Our Private Scan Experience At Bump of Churchtown, Southport | Just Add Ginger

After my last pregnancy and how much it affected my mental health, this time round I wanted to go straight into things as prepared as I could be. True enough - I can't be in control of how my pregnancy was going to go, but I could be in command of managing my emotions and feelings of anxiousness that I know so, so well. 

A part of this was booking myself in for some private scans - little milestones I could look forward to if things should get a little rocky or I felt myself start to wobble. I'd heard about Bump of Churchtown from Codie, and after being told some really good things I decided to head there for a little peek in on baby.

Image: Bump of Church-town

Because we found out about Baby no2 so early the first thing I did was book an early reassurance scan. I think we went for this around 7/8 weeks and it was such a good decision to make. Nobody knew we were expecting and I was just so on edge that having the knowledge baby was nestled in there with its heart beating away was the comfort I really needed to carry me through to the dating scan. 

Stepping into the studio it immediately felt so welcoming. The decor and layout of the waiting room feels really intimate and helps take the edge off your nerves as you wait for your appointment - it is almost like you are sitting in someone's living room and the little rustic touches really add to the calm and cosy atmosphere.

Image: Bump of Churchtown

The first scan was so long ago that remembering it all is a bit of a blur but I do remember being so relieved that everything was okay I cried. The whole experience left a good impression on me, so much so that I decided to sign up for the studios scan package , which meant that I would get to come back an additional two times to see baby alongside the scans you receive on the NHS. 

Each time I came back to Bump of Churchtown I felt so well looked after. The staff must see so many women every day but they really do make the experience so special for you. Rachel (owner and sonographer) took the time to point out so many interesting things on the screen and answered any questions that we had. She was very patient with us when it came to bringing Eric (who naturally didn't keep still and wanted to raid all the cupboards and play with everything and really took her time with the scan to ensure we got to spend plenty of quality time with our littlest boy. At no point did we feel rushed or like there was a time crunch working against us. 

As someone who does get worried easily and is often visited by anxious thoughts, opting for private scans really helped to put my mind at rest. The studio is staffed by qualified sonographers so I knew I was in safe hands and Rachel also gave so much insight to what we were seeing during the scan and you just don't get that level of detail at your regular hospital ones (which is completely understandable - #noshade). 

I had private scans with my last pregnancy but going to Bump of Churchtown made the experience much more special - more than I could ever have hoped. Going there has been one of the highlights of this journey and the team made every visit just so wonderful for us. From seeing baby as a little tiny blob to finding out we were having a boy to one last look in at him in 4D I feel like going there has helped my pregnancy become such a positive experience and I actually miss having an appointment to look forward to.

When you find a hidden gem of an independent business that really leaves a lasting impression on you you should shout it from the rooftops and if you are pregnant or know someone who is and you are in the Liverpool area, then you need to book in to Bump of Churchtown. For a calm and comforting atmosphere, exceptional staff and an experience you'll cherish forever you really couldn't ask for a better setting!


Dirty Dancing at the Liverpool Empire* | Just Add Ginger

AD // Gifted

There's definitely one thing I really struggle with when it comes to being a parent and that is making time for myself. I find it really tricky. Partly because there are always a million and one other things that need doing and partly because I don't want to miss out on family time. 

flat lay image for playbill for dirty dancing - the classic story on stage with two pink flowers framing the programme

But when SeatPlan reached out and asked me if I wanted a pair of tickets for a show at the Liverpool Empire - well - the opportunity for a very rare night out sans husband and child sounded too good to refuse. So, with one of my friends in tow, on Monday evening we headed out to the city centre to watch Dirty Dancing.

Dirty Dancing is one of those films that is up there on my list of all-time favourites. From the music to the dancing to the absolute dreamboat that is Patrick Swayze all in all I must have seen it about a hundred times if not more. And with being so in love with the film I was really keen to see how it translated to the stage. Would it do Johnny and Baby justice? Or would I be left sitting there unable to separate the stage show from the film? 

official production photography for Dirty Dancing
Image: Alistair Muir // c/o Dirty Dancing Tour - The Classic Story On Stage

The minute we stepped into the theatre you could tell everybody was buzzing for the show. Everyone seemed so excited for it to start and were chatting and laughing animatedly amongst themselves. And as the opening music started and the whoops and cheers from us all came right on cue. 

I don't quite know what I was expecting from the show but it was completely captivating. From the seamless set changes to the music to the choreography it was almost like you had been sucked into the film. There were a little differences between the film and the stage production but all in all the story we all know and love so much was exactly the same. 

I'm going to be completely honest - because some of the set changes were really swift I did find myself getting a bit confused as to what was going on. But looking back I can appreciate the decision to do this. With the stage having modular props and sets the show ran really smoothly, drawing your eye from scene to scene with the same smooth transition that emulates the way you watch it on screen. 

official production photography for Dirty Dancing
Image: Alistair Muir // c/o Dirty Dancing Tour - The Classic Story On Stage
But now to the part that I'm sure most of you are reading this review for. Did the stage show live up to the film? In a nutshell yes and no. 

The main reason being that I don't think you could ever really fill Patrick Swayze's shoes. He is synonymous with Johnny Castle. Nobody could really portray the character in the same way. And the same with Jennifer Grey. The film and the characters are just too iconic. 

