Baby purchases so far…and recycled essentials.

As this is our second baby, we have already ‘tried and tested’ several essentials the first time round. Some were life savers, others we hardly used. I will write a separate blog post about the top three most useful and useless baby bits later.

We didn’t find out the sex with George, so most of our newborn and 0-3 clothes/vests/blankets etc. are all neutral colours. This has meant that we have only had to buy a few little outfits and splashes of pink (even though I was determined not to have a pink baby) here and there.

It has been a much nicer process this time round, as I was so anxious right until the end with George – something fertility struggles will do to you – and I didn’t want to buy any clothes myself, for fear of jinxing things.

So, here are my favourite bits from last time and newer pieces that we have bought:

    The Snuzpod (John Lewis) – I loved having George so close to me when he was sleeping. It didn’t make getting out of bed very easy straight after my emergency c-section, but was definitely worth it in the long term. He did outgrow it a lot quicker than I had anticipated (my next door neighbour said she had woken one morning to find her little one stood up in his!) The other point I would add, is that combined with the Angel Care monitor and motion detector, having the snuzpod so close to my bed meant that the motion detector picked up my breathing as well as the baby’s. On discovery, I made sure I pushed the snuzpod further away from the bed, leaving enough of a gap so that it only detected George’s movements.
  • Sleepyhead of Sweden (John Lewis) – I was in two minds over whether to fork out for this or not. It seemed an extortionate price to pay for what was essentially, a pillow! George spent the first week of his life in the neonatal ward and his incubator was padded, imitating the shape of the sleepyhead. Naturally, when we returned home, he loved nothing more than cuddling up in his sleepyhead at night. Worth every penny! He continued using it as he transitioned into his cot and then I weened him off at about 6-8 months (as I was definitely not forking out for the bigger size!) I will say though, I have been looking at replacement covers for the sleepyhead as there are one or two calpol stains on the original – however I think they are extortionately overpriced and I’d rather save my money!
  • Ewan the dream sheep – George still relies on his every night and I have repurchased for the new baby. Each leg plays a different white noise or lullaby and there is an option for a light – although I found this annoying when he slept in our room. They have released a new washable version, but I have never felt the need to wash George’s so far.
  • Braun Thermoscan 7 Thermometer (Amazon) – I bought a tens machine and then ended up being induced before it arrived. I replaced it with the thermometer and it has been a staple in our family ever since. Quick, accurate and reliable.
  • Cheeky Wipes reusable cloth baby wipes (cheekywipes.com) – I was (still am) very cautious over the products I use on George. I knew that I didn’t want to use any wet wipes on him, other than Water Wipes or similar. I was introduced to Cheeky Wipes through our NCT anti-natal group and I have since purchased the weening wipes. Both the baby wipes and weening wipes are easy to use, clean, dry and reuse. I will definitely be using them again!
  • Mama Designs Muslin Swaddle 2 pack (mamadesigns.co.uk) – You can never have too many muslins and I’ve lost count on how many I have bought George over the last two years. I have bought these as they are much larger than any others I have and can be used to swaddle, cover a mattress or pram mattress or anything else really!
  • Bugaboo buggyboard – Obviously something I didn’t need to buy last time round, but an essential now! George isn’t particularly old enough to be without a buggy all the time and I am concerned how to juggle two under 3s with one buggy. We bought the Bugaboo Buffalo last time, so there is not option to convert to a double. The first option was to sell it and buy the donkey, however I don’t believe George will physically fit in the smaller chassis for much longer (if at all). I’ve decided to convert the buggy back into the pram with the buggyboard and borrow my mum’s Silvercross buggy, alongside the BabyBjörn carrier. We’ll see how it goes!
  • Sound Sleeper baby app (iTunes AppStore) – I discovered accidentally, that George was comforted by the sound of the hairdryer. He was such a crier when he was newborn and it really got me down. One day, I simply lay him on my bed screaming and dried my hair – he fell asleep! My friend told me about the app, which features several white noise sounds, including a hairdryer!! It worked MIRACLES. We downloaded it onto every device we could lay our hands on and it never failed to comfort him. Another aspect we had to ween him off of, but worth.every.penny.
  • Angelcare Soft Touch Bath Bath Support (Amazon) – We bought two of these, one for home and one for my mother-in-laws house. George loved baths from the day we could bathe him and this was a definite essential. Easy to clean and was great for laying him in in the mornings too, to wash the coconut oil out of his scalp.

Anything else I have missed? I will add my favourite decorative accessories in another post, but for now, that is my newborn survival kit!

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How travelling brought me back to where I first started

So this is a slightly reflectional piece. I need to up my blog game and I’m thinking that 3am night feeds might inspire some ‘interesting’ musings in the up and coming months. They might be complete jargon and full of emotional outbursts, but could be entertaining to read nevertheless.

