I always find Halloween to be such a fun time of year, here in the UK I really don’t think we make enough of it. It’s so fun! I wrote about my thoughts on celebrating Halloween here, which you can read if you missed it.
One of my favourite things at Halloween is to dress up and enjoy playing make believe and getting into character, I join in with the boys too and it’s great fun (I have, as of yet, to get my husband to join in *ahem stick in the mud ahem* but I will eventually!) So with that in mind I thought I’d put together some of the coolest (and cutest) Halloween costumes that you won’t find on the highstreet.
This little Lion’s costume from BooBahBlue is just so sweet! The whole thing is made from polar fleece, so nice and toasty for trick or treating in the Autumn chill, and comes as a one piece so is easy to take on and off.
I love Thumbelina, not only do they provide these adorable costumes, but you can also buy hoodies and ponchos in a ‘costume style’ with little ears etc if you don’t want to go all out! How sweet?
Barrutoys produce these fab little dress up outfits for kids (the one pictured is their Native American outfit) 6 years and up. I think quite often that age bracket is forgotten, passed over and left with outfits that are either too young or not suitable because they are too grown up. These gems are the perfect solution!
I love these superhero sets from Chamaléon, they are fab. One of my favourite things about them is that you can team anything with the cape, wrist cuffs and mask to create a totally unique hero every time.
If you are looking for something slightly more creative then this customisable paper costume from OMY is the perfect Halloween treat. The sky is the limit for decorating as you can paint, glitter, marker or colour – whatever you choose. There are pre cut arm and head holes too, so no need for scissors, just decorate and go!
So something for everyone! I hope you enjoy searching for your child’s dressing up box as much as I do, and try to remember that a Halloween costume doesn’t have to be just for Halloween, kids love to dress up all the time and a dress up box is a must in any household!
I love the concept behind this company, it is so sweet. Created with inspiring the wonderful imaginations of children, these little doors are handcrafted and decorated in Ireland, they come in a variety of styes to suit every little imagination.
Not only does the fairy door add the most adorable and fun touch to any room, but the company also create the most wonderful little accessories; from wall decals to create a magical portal to a new world in one of the rooms in your home or just to add the finishing touches to fairy’s door step like a bench for them to rest on, or a wall plaque to name their home with.
You can order these awesome little gifts (which I think are perfect for any fairy fan for Christmas by the way!) from their online shop here.
I love these bowls, wow they are super stylish!
Etsy never fails to impress me and seldom lets me down but these bowls are just glorious! They are the handmade products of Marina, a fabulous designer from Croatia, and are so stylish that you wouldn’t mind having these out at a dinner party never mind just for the kids cereal in the morning.
You can find Marina’s lovely Etsy shop and her super stylish handmade bowls here.
What’s happening to baby this week?
Baby is now about 13 1/2 inches, weighs roughly around 1 1/2lbs, and is beginning to get some baby fat. Baby is also now beginning to get more hair, which is already showing the right colouring. This week baby is about the size of a large swede.
The reality: How have I been feeling this week?
I am so tired this week. Not to mention irritable. Unfortunately, this week has been really challenging with little sleep, badly behaved toddlers not contributing helpfully and general stresses. One really positive thing is the amount of kicks I am feeling from baby, it’s been absolutely lovely to feel her moving about… though feeling those sharp elbows and knees digging in hasn’t been as much fun.
I think the lack of energy also hasn’t been helped by my anaemia, something which i’m hoping to combat with spatone and a better diet! I also had to have a glucose test this week thanks to a family history of diabetes, which was absolutely horrible!
Not really had any this week, though I have been eating oranges and pink grapefruit slices like they are going out of fashion. Yum.
The bad, adorable and downright funny.
I can now pop my belly button out because my bump is getting so big! It’s gross, but the boys think it is hilarious!
Toby and Reuben are getting more and more spellbound by my bump as the weeks go on, it is really quite adorable and special. They haven’t had the patience to feel baby kick yet, but it is very sweet when they put their little hands on.
The tiredness and irritability has been really tough this week. I really just want to be left alone and rest.
