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The Black Horse at Great Linford

Last night I had a truly scrumptious meal. I had forgotten how amazing the food was at this establishment because the service has always been slower than a child putting on their shoes and coat. Yes that slow! I think they may have improved on this now; which means that the Black Horse is now officially on my list of favourite eateries in Milton Keynes.

You could do worse than sitting by the canal, with a glass of Prosecco on a long, lazy summer evening, or sat by the fire in a large armchair on a dark winters’ night. I love that they have a multitude of seating options, both inside and out.

However, the most notable thing is the food. Imagine the M&S food lady reading this out slowly to you:

A 9oz 28-day aged Rib-eye steak with bone-marrow butter, twice cooked chips, crispy onions and beef dripping gravy.

If that doesn’t make you salivate, than I’m sorry, we cannot be friends! ūüėČ

My heart was literally aching as I struggled to decide which desserts I would not be able to partake of. I painstakingly chose a warm chocolate brownie with bourbon vanilla icecream, the brownie was a delectable moist chocolate treat which was so good I didn’t even notice the icecream! So it was not a disappointment, but I was disappointed that I had to leave the, Dulce de Leche Profiteroles, Meltingly Golden Chocolate Bomb and the Home-made triple bakes cookies, to my imagination.

I cannot wait to return, let’s hope the service continues to be relatively speedy.

 

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Have you met “Miss Sloane”? (Movie Review)

So, this movie reminds me of another reason why I’m glad I don’t live in America, the first reason is sitting in the White House and the second are Guns!

miss sloane movie film review

This movie was so under the radar I just have to draw your attention to it. I go to the cinema weekly and never saw an advert or poster for it. I’m so glad I decided to watch it.

This movie is so compelling and the largest reason was the actress Jessica Chastain. She was astounding, powerful and came across as a complete power hungry, I will step on your toes if you get in my way, B****! That being said, even though she was about as likeable as root-canal, you can’t help being on her side because her cause was gun control. What a great idea to make everyone in the US go through a 2 week check before they are allowed to buy a gun, rather than being able to pick one up at their equivalent of Tesco! The whole movie is about Jessica who is a Lobbyist, try to get a bill passed that will allow for this type of gun control. The team work together to “turn” as many Senators as they can to their cause, using every means possible.

There are more than 350 mass murders by gun in the USA every year, every year! Guns held by regular citizens kill more people than wars and terrorist attacks. It makes me so glad I live in the UK!

There was a big twist mid-way that made my hand fly to my mouth in shock and then a lovely twist right at the end. The only thing I kept thinking throughout was why is this so important to her? I kept wondering but you never really find out.

Such a fantastic movie, go and see it!

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Savannah – 9 Month Progress Update

My last update of Savannah was at 6 months. It’s time for another, there have been so many changes.

8 month old baby girl

Sleep
Can you believe my 8 month old was STILL not sleeping through the night? My heartache of being sleep deprived was laid out to bare last month. But fingers crossed at 9 months she has recently began to sleep through, long may that continue! How did we finally accomplish that?

We tried sleep training at 6 months which went horribly. So 3 weeks ago we decided to try and wean her off the bottle over night using a more gentle approach, which I did successfully with Nate but did not work for Savannah.

what age can baby feed themselves?

We reduced her formula slowly, 1oz at a time and then replaced it with water. So she got a full feed at 10:30pm but then when she woke overnight (usually between 2-5am) we gave her a bottle of water, usually 5 or 6oz and she drank all of it, every time! Supposedly, if you only offer water at night babies are supposed to stop waking up, but after 4 weeks she was still waking! I tried the controlled crying technique of shushing and patting when she awoke but that just made her worse, therefore the only method left was letting her cry it out. I prefer to think of this method as ‘letting her sooth herself’ rather than cry-it-out as it sounds better and we are basically trying to help her help herself, she needs to learn to sleep. So that is what we did.

