Friday, 25 August 2017

CO-SLEEPING WITH A TODDLER


Some of you may know that I currently share a bed with my 20 month old daughter overnight, and have done since she was around 9 months old. Our journey to full time co-sleeping probably wasn't how you'd expect it to be. Freya actually slept in her own moses basket or cot from the day she was born and only occasionally came in to our bed if she woke up and wouldn't settle, but when she developed a chest infection at 9 months old, one night of co-sleeping turned into two nights which then turned into a whole year of bed sharing. When I was pregnant I never planned to co-sleep at all, let alone co-sleep with a toddler of almost two but it's lovely: It really is an amazing experience - to know you have the ability to provide every single ounce of comfort that your baby needs is a such a wonderful feeling.  To know your baby feels both the most calm and the most confident they physically can when they're laying next to you can so easily fill your heart in ways that I never even knew were possible.

Putting the lovey dovey parents' feelings to one side, there are actually many benefits to co-sleeping with your children beyond infancy. This article from Natural Parents Network highlights some of the more common benefits. My favourite being that everyone sleeps better. We used to have awful nights when Freya would sleep on her own. We'd be up two, three, four times a night, sometimes for hours at a time, with an inconsolable baby who just wanted to be with her parents. Lewis would end up downstairs on the sofa at 2AM while I waited for Freya to calm down and eventually fall asleep with her in my bed once the birds had started to sing. But now? Freya goes to bed at 7PM, I join her at 10.30PM and I don't see her again until she wakes me up somewhere between 6-7AM the next morning. And those 8 hours of sleep are a luxury I'm not quite ready to risk losing yet! 

It has been hard though, don't get me wrong. There's been numerous occasions I've cried over not wanting to share a bed with her anymore. I've cried over wanting to share a bed with my fiancĂ© like a normal couple, rather than kissing him goodnight outside the spare bedroom before he goes to sleep on his own all night. But every time that's happened, I am reminded by my sweet baby girl that this won't last forever. She won't be seven years old and still clambering into my bed every night. Or maybe she will, and maybe she will still need the comfort only I can provide for her for years and years to come. But I hope not. I'm hoping I will have given Freya enough confidence so that, when the time does come for us to transition her into her own room and bed, she's happy to do so with the knowledge that mummy is right on the other side of the wall, waiting for her if she needs me. That's the dream. 

But for now, we are happily co-sleeping with a toddler and will continue doing so until the time is right for us. Do you co-sleep with your baby or toddler? Or are you experiences totally different to mine? I'd love to know! 

Thanks for reading,



Grace x

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

ALL ABOUT BABY NAMES

I'm a real sucker for a pretty baby name. There's few things I love more in life than finding an amazing name that I can jot down somewhere and add it to my list of potential future baby names. I don't think im particularly traditional in my baby name tastes, but I'm also definitely not in the camp of loving baby names that no one has ever heard before. I've seen this tag floating around the YouTube/blogging world a couple of times and thought I would do it here on my blog, just as a regular post rather than a tag. There are 15 questions in total and before I start I'd just like to say I'm really sorry if I end up offending anyone! I really don't mean to, this is just my personal preferences when it comes to names. I know loads of people who hate double barrelled names, yet Freya's first name is double barrelled and I love it! So please, please keep that in mind when you're reading. Here we go....

1. What is your favourite boy and girl name from the top UK names list (2015)?
My favourite boy name is number 41 on the list and it is Sebastian. I don't think I'd ever have the guts to call my son Sebastian but I think it's lovely, and I ruddy love it being shortened to Seb! My favourite girl name is number 96 on the list and is Orla (Freya is higher up on the list but I've ignored that since I obviously already have a Freya). Again, I don't think it's a name I would ever use but it is absolutely beautiful.

2. What is your least favourite boy and girl name from the top UK names list (2015)?
My least favourite boy name is number 50 on the list - David. It's not that I dislike the name as such, it's just a little bit old for my personal taste. My least favourite girl name would be number 99 - Skye. It's just not to my taste and I can't say much more other than that, haha! 

3. If you had twins, what would you name them? (G/G, B/G, B/B)
This was actually really hard! I did do a bit of cheating and had a little look on google but even that didn't make it much easier! I think for girl twins the names I would use are Addison and Avery. I just think those two names sound stunning together and I'm quite the fan of sibling names starting with the same letter. Sticking with the same initial trend, my boy/girl twin names would be James and Julia. I adore the name 'Julia' and James is such a classic British name without sounding too old fashioned or outdated and I really like how they sound together. Now choose boy twin names was most definitely the hardest of the bunch! I heavily relied on google suggestions for this one, but I think I've made a decision on Jacob and Joshua. Again with the matching initials that I quite clearly have a thing for, and I love that they could both be shortened to Jake and Josh. 