Is anyone else beginning to feel the nip of winter beckoning? Well I am, especially in the mornings before that Autumn sun has had a chance to warm things up a touch. I don’t think I ever appreciate warm feet as much as I do in that period of time when the weather is changing from Autumn to Winter and things are so chilly.
I was looking for some new slippers for everyone (apart from my husband who would wear flip flops in snow!) and I came across these absolutely lovely ones from EgleSweetHome. They are all handmade slippers, made and designed by the very talented Egle in her craft shop in Lithuania, with 100% merino wool and a handy natural latex sole to stop you having any accidents slipping over in the house.
Egle can make any of her designs in any size, so if you have two or three little ones and want a pair yourself you can all have some!
You can find Egle on Etsy here.
P.s – If you are like me and trying to get organised early, these would make a wonderful Christmas gift for someone special, even the man in your life.
This is something that always makes me cringe and grind my teeth. I feel like the media are constantly ramming down expectant parent’s throats that they are supposed to be soooo much more in love during their pregnancy and the first few months of baby’s life, after all it’s such a happy time. Ha. You only have to google relationships during pregnancy and you will be met with image after image of blissfully happy couples or on the flip side, advice about violence during pregnancy, but nothing about the average day to day relationships ups and downs many face. Every time you open a parenting magazine, or even if you want to read a celebrity story of pregnancy, you can guarantee a heartfelt piece about the wonders that this pregnancy and baby has done for the couple’s relationship, coupled with couples smiling blissfully at each other over the baby’s head. They are just so happy and so in love with being pregnant and welcoming this wonderful gift into the world… blah blah blah.
You know what? After years and years of working with expectant, new parents and having four pregnancies of my own, I can honestly say this just isn’t reality for most people. It isn’t, relationships during pregnancy can be damn tough. I’m sorry to burst that bubble, but if you lie awake at 3.30am after your fourth bathroom trip in as many hours and your partner is lying next to you blissfully snoring away, you are normal if you contemplate smothering him with a pillow and plan how to get away with it. Hell, you’re likely to be acquitted by a jury anyway!
We all know that marriage and partnerships are a give and take game, and it’s hard work at the best of times. You are both individuals, two people who share their lives together and often live as a ‘one’; you’re invited to events together, you share bills, you share responsibilities. You share yourself while still remaining a sense of individuality. The thing is, when you throw a pregnancy or a new baby into the mix, those individualities suddenly slip: you aren’t just those people anymore, there is a whole new dimension to you, especially for a new or expectant mother. Why is it that we struggle so much as a society to recognise that this is a process and isn’t going to be a smooth evolution of your partnership. It’s ok for it to be tough, and insisting that relationships are only affected in a positive way is foolish and only adds further pressure to an already pressured filled situation.
It isn’t just a new baby that alters things, it starts from that blue line, doesn’t it? Be honest. You’re world shifts, you become a mother prepared to do anything to protect your young, while your partner has to process that the person he loves is now forever changed, not to mention the fact that he is now on a count down until there will be someone else in his life who will be dependant on you both. There are those subtle reminders that things are on the change too, probably a good percentage of us will remember being sat on a sofa with boobs that feel like they are going explode at any given moment, exhausted just because you are awake and feeling queasy as hell, when our partner has sidled up to us looking to do the dance with no pants. If you are anything like me the response will have been anything but positive, and if you are on pregnancy two or more then you’ve probably perfected a ball shrivelling look just for those occasions. It’s not just things like sex that suddenly change, but what about saving money: there is a car seat to buy, a pram, a nursery to furnish, do you need a bigger house? Bigger car? Nursery fees? All of these things leave a slug like stress line across you both that no doubt leaves you questioning the other’s expenditure, something you might never have done before. I have lost count of the amount of people I have had arguing in front of me while I try to help them select the right car seat or mattress, it usually goes something like this: “Don’t you want the best for our baby??!”, ” Of course I do, I’m just thinking of money and if we need to spend that much on a mattress for a baby, doesn’t your sister have one we could have?”, “You can’t use a second hand mattress!! DIDN’T YOU LISTEN TO ANYTHING I SAID TO YOU!!”
As humans we don’t always do so well with change, and everything is changing. Everything.
