Blog your heart out

blog your heart out

I was tagged by Lucy at Sons brighten up my day to complete this Blog Your Heart Out meme and although I’ve done a few lately I thought this one had some good questions and would maybe give you a bit more insight into how Toby Goes Bananas came about.

Who/what encouraged you to start blogging?

I’ve had a blog since 2009 – I used to blog about all aspects of my life from my travel adventures, reviews of comedy gigs I’d been to, my weight loss attempts and anything else I fancied. (My old blog is still there if you fancy a look, although I never update it anymore – We Must Be Bold) When I had Toby though I knew the audience of my old blog wouldn’t really be interested in a family-orientated blog about my new baby. I started reading other parenting blogs during night feeds when Toby was tiny and when he was about three months old I decided to set up a new baby blog of my own. And so Toby Goes Bananas was born.

How did you chose what topics to blog about?

I knew Toby Goes Bananas was going to be a blog about my new baby and my family so I blog about anything to do with us and our life really.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I once spent the night at the top of Blackpool Tower.

What three words describe your style?

I don’t think I have a style! If I had to pick three words to describe me they would probably be organised, thoughtful and straight-forward.

What do you love to do when your not blogging?

I don’t seem to have time for doing much of anything these days. When I’m not looking after Toby, or doing my Spanish course work, or blogging, I like to read (in the bath), watch American TV dramas, bake and occasionally knit.

I tried to find some people to tag but everyone I thought of had already done it! But if you haven’t and you fancy joining in then feel free to copy the questions and go for it.

Me & Mine: A Family Portrait (February 2014)

Me & Mine is a photo linky to capturing our whole family each month. I’m afraid February’s family portrait is another indoor one. We had every intention of getting outside to take this month’s photo but a combination of a couple of busy weekends, a teething baby and pretty miserable weather meant our photo was left to the last minute again and so had to be taken inside. I do love how it is showing off our family dimples though.

A family portrait - February 2014

February started with me going out with the other mums from our antenatal class. It was the first time I had properly been out since Toby was born. I had a lovely time catching up with the other mums and drinking too much wine but thankfully didn’t suffer too much the next day!

I had two days at work this month too which was great. It meant Toby got to spend a couple of extra days at home with daddy too and I was secretly delighted I didn’t have to deal with the worst of his teething! It was another boys’ day last weekend too as I was off to Dundee for the penultimate immersion day of my Spanish course. I’m almost finished my two year Graduate Diploma which will qualify me to teach Spanish, in addition to the French I already teach. I’ll be so glad when it’s over though – it’s really hard to keep up with the work and look after Toby. I swear I had more time to do it when I was working full time.

And this weekend Toby has to make do with one parent again as the hubby has gone to see his parents and friends in Manchester. His mum and dad are moving house soon and so it’ll be that much harder for him to see the friends he left down there when he moved up to Scotland to live with me. Toby was really grumpy yesterday and I thought we might be heading back into teething hell but he seems a lot better this morning so fingers crossed we have a peaceful weekend to start the new month.

Living Arrows 8/52

Almost at the end of February already and week eight in the I Heart Snapping Living Arrows project.

Toby is so wriggly these days. He’s not mastered crawling forwards yet but he can shuffle backwards and gets about pretty well just by rolling over in one direction then the other. I’m so used to just being able to leave him on his playmat while I get jobs done but now I can’t leave him alone or he’s away rolling under the furniture or getting himself stuck in a corner! And I know it’s not going to get any easier when he starts crawling properly. I think we’re going to have to get him a cage playpen.

Anyway, I managed to get this photo during one of his rare still moments, when he was just lying on the sofa chilling out in the sun coming in through the window.

Baby in the sun

 

living arrows

Review and Giveaway: Canvas Design photo canvas (Giveaway ended)

Canvas Design photo canvas

Despite having taken hundreds if not thousands of photos of Toby since he was born we are yet to have any printed and up on our walls. I’ve always liked the look of a photo canvas but we don’t have any of those either. So when Canvas Design were looking for bloggers to review their products how could I refuse?

The Details

We ordered our photo canvas by sending an image by email direct to the company but usually you would order by uploading your photo to the Canvas Design website. There are tools on the site to edit your picture and to add various effects. Canvases come in any size from 6″ x 6″ up to 40″ x 40″. You can have a square, landscape or portrait canvas and custom sizes are also available if none of the standard sizes meet your needs. Our canvas is 20″ x 20″ which retails at £23.99.

