Monday, March 24, 2014

What to buy a one year old

As you know, it was Charlie's first birthday the other week. I thought long and hard about what to get him, as he got loads of toys at Christmas and didn't really need that many clothes. Also, I didn't feel like there was that much point in spending loads, as he had no idea it was his birthday anyway!

So, to help out other mummies, who may be struggling or wondering what to buy their babies for the first birthdays, I have put a little list together of what we got Charlie. I wanted a few things that he could keep and that would be a memento of his birthday and of his early days.

The first thing I knew we had to get him was a memory bear. I had seen quite a few pop up on facebook and then one of my friends, Emma, at Babyforgetmenots, mentioned that she made them too. We went for Larry Lion, but she has loads to choose from, including a monkey, giraffe, bunny, duck, elephant, plus lots more!  Basically, a memory bear is made out of your baby's old baby grows or clothes. I chose ones from when he was a tiny baby, but I suppose you could use any! I needed to send a minimum of five pieces, but I couldn't decide, so in the end I sent about 7 pieces. Emma managed to incorporate all of them into the lion and both hubby and I were thrilled with the finished piece. It's the little touches that make it even more special, like how she embroidered Charlie's date of birth and name on to one of the lion's paws and the little elephant that she managed to incorporate into the lion's body from one of the baby grows. Emma has just started weighting the memory bears too, so you can have your chosen animal weighted to the weight your baby was.

I also wanted to commemorate Charlie's first year with a photo book. If you're like me (a bit snap happy), then you'll probably have hundreds, if not more, of photos just sat on your computer or 'phone. So I decided to actually do something with them and make a book. I chose Vistaprint, as you could download the software to your computer and work on the book in your own time. It took me about a month to put together, but it was so worth it and once again, I am really pleased with the result! I choose the large square 21x21cm book and I decided to pay extra for glossy paper as it was for a special occasion. I also choose the wraparound photo cover which I think makes the book look really professional. I am thrilled with the results and for the price I think they are excellent value. At the minute, this book starts at £14.24, so fantastic value and great quality too and you can add extra pages for a little extra.

As I said, I wanted things for his birthday that Charlie could keep. When I was younger I had a little wooden chair with a wicker seat and I loved it. My mum still has it at hers! So, I decided to get Charlie one. I went for a cream wooden chair with a heart carved out of the chair back. We got this from Again, fantastic value and the chair is really solid and sturdy and I am sure will last Charlie just as long as mine has lasted me!

I also couldn't resist this cute first birthday card! Again, from We had it personalised with Charlie's name on it and the number '1' and it looks fab when it stands up!

Of course, we had to get him some things he could use now. As the weather is (slowly) starting to improve, we went for a slide. A month or so back, we got a swing off freecycle, so we thought this would go well with that for the garden in summer. Charlie loves this and can't get enough of sliding down it. Although he does like to climb up it too!

We got him some other little bits too; books, a little pretend radio and of course we did have a pretty big party for him so he got loads of gifts!

I, personally, think that you don't need to go mad for a first birthday, although, like us, you may want to get things that can be kept as a memento, or things that will last.

Have you got any suggestions for lovely first birthday gifts?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Trying to have it all (and failing)

For those of you that don't know - I am an English teacher in a secondary school. I teach from age 11 (Year 7), up to age 18 (Year 13). I am also what is called a House Manager; think of it in terms of Harry Potter if you like, I am in charge of, say, Griffyndor! Basically, being a House Manager involves lots of raising money for charity, rewarding students, being in charge of prefects and the annual Christmas Fair and lots of other little things that crop up. When I started teaching I loved it; I would work from 8-3.30 and then go home and have some dinner and carry on working until about 11pm. But I enjoyed it; I loved making resources and PowerPoints for lessons and it never felt like work. Of course, seven years later I don't need to plan lessons as much or in as much depth as I know what I'm doing now.