There are magical, wonderful moments during a pregnancy and the first few months of new parenthood that you can share with your partner, and you will have those kodak moments where you never thought you would love the other as much as you do, you are so grateful to have them there and to share these blessings with them. Throughout the darkest times in my marriage (most of which have been during a pregnancy or just after one of the kids have been born), when all the chips were down, the moment of feeling baby kick and sharing that with my husband has been a sliver of light on an otherwise cloudy day. No one will share those moments but you two, and that is what children are, the ultimate coming together of two lives to make one, a blessing and a gift to cherish and nurture. There will also be those moment’s when you will wonder what the hell you were thinking letting this person impregnate you, were you drunk?
Just remember, you aren’t the only one wondering if you can file for a quickie divorce over the way he chews his toast on a morning and you aren’t the only one with a pillow poised over his head at 3.30am. We’ve all been there, it’s normal and you so are you.
I am smitten with these glorious toys from Muddyfeet. I really can’t get enough, it’s one of those Etsy finds that I literally just trawl through over and over and sigh at every new piece that becomes available.
Muddyfeet is a wonderful company that hand crafts toys for children to enlighten and develop their imagination. The toys are all either wooden or felt, no plastic over here thank you very much. Based in Arizona and created by an ingenious homeschooling Mama, these are the kind of thing that just fill me with excitement! Each toy is designed with the flair of a creative craftsman but still retaining that childlike imagination that is so often lost with today’s big gadgets and gizmos. The other thing I love about these eco friendly toys is that they are actually eco friendly toys, designed from wood or felt and finished using eco friendly dyes and beeswax. You can’t ask for more can you?
I love the story behind the company name. When this Mama took her 8 year old son out of school to home school him, she realised he had never been allowed to get muddy at school after asking him to write a poem, even if it was about something silly like mud. She coxed him outside and got him to stand in a muddy puddle with no shoes on (Do you remember doing that? And mud pies?) and feel the wonder that is nature. From then on both her boys have played with mud and seen it for what it is: anything they can imagine it to be.
My favourite pieces are the Pumpkin set (maybe it’s because it’s coming up to Halloween… I do love a good pumpkin during October) and the brilliant Little Red Hen set which is crafted from wood and designed to be played with as a set or as a game of ‘bowling’ where you knock down the little characters. Perfect for travelling too.
I love these quiet time books from MonoNoAvare a wonderful little company from Texas that I came across on Etsy. The books are all handmade and you can even buy separate pages to add to your own handmade book if you want to.
Aimed at preschoolers these books build on life skills such as doing up zippers, working with buttons, learning about shapes and colours, threading and working with clasps. The books are so bright and vibrant, perfect for keeping your toddlers interest… which is challenging at the best of times right?
You can order one of this wonderful books from Etsy at MonoNoAvare here.
I love this bookshelf from Bloomingville, so stylish and a great way to enjoy the displaying your child’s books without taking up a lot of floor space.
Bloomingville are a super stylish home interior and decor company from Demark, founded in 2000. I love their products and the way they bring such an elegance and grace to the home without effortless style. This kind of bookshelf would be perfect for my baby’s nursery because it is a smaller room, but I don’t want her to miss out on having books in her room.
You can find the wonderful Bloomingville products in some of the top highstreet stores, but for children Smallable have a wonderful selection here.
What’s happening to baby this week?
Baby is growing steadily, having gained about 4 ounces since last week, and is about the length of an ear of corn! No wonder pregnancy is so tiring huh?! Baby is still pretty lean but is beginning to plump up steadily. The brain and lungs are really developing rapidly now, making leaps and bounds, though the skin is still red and thin.
The reality: How have I been feeling this week?
Well, I can explain last week’s energy drop by my discovery that I am slightly anaemic, though not worryingly so at the moment. I have decided to start taking Spatone as opposed to classic iron tablets (which can often cause problem with constipation) which was recommended to me by a group of really helpful ladies in one of my pregnancy/mama groups. Spatone is essentially just a pure iron supplement and is really great for pregnant women and, so fingers crossed this will boost my iron levels and I can avoid the dreaded iron tablets.
I am still being treated to very low lying kicks, some of which are really quite sharp. This little lady is one strong kicker!