However what the production did do is portray the story in a new way. A fresh way. And if you can see the two as separate entities then you will love the production just as much as the movie. From the inclusion of a live band on stage to Kira Malou's charming and comic portrayal of Baby to the injection of humour in some of the staging it is a really fun show to watch. 

And the dancing ... oh my god the dancing. It was just sensational. Especially that of Simone Covele who plays Penny. The chemistry between her and Michael O'Reilly (Castle) as dance partners was incredible.

Dirty Dancing is a show that is sensual and sexy, seducing you with every song and dance number and drawing you into the story of Johnny and Baby. If you're a fan of the film you will find yourself joining in with those iconic lines ( 'I carried a watermelon' and 'Nobody puts Baby in the corner' got the best reception). And those who are new to the story will get swept away by the production. 

The show is still touring in the UK so if you'd like to catch it, head to SeatPlan to nab tickets while you can. But if the show isn't for you then there are lots more for upcoming shows available across the country (Les Mis is coming to Liverpool in the autumn and you can bet your bottom dollar I'm going to be twisting Ryan's arm to taken me to see it)!

Imagery: Alistair Muir - c/o  Dirty Dancing Tour - The Classic Story On Stage

* I was very kindly gifted a pair of tickets by SeatPlan to review in exchange for this post. This does not affect my opinions. For more information, please see my disclaimer


How I Manage Temper Tantrums | Just Add Ginger

As a parent I am no stranger to tantrums. Eric infamously had his first one at 14 months (over a yoghurt of all things) and well....things have only gotten more interesting since. 

If you have watched Eric's 2 Year Update then you'll know that we feel that since he had his birthday Eric has just decided to grow up. And whereas there are some great improvements in some of his areas of development (he seems to be picking up new words every day) hand in hand with that has come a drastic increase in the intensity of his temper tantrums! 

image shows a mother, father and child sitting together on a blanket in the woods

Now I am by no means an expert. In fact, at the moment with my hormones being all over the place I find managing these tantrums pretty difficult. However it is for this reason that I wanted to share some of the things I do to cope when I do find myself in the middle of a temper storm. These are the things that make things a little bit better and - quite frankly - stop me going insane! 

Stay Calm - Yeah I know - easier said than done right? But as much as trying to cope with a tantrum can make you want to tear your hair out it's important to try and look at things from your child's perspective. I saw a quote recently about toddlers trying to manage their feelings and the importance of the adult to remain calm and it just resonated with me. 

So now I just sit or stand in silence and watch. I practise my "up breathing" (thank you hypnobirthing) and try and stay as level headed as possible. Believe me it isn't always easy, but if I start to get stressed I take a step out the room, have a minute to myself and then head back into the fray. 

Don't Punish The Emotion, Challenge The Behaviour - As he grows up I would never want Eric to think that he could not tell me something. So I'm starting early and when his temper strikes I let him feel. He can't verbally communicate with me so tantrums are his way of expressing himself when he gets completely overwhelmed. 

That being said I do intervene of his behaviour is starting to become unacceptable. Whether that is throwing things, hitting, knocking over furniture or gnawing. He isn't the type of toddler to lash out at others in malice (although the gnawing has been aimed at Ryan and I once or twice) and I'm working hard to not let it get to that point. 

And if he's getting really irate, not paying attention to what he is doing and is looking like he might hurt himself I (if I can) put him in his cot so that I know he is safe.

pinterest pin image from just add ginger - how to manage temper tantrums

Take A Breath - As exhausting as it is for Eric to have a tantrum it can be for me too and sometime I do struggle to hold it together. And that's okay. Because as parents we can't have it together all the time. So, if I know Eric is safe I do step away for a moment, take a deep breath and then carry on. I don't want him to see that I am not coping - he needs me and I need to be there. But I need to be there for myself too. 

Cry Out Of Sight - Once Eric has calmed down and we have moved on from the tantrum I put a pin in how I feel and come back to it when I'm alone or with Ryan. I vent, I cry and I get everything off my chest. You just can't hold on to things as a parent. It isn't fair to you or your child. So at the end of the day I let go of everything that has made me feel angry or frustrated or sad and I move on, ready to start over again the following day.


5 Helpful Gifts For Mums-To-Be | Just Add Ginger

Let's kick things off with a big fat disclaimer - this post is in no way a passive aggressive means of me gift seeking from friends or family! I was really nervous to write a post like this just in case it was misinterpreted that way. But no, it is simply me sharing my thoughts on gifts I think a fellow mum-to-be would find incredibly useful. 

Baby showers are becoming more and more popular in the UK so if you are attending one soon and want to think a little bit outside the box, here are my thoughts on some great alternatives to the more obvious cutesy clothes, baby toys or keepsakes.

image shows a newborn baby's feet and legs

Nappies & Wipes - As a new parent your life pretty much centres around constantly keeping tabs on how many nappies you still have left in the house. The last thing you ever want is to be faced with a baby poo explosion and only then discovering you have just run out of nappies - especially if it's the middle of the night! 

With it coming up to Baby Event season in the shops, boxes of wipes and nappies tend to go on offer. And this is the perfect time to pick up a box or two. Yes okay - it's not as cute as baby clothes or a soft toy but it is a really, really useful gift to get someone that will be greatly appreciated!

