Sunday, 29 September 2013

"The Alexander" - Crochet baby blanket pattern

Back in July I learned to crochet. I've made a few bits so far, but I wanted a big project to work on... What better than a baby blanket for my lovely friend Charlie over at Learning Lessons in Mummyography's baby who is due in just a few weeks time! Charlie and I know each other from when we were pregnant with our daughters who were both born in March last year. She's been a great friend and a real inspiration both as a photographer and blogger over the last 18 months... And she's a sucker for a blanket.

Charlie doesn't know what she's having so I chose wool colours to match her nursery. They are James C. Brett Cotton On in CO12 (a sage green) which is a cotton acrylic blend, and CottonSoft by King Cole in Jade and Oyster which are both 100% cotton. I love the colour combination, it's really fresh and most importantly, super soft for that delicate new born skin. I love to support local, independent retailers, and all my wool came from The Laughing Yew in East Carlton.

It's far from perfect, but I've loved making it and mastering some new skills too. The product tester will have to report back when he/she arrives. I name it "The Alexander". Here's the pattern!

The blanket is larger than a baby blanket you might buy in the shop. I didn't use all my wool but to finish the project I needed:

2 x Jade
3 x Oyster
3 x Sage but I only just cracked into the last one!

Needle size 4.5mm

Chain 140, then double crochet (DC) for the entire blanket body.

  • 10 rows Oyster
  • 2 Sage
  • 4 Oyster
  • 4 Jade
  • 4 Sage
  • 4 Jade
  • 10 Oyster
  • 4 Sage
  • 4 Jade 
  • 4 Sage
  • 4 Oyster
  • 2 Jade
  • 4 Oyster
  • 4 Sage
  • 4 Oyster
  • 4 Sage
  • 4 Jade - this is the middle of the blanket!
  • 4 Sage
  • 4 Oyster
  • 4 Sage 
  • 4 Oyster
  • 2 Jade
  • 4 Oyster
  • 4 Sage
  • 4 Jade
  • 4 Sage
  • 10 Oyster
  • 4 Jade
  • 4 Sage
  • 4 Jade
  • 4 Oyster
  • 2 Sage
  • 10 Oyster
This means that all your loose ends are down one side, all being well, so you can just nip up and stitch them in. 

After stitching them in, I ran a DC edging in Sage all the way around (this helped tidy up my sides which weren't always super straight!!) then went round again with a triple crochet (TC) edging in Jade, to finish it off.

It's a simple pattern, but I think it looks really effective, and of course you could substitute your colours - a super girlie version in a dusky pink and burgundy/wine with the Oyster would be divine, or tones of blue for a boy, or even varying neutral shades - coffees and toffees for example.

So this is off in the post to Charlie this week and it's pay day tomorrow... Which means it's time to start thinking about a blanket for my baby! Charlie and Baby A, I'm sorry this didn't arrive in time for your baby shower, but I hope you love it as much as I do and that it will keep you both snuggly on cosy days in and crisp journeys out this winter!


Silent Sunday

Saturday, 28 September 2013


Without doubt my favourite time of the year. The changing colours, the cosy evenings, the crisp mornings with hazy sunny days, the run up to Christmas, the knit wear, the slow cooker.

E and I took the opportunity to get out and enjoy just some of that yesterday. Not too cold you needed a coat and sunny enough for the leaves to be crunchy and the grass not too damp.

Although she was been walking for nearly nine months (hold up, that's half her life?!) we're only just at a stage where she'll walk most of the time we're out and about, which is a good job given how much she weighs now and my increasing belly! Her understanding is phenomenal, and she got so much of what we were talking about yesterday as we wondered around the park looking at the leaves changing colour and jumping in the crunchy ones that had already parted company with their trees. We enjoyed sitting in the last dregs of the sunshine watching the ducks and chatting about what she could see. Fair to say, tantrums aside I am loving her company at the moment! 

What struck me though, was how well I am feeling. 17 weeks today, and I am totally experiencing that second trimester energy, the sickness has gone and Gaviscon takes care of the heartburn. I never got that buzz when I was pregnant with E and struggled to walk the dogs of a weekend, never mind chase around after an inquisitive toddler. I am sleeping well most of the time. Baby is wriggling away and has a clear dislike already for the waistband of my jeans...That sounds familiar. My hips are niggling but I'm trying not to think about that at the moment. Now that everyone knows and I'm not trying to disguise my midriff in tents I am totally loving being pregnant. I don't think I ever said that last time.

