Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Back to work

So after 351 days of maternity leave, the time has come to go back to work or in my case start a new job. Two weeks into my 50 day maternity leave in Oman (yep 50 whole days...) I realised that I couldn't return to my then job. The hours combined with the stress I felt while pregnant there made me realise that returning as a new mum so soon after what was quite a traumatic birth just wasn't going to work. I wanted time to be a mother and find out what makes my little girl laugh, smile, cry and stare. I wanted to be there for her first solids and breastfeed as long as I could - for those interested we are still doing a morning and night feed - while taking her to parent and child groups and singing silly songs in the park. I have made some lovely mummy friends and and the Mini Grumpy Egyptian has made some friends of her own, but now the playdates and morning coffee sessions are no more as instead I will be at work.

My new job has me doing something that I think is going to prove really interesting and I am looking forward to having to engage my brain a little more than I have in previous months. Am I nervous however about the new office environment? Not really... instead I am thinking or perhaps hoping is a more suitable word, that the Mini Grumpy Egyptian is going to be ok. I know I can't be there forever, but I would have selfishly liked a little more time. She has a fantastic childminder and my dad is going to be looking after her for this first week to help her settle, so I really hope things go to plan.

Working will mean I get that much talked about and highly controversial "me-time". It will mean that we can - if the current government doesn't change any more regulations - get the spouse visa for the Grumpy Egyptian and get him here with us. It will mean I can wear necklaces and earrings again without someone trying to pull them out!

It feels a little sad, I won't lie. Like the end of an era almost. The Mini Grumpy Egyptian has been such a big part of my everyday for what feels like so long now, but I will still be there for dinner and bedtime and be waking her in the morning for a little feed before I dash out. I will miss her and I will worry that she is ok or that she is crying, but this is for our future and I hope this will make me a better mummy.

Wish me luck and see you soon...

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Combined weaning

I have had the title of this post in my draft folder since November, but inspired by something I overheard today, decided to finish it. We decided to begin weaning the Mini Grumpy Egyptian when she was five and a half months old as she was showing an interest in food and seemed hungry. It was quite hard working out whether she was interested in food or interested in food in that it was new and she found it interesting rather than wanting to eat it. Her first meal was some puréed sweet potato and boy did she inhale it!

This lovely image is taken from the My Little Lunchbox Blog with thanks. It isn't mine!

We chose to go for a mixture of baby led and traditional weaning so would feed with a spoon, but offer soft foods for her to try and eat by herself. We did this because it was the way the Grumpy Egyptian and I were both weaned and we don't have any trouble eating, just the opposite in fact! I know some mum's think that spoon feeding is the same as force feeding, but I've never spooned food into the Mini Grumpy Egyptian's mouth if she's crying or forced her to eat something she doesn't want. By choosing a selection of age/teeth appropriate finger foods at each meal as well as something warm for dinner or a yoghurt at breakfast, she is trying a whole host of flavours.

We started off with two small meals a day - breakfast and dinner - with breastfeeding as needed and her top up bottle of formula mid-afternoon. We tried some pouches, which she was keen on to start, but very soon got bored of singular/plain flavours and would spit it out. We moved into more advanced flavours and I found curry paste pots for children (found in the baby food aisle) were fantastic. I could remove some of the meat and vegetables that I was making our curry with and in a separate pan mix it with the curry paste, some tomatoes and yoghurt and we have enough to freeze for five meals. I also used pouches to make a quick meal with pasta if we were eating something that was inappropriate (too spicy, etc) for her to have.

