What to buy the #royalbaby: Don’t buy her flowers

I don’t think I’ve made any secrecy of my like of Kate Middleton. We’re the same age (3 days apart) and she comes from a village near the town where I grew up. I feel some kind of affinity towards her, which is clearly ridiculous. It shouldn’t come as any surprise therefore that I spent a fair bit of time glued to an app called Periscope at the weekend, watching the #royalbaby story unfold. (I like Max Foster of CNN by the way – find him here).

I’ll come back to my thoughts on Kate and that photo and parenting another time. My pressing question today is what do you buy a new mum on the birth of her baby? Especially, when, like Kate, she’s probably got all the baby kit already, particularly if the baby is a second child. Several of my friends have had babies recently and although I do eventually send something for the baby in due course, after the birth, in my mind, the present is for mum. Everyone else spoils the baby; I would have loved it had someone bring a present for me.

So, I’ve made an effort to give my friends nice things – scarves, nice toiletries, that kind of thing. Wouldn’t it be handy though, if you could order them from one place, have them nicely packaged and delivered. As easy as flowers, but in all honesty, probably more welcome. Steph had the same idea and she set up Don’t Buy Her Flowers


The premise is simple – flowers are nice, but the average mum receives loads of flowers. (I did, and they’re lovely, but you kind of want them one at a time, not all at once). These packages that Steph has put together mean you can easily give a lovely treat, which doesn’t have to be used or even dealt with straight away. I imagine you eat the chocolate pretty sharpish though… You can even add Cook vouchers to the parcel; a sort of modern equivalent of taking round a home cooked meal. Bonus; they can choose what they actually want to eat, and you don’t have to worry about getting your oven dish back.

Two packages (one wrapped)

Each parcel comes beautifully wrapped. I tested the service, and the parcel was delivered promptly to my chosen new mum and she texted me to say that it made her day and was “just what I needed”. I chose the magazine and the scarf and Steph did the rest. Between us, we created an excellent present!

Care package packaged 3


Steph also writes a blog called Sisterhood (and all that) which is worth a read.

Don’t Buy Her Flowers prices normally start from £21. Steph is having some family time this week so all orders made Monday to Thursday will receive a £4 discount and be dispatched Saturday 16th May. I wasn’t paid for this post, but I was offered a package to review which I had sent to a friend with a new baby.

Pizza & cupcake party

Pip turned 3 this week. We celebrated with her nursery friends last weekend and then had a family lunch this weekend, which we actually found to be a reasonably stress free way to spilt out the entertaining.

We wanted a fairly low key party for her pre-school friends, but still wanted to let her have a party, so we opted not to hire a venue, or have entertainment for the children, but have them over to our flat instead. We love cooking as a family, so we thought a pizza party would be perfect. In the event, we ended up splurging on a new kitchen table that we’d been umming and ahhing about for several months, having it delivered the day before the party, so we didn’t actually save money as such, but we’re very pleased with it. We went for this one, and I am so pleased with it. (We even seated 16 comfortably for the lunch yesterday).

Neither M nor I are big fans of party bags; we spend our lives (somewhat fruitlessly) trying to reduce the crap we acquire and we didn’t want to add to it for someone else. So, we got the kids mini rolling pins to use for their pizza making which they could take home afterwards. We added labels written by Pip to act both as place settings and to indicate that they were for each child to keep.

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We basically just whizzed up a load of pizza dough in the morning and then gave each kid a lump to roll out. We set out a choice of toppings down the middle of the table and gave them each a saucer to collate them in, hotted up the “pizza” stone (a paving slab which lives in our oven) as well as a cast iron pan, and then put on the grill which cooked the pizzas in a couple of moments. We made up a couple before hand which we started cooking as the kids started rolling, so there was a constant supply of pizza for both kids and adults and that was it. We gave the kids juice and the parents some fizz and everyone was happy.

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Once all the pizzas had been eaten, we handed out plain cupcakes that I’d made that morning, and little individual tubs of icing which I’d prepared beforehand (just a simple vanilla frosting I zapped up) and a small child’s knife. I then put out some mini marshmallows, fruit and little cake toppings and each child created their own pudding. They loved it, especially having their own little tub of icing for their own cake, and it was far less work for me…!