However, the admin and paperwork that goes with the job has increased dramatically since I started. I spend most of my free lessons (which is 3 a week), responding to emails, chasing forms or doing some form of admin. I can't remember the last time I actually sat down and planned a brand new lesson. I rehash old ones. It's a shame, because that's the part I loved. But I just physically don't have time. On average I see 6 -7 classes a day, all of different years and all doing different topics. Now, don't get me wrong, I knew what I was getting into when I signed up to teach; I knew the hours were long, I knew it was thankless, I knew that people complained about our 'holidays' etc, and I can live with all that. But at the minute, I feel like work dictates my life. I am not sure if teaching is any good for a marriage, let alone having children. I'm lucky that hubby works in the same place as me, so he knows what goes on and he can relate and understand my frustration and stress.

Whilst I can live with it, it really, really riles me that I see people moan about teachers having too many holidays. They fail to understand, that actually, we don't get paid for these. Our pay is pro-rata, but we don't get paid for being off for 13 weeks a year. They also fail to understand that a lot of teachers work in the holidays. They need to plan what they are going to do for the next term, or mark books or create fabulously eye catching displays. These people also fail to realise that we are physically and mentally exhausted after a seven week stint of standing up in front of thirty kids every fifty minutes and 'performing'. Not just that, but walking around the classroom constantly, checking books, helping students out - we need 'down' time. Time to relax and do nothing, or time to spend with our families, where work is cleared from our mind. These people seem to think that teachers don't deserve holidays at all!

Up until now, I've resisted talking about how I feel about work and teaching in general on this blog, partly because I wouldn't ever want colleagues to read this, but teaching is a part of me and defines who I am to an extent. I also feel that I can't stay quiet about it any longer!

Why are we not allowed family time? I always feel guilty at home when I am not working! But actually, I stop being paid at 3.40 so why should I work at home? I know that, nowadays, a lot of jobs require a bit of work outside of the office and I suppose there are very few 9-5 jobs around. But I just get really annoyed with all the criticism that teachers get for the hours we put in.

Anyway, I don't know what the answer is. I want a better work life balance, but struggling to find it as yet.

Any other teachers out there who can offer their own suggestions?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Easter crafts

Now Charlie is one year old (and my step daughter is nine), I thought it was about time I got into a bit of crafting. Crafting, hmm, it's not really my thing. I'm just not very good at it normally and so I get frustrated and in the end I give up. However, I really need to make a bit of effort, so I have been scouring Pinterest lately, trying to get some ideas for some Easter crafts.

I had the idea that I would like to make Easter favours for Charlie and the step daughter to give out to people like the childminder and her children etc. So, I am going to make these bunny bags and turn them into bunny bait bags with pretty labels (I will do a blog post once I've made them!).

Bunny bait bags 

I've already saved the labels to my desktop and I am going to print them out on card and buy some cellophane bags to put the sweets in.

I also found this set of printables, that I can also use as labels for sweetie bags too. 

Free printables 
These super cute bunnies would look really good as Easter bunting! I am definitely going to have a go at making these! I think they'll look great hung across the fireplace.

Bunny bunting 
You could hand these out as gifts too!

Cheese ball carrot bags 

If you wanted to spend a bit of money, then Hobbycraft have a great range of bits and pieces to make some fabulous looking cards.

Hobbycraft card making 

And if you want to get baking, you could make these cute bunny biscuits!

Bunny biscuits

This is my favourite! And looks dead easy too, one for the photo album definitely!

Bunny photo 

If you want to see my Easter board, then join me on Pinterest, here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Finding a balance

I used to be an extremely organised person. Ask my boss; she used to call me the 'Go get girl' as she knew she could come to me with anything and I could get it done or I would have the answer. I dread to think what she calls me now, but I can guarantee it won't be as positive! (The boss and I have had some run ins lately, but that's another story)

Anyway, from being little I was so organised; always having different coloured pens for different things and all my folders at school were organised with subject dividers etc. That followed me into teaching and I have folders for every topic that I teach and my desk is always clear. I suppose that, I'm on the far end of the 'normal' scale when it comes to being tidy and organised! However,  since moving to a bigger house, my organisational skills have gone downhill. It could also be down to the fact that I now have a child and a full time job, so I have less time to tidy and get organised, but I see other working mums who are just as organised, so why can't I be?!

