Wednesday, 19 April 2017

My First Thomas Toy.

Every now and again we receive something baby related and I think that would be perfect for one of our baby friends. We were recently sent a My First Thomas Activity Plush from Tesco* and although it is a little young for Violet, it is ideal for one of her soon-to-be baby friends. 

The toy is lovely and soft and perfect for tiny hands to explore. Thomas is really well made, with lots of small details and a really gorgeous finish, perfect for any train lovers out there. It comes with a mirror, hidden by that really friendly, well known face. Above his little face, the chimney sets off a variety of train sounds which is great for that new born stage, as a little sensory experience. 

The train has lots of different textures and materials - a smooth panel and a crinkle panel, as well as a rattle inside to create lots of interest for little ones. He even doubles up as a teething toy with a cute little mini-Thomas teether to ease those little gums. 

I can't wait to give this Violet's new friend when he's born and let him explore it!

Katie xx

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Baby Led Weaning Update.

We are somehow into month three of baby led weaning and I think this has to have been our most successful month yet. Violet is consuming more and more every day and really enjoying lots of new tastes. We realised once she was taking in more, rather than just sucking and playing with the food, that she prefers much more exciting flavours. We had been playing it quite safe with fairly bland foods to start, but she has definitely experienced a whole variety of things over the past month or so. 

If you follow me on social media, you'll have seen that we were away earlier this month, which meant we really needed to get our thinking caps on when it came to meal times. Thankfully we sensibly booked a lodge with a well equipped kitchen, to ensure we could prep some food and save some money whilst we were there. I think Violet quite enjoyed the novelty of eating away from home and really came into her own BLW wise. It has definitely helped having the hubby off for the past two weeks, he's far better and more creative than I am in the kitchen!
Violet is still enjoying some of her faves. Anything with peanut butter, bananas, toast and pesto topped food. I have been trying to mix up her bread choices, and we've tried pitta breads, mini-flat bread and tortillas too, alongside the regular loaf. I know if we had a bread maker we would definitely be trying some of the homemade bread machine recipes by Panasonic. It would definitely be more economical and healthy for us to make our own with the amount of bread we go through!
We've also discovered V has some new faves too. Rice with egg, peas, onions and sweet corn - a baby version of egg fried rice goes down a storm. She is also quite the fan of sweet potato curry, red Thai curry and green Thai curry, all homemade by Daddy of course! 

We also made an exciting BLW purchase at the beginning of the month. We picked up a booster seat, we went with the Summer Infant Booster, for using when we're out and about, which has been a godsend. I dread heading to anywhere to eat out in case they have those huge wooden highchairs (why don't people use the IKEA cheap chairs?!). Violet is far too small for the wooden highchairs and constantly slips and doesn't enjoy her meals. So the booster seat has really revolutionised her eating out experience. Plus she can sit right at the table with us and tends to sit for longer and eat more - win win. 

I think you're pretty much up to date before another month or so of baby led weaning commences. I can't rave about how much we all enjoy BLW and it's so amazing watching her try new things and feeding herself throughout the day. 

Katie xx

*In collaboration with Panasonic.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Magical Cloth Bum Leggings.

A few months back I got chatting with the owner of Clayton's Cloth, a baby and children's wear brand. We chatted back and forth on Instagram and we were kindly sent some leggings* to review.    

Clayton's Cloth was a brand set up to help those wearing cloth nappies have clothes that fit well, particularly around the bum. If you use reusable nappies, you'll know the most bottoms don't fit well and you tend to have to size up. Which then means the waist is too big or the legs are too long, especially on my little dot. 

The leggings were designed with our likes and dislikes in mind and made especially to fit Violet. We chose a unicorn fabric (of course!), which is just incredible. They're so well made and fit V like a glove. She has so many plain leggings, I'm glad that we finally have some more exciting bottoms for her. Plus I'm helping to promote a working at home mum too, hooray for small businesses!

You can find Clayton's Cloth on Instagram (@claytonscloth) and on Facebook. 

Katie xx

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Manchester Gin Festival.

