Life in photos, early spring 2014

It’s been lovely to get out and about in the sunny weather! Which seems to have disappeared at the moment but hopefully will be back soon.

We took a trip to stay with friends in Reigate in March. They have 2 little girls a bit older than Seren and she adores them. They gave us a bag of hand-me-down dress up outfits whilst we were there which have been very popular ever since! Despite the intended activity being scooting or biking in Priory Park, the girls preferred to splash in the fountain (under close supervision of course)!

priory park priory-park

Seren won the Swimmer of the Week trophy! We’ve just moved up a class and she now has lessons in the big pool which she can’t stand up in! I still go in with her. We both found the first lesson faster paced and tougher than we were used to, there were a few tears from her towards the end of the lesson. She persevered though and tried really hard in the second lesson and won the trophy! We will have to skip lessons for a while when the baby is born, I think she will really miss them.


We celebrated Molly’s 2nd birthday – she had an amazing Raa-Raa the Noisy Lion cake! Seren is really getting into the whole party thing and enjoys playing pass the parcel. Mostly she passes the parcel on without prompting these days too!


There are so many more opportunities to get to the park now the weather is better and it’s lighter for longer. Afternoons can be tricky in the winter when your little one naps until 3pm and parks close around 4pm when it gets dark!

Enfield Town Park grovelands-park

We’ve been monitoring the progress of a couple of ducks who built a nest on the New River. The ducklings hatched a couple of weeks ago and Seren was excited to see them.

duck and ducklings on the New River ducklings on the New River

We had a lovely afternoon at Forty Hall a couple of weeks ago. The kids ran around digging in dirt for a good few hours whilst the mummies got to sit down and chat.

Forty Hall forty-hallI said that dress up is a big thing at the moment! Our Reigate friends came to visit us in the Easter holidays and the girls all raided the fancy dress box. And then enjoyed playing in the box that our new nursery chair came in. Kids and cardboard boxes, the cliche really is true. We got rid of the box last weekend and Seren keeps asking after it!

dressing-upSeren did her Easter egg hunt in the garden in her Christmas angel costume topped with the Easter bonnet we made together. We kept things simple and scattered some chocolate eggs in the garden for her to collect – she keeps asking to do it again! I wonder if next year we can up the ante a bit with some picture clues for her to follow.

easter egg hunt easter-egg-hunt-2 easter-egg-hunt easter-egg-hunt-3

Lastly, I love this photo of her handing out nibbles before Easter lunch. Cheese anyone?


You can follow me on Instagram for more photos!

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Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 25-28

26-week-bump-and-arm-blistersThe bump at 26 weeks and the arm blisters! 

By the end of January my regular clothes were mostly too tight to wear so I got out the dusty storage boxes with my maternity clothes in and washed them ready to wear. Two days later I came out in blisters all along my arms and some on my side! Seren and I had been exposed to chicken pox 3 weeks earlier (which typically has a 10-21 day incubation period) but as I had chicken pox as a child I wasn’t too worried about that and put the blisters down to an allergic reaction. Googling (I know, I know, googling symptoms is bad for your health!) informed me that there was actually a hive-like pregnancy condition called PEP (polymorphic eruption of pregnancy) which seemed to resemble the blisters I had but the condition usually occurred later on in the 3rd trimester.

Fortunately, I had my routine 25 week midwife appointment that day and 2 midwives and 2 GPs decided that it would be best to err on the side of caution and treat me for chicken pox! This decision was supported by a blood test which did not confirm that I was immune to chicken pox. I was prescribed anti-viral tablets and bought some PoxClin CoolMousse (which was absolutely amazing at stopping the itching). Of course, I was initially rather concerned about what the impact might be on the baby if indeed I did have chicken pox but was greatly reassured by the actual risk factors and that at 25 weeks pregnant it was the “best” time to have it.

The thing was though that I felt absolutely fine, no aching or fever and as the blisters failed to crust over like you would expect with chicken pox, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t have it and the blisters were down to some sort of allergic reaction to something like dust mites when I sorted out that dusty box of maternity wear! I guess I’ll never know for sure, although if I don’t have immunity to chicken pox as the blood test suggested, it will be interesting to see what happens when Seren and her sibling eventually get the illness!

