SW Breakfast: Overnight Oats, Tried and Tested

SW Breakfast: Overnight Oats, Tried and Tested

Overnight oats seem to be an “in thing” right now, which sure as hell means that I have never tried them seeing as the closest I get to “being in” is sitting “in” on a Saturday night “in” my pyjamas. However, if you have seen my post ‘SW Breakfast: Baked Oats, Tried and Tested’ then you will know that I’m having a bit of an issue with eating a decent breakfast, and so I’m going to give overnight oats a try, not because I’m hip and trendy but because I need to try something.

As any working parent knows, mornings are bonkers. There is simply never enough time. Our current situation is that we are a family of four: mum (that’s me!), dad, Evie our 2 year old, and George our 3 month old. I am on maternity leave with George, breastfeeding, and still up through the night on average 2 to 3 times (*cough cough, 5 or 6 times!!) to feed him. Damon is working full time, travelling across the North West and beyond on call out as a field service engineer. And Evie goes to nursery three days a week, the other two she is at home with her brother and I.

So mornings are pretty manic and at their most chaotic on the days when Evie is at home with me too. Try showering and getting dressed with a toddler pulling everything out of the drawers, and a baby that seems to demand an endless supply of milk. It’s like they specifically wait for me to be at my most vulnerable before they start acting like crazy people!

It’s on these days that something like overnight oats feels significantly more attractive to me. Prepare them the night before? Yes please! Saves me having to eat a bowl of bran flakes for breakfast yet again? Give it to me! Will fill me up for more than 5 minutes? Hell yes! I have traditionally been of the belief that oats should be eaten nice and warm and sweet in the form of porridge, and overnight oats in comparison looks kind of like sludgey goo, but let’s be honest, nice warm porridge is pure luxury in a house with young kids so lets just embrace the inevitable and go for cold.

Slimming world’s overnight oats recipe is as follows:

Ingredients

  • 40g porridge oats
  • 200g natural low fat yoghurt
  • mixed blueberries, strawberries and raspberries

Layer it up, cover, put in the fridge overnight, and then eat in the morning. Easy. Here’s my first attempt:

Overnight Oats
Overnight Oats following Slimming World’s original recipe

At first glance, it looks ok, and I popped this spoon in my mouth hoping it would also taste ok…nice even! But looks can be deceiving. Is claggy a word? I think it is, not of the Oxford English Dictionary kind, but more dialectal which means some of you may not recognise it. But it is the best word I can think of to describe what overnight oats tastes like. They tasted claggy. Thick, gloopy, sticky, like it was really bloody hard work to chew/suck and swallow them. Maybe this is the point, maybe your jaw burns a hundred calories for every mouthful consumed?!

Claggy Oats
Once stirred through the overnight oats turned into a claggy mess!

So, off to Instagram I went asking for some advice from fellow Slimming Worlders on how to make overnight oats more palatable, and I got some great advice from someone I decided to try for round two.

New overnight oats recipe:

  • 40g oats
  • 4 tbsp Natural yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp Agave syrup (or more to taste)
  • all the berries, as before

And here is the result:

Overnight Oats round 2
Overnight oats round 2 with less yoghurt and more milk to make them tastier…I had high hopes

Looks good right? All those berries, the gorgeous little jar they are displayed in, the morning sun coming through the window. What a shame then that they still tasted like wallpaper paste! I am extremely grateful to the kind girl who gave me the tip to swap out some yoghurt for milk, and yes this did actually make them taste slightly less claggy, but still pretty eurgh! I seem to be proving myself right that porridge should be eaten nice and hot and drizzled with honey and an extra splash of cold milk for some looseness and contrast.

So, since then I have also tried swapping out the natural yoghurt for some Raspberry and Cranberry flavour Muller Light which is looser in consistency than natural yoghurt and also less bitter to the taste. I’ve not photographed it for what is the point, it all looks the same. And it sort of tasted the same too…OK it was marginally better again because slightly less claggy and slightly sweeter, but still not great. Ultimately, off all options I would recommend this latter version using a pre-sweetened low fat yoghurt like a Muller Light. However, for this girl, overnight oats are indeed a fad, an “in” thing that I definitely cannot get “in” to.

Ciao bellas.

