The Seven Stages of Maternity Leave

So the time has arrived for me to go to back to work, and it’s so sad! I have ONE day of my eleven month maternity leave left, and I can’t believe this time has arrived. I knew it would, but I think I was in denial!

maternity leave

It has, hands down, been the best time of my life. It’s not that I don’t like work, or that I don’t want to continue with my career; I do. It’s more a sadness that this time is coming to an end.

The past eleven months have been a real journey and learning experience for me.  As Harry has grown, there have been different stages we’ve gone through. Here’s my take on it!

1. The Calm Before the Storm

You’ve finished work; there’s that feeling of excitement and a bit of fear. You happily leave work behind and spend the next few weeks relaxing and waiting in anticipation for a huge, life changing event. I spent this time going for walks, shopping, running errands. I didn’t relax that much! I had Ella for company and it was a really nice time.

2. Shock and Elation – The Newborn Stage

All of a sudden, they’re here. Life as you know it, has changed forever. You’ve given birth and can’t believe your luck. Relief and happiness just takes over. Sleep deprived and running on adrenaline, you try to work out how to be a parent while everyone you know comes to visit! You spend hours staring at your baby, marveling at this beautiful, tiny person.

3. The Hard Bit

The visitors die down, the sleep deprivation starts to get to you, your husband/partner goes back to work. This is when reality sets in. There was a momentary period when I felt a bit like everyone around me was going about their business and I felt I couldn’t do that. I had to get out, find things to do and find a new routine. When I did, things got so much better and I really started to enjoy every minute.

4. Joining the Mum Club

Suddenly everything is exciting and fun. Your baby emerges from the newborn stage and their personality starts to shine through. They smile, laugh, play with toys and love observing the world around them. You go for walks, to baby groups, to baby classes. You make mum friends and everything is a novelty. You try out soft play, going on days out, maybe even going on a short break somewhere nearby. You start to feel a little bit like your old self, but better – you have a baby now! You compare every little detail with your mum friends and chat at length about anything and everything to do with your baby.

5. The Settled Stage

You feel totally immersed in motherhood now. As though nothing else will ever matter again. You toy with the idea of not going back to work. You feel like you have found your true calling in life. Your baby is now eating real food and has gained a little bit of independence. You have settled into a nice routine (always subject to change, but nowadays you can handle that), and you could happily go on like this forever.

6. The Cherish Every Moment Stage

Suddenly you realise your time is starting to run out. You’ve been saying you had ‘ages left’ for a long time and now you’re realising you don’t have that long at all. You start to panic – you meet up with distant relatives and long lost friends and do lots of activities just so you’re sure you have ‘made the most’ of your time. Your baby starts to have their own firsts – first Halloween, first Christmas, for example. Time is starting to pass you by. You realise you ARE going back to work and that you better start preparing yourself!

7. The Dread before The Big Change

The last few weeks arrive and you start to mourn everything. Things start going wrong – your baby gets sick, stops sleeping through the night, becomes a fussy eater. You worry that you won’t be able to get out of the house on time in the mornings, that you have no clothes for work, that your baby won’t be happy without you. You get emotional and sentimental. Then you start to turn it around and accept your fate, and know, deep down that it will be ok, sort of.

And that’s the stage I’m at right now! Wish me luck!

Love, Laurel

Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

A really easy, warming stew for when you haven’t got time to mess around! This stew is so simple to make and the sweet potato is a really nice addition.

beef and sweet potato stew

Ingredients

  • 500g beef pieces
  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 pint water
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Brown the beef in a pan, then add the onions and cook for 5 minutes.
    Add all the ingredients to a large casserole dish with a lid and stir well.
  • Cook at 180 degrees Celsius for 2 hours, stirring once or twice during that time.

You could also make this in a slow cooker but I found it just as easy to make in the oven in my cast iron casserole dish. I also browned the beef in this too so it was a one pot meal – always good.

The sweet potatoes cook down so much they almost form a sauce or gravy, and the beef is really tender. We served it with mash but you could eat it alone or with some bread. It was so easy to make and was perfect on a cold evening.

This was also a meal that Harry could eat with us, which was Handy!

beef stew for baby

Love, Laurel

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

It’s almost Christmas! This year feels more exciting than most because I can’t wait for Harry to open his presents on Christmas morning! I know he’s only 8 months, but he loves toys, and I know he will really enjoy everything we have got him.

