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Nourish Paris

It’s been a little quiet on Tout Simple of late. I have effectively taken a much needed two month holiday but September has crept up on us and here we are again at la rentrée. Tout Simple is officially one year old and to mark this occasion, I’m here to tell you about how it’s changing!

For over a year now I’ve been working on my business Nourish Paris. In the quiet, still moments in between naps, after bed times, stolen moments from life as a mum; Nourish Paris has grown from the tiniest seed of an idea to something that I have taken on full time. I never thought I would be someone who ran her own business, let alone this business, and yet here it is – all mine and I’d like to take a moment to tell you about it.

Nourish Paris home cooks and delivers Real Family Food in Paris 75 (and close suburbs for now.) with a focus on food for post-partum mothers.

There was a time that a new mother would be cared for by her family and community for the first three months of her child’s life. With the rise of people leaving their home communities to come and live and work in big cities, this tradition is massively on the decline. People live away from their families and their villages and mothers are finding themselves increasingly isolated and alone in a time where they should be surrounded by support. Nourish Paris aims to support new parents in a time when their lives are being turned upside down by their new arrival, not just through the practicalities of a home cooked meal, but also through thoughtful, supportive nutrition for breastfeeding, energy and good sleep. 

We believe that families have a pressure on them now that has not been felt in previous generations. Most of the families we know have two parents who work full time, have children in full time childcare and yet have less money and less time available to them than previous generations. The cost of living has gone up, not just financially, but on our time as well. We have less time to spend in the kitchen and however much we might like to be making every meal from scratch for our families – it’s just not the reality of modern family life. Nourish Paris believes that families run on their stomachs and our veggie packed, balanced family meals help to ease the chaos of dinner time.

Basically we have a heart for families and what keeps them running. We want to support the support bases, fuel the fuel tanks and keep your family running at its absolute best. We believe that meal times are a perfect place to start and can’t wait to get serving you!

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Our Tiny Home: Office & The French Admin Hunger Games

Hey beauties! I thought I would do a little combined post today about our tiny office space AND the apocalyptic Hunger Games situation that is French Administration. I’ve been talking loads lately about the Admin situation with various people. From those who want so badly to get control of it and understand it, to those who willingly give it up to their French other-halves (with mixed results!). I wanted to share my plan of attack, how I combat it so I don’t find myself drowning under the sheer amount of paperwork required by this country to be completed for every little request. 

Office Space

Office space is the smallest need in our small space. I work from home right now but it’s still pretty mobile – I can work at the desk, on the sofa, in bed etc. The main thing we need office space for is our vital family documents, communicating with various government agencies and our pretty basic filing system. 

I have a big ring binder with file dividers that houses all of our paperwork, a printer that is also a scanner and a photocopier (vital equipment that I’d recommend to every French family!) and internet access codes and the app for every government agency I deal with. 

Admin Advice

  1. File it as it arrives. There is nothing, NOTHING as important as this for being able to find documents when you need them. Open letters as they arrive and file them into the correct folder.
  2. Have a clip-board in-tray. One of your folders will be stuff that needs to be filled in, dealt with, sent back. I like having a clipboard. It all sits behind my monthly calendar so it doesn’t take over my desk space. Every month, when I turn over my calendar I see what’s left to do and it gets done. 
  3. Admin day. Once a month, usually within the first week of the month I sit down and get all our filing, admin and finances in order. I send all the forms that need to be sent, update all the “situations familial et professionel” that need to be updated on CAF and make sure our various dossiers are up to date. Keeping it to one day of hell, occasional tears and need for a massage by the end of the day keeps my marriage safe, my mind clear and my filing organised. 
  4. Keep a “Dossier” of vital documents to hand. In the front of our filing ring binder I keep a selection of documents that I’m most likely to be asked for when presenting a “Dossier” for anything and everything. (Things I’ve needed to present a dossier for include; creche, school, giving birth, renting apartments, signing up for CAF, signing up for social security, joining the library, extra-curricular sports, joining a gym, applying for child benefits, applying for jobs, maternity leave, parental leave etc etc etc…) The documents I keep there are our passports, marriage certificate, the boys birth certificates, each of our last three pay slips, our last two tax returns, a “justicatif domicile”, our latest electricity bill…Keeping all of this stuff together in a smaller folder in an easily reachable place means that you can grab it on the way to the Mairie, when you sit down to fill out the endless online forms, whenever! 
  5. Sign up to do as much as possible online. This one is obvious, it makes so much sense. Save the planet, reduce the amount of paper you have to keep in your apartment and reduce the amount of shredding you have to do every couple of months. Having said this, sometimes the only thing to be done is to go to whatever office you’re currently battling with and cry at them until they give in. 