Last week I had a very rare baby-free afternoon. Daddy and Violet were spending some time together, while I got on with a very important task - reviewing the Manchester Gin Festival. Of course I took along a friend, and headed to the Victoria Baths in the city centre. Which FYI are stunning and it was a pretty amazing venue for the festival. 
Once inside, we collected our tickets along with some complementary tokens to try our gins of choice. If you've never been to a Gin Festival, it's a pretty great way to try out new brands and some unique flavours. We were given a booklet of all the gin available and which bar they were stocked at. The main hall consisted of four bars, each with different types and styles of gin. Every gin was labelled up with the garnish and which tonic matched best with the flavours. We tried one from each bar obviously! 

Next door to the main hall was the brands room, where we got lots of free tasters and learnt all about the new gins on the market. It was a really cool way to try some of the drinks on offer before committing to an entire glass. I particularly took to the Parma Violet gin from Zymurgorium, and of course had to have a full glass from the bar. I also tried an incredible coconut flavoured gin from a brand called Hoxton, that would just be perfect for sipping by the pool on holiday. 
The other side of the main bar area, was food and entertainment. There were live bands on all afternoon, which created the perfect atmosphere for sipping drinks and catching up with friends. 
The festival is running up and down the country over the next few months and unfortunately has finished in Manchester for this year. Tickets are allocated to time slots, meaning the event doesn't get unbearably busy and you have the perfect amount of gin-drinking time! So check out the for dates for upcoming events near you. 

I will certainly be attending again next year, it was such a fab afternoon, especially if you like a good G&T!

Katie xx

*I received complimentary tickets for this event, though all my opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Our Montessori Shelves.

When you have a baby the entire parenting world becomes unbelievably overwhelming. There is so much advice and conflicting ideas that's it's hard to decide which path to take. And although we've made some mistakes along the way, I'm really happy with the choices we've made when it comes to bringing up Violet. 

Now she is on the move and interacting with us, other babies and her toys more, I'd been doing a whole tonne of reading into learning styles and ideas. I've read into Waldorf education, which is great but some aspects are definitely not for us. But after further reading (lots and lots of reading) we both felt that the Montessori approach really fit well with mine and Jonathan's ideas and values. We're both keen to help Violet become an independent and confident young lady and following Montessori ideas, we're pretty sure we can help contribute to that. 

So I put some things into place this week to help with Violet's learning and imagination, starting with her shelves. Luckily a lot of V's toys were already appropriate for Montessori. She has lots of open ended toys, wooden toys and spends a lot of time playing with her "realistic" animals. I've also introduced a Tuff Tray for sensory or themed activities, which I'm hoping to do a few posts on soon! I've really been trying to link up books to play too (which you may have seen on my Insta story). For example, using her animals when reading her farm book, then having some play time with them afterwards. It works well for us as she's not overwhelmed by everything out all at once. 
I've tried to organise the shelves in a way that similar toys are stored together. They're a really great height for Violet to be able to choose which toys she wants to play with and surprisingly she has chosen a few at a time - I half expected all of the toys to be pulled off immediately! I'm hoping to create a little reading nook next to the shelves too, with some lovely comfy cushions and a low book shelf she she can pick her story books. 

I'm really pleased with our new little baby-friendly corner of our house. It's lovely and light and leads straight to the garden where I know we will be spending a lot of time in the warmer months. Let's face it, messy sensory play is so much better when you don't need to worry about it being plastered all over your rug! 

We're still learning about Montessori and are by no means experts or following a strict Montessori approach, but it will certainly have some influence on the way V is brought up. 

For anyone wondering where we pick up Violet's toys, I'm more than happy to do a full post. Now let me get back to reading about bringing up little people. 

Katie xx

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The New Bag on the Block.

Violet has been wearing baby sleeping bags since she was heavy enough for the first size and to be honest we wouldn't use anything else. Before Violet used the bags, she was a monkey for kicking off the blankets and I was forever worrying that they would come loose and cover her face. Thankfully the sleeping bags give me peace of mind and allow Violet to wriggle as much as she needs to, but still keep warm during the night. 

We do have a few go-to sleeping bag brands, but we were recently asked if we'd like to try a sleeping bag from ergoPouch*. Of course, we jumped at the chance to try out something a little bit different for bedtime. I picked the ergoPouch Winter Sleepsuit Bag with Dandelion print, in a 2.5 tog which covers 18-23 degrees Celsius. The bag comes with a really handy room thermometer too.

