Monday, 3 December 2012

Homemade Christmas Decorations

Lucinda loves collecting sticks so what better way to make use of them than making Christmas decorations?

First of all we collected lots of sticks of various lengths, widths and flexibility.



We fastened them together into rings and star shapes using gardening wire.



Then we went on another walk to find some holly and some berries (and to the shop for some tinsel!). When we got home we decorated the stick shapes.



I would have liked to have only used holly and berries and kept the decorations natural but it was also an activity for Lucinda and to save her getting prickled on the holly leaves I thought she'd like to decorate some herself with the tinsel. She wrapped the tinsel around the small stars by herself.


And here she is with the big star to show it's size. We are going to put it out in the front garden.











Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Fisher Price Booster Seats


When people ask for recommendations for highchairs, on my Baby Led Weaning - Let your babies feed themselves page, the two most popular with fans are the Ikea Antilop highchair and the Fisher Price booster seats. While not specifically "highchairs", the booster seats can be strapped to an adult chair, enabling your baby to sit with you at the table. I think the reason why both these chairs are popular is because they are small - so a young baby is well supported in them and can also reach the tray with no problems - and they are also easy to clean… a very important factor in baby led weaning!

I have no personal experience with the Antilop highchair but we do have a Fisher Price Rainforest booster seat which I thought I would write a little bit about, for anyone who is considering which highchair to buy at the moment…
We purchased the booster seat when Lucinda was about five months old. I favoured a booster seat as we only have a small house so a large highchair would take up more space and also because my husband works away most of the time so I don't usually sit at the table on my own at mealtimes, preferring to just eat from a lap-tray in the lounge. I chose the Fisher Price Rainforest booster seat as I liked the removable play tray. Lucinda could entertain herself with that while I was cooking our meals and then I could remove it when it was time to eat.

The booster seat has mostly been used on the floor at home. I have put it down on a wipe-clean mat on the lounge floor for mine and Lucinda's informal mealtimes - but it has easily transferred to a kitchen chair when we have sat at the table to eat. We have also taken it out to restaurants so Lucinda has been able to eat from her own tray and we have known it has been clean. It has also been taken to Grandma's house on a regular basis.

Although it is only used occasionally now as Lucinda is nearly four, it has had almost three years of solid use. It has grown with her. She was very small when we first got it - only weighing around 11lb, as far as I recall. She was able to sit up without support but the chair is compact in such a way that it would allow a baby to sit upright if she still needed a little bit of assistance to sit for longer periods of time. It is not, however, suitable for babies who can't sit up unassisted at all.

The seat is moulded to shape and is slightly risen between the legs. The straps fasten between the legs and around the waist using a secure plastic clip. Lucinda still can't undo the plastic clip (and she is otherwise pretty dextrous!) but they are very easy for an adult. The tray clips on at either side of the seat and has three positions. The position closest to baby was perfect to start with. It was easy for even tiny six month old Lucinda to reach the whole tray as not only is it pulled in closely it is also at the appropriate height. The seat itself can also be adjusted to three height positions. This is very useful for toddlers to sit up to the dining table, with the tray removed, and eat from the table at a comfortable height.

It is very well made from rigid plastic. There are no flimsy parts and there are no nooks and crannies for food to get stuck in. When baby has finished eating it is very quick and easy to wipe the seat down and rinse the tray under a running tap. When eating out it is easily cleaned using baby wipes or Milton wipes, etc. It is also lightweight and convenient to transport to restaurants or grandparents' houses.

I have bought very few items of "baby equipment" but I can't recommend this booster seat highly enough. It has definitely been money well spent. It has been the only "highchair" we have used at home and it has served every purpose that was intended for it. It has also probably been used for twice as long as a regular highchair would have been as it is practical well into the toddler and pre-school years.

I don't think the Rainforest version is still available directly from Fisher Price, however it can still be found widely on the internet. There have also been other versions of the booster seats. I remember using a "lion themed" one at a baby show once.
The booster seat currently listed on the Fisher Price website is this one, which appears to be the same design apart from having a removable insert instead of the play tray...




