Friday, 22 May 2015

Easy Peasy Fairy Cakes Recipe


I have to start this post by saying that there is nothing healthy about these cakes... They are pure unadulterated sugary goodness!

I baked these with Ernie as we were both a bit bored, and it's the perfect recipe for teaching little ones how to crack eggs and whip up a smooth, lump free icing to drizzle on top - and a lot of fun was had with the sprinkles!

Perfect for a Friday treat.

Ingredients

100g Softened butter
100g Caster sugar
2 Large eggs
100g Self-raising flour
1 level tsp Baking powder
12 Baking cases

For the icing:
225g Sifted icing sugar
2–3tbsp Warm water
Sprinkles, to decorate

Preparation method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C fan/180°C/gas mark 6. Place fairy cake cases into a 12-hole bun tin, to keep a good even shape as they bake.

2. Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat for 2-3 mins until the mixture is well blended and smooth. Fill each paper case with the mixture.

3. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15–20 minutes until the cakes are well risen and golden brown. Lift the paper cases out of the bun tin and cool the cakes on a wire rack.

4. Put the icing sugar in a bowl and gradually blend in the warm water until you have a fairly stiff icing. Spoon over the top of the cakes and decorate with sprinkles.



Saturday, 16 May 2015

Baby on Board


I don't like flying at the best of times, and flying with Ernie fills me with dread - though it's rarely ever as bad as I anticipate - but ten (very varied) flights later I've learnt that either way it's best to fly well prepared, and because there's nothing like experience - here's what I've learnt so far...

WHAT TO EXPECT

Security - You'll most likely be directed to a dedicated 'family' friendly airport security - you might look at the shorter queue and think you've lucked out, but in my experience it takes twice as long for families to get through!

Fluid limits - You can take enough baby food, baby milk, and water for the journey - even if it's over 100ml. Just remember to put it all in clear plastic bags for going through security - Same goes for any liquid medicines. Sterilised water must be in a baby bottle to be allowed through. The security staff at the airport might ask you to open the containers to screen the liquids and ask you to taste them. You can order milk from airport branches of Boots and collect it before take-off. I also found some organic 1/2 pint bottles of fresh cow's milk in Boots the last time I flew too - which is handy if you're flying with a toddler.

Bring a basic buggy - Whichever buggy you decide to bring, bear in mind that it will get as beat up as your suitcase, so you might want to re-think bringing your best one. It's worth picking up a cheapie pushchair, or a second hand Maclaren. All you have to do is declare it at check-in and the steward will print you a lable and attach it to however many bits your buggy breaks down into. You can check it in with your suitcases or hand it over as you board the plane. You'll most likely pick it up off the carousel, along with your bags at your destination.

Guard against air pressure changes - When air pressure changes on a flight, it can hurst your baby's ears and cause distress. They don't know to yawn or swallow to relieve the pressure, but the sucking motion can help. So be sure to bottle or breastfeed your baby on take off and landing especially - or let your baby suck on a dummy, if they use one. The one time I didn't feed Ernie on landing he really suffered for it. So another tip off the back of that experience is to pack a spare top for yourself and outfit for your child - to cope with the inevitable projectile vomit!

Nappy changing isn't easy - Most planes have a flip-down baby change area in the toilet, but it's such a small space. So plan in a nappy change before boarding. If you can avoid changing a nappy on the plane, all the better! On long-haul flights this won't be possible, so be sure to pact a compact nappy-changing kit with just the essentials to make it easier.


Don't stress about your child making noise - try not to worry about your baby's crying bothering fellow passengers (I know easier said than done) but we're hardwired to hear our own childs cries, but the noise will bother others far less. Also aeroplanes are louder than you think, so the noise will be drowned out a lot - just take deep breaths and try not to get upset.