So, 10-years-ago this week, I embarked on a 4 month trip with my best friend. We both took sabbaticals from our jobs, packed our suitcases and boarded a flight from Heathrow to Bangkok. Neither of us knew what to expect, we had never done anything like this before. However, many of our friends had (and for longer periods of time) so we were excited albeit apprehensive for the adventures that awaited us.

We tore our way through Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and a brief stop off at LAX airport 😂. To say it changed my life forever is a slight understatement. This was pre-free-and-available-WiFi days and we didn’t have any devices with us that could connect to the internet (including phones). So we relied on topup cards in hostels or Internet cafes, to upload our photos and communicate with our families. My sister went a mere 5 years later and was able to FaceTime from shacks in Laos on her iPod touch!

In New Zealand, we bought passes for the Kiwi Experience (which ironically has a completely different nick-name). On our first trip, we met three blokes – two on a gap-year and one post-uni, who had made friends. We joined their group and embarked on 10 days of the most fun we had had on our trip. To say that New Zealand is a magical country, is an understatement and an insult to the beauty and pure magnificence of the natural world. I’ll never forget sitting on a jetty, absolutely freezing, in the middle of nowhere, watching the sun set behind snow-topped mountains, turning them pink. I remember thinking I was in some kind of dream world and nothing would ever top this.

Those 10 days changed my life forever, as I fell in love with the post-uni backpacker. When we got back to England, we stayed in contact and he took a place on a PGCE course in London. We moved in together and 9 years, 1 rented flat, 2 house moves, 5 years of marriage and 1.5 babies later, here we are!

Together, we have been so lucky to travel some more. Both being teachers has blessed us with the school holidays (or time in lieu 😏) and we’ve used that to explore many European cities, as well as safari in Kenya, hiking (Andy, not me – I was preggers) in Scotland, 3 week road trip down the West Coast of Cali and chasing the northern lights in Iceland, to name but a few of our adventures. This prompted me to start this blog, as well as self-preservation and therapy from the strains and heartbreak of recurrent miscarriage and fertility treatments.

We’ve since moved back to the town where I grew up and have taken on the challenge of renovating a Victorian 3-bedroom terraced house. The travel will return, it’s cemented firmly in our blood and history now. It’s also something we want George and impending arrival to experience and fall in love with.

So yes, travel does broaden the mind. It allows you to become more understanding, tolerant and accepting – something this country could desperately do with right now. Who knows what post-Brexit Britain will look like and whether it will encourage or discourage the desire of people to expand their horizons and be part of the bigger picture. All I know is that it changed the course of my life forever and even though I’ve ended up exactly where I started, I’ve learnt to live and love…

Recipe // Delicious Chocolate Brownies

I desperately wanted to make an Easter cake. I spent 3,000 hours and my life savings on George’s birthday cake, so therefore I now qualify as a master baker. I spent hours browsing and salivating until I came across a recipe for chocolate mini egg brownies, that I already had most of the ingredients for.

Unfortunately, the addition of the mini eggs was a disaster (even though I froze them beforehand). They simply burnt, lost their colour and went rock hard.

However, the brownies were delicious – moist and chocolatey, without being too sweet and sickly.

Ingredients:

150g light brown sugar

225g caster sugar

225g unsalted butter

150g dark chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt 70%)

3 eggs

125g plain flour

75g cocoa powder (I used Green & Blacks)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6 and line a 20 x 30cm tin with baking parchment.

2. Put the sugars and butter into a large saucepan and heat on medium until the butter has melted. Simmer the mixture for five minutes to allow the sugar to begin to melt, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat.

3. Add the chopped dark chocolate to the warm sugar and butter mixture and stir it in until it is completely melted. Leave to cool to room temperature.

4. When the mixture is cool enough to touch comfortably, beat in the eggs. Add the flour and cocoa powder before stirring briefly to combine. You don’t want to overbeat the mixture or your brownies will become too ‘cakey’.

5. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 20–25 minutes or until the top is shiny and slightly cracked.

Nursery Styling

Planning and styling our nursery was/is definitely an ongoing process. We didn’t find out the sex beforehand but knew we wanted something neutral anyway.

The obvious place to start was Pinterest but searches of ‘white and grey nurseries’ only brought up images of huge American bedrooms, something which our tiny little box room would never replicate.

We knew that we only had room for two pieces of furniture, so opted for the Silver Cross Nostalgia cot-bed and wardrobe – £1050 as we could buy a Cot Top changer from John Lewis – £49 and save space.

