Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tea and Coffee Sensory Tray

Whenever I am queueing for a coffee (which admittedly is not often at all at the moment), I cannot resist running my fingers through the coffee bean displays that those big chains have. They feel and smell and even sound amazing. They are so deliciously tactile (I'm getting all Nigella) so I decided to use them for some sensory play for Poppet, combining them with other ingredients to create a sensory tray.

On the tray I had an empty hot chocolate tin (still smelled chocolately), a variety of fruit and herbal tea bags (taken from hotels over the years and never used!), a china tea set, a scoop and the coffee beans.

The coffee beans gave off a lovely aroma and Poppet made a beeline for them straightaway, scooping and pouring and touching, she really enjoyed playing with them. The teabags were completely ignored, she was all about the coffee!

She was so engrossed in this activity it was lovely to watch her happily explore it all while I got on with dinner. A lot of the time she helps me with making tea but sometimes I just need to get on with things and need something to occupy her.

In hindsight, this is an activity that would have been better placed on the TuffSpot as the coffee beans got everywhere. You live and learn!

A few days after this, Poppet was having breakfast in a cafe with her daddy and impressed him by correctly identifying 'toffee!' when she found a pot of coffee beans on their table.

Poppet: 2yrs 5mos
Little: 8mos

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

My top breastfeeding tips

Yesterday marked the start of the National Breastfeeding Awareness Week. Despite a difficult start I breastfed Poppet for a year and am still breastfeeding Little. I am aware that breastfeeding can often be a emotive subject and something that doesn't come easily to many, but I wanted to share some tips that I have gathered from my breastfeeding journey in the hope they might help someone just starting out.

So here are my top tips!

  • Watch your baby not the clock. Feeding on demand is best for breastfeeding, so feed your baby at the first sign of hunger. Even if this was just an hour ago.  It does not mean you are not producing enough milk.
  • From my experience, it really hurt for the first 6 weeks. Really hurt. So be prepared that you may experience pain and this does not necessarily mean that your latch is wrong. Your nipples have to get used to a lot (my second baby didn't cause me any pain at all).
  • Try sipping iced water through a straw to distract yourself from that initial latching on pain. I also had a big bag of sweeties and as a special treat had one during each feed. This stopped me dreading those early feeds so much.
  • Fashion a boob tube out of a muslin cloth for wearing at night, comfier than a bra and stops you leaking milk everywhere!

  • Buy a tube of Lansinoh nipple cream for the early days. It is really hard to get out of the tube, so keep it under your pillow or in your pocket so your body heat melts it and it squeezes out a lot easier.
  • On days two and three post-birth your baby will cluster feed to bring your milk in - this means non-stop feeding. It does not mean your baby is hungry and you are not satisfying them, it is your baby stimulating your milk supply, just keep feeding.
  • For the first few days post-birth, breastfeeding brings on after pains (contractions of the uterus as it shrinks back to it's pre-pregnancy size).  These can be VERY painful, reminiscent of contractions! Make sure you have painkillers on hand and take regularly.
  • There are many lactogenic foods (foods that can help with milk production). Oats are one. I ate lots of porridge, ReadyBrek, flapjacks, Hobnobs, oaty raisin cookies - you get the idea.  Contented Calf is a great cookbook full of nourishing recipes using lactogenic ingrediants for breastfeeding mums.
  • Make sure you continue your vitamin regime post-birth. I drank a lot of fortified drinks like Ovaltine as well.

  • Buy lots of cereal bars! I went through boxes of them. Keep a box by your bed for night feeds, a few in your handbag. Breastfeeding makes you hungry.
  • Avoid strong scented products on the chest area for the first wee while.
  • You don't really need breastfeeding bras, you can just use normal non-wired ones and pull them down. But if you want some anyway, the best ones are Hot Milk.
For more breastfeeding help or support contact your GP, health visitor or midwife or the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Indoor Playhouse

I'm a bit of a compulsive furniture re-shuffler, every now and then I get an itch to rearrange a room and it must be done that very minute. This particular minute was after breakfast on Friday (anything to avoid doing the breakfast dishes). I had the idea to make a little playhouse for the girls using the ikea storage shelves and the play kitchen to make a cubby corner just for them.