Around six and a half months in and we introduced a small lunch as well before increasing portion sizes. I was worried that the mini one would overeat, but we found that she quickly found what was a comfortable amount for her to eat and would refuse anymore when full. Five months on and we are yet to find anything this little girl won't eat! She appears to have her mother's sweet tooth but will happily tuck into trees (broccoli), watermelon, pepper slices and is rather partial to a little cauliflower cheese. I give her lots of finger foods at every meal, but am still spoon feeding her yoghurt/wet foods because I'm not sure she's ready to spoon feed herself. When cooking I add no salt to our food and use the Heinz stock cubes that I get from the baby food aisle so if it's suitable for the mini one then she can have some of what we're eating. She likes Moroccan meatball Tagine, tomato pasta, homemade sweet and normal potato wedges as well as gnawing on a bit of steak when it's around.

She doesn't eat pork for religious reasons, but that hasn't seemed a problem so far. When out and about she likes egg and cress or peanut butter sandwiches. Cheese always makes an appearance at lunchtime and I have a container of rice crackers, breadsticks and mini kids flapjacks that never leave the nappy changing bag.

I do worry she doesn't get enough variety, but reading above makes me realise perhaps she does! A frantic Google search one day led me to Kayla and her gorgeous blog My Lovely Little Lunchbox (I'm so jealous, I won't lie) where she writes about the delicious food she makes her little one so I've managed to get some great tips from there. When did you start giving your little ones their own spoon/cutlery? It is her birthday next month so I am pinning away on Pinterest for a couple of cheap but cheerful birthday food ideas.

The Egyptian Mummy

Monday, 24 March 2014

Review: Tesco Finest cheese

A couple of months ago I heard about The Orchard at Tesco, a programme that allows you to sign up for certain projects and write about them in return for free money off vouchers for you and your family/friends. The first one that I was invited to participate in was a Tesco Finest meats activity that I didn't blog about, but you may have seen me mention on Twitter or Facebook. The most recent was for Tesco Finest Cheese and given my love of cheese, I just had to sign up for it.

My welcome pack contained lots of money off vouchers so our next task was choosing which cheeses to buy. Luckily our local Tesco in Winchester has a good range to choose from and I decided to buy my two favourite cheeses - feta and buffalo mozzarella - and compare how they are against my usual brand. The first thing that struck me was the detail that had gone into the packaging complete with details about the cheese's origin.
I chose to use the salty feta in a fresh but simple salad complete with cucumber, tomato, red pepper, spinach, lettuce, lemon juice and olive oil dressing, and my favourite thing to put in salads that contain salty cheese.... Dried mint. Try it, it's gorgeous! The feta crumbled beautifully and made what is a very simple salad, utterly delicious. This would be great as a lunch with a couple of falafel or bundled into a wrap with grilled chicken and a drizzle of Greek yoghurt.

The buffalo mozzarella was meant to be used to posh up a tomato and chilli pasta bake, but I ended up eating most of it out the packet! It melted so beautifully in the mouth and had this mellow milky consistency that for people who've only had its rubbery counterpart could prove a bit strange. I enjoyed some of this mozzarella torn up along with finely chopped tomatoes and some oregano that I stirred through some couscous for a great packed lunch friendly treat.

The remaining vouchers were given to my mum who chose the Stilton and apricot log that I understand she inhaled :)

I think for the quality of the cheeses they were fairly priced as you would probably pay more in a posh deli, but it would be nice to see the range increase further.

What do you think of these types of programmes? What cheeses would you have chosen to try?

*Disclaimer: I was given money off vouchers as part of The Orchard at Tesco in order to purchase the items mentioned here, but was not required to write a positive review and all words are my own

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Mother's Day gift ideas

This year will mark my first Mother's Day as a mummy and I am really looking forward to spending the day with the Mini Grumpy Egyptian. While March 30 is about so much more than gifts, I think all mum's will admit it is rather nice to open something gorgeous on the day so I searched the internet and picked my top eight gifts for Mother's Day.

