Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Most Influential Trends in Bedroom Makeovers

Are you thinking of decorating your master bedroom?

Do the kids rooms need updating? 

Have you got a guest room, that needs some serious TLC?

If so, then before you get to work, read my summary of the most influential bedroom trends at the moment and how you can work them in your home...

Feature wall using wallpaper

Feature wall in my own bedroom

The feature wall has been popular for ages, but the current trend of using a bold illustrative print on one wall is a fresh update to the existing trend. You can see that we have tried hard to achieve this in our master bedroom (see my full bedroom tour here). With such a bold print on the walls it is important to keep the rest of the room simple. I think that black, white and neutral prints work particularly well with feature papers. Then you can inject some brighter colours into other things in the room such as the duvet or curtains (see my splash of yellow!).

Prints that have shades of the same colour also work well, think of a multi palm leaf pattern. If you are going for a bold and bright print like this, I'd keep it to just one wall.

Placing a feature paper right behind the headboard of your bed works well, while keeping the other walls white. Then you can match your duvet cover too, and it won't look too much. You could soften the look with textures and accessories. You could make a feature of accessories in the room by choosing something particularly special such as these rose gold lamps (rose gold is still one of my faves!) then chuck a luxurious throw over the bed to give it a super-comfortable yet high-end feel.

Victorian Style Bedsteads

I love this one particularly 

There is a significant trend at the moment for using Victorian style metal bedsteads. They can't be just any metal bedstead, to fit the trend they must be the ones that have rails running vertically down from the headboard and footboard. They are also usually painted in a gloss cream, black or grey for effect. These work well with bold prints and illustrative designs that are in fashion at the moment. They give you that vintage but industrial feel that is so popular. Combine these with bare light bulb fittings like these to finish the look. You could create contrast by adding floral duvet covers and an eclectic mix of cushions for a very stylish look.

pillows-1158274_960_720.jpg
Floral bedcovers to add contrast

Many people are put off buying a Victorian style bed because they think that they are going to be uncomfortable, but this is not the case! You'll often find that they are modern reproductions, rather than original Victorian pieces, and so they are build with modern comforts in mind. Remember, you can add your choice of mattress to the frame for your personal comfort. Would you choose an orthopaedic, memory foam, or Tempur foam mattress? I've always hankered after a Tempur mattress, they are so comfy! If you are not sure which mattress would be best for you, check out this guide to tempur memory foam mattresses, to help you make a more informed decision.

Clothes as decoration

Now it may sound a bit crazy to suggest that you display your clothes, accessories or shoes as decoration in your room. You’ve probably had years of trying to get into the habit of putting them away, neatly out of site, so that everything is tidy. However, done well, you can use the things you would usually store away to enhance the overall look of your bedroom. This is a major trend at the moment.

clothes-rail-918859_960_720.jpg
Clothes as decoration

An effective way of doing this is to have an open clothes rail in your room. This works well if you have a small capsule wardrobe or if you have a few striking designer pieces that you really want to show off.

Many people like to have their shoes on show too! If you have Avant Garde or artistic shoe taste, this can work particularly well, as your shoe rack ends up looking more like an art installation than a shelf in Clarks. A simple way of doing this is to use floating shelves and paint them the same colour as your wall. Then either arrange your shoes face on or side on, depending on which looks best. It's also a good idea to have a floor mirror and a seat nearby to make the whole getting ready process more comfortable and enjoyable.

Shoes on display - it's not just women's shoes that can look great.

Jewellery is the decoration that we wear, so it's a shame to hide it away when we're not wearing it. For this reason, why not try the trend of displaying your jewellery collection in your bedroom? You can buy hangers or racks that fix to the wall behind your dressing table. Then you can hang statement pieces for you to admire even when you're not wearing them. Think of how beautiful they will look when the crystal and beads catch the light on a bright day. The added benefit of this is that your jewellery will then be organised and easily to hand, so it should make getting dressed in the morning a bit easier too!

Fresh Flowers

My final fave for bedroom style at the moment is to display fresh flowers. There is something so decadent about having real flowers on show in your bedroom - I don't know about you, but smelling and seeing fresh flowers in my home makes me so happy, and is definitely one of my regular luxury purchases. Choosing your favourite flowers in colours that accent your wallpaper or accessories will be the perfect finishing touch to your newly made-over room. 