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Her little face when we presented her with a second cake with a candle in and sang to her was absolutely priceless. She has several friends with slightly earlier birthdays and it seems she has been practising playing birthday cake/singing for months. She could hardly believe it was finally her turn!

The kids then all played for a bit with some of Pip’s toys and we hung out with the parents for a while and then everyone departed for their Sunday afternoon. Whilst there was a little bit of organising to do, it didn’t feel overly onerous and everyone, especially Pip, seemed to have a great time.

Life recently

I took these photos at Easter; I was planning to write a post about the Easter egg hunt that we did and that I attempted to document. As usual, life re-entered rather abruptly the moment we returned from my parents in law and then I never managed to find time to write the post.

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We spent Easter at my parents in laws house, along with M’s brother, his wife and their son. Now the cousins have grown out of their cots and both have their own beds at home, my parents in law have upgraded the sleeping arrangements to bunk beds. The kids are a little young to actually use them as bunk beds, so they have them in my parents in law office like a dormitory, but they do handily stack out of the way for the times when the kids aren’t visiting. I thought it was a little late for the Easter egg post, but I did like this one of the sad looking rabbit which hid one of the eggs in the series of clues!

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Pip sleeps in a lower, toddler sized bed at home, so I was interested to see whether she’d take to this one – which she did, after a bit of cajoling the first night, and pretty well after that. I was also interested to see that she didn’t seem bothered by her cousin’s presence in the room, and neither seemed to disturb each other during the night, which bodes well if we ever get around to thinking about a second.

In conjunction with Beds on Legs. 

I’ll eat you up, I love you so (Make your own Max crown)




One of Pip’s favourite books is Where the Wild Things Are, so naturally for World Book Day she had to be Max.

I couldn’t find a wolf suit very easily, and knowing that she also adores Peter Rabbit, I got a multi functional brown animal suit from EBay, which is technically a bear. I meant to make a wolf tail for it, a la Max, but I didn’t realise pre-school were doing costumes on the Thurs, not the Friday.

The crown was one that I made for her first birthday and is really easy to replicate if you’re making your own Max outfit. I made it out of felt. Don’t do what I did though and accidentally buy half sew half glue, and then sew both parts. Ruined a sewing machine needle clogging it up with glue before I realised what was going wrong. The crown really needs extending before her birthday in a couple of weeks, but we managed to get it done up over the ears albeit with an ugly bit of velcro showing. (Something I’ve learnt over the years is that costumes are about effects, not perfection!)

To make your own crown you’ll need:

  • 2 squares of felt (I bought mine at a haberdashery and they were a standard size square)
  • enough bias binding for the circumference of the head the crown is intended for (1m should suffice),
  • thread (I used grey to give a little definition to the mustard colour)
  • sewing machine or needles to hand sew
  • pins
  • scissors
  • tracing paper to make the template
  • velcro

To make your crown:

  1. Measure the head of the child and add a 5cm overlap. This crown measures 52cm in total circumference which includes the overlap.
  2. Draw a half crown pattern out onto your tracing paper, from middle point to the outer edge. This crown is 8cm at the tallest point and 6 at the shortest. Make sure you have a point right in the middle of the pattern so that it is even. This will be half the crown. Cut out.
  3. Pin the pattern to the felt and cut out 4 identical pieces. Using double weight of felt gives the crown enough structure to stay upright on the head without flopping over.
  4. Pin together two pieces with the highest points together and sew down the short side (middle seam)
  5. Repeat with the other two pieces.
  6. You’ll now have two identical whole crown pieces, which you need to stitch together along the top edge, keeping them lined up carefully and stitching only a couple of mm in from the edge, making sure that the points all line up.
  7. Sew bias binding down each of the short edges.
  8. Sew bias binding along the bottom of the crown.
  9. Sew on your velcro to the short edges which will be the back of the crown, one on the one side and one on the other, so that the velcro will form a closing. I did two pieces on side, and one on the other, so the crown could be “let out” as Pip’s head grew bigger, although that does mean that some of the velcro shows now her head is bigger.
  10. There you have it!

