This is a sponsored post with SMA® Nutrition.

Alice was eight months old a couple of weeks ago which means we are already well into solid foods

It’s flown by incredibly quickly and only in the last week or so do I actually feel like I’ve managed to get slightly ahead of the curve with batch cooking purees in advance.

Like Theo she has been really keen to try new foods, but she’s taken enthusiasm for meals to a whole new level and right from the start protested quite strongly and loudly if everyone else was eating something and she wasn’t. Although I haven’t specifically set out to try baby led weaning, she has recently become very keen on feeding herself particularly with rusks or puffed maize baby ‘crisps’ and as they buy me and extra few minutes sorting the rest of her food out, I’m starting to look at other things she can self feed.

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As far as purees go, we started with simple fruit or veg like carrot or apple and have now progressed to trying out meals or combinations of flavours. I used Annabel Karmels books with Theo so I’m taking a lot of recipes from them, but also using Google when I need to mix up something quick and I’m stumped for which flavours to combine! Both butternut squash and pear puree as well as a mix of green vegetables have been very popular, but as I say she hasn’t actually turned refused anything yet, even unsweetened cooking apple puree!

One thing I haven’t got round to adding in to her diet yet is meat. This is partly because I don’t eat a lot of it myself and therefore tend to have a fridge full of vegetables and partly because meat suddenly seems to make meal preparation more complicated. You end up having to make salt free stocks, or having to braise the meat in advance, extra steps which I will get round to having the time for eventually, but at the moment I’ve only just got on top of the vegetarian recipes!

As a result of the lack of meat in her diet and because she had passed the six month mark, I recently decided to switch to SMA PRO Follow-on Milk to complement her weaning diet and ensure she’s getting the right mix of nutrients, including iron which she may lack in other parts of her diet.

SMA PRO Follow-on Milk is SMA Nutrition’s most advanced formula yet which contains Nutri-Steps®, a unique blend of ingredients including Iron to help support normal cognitive development, Vitamin D and Calcium to help support babies normal growth and development of bones and omega 3 & 6.

Having suffered with anaemia during both my pregnancies, I know first hand how horrible it can be for the body to be deprived of iron therefore I wanted to ensure she gets enough of that mineral in her three 200ml milk feeds every day.

Another decision we’ve recently made involves switching Alice’s feeding chair. We originally had her in a birth – toddler booster seat which went on top of a normal chair. It was brilliant when she was very little and we could have her up at our level at the table at breakfast time, but once solid food was introduced the fabric cover became a bit of a nightmare (not least of all because you can’t machine wash it!) So we got Theo’s old plastic highchair out of the loft and swapped it for that. Alice still manages to get food on every surface, but at least it can all be wiped down now. I’m sure Theo wasn’t this messy, or do we just forget?

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Breast milk is best for babies and breastfeeding should continue for as long as possible. SMA PRO Follow-on Milk is for babies over 6 months, as part of a varied weaning diet. Not intended to replace breastfeeding.

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A couple of months ago I gave in to curiosity and bought the bestselling book I Quit Sugar. I wanted to experiment with the idea of minimising or completely removing sugar from my diet and I had a couple of good reasons why. Firstly sugar has always either given me a headache or made me tired. Even one biscuit gives me a noticeable thumping in my head and a small amount of chocolate at lunchtime will mean I’ll be falling asleep by the kids bedtime. Secondly we have a brilliant sugar free and paleo pop-up cafe locally to us which produces amazing delicious treats which I would quite happily trade conventional sweet snacks for, and finally I wanted to reexamine how much sugar I was giving Theo, I had no idea where it fitted on the scale of good or bad, but like most middle class parents I suspected I was probably doing ok.

So the book arrived and I read through the first few chapters nodding along to Sarah Wilson’s introdcution. She believes sugar reeks havoc on our bodies and there’s too much of it in our Western diet. She also says that due to the lack of sweet stuff around when humans evolved our humans never developed an off switch for sweet, which is why even when you can’t eat any more of your main course, you can always find room for pudding.

