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Thursday, 23 June 2011

New baby - 10 things I wouldn't buy

My sister in law is expecting her first baby in November and like everyone wants to be be ready for the new arrival but still wants to be careful with her money.

As we were expecting twins and had double the expense we really thought about what we would use so that the items we did buy were of use.

I think it's hard to know what you need / don't need with your first born so I thought I'd try and come up with some ideas of things that I really didn't need or use......

1.  Baby bath - we bought a baby sponge instead - much easy to use.

2.  A changing table - we used a cot top changing mat or changing mats on the floor - no where for baby to fall!

3.  We bought cot beds instead of a cot - these last until they are around 5 or 6 as you can take the cot bars off and turn the cot into a small bed when the child is ready.

4.  Cot bumpers - they look very pretty but I  think the advice is not to have them on the cot when the baby is moving in case they suffocate so I've never really understood the point of them!!

5.  Top sheets and blankets - I'm a big fan of baby sleeping bags (i.e. grobags although I have found that the cheaper alternatives have been fine too).  With these your baby never gets cold, doesn't lose it's blankets or sheets in the night and can't get its legs stuck in the bars when he/she starts to roll.

6.  A moses basket - very sweet but you can live without.  I put the twins in one end of the cot bed when they were born and I borrowed a moses basket from a friend for my youngest.  I was so glad I didn't buy a moses basket for her as at 9lb 7 at birth she wasn't in it for long.

7.  Designer baby shoes - they are not walking - they don't need them!!  And indeed, exploring their feet as babies and feeling the floor when starting to walk is an important part of their development.  Save your money for decent shoes when they actually need them!

8.  New baby clothes - newborn vests, babygros and outfits go for pennies on ebay and many are in excellent condition as small babies a) grow quickly and don't wear things for long, b) generally don't get that messy and c) have often received more clothes than they can wear when they are born.  Check out your local NCT Nearly New sale as well as they often have loads of good quality babies outfits for low prices.  You don't have to be a member of NCT to go to these sales but if you are looking for small babies outfits it is helpful if you know the babies gender!

9.  Duffel coats for winter babies - they can't move in the thick fabric!!  I do however, love snow suits in the colder weather.  Look for ones with zips all the way day for easy access and then you can pop your little one in quickly and even in a sleepsuit in a matter of seconds and they are ready to face the weather!

10.  A changing bag - join Boots parenting club and get one for free!  (Check this offer is till on though).  OK - so lots of other people may have the same style but I found that it was a good design that met all my needs when out and about so didn't mind.

If you have any other thoughts of things that are not necessary when preparing for your first baby I'd love to hear your ideas and will pass them on to my sister-in-law who will be very pleased to spend money on the important things. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Walks with Children - Newborough Forest, Anglesey, North Wales

Once again, Anglesey in North West Wales provides another fantastic walk to do with children taking in Newborough Forest and Ynys Llanddwyn (Ynys = Island in Welsh).

This area forms an extensive nature reserve, with forest, ecologically important sand dunes and wide-open beaches and is an absolutely stunning location for a walk, swim or just a picnic.

Llanddwyn island is almost a part of the mainland but is just separated at high tide.  Llanddwyn Island is named after St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. Legend has it that she was spurned by a prince and retreated heartbroken to the island. There she was granted three wishes, and asked to be given the power to grant the wishes of true lovers.
A distant view of Ynys Llanddwyn

View of small cove and volcanic rock from Island
Once on the island you can see the remains of a church which is said to have replaced St Dwynwen's church as well as ancient lighthouses, stone crosses and a (free) museum housed in an old pilot's cottage. There are also spectacular views of Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula which my camera unfortunately doesn't do justice to.

Beautiful Hand Carved Gates
Remains of a Church

There are a host of routes that you can follow if you want to walk in this area.  (Click here for details of how to request a free guide).  You can park near the beach and just have a short walk across the beach to explore the island or there are longer, circular walks available which take you through the forest and along the beach.
Shipwrecked boat - 14 rescued
 We did a longer circular walk, parking in one of the forest car parks, walking to the island, along the beach to the estuary and then back onto a path in the forest.
Following the path markers through the forest

Books of walks in the area will contain routes or you can  find the location at OS grid reference SH 396 638 (Explorer map 263) and plan your own.

