Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A quick 'n' tasty dish for the children tonight?

I've never cooked this before and was delighted when Esme (4YO) and Sofia (17MO) both cleared their bowls. It is a variation on pasta bake, and yes, I didn't have any pasta! But in all honestly, I never thought it would work quite so well!

You will need:
Rice
Sweetcorn (frozen)
Tin of toms (half)
Chopped courgette (half)
Tin of tuna
Squirt of ketchup
Cheese to top

How easy is this dish?
Cook the rice, add the corn. In a frying pan cook the courgette, add the toms and the tuna. Then add the rice and corn, stir in the ketchup and serve with a generous helping of cheese. Hey presto. Delicious!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Even more down to earth with a bump (1)

My record of Sofia Faith's pregnancy: week 3

I've had my hair cut off. I've been threatening to do it for ages. God knows I've only kept it long as I thought it would be easier while having babies. But baby number two has taken so long to materialise, that this week I decided enough is enough and I've finally gone for it. It is quite short. If I'm honest, I look like I'm wearing a crash helmet. 

And unaware of why, I totally feel like shit. Hungover. Just without the alcoholic intake. How's that for pants?

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Secondary Infertility & helping yourself (2)

Secondary infertility is a real issue. The amount of women having trouble falling pregnant with their second is really staggering. Not so very long ago, I was one of those women, and I went on a mission to do everything I could to help aid my fertility.

I was able to have one baby. Why could I not carry a second? 

Anxiety, failure, loss, grief. These are words that are all associated with Secondary Infertility (also referred to as SI). It is a cruel issue that now affects 1 in 5 couples and is for the most part unexplained.

Of course age has to be a massive player. For women are leaving it later and later to start a family, and the quality of their eggs deteriorates with age. The pressure that women put themselves under, such as wanting a particular age-gap between siblings, is also a very real factor, as is the tiredness brought on by having a first child already.

For me, due to being nearly 40, help from the NHS was limited. I did go on to progesterone. I don't think it helped though for the side-effects included hair loss, bloating and irritability. Considering you are supposed to have loads of sex to get pregnant, that's hardly a turn-on. What did help me however, were the following... 

Babycare Before Birth by Zita West, midwife and all-round fertility guru. Especially the first section, 'Building Blocks,' which informs on how to help prepare your body for pregnancy. (Babycare Before Birth Dorling Kindersley, 2006)
 
Changing my diet – mainly eating lots of protein and anti-oxidants.

Taking supplements of L-arginine, amino acids, multi-vitamins, and of course folic acid, and, because of my miscarriage history, junior aspirin (75mg). 

Agnus Castus, a homeopathic remedy to balance hormones (apparently it doesn't help everyone).

MLD (see my previous SI post) as a treatment also good for balancing hormones.

Cranial Osteopathy 


If you would like to read more, including what Zita West has to say on the matter of SI, then the full article: Secondary Infertility and me, will be out in the summer issue (2013) of Baby London magazine.



Currently, my 1Grace1Faith...

'Remember when they were the right side of the bars?'

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Product review - Travel system


REVIEW TIME -and this Recaro Akuna Profi Travel System should not be overlooked.

Comfortable for newborns and toddlers, it is light, compact, 
easy to steer and transport

Details 
Price: £310.00 
Age suitable for: Birth-3yrs 
Weight: 14.8kg 
Seat facing direction: Forward facing and rear facing

The Recaro Akuna Travel System is a product that, as its racing car seat manufacturer’s name suggests, will leave all its counterparts in the dust. Seriously, this is one top product.

German engineered and released in 2010, what makes the Recaro Akuna different to other travel systems on the market is the car seat. The car seat is the Recaro Young Profi Plus Infant Safety Carrier, and is the only infant carrier that ‘grows’ with your baby. Its unique selling point is that the backrest can be adjusted five times to suit the size of your child, from birth to 13kg. It also features extra high side wings for side impact safety, and weighs 4.3kg. Add to this the fact that as a travel system the Akuna is so compact and lightweight, and Recaro has got a winner on its hands.

