Sunday, 17 July 2016

My Sunday Photo | 17th July 2016

This week's Sunday Photo was taken yesterday when we had lunch at Pizza Express.

Along with the children's menus and activity sheets, we were given some chef-style, paper hats. We had great fun trying the hats on. And Ossie had a great time joining in the fun even though the hats were a bit big for him. This turned into a little game of peek-a-boo as the hat kept covering his eyes. Inevitably, with Ossie grabbing the paper hat to remove it from his eyes to see everyone else, it ripped slightly.

I love his expression here: surprised that he can now see everybody, even though the hat is on his head, and slight disdain about the game now that it is no longer quite as much fun.




Photalife

Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Siblings Project | July 2016

I haven't taken part in The Siblings Project, run by Dear Beautiful, for a long time. It's pretty difficult to capture all four of mine in one photo, so often the date for the linky whizzes by and I realise I don't have a pic for that month.

However, last weekend I had the four to myself as Mr B was away for the weekend and I finally managed to capture all four.

The circus was in town so we booked tickets to the afternoon show on the Saturday, not least because it gave us an incentive to actually get out of the house and do something exciting.

Siblings excited before the circus

This photo was taken when we arrived outside the Big Top. The weather was actually a lot warmer than it looks in this photo, which is why they all look a bit grumpy - they're actually squinting in the light!

Bea decided to dress as Anna for the day - simply because she likes Frozen. She is going through a real dress phase at the moment.

I love the way Elliot (on the right) has his hand gently touching Wilf. He is a fantastic big brother and very caring and protective to his younger siblings.

I was very lucky to get this photo of Wilf. He tends to avoid having his picture taken, if at all possible. He can be very reserved and normally has a hundred other things he'd rather be doing. However, since turning four a couple of weeks ago, he really seems to have grown in confidence and he's allowing more people to see his real character.

Ossie is slumped in his pushchair because he's a bit tired. I had hoped he'd drop off on the way down to the circus, but instead he had a snooze during the performance.

The show was really good fun. It lasted for about an hour and a half and included: magic; tight rope walkers; juggling with fire, balls and a drum set; acrobatics on high ropes; and  a clown - the favourite with my lot.

It's lovely to have a record of all the siblings together. I'm going to make a real effort to take more photos this month so I can join in The Siblings Project linky next month.


The Me and Mine Project

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

How to make a Star Wars AT-AT birthday cake | Seaside Belle

We recently celebrated Wilf's 4th birthday. When I asked him what sort of birthday cake he would like, he requested a Star Wars AT-AT cake. To be honest, I was hoping for something easier, maybe even something I might be able to buy from a shop. But, always up for a challenge, I went for it.

Normally, I would visit Pinterest for inspiration and a template. Sadly, when I searched for Star Wars AT-AT cakes for something to copy, I was out of luck.

Instead, I managed to find some picture of AT-ATs to use as a guide.

I have to admit, I was slightly overwhelmed by the task at hand. How would I manage to make the bulk of the cake stand on four, rather thin legs. But then I had an epiphany: I would create a lying down AT-AT.

Here's how I made it.
Title image How To Make A Star Wars AT-AT cake


Ingredients:

For the cake:
  • 260g softened butter (I didn't have enough butter in the dish, so I had to use a pack straight from the fridge)
  • 360g caster sugar
  • 6 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 240g self raising flour
  • 100g cocoa (except, I didn't have any cocoa so I used chocolate milkshake powder)
For the icing:
  • 250g softened butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 500g ready to roll white icing
  • Several drops of black food colouring