Fresh flowers in your bedroom, the ultimate luxury. 

(This is a collaborative post.)
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Friday, 22 July 2016

EPIC Chicken Caesar Salad RECIPE & New Kitchen Knives from Edge of Belgravia



Today I'm excited to share with you some fabulous products from new-to-me brand, Edge of Belgravia. Edge of Belgravia produce unique designer chef knives, and very kindly sent me their professional four piece knife set and diamond knife block to put through their paces in my kitchen. 

Any serious home-cook or chef will tell you how vitally important a good quality, super-sharp set of kitchen knives are...what is it they say...'a bad workman always blames his tools' ... but seriously, good knives = better, faster and more professional dishes coming out of your kitchen. In my experience is it absolutely worth investing a decent amount of money into your kitchen knives - you get what you pay for and all that. 

One of the main things that struck me about this knife block & set was not only the quality of the product but how beautiful they are to look at too - a real feature of the kitchen. The black diamond knife block in particular is so striking and would look incredible in a modern monochrome kitchen. 

Precision Chef Knife Series Professional 4 piece set Edge of Belgravia and Black Diamond Knife Block

Black Diamond Knife Block priced at £79.90

What EOB say: 

Our unique, angular float knife block designed by Christian Bird is a piece of art for the kitchen. Clever use of weighting secures the knives in their blocks, just as slight angling allows for easy extraction. Designed for maximum flexibility it is suitable for most knives.

Precision Chef Knife Series Professional 4 piece set Edge of Belgravia


What EOB say:

The professional four piece set complements the existing knives in the Precision Chef Knife Series. Its extra-large chef and bread knife means it is ideal for all those who think bigger is better. The set includes a new knife for filleting and boning fish, and we introduce a slicing knife with unique recesses so that you can slice salmon or cured meat in the thinnest of slices. The professional set will have you dicing, slicing, chopping, filleting and mincing with impressive ease. If you are not already a Chef, you will be with this set.

I've now been using these knives for around a month in the kitchen and I really love them! They feel so nice to hold, the handles are comfortable and easy to grip, and the blades are so super sharp - they slice through everything like butter, which makes food prep a dream! 

Each of the knives slot perfectly into the diamond knife block, and one of the best features is that the knife block has room for up to 11 knives, so I can slot all of my other kitchen knives in there too - keeping everything together and organised (and you know I do love things organised!). 

Precision Chef Knife Series Professional 4 piece set Edge of Belgravia and Black Diamond Knife Block
My new knife block and set from Edge of Belgravia in its new home

I thought it would be fun to show you the knives in action and share with you a new awesome recipe for literally the best Caesar salad you'll ever taste. Caesar salad was (weirdly!) one of the meals I was craving in the weeks after Connie's arrival (along with pasta and pesto) and I've genuinely lost count of how many ready prepared bags of Caesar salad I've eaten from Aldi in the past 6 weeks (LOTS!)

This week, feeling a bit more human and with more energy to get back into the kitchen properly I decided to make a Caesar properly from scratch, and boy was it awesome! 

Mrs Bishop's EPIC Chicken Caesar Salad

CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD

(serves 4 - 700 calories per portion - this is a HEARTY salad!)

Ingredients

4 thick slices of non sliced white bakery bread, cut into large 3cm cubes 
3 springs rosemary, finely chopped
4 chicken legs
olive oil 
salt and pepper
100g pancetta cubes

100ml low fat creme fraiche
juice of whole lemon
double amount of olive oil to lemon juice
80g finely grated parmesan cheese
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped,
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper

2 heads of Romaine lettuce
fresh parmesan shavings to garnish

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. In a deep roasting tray place the bread cubes, drizzle over a generous amount of olive oil, sprinkle over half the chopped rosemary and season with salt and pepper. 

sharpest bread knife ever
The sharpest bread knife ever! 

2. Place the four chicken legs atop the bread trivet in the roasting tray, drizzle the chicken with olive oil and again, sprinkle over the remaining rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked. 

chopping a lemon
Putting the knives through their paces...with lots of chopping and dicing. 

Yummy ingredients for the ultimate Caesar dressing!
Yummy ingredients for the ultimate Caesar dressing! 