Apparently Newborough Warren is a favourite spot for birdwatching - expect to see divers, grebes, sea ducks, waders and purple sandpipers.

 Dogs are however, not allowed on the beach during the summer months.

Monday, 13 June 2011

MUMentum - Time to Take Control

Well....I feel just a bit of a fraud joining this link.

My youngest is 3 and I have lost weight since having her but subsequently put on more than I lost in the past 12 months - so I can hardly blame pregnancy.

However, coincidentally, before seeing this blog hop I had already decided that today was going to be the day I stopped making excuses and took myself in hand.

I have been going to Slimming World on and off for 2 years now and did very well in the first 12 months and then something went wrong.  Whilst I was finding juggling a full time job and 3 young children tiring and my son was having problems with his reading which was an added stress,  I really can't blame anyone else, or any particular event as ultimately it was down to me.

However, I think that I had done well, reached a plateau with my weight loss and also stopped staying at the Slimming World meetings which coupled with being tired and worried didn't help me move forward.

So.....I put on all the weight I lost ( 2 1/2 stone) and more beside and have been in a bit of a yo yo dieting cycle since.

I have rejoined Slimming World on a least 4 or 5 occasions to then drop out again after a few weeks due to either real or contrived reasons.  I seem to have spent a fortune on attending the meetings that I am not currently making full use of and I have decided that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!

It is time for me to try and take control and responsibility for my own behaviour and rather than spend money I don't really have on support I am not using I am going to see whether being a part of this virtual group will help me on my journey.

So if you don't mind I'd like to post each week on my progress, get ideas from others and perhaps as time goes by feel happy enough to post pictures of me on my blog rather than just pictures of my family.

My ultimate goal would be to have a professional family portrait taken of us all but I have a long way to go until I would be happy to do that - so one step at a time I think.

I weighed myself this morning so know my starting point and whilst I'd rather not share my weight at this time, I can say that I need to lose at least 4 stone (4 1/2 stone would take me to my weight before children).

My plan is to follow the Slimming World plan as I know it well and can comfortably stay on plan to prepare our family meals without having to weigh and measure but I will also try and build in some additional exercise.  Whilst we try and stay active with the children at the weekends, I don't always do much in the week.  I've tried to go to organised classes in the past but you have to book a lot here in advance and I'd prefer to do what I feel like rather than what I am booked into as well as save the money - so tonight to start I have been for a brisk walk.

I am also going to avoid alcohol as I find that not only does this add additional calories but I tend to snack more and eat junk food that ordinarily wouldn't bother me.

So - here goes - can I regain control?  I hope so xxx

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The British Weather stops play - hey ho!

Photo courtesy of Scutter - Flickr
Last week I posted about Open Farm Sunday - an event once a year where farms open their doors (or should it be gates?) to visitors, all free of charge.

We had picked a farm nearby that sounded like it would be great for the children with extra activities especially for them and everyone was really looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, the great British weather stepped in and the day has been a wash out (literally)!  As campers, we are quite hardy individuals and have waterproofs, wellies etc but the rain and cold wind that that greeted us this morning even drove us undercover.

I felt soooo sorry for the participating farms as I'm sure that a lot of work and effort will have gone into preparing for today, planning the activities and making sure any dangerous farm equipment was well away.  I know that the farm that we were planning to visit was hoping to raise money for a local charity as well.

I am hoping that it was not as wet elsewhere across the UK so that hopefully most of the events went to plan but if the rain has crossed most of the country lets hope that it is to the benefit of farms in the drier areas where the recent lack of rain is a threat to crops or to feeding livestock.

Did anyone make it to one of these events?  I'd love to hear if you did x

(Ironically we went swimming instead!)

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Children should be seen but not heard!

I would love to agree more with the statement that 'Children should be seen and not heard' - but unfortunately my children have not grasped this piece of etiquette yet!

So imagine my delight at finding this Waterwalkerz activity where you could indeed see your precious little bundles but with the sound turned off - fantastic!!

This was actually a treat / incentive / bribe in the middle of a 12 mile bike ride - where they get all this energy from is beyond me!!

The littlest one (who has a seat on the back of daddies bike at the moment) selected a more sedate activity.

Good fun had by all - but especially mummy - who truely belives that silence is golden!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Wookey Hole, Somerset

We were camping in Somerset over half term and were fortunate to have nice weather for most of the week.  But we did have one very wet day - so off we trooped to Wookey Hole.