And that was it. Add a two year old temper and tantrum skills and your transformation to Max is complete.

On June 13th Wild Rumpus and Random House are holding a nationwide event to celebrate the nation’s love of Where the Wild Things Are. They are inviting people to host their own Wild Rumpus (no idea what the plural is!) and join in with reading the book aloud starting at the rumpus. Clearly we will be joining in…


Shared Parental Leave

20130123-175904.jpgI write a lot here about being a working mum, but only occasionally do I mention my work specifically on this blog. A few of you know I am a lawyer, and some of you know that I now work full time doing content marketing in the legal industry and that I write and curate blogs and manage a think tank, but I guess I only mention the details when there’s relevant cross over. 

And guess what? There is! Shared Parental Leave comes into force after Easter. (Although, if your baby is due this April, you would have needed to make your application under the transitional arrangements as you have to give 8 weeks notice, so this is probably of most relevance to anyone due say June onwards). So, good news! In theory, we now (or will, come April 5 2015) have a system where someone other than the mother can take a decent proportion of parenting leave.

I say, in theory, that this is good news because it is good news. Caveated good news, but good news all the same (as long as you qualify, but that’s always been the case).

We are never going to have a society where we can have workplace equality if men aren’t able to do their share of the parenting and childcare. Promoting gender equality is business critical as well as being essential to society. This is a much needed first step to normalising and allowing both parents potential equal involvement, and sends an important message to men that they could and should be involved. Also, the scheme theoretically allows more choice, more flexibility and, best of all, I think, allows you to take a longer period of leave at the same time (subject to getting all your dates and applications right, see below) so instead of being limited to the first 2 weeks together, you could potentially have nearly 6 months (if you can make it work financially).

I do have concerns with the scheme though. I’ve spent several weeks working on some free content on the scheme (which I’ll link to when we release it next week) and it’s a complicated scheme. I am used to reading and analysing this kind of thing, and I found it tricky to work out. My concerns include:

  • Both parents have to qualify for it. I know that seems obvious, but it’s not extending shared parenting leave rights to all parents. The mother must qualify for maternity pay and also have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date and be employed by that employer during SPL & the father/partner (etc) must have worked for 26 of the last 66 weeks, earning at least £30 on average for 13 of those weeks. To receive an income through the scheme, you must both qualify (i.e. by being employees for a qualifying period).
  • The scheme is confusing. Even working out whether you qualify takes a bit of working out, and it occurs to me that the intricacies of the scheme could appear off-putting, especially to more old fashioned types who might not be so interested in doing their share of childcare.
  • It’s a complicated scheme with irritating consequences for all parties if it is got wrong. Miss the dates for application, or not do it correctly, and it *is* a problem. The shared parental leave part can only start once the maternity leave part has either ended, or you’ve given binding notice. So, the mother has to take a compulsory 2 weeks maternity leave after birth. She then either has to have returned to work, or, has to have given a precise date for her mat leave period ending for the shared parental leave part to commence.
  • Realities of the scheme in practice for partnerships where the lower income earner is entitled to enhanced maternity pay but the higher wage only statutory. I don’t have the stats to hand, but at present the higher income earner is still more likely to be a man in 2/3 of families, and it therefore makes no financial sense for him to take a proportion of the leave if it leaves the family worse off. So, excellent if the higher wage is earner is the mother who wants to return to work; a bit trickier if not.

Personally, if I did have another child, I’d love to see whether we could make this work. I’d love to go back to work after 6-9 months and let M have the next 3-6 months as primary carer. Add in holidays I would have accrued, and we could probably have a day or so a week both being at home in the cross over period.

The reality is though that I earn less than M, and I’m entitled to enhanced maternity pay, whereas presently his company only offer the mothers SMP. We lived on SMP last time and it was tough. So, it would be crazy for me to not take the whole period of enhanced pay. We could theoretically run some of the leave in tandem, or we could do some blocks of leave, but I think my enhanced pay is only available for a specific number of months. Basically, we need M’s salary, so he is limited to his leave not by what he is allowed to take time wise, but by how long we could afford for him to only earn £138.18 a week. Chances are, that’s not going to be much longer than he took when Pip was born. Even if I went back at 6-9 months, realistically, we just can’t afford for him to take the rest of the entitlement.

