run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Monday 23 May 2016

17 baby breakfast ideas

There's a 3D grey blob on our kitchen wall and it's going to be there forever. Turns out flung Weetabix + wall = permanent grainy lump which adds a little something extra to your home decor. It also inspired this post: because tiny man is a fantastic eater, but clearly being served Weetabix every day for months on end is enough to send anyone into a little flick-the-food-session whose effects I didn't notice for a week.

Hence the new decor - and this post on 17 baby breakfast ideas if you, too, want to mix up the first meal of the day (in a super-simple/made-in-advance way: because who can be bothered proper cooking before 8am?)

1) Sugar-free apple and banana bread pudding

2) Bircher muesli: soak oats in apple puree and yogurt, stir in a grated apple and chopped ripe pair, and a handful of raisins - leave overnight. 2) Toast soldiers with mashed banana

3) Frozen yogurt and fruit bites: these are amazing for hot sunny mornings where you're breakfasting al fresco (and pretending you're on holiday)

4) Oaty baby breakfast bars

5) Small pieces of bagel + peanut butter

6) Sweet potato muffins (these freeze really well)

7) Porridge with apple and pear

8) Sugar-free blueberry muffins (Tesco sell great £2 packs of frozen berries which I always use for baking)

9) Go med-style: pitta bread with little squares of tomato, skin-less cucumber and hummus

10) Hard-boiled egg or scrambled egg and toast soldiers, plus fruit

11) Pancakes - I add mashed banana to the mix so they're even tastier, but you can make plain and top with peanut butter, fruit puree, etc.

12) Or... easy peasy two-ingredient banana pancakes 

13) Go Mexican-style: Scrambled eggs, avocado pieces, and black beans

15) Banana and peanut butter tortillas: spread peanut butter in a small wholewheat tortilla, chop banana up small and lay it out on top, then roll up the tortilla, and cut into little squares

16) Cottage cheese with slices of fruit

17)  Porridge. 'Cos baby breakfast ideas wouldn't be complete without it.

Thursday 19 May 2016

If you've a crafty bone in your body...

Then this machine will change your life. Big talk, sure, especially when you're staring at a white box that looks a whole lot like a plastic printer, and no Inkjet malarky has yet come close to changing anyone's life. But bear with me...

I first came across the Cricut Air Explore at a Hobbycraft press show. Among all the glitter and bright colours elsewhere, it was sitting quietly in a corner, components diligently moving up and down inside its belly. 

I squinted for a closer look, mainly because my sling-bound tiny man seemed keen to find out what the (very quiet) noise was. And then I realised this little machine was laser-like cutting out the most precise pattern, in seconds. 
I am working my way up to this..

When the Cricut guys kindly let me borrow one of their newest models, the Air, something else quickly struck me: what was I doing dropping £40 on papercut initials and prints for weddings and new babies on Not on the High Street et al? (Search #cricutforbaby on Pinterest for more inspo..)

You can buy this machine for around £200 (yes, it's a lot but make 100 easy birthday cards with it and you've made your money back) and it'll cut out as many designs as you want, whilst you're drinking tea.

All you do is use the Cricut website or app (I do it with my iPad and it's so simple); type out a word you'd like cut out, or use one of the 1000s of images and designs they have (some free, most, irritatingly, costing around £4 each, although that's for perennial use), and then two clicks later, the machine is firing up - cutting out insanely accurate words and pictures in as long as it takes me to get out the scissors and cut a single wonky-but-was-meant-to-be-straight-line. 

If you insert thick paper or card, it cuts into that. Insert special sticky back transfer paper, and you can make designs to iron on to T-shirts (I made a name t-shirt for tiny man's birthday, and a matching one for his dad's a few days later.) Insert vinyl, and you can make stickers to put anywhere you like.. 

Cricut + transfer = DIY baby vest
Make a transfer at 1am, have a birthday baby vest at 1.10am.. then GO TO BED silly mummy!
Waaaay better than boring milestone cards
You know that annoying teacher-y phrase 'the only thing you're limited by is your imagination?' That's actually true here. I swiftly began making bunting for tiny man's birthday, and pro-looking personalised birthday cards for all my friends, which looked like I paid £5-a-pop in Paperchase but had actually taken about nine seconds on my Cricut (DON'T TELL...). 