 Self Care Supplies - When you've just had a baby your emotions can be all over the place. Your body has gone through a lot, your sleep pattern completely changes and sometimes you don't know whether you want to laugh or cry. It can be tough! 

Throw in the fact that there is a new little life that is totally dependent on you and time for self care is extremely limited. You just don't think about it in the same way anymore. But it is extremely important for both your physical and mental wellbeing. 

Putting together a little parcel of mum's favourite pamper products, ways to wind down or some tasty treats is a great reminder to her to take some time out and relax (even if it's just for a minute or two in the day.) 

Stuck for ideas? Bath or shower products, fancy tea bags or a jar of coffee and some biscuits or something chocolate-y are great additions, as are a candle or incense and some new pjs or fluffy sock. It all depends on what mum enjoys, but having that reminder that she is okay to take off that mummy hat from time to time is something she will really appreciate.

Bigger Baby Clothes - Mum may already have all the clothes she needs for baby's first months, but if you simply cannot resist the call of the cute babygrows and outfits then why not pick up one or two in a slightly bigger size? Babies outgrow clothes at what seems like the speed of light sometimes so having a few bits and bobs all ready to go for when little one moves up a size means mum isn't completely without and feels just that little bit more prepared for the months to come. 

Places that I love to shop for baby clothes and who offer pretty good sizing are Primark (for a true to size fit), H&M (who offer in between sizes compared to other shops), TKMaxx (for gorgeous one off designs) and Next or M&S (who I think do some of the best babygrows - the sizing is on the bigger end of the scale so things tend to last that little bit longer.)

Pre-Made Meals - Enjoy cooking or consider yourself a bit of an amateur chef? Then get yourself some freezable tubs and jump in the kitchen. Because after you've just had a baby eating can easily get pushed down your list of priorities (and sometimes even gets forgotten altogether.)  

Batch cooking and bringing boxes full of frozen food to a baby shower may seem odd but when mum (or dad) are in the delirious state of adjusting to a new routine having something quick and easy to eat that can just be thrown in the microwave will be a godsend. It might be a meal that take them ages to eat and they may end up enjoying it cold, but it is a meal. And it ensures that they are taking care of themselves as well as their little one.

A Helping Hand - When Eric was born, Ryan had three weeks off for paternity leave and if my mum hadn't come up straight afterwards to help me I think I would have been so distraught. Because being a mum to a newborn (especially if you haven't had a baby before) can be one of the loneliest times in your life. Everyone you know is in work, you might not have any mummy friends who are in the same boat and the days are long.

Offering your time or making plans for after the baby is born gives mum something to instantly look forward to. Of course, you need to gauge the timing (taking into account recovery and any paternity / holiday their partner may be taking) but just being there is an invaluable gift. Even if it's popping over for a coffee and letting mum have a shower or offering to take the baby on a walk for 20 minutes while she has a nap! It's a present that is absolutely priceless. 

Especially if you can plan for it to be a regular thing. Once every few weeks, once a month, or as often as you can. In those first couple of months where mum is trying to refine herself and balance life with a new baby, having that reminder that she isn't on her own and does have friends around her who are happy to sit with her, chat to her about anything other than being a mum, or to be a shoulder to cry on...I honestly think that is one of the best gifts you could offer.


Our Naptime Routine | Just Add Ginger

Something we are really proud of as parents is that Eric - for the majority of the time - is a really good sleeper. I worked really hard when he was younger at getting him used to soothing himself in his cot (as a newborn he liked to be rocked back to sleep quite a lot and by the end of it my arm would be dead.) But once he was in his own room that was it....he was doing it himself. I'd sit there for hours sometimes rubbing his back and shushing him back to sleep and now, two years down the line, those sleepless nights have paid off.

image shows a mother and son walking in the woods

I wish the same could be said for nap time! As a baby Eric was great. But now..... bloody hell! It's luck of the draw whether he's going to sleep for two hours, an hour or even go down at all. He will fight it and fight it and fight it sometimes until I look at the monitor and think 'this really isn't going to happen is it?' then give up. Yes, when it comes to naps, Eric gets a serious case of FOMO. 

Which is pretty much when anybody else except for me and him are in the house. I don't take any crap when it comes to nap times so whereas Ryan is great at getting Eric back to sleep should he wake in the night (they are thick as thieves) it is nearly always down to me to be the designated nap time bad cop. 

Routine plays a huge part in whether Eric's naps are successful. It's taken a long time to figure out what works best and things change all the time. The first thing I do is to gauge when Eric might be getting sleepy. He still has a morning nap so when he wakes up first thing I check the time and plan to try him 3.5 hours later. This timing suggestion was given by my health visitor and it's been a really good tip for us. Being a few steps ahead when it comes to predicting when Eric is ready for a nap is essential to it being a success

image shows a mother and son walking in the woods

Now when it comes to nap times it's all or nothing. I have made sure that Eric knows that when he's in his cot and the right conditions are set it's time for bed. I don't count car sleeps or any naps that are induced by motion unless he is absolutely shattered. He gets the best quality of sleep being in a cot so that is what we do. 

When he was younger (and lighter) I would carry Eric up to bed. But now that that is no longer an option (unless I somehow grow a load of muscle overnight) I turn to the thing that instantly nominated you for 'Parent of the Year'.... bribes! 