Maybe I was too self indulgent last time... I could have sat on the sofa for 40 weeks until she made her appearance. Maybe I've just got a different attitude this time, and someone who wont settle for later pulling at my trouser legs to go and do something. Maybe I'm just sucking it up! Meh. I'm enjoying sucking it up. Long may it last. It's whizzing by!

Big week this week, changing hospitals after the disasters of last time at our local hospital and heading out of county. Meeting my new consultant and hopefully making a plan...

23 weeks to go. E can't stop pointing at prams and pointing out babies. She has a curiosity about my belly and suddenly the overwhelming desire to elbow me in it as much as possible. 

My family of four. We cannot wait.

17 weeks

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Set up for the fall

A new pregnancy brings with it a lot of decision making. Birth plans. Names. Nursery colours. Prams. Childcare. When (if) to return to work. Routines. To find out what you're having or stay team yellow. 

The list is endless. 

And while there were a lot of decisions to make, one thing that needed no debate was that I would breastfeed my baby. People would ask if I'd thought about it. The midwife ticked the breastfeeding box in my green notes without further discussion. Friends, colleagues, whoever felt it acceptable to ask nodded approvingly. The NCT classes scooted over it offering a few tips along the way. The nursing bras were purchased. I was ready to undertake this completely natural thing, the one thing that only I could do for my baby.

People said it might be tricky to get the hang of. People said to keep going if it was hard going at first. No one mentioned that it might not happen. In my head, I had images of skipping out of hospital with my newest most precious thing, just hours old, and returning home to the sofa without so much as looking at the microwave steriliser that someone had let us borrow. 

My perceptions and ideals had set me up for a huge fall. Looking back I can only describe those first few days as a nightmare. A nightmare that eighteen months on leaves me devastated, heartbroken and guilty.

Her arrival into the world was traumatic for both of us. An unconventional labour that no one could make head nor tail of, missing waters, back to back... A large head and a small pelvis, an emergency Caesarian, ten minutes of tugging to get her back out of where she was stuck and an anaesthetic that wore off before the ordeal was over. A haemorrhage to top it all off.

Needless to say that 8 hours after she was born, everyone was concerned that she had no interest in latching on, but my (not so) little bundle was shocked. I was shocked. My attempts to hand express were fruitless and the midwife gave her formula. We slept well. And for the next 3 days in hospital she bobbed on and off, fussed, suckled a bit and fell asleep. She didn't seem unhappy. Frustrated, as her head flopped around as if she couldn't get comfortable, but contented enough to sleep. We went home on day 3. And things got more difficult. My milk came in but I never felt full and the quantity was pitiful. Her nappies didn't feel all that full. I knew something was wrong but D desperately tried to convince me it was ok. Then my midwife came to visit on day 5. She said she'd never seen such an alert little newborn. Her colour and tone were good. Then she popped her on the scales... 8lb 3. Nearly 17% less than her birth weight of 5 days previous. 

Suddenly the world stopped. We were on our way to SCBU. They were expecting us. And the next 18 hours turned into a haze. She was dehydrated and her kidneys were poorly indeed. Desperate attempts to pump for her showed that there was next to nothing there for her.

My daughter was starving and it was all my fault. 

The following morning and 3 hourly formula feeds overnight gave the doctors the results they wanted. Her levels of hydration had improved enough and they were happy to discharge us with a plan to combi feed.

For five more days I tried to feed her and top her up with a bottle. But the quantity I produced became less and less. She got angrier, more frustrated, more fussy, more unsettled. At day 10, I made the decision that it was time to stop. I cried. Every time I made a bottle I wept and mourned for this thing her and I were mean to have. That thing that every mother should be able to do for her child. The only thing that made it easier was seeing that my little girl was thriving, even if it wasn't my doing.

And now I almost find myself fighting a pro formula campaign... I'm not anti breastfeeding, but some of us are not bottle feeders by choice. And formula isn't hurting our children and it certainly isn't the poison of which some uber-pro breastfeeding mothers have tried to tell me. It doesn't make me a bad mother. The options were formula or starvation and I know which option would have been frowned upon. Even as I stood in the milk kitchen in SCBU sterilising a bottle, I was surrounded by posters bigging up the benefits of breastfeeding. Nobody told me it might not work out. No one even pointed out that the stress and trauma and specifics of of her birth might have had a huge impact on the situation I found myself in. The pro breast feeders told me I hadn't tried hard enough, that I'd given up too easily. No one wanted to admit that maybe it just wasn't to be for me and E.