This drama seemed to kick off an illness period in our household. A definite side effect of a) living with a small child b) being pregnant through the winter months meant that if I wasn’t ill then someone else was and I was looking after them. MrS was bed ridden with flu for a week over my birthday but we did get to celebrate the week after.

On the day of my birthday I reached the 28 week milestone and entered the 3rd trimester!

Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 21-24
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 17-20
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 13-16
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 9-12
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 5-8
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 1-4
Little Star Number Two!

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First haircut!

First haircut

Seren had her hair cut for the first time a couple of weeks ago! It hadn’t seemed necessary up to now – the hair she was born with fell out and she didn’t have much for ages so as it subsequently grew and grew, I’ve been very reluctant to part with it!

Seren-with-no-hairSeren with not much hair at 7 and 11 months

It was pretty uneven though (a bit of a mullet really!) and it’s fine like my hair so I thought a cut to tidy it up and make it slightly blunter would be a good idea. I found a local salon (Abbie’s Hair if you’re interested) that cuts under 5′s hair for a fiver and gives them a certificate for their first hair cut!

Seren’s taken to asking me each morning “where are we going today?” (actually she asks me this all through the day even just before bedtime) and when I told her that we were going to get her hair cut she was not impressed. Perhaps she thought it would be an ordeal like having her nails cut which still generates a huge amount of shrieking. All the way to the hair salon she kept repeating “I do NOT want to get my hair cut” but once we were there she sat on the booster seat in the chair with no fuss. I was then amazed at how still she sat whilst the hairdresser snipped away, though I did have to hold her head still for some parts.

First hair cut First hair cut First hair cut

I think she was impressed with the results too!

First hair cut First hair cut

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Seren’s Birth Story Part 1 // Overdue

Seren - minutes oldSeren at a few minutes old with wrinkled, dry skin that babies often get when overdue

As the date when baby number 2 is “due” to make an appearance gets ever closer (2 and a half weeks!) I’ve been having many flashbacks to Seren’s birth as my mind prepares. I started drafting her birth story in September 2012 and think it’s probably time I got round to finishing it! On the whole, I had a very positive experience although it was long, as is this story, so I’ve split it into 3 parts.

By way of introduction, Seren was 11 days late. She had been measuring 4 days ahead at her scans and as myself, MrS and all our siblings were early I was kind of expecting her to show her face a little ahead of schedule. That said, we moved into our new house 6 weeks before she was due and this commenced a whirl of painting, buying furniture and other house stuff, overseeing contractors and trying to “get ready”. It was a very busy time physically and emotionally and perhaps not the best way to prepare for labour! I woke up at 37 weeks pregnant with period like stomach cramps and cried at the thought that this was the start of labour. I was not ready!

By the time her due date came around, I had ticked off my To Do list and was ready. But her due date came and went and at first I appreciated the extra days to really just relax. I pulled out some cross stitching (maybe I’ll finish it this time around!) and discovered Pinterest. I was able to attend my parents-in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary celebrations which I hadn’t been able to commit to. But as days turned into a week and over and I was fielding more and more messages from friends and family asking whether there was any news (why do people do that?!) I got more and more fed up and uncommunicative.

I had 3 sweeps during my overdue days, these were hugely uncomfortable and at each one it was declared that my cervix was still very hard and closed and not near labour. MrS came with me to my 2nd sweep as I had been so upset after the 1st one, the only midwife appointment he has been to so far! After the 3rd sweep when I was 40+8, I went home, closed the curtains and proceeded to sulk big time. I had another sweep booked for 40+11 with an induction booked for 40+12. I was more than a little scared about the prospect of induction having heard stories of long, painful and very medicalised inductions with intervention and they sounded a million miles away from the birth I’d planned. I’ve since heard much happier induction stories and I hope I can remain more positive if induction looms this time.

