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November 2015

Alice at one month

It’s amazing how much you forget about the first few weeks with a baby. It’s been more than four years since Theo was a newborn and everything about that time is a bit fuzzy. It was only when I was trying to recall the details of things like how quickly he slept through the night, that I realised I had recorded some of that in monthly updates on this blog. It probably didn’t make great reading for anyone other than me, but it captured something that would otherwise have been lost and I’m particularly grateful of that now.

baby one month photo

As we did with Theo we have been following Gina Ford’s routine with Alice. Four years ago I had two copies of the book, a 1999 edition and a 2011 one, now I only have the latter and going back to it I have a sneaky suspicion that there are subtle differences in what she advises between the two editions, so I’ve tracked down an old copy of the book on eBay to compare the two and it will be interesting to see if I’m right when it arrives later in the week.

Theo was sleeping through the night for 8 hour stretches by 5 weeks, but Alice has been slower and it may be partly because we’ve done things differently with her. In our old bedroom in Scotland there was no room for a cot, so after Theo grew out of his crib (which happened alarmingly quickly) we put him in his own room. Now we have a bigger bedroom, we’ve kept Alice with us for longer, but it’s not without its downsides. I’m a light sleeper and her snuffling noises wake me several times a night. It’s also makes it hard for me to go go to bed early and let Jim do the late feed when we are both in the same room, so yesterday we took the leap and moved her into the nursery. We are using an Angelcare movement monitor which helps me feel a bit more relaxed about her being on her own and the move has paid off already as I managed (a much needed) 5 hours of solid uninterrupted sleep last night.


Alice is being bottle fed and currently takes 120ml six times a day and 150ml at 10pm and at the night feed. One of things I am convinced is different in the new version of Gina Ford is the number of daytime feeds. A couple of them are very close together and I’m sure we were doing less with Theo.

The one month milestone has seen some notable changes in Alice’s alertness levels. She is very interested in her big brother and enjoys looking out of the window or watching Cbeebies when Theo has it on. In the last few days she has also started smiling and attempting to laugh. Suddenly we can actually see her personality starting to shine through and it makes a real difference!

Having settled on her name and registered her birth a week ago, on Friday we went back to registrar for a second time to correct an error on the certificate. When we registered her the week before, we’d been so focused on checking the spelling of everyone’s names that we missed an error on her place of birth. The system automatically defaults to say the local hospital, but of course she was born at home. Now she has a birth certificate with a footnote, but at least it will give future family tree researchers something interesting to look at!

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How to plan Christmas (and avoid the festive scrum)

With less than a month to go I think we can safely now start talking about Christmas without fear of reprisal. I know it’s unfashionable to say it, but I love the festive season with all its excesses and mad scramble to buy presents. The ancient festival of Yule is all about livening up the darkest time of the year with a bit of feasting and frivolity and I think life would be a whole lot less interesting without a big day of celebration every winter.

This year is a significant one for us for a number of reasons. Firstly we are hosting the whole family for the first time since we finished the building work on the house, secondly it’s Alice’s first Christmas and thirdly as it’s Theo’s first Christmas as a schoolboy and the first time he’s really got swept along with the excitement of it all.

As we’ll be hosting 6 guests (and two extra canine ones) whilst juggling a two month old and a 4 year-old we shall be embracing a few festive shortcuts to make our lives easier


Do you supermarket order online – I have no idea why anyone would willingly partake in the scrum that is Christmas food shopping. My delivery slot is already booked for 23rd December (mostly full of wine at the moment to hold the spot) and although I’ve never been let down with any of my supplies before, if for some reason they fail to deliver a vital ingredient I will still have Christmas Eve to go out and get it, which would be a whole lot less stressful than doing the entire shop from scratch.

Use Pinterest to plan (or steal ideas) – Quite a few of the people I follow on Pinterest have already set up Christmas boards which include everything from stocking fillers to vegetarian dishes and easy table decorations. Pinterest doesn’t have to be all about making things perfect, sometimes it can also help you make things easier too and save you time.

Be ready for guests – If you want to minimise the amount of traveling you do over the festive period it pays to get your spare room set up for overnight visitors. If you don’t have the luxury of extra space and need to juggle the kids around to accommodate people these guest beds are ideal for family Christmases and Bedstar also sell triple sleeper bunks which are great for maximising sleeping options in children’s rooms.