One of our Christmas traditions is making Cinnamon Rolls. I usually make them for Christmas morning, but this year I made them a few days early for some friends coming over. They turned out really well and are very festive!

cinnamon rolls recipe

Here’s the recipe:

For the dough:

  • 2.5 cups plain flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar + 1 tbsp sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp fast acting yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp softened butter

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

For the drizzle:

  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp milk

Method:

  • In a bowl, add the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside. Melt the butter in a separate bowl.
  • In a small bowl, add the milk and heat for 1 minute in the microwave. Then add the yeast and 1 tsbp sugar. Mix well and set aside for 10 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Then add the risen yeast mixture and then vanilla essence. Mix well and knead gently to form a soft, smooth dough. Add the butter and knead for a few more minutes. Cover and leave to rise for 1 hour or more.
  • Once the dough has risen to double it’s size, knead it lightly to take out the air. Add a bit more flour if the dough is too sticky.
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a rectangle approx 1/4 inch thick.
  • Brush the melted butter onto the rolled out dough. Then sprinkle on the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture.
  • Starting with the long edge, roll the dough into a sausage, pinching the edges to seal. Then cut into 1.5 inch pieces. You should get around 12 rolls.
  • Place cut side up, not touching, on a large baking tray and bake for 20 minutes on 170 degrees. If you do not want to bake immediately, you can freeze them beforehand. Let them thaw completely and come to room temperate before baking.
  • While the rolls are baking, make the drizzle by adding all the ingredients to a bowl and stirring well. Drizzle over the rolls once baked.

homemade cinnamon rolls

The rolls are soft, sweet and buttery, and are perfect as a mid morning treat!

Merry Christmas!

Love, Laurel

Easy homemade baby food and a handy gadget

Harry loves his grub. He is such a good eater (fingers crossed it stays that way) and seems to like anything we offer him!

homemade baby food recipes

I have been making a few different meals for him and pureeing them a bit less thoroughly now that he can manage a thicker, chunkier texture. I make batches and freeze them and that way he can have different options each day. Here are some of my recipes. They do not have to be exact! Each one makes around 8 portions.

Pasta Bolognese

    • 100g lean beef mince
    • 1 onion
    • 1 carrot
    • 1 stick celery
    • 1/2 can chopped tomatoes
    • Sprinkle of mixed herbs
    • Handful of macaroni pasta

Method: Fry onion until soft, add mince and cook until browned, and add the rest of the ingredients apart from the macaroni. Simmer for around 30 minutes. Lightly puree then add cooked macaroni.

Chicken and Butternut Risotto

    • 1 chicken breast
    • 1 onion
    • 1 sweet potato
    • 1/2 butternut squash
    • 1/2 cup risotto rice (you could use any rice)

Method: Lightly fry the onion and chicken breast pieces in a saucepan, add the rest of the ingredients and about 200ml water. Stir regularly until liquid is absorbed. Lightly puree.

Cheesy Vegetable Pasta

    • 50g cheddar cheese
    • 3 tomatoes
    • 1 courgette
    • 2 carrots
    • Handful of macaroni pasta

Method: Lightly fry all the vegetables, add cheese and milk and simmer. Lightly puree and add cooked macaroni.

Chicken and Sweetcorn Chowder

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 large potato
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1/2 cup frozen sweetcorn
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Sprinkle of parsley

Method: Lightly fry the chicken, potato and celery, add the sweetcorn and milk around 150ml water. Simmer until vegetables are soft. Lightly puree.

Chicken and All the Veg

    • 1 chicken breast
    • Any vegetables you have! Fresh or frozen. I buy bags of mixed veg and chuck it all in. Last week’s batch had sweet potato, butternut squash, broccoli, carrots and peas.

Lightly fry the chicken in a saucepan, add the veg and 1/4 vegetable stock cube and around 200ml water. Drain any excess water and lightly puree.

Beef Stew

    • 200g beef pieces
    • 1 onion
    • 2 carrots
    • 1 stick celery
    • 1 parsnip

I did this one in the slow cooker. Chucked it all in for about 4 hours, then lightly pureed it.

Harry has a decent sized portion of any of these as his ‘main course’ at lunch and dinner. He also has a dessert and some finger food at every meal. Sometimes it seems like he can be eating for ages! He loves to feed himself things like banana, broccoli, carrot sticks, toast, baby biscuits and porridge bars. For dessert he usually gets some greek yoghurt mixed with pureed pear, apple or mashed banana.

When heating up Harry’s defrosted food I usually microwave it for about 45 seconds. I like to make sure its hot enough to kill any bacteria but I then have to leave it to cool before feeding it to him (this is finger food time!). It’s always hard to tell if its cool enough for him to eat though. I was recently sent a handy gadget which has solved this issue – a Thermapen. This food thermometer allows me to quickly test whether Harry’s food is cool enough (approx 30 degrees). It takes a reading in about 3 seconds and no doubt I will be using it for all sorts of other foods too – testing meat and fish, cakes and bread.

thermapen food thermometer

Making Harry’s food is something I really enjoy doing and it is so much cheaper than buying all of the premade baby food. When we are out and about though I do feed him pouches or fruit pots if it’s not practical to bring homemade stuff!