3. While the chicken/bread bakes make the dressing. Lightly whisk creme fraiche, lemon juice and olive oil together until combined, add grated parmesan, anchovies and chopped garlic, then blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

4. After 45 minutes take the chicken out of the oven and sprinkle over the pancetta cubes. Bake for 15 minutes until pancetta is crispy. 

crispy chicken legs, pancetta and croutons
crispy chicken legs, pancetta and croutons

5. Remove chicken legs from the tray and set to one side to cool slightly. Pop the bread/bacon back into the oven to make sure any soggy bits crisp up (about ten minutes). 

6. While bread is crisping up cut up your heads of lettuce wash/spin it until clean and dry. Take the chicken meat off the bone, and discard the bones. You want to try and get nice mouth sized chunks of chicken for the salad. 

The BEST croutons in the world.
The BEST croutons in the world. 

7. Assemble. Divide the chicken, bacon and croutons among 4 dishes of lettuce and then dollop over the amazing dressing and sprinkle over parmesan shavings to finish. Alternatively serve in one huge dish and let people help themselves. 

EPIC Chicken Caesar Salad, from scratch!
EPIC Chicken Caesar Salad, from scratch! 

Not only was the salad a dream to eat, but it was a total dream to make too - the knives made all the prep super easy and gave the dish a much more professional over all finish. Granted, it takes a lot more time and effort to make a Caesar from scratch compared to opening a bag, ripping up some pre-cooked chicken and dolloping on sauce, but boy was it a superior version - Caesar salad on steroids if you will. On taste, texture and appearance it absolutely wins hands down - the ready made wins on speed, cost and ease. The pre mixed bags absolutely have their place, but every now and then it is nice to pull out all the stops and have something extra special, and this is one of those recipes. 

Do let me know if you give it a go, I'd love to know what you think! 

Mrs B

xxx

Disclaimer: I was sent the 4 piece knife set and diamond knife block in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Bake Box Review: Teddy Bears' Picnic - Teddy Bear Cake

Bake Box Ambassador Badge

Some of you might remember that I am an official ambassador for Bake Box - the bakeware subscription box that is delivered to your door every other month. 

If you'd like to hear more details, prices and see how I got on with my first box you can read my review here. 

The fruits of my labour from my first Bake Box was this amazing polka dot swiss roll -  it was such a showstopper...how could I top that? 

Polka Dot Swiss Roll by Mrs Bishop

Since Connie's arrival on the 9th June I've not really had the energy or inclination to get baking - life has been full of sleepless nights, a mastitis infection, sterilising bottles, nappy changing & cold cups of tea, hence why freshly baked cakes haven't been at the top of my priority list (unless someone else baked them!). 

Now that Connie is almost 6 weeks old I am starting to feel much more human: I am now physically healed from the birth, and we're starting to get into a bit of a routine - we are slowly adjusting to our 'new normal', and so I decided it was time to dust off my apron and wooden spoon & delve into my latest Bake Box delivery. 

Having our new addition is obviously taking up lots of my time, and I'm constantly plagued with the "mum guilt' that I can't spend as much time with Bert as I used to be able to pre-Connie. So, last Saturday we made the most of Daddy being at home to hold the fort with Connie, so that Bert and I could have some quality time together. We headed into the kitchen to bake a masterpiece together! 

Each Bake Box has a theme, and this month's box was called 'Teddy Bears' Picnic' - it was bursting full of wonderful bakeware and Bert and I couldn't wait to pick a recipe and get started. 

contents of the Teddy Bear's Picnic Bake Box
Contents of the 'Teddy Bears' Picnic' Bake Box (minus the Teddy cake mould - which was in the oven when I took this snap! ;-))

Contents of the box:
  • Teddy Bear silicone cake mould with Teddy Bear Cake recipe
  • Flower, Leaf and Ladybird mini stencil with Picnic Cupcakes recipe
  • Toadstool and Owl cutter and press with Woodland Biscuits recipe
  • Rainbow Dust Pro-Gel in Yellow for tinting marzipan with Daisy Battenberg recipe
  • Three cherry plunger cutters with Cherry Traybake recipe
  • A lattice roller cutter with Mini Lattice Rolls recipe
We decided to give the Star Recipe (Teddy Bear Cake) a go, as it looked the most fun, plus I had a large supply of ready-to-roll coloured icing (a gift from the lovely people over at Renshaw Baking - thanks guys!) to use up...