4. If you could change your name to any other name, what would it be?
I don't think I would! I genuinely can't think of another name I would rather be known by- is that a cop out answer?

5. What is your favourite animal-inspired name?
I love, love , love the names Wolf and Fox for a boy and TigerLily for a girl (that counts, right?)

6. You have four children, any gender, what would their names be? 
I think I'd probably go with Ava, Oliver,
Lucas and Emmie.

7. What is your favourite colour-inspired name?
Greyson for a boy and Olive for a girl. I think Olive is such a pretty name!

8. What are your top 3 favourite boy names?
My top three boys names would probably be Hudson, Oliver and Jackson.

9. What are your top 3 favourite girl names?
I'm actually going to keep my absolute number 1. girl name a secret in this post in case I ever get to use it because my heart is SO set on it but my almost top three would have to be Spencer, Niamh and Meredith.

10. What is your favourite celebrity baby name?
It has to be Harper Beckham! I love the name Harper but, like a lot of people, would never use it now because of the association with the Beckham's.

11. What is your ultimate guilty pleasure name?
There isn't one specific guilty pleasure name but I really enjoy old lady names. So names like Ethel, Nora, Edith. I just love them all! 

12. What are your most hated baby names?
I'm hesitant to use the word 'hate' as I don't want to offend anyone but I really dislike the names Lexie, Ronnie, Rhea and names with X's in them like Jaxon, Daxton etc. 

13. Choose a baby name based on a food/drink.
I love Cherry for a girl but I can't think of one for a boy! Please tell me I'm not the only one who struggled with this one!?

14. Choose a baby name based on a month.
June has always been a favourite name of mine, along with May.

15. Choose a baby name based on a film.
Some of my favourite films ever are the Harry Potter films so I'd have to go with Harry for a boy and I also love The Great Gatsby so I'd pick Daisy for a girl. 

So that's it! All 15 questions done and dusted. As I said before, I won't be tagging anyone in this and just using it as a stand alone post but please feel free to use this on your blog as a tag if you should wish to do so! 

I hope I haven't offended anyone too much, and apologies if I have! 

Thanks for reading, 

Grace x

Thursday, 17 August 2017

MY TOP FIVE FAVOURITE SLOW COOKER RECIPES



Now I don't know about you, but purchasing a slow cooker changed. my. life. For real! It's the most convenient thing in the world. I love being able to throw some ingredients together in the pot when Freya goes down for her nap, and not have to worry about dinner again until 5 o'clock that evening. 

I tend to use my slow cooker around 2-4 times a week at the moment, although at the moment I do have a whole week of meals planned using it, so today I thought I'd share with you my top five go-to slow cooker recipes!

SLOW COOKER LASAGNE
Probably my all time favourite slow cooker meal! There's something about cooking a lasagne slowly that makes it so much more amazing, it almost melts in the mouth. I use this recipe from All Recipes and it never fails me. 

SLOW COOKER PULLED PORK
Who doesn't love a good pulled pork sandwich? I serve my pulled pork in a brioche bun with coleslaw, accompanied by corn on the cob, salad and potato salad (my mouth is watering while I type this...). This is my favourite pulled pork recipe from Delish.

SLOW COOKER BUTTER CHICKEN
Freya absolutely loves curry but I find the jars can be spicier than expected, and it's so easy to do a homemade one in the slow cooker! We use this recipe from Damn Delicious (although we leave out the chilli powder and use half the amount of curry powder) and serve with boil in the bag rice (sorry mum), poppadoms or naan bread and mango chutney. 

SLOW COOKER CHILLI CON CARNE
I don't cook this recipe as often as the others because Lewis won't eat it and I'm not about that cooking-two-meals life, but it's perfect for those times Lewis is working late, or has other plans (very rare, haha!) and Freya loves it just as much as I do! We use a trusty Netmums recipe, and serve ours with rice, sour cream and either plain tortilla chips or tortilla wraps depending on what we have in. 

SLOW COOKER PARMESAN GARLIC CHICKEN 
This is a new favourite of mine - I love it! It's pure cheesy, garlicky goodness! This is another Delish recipe, but we use chicken breast instead of thigh and white potatoes instead of red. The biggest thing I love about all of these recipes is how easily they can be adapted depending on your personal tastes or what you have in the cupboard that needs using up. For example, I'd be tempted to throw some broccoli, or another vegetable, in with this recipe if I had some lurking in the back of the fridge that needed using up.

