Sunday, 30 July 2017

Poached Cod in a Tomato, Pepper and Onion Stew

Poached Cod in a Tomato, Pepper and Onion Stew 

The inspiration from this dish came from the beautiful large vine tomatoes I brought from Lidl this week, I wanted to do something simple, tasty and fresh with them so came up with this Mediterranean Indian fusion dish that tasted delicious. 

Makes a great summer dinner idea for the whole family, I just took Bubs piece of fish out before I garnished it with chillies. 

Serves 2 - 4


2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Carom Seeds
2 Onions finely sliced
3 Garlic cloves finely chopped
1 Red Romano Pepper finely chopped
5 Large Tomatoes finely chopped
Salt and Pepper
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Ground Coriander Powder
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 Lemon squeezed
4 Cod Fillets
1 Green Chilli Finely Sliced
Handful of fresh coriander/parsley finely chopped


1. In a large wide saucepan heat the oil for 2 minutes
2.Add in cumin and carom seeds and fry off for a further 2 minutes until the begin to release their aroma
3.Add in garlic and onions and cook down until caramelised
4.Add in red pepper and tomatoes to cook down for a further 15 - 20 minutes
5. Add in seasoning and a squeeze of lemon, cook off spices for 2 - 3 minutes
6.Add in cod fillets, place lid on and let them poach in the stew for around 12-14 minutes until Cod is cooked through.
7. Garnish with green chillies and fresh herbs, we enjoyed eating ours with some warm buttered crusty bread.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Bubs Birth Story and our Journey into Parenthood

Bubs Birth Story 

This is a long story mainly as it was a long birth so I would make a cup of tea and settle in before sitting down to read this. As the title states it is a birth story so does contain gory details as a pre warning, if your squeamish I would look away now.

It all begins in the summer of 2014 when I was around 36 weeks pregnant, I developed a rash commonly know as PEP, lovely when you are expecting a summer baby :). The rash causes a very itchy belly and body and being so pregnant the only way you can treat it is using topical creams which unfortunately do not do much after the immediate relief they give.


My final birth centre appointment with the midwife confirmed the head was engaged and all systems were go, the midwife was happy for me to do anything to try and get the baby out as my rash would not be going anywhere until after I delivered. I had planned to have a natural as possible birth, ideally using the pool in order to be home within a few hours of delivering and avoid any long hospital stays.


In the evening I booked in with a local Reflexologist for my first ever treatment and to be honest with you it was a lovely foot massage but I was not really convinced it would actually help me go into labour or have any effect. I also started drinking raspberry tea and doing lots of bouncing on the birthing ball.


I spent the day cooking a Chicken Pie, ironing and general housework, I also booked some cinema tickets to go and watch Gone Girl on Friday evening and have dinner date as we knew it maybe one of our last chances to have a night out.

Friday 2.00am

A regular nightly visit to the bathroom felt slightly strange as my waters broke whilst on the toilet. Now you are supposed to check at this point to ensure all the liquid is clear but I barely had one eye open, I just flushed the toilet and went back to bed to inform Mr S my waters had gone.
To quote his reaction ' Don't worry hold my hand and go back to sleep'. This great piece of advise unfortunately did not work and a few hours later I was having full on contractions. I guess in our case reflexology did work or maybe it was just a coincidence.

Friday 7.00am

By now was in real labour, one thing no one told me though was your waters breaking is not just a one- off event, you continue to have water leaking out of you the entire time you are in labour.
During my pregnancy I had done Pilates and Daisy Birthing, I found the breathing techniques I learnt from these were really helpful in dealing with the pain, along with lots of massages from Mr S, hot baths and showers, the contractions were actually manageable. My main issue throughout the morning  though was a lot of puking up, nothing not even a sip of water would stay down, which I knew would not be good for either me or the baby if I still had a long labour road ahead.

Friday 12.00pm

I was now having around 3 contractions every hour and after calling the birth centre they advised me to come in. I took a hot water bottle with me in the car for the drive to the hospital which was around 30 minutes away and since most of my pain was across the lower back the drive was not to bad.

We arrived at the Birth Centre around lunchtime and the midwife informed me I was still in the early stages of labour just by looking at me, she explained if I was in more advanced stages I would be climbing the walls. Due to the risk of infections they try and limit the number of internal examinations to only when necessary therefore hard to assess how far along or dilated you are accurately.

She did however check my stats which showed by this point due to the severity of sickness I had been experiencing all day, I was dehydrated therefore promptly transferred off the Birth Centre onto the labour triage in order to be placed under consultant care and be setup for fluids.

At first I thought after receiving some fluids I would be able to go back to my original birth plan and deliver in the birth centre but I soon learnt that fluids meant monitoring and monitoring means no birth centre, I was quite upset at this point especially as I had to sit in one chair for the next few hours once the fluids were given to me and it was not the active or natural labour in a water bath I had envisaged.

