me and you crane your neck and wiggle and squirm until you get hold of them.  It is near impossible to put your nappy on really until you turn back around.

Solids is somewhat of an undecided subject in our house - it is not that you don't like eating your baby rice, carrots, sweet potato and apple & pear - you just love them but it gives you such a sore tummy in the evening so for now we are going to stick with milk and try again in a few weeks.  Or maybe just a week depending how hungry you get!

You giggle with delight playing peek-a-boo and you are in awe of the cats still.  Sucking your toes is also a favourite thing to do and it amazes me everytime you do that and how flexible you are!  When Dad lifts you up to the mirror you laugh out loud and love being flown in the air.

I think it is safe to say you are a happy babe, I mean you have some bad days, but don't we all?
We love you to the moon and back.  Always and forever.

Happy half a year ♥

Chocolate Mocha Cookies

11 July 2014

I used to make these quite a lot growing up - they are quick and simple (I only do quick and simple nowadays!) plus they taste just lovely.  Be careful not to overcook them otherwise they become quite hard and crunchy but nothing a dip in your cup of tea or a zap in the microwave can't solve.

I love the combination of the subtle coffee flavour with the dark chocolate - I just love dark chocolate - if I am ever having a day where I am totally zonked out, a couple of pieces of dark chocolate always do the trick and give me an energy boost to get me through the afternoon!

Chocolate Mocha Cookies
Makes 12 large or approx 20 small cookies

175g self-raising flour
175g caster sugar
75g butter
2 teaspoons coffee powder
1 tablespoon hot water
1 egg
Slab of dark chocolate

Heat your oven to 180 degrees, grease and line a baking tray.
Cream the butter and the sugar and then add the egg until combined.
Mix in the flour and dissolve the coffee in the hot water and add to the mixture.
Mix until a sticky dough forms, flour your hands and roll into small balls on a baking sheet making sure they are about 5cm apart.
Flatten with a fork and place a small piece of dark chocolate in the middle and press slighty.
Bake for 10-15 minutes.

These are divine straight out the oven.
And as always go just splendidly with a cup of tea.

Happy Friday ♥

No regrets :: reflecting on my drinking days

9 July 2014

I have loads of memory sticks of photos from my twenties; memories which I am so glad I captured because unfortunately I do not remember half of them.  I am sitting hear on our couch, trawling through the hundreds of photos from holidays, weekends in our old flat, adventures in London and I look terrible.  I am bloated, overweight and unhealthy.  I don't remember much of them and I am sitting here thinking; what a waste.  But one thing I have learnt is there is no point regretting,  it is done and dusted.  All I can do is be grateful for the decision I have made and the path I am on now.  A healthy, happy and alcohol free path.  And I thank God for that everyday.

Just to give you a glimpse, here are some photos from my last few months of drinking and then last year.  I still cannot believe the difference and neither can my family when I show them these pictures.  It is incredible what alcohol can do to your body without you even knowing as it is a slow but spiraling process.

I wanted to write this post because if I can help one person out there realise that there life will be richer, more fulfilling and happier without alcohol, then I can say that I have accomplished something.  I am so very grateful that I quit drinking when I was 25.  It was the best decision I have ever made (I know I have said this a million times before, but I mean it) - here is my story which I shared last year.

Guys, if you have an addictive personality and you have frequent drinking episodes then sit down, really look at your life, at yourself, your feelings and really think.  Is it worth it?  Are the morning hangovers, the blackouts, the faded memories, the sickness all really worth it?  It's not!
You have one life to live, go out there and live it.  Each day, you can wake up feeling refreshed, alert and be you again.  You can go do anything you want but not when you have this cloud over you.  That fuzziness and the knowing it is going to carry on the next day and the next day and the next day after that.

Make a decision, do it for you and no one else.  Don't wait until after the next party or wedding or your next birthday.  STOP MAKING EXCUSES!  I was infamous for that too.

That life you imagined?  Go and live it.

Postcrossing: postcards connecting the world

7 July 2014

A few months back, a friend posted a link on facebook about Postcrossing.  Jack was only about 6 weeks old and I thought it might be fun to get involved and spend some spare time (haha) sending postcards across the world.

And it is so much fun!  One of my favourite times of the day is when the postman has been - I eagerly open our postbox each day, hoping to find a colourful, handwritten postcard to brighten our day. Some people are so imaginitive and I have even got some handmade stickers in one.

It is so easy, all you do is sign up on the Postcrossing website, send a few postcards and wait for one to arrive in your postbox.  You can find out more here and these stats are really interesting too!  Oh how I would love to get one from American Samoa, Christmas Island or the Cook Islands where there is only one member.  How special would that be?

Here are my stats so far:

Member since: 4th March 2014
Postcards sent: 7
Countries sent to: Russia, Netherlands, Germany, USA, Slovakia and Ukraine
Postcards received: 11
Countries received from: South Africa (yay!!), USA, China, Lithuania, Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, Malaysia and Russia.

I am challenging myself to be a bit more creative now, maybe add my favourite recipe or my favourite things or make a handmade envelope.  I often share my favourite quotes and inspirations with people along with what we have done that day.  I also add a few illustrations of the weather that day which is fun.  But you can do whatever takes your fancy or you can simply just write a short and sweet message!  You can look on the profile of the person you have been allocated to see their likes and preferences to give you some ideas.

So why not take part, brighten someones day and send them a postcard from your country.

Mini Cheese Scones

4 July 2014

Ooooh I love a cheese scone, more than a traditional scone I think. I love cheese and these scones with a slather of butter and a cup of tea are Yum!  This is my go to recipe for cheese scones, you don't have to make them mini but I like bite size.  And it means you can have more without feeling like you are pigging out! Ha!

Cheese Scones
Makes approx 12 mini or 6-8 large

You will need:

1 medium egg
100g grated cheddar cheese
50g grated parmesan
25g butter/spread
4 tbsp milk
175g self raising flour
Mustard powder or wholegrain mustard to taste (up to half tsp)
Mixed herbs and grated cheese for the topping

And then...

♥ Heat oven to 200 degrees, grease and line a baking tray
♥ Combine flour, seasoning and then rub in the butter
♥ Add the grated cheeses and then mix to a soft dough with the egg and milk
♥ Roll out to a good thickness (at least 1/2 inch) and cut rounds using cutters or I use an egg cup
♥ Place on your baking tray and brush with egg & milk and top with some grated cheese and herbs
♥ Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.


A free printable & DIY washi tape frame

3 July 2014

We all have our favourite blogs; those few (or many in my case) when their new post pops up on your blog feed and your face brightens, you smile and eagerly open up the post, knowing it is going to be good.  One of these for me is Chantelle Ellem's blog,  Fat Mum Slim.  She is truly amazing.  A genuine, inspiring and fun lady who started the photo-a-day challenge and just writes about normal things.

A few weeks back she posted a free printable/wallpaper designed by Mye de Leon and isn't it just fabulous?  I love a bit of inspiration and when I am crafting/creating/writing my dreams at my desk it's lovely to be surrounded by beautifully designed inspirational sayings to get those creative juices flowing.

I made a DIY washi tape frame for it - so super easy.  All you need is:

- your quote/saying/picture or whatever you choose to frame
- a thick piece of card for the backing (like from a cereal box or the back of a notepad)
- washi tape of your choice

Cut your card to size and then using the washi tape, place the quote/picture onto the card.  Using the washi tape, make a framed pattern, use one colour, use three or as many as you like.  I find the simpler the better with things like this.

I love it, I love the colours and it is fun to look at each day.

Hooray!  ♥

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