This kind of project is quite good because it means I have to clean my floors, rescue all the stray jigsaw pieces and rice cakes from beneath the sofa, and tidy up the play kitchen. So it's win win.

I put a thick rug down as a carpet for the house and then boxed it in using the kitchen and shelves, leaving a gap for a door. Next came my favourite part - turning the little corner into a house! I put Poppet's two plastic chairs in there but was lacking a table so blu-takked a tray to a stool, and it is transformed into a bistro table! I stuck up a couple of pieces of Poppet's artwork to finish it off.

I took one of the plastic tubs out of the Trofast storage and turned the space left into a postbox as Poppet is a big fan of posting. I just blu-takked a sheet of paper decorated to look like a postbox onto the sides. This post is beginning to look like it is sponsored by Blu-Tak! (its not).

She has her own collection of letters and postcards for playing (they are getting pretty dog-eared now)....for some reason she insisted on posting the letters from behind the postbox. We had to salvage the postbox on more than one occasion with the sellotape due to some over-vigourous posting

I cleared all the toys from the top of the Trofast and substituted them for various kitchen toys like her wooden vegetables and eggs and also lots of food boxes and pots from the recycling tub to encourage some imaginary cooking. I've been getting lots of cups of tea and pizza made for me. 

I found an old telephone and put that in the playhouse too, it has been so popular! Poppet spends ages phoning people and having the funniest imaginary conversations ("Papa? Don't poo in pants"). I recorded one but can't figure out how to get the video from my camera to the computer.

Poppet eventually insisted on a door so we used her play tent for a little while and the girls had lots of fun crawling in and out.

The girls have spent lots of time exploring their new corner, and as a result the kitchen is being used more than it ever has. Where the kitchen was before it was a bit boxed in by the sofa and meant that both girls couldn't really play with it at the same time. Now it's a lot more open and Little has been exploring it for the first time. It's perfect for her practicing her standing up skills (and her pulling everything out the cupboards skills). In the future I hope I can transform the corner into other things like a shop, a cafe, a doctors, the list is endless! It has been so good for encouraging imaginative play and also the girls playing together. 

Poppet washing her hands

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Pesto Pasta with Mini Meatballs - #hungry2happy

Pesto Pasta with Mini Meatballs
I was recently sent some vouchers to try Richmond's new mini meatballs and incorporate them into an easy-to-create meal for kids.The meatballs only take 10 minutes in the oven from frozen and this whole meal can be made in 12 minutes, so perfect for those nights when you need something on the table quick! 

Pesto Pasta with Mini Meatballs                                                                     

Serves 4  
Preparation and cooking time - 12 minutes


Richmond's mini meatballs (40 pack)
Bag of fresh fusilli pasta
1 red pepper
1 red onion
1 handful of green beans 
Pack of button mushrooms
Pesto (I used 6 tbsps but depends how much you like)
Rapeseed oil/olive oil for frying

To serve: 

Pack of cherry tomatoes
Parmesan cheese
Garlic bread (chilled not frozen)
Balsamic Vinegar & Rapeseed/Extra-Virgin Olive oil


1. Place the meatballs and garlic bread on a baking tray and put in preheated oven at 180ºC. Both will take 10 minutes.

2. Boil the kettle. Slice the onion and pepper into strips and cut the mushrooms in half. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the vegetables, stirring occasionally.

3. Fill a pan with boiling water, add the pasta and the trimmed green beans (these will both cook in 5 minutes).

4. Make the tomato salad - half the tomatoes and dress with oil & balsamic vinegar.

5.When the meatballs and pasta are nearly cooked, add 6 tbsps (or however much you prefer) of pesto to the frying pan of vegetables and stir to coat.

