Monday 27 April 2015

10 Gift Ideas for Second and Third Babies

When I had my first son, I was amazed at the amount of gifts he got. It seemed that the postman was arriving with cards and parcels almost every day for weeks and weeks. Every visitor came laden down with presents for the baby. We had just bought the basics, so we were thrilled with all the clothes, toys, blankets and cuddly toys that came Number One's way. 

With Number Two and Number Three, there were still plenty of visitors and some gifts. But a lot of people admitted that they really didn't know what to get. Sure you have everything you need, don't you? they said.  And so we ended up with lots of vouchers for nappies. Nothing wrong with that. It saved us a few quid. But I did feel sorry for the boys. They hadn't really anything lasting like Number One had.

Even as a mother of three, it can be quite tricky to choose a gift for newborn when they are not the first child in the family. A lot of people shy away from telling their friends and family what they would really like for fear of seeming greedy. Some, like me when Number Three was only a few days old, simply had no idea what they want or need. Sleep deprivation, sore boobs and baby brain had taken over and I had no overview of how well equipped we were (materially) to deal with a new baby.

With a few months distance from Number Three's birth, I have now put together a list of gifts for babies, ranging from the practial to the pretty, in the hope that it will inspire you.

Children's Cutlery - Cutlery is one of my favourite gifts to give to babies.  The range available, both price-wise and design-wise, is very broad so there really is something available for every taste and budget. I've given sets from Aldi to WMF and a few between. Some companies offer the option to have the child's name or initials engraved. I find that a lovely idea. Avoid printed patterns on the cutlery as these tend to fade or dissolve in the dishwasher. Embossed or engraved designs won't disapppear. 
While practical, cutlery also makes a nice, lasting gift to mark a child's birth, baptism or first birthday. 

Piggy bank - A piggy bank is another practical but thoughtful gift. It is individual to the child and won't become a hand-me-down to younger siblings. Again, with regards to colour, design and price, there a massive range and they are not hard to find. 

Something handmade - Knit or crocheted booties, a hat, jumper or blanket, a changing mat or nappy wallet. Any of these makes a beautiful and meaningful present for a new baby. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be made by you. Almost everyone appreciates having somethings made specially for their new little one.

Melamine bowl & plate set - Over the last few years melamine sets for babies and toddlers have been popping up everywhere. Paperchase, Habermaass and many other manufacturers have been bringing out patterns ranging from pretty to funky. They are dishwasher and microwave safe, sturdy and colourful. What more can you ask for? I know that my kids love their own melamine beakers, bowls and plates. 

Voucher for photo printing - with everything gone digital these days there is not much photo printing going on, but who can resist printing a few snaps of their treasured newborn? One for Daddy's desk, for Mummy's purse, for Nana's fridge. In our case we even had to get one for the proud big brother's pencil case for his first day of school. Giving the gift of a voucher for a good printshop could be quite welcome.

Baby Photo Album - My children love to look at their baby albums. Along with photos, I put in a few notes about when they took their first steps, etc. and I saved their boarding passes from their first flights to Ireland. The Baby album we got for Number One had an ink stamp with it for making footprints at different ages (3, 6, 9 and 12 months for instance). Here is the link to the most recent version of the same album. A baby album is a joy to have. If you are an extra good friend, you could even offer to fill it with photos and mementos of baby's first year.

Keepsake Box - This is a similar idea to the baby album but suits the less organised parents and / or larger families. They don't need to print, cut and stick, they just need to fling everything from the hospital bracelet to the first lock of hair into the keepsake box. There are beautiful boxes available. Tied with a lovely big bow, they are not only practical but also make a lovely feature in the nursery. (Tip: this is something you can hand make too, for an extra special touch).

Bodies and babygros - In my experience, bodies and babygos get a lot of wear and, being closest to the skin, are likely to suffer the effects of the explosive nappies around the 3 to 5 month stage. Many of them may not be suitable for handing down to younger siblings. I have always been glad of soft new bodies and babygros as gifts. What is also unbelievably cute are matching t-shirt and babygros with "big brother" and "little brother". 

A Children's Classic - A classic book like Wind In The Willows, The Water Babies or Alice in Wonderland with an inscription to the baby makes a wonderful gift. Give it to a toddler or older child and they will more than likely not be terribly impressed. But give it to a newborn and they will grow up knowing that that book is theirs and theirs alone. 

