Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Present Ideas For A One Year Old

Little has just turned one and we have a lot of toys, but what does she love playing with most? Which toys did her big sister use most? Here are my suggestions for the best presents to buy a one year old.


Monday, 30 January 2017

Review: Fundels Card Games

The packaging of Writing Letters and Learning Englisg (mostly green with a purple and yellow monster) and writing saying: Giveaway closes 12th February 2017 www.countingtoten.co.uk

Since M started school in September her reading and writing has really improved. Part way through the first term she suddenly started showing a big interest in both and she can often be found in her room practicing writing words or sounding them out. When we were given the chance to review a couple of the new Fundels educational card games from Cartamundi I was excited to see what M would think of them.

As soon as I showed the two games to M she wanted to open them and play, always a good sign about the appeal of the game, but less helpful when I am trying to take photographs for the blog! We were sent the Writing Letters game and Learning English card pack and she has enjoyed playing both games, although she has a tendency to make up her own rules.


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Letter To My Baby On Her First Birthday

Text saying "dear baby on your birthday" with a picture of a one year old girl with short hair in a white and pick striped t-shirt and a purple one, and a pink tutu, sitting next to a pile of presents.

One year ago my contractions started and I told your Daddy he should work from home. One year ago the contractions gradually got stronger until you were born, a little faster than the midwives expected. One year ago I held you in my arms for the first time. I struggled to believe you were finally here. Today you are one.


Monday, 23 January 2017

Food Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a strange thing. The other day I woke up and decided I wanted to try to recreate a particular recipe for a food. It was for a sauce I haven’t tried in over 15 years, a sauce I don’t remember ever particularly liking, but one I remember my Grandmother making on many occasions. That morning I woke up able to taste the sauce in my mind and I needed to eat it.

To make things harder I couldn’t really remember the ingredients. I seem to remember it was a garlic and tomato sauce, but with other ingredients too. I’m pretty confident in had green olives in (those salty olives from a jar stuffed with pimento),   I also have a feeling it had cubes of Spam, but I don’t know if that confusion is due to the number of meals my Grandmother made which contained this canned, chopped meat.

I made the sauce and it was nearly right. It was close enough to satisfy my taste buds anyway, but it got me thinking about the other dishes from my childhood that have stuck with me. The two other dishes I think of when I think of my Grandmother are Spam fritters and pork belly strips which were marinaded in a Chinese spiced sauce before being grilled. They might not be wowing you, but my mouth is watering thinking about them. Strangely I can’t even remember what we ate them with, but I can see and smell the belly strips so clearly in my mind it's as if I am looking at them.

Linguine with a tomato sauce with a cube of spam, little bit of green olive and cutlery visible

My Grandmother made the majority of meals for me when I was growing up so it isn’t surprising that there are dishes which have stayed in my memory. As she died 10 years ago taking these recipes with her I doubt I will never really know if my memory of them is accurate.

There are a few other meals which I remember from my childhood and have the urge to recreate every so often: the strawberry Angel Delight my Grandad used to make and Chicken Paprika or Chilli Con Carne made by my Father. Fortunately I can buy Angel Delight in most supermarkets and I have a copy of the chicken recipe. I just need to get my Dad to make me a Chilli and write his recipe down (hint, hint).

I’m sure there were plenty of dishes I was cooked repeatedly when I was young. I don’t know why there are a few that have stayed with me more than the others. I doubt my sister has ever craved any of the dishes above. Food has always been such an important part of my life, both cooking and eating. I cook by taste and feel, using recipes as inspiration rather than instructions to be followed. I love to cook and made my own meals from an early age. Some of my strongest memories involve food. Which makes me wonder…

What will my children remember? Will they have fond memories of the food I make? Will they be sitting in their homes as adults drooling over my roast potatoes, my spaghetti bolognese or my chocolate brownies? Or will they remember the meals on the days when I was uninspired and I cooked something beige from the freezer or bought sausage and chips from the chippie?

A baking tray filled with golden brown roast potatoes


Friday, 20 January 2017

When you first hear "mummy"

The first time your baby says “Mummy” should be an amazing moment right? That’s how it is in films. The baby looks lovingly up into their mother’s eyes and says “Mama?” or something equally special. In real life (or my life) it has taken some time before the sound out of baby’s mouth can definitely be claimed as “mummy” (or a derivative). 

First we had “mmm mmm mmm” noises which were one of many repetitive sounds to leave Little’s mouth.  There were weeks of “did she say..?”, “was that..?” and “did you hear that?”. At some point this evolved into a more definite “mum mum” which is recognisably directed at me. Now when Little wakes up or wants me she calls “mum mum” or “Mama”. More often than not she says it half crying and it does a little thing to my insides. There is no point trying to finish whatever I am doing as some basic instinct inside of me forces me to go and respond to her. It’s incredibly special, but it has the same control over me as those little newborn whimpers. “Yes, baby, mummy is here”.