Rainbow of Renshaw coloured icing
A rainbow of Renshaw icing ready for our teddy cake! 

Whenever I bake with Bert I tend to set it all up at our large dining room table, so he can access everything more easily. This way he doesn't have to teeter on a stool at the kitchen counter, and can really get his hands dirty! I weighed out all the ingredients before-hand, and popped everything into bowls ready to get pouring, cracking, whisking and mixing...

Teddy bear cake baking with Bert
All ready to get our bake on! 

We followed the recipe card religiously and found it to be very reliable. 

Firstly, we pre-heated the oven to 160 fan, then we greased the silicone teddy bear mould really well with the butter wrapper. Next, we creamed together the butter and sugar in the food mixer, then Bert whisked the 4 eggs and we added them slowly to the butter/sugar mix, adding a spoonful of flour with each pour of egg to help prevent the batter curdling. 

Bert Bishop baking with Mummy
Bert the Baker's Son! ;-)

Bert baking a Teddy cake
Most almost 3 year olds know how to use a Kitchen Aid Artisan Mixer, right? ;-) 

The next stage was to add the remaining flour to the mixer, followed by a cocoa powder/water paste and a splash of my homemade vanilla extract. Once the mixture was fully combined and nice and light Bert helped me to spoon it into the mould. 

cake baking with Mummy

The cake baked for one hour, and once completely cooled I trimmed it down to make the base flat and gently removed it from the mould. It slipped out really easily and we were so impressed with how brilliantly teddy-bear-like it was! 

teddy bear cake fresh from the mould
Cake fresh from the bear mould

The next stage was to whip up a batch of chocolate buttercream - combining soft butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and a splash of whole milk. I whipped it up in my Kitchen Aid food mixer, beating it until light and easily spreadable. 

I used a palette knife to spread a thin, even coating of buttercream all over the bear cake (acting as a crumb coat as well as being a well needed addition to the final cake, adding texture and moisture to the sponge). I built up the snout and tummy with a little mound of buttercream (as stated in the recipe) and then popped it into the fridge to chill and harden for another hour. 

crumb coated teddy bear cake
Crumb coated and ready for the fridge

At this point we took the kiddos out for a long walk to the park for a few hours, to let of some steam, blow away the cobwebs etc. Plus, the promise of coming home to finish decorating the cake proved to be brilliant bargaining ammunition to get Bert off of the swings after an hour in the playground - parenting is all about bribery after all! ;-)

Home to decorate! 

We had to improvise a little as we had small amounts of multiple colours of icing rather than just one batch of brown. We also didn't have any black icing to do the eyes and nose, so we free-styled it a little with hazelnuts for eyes and half a dried prune for the big bear nose- I think these worked brilliantly! 

Honestly, the decorating part of this bake was just too hard for Bert's still limited skills in the kitchen (it was almost too hard for my kitchen skills too! Ha!), but he enjoyed watching me roll out the icing and helped me decide which colours to use where etc. I used edible glue to attach the smaller details and the buttercream acted as the glue to hold the main icing covering in place. Bert spent the time I took to decorate it chomping away on little lumps of icing...perks of being the sous-chef, right? 

I was actually totally thrilled with the overall look of our finished bear cake - considering I've never made a character cake before, it's not too bad at all. At least it's clearly a Teddy bear! Bert was absolutely made up with it, and couldn't wait to take it to his Nanny and Grandad's house the next day for lunch. 

Mrs Bishop's finished Teddy Bear cake
T'ah dah! Our finished Teddy Bear cake! 

We waited patiently to tuck into our Teddy bear cake, as we took it over to my in-laws' house for Sunday lunch. I loved seeing Bert's proud face when he showed it off to them, and it was great to hear him be able to answer questions about how it was made and what ingredients we used. 

There was a super cute toddler moment when his Nanny asked him "Did you put flour in the cake Albert?' and he replied "You don't put flowers in cakes Nanny, you silly billy!" BLESS HIM. 

Bake Box Teddy bear Cake
Our finished Teddy Bear cake, basking in the sun in Nanny & Grandad's garden, waiting to be eaten (sorry Mr Bear!)

