Life in photos | late summer 2014

I’m so sad to say goodbye to the summer, it’s gone by so quickly in a baby haze. Though the weather has been good this week, there’s a definite early morning chill, the leaves are on the turn, the parks are empty of school-aged children … autumn is here. We’ve been making the most of the last of the sun by taking our painting outside (less mess!).

late summer 2014 late summer 2014

And we’ve had new play dough to play with too. I hate it when Seren mixes up the colours and going by comments on my Instagram photo, I’m not alone!

We’ve discovered a new park! Oakhill Park in Barnet. It has fun stuff like zip wires and a gem of a cafe with soft play too.

late summer 2014 late summer 2014

I’m still getting the Lucky Dip Club boxes and sharing the spoils with Seren.

I somehow got two pairs of socks in the July Pet Parade box so we have a pair each.

late summer 2014

We’ve celebrated Cher’s 40th, auntie Leanne’s birthday, Katie’s 3rd birthday and daddy’s 40th!

late summer 2014 late summer 2014 late summer 2014


Seren got a 12-hour tummy bug which scuppered some lovely plans with friends. But a lot of bed and sofa snuggle time and Frozen, Tangled and Tinkerbell helped.

We’ve been to Lee Valley Park Farms, Knebworth House and I escaped the children for Afternoon Tea at Ham Yard Hotel.

Lee-Valley-Farm knebworth ham-yard-afternoon-tea

We went to the Enfield Town Autumn Show. That and Andy’s birthday always marks the end of summer for me. I love the way show emulates a country show with village green type activities and craft, bakery and crafting competitions! Every year I saw I will make something to enter next year then promptly forget. Here’s Seren petting a bunny, riding a pony and some prize veg too.

Finally, we had a fabulous four days in Norfolk last week, more to come on that soon!

Life in photos | summer 2014
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An afternoon at Lee Valley Park Farms

Lee-Valley-FarmWe had planned a get together with some friends for an afternoon in early August. One friend was taking the afternoon off work, so we felt we should do something “worthy” of that and another friend has recently started to drive again, so we didn’t want anything too far away. Lee Valley Park Farms in Waltham Abbey seemed like the perfect choice!

We last visited this farm when Seren was 10 months old – she was able to appreciate this trip quite a bit more! The weather forecast wasn’t great and I think that had put off a lot of potential visitors as the farm wasn’t busy at all. It was more expensive than I remembered though, the prices had been raised for the school holidays, so perhaps that was another factor. However, we were lucky – it didn’t rain until it was nearly time to leave anyway and we had a fabulous afternoon!

We bought some animal feed along with our tickets and headed off to find some hungry animals. Starting with the goats and sheep in their pens.

lee valley park farm lee valley park farmThen the pigs.

lee valley park farmThen the outdoor sheep.

lee valley park farm lee valley park farmBefore scrupulously scrubbing our hands and heading off to play. And build sandcastles, the outdoor sandpit being a new addition since our last visit, and the closest Seren has been to a beach this summer so far.

lee valley park farm lee valley park farmThen a quick game of hide and seek…

lee valley park farmLook who we found!

lee valley park farm

Before heading over to the Hilltop Adventure area for bouncy pillow jumping.

lee valley park farm

Then over to the Alpine Adventure area to launch ourselves down Santa’s Launch Pad. I had a go of this too – it was great fun! It felt a little odd to be surrounded by a few leftover Christmas decorations but the kids didn’t seem to notice them.

lee valley park farm lee valley park farm

After several goes it started to rain and was time to retreat to the cafe for coffees, juice and ice-cream before heading home. We didn’t get chance to visit the soft play in Bundle Barn or take Tex the Tractor to working dairy farm, Holyfield Farm. Hopefully we can do that next time, we’ve just bought half price tickets through Littlebird and are planning to take daddy on a farm adventure soon!