I haven’t had too much stomach acid this week, so fingers crossed this is beginning to wear off. Sleep is still pretty dicey, Reuben is still restless in the night, which is so unlike him, and incredibly frustrating for me!
I seem to have such a sweet tooth this week and I am really beginning to worry about it! I don’t want to gain an excessive amount go weight, but I also don’t want to feed baby nothing but nutrition-less junk!
The bad, adorable and downright funny.
I can’t think of anything especially funny this week! The boy’s have been stock piling their amusing sayings for another day!
There is such joy to be had in sharing the moment your baby is kicking. I love spending the evenings lying on the sofa with my husband while he sits and feels baby kicking and wriggling about. It’s magical.
There is nothing fun about being kicked on the cervix. Nothing at all.
I love beautiful tableware, there is something a little bit uplifting about having pretty things in your home on days like today when things are dull and yucky outside.
RICE have designed such wonderful tableware for kids that look like porcelain, but are actually made from a completely safe, tough wearing melamine. Wouldn’t you love to decorate your table with these?
If you want to get your hands on some RICE tableware to brighten your dining room, then you can find them over at the brilliant Smallable here.
I am a huge advocate of enjoying the innocence of childhood. In my house make believe, imagination and fun are king.
It’s at this time of year I start to read lots of debates about Halloween, whether you ‘celebrate’ it or not in the modern way of dressing up and trick or treating, or whether that is somehow detrimental to children, especially under the ages of 6 because it is introducing fantasy and they can’t differentiate between that and reality. As some of you may know, my boys go to a montessori school and traditionally, Montessori take the stance that ‘fantasy’ isn’t great for children under the age of 6, however dressing up is part of learning through play so is actively encouraged.
I just can’t help but feel that this underestimates our kids and is so desperately frustrating!
Where is the sense of fun? What is wrong with dressing up as a vampire and enjoying a bit of face paint, don’t you remember doing that as a child and having so very much fun!? I understand that children are easily moulded and so terribly impressionable – god don’t we all lie awake at night and worry about how impressionable our children are? – but if Halloween is dressed up as something fun and ‘make believe’ then I can’t see how children won’t enjoy it and will be given a skewed perception of reality that will terrify them. There perception should be skewed shouldn’t it? Isn’t that the magic of childhood, the innocence that is taken all too soon? We believe in the impossible, we dream up the magnificent. In a child’s world a dragon can be your best friend, a teddy can come to life and the world isn’t such a bad place. Doesn’t everyone want that wonderful imagination to bloom?
For our Halloween this year I fully intend for the boys to dress up and visit a few of our friends and families houses (we are in an area where there are a lot of elderly people who don’t want to be disturbed, so we stick to the rule that if a house has decorations up, or if we know the family and they have kids we will visit, if not we assume our visit might not be welcome). We will carve pumpkins, we will tell ghoulish stories and our tea time that night will be a feast of gory and gross things – witches fingers, eyeballs, bogey mash and more (I know, Daddy is so excited to come home on that night!). Throughout the whole thing I can’t imagine that either of the boys will be afraid or lose perspective of what is real, mainly because they are children and their idea of reality and fantasy is skewed anyway, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The boys understand that the ‘witches’ and ‘ghouls’ are nothing to be afraid of, they won’t come and “get them” or hurt them, but in the same sense that I don’t want to take away their innocence, and I don’t feel the need to deprive them of enjoying their childhood fantasies, I also feel that to have the good without the bad and the scary won’t help them at all with the realities of the world when they come to learn them. There is, and always will be, good and bad… even in make believe.
I also think it’s important for children to celebrate the reality of Halloween. My boys haven’t lost anyone that they are close to yet, however I will be taking the time to explain to them that, although we love the Halloween that encompasses sweets and games, there is a side to it that is about celebrating the people who went before us and remembering them. For that side of Halloween I thought we could make a number of different crafts that we can hang around our house, and talk about things. When the boys are older and have experienced loss we will take the chance to visit the graves of our loved ones and remember them as they were.
So I want to know, what do you do with Halloween? I don’t judge anyone for choosing to do it differently to us, and I think that’s how we should all be. Please share your thoughts, even if they differ from mine
Both of my boys have ‘special’ teddy bears that they take everywhere with them. And I do mean more or less everywhere. I had one as a child, and I know some people (ahem, preschool) don’t agree with a child having something that they are so attached to, but I really do. I love that the boys find security in their teddy bears when I’m not there, and I love that they feel a companionship to these bears, even if they are inanimate and ‘not real’.