The Sleepsuit differs from a regular sleeping bag as it can be converted from the regular 'bag' shape to a suit style all-in-one with separate legs. This is great for babies and toddlers that are crawling or walking around as it makes things a little safer when they inevitably try and stand up whilst wearing the bag. I know Violet is always trying to move around in her cot and pull herself up on the bars, I know it will be a little easier for her to do this when she's not tripping over excess material. The separate 'feet' have grips on the underside for those that are walking, to prevent any slips or trips when they're moving about in their nightwear.
The ergoPouch comes with long sleeves too, which is a huge benefit in the colder months. I'm constantly worried that V is getting cold arms, as most of the original sleeping bags are sleeveless and despite wearing a baby grow, it can still get pretty chilly. The jersey style sleeves make this a great option for the winter months and could be used with just a short sleeved vest when it does get a little milder. The rest of the suit is made from organic cotton, making it incredibly soft and durable. It's even filled with organic cotton fibres, making it super breathable and giving it a anti-bacterial properties too.

I love the fact that this sleepsuit can carry Violet through to the toddlers stage as the sizing is from 8-24 months. It certainly is roomy and Violet has tonnes of room to grow into it. As she is only small, this is still a little big for V, but nothing a bit of sleeve rolling can't fix! 

Do you use sleeping bags with your little ones?

Katie xx

Saturday, 25 March 2017

An Exciting Delivery from Nuby.

We were recently, very kindly, sent some Nuby* goodies to help us along with our BLW journey, and they're certainly proving to be a hit with the whole family. Violet is experiencing more and more tastes and textures and becoming more independent with eating and making food choices. V has been sporting her Nuby Catch All Bib, which really has been catching all the food Violet drops, in a little pouch at the bottom. This makes cleaning up much easier and keeps Violet clean and tidy. We prefer to use this bib to some of our alternatives as it has an easy velcro fastening, meaning it can be adjusted to fit her snugly, plus it seems much more comfortable around her neck than some of our others.  It's a lovely wipe-clean design and is really easy to fold up and pop in our changing bag for out and about.

Another fab BLW product from Nuby is the Supergrip Suction Bowl, which you may have seen on my Instagram story (@Golddust_Katie). We have a lovely bright pink bowl made of easy-to-clean silicone. The bowl comes with a suction pad at the bottom, which sticks well to Violet's highchair and means she can eat from the bowl without it landing on the floor. In the past, I've held onto the tableware and giving V loaded spoons, but the bowl has allowed Violet to practice loading spoons herself (or just eating from the bowl with her hands!).

 I think Violet's favourite surprise was this Nuby Build A Buddy stacking toy. Each shape has a different texture or activity and she loves exploring the different levels. V loves anything she can pick up easily and play with, so this is perfect for her to feel new textures and learn about different sounds, without her getting bored too easily!

Have you tried anything from this brand?

Katie xx

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A Budget Friendly Sensory Farmyard.

I'm always on the lookout to try new sensory activities with Violet and get a lot of inspiration from the groups we attend. Although a lot of the time, she plays with expensive toys while we're out, I'm always keen to replicate things on a budget.

At one of our groups, Violet loves playing with the 'farm', which includes some artificial grass and other textures, then some farmyard animals. After doing a quick Google search, I found that pretty much all artificial grass companies offer free samples to try out the different types at home. This worked perfectly for us, to make our own little farmyard at home. The samples we received are not particularly big, but certainly do the job and are the perfect size for little hands. We were able to order a few different styles too, so Violet can play around with a little more texture.

The farmyard animals at our baby group are far more pricey than these that I picked up in Wilko for £1 each (which FYI, is a great place for picking up cheap wooden toys too). They're really great quality, a good solid plastic that can definitely take some wear and tear and again, are full of different textures for V to experience. And I know for £1 I will be happy to take these into the garden in the summer and we can do some more play outside. 

We signed up to a few different artificial lawn websites to claim our free samples, so we have plenty to choose from and play around with. It's definitely worth looking online if you're wanting to pick up some more cheap or free ideas for imaginative play with your little ones. 

Let me know if you pick any of these up!

Katie xx

Friday, 17 March 2017

Learning to Swim.