And that's it! My five favourite slow cooker recipes all in one place. I think this post might be more helpful for me rather than you, haha! 

Grace x

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

DEAR FREYA

Dear Freya, 

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've written to you on here, but you really have been keeping your daddy and I on our toes! 

You are 20 months old now and a real character. I feel like I breezed through the first year of your life, and I'd even go as far to say I thrived with a newborn, but having a toddler is a completely different ball game. Don't get me wrong, I love watching you grow up and learn new things but MAN I wish you were going at a slower speed. You just don't stop. Talking, walking, running, singing, dancing, you name it - you do it. All at once. But I love it. You are so clever it shocks me. You are having full blown conversations with adults, and although it can still be difficult to decipher what words you're trying to use, once we've worked it out, what you're saying makes perfect sense.

You still love your food, although you are becoming a tad more fussy the older you get. At the moment you've taken a particular dislike to all kinds of pasta, which is fine. We still offer it up to you at meal times and then it's your decision whether you eat it or not - we don't force you to eat anything. The only thing we do do is change your pudding if you don't try your meal. If you try your food and decide you don't like it or enjoy it and eat everything on your plate, you will have a yoghurt or an ice lolly along with a piece of fruit for pudding. But if you refuse to even try anything on your plate, and everything gets left, you are only given a piece of fruit and no sweet treat. This is working well for us at the moment but I do hope you drop the pickiness sooner rather than later! 

Your sleep is much better now! You regularly go 7-7 and I get to enjoy a blissful 8 hour sleep, but we still can't rely on your doing this every night! You do still wake up every now and again at stupid hours of the morning and it's absolutely horrendous when you do, but thankfully these are few and far between right now. We are still cosleeping for now, although we're hoping to have finished before your second birthday. We did try to stop when you were around 18 months old and you just weren't ready for it. We stuck to our guns for 8 nights and you only slept all night in your own bed for 1 of those. Yes, we probably could have been a bit stricter with it had we wanted to, but neither of us could bare seeing you so upset, and we both very quickly decided that if you weren't ready, you simply weren't ready. At the moment, I share a bed with you from Sunday - Thursday, and Daddy shares with you on Friday and Saturday. You definitely prefer sleeping with your mummy, but I'm hopeful that you'll warm to your Daddy soon! 

You have started going to nursery one day a week as well! I never thought I'd be sending you to nursery while I could still be at home looking after you, but you needed some outside stimulation and a chance to socialise with other children your age. And I'll be honest, I needed some me time back in my life. You're taking your time with settling in and still cry when we drop you off and pick you up, but the ladies who look after you ensure me you have a great time once I've left so I'm sure you're putting on the dramatics just for my benefit! 

I really am enjoying this stage of your development, Freya. As much hard work as it is, and boy is it hard work, I'm loving it. You are quite possibly the funniest person I've ever met, and you have me belly laughing numerous times a day. You love having your nails painted and you love reading books. You love sitting and having a 'cuggle', running and splashing in muddy puddles (no clues needed for who your favourite cartoon character is!) and you just love being you. 

I hope I'm doing right by you, baby girl. Parenting a toddler is so different to parenting a newborn. Now I have to worry about things like teaching you right from wrong, manners and being polite, teaching you how to act appropriately in public places and I'll be honest, it's all a bit of a minefield. But we're doing it, me and your dad, all for you. 

Lots of Love, 

Mummy x

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

A VISIT TO MANCHESTER WINTER WONDERLAND

A couple of days ago we were invited to the launch night of Manchester Winter Wonderland and oh my goodness, it was absolutely amazing. I was really struggling to get into the festive spirit this year but Winter Wonderland has completely changed that for me. I tried my best to take some photos while we were there but 1) Freya was so tired, bless her, and was therefore being just a teeny tiny bit demanding and 2) I was just taking in my surroundings and living in the moment. Everything was so Christmassy and exciting. It genuinely made me feel like a little girl who was all excited for santa to visit again. 

 

If you haven't heard of Manchester Winter Wonderland before, it is the UK's largest indoor Christmas Theme Park and is based at Event City. There is free parking with hundreds of spaces, but please be aware that Event City is right next door to the Trafford Centre so expect the roads surrounding to be busy, especially on the weekends, and be sure to leave your home with plenty of time to spare. Our usual drive to the Trafford Centre is only 30 minutes but because of problems on the motorway and congestion as we approached Event City, it actually took us 50 minutes to get to our destination. And that was on a Monday evening! 