Other words are starting to join Little’s vocabulary and at some point the “mum mum” will turn into another name for me. Her big sister most often calls me “Mummy”, but I occasionally get “Mama” (which I love), “Mum” (which I hate) or “Kate” (which she is about 15 years too young for). 

A blonde woman in a black "Mama" sweatshirt holding a baby dressed in red


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Are Pelvic Floor Exercises part of your New Year Exercise Plan?

Do you have to concentrate when you sneeze? If you don’t know what I’m talking about you are probably under a certain age, you have never had children or you are male. I think the rest of you will understand. I mentioned it to a colleague at work and she looked confused, I explained and she looked horrified. Yet for many women there will be a time in their life that everyday activities such as sneezing, jumping and laughing can cause us to leak wee. So glamorous!

I’ve a friend who admits to rather obviously wetting herself once while out shopping, but for most people with light bladder weakness no one would know apart from ourselves. We shouldn’t accept that leaking is something we have to live with though. Regular exercise will improve muscle control and can make trampolining and sneezing risk free. Yes I’m talking about pelvic floor exercises or kegels. Just someone mentioning them is enough to get me squeezing away, but for some reason I’m rubbish at doing them regularly.

I found that when I was heavily pregnant and I sneezed, I had to make sure I was squeezing my pelvic floor muscles before the sneeze happened (this is called “the knack”) and I would be ok. I confess that there were a couple of times though when I had a full bladder and a sneeze crept up on me that I did have a problem.

A photograph of a 7 month pregnant woman wearing all black against a white wall and pouting


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Giveaway: Orla Kiely Colouring Book

Image of an Orla Kiely Colouring Book with green flours on covered in a text box saying: Giveaway closes 29th January 2017 www.countingtoten.co.uk
What’s your creative outlet? Me? I like to make things with my hands, this ranges from crafts to baking. I’m not very artistic, but I’m good at simple design or following instructions. I used to enjoy knitting, but a baby and 2 cats made that too frustrating. I think everyone has a creative part in them, but as we get older and work all the time we often put these “hobbies” to one side. This is a shame and we should all make the time to explore different skills.

It doesn’t surprise me that over the last few years colouring books for adults have become hugely popular. These books allow adults to get creative and produce stunning results without needing any confidence in our ability to draw. Walk into a book shop and there are now 100s of different books to choose from.

Whether you are a fan of colouring books for adults or you think you would like to give it a go for the first time why not enter my giveaway? I’m a huge fan of Orla Kiely’s designs and this colouring book is full of her simple, repetitive designs. They looks great in black and white and even better when coloured in.

A sample page from the Orla Kiely colouring book showing a squirrel design

To enter you just need to choose one or more options in the Rafflecopter widget below. If you would like to share this competition on social media that would be lovely too. The giveaway will close at midnight on Sunday 29th January 2017 and I will contact the winner as soon as my baby allows the following week. UK entrants only.

Remember to come back after the giveaway closes to find out who the winner is and to enter my next one. 

Thanks as always for visiting my blog and taking the time to enter my giveaway.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 16 January 2017

Review: Bibetta Placemat With Pocket

Text saying: Bibetta placemat with pocket review over an image showing the placemat folded up and some empty crockery on a tray

As regular readers will know I have introduced Little to food through baby led weaning. All our family enjoy having Little at the table with us and watching her eat, it's fortunate she doesn’t mind the audience. It can be more challenging to do baby led weaning when eating out, but with planning it works well.

Last year I wrote about my top tips for eating out with a baby when baby led weaning  but one of the things I hadn’t found an ideal solution for is what children should eat off. Normally in restaurants the highchairs don’t have trays leaving 2 obvious options: let them eat directly off the table, or risk giving them a plate. The Bibetta placemat with pocket provides another option. 


Thursday, 12 January 2017

Being A Happy At Home Mum

Semi transparent image of a vase of tulips in front of a brick wall with the text: being a happy at home mum in front of it

It can be hard being a SAHM, it’s even harder to be a WAHM (if you aren’t familiar with the acronyms the first is a stay at home mum and the second a work at home mum). When you are working from home, whether it’s for another company or for your own business there is this feeling that any spare minutes should be spent working. I find that family and work time become intertwined. Evenings often end up being the most productive hours for working, but this means losing out on time for me or to spend with my partner. I love blogging, but some days I can find it hard to be happy and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. 

