28 Apr 2014

Life Captured: A Week in the Life of Project Life style...

So I know that I keep saying it, but this is my favourite spread to date. I think the fact that I could use more of the traditional scrapbooking techniques as this page protector makes for bigger pockets. In fact it is the page protector that I have the most left of as it is a bit of an awkward size and you can't fit as many photos into it as you can with the others. But it does allow more space for embellishments and so I think this is why I enjoyed playing with it.

The photos I used were taken when I took part in Ali Edward's 'week in the life of...' I really loved 
this challenge and they are some of my favourite posts to look back on as it was one of the first weeks of just The Baby and I after The Belgian went back to work. Its a great record of his life and our daily routine at this stage in our lives. It is all the more poignant since I went back to work today (thanks for all the messages of support - it was fine and The Baby had a super day playing outside, planting tomatoes and following his little buddy F around the place! My mind is at ease!) So this stage of our life is over and we are on a new phase now.

I made the collages using the 'pic collage' app on my phone. I have an android so am more limited in the photo editing apps that I can get, but this one is so easy to make collages with and I often use it for making collages of my day to share on instagram.

I used the Blush edition Project Life day of the week cards and the journalling is hidden behind each collage. The thickers are American Craft glitter ones that I got for a steal at TK Maxx - £1 for glitter thickers yes please! Wish I had stocked up on more.

This is the other side of the layout as I could not fit five days on one page. The stamps are mostly from Studio Calico Project Life kits - love all of their stamps. I added some dimension with a bit of bling and a brad (how old skool!) 

How adorable is this scale picture? The journalling is all about how I used to take him every Monday to get him weighed as part of our get-out-of-the-house routine. Now he is far too wriggly to lie on the scales and such a faff to undress and dress again that I wouldn't put myself through it in public. So nice to remember the calmer days with this little pocket.

The other two pockets record some of our days out together like going to the Baby Rave in Leeds and to mommy cinema at Everyman Cinema in Trinity. All happy maternity leave memories. I know these memories don't stop now as we still have four days of fun a week.

23 Apr 2014

Let's talk about returning to work...

So it's almost been nine months. Other teachers said to me that it would go quickly, but at the time the year rolled out in front of me like a dream. A whole year of fun. Morning snuggles with my little man whilst the rest of the world trudges to work. Fun shopping and lunch dates with other mummy's. Netflix and scrapbooking marathons before he could protest too much and was content laying under his baby gym. Walks in the park. Walks round town. Walks to the supermarket. You get the impression. There was a lot of walking.

But after that six month mark the dramatic drop in my salary became more and more difficult. Super scrimping from with still two weeks to go till pay day led to some creative meals. More lentil curry anyone? Then of course we started house hunting as a two bed flat with a patio is not ideal for a bubba. As anyone who has ever bought a house knows this is an expensive business. So the savings that were going to supplement our in income from months 9-12 (when in teaching you get nothing) were now needed for deposit, solicitors fees etc. So I had some decisions to make.

Do I go back after nine months?
Do I go back before or after the Easter holidays?
Do I go back full time or part time?

Not going back to work at all was never really an option. I wonder if I was married to a doctor or a lawyer and had the option would I return to work still? A lot of my friends are stay at home mums and they love it. I have really enjoyed my maternity leave and have plenty of hobbies and friends so that I never got bored. But I do enjoy my job. At least I love teaching. I love the banter with the kids. I love helping them to achieve their targets and dreams. I also enjoy the interaction with other adults. Oh and cake Fridays. Except Friday will now be my day off - fail! 

So we decided I would go back part time on three days and then there was the issue of childcare. I can justify three days in my minds as I still have two whole days at home with my baby and then the weekend as a family.
  Its so difficult to know when was the right time to go back. I went with working one day before the Easter holidays (cheeky huh?!) and so Monday will be my first 'proper' day. The Belgian still had one paternity day left and so he stayed home with The Baby and so it didn't really seem too bad.

Do we go with a nursery or child minder? It seems that most of my friends have free childcare with family members and clearly this is ideal, but as I have mentioned before we are very far from both of our families. Day care across the channel isn't really a sensible option is it?

So we visited some nurseries. 

What I liked about nurseries:
  • lots of variety
  • activities are targetted to the babies ages and the early years education they provide prepares them for school
  • good equipment
  • professional and good hours
  • hot meals included
  • good feedback
  • lots of messy play and sensory activities
What I didn't like so much:
  • being confined to the baby room
  • only small and limited outdoor play areas
  • very young nursery nurses who do not have children of their own
  • less personal
  • you have to pay for one day a week in the holidays
  • limited hours - you pay for the whole day even though we'd be able to pick him up at four
  • not many trips for babies
Whereas with childminders:

I liked:
  • more variety as they can go on errands and play dates with the babies
  • more personal
  • most are mother's themselves
  • more flexible on hours
  • can offer term time only contracts
  •  will be able to socialise with a mix of other children
  • more loving and individual care
I didn't like:
  • the feeling of leaving your child with a relative stranger.
  • some child minders can look after lots of older children and perhaps not cater as much for babies as a nursery would
  • not as many children for The Baby to interact with 

So after visiting a few nurseries and making some enquiries about childminders we decided to go with a childminder in the village where we work. She is the mum of one of the student's I taught and so I felt like I knew her already. Plus her son is a 'nice lad' (as they say in these parts) and so I felt like she was a good choice. She loves the outdoors and has a really impressive garden with great facilities, she does lots of messy and sensory play with them and takes them on lots of walks and play dates.

Seems too good to be true right?