SW Breakfast: Baked Oats, tried and tested

SW Breakfast: Baked Oats, tried and tested

I hate breakfast! In fact, I take that back. I don’t hate breakfast if I’m in some schmancy hotel with an epic buffet where I can have a 5 course meal and still not be bored…cereal, yoghurt, fruit, waffles, bacon, eggs, pancakes, croissants, toast, jam…doesn’t that all sound absolutely fantastic!? What a terrible bloody shame then that:

a) I not only don’t live in but also never get to go to schmancy hotels

b) I have 2 kids who would disallow me from enjoying said 5 course breakfast, even if I did live in a schmancy hotel, and

c) I am far too rotund to enjoy a 5 course breakfast every morning…or any morning for that matter!

So, I come back to my original statement…I hate breakfast. For months since I had George I have been having a bowl of bran flakes for brekkie. It’s fast, it’s easy, and that fibre can work wonders for a post partum digestive tract (TMI! But you know it’s true!). But not only is a bowl of bran flakes every morning so very boring, it’s also not filling…an hour or two later and I’m cramming a peanut butter sandwich down my throat faster than you can say ‘500 calories’.

But what’s the alternative? Bread is like devil food for anybody trying to lose weight, plus it only tastes good with lashings of butter melting all over it (mmmmm). Clearly I can’t be tucking in to a fry up every morning. And, to make it all a bit more complex I cannot cope with soft eggs…just the thought makes bile rise in my mouth! So what’s left?

In truth, there’s no diet on the planet that suits me as far as breakfast is concerned, but I think I am finding that slimming world is the best of a bad bunch…sorry SW, that’s not much of a compliment for your method, but let’s just blame me and my aversion to eggs if you want given most of your breakfast recipes are egg-based.

So, speaking of egg-based recipes, I thought I would give this one a try first: www.slimmingworld.co.uk/recipes/baked-oats
Ingredients

  • 40g Oats (HEB)
  • 1 tsp sweetener
  • 1 small egg
  • 1/2 pot mullerlight vanilla yoghurt
  • few drops of vanilla essence
  • 100g raspberries

So, I made it and my goodness doesn’t it look damned delicious?!

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Slimming world baked oats

But, it wasn’t totally edible. I think with just a couple of tiny tweaks though it will be perfect. So, next time I will be trying these small variations.

Firstly, rather than 1 small egg, just go straight for a large one. The mixture was a bit dry and made me want to down a glass of water, which coming to think of it, may not be such a bad thing after all given that water is good for you and fills you up. But nevertheless, a large egg I would suggest. Who even buys small eggs anyway? What a waste of grocery budget!

Secondly, don’t put the raspberries in. Raspberries can be lovely and sweet or just a bit tart and mine were a bit tart making the whole thing taste just a bit offputting. If I had the raspberries on the side with the strawberries however I think it would have been much better.

Third, don’t bake it for the 35 minutes Slimming World recommend. Even a fat chicken breast cooks faster than that!! I’m going to try taking mine out at 25 minutes next time, as long as the top is a bit crusty and golden. I reckon judge it by its colour, not by the time that it’s been baking for.

Lastly, add in a bit more sweetener. Might as well make it taste kind of like bread and butter pudding if you can! 🙂 If you don’t do icky fake sweeteners than buy a nice natural one like Agave nectar or Natvia…they are more expensive but totally worth it for their non-carcinogenic properties.

So, there we go, my top tips for Baked Egg success. Now I just need to actually go and do it myself, practice what I preach so to speak. I do promise to share with you the outcome…at least then you will know if my top tips are worth following or if this whole post is just content filler and totally not worth reading! Lol! #keepingitreal
Edit – Baked Oats, Round Two

So, I followed my own advice and amended the recipe as outlaid above. The new ingredients list is:

  • 40g Oats (HEB)
  • 1.5 tsp sweetener
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 pot mullerlight vanilla yoghurt (Iused the one with little flakes of chocolate but I would like to point out this was a total fluke…I promise!)
  • few drops of vanilla essence
  • 100g raspberries and strawberries

I also used a slightly smaller dish, especially given the raspberries were not in the mixture which reduced the overall volume somewhat. Buuutttt, I forgot to reduce the cooking time because I was watching Netflix (sans the chill unfortunately) and clean forgot #priorities !!

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Basically I would recommend that you follow my recipe. The extra sweetener made the dish, and not including the raspberries in the bake but instead eating them cold on the side was much tastier. Is it as good as eating a 5 course buffet breakfast in a fancy hotel? Nope. But it fills a hole and offers a degree of variety over the standard Bran Flakes. Next time I will aim to make it a bit moister (oh, that word! It’s ever so unpopular) using some more yoghurt. And yes, I will probably deliberately get the vanilla with chocolate sprinkles this time!

