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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Christmas Snack Ideas

What have I prepared so far for this Christmas?

So far, I have the Christmas Eve duck in the freezer along with its homemade sticky glaze, homemade mince pies (dairy free) and the pancetta, sourdough and cashew stuffing for the Christmas Day lamb...

I could be getting ahead of myself. Or not. I don't know when this baby will arrive, so at least I have some food ready for our family of four or family of five Christmas. And due to Rob's dietary requirements (no wheat but spelt is fine, no lactose and no potato) it pays to prepare food from scratch or else we'd have to spend more when the festive 'free-from' products hit the stores and most likely panic-buy as stocks aren't replenished as much.

Amongst our festive meal plans, we generally don't have the additional stomach capacity to cope with snacks, but in the lead-up to the big day it is nice to enjoy a bowlful of snacks which everyone can enjoy.

Last year we discovered 'Rudolph's Noses' from Sainsburys, which seemed to be one of the few festive snacks which ticked all the boxes and are a rather nice spicy tomato flavour. As soon as they are stocked in store we shall definitely be buying a few and storing them away before we guzzle them!
sainsbury's tomato rudolph's noses
I can't seem to find these...yet!

Popcorn also could be a good alternative snack particularly for Rob. There are so many flavours to choose from these days, not just salted, sweet or butter-flavoured. I still need to check the ingredients of course, to make sure milk powder isn't lurking in there somewhere. Tyrrell's Poshcorn Peach Bellini popcorn is delicious with hints of peach and a touch of fizz. I haven't tasted alcohol in a while but I can definitely detect the aromatics.

Tyrell's Poshcorn Peach Bellini

Sometimes it is a bit of a pain when you discover a new flavour, such as Three Bird Roast which Tyrrell's crisps have created and you feel the need to eat the whole bag yourself as your better half can't help you (not!)

Three bird roast crisps by Tyrells
The super-charged roast chicken crisps - I can't discern the duck or turkey though!

A recent festive snack has been discovered in Marks and Spencer: Christmas cinnamon sugar tortilla rolls which are free from wheat and dairy! They are very moreish and in my opinion could do with being a tad sweeter or they could be fab dipped in a salted caramel sauce.

marks and spencer christmas cinnamon sugar tortilla rolls

If you have come across any other festive wheat and dairy free snacks, do let me know!
Disclosure: This post includes PR samples 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Hypnobirthing and Me

I am a great believer in the power of hypnobirthing, or simply using relaxation and breathing techniques to get through any pain.

When I was around 28 weeks pregnant with my first child in 2011, I started researching about hypnobirthing but at the time I didn't consider classes as I reckoned I could save myself some money by doing it myself at home.

I downloaded a few tracks by Hypnobirthing practioner and doula Callie Copeman-Bryant who has a lovely, velvety soft voice just perfect for relaxing to. I can no longer find them, but one is simply called Birth Affirmations and one is called Warm Heart which encourages you to imagine you are in a super cosy chalet in the Alps whilst snow begins to fall. I still have these tracks on my geriatric Creative Zen mp3 player, so I was able to use them again. I dedicated a few evenings a week to listening to my music, whether it be in bed or in the bath. Rob would often listen to it with me, or listen to a radio show using headphones whilst he gave my light-touch massage on my back.
I gave birth to Lily naturally at 36 weeks (spontaneous labour) and I didn't use any pain-relief. I just got myself into the zone and imagined a blooming rose when she started crowning.

With my second child I started hypnobirthing techniques around 30 weeks and this time I downloaded the Mongan method on the Kindle which I read at least twice. I certainly took on board some things, but I generally went with the flow. I also downloaded 'Rainbow Affirmations' but my hypnobirthing playlist was on my Spotify account on my ipad which I don't think made it to hospital once I was transferred from my planned home birth. So I just had my trusty Creative Zen (good name,considering the circumstances) and the one track which made me zone out so much, so much so that the theatre doctors thought I was already spaced out on drugs, was ironically by a band who I don't associate chill out music with. Aqueous Transmission, by Incubus. Wikipedia tells me that the idea of this particular track was to make the listener 'pee their pants with relaxation'. It is 7 minutes and 46 seconds long incorporating Chinese instruments and at least a minute at the end just comprising of the sounds of frogs croaking outside their music studio in Malibu. I find the lyrics good to reach relaxation and create images in my head.

