Farewell December and 2016 hopes 

Happy belated new year to you! This post is a little bit late as we saw 2016 out with Will’s parents at their new house on the North Norfolk coast, which is internet free at the moment – is near a rather lovely beach where we saw a stunning Winter about to set sun.

Our November run of illnesses and breakages unfortunately continued into December. After a bout of a vomiting bug, more colds and the house still being a tip after the leak that happened whilst the boiler was being fitted (they’d had to rapidly move the piles of stuff we’d cleared for them to do the fitting all over the place as they were trying to find the leak as quickly as possible and were taking the floorboards up!) we called time on the plan of us hosting Christmas, as Will’s lovely Mum offered to cook lunch at their house instead. 

We were so grateful and it was a good thing we’d changed the plan as the oven then conked out a few days before Christmas. What with that and the dishwasher breaking, and the fact that the rest of the kitchen is heading towards the end of its life anyway we are going to replace the whole thing (if it’s in anyway in our budget from the money we’ve been putting aside for the purpose – a big if!). What with all this, and the general grimness of the world more generally – I am not sad to say goodbye to 2016.

December wasn’t all bad though – we celebrated my 30th with a trip to the Ritz for afternoon tea. It was lovely and I’ll write a whole post about it at some point! After we recovered from our various bugs and finished work for Christmas we did manage to have a lovely relaxed time, pottered about at home, had a wonderful Christmas Day thanks to Will’s Mum and Dad, had a day out to London Zoo using the membership we got as a Christmas gift, then topped it off with our trip to Norfolk. Hoping this means a good start to 2017!

2016 Hopes

I’m not a big one for New Year resolutions – mainly because I tend to make lots of ‘must do better’ resolutions and changes throughout the year and I prefer being a bit gentle and hopeful with myself at the start of the year in the dark and the cold. I think last year’s hopes strayed a little bit into resolution territory and I didn’t do so well with them as I did the previous year as a result. I’m going to take a different approach for 2017, but I thought this was a good time to reflect back on my 2016 hopes.

They were:

Being more thoughtful: this was all about remembering to think about our wonderful friends and family more, and generally I think I managed this quite well. Going back to work has meant I have ‘the book’ of organisation which if I lost it would mean we don’t know what we’re doing, eating or anything really. This has helped me keep track of things more which is great at feeling less reactive and guilty when special days for people go whizzing past.

Enjoying my particular life: not overly comparing myself to others (especially where parenting is concerned) – this had mixed results. I can definitely not claim to have never got stressed about Felicity’s sleep in comparison with others, or doubted my decisions, not helped by Health Visitors who just tend to lecture me about how all her sleep habits are wrong when I see them. But generally I’m aware we’re doing things the best way for our family and we’re all happy and healthy. I also read a great polemic by Zoe Williams about the sometimes toxic nature of modern parenting advice and judgement which helped to clarify things – I’m now reccomending it to pregnant friends!

Making – this just did not happen. Aside from helping out a bit with a friend’s wedding (lots of pom poms) I haven’t really been making anything. This is entirely due to a lack of free time, and energy to work out what I should make. I haven’t given up though – this is making a reappearance this year.

Sleep. Ha! Felicity’s sleep is so much better than this time last year, but I still might have cried if you’d told me that her sleeping through the night, even once, hadn’t happened yet. I have had seven hour stretches of sleep a couple of times, but generally I’m functioning on a few two or three hour spells over a night, which after fourteen months is rather draining.

A lot of thes were a bit too much like a resolution to actually work in the way I wanted. I hoped to think of things that I could achieve the spirit of which I will try to do in 2017.