A little research revealed these things are called die-cutters and there are a few brands out there. Hard-core crafters have made a zillion reviews comparing the intricacies of some brands vs others; sorry, but I've just tried this one and fallen in love.

Other good things? There's a free chat facility so if you get stuck, you can go online (I did so at 2am once: got addicted to this thing..) you can instantly speak to a real person, for free (Thanks Arjun, the random very helpful guy who I've sent SOS's to three times) - he's helped me doing multi-layer cuts, and sent over lots of YouTube tutorial ideas too. 

The machine is a slim, pretty good-looking box that won't take over your house. It's Bluetooth-enabled so you don't need to wrestle with cables, for we all know once a baby spots a wire, an ownership battle breaks out immediately. 
Easy birthday decorations (make the design, then 'print' 10 in 2 minutes)
My first Cricut project (oops I haven't pushed all the letters out yet..)
Cricut enters the kitchen arena with jar labelling
And if you're wondering why I'm blogging about a crafty thing on a baby blog, it's because I reckon this is an amazing parental investment: years of birthday decorations, home-made dressing up ideas, DIY personalised Ts, cards, signs, and arts-and-crafts projects are at easy reach. 

It's also great for making baby books or scrapbooks - instead of spending £££ on embellishments and cut-out hearts etc, you can make your own super really easily.

I'm the kind of person who has loads of creative ideas but am about as accurate as a hippo when given scissors or a paint brush: if you are, too, you'll love the Cricut's ability to make the randomest creative idea look pro. Just don't tell anyone my secret. 

* Run Out of Womb was loaned a Cricut Air for review; rest assured we only rave about what we really love.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Baby friendly-travel review: Stoke Park

Parental questions-to-which-the-answer-is-always-'no', number one: "Do you want a wake-up call?" at a hotel check-in desk.

My stock response: 'No, thanks, I bought a pretty loud one with me."

Said alarm clock was wrapped around me like a koala bear this weekend when we checked in to Stoke Park hotel and country club

Hotel getaways might be different with a baby in tow - this particular alarm clock went off at 5am both mornings - but they're still amazing. 

Especially when 'morning' means an eight-course fresh berry and croissant-stuffed breakfast, followed by a walk around verdant grounds; when, at lunch, someone else has whipped up a healthy baby meal for you, and then clears up the highchair's splattered surroundings afterwards. 

Then there's the pool dips, and the spa visits; the happiness as we watched tiny man exploring and 'quacking' at a family of ducks, and then the foodie fun as he slept in his buggy whilst we enjoyed an outstanding amuse bouche-packed dinner. 

Stoke Park is a family-friendly hotel, but packed with luxury touches and so spacious that you're never over-run by other people's kids. It's swish but not stuffy; you're in an amazing mansion but it kinda feels like your home for the weekend.
It's also only a 40-minute drive from NW London, and down the road from Heathrow. Still, the long driveway winds around the hotel's acres of Teletubby-green golf course and Capability Brown-designed formal gardens, so you feel like you're in distant, beautiful countryside. 

There are two buildings: the mansion - which took three decades to build when the Penn family, of Pennsylvania fame, did so in 1790 - and the modern Pop Art-filled Pavilion site, which houses the spa, a humungous gym with all the (free) spinning and hot yoga classes that a yummier mummy than I could want, a casual Italian restaurant and sleek rooms. 

Our spacious bedroom was packed with New York-style design features that luckily amazed its one-year-old occupant: a mirrored chest of drawers, a wicker basket - he happily explored for hours. We were celebrating my birthday, and Stoke Park had left an amazing box of cupcakes, macarons, jams and more in the room, which was a lovely touch. The bathroom housed a tiny man-sized towel, rubber ducks and bath toys ready and waiting for play, plus organic Creatures toiletries that smelt lush.