Friday 5.00pm

First of many machines

I was now halfway through my second bag of fluids with another 5 planned for me through the night, I think as a result of staying seated and the stress from the monitoring my labour slowed down as did the contractions and I managed the pain relief using paracetamol.

Friday 8.00pm

The consultant was not happy to send me back home and wanted to continue with monitoring and fluids throughout the night so I was admitted onto the maternity ward for an overnight stay.
This was also around the same time we should have been arriving at the cinema to watch gone girl, a film I don't think I ended up watching in the end until Bubs was over a year old.
Me and Mr S ordered a pizza and after sharing this in the visitors room it was time to say good bye to Mr S, one of the scariest parts was seeing him leaving the hospital. I had never stayed in hospital before and had not planned on doing it with the baby still inside with no idea if it was planning on arriving during the night, after a teary goodbye I settled myself in for a long night.
It was a bizarre night as the lady in the bed next to me had already had her baby so I could hear all the crying, feeding and changing throughout the night which was a reminder of what I had in store very soon.

Saturday 8.00am

My first hospital breakfast - delicious

Mr S was back first thing in the morning which helped as I had not slept much during the night, mainly due to all the checks being done and trying to go to the bathroom when heavily pregnant whilst being attached to a few machines is not easy.

Saturday 12.00pm

Just as my lunch order of a cheese and beans baked potato arrived so did the consultant. She explained that as my labour had now slowed down but my waters had been broken for nearly 36 hours I would need to be induced to speed things back up again. Before they could do this they needed to check how dilated I was in order to see if I needed a pessary or gel too before going onto the induction drugs.
Now this was the most painful part of the entire process and the only point at which I actually screamed out loud and since I was still on the maternity ward I think I scared a few of the other mums to be too in the nearby beds. The midwife who checked was very shocked to see I was actually already 6cm dilated and needed to be moved to the labour ward immediately. A lot of the midwives I met along the long labour road were shocked at my high pain threshold, something I didn't even know I had until this particular weekend.

Saturday 2.00pm

On the labour ward you are given a lovely modern room with your own bathroom and dedicated midwife for the entire time, we got lucky and had a lovely one who made me feel very comfortable and stayed with us until the evening. She was great at respecting my wishes to stay as mobile as I could considering I now had two cannula's in each hand and a heart rate monitor strapped to my belly.
In addition to the fluids I was still on, I was also given Syntocinon to speed up my labour and make my contractions come more frequently and stronger.

I also started on my first form of pain relief Gas & Air - which I loved and meant I spent the remainder of Saturday afternoon on an amazing high. It was the most fun part of being in hospital and giving birth, highly recommend everyone to give it a try, just takes the edge of the whole situation.

Saturday 7.00pm

Despite being on drugs to speed up contractions I had only dilated an extra 2cm by the early evening, I was advised at this point to have an epidural due to having been in labour for a long time. The baby was also showing signs of tiredness and they may need to take a sample of his blood from his skull which my midwife knew I would find a very painful procedure without the epidural. By this point I had already been given so many drugs another one to the mix was no biggie.

I dosed myself up on the gas & air to get ready for the epidural, unfortunately the first attempt missed due to a slight curve in my spine but the second was successful and meant I could have a rest for a few hours, we also said goodbye to our midwife who tried her hardest to get the baby out before her shift ended. You also have a catheter inserted at the same time as the epidural which is a good way to check it has worked.

Saturday 9.00pm

At this point a lot more doctors became involved and the room got very crowded, using a portable ultrasound they saw Bubs was lying back to back, so he was looking up at the ceiling rather than the preferred position of looking at the floor. They tried to get him to rotate around with no luck.
You could tell now the situation was getting a lot more alarming now, however the breathing was still helping keep me calm and the people we were speaking to from the anaesthetists, midwives to doctors were all great and I never felt once that I was not in the best of care.

Saturday 11.00pm

I was finally fully dilated and tried to push the baby out however with no success. Everything now moved very quickly, I was transferred to theatre for an episiotomy in order to try to get the baby out instrumentally. After 6 failed ventouse attempts and a failed forceps attempt I was told by the team of 3 doctors who were in charge of my care at this point, that the baby had gone back inside. Now that I had weaned myself off the gas & air and was no longer high this statement still sounded crazy to me, this was not how having a baby worked, they don't go back inside you.

But apparently they do, I kind of knew what was coming as soon as I was taken to theatre that there was a high chance of having an emergency C-section so it was not surprising when I was told they needed to do one in order to get the baby out before he showed any more signs of distress.