Days out with a toddler: summer fun when solo parenting

Days out with a toddler: summer fun when solo parenting

I think the toddler years are tricky ones to manage when it comes to days out and activities. Toddlers need constant stimulation and things to do to help them grow and develop and to prevent them from becoming bored. However, long days and lack of routine can make them equally cranky and difficult. Throw in a bit of potty training, nap times, fussy eating and communication issues and it can be extremely daunting taking your 2 year old out for the day.

I am currently on maternity leave with my 2 year old and a newborn baby, and although I love my kids, I can’t bear the idea of being cooped up indoors with them all day. Even if the Great British weather breaks enough to let us play in the garden, which this year it mercifully has, I still get cabin fever and start climbing my own garden fence in an attempt to escape the monotony of constant “Mummy bounce, NOW! [on the trampoline]”, “NO! No nap time! [with supplementary screams and tears]”, and “Mummy, Peppa Pig on…Mummy, Duggee on…Mummy, Minion on…Now, Mummy, NOW!”.

Of course there are big day out places to go, like Alton Towers (who am I kidding, I actually mean CBeebies Land!), which should not be attempted without back up in the form of anther adult or two. Even a trip to the local swimming baths is too hard for me to manage with a toddler and a newborn without having another adult in tow to help me juggle them. So, what can I do with them both when I am alone on maternity leave while my other half is working? Well, I’ve discovered a few places in the nearby vicinity that I have been to and have thoroughly enjoyed. Although these are near where I live, don’t be disheartened if you are at the other end of the country as I am sure there would be something similar near where you are. What did we do before the days of Google, eh?!

Cholmondley Castle Gardens

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I’m no gardener, and I’m not a sightsee-er. Send me on a city break and I won’t mess around looking at local buildings, I will be online researching the best places to eat and drink (#priorities), but when I went to Cholmondley Castle Gardens I was blown away. I stumbled across the venue through the Facebook Events page as they were hosting a Teddy Bear’s Picnic in the grounds which I thought would be fun for Evie. It was, she really loved it, but so did I. Relaxing in the grounds of a picturesque building, and exploring gardens that are simply stunning was significantly more enjoyable than I imagined.

I packed up a picnic and blanket, popped George in the pram, stuck the potty in the pram basket and voila I was covered for all eventualities. Evie had only been potty trained for a week so it’s scary thinking of going out without a toilet on hand which is why having the pram to discreetly carry the potty for me was the perfect solution.

Cholmondley Castle Gardens, half way between Wrexham and Crewe, has the loveliest little tea room with home made cakes, Snugbury’s ice cream and an extensive lunch menu, so if the weather isn’t so nice there is still a solution for eating and drinking. Parking was a breeze and even on a day like the Sunday I was there with its glorious weather and an event on there was plenty of space for parking and lots of room for managing kids in and out of car seats. The Teddy Bear’s Picnic event was lovely…there were children’s entertainers including Disney character sing alongs, and a Punch and Judy show…Evie’s assessment was “full marks”. Mine was that it would have been lovely to see 2 small additions, firstly a children’s magic show or similar, and secondly a bouncy castle.

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Check out www.cheshiregardens.com for details on all of the gardens in the Cheshire county that you can take the family to. This website has information on the events that are run at these gardens, like the teddy bear’s picnic.

Woore Fruit Farm

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I went online and researched where Evie and I could go strawberry picking and that’s how I came across Woore Fruit Farm. When I got there I wasn’t quite sure I was in the right place until more and more cars started pulling up. I went on a Friday and we were one of the only families with kids there as mainly it was retired couples stocking up on punnets of berries for jam making.

The Farm has all kinds of fruits being grown so we will definitely head back later in the year for apples, as well as another strawberry haul in a few weeks. There is quite a lot of walking for little legs, but Evie managed it, even if we did have a mad dash to the toilet at one point when she decided she needed a wee while in the apple orchard (needless-to-say I had forgotten the potty, but at least there was a toilet with a kiddies stool in the farm building for us to use.)

Evie absolutely loved picking her strawberries, raspberries and tayberries, and I appreciated how patient the staff were when we returned with the piddliest amount of berries which made the free plastic tub they gave us to hold them in hardly worth their while.  But at least I can say with confidence that Evie really did pick all of her own berries! They have a little cafe on site with Snugbury’s ice cream, and prepicked punnets for buying alongside home made juices, cider and other vegetables grown on site. There is also a few garden toys and some chickens, ducks and turkeys in the grounds which delighted the little ones.