I spent time investigating (i.e. reading online parenting forums and also the NICE guidelines!) the possibilities of resisting induction and learning about the Bishop Score which I hadn’t heard of before (it’s a way of scoring the cervix to predict whether induction is necessary). I came up with a plan to see what the outcome was of the next sweep, then possibly ask them to delay the induction until the following Monday (I would be 40+15) to allow more time for things to kick off naturally. You are perfectly entitled to request this although hospitals will often want to you to come in so they can monitor the baby on and off through the extended period. The induction timeline guidelines exist as there is research to suggest that the placenta begins to stop doing its job properly after a certain time so there may well be a risk to the baby. Thinking about it more rationally now, and having heard more positive induction stories, I don’t think I would want to delay an induction this time around.

I didn’t make that 4th sweep however, Seren had other ideas!

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Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 21-24

pregnancy-diaries-xmas-day-20-weeksSequins and the bump // 20 weeks pregnant, Christmas Day 2013

This was a bit of a lull time pregnancy wise, after the 20 week scan and over the Christmas break. Fortunately I was feeling a lot better by Christmas so had the energy to sprinkle some festive magic and enjoy the season. I was still suffering on and off with sickness though and had a constant horrible taste in my mouth which I didn’t experience first time around. I woke up with a headache on Christmas morning, promptly bringing back up the water I drank too. Pretty much like a hangover without the fun the night before! I guess I was dehydrated having had a busy Christmas Eve. We had a lovely, albeit quiet, family Christmas.

The post-Christmas blues kicked in a little in January, not a great combination with pregnancy hormones! Seren took a tumble on the way into nursery one day and we both ended up blubbing on our way through the door. I also started to feel overwhelmed at the task ahead of completing and handing over various work projects before maternity leave.

On a more positive note, I started an ante-yoga class once a week at the beginning of January with Jackie from the North London Yoga Studio. The class is a 5 week course (I’ve now done 3 courses!) which focuses on strengthening, breathing, positions for labour, relaxation, pelvic floor exercises (regretting not doing these first time around!) and tips for using birthing balls too. I’m absolutely terrible at sticking to an exercise routine but I have enjoyed these yoga classes so much. I wish I’d done the course in my first pregnancy but I think I’ve especially appreciated having a dedicated hour each week to focus on the new baby and prepare my mind and body for labour, amongst the mayhem of day to day family life. Jackie is absolutely lovely and peppers the lesson with amusing anecdotes! 

Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 17-20
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 13-16
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 9-12
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 5-8
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 1-4
Little Star Number Two!

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Willows Farm Village, Hertfordshire

We finally made it to Willows Farm a couple of weeks ago! It’s only a 20 minute drive from here and pretty much everyone I know locally with children has been. The entrance fee is a bit on the expensive side compared to other local farms which put me off a little and made me think that we needed a “special occasion” to visit. We decided to add it to our pre-baby “to do” list as a special treat for Seren as who knows when we’ll get the chance again when the baby comes.

The day we went was a beautifully sunny Saturday at the end of March. Being the weekend, I was worried it might be crowded but it really wasn’t – perhaps it gets busier at the many special events the farm puts on but we didn’t have to queue for anything on our visit.

We started with the Bouncy Haystacks followed by an attempt to go on one of the fun fair rides before Seren changed her mind at the last minute (which happens often according to the guy operating the ride – by the way, all the staff members we came across were super friendly)!


So we walked over to the outdoor Animal Feeding Area and saw some sheep, week old baby lambs, donkeys, camels and a miniature horse. You can buy animal feed if you like though we didn’t, I was keen not to get too close to the animals, especially sheep, lambs and goats as per the advice to pregnant ladies.

Willows-Farm2 Willows Farm Willows Farm Willows Farm Willows Farm Willows FarmAfter a sit down to work out what to do next, we got the last middle seats on Tristan the Runaway Tractor for a ride around the back of the farm which was fun, though I’d try to sit at the side next time to make it easier for Seren to see out.

Willows Farm Willows-Farm4We then walked back through the outdoor animal area to find somewhere to eat our picnic. Food is a little on the pricey side so we took our lunch with us and there are plenty of picnic tables, Seren was particularly keen on the tables with animal drawings around them.