The awkward part is signing the actual C-section waiver form, you cannot really hold a pen when your lying flat on an operating table with a cannula poking out of your hand, not to mention the drugged up exhausted state your mind is, not sure how valid any of those consent forms are but nonetheless I scribbled something and within a few minutes had been prepped for an emergency C-section.

The actual section was very quick, with no pain involved and only the strange tugging and gushing sensation of liquid. The anaesthetist is with you the entire time right next to your head and they are constantly taking to you throughout and checking your stats. Mr S was also scrubbed up by this point and joined me the very very cold theatre room.

Saturday 11.59pm

Talk about wanting to make a point of his birthday, he arrived one minute before midnight.

It was at this point things started going fuzzy and I could feel something was not quite right, despite having just given birth all I could think about was drinking a giant glass of ice cold coke.

The nurses showed me Bubs but I was not very interested as I was feeling a lot of pain in my shoulders, arms, neck and head. The only parts of my body that still had any feeling. I did kick up a bit of a fuss and despite the anaesthetist saying it was only the effects of the epidural a gut instinct told me it was more. She tried to give me a massage to help with the pain but I persevered in saying I was still in pain and although it felt like ages it took around a minute for the team to realise I had caught an infection. The whole room then sprang into action and I was pumped full of antibiotics and paracetamol to fight what I now know was sepsis.

Sunday 1.00am

Although the C- section takes minutes the aftercare is a lot longer, due to the hiccup with my infection and also having had an episiotomy it took around an hour for me to get stitched up before both me and Bubs were transferred to the HDU. It was only then I actually got a proper look and cuddle and finally took in everything that had happened over the last few hours.

Bubs also had a tiny cannula put into his arm in order to receive antibiotics too; due to the infection I had caught there was a chance he may also have it. Thankfully I did not have to witness him getting it put in as I am sure its not easy or painless to do on such a tiny hand and vein.

We were monitored throughout the night to ensure the infection cleared and Bubs could maintain his body temperature without a lamp. Even with all the machines, wires and monitoring I was encourage to breastfeed from the outset. Not the easiest thing to do when you cannot sit up but it did mean lots of skin to skin and the first chance to bond with Bubs.

Now that the craziness of theatre was over it was great to finally hold him and take in all the details of this little person that I had grown from something the size of a seed it a real baby.

Sunday 3.00am

Now everything had calmed down, Mr S was able to go back to our room and get all our stuff together including our phones and camera to take Bubs first picture and let family know about his safe arrival, all of whom had been eagerly awaiting a phone call since the Friday evening before.

Bubs meets the World
My dream of having a glass of coke was replaced with the obligatory NHS tea and jam on toast you are given to share and celebrate your new arrival. Mr S spent the rest of the whole night sleeping/sitting on a chair with us in HDU.

Sunday 9.00am

My catheter was removed, and we were given the all clear to be moved back onto the maternity ward to recover.

Back on the Maternity Ward
I naively thought at this point I would be able to have a shower, wash my hair and sort myself out a bit however after a C-section you have to wait 24 hours. I had to make do with washing my face, changing out of the hospital gown and retying up my hair.

Sunday 12.00pm

As it was a Sunday Bubs steady stream of visitor soon began to arrive as the day went on. He had his first non-midwife nappy change by his Papa (Mr S) and Massi (Auntie). He was also a lot smaller than I had thought and the newborn clothes were huge on him so his Nani (my mum) had to do an emergency dash into the shopping centre to get him some tiny baby clothes that actually fit.
Mr S disappeared for a few hours in the afternoon to shower before coming back for the evening shift.

Sunday 9.00pm

It was even more peculiar saying goodbye again to Mr S 48 hours later on the same ward I had done so before, this time it was me and Bubs being left by ourselves in the hospital and I was not quite sure how the night would go.

Our first night and selfie together
The staff were great and let him stay way beyond visiting hours but he did eventually have to leave. The first night was probably the hardest, having to wake up every 3 hours to feed meant putting on an alarm firstly to wake up, secondly the effort required even with a movable bed to get yourself up after having had a c-section less than 24 hours ago is tough, not painful as your drugged up but physically there is just no muscle tone to lift your own body weight.
You then have to wake this tiny baby, try and get them to feed without either of you falling back asleep and then clean the stickiest black poo, only to repeat the whole procedure all over again a few hours later.

I ended up staying in hospital for a further five nights, due to my sepsis Bubs had to finish a 5 day course of antibiotics via his cannula, he was lucky though as he had not caught the infection but being a newborn they prefer to air on the side of caution.

When we were finally given the all clear to go home I was so happy I cried and called Mr S to get to the hospital straight away, I also knew all the midwives quite well by this point so asked them to do all my discharge notes as quick as possible.