Woore fruit farm

I would recommend wearing the baby in a sling rather than pushing the pram which was a little awkward on the land. Also, check out their facebook page before going to ensure there are sufficient crops of berries for picking just in case there have been lots of visitors cleaning the plants out.

Wheelock Hall Farm

 

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Nestled between Crewe and Sandbach, this is another amazing location for a bright day. It doesn’t need to be sunny, or even particularly warm, to be enjoyed. Wheelock has such extensive facilities that Evie once spent a full day here with her Nana, an entire day!!

At Wheelock kids can feed the animals, or simply meet the animals which is what Evie is doing in this photo. There is a large outdoor playpark with all kinds of swings and roundabouts for varying ages. Kids can also explore the cornfields, ride on kiddie tractors, or take advantage of the large indoor soft play. There is a lovely cafe on site and a very big shop selling produce from the farm, locally sourced goods as well as gifts, homeware, stationary…the shop goes on forever with more and more treasure the further in you explore.

Wheelock Farm

Seasonally Wheelock Hall Farm offers additional activities such as pumpkin picking so I would recommend following their facebook page for information on their latest events.

Facebook Events

I was shocked to hear that Damon didn’t know the Facebook Events menu existed. I thought it was just a given that anyone who even occasionally uses Facebook knows it exists. I’m not on Facebook often, I’ve turned into an Instagram fiend as you know, however, I would definitely suggest you explore the Facebook events page regularly to see what’s on in your local area.

You can find the Events menu on the home page just after you log in. It is one of the menu options on the left hand side of your screen. Events can be filtered by theme, location or date and I promise you it will open up a world of possibilities for you and your family to make the most of any family time you have available.

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Bring in Spring, Part 1: Getting Organised

Bring in Spring, Part 1: Getting Organised

There are a hundred blog posts that could be written about all the different ways of organising things in your home, so for my ‘Bring in Spring’ seasonal feature, where should I start?! In my opinion, the utility room is where it all begins because how can you start to spring clean your home if the place from where it commences is in chaos?! Here I am going to focus on the ways you can organise your utility area to ensure it provides the perfect foundation from where you can manage your home’s spring cleaning. I understand that we are very lucky to have a utility room, however, all of the hacks and advice I list below are completely applicable to your kitchen, garage, or cupboard under the stairs too…anywhere that you keep your home’s utility items.

Get things off the floor

Twin Slot Storage System
B&Q Twin Slot System raises bulky equipment off the floor

How much space do clothes horses take up?! So much. Plus, if I had a pound for every time Evie had almost trapped her finger between the bars I would be a Mulberry handbag owner. We used to lean our clothes horses (yes plural, we have 2 for all of that family washing) against the radiator when they were not in use which was cluttered, messy, obstructed heat into the utility room, and tempted the little one to go play with them and try to pull herself up to a stand using them as leverage. So, I utilised space above the utility room sink to create a hanging solution for the clothes horses, it only cost a few pounds and was super easy to do.

I used the B&Q twinslot system (viewable here) for versatility. Plus, I wanted brackets that were white in colour so they would disappear into the wall rather than standing out like most metal and wood brackets would. It is possible to recreate this solution using something like a bike rack, but I found this nice white storage system the cleanest looking. Try this out for hanging the buggy, your bike, lawnmower, and other big equipment up and out of the way.

Utilise Dead Space

Ironing Board Bracket
The garage door opens against this wall but a slim wall mounted storage solution can make the space useable

The space behind doors that open against the wall can easily be forgotten about and underused. But in a family home all space is needed. This inexpensive iron and ironing board bracket I picked up on Amazon (Brabantia Ironing Board Hanger and Iron Store – Black). The iron holder is teflon coated to protect your wall from burn marks caused by a hot iron being replaced here shortly after use.

Another great way to make use of very narrow spaces like those behind doors is wall hooks. Behind the utility room door here I have used wood mounted rows of hooks which you can buy from lots of retail outlets…mine are a mixture of Amazon and BM Stores. I have used the hooks to hand the family’s jackets…but what about cooking aprons, tea towels, mops, sweeping brushes, feather dusters…all of the things that lie around in utility rooms creating more clutter. Use your narrow spaces and get things off of the floor, you would be amazed at how much more useful the space can become.