So, I have been trying to decide what exactly to get for this little girl who is currently doing a jig on my cervix at every opportunity!
I have always been a fan of Hazel Village and their beautiful village animals (you can read about them on the blog here) but I never really realised how hard I was going to find narrowing down from such a wonderful selection! I have decided upon 3 of their village friends and I think I may just order them all and let baby choose which one she wants to be her ‘special’ friend.
So, what do you think, do you have any advice for me? Which teddy to choose? Who would you have for your daughter or son?
I wanted to share on the blog that we have some wonderful news! We will be adding a little girl to our family!
I cannot express how truly excited we are by this news… or rather how excited I am, my husband is terrified and spending his time looking at shotguns and shovels in preparation for the teen years!
I have always said that as long as my babies are healthy and happy I really don’t mind what gender they will be, however secretly I have harboured a desire for a little girl for such a long time, especially being as close as I am to my own Mum.
So, if anyone has any tips, name suggestions or anything else, please send it along!
What’s happening to baby this week?
This week baby weighs about as much as a large mango, so is starting to get heavier! At this stage baby still has soft, wrinkled skin that will be red in colour – irrespective of race. The ears are still becoming more developed, though at this stage you have to watch out for edema (fluid build up) in your legs as everything is starting to get a little bit more squashed inside you.
The reality: How have I been feeling this week?
The stomach acid seems to have eased off a touch, and no vomiting has occurred this week… hooray! I do feel slightly guilty even mentioning the vomiting when it has happened a total of 6 times throughout the whole pregnancy, but it’s the little thing I’m celebrating. I love that I can now see baby moving, as well as feel it. It’s great for myself and Adam, I just wish that the boys could focus for long enough to watch her wiggle, though I’m sure they will when I get further along.
This week I have had quite a lot of discomfort, baby seems to have been lying very low and (what feels like) kicking my cervix into submission. It’s not pleasant and I don’t know if it’s a case of searching out an escape route, but it is certainly frustrating for me! I have also started to feel quite uncomfortable at bedtime, with a good degree of back ache throughout the day.
My energy levels seem to be dropping off again, but I am attributing that more to the fact that Reuben won’t sleep in his own bed and is constantly coming through to us in the night for a midnight cuddle!
I have had a bit of a mixture, still looking for chocolate at all hours, however I seem to have taken a fancy to chilli again too.
The bad, adorable and downright funny.
This past weekend one of my closest friend’s celebrated her birthday, at her party I was dancing with another friend who suddenly started to giggle. I asked her what on earth she was laughing at and she just about managed to get out that I looked truly wonderful and hilarious dancing with my huge bump on the front. From that point onwards she spent the rest of the evening dancing with my bump and forgot I was there!
Earlier in the week Toby made to jump on me on the bed and Reuben came rushing forwards shouting, ‘No Toby, you might hurt my baby!!’ It was super sweet and a sign that he is already getting protective! We also made some bodysuits for the baby this week, which we all enjoyed and was so cute. You can read about it here.
The discomfort this week is probably the worst thing. Oh and the need to pee 7 or 8 times before bed and during the night… seriously?
Sometimes as a mama I think it is hard to get a real support network going, especially if you don’t really know many other mamas or are quite isolated.
I think while getting out and meeting other mamas is essential (and your local community centres can help with this through the classes they run) sometimes it is nice to have a group of like minded people who understand what you are talking about at the click of a button. I know a lot of people dismiss online forums or mummy groups, but I really think that these can be so helpful and so important for modern mamas.
More or less everyone nowadays has a Facebook account (it’s the age of social media after all) so I’ve put together my favourite Facebook groups for mamas, with a link to their Facebook group. For most of them you have to request access, which means that it is 100% anonymous from your friend list or relatives… so if you want to rant about a family member and be judgement free – go ahead. Everything from making online friends who you can email, to learning so much about parenting (good and bad) from other’s who are in your shoes.
Breastfeeding /Mama talk privately.