Biscuits are my current bribe of choice. Oh I can hear the judgemental signs and eye rolls happening as I type, but I don't care. They work! Every morning in the lead up to him trying for a sleep we have 'biscuits in  bed.' He carries the biscuits up the stairs, chomping all the way, and then I put one in his cot to have once he's in. One or two little biscotti are enough to get him where he needs to be and keep him there. It also keeps him occupied for long enough for me to put him in a sleeping bag which are not his favourite things.

Next we have story time. I normally aim to read 2-3 books before he goes down and finish on Eric's sleep trigger book. Sleep trigger you ask. Yes - I've given it a name because that's exactly what it does. A book that Eric associates with sleep. Ours is The Gruffalo. You could be reading him anything beforehand and he would be jumping on the bed, throwing everything out the cot or being a fusspot, but as soon as he hears The Gruffalo that's it, he snuggles down, cuddles his teddy (Mr Fox) and gets ready to nod off. 

For a child who can sometimes be an absolute nightmare to get to sleep this little routine is one that really works for us. Of course there will be the odd occasion where nothing will tempt Eric to sleep but you just have to accept that. But ultimately if you get your timings right, there's nothing bothering him and you stay calm you are on to a winner and have at least an hour and a half for a drink and a snack, to catch up on your favourite TV show, to get some housework done or to have a nap. 

And that makes it all worth it!

Images: Rachel Clarke Photography


Planning Eric's 2nd Birthday Party | Just Add Ginger

When Ryan first mentioned the idea of throwing an actual birthday party for Eric I was not keen. Last year we just had friends and family round to the house. There was food, there was chatting, there was a plethora of toys for Eric to play with. It was informal. It was easy. 

But an actual birthday party? In a hall? Where you are a little bit out of control of how things will come together on the day...? He had to be joking. It took quite a bit of initial arm twisting on Ryan's behalf but eventually I saw how it might make our lives easier. 

For starters - this is the first year Eric has got little friends. So instantly our guest list increased drastically. a majority of his friends are under 3 so having the space to entertain a troop of toddlers might be difficult in our house (plus you can never guarantee good weather in April.) Secondly if we booked a separate space for a party, there would be a definite start and end time. Guests would arrive, and then leave. Not that we don't like hosting people but after a party everyone is tired and undoubtedly we would want our own space to come back to that wasn't cluttered and in need of a clean. 

image shows toddler looking at camera and making a silly face

So the search began for the perfect place to host Eric's party. We had a few initial ideas after attending a few baby classes in church halls and after a quick text to a friend we quickly found and finalised a venue and a date. 

That was the easy bit. Next was trying to sort out entertainment...But just what do you do for a toddler's birthday party? Eric isn't really at an age to join in party games, wouldn't appreciate anybody who was dressed up and is a bit young for things like a swimming party. So actually trying to figure out what to have that would keep everyone occupied (especially the slightly older children who would be coming) was a bit of a stumbling point.

image shows a selection of soft play equipment set up for a party

Soft play seemed to be the most appealing option. There's nothing Eric loves more than going to soft play areas, climbing, jumping, sliding and causing absolute chaos so there was no doubt that at least where he was concerned, we would definitely get a lot of bang for our buck. After stumbling across a local company who seemed to offer everything we were looking for we put in some initial enquiries and waited to hear back. 

I'm not going to lie...this was probably the most stressful part of the whole party planning process, and it was partly due to the fact that I am a control freak when it comes to organisation and in an ideal world would have things sorted instantaneously. We sent off all the paperwork and finalised the details but after that there was nothing until the day before the party. And it just put me on edge. However, the company really came through on the day and were incredibly professional, setting up and packing away the equipment really efficiently. So in the end, all my fears were totally unfounded. 

Trying to organise the food was another stressful factor. Initially were going to order the main bulk of the food from Costco online. However, it got to the Thursday night before the party and the system was not offering us any collection dates until the week after. 

So in a panicked state, with 3% battery left on my phone, I scrambled onto the Tesco website and ordered anything that could be delivered the night before. It was the most decisive I've ever been and I had no idea really what I was ordering but on the day it all turned out amazingly. There were sandwiches, pizza, crisps, and then a designated treat table which held chocolate fingers, chocolate bars, jelly sweets, cake and popcorn (I just couldn't resist putting in my own Popcorn Shed order after being kindly gifted some of their tasty treats.*)

image shows a table covered with food - cakes, chocolate and sweets

image shows a toddler riding on a small plastic roller coaster

image shows a blue two tier birthday cake with a candle and snowman on top

After swearing blindly in the midst of the stress that Eric would never be having another birthday party, we pulled off everything perfectly. I bought a huge pack of balloons that we scattered around the room, hung banners and set up a colouring in table (which was a massive hit.) We bought a speaker from B&M and blasted out children's songs (and some for the adults too). We decided to do our gender reveal at the party so I bought a piƱata for the children to get involved with. One of our good friends made the birthday cake and we bought in a few extra toys from home that we thought were a bit more interactive. 

All in all I think we spent about £250 - £300 which may seem a bit extravagant but everybody had an amazing time. There was ample food and drink, the soft play was a massive hit with everyone and the speaker is going to live with us so is an investment in itself. And where we spent a lot on the party we didn't get Eric a lot of presents so put the money we would have spent into all those party essentials. 

I think a part of us wanted to make this birthday really special for him too. Because after this year he's going to be a big brother, and everything is going to change again.