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Current UK guidelines says adults should have no more than 7 teaspoons a day and children Theo’s age should have no more than 5 teaspoons and despite the bold title of the book what Sarah Wilson is really trying to do is stay within this limit. It sounds like quite a lot, but once you start checking food labels you begin to realise that sugar is in everything in insane quantities. For instance one can of Coke contains 9 teaspoons of sugar which means no one child or adult should ever drink a whole can in a day – wow! (and don’t even start me on Diet drinks!)

So I set out to try and get my sugar intake as close to zero as possible. Sarah says you should have no fruit for the first for weeks, but I choose to retain my fruit consumption. For breakfast I had homemade bread (no sugar) with a banana and hot water with lemon juice to drink. For lunch and supper I scrutinised food labels and found regular food in my diet like fish cakes or breaded chicken had sugar in it, so I cooked everything from scratch.

Happily for me I love crisps, dips, pitta and cheese and so these became my new “treats” and I was quite content to swap a pudding for oat cakes and cheese in the evening. However you have to check everything for sugar. Salted crisps are generally ok, but some salt and vinegar crisps have sugar and some do not, flavoured crisps are sadly laced with it. When it comes to dips, gucamole and hummus are sugar free, but taramosalata and tomato salsa are not. Cheese is fine and Sarah has a section talking about how we have all been mislead over fat and how important it is for our bodies. I was already a great believer in this anyway and we have been a full fat household (including milk) for some time.

I Quit Sugar is also a recipe book, but I have to confess I found the recipes were not good! I tried the raspberry ripple pudding which was like eating coconut flavoured soap, absolutely dire! Morgana also tried a couple of recipes and was not impressed. It’s s ashame because my experience with our local pop up cafe shows that great sugar free desserts can be made… just clearly not from this book!

Did I notice a difference?

Yes! No more headaches or falling asleep at the kids bedtime and I stayed fuller for longer when I ate less but ate savoury. Although it wasn’t my intention I also lost half a stone in just over a month. My palette adjusted to lower levels of sweetness and things I loved before I cut down on sugar lost their appeal. I regularly make Lobster Risotto using a tinned bisque and when I cooked it halfway through my sugar free experiment I found the taste horribly sweet and couldn’t finish eating it. I’ve never cooked it since! I also couldn’t eat a chocolate sponge pudding which my mum cooked.

How did the book change what I eat?

After reading the book I’ve been made aware of how much stealth sugar I’m consuming every week in savoury foods and it has changed what I buy forever.  If I’m going to try and keep within my 7 teaspooons a day I want to use that quota on things that are actually supposed to be sweet and not waste it when I lazily pick one bag of crisps over another. I now only buy sugar free crisps, I’ve ditched fruit juice at breakfast time in favour of hot water and lemon, I don’t buy yoghurts, I’ve swapped stock cubes for boullion and I’ve changed the brand of mayonnaise I buy.

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My involvement with a local community project has also made me aware of the virtues of “raw” honey which is honey produced by bees who only have a natural diet and are not fed refined sugar in the winter, so we now only buy our honey raw.

As far as alcohol goes, I now tend to stick to the odd glass of red wine and avoid the more sugar laden white stuff. I have also steered clear of Pimms this summer. Theo’s sugar consumption is something I’m still dealing with, a small carton to apple juice which I’ve allowed him to have for a snack at after school clubs has more sugar in it than he should have in a day (!) and two petit filous contain more than half his daily allowance

Should I try going sugar free?

Yes, but I suggest borrowing the book from the local library (or a friend) if you can. The first 40 or so pages are interesting reading and a great foundation for how and why you should lower your sugar intake, but the recipes themselves are pretty useless.

So here’s a blog post I never thought I’d write, the last time Jim and I had a discussion about buying a tent was 9 years ago and the result of that conversation was that I very quickly persuaded Jim to buy an RV instead! After a series of adventures on the Canadian prairie (and even one night in Montana!) we sold our mobile home when we left Canada and for the last 7 years we’ve been out of the camping game.