Willows-Farm3After lunch we spent a long time playing in the Under 5′s Play Area. Seren loved pretending to drive the combine harvester whilst singing “The Wheels on the Bus”.

Willows-Farm5 Willows-Farm6 Willows-Farm7 Willows FarmThen we went to find the indoor animal area, the Stables, getting distracted by a little carousel ride on the way which Seren was brave enough to go on – twice! The rides are included in the entrance fee as is pretty much everything with the exemption of animal food, a couple of games and, of course, refreshments.

Willows-Farm8In the Stables we saw rabbits. baby chicks, pigs, piglets, horses and more lambs. Seren got to hold a guinea pig too which she was absolutely thrilled about!

Willows Farm Willows-Farm10 Willows Farm Willows-Farm9When we left we popped into Woolly’s Showtime Arena and caught the end of the “Meet Woolly” show. There are different shows throughout the day and I guess that makes a good wet weather option. After an ice-cream, the last activity was JCB driving in the JCB Young Drivers Zone, we actually have one of these at home, but no where near as much space to drive round!

Willows Farm Willows Farm Willows FarmThen it was time to go, but the only way we could get Seren to leave peacefully was by promising her she could buy something in the shop (terrible, I know). She chose a farm fuzzy felt activity and clung onto it in the car on the way home.

Willows FarmMrS likened the farm to an amusement park with animals as opposed to a farm with some extra attractions – there really, really is so much to do. We were there from 10am to 2pm and only left as Seren was really overtired by this point, we could have stayed until closing at 5pm. There were quite a few more activities and attractions we didn’t have time for including gold panning, falconry, puppet shows, arts and crafts, an indoor toddler play area and a sandpit play area. We will have to try to fit them in next time!

Willows Farm Village currently has an Easter Extravaganza running until Easter Monday.

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Books Lately // Me

Books Lately // April 2014Reading has been off the agenda for the last couple of years – I don’t commute by public transport anymore, we haven’t had any long relaxing holidays and I’m generally shattered and collapse into bed at the end of the day. I’ve been making more of an effort lately though and have read a whole 3 books since January (go me!) with the most significant being ToddlerCalm: A guide for calmer toddlers and happier parents by Sarah Ockwell-Smith.

I can’t reiterate enough how useful I’ve found this book! I’m not really one for parenting manuals and this is the first “behaviour” type book I’ve read. We were blessed with a relatively calm, sleeping OK, eating OK baby so perhaps I never felt the need for any manuals before but life with a toddler is generally tricky at the best of times. Mum of four Sarah promotes a “gentle” approach to parenting based on empathy and trust. She is also refreshingly honest about the ups and downs of her own parenting experiences. The book starts by explaining how the toddler’s developing brain works and how society’s expectations that toddlers should sit sill, share, sleep through the night are rather unrealistic when you look at the cognitive limitations of children that age.

Sarah believes that traditional toddler parenting tools used such as the naughty step, reward charts and over-used or non-specific praise can actually promote longer term undesirable behaviours. She uses a CRUCIAL framework to base her guidance around – Control, Rhythm, Understanding, Communication, Individual, Avoidance and unconditional Love. A couple of tips that I’ve picked up that are really working for us are to let Seren control some aspects of day to day life such as choosing what to wear, repeating back to her some of the things she says when she is angry or upset so at least she knows she is understood (even if she cannot have another biscuit!) and allowing myself to avoid situations that really don’t work for us. I feel much calmer as a result and a friend commented the other day that Seren seems calmer lately too!

Last summer I wrote about how much I was enjoying The White Queen TV series and associated books written by Philippa Gregory. I’ve now read the follow on book, The White Princess, which tells the story of Princess Elizabeth of York who marries Henry VII following his defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. I can’t say I enjoyed this book as much as the earlier ones in the series but I blame the factual events for that as opposed to Philippa’s writing! I always found Henry VII the dullest Tudor monarch when studying history and was keen to get past him to the more interesting Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The book does bring the historical figures to life well though and I empathised with Henry VII’s vulnerability and paranoia whilst he tried to keep hold of the throne against a backdrop of plots and betrayal. There’s no great love story between this King and Queen, perhaps to be expected given it was an arranged, dynastic match made by their mothers (the White and Red Queens). Legend has it that the couple are the King in the counting house counting out his money and the Queen in the parlour eating bread and honey in the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence.