Other Vital Equipment For Admin Day

  1. Coffee
  2. Anti-stress essential oil roll-ons
  3. Leuchtturm Notebook
  4. A relentlessly optimistic attitude

That’s it! If you’re in France and need help sorting out your admin life, there are many many knowledgable women on the facebook groups “English Speaking Mums/Moms living in Paris” and “Mums Space France” both professionals and just old hands. There’ll always be someone around to help!

As I went to hit publish on this post I picked up a phone call from the crèche where Fred is due to attend in September. They told me that the Mairie has NO record of Fred even existing, or the application to the crèche system which we made when I was six months pregnant. Fred’s dossier is due to be examined by the Mairie in order to approve his Crèche space THIS WEEK. So on Monday morning I will be hot-footing to the Mairie at 8h30 to give them an original of his birth certificate and some ID. Which brings me to my final but potentially my most vital piece of advice.

Be Assertive.
Don’t just trust that your applications, dossiers and various documents will be seen to in a timely fashion. Make the phone calls, send the follow up emails, call the person in charge, demand to speak to supervisors, put in the leg work. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, it’s seemly never-ending but you can do it. It might mean being a little more “direct” than you’re comfortable with but you will get there. May the odds be ever in your favour. 

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Our Tiny Home: Kids

It’s a funny thing what we, as adults see now when we look back on our childhoods. I grew up in a lovely, but not massive three bedroom house in the South East of England. All of my childhood memories in that house, where my parents still live, involve my mum and dad working their arses off to decorate, improve, maintain and make that house a beautiful, adapted home for our needs as a family. It never felt small or anything less than perfect to me. Now, when I return as an adult, the house seems huge, the up-keep of it overwhelming and never ending. I have far more comprehension of my parent’s never ending demands to keep it tidy – letting standards go for a little while results in a whole day of playing catch-up. This is, of course, because I choose to live with my two small children and husband in an apartment approximately the size of my parent’s living room.

I’ve spoken before about why we choose to do this and, yes, one of the biggest reasons is necessity. We need to live in central Paris for work and central Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world right now. We cannot afford anything bigger. However, SINCE we’ve been doing this, some reasons to continue have become clear – not least to do with our children. When I was pregnant we started to think about what children really need to thrive and, although it’s still very much a work in process, we came to some different conclusions.

Bedrooms

I’ve written before about how we don’t have a bedroom. We sleep in our living room and have given the bedroom of our apartment to the boys. For someone else who does this, check out the wonderful Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves. It’s been an interesting experience, mostly when having guests over but we’ve only really found it problematic when I need to sleep in the mornings (my husband could sleep through the apocolypse!).

Fred currently sleeps next to us in the Chicco Next to Me Co-Sleeper but as of next month will move in with Arthur and share the bedroom with him. I really really think that shared rooms are so great for kids. I shared with my eldest brother for a while and my brothers shared a room until one of them moved out at eighteen. I like the idea of them having a camaraderie and a space that’s theirs away from adult life.

We try to keep the space as simple as possible, rotate the toys out and available for them and easy to keep tidy and clean. 

Kid Spaces

Something that takes up alot of space but I really love is our toddler size table and chairs in the kitchen. This was such a great addition to our home when we were really struggling with Arthur needing to have one of us close by (another advantage of a small space is, let’s face it, that we’re always close by!). With the table in the kitchen I can cook, Fred can be in his chair and Arthur can be playing or drawing at his table and we can be spending time together whilst doing our own things. 

We try to keep the living room/bedroom space toy and kid stuff free. This is firstly because there’s already so much of our life jammed in there and secondly because it’s where we sleep – I like it to be as calm and clutter free as possible. We keep a play mat and baby-gym in there and that’s about it. 

We try and keep things as accessible as possible for Arthur around the home. He can help with dinner & chop vegetables at his table or he has a step to get up to the kitchen counters. His bathroom stuff is in a cupboard at his level and he can use his step to get to the sink. 

Small living is constantly forcing us to redefine what we think of as necessary space. What do we need to have a satisfying home life? I don’t think that having children means that you need to immediately move into a bigger space, or that you suddenly need more storage to store all the extra stuff that traditionally comes with having children. As with all things, a little shift in thinking, a movement in the right direction is all it takes. 