We knew this would be a perfect set up as the baby would be sleeping in our room for the first six months potentially, so changing over the cot was fine. I purchased changing organisers from Ikea – £7.50 and they clipped onto the changer perfectly.

As for decoration, we purchased a picture shelf from Ikea and two prints from the amazing Manchester Based Rory and the Bean. We wanted a scandi feel to the nursery, to compliment the rest of our house. Then we waited until baby arrived before adding anything else…

So at 11.14pm on February 18th, after a vile induction, painful labour, sepsis, pre-eclampsia and emergency Caesarian, our beautiful son George Roy entered the world and landed straight into the NICU. A week later he was home with us and the adventure could begin.

The first thing I wanted to buy now he was here, was something personalised. Through the magic of Instagram, I found This Paper Book and their beautiful personalised pennant flags – starting from £14.

That, paired with some of the most beautiful wooden treats from the magical Styled by Naomi really started the ball rolling. It was no longer just ‘the nursery’, but it was becoming ‘George’s Room’ and I hadn’t ever imagined how important a process that would be for me. If you don’t already follow Naomi on Instagram, you definitely should. She’s hilarious and her fertility journey is inspiring and courageous.

Scandiborn and The Modern Nursery became the two major go-tos as far as furniture and large accessories over the year but Instagram introduced be to a whole world of small, independent makers (and a maxed-out credit card). Prints from Lovely Ink (as well as her beautiful Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day collections) and Little M Paper Goods. Wooden toys from Sarah & Bendrix Kids will be great for George when he’s a little older, but until then, they look fab on display. Also Scottish based Ciao Bambino and The Milk Collective have a great selection on modern and stylish toys, to compliment any nursery.

I know that accessories will change and adapt as George grows and he personality and interests develop. But up until now, this has been an opportunity to flex our interior muscles in the first real purposeful room in our house. It’s a work in progress but one I can finally get some joy out of. A little sanctuary and safe haven for our baby and a celebration of the tiny human that we have managed to keep alive for the last 13 Months.

What are the favourite parts of your baby’s nursery?

Eating Our Way Through Prague

Prague is easily one of the prettiest cities in Europe – with its beautiful cobbled streets and fairytale-like gothic architecture. However, its quickly becoming one of the hippest food capitals in the continent. Many people know that Prague is already famous for its cheap beer, attracting many a stag or hen do. Czech cuisine is meat-based, and there were plenty of places offering ‘traditional’ dishes. However, don’t fret travelling vegetarians – there are a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, as well as a large number of Asian eateries. We found that many restaurants were promoting ‘raw food’ dishes on their menus too, to cater for all. I didn’t think we’d find somewhere to rival Budapest for its great restaurants at ridiculously cheap prices, but we were wrong!

Before visiting, I always do my research – especially as a fussy vegetarian. I want to know the best places to sample the local cuisine. Here we’re our favourite places to eat. Please comment with your thoughts and additions.

Cafe Louvre

Arguably, the best thing about Prague for me was that magical feeling of being transported back in time. You feel part of a forgotten era. Cafe Louvre was the perfect example of this. A Parisian style cafe and billiard hall, dating back to 1902, quintessentially epitomises Prague cafe culture. In its hay-day, it attracted visitors such as Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein. However in 1948, it was closed when the communists came to power and wasn’t fully revived until 1992.

Cafe Louvre is open daily, offering a wide variety of dishes and beverages. I had the decedent Cafe Louvre hot chocolate and delicious apple strudel, while my husband had the club sandwich and a latte. Both were amazing and I would have happily eaten it all over again. The bill came in at just under CZK300 (£10).


Cafe Louvre, Národní 22, Prague 1
Lokál

If you’re looking for good, cheap beer and exceptionally fresh Czech cuisine, look no further than Lokál. We visited the Dlouhááá branch several times during our stay, as it was literally metres from our air bnb appartment. Lokál opitomises old Czech culture from the 1960’s and 1970’s, with its simple interior. It’s extremely popular, and although extremely big, fills up fast. It’s also a great spot for people watching. Both the drinks and food menus are extensive – even offering a range of non-alcoholic ciders – and the service is excellent. A really cool spot in the centre of Prague’s old town.

We feasted on the highly recommend Lokál speciality of fried cheese, with homemade tarter sauce and the Goulash of beef cheeks, with bread dumplings. The latter I’m assured was incredible. All washed down with a large Pilsner Urquell and homemade lemon soda, came to just over CZK300 (£10). An unbelievable price for homemade top-notch Czech cuisine, sourced from local suppliers. A must.