Bubs Coming Home Outfit


It was challenging staying in hospital due to the constant checks, other crying babies, constant noises throughout the night and the lack of home comforts, but it did also have its benefits. All your medicine is brought to you at scheduled times so you never forget to take it, same with your food being brought to you so no excuse to forget to eat. Even though the hospital food was not actually that bad at all I did often get spoilt with my mums food, Indian chai and a giant Chicken Royal one evening my brother drove all the way to westfield to get me.

One of the biggest benefits though is having the experience and care of midwifes always on hand. They are great and despite working non- stop for long shifts are always willing to help. For example one night Bubs would not settle at all, the midwife propped up the sides on my bed, gave me lots of extra pillows, placed Bubs on to breastfeed and once we fell asleep put him back in his cot. All he wanted was to be close to me and have a feed, if I had been at home I would never had done this given all advice on not co - sleeping but sometimes it is the simple solutions that work.

Finally Home 
The rash I developed in the late stages of pregnancy took a few weeks to clear up before I was itch free. I was also carrying quite a lot of fluid with Bubs towards the end which was increased further when I was pumped with fluids during and after labour, this meant after giving birth my feet and legs swelled up huge, thankfully it was still hot and got away with wearing flip flops for 2 weeks after he was born. For a list of items I took with me last time check out my post on My hospital bag essentials packing list.

Bubs birth story ended up being very eventful with a lot of medical interventions, procedures and drugs. This was the complete opposite of what I had planned but I enjoyed it all and it was not the worst thing in the world. We are very lucky to live in a country where we have the resources to be able to get a baby out safely for both them and the mum. If this had been hundreds of years ago in a village the likelihood is neither of us would have survived. The pain was manageable, I felt well cared for by all the staff I met along the way and it was definitely a new experience for mine and Mr S relationship.

As a first time Mum I felt I did not trust what my body was telling me during labour over what I was told by medical professionals and although staying calm and managing my pain myself helped me I did feel in this case it worked against me in terms of being able to show I was in advanced labour, so sometimes maybe you should kick up a bit of fuss.

Would I do it all over again?

In a heartbeat.
The second time around is fast approaching and I am planning to opt for an elective C given all the issues that arose with an attempted natural birth last time, this time I want to take the control back.


My recovery from both the C-section and episiotomy was fine, I was up and out of bed the next day and by the time I came home was feeling back to myself. I hope it is the same case second time around.

I would hate for anyone to be put off giving birth, whichever method you use or that ends up happening to you it is a truly magically experience. Its not easy, but then nothing ever worth having in life is.

My final bit of advice would be to:

-Stay flexible
-Trust your body and instincts
-Stay calm
-Enjoy it

The first time you give birth is the last journey you take alone in life before your inherit your new title of mummy forever.

My First Night at Home


Monday, 24 July 2017

Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall Review

For the last month Bubs has stopped attending nursery on a Friday, instead we have our new family Friday fundays. This week we spent the morning climbing Northala Fields which was built up using all the leftover rubble from Wembley Stadium, and although I believe school holidays had started it was still fairly quiet on Friday morning.

There are four man made mounds in total with 3 being just grass, one has a pathway all around with a viewing area at the top, two children's playgrounds, a cafe and a fishing lake.

We actually did our wedding photo shoot here around 8 years ago so it was great going back with Bubs and he thoroughly enjoyed running around and climbing all the 'mountains'.

It was also a perfect activity to build up an appetite before we visited Bang Bang Oriental for lunch later in the day.

Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall 

Parking and Location

Bang Bang Oriental is located in Colindale in North West London.
The address is 399 Edgware Road, Colindale, NW9 0FH.
It shares its car park with the Morrisons supermarket so if driving best to follow directions directly to the car park, also handy when you need to do a quick shop which seems to always be the case in our house.

First Impressions

An artistic modern doorway welcomes you into the ground floor foyer which also has the Golden Dragon restaurant located in it, the actual food court is on the 2nd floor, signage for this is not great but its fairly obvious where the stairs and lift lead too when you know you are looking for a food court rather than an actual restaurant.

Once you enter the food court, the decor is very contemporary having been designed by Stiff and Trevillion. A lot more modern and stylish than the traditional hawker centres we have visited across various South East Asian countries. The high ceilings, industrial lightening and current furniture arranged in the centre of the room creating a welcoming appeal with all the food vendors located around the edges.

The mezzanine level is also available for private hire and I have heard several non food vendors are planning to open up too in this part of the complex.

The site previously housed Oriental City which I remember visiting as a child and purchasing one of those amazing Japanese Pencil cases with numerous buttons and compartments. I think any shops selling similar items would be a great addition to the food court and also encourage people to spend a lot longer there as being a food court it is generally fast food so your visit is normally fairly quick.

Golden Dragon

This is the flagship restaurant serving both lunch and dinner, we did not dine in here but it looked like it offered a much more formal setting to enjoy Chinese food and dim sum. Nice to see it is catering to everyone tastes and preferences for dining, but for me all the fun was upstairs with the vendors.