WHAT TO BRING

Pack smart - I take a nappy bag, and a bag of entertainment - including snacks. Divide everything into smaller, clear bags - then you can just grab what you need. Bring plenty of non-perishable snacks in single-serving packets - and pouches of baby food are easier to eat from than jars. I try to keep it as healthy as possible, and bring food I know Ernie likes. Ella's Kitchen, and Goodies, do great snacks. I know mothers who pack emergency sweets and chocolates in case of a total meltdown!

Entertainment - The best thing I've found so far, is to pack a load of kids magazines - the kind that come wrapped up with loads of plastic toys, colouring books, and crayons on the front. They provide hours of fun, and they usually contain a few stories - so you don't have to lug around a load of books. You may also want to consider pre-loading a tablet (if you've got one) with kiddie apps, cartoons, and maybe even a favourite film. I bought this Fisher Price protective case for mine, and am really happy with it - the best thing it does is it prevents Ernie from being able to press the home button on the iPad - which is a real pain!


A sling - Even though you can take your buggy to the gate before you get on the plane, there's most likely going to be a big walk once you get off, before you get it back - and that’s a long way to have to carry a potentially sleeping child. Especially if you don't have help with your other bags. Or keep your eyes peeled for an airport pushchair - I've seen them at Gatwick, and in Copenhagen - so they do exist!

Pain relief - Don't even think about traveling without those handy sachets of Calpol!


and...RELAX

It's a good idea to stick roughly to your usual routine, but try not to be too precious about it. Accept that things may go off-piste a little and allow yourself to take some shortcuts you wouldn't at home - like that emergency meltdown chocolate...

It’s never going to be all fun and games travelling with a baby or toddler but with these tips, a bag full of tricks, and a stiff drink, you'll survive!

What’s your experience of flying with kids? Any other advice?

Here's a throwback to what I posted after my first ever flight with Ernie.


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Toddler Madness and Tenerife


Sorry for the severe lack of posts, but being a mummy to a 21 month old toddler is seriously kicking my butt!

Give me a newborn any day...

Now don't get me wrong, when Ernie's in a good mood he's a joy to be around - he's talking all the time, saying and doing the cutest little things - but when he's tired/bored/ill/or frustrated... well... this parenting sh*t just got real!

The testing state is in full effect and I fear that the terrible twos every parent speaks of, are on the way, and I'm not even sure that it will end there.

I've seen a few threenagers in action and it isn't pretty!!!

Fear not though - this isn't me announcing that I'm having a nervous breakdown, I'm learning to laugh it off, have a glass of wine (or two), and roll with it.

But it's fair to say that I've felt pretty overwhelmed lately.

I just want to keep thing's as real as I can here - it's not always hearts and emoji kisses, and with blogs and social media, you're almost always going to post the 'perfect' pictures, but it's important to recognise that there are plenty of rough days too.

At this stage in the game it seems like everyone you chat to wants to know if you're planning another one, and that's fair enough - I'm asking friends too.

So I'll be honest, for quite some time now I've been contemplating whether or not we're ready for #2, and just when I think I am, I have a bad day and put the brakes on the idea.

I know I want to have another baby somewhat close in age to Ernie, but the first year and half have been all consuming for me. 

All normal stuff, and in the best possible way, but it's taking me a while to build up the strength and resilience I feel I need as a mother to be able to weather the bad times along with the good.

And I've felt so wrapped up in the baby I've got, that I get anxious just thinking about the reality of having a second.

As we approach his 2nd birthday, if things are easing up a bit, I think I could get my head around having another one.

Here's hoping!

With all that said... now on to the sweet pictures from the last week on our family holiday in Tenerife, that really do make it all worth it...​


We stayed in place called Los Realejos - it's a town in the northern part of the island of Tenerife, which forms part of the Canary Islands. 


We rented a villa, that I found on air&b, you can see more here www.haciendacuatroventanas.com

It was a beautiful place to stay, and the owner Alberto provided us with plenty of baby essentials for Ernie.