 

With over 50 rides and attractions all under one roof, there was plenty for us to be getting on with at our visit. I actually snapped this photo to use as a guide whilst we were walking around so we didn't miss anything exciting, haha! We didn't really pay much attention to the rides as Freya is far too small for the large majority of them but the noise and lights coming from them really added to the festive feel, even for people like us who went nowhere them. 

 

We stayed for a little over two hours and our first stop was for a big dirty burger. I love coming to attractions like this because the food, albeit pricey, is always so, so good. Not the best if you're watching your weight (does anyone really do that in December?) but amazing all the same. The usual choices of burgers, hotdogs and chips were available but there wasn't a great deal of choice for children of Freya's age. I wish I'd taken her some snacks because she ended up with a hotdog which obviously isn't the best choice for a one year old, but oh well. It is Christmas! 

 

Once we all had sufficiently filled tummies, we attempted to sit down and watch the Basil Brush show. I say attempted because Freya did not make this easy. I used to love watching Basil Brush growing up so I was really looking forward to sitting back and reminiscing while he was on stage, unfortunately Freya wasn't into the whole idea of sitting on someone's lap and staying still, so we gave up and let her have a crawl around away from the main stage just a couple of minutes after he appeared. She was quite enamoured with him to begin with though so I did manage to get this super cute photo of her walking towards him. 

 
   

Next up was a visit to see Father Christmas! This was Freya's first visit to Santa and she absolutely loved him. There was a bit of a wait when we joined the queue and it took us about 15 minutes to get to the main man, but we did get to wander through Mr and Mrs Clause's house and see just how beautiful it is. I'm actually quite jealous of the bedroom...how gorgeous is that bed!! Freya wasn't too keen on Mrs Clause and was much more interested in trying to throw her newspaper across the kitchen or crying her eyes out because she was so tired. Because of her pretty rubbish mood, after a quick photo stop we very swiftly moved on and left Mrs Clause with the nice children. 

 

Lastly, on our way out of the venue, we snuck into the Christmas Circus to watch the acts before we made our way home. I'll be honest here, I wasn't hugely impressed with the standard of the acts but I think it was mostly because I'm an adult because the children in room absolutely loved it, and Freya kept being drawn in too so it wasn't all that bad! 

On our way out of Winter Wonderland we spotted a little fenced in area that we wished we'd seen on our way in. A baby chill out area! It was a genius idea. A little patch of land for them to call their own, filled with beanbags and toys and ride on cars and soft, fluffy rugs. We let Freya have a little five minute play but she was far too tired by this point (around 9.20pm) to fully enjoy it so we left pretty sharpish to avoid a meltdown. 
 

As a family we had such a lovely night at the launch of Manchester Winter Wonderland and I'm sure we'll be making this a Christmas tradition and taking Freya for years to come, but I do think Freya was perhaps a little too young to fully enjoy it this year. If she was another 6 or so months older I think she'd have been in her absolute element with the sounds and the lights, but if your children are around 2-3+ (the most suitable age for this in my opinion) they'll have an absolute whale of a time. 

We'd like to say a big thank you to Manchester Winter Wonderland for our invitation to their launch night and for really marking the start of our festive period. Winter Wonderland will be at Event City, Manchester until the 1st January 2017 and tickets cost £18.50 (plus £1.50 booking fee) and under 3's go free.

I hope you're able to make the visit and experience some of the magic that Manchester Winter Wonderland has to offer! 

Thanks for reading, 

Grace x

Sunday, 11 December 2016

WHAT'S IN MY TODDLER CHANGING BAG?

Once Freya had turned one we decided to take the jump and switch from a big, traditional changing bag to a much smaller toddler backpack, and I must say it's been a very welcomed change! It was such a pain carrying our huge changing bag around, especially since it was too big to fit in the basket of Freya's stroller (Cosatto Supa Go in Happy Camper) so it was always bashing about on the handles and we didn't even use the majority of things in it! 
 
Since this was quite a big change for us I thought I'd share the items we now take out and about with us whenever we leave the house. I try to always make sure the backpack is ready to go so there's no faffing at the last minute, but the two things I do pop into the bag every day are a free flowing beaker of water and a snack for Freya. 

I'll start with the little pocket on the front of the bag, shall I? This pocket has seemingly become my medicine compartment. I always carry a box of calpol, a tube of bonjela and a little tub of snufflebabe (best invention ever) just in case we need it while we're away from home. There is also a bottle of antibiotics in there at the moment as Freya is recovering from a nasty chest infection but the label on the bottle shared details of our address and GP surgery etc so I haven't photographed it for obvious reasons.
 