Wonderful Patisserie

On Friday they were still setting up the shop but it looked very close to opening, having visited one of their main shops in Edgware for both main meals and also for their large in house bakery I know this smaller shop on the second floor just outside the main food hall will be a great addition.

Alongside traditional savoury dishes they also sell elaborate fresh cream cakes, deserts and traditional Asian pastries including the current craze of green tea ice-cream in fish shaped cones. Looking forward to our return visit and tasting these desert delights.

Food Court

The food court has seating for around 450 people, on Friday lunchtime we arrived around 12.30 and it was busy but we had no issues finding a seat, I can see it being very popular though especially in the evenings and weekends.

Most vendors operate using a buzzer system, so once you place your order they give you a labelled buzzer which will go off once your dish is ready, saves you time standing in queues and allows you to try lots more dishes in a shorter amount of time. I think this system worked really well rather than having all the vendors shouting out order numbers.

A lot of staff were on hand to clean up dishes, remove trays and wipe down tables ensuring the food court looked immaculate even when busy.


The main dishes we tried for lunch were the Original Chicken Ramen from Ramen Samurai - Ryu.

Intensely flavoured with a perfectly cooked egg and poached chicken, I managed to finish the whole bowl.

Chicken breast yakitori from Yaki Ya Grill Japan

More Mr S type of food, they were tasty but just good grilled chicken nothing amazing, I think the other flavour skewers may offer more excitement.

Crispy chicken balls, crispy chicken wings and a portion of chips from Taiwanese Street Food. The crispy chicken balls were one of the best things we had, topped with lemon salt and served with traditional mayonnaise and ketchup.  This was all so good I forgot to take a picture before it was all gone, destroyed by all three of us.

The spring rolls and grilled chicken salad on vermicelli noodles from Cafe La Viet.

Delicious, crispy spring rolls and a fresh zesty salad you dress yourself with the tangy sweet chili sauce.

For desert we had a chocolate chai bubble tea with traditional tapioca pearls from Chaitime.


When we visited all the stalls had an introductory 20% off offer in place however at full price you are looking at around £3 - £5 for the smaller snack like plates and desserts. Larger bowls and mains are around the £7-£10 mark. Its not the cheapest option for lunch or dinner, in total we probably spent around £35 with the offer. Pricing is slightly more than you would pay for similar dishes in a street market however you are paying for the food court seating too.

All the food we tasted was very delicious, flavoursome and authentic so we would not mind paying a little more for the quality you get.


There are currently 33 vendors open including the below:


- Cafe La Viet - Vietnamese starters and large communal bowls.

- Banh & Che - Vietnamese Bahn Mi baguette, spring rolls and iced coffees.


- Taiwanese Street Food - Traditional Taiwanese night market food including crispy chicken, onion pancakes and also chips - for any fussy eaters (i.e toddlers).
- Chaitime - Taiwanese Bubble Tea including milk teas, fruit teas and various flavours of bubbles.


- Sukaria - street food based on Cantonese, Hakka and Malaysian dishes.
- Coconut Tree - Malaysian traditional Halal dishes.


- Uncle Chilli - Sichuan dishes centred around the numbing taste of Sichuan pepper.


- Ichiban - Japanese Katsu, Yakitori and Terayaki
- Raman Samurai Ryu - a Hong Kong chain from Yamagishi Kazoo a pioneer of Tsukemen in Japan.
- Yaki Ya Grill Japan - Japanese Yakitori Grilled meat, fish and veg skewers.
- Umi - Japanese Sushi, Sashimi, Tempura and deserts by Jonathan Deddis.

Hong Kong

- Royal China One 68 Dim Sum - Hong Kong dim sum, dumplings and buns
- Four Seasons - Hong Kong Style Roast Duck - named as the best roast duck in the world by the FT.
- Longji Hong Kong Restaurant - Asian food with a western twist, often served in diners in Hong Kong, Singapore etc, first time in the UK.
- Wonder Bake - Hong Kong Portuguese egg tarts and deserts.


- Bamboo Hut - Chinese and Beijing street food, buns and burgers.
- Xi Home - Chinese Dumplings


- Tibb's Frankie - Indian street food wraps filled with chicken, vegetables and lots of spice.


- Little Thai Silk - Thai restaurant with traditional cuisine including papaya salads.


- Janchi Korean Kitchen - Korean family cooking including Bibimbap, Deopbap and Korean Fried Chicken.

Drinks and Deserts

- Citropia Cafe - Juices, Smoothies and Desserts
- The Pearl Lounge - bar area in the food hall serving both alcoholic and non - alcoholic beverages.