I have spent too much time being told I don't understand because I didn't breastfeed. I have spend too many hours wanting to shout from the rooftops that none of it was my choice. I have cried far too many tears. But my daughter is testament to the fact that formula isn't poison, whatever people might say.

Where am I going with this?

A new pregnancy brings with it a lot of decision making. Birth plans. Names. Nursery colours. Prams. Childcare. When (if) to return to work. Routines. To find out what you're having or stay team yellow. 

The list is endless. 

And those around me are most interested in whether I will breastfeed this time. Like I made the active choice not to last time. 

My answer is that I have no idea. I daren't set myself up for the fall. I daren't create the expectations. I don't want the pressure, and I don't want to feel like I have failed should it not work out. In case I just wasn't made to do this. But there's something else. Would you do something for one child you didn't do for another? I'm just not sure I can get over the guilt. I'm not sure I can give this baby something I couldn't give their sister. I'm not sure that's fair.

So for now I'm settling on not knowing. What I do know is that I've always made the best decisions I could have by my daughter.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

My best kept secret

I absolutely wasn't fibbing about that bug that knocked me off my feet back at the end of July. I genuinely was bed-ridden for a week feeling sorry for myself.

However, I claimed that the good weather was keeping me away from the computer and causing me to neglect my blog.

That was a slight bend in the truth, because actually, this happened.

D and I couldn't be more over the moon. You know, by now, that I'm a precision planner, and this wasn't part of the plan wasn't in version 1 of the plan. But the time felt right. E adores the company of others. She adores showing off her toys to her pals. She coos over babies and wants to help look after them. Now was the time to make her a big sister. 

And, despite weeks seven to thirteen being hideous, all is well. There is very little similar about this pregnancy to last time. What does that mean? Is it a boy? Shall I find out?

And here we are at week 16 and today I'm mostly wondering where did THAT come from??

I had to hold off sharing the news until I told the people who mattered most. And some of those people only found out on Thursday, as I wanted to get the start of term out of the way first... So it's really only the last 48 hours that I've felt like we've been celebrating properly. No more hiding the flab-turned-tiny-bump-turned-not-so-tiny-bump. No more keeping my best kept secret!

This new chapter in our lives opens up a myriad of new things to blog about. I'm excited to be writing about the next bit as we get ready for life as a family of four...

Goodness me. A family of four.

16 weeks

NappyKind Boutique Leg Warmers review and GIVEAWAY!

I jumped at the opportunity to review some leg warmers from NappyKind Boutique... The weather was clearly picking up that hint of autumn, so my attention had turned to winter wear for E, and what we would need this year that was different to last year.

Last winter was so different: She wasn't walking until just after Christmas and even when she was it wasn't far, so she spent a lot of time in the pram or carrier when we were out with the dogs. The pram was no biggy. We had a sheepskin footmuff for her that kept her toasty, and chunky snow suits for the trips out in the carrier to keep her warm.

But this year we have an explorer. A girl who loves to run ahead, splash in puddles, pick up leaves. A girl who can actually walk in wellies, as apposed to just have them on her keep when she's in the trike. So those fluffy snow suits of baby-hood are no longer practical, and she doesn't want to sit in the pram, however warm in might be. And if we're walking for a long time, she might want to walk for some, but be carried for the rest. Her legs are still diddy really, at 18 months old. So we have to put a little more thought to her remaining warm in the carrier, but a little cooler when she's moving herself. And my first thought was leg warmers. It couldn't have been more of a coincidence that NappyKind were looking for some reviewers.

A friend of mine mused about how they were cute but what was the point? Well, leg warmers can be taken out in your pocket or bag and popped on if it's chillier than you thought. Or the other way round if it's actually warmer. Leg warmers keep your legs warm in the carrier if there's a bit of a breeze and your jeans aren't of the skinny variety. Leg warmers make a pair of leggings warmer. Leg warmers are good with wellies, which despite being good in the wet have a tendency to be cold on the feet. And most importantly, leg warmers are really rather cute.