I love this group and it’s subsidiaries. There is everything from the uncensored groups that are for debating to the main group that is designed to help you with everything from breastfeeding to be a day to day mother. There are literally over 15,000 members so you are never short of someone to say, you know what, my day has been like that too, I hear ya! The advice in the group is fab and ranges from people asking for help with breastfeeding, to asking other mamas if they know of anything that can help their 3 year old sleep at night. It’s just a great group.
Natures way parenting
This group has taught me a lot. It is largely aimed at parents who want a more natural way of parenting, so might not be for everyone, but I find it to be so helpful when it comes to support from others and general advice. Though techniques like cry it out are frowned upon, along with spanking etc, the group is always willing to try and help if someone is struggling with sleep, without judgement and without tearing the person down. The other thing I find really helpful in this group is some of the members extensive knowledge about baby slings and carriers. This is the perfect place for an expectant parent to some and learn about how to carry, and how to parent in a more calm and soothing way.
The MUMbler groups.
At the moment I think these are fairly local to the UK, and possibly even just my area. I am a member of the York and Harrogate mumblers, because that is my region but it would be worth looking into an alternative area for yourself if this isn’t you. Either way, I couldn’t leave this off the list as I love the support, advice and tips that come from this group. One of the things local mummy groups like this are good at doing is helping you hear about events in your area or items for sale if you are looking for Xmas presents etc. It is definitely worth joining and, every now and again, the groups do meet ups so you can come face to face with new pals.
Rucking Marvellous Parenting
This group is such a vast combination of everything. Again it tends to focus more on the natural side of parenting, but the group is also geared towards helping pregnant, new mums and women with older children learn from each other and share things. There is a market day, but it’s exclusive to that day so you aren’t bombarded with things for sale, but there seems to be a really good focus on discussing topics for parenting, health, foods and everything in between. Again if you feel like you just need someone to moan to, or even to cry with, there are plenty of kind hearted parents that will take you by the virtual hand and let you know they have been there. Full of support for breastfeeders, baby wearing and co sleeping advice, this is a great group to be part of.
These are just some of my favourite groups, I would strongly urge you to join up to some, especially if you don’t think you have a big support network near you. You can find any of the groups by searching in your Facebook search bar using their names.
When I think back to school, especially junior school, I can hardly remember anyone who I was friend’s with. Can you? It’s something that slowly fades into the distance and by the time we are grown, it’s gone!
I look at how Reuben is now with some of his little friends at preschool and I think about how he will be when the time comes to move on to junior school with some of these little friends. Surely it would be nice to have something that he could look back on as an adult and remember them by?
I also think about the relationships forged as an older child and how they fade into distant memory. It’s such a shame, we seem to forget that whole part of our lives!
When I came across this awesome Memory book for school ‘In and out of school’ by Red Cherry Publishing, I literally fell in love with it. What a great idea! It’s aimed at 10-16 year olds, though with your help could be used to document junior school life too. The book is filled with fun and anecdotal things that get kids jotting down the most bizarre and wonderful snippets of their lives at school. The illustrations in the book are great too, and with spaces for your child and their friends to fill in all their details or just have a good doodle, this is sure to be a hit. Don’t you remember sitting on the school grounds and doodling together? Or making things? Yep.
I know I would love to have one of these books to look back on and think about when life was less worrying about the mortgage being paid and more worrying about if what I ate at lunch was ‘cool’.
If you know a special someone who has just started a new school this past September, or who might be coming up to leaving school altogether, then this would be a great gift and you can find it here.
Let’s face it, giving birth is pretty darn hard work, there is no wonder they call it labour! So when you go to visit a new mama it is really nice to take them something that just says, “Well done you, here’s a little pick me up or treat for yourself’. Am I right?
With Reuben I was in hospital for a couple of nights, and I only had immediate family to visit, everyone else opted to wait until I was home (thank you!), however my husband knows how much I hate hospitals and wanted to bring me something that would pick me up a little bit and make me smile at 2.40am when I was trying to understand what the hell to do with this new, squalling pink thing that I was exclusively in charge of! Flowers are a no (yep, don’t go taking flowers into hospitals, they are now banned!!) and I couldn’t really be expected to get the chance to go and have a nice soak in the bath with some fancy bath products… so … chocolate!