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Toddler Life: Audio Books & Quiet Time

It’s finally happened. Nap time is totally off the table. To be totally honest, it’s been off the table for a while now but naps were still happening occasionally and when they did, choirs of Angels sang praises from the skies. I loved nap time. 

However, we’ve transitioned to “Quiet time” and while it’s not always quiet…and not always a lot of time…it seems to be working for us. The basic concept is that Arthur does a quiet activity in his bedroom for one hour. It sounds simple enough but finding a way to keep him chill and happy for quiet time has taken a while to get right. That’s where audiobooks have come in. We get our audiobooks from a variety of sources, but first – why have quiet time at all?

  • For your own sanity. Now seriously, life in a tiny space with a tiny tornado of a two year old can get a bit intense. Throw in a husband who works at night and sometimes needs to sleep during the day, a baby who needs to nap, no second bedroom and a thousand tasks that need to be done & quiet time is literally saving lives. 
  • Allows children time to reset, be with themselves and rest. Important stuff for little bodies and minds that are on the go and learning all day long. 
  • It increases confidence, creativity and independence. This is the time of the day that Arthur is really alone to play. I’m not there for him to bounce ideas off, play with, or even talk to. This is generally the time when he does his most imaginative playing, challenges himself with what he plays with (our dominoes, lotto and matching cards get used a lot in this time) and also what books he looks at. 

Audiobooks

Audiobooks have been a fantastic addition to our quiet times. We use a wireless bluetooth speaker that I control from my iPad or phone. This has been useful because I can control the volume, turning it down or off totally if Arthur, by some incredible chance actually falls asleep. As the stories for his age group are generally shorter than one hour, I can also control what he listens to next. We get our audiobooks from a variety of places:

  • CDs that come with books. Yes it’s still possible to buy books with audio CD’s attached! We don’t have a CD player but I just pop them on the computer and then onto my iPad or phone. We’ve got a few lovely ones like this including Emma Thompson’s Peter Rabbit stories and a really gorgeous version of Peter and the Wolf. 
  • YouTube. Often it’s possible to listen on YouTube. We just play the sound on the wireless speaker while the video plays elsewhere. It’s not our favourite way to listen but it works and we’ve found some lovely classics like Wind in the Willows and lots of Beatrix Potter stories. 
  • Record yourself or a loved one reading. This is currently our favourite way to listen to stories. My Grandma recently found a recording my Grandpa made in the eighties of him reading bedtime stories to my eldest cousin Hannah. Hannah’s managed to put them onto a memory stick for a few of us cousins who have small children and so, often Arthur will be read a story by my grandfather, who died when I was thirteen. It really is incredible and heart rending to hear his voice reading to my son, whom he never met. I wonder when he recorded it, if he could have imagined that Arthur or any of his other five great-grandchildren would be listening to his stories fifteen years after his life had ended. It really is magical to me that Arthur can hear his voice and it has encouraged me to record myself and others reading stories too.

With an audiobook playing in the background, Arthur will happily play in his room for at least an hour at a time. We try to time it for just after lunch, when everyone needs a break before diving into the afternoon’s activities. Do you implement a quiet time in your house? Do you love audiobooks too? Let me know your favourites & where you’re getting them! We’re always looking for more.

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Three Plus One Makes Four

Here we are, deep into the fourth trimester. I wish I could say it’s been slow, sleepy and spent mostly in bed – but that would be a lie. Such is the fate of a second child (and mother of two!). 

Luckily we’ve found Fred to be generally calm natured. He’s slotted in nicely to our small, toddler dominated space. Arthur’s somehow found it in him to make some room for his brother, even asking me if Freddie can share his bed this evening (hard pass; too much risk of erratic kicking from both boys). I was worried about this dynamic; that my precious first born would feel ousted, that our firm routine would suffer, that our apartment would descend into a molten pit of dirty nappies, dirty dishes and disturbed sleep…and don’t get me wrong, things have changed but here are my thoughts on how to have a calm, restorative fourth trimester with a toddler in tow:

Let go of any and all expectations

You have two children now – it will take some getting used to. When they both cry at the same time you will momentarily have no idea who to go to first. If you have a partner around – divide and conquer, if you don’t – prioritise. I find everything generally goes better if I put my boob in Fred’s mouth first. The situation immediately drops a couple of decibels and I’m able to tend to whatever Arthur needs (learning how to breastfeed while baby wearing really REALLY helped this one.) It doesn’t look glamorous or Instagramable, you don’t look glamorous or Instagramable and your apartment CERTAINLY doesn’t look glamorous or Instagramable but the baby is fed, the overall volume of things has massively decreased and your first born is getting attention. That’s a win in my books. 