Now on to the main compartment. Firstly, and arguably most importantly, is bum-changing paraphernalia. We are huge fans of the Tesco Loves Baby range, as you can probably tell from the photo, and we buy our nappies, wipes and nappy cream from it. I always try and use fragrance free on Freya's little tush just in case she has a reaction to anything. I also love these nappy bags from Wilko purely because of the nifty little container they come in. I'd never seen them like this before! No more rummaging around looking for loose nappy bags for me! 
 

Now this thing is a bit of a weird one. Freya doesn't usually wear any shoes unless we're going to the park or some other outdoor activity where it's likely she'll want to get out and walk, but I've taken to keeping her very special Christmas Day shoes in her bag just so they're safe and always in one place. Obviously once Christmas is over she'll be able to wear these again but I'm trying to keep them special until then, and obviously (again) she has another pair of shoes to wear while these ones are in hiding. Speaking of shoes, I would really recommend finding a Clarks Outlet store if you like your babies wearing proper fitted shoes - we recently bought Freya two pairs of soft soled shoes, including her Christmas Day ones, for £15.99!!!!!
 

Next up is a spare outfit for Freya. Obviously she isn't anywhere near being potty trained yet so we still have to take a spare outfit in case of nappy leakage or even worse, the dreaded poonami. I tend to pack her spare outfit right at the bottom of her backpack and leave it there unless she needs it when we're out. I also try to replace it on the same day if it does get used, just to make sure we don't get caught short one day because I've forgotten to pack another outfit!
 

Lastly we have Freya's Red Book. I take this absolutely everywhere with us just in case we ever need it if *God forbid* something ever happens to her. The changing bag seems the most sensible place to keep it as we're never without it which means we're never without the red book. 
 

And that's everything! I can't believe how much I've managed to squeeze into that tiny bag, although it is definitely fit to burst now! 

When did you make the swap to a smaller changing bag? Or are you sticking with an old faithful that you've used since your baby was a newborn? 

Thanks for reading, 

Grace x

Thursday, 8 December 2016

BABY'S 1ST BIRTHDAY HAUL

So it's official. I have a one year old!!! 

 
Freya turned one a few days ago now and I thought I'd share the gifts her daddy and I bought her since she's been enjoying them so much. We struggled a bit with what to buy a one year old, and if truth be told, we ignored the age recommendation on a few things, but what harm can she really do with a plastic tea set?! Freya loves every single thing mentioned in this post and she's a pretty typical one year old, so I hope this gives some of you some inspiration if you have a first birthday coming up any time soon!

 
Freya loves bouncing on absolutely anything (regardless of whether it's actually bouncy or not) so a trampoline was an absolute must for us. This one was quite tricky to build but it was a bargain at £29.99 and is on offer at Argos at the moment for £24.99! 

 
Now I know it's probably a bit ambitious to expect Freya to be able to actually build this train, but she loves bashing blocks together and is always trying to figure out how to take them apart and put them back together again, so we thought we'd just add to her collection with this purchase.

 


Freya has a hand-me-down play basket at her Nanna's house from her big cousin and she loves taking the items out and then tidying them away again so we decided to buy her one of her very own to keep at home. 
 


 
Along the same lines as the bricks, Freya loves putting smaller things inside of bigger things so stacking cups were another definite birthday present for our baby girl.


 
 The Bruin Baby's First Band is a 2-in-1 instrument which is part piano and part xylophone (and makes a LOT of noise). Now for some reason I can't find the actual item ANYWHERE on the internet, which is a real pain. BUT I have found something very similar from the same brand - The Bruin 3 in 1 Musical set for £19.99, although the Baby's First Band only cost us around £12.00 . 
 
 
 
Our baby girl has a bit of a weird relationship with Peppa. She really, really loves the books, and the soft toys and the puzzles. She can recognise Peppa on cards and on yoghurt pots but she absolutely HATES the programme. It just really doesn't grab her attention in the slightest, but I couldn't not buy her something Peppa related knowing how much she loves that annoying little pig.
 

And that's your lot, I'm afraid! We didn't want to go OTT for Freya's birthday, mainly because we don't want her to grow up expecting a mountain of presents when we can't predict what our future financial situation will be, and secondly because she didn't have the slightest clue that it was her birthday so why spend hundreds on a day she won't even remember?! 

Can you remember what you bought your baby for their first birthday? Or do you have any ideas for gifts if their birthday is coming up? I'd love to know!

Thanks for reading, 

Grace x