The car seat, carrycot and Akuna buggy are available to buy as one for £395, or to purchase separately, and as the buggy is suitable from birth, the carrycot becomes optional. Indeed, I didn’t manage to get hold of a carrycot to test (demand is so high), but the buggy and car seat (for a total price of £310) leave me in no doubt that the entire product as a travel system is superb.

The Akuna is available in cherry/black and (my personal favourite) asphalt/grey. The fabric is imitation suede, but don’t let this put you off as far as keeping it clean. As well as looking amazing, all covers can be removed and washed at 30 degrees.

What’s clear is that the Recaro Akuna buggy and Recaro Young Profi Plus car seat work well both together and apart. To give a fair test of the Akuna’s capabilities, my 2-year-old daughter Esme trialled the buggy’s suitability for toddlers, while a friend’s 9-week-old daughter Astrid, tried out the car seat.

 

What we love

We took the Akuna buggy with us to see how it faired on a day trip. As I opened up the buggy in the car park I could see the parents next to me assembling their buggy and enviously eyeing mine. In fact the whole day I was very much aware of others – especially dads - admiring my handsome Recaro Akuna. I had to fight my husband off so that I could test it out. And I honestly think if he could have sat in it, he would have! But who wouldn’t? It looks so inviting.

The robust buggy seat is what makes this product for me. It has a 3-position recline function and adjusts to reclining back completely flat. When Esme had had enough, she entered in to a deep slumber and frankly looked like she was more comfy in the Akuna than in her bed because of the amazing cushioning!

Even with the seat fully reclined for Esme to sleep, the roomy basket underneath is accessible.

I’m also so impressed that the buggy seat sits totally upright. Every other stroller I’ve tested with Esme has never sat her up straight.

A 5-point safety harness and bumper bar add protection, although I removed the bumper bar for Esme and she was able to climb in and out of the buggy herself. Big girl stuff indeed!

Esme is not the lightest of toddlers now that she is 2, so I was surprised to find how manoeuvrable the Akuna was with her onboard. At 10.5kg, the Akuna is not the lightest of buggies either, but the clever design of the wheels with ball bearings mean that they spin more efficiently. Plus the two steerable front wheels and the four rear wheels are all spring mounted, making for an even easier ride. I was impressed that pushing seemed effortless.

The handles are height adjustable and spin round to make pushing the Akuna comfortable however tall you are.

To me, the cup holder on the side of the buggy equals life about town. And although not designed to be an off-roader, the Akuna performed brilliantly on unpaved terrain, too. Tree roots galore, it coped admirably and Esme bounced her way cross-country seemingly with ease.

The ultra light aluminium chassis allows the Akuna to fit in to the smallest of vehicles. I especially love the fact that the entire buggy collapses, thanks to the brilliant concertina-style base. Many travel systems don’t offer this and see you dismantling the seat every time and struggling to transport all the components. Folding and unfolding the Akuna is simple, although you do need both hands.

The buggy is suitable from birth, and for once, I actually believe it really is. The Akuna offers fantastic support and protection for a newborn. It has lots of cushioning, soft chest pads and fully reclines. Also, you have the option of having your baby facing you. In this parent-facing mode, you can reach down to your baby and get as close as you wish due to the position of the open handles and no cross bar.

The raincover (£12.50) is very easy to attach and does a super job of keeping things dry. It comes with a clip-on carry bag.

As a travel system, the Recaro Akuna works so very easily. Everything fits together so simply, anyone can make it work. To remove the seat you push a button each side and release it. To put the car seat on the frame, you use the two adaptors included, which click into place easily. To take the car seat off again, simply press two more buttons to release.

The Young Profi Plus Infant Carrier is a car seat that’s every bit as excellent as the buggy. Baby Astrid was secure and comfortable within its padding. It looks every bit the part in your vehicle and can be used with either a 3-point car seatbelt or if your car allows, ISOFIX.

The car seat covers can be removed and washed and off the buggy chassis and out of the car, it can be used to rock your baby. A final plus, in the area of accident safety, this car seat was a test winner in 2007.