The first verse:

I'm floating down a river
Oars freed from their homes long ago
Lying face up on the floor
Of my vessel
I marvel at the stars
And feel my heart overflow

I will absolutely be listening to this during Baby Bee's labour and I have just added a few tracks to my existing Spotify playlist, namely M83's Outro and a few string quartet pieces. I need to find my Creative Zen! A significant difference this time is that I was kindly sent a Wavhello BellyBuds kit which is a specialised speaker system allowing both myself and the bump listen to the same piece of music using adhesive speakers. I think the very idea of Baby Bee being able to hear the same piece of music in utero is a bonding, relaxing experience in itself, especially knowing that memories can start forming from 30 weeks. Conveniently the kit comes supplied with an audio splitter. I know I have one somewhere, but they are little things which can go missing pretty easily with two young children around!

I will publish my complete hypnobirthing soundtrack as soon as I can. Thanks for reading.

Have you used hypnobirthing techniques?

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Lily's Favourite After School Activities

Lily doesn't stop once she comes home from school. Often she wants to crack on with her work book  - letters, sums and drawings or get stuck into an activity, usually with a snack and a drink. On Tuesday afternoon she goes to Film Club and is pretty tired once she has had tea so Tuesday feels like our lazy afternoon.

Lily's Favourite After School Activities

What has Lily been particularly enjoying lately?

Paint Your Own Irish Fairy Door

Paint your own Irish Fairy Door

This has been great fun for her after school, especially to help cheer her up after a nasty cold she has recently recovered from. It will be completed when the weather is drier as she is intent on setting it up beside our garden pond which will be far more entertaining for any visiting fairies.

Felt colouring in

With black felt design, colouring outside the lines is invisible. Lily received this as part of her early Christmas present from Father Christmas following Christmas at Marwell Zoo and she has been so chuffed with it, I will have to find more!

Sylvanian Families Twin Sheep and Splash and Play Whale

Sylvanian Families Splash and Play Whale with Twin Sheep

These toys are great for Lily's imaginative play. Lily will become a big sister again next month so she has been enjoying playing with the baby twin sheep complete with their own bottle and dummy. We try to keep these toys away from Alexander who has generally muckier hands. Although both enjoy playing with the Splash and Play Whale in which other characters can play on the slide and with the teeny bucket and spade.

Furby Connect

Furby Connect

Both kids have been enthralled with "Urby". Lily prefers playing and interacting with the pink fluffy toy itself whereas Alexander favours the app and hatching Furby eggs - although he did find out he could make the Furby need a poo apparently! Luckily for us grown ups the Furby has a sleep mask to pop on to stop any further Furblish babbling!


Lily enjoys watching home videos on our YouTube channel
Have a look at our channel Sophie and Lily, we'd love to have you :)

Lily has really got into watching 'The Lily and Alex Show'  - AKA our own YouTube channel. She adores watching Day in the Life and Weekly vlogs from the past, whether it be footage from when she was a baby or a toddler or when Alexander arrived. I definitely enjoy watching these memories with her too, and I am glad that I have captured our family life on camera.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Favourite Wildlife Photo Poll

On Sunday we visited Marwell Zoo for the Christmas at Marwell Experience and before the children had the opportunity to meet Father Christmas we all enjoyed visiting as many of the animal enclosures as possible. As usual, we spent a lot longer with the giraffes who were all lunching on their hay inside their warm barn. Giraffes are a firm favourite in our family so I tried to get as many snaps as possible. It's a shame we didn't have time to complete visiting the entire zoo as we missed seeing the brand new baby pygmy hippo!

Family visit to the zoo and the giraffes

Seeing as it was quite a cold day I didn't get as many wildlife photographs as I would have liked. Wearing gloves really gets in the way of using a camera. Plus, many animals were tucked away under the warmth of their heat lamps or hunkered down in nests.

Rattan Direct are running a poll for their wildlife photography competition so I thought that the photos would be worth sharing with you. I like each of them in different ways, particularly how the photographer captured the hunting cat with the peacocks and I like to think that the two birds are having an animated conversation.

Follow the above link to select your favourite before the 16th December. Rattan Direct will announce which image has won via their social media channels and also on their blog so keep your eyes peeled. I think overall, the wild pigs get my vote for photo quality and composition.

Here are the contenders:

Sunbathing hogs

Frog in a watering can

Peckish deer

Inquisitive cat

Disgruntled bird

What do you think? Which photo gets your vote?