Christmas books for babies and toddlers – alternative advent calendar inspiration

In the happy world of Pinterest I have seen many ideas for ‘alternative advent calendars’; countdowns to Christmas that you can either buy or make that go beyond the standard chocolate affairs. One idea I really liked was of sharing a different book on each day of advent. Combining this with my slight fear of the Elf on a Shelf phenomenon (it can’t just me that finds that elf creepy looking?!), I was inspired to think of 24 books I’d share with Felicity that would appeal to babies and toddlers. Lots are about Christmas, but some are just about snow and winter more widely too.  There’s one for every day in the countdown to Christmas from the first of December, but I think this year we may use the list more as a starting point to get some good idea for Christmas and wintry themed reads. I’ll definitely not be organised enough to wrap them up and display them in a suitably Pinterest friendly way, but I have enjoyed getting into the Christmas spirit by discovering some new classics. There are a few of the obvious big Christmas hitters on the list (like The Grinch and The Night Before Christmas), but I have saved some suitable for older children to look at in later years as well. Also, it would be mega expensive if you were to buy all these new – there’s no reason you can’t  get them from the Library to enjoy during Advent. Our local libraries have already got a special section in devoted to Christmas books out and ready to go. Happy Christmassy reading!

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Any list of children’s books has to include a Julia Donaldson in my opinion. Stick Man is our favourite Christmas related one (Santa makes an appearance). The rhyming words are Julia Donaldson’s with Axel Scheffler’s illustrations – the same team behind The Gruffalo. I got a little bit too invested in poor Stick Man’s quest to return to his family, it seems very emotional for a children’s book!  

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. ‘All through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’. No Christmas book list is complete without this classic rhyming book. I can still remember the illustrations in my childhood copy so clearly, and there are dozens of different picture book editions to choose from. If doing the advent calendar – surely this is the only choice for the Christmas Eve book?

Lucy and Tom at Christmas by Shirley Hughes. This is another from my childhood – Shirley Hughes is the only person honoured enough to be on this  list twice. Possibly a little bit grown up for younger toddlers, but Hughes classic illustrations are beautiful and capture the gentle magic of a home based Christmas for young children. One to treasure for years and years.

That’s Not My Elf by Fiona Watt, illustrated by Rachel Wells. There are many Christmassy/winter options to choose from in this ubiquitous Usborne touchy-feely series. Including Not My Reindeer, Santa, Polar Bear and Penguin. Felicity is still a big fan of these as they are very easy for little hands to turn pages as well as feeling the different textures on each page.

A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Alan Marks, with sounds. Felicity has always been a fan of a noisy book, and this combines a reselling of the classic Dickens tale,with sound effects. I really want to have a tradition of a reading the original aloud when she’s a bit older (we’ll see how that goes) this is a good starting point.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. This is possibly a little old for most toddlers, but a great book to save for years to come. Especially when combined with the TV ‘Walking in the Air’ version, which I’m very much hoping will include the David Bowie introduction I remember from when I was little after his sad death earlier in the year. For those not familiar with this 80s childhood classic, it’s all about a snowman coming to life one magical night.

Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star by Petr Horacek. Horacek was a new to me author until recently, but I’m such a big fan now (as is Felicity). Something about his illustrations seems to capture her imagination and I love his slightly quirky stories too. Silly Suzy Goose is one of our favourites, so I’m looking forward to this Christmas story featuring Suzy.

Mog’s Christmas or Mog’s Christmas Calamity by Judith Kerr. Although not usually tolerant of books for slightly older children (the books are quite long), Mog is magic and keeps Felicity absorbed, even reading all the words. So I had to include the Christmas adventures of the Thomas family and their ‘nice but not very clever’ cat Mog.

Winter Garden by Ruth Brown. I’ve mentioned before about our love for Brown’s A Dark Dark Tale. This book is more specifically designed for toddlers but contains the same quality of gorgeous illustrations. It looks at all the creatures and wildlife that visit a garden in winter, perfect for cozying up with indoors whilst looking out at a wintery garden.

Norman: The Slug Who Saved Christmas by Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet. Possibly a bit long for very little ones, but the bright illustrations (and glitter) more than make up for this in Felicity’s eyes. Also a book where the slug is the hero, and snails are used as replacement reindeer, is definitely a nice change of pace for a Christmas story.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds. This is a great bit of respite from what can feel like the tide of plastic uber-consumerist Christmas. Disappointed with his one small  present on Christmas morning, Roland wants something bigger. This is obviously not the point of Christmas, as is then demonstrated in a modern gentle morality tale.