Hanging hooks everywhere

Kitchen Utensil Hanging Rail
Hanging rails are perfect for storing little things you don’t know what to do with

You know when you move house you always end up with those boxes of items that you just don’t know where to put so you procrastinate unpacking them for as long as possible? I’m talking batteries, string, spare buttons, shoe polish, stationary, light bulbs…all households have this problem. I can’t recommend kitchen utensil hanging rails enough for solving this problem. I have used them throughout the house for different things.

The rails I have used are from Amazon (click here) but are also available to buy from Ikea and Dunelm that I have seen and will cost between £5-£8 on average for a 50-60cm rail including the hooks. Pick up these white pots for only 50p from Ikea (click here) and you have an adaptable storage system for all kinds of little nuisances. In the utility room I store the items mentioned above and more, but in Evie’s playroom these rails display her artwork and have pots containing pencils and crayons. And in the kitchen I have a rail with kitchen utensils hanging.

Underneath your shelving

Shelf brackets
Use shelf brackets that themselves become a storage solution

Did you know that you can actually buy shelf brackets that themselves can be used to store items? These shelves were an amazing find from Wilko’s (click here). I have used some of the hooks that came with my kitchen utensil hanging rails to hang even more items from underneath my shelving, like this fluffy duster. This is particularly useful for items that get damp when using like towels and cloths, and especially if the shelving is hung above a radiator like they are in my utility room. Look for brackets that have hooks, curves and details on them.

Did you know you can also attach the kitchen hanging rails I mention above to the underside of shelves? This is what I did in my kitchen and is another way of squeezing every last inch of stage space out of your shelving systems.

Kitchen shelf storage
Hanging kitchen utensil rails from the underside of shelving brings another level of storage

Look Up

Ikea storage hacks
Use all the space, even up high. Your ceiling and above windows and doors can also be used for extra storage space.

Ceiling storage is a real possibility! Ikea hack solutions like this are not just great for hanging your socks up to dry, but think about it for things like storing tea towels, cloths and dusters. Even at my 5′ height I can easily reach this to bring it down from the curtain pole, but it can also be hung from a hook in the ceiling.

The next solution I would like to install is a pulley. A traditional item found in older homes, a pulley is a ceiling storage system used for hanging washing to dry or for storing pots and pans with an easy rope system access.

I have also just bought the Bittergurka storage system from Ikea (click here). My intention is to plant herbs in here and hang them in the kitchen, but this could also be a ceiling storage solution in smaller spaces for your cleaning fluids, washing powders etc, keeping them away form the reach of little hands.

Do you have any other ideas on how to organise your utility room? Leave me a comment below and let me know if you try any of these things out, it would be great to hear if they work for you.

Bedtime essentials for your baby: the 5 products you can’t do without

Bedtime essentials for your baby: the 5 products you can’t do without

Whether you are a new parent or well versed with lots of tiny humans to your name, there is no single rule on how to get your child into a good sleeping pattern. We all start at different ages, we all try different things, and I don’t think there is any one rule or system that is guaranteed to work for every child. However, what I do think is that there is no harm in sharing the top tips that have worked for us with our first in case one day they turn out to be useful for you too. I am no parenting expert, and maybe our second child will arrive and these things won’t work for him/her in the same way they did for Evie, we can only wait and see.

I am not going to outline here the whole bedtime routine that we use, instead I have decided to take a slightly different angle on this and discuss the products that we use instead. There are so many things out there to buy, and so many claim to be the biggest bestest cure for children with poor sleeping habits. But we have found that there are only a few essential items that we don’t travel without because they are what work best for us at bedtime. So, before you splurge and spend on lots of things that may not be any use, have a read at the below and see if any of these things could help first.

  1. A blackout blind/blackout curtains

    Blackout Blind
    Evie’s blackout blind is child safe and child friendly

I personally prefer a blind. As long as the rope is safely connected to the wall using an approved system then your child is safe from harm, however, blinds are significantly trickier for children to raise and lower compared to curtains which are fairly easy to open in comparison. So if your toddler is as inquisitive a little monkey as our Evie is, I would recommend a blind over curtains.