I never seem to have enough time to do a job properly. I feel like I am constantly sorting out washing or drying dishes etc and I feel guilty about Charlie. I don't want him to remember his childhood with me being so busy and never having any time for him. I saw this poem on face book the other day, and it really hit me.

Slow down mummy, there is no need to rush,
slow down mummy, what is all the fuss?
Slow down mummy, make yourself a cup of tea.
Slow down mummy, come and spend some time with me.

Slow down mummy, let’s put our boots on and go out for a walk,
let’s kick at piles of leaves, and smile and laugh and talk.
Slow down mummy, you look ever so tired,
come sit and snuggle under the duvet and rest with me a while.

Slow down mummy, those dirty dishes can wait,
slow down mummy, lets have some fun, lets bake a cake!
Slow down mummy I know you work a lot,
but sometimes mummy, its nice when you just stop.

Sit with us a minute,
& listen to our day,
spend a cherished moment,
because our childhood is not here to stay!

R. Knight 

That said, I have to do the laundry and the hoovering and the dishes etc, otherwise we will end up living in squalor, but I need to find the right balance between the two. 

Therefore, I have come up with a schedule of daily, weekly and monthly jobs. Yes, I went mad with the monthly job, but I thought why not. If I'm going to do something, then I may as well do it properly.

So here is my schedule:

Daily jobs

Make beds
Open curtains
Tidy sofa

Wipe down kitchen counters and oven after cooking
Wipe down dining table
Put bleach down the loo
Tidy up Charlie's toys (after he is in bed!)

Daily tasks
Monday - washing/laundry
Tuesday - hoover
Wednesday - washing/laundry
Thursday - Clean bathroom
Friday - washing/laundry
Saturday - dust and hoover.

Monthly tasks
Week 1 - Hoover stairs and skirting boards
Week 2 - Deep clean the kitchen (including cupboards and doors and fridge)
Week 3 - Clean oven
Week 4 - De-clutter (everywhere!)

I am really hoping this schedule will help me and free up some time. Time that I can then spend with Charlie or even sit down and have a cuppa every now and again!

Have you got any ideas to share on how you go about organising your house? I would love to hear them! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My dear boy Charlie, at 12 months old

So you are now one year old. Twelve whole months since you were born. Everyone says it and it's such a cliche, but where has the time gone?! It still feels like last week I was sat in the hospital desperate for you to make your appearance!

You are a proper little boy now, no longer a baby. I think you lost your baby ways the day you started walking. You are now so good at it and can toddle around with the rest of them! You have grown in strength and you hardly fall over now and when you do you don't have to hold on to anything to get back up.
You even walked outside for the first time this weekend. Just on the drive way, but it was clear you wanted to go off and explore and I had to pull you away from the bushes before you poked yourself in the eye!

You are still such a good eater and your favourite is definitely chicken curry and rice! You love a poppadom or a prawn cracker! We can't wean you off your mummy's milk though, god knows when you are going to get off that! You won't take a bottle and even though you are getting better at it, you still don't really like water out of your sippy cup. Despite the fact you still have no teeth, you manage to eat almost anything that is put in front of you.

You can now say 'mamma', 'dadda'  'hiya' and 'ta.' You say ta when people give you things and you make so much noise all the time, you are obviously practising and getting ready to talk! You also started waving bye bye at people, although you do it once they have left the room!

Unfortunately for mummy and daddy, you still don't really like sleep! You go to bed OK and you snuggle down next to Dumbo that your sister has let you borrow, as you took a shine to it. Then you sleep for a few hours, but wake around 1-3am and want to get in with us. It's so lovely to have your little warm body next to me that, actually (don't tell daddy), I quite like it and I have gotten used to it now. I have suggested that daddy can sleep in the spare room so that he gets some sleep as you like to kick him a lot!

You have started singing and dancing too! It started a few weeks ago when I read the book 'Old McDonald had a farm' to you and it plays the music. I kept pressing the music and then singing it to you and you sang it back to me! You now do it all the time! You also like to dance if some music comes on and the other day you sang along to Pharrell Williams' Happy! It was so cute, I have downloaded that song now so we can dance to it when ever you want.