Monday, 8 October 2012

International Babywearing Week


The 8-12th October 2012 is International Babywearing Week. Like other "weeks" it aims to raise awareness of particular practices that might not otherwise have much exposure.

Carrying your baby or toddler in a sling has been seeing a resurgence in popularity in much of the developed world over the last few years. When I started "wearing" Lucinda nearly four years ago it was rare to see any other babywearers. Other than men carrying toddlers in backpack carriers on long walks or spotting the occasional BabyBjorn style carrier, it was a tiny minority of parents who chose to carry their babies. Four years later and it is still in the minority - but so much more commonplace than it was. On most days out now I will see someone using a wrap or mei tai type sling. A few months ago I was very impressed when I attended a local childrens centre party with Lucinda and saw at least five mums using either a wrap or mei tai. I wondered whether it had anything to do with a natural/attachment parenting talk my friend and I did at breastfeeding group three years ago, when we demonstrated a range of slings. Several mums went on to purchase their own and started wearing their babies. Maybe we started a local trend? I like to think so!

But the truth is that it's nothing new. Many cultures would be baffled at the idea of pushing a baby in a pram at arms length or putting the baby down in a bouncy chair while they got on with their work. Those practices wouldn't cross their minds. They just tie their babies on and away they go. Millions of women in Africa, Asia, South America, etc, still go out to work in the fields, walk miles every day to find water and just go about their normal daily lives with their baby tied on their back.

I blame Queen Victoria! Her Royal Highness made all sorts of things "fashionable" - Prams being one of them. What started as a status symbol for the British upper classes spread throughout the country and indeed the Empire. Eventually, by the 1950s, prams were the baby transport of choice. And even I admit that some of them are absolutely beautiful - I love the big old Silver Crosses! But, realistically, I know that I would get very little use out of one. I have been totally won over by babywearing since I got my first mei tai.

There are countless benefits to babywearing, some of which can be found <here> but here are some less scientific advantages from my personal experience…

  • Space-saving - Slings take up a fraction of the space of a pushchair. I always keep one in the door pocket in the car for if little legs need a rest on a day out. Also possible to fit one in your handbag.
  • Better for rainy days - Having your hands free means you can hold an umbrella and keep both you and baby dry. Also don't have the problem of bringing a wet and muddy pushchair back into the house.
  • Shopping centre friendly - No need to find or wait for a lift. You can just use the escalator or stairs. This is also a benefit of slings if you live in an apartment and have stairs up to your home. Slings are easier in crowds. No need to fight your way through masses of legs with a pushchair.
  • All-terrain - All-terrain pushchairs might be able to go up hills and over rocky ground but they can't get over a stile! With your baby in a sling he can go wherever you go.
  • Close enough to kiss - When your baby is on your front you can kiss them loads!


What other advantages of using slings can you think of? Feel free to post them in the comments section.
I will leave you with some images of "International Babywearers"...








and me!...


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Bean Soup

Last week I made a yummy bean soup which went down very well with Lucinda as she loves beans of any kind. I thought I would share how I made it because I know that beans are a favourite with lots of babies and children.

It was the first time I'd made it. It was just an idea I'd had, as Lucinda loves beans and soup so I thought I'd have a go at combining the two.



I saw some packets of dried mixed beans and a dried soup mix, containing lentils, split peas, etc in a local deli, so bought them.
That evening I put the beans to soak, overnight, and then added the soup mix to them in the morning and let it all soak for a couple of hours longer.
Then I removed the seeds from four tomatoes (so the soup wasn't seedy!) and chopped the tomatoes up. I also chopped up half a red pepper and half a small red onion. Then I drained the beans and soup mix, added everything to a pan with some water and some freshly ground black pepper and simmered away for about two hours, until all the beans were soft.


This is the mixture of beans and soup mix after they had been soaked.
The colours just look gorgeous!

