November 2017 | Modern Mummy

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

GOOD FOOD // Cod + Green Lentils Recipe

I like to think the girls and I have a pretty good diet. I'm lucky really, because where I know lots of kids can be really fussy, mine both love fruit and vegetables and they're more than happy to try different cuisines. We've always eaten predominantly plant based, with a few portions of fish and high welfare organic meat thrown in for good measure - but after we rescued the hens at the beginning of October, we've all struggled with eating meat quite a lot, chicken especially. It definitely doesn't feel right eating the same animals that we are keeping as pets!

Since reducing our meat intake (in actual fact, we've more or less given it up altogether; I've had one meaty meal since mid-October, Daisy has only eaten turkey and Evie has embraced vegetarianism entirely) I've been making sure that we eat plenty of fish. Turns out I had the right idea, as Fish is the Dish have just launched their Fish 2 a Week campaign, which aims to inspire the whole of the UK to eat two fish dishes every week. The reason for this? Eating two portions of fish every week:

- Lowers the risk of heart attack, heart disease, cholesterol, stroke, depression, diabetes and Alzheimer's

- Increases levels of omega-3 in your body, which leads to healthy skin, hair, nails and improves sleep

- Boosts your mood and maintains brain function

Seafish, the UK's authority on Seafood, are encouraging families to add fish to their diet and have teamed up with MasterChef winner, Jane Devonshire, to create a series of simple seafood suppers that can easily be made at home. A UK wide cookery show is also taking to the road (visiting Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Norwich and Billingsgate) to get parents and kids to make some of these dishes together!

You can read more about the campaign here, but in the meantime I wanted to share one of these recipes - one for cod and green lentils - with you.

I'm obsessed with lentils at the moment; they're perfect hearty, warming fodder for this time of year! This recipe takes 30 minutes from start to finish and is a one-pan dish so there’s hardly any washing up, which is an added bonus. Most importantly it’s super healthy and a great way to get your Fish 2 a Week.

(serves 4) 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
250g cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 x 150g cod, haddock or coley fillet 
2 x 380g packs of green lentils in water, drained and washed
75g olives from a jar, chopped
250ml hot vegetable/fish stock 
15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped.
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

What to do.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.
Add the onions and gently sauté until they are translucent and cooked through, then add the tomatoes.
Clear a space in the pan. Add the fish fillets and cook with the tomatoes and onions over a medium heat, flipping the fish carefully once, for around 5 minutes in total.
Keep the heat on medium – you don’t want the fish to brown. The fish is done when you can easily pierce it with a cocktail stick and the flakes are no longer clear.
Once the fish is cooked, remove it from the pan and place on a warmed plate. If there are bits of fish left in pan don’t worry they will add to the flavour.
Add the lentils, chopped olives, stock and chopped parsley to the pan (reserving a little of the parsley for garnishing) and stir well.
Heat through then add the white wine vinegar. You don’t need to add salt as the olives are salty enough, but if you wish, a grind of black pepper is nice.
Divide the lentils between four bowls or plates, top each with a piece of fish and garnish with the reserved parsley.

Enjoy x

WORK // On Being Self Employed

I hit publish on my very first blog post almost eight years ago. That post was short, to the point and pretty much summed up where I was in my life and what I hoped to achieve from blogging. I’d just become a mum for the first time and wanted to connect with other new mums.

I’d spent the early part of my maternity leave reading American lifestyle blogs and at that point blogging was just taking off in the UK. I felt - and loved! - the sense of community amongst those US bloggers and wanted in on the action myself. So I launched Modern Mummy as a creative outlet, met lots of other blogging mums online that were also starting a similar journey and I never looked back! After a couple of years of hobby blogging, I slowly started monetising my posts. Fast forward another five years and now I’m lucky enough to call this my job.

And it’s a job I’m very proud of. The work is fun and varied and the girls get some absolutely amazing opportunities because of it. One minute I’m developing a recipe for the humble butternut squash, the next we’re jetting off to Walt Disney World with Virgin Holidays. No two days are ever the same! But what I love most about it is that it's flexible. I get to pick and choose the campaigns I work on and set my own hours, which means I can always be there for the girls - doing the school run, watching their school plays, helping them with their homework, putting them to bed.

But being self-employed also has its down sides. If I want to be there for the girls I have to work late into the night a hell of a lot. My brain is constantly ticking and its hard to switch off. Things have got slightly easier since both girls are now at school but the holidays are hard work.... running the house and looking after the kids (and animals) whilst trying to take photographs for posts and meet deadlines is a constant juggle plus, of course, there’s the financial worry as your income isn’t guaranteed every month.