Strolling after breakfast
Brand-new playground
Family outing in the grounds
We were lucky with sunny weather, and Stoke Park has a lot of places to laze and explore: shady loungers, outdoor sofas, a brand-new wooden playground, a heritage walk (including the elegy-famous country churchyard that inspired Thomas Gray) and crunchy gravel paths. 

For older kids, and parents, there are top-notch hard- and grass tennis courts, plus bikes to borrow; for those wanting time-out, there's also a creche where you can drop off 0-eight year-olds for £8.25/hour, and a games room with cuddly toys, consoles, TVs, a pool table and air hockey.
But our favourite places were the grounds and the spa. Although kids can't swim all day, every day, there are generous splash times (around 9.30 til 11 and 3pm til 5.30pm). I enjoyed a dreamy two hours in the spa, including a Thalgo mini facial and massage (£90 for 55 minutes) that was so relaxing I now dream of it whenever I'm trying to go back to sleep after a night feed. 

The spa has pots of Eastern teas and fruits and very happy fish swimming around a huge aquarium, whilst the "deep relaxation room" - dark, warm, velvetty, there are duvets and mags and pillows - was so cosy I didn't want to leave. 

Oh - and the food. Some country clubs rely on their facilities - like the 27-hole golf course and fantastic tennis courts here - and let food take second place. But the Humphrey's fine dining menu was seriously memorable. Kids aren't allowed in this restaurant for dinner (although there are two others on-site to choose from), but we were served up the verbose Humphrey's menu in the equally elegant Orangery restaurant next door. 

Tiny man dozed next to us in his buggy (the thoughtful waiters even whispered our order to make sure he stayed snoozing), whilst we relaxed with martinis and falling-off-the-bone beef, light chicken consomm√©, tiny croque monsieurs, tuna carpaccio, then the most amazing chocolate box for dessert. 

It's such a treat to be able to enjoy a special dinner without shelling out £100s for a babysitter - and that's just one nice part about a weekend getaway. After dinner, we pushed the gently-snoring buggy along to bed, requesting late check-out en-route as Sunday had come round too soon and we didn't want to leave, yet. We made the most of our extra time with another swim, more food, and a stroll through the area's heritage walk through gorgeous gardens and via the churchyard made famous by Thomas Grey's Elegy. Lots to see, lots of ways to relax - Stoke Park is a perfect baby-friendly break.

* Run Out of Womb stayed at Stoke Park for two nights, one of which was a complimentary review stay. Rest assured, we're seriously gobby and only rave when something's worthy.

Friday 13 May 2016

Space Cot: the rocket-powered super-fast travel cot

A few months back I introduced you to the Space Cot - a travel cot made by dad/rocket scientists who couldn't believe how complicated it was to build an on-the-move baby bed. So they made their own. 

It all sounded very promising - the claim that it would fold and unfold in 3 seconds, weigh 6kg, fold away small, and pop into a carry-bag. But all baby companies make such claims. 

And some things I've bought (I'm looking at YOU, baby beach tent) have never fitted in their container, ever again. But now I've tried out the Space Cot. And it really is that easy to open and close. 

Here I am doing it without reading any instructions, in .. OK more than three seconds but not much more. If you can ignore my socks in this video, you're going to be wowed by this travel cot pop-up-and-sleep mechanism. And you're gonna love it even more when you're knackered, arrive at a holiday pad super-late, have a kid who's super grumpy, and don't want to grapple with buttons and gizmos and a 50kg travel cot (this one weighs the same as a three-month-old baby). 

So here goes:

* This post was written in collaboration with Space Cot, but rest assured Run Out of Womb is seriously gobby and would never rave about anything unless it's rave-worthy.

Thursday 12 May 2016

A look inside our nursery

One of the most exciting things about moving into our new house was making a nursery for tiny man. We moved out of our flat - the place he came home to after being born - when he was about five months' old, so he'd never slept in his own room before. This was our chance to make a lovely place for tiny man to play, be changed, store all of his toys and clothes - oh, and, hopefully sleep through the night one day too...