Ernie developed a great love for the seaside, here he is playing on El Soccoro beach, 200 meters from the villa. I loved the black volcanic sand.


 I was really pleased with this Surf Sunsafe Suit from next - for added protection from the sun.


A shameless selfie



Love them or hate them these Crocs were a huge hit for me. I have the hardest time getting this child to wear shoes. Ernie wore these no problem, and they're easy to slip on and off. 



I'm forever taking snaps of these two. This view never gets old.


I ran into some pretty crappy airplane and milk drama! So I plan on posting some updated flight and travel tips for families soon.


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Don’t Be Jeal-y, Get Gel-y

Sensationail - Pink Chiffon

Are gel manicures worth a chunk of your paycheque?

I believe so.

The fact that you get to look down at the shiny result for more than just a few days before chipping - if it even does at all - makes it worth it for me.

Since becoming a mum, I simply don't have the luxury of time to make an appointment at a salon let alone frequent one.

For a good long while post-birth my nails were a plain old sight, much like the rest of me, but I'll never forget the day I managed to paint my nails for the first time whilst Ernie napped.

It gave me such a buzz!

The fear of knowing that he could screech out at any moment and all my efforts would be spoiled, and the primped and polished pride I felt after my success.

Seche Vite's fast dry topcoat was my secret weapon in those days, and now it's my Sensationail kit.

I get a full two weeks out of every application. I remove them and re-apply them with ease and with minimal damage to my nails. Even less so if I remember to rub oil onto my nails everyday.

I've already written about how finding even a minute to swipe on some makeup in the morning or simply getting out of your pyjamas can make a huge difference to how you feel, and more importantly keep you feeling like your old self, in a time of such huge change - transitioning into motherhood.

Dedicating a sliver of time out of your day, solely for something entirely superficial and devoted to yourself, is really important.

Now I know what you might be thinking - about giving yourself a manicure let alone a gel one - ain't nobody got time for that!

But honestly, with a little practice and patience, and either a napping child or a helpful husband, you can.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is, your time as a mummy is precious, so if you are going to use some of it to give yourself a manicure, it might as well be one that lasts!

To help you on your way here are my top gel tips...

When filing remember to look at the hands from every angle. Never ‘saw’ back and forth on the tip of the nail. Instead, gently run the file across the nail in one direction. Beginning at the outside edge, pull towards the centre and repeat.

Thoroughly cleansing your nails is the first step for a long lasting manicure. Use a cuticle remover - it will quickly soften the cuticles so you can use an orange wood stick or a cuticle pusher to push them back off the nail plate.

Lightly, ever so lightly, buff the surface shine off the nails. You don't want to damage the nails natural thickness, as over buffing will thin your nails drastically. When removing and re-applying, you only need to buff the re-growth.

Cleanse with the product supplied. Don’t touch any of the nails after cleaning as this will transfer natural oils from your fingertips and will result in the product not settling properly.

After applying each coat, if you get polish on your skin, use a thin angled eye liner brush dipped in remover. Or, dip an orange wood stick in remover without any cotton wrapped around the tip since the typical orange stick wrapped in cotton will leave fuzz.

Apply the polish as thinly as you can. Finish by gingerly brushing lacquer across the tip of the nail. This will seal the free edge, and go a long way to preventing chips and lifting. Leave a tiny margin around the sides and around the cuticle - it will increase the length of time that the product will stay looking perfect.

Don't wipe off the shiny, tacky residue from any of the layers as this is a very important part. You only need to remove it after you've cured the topcoat. When using a darker shade it's normal to see some colour come away with the cleanser on the lint-free pad.

With regular use of cuticle oil, you can prevent hang nails and dry cuticles, strengthen your nails and restore health and shine to the entire area. I use CND Solar Oil as part of my nightly regime. This way I know that there will be at least five hours (where I won’t be washing my hands) for the product to do its job.