Nothing will look anything like you expected. Which is why you must…

Accept all offers of help 

All of them. Including the things you thought you’d never accept. Like a long bubble bath at your mate’s house while she holds the baby because you don’t have a bath and your back is SO stiff from all that falling asleep upright. 

Let your mother-in-law hold the baby, let your friend do your washing up, eat the cake that people bring you even if you’re freaking out about the baby weight. Nobody will ever bring you baked goods over in such quantities with no judgement at how fast you eat them ever again. Take advantage. 

Let the little things go

No. You don’t need to mop the kitchen floor right now. 
Yup. Your toddler can in fact watch Cars 3 for the second time this week and it will not kill him.
Who gives a sh** that it’s dry shampoo? (I HIGHLY recommend H&M’s dry shampoo.)

Cling to the structures that help

Having said all of that, if you have systems and structures that keep you sane already in place, cling to them. For example, I made an effort to shower & put my makeup and clean clothes on every day in the couple of weeks postpartum when you don’t really feel like doing that. It helped me feel fresh on next to no sleep, prepared for the day with my kids and happy about myself. I also like my environment to be tidy – so I take at least 10 minutes a day to do a superficial tidy away of surface mess (hide it in cupboards). Do what works for you and don’t apologise for it. Sometimes self-care is a reluctant shower and a speed clean. 

Nourish and love your body 

The big one. You just had a baby! Your body is incredible! Reward it with nourishing food, warm drinks, hearty soups, stews, casseroles and stir fry’s. Hopefully some kind soul (or yourself) have filled your freezer with at least a couple of meals that take minimal effort from you and only require one hand to eat. Treat your body with respect and love – it’s just given you the greatest gift and does not want to hear any “Snapping back” “Shedding the baby weight” bollocks the Daily Mail might want to throw at it – in fact, just step away from tabloid newspapers and “Women’s magazines” altogether. 

Finally, give yourself a massive hug. This mum stuff isn’t easy, but you’re going to be just fine.

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Paris Kitchen: Batch Cooking

When I was about twenty-five weeks pregnant with Fred, my friend Jenni and I got together to cook. She had her six month old daughter playing nearby and we managed to shop for and cook twenty eight portions of food (four different recipes!) in an afternoon. I have always batched cooked, but we currently have a tiny freezer in the top of our fridge so I’ve felt a bit limited with it. As far as space goes, I really shouldn’t feel limited – I have the scope to do so much when it comes to preparing meals in advance, as do you and here’s how:

Why batch cook?

Batch cooking for me ensures that I always have a healthy meal on hand and ready to go. I can host toddlers for tea or a friend for dinner at a moment’s notice. I rarely ever have to make a dash for the shops in the rain, with a baby strapped to my chest and a wilful toddler asking constantly for chocolate cake. Making things like sauces and pesto means that my cooking time during the evening is drastically reduced and I have more time to play cars on the kitchen floor. It means that my husband (or the person who doesn’t normally stock or run the family kitchen) can serve my kids healthy food that they enjoy without having to think about it and the whole thing reduces kitchen induced stress dramatically!

 The lovely Emily & Sarah releasing their inner Chefs
The lovely Emily & Sarah releasing their inner Chefs

Planning

  1. Gather your team
    Maybe it’s because I’ve always cooked in big family kitchens or restaurant kitchens but I like cooking in a team. Find some other like-minded friends, or mums who have kids the same age as yours (similar portion sizes) and cook together! This is especially great in Paris because we don’t all have fully equipped or big enough kitchens. Choose the friend with the biggest and most equipped kitchen and get together.
  2. Menu plan
    I never batch cook for the whole week ahead as we dont have the space, but make things that I use a lot of (the seven veg tomato sauce – recipe below), meals that I know are always a hit when I do them (the fish pie – recipe to come next week), or things to bring out in a no food in the house crises (meatballs, fish fingers, crackers, pesto, soup etc). Be sensible about what you’re actually going to use or you’ll end up with a freezer full of bone broth because you’ve read about how awesome it is for you but you’ll realistically never use. 
  3. Shop
    To save time when I batch cook I make sure to shop somewhere that will definitely have everything I need, which is not as easy as it sounds in Paris. When I do our weekly shop I go to the market/cheese-monger/butcher/baker etc. but for batch cooking I head straight to the supermarket. The list is split into the ingredients for each meal and whatever containers I’m going to need to store them.
  4. Storage
    Generally I try to eliminate plastic and disposable containers as much as possible using mason jars and IKEA glass storage boxes. However, we do use ziplock freezer bags for the soups and sauces as they freeze flat and save us so much space. I’ve also just found some excellent toddler portioned size foil ramekins.