After Christmas with the cold and wet weather I found I didn’t want to leave the house. I wanted to hibernate and slouch around in comfy clothes without the need to look presentable. I started feeling isolated and bored. The feeling wasn't helped by the lack of energy from sleepless nights (thank you Little) and eating rubbish food. I really had to push myself to get back on track. Some days are harder than others, but I have a number of ways to cheer myself up. 

These are ten things I do to help me be a happy at home mum:

Have a cuddle. I don’t always want a cuddle at the most appropriate times, so often I have to have a mental hug rather than a physical one. A text from my partner can often give me a boost until he’s home, but when I need a bit more and the children aren't being obliging I reach out to friends. Recently I have found that the people that help most are other bloggers, they have a great understanding of what it is like to balance family and work. Knowing that there are others experiencing the same frustrations can pull me back from the edge enough that I am open to the other options below.  
A woman holding her daughter and being cuddle with faces squished together

Dance. My absolute favourite way to beat the blues away is to put on music and dance. I love a good bit of cheesy music, but my dance moves aren’t going to win any awards. Even when I am at my busiest having some good music on allows me to dance while I tidy up or cook. Both my daughters love to dance so we can all boogie together.

Look Good. Yes those yoga pants are super comfy, and they are one step up from wearing pyjama’s but there is something about wearing proper clothes which connects me more to the outside world. It means I could pop out to the post box if I wanted to without having to hope I don’t bump into a neighbour. Having a shower, my hair brushed and make up on mean I could take a selfie if I wanted to. And hopefully it helps keep my partner attracted to me.

Take 5 minutes out. Even if it is having a coffee and biscuit on the sofa without trying to complete 12 other tasks I find consciously focusing on me makes me feel better. It might require some bribery or the use of the television to get 5 uninterrupted minutes in daylight hours, but it is worth doing. I try and spend these 5 minutes switched off from social media or the time just disappears. It’s 5 minutes for just me.

Make progress. I have worked in many jobs where it has felt like I was treading water or the tasks were endless, similar tasks at home might be tidying up toys, washing clothes or cleaning the dishes. No sooner have you completed it, but the task gets undone. The best way I have found to feel like I have made progress at the end of the day is to have crossed of items on my list. I have lots of lists, but each day I take a number of things I really want to achieve that day and make it my list for the day. The key thing is that the list should be achievable. There is great satisfaction from crossing every item off a list. Better to have lines through all 5 items on a list, than to have crossed out 5 out of 10. 

Get Out. Go on, go for a walk. At this time of year I love to hide inside, but it’s not great for me or my children to stay in all day. Whether it is a quick walk round the block with the pushchair or a slow wander where every leaf and twig is explored, a winter walk can be invigorating. At worst getting back into a warm house can feel great after being out in cold rain.

Have a pretty house. My home is my office. I spend a lot of time here so it is worth investing in to make it look good. I must admit my house is very much a work in progress though. We moved in a year ago and have had a baby most of that time so there is a lot more to do, but it’s getting there.

Flower power. Not only are flowers beautiful, but they smell great. A cheap bunch might cost only a few pounds in the supermarket, but they bring some colour and freshness into the house which makes me smile each time I see them. If you want to be more frugal a potted plant will last longer. This doesn't often work in our house where we are experts in killing plants, but somehow we have managed to keep our orchids alive for a few years.

A vase of tulips in front of a brick wall

Have a laugh. I love to laugh, on a tough day it can take a while for that smile to crack, but with a bit of effort it happens. There are so many ways to do this, I find my children are a great source of laughter, but if they aren’t on form I will watch a comedy programme, chat to a funny friend or watch daft clips on YouTube.

Change your sheets. Yes it does create more washing, but climbing into a bed with fresh sheets is a treat at the end of the day. I love the smell and smoothness of the sheets and it instantly helps me to relax and unwind before I go to sleep. 

How do you find your happy?

Mr and Mrs T Plus Three

Monday, 9 January 2017

Review: The Irish Fairy Door Company

Do you believe in fairies? My 5 year old doesn’t even question that the magical world of little people is real so when we were offered a fairy door to review I thought it would be a lovely way to start the new year.

A girl on the floor peering at a pink fairy door, with stepping stones and a key from the Irish Fairy Door Company
Setting Up The Fairy Door


Friday, 6 January 2017

Have You Taken Your Christmas Decorations Down?

My Christmas decorations are currently sat around the house in boxes. I have always been told it’s bad luck to leave them up beyond Twelfth Night so I have quickly pulled them all down. I told my 5 year old daughter this yesterday and she asked why it’s bad luck. I had to admit I didn’t know, it’s a superstition and probably isn’t true. To be honest I’m never even really sure whether Twelfth Night falls on January 5th or the 6th. And is it bad luck to take them down after that date or should they be taken down before? Apparently I’m not alone in this confusion

It seems like people are putting up Christmas decorations up earlier and earlier each year. It’s normal to see Christmas trees for sale, and decorated on Instagram, by 1st December. It doesn’t surprise me that so many of the same people want to take their tree down on Boxing Day. I think it's a shame to take them down so early.