Learn some Christmas dinner shortcuts – We only have one (fairly small) oven and it’s a challenge to get everything cooked in it. Last time we hosted Jim cooked the Yorkshire Puddings in advance and froze them, this year he’s seriously considering cooking the entire turkey the day before and serving it at room temperature with hot gravy (you wait till my mother reads that!) You can also pre-cook the potatoes and ask guests to bring the starter or nibbles.

Order your tree online – I’m a bit obsessed with getting everything delivered and I recently discovered you can order your Christmas tree that way too. Some companies even have a satisfaction guarantee in case you don’t like the tree that turns up. I know it deprives you of the family arguments at the garden centre about which tree is the most aesthetically perfect, but it might keep the kids entertained for an hour or so waiting at the window during the delivery slot.

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sawtooth star quilt

Sawtooth star quilt

by Clare Mansell

Today I’m sharing a quilt I completed just before Alice was born, but have only just got round to photographing. November is not the best time of year to photograph anything, least of all quilts, so it’s probably not shown in (literally) the best light, but it’s a long time till spring…

I’ve wanted to make a star quilt almost as long as I have been making quilts, but there is one big problem with star quilts which is that there are SO many ways of doing them. I spent hours browsing Flickr and Pinterest seeing patterns and I’d like them for a bit, then I’d see another and like it more. In the end I settled on the Sawtooth Star block and used the tutorial on Sew Mama Sew.

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The annual beach photo

The annual beach photo

by Clare Mansell

A couple of years ago we started a tradition of taking a photograph of Theo at our local beach during the month of November. This November’s picture is particularly significant because it marks the first time in our marriage that we’ve ever stayed in one place for more than two years.

Although I loved our time traveling the world, I find the steady repetition of the seasons and years in the same place very reassuring and I also hope that wherever we might end up in the future that this is the place that both our children consider to be home.

So first of all here are the photos from 2013 and 2014…


And here’s the boy another year on… His hair a good deal longer and his own sense of personal style definitely growing a bit too! Mismatched gloves and a hat which my aunt knitted for me about 20 years ago to match one I’d seen in a fashion magazine. I think he pulls it off better than I ever did! He’s also wearing a rather fabulous winter coat and some properly waterproof sheepskin boots, both of which I’ll be doing a review post about in a couple of weeks…


This year’s walk on the dunes wasn’t quite as lengthy as it has been in previous years as I was carrying Miss Alice and had to return to the car to feed her, but I did manage to grab a couple of photos of the boy. I think there is something a Brit Pop about that hair and the fur lined hood. Is it too soon for a 90s revival?


It’s funny how just by changing the location and the light (and the hat!) in these photos he looks so different…


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Nearly three weeks old

Nearly three weeks old

by Clare Mansell

It’s a good job I don’t have to pay my sister for all her fantastic photos, as I dread to think what I’d owe her so far for a combined package of maternity, birth and newborn photography! These beautiful photos of Alice are more of her work, taken in a little makeshift studio in my sitting room last week. You can see a behind the scenes picture of the set-up over on my Instagram account (which of course you are following, right?)

Alice newborn photo

Alice will be three weeks old on Wednesday which feels like a significant milestone as it’s halfway through the first six weeks, which I find are the hardest and most sleep deprived. She is noticeably more alert, has put on a little weight and is feeding well.

Jim is back at work which means I have to get out of the door by 8:40am every day with two children and two dogs. It’s a rather familiar scenario which I dealt with (minus the four year-old) in Scotland when Jim was deployed. I won’t lie, there are definitely easier ways to start the morning, but it’s good discipline and keeps me active, even if some mornings all I want to do is wallow in bed.

Alice at 2 weeks

On the subject of sleep, with Theo we followed Gina Ford’s Contented Little Baby routine and found for us at least, that it proved very effective. Now Alice is having periods of altertness during the day and not sleeping quite as well as we’d like at night, I’ve dug it out again and found there are changes we need to make to her routine. So out goes long periods of sleep during the day and in comes the play gym and juggling on my hip whilst I sit at the computer!

Second time around I have definitely found that these challenging phases are easier to deal with when you know they pass quickly and almost as soon as you feel you are at breaking point with one thing, it’s over. So this week we will mostly be concentrating on sleep and I shall try not to spend all my time fantasising about the possibility of blocks of 4 or 5 hours of it… we shall get there eventually!

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