* I have previously worked with Popcorn Shed and was gifted some of their products to feature in a blog post. However I paid for the popcorn for the party myself. For more information, please see my disclaimer.


How I'm Empowering Myself This Pregnancy | Just Add Ginger

When I was pregnant with Eric pretty much everything terrified me. There was so much that happened in those nine months that I barely had time to process one issue before the next came up. It left me in bits afterwards and ever so slightly hesitant to go through it all again. 

Fast forward to two and a bit years later and things could not be more different. I barely recognise the person I was back then and with every day that passes I am more and more excited at the prospect of pushing another baby out my vagina!

image shows a young woman standing in front of some trees and looking off camera. She is wearing a blue coat and bowler hat.

I of course take a lot of the credit for that myself. I mean, I shot down a spiral of doom and despair pretty quickly and I got myself right out of it again. And sure there are days where I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and worry about anything and everything but these are days are few and far between and never about pregnancy or the thought of giving birth. 

There are however some pretty big changes I've made this time round. First of which is the level of privacy I've allowed myself to have. Instead of plastering regular pregnancy updates all over social media I've taken a step back and kept quite a lot to myself. I mean Ryan and I have only just done our gender reveal and I'm currently 26 weeks pregnant. The level of protectiveness I have over this baby is ridiculous and it's done me the world of good to just allow myself the time to enjoy the pregnancy and get excited about it. instead of involving people in everything that's been going on. That in itself has been one of the most empowering moves I could have ever made

image shows a woman walking on a path through a country park on a sunny day and smiling off camera

I'm also being a lot more decisive. Last time round I think I went with the flow and just went along with things because I thought they were the 'right thing' to do. I was a first time mum. I didn't know any better. But this time I've found my voice. I know how I'd like things to go and I'm not afraid to push for them. We've gone from probably heading to the MLU again to now wanting a home birth (fingers crossed). I'm a lot more vocal about wanting to try breastfeeding and I am asking so many questions so that I am better informed. Ryan and I are practising hypnobirthing together and I just know what feels right. I'm trusting my instincts more. I know what I want

Hypnobirthing is playing a huge part in how strong I feel. We're currently working through The Positive Birth Company's Digital Pack but I've also just started Siobhan Miller's new book, both of which are absolutely game changing in the way I think about labour and birth. I have a new found appreciation for my body and have fallen in love with my pregnant self. I feel confident that no matter what happens I will have an amazing birth experience and am making the right choices that ensure that happens. 

Hand in hand with hypnobirthing comes my musical choices. Environment plays a huge part in the hypnobirthing experience and where as last time I wanted to listen to music with a strong beat, now I've picked music that is evocative and sparks happy memories - from the best gigs I've ever been to to my favourite places to getting married, each piece I've chosen transports me somewhere and calms me. I test out my playlist at times when I need to feel calm and at peace and I'm already "training" myself to associate the playlist with feeling completely relaxed

Never in my life would I have thought I could be this calm about expecting another baby but I am. I really am. And as for really looking forward to pushing out of my lady bits? I'd have laughed out loud. But I honestly can't wait. I believe in myself

 And best of all....I feel amazing!


5 More Rainy Day Activities To Keep Your Toddler Entertained | Just Add Ginger

The last time I wrote a post like this, Eric was 17 months old and just entering proper toddlerhood. Now he is nearly 24 months (or 2 years) old and my lord a lot has changed. I have a walking, (nearly) talking, tantruming, opinionated little sasspot on my hands who is on the go from first thing in the morning until he is literally so tired he can't keep his eyes open anymore. 

Being pregnant with baby no.2 has also altered things quite a bit. Some days I've barely had enough energy to get dressed let alone leave the house so I've really had to think on my toes when it comes to how to keep Eric entertained. 

So I call these 'rainy day activities' but really they are activities for rainy days, days when you need to get things done around the house or days when you just can't be bothered (let's face it we all have them as parents.) And hopefully when you are sitting there ready to tear your hair out and internally screaming "what are the bloody hell are we going to do today?"  these will help spark an idea.

little boy with blonde hair looking at the camera

Puzzles and Games - I don't know how it happened, but Eric is really, really good at puzzles! You know - those ones with pieces that fit in to their corresponding shapes on a board. He will power through one of those in a couple of minutes, so now I am trying (emphasis on the trying) to get him into games. That is...if he sits still long enough! 

Puzzles and games are great for a number of different reasons. They promote motor skills, understanding, communication and vocabulary and are also great if you need a good sit down, quiet activity to do pre or post nap. 

On a recommendation I am going to start building an Orchard Toys collection of games and puzzles but there are so many other great brands out there that cater to your child and their age / abilities. 

Colouring In - As crazy as he is, colouring in (and stickers) are a big hit with Eric. He will take himself off and mark make in his colouring book (or my diary) for ages and be happy as a clam. 

You take your wallpaper into your hands the minute you hand over a crayon to a toddler but there are some other great alternatives should you not want your living room to turn a different colour. There are mess free colouring books, aqua doodle mats and I've even seen colouring pads that do something similar.  

Again, colouring in works on different areas of development (fine motor and communication are but two) and gives the chance for you to talk to and interact with your child (although Eric doesn't like it if you try and colour with him.)