Blogging, and Social Media as a whole, is a constantly evolving industry. It's heaps of fun to be a part of but it also means you have to constantly be on the ball. As a blogger, you have to wear many, many hats (it’s just as well I like hats ;)). Writing, editing, styling, photography, marketing, website building, planning, budgeting and networking are all part of the job description and its a lot of work on a daily basis.

But it's worth it. Being at home with the girls is my priority, with paying the mortgage a close second, and blogging has enabled me to do both. And for that I am very grateful.

Written in collaboration with West Host.
Thanks to n4mummy for the image!


Tuesday, 28 November 2017

CHRISTMAS // Our Festive Traditions

Did I mention I love Christmas?

I know it's only November, and the nation is divided on whether or not it's too early to put up your Christmas tree and listen to festive music but I have most definitely been on the mince pies already and I'm not afraid to admit it!

When Wayfair asked me to share our festive traditions with you all, I couldn't resist. After all this really is my favourite time of the year. So! Without further ado, here are some of the things we get up to as a family at Christmas:

1st December is always Christmas tree day.
Even if it's a school day (we just go after) we always head out to buy and then put our tree up on the very first day of December. This is a ritual in itself. We take a loooonnnng time picking out the perfect one at our local garden centre and have a whole lot of fun in the process (although occasionally a few swear words are uttered as I try to get the bloody thing in our tiny car!) Once we're home we watch Home Alone while we dress the tree - and I may or may not make a start on the mulled wine.

We always buy one new Christmas decoration each every year.
I have to say, our collection is getting a bit on the full side right now - we might need two trees this year! But I always let the girls pick out a new ornament while we're shopping for the tree - and I can never resist getting one myself.

The kids are in charge of the decor. 
I used to have a theme (red, white, green and gold, if you're asking) and be really Monica about where the decorations went - now our theme is something along the lines of 'a festive unicorn vommed rainbows all over our house' - nothing matches, everything is bright and garish and pretty eighties if I'm honest. We have tinsel, we have multicoloured lights. We even have lights for OUTSIDE THE HOUSE (yes, we are THAT FAMILY). The girls LOVE IT. And because they're happy so am I.

We have an open house policy for friends and family on Christmas Eve.
Although I usually leave my Christmas shopping until the last minute, I always make sure I'm at home on Christmas Eve and friends and family are welcome round at any point. I have a pot of mulled wine on the hob all day, and a steady supply of mince pies too - ready for any visitors we might have.

New pyjamas and party dresses.
The elves bring new pyjamas, slippers and dressing gowns every Christmas Eve and usually leave them under the tree while we're outside looking for Father Christmas and the reindeer in the sky ;) We all get Christmas Day party dresses from the big man himself - getting glammed up for our Christmas lunch is another family tradition.

Christmas Day breakfast.
We ALWAYS have chocolate for breakfast, then a little later on in the morning we'll have pastries and I'll put out a token bowl of fruit salad but I'm the only one that ever eats it.

Christmas Lunch.
Christmas lunch is always with the whole family; we have had four generations round the table for the last two years! We stick to tradition and have roast turkey with all the trimmings and usually time it so that we're finished just before the Queen's speech. Then it's a race to see who will fall asleep first (usually my Dad!).

Christmas Day Weigh In.
The whole family weighs themselves first and last thing to see who gains the most weight in a day. I was the reigning champion for TEN YEARS, with an impressive 6.5lb gain... then last year I only went and beat my personal best by putting on 7lbs. I'm pretty sure it was the late night visit back to the cheeseboard that did it.

What traditions do your family have?

Written in collaboration with Wayfair

HOME // Five Favourites: Finishing Touches for the Bedroom

I've lost count of the number of posts I've written in the past about how much I longed to turn my bedroom into a beautiful, restful sanctuary, rather than it being a dumping ground for everyone else's stuff. It got completely overlooked after we moved in; every other room had a makeover but for some reason mine got neglected - and because it's not been a particularly nice place to be, with visible plaster patches on the walls and curtains from our old house that didn't quite fit the window, it had become a home for piles of things on their way to other places; like clean laundry ready to go away and papers waiting to be filed.

Well I'm pleased to report that it has finally had it's long overdue and well deserved lick of paint and I've started to shop for soft furnishings and accessories. It's almost ready to show off in a room tour! I've kept it simple and painted the whole room white, mainly because I like to go all out with bold patterned bedding and brightly coloured artwork on the walls, but also, on a practical level, using a cheap trade emulsion will make it easy to touch up any scuff marks that might appear as time goes on.