Black & White Book - Tana Hoban's classic reversable Black & White fold out book is wonderful for babies. Our is almost seven years old and still going strong. Number One and Two were fascinated by it as babies and Number Three has been discovering it lately. We have it woven between the poles of the playpen and Number Three loves to gaze at the shapes portrayed. 

While I am at it, I may as well give you my top three presents for new or expectant parents (first timers).
1. DVD Bebes du Monde - If you haven't  seen this film, go out and get it. No matter how many of your own children you have, you will find it beutiful and amazing. It is a largely silent documentary film which charts the first year in the lives of four babies, one each in USA, Mongolia, Japan and Africa. The differences in the treatment of pregnancy and style of upbringing are fascinating.  
2. The Wonder Weeks - A fantastic book on the developmental stages every baby goes through. Reading this will not help a teething baby sleep, but it will help the parents realise why their hitherto calm and adorable baby has become a nightmare and reassure them that their darling will return. It also gives a good insight into what a baby can do and when.

3. Baby's First Skills - In month-by-month chapters this book by Dr. Miriam Stoppard details what a baby is capable of and gives excellent tips on how to entertain and play with a baby in such a way as to help him or her learn the new skills they are ready for. It is a great book to leaf through while feeding the baby since the chapters are short and there are plenty of diagramsto illustrate the points made. A very parent-friendly book.

All opinions stated here are my own and are based on my own experience. This is not a sponsored post. I was not provided with any of the products listed in this blog. Anything referenced as belonging to me or my family here was given to us by friends or purchased by us.
The List

What I really should be doing instead of typing right this minute

Do you ever get the mammy blogger guilt? The voice in your head telling you "You really should be hoovering / making dinner / ironing / doing the tax returns/....". I get that a lot, despite not being a huge output blogger. 

So here is my list of what I really should be doing instead of typing right this minute (Monday27th April, 3.43pm).

  • Checking on the brown bread in the oven
  • Emptying the washer and dryer
  • Putting Number Three's jacket on him
  • Getting to kindergarten to collect Number Two so that we have time to go to the library after collecting Number One from sachool
  • Switching off the lights, radio and cooker so that I can leave
  • Putting on my jacket
  • Leaving the house
I can do all that in the next 90 seconds, can't I?

[Logs off and bolts round the place like a blue-arsed fly in order not to be late at the school gates]

Post script: It took 4 minutes rather than 90 seconds to get out of the house, but we still managed to make it to the school gates on time and to the library too. But we were two minutes late for football (not my fault, I would like to add). 
The Twinkle Diaries

Sunday 26 April 2015

A Change Is As Good As A Holiday

On Thursday afternoon, our usual 10 minute walk home from school took us two hours. But there were no tantrums. There was no dragging of feet.  We arrived home excercised, relaxed and happy. Let me share a little secret with you. A routine is good, but a spontaneous breaking of your routine every now and again lifts you out of the daily grind and turns your thoughts to other things. It gives you a break.It is like finding time you thought you didn't have.

Our normal routine on a Thursday would be to collect Number One from school and then take Number Two to athlethics but leave 15 minutes early because Number One is bored and Number Three needs to be fed.  This routine is usually heaps of fun for Number Two. Since he is the middle child and demands far less attention than his brothers, I like to stick with athlethics class for him even though the other two aren't too pleased about it. 

Thursday was such a lovely sunny day that I couldn't bear the thought of spending it in the school PE hall. So, on the walk to school I suggested we go for ice-cream after the school pick-up. To be honest, that was the end of my plan. School, ice-cream parlour, home. 

As luck would have it, Number One had had a particularly good day at school behaviour-wise and had no homework left to do. So we strolled over to the ice-cream parlour, ordered, ate and chatted happily. Number One checked the menu and counted out the money for the waitress from my purse (they are learning about money at school at the moment). He even asked for the bill and paid all by himself.

As we got up to leave, Number Two wanted to show me something in the street behind the ice-cream parlour. We never have a reason to go round there, but he was there with a friend's family recently and wanted to show me the fountain he saw. So we went. We were about 150m from the ice-cream parlour but in the opposite direction to home. And here it suddenly struck me - we could turn around and walk home. We'd be there in less than ten minutes. The boys would play their usual games of Lego or Playmobil and I would mind the baby, make dinner, tidy up or put on a wash. Or we could keep walking in the wrong direction and take a different way home. 

So we did. 

It was wonderful. We walked through parts of the village that the boys had never seen and that I had rarely been in. We looked around us and chatted about the houses we passed. We talked about how old there were and what they were built with. We watched the sunlight flicker through the leaves on a big copper beech. We don't do things like that on the school route. It has become so routine and we are always in a hurry to get to school, to get to sport, to get home, to be somewhere else but not in the moment.

