Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I have now got to point where my calendar is an extension of my brain. Completely. It has always driven my other half into a state of less than calm, the amount of reminders that go off on my Blackberry on a daily, hourly someones hour quarterly basis. Since having Monster I think I have completely given up using my memory. Even to the point I joked the other day saying “…in 5 mins I will receive a reminder that I have to go and do the shopping…”.
Sure enough 5 minutes later there it was.
This often leads me to the train of thought that if I did go totally reliant on technology for my reminders would my brain and/or memory just melt into a useless state needing to be controlled by a host for the rest of my days.
Yes, I know, too much Dr Who watching combined with an over active imagination. There really is no hope for Monster. Bless.
Aside from Monster keeping me out of the water, strangely enough the main reason for my lack of swimming, has been due to insufficient earplugs. It sounds like a weak excuse, but being a long distance swimmer your kit has to be as good at performing as what you are. Most of the time when I’ve had a bad swim it has been due to goggles, audio device playing up or more recently being unable to find earplugs that stay in my ears.
After many years of research into the perfect earplug, I settled for a long time for using the Speedo Biofuse. Of course it had to be Speedo (says the former Speedo tester), but I genuinely do love the brand.
The Biofuse earplugs are corkscrew shaped and designed not to move. They actually look like something that would feature in a sadomasochist’s wardrobe, ‎but following the birth of Monster every time I tried to use my trusty earplugs my body would reject them. To the point where I would insert the earplugs look in the mirror and could physically see my ears push them back out again.
It got to the point where I would either have to put up with them incorrectly positioned pushing on surrounding nerves and coming out of the swim in discomfort, or not wear any at all. Both scenarios presented potential lasting damage to my ears so I had to stop and think about how I was going to solve this.
I came across some highly rated earplugs called Cirrus Healthcare BioEars Earplugs from the Allearplugs website. They like putty which forms to the shape of your ear. ‎endorsed by Olympic athletes for £4.49 I thought that if they don’t work then I won’t be losing much. Well I am happy to say that for the first time in months, I had a comfortable swim.
The earplugs are silicone which make them soft and mouldable however, unlike any other silicone earplug they contain ACTIValoe. They do feel odd when wearing them but they are very easy to get used too once you get to grips with the idea of putting a substance like Play Doh in your ears, but the idea is that they cover the ear hole forming a comfortable water resistant seal. As with most ear plugs, insert them when the area is dry and you will see better performance and ignore the feeling that they might fall out because they won’t.
From a swimming perspective there are no annoying handles that can get caught on your swim cap, but be careful if you have long hair, as with a pliable substance like this, your hair will get stuck in it. You receive 3 pairs in a pack and a carry case. They are reusable but it is advised not to tear the plug, just let it form to the shape of your ear. I have small ears and it provided comfortable coverage over the ear hole.
Highly recommended, 10 out of 10 and I will definitely be purchasing these again. Click on the link above to order yours, or if you want to check out the Speedo Biofuse on Amazon, please click here.

This is something that every parent questions, and I won’t lie, when calling my mother up the other day to find out how Monster was, and receiving the answer “Ok, they are on my tablet”, it did send a slight chill down my spin. But we are a society obsessed by technology, is it any wonder that our children are now born knowing what to do with a smartphone?

Well actually, I think it is. I am still amazed when Monster is allowed within a few centimetres of a device and knows what to do with it.

If there is one thing I have learnt over the last 6 months doing this Monster rearing lark is that children are like sponges. Even from birth they are continuously learning, we are continuously training them and we sometimes forget just how perceptive they are.

The above may be a very obvious statement, but when seeing my in-laws’ children recently who are 2 years and ‎17 weeks, I noticed when in the presence of technology, for example a smartphone, much like my Monster they will, as if by instinct swipe the screen. It is not like they are scrolling for something in particular, they just know to swipe the screen. It was comforting to know that it astonished my sister-in-law the first time she saw it as well.

This seems to be the same with laptops. In the space of a minute, Monster had scrolled using the trackpad to several browser tabs, nearly purchasing something off of Ebay and was scrolling through some random website – must remember parental blocks in the future – all because they had sat and watched how it was operated by my husband and I. It makes you wonder what was going through Monster’s head at the time.