So yes! Those fabulous finishing touches. Isn't this the best part of redecorating a bedroom? I've spent hours scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram looking for inspiration; it's been so much fun! Here are just a few of the things that I've bought recently or that are on my wishlist:

1. Framed and mounted Frida Kahlo print, £72 - Desenio // I already have this and couldn't love it more! I went for the biggest size I could get - the frame is 70x100cm and it fills one of the walls in my bedroom.
2. Cactus neon light, £37.99 - Prezzybox // Again I already have this. I'd wanted a neon light for forever but the ones I liked were always so expensive. This one was super affordable, and you can also get a pink flamingo or a blue anchor for the same price.
3. Myleene Klass tropical duvet set, £40.50 and 4. Myleene Klass gold palm curtains, £44.10 - both Very via LovetheSales // These are on my wishlist! I think they go perfectly together and I know they're verging on tacky but I love them!
5. White Hemnes full length mirror, £80 - IKEA // I bought this mirror for the bargain price of £29 at the last IKEA family event. It's back up to full price now but worth keeping your eyes open for another deal in January!


Thursday, 23 November 2017

HOME // Putting Prism to the Test #PrismSparkle #Ad

Now I realise a blog post about dishwasher tablets might not grab your attention, but bear with me on this one!

Over the past week I've been putting a brand new product to the test: Prism Dishwasher Tablets. I don't know about you, but I really do think that a dishwasher is the ultimate kitchen gadget. Not only does it save you hours of manual dishwashing, with your hands in scalding hot water that slowly turns greasy and cold, it's also better for the environment and there's no denying a machine does a much better job than when you do it by hand! I also love that it dries your crockery, cutlery and glassware so that it can be put straight away once the cycle has finished. It really does make life so much easier, especially when you have a large, messy family to clean up after, day in day out!

Because I love my dishwasher so much, I try my hardest to look after it. I have always used premium dishwasher tablets, so I was really keen to give these new ones a run for their money - especially as they were benchmarked against Fairy Platinum in tests, which is the brand I buy!

Despite costing just a fraction of the price, Prism really did make my dishes sparkle. I always cook from scratch and have gotten into a really bad habit of leaving dirty dishes in the washer for ages before actually getting round to turning it on! Despite apparently being the market leader, even my Fairy Platinum doesn't always shift those stubborn stains (I'm talking about you, weetabix and egg yolk!) and wine glasses don't always come out sparkling. It kind of defeats the object of having a dishwasher if you have to give things a scrub by hand once they come out of the machine. I did wonder whether I might need to clean and descale ours but my switch over to Prism proved that in actual fact it was just the product I was using that wasn't up to scratch. In every cycle we've had on this past week, every item has come up sparkling first time, with no rinsing, pre-soaking or post-scrubbing required!

I never thought I'd be one to sing the praises of a dishwasher tablet but, with Christmas just around the corner - a day where there is usually triple, if not more, washing up to be done than normal, and when we all overspend and start looking for ways to reduce our outgoings - now is definitely the time to switch allegiances and give Prism a try!

Prism is on sale exclusively at Sainsbury's and retails at just £4 for a pack of 25 tablets, which means one wash costs just 16 pence and can save you around £70 over the course of the year, compared with other leading brands.
This post was written in collaboration with Prism.


Beautiful Ways to Make More of Your Family Photos

If you're anything like me you'll have hundreds of photos - thousands even! - just sitting there on your phone and your laptop. Occasionally you look at them, but for the most part, you forget that they are there which is such a shame when potentially, these photos could be used to brighten up your day and decorate your home!

Prints for your walls 
One of the easiest approaches is to get a firm like Hello Canvas to turn some of your favourites into prints for your home. It is really easy to do. All you need is a bit of time to pick out the high-resolution photos you like, upload them to your device and use them to place your order.

There's plenty of choice when it comes to the type of prints you can buy online. For a home that is decorated in a traditional style, canvas prints are a great option. For a room with a more minimalist style, metal or frameless prints are probably a better option.

The nice thing about having so much choice is that you could order these as presents for friends and family. Grandparents especially like having high-quality photos of their grandchildren scattered around the house.

Create soft furnishings for the home 
Another easy way to use your favourite snaps is to create soft furnishing items. If you have a son or daughter that is about to go away to university a memory quilt cover could make a really good gift. All you need to create one is the type of fabric you can print photos onto and the time to sew the panels onto a plain quilt cover.

You can get really creative with this idea. People even take photos of patterns and use them to create table mats, cushion covers and much more besides. As you can see from this page, you can even turn your favourite landscape photos into blinds for your home.

Share them online
If you want more people to see your photos you could always sign up for an online photo album service. They are a great way to hold your photos in a safe yet accessible place and keep them organised. All you need to do is to create an album, move the relevant photos into them and share the link with friends and family.


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

PLAY // Simple Sensory Play Ideas

As a parent, things can often get a little repetitive around the house. Routines quickly develop, especially when the kids have come home from nursery or school and you’ve been on your feet all day; sometimes it’s just easier to put on the TV or hand over the iPad and give yourself a break!