After lunch on Sunday we (finally!) tucked into our Teddy bear cake, and he didn't disappoint us; reminiscent of childhood birthdays gone by the cake was really tasty - everyone enjoyed a slice - in fact, I believe Liam had 3 slices ;-) 

This would be the perfect bake for a child's birthday or for any adult's birthday too come to that! 

tucking into our bear cake
The cake sliced perfectly...

a slice of chocolate teddy bear cake
A slice of cake for mummy - a little of what you fancy does you good, right? 

Bert eating teddy bear cake
Finally Bert got to tuck in - he waited very patiently for 24 hours, pretty good for an almost 3 year old! 

Over all we have been totally thrilled with this months Bake Box  - the Teddy Bear Cake recipe had great results, the variety of bakeware in the box is just brilliant, and all very sturdy, good quality pieces. I'm excited to try some of the other recipes with Bert soon - I think he has his eye on the woodland biscuits next! 

Have you been baking much recently?

Mrs B

xxx

Disclaimer: I was sent this Bake Box in exchange for a fair and honest review. 
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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Baking Subscription Boxes *REVIEW* & *WIN* a 3 month brownie baking subscription from If I Knew You Were Coming...

If I Knew You Were Coming provides an exciting new way to bake! 

Join their monthly baking subscription with a one off fee of £17.99 (cookies/muffins) or £20.00 (brownies) and receive a baking kit through your letterbox which contains a recipe and the dry ingredients to bake a quick delicious treat every month for 3 months. With a short shopping list of no more than 4 items, this really is a great way to bake! 

The kits contain super-simple and quick recipes - you can choose between cookie, muffin or brownie options. They are the perfect buy for someone who loves to bake but is time poor, or for someone who doesn't have a store cupboard full of baking ingredients - all you need to complete these recipes is a combination of the essential wet ingredients: butter, oil, milk or eggs - everything else is provided. 

As a keen baker myself these kits have been a godsend to me over the past few months - I really lacked the energy and inclination to bake from scratch during the final weeks of pregnancy and the first month with a newborn; I didn't feel like faffing around flicking through cook books, deciding on recipes, writing a shopping list, shopping and then having to bake from scratch. These kits provided the perfect compromise - I could still bake from scratch and enjoy a homemade treat with friends and family, but I didn't have to put in even half the work! 

And the best bit about these kits? They fit through your letterbox, so you will never miss the package being delivered! Genius! 

I tried the three month brownie subscription worth £20, and was chuffed to bits with my three bakes. 

Each letterbox sized box contained a detailed recipe card, ingredient and allergy information and all of the dry ingredients needed. Each ingredient is clearly labelled and weighed out already - making the baking process super-simple! You don't even need to own your own brownie tin...each pack comes with a foil backed baking parchment sheet, which is pre-folded to make your own one use baking tin - how clever! 

My three kits contained the ingredients to make:

Month 1: Classic chocolate brownies
Month 2: White chocolate blondies
Month 3: Caramel centre chocolate brownies

The letterbox sized packaging is so clever, and I was really impressed with the overall look and design of each kit - a very well thought out concept indeed... 


Brownie baking subscription kit from If I Knew You Were Coming
Exciting! My first brownie baking subscription box... 

recipe card from IF I KNEW YOU WERE COMING
Recipe card

brownie recipe from If I Knew You Were Coming
Method

Ingredients and allergens If I Knew You Were Coming
Ingredients and allergens info

Packaging for If I Knew You Were Coming
Super pretty packaging! 

ingredients for brownie baking kit subscription
Dry ingredients

I was really impressed with the quality of the dry ingredients provided - it worried me that perhaps cheap ingredients might be used, and as an avid home baker myself, I know only too well what using cheap, low-grade ingredients can do to a bake, especially chocolate based bakes. However, the ingredients provided by If I Knew You Were Coming were very good quality: Cadburys chocolate was provided for the classic chocolate brownies for example. This resulted in a top quality tasting bake each time I used a kit. 

dry ingredients for chocolate brownies - Cadbury
Great quality dry ingredients... Mmmm Cadburys!

The only changes I would make to the kit boxes if I could would be to include nutritional information for each bake. I had to work it out manually using the My Fitness Pal app on my phone, and it would of course been much easier to have this information to hand. 