During that time we’ve talked a lot about how we could change that, but never found quite the right solution, for one thing mobile homes and caravans are not quite as exciting or as plentiful this side of the Atlantic and we had nowhere to store one. Then two weeks ago on a rare night out at our local pub, I got hijacked by some of my neighbours and taken to an impromptu communal camping supper and there in the field was a bell tent.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought of bell tents as things you hire, not things you buy and it was a revelation that you could actually own one, complete with the associated glamping comfort. I sent Jim a text that evening and told him we had to buy one and so a week later we actually did. A very rare example of me making an impetuous purchase!

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Even though it was a speedy purchase, we spent a fair bit of time researching not just the tent, but the stuff to go inside it, having taken the bold step of deciding to sleep under canvas, I really really didn’t want it to be a bad experience.

The tent itself is a 5 metre with a zipped in ground sheet and we bought it from Boutique Camping. We debated for a long time between 4 and 5 metres and although I am usually the one who prefers the smaller option in any given scenario, in this case I am really glad we opted for 5 metres, it is in no way too big.

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Inside we chose two single Coleman durarest air beds, made up as a superking with a fleece topper and duvet and pillows. Theo got a more basic cheaper Intex junior airbed (also with his duvet) and Alice had her travel cot with a blackout blind that fits over the top.

I was pretty sure we could heap on a load of duvets/quilts/blankets and keep warm whatever the weather but I was really worried about taking a baby to sleep out and after a particularly chilly night last week (where it got down to 12c) I caved in and let Jim buy a logburner for the tent….and almost immediately a heatwave happened!

Our first camp out was this weekend for the school camping trip. We were literally 5 minutes down the road which meant we could nip home if it went wrong or we forgot anything. Amazingly neither of those things happened, though the proximity of our own bathroom did mean both Jim and I nipped home for a shower during the day on Saturday!

Theo had a brilliant time running free with his friends all weekend, playing in the open air, climbing trees and kayaking in the harbour and Alice seemed to get on ok too, sleeping through the night without problems.

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Crucially Jim and I also enjoyed it. There were no chores to distract us and we both spent loads of time just chatting to people and relaxing. On the Saturday night there was a communal barbecue and campfire where everyone came together to see the kids put on a show and roast marshmallows. It honestly beat anything that was on the TV over the weekend and it made me so happy to see the kids enjoying simple pleasures (even if there was a brief Pokemon hunt at one point!)

Now we’re back home with everything packed away it’s taken less than 24 hours to have a discussion with someone about a second trip! Initially I felt it was cheating to not travel far, but with a huge range of lovely sites on our doorstep we’ve discovered that in the short-term we can get our camping fix without going far or getting stuck in Friday afternoon traffic jams.

The bell tent has another added use, it’s great to put up at parties and as I’ve got a significant birthday next month it’ll definitely be making an appearance in our garden, dressed as a “lounge” rather than a bedroom!

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  • July 21, 2016 - 12:05 pm

    Jan - isisjem - A lot of people that camp do so on their own doorstep. My partner bought a motor home about 18 months ago. Neither of us are into camping (He’s done too much of that at work over the years!) but it’s completely different going away in Gertie. Even if we don’t always leave the county to do so! Your tent looks lovely. It might almost persuade me to camp!ReplyCancel

  • July 23, 2016 - 8:17 am

    Emma - Oooooh, we ‘re holding a mini festival soon and a bell tent would be an amazing addition! It looks great. xReplyCancel

This month’s chalk paint makeover is one of those projects I’ve had kicking around the house for so long it’s almost gone to the tip several times. A year or so ago I attempted to paint a wooden picture frame I had using the only paint I had available which was white acrylic paint in a tube, the kind of stuff you are supposed to paint pictures with. The result was really uneven and messy, so I started to try and remove the paint which only made it worse and then I abandoned it…

So the perfect candidate for a Pinty Plus makeover. This is what I started with…

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The green masking tape I used is frog tape. I was introduced to it by my father-in-law when we were painting the house and it’s the best brand I have found as it leaves no residue after painting. To begin I sanded down the frame using coarse sandpaper. This not only removed the paint I had applied, but the varnish which was originally on the frame too. Leaving a great clean surface to start again with…