If you're anything like me, the idea of getting out the paints and paintbrushes will fill you with dread - and the thought of having to clean everything up again afterwards, doesn’t sound like much fun either…so, here are a few ideas that will introduce sensory play into your little ones day. The best bit is they’re quick, simple and, most importantly, relatively mess free as well!

What is sensory play? 
Sensory play is often thought of just as messy play, and although lots of sensory play ideas can be messy – it is not just all about messy play but any play involving the senses. Sensory play helps with creativity, problem solving, and supports children’s brain development.

Ocean sensory play 
Bath time can get a little dull, especially if your little one doesn’t enjoy having their hair washed! Fill your bath with water as normal, (if your bath has seen better days then take a look at better bathrooms for some bathroom ideas) as an added option, you could consider purchasing some bath colouring tablets. These are safe to use on children’s skin and dissolve in the water to change the colour safely. Next cook some spaghetti pasta and hey presto! You’ve got creatures from the ocean squirming in your bath! Add some classic ocean themed bath toys for hours of fun.

Sensory bags 
If you’re trying to keep mess to a minimum then take some zip-lock bags, simply fill with coloured hair gel and add coloured bits of paper, buttons stars, plastic letters or anything else that will look fun! Let your child enjoy the squishy feel of hair gel as they explore the bag to collect shapes or draw letters. But don’t fill the bag too much – allow room to fold over the zip-lock bag and tape it securely, just in case your little one manages to open the bag.

A simple treasure hunt 
Ideal for really little ones, a simple box full of shredded or crinkly paper and filled with gold coins makes for a great sensory treasure hunt. Just simply fill an empty and clean lunch box or cardboard box with shredded paper and then add gold coins, buttons or shells and then encourage your child to hunt through the box to find everything. If they’re a little older, then you can make this a fun counting game.

You should always keep your child under close supervision during the assembly and interaction with these sensory activities. Messy-sensory play is important for young children, giving them endless ways to develop and learn. All types of play are essential for children’s development and early learning - it helps them to develop and improve their gross and fine motor skills, co-ordination and concentration. 


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

HOME // Fantastic Services: A Review

When I was at university, I earned myself the nickname Scrubber. And not for the reasons you might think! (how very dare you! ;))

In actual fact, and quite unusually for a student, I used to have what everyone else considered a bit of OCD when it came to cleaning. I personally don't think it was OCD as such - I just had slightly higher standards of cleanliness compared to my slovenly student counterparts! 

Since the arrival of my two terribly untidy children and setting up my own business, housework seems to have taken a bit of a back seat for me. Of course it gets done - I still want a clean house - it just happens reluctantly as there always seems to be other, more important things to do. I'm a single parent so I'm forever working, or walking the kids to school, or food shopping, or ferrying them to and from after school clubs and playdates. I also battle a laundry basket that never seems to be empty on a daily basis and have a menagerie of animals to look after. To be in a position to take the pressure off and treat myself to a cleaner has always been The Dream. And last week that dream came true!

The lovely people at Fantastic Services had been in touch to ask whether I'd like to have a one off deep clean before Christmas. As we've had some building work going on over here for the last couple of weeks I definitely did, so they very kindly arranged for two cleaners to come and work their magic on my house.

As well as the usual kitchen and bathroom cleaning, cobweb dusting, surface wiping, sweeping, mopping and hoovering - which was all carried out to the highest of standards - Fantastic Services exceeded my expectations by dusting all my picture frames and cleaning the glass, cleaning all mirrors, dusting all my ornaments including those in my printer's tray, cleaning the inside of my windows, polishing the bathroom tiles and the kitchen splash backs and wiping down all the skirting boards. They even cleaned my kitchen bin!

Needless to say I was very impressed and wish more than anything I could have them back every week to help me keep on top of things.

Fantastic Services also provide other services, like gardening, carrying out handyman jobs around the house, carpet and oven cleaning - and I am 150% going to be calling them back to help me with all of those at some point in the near future.

A six hour clean costs in the region of £120 and includes all cleaning equipment and materials. My clean was complimentary in exchange for this honest review.

If you're keen to give Fantastic Services a go yourself, I'm delighted to be able to offer £10.00 off your very first booking using the code MODERNMUM10.

Terms and conditions: £10 off first booking only. Does not apply to regular domestic cleaning and Christmas services. Cannot be combined with other deals and promotions. Minimum charges apply. Subject to availability and area coverage.

Monday, 20 November 2017

HOME // Affordable Wall Art with Desenio

Our house has undergone a little bit of a revamp over the past couple of months. Most of the rooms have had a fresh coat of paint and a bit of a rejig now and I've started splashing out on a few new pieces of furniture and accessories for them.

