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March 2016

Alice at five months

Alice at five months

by Clare Mansell

I missed last month’s update and had every intention of letting the baby diary tail off until I got a telling off from Jim! So I’m back again with two months combined. Despite the best of intentions I simply do not take a note of Alice’s developmental progress without this blog to prompt me and although I believe I will remember things, they just disappear into the ether.


At five months Alice is now developing rapidly. She is quite vocal and loves attracting people’s attention with high pitched squeals and shouts. She is especially fond of her brother who is still besotted by her and spends about an hour in the mornings sitting in her cot, playing next to her or chatting to her.

Her first tooth appeared about two weeks ago and was spotted not by me, but by a mum at the school gate! The tooth arrival coincided with the introduction of her first solid food which after a hesitant start for the first few days, she took to with huge enthusiasm and now she cannot get enough of it. She closely monitors everybody else eating and sits in her chair like a little bird with her mouth open begging for food. We’ve tried her on apple, pear, carrot, baby porridge and banana so far.


Currently she has solids at 11am and again at about 4:30pm with five bottles a day, although we are trying to wean her off the night feed which we wake her for when we go to bed. We’re down to 90ml and will probably cut back to 60ml and then drop it entirely.

I’ve mentioned before that Alice was diagnosed with Talipes (otherwise known as club foot) at her six week check and earlier this month my mum, who was concerned we weren’t getting enough treatment, prompted me to do some research on the condition. It turns out that there is Talipes and there is Talipes and more specifically I had missed the subtle but crucial distinction between Positional Talipes (which Alice has) and Structural Talipes. The former which is muscle related requires gentle exercises and sometimes self-corrects. The latter which involves the bone, requires plaster casts, operations and the feet to be braced in position for many years. As you can imagine we were quite relieved to discover her type shouldn’t need serious intervention.

Alice isn’t sitting up yet, but does strain to try and sit up when she’s lying on her back (as if that’s going to happen!) I held her in the sitting position in the bath this evening and she had a fantastic time splashing around. I feel she’ll be much happier when she can self support and be more involved in what’s going on.

We’ve tried her in the door bouncer a couple of times and I also caved in and bought a second hand Jumperoo which does buy a few minutes hands free in the afternoons. Personality wise she certainly seems like quite a strong and determined character who loves food and company. If she keeps that up I think she’ll fit in with the rest of us just fine!

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The one free thing you should organise before your next trip to Europe

It may only be March, but like many people we are already making plans for the summer holidays. This year we are in the rare position of having two trips planned, both to which will be to France.

As well as booking ferry crossings and accommodation, we are stocking up on spares for Maggie who will be our transport for one of the trips and sorting out Alice’s first passport, but there’s another thing I need to organise which I’ve completely overlooked for the last few years… a European Health Card.

Jim already has one and looked at me with a face of total disbelief when I admitted I didn’t. “But they’re free! Why would you not have one?”

on holiday in France

Like so many things in life the answer is simply that I’ve never got round to it. Although a European Health Card is not an alternative to health insurance (it won’t cover things like an emergency flight home) it does give you access to state provided health care in 28 European countries, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.

If you like me have been fortunate enough to have had a lifetime of good health it’s easy to be ambivalent and assume you’ll never need access to healthcare during the short space of time you are on holiday, but why risk it when applying for cover is free and easy?

In the UK all you need to do is register and then complete a short online form. You’ll need either your National Insurance or NHS number, but the rest is straight forward and the entire process only takes a couple of minutes.

You can also apply for cards for your spouse and children at the same time and if you do, remember your children’s NHS number will be on the front page of their red book. Your European health card is then sent out to you in the post and generally arrives within 10 days.

There’s also now an app which explains how to use the card, lists emergency numbers and tells you what treatments are covered and their costs. The app download links are listed on the European Commission website along with information about the card and links to apply from other European countries.

This is a collaborative post

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Transforming a wicker chair with spray chalk paint

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know that I’m quite a fan of chalk paint and the furniture makeovers you can do with it. So, it’s probably no surprise that when I was offered the chance to try out chalk paint in a spray I was rather quick to say yes!

Transforming a wicker chair with spray chalk paint. Such a quick and easy way to get a professional finish with chalk paint without the brush marks too!

Pinty Plus chalk paint is sold in the UK by novasolspray.co.uk and until I was offered the review, I’d never come across it. Spray paint has many advantages and I thought it would be perfect for making over some wicker furniture in time for the summer. Doing this kind of furniture with a brush is tricky and often results in a rather messy finish as paint pools in the small gaps in the design.


Pinty Plus comes in 18 colours in 400ml aerosol cans which cover 2 m2. I chose pale turquoise for my makeover and picked up a bargain broken wicker chair in our local antiques place for £5.