You are still affectionate and getting even more so. When we say 'kiss' you give us all a kiss and sometimes you even do it of your own accord. You also come to us for hugs and cuddles, especially when you are tired. However, you scream the house down if we leave a room and you can't come with us!

Mummy and daddy are so proud of you and even though we get exasperated about the lack of sleep we are still getting, we love you so much and think you are a very special little boy. You are so clever and full of energy and life. You never sit still and so we can't understand why you're not keen on sleep!

Until next time, (in the style of Tess Daly) Keep Dancing!

Monday, March 10, 2014

When you spend your 30th birthday in A&E

So it seems the birthday gods do not favour me very well. This year, on my birthday, for the third year running, I spent it in hospital. Two years ago, hubby fell on a path down to the beach and he damaged some nerves in his back and neck and so we spent the time in hospital and with him dosed up on tramadol. Last year, you may remember that I had been induced the day before my birthday, so again, I was in hospital and then last week, the day I turned 30, a memorable day, I ended up in A&E.

As you can imagine, with the past two birthdays, not so great, I really wanted this year to be special, especially with it being my 30th. I have had mixed feelings about being 30 and so in one way I was looking forward to getting home from work, opening some pressies and cracking open the bubbles with a Chinese take away.

The day started off well; I opened a few cards, especially ones from hubby, Charlie and the stepdaughter and got a few goodies off a friend at work. I had a pleasant and uneventful day at work for a change, due to parents day and then we picked up the step daughter and came home ready to celebrate. I got some really lovely gifts and we opened up the bubbles. I got to choose what we had for dinner and I had already chosen Chinese, so the hubby went and picked it up.

And that, was where my evening went downhill.

I love Chinese! I have, in the past, been guilty of ordering the same thing every time we go, so I have been trying to be a bit more adventurous and I have been ordering different stuff. That came back to bite me this day! I ordered Cantonese crispy chicken with sweet and sour sauce. Anyway, I had almost finished it (thankfully!) and I felt something sharp in my throat. I tried to swallow it but started choking but managed to cough enough to move it. However, there was something definitely stuck and it was sharp and it was hurting. I didn't think too much of it at first, I thought it would go down. But, it didn't! It got worse, I couldn't swallow properly and it was really hurting and making me retch. In the end, hubby said we would have to go to the local walk in centre and see if they could see it. I was really reluctant to go as it was my birthday and I felt that another one was about to be ruined!

Hubby's sister arrived with pressies, so we dumped the kids with her and flew round the corner to the walk in, fortunately we only live two minutes away from the walk in! They had a look and couldn't see anything and as it was after 7, they had no x ray department open, so they sent me to the local A&E, which was half an hour away! Hubby's sister had to go, so I dropped hubby home and set off to A&E on my own. By this point I had resigned myself to an evening in A&E, so I was feeling pretty miserable!

When I got to A&E, they said that one way to try and move objects stuck in the throat is to gulp coke! So they sent me off to the hospital shop to buy some coke. I returned with one 500ml bottle, which was laughed at and dispatched back to the shop for as much as I could get! They told me to sit in the toilets and gulp the coke as it would probably make me retch or vomit. It didn't, thankfully. But apparently, vomiting might have been better as it would move the object. Anyway, I sat there and drank 2 and half litres of coke and by the end of the first litre and a half I was starting to feel ill. Imagine drinking that much coke in such a short space of time! It was horrible and it's safe to say I am certainly off coke for a long while. I did feel that it had moved slightly and it didn't feel as stuck. So I told them as I thought they would then let me go, but no! The nurse said that since I had driven all that way, that it was a good idea to stay and see the doctor. I finally went from triage to a room in A&E to be promptly told that a major trauma had just come and (quite rightly) I would now have to wait even longer. I sat there, for what felt like an age, and then the doctor came in, asked if I was being sick, asked if I could breathe and if the coke had moved it. I answered these questions satisfactorily apparently as I was then told I could go home and to go back if it was still there in the morning.

So I managed to get home before midnight on my birthday and I also managed two more glasses of bubbles! This seemed to do the trick as all of a sudden I had a massive coughing fit, and the object moved and went down! It was horrid, it felt like I was swallowing a twig!