The Pros

  • Ordering via the website is very easy. Canvas Design will also let you know if the image you have uploaded isn’t of good enough quality for the size of canvas you have ordered.
  • Delivery is free and very speedy. Canvas Design use a courier who will text to advise of your delivery day, give you options to change the delivery day, and then give you an hour time slot for delivery on the day. For free delivery I thought this was excellent service.
  • The canvas arrived very well packaged to there was no danger of it getting damaged.
  • The canvas itself is very good quality. Canvas Design use 100% pure cotton canvas stretched on a pine frame.
  • Everything you need to hang the canvas is included. There is a bracket to screw onto the canvas and a picture hook to hang it on your wall.
  • The print quality is fantastic too – there is no graininess like you can sometimes get with a photo canvas.
  • The prices for all sizes of canvas are excellent from £7.99 to £59.99.

The Cons

  • None.

The Verdict

I’m really pleased with our photo canvas from Canvas Design. It looks great on our living room wall… I’m very tempted to order some more and make a whole canvas wall!

Photo canvas on the wall

Canvas Design are offering all my readers 15% discount on all orders. Simply use the code BLOG15 at the checkout. In addition to this great discount, Canvas Design have also given me the opportunity to give away a photo canvas for free! You can choose any photo and any size canvas from 6″ x 6″ to 40″ x 40″! Enter using the Rafflecopter below.

UK residents only. Competition closes at 00:00 on 7th March 2014.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

**Disclaimer: I was sent a photo canvas in return for this review. All opinions are my own.

Weaning (The Ordinary Moments #15)

Weaning eating clementine

It’s a another Ordinary Moment for this week’s link up with Katie at Mummy Daddy Me.

We gave Toby his first solid food to try on Christmas Day. He was happy to play with it but not that interested in eating it. He was only five and a half months at the time so we weren’t really concerned. But then another month passed. Toby was still playing with the food. He could pick it up but still wasn’t interested in eating. We were trying to follow a baby-led weaning route but I have to confess there are some things that I have fed Toby using a spoon. I also started holding the finger foods for him and he would eat pretty much everything but he just wasn’t going to put things in his mouth by himself. This wasn’t just food either – Toby just wasn’t interested in putting anything in his mouth.

Weaning eating highchair

Fast forward another few weeks though and it’s all change. Toby now has two bottom teeth and when they started coming through he started trying to eat everything in sight (including the highchair tray!). He will pick up veg sticks, toast, sandwiches, fruit and put it into his mouth himself. He is getting better at getting a spoon in his mouth if I give it to him but still has a tendency to fling whatever is on it all over the place. It’s lovely to see Toby trying new foods – I usually save a bit of whatever we’ve had for dinner and give it to him for lunch the next day. He still pulls a face every time he puts something in his mouth, even if he likes it and even if he’s had it before! Sometimes he eats more than others, but I am learning to trust him to manage his own appetite.

Drinking from a sippy cup is still a work in progress. Toby is eager to put it in his mouth but hasn’t worked out that he needs to tip it to get the water in his mouth. And then when I tip it for him he gets water in his mouth but doesn’t always seem that keen on swallowing it! Still, just like the eating, I’m sure he’ll get it in his own time.

Weaning sippy cup

It seems my early worries were unfounded. Maybe we should have waited a little longer before starting the weaning process but now he’s got the hang of it there’s no stopping him!

Weaning

mummy daddy me

Pink

Another week another prompt. This one is simply a topic. One to think about…

Pink is for girls

When we found out we were having a boy at our 20 week scan we didn’t tell anyone apart from my parents. The only real reason for this was because I didn’t want Toby to end up with a wardrobe full of pastel blue clothes. To be honest it wasn’t so much the blue I had a problem with, it was the pastels! I searched out brightly coloured baby clothes wherever I could. Would I do the same if we were having a girl? Absolutely! Of course Toby did end up with some blue clothes, and some ‘boy’ clothes but I was just thinking the other day – if we do have another baby and it’s a girl would I be happy to dress her in ALL Toby’s hand me downs? Even the babygrow with tractors on it? I don’t see why not. But would I do it the other way round? If we had a girl first would I dress her little brother in pink or ‘girly’ clothes? Probably not. Although Toby does have a pink nappy! I like to think I’m pretty enlightened when it comes to these things though – Toby doesn’t have any ‘gender specific’ toys yet but I will happily encourage him to play with whatever he wants when the time comes.