So, as I said, good news, in theory, and good news, with caveats, generally, but personally, based on a financial decision, as sadly, rent and bills and nursery will still have to be paid for, one from which we personally won’t be able to benefit.

What are your thoughts?

Me and Pip, 10 days old (photo by Cara)

How safe is your home?

Pip has recently become really aware of the concept of home. She talks a lot about “my blue home” (we have a blue front door) and around the idea of the home being a safe place where we live. Several times in the last couple of weeks she has hopped up to check that there are no monsters in the corridor whilst we are having supper and comes back to the table reporting that “we are alone in the house, Mummy and Daddy”.

We too try and make our home is safe, not just emotionally. I think most people know to have a smoke detector now; we also have a carbon monoxide detector – do you? We actually had one anyway in our sitting room next to our gas fire and now have a second one for our kitchen after Corgi Homeplan sent us one.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas and, as such, it is very difficult to detect and can easily be inhaled without realising. Trouble is, the indications of a CO leak, and the associated symptoms are quite easy to be attributed to something else. Headaches, dizziness, nausea and breathlessness are often symptoms of lots of things, although collapse and loss of consciousness are clearly serious enough to warrant medical attention.

Trouble is, eing exposed to high concentration levels can be fatal or cause several other long-term health problems. According to NHS statistics, every year in the UK, over 200 people go to hospital with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, and around 40 people die.

Other signs to look out for include:

  • Making sure that the flame on your cooker is crisp and blue. Yellow or orange flames mean you need to get your cooker checked
  • Dark staining around or on appliances
  • Sooty marks on the walls around boilers, stoves or the cover of gas fires
  • Pilot lights that frequently go out
  • Increased condensation inside windows

Each of those in isolation doesn’t necessarily mean anything either, which is where the detector comes in. I think every household should have one.



The box itself is small and discreet and can be easily tucked onto a shelf. It helps as an early warning reminder but should not just be relied on in isolation. I am also told that regularly maintaining appliances can help prevent carbon monoxide issues too. We recently had an issue with our boiler where the pilot light kept going out. We had no other symptoms of carbon monoxide issues, but it was worth taking the day off work to get it fixed, for the peace of mind as much as the pleasure of knowing the shower would always be hot rather than having to hop around in a towel trying to get the boiler to light again.

If you suspect you or anyone in your house has inhaled carbon monoxide it is important that you get fresh air immediately; turn off the appliance and leave the house. If you think you are in danger ring the National Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 11 999. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible – visit your GP or go to the hospital as soon as possible – let them know that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.

On school choices


I went to a seminar this week, hosted by Citymothers, a networking group that I belong to, and presented by Rachel Vecht of Educating Matters. I couldn’t decide if it was because I was a little hormonal, but I found the session surprising emotional and found myself quite tearful after I left. Something about the fact that Pip is no longer even a toddler and that we need to start making “proper” parenting decisions, rather than just trying not to kill or lose her, made me feel a little overwhelmed.

The session itself was very good, setting out the myriad choices, and I liked the fact that the follow up email led with the following:

“Choosing a school for your child is usually a stressful, emotional and time consuming period. It can feel frustrating because we want the very best for our children but so much of the process is beyond our control as there is so much competition for places in both the state and independent sector. Try and be clear about what suits your child and your circumstances. Don’t be too worried about what other families appear to do or not to (I know that this is easier said than done). It helps to be open minded and keep your options wide.”

We don’t have to apply until the end of this year, but that in the same breath as seeming eons away, also doesn’t seem that long. I’m just in the process of finalising my 2015 objectives at work, and not only does it not seem that long ago I did the same for 2014, we are nearing the end of Q1 and I feel like I haven’t actually done much yet. (Of course, I have, it just feels that way).

The seminar covered both state and independent options but I think unless a pressing academic need presents itself, state school will be sufficient for us. Whilst I don’t doubt there is enormous potential in having guaranteed smaller class sizes, I feel this is outweighed by the social diversity and community element of a local state school (if we get a place, that is, otherwise we might have to reconsider). I already baulk at paying for a party for her now and won’t be doing party bags; I don’t think competitive North London private school parenting is for me/us.