On that note, if you like useless historical information and also London then you’ll enjoy I Never Knew That About London by Christopher Winn. Possibly the best “stocking filler” type book I have read! The book takes you on a journey through different areas of London telling behind the scenes stories of buildings and landmarks and what happened in them. I think my favourite story was about the 18th century traffic becoming so congested on London Bridge that the Mayor decreed that all traffic going into the city must keep on the west side of the bridge and all traffic going out of the city to keep to the east. This is the supposedly why we in the UK drive on the left hand side!

I’m now reading Bumpology: The myth-busting pregnancy book for curious parents-to-be by Linda Geddes with a view to finishing it whilst still pregnant. Let’s see.

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Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 17-20

Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 17-20The bump during my 17th and 19th weeks

Two lovely things happened at around the 17 week mark, my bump began to pop out and I started to feel the first baby flutterings. Both of these were a couple of weeks earlier than in my first pregnancy, I guess my tummy muscles are weaker than before and they say you feel the baby move earlier in subsequent pregnancies simply as you know what the feeling is! In the crazy busy world of life as a working mum with a toddler, I really began to relish the quiet time first thing in the morning when no-one else was awake but me and the growing baby fluttering like a butterfly. I could still dress my bump in my roomier pre-pregnancy clothes for a few weeks yet.

Something not so lovely also happened – half of one of my teeth fell out! I guess that’s what you get when you are relying on Polo mints and lemonade to deter morning sickness! Fortunately my dentist could see me quickly and made as best she could with the tooth until post pregnancy when I can have some more robust work on it. My morning sickness had definitely started to ease off by around week 18 but continued nonetheless.

Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 17-20

The week before Christmas, at the end of the 20th week we had our 20 week scan. This one was slightly more tricky than the 12 week scan and the sonographer couldn’t see the baby’s spine as clearly as she wanted to. So we went for a walk and a coffee and came back for another go. Baby was more co-operative that time and everything seemed fine, another anxiety reducing pregnancy milestone passed. We opted not to find out the gender again as we hadn’t first time around, hugely tempting as it was.

Around this time we started to drip feed the news about the baby to Seren and she took to pointing at my décolletage and saying “mummy’s got a baby in her tummy”. Of course, she thinks that she has a baby in her tummy too, sometimes three babies! Writing this at 35 weeks pregnant, I’m still not quite sure what she thinks about the baby who seems to have forever been in mummy’s tummy – I guess we will find out soon.

Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 13-16
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 9-12
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 5-8
Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 1-4
Little Star Number Two!

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Van Hage at Great Amwell

Garden centres don’t seem to be just about gardening anymore. Not round here anyway, we have ones that we go to for soft play and to meet Father Christmas. Van Hage’s in Great Amwell, Hertfordshire certainly takes the “frills” up a level and we headed there for a Sunday trip out in late February. It was the end of half term and the centre was playing host to a visiting circus. I thought the circus show might be too long for Seren to sit through but I’ll keep an eye out for it returning in the future.

We started our visit with a ride on the miniature railway which is operated by the East Herts Miniature Railway Society and runs on weekends and some week days during school holidays. Tickets are £1 and under 2s are free.

Van Hage 4 Van Hage 5Seren and daddy were supposed to take the ride with me holding on to the bag and taking photos but she wouldn’t settle and wanted to sit with me so MrS and I switched places at the last minute. We spent the first part of the ride with her clinging to me but by the end she was confident enough to sit facing forward! Though still not looking too happy about it! Of course as soon as we got off she wanted to go on again though.

Van Hage 6 Van Hage 7 Van Hage 7 Van Hage 8

We then made our way to the Animal Gardens, although someone was hugely distracted by the amazing playhouses on sale! The Animal Gardens is a little licensed zoo and, surprisingly, entrance is completely free. You can buy animal food if you wish. We saw rabbits (Seren’s favourite!), meerkats, mamosets, tortoises, a variety of birds and a couple of goats.