I picked two different designs for E. A giraffe print pair (we talk about giraffes a lot and she pretends to chomp on leaves) and a more girlie stripy pairs in pinks and reds. I had read that these leg warmers fitted a really wide age bracket of legs and was a smidge skeptical, but was impressed with the stretch on them when they arrived. And not only are they stretchy, they seem well made and they're super soft too. 

My concern was that they wouldn't stay up well, but E has spent the morning tottering around in them today, up stairs, down stairs, climbing on furniture, and even on her chubby thighs they've resisted falling down. The only battle here is that she loves removing her socks repeatedly, and it would seem leg warmers are just as much fun. I'm sure it's just a phase... I popped some trousers on over the top of them too and the leg warmers stayed in place just fine, and didn't look bulky under them. They're not so thin, however that you'd feel they weren't doing anything for warmth. 

Most importantly they do look super cute. E loves to potter about in her nappy and a t shirt when we're at home and that combo, particularly if she's got cloth on, topped off with leg warmers looks even my scrumptious. We're long past crawling but I wish we'd had some of these to give her knees a bit more protection... I guess a baby learning to crawl in warmer weather could really benefit from these on their knees! 

The stripy number retails for £5.99 a pair, while the giraffes retail for £6.99. I cannot see any difference in quality for that extra £1 and can only assume that the weave of the giraffes is a little more complex than the stripes and that's reflected in the price. Looking around this seems about the average price for some toddler leg warmers. I've seen some cheaper and some more expensive. They perhaps feel a tad over priced if you consider that you can pick up some woolly leggings on the high street for around £6 a pair, but then again, NappyKind Boutique are an independent retailer, and I'd expect their prices to be a little more.

So overall, a neat little product that does what I want it to do, while looking very cute. A pair will certainly be living in my bag over the winter just in case it gets a little chillier and those legs could do with an extra layer!

NappyKind have kindly provided me with an pair of unisex leg warmers to give away... To be in with a chance of getting your little one's legs in them this winter, all you have to do is plug myself and NappyKind on some of our social media sites using the widget below and I'll pick a winner at random next weekend! Hurrah!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NappyKind Boutique kindly provided me with these leg warmers at a discounted price for the purpose of review, and one pair for free for the giveaway, however all opinions are my own and completely uninfluenced by NappyKind Boutique or any other party.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Really simple tomato soup

Got a glut of tomatos that you can't use up quick enough? This little recipe should warm you up and stop you palming them off to anyone who'll have them! 

My tomatoes weren't from my garden, they were from my auntie's allotment. She had SO many of the things, she had to palm them off on to me... No biggy, soup's back on the menu at Thursday's Child HQ in light of the freezing weather! I used some plum tomatoes along with a few red ones and lots of orange ones, which I understand are less acidic. I'm sure you could use whatever was going.


A large Tupperware of assorted tomatoes
Two medium onions
6 cloves of garlic
Olive oil for roasting
600ml vegetable stock
Dried basil
Black pepper
2 bay leaves
(Salt to taste if you fancy it)
Milk or cream, if desired.


1. Preheat oven to about 180°C.
2. De stalk and half all your tomatoes and spread them over a roasting dish. Add chopped onions and whole garlic cloves, peeled. Drizzle with olive oil.
3. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, until they've started to colour and give them a shake half way though.
4. Transfer to a large pan or stock pot, including any liquid that he been released from the tomatoes during roasting.
5. Add stock and bring to the boil.
6. Add a good amount of dried basil and black pepper, two bay leaves and salt if you wish and allow to reduce for about 20-30 minutes.
7. Remove from the heat and blend with a hand blender. NB This took a lot longer than I had anticipated but was worth it for a smooth consistency.
8. Add a splash of milk or cream if you fancy it.
9. Enjoy!

This was over flowing before I started...

This soup was SO easy to make and so tasty... E and I ate a bowl each at lunch, I've tubbed up three portions and half of it is still in the pan. A cheap, healthy and delicious soup, made better by the fact that those tomatoes were as fresh as they come...

And my product tester says...


Stay warm! 

An incredible woman

Most of the time, life just happens. You don't really think about it. Each day starts, you do stuff, at some point in the evening you call time on it. We try to savour each moment, but sometimes everything's just going on and it passes us by... It's generally uneventful. But we like the familiarity. And then you receive a phone call with some completely unexpected news and it leaves you speechless... choked... Makes you remember that you're so incredibly lucky to have everything you have, that the fact that the washing machine didn't get emptied before bed didn't matter that much, that actually it's never as bad as it could be.