I think we get 6 choices for the state school process in our borough, but other parents tell me locally that it’s only worth putting down 3. Competition here is fierce; this seems to be where every professional in the city who isn’t mega wealthy, just moderately well off, comes to have a baby. Some schools have a catchment area of less than 0.3 of a mile, and some have anecdotally only had 2 non-sibling places in some intakes.

That said, I know that what we teach Pip at home matters as much, if not more, than what primary school she goes to. But already diary management is hard work, and my blood pressure levels caused by TFL delays make either end of the day the most stressful part of that. Add to that not only later drop offs and earlier pick ups once she starts school, but the stress that if she doesn’t get into the nearest school and gets randomly allocated something it will require us to buy a car in order to get her to school and suddenly school choices seem rather worrying.

The seminar also included a very helpful list of things that your child will be expected to be able to do when they start school, which included social, emotional and personal development skills, behaviour, speaking, listening, reading, numeracy and IT skills. I hope it doesn’t sound like boasting to say that I’m confident she can do most of the things on the list already, save the IT skills. Having spent the first two years of her life trying to keep her away from screens and technology, both because I wanted her to experience other things, and that she literally showed no interest in TV until one day around 2 and a half when suddenly she discovered it, I now worry she will be behind because she doesn’t know how to use an iPad. What we did to keep her quiet for the first 2.5 years, I don’t remember, but suddenly lie ins are easier as she’ll happily watch A Bugs Life either in bed next to me, or tucked up on the sofa. Hopefully though she’ll pick it up as easily as she picked up other skills.

The thing that terrified me the most about the whole thing was the idea that primary school choices can lead to secondary school choices, so, if we were to have a particular preference about a secondary school, we should factor that into our decision process now. But I don’t even know what the potential secondary options are, or even where we will be wanting to live in 10 years time, so I don’t even know if I want to be able to take it into account. I said it was terrifying, didn’t I. One false move and I may have jeopardised her university options… (again, making a huge assumption she will even want to go to tertiary education).

One step at a time, I think. (and that step, for me, is bed).

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Win: Green People DD Tinted Moisturiser & Cream Cleanser giveaway

Screenshot 2015-02-22 22.02.51Last week I wrote about some of the products that I use in my morning beauty routine. I’m pleased to say that Green People have offered to give one reader their own tube of DD Tinted Moisturiser, plus a Cream Cleanser as well.

This most definitely is a moisturiser. I have used it once or twice over my usual moisturiser and found it worked better used on its own. Like a BB cream, it still gave excellent coverage, in a much more natural way than a traditional foundation. This cream also has an SPF and none of the nasties found in so many other products.

To enter, all you need to do is leave me a comment telling me something about your beauty routine, or a beauty related story, and then use the rafflecopter widget to tell me.

There are a couple of other options too, for extra entries. I’ll draw a winner next weekend.

Don’t forget, you can also order from the Green People website and enter code DDLAUNCH at checkout to get a 20% discount until 28 February.

Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions: 1. To enter Green People DD Cream and Cleanser prize draw give-away you must leave me a comment on the blog. There are additional options for more entries. 2. The prize is 1 x 30ml DD Tinted Moisturiser and 1 x 150ml Purify & Hydrate Cream Cleanser. No cash or alternative prizes will be given 3. The prize draw will start on 22.02.15 and end on 30.02.15 4. The winner will be picked from all valid entries 5. The winner will be notified directly via email. The winner must reply within seven days of receiving the email or a new winner will be picked at random. 6. I reserve the right to change the entry dates at any time, for any reason.

Celebrating inspiring women: My #ARWOMAN nomination



I thought long and hard about inspirational women when Atterley Road asked me to take part in their campaign to celebrate inspiring women. I thought about famous women who have impacted my life in some way (Kate Moss, say, or Carol Ann Duffy). I thought about women I work with, or have encountered in my professional life (such as the First 100 Years project that I worked on last year, without whom I wouldn’t be a lawyer today) but in the end, I decided to talk about someone nearer home.