Only one problem: the budget. Unlike the multi-gazillion-pound monochrome nurseries I oggled over on Instagram, we'd just moved house so.... the budget wasn't big..

Here's what we did - a mixture of lovely-looking, practical and functional nursery furniture, Ikea hacks and DIY accessories. 
First up, storage. We needed a big cupboard to fill with tiny man's clothes, bedding, nappies, shoes, blankets, and more. But so many that I saw online were so dark and overbearing that they'd suck the light out of a room. Then we found Mothercare's Lulworth wardrobe - it's white and oak effect, has loads of space, but light and airy too. It has plenty of hanging space, a shelf, and two drawers, and there's a matching unit and cot if you're looking for those. Bonus points: the store's furniture delivery was so easy (nice time slots, called 20 minutes' before arrival..) Sometimes that makes a big difference!

On the walls, my mum embroidered tiny man this amazing sampler - available from Jolly Red - with his birth date and name. We added a string of photos underneath - it's just above the changing mat so the pics are a useful distraction during the more, uh, boisterous nappy changes. The hot air balloon wall stickers are from Mamas & Papas and I love that they're so easily removable - this is the third wall I tried them on..

Elsewhere we've stocked up on lots of little (and reasonable) animal-themed accessories. I love the chevron elephant paper lampshade from KOKO at Not On the High Street and the elephant doorstop from Mothercare - it's from the Tusk range, which donates a percentage of proceeds to animal conservation. 
I did splurge on Anthropologie door knobs -  the zebras and elephants above. But whilst they look nice, they're always breaking - spinning around their screw, two have fallen off entirely, and not very safe. So I recommend buying from anywhere but there!

I totally love this twig branch shelf - also from Mothercare's Tusk range - which is just waiting to go up on the wall (not too high, so tiny man can grab books all day long.)
I put up these cardboard letters from Hobbycraft after a fun afternoon covering them in decoupage - and covered the boring Ikea Poang rocking chair, which I swear every parent in London has, with this gorgeous Etsy creation - the maker has loads of slip-covers for Ikea stalwarts. 
Lastly, our changing table is an old repurposed Ikea dresser - but to jazz up its boringness, we added these gorgeous Sass & Belle (amazing place for accessories) chevron knobs in three different colours. 

What have you done with your babies' nurseries? Please share below!

Thanks to Mothercare, Sass & Belle and Not On the High Street for sending nursery review items. Rest assured we're seriously gobby and only rave about things we love.

Thursday 5 May 2016

That's not my annoying bedtime book...

Back in the day, I'd read Malory and Chaucer and Roth and they'd make me think, hard, and I'd write uni essays on them which would keep me up all night. 

Now, I read The Caterpillar One and The Zoo One and The Rabbit One and they keep me up all night because of their tough intellectual rigour. OK, no, their audience of one keeps me up at night - oh wait, is he too lying in his cot thinking these thoughts about annoying bedtime books?

1. Guess How Much I Love You

This is a lovely book. With a lovely sentiment. Which I'd love to love to read. 

But there's only so many times I can read 'little nutbrown hare' and 'big nutbrown hare' without sounding like I've just downed a chilled bottle of chardonnay and am tripping over my words like Lego bricks in the hall. 

2. The Runaway Bunny
Jeez, isn't the little bunny even allowed a gap year?

3. The Rainbow Fish

Aka, if you want to make friends, just buy their love with a whole lot of presents. 

Or you could try being nice, etc...

4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. 
Just joking I heart this one. But I do wonder... where does he find all that nice freely-available fruit and cake? Is he basically slithering around Tesco? Should I be looking for caterpillar holes in my cake as well as my apples purchased from Tesco? Is he the reason for ALL the holes in my Swiss cheese? (Side note: someone has written a 'plot summary' for this book. F'real.)

5. Dear Zoo

I'm not one for major political correctness.. But all the animals who are just 'sent back' to the zoo... How do adopted kid-readers feel? How is this a good moral message for children who want a pet? Or am I over-thinking this?

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