Lee Valley Park Farms 
Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 2EF
See website for opening times and prices: Lee Valley Park Farms

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The Joys of Potty Training

summer 2014

“Joy” being sarcastic, just in case you were wondering. It has been horrendous, easily one of the hardest steps in our parenting journey so far. It’s not something you can “teach” them to do, you can show them but there are so many factors that need to come together to make it work. Physical factors such as realising the sensation of needing to go, being able to undress and dress again and being able to pull themselves up to the toilet. Psychological factors such as feeling confident enough that they can do it and overcoming embarrassment and the self-esteem knocks of accidents.

We were keen to follow Seren’s lead. She would tell us she needed her nappy changing from around 18 months old so I thought this would lead to a natural potty training progression. When she turned 2 we bought a potty and put it in the bathroom to get her used to it, no pressure. After a while we suggested she might want to use it, especially before her bath as she ALWAYS did a wee in the bath. She sat on it once but declared that “her wee wee doesn’t come out” and that was that. She had concluded that she didn’t actually wee, so didn’t need to use the potty and became very resistant to our further attempts to get her to sit on the potty, to the point of high pitched screaming in protest.

I thought I would spend the first week on my maternity leave carrying out the traditional ‘complete-immersion-parent-led’ potty training. But as the time neared, she didn’t seem any more ready. At her 2 year check up, the health visitor suggested we wait and a lot of people talked about regression when the baby arrived anyway.

We continued to hint about her being a big girl and using the potty, we read Princess Polly’s Potty book and watched Elmo’s Potty Time. When the warmer weather arrived in spring we had some nappy-free time in the garden, suggesting she used the potty when she needed to go. No joy!

Fast forward to an afternoon July when some friends came to visit, Seren accompanied their little girl to the potty and decided to have a go too. And her wee wee came out! Success! We were on our way! The rest of the day was OK, about half accidents and half success. The next day was awful, all accidents really. Accidents when I was feeding Imogen, accidents when I was making lunch for friends and in a cafe too. We went back to nappies – I could not take anymore.

A few days later we started again when Seren took her nappy off to use the potty. We also instigated a chocolate button reward system (unusual for us) which seemed to boost success (I think she preferred applause to chocolate buttons though!). Things were going well at home and at childcare. Trips elsewhere were disasterous with lots of accidents – embarrassing for me and upsetting for Seren. Another problem was that she wouldn’t use the travel potty or a toilet (she was convinced she would fall down the toilet). A friend told me at that point that she was Not Ready.

Rather than rewind everything, we switched to a a ‘two tier process'; nappy-off at home/childcare and nappy-on for trips elsewhere. Most advice will tell you not to do this as it confuses the child but it worked for us. Seren’s success at home gave her confidence to build on. Before long something just “clicked”, she refused to wear the nappies for trips out anymore and was willing to use the travel potty and gradually proper toilets too. Seeing other children use a toilet and not fall in was a revelation for her.

She is now using a toilet at home (with a child seat on, a pink one of course) and climbs up onto it using a step. She is so proud of being able to do this by herself. We still get accidents but fewer and fewer of them. She’s still in night time Disney Princess pull-ups and will be for a while yet (which is common).

When it’s time to potty train Imogen I need to remember to:

  • Let her see other children going to the toilet so she knows that even little people won’t fall in. This will be easier with a big sister around!
  • Encourage her to use the potty or the toilet from an early age. I wonder if we missed a window in training Seren earlier by being too laid back. But no pressure either, we got there in the end.
  • Get the book and DVD out, Seren enjoyed them and I guess they helped build her awareness though didn’t seem to spark any direct action.
  • Work out what encourages or motivates her, applaud and praise worked well for Seren, chocolate buttons helped.
  • Not be afraid to try a gradual approach of using the potty / toilet at home and nappies for trips out.
  • Not stress out, it will click eventually!

Not that I’m wishing baby years away, they are going far too fast anyway.

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Afternoon Tea at Ham Yard Hotel

Ham Yard2

I escaped! For an afternoon without children! Some friends and I headed to the newly opened Ham Yard Hotel for afternoon tea and a good, uninterrupted, catch up. You know how I love afternoon tea.