The Daily Mail (which is not my first choice of rag), published an article about this and other sites, namely Medical News Today have mentioned the benefits and disadvantages.

While I am inclined to just go with it and accept that technology will be heavily involved in the lives of the coming generations, I can’t help but say, let children be children. Though when I was a child it was the norm to go outside, run around, climb trees, ride bikes and do our homework out of text books, now we have Google. Need I say more.

‎There once was a time I used to write articles about indie bands (I actually managed one for a while too), I would write about awesome artists such as Avery Watts, White Valentine and more I also wrote for several journalism sites regarding technology and engineering.

Now, I write about…teethers.

The mighty has not fallen, just changed direction, but if you told me 10 years ago I would be writing about babies and post-pregnancy nutrition, I wouldn’t believe you.

I ended up buying Monster what appears to be the crème da la crème of teethers the other weekend. Sophie the Giraffe. While we do have other teethers, when you say to someone that your Monster is teething, the first questioned asked is:

“Do you have Sophie the giraffe?”

Featured on

It is like the celebrity of teethers. But at the same time, because we did not instantly have Sophie the Giraffe, I felt like I was going back twenty years and being told “she doesn’t know how to use the three seashells!”

After speaking with my sister-in-law, the reason why this teether is so popular is because the whole thing is made of soft rubber which is soft enough for even the most delicate of bites. Definitely not my Monster.

It seems to be working though. When my husband drove me to the train station this morning, I waved goodbye to Monster in the back seat and saw them chewing away quite intently, or more accurately, with shear determination on Sophie.

I have also learnt that if you are trying to keep your calorie book a secret, don’t use a Lego Mini figures notebook. People will want to look inside of it.‎ A few awkward situations at work this week.

So back to some techie and engineering news. Those who have followed this blog for years will remember that 2.5 years ago, during our last Rogue Run trip, the engine to our beloved WV T4 Transporter, well, kind of exploded on a very busy Italian motorway. It literally could not have gone in a worse spot, considering the services were less than a mile away from where this happened.

Since then, the van has received an engine transplant, a very long engine transplant, meaning that when you perform a task as big as this, inevitably, it is not just the engine that has to be changed. The gear box needed modifying, because the replacement engine was a petrol instead of diesel this meant new fuel filter and lines, an exposed inter-cooler was added and the wiring, let’s not go there with that. Spaghetti junction does not even come close to describing it. We also changed a few things cosmetically (why not, when we had the chance), such as the lights and some of the front features with turned it from a rather feminine looking to a slightly more masculine looking T4.

The biggest hurdle to begin with was getting the van back from Italy, even though the RAC were doing their utmost to try and get it scrapped rather than repatriate it back to the UK. The second challenge was then trying to find a mechanic to take up such a job.

Many who are not on the “VW scene” asked why we didn’t just scrap the van in the first place, well the simple answer is, look up the price of an old bay window campervan, the increase in value for T4s is going down the same route. It was a no-brainer. If the T4 was to increase in value in the same way as the bay windows, the best option was to keep hold of it for as long as possible. Providing the work could be successfully undertaken, in the long run we would profit.

Well, I am pleased to say that the work to the van was eventually carried out, not before going through months of court proceedings due to the first mechanic we used, but that is a different story. We briefly had the van back on the road in working order, ‎however our relief was short-lived.

As the engine went through such a transformation, from diesel to petrol (this was done because of the low emission zone predominantly), it has also required a lot of new parts (as mentioned above). The van was 90% complete when we put it back on the road, thinking that the minor finishing touches could be done at a more leisurely pace.

We were wrong.

A few weeks ago, while my other half was driving back home, the van began making a nasty sound. We found out that the “little end” malfunctioned. The ramifications mean either another engine or a repair on the current one.

Sadly we have got to the point where we can no longer put money or time into this, especially as we now have Monster, we need two vehicles and given the amount of work the van has been through it doesn’t feel like our van anymore. However it could easily be someone else’s. Even though there sounds like more work that needs to be done, given the rebuild, once complete it would serve someone for a long time whether it would be a general works vehicle or something that can be used at VW events and camping.

If anyone is interested, here is the Ebay link to the advert.

In other news, if you are apart of the VW scene or a camper in general. you will want to have a look at this website. I am very happy to draw some attention to Sheltapod which is a innovative campervan drive away awning. Check our their website and the many ways you can use this awning in all types of weather.