Final Thoughts 

We loved our first visit to Bang Bang Oriental and will definitely be returning to sample all the vendors we did not get to try out. I feel a pregnancy craving coming on in the next few weeks that only Asian street food will be able to solve. I can see this being a great success with nothing similar available in London showcasing such a variety of cuisines in one space and I am glad we do not live too far away from it.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Carrot Cake with a Mascarpone and Walnut Topping

Carrot Cake with a Mascarpone and Walnut Topping

I recently got asked for a last minute addition to a charity cake sale to raise money for a women charity and as I'm getting right into this nesting business I was happy to bake even if I was tired after a busy day at work and use it as an excuse to try out my carrot cake recipe below. An all in one method that was quick and easy to bake and decorate too making it the perfect charity bake sale cake to make in an evening.



165g Light Brown Sugar
225g Self- Raising Flour - Sifted
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Ginger Powder
1/2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
40g Walnut Pieces - Chopped
150ml Vegetable/Sunflower Oil
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
135g Carrots - Grated
30g Raisins
2 Bananas - Ripe and Mashed
2 Eggs


250g Mascarpone Cheese
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tbsp Icing Sugar
Walnut Pieces to decorate 

Stand Mixer/Electric Mixer 
20cm x 20cm Baking Tray

1)Pre heat oven to 180C/160CFan/350F/Gas Mark 4 and line baking tray with greaseproof paper
2)In a stand mixer add all the ingredients above and mix for around 2-3 minutes until fully combined

3)Place into baking tray and bake for around 25 minutes until skewer comes out clean

4)Around to cool in tray for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely

5)Whisk together mascarpone, vanilla and icing sugar before spreading over the top of the cake and topping with walnut pieces - either whole or crushed

6)Cut into cubes and enjoy

Friday, 14 July 2017

My Baby Essentials Shopping List

Key Essentials To Buy for Baby

When expecting a baby, aside from the fact there is a tiny human growing inside you the other overwhelming task is getting yourselves prepared and ready for this new chapter in your lives.

Towards the end of the pregnancy a lot of mums to be experience nesting feelings, wanting to create a  safe, welcoming and organised home. This normally results in a lot of cleaning, tidying up and baking at least that's what I did last time around. This time around lets see what happens ..... think cleaning up after a toddler each day is enough 'nesting'.

I have put together the list below that we used when we were expecting Bubs, there is a lot on it and how essential it is depends on your budget and how much space you have. One thing you will quickly discover is how much space such a small person needs, especially when you start receiving the giant delivery boxes containing it all.

In terms of shopping for it we went with the John Lewis Nursery service which I found amazing and always recommend it to parents to be. We spent the afternoon in their Oxford Street branch with a very knowledgeable sales person who helped compile a list of all the items we needed. What I liked most was being able to see the products and test them, they have a large selection so it is also easy to compare them all with each other. The best bit being after you finish they give you free tea and cake.

I was then able to choose a delivery date close to be due date for all the items to arrive, in terms of pricing they also automatically price match, even against on line retailers such as amazon however the customer service and after care is great. For example Bubs moses stand arrived chipped so I called them to request a replacement which they were happy too and told me to keep the original chipped one also free of charge rather than returning it back to the courier. This worked out great as we had a stand both upstairs and downstairs.

From personal experience with purchasing the below and using them my opinions are:

- Pram
Probably one of the biggest purchases you make, we went for the Silver Cross Surf along with the matching car seat and moses basket attachment so the whole package. Bubs used the moses basket mainly during my brothers wedding where he was only around 2/3 months old and it was great he could sleep completely flat for the wedding events but after this only used it for the few odd walks. We mainly used the Pram with the car seat attached, this was the most convenient when he was younger and would often fall asleep even in short car journeys. The actual seat attachment he did not use very much as he much preferred his cheaper foldable buggy we brought when he was 8 months old. It was good pram and we will use it with Bubs v2.0 too but it is very big, bulky and heavy. Not the easiest to get in and out of a boot on your own.

- Buggy
I did not add this to my list as most parents do not buy this until their baby is older and they are off on holiday, however they are great and a lot can be used from birth, if you short on space or do not want to spend so much I think they do a great job when out and about. We again went for the Silver Cross Zest which is slightly more expensive than other pushchairs but I managed to get mine half price just shopping around and spending the extra money has worked out worthwhile as its still going strong after doing around 20 flights. You are able to get newborn inserts to make them more comfortable for younger babies.

- Car Seat
I think the most important thing with car seats is more the Isofix base, makes it so much easier for putting them in and out of the car. I actually really liked the Silver Cross Car seat as it came with a footmuff and solid canopy too, meaning when it was attached to the pushchair during winter especially he was nice and cosy.