Ham Yard is the newest member of the eclectically glamourous Firmdale boutique hotel chain. I’ve also had afternoon tea at the group’s Soho, Haymarket and Charlotte Street hotels so was keen to visit Ham Yard. In my child-free excitement, I neglected to take many photos and indeed any decor ones so you’ll have to make do with the photos from the hotel’s website (as is the photo at the top of the page). Food, tea and Laura photos further down are mine! 

ImageGen.ashx ImageGen.ashx ImageGen.ashx Ham YardThe hotels are designed by Kit Kemp who co-owns the chain with husband Tim. Kit has a wonderful bright modern style and I’ve bookmarked some of the hotel bedroom photos for inspiration for a master bedroom refresh I’m hoping to undertake soon. The bottom photo above is of the restaurant where we sat for our tea. See that yellow print wall covering? It’s fabric not paper, super luxurious!

One of the big plus points of Firmdale’s afternoon teas is that they usually include a variety of menu options. So, those on a tighter budget could have a cup of tea and scone whilst others could eat more and the really extravagant ones can have champers. There is just one Afternoon Tea menu at Ham Yard though, but this does come in at a budget-friendly £18 for one pot of tea, sandwiches, scones and more cakes than you can eat. The Afternoon Tea menu changes weekly and is published on their website.

ham-yard-afternoon-teaBeing a creature of habit, I went for the Earl Grey.

afternoon tea at ham yardThe savoury options included a sausage roll and slider (mini burger) as well as the more traditional sandwiches. They were more than happy to cater for my vegetarian-ness too and I had avocado on toast, a goats cheese toastie and a couple of mini sandwiches.

afternoon tea at ham yard

Before tucking in to the obligatory scones and sweet delights which included an amazing mini lime meringue pie.

afternoon tea at ham yard afternoon tea at ham yard afternoon tea at ham yard ham-yard-afternoon-teaTo wash everything down, we needed a couple more pots of tea (charged on top) and we enjoyed a very-unhurried afternoon. I spent 20 minutes in the Ladies (which is as stylish as you would expect) expressing milk (to be dumped, sob) but it was lovely to have a few hours off. I arrived home to a barrage of questions from Seren – had I had a nice time with my friends? Had I been on a choo choo train? Had I gone to the shop to buy a magazine? And then lastly and rather accusingly, had I been to Peppa Pig World? Perhaps the most exciting place she can think of to visit at the moment, it’s funny the things that go through their minds.

Ham Yard Hotel
1 Ham Yard, London, W1D 7DT

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The big 4-0

andy 40 Someone is having a special birthday today, Andy turns 40! I remember when my parents reached 40, I was 11 / 12 years old and 40 seemed, well, pretty ancient. People used to say that that 40 was ‘over the hill’. You don’t really hear that these days? Perhaps I’m biased as I’m nearly there myself but 40 really doesn’t seem that old anymore.

Not that we will be doing any wild partying mind you, our newest edition to the family being so little, rules that out. We are going to have a relaxed family day today and a bit of a celebration tomorrow.

Happy birthday darling husband!

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Knebworth House

knebworthMy sister came to stay to celebrate her birthday. We had a fun birthday tea and cake!

birthday cakeThen friends stayed over, so we had 4 little girls here for a sleepover. When you are nearly 3 years old and just starting to have sleepovers they are one of the BEST THINGS EVER. Our little nearly 3 year old did not get much sleep at all. So we had a lazy morning at home before heading to Knebworth House for the afternoon.

Knebworth House is a gothic stately home up the A1 near Stevenage. As well as the usual house tour and gardens it has an Adventure Playground and a Dinosaur Trail! I’ve wanted to go twice before but it hasn’t been open – it opens on weekends from the end of March to the end of September and only on weekdays during school holidays. It does open up on certain dates for special events such as at Halloween. We got tickets to the outdoor areas only, stately homes are wasted on toddlers, for £9 each adult. Under 4s go free so that does keep the price down for families with littlies. Rain threatened so we needed to prioritise! First up was food. We sat outside the cafe to breastfeed and eat – mediocre and expensive – sandwiches. Next time I would be more organised and take a pack-up. Seren did not eat a thing and was a bit out-of-sorts for the afternoon. I put it down to post-sleepover tiredness but it turns out she had a bit of a tummy bug but we wouldn’t find that out until the evening! Ooops.