On top of the usual trying to fit 36 hours into a 24 hour day, I think Monster on the whole is trying to kill me. Not through fatigue, worry or other forms of stress, but physically. For example, I have dozed off next to Monster a few times recently, only to wake up with a start with them clutching my nose so tightly that I can’t breathe. My eyelids seem to be good things to grab as well. Where I have managed to dodge tired eyes and crow’s feet, I think Monster is on a mission.

In other news, I am still a little befuddled why someone felt the need to toot their horn at me the other day because I was turning right in a dedicated lane and they were going straight ahead – it was a purple Ford Puma on the way to Charlton Lido. I feel I am not doing enough sit-ups, nor am I wearing the most heavy duty make-up I can find – and I feel I am repeating myself – as per above. But besides all of this, I discovered that Monster can swim, well doggy paddle, which I think is great considering Monster is a very energetic child. It means a little downtime for mummy.

People ask me, are you taking Monster outdoor swimming. Um, let me see, a five month old swimming outside in the UK. No, I don’t think so. In fact it is a pet peeve of mine to see parents taking babies and toddlers to venues such as the lido and then wondering why the poor kids are screaming their heads off because of the cold. Young children cannot regulate their temperatures like we can, and even in the warmer months; you are competing with sun exposure. Where you are able to cool down from the heat in the water, the sun reflecting off of the surface provides glare, and whatever the UV levels are, they are doubled in the water, increasing the risk of melanoma.  A good site to visit regarding the daily UV levels is Weather Online.

I was under the notion for years, like many others, that babies are born natural swimmers but apparently this is not the case.

According to several sources, babies are not born with the ability to swim, though they have reflexes that make it look like they can swim.

This ‎post derived from a swim session I had with Monster a few weeks ago. We go swimming once a week, I didn’t want to go down the swimming lesson route as being a competitive long distance swimmer, I think I am well equipped to teach Monster the basics. I am also a firm believer that with babies you need to just do it, you delay and water things down, so to speak, the baby picks up on this and if there is any anxiety, they will also reflect this.

When Monster was 15 weeks, mum, Monster and I went to the pool and just got in and it’s been fun since. I would have preferred Monster in the pool sooner, but there was a delay with the jabs.

I have always maintained that Monster will know how to swim, whether they wish to be a marathon swimmer like me is entirely up to them, I just want to school them with the skills so they can try their best to save themselves should they end up in a spontaneous deep water situation. I do recommend if parents are not good swimmers, or can’t swim at all, that lessons are a must. There is no need to be a martyr and there is plenty of help out there.

The other week however, Monster raised the bar. Bearing in mind that Monster is now four and a half months, Monster decided they didn’t want to float on their back this time round, instead they wanted to lay on their stomach. I found this out when a woman swam past us and Monster who I was holding facing outwards decided to all of a sudden dive forwards and copy. To which I swore in reaction while maintaining my grip. I then apologised to several sniggering parents around me and carried on with our session.

I should have known the wandering eyes meant that Monster was taking in all information and process it when ready. Monster has after all been several weeks ahead on the development scale.

So taking advantage of this, I allowed Monster to lie on the water’s surface stomach down with my hands securely underneath them. Monster then proceeded to doggy paddle with great force. Now Monster has always been strong for their age so the force of the paddling was quite extreme and I had to stop them a few times as Monster was becoming very excitable and it was hard for me to keep my grip.

‎In awe with my child’s latest development/achievement, I took to the Web to do some research. The reflex which mimics the doggy paddle happens up until around 6 months. Babies placed in water tummy down reflexively move their arms and legs in a swimming motion, which makes them look like natural swimmers.

“These reflexes don’t mean the baby can swim, though,” says Jeffrey Wagener, a paediatric pulmonologist in Colorado.

Another notion is the thinking that babies can hold their breath under water naturally so you can briefly submerge them. This is called the bradycardic response that makes babies hold their breath and open their eyes when submerged in water. Parents can cause this same reaction by blowing in their baby’s face, a response that disappears after about 6 months.