The biggest makeover has been to Daisy's bedroom. Previously pink, it's now a very modern monochrome - and once I'd replaced her pine furniture with new white pieces, and her floral bedding and curtains with fancy black and white patterns, it was time for me to search for some new pictures for the walls.

Everyone knows I love artwork. Pretty much every single wall in this house is covered in a mixture of photos, posters, limited edition prints and even a few original paintings from those days pre-kids, when I actually had some money ;) My only rule is that I never fill a space with any old thing - I'd rather have an empty wall for a while and wait to buy something meaningful that I really love.

One place I love to shop for affordable art is a Scandinavian company called Desenio. I've worked with them on a review project before and was so impressed with the quality of their prints and their excellent customer service that I went on to make a fair few purchases of my own accord. When they asked me if I wanted to pick out a few pieces for their latest campaign I was thrilled to - and it was perfect timing too, with Daisy's room needing those finishing touches.

Following the monochrome theme I chose three new prints for her room (she already had this horse poster which stayed put). I added a black kitten print, a grey bunny print and a typography print saying 'Black Is My Happy Color' and framed them all. To make a bit more of a feature of them on the plain white walls I bought some super cheap wall decals from eBay to surround them.

I love the finished look - and so does Daisy! The best bit is that all four posters and frames (including the horse one from an earlier purchase) came to less than £70 which I think is a total bargain.

But my shopping didn't stop there. I'd been looking for a Frida Kahlo print for FOREVER so when I spotted this one on the Desenio website I couldn't resist treating myself, along with a mount and a huge 70x100cm frame. Altogether it came to £72 which was considerably less than I had been prepared to spend, and I absolutely love it!*

*I'm still waiting for it to be put up, hence the stock photo - full room tour coming soon!

If you're looking for some affordable artwork, make sure you check out the Desenio website. It's a bargain at the best of times (prices start at just £2.95) but right now I'm delighted to be able to offer you all exclusive access to their Black Weekend offer! 

Use my VIP-code modernmummy to get both early access AND a better deal - an incredible 40% off posters! This code is valid between 21st-23rd of November and is not valid on Handpicked posters or frames. Happy shopping!

Friday, 10 November 2017

CHRISTMAS // Pickering's Gin Baubles from

I know it's still November but now that the girls have both had their birthdays I am well and truly ready to embrace all things festive!

I'm not one to put the tree up before December 1st but when my friends at sent me a little early Christmas present to say thanks for working with them this year, I couldn't resist getting them out straight away (and of course that meant I had to get our festive garland and a few twinkly lights out too).

Yes, I am the proud owner of a set of the famous Pickering's gin baubles, which I desperately tried to get my mitts on last year but missed out on (they flew off the shelves after going viral on social media). The best bit is the they are available online RIGHT NOW at!

Each set contains six different coloured, hand made baubles containing 50ml of Pickering's gin (so make sure they are kept out of the reach of little people and pets!) and decorated with a festive red Pickering's ribbon. They are just gorgeous and I think make the perfect ornaments to decorate my booze shelf ready for Christmas party season!

So YES! They are available from for £29.95 here, now! If you're hoping to get some make sure you order yours quickly so you don't miss out!

ps Now that these decorations are up, I'm totally leaving them up.
pps I think Flat Eric needs a Christmas hat ;)


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

TRAVEL // 6 Essential Tips to prepare for a Road Trip with Children

While a family road trip can be a BRILLIANT experience, if you have small children you should be prepared for the odd challenge or three. Most kids hate sitting still for long periods of time with nothing to do but stare out of the window.

Whether you’re travelling in your own car or rent a car for the duration of your holiday, calls of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ from the back seat will soon signal the beginning of boredom in the junior ranks. To stop your holiday from becoming memorable for all the wrong reasons, you need a few strategies to nip any undesirable behaviour in the bud.

Take plenty of snacks and treats 
There are few things worse to endure than a ‘hangry’ child in a small enclosed space. The combination of bad mood, boredom and hunger is never a good one, so it pays to be prepared. Take a cool bag with healthy, nutritious snacks and treats and hand them out whenever needed.

Finger foods is the name of the game. Tiny sandwiches, pieces of fruit and veg, cheese sticks, cold meats, cookies and the odd sweet treat are all bound to be hugely appreciated when deployed at just the right time. Anything really that can be held in little hands without disintegrating. Don’t forget to carry small bottles of water or juice too. Whoever is in the passenger seat should be chief dispenser while you’re on the road.

Better still, have regular pit stops with a leg stretch and a picnic to break up the long journey. Many motorways now have a children’s play area where the little ones can let off some energy before you continue on your journey.

Make activity backpacks 
Pre-empt boredom by thinking smart. Get a small backpack for each child and fill it with travel games, colouring books and crayons, puzzles and playing cards, perhaps a cuddly toy and other toys that the child will appreciate. Make sure you personalise each backpack to the child’s age and interests, so it’s special and meaningful to them.