Anyway, after our lunch we headed to the gardens and wandered round the sculpture exhibition.

knebworth knebworth knebworth knebworthBefore heading into the maze to find the monkey in the middle! I liked that the maze hedges were waist height so easy to keep track of little people.


Then we found our way to the dinosaurs! Knebworth’s Dinosaur Trail has 72 life-sized dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures nestling in the shrubbery.

knebworth knebworth knebworth knebworth knebworthWe (ok I) was especially excited to find the 3 dinosaur types we have toys of at home; Tyrannasaurus Rex (I hadn’t appreciated how BIG these guys were), triceratops and stegosaurus.

Knebworth knebworth knebworthWe also saw these old chaps, the Neanderthals.

knebworthAnd this little horse. Did you know that horses were originally dog-sized forest dwellers? They evolved to be the size and strength they are now to cope with wide open flat plain living.

knebworthAfter completing a lap of the park, we wandered back to the house to find the car and drive over to the Adventure Park. Seren was flagging by this point and I wished I’d bought the double buggy.  She did perk up when she spotted auntie Leanne at the top of a hill, and followed her up there, determined not to be the dirty rascal.

knebworth knebworth knebworth

I went up to there too to take photos and spotted a film crew, filming the “sponsored by” bits that wraparound Downton Abbey apparently.

knebworth knebworthOver in the Adventure Park the first things we encountered, including a zip wire, were more for older children but we soon spied a bouncy castle!

knebworthThen found the enclosed Fort Knebworth, a wooden play structure with a super exciting cluster of slides behind it. Seren and auntie Leanne had several goes on one of the slides, I don’t know who was most excited!

knebworth knebworth knebworth knebworth

After a quick play in the fort, Seren just wanted lots of cuddles (so did Imogen as usual),  it was time to bundle them in to the car and head home.

knebworth knebworthWe’ll definitely come back another time. You could spend a whole day there with a morning in the Dinosaur Park and gardens then a picnic lunch and the afternoon in the Adventure Playground.

Knebworth House

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Choosing Imogen Lily

ImogenI can’t be the only parent who eagerly looks at the ONS Top Baby Names list each year, hoping that their children’s names haven’t shot up in popularity? When choosing names, I’ve been put off by the popularity of some names, which has meant, perhaps churlishly, shunning some lovely names! Choosing a more unusual name gives no certainty that your child avoids that “having to be known by first name and last name” thing though. Can you believe there was more than one Sian in my year at playgroup in Berkshire in the early 1980s? We became best friends of course.

Seren is super popular in Wales but not in north London and a lot of people we’ve met haven’t heard of it, which is a blessing and a curse. I wrote about choosing her name here. Imogen is undoubtedly more popular in England and was the 34th most popular name in England and Wales in 2013.  I did have a slight panic when a recent Netmums article described Imogen as the “hottest baby name of 2014“, though calmed down when I realised that the article was based on information from an American website. A couple of mums have told me that Imogen was on their recent girls’ name shortlist so I suspect it will be more popular in the 2014 England and Wales stats. On the upside, it’s nice not to spell out the name or explain its origin when introducing people to Imogen!

We both loved the name Seren straight away but choosing a girls name for the second time was much harder especially as we had the additional criteria that the name needed to go with Seren. For example, I felt that long names with a feminine ending such as Isabella (a family name) wouldn’t go. So I looked at names with a ‘strong’ ending including Beatrice, Astrid and Imogen. I liked how the -en ending of both Imogen and Seren, pronounced differently as Imo-jin and Se-ren, complement each other.

We also considered another Welsh name, our favourite being Cerys, but as we aren’t Welsh and now have two Welsh names in the family, I wanted to pick a more English name for balance.