To complete the review, see images of the Sovereign and to read the all-important What to watch out for and Verdict sections, then please click on the links below which will take you through to the parenting website MadeForMums, where this review first appeared, published in Feb 2012.

Summary : Full Review : Gallery : Specs


Friday, 15 February 2013

Philosophical musings of a 4YO

Esme Grace didn't want to go to school today. She said she was not at all bothered about learning in order to get a good job when she is grown up. 

I told her Sofia Faith clearly has designs on running the country so she ought to be bothered, as it would not do for the PM's big sister to be on the dole. 

She replied, 'That's fine Mummy, I don't want to run the country anyway, I'll just walk it.'

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Pancake day - Saving the best 'til last

It's pancake day and I couldn't wait to get up and cook them for the girls this morning. The fact that I was cheating, and Aunt Bessie or Aunt Jemima or whoever was sat waiting on the kitchen side, is by the by. Indeed I felt quite smug, for as well as purchasing a ready-made mix, I had also purchased a lemon. How very organised of me.

Downstairs, radio on, and the three of us are all excited. I begin to read Auntie's directions. Add water, shake. That's it? I don't even need to crack an egg? Hell, I don't even need to put it in a bowl. It simply shakes in the carton. Definitely the way forward - sorry Ma if you're reading this. (Mum's an amazing cook and wouldn't approve).

So we're grooving and I'm cooking with gas. The pan is really hot. I pour the mixture on to the smoking oil and watch intrepidly. Esme shuffles from foot to foot, and for once it is not that she needs the loo. It is just that she gets it. Plain and simple, it is pancake day and pancakes are delicious! 

As I peer at the pancake in my pan, I see sadly that something isn't right. How can that be when this has been poured out of a packet? Surely these pancakes are idiot proof? I'm already baffled when...

...Just at that moment, Mr Whiter than bloody white himself begins talking on the radio to me. Raymond Blanc is commenting that a pancake is heavy and a crepe is light. I glance at mine. Oh dear, what I appear to have is a cross between the two - a crap pancake. Nevermind, Esme is none the wiser.

I big it up, bluffing my way. 'Darling, Mummy is going to toss this beautiful pancake of yours now. Ready? Watch.' 

It's a disaster. It doesn't budge. Refuses to flip. My eager 4YO shouts, 'Let me see Mummy, let me see.' There's nothing to see; it looks so un-pancake-like at this point. The look on her face says it all. I toss it again. This time in to the bin.

I start again. Hot pan, smoking oil. Less mixture. 'It's all about the batter,' says Raymond. 'No shit,' mouths I. What on earth is going wrong? 

'Oh Esme. Don't worry, the more you make the better they become. And anyway, the first one always goes in the bin darling.' I'm not sure what to say when the second one follows it. Esme's look of disappointment has been replaced with disillusion. Sofia sat in her highchair, just looks hungry.

From this point on I have better luck. Pancake numbers three and four make it on to a plate each for the children. I've given up with the flippin' tossin' malarkey and now carefully let an egg slice do the best it can. Not bad. 

Before long, Esme has enjoyed three pancakes and Sofia some more. Traditional sugar and lemon have been left aside for jam. I ought to have known.

Back at the stove top I'm dancing again for I've finally mastered a couple of really impressive crepes. I have truly saved the best 'til last. I turn to the kids, frying pan in hand and announce I'm about to flip again. I big it up even more than last time... and yes... it works, flipping perfectly. Brilliant! But what is more brilliant perhaps, is the look on Esme's face as she innocently asks, 'Mummy, is that one real?'


FOOTNOTE
I think that where I went wrong along the way was to let Esme Grace (my-ever-so-helpful 4YO) shake Auntie; for when I arrived at the bottom of the carton there were lumps of powder mix that had barely been kissed by the water. Perhaps this sheds some light as to why my foolproof pancake mix just wasn't all that?! Next year I fully intend to make them from scratch, although I think I'll probably practise first!


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Secondary infertility & helping yourself (1) MLD

Secondary infertility is a real issue. The amount of women having trouble falling pregnant with their second is really staggering. Not so very long ago, I was one of those women, and I went on a mission to do everything I could to help aid my fertility. 

