Baby Book Club: Where’s Mrs Ladybird? by Ingela P. Arrhenius

Disclaimer here, I didn’t buy this book. This was a husband special. Every time he takes Pippin into town they come back with a little present. Sometimes it is a toy, sometimes a cakey treat and this time a book.

He was so excited about this book. They’d sat and read it in Waterstones before buying, and he was super excited because Pippin had a new trick!

What is it about?

Ingela Arrhenius has created a really beautiful lift the flap book for very little children, complete with the signature illustrations you expect from her work. The book shows a number of different garden insects hiding behind felt flaps – and we are asked to find them in a similar format throughout.

‘Where is Mr or Mrs X.’

The final page has a little twist, and this was the source of my husband’s delight

Why is it a favourite?

It is what it is. A simple lift  the flap book.

I really do like this book though. The illustrations are bright and they feel a bit retro, which I do like. It reminds me a little of some of the books of my childhood.

The felt flaps are a fantastic idea for tiny hands, Pippin hasn’t managed to damage the book and we have had it months now and read it a lot. We’ve had some lift-the-flap casualties before, Farm 1-2-3 didn’t last more than a day, but this is sturdy and we’ve had no problems with it.

So, what was Pippin’s trick you ask?

Well, the final page of the book asks the question “And where are you?” with a mirror.

And what delighted Pippin’s dad so much was that she looked at herself in the mirror, proudly stated that there was a baby on the page and gave her reflection a big, wet kiss.

I guess they had to buy it then…

Should you buy it?

It is a great book for little ones, especially if they’re anything like miss vanity and like looking at themselves in a mirror. The colours are bright, the pictures are endearing and the flaps are secure and sturdy.

It is basically a great book for reading with the very young.

My husband bought this book for her back in September, so she would’ve been around thirteen months old, she doesn’t reach for it quite as much now. When she does she is less interested in lifting the flaps, and likes to know the names of everything on the pages and ‘count’ the flowers, trees and other elements of the illustrations. But we enjoyed the book so much that we went back and bought Where’s Mr Lion? to add to our collection.

Baby Book Club: Hooray for Hoppy by Tim Hopgood

I’m an English and Creative Writing graduate, so it probably comes as no surprise that I love reading, I’m happy to report that so does Pippin. It makes my heart absolutely sing when she drags a book over to be read to, or pats the sofa so she can sit down and read with you.

I am always looking for new and beautiful books to read with her, although she already has a few firm favourites. We have read Hooray for Hoppy! by Tim Hopgood at every bedtime for at least the last month.

What is it about?

Hoppy, a rabbit, is waking up from his long winter sleep. He uses his senses to identify that spring has in fact arrived and he shares this joyous information with all his little bunny friends! The books beautiful illustrations take us with Hoppy from his burrow deep within the snow, to the smell of the fresh air, the sound of the bird song, the taste of the fresh grass, the sight of the lambs leaping in the meadow and the feel of the warm ground under his feet.

After he has realised that it really is spring time he just can’t wait to share the great news with all the other rabbits, but they aren’t there! So Hoppy thumps his feet in true rabbit fashion and calls them all to the hill and they are just as thrilled as he is that spring has finally sprung!

It is a book to help children learn about the five senses – and like the other books in the series it has a little section on the back to help re-emphasise the message in the book. At the moment Pippin is a bit young for this, but I really can’t see her getting tired of this book any time soon and I am very sure we will talk more about the senses with her in the future.

Why is it a favourite?

For me, because of the illustrations. We now have a lot of Tim Hopgood books in our reading corner. I first bought Tip Tap Went The Crab for Pippin’s book advent last year. We then quickly added Ping and Pong are Best Friends (mostly) and Wow! Said the Owl to our collection. I picked up What a Wonderful World at Plas Newyd in Wales and then I bought Walter’s Wonderful Web and Hoppy from and independent book shop in Beaumaris. I think you can safely say I’m a fan!

I love the bright colours, and I love the collage effect of the artwork. We spend a lot of time looking at the pictures, and Pip enjoys pointing at all the elements on the page, and we talk about what they all are.

Pippin’s favourite bits are showing me all the birds in the pictures, baaing with the lambs and thumping her feet just like Hoppy.

She takes her foot in her hand, drops it on the page and bangs her heel: as hard and as fast as she possibly can. You become proud of the strangest things when you become a parent – and that makes me very proud.


Should you buy it?

Yes, in short. The story is simplistic, but that is not a bar to reading with young children. It is short enough that it keeps Pippin’s attention, and we’ve been reading this to her since around the ten month mark. My nephew has also read it to her, so it is pretty easy for new readers to grasp too.