I was never a ‘girly’ girl growing up. I’m still not now really. I used to be made to wear a dress for church on Sundays and I would be pulling at the zip, wriggling to get it off as soon as we got home. But most of the time I wore all my brother’s old clothes, I played with the same toys as him, I always got on better with boys than girls. Maybe it’s because I had an older brother and I idolised him, I just wanted to do everything he did. Maybe it was because my parents were both Scout leaders and so I went to cub camp and scout camp (in the days before girls were allowed in scouts) and I seemed to have much more fun with the boys than I did at Brownies or Guides. Girls we’re always talking about one another and bitching and falling out.

My parents always treated us equally too (apart from the wearing a dress for church thing). I started dance classes when I was four, and a year later when my brother decided he wanted to go to dancing too my mum and dad were happy to let him (he carried on tap lessons until he was about 15). I’m sure if I’d wanted to play football then that would have been OK too. The only time I remember my parents attempting to treat us differently was when I was 16 and wanted to go to the pub. My brother had been allowed to go to the pub when he was 16 (our parents trusted him to be sensible and were of the mind that they would rather know where he was, than him tell them he was at a friend’s house then go to the pub anyway). So when I was 16 I asked if I could go to the pub too. Initially my parents said no. I was outraged! “But Mark was allowed to go when he was 16!” “It’s different for you, you’re a girl”. As you can imagine, I wasn’t very happy with that, and in this instance I won the argument. I think it probably helped that I was going to the same pub as my brother so he would be able to keep an eye on me.

I think though, however hard we try as parents not to enforce gender stereotypes it’s hard to avoid them entirely as our children get older. I’m going to do my best to ensure Toby (or any other children we might have) are never limited by the ‘norms’ of society. I try not to push any gender stereotypes on to Toby now, and certainly as he grows up and starts to have opinions of his own he can wear what he wants to wear, and play with what he wants to play with (within reason!), and when he grows up he can be whatever he wants to be.

mumturnedmom

Review: Vital Baby Weaning Set and KidiSipper Tubby

Vital Baby Weaning Set and KidiSipper Tubby

Toby has only recently started weaning and we’re always keen to try anything that might make life easier. He already has four different sippy cups as I keep buying new ones in the hope he’ll work out how to use them! We were recently given the chance to try out a weaning set and sippy cup from family-run business Vital Baby. Vital Baby sell a whole host of baby feeding products along with various other things such as bath toys, teethers and skincare products.

The Details

The Vital Baby Weaning Set is a shaped bowl with a lip to make it easy to hold. It also has a lid with built in spoon storage and the spoon to go with it. The Weaning Set retails at £3.99 and is available in pink, blue or orange. We were also sent the KidiSipper Tubby to try out. This is a non-spill sippy cup with a soft, flexible spout. It also has a removable cover to keep the spout clean.The KidiSipper Tubby retails at £3.49 and comes in blue, orange or purple. Vital Baby products can be purchased direct from the company and are also stocked at Boots, John Lewis, Mothercare, Toys R Us, Ocado, Mamas & Papas and Amazon.

Weaning Set in use

The Pros 

  • The Weaning Set is a really useful product, whether for use at home or out and about. As Toby doesn’t stay up with us for dinner I usually save a bit for him to have for his lunch the next day. This lidded bowl has been great for keeping things fresh in the fridge.
  • The spoon that comes with the Weaning Set is a perfect size for Toby, either for me to feed him or if he is (attempting) to feed himself. It has a soft tip which I really like – Toby has a tendency to dive at the spoon if I’m holding it and with this one I don’t need to worry about hurting him with it.
  • We haven’t actually taken the Weaning Set out anywhere yet but when we do I’m sure having the built-in spoon cover will be really handy both to keep the spoon clean before and to keep the dirty spoon away from anything else afterwards.
  • I have used the Weaning Set in the microwave and dishwasher without any problems.
  • The KidiSipper Tubby is a good size for Toby at 7 months. He seems to find it easier to hold the handles than on some of the other sippy cups we have.
  • I like the soft spout of the KidiSipper – again Toby likes to take a dive at his cup to get it in his mouth so I don’t need to worry about him hurting himself. This is very similar to the Nuby sippy cup we already have.
  • The non-spill valve works well – even after being thrown on the floor we didn’t have any leaks. Although the valve is non-spill there doesn’t seem to be too much effort required to get the water out. Toby is managing to get plenty – in fact the only spills we’ve had are when he decides to fill his mouth with water and then just dribble it down his chin rather than swallow it!
  • The lid on the KidiSipper is interchangeable with most of the other cups and bottles in the Vital Baby range which is a good feature.
  • We haven’t used the top for the cup while at home but again, this will be a useful feature when we take it out with us.