6. Add the cooked meatballs and drained pasta and beans to the vegetables and mix everything together.

7. Serve!

The meatballs were really popular with both of the girls, they taste just like Richmond sausages and sausages have always gone down well in this house! They also got mum and dad's approval for a quick, tasty meal.

This post is an entry for Britmums' Hungry to Happy Challenge sponsored by Richmond Mini Meatballs. We were sent the meatball vouchers for free for the purposes of this post.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

A Yellow Day

Sometimes it's easier to think of activities to do if they are loosely based around a theme. I read that toddlers aged 29 months (Poppet's age) may be able to identify red and yellow when shown but will still have problems differentiating blue and green. How strange?! This is definitely true of her. Pink, black and white are the only colours that she definitely knows. Whenever we walk down the street she is forever trying to name the colours of the cars we pass but it is hit or miss! So I decided to focus on colour play for a little while. While at the library we picked up a few colour books that were displayed on the windowsill, how convenient!

We got the white, yellow and green books and are reading them to her every day until we take them back on Monday. This morning after we got back from the shops I thought I would expand on the yellow theme so got my washing basket out and encouraged Poppet to help me find lots of yellow things to take outside. I started off the first few things then she started gathering things too. I went into each room in the house, through all the kitchen drawers, in her wardrobe, asking her each time 'Is there anything yellow in here?' Interestingly sometimes she disqualified a lemon yellow item from the basket - to her 'yellow' is only bright, vibrant yellow.

Once we had amassed quite a collection I laid out our big (conveniently) yellow blanket and put all the things we had found on it - various yellow toys, a dress, a table runner, cups, a lemon squeezer, a stork tub, a scarf, a striped yellow rug, a chair, a cushion, a yellow straw, rubber gloves and other bits. Poppet was going a bit 'yellow' crazy by this point, excitedly shouting 'yellow' at anything she saw - 'yellow slide!'.

Lady in yellow
Poppet immediately wanted to put on the yellow dress and used the table runner as a shawl. A vision in yellow. Little just loved exploring all of the objects in their new setting.

Lunchtime came and if I had been clever and organised I might have produced a yellow themed picnic but I am neither of these things. I searched my kitchen but a brown banana and two yellow tomatoes do not a yellow picnic make. 

The banana became a milkshake,  and the cheese on crackers was kind of yellow.............

Poppet found the yellow cup and yellow straw to drink her banana milkshake with

Little enjoying her lunch

Poppet even went exploring in the garden to find a yellow flower and brought it to me.

We made towers out of all our yellow objects until it was naptime. Then while Poppet was sleeping I found lots of yellow crafty bits - foam shapes, feathers, tissue paper, card, felt, and pens and crayons. I glued a piece of yellow card and a wallpaper sample (my favourite wallpaper ever incidentally, Saplings by Miss Print) to an A2 sheet of paper as a background. Then put it all on her desk along with some glue as an invitation to play.

She COVERED it in glue as is her style and had fun creating a beautiful yellow collage.

When she declared it was "all done" I added an extra piece of paper with 'yellow' written on it, hopefully with this up on our wall it will help to cement her 'yellow' recognition and she'll remember our fun, yellow day!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Poppet's Vintage Desk

I wanted a nice art space for Poppet that she can access whenever the compulsion grabs her. We had a coffee table before that we used for any arty projects but it was a little low and the plastic seat we had didn't quite go all the way under so she ended up standing most of the time.

I remembered that my sister and I had old-fashioned ex-school desks when we were young that my dad found and completely fixed up, so I crossed my fingers and asked if they were still lurking somewhere - lo and behold, they've been up in my parents' attic all these years! My dad is a joiner and made us quite a lot of wooden toys when we were young but not all of them are still around, being passed down to younger family or lost along the way. I was so pleased the desks were still around. He had made little matching chairs with our initials carved into them to go with the desks, and luckily Poppet shares the same initial as her Aunty, so I quickly asked my sister if she would mind if her niece had her old desk. Of course she said yes being the kind generous Auntie that she is!