Execution

Some general advice to consider:

  • Rather than cooking one recipe at a time, I like to wash, chop and cook all the veggies first. Especially if I’m doing seven veg tomato sauce or a vegetable soup. That way I can get the sauce on the go quickly while the onions and leeks are sweating in olive oil for the fish pie. 
  • This doesn’t have to be your technique. Once you’ve done it a couple of times you’ll find your own rhythm and flow for the process. 
  • I like to clean as I go, it keeps me calm as I cook and means that you don’t extend your cooking time with clean up.

Seven Vegetable Tomato Sauce

We use this sauce as a base for practically everything. I keep it un-seasoned in portioned bags so that it can be transformed easily into soup, pizza base, pasta sauce, curry, tomato base for chilli and spaghetti bolognese or anything else that calls for a can of tomatoes.

  • Two 400g cans of chopped tomatoes

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 1 onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 small sweet potato 

Roughly chop all the veg into cubes.
Fry the leek, onion, garlic and carrots in a glug of olive oil over a medium heat until they start to soften.
Add the rest of the veg and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Add the cans of tomatoes. Fill each can up 3/4 of the way with water, swish around and add to the pot too. 
Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for an hour or until the vegetables are soft.
Blend the sauce with a stick blender, divide into portions, let cool and freeze for up to three months. 

The fish pie, meatballs, pesto and crackers are all recipes I’ll be putting up on the blog in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled on instagram and Facebook!

Happy cooking!

xx

 

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A Simple Christmas

Another Christmas over! For all the build up, Christmas day really does fly by and because France doesn’t do boxing day, it’s back to business as usual over here. 

This year we had our first Christmas as a family of four and for the first time, we celebrated as our own family unit. No grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or great-grandparents at all! While we certainly missed being with our families at this special time of year, we had such a simple, relaxed Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! We didn’t end up over-eating (although Stan made us THE most delicious roast beef and Yorkshire puddings – I contributed M&S mince pies and Paxo stuffing from a box!). We also had time to enjoy our gifts and time spent with eachother as we had no schedule, no commitments and nothing to do other than kick back and enjoy our days

As we head into the New Year, our Christmas experience got me thinking. What do I want more of in 2018? It’s set to be a pretty exciting year work wise for us, we have two children now and life needs to shift a little again to reflect our new addition and commitments. What I want more of is:

  • Space – not physical, but time in our schedules to explore Paris, get out to the countryside more and spend my maternity leave focussed on the boys. 
  • Spontaneity – I really do thrive on structure and routine, but, as usual, the best parties and days are those where plans are made last minute, meals are thrown together and schedule goes out of the window!
  • Simplicity – as always, I’ll be looking for places to simplify. Whether that’s in my home-making, my parenting, my creativity, our living space or my work, I’ll still be seeking the simplest solution.

I hope you had a very merry Christmas, with your loved ones – or without! What are your hopes and wishes for 2018? How will you be using this coming year? 

xxx

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Minimalist Me: Christmas Lists and Toy Control

Oh it’s really snuck up on me this year but Christmas is truly just around the corner! I’ve been far more organised than previous years – nesting, pregnancy hormones and Christmas planning are apparently a winning combination when it comes to organisation! We are planning on spending our first Christmas as just us three (but hopefully four!) in Paris. This will be the first time that we haven’t spent it with one of our families but we are excited to make some of our own traditions with our own children!

As always when you have young kids, the question of presents comes up early – how many to give, what type of toy, are we doing Father Christmas presents, are we doing multiple presents from everyone? This will be Arthur’s third Christmas and quite honestly, he wants for nothing. I decided, for the purpose of this blog post to take a look at what he already has and loves in the hope of inspiring you, if you’re reading and struggling to buy for your toddler. At the end is a little list of things we’ve bought for this year that you might want to consider. I’ve split it into a couple of categories for ease: Toys, activities, and games.