Spot’s First Christmas by Eric Hill. For ages she wasn’t bothered, then almost overnight Felicity was won over by the institution that is Spot the Dog. Much like Mog, there is some sort of magic dust on Spot which make him and his groundbreaking lift-the-flap format irresistible to little ones.

Dear Santa by Rod Campbell. This is a Christmas version of the bestselling Dear Zoo, with the zoo animals being replaced with presents from Santa.  We’re already getting a lot of finger points to read this again and again here, even if it is still November!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr Seuss. I’m simply not worthy of providing an introduction to this classic. Like a lot of Seuss it may be a bit long for younger toddlers – though Dr Seuss’ rhymes are great for non-moving little babies – but is such a classic it was one I felt should be on our bookcase.

Dream Snow by Eric Carle. My Hungry Caterpillar needs no introduction. There is just something about Carle’s illustrations that both please parents, and delight and captivate children. So I just had to include this, his Christmas offering, on this list.

Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan. This is a take on the nativity story, from the perspective of the Inn Keeper, who just wants to get to sleep but keeps being woken up by Mary and Joseph, some Shepherds and a very bright star. This is a clever book that retells a the story in such a way that it would work for Christians, but also as a good introduction to the Christmas story for everyone, without overtly concentrating on the religious aspects.

Alfie’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes. Another from Hughes, there’s something about her illustrations that capture the liveliness of children so well. I also particularly like them because they feel like real families rather than stereotypes. Lucy and Tom I remember from my own childhood but I never discovered the Alfie books – so I’m looking forward to looking at the illustrations in this book with Felicity.

First Snow by Bomi Park. This is from a Korean illustrator and I really like it as a change from looking at snow from a very rural perspective – this has scenes set in an obviously urban environment. The illustrations are unusual and stunning and immediately caught my eye as something very different from many children’s books.

Little Christmas Tree by Jessica Courtney-Tickle. If you want a more sophisticated lift-the-flap book then this is an excellent choice. It also emphasises the natural world in its depiction of wildlife gradually decorating the little Christmas tree. A book that is likely to be picked up for longer than other more primary-colour based lift-the-flap offerings.

The Red Sledge by Lita Judge. This is a lovely looking book. I want to get Felicity a little red pixie hood because of it. This book has no words aside from onomatopoeic sounds that help tell the story, so it’s a good book to have lots of fun reading by putting a lot of effort into the telling. There are some wonderfully expressive noises to represent the animals getting up to high jinks on the borrowed sledge.

Santa’s Busy Day (Bloomsbury Publishing). Mirrors are always a big success with Felicity, she’s a big fan of her own reflection! This book has a mirror at the end as we see Santa’s lead up to Christmas. Bloomsbury’s children’s books have really impressed me since having Felicity, so I’m hoping this goes down as well as some of their other board books we’ve tried!

Usborne Touchy-Feely: The Nativity  or Nativity Flap Book (also Usborne). I think one traditional retelling of the nativity is a must for every Christmas book list, even if not for religious reasons, it provides a background to the traditions of Christmas. There are literally hundreds of different versions. I’m still looking for one that I really like in the more traditional picture book format – my ideal one would include non Westernised/caucasian depictions of the family – but these two are very good for this age group (even if Mary is blonde in one – grrr).

Bear & Hare: Snow! by Emily Gravett. I have a big soft spot for the work of Emily Gravett, and this is a lovely feeling (as well as looking) book. In the hardback edition at the least the pages are thick and really show off the lovely almost watercolour illustrations very well. The plot is all about how Hare really likes snow, but Bear isn’t quite sure to begin with.

Twelve Days of Christmas by Alison Jay. I’ve been surprised by how much Felicity loves books that you can sing to her, so I think she’d love us singing the Twelve Days of Christmas accompanied by the gorgeous illustrations. There are lots of other options as well including noisy Christmas song books that when you press the button play the tune, or Usborne do a collection of some of the most well known carols. As with the nativity books, there is something in this genre to suit every taste.