Well, nearer to my heart anyway. Nearer home when one lives 5 hours drive away isn’t exactly accurate. I also cheated a little, as it’s technically two women: my sisters. Photographed above by my Dad at E’s christening last year, two beautiful, accomplished and amazing women that I am lucky enough to call my younger sisters.

A, a scientist who completed her PhD shortly before she became a mother last year, who despite living in a small town in West Wales where taking her married name would cause her much less hassle, defiantly stuck to her principles, and who has survived motherhood with far most grace than I have so far, is younger than me by 3 years. She is the one I turn to when Pip is challenging me and we keep each other sane through long phone conversations. Last summer, she diverted to Yorkshire to take care of my Grandfather and Dad during the last week of our Grandmother’s life, without even a travel cot. She took E and the clothes they had with them and cooked and cared for Grandpa and Dad, so they could be with Granny 24 hours a day. Even when E had to sleep in a drawer and wet every pair of trousers she had packed, Annie calmly and serenely took care of them.

The other A is younger than me by 5 years, although according to all bouncers everywhere, she is the older and never gets ID’d. If Annie is the calming influence, Alex is the person who challenges me, never says no, is brave and walks closer to the line than most people. She sailed the Atlantic last summer, in a 3 man boat with people she’d never met. Backpacked round South East Asia at 18. Did a year in an American university. Gave up a career in advertising to do a masters last year and has taken up yacht racing. A inspires me to be brave; to speak my mind; to follow the party to the end, because thats when the interesting conversations are. It was Alex that I was with when Annie called to say Granny had died, just an hour after our other Granddad had died. It was Alex I drank margaritas with that night, on the phone to Annie.

That week last summer was when I lost my blogging way, but it’s no exaggeration to say it’s the unfailing support of these two who helped me find it again. It was Alex who took me to Morocco, when post-natal depression and breastfeeding had dragged me to my lowest, eight months after Pip was born. It was Alex that sat there with a notebook, painfully writing down my every anxiety, eventually striking through the ones that I couldn’t control and amalgamating all the others, until the list was manageable and the pounding in my heart and pain in my neck had subsided. It is Alex that still provides the linchpin in our complicated diary management and it is Annie to whom I whisper that I think I could have done it better, and she says what Granny used to say. “If you did your best, angels couldn’t do better”.

Who inspires you? Join in the campaign by posting a picture of a woman who inspires you on Instagram, tag it @AtterleyRoad #ARWOMAN and nominate some friends to do the same. 

More house musings



I know it’s only February but we have to make a couple of big decisions this year. They are rather intertwined; where to apply for Pip’s primary school place, whether to consider a sibling for Pip and whether to renew our contract on this rented place, or try and own a place ourselves.

We’ve never particularly felt any draw to own a place before, and I’ve written about (and been interviewed on the subject of) our love of renting. I know we’re paying out money towards nothing in terms of rent – well, nothing in terms of capital value – I place a lot of value on ease and peace of mind. That said, there are some limitations but in general, we’re very happy. Engineered Oak Wood Flooring? We can live with that, if someone else comes to fix the mains water leak. And the broken boiler. Wall colours I’m not keen on? I’ll take it (and, to be honest, the landlord would probably let us paint if we were really inclined).

Leaving aside the other baby considerations, housing wise, what we really need to do is work out whether we could fit another baby into this flat, and if so, for how long. Can you fit two children in a small second bedroom? Could we squeeze in a cot into our room. If not, could we afford to rent anything bigger? In a different area? (We’d have to do it soon though, as Pip’s school place needs to be applied for at the end of this year).

Inspired by our shared love of Grand Designs, we’ve also been considering recently whether the option exists to build our own place. No idea how or what, but the thing we both love about that option is that you’d actually get a place you wanted. All the joys of home ownership in the end, without having to live in an area we aren’t mad about, just so we can own the place.

We could take some of the elements we love about this old Victorian flat, mix it with some of the newer elements we really appreciate and create a work of love. I don’t think we can stretch to that right now, so it remains a pipe-dream for now.

Looking at it like that, I think the answer is clear. We’ll stay put…

Post in conjunction with Luxury Floorings & Furnishings.

Photos apropos nothing, taken by a friend at the Tate last week

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