The only other change I'd make to the kit is to reduce the tin size slightly, as I prefer a thicker, denser brownie. For my first kit (the classic chocolate brownie) I used the paper/foil fold out 'tin' provided, and the brownies were a little on the thin side for my personal taste, but did make 16 squares as stated on the recipe card. 

fold out brownie tin
Fold-out brownie tin - genius! 

The next time I baked I used a half sized tin and was much happier with the final bake - it did need longer in the oven, but I just adjusted this as necessary. This made a thicker brownie, which I managed to cut into 12 smaller bite-sized pieces for a family buffet. 

baking brownies in half the tin
Using a half size brownie tin for smaller but deeper brownies. 

I cannot fault these boxes on taste though - each creation was truly delicious, and each batch of brownies was happily and greedily gobbled up by my friends and family. 


Brownie baking kit subscription
Top: White chocolate blondies Bottom: Caramel centre chocolate brownies

Brownie baking kit subscription
Top: Classic Chocolate Brownies Bottom: Caramel Centre Chocolate Brownies. 

The caramel centre chocolate brownies were my absolute favourite - the ultimate gooey uber-treat, they were unctuous and totally delicious, they didn't last five minutes at a family BBQ, especially because I served them with my homemade no-churn ice cream! Yum! 

These boxes would be really easy to make with children too - so they would be a fab gift for a baking-mad little one...using these kits would be the perfect summer holiday/weekend activity! 

It would also make a great gift for anyone new to baking who needs their hand holding a little bit, or for someone who is notoriously bad at baking but wants to learn - these boxes are pretty foolproof, I promise! 


WIN! WIN! WIN!

For your chance to WIN your very own 3 month baking subscription kit from If I Knew You Were Coming, then just enter via the Gleam app below - GOOD LUCK everyone and happy baking! 

WIN a 3 month baking kit from IF I KNEW YOU WERE COMING

Have you ever tried a baking subscription kit before? What did you think of it? I'd love to know. 

Mrs B 

xxx
SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

Friday, 8 July 2016

10 Ways to Stay Sane with a Newborn & Toddler

^^ Pin this for later ^^

So... I'm one month into this 'being a parent of two' thing, and so far so good ... it's blooming hard work, I'm being pulled in what feels like a million directions, I'm tired and feel like I've aged about 4 years in 4 weeks (!) but we're happy, healthy and my family is complete. 


Connie Scarlett Bishop
Baby Connie

Lucky mumma - Lucy Bishop with her two children
What a lucky Mumma! 

Finding the time to do anything other than feed the kids, change their nappies, play with them, bath them, sterilise bottles and soothe Connie when she's irritable hasn't been easy - but this working Mumma has had to find ways to claw back some time to get the essentials done (paid work, housework, cooking the family meals). 

The main thing I've learnt is to ensure you have a strong and secure network of people around you - they will be the most incredible source of strength and advice, reassurance and help in those first weeks and months of parenthood. It is really apparent to me how lucky I am in times of need when the wonderful people around me all muck in to support me and ultimately make my life easier. 

It's a real karma moment - I hope that I am good person, and I think I work pretty hard at being a good friend and family member to the people I love, I try to be thoughtful, supportive and kind, and so in turn, my friends and family repay the favour during my time of need. Pay it forward, if you will. I've actually been so overwhelmed by all the love and kindness my little family has been shown in the past month - we have received 46 cards and counting (!), so many stunning gifts from visitors, as well as practical help from them too. 


new baby girl cards
Just a few of the beautiful cards we've been sent to celebrate Connie's arrival #lucky 

In this post I want to share some advice, tips, tricks for coping with a newborn and a toddler, and talk about some of the most useful/thoughtful gifts we've received during the last month - I hope this little guide will prove useful and reassuring to new-parents, and might even provide some inspiration for those wanting to help a friend/family member with a new addition. 

1. My first piece of advice is don't be too proud to accept offers of help. 

Whether it be someone offering to unload the dishwasher, hang out some wet washing, or pick you up some groceries. Give yourself a break and allow others to wait on you a little for a change, if you're anything like me (control freak, hostess) it will be hard to relinquish control and allow others to step in to do your jobs, but honestly, just let them - it removes jobs from your never ending to-do list, frees up your time so you can concentrate on the kids, and makes the friend/family member feel good because they've been able to do something truly useful - win/win! 