And that’s the end of the list – I’d love to know if you feel I’ve missed off any absolute Christmas must haves for very little children!

24+ Christmas books for babies and toddlers. Book Advent calendar ideas

Christmastime 2015 

It’s felt like a funny run up to Christmas in a lot of ways; with a newborn seasonal fun has got rather pushed out of the picture. So many things have not quite happened, no cards written (sorry friends and family) no mince pies baked, no mulled wine and no turkey consumed as yet! We have still managed to mark it in little ways though. I finally started playing with my letter banner kit to make decorations for our kitchen. I love how cheery they look on grey grey days. 

It’s always a joy to get the favourite decorations out, I always forget about some and am happily reminded when going through the boxes. Also we finally had room for a real Christmas tree for the first time this year. Even though it is quite small I love it so much and went a bit crazy with pom pom decorations that I made last year

I did manage to do a bit of Christmas making as well, I played with cornflour clay to make a few (very simple and, err, ‘rustic’) presents – more on that another day. I had some clay left over to make some snowflakes to decorate the wrapped gifts. 

Having the little one does mean there are wonderful dressing up opportunities of course. I’m so sad she’s already grown out of her elf costume – those feet!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas – I hope it is filled with peace and joy. 

Colourful Christmas letter banner   
Bird ornament  Christmas tree  Cornflour snowflake wrapping decoration  

Little elf  

Photo an hour: 19th December 2015

I was so pleased when I noticed Janet’s first Instagram of the day on Saturday, taking part in #photoaday. I’d always wanted to participate but had always forgotten or not realised the date. Saturday turned out to not be the ideal day as we ended up spending a fair bit of time at hospital (nothing at all serious) with Fliss, so couldn’t really take many photos. Anyway, here we go!

9am: We’re not getting much sleep at all at the moment as poor little baby has some tummy troubles which we think means she needs the comfort of being held whilst sleeping if she is to get more than about half an hour at a time. We’re sleeping in shifts as a result which meant we were both more bleary eyed than she was when this picture was taken.


10am: On the way to hospital in the car. I’d even managed to put make up on which is a big achievement at the moment! 


11am: Sitting on the ward waiting to be seen by a doctor. I like the cheery pattern on the curtain.

11am - curtain 

12 noon and 1pm: Serious lack of ways you can appropriately take pictures on a children’s ward. Still waiting for doctor so Fliss fell asleep on my lap after a feed.

12 & 1 pm- little feet 

2pm: We’d seen the doctor, got a prescription and collected it so were heading out of the hospital. It may have taken a while at the hospital but the GP only referred us on Friday and we were able to go to a drop in on the Saturday. I think this is pretty impressive so am, as ever, so grateful we have the NHS. 

2pm - hospital 

3pm: We’re home, and so nice to be cosy with the Christmas tree.

3pm - home and Christmas tree 

4pm: We were seeing friends in the evening and I hadn’t wrapped the presents for the children or secret Santa, so was doing them in a bit of last minute panic.

4pm - wrappin 

5pm: At the pub for my best friend’s birthday meal and general Christmas catch up with my oldest group of friends.

5pm - pub 

6pm: No photo as was too busy chatting!

7pm: Two pictures as missed 6pm. The menu at our local was amazing looking but I couldn’t resist the least fancy option of this burger. Then secret Santa presents!

7 pm - burger 
7pm - secret santa 

8pm: It was my birthday the next day and along with Christmas presents for Flissy we were embarrassingly laden with gifts as we left and headed home. Felt very loved by our wonderful friends! 

8pm - laden 

9pm: As a birthday treat I got to go up to bed for the first shift of sleep (we take it in turns). This didn’t work – I was up almost immediately – as the medication we’d got earlier in the day obviously didn’t agree with baby as she had a massive crying spell almost as soon as I’d turned the light off. She wanted to feed for comfort which Daddy can’t do unfortunately! 

