Brilliant, healthy recipes for feeding your toddler

May 25, 2016

This isn’t a cookbook review as such, because I just came across Superfood for Superchildren in the take-home pile at work (one of the perks of my job) rather than being sent it. But because I have completely fallen for the family-friendly recipes in this book, I just had to write about it. Mums: if you want a cookbook that has easy recipes that toddlers (and the rest of the family) will actually eat, and in record time – like this chicken dish, below – then read on.

Brilliant dishes to cook for toddlers |

I have tended to feed Oscar with a combination of easy-to-freeze recipes, favourites from Annabel Karmel’s Complete Family Meal Planner, and a few of my own inventions – all things that can quickly satisfy a tired, hungry toddler straight out of nursery. This method totally works – if you gloss over the fact that about 90% of the dishes are either completely, babyishly smooth or use pasta as a vehicle of consumption… (hums airily). Both of these things are fine I guess, but I was starting to get paranoid that Oscar would become fussy about food with separate components or bits in it, and I was becoming bored with the same old menu (I’m sure Oscar was, too). Then along came this book, and with it a gust of fresh air.

Continue Reading…


First finger food ideas

May 19, 2016

Can you believe that Thomas is now nine months old?? Seriously, it’s going by so fast second time around. He’s been eating food for more than three months now and, just like his brother, he’s taken to it with gusto, shoving food into his mouth with giddy abandon.

First finger food ideas

We’re going for a broadly baby-led weaning approach.* For us, that means we generally put a bit of whatever we’re eating on his high chair tray and let him feed himself (obviously, with no added salt or sugar).

When we first introduced food to Thomas, he struggled to get a grip of anything, so it was a case of trial and error discovering which foods he could actually manoeuvre into his mouth. As with most skills that children learn, at first you feel like they’re NEVER going to get the hang of it, but if you can bear to leave them to it, it’s amazing how quickly they do learn and now, at eight months, Thomas can pretty much eat whatever we’re eating. It’s worth mentioning that for the first few months of weaning (at least) they’re getting nearly all of their needs met by milk, so it’s ok if not much goes in their mouth!

I thought I’d share the finger foods that worked well for us at first, as they’re all things I still prepare for him now for lunchboxes or to appease him while I make dinner. Continue Reading…

Beauty and Style

How the right bra can make your day

May 10, 2016

This is a post about my boobs – and how I managed to find some bras that make even my post-breastfeeding pair look decent, while at the same time being comfortable – and (just as important in my book) pretty. Bear in mind that Oscar is two and a half now, so this has been a long, long time coming…

A few weeks ago, perhaps as a continuation of my decision to grow up a bit and upgrade my crappiest possessions, I finally, finally got round to making time to buy some bras that actually fit me (a small miracle).

The bras I bought after I stopped breast-feeding Oscar were hopelessly mis-sized – my poor, deflated boobs just slouched at the bottom of the cups which, unaided by actual flesh, gave me a rigid, unnatural silhouette in the manner of a Barbie doll. Plus, the underwire dug into the front of my ribs so much that I would whip off the offending bra as soon as I got home in favour of good old PJs – I’m sure you’re all familiar with the bliss of that bra-release moment.

When my boobs were in their prime, I wore full-cupped 32F bras with low-cut tops and figure-hugging dresses. Since weaning Oscar, I’ve stuck to the same bra size, worn with round necked jumpers, T-shirts and shirts. However, I was finding life with an underwired bra so uncomfortable that I hatched a plan: admit defeat in the world of lingerie, buy some non-wired bras, and try to own the 1970s effect it would have on my figure. Off I went to Oxford Street with the intention of raiding M&S and the like to find a non-wired bra in my size that wasn’t utterly repulsive.

As it happened, fate intervened. Continue Reading…


How do you manage work and childcare?

April 28, 2016

Pete and I always used to discuss getting an au pair at some point – he was a an au pair in Germany for a few months after he finished university and he really enjoyed it. Now, with two children, and the associated childcare costs, it’s starting to feel like a real possibility.