Above all else DO NOT PICK. If you pick at gel nails you are going to cause a lot of damage. So don’t do it! Remove them properly, or go to the technician who applied them for you.

If you are not interested in home kits and would never dream of doing your own nails as it does take practice and you are in the Tunbridge Wells area contact me and book an appointment!


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Wholemeal Pancakes


As far as I'm concerned if you can buy wholemeal, why buy the bleached alternative?

Once you ditch 'white' stuff it's hard to go back.

Thankfully Ernest doesn't know the difference - for now - so these wholemeal pancakes go down a real treat.

I LOVE making pancakes. You need a good non-stick pan, mine's so good I don't even need to use any oil to grease it. Which makes these even more wholesome, and easy to make.

All you need is...

1 Cup of Wholemeal plain flour - I like to use the one Allinson make
1 Cup of Unsweetened almond milk - or your preferred milk
1 Egg
1 Pinch of Bicarbonate of soda or baking powder

Just whisk it all together, add a ladleful of the batter to the pan, on a medium heat, and swirl it around until you get a nice even layer. You want to cook the pancake for about 40 seconds on each side. Repeat until all the batter is gone, and you have a beautiful golden brown stack of pancakes. Enjoy!

I've served mine with banana, greek yoghurt, and Sweet Freedom syrup.


Sunday, 1 March 2015

Hormonal Acne Help


Here we bloody go again! Although hopefully not for not much longer.

I really need to start taking my own advice more, the trouble is when faced with spots, it's really hard not to panic and go into overdrive on the skincare front - which is so often the main factor in my skin blowing up.

I've always been plagued with hormonally-related acne, the classic T-Zone of spots is not my problem, it's exclusively a U-Zone for me.

If you're dealing with hormonal acne, there are two main indicators: Your breakouts happen along the lower third of your face, and it gets worse during times of hormonal upheaval - like before your period, during pregnancy, and now for me since I've stopped breastfeeding.

I had huge success with diligent Benzoyl Peroxide application throughought my pregnancy (from about 3 months in - when my skin was at it's all time worse) and for all the time I was breastfeeding I experienced the clearest, calmest, skin of my life.

So whatever hormone was dominant then, suited me to a tee, and bearing in mind I was one of the lucky few who experienced a complete absence of fertility until 5 or 6 weeks after completely weaning my baby from the breast (at around 18 months).

To my horror within weeks of said weaning my chin and around my mouth blew up with horrible, painful cystic like spots - I panicked - went out and bought some of the awful astringent skincare junk cruelly targeted at acne sufferers - and got trapped in a damaging frenetic skincare hopping cycle.

Thankfully I woke up one morning and saw the light. I gathered all of the skincare in my possession, handed it over to my mum to take away from me so that I couldn't be tempted to use any of it, and armed myself with my trusty Dr Bronners, Cetaphil, and Obagi Benzoyl Peroxide.

It's taken a lot of strength to adjust my acne-fraught mindset, and to adopt a sensible, rational GENTLE skincare approach.

As Dr Sam Bunting (my new skincare hero) so rightly put it "I’ve heard so many times about the ritualistic way women will get home from work, remove make-up (‘because its bad for my skin’) and then spend the evening playing peekaboo with their magnifying mirror, squeezing everything in sight. Occasionally with tweezers. In fact, the disabling variant of acne known as acne excoriee is sometimes largely a consequence of human behaviour; the acne itself may not be so severe, but the fallout of self-help can be disastrous, leading to pot-hole scars and persistent pigmentation. I see this a lot in women with adult acne and the cycle can be extremely disabling – even though they know its harmful, they can’t help themselves."

Sound familiar?!

The most important thing I've learnt and want to share about treating acne is that, unfortunately there are no overnight cures. Gentle cleansing, Retinols, Benzoyl peroxide, and certain pills, should all work at clearing up most cases - BUT you won't see any major improvements for at LEAST six weeks.