After that, my throat was very very sore, I could hardly swallow as obviously whatever it was, had scratched  it or damaged it. Ever since then, I have had a horrible cough which I presume is a result of that, although with my current health situation at the moment, I don't know if I am just ill again!

So, safe to say that my 30th will certainly be a day to remember, and not for the right reasons. Although, silver linings - I got some beautiful pressies! (pictured below)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mother's Day gift ideas

I wrote this post and then thought, that, actually I suppose it's more of a wish list, a hint list if you like for the hubby! He's not good at choosing presents or taking hints so I have to normally shove a list in his direction if I am to get anything remotely useful or anything that I actually want.

So, first up is this little number. I saw it on Janelle's blog quite a few months ago and adored it. But she lives in the US and there was no way I was paying for delivery to the UK for a jumper. And then I found a stockist in the UK! So here is the 'Hello' sweatshirt from Southwood Stores

I toyed with the idea of putting an iPad on my birthday list, but it would have meant that I wouldn't have got much else, considering the price. So I restrained myself. However, I still live in hope that an ipad will magically wing its way to me somehow. I'm definitely an Apple girl. I have an iPhone, and iPod, a Macbook Pro, a Macbook Air and I just need the iPad to complete the collection! I am actually really confused as to which ipad I would want, there seems to be quote a bit of choice on Amazon. I thought this one looked good, it was one of the dearer ones, so it probably is! 

I've really been trying to look after my skin, especially since having Charlie, so I am keen to find some new facial skincare products to look after my face. Also, I am now 30, gasp, so I need something that will take care of my skin properly. I quite fancy the Vitamin C range from The Body Shop, after seeing them on Kelly's blog the other day. Kelly said that she has used it for a while now and believes it to be very effective, so it's worth a go! 

I'd like to try the this, the Vitamin C Microdermabrasion scrub. 

And use with this, The Vitamin C Skin Reviver. 

Finally, I would like to update my nail varnish collection. I want some spirng shades as I am sick of wearing dark purples and blues. I want pretty, happy shades to mathc the sun we are getting at the moment. I used to love Nails Inc and haven't bought any for ages, so I quite fancy these....

The Spring Summer Collection
I've been looking for a natural nail colour but always love pinks and the blue colour in this looks lush!

So there's my little list. Any other inspiration for Mother's Day out there?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cook book challenge 1

Hmm, I thought  I had done my first post about this, then I checked my drafts and there was one still sat there! Anyway, I will share that one with you next week, but I wanted to share this first as I just can't get enough of it!

I was flicking through Nigella's Kitchen book about a month ago, looking for some inspiration as hubby and I were getting sick of eating the same thing over and over again. I came across, this, the Crustless Pizza and thought it sounded quick and easy and looked yummy. Now, don't be fooled, if you use Nigella's recipe for this then don't ever expect it to look like the one in the picture. God only knows how she made it look like that. I've made it five times now and not once has it turned out like the one in the picture!

I fancied our crustless pizza to be a bit more cheesy and a bit more substantial, so I have included my own changes below in italics, but if you want Nigella's orginal then see her Kitchen book for the recipe. I added lots of mozzarella to the top of the pizza and added ham, mushroom and sliced cherry tomatoes as toppings. I served it with chips and a salad and I have to say it was yummy! It was very moreish and definitely filling. I would have liked some for my lunch the day after, but we are greedy guts and it all went! Now this is by no means healthy, what with the large quantities of cheese (and of course the side of chips!) but it is yummy and it is very comforting after a long, hard day at work.

So here it is, as I said above, my own additions or amendments are in italics.


1 egg
100g plain flour
250 ml full fat milk (I used whatever we had in the fridge, which turned out to be semi-skimmed milk)
100g grated cheddar cheese (I used 150g!)
Pinch of salt
Butter, to grease your baking tin

Optional extras:

3/4 of a mozzarella ball, sliced
Handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
Handful of ham, torn into large pieces 
Handful of mushrooms, sliced

Nigella says you could also add chorizo, but you could also add salami or pepperoni or whatever you like on your pizza!