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and grease and line a deep 23cm cake tin
  • Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and mix until light and fluffy. Things started going a little bit wrong at this point as my electric mixer gave up the ghost, so I had to finish it off by hand.
  • Add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, with a spoonful of the flour.
  • When all the eggs and some of the flour are mixed in, add the vanilla extract and stir in the remaining flour and cocoa powder (chocolate milkshake powder). Stir until the mixture is smooth and lump-free.
  • Put the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour.
  • Once the cake is cooked - I used a skewer to check it was cooked through and ended up baking it for another 20 minutes as it wasn't quite done - turn it out onto a wire rack and allow it to completely cool.
  • Cut the cake in half. One semi-circle will be the body of the AT-AT. Then slide two thin rectangles from the remaining semi-circle to make the legs. The remaining small semi-circle will make the head. Slice another thin rectangle to make the guns sticking out the front.
    The AT-AT cake takes shape
  • Mix the softened butter and around three quarters of the icing sugar to make a smooth butter icing. Then spread the butter icing all over the cake: this is the glue to make the ready to roll icing stick.
  • Add a few drops of black food colouring to the ready to roll icing and knead until you have the desired grey colour.
  • Sprinkle some icing sugar onto a clean surface and roll out the grey icing so it will cover your AT-AT, then smooth the icing over the cake and cut around the shape.
  • Roll out the remaining icing and use a round cookie cutter to make the joints
  • To add further details to the AT-AT, I then used a cocktail stick and the black food colouring.
Wilf blows out the candles on his Star Wars AT-AT cake

It's not the most perfect cake in the world - none of mine are - but it was at least recognisable as an AT-AT. I'd love to see your versions.
Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

What I won in June | Journey of a Comper

Things have been very quiet on the competition front in recent months. I've been through a bit of a dry spell - although that could be something to do with the fact that I probably haven't been entering quite as many competitions as usual.

However, in June, my luck turned and I won TWO competitions. The first was a competition over on the Surfer Dad blog to win a hand screen printed t-shirt from the Atlantic Surf Company. I found out I won the competition just before Father's Day so I decided to treat my husband to the prize. The t-shirt is really soft and the perfect colour and fit. He is really pleased with it - and if he's happy, then I'm very happy!

My husband wearing his blue Atlantic Surf Co t-shirt
Here's the hubby sporting his Atlantic Surf Co t-shirt

Then, at the end of June, I went to the BritMums Live blogging conference #BML16. There were lots of brands at the event and most were running competitions involving selfies and hashtags. I was lucky enough to win the competition being run by DC Thomson, who publish magazines including The Official Jacqueline Wilson Mag, Animals and You and The Twirlywoos

SeasideBelle selfie with Noddy
My winning selfie with Noddy

I found out that I had won the competition on Wilf's 4th birthday. And he's really looking forward to receiving his six month subscription to Noddy Magazine

Elliot already has a magazine subscription to Match of the Day and he gets really excited when Tuesday comes around because that means his magazine will be arriving. I then don't see him for at least an hour as he devours the latest football news. I hope Wilfred gets as much pleasure from his subscription - both the magazine's arrival and its content.

What have you won recently?

Sunday, 3 July 2016

My Sunday Photo



I've decided to reflect each week by joining I with the My Sunday Photo project.

The last seven days have been pretty hectic: Wilf celebrated his 4th birthday; we received the children's school reports; Ossie is practicing his new-found skill of walking; and Elliot performed with the school choir at the local Flower Festival. 

On Wednesday we went up to school for the annual music concert. Both Elliot and Beatrix are learning to play the piano and this was Bea's first public recital. 

At home she sings along when she practices, but when she stepped up to the front, she suddenly became a little over-awed by the occasion. Despite her nerves, she just sat down and played her piece (without singing along) and the practicing paid off - she was flawless. I was so proud of her. 

She was the youngest performer and she really stepped up to the mark, overcame her fears and just got on with it - I'm sure I could learn a lesson from that!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Reflections on four years of tandem nursing | SeasideBelle

I have been tandem feeding for four years!

I am astounded by this.

When I first entered the realms of motherhood, I imagined breastfeeding for six months (or until my baby got teeth) before weaning.

I had never heard of natural term weaning and I would have certainly done a double take if I'd seen anyone breastfeeding a toddler, let alone a pre-schooler.

And I would have never even dreamt that mothers could feed a baby and an older child. Yup - I'd have thought I was a bit of a weirdo.

But, here I am. I'm on my second tandem pairing and I'm currently breastfeeding a 14 month old and, as of today, a four year old.