2. Cbeebies/Disney DVDs are your new best friend. So are biscuits. 

A toddler can be easily distracted/entertained with Cbeebies/a DVD and/or biscuits - this winning combo is super useful when you have a newborn to feed/change/cuddle, washing to hang out, or you're simply in need of ten minutes "peace" to regain some inner calm. 


Disney DVD and biscuit parenting
A biscuit and a Disney DVD to keep Bert amused while I change and feed Connie!

3. A thermos mug will be the best thing anyone could ever buy you. 

My lovely friend Emma (from Life According to Mrs Shilts) sent me a thermos flask and box of yummy biscuits shortly after Connie arrived, and it's been a blooming godsend! After Liam went back to work following his paternity leave I was left juggling both kiddos on my own, and spent the first few days boiling the kettle 50 times a day and never actually making a cup. Then the thermos gift arrived and voila - don't underestimate how good a hot cup of tea is when you're stressed and trying to juggle two kids! 


thermos flask and biscuits - staple gift for new parent


4. Book a dinner date with your other half in the first month.

One of the things I'm a big advocate of when becoming a parent is still retaining your 'you-ness' - so many of my mum friends talk about losing their identity and feeling like 'just a mummy' after having their first child. So, after having Bert, I was super-determined to ensure I found the time to still be 'me' - to enjoy my hobbies, time with my friends without the children, and very importantly time with my husband to just be ourselves, not 'mum and dad'. 

We achieved this with regular date nights (dinner, a trip to the cinema etc) which did us as a couple the world of good. Ultimately, you spend the whole time talking about the kids, but it's vital time for you to relax and reconnect after all the craziness that having a newborn brings with it. 

I found that the sooner you can arrange a date night after baby's arrival, the better. If you bite the bullet and head out without the kiddies sooner rather than later you'll realise that leaving them for a few hours doesn't make you a bad mum and dad. In fact, it makes you a happier parent...which in turn makes for happy children! Be reassured that the kids will be fine with your trusted babysitter (thanks grandparents!) and you'll love getting dressed up (or not!) and feeling like a proper grown up again. 


Mr & Mrs Bishop at The Cinnamon Club
Liam and I at dinner in London when Connie was 2 weeks old. 

5. Book a night away in a hotel at some point in the first six months. 

We did this shortly after Bert's arrival, and we already have our first night away booked following Connie's arrival, for mid-august and I can't wait! You'll be amazed what just one night in a hotel without children can do to revitalise the parents of young children. 

Keep at bay any wild ideas about swinging each other from the chandeliers, in all honesty you'll most likely just want to consume way too much food and wine, watch a boxset in comfy pjs and have a LOOOONG un-interupted sleep, followed by waking to a proper hot cooked breakfast which you can eat at your leisure (rather than a cold piece of toast eaten one handed while you rock the baby and watch Cbeebies with your toddler! #mumlife). 

It doesn't sound like much, but it will be blissful, trust me. 

You don't even have to go very far away or spend much money - in fact, the closer to home you stay the better - you'll save on travel costs, and you'll get more time to chill as you won't waste time travelling. 

Remember, this isn't about seeing a new city or exploring the sites, it is about proper R&R time, so whether you travel 10 miles or 100 it really doesn't matter. I found these top tips on comparing hotels really useful when trying to book the perfect escape for Liam and I. I hope they'll be useful to you too. Having used these tips I managed to secure hubby and I a double room in a lovely golf club hotel with breakfast included for just £50! Billy bargain! 

6. The most useful thing anyone can do for you in the first few weeks is to bring round food, especially homemade ready-to-eat/quick to cook dinners. 

We've been so lucky following Connie's arrival - my amazing family and friends have all rallied round to support us and ensure we're all being looked after. Of course, we've been showered with beautiful, thoughtful cards, and some stunning gifts - from baby clothes to toys, treats for Liam and I, and little gifts for Bert. But some of the most useful things people have done for us have been food-related. 

My wonderful Mother in Law filled my freezer with homemade cottage pies and shepherds pies - she made them from scratch in foil trays, and they were an absolute god-send in those first two weeks, when cooking was quite frankly out of the question. Yes, you can always order a takeaway or six (!) but for me I know that eating fresh, homemade, healthy food will always make me feel so much better - and I know how vital it is to stay properly nourished post-natally to help heal & recover properly. 


homemade shepherd pie ready to reheat
Thanks to my Mother in Law for prepping us homemade ready-meals! 