KidiSipper Tubby (Weaning)

The Cons

  • There are honestly no downsides to these products that I can come up with!

The Verdict

I really like both products that we tried from Vital Baby, and looking on their website there are plenty of other products that I would like to try. Some of the other cups and bottles look great for when Toby is a bit older and I also think the Unbelievabowl looks fantastic. I’ve tried to give Toby the bowl to feed himself occasionally but he just wants to throw it on the floor so one that suctions on to the highchair would be ideal! All the Vital Baby products are very reasonably priced too – I would be happy to recommend them to anyone looking for baby or toddler feeding products.

**Disclosure: I was sent the Vital Baby Weaning Set and KidiSipper Tubby  in return for this review. All opinions are my own.

We're going on an adventure

Back to work

Back to work

Did you know that if you are on maternity leave you may be able work up to ten Keeping In Touch (or KIT) days, which you should be paid for, without it affecting your Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)? These days are optional and must be agreed in advance with your employer. I am fortunate that the council I work for allows KIT days and pays a full day’s salary for each day worked. As a teacher it is important that I keep up to date with what is happening in my profession, and this is even more important this year as new qualifications are introduced into Scottish secondary schools.

I worked one KIT day in November on an in service day. I got to attend some meetings with other languages teachers which was really useful. When I was planning my next KIT days I was keen to have a day in school actually teaching so I arranged to go in on a day when one of the other languages teachers was going to be out of school so I could cover her classes. As it happened this was the day before another in service day so I agreed I would work that day too.

Me going into work for two days meant that the hubby had to take two days off work to look after Toby. My mum has offered to come up and stay and look after Toby but I was a bit worried that she had never looked after him on her own before. Having had two kids of her own I’m sure she is perfectly capable but the trouble with living 250 miles away is that Toby has only actually met his grandparents five or six times, and although he’s always seemed perfectly happy with my mum I’m not sure how he would be on his own with her all day without me or his dad around. The other worry I have is that my mum has a bit of a bad back. Most of the time it’s fine but it’s one of those bad backs that can just ‘go’. Toby isn’t a tiny baby any more and I worry that if my mum had to pick him up all day and her back went she’d be stuck, unable to get him off the floor or out of his cot. So anyway, the hubby booked his two days off work and I got ready to go back to the chalkface.

I don’t know if it makes me a terrible mother but I was actually looking forward to a couple of baby-free days! I would be teaching some of the same kids I had last year and I was keen to make sure I hadn’t forgotten what I was doing. And do you know what, it was as if I’d never been away! I even remembered all the kids’ names. I really enjoyed teaching again and I was glad the kids listened to me and didn’t give me too much bother.

The hubby, on the other hand wasn’t so lucky. My two days at work just happened to coincide with Toby’s first two teeth cutting through, both at the same time, leading to a very grumpy and upset baby. He was ill when I went into school in November too. Maybe he just knows that I’m not going to be there so makes life hard for his dad!

I’ve not planned my next KIT day yet. I don’t think I’ll be doing all ten – although I’d like to, it means the hubby using up a lot of his annual leave just to stay at home looking after Toby. I’d rather he saved them so we can have time together as a whole family. Although I enjoyed my days back at school I’m not sure I’m going to like it quite as much when I have to go back to work full time in August. Leaving Toby with his dad for a couple of days is a very different prospect to leaving him at nursery five days a week. But for now I’m going to make the most of my odd days back at work and remember what it is like to be me and not just Toby’s mum.