Well he's had a few settling in sessions and the first one was going well until he fell and banged his head and then he obviously wanted a mummy cuddle. He refused his milk and his nap and was quite distressed when I arrived. He was then really needy all day which is quite unlike him. The other two he fell asleep in the car on the way there and so woke disorientated and although he seemed to be okay he'd clearly been crying.

I know he will be fine as he isn't shy or clingy and loves the other little lads she minds, but I know Monday morning will be hard. It is the end of a really perfect nine months. The end of an 'era.' Now I will be pulled this way and that and my mind will be filled with data, target grades and success criteria that I will not be able to dedicate as much time to the little lad. 

I am also wondering how division of labour will go in our house. I have somehow ended up doing the lion's share when we used to be fairly equal about things like cooking and cleaning. I keep nagging mentioning that things will have to change and I won't be able to do everything around here anymore. But you know men? They never listen...

Have you had similar concerns or struggles with going back to work?

16 Apr 2014

Easter treat: Salted rolo brownies

I know, I know. Easter is already a time for chocolate overload. But I can promise you that if you whip up a bunch of these bad boys then they will be gone before you can say 'Easter egg hunt.' Plus you can change up the chocolate bar in them with what you have left over from your Easter eggs. 

In fact I had forgotten how delicious rolos actually are and may well have eaten as many as I put in the brownies. Grazers beware. I certainly didn't love anyone enough to save them my last one.

These should come with a health warning as they are seriously addictive. I am making a pan for our annual Jones family get together this Easter weekend. So why don't you make a pan too and share the love? Did I also mention how easy they are to make? 

Here are the ingredients: (from Delicious magazine)

200g unsalted butter, plus extra to grease
200g plain chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids) broken into small pieces
125g light muscovado sugar
125g caster sugar
4 medium free-range eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp sea salt flakes to taste
126g bag rolos, half chopped and half left whole


1) Heat the oven to 170 degrees. Grease and line a 20 cm square cake tin. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan constantly stirring over a low heat. Don't overheat as it may seize - allow it to cool slightly.

2) In another mixing bowl beat together the sugars, the eggs and the vanilla extract until pale and fluffy. Now stir in the cooled melted chocolate mix. 

3) Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, then fold through the batter with the sea salt to taste.

4) Mix the chopped rolos into the batter and then top with the whole ones. Bake for 25-30 minutes until firm to the touch but stil gooey in the middle - as they will continue to cook as they cool.

5) Leave to cool in the tin and then transfer to a wire cooling rack. If you're stuck for time put them in the fridge to set.


My notes...

I used a mixture of half dark chocolate and half milk as The Belgian had raided my cooking chocolate cupboard when there were no snacks in the house. This is one of his annoying habits, does anyone elses' partner do this?  My sister (who is a cake expert) said they weren't very chocolatey but we kinda liked them this way.

I only cooked mine for about 18 minutes and this was perfect in my opinion, but I like my brownies quite fudgy. Also I used a Pampered chef brownie pan so it is bigger and rectangular in size so the brownies were thinner. For this same reason I quartered most of the rolos and then cut then whole ones in half to decorate the top - this seemed to be the right amount of caramel goodness for these brownies. 

It is really worth getting the sea salt flakes as they really add something. In the past when a recipe has called for salt I have used whatever we had in the house, but this time I went all out and it was so worth it. I sprinkled a bit extra on top of the brownies too.

Enjoy, but don't say I didn't warn you.
One will not be enough. Nor will two. Or three. Or...

(The Baby prefers limes)

10 Apr 2014

Friday Finds: Cheap family days out in West Yorkshire

As I am sure most of you mothers out there know finances get pretty tight when you're on maternity leave. You begin by having long lunches and shopping days with all of your mummy friends, but all too soon your pay dwindles and you are looking for cheaper days out.

So here are five ideas for things to do in West Yorkshire with a bubby:-

1) A walk and picnic at Swinsty Reservoir

2) For a few pounds you can meet up with your mummy friends and let your little'uns run (or crawl) around like crazy people at a soft play area. Some weeks we go every other day as he is so lively and needs to let off steam. It is perfect for a rainy day. I love Buttercups in Otley as they have a big baby area and ball pool for the babies. I have also been to Tumble Town in Guisley quite a few times, but feel that this is better for walkers as the older kids area is really big and is designed to be a little town with those yellow and red cars. I have heard there are some great ones in Pudsey too so will have to check this out.

3) Another great day out in Leeds is the Leeds City Museum. The cafe is very baby friendly and quite inexpensive and tasty food. There are lots of interactive exhibits - the babies can get dressed up, crawl around (or have a face off) and play puzzles.

4) Valley Gardens in Harrogate is a great day out. Their park is amazing and would be so fun for older kids as it has a zip wire (which I may have tested out) and quite exciting and adventurous apparatus. There is a river to walk along and plenty of benches to rest on. We went on a sunny day in March (believe it or not) and the little man had his first try of ice-cream.

5) The Barn, Emsley's Farm in Yeadon. It is so much more than a farm as it has a cafe and indoor kids play area.It has been recently refurbished and has a baby area, lots of car and bikes for toddlers and walkers, a huge sand pit, trampoline, bouncy castle and 'school/home' area. Their food is tasty and very reasonably priced - if you get cake then you get a hot drink included. Win!

Where does your family go for a cheap and fun day out?

 (Please excuse the poor quality of most of these pictures - oh the convenience of the camera phone!)

8 Apr 2014

The 52 Project: March

As life gets very busy with returning to work, buying a house and all of the admin that goes with that it is nice to be reminded of the things that really matter. And who I will be missing out on. (Sob, sob!) 

09 - First time trying tomato soup

10 - First time on a swing

11 - His concentration face (those cheeks!)

12 -  Chilling out in his den

 Now here's hoping I don't ugly cry tomorrow morning.

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