I've been taking Violet to swimming lessons since the beginning of the year, and so far we are both loving it. We're really lucky to have a local community pool close by, so we can do weekly lessons without breaking the bank. I learnt to swim at a really young age, so I was really keen to get Violet in the water as early as possible. Thankfully, V is a real water baby and adores splashing about and playing in the water. I love watching her become more and more confident each week and developing her swimming skills. 

Violet loves jumping in from the side and has started closing her eyes when she knows she's going in, which is really cute! She's also learnt to grab the side when we're near it and has even started kicking her legs when she's floating on a noodle float up and down the pool. I'm so pleased with how she's getting on, it was really important to me to have her being water confident and I think it's fair to say we're well on the way to ensuring she is just that. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Tips & Tricks for Photographing Babies.

I am by no means a pro when it comes to photography but I have taken lots of photos in my time. I've definitely taken more and more photos since Violet came along, I think it's so important to document these memories for her to look back on when she's older. Plus our family doesn't live close by and my crazy photo taking is a good way to share updates with relatives. I've been trying to play around with different ideas recently and thanks to Pinterest and Facebook, I've managed to fashion a "milk-bath" photoshoot in our very own tub. This was such a simple thing to do and I'm really pleased with the outcome. I thought I'd dedicate this post to a few tips and tricks for taking photos of babies and things I've found from snapping away. 

It's all in the timing - If it's anywhere near nap time or Violet is getting hungry, there is no way I will attempt to try taking a staged photo. I tend to aim for half an hour or so after a nap, as I know she'll be in a decent mood and will potentially co-operate. The milk-bath photos I took after breakfast, when she would have her normal bath time and then just showered her down and fresher her up after I'd taken the pics. 

Prepare, prepare, prepare - I will ensure that the whole set-up is literally ready to go and the only piece missing is Violet. For instance with our Valentine's photos, I set up while V was napping and just popped her onto the set when we were ready. No faffing or messing, which meant she didn't get bored and was quite happy to smile at the camera. I tend to find V will happily sit for around 3-5 minutes while I take her photo, I wouldn't aim for much longer than that. 

Fill your memory card - Okay, this is a little dramatic but make sure you take lots and lots of photos. The easiest way to get a decent/natural photo is just to keep snapping away without breaking and you'll certainly have a few keepers. 

Take advantage of British Summer Time - Spring is finally on its way, hooray! As with any photo, natural light is easily the best. Not only does it look better than artificial light, but it also means there is very little editing required. If I do feel a photo is a little dark I use Snapseed to brighten, but other than cropping these photos have had no other editing. 

Use your props - When I'm looking for inspiration for a themed photoshoot like Christmas or Valentine's Day, I'm always scouring the shelves of Poundland. Most of the props I use have been picked up for less than £5. White backgrounds always look clean and crisp, so we use plain white disposable table cloths to create that look. Luckily I had some flowers that were due to be binned so I used those for this shoot, but you can easily pick up a cheap bunch in Aldi.  It's a good idea to have a prop in your hand too, like your child's favourite toy or something they will smile at. 

But most of all have fun and read you're babies cues. If they're not happy, move on and try again another time!

I hope you enjoyed this post, have you tried a DIY baby photoshoot?

Katie xx

Friday, 10 March 2017

Violet's 6-7 Months Update.

Wow, I haven't done a Violet update for a couple of months and I must say a lot has happened. Of course if you have a baby, you'll know how quickly they change. Even in a day they can learn a new skill or suddenly master an old one and they're doing something different. It's crazy. Anyway, here is whistle stop tour of the last few months. 

As you know, we're well into the swing of things with baby led weaning. V has been eating for almost two months now and far so good. Some days are better than others when it comes to the amount she's consuming and she's certainly developed a taste for particular foods. Her current favourites are sweet potato, butternut squash, steamed apples, anything with peanut butter and bananas. She is doing really well sitting in her highchair too, I can't praise the Ikea highchair enough. It's the perfect size for little bums!

We've made it through another leap according to the Wonder Weeks app. It was a long one, from Christmas time to the middle of February, but we all survived. Violet has "leapt" and learnt lots of new things. She's really sturdy in her sitting position, making more choices when playing, following you around the room and gurgling more and more.