The pictures are engaging, and they allow for expansion to the story: ‘Can you show me all the birds?’ ‘What noise do the lambs make?’

It’s an attractive book, and it makes a great addition to our book shelf.


Pippin’s Adventures: Speke Hall, Liverpool

I’ve said it before, and again, I absolutely love being a member of the National Trust. For £108 a year we get access to hundreds of properties around the UK, which means we’re never short of somewhere to go for a day out. Whatever the weather.

Despite the frosty weather we’re being treated to at the moment we took a trip out to Speke Hall in Liverpool with the little.

Speke Hall is a Tudor Building sat in a large expanse of grounds, which you can explore and play in – but also watch the planes from Liverpool John Lennon Airport fly over!

Poor Pippin got to explore next to none of the grounds, she had fallen asleep within ten minutes of our arrival,  although she did find the time to make a new friend: a pug called Hercules.

If your child has more stamina than mine then you might manage to make it rounds the hedge maze with them, or you could enjoy some snacks from the café whilst they played on the huge play area. We are definitely going to go back and explore this with Pippin, because we’ve never properly had a look round it and it looked so much fun!

There’s also a special woodland walk, complete with zip lines, den building and outdoor obstacles to balance on.


We’ve been to Speke before, but not since Pippin was born and we never knew about all the fun things we could do with her there, so Speke will definitely be going on our re-visit list.

The house re-opens on February 10th, but until then there’s loads of outdoor spaces to explore.

Lets go Zero Waste

I’ve spoken before about my horror about our household waste since having Pippin, and post renovation I feel a little bit sick at the amount of things sent to landfill.

We did our best to keep things to a minimum by making sure we recycled what we could, but having contractors and less eco-aware family members involved, and frankly the shear volume of work we had done meant that we produced a lot of rubbish.

In addition to that whilst we were at my in-laws we were using disposable nappies, microwavable vegetables, weren’t recycling green waste: the list goes on. This isn’t a criticism by the way, people do things differently and I would always respect that. You can’t expect someone to feel happy about your daughter’s shitty nappies being washed in their machine basically!

It is important though to recognise that all this additional waste we produced has gone to landfill, and will sit there until it rots, which will probably not be in my lifetime. We threw it away, but really I don’t like to say that. There is no ‘away’, it isn’t some magical place where things just disappear to, its a pile of crap that gets bigger and bigger everyday.

But we are home now, and my intention is to make some big changes. During Zero Waste Week I made some pledges:

  1. To bring less packaging into the house.
  2. To make sure we recycled everything that can be recycled.
  3. To waste as little food as possible.
  4. To make use of the green bin for any unavoidable food waste.

I’m going to add to that now: bit by bit, over the course of the next twelve months, I’m going to address different areas of our lives and see how we can reduced our waste and our impact on the environment. I’m not saying we will go Zero Waste, and I’m not saying I will stick to this rigidly because life can sometimes get in the way, but I think we can make a significant improvement to our lifestyle.

The way I see it is that there are a number of areas I can look at to reduced our consumption and waste production (Is this starting to sound like toilet-humour to anyone else? Just me?). I’ve decided to work on this room by room, just to give me a way to group it easily.

So over the next twelve months I’m going to look at ways to reduced the waste in our Hallway, Dining Room, Living Room, Kitchen, Laundry Room, Nursery, Office, Bedroom, Bathroom, Garden and just generally.

Handy, that’s eleven topics for the eleven months that are left. It is almost as though I planned it that way.

Why I don’t make resolutions.

I know I’m a bit late to the game here, we’re already into the second week of January (how did that happen???), but bear with me here.

I used to make resolutions. Big long lists of them. Usually ones about diets, or ‘how to be less fat’, more exercise, drinking more water, eating better, doing more meaningful things. Generally ways I could, and should be a better version of me.

Inevitably I would break those resolutions, one by one, and feel guilty and generally terrible about the fact that I had, again, failed.

As the family got together on the eve of 2015, as we do every year, I didn’t make any resolutions. Not because I’d had any great epiphany about them but because I’d forgotten. My mum loved grandmother had been rushed into hospital on Christmas Eve after aspirating a piece of Salmon, she’d been discharged on Christmas Day but she was still critical. I didn’t have the head space to think about how I was going to better myself through the following year. She passed away in early January and I grafted through the year dealing with the loss, graduating from University and getting married.