Lokál, Dlouhá 33, Prague 1.
Sisters Bistro

Just under our apartment, was the incredible, yet tiny Sisters Bistro, founded by a famous Czech food journalist. We gourged on their amazing chlebíčky (open-sandwiches) daily, and were always convince to buy more than we had intended initially. The light, healthy sandwiches were in high-demand and just too pretty to pass. We enjoyed the vegetarian beetroot and goats cheese, as well as the egg and ham.

Sisters Bistro, Dlouhá 39, Prague 1
Naše Maso

Alongside Sisters Bistro, lies Naše Maso “Our meat”. Both are located in the new Gastro Pasáž, a hip mini-shopping complex for foodies. Currently, only a few units are occupied, but they’re extremely popular and trendy places to visit. Naše Maso is an exceptional butchers and fast food eaterie, that serves beer on tap. The takeout burgers, steaks and particularly the meat loaf is very popular, with queues forming outside the shop throughout the day. As a veggie, I can’t vouch for the food, but I did find myself fascinated by the art of the butchery on display throughout several of the units. Quite an odd observation from a vegetarian, but the window displays were unintentionally captivating works of art. My husband, on the other hand, dived straight into the meatloaf at the first opportunity. It’s basic simple food, taken to a different level, without the hefty price tag. His words, not mine. Would highly recommend a visit – if not for the food – for a glance through the windows.


Naše Maso, Dlouhá 39, 11000 Prague

Grand Cafe Orient

Housed in the beautiful homage to the cubist movement, The House of the Black Madonna, is another of Prague’s ‘step back in time’ masterpieces. The Grand Cafe Orient originally closed in the 1920’s when cubism fell out of fashion and was renovated in 2005, retaining its original brass lanterns and buffet-bar. A truly magical experience for anyone looking for a light-bite or coffee. We visited the Grand Cafe Orient twice as it was so close to where we were staying. If you can, try to grab a booth by the window, as it provides a great vantage point both inside and out, helping you to reflect on what life was really like in 1911. I ordered the cheese panini and lemonade, followed by another delicious apple strudel. One thing I felt let the cafe down was the sour faced waiters, who were probably the only ones we encountered during our stay.

The Lake District – A photo diary

Our first encounter with the Lake District was a memorable one. We were so unbelievably lucky with the weather! Read about what we got up to here, otherwise, enjoy our photo diary. Photos by @foreacharoad.
Stunning skies over Crosby Ravensworth:


Ullswater:

Gowbarrow:


Aira Force:



The beautiful night sky:


What is your favourite destination in the Lakes?

A taste of the Lake District

This year was all about exploring our own country, as well as our adventures abroad. Luckily, we have had several weddings in opposite ends of the country, which has inspired us to make little mini-getaways. This time, after a lovely wedding in Newcastle, we hired a car from the airport and drove 90 minutes across the country to the stunning little village of Crosby Ravensworth, which is in the heart of the Eden Valley and approximately 4 miles from the M6. We booked ‘One Chapel Terrace‘ on Airbnb, which sleeps six for a minimum of two nights. It was a beautiful little cottage, with a hot tub, perfect for soaking aching muscles after a long ramble uphill. 


We ate at The Butchers Arms, a community owned pub in Crosby Ravensworth, and the only place to eat within 11km. It was a stones throw from the cottage and has just been taken over by new owners. The menu was small, but catered for all, with daily specials on the board. The fish and chips were one of the best I’ve ever had from a pub/restaurant. 

The next morning, we drove 26 miles to Aira Force and Ullswater in the Lake District. As soon as you catch a glimpse of  the lake driving through Pooley Bridge, you realise why people rave about the scenary and the tranquility of the region. I am a sucker for bodies of water with breathtakingly beautiful mountainous backdrops, so this ticked all he boxes. We were also blessed with glorious sunshine, although this resulted in half-term holiday makers flocking to the numerous National Trust carparks like the world was going to end. It didn’t help that the sunshine had not been forecast, so everyone was desperate to soak up every ounce of golden ray on offer. 

Aira Force is a 65ft waterfall, accessed by a fairly leisurely stroll through glades and woodland. We continued the walk up, following the stream. Being half-term, many families littered its banks, enjoying the sun. 


Ullswater lake itself, offers an array of different watersports and tiny secluded bays and beaches, to enjoy a paddle or a snooze. We (obviously) went for the latter, after scoffing a huge slice of cake from the National Trust tea room.


Albeit a tiny taste of what the Lakes have to offer, I can definitely see why so many people describe it as the most picturesque region in the UK. I was slightly concerned that I would be left disappointed after our trip to Snowdonia – however this boasted a different kind of WOW factor to that of North Wales. Ullswater was buzzing. Whether it was the half-term or general touristy feel, you felt it embraced the crowds and encouraged them to flock, enjoy and experience the scenary that we are so lucky to have in England. It is celebrated.