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

35 weeks pregnant

35 weeks pregnant bump shot

How I am feeling:


Much the same as last week - bit of reflux here and there and generally feeling a bit more tired. The shorter days aren't helping much. I've been suffering from another symptom which I associate more with the early weeks and that is nasal congestion. Each time I blow my nose I notice some blood, lovely!

I had my 36 week appointment at 35+5 and learned that Baby Bee was still head down with back on my left side, but also that Bee is 3/5 engaged. Which means absolutely nothing for 2nd/3rd+ babies. I will hopefully get the birthing ball pumped up and get bouncing!


Same as last week; I seem to be going through phases of having a good appetite or having a poor appetite.


Again, much the same. I'm taking care of my skin in this colder weather. However I have noticed that my little finger on my left hand has started getting dry skin where the rings are worn. I have removed them for now and I have been applying coconut oil and hand cream. Not sure if that is just random or pregnancy related!

Foetal development:

Baby Bee is around the size of a honeydew melon (this means nothing to me!) and I look like I have swallowed a melon! Apparently it could weigh around 5 and a quarter pounds!

Foetal Movement:

Baby Bee continues to throw some shapes and have bursts of hiccups. At my midwife appointment it was determined on kicking the heartbeat monitor probe, whilst having hiccups which sent it's heart beat into the 160s! Calm down Baby Bee!

What I'm wearing:

Still usual non-maternity tops, big cardies and drapey scarfs teamed with maternity jeans. I am just particular about which ones now they are always falling down!

Meal Plan 19th-25th Nov

sainsbury's groceries and meal plan

On Friday Rob decided to do the weekly shop in the evening, sans wife and kids! I sent him off with a shopping list and only now realised that I forgot to add oyster sauce - a crucial element of a meal this week! Sainsbury's was also out of Lactofree spread and cream which has postponed my plans to make profiteroles (spelt and lactose free) and potentially the chicken pie too.

Here is our meal plan for the week:

Lasagna - as requested by Rob I baked this in the oven rather than the slow cooker.
Eggs, bacon and beans - following our Christmas at Marwell experience
Tacos, rice and sweet corn
Lamb and mint sausages, hasselback potatoes and broccoli
Beef in oyster sauce or satay beef, edamame bean stirfry and egg/rice noodles
Chicken and broccoli pie
Homemade pizza

Have you seen our grocery vlog?


34 weeks pregnant

34 weeks pregnant bump shot

How I am feeling:


Reflux seems to be a reliable symptom and I'm not only experiencing it as soon as I get into bed but also at random times during the day - usually when I am sitting down. Another bottle of Gaviscon has been bought which I sip from during the night.
I'm continuing to visit the loo at least once during the night although it is a bit of a pain having a downstairs bathroom!
Baby Bee continues to pull some interesting shapes, particularly in the bath. Apparently the back is on my left side (as I look down at the bump) but it is capable of making the other side really lumpy so I'm not sure what it is doing to make such a mountain out of my tummy! I've also been feeling lots of small movements within my pelvis, I wonder if Baby Bee is scratching her ears or something!
Hiccups are very regular and I have to admit that they do sometimes make me feel quite queasy. It is like a ticking clock inside me.
I've experienced some rather intense BH contractions - at one point I had to bend over the handle bars of the pushchair on the way back from the school run and hum! Luckily I haven't had a repeat of that. Baby B can stay put until at least 37 weeks so a home birth can be considered.


I haven't been feeling particularly hungry, but I have noticed that I don't suffer with reflux as badly if I eat Nutella chocolate spread, yay!


Skin is really good and I'm lucky to not have any stretch marks. I do have spidery veins though, but I'm so pale these can almost look purple or bue!
Foetal development:

Baby Bee is around the size of a cantaloupe melon and I look like I have swallowed a melon! Apparently it could weigh around 4.23 pounds!
Foetal Movement:

As above, Baby Bee is active but does have periods of 'rest' and dancing.

What I'm wearing:

Same old; maternity jeans with the band rolled now so they are pretty much falling down, plus any top I like. The New Look leggings I purchased are ridiculously comical on my frame; the elastic waistband is too tight so I have to wear them beneath the bump which results in super, super baggy leggings and a crotch which is almost down to my knees! Not attractive! The one pair of leggings which I can rely on are the ASOS maternity leather effect leggings, they are fab! Oh so comfortable and stay put!
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