I think these adorable decorated chocolates from Le Petit Bonbon are the perfect gift for new mums. They are delicious and can be nibbled at will! Each box contains 10 chocolates and is decorated according to the gender of your new baby (which is even sweeter if you have had a surprise!).
You can get your hands on some for a baby shower or new mama gift here.
You will probably have a beef stew recipe that you always break out when the weather starts to turn, or during the winter months when it is especially chilly. Well we love beef stew in our house and I am always trying to find new recipes to add to my collection that can keep everyone smiling and warm inside! This stew was in one of my favourite children’s recipe books ‘The Red One, An Ella’s Kitchen Cookbook’ which I never expected to like at all but was bought on the off chance by my Mum who is a total cook book hoarder! I’ve made a few adjustments to the original recipe to suit our family and I think this is a perfect stew, plus it is a great way to get iron into your child with all of that red meat and apricots!
What you need
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 750g of diced stewing beef
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 300g carrots, chunky slices
- 4-5 dried apricots, chopped up into small pieces
- 2-3 dried prunes, chopped up into small pieces
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 tablespoon of juice
- 750ml beef stock
- 150g blackcurrant jam (or plum/damson/apricot – play around with it!)
- freshly ground pepper to season
Preheat your oven to gas mark 2/160C/315F.
Heat your oil in a large casserole dish and brown your beef, setting aside with a slotted spoon to allow the oil to stay in the dish.
Add the onion and garlic and fry for 2 minutes until translucent and soft. Add the carrots, fruit, tomato puree and flour and cook for another 2 minutes.
Return the beef to the dish (with all of it’s juices!) along with the lemon rind and juice, stock and jam of your choosing. We really prefer the blackcurrant jam, it just seems to give such a rich flavour and it is truly delicious!
Season with pepper and cook in the oven on slow cook for 2 hours, checking that the beef is tender to the fork. If not, back in the oven for another 30 minutes, you really want the beef to just fall apart! Yum!
The recipe book tells me that I can serve this with pasta as well as mash potatoes, but I can honestly say the boys (and the adults too) only really like stews with mash potato and green veg in this house. You could, however, give it a go with pasta or even rice in your family! Either way, a platter of crusty bread on the table is a must while the rain pours outside… or maybe even the snow as we get nearer Christmas!
Leaf printing is so much fun, and now that the leaves are beginning to fall (aren’t the colours spectacular) I wanted to write about leaf printing because I think it is by far one of the most fun crafts, and one that you can get children of all ages involved in. I think that this in particular is the best way to leaf print and is one of the best Autumn crafts for kids that you can keep!
I thought it would be a nice idea to get my hands on some fabric paint and set the boys to work spicing up some vests, t-shirts and bodysuits for baby. What could be sweeter than having hand made outfits for baby to wear and show off, made by big brothers? While we were doing the leaf printing we also did some hand prints which I think are absolutely adorable and will be something to treasure.
I chose to use Dylon fabric paint which you can pick up at any hobby/crafting store, and I chose to use reds, yellows, golds etc to try and fit in with the Autumn leaf theme.
Here is what you will need:
- Dylon fabric paints or similar (Dylon are recommend for children, so that’s why I chose them, but avoid anything toxic!)
- Paint brush to paint the leaves
- Kitchen towel or a cloth to stop hands getting paint on them when you flatten the leaves.
- A few Dry leaves – if they are damp then it won’t work so well, so you can always put them on the radiator over a piece of kitchen paper or a tea towel.
- A few plain white/cream/pastel bodysuits, t-shirts, vests etc
Here’s how we did it!
I hope you give it a go and enjoy as much as we did, you can use bold colours but be aware that the paint doesn’t tend to show up so well, especially if you are using the child friendly versions. Be prepared for lots of mess, we have a bath as soon as we’ve done anything of this nature and we always cover the surface with a really, really large table cloth or splash mat – a wipeable one!
P.s – My top tip is when you have finished your designs and you have set them aside to dry, you need to take an iron and ‘seal’ the paint in. The only way to do this is to sandwich your design between two pieces of paper and iron over the paper, hold the dry iron for 30 secs. Job done.