Review: Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugar

I love to bake, although I don’t do it that often otherwise me and the hubby would just spend all our time eating cake! I always used to stick to a few favourites but since I started going to my local baking club I like to try out new recipes. And with a meeting of baking club coming up I was on the look out for something new to bake. So when I saw a tweet from Sugar and Crumbs looking for people to try out their new flavours of icing sugar I jumped at the chance!

Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugar

The Details

Sugar and Crumbs is a UK company selling flavoured icing sugar and cocoa powder. I had never heard of flavoured icing sugar before I heard of Sugar and Crumbs so I was eager to give it a go. There are 22 different flavours of icing sugar – everything from strawberry milkshake to chilli lime! I was sent two new flavours, coffee and salted caramel, to try along with some black cherry icing sugar. Sugar and Crumbs also sell five different flavoured cocoa powders too and I was sent the chocolate cherry flavour. I haven’t had chance to try the cherry flavours yet to I will write another post about those when I have given them a go. In addition to the icing sugars and cocoa powders, Sugar and Crumbs also sell a range of coloured sugar paste and cake decorations.

So what did I make?

Coffee sponge with coffee flavour icing sugar

First of all I made a coffee sponge with coffee flavour buttercream. I was going into work for two days last week so I thought I would take in a cake for my hard-working colleagues. I used a very simple method to make the sponge – just weigh two eggs and then use the same weight of butter, castor sugar and self-raising flour. To add a coffee flavour I mixed two tablespoons of instant coffee with the same amount of boiling water, allowed it to cool then added it to the cake batter after it was all mixed. For the buttercream I used 125g butter with the 125g sample pack of coffee icing sugar I was sent and 125g of plain icing sugar. I added a little milk to get the right consistency and I also added a little dribble of coffee left from the cake, more to give the buttercream a bit of a coffee colour than for flavour.

Devil's food cake with Salted Caramel flavour icing sugar buttercream

The second cake I made was the one for baking club. This was a Devil’s Food Cake with Salted Caramel flavour buttercream. The recipe for the cake came from the first Great British Bake Off cookery book. It is basically a very chocolatey cake which also has soured cream added. It was a much more complicated recipe than I would usually use but I was pleased with how it came out. And luckily, Toby was happy to sit and play in his highchair and eat some lunch while I made a mess in the kitchen! The cake is baked as two cakes then each is sliced in half to make four layers. In between each layer there is a chocolate ganache made with melted chocolate and more soured cream. The recipe in the book also has this ganache on top the cake too but I decided to use the salted caramel buttercream instead. For this cake I used 100g butter with the 125g of salted caramel icing sugar, 75g of plain icing sugar and a little bit of milk.

The Pros 

  • The flavoured icing sugars were very easy to use. Just like using plain icing sugar in fact!
  • Both the coffee and salted caramel flavours were nice and strong. This means you can mix part flavoured icing sugar with part plain to get the flavour you need. This also reduces the cost as the flavoured icing sugar is more expensive than plain.
  • Everyone who tried my cakes really liked the flavoured buttercream, especially the salted caramel flavour (which someone commented tasted a bit like Butterscotch Angel Delight!)
  • Some of the flavours available are really unusual (Banana Split, Galia Melon, Pear Drops and Peach Melba to name a few) – I’m not sure how you would easily add these flavours to icing yourself so being able to buy them ready made is great!
  • The products are well packaged in easy open, resealable packets.

The Cons

  • I would say the only real downside to the Sugar and Crumbs products is the price. The icing sugar is £4.99 for 500g, compared to £1 for the same amount of plain icing sugar.
  • I would perhaps like the icing sugar to be coloured to reflect the flavour. When I made the coffee buttercream I ended up adding a little bit of coffee just to get the coffee colour – but then this rather defeated the purpose of the flavour already being in the icing sugar!

The Verdict

Due to the price of Sugar and Crumbs icing sugar I probably wouldn’t use it for my everyday baking. Also, I probably wouldn’t buy any of the flavours which are fairly easy to create yourself using plain icing sugar (for example; lemon drizzle, coffee or vanilla). However, for a special bake I would be very tempted by some of the more unusual flavours on offer especially as the cost can be lessened by using a mix of flavoured and plain icing sugars.

**Disclaimer: I was sent samples of flavoured icing sugar and cocoa powder from Sugar and Crumbs in return for this review. All opinions are my own.