Love, Laurel

Baby Treasure Box

Harry loves toys these days. He can sit up by himself now (we always put cushions behind him just in case), and can happily play alone with his toys for short periods.

baby treasure box

I have been going to a weekly Baby Sensory class and one of the ideas we were given was to make a ‘Treasure Box’ for our babies. Well, Harry LOVES it. It’s basically just a box of random, safe, household items. He has a lot of other ‘proper’ toys and does enjoy them, but the treasure box is what keeps him amused for longest.

You can add anything as long as it is safe for your baby. Harry’s contains:

  • 1 pack ball pit balls (about 20 of them for £1 at Poundland)
  • Shower puff
  • Sponge
  • Plastic serving spoon
  • Loaf tin
  • Bunch of straws (Harry’s absolute favourite)
  • Coffee tin filled with pasta
  • Hand cream tub filled with rice
  • Silk scarf

baby treasure boxHarry puts everything in his mouth, shakes things up and down and likes taking things in and out of the box. He spends ages pulling the straws apart and we use the scarf to play peekaboo. He also bangs the loaf tin with the plastic spoon! This is such a simple, inexpensive way of keeping your baby occupied. It helps Harry discover different textures and is a great ‘sensory’ experience for him.

Love, Laurel

Being a clean freak with Dettol!

Sometimes it seems like all I ever do is clean, wipe up spillages and other.. fluids, and then wash my hands! So when Dettol contacted me to see if I would like to try out some of their products, I thought ‘perfect!’.

I was sent the Dettol Power & Pure Kitchen spray, Power & Pure Bathroom wipes, and the No-Touch Automatic Handwash System.

dettol anti bacterial cleaning products

All three products were very much welcome and of great use in our house!

The kitchen spray did the trick on freshening up the kitchen and getting rid of any grease or stains.

The bathroom wipes were very handy for giving the toilet, sink and bath a quick freshen up and the packet size was generous. I know wipes aren’t very good for the environment, and we are getting through about a million baby wipes a week at the moment in addition to these, but as far as disinfectant wipes go, these are great. They smell lovely and are very convenient to use.

My favourite product of the 3 was definitely the No-Touch Handwash System. It comes with batteries and a clean, simple looking dispenser. You slot the anti-bacterial handwash into the dispenser, turn it on and off you go. You hold your hand under the top, and the handwash comes out without you having to touch anything. It lasts ages and smells really fresh.

All of the products kill 99.9% of bacteria, which is great with a young baby in our house.

Thank you to Dettol for sending me these products to review. I would definitely buy them again in future.

Baby Food!

We started introducing Harry to solids a bit earlier than the recommended 6 months, on advice from our Health Visitor. She said she felt he was ready to slowly start trying some vegetables, fruits and baby rice. So we went for it! This is our experience.

baby first foods cucumer

As soon as the first spoonful of baby rice was offered, Harry gobbled it up and hasn’t looked back! We then added pureed carrot to the baby rice and mixed it with formula. Every few days we tried a new vegetable or fruit. One meal a day to start, and then we increased that to ‘breakfast’ and ‘dinner’.

The best foods at that early stage were:

  • Carrot
  • Sweet Potato
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Banana

We mixed the above fruit or veg with baby porridge in the morning, and baby rice in the evening.

I then started giving Harry some finger foods after his puree, which have been great for helping him learn to feed himself, and experiment with textures and flavours. So far his favourites are cucumber, reduced sugar rusks, pieces of baguette and porridge fingers!

baby led weaning rusks

Porridge Fingers

  • 1 cup porridge oats
  • 1 cup milk (we use formula)
  • half a banana (mashed) / a few raisins or berries (chopped)
  • Mix the ingredients together and microwave for 2 minutes. Leave to set before slicing into fingers.

Now that Harry is over 6 months we have introduced meat! So far he has had chicken or beef mixed with vegetables and loves them both!

baby food recipe

Chicken or Beef with Root Vegetables

  • 1 onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 swede
  • 2 chicken breasts/250g diced beef
  • half a stock cube
  • Slow cook everything in one pot until tender and then puree! Makes approx 8 portions.

I have enjoyed making Harry’s food so far, but it is quite time consuming! I make batches and freeze individual portions so it’s not like I’m doing it every day. He seems to prefer the home made stuff so I will keep doing it as long as I can. Ready made stuff is so much easier for on-the-go though.

It’s been really enjoyable introducing Harry to different foods and he is such a hungry horace he gobbles up everything we give him! He gets so excited when he sees his food and bangs on his highchair in between mouthfuls!

Love, Laurel