Toys

  • Wooden animals: these gorgeous, solid animals are always a winner. They’re a brand called Holztiger and I’ve seen them around in a fair few independent toy shops in Paris. They have a few ranges (farm animals, etc.) and they’re just lovely for promoting imaginative play. At this age, any kind of toy animal fascinates Arthur, and he can spend a good hour playing with them.
  • Wooden Cars: we have a set of Janod wooden cars that Arthur is completely obsessed with (seriously – he sleeps with them!) I love them because they’ve proved themselves really really durable, he received them for Christmas 2015 and has played with them practically every day since. Janod is stocked all over France and can be found in most toy stores. 
  • Grimms Rainbow: this classic, beautiful toy from Grimms (pictured below) is one of our more pricy toys, but honestly worth every penny. It has provided hours of imaginative play at our house and gets used as a tunnel, roads, boats, bridges, cradles for baby dolls and everything inbetween. 
  • Brio: self explanatory, if you have a child into trains, I can’t recommend Brio train tracks highly enough. It’s an absolute classic and, happily connects with IKEA train tracks too so you can combine collections. 

Activities

  • Cleaning: most little kids love copying mummy and daddy and last year Arthur received a beautiful wooden broom and dustpan & brush set from Nature et Decouvertes. (pictured at top of page) It gets used every day. Sometimes we pour out things like coloured feathers or conkers for him to sweep up, sometimes he just helps sweep the kitchen but, either way, he loves it. 
  • Sorting and ordering: from six months and up, lots of babies like to sort and order different objects. We have a set of stacking pots from Grimms that Arthur liked to put objects into, and take them out. Now he uses them for counting objects like pegs, conkers, little balls and people. They’re pictured above and you can find them here.
  • Crafts: Generally having a well stocked craft cupboard has held us in good stead, particularly through the winter months when outdoor time is limited. This really doesn’t have to be anything fancy. We keep things like lolly sticks, yarn, coloured paper, glue, paints, chalks and beeswax crayons, play doh, salt doh ingredients and beeswax for modelling. 
  • Dressing up: This is a new thing that Arthur is into and oh, it’s making my heart swell! I loved dressing up as a child and my mum made amazing costumes for us (she also loves dressing up!) if you wanted to read about some great benefits of dress up play you can do so here. At the moment we have a relatively small dressing up selection; bird, wolf, tiger, mechanic – but are looking forward to growing it over the years. The bird costume pictured above is from Okaidi

Games

  • Story cards: I’ve written about these fantastic cards before when discussing our toddler’s morning and evening routine but they’re always worth a mention. There are far more cards in the pack than pictured above and they can be used to make up stories. Arthur particularly loves the one about the tree growing. You can find them at Nature et Decouvertes in their Montessori department. 
  • Lotto: Arthur plays this at his Mamie’s house alot and we’ve got a beautiful set here too. He loves looking at the little pictures and matching them up to the cards. I love that it’s the first game we’ve been able to play together as a family too. Worth a look & you can find our set here.

Christmas

I’ve spoken before about how we try to limit the amount of toys that Arthur is given. We live in a very small space and just don’t have the room. I also believe that it’s not healthy in terms of development for children to be overwhelmed by toys. At Christmas and birthdays therefore, we tend to send a list to grandparents and others of things that we know he will love and play with and ask them to choose one gift each to give. It generally works very well (with the exception of my mum this year who just returned to England yesterday having dropped off SLIGHTLY more than one gift for Arthur…) and we try to work on the four gift principle of: something you WANT, something you NEED, something to WEAR and something to READ. With that in mind, here’s our Christmas list this year.

  • WANT: some wooden beads for threading onto shoe laces
  • NEED: a child size yoga mat so that he stops stealing mine!
  • WEAR: a musketeer dressing up costume
  • READ: the Koala who could (We have the Lion inside and LOVE it)

I hope this has given you some ideas and inspiration if you’re feeling stuck. We’re trying to make Christmas more about starting our own traditions this year than gift giving but it is undoubtedly part of making your child’s (and your!) Christmas magical! 