So, how the hell did it happen?

To be honest, I don't really know. I've just followed my instincts, responded to my children's needs and muddled through.

Breastfeeding through pregnancy

I was lucky that I had a very easy pregnancy and that Beatrix didn't seem too bothered by any dips in supply. Some children self-wean, typically around halfway through the pregnancy, as they aren't getting as much, if any, milk. And Beatrix actually stopped feeding for around 10 days. I wasn't upset, as it was her choice. However, fate stepped in and she contracted Slapped Cheek Disease and returned to breastfeeding - her main comfort and nutrition and an easy way for her to boost her immune system. She then carried on nursing throughout pregnancy.

My first tandem feed

I remember my first tandem feed vividly. Four years ago today, I gave birth to Wilfred in a beautiful home birth. He latched on pretty much straight away and I made sure he had a good feed. In fact, he was feeding when I introduced him to my older two. Beatrix was just shy of her second birthday and very attached to the breast. We'd spent the past few months talking about the fact that the new baby would need to breastfeed, and we'd role played with an assortment of soft toys and plastic dinosaurs, but I was nervous about her seeing someone else feeding from me. But she was immediately besotted with her new brother and fascinated that such a small thing could actually breastfeed. She kept saying "Baby an mulk" (Baby having milk). And I promised her that when he had finished, she would be able to have some too. 

A little later, I settled on the bed and began feeding Wilf again. Beatrix climbed up next to us and I managed to position her next to me so she could feed too. At this point, the midwife walked in to check we were OK before she left. She smiled and commented: "What a lovely sight and what a beautiful family." She will never know the power of those words and how they filled me with confidence and swelled my heart with pride. Our tandem journey had commenced.

In fact, I very rarely feed both of my nurselings at the same time. It's a real faff to get positioned right and I feel like I'm exposing far too much flesh! But every now and then, it seems the right thing to do. Mostly, though I feed my little ones separately. They've definitely learnt about taking turns from a very young age!

The end of one relationship and the start of another

Beatrix self-weaned around Christmas time after she started school. It was a gradual process and it took a while for me to realise that she had stopped breastfeeding. At this point, I was about halfway through my pregnancy with Oswald, so I suspect the dip in supply may have been a contributing factor. Wilf, however, continued to breastfeed. This time, it was easier as he was older than Beatrix had been when I was pregnant with him, so he was not feeding as frequently as she had done.

Wilf played an important role in the birth of Ossie. I'd been for a sweep that afternoon and had been uncomfortable ever since. I knew my body was gearing up for labour and it was feeding Wilf to sleep that kickstarted the contractions. We lay in his bed at 8pm and by 8.25 the tightenings had settled into some very regular contractions. Ossie arrived less than two hours later in another beautiful home birth.

The future

Ossie is now nearly 15 months old. He breastfeeds a lot. Wilf is pretty much down to bedtime and occasionally during the day if he is hurt, upset or knackered. Wilf starts school in September and I suspect our nursing journey is drawing to a close. I'll try and follow his lead. I've had terrible nursing aversion this time round (mostly due to tiredness I think), so I've had to set some limits on our breastfeeding, but we've reached a place now that we're both happy so we can continue until he is ready to wean.

It will be very strange to be only breastfeeding one child. It's been a rollercoaster ride that I never dreamt I'd embark on, but I wouldn't change it for the world. As with all my parenting decisions, I've done what I thought was right for my family and circumstances based on the knowledge I had at the time.

Have you or are you tandem feeding? What are your experiences?
Hot Pink Wellingtons

Monday, 27 June 2016

Things I learnt at BritMums Live 2016 | Seaside Belle

Yesterday I attended my first ever blogger conference: BritMums Live. Before I went I was a bag of nerves: would I be exposed as a bit of a fraud among the big league of 'proper' mummy bloggers with their beautiful sites and regularly updated posts? Would anyone talk to me? Would I ask stupid questions? Would I overshare something hugely embarrassing?