The family got together again, and together we welcomed in 2016. I didn’t think about making resolutions, we’d gone on holiday over Christmas – an attempt to distance ourselves from the events of the year before – and I’d developed a urine infection. I felt sick, achy and generally crap and all I wanted to do was eat lots and drink bubbly. As it turns out these were the first symptoms of my very surprise pregnancy, as I found out on the 2nd January. So any ideas that might have been lingering in the back of my head about weight loss went out the window. I started my new job, I worked hard, I finished and then I had my daughter.

Again we met to celebrate the change of the years, and saw in 2017 in the way we usually do. My daughter was four months old; honestly I think I’d forgotten that resolutions existed. We’d also travelled up to see Liam’s Nana, as she rapidly lost her battle with cancer. Last year was one of the most emotional and special I can remember, so many moments that I really do cherish and will remember for a long time. My daughter learned to sit up, to crawl, to talk and to walk. She turned a whole year old. I got a new job and have colleagues that I really like and I’m enjoying it. My husband also got a new job that I hope will bring him happiness. I made some fantastic friends, and hopefully these friendships will continue to flourish. We had loss too, my Nana-in-Law passed away early in the year, but I am thankful forever that she met and loved Pippin.

So, true to form we met again to celebrate the coming of 2018. My husband stepped outside to welcome in the New Year, as he does every year.

And I made the conscious decision to make no resolutions. I’d not lost anything by not making resolutions apart from a sense of guilt. A year is a long time and things can change a lot in a year, your priorities can change a lot in a year. This way I might decide to do something, and then actually give it up – no pressure, no guilt, no remorse. I just changed my mind. Life is too short to try and pin yourself to some ideal vision you have of yourself, just go ahead and enjoy it.

And have a fantastic 2018.

If money were no object: The play kitchen of Pippin’s (my) dreams

I had a hand-me-down plastic kitchen when I was little, and we played with it so much I absolutely knew I wanted to get Pippin one too. They’re so versatile and encourage imaginative play.

We used that play kitchen an awful lot. It was white plastic, with a little yellow fold out table and a plastic tiled work surface. It had seen a lot of tea making, mud pies and plastic food over the years and it had held up really well. But it was a bit ugly.

I remember reading about a play kitchen, it might have been in one of Louisa M. Alcott’s books, that had a proper working oven and was built into a bay window. That was the kitchen I wanted.

I’ve definitely scaled back my ideas since then. But if money really were no object I would be creating the play kitchen of my dreams for Pip, and living vicariously through her.

The base kitchen would absolutely be IKEA’s Duktig. It is a brilliant blank canvas to make something really one of a kind from, and there are some amazing hacks out there.

Ikea Duktig Picture Collage
Miss Audrey Sue // This Haus of Ours // Peachy Parade // Anchors and Honey

It would have all the pans, pots and casserole dishes: because you really can’t cook your pretend fudge without having the proper equipment.


Utensils and Cookware Collage
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5


Of course, Pippin wouldn’t be doing much cooking if she didn’t have any food to cook with. So what she needs is some shopping. And of course it has to be wood, because I love wooden toys.


Basic Groceries.jpg
1 // 2 // 3


And lets face it. We all want a treat every now and again.

Extra Groceries Collage.jpg
1 // 2 // 3 // 4

So, two thoughts have now occurred to me.

  1. I’d need to take out a second mortgage to pay for all this, and
  2. Pippin’s toy kitchen is probably going to be better stocked than my actual kitchen.

Baby Clothes and Tears

We are really, actually really this time, on the final stages of the renovation. I could actually do a happy dance and I probably will when we get over the finish line.

My job for today was to start unpacking some of the many boxes of crap that we packed up on our retreat from the building site. I’ve made a little promise to myself that only things I love or we need will find places in our home again. I can’t be bother to have all the stuff cluttering up everywhere again, especially since the small one now has plenty of stuff of her own to take up space.

As Pip has moved up through the sizes I carefully washed and folded her old clothes, packing them away in boxes labelled by size. Lots of clothes, more clothes frankly than she has ever actually worn.

Why? I couldn’t tell you. After the trauma of having her, and the near certainty that I will develop gestational diabetes again meaning they want me under their care from pre-conception my husband and I have decided that we are one and done, as far as biological children go.

I don’t plan on having another pregnancy, and yet I’ve kept my maternity clothes. Something in me didn’t want to let go, and today as I folded the tiny vests and pairs of leggings I felt a really deep sadness. Maybe it is because I know we possibly would have more if circumstances were different. I don’t know.

So this huge pile of clothes will be working its way to new homes, hopefully to be used by new mums and babies. Which is admittedly a much better use for it than sitting in plastic boxes in my loft. I look at it that it’s good for the environment too, or something.