Van-Hage-3 Van Hage 9 Van-Hage-2 Van Hage 9 Van Hage 9 Van Hage 10 Van Hage 11 Van Hage 12 Van Hage 13 Van Hage 13Our own tummies were rumbling by this point so we headed to the (very, very busy!) cafe for sandwiches and cake (though they did have Sunday roasts on offer too for those looking for something more substantial). Then it was my turn for a treat and I got to browse the different shopping sections whilst MrS entertained Seren. She kept him on his toes with her latest favourite game of running off whilst shouting “you can’t catch me!”. They have a pretty impressive range of cookware, clothing, toys and gifts, not to mention gardenware too. I was very restrained and came away with, brace yourselves, some eco-friendly slug and snail deterrant stuff! There seems to be an abundant number of baby snails in our flower beds, I guess the mild winter has helped with that. Seren is thrilled with this development, I on the other hand, not so much!

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Nursery Inspiration – Duck Egg, Grey and Yellow

I wrote a “home improvements” introduction post last summer and the first proper update I have to write about is the new nursery! Nothing like a new baby deadline to get things moving! The nursery used to be a spare room, untouched since we moved in and full to the brim of boxes and “stuff”. It’s a similar size to Seren’s room which I am hoping will reduce future sibling bedroom squabbles!

We moved into our house 2 months before Seren’s arrival and her nursery, whilst being perfectly adequate, was a bit thrown together in a rush with a lack of budget. It’s been lovely to put more thought into the new nursery and spend hours on Pinterest getting ideas (ok, perhaps too many ideas!). We have opted for a duck egg blue and bright yellow theme (I’m hoping it will be calm yet cheery) and are re-using Seren’s nursery furniture. This is a non-expensive range from IKEA (discontinued) which I am not in love with but will do. Seren is also having her room decorated and she gets the new furniture (more on that soon).

We’ve finished the big stuff in the nursery – wallpaper stripped, walls and ceiling re-plastered, radiator moved, walls, ceiling, coving and woodwork painted. Seren has moved in there temporarily whilst her room is being decorated and when she vacates it we can finish it off. Here is the inspiration board behind the room:


The circles along the bottom are the paint and fabric choices. Left to right: Homebase Sanctuary Eggshell paint for the woodwork in Cosy, this looks more off white in real life; Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Country Grey which I’m going to use to try to paint an old IKEA Expedit unit. In the tin it’s more of a putty than a grey but I think it will look more grey on the furniture; Laura Ashley Duck Egg Matt Emulsion for the walls; Acacia Hummingbird fabric in Honey. I am in love with this fabric! I’ve used it to make a little cushion so far and plan to make a lampshade using my new found skills. I am considering using it to make simple curtains too as I cannot find any off the shelf ones I like. We have a blind in there too so I don’t need to rush this. 

The squares down the left hand size are inspiration photos I found on Pinterest. The top square (source) uses an Expedit unit the same as ours and I love the greyish walls, bright yellow curtain combination. I’d like a similar rocking chair too for night feeds. On the middle square (source) shows some little shelves which I’m considering. We will have less surface space in this nursery for decor and practical items so some shelves make sense. I love the grey wardrobe in the bottom square (source) and have considered painting the one we have but have not reconciled that idea to being a valuable use of my time and energy as yet.

Moving onto the overlapping squares on the top right, these are photos from the same nursery (source) and I’m going to have a go at fabric filled embroidery hoops and the felt mobile if I have the time!

The product pictures further down the right hand side are: Cot – a similar IKEA cot to the one we have (which matches the wardrobe and changing station) to give you an idea; Hooded towel – grey star baby towel from H&M; Box – cheap and bright yellow storage box from H&M; Blanket – I love this grey, white and yellow chevron baby blanket from Mamas and Papas; Cushion – bright, patterned cushion from H&M, for sitting on the floor cooing over the new baby!

You can see more ideas on my Pinterest nursery board. I will share photos of the nursery very soon as things start to come together.

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