Thursday, 31 January 2013

A glimpse of Spring...

In a shady corner of the garden, the snow drops are beginning to show their faces. I'm getting mighty fed up with the seemingly never-ending grey, blustery days - I want some sunshine and colour please! Roll on Spring!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Cook: Marmalade Muffins

Cosied up at home last week, with a sneezy, teethy baby in tow, it seemed the perfect opportunity to get baking. Baby was sat in her highchair in the kitchen, plastic spoons in hand to bang/drop on the floor (guess which she preferred...) and I set to work.

I found this recipe for marmalade muffins on the BBC Good Food website and it sounded like a winner. Cake and marmalade together can never be a bad thing. Not only that, but the recipe was of the mix it all up together ilk - less work and less washing up! 

My muffins didn't look anywhere near as pretty as the ones on the website, and the marmalade didn't magically stay in the centre of the muffin, instead sinking bottomwards, but they still tasted good! (And that's all that matters really!)

Marmalade Muffins


175g plain flour
25g porridge oats, plus extra for sprinkling
175g light brown soft sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp sunflower oil
150g plain yoghurt
1 large egg
9 tsp chunky marmalade


1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6 and line a muffin tin with 9 paper cases. Combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and bicarb in a bowl. Whisk the orange zest and juice, oil, yogurt and egg together with a fork, then lightly stir the 2 mixtures together until just combined.

2.Spoon 1 tbsp of the mixture into each muffin case, top with 1 tsp of marmalade, then cover with the remaining muffin mix and a sprinkling of oats. Bake for 15-20 mins until cooked through and golden, then leave to cool slightly.

Hmm...what to cook next? Any cake recipes gratefully received!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Baby: Treasure Baskets

I never wanted a house full of all-singing, all-dancing baby gizmos, instead wanting to promote imaginative and exploratory play with simpler objects that aren't limited to one function. Before you laugh, point, and shout "Ha! First time mum alert!", I am in no way suggesting that Baby won't have piles of plastic toys that play music and flash lights (one Christmas in and she's already got more than she can play with, and loves them all) but in my mind, it's all about striking a balance.

When Baby was about 3 months old and becoming a lot more interested in the world around her, I started reading about heuristic play and the concept of treasure baskets. Heuristic play is a term coined by Elinor Goldschmied to describe the way in which babies and children can independently select the objects they want to play with in order to make their own discoveries. 

This book was especially useful (and oh my, how great did it make me feel wandering around the academic section of the library: "I've got a small baby and I'm getting my brain back! Wahey!") and great for reading small chunks at a time. The Imagination Tree also has lots of useful information, photos and examples.

The basic idea behind treasure baskets is something that parents all over the world have been doing since the dawn of time: giving household items to the baby to play with. (No doubt cave-babies were given pebbles to bang together, and sticks to wave around!) By putting the items together in a basket, it allows babies who are sitting, but not yet on the move, to investigate different textures independently. The independence of the baby is key - they are the ones making the choice of what to take out of the basket and how to play with it. The adult is there as support - faciliating the play, ensuring the safety of the baby and interacting when invited by the baby.

The contents of the treasure basket can be ever-changing. The book that I read recommended a variety of 50-60 objects made of metal, wood, rubber, and other natural materials. I think that's the 'strict' way of doing it - we've got some plastic and other man made fabrics in ours as Baby loves investigating them and there's a lot of value in that! We also only have about 20 items so far, but it's something we'll add to over time. I'm constantly scouring charity shops for new bits and bobs. Wilkinsons, Poundland, and the supermarkets have been good sources of items too.

We currently have the following in our treasure basket:

The treasure basket can keep Baby occupied for a looong time - she'll spend ages waving the wooden spoon, chewing on the whisk handle, hitting the wooden hoops together or trying to look through the hole in the CD. It's so interesting watching to see what she picks out first. At the moment she's a bit of a magpie: she's all about the shiny shiny shiny!

As Baby gets older, I'm thinking of sorting the items into themed baskets or bags e.g. shiny, noisy, fabric and wooden. At the baby sensory session run by the local children's centre that we go to, they have a basket entirely made up of different size and shape brushes that always proves popular with the babies!

Have you used a treasure basket or similar with your children? If you have one, or have a go putting one together, I'd love to see pictures! Any questions, please ask away!