And a blackout blind really is a MUST. You know what it’s like when you wake up in the night because of some noise, or lights, or simply just to go to the toilet…once you’re too awake it’s almost impossible to get back to sleep. We have all heard of the detrimental effect the backlight on our phones have on us if we read them too late at night, and it’s no different for your child. Remember your little one is likely going to be sleeping during hours of the day that are not yet dark – especially when they are still having daytime naps, or during the summer months. Blocking out as much light as possible is imperative to ensure that your child is not over-stimulated and wakened by brightness. Shop Evie’s blackout blind here.

2. A bedtime story

Evie likes The Gruffalo. We have tried reading lots of different stories to her, and occasionally she mixes it up, but as a little creature of habit with most things in her life, The Gruffalo it is on most evenings. Now at the age of 23 months she is at the stage where she knows some of the words and reads it along with us in places. Not only is it lovely to see/hear her reading a story we have helped her to become familiar with, but The Gruffalo now signifies to her that it is in fact bed time because we normally only read her The Gruffalo at bedtime, she doesn’t read it at other points in the day. We have a sturdy cardboard version of the book (I think it’s called a board book), which is ideal for little fingers, I would recommend this kind of published version over a paper copy when they are young.

3. Mussi Cuski

Mussi Cuski Sweetie
Evie’s mussi cuski product that she has used as a bedtime comforter since birth

My best friend gifted us a comforter for Evie when she was born. I remember thinking it looked really weird, kind of like a colorful ghost, but it’s turned out to be our absolute favourite product for bedtime, to the point where we now have 2: one for all the time and one for emergencies when they other is in the wash, or lost, or left at nursery, etc.

Mussi Cuski is a bamboo muslin breathable comforter which makes it safe for children of all ages, even before the 6 month mark. Did you know that babies younger than 6 months should not use a ‘normal’ comforter because they haven’t learned how to move fabric from over their faces and comforters are therefore a risk of suffocation? The Mussi Cuski bamboo muslin version is amazing because even if it ends up over baby’s face, baby remains safe.

I think it’s important for baby to have sleep associations from a very young age. I remember laughing at myself and my own idiocy when I was giving Evie this comforter for her to sleep with at only a month old, because really it just lay there next to her doing nothing. But as she grew up she began to associate the comforter with bedtime, and now its what she seeps with every night. Again, like The Gruffalo, we don’t give her Mussi unless its bedtime, so it is a perfect part of her bedtime routine now. Shop mussi cuski here.

4. Breathable bumper

Breathable bumper for toddler bed
Evie has used this bumper in both her cot and her big girls bed so it’s been great value for money

Like every parent, decorating the nursery is one of the things I loved most when preparing for baby to come. It was so much fun getting our new baby’s space ready for her arrival. We thought cot bumpers looked lovely, but the fact of the matter is that they are not safe because, like with comforters, when baby is very young and immobile,  they are not able to remove fabric from their faces and are at risk of suffocation if they end up sleeping against the cot bumper. However, I fully appreciate the problem of trapped arms and legs, and I still remember the first time Evie cried out in pain when her little 5 month old arm was stuck between cot bars and wall. So, we bought a breathable bumper.

Breathable bumpers are not pretty, but its a much better solution to have a not very pretty nursery than to have a baby at risk of pain or suffocation, so it was a no brainer solution for us. When Evie was bigger and able to stand up we removed the bumper so she couldn’t use it as a stepping stone leverage and potentially fall out of the cot. But surprisingly, it ended up being brought back out again recently.

Evie’s big girl bed is my old bed, a day bed that has quite big gaps between the bars…definitely big enough for her little toddler sized head to potentially get stuck. Although the bed is against the wall, I wanted to be on the safe side and used the breathable cot bumper to line the bars of her bed. From the days she was in her cot to this day Evie snuggles up against the wall of her bed to go to sleep, so the bumper has proven to be a great solution, and a padded wall for her to sleep against. Shop breathable bumper here.

5. Sleeping bag

Our Evie is such a little wriggler and always has been, she tosses and turns all night. So from when she was a tiny baby until now we have really struggled to use bedclothes for her because she just kicks them off and gets into a right old fankle with them. Enter the sleeping bag! I think it was the brand Grobag that made these so popular, but if I’m super honest I’ve never bought that brand, I tend to go to the supermarket or Tk Maxx for them. Coming in all colours, patterns and tog weightings, sleeping bags are such a great solution for all weathers and sleepers. When Evie is in the sleeping bag I never need to worry about her getting too cold in the night.