What’s Father Christmas bringing down your chimney this year?

xxx

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The Eighth Month

As I write this I am 35 weeks pregnant. We’re in the home stretch – just waiting for baby to make his appearance now. I’ve been thinking a lot about how this pregnancy has been different from my first and wrote some thoughts on the eighth month:

Anxiety

I was an anxious mess during my first pregnancy. It’s totally normal I think; our bodies are doing something they’ve never done before and even if we’ve read every book, we don’t really know what to expect. When I was pregnant with Arthur I read ALL of the books, googled incessantly, ate very cautiously, went to A&E twice thinking that he’d stopped moving and generally drove my husband up the wall. Honestly I’m surprised that Arthur isn’t a stressed child from all the second hand stress he received from me in utero!

This time around I’ve been MUCH more relaxed. I think just knowing what to expect helped me massively, I don’t like feeling out of control and this time around I knew what was happening to my body and how my baby was growing. I do not google, I have a few select pregnancy books that I love, have eaten with a little less caution and more understanding of the reasons of why to avoid certain things and am generally much calmer and happier. 

Nesting

I get a very strong urge to nest around month six. This has been a little frustrating for me this time as we’ve had literally NO baby gear to buy – we’re reusing everything from Arthur. We never really had a lot of stuff for him either, but we’ve whittled down on what we did have (the baby bath is gone, along with some other things we bought on recommendation but never used.) This time around has been focussed on cleaning! I cleaned last time around too – Stan came home to find me one day having taken all of the blinds down, cleaning every single slat – but this time has been more intense and more long-lived. I’m talking mopping the floors every day, cleaning out cupboards and decluttering like a maniac. 

Labour

Is anyone ever really prepared for labour?! I wasn’t last time, I don’t think I really am this time. I know that everything can change in an instant and even the best laid plans aren’t always what’s best in the moment. I trust my hospital and the midwives there. I am however reading some hypnobirthing books and listing to the MP3s that go with them. Mostly I’m just trying to take it easy, strengthen my body with yoga and enjoy these last weeks of being three. 

Becoming four

This is the part that’s giving me the most trouble at the moment. We’ve had two years of being the three of us – adding in Arthur’s new personality to our family was easy, everything was new! Adding in a fourth personality to our mix will, I think be a unique challenge. We can do all the baby stuff, we’ve done it before but I wonder about this little human’s place in our unit. I know he’ll slot right in and really it will be like he was always there… 

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Our Tiny Home: Laundry

While there are many many benefits to living in a small space, which one day I promise to list for you all, there are times when it can be a challenge. Lately, I’ve been dreaming of a laundry room. You know – like those beautifully designed, lit, and matching ones every mother on Pinterest seems to have. Neatly lined up products, matching coloured washing machines and tumble driers, cute baskets, a ceramic sink for hand-washing clothes, ample drying space (yes, my dreams are pretty boring…but ever so pretty!)

We’ve tried a few solutions over the years. A baby brings a lot of laundry with them – more if you use cloth nappies (we don’t and this is why!), toddlers are generally quite messy and two adults who both work in the food industry makes for a fair amount of loads a week. Keeping on top of it all is the first problem and the second problem is lack of space. I know people living in the same or less amount of space as us who use laundrettes – avoiding the question totally of where on earth to put a washing machine!

Keeping on top of it

  • One load a day, every day. Ugh – I know.
  • A specific day a week for sheets, towels, bathmats etc. I do all of that in one day and then clothes for the rest of the week. Usually when I hang sheets they take about an afternoon and a night to dry. This free’s up drying space for the rest of the week. 
  • Putting it away straight away when it’s dry. When I have a full basket of clean and dry clothes not yet put away next to the wardrobes, it backs everything else up. 

Lack of space

  • We have a washer/dryer combo. It’s honestly not great – the washing machine is fine but the dryer takes a LONG time to dry anything and it’s pretty noisy. Nonetheless I would definitely recommend getting one if you don’t have space for a dryer. It’s great for towels and emergency situations (of which there are many when kids are involved!) 
  • Get yourself some woollen dryer balls (as above – six for €12 on amazon) they speed up drying time, make your towels fluffy and you can pop some drops of your favourite essential oil on them for scent. They eliminate the need for dryer sheets or fabric softener really and I love them. 
  • Our current drying solutions are two wooden drying racks from Habitat (€29 each). In the summer they fit out on our tiny balconies to get some sun on them and in winter we stick them next to our radiators. They’re durable, sustainable material and honestly – I like the way they look. Which is important because they are up practically ALL the time! 

I know that this isn’t very interesting, but I do also know that when you’re living in a tiny space you’re always looking for solutions. Laundry has to get done! As always, when kept simple and attractive, things start looking brighter and more manageable!