9pm - bed 

Sunday night delights #12: an epic catch up

Oh dear, sorry for the rather epic blog silence. After our weekend in Edinburgh (post about that coming very soon!), I came down with a horrible bug that totally wiped me out for almost a week. Last weekend was mainly spent in bed and this week was rather manic catching up with everything so I have neglected my little blog terribly. I also can’t believe it’s Christmas on Thursday, being ill confused me terrible, we only got our decorations up on Thursday, though I am now revelling in the coziness and the twinkling!

Birthday presents

This weekend…

Well I couldn’t help having a nice weekend: it was my birthday yesterday! I got so many lovely gifts, including books on crafts and interiors; a new teapot and purse and many other lovely bits and pieces. With all the messages from friends I haven’t seen for a while as well, I felt like a very spoilt lady. After all the illness and chaos I was very keen to have a quiet one, and that was exactly what I got. I was brought breakfast in bed and had a long lie-in whilst opening presents, followed by lunch with my parents and more presents (accompanied by prosecco rather decadently). The afternoon was spent with good friends and birthday cake (and baby cuddles). Topped it off with a relaxed evening crafting, with a Chinese takeaway and a Harry Potter film. I realise that sounds like the whole day revolved around food, but it was all the more awesome for it. I like nothing better than that kind of relaxed day, and really felt like I haven’t had one for months, so I loved it!

Today started off less nicely in that Will seems to have come down with the bug I’ve just recovered from, so we had to cancel our plans for attending a friend’s wine and cheese party this afternoon. Instead I caught up on some Christmas crafting, sorted a few more presents and generally enjoyed the Christmas cheer at home, lighting the candles in our living room and turning on the tree lights made our little house such a nice place to be today.

The week to come…

I’ve got a few more days at work, a few more Christmas parties and meals and then I’ve got a heavenly 11 and a half days off. Can’t wait! I hope you’ve got some time off to relax and enjoy the season.

Sunday night delights #11

I know I shouldn’t, but I tend to get a sinking feeling halfway through Sunday afternoon, as I realise the end of the weekend is near. I thought I should take some time to think about all the lovely things that have happened over the weekend, and what I’m looking forward to.

This weekend…

Has been a bit dull to blog, as yesterday was spent Christmas shopping (hell, but I won’t have to go into town again before Christmas now as we got a lot done). Today has basically been a sofa fest of too many episodes of the US version of The Office. So this post is going to be a collection of lots of little random happy things instead!

I’m happy about…

Improving on where I’ve bought Christmas presents this year, it’s still not great in terms of ethics, but I replaced a lot of stuff I’d usually get on Amazon with buying from bookshops in Cambridge, and a few of our favourite independent shops as well. It’s a could do better for next year I think, but better than last year when there was a huge Amazon order, so I’m counting it as a win.

Being fed entirely by parents for a whole day was rather lovely, as we went to Will’s parents for lunch on Saturday and then my parents for dinner in the evening. My Mum’s lemon meringue pie is always the best.

Soft socks. I have a pair of the softest socks, which are so fluffy they won’t fit in shoes, so I can only wear them in the house. Today was such a lazy day that I broke them out – heaven!

Christmas stuff is down from the loft. I’m very against putting decorations up before December, but it’s almost time so getting them down was a lovely moment, as I always rediscover decorations that I forgot we have. We try and buy one nice ornament a year to gradually build up our joint collection. The tree won’t go up for a bit but might throw a few other things up over the course of next week.

The week to come…

We’re off to Edinburgh next weekend, as Will is away for the final time before Christmas, but in the north of Scotland. It’s his thirtieth birthday on Sunday so he didn’t want to have an epic train journey on his birthday weekend, so instead we thought we’d turn it into a bit of a break, so we’re meeting half way at Edinburgh station on Friday night ready for a weekend break (something very romantic about that isn’t there?)

I think most of this week will be counting down the days til that to be honest! We’ll still be in Edinburgh on Sunday night next week, so there will be a break in these posts. But there will be a more general Edinburgh post very soon I’m sure.