I know my husband feels sad too, he came and hugged me as I sat in a sea of soft jersey and tiny jeans. Our baby has grown so very fast, it is hard to remember her being so small.

I have kept some bits, hand knitted cardigans and some of my favourite outfits. I don’t know if that is silly or not, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go of everything yet.

Another thing struck me after I took this picture. I really, really have to stop buying her clothes!

Building Work and Comparisons

I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps and disheartened over here, and I’ve been struggling to put my finger quite on why. My OCD has been kicking my arse, I’m tired and everything has felt like a lot of hard work.

Then I realised why, because it is bloody hard work! I’m mum to a toddler whilst also trying to renovate a house (still), working and trying to manage my writing work too. We are also keeping each other awake most of the night because we’re all sharing one room still. I’ve been beating myself up because everyone has had all these beautiful Instagram photos full of their children picking pumpkins and dressing up and we’ve done none of it because time and money are so tight.

Despite me never celebrating Halloween and really disliking it as a holiday I’ve found myself kicking myself because Pippin is missing out and it is all my fault.

Then I realised that actually it doesn’t matter if we’re not doing what all the other families are doing, because we are our own family and Pippin is enjoying herself just fine, she has no idea what a pumpkin is, let alone that she could have had an Instagram photo taken of her sitting on one.

That’s not a criticism of people who do, but more of my own need to compare myself with others, and negatively at that. Ok, so this year she hasn’t had a lot of outings, but she’s had cuddles, and playtime and her family round her.

She hasn’t had a holiday, but she will have a home that is safe and warm for her.

In a world where pretty much everyone and their dog has social media it is really, really easy to get sucked into comparisons. This will become even more evident the closer we get to Christmas, I think we need to give ourselves a break and look at our own children: if they’re healthy and happy then I’d guess we’re doing alright.

What we did for Pippin’s Birthday

It has only taken me three weeks to write about what we did for Pip’s birthday.

As you’re only one once she actually had a four day long birthday spectacular, and I am pretty sure she loved it. I am also equally sure she had absolutely no idea what was going on at all.

I had been hoping to have a little party for Pippin and her friends, but the weather and the house renovation had other ideas. So we all got together at my friends and destroyed her house with cake and paint. Which was lovely, and they enjoyed themselves. Pippin’s particular trick is to stroke her friends faces whilst saying “awh”. This is what we taught her to do to the dogs. I’m not yet sure if she thinks her friends are dogs or the dogs are her friends…


On her actual birthday we took a trip to the zoo. It was absolutely boiling and very busy. But we had a really nice day, and Pip loved seeing all the ‘Ack Acks’ (Ducks), Dogs and ‘Oooow’ (Cats). Currently anything with wings is a duck, and cat and dog are used interchangeably for anything with four legs. She really liked the big dogs with a horn.

We then went to Zizzi’s for tea. We love eating there, it is one of the few places you can get a dairy free, gluten free pizza. They also do a children’s menu which can be adapted for allergies, and they even do a pasta and garlic bread for really tiny tummys. Of course she never wants her own meal and always wants mine, but the option is there at least. Allergy mummies, if you haven’t been already then I urge you to check it out.

On the bank holiday Monday we went out with family for a birthday tea and Pip had her second birthday cake. She put her toes in it, which is clearly what chocolate cake is for.

Then for her final birthday day she saw the family that couldn’t make it to her birthday meal and had her third birthday cake, and got more presents.

Birthday Photo Shoot with Milk and Cuddles Photography

For Pippin’s birthday I wanted to have some photos taken. I adore photographs, I love taking them, I love having them and I love looking back at them and remembering the time they immortalise, and when a friend shared the photos take for her daughter’s first birthday I knew I wanted Lauren from Milk and Cuddles photography to take them.

She didn’t disappoint.

We didn’t want to do a cake smash, and initially we were going to have a studio shoot that took elements of our wedding. But then Lauren suggested we go to Dunham Massey and it was perfect. We have been to Dunham quite a few times since Pippin was born, we’re National Trust members and we love exploring with her.

The weather wasn’t brilliant, and we nearly moved everything to the studio at the eleventh hour, but Lauren was really flexible and we pushed things back to the afternoon and, luckily, the rain held off. Although I did have to do some last minute outfit changes because the little romper I had picked out was a definite no go!

Lauren was divine with Pippin, she made her feel comfortable and I think she made a friend for life after presenting her with a pink balloon (or ‘Baaaaall’ as she calls them)! Pip doesn’t warm to people easily, but she acted like Lauren was an old friend, which led to some really beautiful photos.

Oh and she did all of this whilst being heavily pregnant.

My only problem now is picking only a few to put up around the house.