It went like this:
Night 1 – cried for 1.5 hours (and so did I, it was horribly painful for me)
Night 2 – cried for 35 minutes
Night 3 – cried for 10 minutes
Night 4 and 5 – she had a bad cold, so I didn’t feel that I could let her “self-soothe”, I gave her water,
Night 6 – back to scratch she cried for 1 hour 10 minutes
Night 7 – cried for 20 minutes
Night 8 – she slept through the night

Of course we are probably going to have to sleep train her again to wean her off her 10:30pm dream feed – unless she miraculously drops this feed herself.

Weaning
This has been a mixture of hard work and fun, from 5.5 months Savannah has chosen the baby-led weaning approach. She would not let me put ANYTHING in her mouth, no food, no spoon, no medicine even! If I tried to spoon feed her she would just spit it out! So for those who disagree with spoon feeding because they think you are force feeding your child, I can tell you now – you cannot force-feed your child! Your baby is always in control of the food they swallow no matter how you feed them!

But all that changed last week and she is suddenly hungry and letting me feed her! She seems to be really enjoying the food too. I’m still letting her feed herself though so I guess we are combination feeding now, again I’m taking my steer from her so it really is baby-led.

8 month old eating brocolli

Her favourite foods right now are brocolli and corn on the cob. When we are out and about we tend to give purees as it is less messy and it is more convenient. We did start with Ella’s kitchen, but actually now I prefer cow and gate/Heinz or Hipp Organic jars as they actually look like real food they actually have rice and pieces of vegetables, Ella’s Kitchen pouches are so pureed that they don’t look real. But that’s just my personal preference.

Verbal Development
Savannah is doing very well with talking. She can now say Dada, Mum and bye-bye (she also waves with that one). She is a right chatter-box, she pretty much says da-da all day long and basically chatters away most of the day and even over night!

Physical Development
She can sit up unaided but still cannot crawl properly yet though she can get around. She spins herself around, goes into a crawling position and sits herself back up, rolls all around. She can wave and takes great enjoyment out of playing with her toys. Thanks to baby-led weaning she can pick up small pieces of food between her finger and thumb and pass them between her hands. She can fed herself her bottle, which is super helpful, and she can pick it up if she drops it.

She has two teeth and two new ones are starting to break through.

Family Holiday

family posing on lake at centre parks

Since the last update we have been on our family holiday, which was to Center Parcs at Woburn. We had such a great time, it was exhausting obviously, as family holidays with a young child is not really a holiday so much as a change of location of the madness but we did love it. The staff were amazing with our kids, they seriously went above and beyond. The restaurants (all but one) all have soft play in them, which meant that we were able to eat out every night and enjoy it, as Nate (our 5 year old) was entertained. They provide free baby food (cow and gate jars), bowls, spoons, bibs, wipes, bottle warmers and microwaves in all of their restaurants and the main sports plaza, which is a lovely touch that we took full use of. The Sub-tropical paradise swimming pool was the winner though, we went everyday. It is free, immaculately clean, still looks new and is so much fun. My son and I have a fantastic time, and even though he is a stage 2 swimmer we decided to brave the wild river rapids (with him on my lap) and we both absolutely loved it – we went on 7 times in a row at one point.

Siblings
Nate is still obsessed with her, always wants to be with her, touching her, playing with her etc. which is obviously very nice, but is also problematic as he simply won’t leave her alone, to the point of making her cry sometimes. He tells me (and her) all the time how much he loves her, which makes my heart fuller than I ever thought possible, so I am trying not to get too irritated when he treats her like a doll. He always means well, he absolutely adores her, more than I thought it was possible for a 5 year old to do. In return, she loves him and appears to worship him already, plus no one makes Savannah laugh as much or as loud as Nate can.

5 year old on swing with 7 month old

What has your baby been up to lately?

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Hitting the Wall (of sleep deprivation)

So it appears all my friends hit the wall around the same time. Did you?