Either hand out your ‘travel presents’ at the beginning of the journey, or at the first sign of boredom. For each ‘successful’ back pack, you may well have bought yourself several blissful hours of peace and quiet while the little ones occupy themselves as the miles go by.

Encourage reading books 
Long car journeys are perfect for getting lost in a good book. If you have older children, invest in some new reading material or bring along a few old favourites. Whether you go for real books or eBooks on a Kindle or tablet is up to you. Younger children will love to look at picture books, especially if they are the interactive lift-the-flap kind.

Audiobooks on CD or in digital formats for tablets and phones are a great alternative and particularly useful if the whole family wants to listen to the same story. They are also a good way to get around the perennial problem of motion sickness which can be exacerbated by reading in a moving car.

Embrace media entertainment 
If you have portable devices such as tablets, iPods or in-car DVD players, now is the time to make good use of them. Rather than having to pay for expensive data streaming, why not preload a selection of suitable playlists, films, TV shows or videos onto your device before you hit the road?

Make sure the material is new to the children for maximum engagement and boredom busting effect. Don’t forget to have all the right chargers and cables to hand, and unless you want everyone to listen to Igglepiggle Goes Visiting, double check that everyone has a pair of headphones.

Play ‘old school’ games together 
Do you remember the travel games you used to play as a child? Who’s to say that the current generation of youngsters won’t appreciate I Spy or the Number Plate Game, Punch Buggy or the Yellow Car Game? Make up your own game and count a certain type of road sign or make of vehicle. The whole family can join in with these traditional fun ways to pass the time.

For best results, mix up periods of quiet activity with family interaction while on the road, and take periodic breaks from driving to give everyone a chance to stretch their legs, have a toilet break and move around.

Have an emergency bag to hand, just in case 
As parents of babies and toddlers know only too well, you can never taken anything for granted. Pack a bag with essentials such as a change of clothes (and nappies where necessary) just in case a drink gets spilt, a chocolate biscuit gets smeared or an accident of a different type should occur.

For general emergency and cleaning purpose, pack cleaning cloths and detergent, baby wipes, towels, spare carrier bags for anything soiled and for general rubbish, and a few sick bags for good measure. Now sit back and enjoy the journey.


Monday, 6 November 2017

GOOD FOOD // Dairy Free Smoothies with Vita Coco

Three and a half years ago I underwent a cholecystectomy which meant I had to make a few changes to my diet. When you don't have a gallbladder you're supposed to give up high fat meats and processed foods but as these didn't form part of my diet beforehand (and after taking advice from a nutritionist) I decided to cut my dairy intake instead. For the first year post-surgery I gave dairy up altogether and felt amazing. As a result I know for sure that dairy doesn't agree with me, although I've allowed myself small quantities on special occasions since then - what's Christmas Day without the traditional Earley cheeseboard after all! I've also juiced regularly for the past five years but after my surgery I started to grow my repertoire of juice and smoothie recipes (dairy free, of course).

Juices and smoothies are different things (the indigestible fibre is removed from a juice) and I enjoy them at different times. Generally I prefer juices but there's definitely a time and a place for a smoothie! They're much more filling and work well as meal replacements for me - or as a post work out snack. I've experimented by adding different dairy alternatives to my recipes, and think I might have found my new favourite!

I'm not going to lie to you - I'm not usually a massive fan of coconut milk. Coconut water - yes. Yes yes yes yes YES! But I often find coconut milk has an odd texture, plus the canned stuff that I've used to cook with before is very high in calories. But Vita Coco coconut milk is fresh and, although thinner and I've yet to try it when cooking, is a fraction of the calories and also rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. It's also lactose free and naturally sweet - so the perfect ingredient for a filling breakfast or post-school smoothie.

During half term, I was sent some samples and I whizzed up some super simple and delicious summer fruit smoothies for myself and the girls. We used fresh berries but frozen would have worked just as well, and they were absolutely delicious - just ask Evie if you don't believe me!

The best bit about making smoothies is that they are always a massive hit with the kids - and I think they make the perfect post school snack. They're filling, but still leave plenty of room for dinner, plus they're an easy way to sneak a couple of their five a day into their diet. I love introducing the girls to new foods like Vita Coco, especially when they're super healthy!

DISCLAIMER: Vita Coco sent me samples of their coconut milk but I was under no obligation to write this post.


Sunday, 5 November 2017

5 + 8

Long time readers of this blog will know that somehow I managed to have two babies with birthdays a day apart. This means that I basically disappear off the radar for a couple of weeks at this time of year - first of all we have half term at the end of October, and I always try and reduce my workload while the kids are at home. Then The Birthdays follow shortly after and I find myself in last minute shopping / party prep hell. Every year I say I'm going to be more organised but it never happens - in fact this year I decided to double my stress levels by having two parties in one day!