One of the things I tried was Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD for short). Here's what it is, how it works, what it feels like, symptoms of, and, what it could cost:

THE LYMPH SYSTEM is the body's waste disposal unit, responsible for filtering out toxins and bacteria.

MANUAL LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE is a massage on the lymphatic system rather than on the muscles. The massage speeds up the waste-removal process.

IT IS SUITABLE FOR treating allergies, acne, arthritis, sinus problems, water retention associated with pregnancy and PMT and stretch marks. It is also said to help with weight loss. It is widely used for a general detox.

WHAT IT FEELS LIKE is out of this world for it is so relaxing. Because it is so gentle, you let go completely, indeed, I found myself nodding off each time.

SYMPTOMS AFTER include thirstiness, tiredness, and in my case, peeing like a racehorse. (I'm sure I could have knitted a jumper in the time I took to have a wee after a treatment). No puns intended; MLD does take it out of you, and because of that, it is really nice to have a treatment in the evening before bed.

THE BENEFITS REGARDING CONCEPTION aren't necessarily obvious, and that's a real shame for actually, MLD can help greatly with this cause. The reason being the lymphatic system is not only responsible for getting rid of toxins, but also plays a vital role in the circulation of hormones. Thus, MLD can be used to prepare the body for conception.

THE COST varies but I paid £40 per hour session.

For more info go to Holistic Haslemere 
or visit the MLD website itself at http://mlduk.org.uk/

'I've met your sort before'

So this weekend I'm doing the grocery shop, kids in tow, and am at the checkout with Sofia the toddler (screaming 17MO), when Esme (gregarious 4YO) suddenly disappears.

I find her three checkouts over, animatedly telling a woman I do not know that her little sister is yelling again. Totally flustered I collect her to the tune of, 'Heavens above, please. How many times do I tell you, we don't talk to strangers? And stay with Mummy.'

I manage to smile feebly at the woman and wonder is it me, or does she have a look of disdain about her? Esme returns with me to Sofia (still screaming).

We manage to complete our shop and are on the way back home when Esme casually informs me, 'By the way Mummy, that was not a stranger, that was one of the teachers from school.'

Consider me a marked mother.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

A little more detail (8) Finally pregnant again

I've spent the week writing a series of posts on NY and it has been brilliant reminiscing and romanticising about a life that was prior to having kids, but now back to motherhood and my reality, and a little more detail...

So where was I then? Reminded that I am lucky to have a second little one in my life. A warning not to constantly bemoan the fact that I find her challenging and exhausting, but a motion to hold her tight just that little bit more and wonder at her being, her sense of adventure, her spirit.

That sense of adventure is one that is teamed up with a steely determination. Of course it is. Sofia had to be determined right from the word go. The fact that I was even holding on to her pregnancy alone tells me how strong she was from the very beginning. Thinking about it, I realise her pregnancy held on to me. Oh my little tenacious one.

I'd been having Manual Lymphatic Drainage, I'd worked at my diet, I'd taken Agnus Castus, Infact I'd done all manner of things. With 'that clock' ticking away and only two weeks of the six months left to go, I saw the cranial osteo - aka 'magic man'. 

Two treatments with Chris Grey later, I was pregnant with Sofia. That doesn't read too well does it?! Actually, the most physical it ever got was when his hand hovered above my uterus. Strangely, he concluded that my womb was folded and laying to one side. Even more strangely, his hand hovered some more and I felt an internal shift. I guess my womb straightened out. Whatever he did, all I know is that the following month I'd conceived.


The posts hereafter called 'Even more down to earth with a bump' will document my pregnancy journey with Sofia Faith, and I hope you enjoy sharing her story with me.


In hindsight, I'd seen the gynae at the hospital who had ordered a routine scan. The sonographer hadn't said my womb was folded and laying to one side, but she had said, 'Sorry it's taking so long, I'm having difficulty taking the measurements of your womb.' Which would surely indicate... 