First you get tripped by a hurdle around the 2 week mark (after baby is born) because all the adrenaline you were running on is out of your system and 14 nights of sleeping in 40 minute to 2 hour shifts (if you’re lucky) has suddenly taken its toll. Then you get tripped up by a lot more hurdles along the way such as nights of endless teething, illnesses, the 4 month sleep regression etc. But if you are one of the unlucky ones whose baby doesn’t sleep through the night in the first 6 months you will thereafter quickly start to lose your sense of humour. 7 months rolls around and you start to think ‘this is not a joke anymore’ and then we hit 8 months and that is where I was not just tripped up by the teething hurdle, I smacked head-first right into the wall! The wall of sleep deprivation. That was it, I had reached the end of my rope. I completely lost it one night after 4 nights of teething.

brick wall

I haven’t slept through the night for 8 god-damn months!! It’s in-humane it’s UNsafe it’s UNrealistic, it’s UNreal, it’s UNbelievable it’s… UNFAIR!!

I feel drugged, I feel like I am walking around in a haze, I don’t feel like myself, or that I am living my real life. I haven’t had an evening in over a year, because I have to go to bed early every single night! I am mum but I am not myself anymore, people have even said to me that it seems like I am not really there, I even got a comment that I am cold and less loving than I used to be – well you know what – that is not helpful coming from someone who gets to sleep. I am in survival mode right now. I have done this before, but last time round my son slept through at 5.5 months, so at this point, when I had an 8 month old baby I was actually enjoying my maternity leave, I could experience it clearly, I was sleeping and though still exhausted from taking care of a baby I was able to get bits of my life back. For now, I don’t have a life!

The worst part about it is that you just don’t know when or if it will get better. In theory you know that 99% of babies do eventually sleep through the night at some point in the first 2 years of life but there is that 1% those horror stories of babies/children that you hear about that never sleep (and we all have a friend or a friend of friend with that child) and in this dark hour you have convinced yourself that you have given birth to that!

Even if your baby is destined to sleep through at some point, you don’t actually know when that might be. It’s not like your due date where you know you will have a baby roughly 2 weeks either side of that date, with sleeping there is no date. It could be tomorrow it could be 5 months from tomorrow. The fact that you don’t know makes it harder to cope with because you don’t know if the end is in sight or not.

sleeping 7 month old baby girl

I think I would rather know that my child won’t sleep until she is 1 year old then have it happen by accident one day when she is c9 months because at least you won’t be lulled. At baby classes instead of asking ‘does she sleep through?’ You would ask ‘what date did you get? 6 months? Really? You lucky thing, I was given 9 months. Yeah I know, never mind, at least I know when it will be’!

Can you imagine that?

Anyway, so if you hit the wall at around this time, or maybe it was earlier or later, it will probably happen at some point, and when it does, like me, have a good cry, go speak to all your mum friends, compare notes, share…I promise you will feel better. And even better maybe bribe you partner to let you have one single solitary night of UNinterrupted sleep, go away, get a babysitter, ask a family member, do something if possible to break up the very long stint, because, we do not know when it will end! But I guess until then, we can take heart in the fact that it will happen at some point, and we just have to hang-on in there, be kind to ourselves, have treats, take breaks where we can, leave the house-work, and do whatever we can to just survive this period of limbo.

Mummy Times Two
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My Year of Living Danishly – The Happiest People in the World

I just love reading about what other people are reading, as it gives me inspiration so here is some for you! I am totally obsessed with reading right now, it is the one activity that I can easily fit-in, in little snippets, whilst taking care of my baby girl – how you ask? How do you have time to read when you have a baby? Well if you don’t already know me, this may be a surprise, or maybe not…audiobooks!! Sorry if you are bored with my harping on about audiobooks, but I have been a big fan of them for like 5 years now, and I have never read and enjoyed so many books in my life! There are two ways I read audiobooks, one through my library (which is free), they have an app called OneClickDigital which enable me to “check out” an audiobook and listen to it on my phone. Though they don’t have many books to choose from.