Two beautiful houses fallen to ruin.
Once we got home, I sent the boys to change for bed. I got Number Three changed for bed too and set the table for dinner. We ate boiled eggs and sandwiches for tea instead of having a cooked meal. Afterwards the boys went to bed without any trouble, happy and sleepy.  

A pretty pink villa. It reminds me of  a dolls' house.

At home that evening a line from one of my favourite poems popped into my mind

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost

I've loved this poem since I first came across it over twenty years ago. It is such a simple poem, so matter of fact, but it perfectly describes my relaxed and spontaneous afternoon with my boys. 

Sunlight filtering through a big copper beech tree.

A canopy of blossoms along a walkway.


Wednesday 22 April 2015

50 Things That Make Me Happy

In one of my very eary posts on this blog, I mentioned that I was never one for soul-searching. That said, it doesn't hurt now and again to take a step back and look at your life. But, be warned, it can go either way, depending on the mood you are in or the day you've had. You can end up slumped on the sofa, tissues in one hand and a drink in the other wondering how you managed to get into this mess. Or you can find yourself brimming over with enthusiasm for life, wondering how you got to be so lucky. 

When Lisa from the beautiful blog Into The Glade tagged me for the 50 Things That Make Me Happy list, I was honoured that she thought of me. But I had my doubts about finding 50 things that really make me happy. To be honest, I had visions of reaching no. 31 and then having to resort to cliches, really scraping the bottom of the barrel to make the list up to 50. 

When I sat down during a spare five minutes to put a few thoughts on a page recently, I was surprised to make it to 37 absolutely effortlessly. I only stopped writing because my brief window of peace and quiet ended (see no. 38. Brief windows of peace and quite in which to do my own thing, guilt-free). In the end, I didn't have to resort to my bottom-of-barrel, generic, greeting-card-happiness list at all. For the ultra-curious among you, this list would include:
Babies' feet (incredibly cute, I admit, but not top 50 material for me)
The smell of cut grass on a sunny day (the preceeding drone of a lawnmower kind of ruins it for me).

So here, in all its glory and in no particular order, is my list of 50 things that make me happy.

1. My husband, The Bavarian, (most of the time)
2. My children, by their very existence
3. Cherry blossom, apple blossom or any other blossom apprearing in Spring.

4. Removing the teatowel from a mixing bowl and seeing that my yeast dough has risen nicely
5. Being in France
6. Being in Holland
7. Enjoying a beer with The Bavarian on the patio on a sunny evening
8. Going to the outdoor pool after work with the kids
9. Chatting to my mother
10. Having a pint of Guinness with my dad in Bennets Pub, Ardcath, Ireland
11. Being in the Alps on a sunny day
12. Being home in Ireland

13. Turkish delight
14. Walking into the bathroom and seeing all three laundry baskets empty (a rare ocurrence, but not unheard of during a bout of good weather)
15. How my windows look after they have been cleaned. (The actual cleaning of said windows is  not one of my favourite activities)
16. Waking up feeling rested and ready to get up (again, this seldom happens but I love it when it does)
17. Easter

18. Bookshops
19. Salvaging furniture from skips or rubbish collections

20. Reading books on social history
21. The fact that my children eat most fruits and a good selection of vegetables by choice
22. Cheese (buying, eating and cooking with)
23. Snowdrops, bluebells and tulips appearing
24. Crisp autumn leaves in the sunlight 

25. Hearing son number 2 say "skoo-il" (school) and "fil-im" (film) as if he was born and raised in Ireland.
26. The fact that son number 1 picks up on Irish turns of phrase and uses them in the right context, for example "left, right and centre", "that yoke" or "I'm only after...".
27. Arriving in Dublin airport to be greeted by my father and hearing the boys ask "Grandad, will you buy us some Tayto?"
28. Marzipan fruits and animals
29. People being nice when there is nothing to be gained from it for them, like someone offering you their day pass for the tram when you are in the queue for the ticket machine and they are not using their ticket any more
30. Windy walks on the beach in Ireland