Osteo Cranial with Chris Grey 
The Wishing Well, Petersfield, Hants 
01730 233802








Friday, 8 February 2013

A postcard from Montauk, Long Island

I'm on the road in Long Island and after leaving East Hampton today I drive to a state park, the Walking Dunes. It's not quite Namibia, but still a desolate beauty, and that is hard to find elsewhere out here. The dunes reach 80ft in places.  They are silent (save the breeze).

Afterwards, I carry on until I find the beach at Montauk. What a discovery. It is beside a motel that begs the imagination to surrender to images of 1950’s beach babes in shades, sunhats and togs on the veranda, with their pursuing men on motorbikes nearby in the lot, smoking and generally trying to act cool. 

Yes, Montauk is cool. And colourful and refreshing too. Surf's up. In the words of Bill Withers: 'Lovely day.'

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

In relation to the nanny note regarding jelly & poo


In relation to the nanny note regarding jelly and poo...

The parents of these two children honestly loved them. In time, they learnt how to say no. And in time, the children learnt how to honestly love them right back.


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Nanny notes (London, New York) - How much jelly? She did a poo where?

The humourous nanny tale I'm about to recall is one that relates to poo - of course. Let's face it, poo is hilarious at the best of times. I seem to have countless tales involving the delightful matter. But only one from NY. And then it's not NYC, it's out on Long Island. In the Hamptons. East Hampton to be exact. Could it get any posher one wonders? East Hampton and poo I hear you gasp? Here goes:

I was nannying for the summer out in East Hampton. It was a tough job and one that stretched my patience in a way that I'd never known possible. (I didn't have my own kids then). Anyway, the two children -let's call them Peter (6) and Luisa (3) had absolutely everything that they could possibly want; except for any boundaries that is. And we all know that a child without any rules in place is one that feels insecure and that this insecurity often plays out in bad behaviour. 

I first realised my charges were going to be a challenge when I went to visit the Tower of London with them. At lunchtime we went in to the restaurant and the three-year-old demanded every single type of jelly available. And mum, harassed by the tantrum, immediately and robotically, placed six bowls of jelly on to two trays. Of course, Luisa didn't touch any of it. And it was then, literally hours before I was due to fly Stateside with them, that the horrors of what I had signed up for, dawned on me. Anyway, we join the story, while staying at the family's summer house, a few weeks in to the job. We'd been out for the evening...

East Hampton 2003

Been to the circus this evening. It is so sad that something that is supposed to be so full of fun has to turn in to a full blown row at every opportunity for these kids. They constantly fight their mother to see if they can win control of each and every battle, big or small. 

Anyway, the circus. Thank God there were no mangy looking animals. Only some very mangy looking cats, but that's okay, 'cause they're only cats.(Cat lovers I do apologise). The only other animals present were horses, and if anything, they all looked content. Or as content as horses ever look. 

So fortunately it lacked in animals. There were trapeze artists, clowns, a tight rope walker, and, as in all of the best circus stories, a ring master complete with black top hat and red tails.

There was a lady who swung from the enormous sky that is the 'big top' by her hair, and many gymnasts who sprung up and stood on top of one another, before tumbling down again at surprisingly super speed.

Then, the piece de resistance: and by far the ultimate show stopper, a human cannon ball! No joke, a woman was fired right across the ring. She seemed okay.

In short, I really enjoyed the circus! So did Peter. Luisa liked the candy floss.

The kids got the biggest balloons ever, which just happened to be on the end of long sticks, perfect for eye flicking. I managed to conveniently leave them in the back of the car. The children had their faces painted. Such fun...

Their mom's been feeling guilty for being away for two days so she told the children that they could keep the paint on forever, that they could sleep in the face paint. I ask you. Was she serious? I don't know? Probably, what's money - another set of bed sheets in exchange for saying no? Much easier all round.

Many other nanny tales of tantrums later we were home again, but not before stopping on the side of the road for Luisa who was yelling violently that she needed the toilet. We had to stop. Imagine my surprise as holding her legs in the air behind the car, she swiftly produces a poo. In East Hampton. Where the perfect grass verge meets the perfect road. Where there are no gutters because there is absolutely nothing poor or squalid about the environment that exists here. That was amusing!