A few weeks later (it felt like ages!) I finally got to see it.

It looked not too bad at all considering how old it was already when my sister had it as a little girl 20 odd years ago! It even has the little ink well for writing with ink. There were some old exercise books in it belonging to my youngest brother so we had a good laugh reading through some of his masterpieces from the 90s! Highlights were 'Complaint letter to JJB Sports' and fictional accounts of imaginary injuries. His teachers must have thought he was mad.

It brought back so many childhood memories seeing the desk again, and we found lots of graffiti on it, my personal favourite being 'wrong the best living thing on earth is Lisa' (obviously in response to the question 'What is the best living thing on earth?',  how confident of me).

There were also picture of cars, and various names (here is our cousin Richard making his mark).

All the desk needed was a good sanding down and a coat of varnish and it was ready to provide many more years of enjoyment to the next generation. I sanded the chair, my dad the desk, and we were careful just to sand it enough to take the grime off but leave the markings that give it it's character and charm. It looked lovely after and I couldn't wait to show it to Poppet when she woke up.

I filled up the inside with some art materials so that they are quick to hand and Poppet doesn't need to ask me if she wants to draw. She loves opening and shutting the desk, and so far we have had no trapped fingers!

I'm hoping to pick up a little china inkwell to put in the hole at some point just to finish it off, but Poppet is equally as happy using it as a place to stick some of her pens into. Little has very much enjoyed this new spot to pull up on and practice her standing skills too so it's smiles all round!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Salt Dough Handprints for Father's Day!

My sister makes us personalised salt dough christmas decorations and I'd seen on The Imagination Tree some great salt dough projects that looked easy to do so I decided to attempt some handprints as a nice homemade gift for Father's day. We roughly followed these instructions and they were so easy! We will definitely be playing some more with salt dough, it was a great activity.

To make our dough we simply mixed one cup of salt with one cup of plain flour, then added the water little bit by little bit (this was Poppet's job) until the dough was the right consistency. It shouldn't be sticky at all. Once the dough was formed I kneaded it on a floured surface for a few minutes and then let her play with it for a wee while.

Then we broke a chunk off and rolled it out just big enough so it would accommodate Poppet's hand. The first time we tried to imprint her hand into it it didn't work out so well so we rerolled it and the second time she got a good print. I had to really press each of her fingers and palm down into it and keep reminding her not too wiggle her fingers! Then we broke off a smaller piece for Little, rolled that out and then I began the difficult task of getting her handprint. When she was a few months old I tried to get a paint handprint in her baby book but it was impossible, her little fist would not unfurl! This time however, it was not as difficult as I had envisaged, she was quite willing to open out her hand and the problem this time was that she wanted to dig her fingers into it and held on tight! She made a good handprint on her first try, there was only a couple of minor imperfections but that is what makes it even more perfect!

Prints ready to go into the oven

We had a little bit of salt dough left over so I decided to do a Little footprint as well. Poppet clearly felt very left out of the foot-in-dough action and insisted that she do one as well, so I brought out her play dough for some salt dough imaginative play!

She made footprints, handprints, and even put the dough on her little oven tray to cook in her toy oven.

After a couple of hours in the oven at 100ºC the top of the salt dough prints was dry but the bottom was still a bit doughy so I put them back in for another couple of hours. The oven temperature has to be low because you are not baking them, just drying them out and if you use too high a temperature they will start to rise up.
After drying out

We painted them using pearlised acrylic paints, they needed a couple of coats but it went on really easily and was quick to do. We got a box of 6 bottles of paint for about £10 on Amazon and plan to use them lots for more salt dough projects. 

I finished them off by writing the girls names and ages on the back with a permanent marker and now they are all wrapped up ready for them to give to their daddy tomorrow morning along with a bacon roll and a coffee. We might even give him a lie in!

And I have an extra little footprint for me to keep!