The best, but not free version though is Audible РI love audible, they have more audiobooks than any other company, their app works perfectly, they are part of amazon so I use the same login, and if you purchase a pack of 12 audiobooks they come down in price to about £4-£5 per book and you own the books, so if you cancel you account, the books are yours to keep forever.

Listening to books mean that no matter what you are doing, you can be reading e.g. on the school run, cleaning the house, at the gym, shopping, waiting in line, driving!

I digress, so what have I been reading recently (or listening to), well my favourite, which I listened to in 5 days (how often do you read an entire book in less than a week?) is “My Year of Living Danishly” by Helen Russell.

happiest people in the world book cover

I read it so quickly because I loved it. Her writing style, her quirky nicknames and the way she describes life just had me captivated. I also loved learning about a country that I had never even considered visiting, I knew absolutely nothing about Denmark, before reading this book. Okay I have to be honest and say that I didn’t even know where Denmark is – my geography is not very good. The fact that they are the happiest people in the world, was interesting, and I enjoyed learning why – some of which anyone could adopt and I was totally fascinated by their amazing way of life over there.

After inhaling this book I immediately read Helen Russell’s second book “Leap Year” because that is also set in Denmark and had the addition of her toddler “Little red”. I love reading books about family life. Leap Year was more about making changes and becoming happier over the course of a year. Also a good read though not as captivating as her first endeavour.

Another highlight of reading these books is that I told her on twitter how great they were and she actually replied to me! It’s so exciting when an author replies to you, I also got a tweet from Jodi Picoult once!

where is denmark map

10 things I learned about Denmark:

  1. Lego is Danish – and if you work for Lego, you get to play with Lego in meetings – how fun would that be?!
  2. Hygge – have you heard of Hoogah (Hygge) it is the art of living a cosy life, this is how the Danish survive their long harsh winters!
  3. They only have 11 hours of sunlight per month, in winter and it gets as cold as -20DegreesC – that certainly shut me up when I was complaining about our particularly cold and rainy winter this year.
  4. The state pays 75% of their childcare, so for a full time nursery place they only pay ¬£200-¬£300 per month!! That’s nuts, we pay that per week in England!! I almost starting packing my bags on hearing that!
  5. Because childcare is so cheap, everyone works and women have equality, the gap between what men and women earn is less, and the gap between the rich and the poor is very narrow so the quality of life is fantastic.
  6. The state pays all university fees and life-long learning up until the age of 30 years!
  7. If you lose or leave your job you are paid up to 2 years of earnings to look for a new job! And because of this they leave their jobs/careers whenever they are unhappy – how lovely to be able to do that.
  8. They have Danish Patries – okay I did already know that, but I didn’t realise how amazing they were or how long you have to train to be in the pastry business. I have totally had cravings for Danishes ever since I read this book, yum!
  9. Denmark is a very small country, with a population on par with London.
  10. They trust each other, doors are left open, babies are left in prams outside of restaurants and cafes – wow what a world to live in.
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Baby Savannah – 6 month Progress Update

I cannot believe the changes since I wrote the last update about my beautiful daughter Savannah at 3 months old. A lot changes in 3 months, in the world of a baby.

6 month old sitting up

Physical Development

This is the area that she has changed the most, at 3 months she  Continue reading

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16 Santa Spectacular reasons to visit Willows Activity Farm

We were super excited when we heard about the truck-load of activities on offer at Willows Activity Farm, as part of their Santa Spectacular, we could tell that this would be no ordinary visit to Santa, and boy were we right! There were so many wonderful all-inclusive activities that I decided to list the top 16, though there were more!

As Dermot O’Leary says every week on X-Factor…in no particular order:

1. Visiting Santa

Of course this is the backbone to any santa visit, although as an aside, in my day (yes I am old) a visit to Santa included a visit to santa, and sometimes you got a cheap toy, that you didn’t choose, so Santa visits have definitely come a long way, they certainly include a lot of bells and whistles now-a-days, but that are much more exciting!