(This turned into a bit of an essay - thank you for getting to the end!)

Sunday, 27 January 2013


"A portrait of my baby, once a week, every week, in 2013."
Peekaboo! She loves looking in the mirror and giggling to herself, so this Moomin book is a big hit.

Joining in with Jodi at Che and Fidel, and everyone else, with the portrait a week series.

Friday, 25 January 2013

This week - January #4

This week we have...

...spent many happy hours playing at home with the treasure basket.
...spent many unhappy hours with a teething, coldy, grumpy baby. (I felt very mean taking this photo - she got a big cuddle straight away, don't worry!)
...enjoyed a fiery sunrise across rooftops still smudged with snow.
...loved this sweet mirror moment in the library.
...chewed EVERYTHING!
...played the spoons while we made muffins (more on those soon!)
...carried on taking a zillion photos for the Manual Overdrive course. All the ISO/AWB/Fstop is finally starting to make sense - wahey!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Craft: Texture Book

Baby has been loving scratching the sofa cushions, stroking labels and grabbing woolly scarves. So as part of her Christmas present, I decided to make her a texture book of different fabrics.

I got off to a good start - rummaging through the many packing boxes still stored in our loft to find a variety of fabrics, washing them all and cutting out the pieces. And there I stalled. My days were filled with jiggling a teething baby, my evenings and weekends became full of chutney and Christmas preparation, and sewing up the book became one of those jobs that I would 'do later'.

Finally, on Christmas Eve Eve, with all other presents made, I sat down at the sewing machine to get it finished. And without sounding my own trumpet too much, I'm pretty pleased with the end result. Baby seems to be a fan too!

I'm considering making a few of these baby texture books to list on Etsy...so watch this space!

(And after it took me ages to get the texture book sewn, it's then taken me another month to manage to coordinate words and pictures on the blog about it! Argh!)

Monday, 21 January 2013

S/S 2013: Stripes

Stripes. The perennial staple of many a wardrobe.

Stripy outfits seem to be back in vogue every year - whether nautical, candy striped or animal print. The spring/summer catwalks ventured further than the classic Breton stripe with collections full of chunky black and white. These are in-your-face outfits. Simple, yet striking.
While I was pregnant, I seemed to live in stripes. When tiny-of-bump I loved the fact it made it look bigger, and once my bump was massive, it seemed futile to try and stop it looking huge. Post baby however, horizontal stripes are a little more foreboding. While stripes can be lengthening and figure-shaping, they can also be completely unforgiving and unflattering (horizontally striped leggings for instance - only the teeny-tiny-ly bottomed need apply). Luckily, many of the high street's stripy offerings are illusion-tastic to deceive the eye...wahey!

Now that the dregs of the winter sales are moving out of the shops in favour of new stock, I'm starting to dream of my summer wardrobe. Here are a few of my baby-friendly, stripy favourites from the high street...

(Just don't wear them all together otherwise you'll end up looking like a barcode...!)

Sunday, 20 January 2013


"A portrait of my baby, once a week, every week, in 2013."
Chewing everything in sight. Three more teeth this week. Busy girl!

Joining up with Jodi and many others taking part in the weekly portrait series. Loving seeing all the sweet faces each week!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

This week - January#3

 This week we have been...

...taking photos of eggs. Yes, really! I started the Capturing Childhood 'Manual Overdrive' course this week (it's fab!) so I've been getting to grips with functions on my camera that I have previously only guessed at. Luckily I've got a willing model to help me (well, maybe not willing - she doesn't get much choice in it!)
...doing LOTS of standing! She looks too teeny to be standing up at the moment, but it's what she seems to want to do (lots of refusing to sit/lie down by making herself rigid as a board!)
...enjoying the pink fleurs R bought me last weekend.
...laughing with my lovely one. After a few days of teething and grumps, we've had days full of smiles and laughs. I swear I would do anything to make her smile (that includes doing the running man in the kitchen...oh dear!)
...loving seeing the garden come back to life (until it was covered in snow!)
...introducing Baby I to the freezing delights of snow!

Friday, 18 January 2013


Last night the sky turned that dark orange that it does when it's about to snow. Sure enough, the first few flakes began to fall as the evening darkened, and by the time we got up this morning, everything was covered in a thick blanket of white.