Most people give up with a treatment after a couple of weeks if they don't feel that it is working - but in reality you need to wait out at least 2 skin cycles (roughly 3 months) before deciding whether or it's working for you.

During the first few months of my benzoyl peroxide journey I would read - and re-read - this petty accurate BP timeline. It helped me greatly in staying on track, and sticking with it.

Some other things I want to mention, as most people reading this may have found my blog because they are troubled with pregnancy and postpartum acne, and are particularly worried about what they can and can't use on there skin.

What I've learnt is that anything too strong would be prescription strength and any doc/derm would advise you of that at the time of your appointment.

Retinols aren't clear cut to be avoided - retinyl palmitate is one of the mildest forms and shouldn't cause you any problems. Retinoids that are again - prescription - or at a high percent would clearly state that on the label.

Only the stronger variants of retinoids are advised to be avoided - and in all honesty, unless it's in a prescription (which wouldn't be given) - the risk is minimal. Companies are terrified (understandably) of being sued. Look for retinyl palmitate. Exceedingly mild, does the job, just does it slowly and safely.

Take Bio oil for example. It's basically mineral oil. It does, however, have retinyl palmitate in it - Vitamin A - which disproves the whole 'can't use ANY retinol products whilst pregnant' as that range is very cleverly marketed almost entirely towards pregnant/post pregnant women!

You can use pretty much anything unless it is a really strong vitamin a product - which would always be written on the box.

Stay away from certain essential oils in body/bathing products - rosemary, clary sage, juniper etc - are contraindicated. Literally pretty much everything else is ok.

I feel/hope that I'm on the right path again, and wanted to share this information - as there's a lot of misinformation out there. If it can help anyone else I'll be thrilled - as the psychological effects of 'bad' skin should never be taken lightly.

So the key things to remember are...

* The general rule is 4 to 8 weeks although it can take as long as three months, and symptoms may get worse before they get better. It is easy to get disheartened and give up so it is important to persevere and keep any routines going, even if there is no immediate change for the better.

* In terms of cleansing, stick to the simplest varieties with no pokey active ingredients, I like Cetaphil, Dr Bronners Baby Mild, and La Roche Posay Physiological Cleansing Gel.

* Use lukewarm water, not hot or cold.

* NO SCRUBBING.

* Allow skin to dry completely before applying Benzoyl Peroxide.

* Leave spots to heal naturally – picking them only makes them worse.

* Only apply non-comedogenic moisturiser, and makeup.

* Stay hydrated and try to get enough sleep.

* Aim for a diet full of low-glycemic-index foods, and I also recommend probiotics and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to help calm inflammation.


Monday, 16 February 2015

Postpartum Style tips for Nursing Mums


I thought that I'd better write this post before it becomes a distant memory - and mine's shockingly bad post pregnancy - does anyone have a clue when the whole 'nappy brain' thing is supposed to wear off?!

When I was pregnant, I spent months writing lists and curating all the 'must haves' I anticipated needing - I naively didn't consider that once Ernie arrived, anything I wore would need to have access to my chest at all hours of the day.

The last thing I wanted to wear were trousers or leggings (you've most likely spent your entire pregnancy in them), so for me, the shirtdress was a life-saver.

The loose fit of this style is great for post-natal tummy issues, and of course the button-down element is perfect for breastfeeding.

There are plenty of dedicated nursing wear brands - but I managed to survive 18 months of breastfeeding without the need for any specialised clothing, I don't even own a nursing bra - I preferred to wear bralettes with my ingenious LilyPadz, they are really worth checking out too.

So to avoid finding yourself in my predicament, and having to go out clothes shopping - at the worst possible moment - changing room mirrors are unforgiving at the best of times consider adding a couple of shirt dresses to your shopping list - the best bit is, if for whatever reason you don't have a long breastfeeding journey, nothing's gone to waste as either way they're a great addition to your post-pregnancy wardrobe.
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