He went on to say that ‎babies aren’t old enough to hold their breath intentionally, or strong enough keep their head above water. In addition to the risk of drowning, it’s dangerous for an infant to swallow large amounts of pool water. In my mind it’s even worse during school holiday times – I’d hate to think the amount of chlorine in the pool. It’s like swimming in chip fat that burns the eyes.

If you have a new born and plan on taking them swimming, it is advisable to wait until they have had at least their first set of jabs, while the chlorine in the water will kill off most things the biggest risk when swimming is actually to the mother. After giving birth we are at risk of infection so do not go into the water until you are absolutely ready. If you can get the baby into the water before 6 months then that is great. As time goes on fear of the water can set in and this then makes it difficult to take the child swimming. Of course not all children are water babies like my Monster.

One thing I will definitely be teaching Monster when they are old enough is the dangers of the water. This is incredibly important to teach children as soon as they understand as there is not enough awareness surrounding water safety in the UK.

I was on a water awareness panel last year and it was quite worrying how well versed the rest of Europe is on this topic in comparison to the UK.

The RNIL have launched a campaign promoting safety in the water. Please take a look at their website and find out what you should do if you find yourself in a bad situation in the water. The hastag on Twitter is #respectthewater.

When I told my friends about the above, they sent me a video of babies with water floats around their necks. This is not the same video but it is the same kind of water float. I find this very unsettling, what do you think?

Following the birth of Monster, I completed a 22 mile swim for Heart Research UK. If you would like to donate to their wonderful work, please click here. 

Before having my little Monster, certain things used to bother me. Now this is nothing new, things both people, but I remember being told that the little things will be less important once you have a child. I don’t believe this is true for everyone, I still get annoyed at the little things. While others may have welcomed a new tolerance when entering motherhood, I think this bypassed me. Overall I am not easily offended, but I do have my ‘pet-peeves’, some I have mentioned in previous blog posts. They tend to include those who inflict narrow-minded opinions (or judgements) on others, and those who knowingly cause offence but then refuse to take any responsibility. Other annoyances include those who text while driving. Why put your life and others at risk. No message is that important it can’t wait until you have pulled over. And of course those who choose to be glued to their phones in the ‘text neck’ position while walking, or should I say, bumping into people.

As Monster is now progressing to semi-solids I find my advanced qualifications in nutrition coming into their own and preparing carefully thought out meals not only for me but for the little human too. Although since having Monster I find that my nutrition is not great, methinks I will need to pull out the calorie monitoring book again, I have to remember that I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight 6 days after giving birth, I have just gone back to work and we are still adjusting to the ‘new normal’.

Baby nutrition

Not my Monster but courtesy of another site catering to feeding monsters.

With babies it is very difficult to make them overweight when they are purely feeding on milk; however when they reach the semi-solids and then solids stage, this can shape them for life so this is the time to be careful.‎

No pressure then!

The recipes which I have been advised upon range from sweet potatoes to singular fruit and vegetables all of which are pureed. This is just the tasting and allergy finding stage, however Monster has been ahead of the game from the start so it is difficult to go slow at times and not give into the ‘run before we can walk mentality’.

One thing I have always found is that everyone has their triggers, and what agrees with one person will not agree with the other. This is the same with babies.

So far everything has been good but given that Monster has always been a formula baby they are getting absolute nutrition with all vitamins and minerals accounted for. Therefore we have to be doubly careful not to focus on a set of fruits or vegetables that revolve around a particular vitamin group for risk of overloading. So far we have found that singular fruits and vegetables are causing some trapped wind and griping pain, so we have been mixing them with formula and serving alongside a rusk or baby rice.

We are finding that multiple fruits or vegetables together seem to be fine and are best served in the morning so Monster can move around a lot during the day to alleviate any trapped wind. The meal before bed is going to continue to be baby rice for the foreseeable as this is very gentle on the stomach.

As with adults, if the child does not agree with something, it could be an allergy which can result in a serious reaction or an intolerance as it is commonly known. With ‘intolerances’ these are easier to treat as it can mean something as simple as trying the food again in 3-6 months’ time when the body has changed. With a more toxic reaction (i.e. problems breathing), this can mean an allergy which means the food would need to be excluded from the diet completely.

I do not believe in fussy children only fussy parents, and it is easy to inflict your opinions on them, they do after all follow your lead. For example, I don’t like mushrooms, so when the time comes I have to be careful not to inflict my opinion on Monster as they will naturally think mushrooms are bad.