Evie's birthday came first and we kick started a weekend of celebrations with chocolate for breakfast and sushi for dinner. She got tap shoes and Sylvanian Families and LOL Surprise dolls and unicorn everything - toys, clothes, a backpack, a hot water bottle, and the best present of them all; a birthday party the next day...... Which also happened to be Daisy's birthday! Cue more chocolate for breakfast and a morning spent playing with, and enjoying, new presents (Daisy had a monochrome bedroom makeover as her present) while I made jam sandwiches and cooked sausage rolls for a birthday party buffet.

Then it was time for party no.1! Evie had invited her whole class (no boys!) for a disco in a hall. We'd decorated with bunting and balloons and the kids got to play musical statues and do the conga. After saying goodbyes and dishing out party bags it was time to zoom home for party no.2 - a sleepover for Daisy and six of her best friends. They had takeaway pizza and watched a movie, then stayed awake until gone midnight and were up at 6am. Where do kids get their energy?! I could easily have fallen asleep before them, and then this morning I'd had three cups of coffee by 8am and had to have an afternoon nap.

Anyhoo, I am now the proud mother of an eight year old and a five year old (how did that happen?!) and am currently sat on the sofa with a well deserved glass of sauvignon blanc, Gilmore Girls on Netflix and my bullet journal on my lap (prioritising my workload for next week.... as you do). It's been a crazy but brilliant weekend. Happy birthday to my little ladies x

How to make a splash with a winter birthday pool party!

Who says that pool parties are only fun in the summer?

If your child was born in the autumn or winter (like both of mine are) and you fancy hosting a birthday party with a difference, how about a winter pool party?! What better way to beat the winter blues and being cooped up indoors during the chilly season?

I spoke to the experts at Compass Pools, award winning indoor and outdoor swimming pool builders, to get their top tips for throwing great pool parties.

Find a pool 
First things first – where’s the nearest suitable pool? Unless you’re lucky enough to have your own indoor pool at home, or have a friend whose pool you can borrow,  you'll need to take a look around and investigate

Public swimming pools

Check out the local pools in your area to see if they offer private hire alongside main opening hours. Many leisure centres will have dedicated children’s party packages and may well have a pool option, in which case all you need to do is book the date.

Private health & fitness centres

Commercial leisure centres with a pool will usually be only too happy to hire out the pool for children’s birthday parties. Often, pool toys and inflatables are included as is the birthday tea afterwards. Check for age restrictions and swimming ability requirements before you book. 

Swimming schools

Many private swim schools have their own indoor pools and may have availability when there are no classes scheduled. What’s more, swimming teaches may be on hand to provide extra help and assistance in the pool – particularly important for little ones and non-swimmers.

Outdoor pools

If you're feeling brave, a heated outdoor pool could be used. In fact, the novel experience of cold winter air vs steaming pool water may actually prove to be an exhilarating experience for older children. 

Set the party theme 
Every birthday party starts with an invitation, so why not design yours to make them extra fun? How about a snowman in swimming trunks and sunglasses? A photo of your child in a swimsuit photoshopped onto a snowy background? A summer party invitation adorned with snowflake stickers?

Once you have grabbed everyone’s attention, make sure that you include precise instructions on what to bring to the party: swimwear, goggles, armbands, swimming cap, towels… whatever isn’t supplied by the venue. For toddler parties or non-swimmers, it’s important to specify if parents are expected to attend, or must get in the water along with the children for safety reasons.

Go with a themed event – Frozen, Ice Age, The Snowman, Narnia – and reinforce this in the pool decorations. Here’s a cute Penguins and Polar Bears theme. Why not use inflatable winter animals such as penguins, polar bears etc as pool toys? If you can, use fake snow spray on the windows and contrast the summer/winter theme with winter patterned beach towels, snow covered inflatable palm trees and the like.

Play pool games 
Children’s parties need a little structure – the younger the guests, the more direction is needed – so have some pool games up your sleeve that the kids can play if things get too boring or exciting in the water. Continue with the ‘summer fun in wintertime’ theme with party ideas with a winter twist, such as:

Snowball Fight (using white water balloons) 
Water Polar or Volley Snowball 
‘Get to the North Pole’ obstacle course 
Dive like Penguins 
Shark Tag

The Party Tea 
Once all the kids are worn out from playing in the pool, it’s Birthday Tea time. Make sure there is plenty to eat and drink for all your guests (including any staying parents). Unlike regular birthday parties where children often don’t have much of an appetite unless there’s chocolate involved, swimming makes you hungry!