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I realised a little bit late in the day that when you are spray painting you need to do a bit more than add making tape to the edges of what you are painting, which is why the newspaper suddenly came in handy! At this stage I was planning to do something a little different to what I ended up with, so I begun by spraying the frame with Broken White. It only took a small fraction of a can to get good coverage…

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Next I tried out an idea of adding diaganol stripes to the finished frame. I masked off sections of the paint ready to spray a top layer of Blue Indigo paint…

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The spraying was relatively easy, but the results were not as good as I was hoping. It’s partly down to my placing of the tape and partly because spray paint does tend to seep in through any tiny gaps you have and in some places I hadn’t ensured the frog tape was stuck down really firmly so the paint got under it and the lines weren’t crisp…

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Back to the drawing board! I decided to go over the white bits with some more Blue Indigo…

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As I had a layer of white under the blue, I tried a little distressing on the edges of the frame using fine sandpaper…

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It’s not exactly the end result that I initially planned, but it took no time at all, less than a can of paint (in total) and the frame looks much better on Theo’s wall than kicking around in the spare room…

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Inside the frame are loads of little MOO cards which all contain little scenes from our lives in the few years before Theo was born, he loves looking at them and asking about the places they were taken and the cat we used to have in Canada…

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As always all the paints used in this project are available exclusively from www.novasolspray.co.uk

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Back at the beginning of the year when I came up with the crazy idea of taking our Morris Minor on holiday to France I made a mental note that at some point before then, I’d have to find a compact buggy to take with us, or else I’d get the blame for us not being able to fit anything in the car! As always I left it to the last minute to find one, but the team at Babyzen leapt to my aid and offered to lend me a YoYo+.

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The YoYo+ may look much like a regular stroller, but it has an ingenious folding system which means it’s small enough to fit into the overhead locker of an aircraft… or the boot of a small car!

I’m a sucker for good design and straight out of the box it was easy to see the YoYo was well thought through. Not only is it small when folded, but it’s also very easy to maneuver, smooth running, fits through small gaps and has handle bars that are high enough for tall parents! Even at my height of 5′ 8″, handle bar height is often an issue and as Jim is 6’4″, it’s even more of a deal breaker for him.

Crucially it also did the job we were wanting it for. It fitted very easily into the boot of our Morris Minor Traveller, leaving lots of room for all the rest of the clobber you end up taking away with you when you are holidaying with children… or with husbands who want to take their golf clubs with them to France!

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While we were away it attracted its fair share of attention from people who wanted to know what it was and how it folded down. As the week went on, we also found the YoYo was useful in circumstances which we hadn’t predicted like folding up very neatly and fitting under the desk and out of the way during the crossing on Brittany Ferries…

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Now the Babyzen has been a part of our life for three weeks I’m finding it’s more versatile than I anticipated and there’s a whole bunch of not instantly obvious occasions when it would work brilliantly, like on train journeys, camping trips, or on boat holidays, in fact we are seriously tempted to buy one!

But all this clever design does come at a price. The frame is just shy of £300 and you need to budget another £50 for the 6 month plus colour pack which forms the seat and hood (a newborn nest is also available to make the frame suitable from birth).

If you’d like to know more and see the Babyzen’s clever folding system in action, I’ve done a full review of it in the video below…

 

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  • July 13, 2016 - 9:30 am

    Jayne - Oh my goodness, this is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for! Burrito Baby is far too independent and rarely wants to go in a buggy, which makes lugging our full-size travel-system style pushchair rather pointless as it takes up so much boot space. Some days though, she’ll fall asleep on the school run and my back is really suffering from carrying her and standing in the playground holding while she’s asleep so this would be absolutely perfect for keeping in the boot as it won’t take up much space.ReplyCancel

  • July 13, 2016 - 11:47 am

    Laura Asbury - I love the look of this pushchair, unfortunately the pushchair days are well and truly behind us! Great review!ReplyCancel

  • July 14, 2016 - 9:40 pm

    Emma | TheMiniMesAndMe - It sounds fantastic for travel being so compact! xReplyCancel