Seren means star in Welsh and as it has such a tangible reference (star prints feature quite heavily in this house!) we considered other names meaning star (which would work so much better with this blog!) such as Astrid (again) or other celestial names such as Luna (Spanish for moon). Or names with a different pictorial association such as Beatrice (again), thinking of bee or Imogen (again) which means girl.

The first recorded use of the name Imogen was by Shakespeare in Cymbeline. The name is thought to be a misprint of Innogen, a Celtic name derived from the Gaelic inghean meaning girl or maiden. Innogen was queen to the first British King, Brutus. I love to weave a historic tale or myth into matters so the meaning of Imogen pushed it to the top of my list. That and it being the only name out of all the others that Andy liked too!

Seren’s middle name is Rose so we wanted another flower name for Imogen. Lily had long been a favourite name of mine and I love the flower too. I did consider Poppy to commemorate the World War One centenary but our only flowering lily (from 3 bulbs which were planted) bloomed on the day we found out we were expecting Imogen so that sealed the deal.

So we have Imogen Lily. And as soon as I posted the news of her arrival to my antenatal yoga teacher’s online group, I received a message from another mummy to congratulate me and compliment me on our name choice, as she also had an Imogen Lily! But, of course, ours is one in a million to us.

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Come Away With The Faeries

away with the faeries

There’s a local children’s festival that runs each summer called “Come Away With The Faeries” and we managed to go this year. Imogen’s first festival! We last went when Seren was just under a year old and when I heard that 2014’s venue was Capel Manor Gardens, I was extra keen to go again.

The festival has a creative, bohemian vibe offering a variety of child and adult friendly workshops including fairy crafts (wand, wing and crown making), a drumming circle, yoga and meditation sessions as well as live music.

away with the faeries away with the faeries away-with-the-faeries away-with-the-faeriesOf course, Seren was immediately attracted to the bouncy castles, so we started there.


Before heading off to have our picnic with some friends, including Charlotte from Baking Betsy and her gang. I had made fairy sticks (breadsticks with white chocolate and sprinkles) and fairy kebabs for the occasion!

away with the faeries away with the faeriesWe went to say hello to some of the Capel Manor animals before heading back to the main festival area.

away with the faeries away with the faeriesBy this point the festival was much busier with the inevitable queues for face painting and crafts. If we go next year I think we’ll do the craft activities first as supplies were running low by mid-afternoon. We did manage to make an ivy crown though!

away-with-the-faeries away with the faeriesThen we settled in the drumming circle, soaking up the atmosphere, feeding the babies, eating ice cream and doing some occasional drumming too.

away with the faeries away with the faeriesSeren and Betsy (and some of the grown-ups) enjoyed hoola hooping.

away with the faeries away with the faeriesAnd then settled down to a story.

away-with-the-faeriesAfter the story, our eldest imp was feeling rather sleepy so it was time for us to head home for a fairy nap.


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Sibling prep

pregnancy diaries 39 weeksAKA getting #1 ready for #2. Seren absolutely adores Imogen so I feel we did a pretty good job of getting her used to the idea of having a baby sister. Something we didn’t do so well is prepare her for not having complete parental focus. She’s struggled a little with that and plenty of temper tantrums but hey, she’s 2, she’s just dropped her nap, we’ve been potty training and its been pretty hot lately, so maybe the tantrums would’ve happened anyway. But she’s totally smitten with her little sister and, if the baby smiles are anything to go by, Imogen thinks her big sister is pretty cool too.