Pre-heat oven to 200c. Beat the egg, milk, flour and salt together until smooth. Add half of the grated cheddar and stir.
Grease your baking dish. Now Nigella is fairly specific about what sort to use and what diameter etc. I can't say I always pay that much attention to things like that, so I found a silicone baking dish (which happened to be pink!) and I used that. The only thing I would say is that being silicone, it was a little flimsy getting a liquid into the oven in it! However, I did it and I think it worked well. Anyway, Nigella says use a 8 inch round baking dish or similar. The comments on her website say a tin one, but like I say I used silicone.

Pour the mixture into the dish and put in the oven for 30 minutes. This is where I disagree with Nigella, and that could be to do with the dish I use. But it takes about 35 minutes. However I would keep checking as it can quickly brown. When cooked, take it out and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, add the mozzarella slices and whatever toppings you are using and then add back to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, again keep checking as your toppings can catch if you don't keep checking.

It turns out a bit odd if I am honest. Don't get me wrong, it's fabulous and very delicious, but it's like a cross between a massive Yorkshire pudding and an omelette. Granted, I know, that does not sound all that amazing, but please be assured it is! I was actually very surprised. It's cheesy and very, very tasty.

Please let me know if you make it and what you add to it, I am keen to see other people's variations.
This is only half of it, as hubby had the other half! 

Monday, March 3, 2014


We have had the busiest weekend ever! My parents, Grandparents and my Aunty and cousin arrived on Friday evening ready for Charlie and I's party on Saturday. The house was busy, chaotic and loud to say the least! Although I loved having everyone round. I frantically had to run around making party food with my mum on Saturday and then actually host our party and then on Sunday we all went out for dinner and everyone then came back to ours. It's been three nights of wine induced late nights, a little boy who didn't sleep properly (probably because of the change of routine) and not much time to sit and chill.

Everyone went home this morning before I went to work and I arrived at work feeling a little sad. It's not actually my birthday until tomorrow, so I won't actually see any of my family on my birthday (apart from the hubby) and I was also thinking it is another six weeks before I see them again.

So my day was massively cheered up by a tweet I got that said I had been nominated for a MADs! I clicked the notification on my phone and actually couldn't believe it, I was sure it must have been a mistake. So I went to the MADS website and checked the categories, and there, to my utter surprise, sat in the Best baby blog category is little old me! Someone has actually nominated my blog for a MADs!

If you have literally no clue what I am talking about, then the MADS stands for the Mum and Dad blog awards, sponsored by Parentdish. They are in their fifth year of awards now and they have 15 categories that blogs can be nominated in. You can see the categories here. Basically, people nominate their chosen blogs for one (or more) of the selected categories and then once they have been nominated, voting can start happening. The four blogs out of each category with the most votes then go on to the award finals with one more blog being chosen by the judging panel. The five finalists for each category will then be announced and once again, everyone can vote for the overall winner in that category. The results are announced at a big Gala awards ceremony in London in September.

Now, I am under no illusion, there is no chance I am going to win overall, especially when I look at the blogs that are in my category! However, the fact that someone has taken the time to go to the website and actually nominate my little blog makes me very happy. Proud even. I know that my blog isn't as fancy as others; it's not as exciting to read as others and I am yet to work with PR etc. But I blog because I want to; I love to write and as you may remember I am an English teacher. Writing is my life basically! And also I blog because I want to share with people the experiences I have as a mum. It's comforting to read other baby/parenting blogs and see that what I am going through with Charlie (especially sleep related!) is happening or has happened to other parents. I feel less alone and am reassured and comforted. So if someone enjoys what I write and has also felt reassured or even thought 'god I'm glad MY child isn't like that!' then that pleases me too.

So to whomever nominated me, I say a very big thank you! You made my day when I was feeling a little blue and even though I won't win, just to be nominated, when my blog is still in its infancy, is wonderful!

Of course, if you would like to vote for my blog in the Best Baby Blog category, then please follow the link here to start your voting process.

Good luck to all the blogs, there are some fabulous ones popping up, along with some lesser known ones that I look forward to sitting down with a cuppa and a cream egg later to read!