It makes you put on someone elses boots. How you remember those feelings. Like you want to stop time. Live in the moment forever. Or turn the clocks back and hope that second time you find another route that might work out better.

Your heart breaks for the people around them as you remember what it's like to be them.

It makes you cross that the most horrible of things happen to the very best of people. 

It makes you admire their bravery, their strength and their determination. 

Today I'm thinking of an incredible women and her family. A face from my teenage years, whose children were my friends growing up, who is fighting so bravely that her news escaped me, so bravely that I hadn't even realised she was so poorly.

What an inspiration you are.


Sunday, 1 September 2013

Review: MioFresh by Bambino Mio

You may remember back in July I reviewed the MioSolo washable nappy... And loved it! Well, at the time Bambino Mio also sent me a sample of MioFresh to try, but we were only a few weeks into our cloth journey and I decided that I'd let our nappies get some more use before putting it to the test.

The teacher in me likes to do everything at the end of the summer holidays, "before the new term starts". Why sanitising my nappies was important to me, three days before going back to work, I am unsure, but it seemed like a good time!

A couple of weeks back D and I were scratching our heads as our nappies seemed to only be lasting a couple of hours tops. We had initially put it down to the hot weather and E drinking gallons (she's the girl that finishes everyone else's drink at a playdate!), but this was getting silly. I was convinced that the nappies didn't smell 100% clean, but D was sure they were fine, so I took his word for it... And set to work on picking the brains of some of my cloth friends... After a lengthy conversation with one friend, it came to light that my choice of washing powder might have been the root of the problem. I knew you weren't meant to use fabric softener as it clogged the material, reducing absorbency, but I didn't know you couldn't use liquid full stop. Ah! So, last week, ALL the nappies ended up in the bath with some washing up liquid before being rinsed about 10 times in the machine and then washed with powder. Problem solved, hello absorbency! But I still wasn't absolutely sure that they smelled as good as they could... I guess these things take time, but this was my other reason for deciding it was a good time for the MioFresh.

So, yesterday, all our nappies, boosters and wipes were thrown into a big bucket for a soak. Following the instructions I added 15ml per gallon of water (I used 4 gallons) and left them while we went out for the day. I was expecting the MioFresh to have a smell - a good one, like pine, or something antibacterial - but it was completely odourless. After a good six hours of soaking I stuck the nappies in the machine to rinse, as per the instructions, and then for good measure added another 15ml to my normal non-bio powder and stuck them all in on a 60˚ wash (although MioFresh claims to be effective as low as 30˚!). When they came out of the wash, there was no smell. No washing powder smell, no pine, no lemony fresh, no nothing. And now they are dry on the line, they are still without smell. That to me is an indication of exactly how clean they are! No powder smell, no sanitised smell, just fresh. And, I'd go as far as to say they just look a bit brighter, a bit fresher, a bit like they have a new lease of life! 

The instructions on the MioFresh were simple and clear to understand, giving the method for hand washing, soaking and use in the machine. The instructions are also clear to stress that coloured nappies could fade with prolonged use of MioFresh, which is worth bearing in mind if your nappies are all brightly coloured with gorgeous prints! It is 100% chlorine free, for the eco-conscious amongst us and is antibacterial, deodourising, hypoallergenic, biodegradable... All words us mums like to see on products that are coming into contact with our babies skin. MioFresh retails for £4.60 for 750g, which would do 50 washes, or 12 soaks in 4 gallons of water... But I don't anticipate needing to do that for a while! I think that represents great value for money, especially as it's probably something you wouldn't throw in to every wash, to protect your colourful joy, and maybe just use once a month to give everything a good perk up. 

So, here's another product that I will buy, use and recommend. Us cloth parents know that our nappies aren't just nappies, they're an investment, and anything that keeps that looking and smelling good, in my opinion, is worth having, especially if it doesn't hurt the environment or my bank balance in the process. Thanks, Bambino Mio! 

E enjoying what my husband has declared
as his "favourite reusable nappy

You can visit Bambino Mio here, or visit them on Facebook or Twitter. 

Bambino Mio kindly supplied the above products for free for the purpose of review, however all opinions are my own and completely uninfluenced by Bambino Mio or any other party.

Silent Sunday

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