Bath time was only successful after telling the children I would buy them some face paints to use again and again during the daytime. In the end, Mom thought this was a good decision too. Once again, spending money on the children appears to win the day. 

But in truth, we all know it doesn't.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

My Manhattan musts

1. For amazing views and for FREE! walk across Brooklyn bridge.

2. Ellis island. No matter how many times I have been to New York City, I never tire of this memorial to the immigrants. It has definitely got a presence about it and is one of the city's more unique museums. Take the ferry from Battery Park for great views of Lady Liberty and the skyline (always so poignant now).

3. If it is only the view of the skyline from the water that you are after then board the Staten Island ferry. Extremely good value, a return fare used to cost a quarter. Remain on the boat and come back again, and catch yourself a break from tourists while you're at it! 

4. FOR FREE! And a must see, walk into the main concourse at Grand Central Station, once there, look up. The ceiling is quite beautiful, as is the building itself. The terminal only serves commuters, so time it with rush hour for the best buzz.

5. Empire State 5th Ave and 34th st - a must. Visit the observation deck when it is still light but verging on dusk. Remain as night falls and get the best of the views during day and night for one price. This means being up there a while. If you want my advice on seeing it day or night, then go at night.

6. Love pizza? Then book in to Little Italy's Lombardi's restaurant. Popular with the locals and the birthplace of New York style pizza; all adds for a great atmosphere. Find it on Spring Street. 212-941-7994

7. The Flat Iron Bridge building. This iconic triangular landmark is found at 5th, E22nd and Broadway, a most fabulous slice of Manhattan to photograph.

8. Not just an office complex, the Rockerfeller centre can be found in the centre of 5th and 6th Avenues and 48th and 51streets. Lively, colourful, and great in the winter for ice skating under.

9. A must is Central park. Get lost and enjoy. Got kids? The zoo is great.

10. Museum mile is found on 5th Ave and b/n 60th and 80th streets. Want a recommendation? A superb museum is the Frick 70th and 5th. One man's private and beautiful collection in his not so private, yet beautiful home. Totally interesting.

11. Just for fun: Dylan's candy store. Your eyes will pop. Beware the temper tantrums! Opposite Bloomingdales 3rd Ave b/n 60 and 61st.

12. On the Upper East Side, an American bakery called Two Little Red Hens roosts on 2nd Ave b/n 85th and 86th. It's a haven with a bohemian feel, is relaxed and has the most perfect cupcakes in town!

13. In the West Village - w4th st and Bleecker st to be exact- is Down the hatch. Fun nights that are good value - $2 pints, $8 pitchers, all you can eat deals, and an all round great American bar experience. 

Inspirational New York

Writing yesterday about Grand Central Station has inspired me to put together a few of the must see must, do spots of New York City, for living in Manhattan I found some great places. The next post houses my fav's...

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Time to stop and stare

Happy Birthday Grand Central Station, 100 years old today!

Manhattan for me is completely magical. I suppose some of that wonder can be summed up by taking a view of Grand Central Station's fascinating October sky painted on its cylindrical ceiling. The zodiac and the constellations are depicted, all outlined on a turquoise backdrop with illumination for the brightest stars. It is breath taking.

I was in New York in 1998 when this ceiling was unveiled after a revamp and it is as glorious to me now as it was then; it is just so moving. Indeed, I would say that if you fail to stop and stare when passing through the Grand Central terminal (certainly for the first time), then you are surely devoid of all emotion.

If you've never been to NYC and are planning a trip, make sure you pop in on this marvel of a centenarian. Find it at: 89 East 42nd Street at Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
p.s. If you are heading in that direction, then don't miss The Oyster Bar, one of New York City's oldest restaurants, housed in Grand Central, it offers views of this indoor  astronomical night sky as well as gastronomical great seafood. Of course, you will need to book in advance: 212-490-6650

There are a number of intriguing hidden features and facts about Grand Central that are revealed in the brilliant interactive map below, it's definitely worth a look:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/interactive/2013/feb/01/new-york-grand-central-station-secrets