Soft Play - Yes, I said it! Soft play. Sometimes you just have to. Great for rainy days (and days when it's just too warm) there are some great ones out there you can take your little ones to.

I'm so funny when it comes to places I feel comfortable taking Eric but there is a play centre near us which I've started to call my 'safe place'. It's exclusively for under 5's, is very open plan, and you can see your child from nearly any angle. There is also a baby section for little ones under 12 months so ideal for if you have two or more small children with you. And I just love it. 

Play centres like this are great because they encourage social skills and independent play. Plus there's usually the option to buy a coffee if you are really struggling. So yes, I said the dreaded 's word', but if you find a good one to go to, they will honestly be a lifesaver!

little boy with blonde hair looking at the camera

Read and Sing - This is perfect for if you have a little chatterbox on your hands but also for if your child is still working on their speech. Having time set aside to sing songs or read with your child is great for bonding too. It gives a great opportunity for cuddles, snuggles and quiet moments with your child that you may otherwise not get during the day.

With a really active toddler I have specific points in the day where I know these activities are more likely to succeed. We have a 'biscuits and bed' before his nap in the morning where I will read 2-3 books to him and sometimes sing some songs. Then during the day I will intermittently start singing songs I know he likes (Five Little Monkeys, Wind The Bobbin Up and If You're Happy And You Know It always go down well.) We will often have music or an audio book on as background noise too. At night, we have The Gruffalo as that is his (what I call) 'sleep cue' story.

Repetition is key when it comes to songs. It also helps if you get really involved and enthusiastic too. Even though Eric isn't talking yet if I start singing a song he knows he will join in with actions. And it's the same with stories. The Gruffalo is his favourite book and when I describe the features of the title character, Eric will point to each place on himself.

Movie Time - Because sometimes you just have to. 

Yes, screen time isn't always encouraged but for those days when you have made it through to the afternoon and you are at the end of your tether, a film or TV show can allow you some precious moments to make a coffee, eat something and take a deep breath ready to carry on. 

Sharing My New Secret Snack Weapon - Popcorn Shed Review* | Just Add Ginger

AD || Gifted

As a mum my days are often spent on a continuous loop of feeding, cleaning and entertaining my child. Honestly it is ridiculous how much food my little boy eats, and nearly all of it is snacks. A bloodhound for anything sweet I daren't go near him with anything that even marginally resembles food because he will seek it out, throw it at me, then give me those cute, puppy dog toddler eyes at stare at me until I give him some. It is a nightmare. 

image shows a flat lay of popcorn shed products and artificial flowers

It also means I'm often left going hungry, sneaking off to the kitchen whenever I can to hide in the pantry and eat something myself. And even though I don't have a lot of time, this is where I choose my snacks with care. Because even though I sometimes do have to scoff them within a matter of seconds, I still want them to be tasty.

You know me. I am governed by my sweet tooth and if ever I have the chance to try something new I am there. And Popcorn Shed was definitely no exception to that. One of my biggest guilty pleasure is a big bowl of popcorn in the evenings so the minute I was offered the chance to try some of Popcorn Shed's flavours I signed up without even drawing a breath. 

image shows a flat lay of popcorn shed products and artificial flowers

A home-grown and family-run business, Popcorn Shed is a popcorn brand with a punch. Using artisan cooking methods their snacks really bring it when it comes to flavour and texture. Offering flavour combinations I'd never even thought of and with added texture in the form of dried fruit, nuts and chocolate the days of rubbery, lack-lustre, polystyrene-like popcorn are a thing of the past. 

Now I'm not going to lie to you. When I first saw some of the flavours I had been sent I thought 'really, are you having a laugh?' I mean - cheesy popcorn? Really? Really? But giving it the benefit of the doubt I gave it a go (this was the Sweet Cheesus variety) and oh my god.... it really does work! And who would have thought it? Mixed together with the super sweet pieces it was an absolute dream flavour combination. So that's something to bear in mind. Yes some of the ingredients sound a bit bizarre, but Popcorn Shed really know what they are talking about.

close up image of a bowl of popcorn and popcorn shed products

image shows a flat lay of popcorn shed products and artificial flowers

Aside from the flavour we also need to talk about the packaging. Available in either handy grab and go size bags, 80g sharing bag "shed" or kilner style plastic jars Popcorn Shed definitely stand out with their brightly coloured designs, bold typography and cute graphics (the 'sheds' come with fully recyclable cardboard shells too). You definitely wouldn't miss them on a supermarket shelf and even their colour choices pay a little homage to the flavour the packet contains. 

pinterest friendly image of popcorn shed products and a bowl of popcorn

Gluten free, made from all natural ingredients and bloomin' delicious to boot my favourite flavour so far has to be the Pop 'N' Choc (three guesses as to why) but I have enjoyed every variety I've tried so far. So much so that I am having to really stagger eating the packets I have left because quite honestly I don't want it to end! I'm even tempted to order one of the big jars for Eric's birthday party just so that I can spread the popcorn joy and introduce more people to the brand. 

But when it comes to my secret in-house mummy snacking....these are definitely something I will not be sharing with my child.

* I was very kindly gifted a selection of popcorn from Popcorn Shed to review. This does not affect my opinions. For more information, please see my disclaimer.


5 Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following | Just Add Ginger

I'm a big advocate of shopping small, independent business and supporting local talent wherever possible. In place of browsing high street or big online stores for things to buy I would much rather look on Etsy or Instagram. 