It was very much trial and error but I was pleased with the result. If I'd have had any vegetable stock I would've added some but I'd run out and didn't realise until I came to cooking the soup. I've now bought some stock cubes so they are ready for next time. I would have also used more tomatoes and/or soaked the beans for longer because a lot of the tomato juice evaporated away while it was simmering long enough to soften the beans. The soup would have been more dippable with bread then. But overall, an admirable first attempt at soup-making, I think!
Here it is...


Lucinda's portion

I will definitely be making bean soup again very soon and will be fine-tuning the recipe until it is perfect. I think this will be a winter favourite.



Sunday, 23 September 2012

Product Review - Alfresco Natural Anti-Bug Bite Moisturiser and Acqua Spray - Follow-up testing


Following on from my previous testing, earlier in the year, Sarah-Lou from Alfresco very kindly supplied me with some more Anti-Bug Bite Moisturiser and Acqua D'Alfresco spray to test on my summer holiday.

Unfortunately, my husband couldn't get enough time off work to go on a proper holiday - however, we did manage a weekend away camping which probably gave us more opportunity to test the insect repellent than our usual fortnight in France would have!

One evening I forgot to zip the fly-sheet closed on the tent and loads of flies were attracted by the torchlight into the tent. I closed the fly-sheet once I realised but the tent was already full of flies. They were horrid, little biting kinds of flies, a mixture of what appeared to be mosquitoes and midges, so I was very worried about us spending the whole night with them. I sprayed the Acqua D'Alfresco spray around the inside of the tent and also on my, my daughter's and my husband's arms and legs and hoped for the best. In the morning all three of us were bite-free.

Our tent

I have also had a colleague at work test the spray for me. She is very prone to insect bites and often gets bitten while she is out walking her dogs. The week before I gave her a 7.5ml pocket sized spray to try out she showed me a huge lump on the back of her leg. She had reacted so badly to a bite that her leg had swollen up so much that the lump was visible through her jeans. This was not a one-off incident. She said she'd had a similar reaction to a bite on her shoulder a couple of weeks earlier. I thought she could really do with some insect repellent that worked! So she was very happy to test the Alfresco for me. Several weeks on and she hasn't been bitten again on the occasions that she has used the spray so she is pleased to report that it is very effective.


The fragrance is unisex and the products are popular with both men and women - and also suitable for children (avoid spray but can use moisturiser on babies). Alfresco is actually the leading brand of insect repellent for film stars while filming on location and is effective against mosquitoes, as well as other insects. Made from a blend of over twenty essential oils, including cinnamon, cedarwood, patchouli and orange oil, it is also Deet and paraben-free.



It is available as a moisturiser and a spray and both come in two different sizes.

Alfresco Anti-Bug Bite Moisturiser 200ml (6.8 fl oz)
and
Pocket Anti-Bug Bite Moisturiser 50ml (1.7 fl oz) 4 pack
are both £25.00

Acqua D'Alfresco spray 50ml (1.7 fl oz)
and
Pocket Acqua D'Alfresco spray 7.5ml (0.225 fl oz) 4 pack
are both £30.00


For every Alfresco purchase, a percentage of profit will go to www.malarianomore.org. Alfresco is fully committed to helping eradicate malaria worldwide.
More information can be found at http://alfrescoshop.com

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Book Review - "Landy's New Home" by Veronica Lamond

A few months ago, we reviewed some Land Rover children's story books, "Landy" and "Fender", written and illustrated by Veronica Lamond. We have since received the newest story in the series, "Landy's New Home" and here is our latest review...
"Landy's New Home" is the story of what happens after Landy has gone to live with Jack. The original story ends with Jack saying that they can start a farm of their own, so this is where the latest story continues. This story revolves around Jack's home and setting up a small farm. Jack builds the animals' new homes but Landy feels left out - until it all turns out well in the end, with Dan and Fender's help.       

It includes all the characters from the previous two books - Jack and Landy, Dan and Fender and James and Pick-up - and is proving to be an exciting series as all the characters get involved.   Lucinda loves Landy and Fender but is not so keen on Pick-up and makes me read those pages really quickly to get past him!