As every savvy parent knows, it’s a good idea to serve savoury foods first. While it’s best to serve healthy, nutritious fare at home, popular party foods include hotdogs, sandwiches, pizza, chicken nuggets and sausage rolls.

When tummies are full, it’s time to bring out the sweet stuff. The piece de resistance for every children’s birthday party must surely be the cake which takes centre stage. This is where the party theme comes into its own, with the cake themed to tie in with, say, a Winter Wonderland theme, or a favourite children’s film such as Frozen.


Saturday, 4 November 2017

Is back pain ruining your pregnancy?

Being pregnant is one of the most exciting times of a woman’s life. It should be a time of extreme joy. But, if back pain is bugging you 24/7, it’s hard not to wish your pregnancy was nearing the end. For many women, back pain during pregnancy isn’t a trivial matter. It can have a significantly negative impact on daily life.

It is estimated that between 50 and 80 per cent of women experience some sort of back pain during pregnancy. While most women understand the importance of a healthy nutritious diet during pregnancy, they are often less aware of the importance of spinal health. If back pain is ruining your pregnancy, read on to find out more about why you are experiencing it, and what you can do to help.

A trip to a qualified Osteopath, such as Bansel Osteopathy, is a good place to start. Osteopathy is a safe and gentle way to ease aches and pains. Be sure the osteopath you see is registered with the General Osteopathic Council.

How is the spine affected during pregnancy? 
It’s not hard to see why the spine and surrounding muscles are affected during pregnancy. The average healthy woman puts on between 18 and 30 pounds. As the baby develops, and your belly extends further out in front of you, your spine extends backward to counter balance.

As a result, the inward curve of your spine (the lordotic curve) becomes more pronounced. This also changes how the spine bends forward, limiting the range of movement it usually enjoys. It alters the way you bend forward, and straighten up again. This ultimately causes stress on the vertebrae and the surrounding tissues.

Pain can result from the abnormal extension of the spine, or from rotation problems. Physically strenuous work, lifting, and bending are potentially increased risk factors due to the limited range of movement of the vertebrae.

What are the common causes of back pain during pregnancy? 
The common causes of back pain during pregnancy include:

Weight gain – pregnancy adds another quarter of your body weight, adding stress to your spine A change in the centre of gravity – as explained above, your lordotic curve changes during pregnancy, becoming more pronounced. This creates strain on other muscles in the body trying to compensate

Muscle fatigue – muscles are more easily fatigued during pregnancy, which can result in poor posture

Hormonespregnancy-related hormones can create problems due to their effect on the joints. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin helps pelvis and hip joints loosen in preparation for the birth, though it also impacts on all joints in the body.

What are the main types of back pain during pregnancy? 
Pelvic and Sacroiliac pain: Due to the increased elasticity of the ligaments during pregnancy, a certain amount of increased mobility and instability around the sacroiliac joint can be a source of pain. This is a deep pain felt in the side below the waistline, on either side across from the tailbone.

Lumbar or lower back pain: this is generally located at the waist and just above in the centre of the back. This pain typically increases with prolonged sitting, standing or repetitive lifting. Pain that radiates into the buttocks and down the legs is more likely a condition called sciatica.

Top tips for preventing back pain during pregnancy
There are lots of preventative measures you can take to reduce the risk of suffering from back pain during pregnancy. Here are some tips to help you protect your back:

The most important thing you can do to prevent back pain during pregnancy is to partake in regular light exercise to help strengthen muscles and maintain flexibility. Avoid exercise that involves jolting or bouncing movements. It’s always a good idea to join an exercise class with a pregnancy specialist. There are many yoga and Pilates classes designed specifically for pregnant women.

Get plenty of rest. Your body is going through tremendous change and this is quite a strenuous time. Though take care not to sit in one position for long periods at a time. When sitting, sit with your back straight and well supported.

Postural awareness 
Your joints become more flexible during pregnancy, due to the relaxing of ligaments in preparation for childbirth. Putting excess strain on joints can be risky, and may lead to injury. Always move your feet in the direction you are turning to avoid twisting the spine.

Avoid lifting heavy loads 
Avoid lifting heavy objects. Bend your knees and keep your back straight when picking up something from the floor. Balance the weight in tow bags when you are carrying shopping.

Massage during pregnancy is a great way to ease general aches and pains. Always check your massage therapist is qualified and experienced in massage for pregnancy.

Osteopaths work to restore your body to a state of natural balance using touch, manipulation, stretching and massage to increase mobility, reduce muscle tension and enhance the blood supply to nerves and tissues.

If you are experiencing back pain during pregnancy it is always best to seek the advice of a professional. Speak to your GP or midwife if you have any concerns. Simple preventative care can be all it takes to prevent back pain and make your pregnancy a joyful experience rather than a miserable one.

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