I wasn't sure quite what to expect as the tourist leaflet was very muddled and probably doesn't sell it as well as it could but I have to say that this was a great choice to stay out of the rain as it really was a full day attraction mostly undercover.

We went to the caves first - which we enjoyed (although perhaps not as spectacular as some) with clever use of lighting to add to the atmosphere.

Wookey Hole caves - courtesy of  'I Like' (Flickr)

On completing the caves tour, you come out into the valley which is really pretty if the weather allows you to enjoy it.

The path takes you through the dinosaur garden...... including King Kong (?)!

You then enter the indoor attractions which include several soft play areas, a mirror maze, old circus exhibits and old 'pier' display full of antique penny machines (this last section could cost quite a bit - but our children are used to being told that there is no more money to spend!).

The largest soft play area is supposed to be for the over 4's but my quite able 3 year old used it with no problems. There is a smaller area for younger children and a further air cannon area which seemed to fascinate the boys in particular!

This must be what it is like to have sextuplets!
There is also a circus show 3 times a day at the weekends and school holidays.  We weren't expecting much but it was genuinely really very good.  The show was put on by local young people who had trained 3 times a week over a couple of years to master the unicycles, juggling, acrobatics, trapeze etc.  They have obviously worked hard and it was a joy to watch them.

We took a picnic which we ate in the car - but be warned - to enter and exit the main area you are taken through the shop (these people aren't silly are they?!).  However, we have perfected the hustle the children through quickly approach and managed to get through unscathed!

It is also worth picking up a leaflet at the tourist information centre if you think you might visit during your stay in Somerset as ours contained an additional discount voucher which meant that we made a small saving on the family entrance price.

It is quite an expensive day out if you are a larger family but we arrived just after it opened at 10am and left around 4pm so that to me makes Wookey Hole a great all day wet weather attraction.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The cost of twins!

Apparently a typical family now pays an average of £186,032 to raise a child from birth to the age of 21 - which amounts to £8,859 a year, £738 a month or £24.30 a day - according to the UK's largest friendly society, Liverpool Victoria (2007 report).

This is quite frightening, especially if you have more children than you had anticipated (and budgeted for) by having multiples.

Having multiples is quite cost effective for the employer and government as despite the mother having 2 (or more) children, they only need to pay standard maternity pay that you would receive twice if you had 2 children through separate pregnancies and cover 1 period of maternity leave.  When I was pregnant with my twins I did try and negotiate double the maternity pay and leave with my employer but this seemed to cause mirth rather than action and I wasn't successful!

I am also not sure why my second child (born 8 minutes after my first born) is cheaper to keep than his sister.  But this would appear to be the case in the eyes of the child benefit office.  My oldest daughter benefits from £20.30 per month while her brother apparently costs £13.40.

With my youngest daughter I could see some rationale to this in the sense that she was able to benefit from equipment, clothes etc handed down from her siblings.  With twins (or more) there is not that opportunity and you are faced with buying 2 cots/cot beds, cot bedding, vests and clothes, high chairs, 1st stage car seats, bouncy chairs, child reins, potties etc!

One further aspect that doesn't immediately spring to mind is the financial strain that is placed on the tooth fairy from a multiples household.  I think she/he may move in soon as the journeys have been very frequent recently (see photo for evidence!) and my youngest (age 3) watching all of this activity is wiggling her teeth in desperation to cash in as well!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Free day out on the farm - Open Farm Sunday -June 12 2011

On our way down to Somerset last saturday I spotted a sign about an open farm day.  Returning today I have looked it up and found about this great initiative where farms across the UK open to the public free of charge on 12 June as a part of Open Farm Sunday.

The website provides a summary of all participating farms and the events that they are hosting.  Most are putting on tours and additional activities for children.

The most local one to us describes it's activities as follows:

"11am til 4pm Farm Walk See Buffalo,Sheep and Pigs, Sheep Shearing, Sausage Making, Beehive visits, Wildlife and bird spotting Barbeque all day Farm shop open Fun activities and donations in aid of local charity. Free entry and parking"

Each farm will differ in times and activites but all are FREE!

As these are all working farms they don't seem to generally allow dogs which is understandable and sensible footwear is also recommended.

Check out your nearest farm on and let me know if you are planning on going.  It sounds great to me and I think my children would love this.