The expert opinion for children is to try foods they do not like around 15 times before excluding them. If it is a case that the child does not like the food even after trying it this many times, then they can still change their tastes when they are older. For example, growing up I really did not like jelly and ice cream (children’s parties were great fun), but I have more than made up for it as an adult. I do not know why our taste buds change, perhaps we get used to a taste or perhaps it is because as we get older they dull, either through lifestyle or indulgence (coffee!!!!‎).

On the subject of dulling taste buds, how much coffee is too much?

I find that my life has taken a turn where I now order teething toys at 3am from Amazon, I also have my favourite coffee shops favourited in my phone maps, for fear if I let the caffeine run out, I might just drop down in a deep sleep, in the middle of a street somewhere and not get back up for at least 10 hours.

There are mixed views on the ‘dangers’ of coffee and the opinions tend to change as time goes on.

Apparently the most sensible approach is two cups of coffee per day, but if you are like me and work long hours, have a Monster or even both, you may need a little more help some days and that is when the quadruple shots come in.

And we have all been there.

During pregnancy the advised amount of caffeine in a day is 200mg. Now this means across all foods and drinks not just coffee or tea. 200mg of caffeine equates to two cups of instant coffee a day and that is it, no cola, no chocolate, no tea, just the coffee and the reason for this imposed limit is because a large quantity of caffeine while pregnant can encourage miscarriages mainly because it does speed up your metabolism and the heart of you and the baby.

If you are a cereal coffee drinker, like me, then when you find out you are pregnant it is best to reduce the intake gradually, rather than go cold turkey. You may also find that by the end of the pregnancy you naturally gravitate away from it, and stick to decaf.

Or if you have a sleepless Monster, then you may find you go back to it even more in which case try and wean yourself off. It is not only the heart that gets affected but you can experience digestive and intestinal distress too.

‎The same method can be used for everyone else too, the incentives are just a little harder to find especially when there are so many coffee shops around nowadays.

In an article I read recently, according to the University of Michigan Health Service, the stimulating effects of caffeine can start as early as 15 minutes after consumption and last up to 6 hours.

The Mayo Clinic state that consuming more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day may lead to insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat and even muscle tremors. Again any cereal coffee drinkers I am sure would have experienced this.

From a nutritional point of view, the intake of caffeine (in any form, not just coffee), is all about portion control. With food, a portion is the size of your fist, so drinks are a but more tricky to assess, so in my view it is best to go small for each drink. Also watch out for syrups and those wonderful added extras we like to put in our coffees. The reason for this is that they can encourage Type II diabetes. Try to limit these to a once or twice a week depending on how much you eat or drink.

Take everything in moderation then there are no food limits!

No Food Limits is coming soon. The idea behind the site is to give everyone assistance with their nutritional needs in quick and easy to follow bullet points, taking into consideration budgets, activity levels, food obstructions, long or erratic working hours and individual triggers. Watch this space. 


‎It’s a common enough phrase ‘Baby on Board’, most if not all drivers will know it and if not, it is only a matter of time before they see it in a car window indicating that there is a small human riding as a passenger.

Shortly after my small human was born, my mother recommended I put a sign in my car to stop people from parking too close to me so I could get the baby seat out of the car.

My response was “Well, they shouldn’t be parking ‎too close anyway.” Of course people do and my personal opinion is that I doubt very much a sign will rectify that in modern day ‘text neck’ society.

If we look at this from another aspect, would the surrounding cars of a vehicle holding this sign in motion drive more carefully because a child is on board? Perhaps we should ask the question would the other drivers, whether intentionally or not, ram another vehicle? Probably not, so why should the car with the ‘Baby on Board’ sign be the exception. Mistakes and careless driving happens but I doubt a driver behind the car containing the ‘Baby on Board’ sign is sitting there thinking “The car in front has a baby in it therefore I must not ram or crash in to it.” If there are drivers out there that think this way, well then I think your priorities need to be revisited.

It’s like that Simpsons episode all over again – those old enough to remember it will know what I mean.

So far I haven’t had any trouble driving with Monster on board, and heaven help someone who does crash into me – if there is one thing I have learnt so far, it’s that motherhood enhances the protective streak by tenfold.