- Moses Basket
Again nice to have when they are young, especially for day time naps as you know they are safe. I went for Moses Basket which as it is made out plastic is slightly larger than most wicker ones and lasted Bubs for around 3 months, you can now get Snoozebaby and other sleeping devices which could be used as an alternative to the basket. I am still undecided on buying one or seeing how Bubs V2.0 does in the basket first.
I would say you need a safe, flat place for your baby to spend the many hours of sleeping they do in those first few months so one of the above options would be an essential.

- Changing Station
I think this is another one of my essentials, you change far too many nappies to bend over a bed or on the floor to not have one. I had mine custom made with storage underneath for nappies, wipes, creams etc but any changing station would do, especially if you have a C-section.
For a changing mat I went for Wedge Changing Mat which was great once Bubs got older and started to roll around as the wedge prevented him from getting too far away.

- Bouncer
Again a great item to buy, especially when you are alone at home as it just gives you a few minutes to place your baby somewhere safe when you need to do something such as showering. Again lots on the market at different price points - we went for Tiny Love Gemini Bouncer which I loved especially as it was slighter longer and Bubs used it a lot even when he was around 8- 9 months old.
Another item not on the list but worth getting or borrowing is the Bumbo Floor Seat, as the baby starts to sit up it just gives them a better view of the world and also doubles up as a high chair in the early days.

- High Chair
Not something you need to buy at the outset, unless you are us. Bubs is currently using the Stokke Tripp Trapp which is amazing and comes with a from birth attachment so we will buying this for Bubs v2.0 meaning she can join us at the table for meals. Not essential but for our family life I think this will be really beneficial, otherwise I find the second baby ends up in the bouncer looking up whilst everyone else eats.

-Baby Carrier
I think these are quite baby dependent, some kids love them and others hate them. Bubs loved his and it was often a life saver, he used his a lot for the first year of his life and we could not have done without it.

-In -ear thermometer
You never know when they will get their first illness and this is perfect to get an accurate temperature reading before seeking professional medical help.

-Feeding Pillow
One of the most used items I brought, beginning with whilst you are pregnant, to be in labour and then after to actually feed the baby, great for raising them up and putting less pressure on your stomach and back. I got one which came with two washable covers, which was perfect for all the milk spill ups.

- Feeding equipment
I would hold off buying pumps, sterilisers, lots of bottles etc until the baby arrives and you know which method you will be using to feed them. Some for example do not take to breastfeeding and others do not take to bottles. Most items are available either on the high street, supermarkets or same day/next day delivery so you can always make these decisions after.

In summary, you can have a huge shopping spree but try and stick to the essentials, talk to other parents for valued opinions but remember each baby is different and their needs will change as they grow. Have fun shopping :)


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Preparing for Baby Number Two

Preparing Bubs for Bubs v2 

Bubs was actually the first person we told we were expecting, only a few minutes after Mr S found out; looking back that may not have been the best idea but he is far too much a part of our lives to not involve him from the outset.
This has meant we have had the last eight months to help prep him for the idea of having a sibling and the list below highlights some of the ways we have done this.

Obviously the age of the child will influence how you are able to communicate these with them. Those with children very close together may not be able to convey the concept until the baby is actually born and those with older children may have much more complicated questions to answer about babies, pregnancy and childbirth.

Bubs was just over two when we discovered we were pregnant and will be turning three shortly after she arrives, this seems to be a popular age gap with several of his similar aged friends also going through the same situation which in itself has helped. Not only to provide a great support network for me but also to give Bubs an idea of what is to come and it seems a hot topic of conversation in the nursery playground.
  • Initial News
One of the problems we had with telling Bubs straightaway was that he was so excited by the fact their was a baby in his mummies tummy he proceeded to also tell everyone else, meaning waiting until the twelve week scan ended up going out of the window. 
Nine months is also a long time for a toddler to wait to actually get to meet this baby, we have tried to address this by teaching him the months of the year and using key activities each month as a guidance. E.g in April it is easter, May is Dubai, June is the Baby Shower, July is playdates, August is Paw Patrol and then the Baby will arrive. 
Another reason parents may decide to wait also is the increased chase of miscarriage in the first three months and having to explain the idea of loss to a toddler, we told Bubs as an instant reaction but looking back it, we would still do the same as he is a huge member of our family to share both good and bad news with. 
  • Baby Tiger
Quite early on in the pregnancy Bubs named the little one Baby Tiger, something which he came up with on his own and has stuck through it all. I think this little gesture has helped him bond with her and given her a personality already. Often when he is giving her cuddles he will say Baby Tiger is laughing, or crying or most of the time - doing a poo poo.
  • Reading Books
Bubs loves reading and is at an age where he understands storylines so this was an obvious way to help him understand what would be happening during the pregnancy and also after the baby is born. 
Some of our favourite books have been: 

Great for during pregnancy and explaining the side effects mummy might be feeling.