With all this in mind I wanted to sit down and share the love of some of the accounts that I'm really enjoying and places I just love to shop. Yes a lot of them pertain to a similar theme but I am living that mum life nowadays so these are the places I enjoy browsing the most!

stock flat lay image of a coffee cup, laptop and business papers on a desk

Bear and Rose | @bearandrose

I first stumbled across Bear and Rose on Etsy. I was on the search for a little name plaque for Little One and there they were. Stocking the sweetest range of bespoke personalised and decorative pieces that would be gorgeous for the home, wedding and children's bedrooms alike I want to add pretty much everything they stock to our house in some way. If you like a little touch of the rustic or Scandi then this is definitely the account for you! 

The Monochrome Baby | @themonochromebaby

The Monochrome Baby also have an online store where they sell clothing items for adults and children who - as the name would imply - have an appreciation for monochrome items. Their Insta feed is a curation of styling inspiration and outfit ideas and looking at the photos just makes your heart melt. Have a baby or are looking for something a bit more original to buy as a gift for someone you know? I'd definitely give them a follow.

The Enchanted Maple | @the.enchanted.maple

I actually went to school with the lady who runs this account so I am pretty invested in following her and advocating her work. Again, The Enchanted Maple can be found on Etsy too and with everything that is sold you can just tell how much love and thought has been poured into it. From reading pillows to greetings cards and keepsakes it is the definition of a home-run business and all the items are just so sweet. The Enchanted Maple is the perfect place to look if you are after a gift that is that little extra bit special - just scroll through their feed and your bound to spot something you instantly covet.

Books for My Toddler | @booksformytoddler

Like with The Enchanted Maple I know the lady who runs Books For My Toddler. A teacher and reading advocate her feed is full of not only book recommendations but daily tips and ideas for how to incorporate reading into part of your everyday routine. All of her ideas are easy to carry out or put together and add a bit more structure to story time (which as a stay-at-home mum I've found a godsend.) I have put it to this one that she should start a blog with all of her ideas so hopefully one day I'll be singing the praises of that too.

Tinypix | @tinypix.co

My latest Etsy discovery and one that I immediately fell in love with Tinypix sells the most beautiful prints that would look stunning in any child's bedroom or nursery. Their Instagram feed is the epitome of decor inspiration for me at the moment (we are undergoing a few home improvements and doing some redecorating). I've ordered two prints from them already and will more than likely be ordering more once our back bedroom (where Eric is moving to) is painted. Everything they sell is created in calming colours and serene tones so are ideal no matter what your decor preferences (or that of anybody you are buying for) are.


What My Toddler Reads | Just Add Ginger

Even from a very young age I've made sure Eric has been exposed to books. Whether it's sensory books, ones with touchy-feely bits or books from my own childhood, reading has been a big part of playtime for us. 

flat lay photograph of a selection of children's books, toys and a carved wooden name sign

Now that he is older his attention span it's a lot easier for us to sit down and read books together. And he now actually expresses interest in what he wants to read. He has a strong opinion. He will indicate to the book he wants us to look at or bring it over to me. And at nap time (the portion of the day when we do the most reading) we are so set in a routine that he can anticipate what story is coming next and will get giddy and excited as I read / recite them to him.

Even though Eric has quite the collection of books already that we do rotate weekly, here are the ones that have currently made their place in his firm favourites. I've picked a selection from his paperbacks rather than board books or hardbacks purely because the latter are the ones he has constant access to so will look at more independently. These however, we tend to just read together as they are a bit more advanced for his age.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

If you want Eric to know it's time to go to sleep then read him The Gruffalo. It is such a strong part of our nap time ritual that I don't see it going anywhere anytime soon. He knows this book like the back of his hand and although he can't read along, he recognises what part we are up to depending on the intonation I use. I put on a voice for each of the characters and really get into acting this one out with facial expressions, hand gestures and alternating pace and tone of voice. And Eric loves it.

The story is great for repetition and the illustrations by Axel Scheffler are just beautiful - perfect to talk through with little ones who are more advanced with their speech. There's also a lovely little BBC adaptation that makes a great accompanying watch which I put on for Eric if I think he needs to calm down before bed.

A Bun For Barney by Joyce Dunbar

This was one of my childhood books and I now think that it is unfortunately out of print. But it is a lovely, lovely book. Again this is one of the books that is a part of our nap time routine but one that I don't always use and therefore is less familiar a sleep trigger for Eric. 

The story is fabulous for counting and it even has a sweet moral about self-assertiveness to it. The illustrations by Emilie Boon are very sweet and probably one of the most stand out features I remember as a child. They are done in such a way that your child can anticipate the next part of the story and are a great talking point.

Cat's Cake by Richard Fowler 

Again this is another book I've passed down to Eric from my childhood collection and it really shows. I loved this book so much when I was younger that some of the pages are being held together by sellotape that is about 25 years old. I absolutely  adored this one and now Eric does too. 

It is not as strong on the educational front but the story is engaging and easy to follow and gives mew lots of opportunities to put on voices and capture Eric's attention. Out of all of his paperback books this is probably the one he brings me the most to read outside of nap time (I keep all his paperbacks in his bedroom). 