Evie is now learning to undress herself, and there was nothing funnier than 6.30am the other morning when I opened the bathroom door to her standing outside it with the sleeping bag pushed as low as her waist. She hadn’t unzipped it, she has just struggled her arms out of the arm holes and then shimmied the closed sleeping bag down as far as she could. She had managed to waddle from her bed to the bathroom with the sleeping bag around her waist and legs because she couldn’t work out how to push it all the way down over her bottom. She’s such a cutie.

Top 5 Tips For Keeping Your House Purchase Process Smooth and Easy

Top 5 Tips For Keeping Your House Purchase Process Smooth and Easy

 

So, you have finally found the perfect house for you after trawling Rightmove for months on end and viewing more properties than you care to remember. You have made an offer, it has been accepted, and now you ache for the day when you actually receive those elusive keys and can call the house your home. The fact of the matter is that despite how hard it may have been to find you perfect house, and despite how disillusioned you may have felt when yet another viewing left you less than inspired, finding your property was the easy part of the whole process. Buying your property on the other hand is the hard part.

I am not a financial adviser nor a property expert, and therefore I am not here to recommend the best routes to obtaining finance for your purchase, nor can I comment on legal proceedings and necessaries for house purchase in your area. However, what I can do is provide recent and timely advice having just completed my own house purchase this month. The memories of the process have not yet faded into the distant past, tinged with a rose-tinted hue as I recollect with fondness that time when I bought my first family home.

The house we bought this month was not my first house purchase, but it was only my second. I got my first home about 7 years ago, a gorgeous traditional tenement flat in the South Side of Glasgow, which I bought on my own as a single girl, full of the excitement of youth, sleeping on an inflatable camping mattress and sitting on an inflatable waterproof lilo until my bedroom furniture and sofas arrived. After living there for a few years I rented it out to move in with my then partner, but that chapter of my life quickly came to a close, which is when I moved to England. Initially I had a bachelorette pad again, a lovely modern rental apartment in a little Cheshire market town, but eventually moved from there into a nearby rented family home because by then I had my wonderful fiance and baby girl. I reckon that for 7 years of my life that’s a lot of homes, but none has felt as special and meaningful to me as that first one that I owned, that had my name on it, and that I could make any way I wanted.

The two rental homes were enough to make me and my fiance fall in love with the local area and, although we both hope that one day the future will afford us an opportunity to move back to Scotland, in the time being we wanted to begin to build roots with a permanent family home that we could call our own. Hence the purchase of number 28. This is what I learned from going through a house purchase process.

 

Number 1: Communicate with your seller’s estate agent

I think estate agents get a hard time. Like any other profession there are those who are simply better at what they do, and therefore every estate agent should not be tarred with the same brush. Our seller’s estate agent was a worrier, but it was easy to understand why. Our sellers had already sold their property. Twice. And twice it had fallen through at the last minute. In fact, by the time we offered on the house it had already been on the market for a total of about 20 months, which for a standard-sized family home with a lower than average price tag is pretty significant.

We were trustworthy buyers, but our sellers didn’t know that, and neither did their agent. Plus, because we were selling a property in Scotland where the system is so wildly different, there was the potential for lots of confusion over what was happening at any given time. Therefore, I made a conscious decision to keep the estate agent for Number 28 in the loop all the time. I sent an email every couple of weeks with an FYI message, because after all even if there was no update, its better to hear something than nothing right?! I also placed calls in as soon as significant milestones were reached….an offer received, a mortgage approved, dates for exchange set. I understand that the solicitor’s office could arguably do all this for us buyers, but I don’t believe that should replace the personal touch of dealing with an estate agent directly where possible. It increases trust, proves reliability, and builds a rapport that solicitors simply can’t do on your behalf.

Which leads me to my second top tip…

 

Number 2: Choose your solicitor wisely

Like most of us, in order to buy Number 28, we needed to sell the property we already owned. However, unlike most of us, the sale of my flat was in an entirely different geography with a completely different property law process than the house we were buying. It was because of this that we needed to use two separate solicitors to manage the conveyancing of the two properties. This does make the process more complex, but it highlighted clearly for me the importance of choosing your solicitor wisely as when dealing with two solicitors at exactly the same time I had the rare opportunity to directly compare and contrast.