More for Bubs to understand what will happen after the baby comes homes to be a part of our family

One of Bubs favourite and one of his favourite new lines to show how grown up he is. 

These books have been great talking points to give him an idea of what will happen when I come back from hospital, such as not being able to pick him up, feeding the baby and all of his new responsibilities such as not letting his little sister eat his toys. 
  • Friends and Family 
Lots of friends and family have either recently had a new baby or are currently pregnant with the second, I think it has really helped him understand the concept of having a younger brother or sister seeing his friends and cousins already experience this. He has always been great with younger children and loves visiting newborns so I hope this continues when he is living with one too. 

It has also helped having everyone talk about the new baby with him, for example when we go to hospital he already knows he is going to go for a sleepover at my parents house and trying to make those few days as exciting for him as possible too. 
  • Gender Reveal
We were always planning on finding out the gender of the baby as I like to be prepared as possible and have as much information as I can and we wanted to share this news with our friends and family too, similarly to how we did when expecting Bubs. However this time we did not make the mistake of telling Mr Big Mouth before everyone else, thankfully when he did he gender reveal photo over easter time he just thought it was part of playing with some new plastic eggs.

I also baked a small cake to cut through to reveal the news, by knowing he has a little sister coming instead of just referring to it as a baby it just helps make the bond stronger and give her more identifiable features for him to grasp.

I think the key to all of this is to keep them as involved as possible, give them as much information as you can and encourage them to bond. 
  • Heartbeat and Kicking
Bubs is at a very affectionate age and especially with me loves cuddles so has really enjoyed feeling Baby Tiger kicking and also listening to heartbeat through our home doppler kit. 
  • Baby Shower
For Bubs we had a huge baby shower, with lots of friends, family, food and presents the whole galore which was a wonderful way to celebrate his birth however the idea of having another one at that scale scared me slightly. Mainly as I would not know what to do with some many gifts this time around so instead I had a very small afternoon tea hosted by Bubs Masi (Auntie) which was a perfect way to celebrate our princess and indulge in an afternoon of floral pinks, cakes and prosseco.

Bubs loves afternoon tea, especially when his Masi makes scones so he could not wait to come along and although he got lots of presents himself at the event it was the first time he complained. My dad arrived at the end of the shower and he told him that only Baby Tiger had got new clothes and he did not get any. Which firstly was not quite true as he did get a new Paw Patrol t-shirt and secondly he does not really count new clothes as anything fun. It did show however the first signs of the green eyed monster appearing.

  •  Shopping
Bubs has really enjoyed buying new clothes and a few toys for his baby sister, however he has suddenly developed a massive coloured biased with girls only being allowed to wear pink and boys blue. Making it very difficult to buy her much that is not pink. Again just another way to keep him involved and the build the excitement of a new baby up. 
  • TV- Shows
Bubs has to take credit for finding this one all on his own, a favourite episode he has requested on repeat since finding out about his new baby. 

  • Photo Albums
I love printing out actual photos and have around 10 huge albums full of photos from 2014 when I was pregnant with Bubs up until today, going through these to let him see when he was in my tummy, to when he was born and who visited him as a newborn has really helped him understand what is going on this time around too, and like all toddlers he just loves hearing about how cute he is in the old photos. 
  • Breastfeeding 
This was a great tip I picked up from some of the mums at nursery, that I will do once I start maternity leave.

Nursing Box - a box full of activities, play ideas and snacks to keep Bubs entertained whilst feeding a newborn. 
- Puzzles
- Books
- Colouring 
- Sticker Books
- Playdoh (dangerous) 
- Raisins/Biscuits/Ricecakes
- Mainly things he is able to do independently 
- Keep this box accessible so he is able to get it himself but make it a special item that comes out when the baby is feeding, to help Bubs feel like he has a special role to during this time. 
  • Gifts
We are currently in the middle of having a loft extension done meaning all the random stuff I have been storing up there for the last 6 years has now made its way into the main house. This means a huge clear out and we started with Bubs toys, he has been very spoilt over the last few years and received lots of lovey presents but we had to streamline and give a lot away to charity. 

This has meant I am now slightly scared to buy him anymore new toys but I still want to get him something very special from his new sister for when he comes to visit her for the first time. Some of the ideas I am thinking about are:
- a Baby Born Boy doll and pushchair

- a Special Teddy - he loves cuddly toys but has so many now its hard finding an animal he does not own

- Lego - always a favourite and great way to spend hours playing after we get home

- Playmobile - he does not yet own any of these but it looks really fun :)

  • Fingers Crossed 
Previous experience teaches me however much you prepare there is no way to predict how either babies, toddlers or children will behave. Therefore as great as it has been using all of the above methods to help Bubs the only thing we can really do is cross our fingers and hope he does not hate her when she arrives :)