We always have to read all the books in order. So bedtime stories for the last few weeks have had to include "Landy", "Fender" and then "Landy's New Home" most nights. And as can be seen in the photographs, we even took the books camping at a Land Rover show earlier this month and Lucinda enjoyed her daddy reading to her for a change :-)   

As in the previous books, there is a lot of emotion in the story and it helps makes Landy into a character with feelings. You really are moved by how Landy feels sometimes! All three stories to date have sadness in them but they all end on a happy note.  

We highly recommend all three books. Even if you're not particularly interested in Land Rovers, the stories, characters and delightful illustrations can't fail to appeal. There is so much in these books. The entertainment doesn't finish at the end of the story as the illustrations are so detailed that every time you look at them you see something new and can discuss them with your child.
As before, the books are available in paperback and hardback versions, direct from www.landybooks.com

Hardbacks are £9.99
Paperbacks are £6.99

You can request a dedication and Veronica's (the author) signature when you buy books from the website, which is a lovely personal touch.

Landybooks also supports a small community based organisation "Wamumbi Orphan Care" in Kangema, Kenya.
Their website is www.wamumbiorphancare.org.uk

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Meals for BLW Babies and their Families - Part II


Following on from my previous collection of meal ideas for Baby Led Weaning babies and their families, here is another selection of meals we have enjoyed together.
As before, Lucinda has eaten all these types of meals since six months old. They are easy to adapt if your baby and/or family has special dietary requirements or allergies. Quantities and measurements are not specific. Adjust accordingly, depending on how many people you are feeding!...


Multi-coloured Pasta with Mozzarella and SunBlush Tomatoes

Ingredients:
Multi-coloured (Three colour) pasta shapes or spaghetti
Mozzarella
SunBlush (Semi-dried) tomatoes
Oil


Instructions:
This is a really quick and easy meal and I like to think that it's colourfulness is good for sensory development too! I often buy the packs of mini mozzarellas and SunBlush tomatoes that come together in a seasoned oil, so everything I need is conveniently packaged together! Although, of course, you can purchase separately too.
First of all, put the pasta in a pan to be simmering for a few minutes. While it is cooking, chop the tomatoes up into smaller pieces. If I am eating alone I leave them as whole slices but I chop them up for Lucinda as they can be a bit chewy. If you have a whole large mozzarella slice that up too. If you have mini mozzarellas you can leave those as they are.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and then add the tomatoes, mozzarella and a small amount of oil (just enough oil to coat lightly). Return to the heat and stir through until mozzarella is melted and gooey.
I usually serve it on it's own, but it works equally well as part of a larger meal or with salad or garlic bread, etc.


Potato Wedges and Dips

Ingredients:
Potatoes
Olive Oil
Dips (Mayonnaise, Salsa, Guacamole, Houmous, etc)


Instructions:
Pre-heat oven to approx. gas mark 6 (or equivalent). Chop potatoes into large wedges. Place on baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Cook in the oven for 40 mins to one hour, turning half way. You may also be able to use sweet potatoes for this recipe, although I haven't tried it myself.
When wedges are almost ready, put dips into little dishes (or egg cups) if you have any. Straight on the plate is fine if not though. I've just found that babies particularly like to dip, especially from a small pot! Dips we have had before are mayonnaise with a bit of tomato purée stirred into it, avocado mashed into a guacamole and tomato salsa. This is how I make tomato salsa…
Chop up tomato, red onion and a small amount of chilli. I don't always have chillis in stock so I usually squirt in a pea-sized amount of chilli purée. Mix together.
Arrange wedges on a plate with a selection of dips.


Mini Pitta Bread Sandwiches

Ingredients:
Mini Pitta Breads
Fillings of you choice


Instructions:
Preparation is as simple as slicing open the pitta breads and inserting filling of choice. My little girl loves these, she thinks they are made especially for her because they're small. Ideas for fillings are tuna & sweetcorn mayo, grated cheese, cream cheese, egg & cress mayo, cold meats, etc, with or without salad. They are also really tasty, warm, with chilli and melted cheese. They also make a tasty and convenient picnic food.