I needn't have worried, I had an absolute ball. I learnt loads, I met lots of lovely people and I came away inspired and with a little bit more of a concrete plan for taking blogging forward in the future. Oh, and whoops, I did kind of share something hugely embarrassing in front of the whole conference - although I did get Cherry Healy's new book out of it!


There was so much to absorb, so I'm going to list some of the key things I learnt at BritMums Live while they're still fresh in my mind. In the coming weeks, I plan to expand a bit on some of them, so watch this space. I'll also mention some of the lovely bloggers I met, so you can be inspired by them too.

Setting goals

  1. Set goals and believe in yourself. Once you've set your goals, create good habits to keep you on track. And build a team, if there's stuff you really struggle with, pay someone else to do it for you. Julie Creffield, Too Fat To Run.
  2. We're in control, we're in charge of our audience, so we set the rules...and we have the power to break all the rules if it works for our blog. Vicki Psarias-Broadbent, Honest Mum.

Your blog's niche

  1. If you are looking to work with brands, your blog needs to have a defined niche and audience.
  2. Having a clear niche also helps in developing a content plan. Jess Dante, Socially Jess.

Design

  1. If you want to start earning money from your blog, your blog needs to look slick - well designed and with an email address that matches your domain - and you need to be consistently posting quality content.

Content

  1. Clarify who your audience is and what your niche is and use that information to develop a plan for what content to post that will be useful for your target audience. Jess Dante, Socially Jess.

Vlogging

  1. Think about where you film your vlog: the environment (kitchen, bedroom, lounge, outside) can add to the story you are trying to tell. Nigel Camp, The Video Effect.

SEO

  1. ALT text for images is not about SEO, it's about ensuring your site is accessible, something that is required under the Disabilities Discrimination Act. It also helps your images appear in Google Image Search. You should NOT be using ALT text tags to try and boost your SEO by including spammy key words (unless those keywords are useful for image search or describe the content of the image for people with little or no sight). Judith Lewis, DeCabbit Consultancy.

Analytics

  1. Useful areas of Google Analytics for bloggers are:
    1. Audience - helps you decide what content to include
    2. Behaviour - what are they doing, where are they going and how long are they spending on your blog? What do you need to adjust to change this behaviour?
    3. Conversions - what are your visitors worth to you? Are they doing what you want them to do?
  2. Break down the data to decide where to take your blog and what content to post. Gori Yahaya, Digital Garage at Google.

Meeting other bloggers


  1. One of the reasons lots of bloggers go to BML and other events is to socialise. I'll be honest, it wasn't top of my wish list. I'm massively sleep deprived at the moment and, as a result, I can be a bit anti-social. But the atmosphere is so relaxed and friendly that I couldn't help but get chatting to others. It can be a bit freaky to half recognise someone from having seen their picture on their blog and then think you know them in real life before realising you don't and they probably don't know you from Adam. But a smile and a hello is usually enough to spark a conversation.
  2. For me, the most valuable session for getting to know other bloggers was the round table on content. It was really helpful to listen to others talking about their blogs and their audience and then to collaborate to suggest ways of taking the content forward. In fact, it was so good that we stayed past the end of the session to learn more. So many thanks to: BattleMum, Mummy's Gin Fund, No More Shoulds, Only Girl In The House, Morgan's Prince, Classlist, and the others I've forgotten to include.

In a nutshell

I could go on and on about everything I learnt at BritMums Live. I've got loads of inspiration for things to work on to improve my blogs and take the next steps on my blogging journey. But if someone was to ask for a 30 second rundown on what I learnt, this is what I would say:
  1. Nail your niche - what exactly is your blog about, how is it different to other blogs and what makes is special?
  2. Clarify who your audience is - once you know exactly who you're writing for, you'll find it a lot easier to come up with content, develop your style and sell your blog to advertisers.
  3. Decide on a key message for each piece of content - what do you want that content to achieve? This helps with measurement and growing your blog by giving it a purpose.
  4. Have fun - enjoy the ride and don't be afraid to take on challenges - even if that means sharing your most embarrassing stories with a room full of strangers!
What are your key takeaways from #BML16?