While I am not mocking the rationale behind the Baby on Board sign, it is still not something I will be investing in as I feel it does not make a difference. However I could be wrong?


It has been a rather hectic couple of weeks again. Where I find myself trying to enter a blog post once a week, more realistically this is now happening once a month. This week has been no different. Where the monster is learning everything so quickly, I am having trouble keeping up with the days, let alone the latest trick my amazing little human has learnt.

I do find myself somewhat confused by nursery rhythms. When bathing monster the other evening I read from a book that was mine as a child, called the Gift of Nursery Rhythms. It included all of the ‘classics’ and of course it is only in your adult years do you understand what the rhythms really mean, and when you eliminate the rhythms with obvious entendre, the ones regarding hunting of animals and plagues there is not much left. So while I could be looking too much into this, I think we will be revising the reading material from now on.

Nutrition in any lifestyle is very difficult to maintain, post pregnancy seems to have been the most challenging in my opinion.

Monster is now 14 weeks old and from my understanding, most 14 week old babies are doing what monster was doing at 5-6 weeks. When I look back at the videos of monster, I see that monster is a lot more energetic, just when we thought they had reached their peak, now my little human is like ten chipmunks on caffeine – what do they put in baby formula nowadays?

Over the last few weeks, monster has learnt how to press buttons so my Blackberry is now off limits. It is very disconcerting while scrolling down the feeds on Facebook to find monster scrolling up at the same time on the same screen. Of course my heavily dermatitis ridden hands with ruined fingertips are no match on a touchscreen for monster’s perfect hands, and of course the little fingers glide through the posts and pages effortlessly.

On clothing, monster is now 3-6 months, mainly because the weather is so hot and I am now understanding what people said before about these times being so previous and how fast they go. The last three months have flown by.

In addition because monster is so energetic, milk is no longer filling them up (something my mother has also confirmed), my husband and I decided to move over (very slowly) to semi-solids. This was long thought out by my husband and I and we agreed that it would be the best move forward.

Given that the recommended age to begin semi-solids is 17 weeks onwards, 13 weeks is a little daunting for any parent I would imagine. But when your child is sitting there watching every mouthful you take and moves their mouths mimicking yours, and then goes to grab the jacket potato off of your plate, you know that perhaps it is time to move on. Monster began officially teething at 5 weeks and we have been using the Nelsons homeopathic sachets.

To get monster ready for spoon feeding, I have been giving the powder from the sachets on a training baby spoon mixed with water.

Upon recommendation from a friend, we tried the pure baby rice by Cow and Gate. It seemed sensible as monster has been on Cow and Gate formula from birth. The only problem we have is that we cannot get the spoon into monster’s mouth quick enough.

Monster has always loved their food, I joke with mother that I never leave the house without a bottle at the ready as heaven help me if I did. I have now found that if one drops a spoon while feeding monster lets me know with volatile verbal passion, so I now make sure I have a spare on standby.

What hasn’t helped is that now thanks to my mother who has successfully taught monster to poke out their tongue out and how to blow raspberries, as soon as monster receives a spoonful of food, they now blow the food out with a raspberry, enduring that the feeder is wearing said food.

With regards to child nutrition, with babies you cannot really over-feed them for the first six months. Following this when they begin weaning and going onto solid food, that is when we have to be careful.

I have six qualifications in nutrition, the main being sports nutrition, but I do have qualifications in child nutrition too. I know my methods work and I have never had to diet because of it. I set myself an eating plan several years ago, and amend it accordingly so instead of taking in 1800 calories per day, I would drop down to 1500 calories. I amend the plan on a daily basis depending on if I exercise and how much I exercise but I never miss a meal. Sometimes I am delayed because of having a baby but I never miss a meal.

If you miss a meal here and there, it is not a problem, but if you constantly miss meals thinking it will make you lose weight then, you affect your metabolic system and over time this will become severe as your metabolic system includes energy, brain power and so on. Also if you miss meals you are most likely to eat the bad foods when you do get around to eating as normally the ‘bad food’ is quicker to gain access to, it serves as a comforter and by extension it is cheaper.

I do have a new project and book coming out soon detailing nutrition and how it can work for everyone to assist with any goal, so watch this space, more details to follow soon.