We're also officially on the move! Violet started crawling properly at the end of last week and now there's no stopping her. She is crawling more at home than when we're out and about but she's certainly becoming more and more confident moving about. Her latest party trick is to attempt to climb up me or pull herself up on items of furniture in attempt to stand. I think I really need to start baby proofing and investing in an extra pair of eyes for the back of my head! 

I'm sure I've missed 101 other things but I think you're pretty much up to date. I love watching V learn new skills and seeing her try new activities every week. It's so amazing to watch her growing into a little girl and leaving her tiny baby stage behind. I loved the newborn months but I must say, I'm loving this stage even more. 

Katie xx

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Accepting Your Postpartum Body.

Before falling pregnant I had an idea of what my postpartum body would be like. Purely from seeing woman after they had had babies and assumed that it wouldn't be that much different after I'd lost my baby weight. But there a few things you don't get told about the after effects of carrying a child and giving birth. 

I had no idea how long it took for your "bump" to start shrinking. I'd say, I still had a visible bump for a good 6 weeks after having Violet. Granted it was a lot smaller than my 36 week pregnancy bump but it was certainly still there. I was firmly stuck in my maternity clothes for a few months purely for comfort and for hiding my extra bit of tummy and I'm not ashamed to say I only got rid of my maternity jeans last week. And another weird thing, your stomach feels like putty, something else I had no idea about. Even now, 7 months postpartum, my stomach feels like play dough. And the a "pouch" from my section is certainly an interesting addition to my torso and FYI does not look flattering with anything high-waisted. Of course, I could do something about it but lets be honest - I didn't exercise before having a baby, I'm certainly not going to be starting now.

I think the biggest adjustment to my body, is of course the scar across my abdomen. It wasn't expected and therefore not prepared for but stares me right in the face every morning. The majority of the area around it, is completely numb and weirdly makes me feel sick when I touch it. But thankfully my wonderful scar is pretty neat and tidy and even after taking a whole five months to get used to, it has grown to be one of my favourite things. 

Oh let's not get me started on my boobs, I mean if we can still call them that. Pre-pregnancy I couldn't complain, they were in the right place and I could easily get away without a bra if necessary. Post baby they just look sad. Despite not being able to breast feed and only expressing milk for under a month, they still look pitiful and have certainly seen better days. Thank god for padding, underwire and M&S measuring service!

And guess what? It's not just the obvious areas that change. Here I am, with thinning hair and one bicep bigger than the other, from carrying V on my left side. My thighs rub together when I'm walking about and my hips could easily rival Shakira's. And to top it all off emotions are ridiculous and I'm not sure I can still blame them on hormones. Oh the glam-mum life. 

But despite all these changes, I'm still me. I might look and feel a little bit different but those silvery stretch marks all add to my story. I might never squeeze into my size 6 jeans again but that's okay. I'm in a new and improved body, I grew a human and I have the scars to prove it. 

Katie xx

Friday, 3 March 2017

Using Pouches for BLW.

We are loving baby-led weaning in our house and letting V experiment and try new flavours and foods. Despite BLW, I've still found a place for pouches in our kitchen cupboards.

 I've never wanted to solely use ready made pouches or purées but they certainly come in handy for quick meals and adding some new tastes and textures. We were recently sent some Babease* pouches to try and I have to say I've been pretty impressed. 

We've tried the likes of Ella's Kitchen in the past, which certainly have their place for sweetening yogurts or spreading on toast but I've not found any unique flavours like the Babease range. The pouches are textured and mixed with some really interesting flavours that I would struggle to get into Violet's diet otherwise. 

So far her favourite flavours have been Butternut Squash, Quinoa & Beetroot and Brown Rice, Swede, Courgette & Kale, both of which are mixed with different herbs for V to try. I've been using the pouches in a couple of different ways. Either as a pasta sauce or as a sort of curry base for potato or butternut squash "curry". 

All of the Babease pouches are organic and made from premium ingredients, making them super yummy and healthy too. I will very be picking up some more of these pouches for Violet in the future, they're just so handy to have and create a really tasty meal. You can find the pouches in Boots. 

Katie xx

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

To Daddy,

Happy Birthday! Thank you for being the best Daddy in the world. You make me smile everyday and I can't wait to celebrate your birthday with you at the weekend!

I love you lots and lots,

Violet xxx