We told Seren about the baby early on, in the first trimester of pregnancy. She was excited straight away and would want to look down my top or hold up my skirt to try to see the baby. We decided not to take her to our baby scans, I thought she would be bored and / or concerned about me lying down in the scan room. And what if the scans gave us bad news? We saw a few big siblings-to-be leaving the scan room clutching a picture of their new baby brother or sister though so perhaps we were a bit over cautious there.

books lately // seren aged 2.5

By the time I started the third trimester, we had a couple of “new baby” books to read, What’s In Your Tummy Mummy? by Sam Lloyd, There’s a House Inside My Mummy by Giles Andreae and Vanessa Cabban,  Usborne’s The Complete Book of First Experiences (which also includes tales of trips to the dentist and doctor, starting school and moving house amongst others) and Peppa Pig’s Baby Alexander. We still read the story of the Bunn family’s new baby in the Usborne book regularly. Seren was also fascinated by the illustrations in my childbirth book Bump by Kate Evans, she would come and sit next to me when I was reading it and would pull it off the bookshelf to look through herself.

sibling-prep sibling prepShe “helped” us to decorate Imogen’s bedroom and to sort out baby clothes and toys for her. We talked a lot about what the baby would do (cry, need lots of feeding, not be able to play) and how she was going to be big Super Sister Seren. In the days before Imogen arrived, I helped Seren to wrap up a toy bunny for Imogen as a present, this was a really big deal for Seren and she still runs to find the bunny when Imogen is upset. We also gave Seren a present from Imogen, a lifelike baby doll with a baby vest, hat, nappy and baby shawl that my granma knitted.

sibling-prep sibling-prep

Seren went off for a sleepover with Nana and Grandad the night that Imogen arrived, though she was unaware of the events unfolding. When she arrived home the next afternoon, she came in noisily through the front door. “Shhhhh you’ll wake the baby” Andy said to her. “The baby in mummy’s tummy?” she replied. We told her that the baby was no longer in my tummy and led her through to the sitting room to meet her baby sister.

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Imogen at 3 months

Happy 3 months old Imogen Lily! You’ve been here a quarter of a year already. I can’t believe how quickly the months are flying by, the time certainly seems to be racing ahead quickly.

imogen-3-months imogen-3-months imogen-3-months

And here are her photos at 2 weeks, 1 month and 2 months.

Imogen-2-weeks-+-1-month Imogen-at-2-monthsShe’s now had her 12 week vaccinations and wasn’t as grumpy about them as with the 8 week ones. She weighed 12 pounds and 3 ozs at her 13 week weigh in which is in the middle of the 25th and 50th centile. A little bit concerning as she was born on the 91st centile but she is putting on weight and has been tracking the same line for a few weeks now. She still fits into some newborn clothes though is wearing more 0-3 months size ones now too. Despite her smallness, she has plenty of energy as she has rolled over for the first time! A good 2 months earlier than her big sister did. Her she is post-roll.

She is also holding her head well and enjoying being able to sit propped up.


She’s just started to hold onto toys and puts them into her mouth too.

As well as toys, she is still trying to cram her hands into her mouth and I’ve been trying to get her to take a dummy which I’d prefer to thumb sucking. We think she’s been teething a little, Seren started teething at 3 months too although no actual tooth came through until she was nearly 1!

The shape of a routine is starting to form (I’ve never been rigid on routines); she wakes around 5am for a breastfeed then falls back to sleep until around 7.30am when she has another quick breastfeed.

I then change her nappy and get her dressed and she plays on her playmat or on the floor whilst Seren and I play with her, have breakfast and get ready for the day.

imogen-3-monthsShe falls asleep around 10am for an hour or so and has another breastfeed on waking. I’m struggling to spot an afternoon routine yet but she has her first formula feed in the afternoon then a breastfeed around 5pm. She gets ready for bed with her sister around 7pm and they often have a story together now. Imogen then comes back downstairs for another play, then a formula or expressed milk feed and she falls asleep around 9pm. She used to have a dream feed at about 10.30pm / 11pm  but doesn’t always take this now. She still sleeps in her Bednest next to me and has plenty of room left in it.

imogen 3 months

She’s been to her first party where she fed and slept throughout.

imogen 3 months

And had her first sleepover at our friends’ house.


We’ve been going to a lovely mums and babies meet up at Love13 in Bush Hill Park (home of the lampshade making class!) and are looking forward to more baby centred activities in September.

Imogen at 2 months
Imogen at 1 month
Imogen’s birth story

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