31. Watching The Bavarian pet and play with every dog he meets
32. The fact that my parents get on as well as many a married couple despite being separated for the past 16 years
33. Spending time with my nieces and nephew
34. Spending time with my siblings
35. Going to the theatre, especially The Gate in Dublin
36. Pre-theatre drinks
37. Sparkling wine
38. Brief windows of peace and quite in which to do my own thing, guilt-free
39. The Smiths (my wonderful extended family, not the band)
40. Having a garden full  of herbs, fruit trees and a small supply of summer vegetables 
41. Sincere praise for something done well
42. Weekends away with The Bavarian, my sister or my friends
43. Cooking and baking
44. The fact that certain school and uni friendships that have stood the test of time and survived my living in a different country
45. Hearing that someone I know is engaged, pregnant or has just had a baby
46. Shopping in foreign supermarkets while on holiday or a business trip

47. Learning a new craft or discovering one I used to know well (current favourites are crochet and sewing machine embroidery)

48. Being comforted by The Bavarian when things go wrong
49. Planning holidays and short trips
50. Writing, even if it is just a to do list

What would feature on your list? Would you have trouble making it to fifty? Now that I've started, I feel I could go on and on. 
You Baby Me Mummy

Saturday 18 April 2015

A Marriage of Glenisk and Rhubarb

One of the lasting memories I have from my childhood is my dad having his own special strawberry yogurt in the fridge that no-one else was allowed to have. That was Glenisk yogurt in the early days. I found the name a bit of a tongue twister at the time. Now of course, Glenisk is a household name and rightly so. I regulary pinch the kids' yogurts from my mother's fridge when we are home in Ireland on holiday. Son Number 1 had a cow milk allergy as a baby and that is how we got hooked on Glenisk's goat milk and goat milk yogurt. Thankfully he grew out of the allergy by the time he was three but our taste for Glenisk has stayed. 

Last week I took part in a competition that Glenisk, sponsor of the Irish Parenting Bloggers Awards, was holding. During my experiments, of which there were plenty because we love all things dairy in this house, I played around with some rhubarb dishes. 

Now rhubarb is one of those foods that people either love or hate. In this house we are fairly fond of rhubarb, especially in the form of crumble, The Bavarian's favourite Irish dessert. Delicious as rhubarb crumble is with a big dollop of Glenisk Greek Style Yogurt on top, I decided we should be a bit more adventurous this rhubarb season.

Read on to find out about our delicious creations....

Stewed Rhubarb:
750g rhubarb
3 dsps sugar
3 dsps orange juice
Mix the rhubarb, sugar and juice in a wide saucepan.
Cover and stew over a low heat for approx 20 minutes. It should turn a lovely rosy colour and the juice should turn syrupy.
Feel free to just tuck in. Warm and with a spoonful of something creamy on top, it is pretty tasty. But we weren't finished just yet.
The next morning, we topped a bowl of stewed rhubarb with Glenisk Greek Style Yogurt. But we didn't stop there. Oh no. We took stewed rhurbard to a new level of breakfast deliciousness.
We scattered a handful of muesli over the top and drizzled the whole lot with honey. You'll be hard put to find a tastier healthy breakfast.

Later on that day, I got to thinking about rhubarb fool. Now rhubarb fool is not a dish you hear much about, but it is something worth making at least once. Chilled propoerly and served in a pretty glass, it is magnificent in its simplicity.  But the best bit is the name. I dare you to make this, serve it to your children and, when they ask what it is, reply "It is rhubarb, fool". Test their grammar and your own comic timing by seeing whether they notice the comma you dropped in there.
Anyway, here is how to make my Glenisk-inspired version of the classic.

My Frivolous Fool
Ingredients for 6-8 portions:
500ml stewed rhubarb
500ml custard (made according to the instructions on the packet with 500ml Glenisk organic milk, custard powder and sugar)
200g Glenisk creme fraiche

Heat 500ml Glenisk organic milk to boiling. Stir in a mixture of custard powder, sugar and 2dsps milk.

Stir well, heat again and stir until the mixture thickens to custard. Leave to cool completely. I always make custard in the microwave. If you are using a saucepan, make sure to keep a good eye on it to prevent burning or boiling over.

Stir the coooled custard into the cold stewed rhubarb. Don't you just love the colours here?
You may be tempted o dive right in, but hold back It gets better.
Add the Glenisk creme fraiche.
Stir well to combine the rhubarb mixture and the creme fraiche, You may be tempted again, but wait. It is worth it.
Spoon into serving glasses and chill for at least an hour.
I couldn't resist adding a dollop of that creamy Glenisk creme fraice and a few coloured sprinkles. Why not make a fool look frivolous?

Grab a spoon, tuck in and enjoy the taste of springtime.