With buying only my second property ever, it is safe to say I am not an expert in property law: I did not know the processes, system, rules, regulations or expectations of me with regards to the sale of the flat or the purchase of the house. And, like our friend the estate agent, solicitors too get a hard time, but once again we should not tar them all with the same brush. When looking for a Glasgow based solicitor to manage the sale of my flat I turned to social media and on recommendation used a local practice that I was advised “get the job done”. This sounded good enough to me, especially alongside their fairly competitive pricing. However, it became clear to me eventually that I had made a mistake as the closer we got to sale date, the more I realised I had literally no idea what was going on. In fact, in the final week before completion I had no confirmation my signed paperwork had been received, I didn’t know if the sale was to be completed with fixtures fitting and furniture included or if I was liable to remove all of those things first, I didn’t know my mortgage redemption figure and final fees, and most worryingly, I had no idea if my contracts had been exchanged. All because the solicitor wouldn’t take my calls…”away from her desk” the poor secretary kept telling me.

This is not acceptable behaviour. “That’s normal of solicitors” people told me. And I may have believed them, if it hadn’t been for the polar opposite service I received from the solicitors managing my purchase. Always at the end of the phone, this firm explained everything to me, they kept in touch with me via email, telephone and even the occasional text message and voicemail if they couldn’t reach me. Ironically I probably spent less time overall communicating with them than I did with my Glasgow solicitor, simply because they were open, honest and communicative and gave me less reason to be in touch with them all the time. By ignoring your clients you do not make your life easier. That’s my top tip for crappy solicitors anyway.

 

Number 3: Always know what’s included

During our house search we went to view a new build estate in Nantwich. The show home was spectacular but slightly outwith our budget so we enquired about a smaller alternative for which the advertised sale price was manageable for us. I look back on this experience with such a bad taste in my mouth because the attitude of the sales manager was really poor. I get the feeling she looked at me in my pigtails and trainers, trying to juggle a toddler who insisted on spitting chewed up banana out of her mouth after every bite, while maintaining a ‘grown up’ conversation about Ts&Cs, and just thought to herself “oh please, honey, we both know you belong on the council estate round the corner and not here”. Despite my very direct questions about what plots were available and when, what was included and what was not, I really struggled to get any answers from her until eventually she told me to come back and talk to her when my flat sale was concluded and I had the money to put a deposit down and secure a plot…only then could we discuss my options. I’m not kidding. Goodbye Mrs Sales Manager, you can f*ck right off.

So, a new build wasn’t right for us, and not just because of an obnoxious sales manager. But it can be the most amazing opportunity for the right buyer. My only watch out for first timers, is that even if your new build includes all the seemingly obvious items…tiles, flooring, turf, fencing, white goods, etc…trust me when I say you will not just move in and find the house all ready for you. You will still spend the same amount of money all the rest of us buying second hand homes do: on paint, wallpaper, furnishings…on changing this appliance, or upgrading those internal doors. My mum bought a new build about 10 years ago and it was surprising to me how much was not included in the sale price, and how much money she continued to spend on getting the house the way she wanted it.

 

Number 4: Look beyond the obvious

Similar to top tip number 3 is this one aimed at buyers of ‘preloved’ homes. Ok, so strictly speaking it does not meet the aims of the blog post which is to offer 5 top tips for managing the purchase of the property you’ve already chosen. However, it is still a nice piece of advice for house buyers so I’m cheekily slotting it in here anyway. Where top tip number 3 asks you to consider what is included in the house sale, top tip number 4 advises to try to look beyond what is included. Look beyond those chintz curtains at the windows that lie behind them. Look beyond the peach bathroom tiles and avocado suite and assess the size and quality of the walls that support them. It can be so hard to see the house beyond the chaos, but more often than not the aesthetics of a home are easily fixed and can be done on a bargain budget.

 

Number 5: Please don’t be hasty

I’m speaking from raw experience here…please never act in haste and do not offer on a  property you do not intend on buying. Despite what people may tell you, the Scottish property system is not infallible and it does not protect all and sundry from the selfish people of this world, as I sadly discovered when my flat sale fell through only a couple of weeks before completion. The buyer did not have a reason for pulling out, she just “changed her mind” and there was nothing I could do to save it. More upsetting was the prospect of losing Number 28, however, staying true to top tip number 1, I involved the estate agent for my purchase in the process and let her know what had happened. I truly believe she felt my devastation and really trusted that I would do my utmost to secure another buyer as soon as possible and proceed with buying the family home of our dreams. I am grateful for her faith in us and proud of my resolve. Things change, and I understand that, but our decisions can affect others in ways we can’t imagine and selling and buying property is stressful enough without the added burden of flaky buyers.