I’ve always been fascinated to hear how other families organise their work and childcare, as there are so many ways to do it! I’ve already written about how I returned to work full-time after my first maternity leave while Pete went part-time and what a positive experience it was for all of us. Recently, I quizzed a few of our friends with children to see what they love (and hate!) about their current set-up.

home office Continue Reading…


The forgotten luxury of home comforts

April 20, 2016

Juan had, until recently, been sniffing continually for about two years. No matter how deeply we cleaned the flat (not very, tbh…), or how many times we washed his clothes, or how often he swallowed anti-histamines, he appeared to constantly have a cold on its way in or out. I was convinced, however, that it wasn’t a cold, and finally managed to persuade him to see a doctor, who diagnosed him with chronic rhinitis and suggested he try an anti-allergy pillow. A few weeks ago, I got around to ordering some – and while I was at it, I treated us to our first new duvet in our 10-year relationship (and my first new duvet – I think – ever).

All I can say is that the nights I spent huddling down under a stodgy, lumpen, cheapo duvet now seem like a lifetime ago – my impulse duvet purchase created a watershed moment in our lives. It is a joy to go to bed these days – if I close my eyes I can imagine I am in a boutique hotel. Sure, it was a £160 outlay that we could have done without – but if we keep it for as long as we soldiered on with the last sorry specimen, that breaks down to just £16 a year. In other words, a complete bargain – and that’s disregarding the positive impact the anti-allergy stuffing is already having on Juan’s well-being.

Forgotten luxuries |

It got me thinking about all the other home comforts that I make do with or without. Continue Reading…

Beauty and Style

My 2016 spring capsule wardrobe

April 14, 2016

As the end of my first capsule approached, I started thinking about my Spring capsule. The weather isn’t likely to change too drastically over the next few months (although we can always hope!), so it’s not like I’ll need lots of different clothes, but I wanted to change things up enough to make sure I don’t get bored.

Even though I only had a teeny capsule wardrobe to begin with, there were still a few items that I didn’t wear – it turns out that the pleather skirt doesn’t really suit my lifestyle at the moment – so I’ve taken them out and dug my denim jacket out of storage for when it gets warmer. I always used to laugh at Nicky for storing her ‘Winter’ clothes under the bed during Summer – I never really saw the point – but I’m coming round to the idea now: bringing things out of storage almost feels like you’ve bought something new and it also means that the only clothes hanging in my wardrobe are ones I can legitimately wear.

Of course, my three month shopping ban also meant that I was itching to do a little shopping! Here’s what I bought:

colourblock jumper Continue Reading…


Tips for running 10k

April 6, 2016

I have this vague ambition to run a marathon at some point in my life. I’m not sure why, I just think that I would feel like a total bad-ass if I actually managed to run one. I had never really run properly until a couple of years ago. I started off small with Couch to 5k and then never really got much further, what with pregnancy and babies getting in the way. So, in November I decided to sign up for the Kingston Breakfast Run – an eight mile (13km) race. Back then, April seemed so far away that I booked my spot and pretty much forgot about it until sometime in February, when I realised it was only six weeks away and I had to get my ass into gear.

Tips for running 10k

Here’s how I managed to actually run eight miles (high-five!) and what worked for me: Continue Reading…


When did I stop being punctual?

April 2, 2016

I have always thought of myself, with pride, as being a punctual person. Anyone reading this who knows me, however, might just have swallowed their tea the wrong way, because in fact (as I am starting to realise), I am incurably and chronically tardy. In fact, lately, whenever I am on time, it is a fluke.

Part of this is the pace of London living – who here doesn’t look up the route they need to take from A to B on the TfL website and then work to precisely the journey time shown, even though everyone knows that this estimate is at best optimistic? I usually leave the house five minutes after I should, then get in a flap as I encounter delayed trains, and compound my lateness with a mistake such as heading southbound instead of northbound on the Tube (as I did the other day en route to meet friends for dinner).

My hurried lifestyle also means that I don’t read and digest emails and texts as thoroughly as I should. At the start of the year, Oscar was invited to a birthday party, and I had read that it would run from 9.30am until the afternoon. In my head, this information mutated until I had convinced myself that we could arrive just before midday. Although the venue was just around the corner from our flat, we were so late that when we arrived they were getting ready to pack up. Oops.

Part of the reason for my chronic tardiness is also the need to accommodate Oscar into my schedule (but I have to admit that I use him as a scapegoat more often than is fair – he is a gold-plated get-out-of-jail-free card). The other day I arranged to go to the house of a friend from NCT for a play date, but that afternoon, Oscar decided to treat himself to a freakishly long nap, and by the time he woke up I was running almost an hour behind ‘schedule’. If I had woken him up, he would have been in too foul a mood for polite company, so I just had to accept that I would be late and make my apologies.