R was working from home today so we got to take Baby I out in the frozen garden together. Judging from the smiles, she seemed to be a fan of the snow. Even when the wind whipped up and flung flakes in her face, she scrunched her eyes, shook her head...and carried on smiling! Phew! Bring on the snowmen, sledges and snowball fights that the next few years will bring!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

8 months

Dear Baby I,

Today you are 8 months old. That's two thirds of a year. I know that the final third of this year is going to fly by and I will have a one year old on my hands before I know it. You are gaining independence every day and I keep seeing flashes of my future toddler in your face.

At 8 months you are...

...wanting to stand up ALL the time. You're getting stronger and stronger on your feet - less of the wibbly knees that result in a sudden sit down. You love to stand up against the sofa, fiddling with the fabric, revelling in your altered vantage point.
...sleeping (nearly!) all the way through the night. A combination of moving into your own room, starting to have tea, and becoming better at settling yourself to sleep seems to have done the trick. That's not to say we're not sometimes having crappy nights with a miserable, teething baby - but after 7.5 months of at least 3/4 wakings a night, only 1 or 2 is brilliant!
...a 5 toothed babe. Gaining your top two teeth has changed your face so much. That's where the toddler-face comes from I think.
...so happy to be eating. Yoghurt, segments of orange, toast and cucumber seem to be the flavour of the month. 
...starting to strop! Being put in the pram/picked up/put down when you don't want to be? Waaaahhhhh! *tense body and arch back* Waaaaahhhhhh! I fear this is only going to get (much, much...) worse before it gets better!

Monday, 14 January 2013

A plate-tastic present

Last month, I was lucky enough to win the Ask Her Friends giveaway on Vicky's blog The Owl and the Accordion. Even though the voucher was burning a hole in my virtual pocket, it took me a long time to choose. After being tempted by Persephone books and gorgeous art prints, I eventually went for the set of 4 Rob Ryan 'Seasons' plates as I've coveted them ever since I first saw them.

Photo from here.
They arrived a few days ago and are as beautiful in real life as they look in the picture, I love them! Very pleased with my choice, so thank you Vicky, and Ben at Ask My Friends! Once our dining room is finished, they'll be taking pride of place on the shelves, but until then, I'll keep them safe in their box and get them out from time to time to stroke them...

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A is for Alphabet

I'm a sucker for an alphabet book. We recently got a brilliant book out of our local library: Paul Thurlby's Alphabet. Vintage toned, punchy graphics are combined with subtle humour and imagination. We're definitely going to have to buy our own copy as I don't want to have to take it back to the library!

The Guardian recently featured some of the best alphabet flashcards so I thought I'd share some of my favourites...

Alphabet Animals by Lisa DeJohn
Image from here. Book available here.
Emily Sutton Illustration
Image from here.
Almost an Animal Alphabet by Katie Viggers
Image from here. Book from here.

Alphabet by Paul Thurlby
Image from here. Book from here.
Woop Studio Prints
Image from here.

The murmuration print would look beautiful on the chimney breast in our dining room... I'd better get saving! I think I'll be adding a few of these books to Baby I's birthday wishlist too - solely for her benefit of course. Ahem.

Edited to add:
I'd completely forgotten about this film, but came across it again when searching for Patrick Hruby and Charlie Harper as mentioned by Rachel in the comments. Enjoy!


A portrait of my baby, once a week, every week, in 2013. 
A bookworm already. I am SO happy about this!

Friday, 11 January 2013

This week - January#2

 This week we have...

...been enjoying playing with new toys. Baby I loves chewing these cups and knocking them over (although you can't tell that from her face!) I love the colours and edging. They brighten up dull January days.
...spent lots of cuddly time with a teething baby. She's smiley here, but has spent a lot of time being not smiley!
...spent grey days walking near our house, just to get out and about.
...HI! Our (my) current favourite library book is Paul Thurlby's Alphabet. I think we need to get our own copy, the illustrations are brilliantly comic and clever. Y for yoga, M for mountain and K for karate are some of my favourites.
...finally taken a photo of one of my favourite buildings. I think it was originally part of a girls' secondary school and has the most beautiful stonework. I love the lettering too. It has a plaque on the side of it that reads "The lyfe so short, the art so long to lern". Wise words indeed.
...walked through the mist to get to the library on a cold Friday morning.