I love the build up to Christmas, the twinkling lights everywhere and the sparkles. It helps balance out the cold, dark days. Growing up I learnt that Christmas properly started on Christmas Eve and lasted thorough the 12 days of Christmas, ending on Twelfth Night, although our decorations normally went up a week or so before Christmas. For the 11 days of Christmas which followed Christmas Day we didn’t have any special celebrations, but the decorations stayed up and I enjoyed the magical Christmas spirit. So to me packing all signs of Christmas away before January even starts is cutting short the magic.

When I had my first daughter I started putting up my decorations earlier than normal. After all the lights are a great sensory experience for babies! This year I broke with my normal tradition. With a baby who uses everything for balance and a kitten who likes to climb trees (and airers and legs) I knew decorations would be hard work even after googling for the best tips. I made a lovely big bauble wreath to go on my wall out of harms way and I claimed we weren’t going to have a tree. In the end we decided to buy a real tree on Christmas Eve, that way there was a chance that it would still have some pine needles attached and baubles hanging on it come Christmas Day.

A baby looking straight at the camera while removing baubles off a Christmas Tree
The Face Of Innocence

A week later I decided I wanted the space back. All the new toys were making our living room overcrowded and reclaiming the corner of the room seemed like a good idea. My eldest daughter disagreed though so I left the tree up until Wednesday night when we dragged it outside ready for collection the next day. On Thursday (5th) we took down most of the other decorations from around the house and I have put the last in boxes today. Hopefully they will make it into the loft this weekend. 

We are normally pretty bored of the decorations by the time we take them down and we are always in more of a hurry than when we are putting them up surrounded by Christmas music and mulled wine. I have often just thrown the decorations in boxes before carrying them upstairs, but I come to regret it the following December when it’s time to get them out again. Bashed baubles, tangled tinsel and let’s not even talk about the state of the fairy lights. 

If I was organised I would wrap the bauble’s up nicely, wind the lights around card and carefully label each box. Then again if I was organised I would be frugal and head to the sales to buy Christmas cards and decorations for next year while they are heavily discounted

My house feels rather empty now. I miss the twinkling lights reflecting off hundreds of different shiny surfaces even if I don’t miss the constant retrieval of decorations from under the sofa after they have been chased there by an over excited cat. With two birthdays in January, Valentine’s Day and Easter I’m sure I can find a good excuse to put something up, just maybe no more trees for the foreseeable future.

* This is a collaborative post *

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Last Year Started With A Bump

I wasn’t going to write a review post for 2016: the list of posts I actually *need* to write is long enough to scare me, but then I started thinking about some of the amazing things which have happened this year…


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Review: ChewyMoon Children's Subscription Snack Box

If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know I’m a fan of subscription boxes, well following a recent delivery my eldest daughter is a big fan of them too. We were sent a ChewyMoon subscription box to review and M keeps on asking if she can have her “snack box”.

An open ChewyMoon box showing 5 different snack boxes and a message saying Hey kid, welcome aboard
The ChewyMoon Box 


Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Giveaway: B Kids Baby Toys

Happy New Year everyone. A huge thank you to everyone who visited my blog last year, I really appreciate everyone who has supported me during the first year of this blog. Every comment, competition entry and share make me super happy (and some of the comments are hilarious). Wishing you all the best for 2017.

Shows two toys: Link ums and bend 'n bounce available to win in a giveaway closing 15th January 2017

To kick off January I have two baby toys to giveaway from B Kids. The mini set of Link 'Ems is suitable from newborn and Catty's Bend 'n Bounce is suitable from 6 months. Both can easily be sterilised so you don't have to worry about them being dropped on the floor when out and about. They are a great size to fit in a changing bag and it's amazing how much entertainment babies get out of these simple bits of plastic.

Entry via the Rafflecopter widget. All my normal T&C's apply (you can read them in the widget) and I will love you forever (maybe) if you share the post. Closes Sunday 15th January, thank you x

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Baby At 11 Months

It was always going to be a special month with Little’s first Christmas. She might not have really understood what was going on, but everyone else enjoyed it. M really enjoyed getting to open twice the number of presents, it was ever so kind of her to offer to open her sisters. The older she gets the more fun we have together as a family. More personality shows each month; she is happy, cheeky and inquisitive. 

A blue eyed baby in front of a tree