We took a walk through the grotto and enjoyed the winter scenery, had a chat to the elves, answered some Christmas-related trivia questions and then we permitted to see the big man himself. Santa was very good with the kids and asked them a lot of questions, he was even able to name 2 transformers. The elf took professional pictures with Santa, which you could purchase if you wished (that was one of the very few things that were not included) and then the children were given the magic key that when they popped it into the letter box, made a magical sound and allowed entrance into the toy workshop.

santas key hanging next to tree

2. Toy from Santa

And that brings me onto the next reason, Continue reading

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Baby Savannah – 3 Month Progress Update

3 month old baby girl in blanket

An interesting month with half-term in the middle, which made focussing on my little darling hard work. I think things are starting to get a little easier. I think/hope that she is crying less and hope that means her colic is reducing, though her sleep hasn’t improved much.

Sleeping

On average she wakes twice per night, though sometimes I get lucky and she only wakes once. The biggest change this month is that she is now going to bed earlier at around 7pm, which frees up the evenings. Last month it was 10:30pm so it’s a big change.

3 month old baby sleeping

Another milestone is that she has outgrown both the Moses basket and her crib. She is now sleeping in her cot (with rolled up towels to make her feel more enclosed). I was surprised  Continue reading

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Half Term Hell

This is hard to write because I feel guilty about my own feelings but I know I feel better when I read real life posts from other mummy bloggers. It wasn’t all bad, check out my half term heaven post.

It was my first half term and bear in mind I had the addition of an 11 week old baby who is still waking a lot in the night so I am sleep deprived too plus I only had hubby for one of the six days he was off school.

I really struggled…

carved pumpkin

My son has changed so much since he started school. He has so much energy now, so much more than before and he is hyper verbal. He is also going through a stage of following me wherever I go, perhaps due to the baby and being disobedient. All of this added up to a lot of tension and tears (including my own!)

He is very good with the baby in general, he absolutely adores her, but the problem with that is he simply won’t leave her alone. He loves nothing more than to get up into her face, plastering her with kisses, or pulling her arms, poking her etc. He does it all with love but it is too much, sometimes it makes her cry and no matter what I say he will not leave her alone. I don’t want to tell him off too much regarding his sister because I don’t want him to start associating negative feelings with her as in time it could change the way he feels about her. I don’t want him to resent her.

Until he went to school he used to listen to what I said and was very well behaved, he wasn’t perfect but he was a very good and polite little boy. Since he has started school he is grumpy, he sulks more, he shouts and he flat out ignores what I tell him to do. I am not used to him disobeying me so it is a very difficult transition for me.

I think I need to be firmer with him…usually, if he was naughty I would take something he liked away, but would give him the opportunity to earn it back by being good. I think that he now believes he can be bad as long as he is good later, which is obviously unacceptable.

So today, we were in a play centre, he ran off with a toy that someone else was playing with (so not like him!) the child came over and asked for it back (with the parent – how embarrassing, this has never happened before). I told him to give it back, he didn’t, I warned him by counting to 3. I got to three, which he knows should never happen, and therefore I said he is no longer allowed a special drink with his lunch.

He got very upset and asked how he could earn it back…that is very telling, I think I realised at that point what he was doing. I told him that he was not going to get the special drink and that he couldn’t earn it back because he took a toy from another child but if he started being good then he wouldn’t lose other things that he liked, and I gave him some examples like the Ipad or dessert.

I hope this new way of disciplining him will work, as I want my lovely well-behaved boy back…I miss him!

Since he is now back at school it has gotten a little easier as I don’t have to try to entertain him all day long whilst trying to keep his baby sister happy, fed and rested. But, I feel terrible that I wanted him to go back to school, I have never felt that way before and I am sure it will pass and that future school holidays will get easier as I get more used to them, well I really hope so.