I’m not excusing my behaviour – lateness is really annoying. Rather, I’m coming to terms with it. I’m realising that although I’ve been seeing myself as a generally punctual person who is sometimes late, in the eyes of others, I am actually a hopelessly late person who sometimes manages to arrive on time.

Continue Reading…


Why I wish traffic cones didn’t exist

March 24, 2016

I know traffic cones perform important functions – namely ushering traffic around workmen and decorating lamp posts in university towns ­– but at the moment, every time I see one, my heart sinks. That is because Oscar has been completely obsessed with them for the last couple of months, and there is currently no end in sight to this phase.

Traffic cones and other toddler obsessions |

If we lived somewhere rural, this wouldn’t be such an issue. But in south London, you can walk into one every 500 yards – and often they exist in packs. Every day we admire a cornucopia of cones: standard orange cones with their reflective white strip, cones with white bases, deformed cones with their tops lopped off, miniature cones, absolutely-filthy-dirty cones, and rarer yellow (and even green) versions. It eats up an increasing portion of our day, and is becoming exhausting.

Oscar’s brain has mapped the cone coverage of south London, and he is constantly updating it. Wherever we go, he will notice if a cone has appeared, moved or (thank God) disappeared – in the case of the latter he will turn to me excitedly and say, ‘Mr Bull tidied up ALL the cones!’ If only. (Don’t know Mr Bull? Let me introduce you…) When we visited the excellent Magic Lantern Festival in Chiswick, he liked the displays and all, but do you know what got the biggest smile? The chance to pose with two traffic cones on the train platform on the way home – the proof is in the picture above. I thought we would have a break from cones when we went skiing for a week recently, but do you know what? They stand out quite well against the white snow. (They’re red, in France, if you’re interested…)

Continue Reading…

Beauty and Style

Thoughts on my first capsule wardrobe

March 17, 2016

Seeing as it is now officially Spring, today marks the end of my first capsule wardrobe, and I thought I’d share how it went (you can find a recap of exactly what a capsule wardrobe is here). Despite what you might think, the capsule idea is not about restricting yourself to a small wardrobe – it’s more about starting from scratch and building a wardrobe that (a) suits your lifestyle, (b) can be mixed and matched easily, and (c) contains only items that you love. It’s certainly not about punishing yourself in any way, it’s about making life easier – and I’ve definitely found that to be true!

What has struck me the most about my capsule wardrobe is that, since starting it, I always have an outfit to wear – that’s despite the fact that I now own fewer clothes than ever, and regardless of which items are in the wash at any one time. Whenever I open my wardrobe, I’m happy to wear whatever’s there, which has made choosing an outfit stress free.

Winter capsule outfits

It’s not that I think I look super-stylish all the time, but I can honestly say that pretty much every day I’ve liked what I was wearing and I felt good in it. I used to have days when I would feel a bit weird in what I’d thrown on that morning (you know those days…), but that never happened with the capsule wardrobe.

Also, because I could combine anything in my wardrobe, I never felt like I was wearing the same thing all the time (my friends might beg to differ!). Over the past three months, I’ve tried so many combinations of tops with shoes, trousers and coats that I’ve never felt bored – even towards the end of the season, I was still experimenting with new outfits. My top tip for combining capsule wardrobes is to use Pinterest – if I’m looking for ideas on how to wear my denim shirt, then I just search ‘denim shirt outfit’ for instant inspiration. 

Not shopping for three months has also been surprisingly easy. I’ve definitely been thinking all along about what I wanted to add come Spring, but I managed to stay out of the shops. The thing is, now that everything has to go together and be worn a lot, I’ve become very  picky, which has made buying new things quite tricky – to start with, I sent so many online orders back.

The idea of the capsule is to replenish your wardrobe with new-season items once every three months, but I feel like shopping for several items all in one go doesn’t really work for me – it’s too overwhelming. However, I want to carry on with the capsule at least until the summer and see how I feel then. I read this article on a 50-piece closet recently – it’s about a more relaxed approach to the capsule idea – and I think that’s where I’ll end up eventually. For now, though, this has been a really useful experiment for helping me to break my impulse-shopping habit and learn more about my personal style. I’ll share the new additions to my Spring(!) wardrobe soon.

Are you tempted to start a capsule wardrobe? And how about a 50-piece wardrobe?

P.S. 5 mum outfits, 5 great ankle boots and the perfect nail polish.