We fixed the chair with some garden wire and I spent a lovely hour in the garden giving it two light coats of paint and a top coat of spray varnish. You can see the whole process in the video at the bottom of this post..

The paint was incredibly quick to apply and is touch dry in 20 minutes. It was rather windy in our garden on the day I did it (as you’ll see in the video!) which probably didn’t make best use of the paint, but the two cans I used gave it a good finish.

pale turquoise pinty plus chalk paintpale turquoise pinty plus chalk paint wicker chair makeoverwicker chair makeover in Pinty Plus chalk paintchalkchairafter4_1600

Our garden wire repair (which you can see in the first close up above) worked really well and my mum actually ended up spending most of Easter Sunday sitting on it…without incident! (That would have been embarrassing if the repair hadn’t held!) I added some lovely cushions in spring colours from House Of Fraser as a final touch.

pinty plus chalk paint makeover

The paint starts at £11.50 a tin with discounts for multiple purchases (and it’s also sold with Amazon and eBay) so it is more expensive than Annie Sloan, but also much easier and faster to apply. I much prefer the even finish it gives and will definitely be buying more cans in the future.

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Three step bedtime routine

A couple of weeks ago Johnsons asked us to test out their 3 step bedtime routine and report back on our findings. At the time Theo had just moved in to Alice’s room and I hoped to find a routine that worked for both of them.

A fortnight and one particularly noisy cough later and Theo was back in his own room so the combined routine did not work out quite as planned, but we did spend the time focusing on Alice and getting her right.


Step 1 – Bath

We started our routine with a bath at 6pm. After those first few weeks of bathing a very cross baby, Alice has grown to love being dipped in warm water. At this time of the year in particular, her hands and feet are sometimes chilly at the end of the day and a bath warms her through really well.

We used the Johnsons bedtime baby bath and baby wash, both of which smell lovely. Alice was quite happy to remain in the bath for up to 10 minutes at a time, holding my hand, keeping her eyes focussed on me and having a kick . It’s a quiet relaxing time only occasionally interrupted by Theo calling out demands from downstairs!

Step 2 – Massage

We hoped to follow our relaxing bath time routine with a relaxing massage, but it did not go entirely to plan. I have heard such wonderful things about babies being brought into a trance-like state and falling into a deep sleep after massage, but Alice just wasn’t convinced!

The baby oil we used was brilliant for some of the areas of dry skin she had and also helped my hands which are suffering from winter dryness, but she just didn’t enjoy the experience and protested loudly all the way through. We persisted thinking she might get used to it, but I think she was just so tired from the day and the bath that she wanted to move on to the next bit.

I’ll be fascinated to see how other bloggers trying the routine got on with this bit, as I’m convinced Alice must be in the minority not enjoying the massage!


Step 3 – Quiet Time

After the massage we lowered the lights and I made sure Theo was occupied in his room and not distracting his sister. Then we did Alice’s last feed of the day while I read her a story. She was often nodding off before she’d finished the bottle (as was I!) and was in an extremely relaxed state by the time she was put into her bed at about 6:45pm.

Result – Our period of testing the bedtime routine coincided with Alice doing some night-time gymnastics and waking in the night when she flipped over or got stuck. However she settled almost instantly when we put her down at night and was quick to resettle herself if she woke in the night. With the lighter mornings she started to wake a little earlier, but was happy on her own or occasionally being entertained by Theo and could be left till I went in to her sometime after 7am.

The bedtime routine has been a success for us and we will continue with it… although perhaps minus the massage at the moment!

Sponsored blog post by the JOHNSON’S® brand. I have received payment incentive and samples but all opinions are my own. JOHNSON’S® clinically proven bedtime routine consists of bath, massage and quiet time, tested on babies 7 months+, 1 week+ use.

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Living Arrows 12/52

The end of the spring term is whistling towards us at lightning speed. How can it be that we are two thirds of the way through Theo’s first school year when it seems like yesterday that we were acquainting ourselves with the new school routine.

As the Easter holidays close in on us signs of spring are everywhere and I’m impatient for the new season. The tractors have been busy in the fields around the house tilling the soil ready for the new crops (we never know what will spring up where, which I love!) Bluebells are starting to emerge, the ladybirds that hibernated in our window frames have woken up and started exploring and there have even been some lambs for Theo to meet.


The spring sunshine when it has appeared has been wonderful too. Since Alice was born, I often find that my hands are full when I see a moment I want to photograph (and I won’t lie, it’s immensely frustrating) but I managed to juggle the baby on my knee to get this picture in the evening sun (whilst yelling “Don’t move!” at Theo) He was busy eyeing up a pine tree in the distance ready to gather a collection of cones which he later filled the boot of the Morris with. I thought they’d make great fire starters, but he (apparently) has other plans for them…

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Living Arrows
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