My wonderful friend Sarah (from Sarah Kate Makes) turned up to visit us shortly after Connie's arrival laden with beautiful gifts for Connie and Bert as well as a care-package for Liam and I which included a beautiful homemade spinach and lentil soup (so healthy and nourishing), a homemade loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread (my fave!) and a homemade lemon cake! 


spinach and lentil soup with cumin
The most delicious green soup - spinach and lentil with cumin, it was divine, comforting and so nourishing!

When Connie was one week old my great and super-thoughtful friend Janet (from Kitchen Table Sewing) dropped off the most glorious tin full of home-baked raspberry cheesecake chocolate brownies...the perfect treat for our many visitors and a super-indulgent treat for us all to enjoy together. 


raspberry cheesecake brownies
#cakeforbreakfast - a must for all new parents! 

My besties Danni and Charlie bought Liam and I the most indulgent treat box from Hotel Chocolat (our absolute favourite treat shop) - and we throughly enjoyed working our way through the scrumptious chocolately delights after long, hard days. We finished the whole box in just 4 sittings...oops! 

All this food-related kindness was just so appreciated and made our lives infinitely easier in those first weeks at home. It also meant I could spoil visitors with yummy treats without having to bake them myself, and I could spend more time with my lovely family rather than being stuck in the kitchen. 

7. Ensure you keep your Kindle/paperback, tv remote, phone, drink and snacks within easy reach at all times. 

This may seem obvious, but it wasn't to me when I had my first child, and I found myself stuck holding a sleeping newborn, not wanting to move in fear of waking them, with my phone/tv remote and hot tea on the other side of the room! So frustrating! 

Now I ensure my kindle, tv remotes, phone and glass of water are always on the table next to the sofa where I sit when feeding Connie. I've even heard of some parents having a little bag packed with all the essentials that they take around the house with them, or position right by the sofa within easy reach - so that you have entertainment and supplies at your fingertips when you need them. 


essentials to have on hand when feeding a newborn
All the essentials on hand...

8. Dry shampoo and face wipes will become your beauty staples, and thats okay. 

Remember those blissful hot baths you used to run - full of bubbles and Lush bath bombs, with burning scented candles and a glass of wine resting on the side of the bath? Well swap that for a 3 minute speed-shower with a baby in a bouncy chair watching you, or a sink-wash old fashioned stylie with a flannel and everything (hello 90's childhood!)...there'll be some days when you won't even find time for a sink-wash - and so a quick face wipe and spray of dry shampoo will have to do. Be reassured that it's a totally normal part of being a new parent, and you're not alone...It's currently 11:30 am and I'm still in my pj's and haven't brushed my hair or teeth yet...

9. MAKE time each day to do something just for you - something indulgent, even if it's only for twenty minutes. 

Maybe it's watching an episode of your favourite soap, going for a run, doing some yoga/meditation, reading a chapter of your book, crafting, painting your nails, watching a vlog, or chatting to your best mate on the phone. Whatever you choose, do not feel guilty for having some you-time. You might build the you-time into your routine so that it falls during nap time, or maybe you'll take twenty minutes when your husband/partner gets in from work, maybe you'll decide to get up twenty minutes earlier each day to start the day in peace with something just for you, or perhaps it will have to wait until the kid(s) are in bed but whatever time of day you choose just make sure you take a breath and enjoy it. 

10. Read 'The Fourth Trimester' magazine. 

My gorgeous friend Amy bought me a copy of 'The Fourth Trimester' magazine shortly after Connie's arrival, and it was just the most spot-on gift. This bi-yearly publication is not only beautiful, but a must-read for all new parents. Each issue is full of articles written by real parents, sharing the truth behind parenting and all that it brings. I have laughed, nodded along and cried all the way through reading it, and will absolutely pass on my copy to other new-mum friends now that I've read it from cover to cover. An especially great gift for those who don't have a strong support-network around them - reading this magazine is the equivalent of having a good natter with your best mate, or calling your mum for advice...! 


The Fourth Trimester Magazine, Issue 2
A must-read for all new parents! 

What advice would you give to parents of a newborn? Have I missed anything?

Mrs B

xxx
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