The Happy Families Series by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Once again. these used to be mine. However you can still buy the Happy Families books (mine are just much earlier editions). I chop and change the stories out if the collection so that we are not stuck in the same old cycle of books but Eric will contentedly sit and listen to all of them pre-nap. Short and sweet, these stories are perfect if you want a five minute read before bed or while your little one is in the bath or in need of some quiet time. From time to time Eric will bring me over one of these to read to him (I think this is based on the colour of the cover rather than the story though) but because he is not as used to hearing them he won't be as entertained for as long.

I'm a big fan of the Ahlberg books and this series is no exception. I used to have the stories on audio cassette as a little girl and now I've got the CD on pre-order from Amazon for Eric (we are big on audiobooks for car journeys or during independent play) and I can't wait to hear how they are narrated this time round.

flat lay image of children's books and toys.

What books does your child love to read? Are there any titles or authors I should look out for? Let me know in the comments.


5 Steps Towards A Calmer Pregnancy | Just Add Ginger

It has been one of my biggest goals this pregnancy to stay a lot more relaxed. But so much going on every day, a toddler to chase after and hormones raging around my body this can be really difficult. However, I've connected the dots that they more time I take to concentrate on myself - even if it's just for five minutes - the less anxious or stressed I feel and the more I actually enjoy being pregnant. 

redhead woman laughing and looking off camera

Taking care of yourself at this time in your life is so important, and with that in mind I wanted to share five things I have been doing that help me switch off, unwind and feel a lot more at ease.

1. Hypnobirthing. 

This is something I started looking into when I was expecting Eric but never fully embraced. This time round I'm taking it more seriously. I'm feeling okay at the moment but I know the more I head towards labour the more wound up I'm going to be. So I'm doing all I can now to make sure I stay as calm and prepared as possible. I decided to invest in The Positive Birth Company's Digital Pack and oh my god it is amazing. I'm learning so much about my body and listening to the affirmations and guided breathing techniques is an instant way to help me calm down. If there is ever a night I'm having trouble sleeping I'll plug in my headphones and watch / listen to a few of the course's 'lessons'. Siobhan's voice alone is just so relaxing and within a couple of minutes I'm drifting off to sleep.

The course is great for birth partners too and I've already signed Ryan up to do the course with me. Because if he understands pregnancy, labour and birth a bit more, the more understanding he will be and be able to support me in my journey to ultimate calm.

photo shows a pregnant woman standing outside and looking off camera

2. Step Outside.

I'm a strong believer in spaces carrying energy and often, if I'm feeling particularly stressed (or grumpy) I know a change in environment is needed. And one of the best ways I gain clarity is by going outside. On the daily this could be opening the french windows and playing with Eric outside, or, if it's the weekend, it'll be going on a walk, or out for a coffee, or to feed the ducks. Simply getting out the house gives me the head space I need to get over a bad mood, refocus my mind, and forget what it was that was irking me in the first place.

3. Keep Talking.

One of my biggest failing last pregnancy was that I didn't speak up. I didn't let people know how I was really feeling. This was mainly because I thought I should be happy and grateful to be pregnant, which of course I was. But this did not detract from the fact that I was also terrified. A midwife I spoke to recently said it sounded like I had been 'traumatised' by things in my last pregnancy and I agree with her. 

So now I am talking. I'm open and honest and truthful, no matter how crazy I think I sound. If something's gotten under my skin I tell Ryan about it at the end of the day and if it's baby related I know my midwife is a text or call away from giving me advice. I cry if I want to and do you know what? It really, really helps.

4. Make Some Room For 'Me Time'. 

A cup of tea, an undisturbed bath or half an hour catching up with your favourite TV show....whatever you loved to do to unwind, now is the time to do it. You deserve it. With all the stresses and strains day to day life can bring it is really important to pencil some time into each day to have a breather, put your feet up and focus some energy completely on yourself. 

For me, it's catching up on YouTube, having a hot shower with my Spotify playlists blaring out or just taking my mum hat off for an hour or two and letting Ryan take over. And yes sometimes I have to force myself to do these things or admit that I need some time to myself, but once I do I feel heaps better. 

5. Do What Makes You Happy.

Tuning in to what our bodies are trying to tell us is definitely really important. And whereas this can be about if we're feeling under the weather or concerned about anything it's also about being aware in other ways. Fancy that chocolate bar....eat it. Feeling constipated....eat some greens. Getting tired.....have a rest. Social media getting your down...have a digital detox. Now more than ever is the perfect time to really think about things that are making you happy and things that just aren't. Be selfish and put yourself first. You are okay to do that sometimes. 

This time round I'm being a lot less hard on myself. I'm unapologetic in my thinking about myself and I will quite happily switch off from the wider world if I need to. I indulge in food that makes me happy, I am honest if I need five more minutes in bed, and firm when I need help. I exercise when I can and don't punish myself if I just can't be bothered. I have house days with Eric if I have no energy and eat healthily if I feel I really need it. And mostly, I'm true to how I'm feeling. 

five steps towards a calmer pregnancy - pinterest friendly image

Pregnancy is such an unpredictable journey and there can be obstacles that you never dreamt of coming across, but if you put a few simple steps in motion to implement to when you are feeling overwhelmed or scared or stressed then I think you are on the right track to a more relaxed experience. 

What are some of the things you do to keep calm? Is there anything you think I should try? Let me know in the comments.