1. Handmade two peas in a pod necklace by Muriel & Lily. Notonthehighstreet.com £125
2. Spineless Classics Pride and Prejudice print. IWOOT.com. £33.99
3. Chocolate letter with smarties by The LetterRoom. Notonthehighstreet.com £9.95
4. When life hands mum lemons print by Wink Design. Notonthehighstreet.com £16.50
5. Six month membership to The Cake Club by The Cake Nest £39.99
6. Tassie bag by White Stuff £65
7. Michael Kors watch at John Lewis £209
8. Mandarin and Tangelo scented candle by The Body Shop £10

Now I don't know about you, but I would be so happy to receive any of those on Mother's Day. How will you be celebrating Mother's Day? Any exciting plans?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

World Book Day: Touch and Feel books

Happy World Book Day!

Since we had the Mini Grumpy Egyptian, I have found there is less and less time for me to sit down with a good book and relax. It seems as though I'm constantly cleaning, feeding, changing or trying to entertain her. I believe it is really important to instil a love of reading in little ones from a young age and in order to make me feel as though I am still reading, have read to the mini one since she was born. In her play area there is a small tub of board books that she is able to access herself and a book is part of our bedtime routine. While classics like The Hungry Caterpillar and Inch Wincy Spider puppet books are regulars, the Mini Grumpy Egyptian's favourite stories are without doubt the touch and feel books.

Charity shops and second-hand sales have been great at picking up copies of the fantastic "That's not my..." series and our favourites are the monkey, dinosaur and Princess books. They are great for a curious ten month old baby as they are short enough to keep her interested and with lots of different textures to feel.

I have noticed though that there are a lot of bad touch and feel books out there that feel as though the author just threw a couple of random textures down without paying much thought as to whether they have anything to do with the story or feel interesting enough to touch. When they are charging £5+ for a book, they need to be much better than this. My least favourite are the touch and feel books that don't have a story and just follow a general theme such as animals.

Our favourite book however is one the Mini Grumpy Egyptian got for Christmas and that is the my First Gruffalo -  Touch and feel. It is brilliant and comes complete with stick wart, felt spikes, furry stomach and gritty teeth. We can read this a couple of times a night and the mini one is as happy reading it the third time as she was the first. If you were looking to introduce a touch and feel book to your little one, I would suggest this is a great start. The book itself feels solid, durable and fantastic quality. Despite a number of tugs on the felt spikes, they show no signs of coming loose.
The next book we plan to add too up collection is the Peter Rabbit touch and feel. Can you suggest anymore? What books did you read with your ten month old? Did you allow them to free play with the books at this age or wait until they are older.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Milestones: Crawling, standing and pointing

In a couple of days the Mini Grumpy Egyptian turns ten months old and the past couple of weeks have really given us a sign of things to come! It started off a month ago when she took two small crawl movements - having never attempted it before - before racing across the living room. It was amazing! I tried to get her to do it again so I could film it but she seemed to go camera shy. Speed forward a couple of weeks and she doesn't want to sit still for a second. The stair gates are all up now, but I didn't realise how dangerous a house could be for a baby! There's radiator knobs, sharp corners, glass tv stands, doors they want to swing and drawers they want to open! I think she's been planning on going for all these things for months. I'm trying to make things as safe as possible, but I'm starting to realise there's only so much you can do.

As if crawling wasn't enough, the Mini Grumpy Egyptian has also decided that standing is the funniest thing ever! I was in the bedroom with her last week when she crawled over, grabbed my legs and pulled herself up! I actually screamed. Now she clings onto the safety gate in the bedroom doing her best baby convict impression, climbs up to her toy box and smiles with glee when she holds onto her walker. I just can't believe how quickly she has mastered these things and I must admit to being a very proud mama.

And then... Last week we were at Rhyme Time doing Wind The Bobbin Up - one of my least favourite rhymes - when the Mini Grumpy Egyptian started copying the pointing action in the song! She has even looked sternly at me and wagged her finger a couple of times. I wonder who she gets that from *ahem*

I can't even imagine what she has next in store for us!

As these were some big milestones, I am teaming up with the following linkys:

Magic Moments over at The Oliver's Madhouse

and Small Steps, Amazing Achievements at Ethan's Escapades