Sunday, 23 February 2014

Nuunest – a new breed of newborn app

I first came across Cindy and Jana on twitter (@cindyandjana) and thought they had a nice mix of interesting and educational/informative tweets for parents. So when they said they were releasing a new app to help parents of newborns I was really interested in seeing it - from a dual perspective to be honest.

Professionally, looking after newborns and answering their parents' queries are what I do day-in-day-out so I was curious to see what sort of apps were being released that could help inform parents - and whether what was being said was accurate and sensible advice. And then on a personal note I'm currently expecting baby number 2 and so am always on the look out for things that might make life a bit easier/more interesting etc after baby comes.

So when Cindy and Jana sent me a promotional code for their app I was really excited to try it out. It was very easy to download from the iTunes store onto my iPhone and then I was ready to investigate.... I should point out at this stage there are two ways to enter the app - one as a "guest" and one by inserting the birth date of your baby so you get tailored messages based on your baby’s age - linked to their expected growth, development etc on that specific day. Therefore as Doofling is yet to be born I have so far only entered as a guest.

This app contains a lot of useful information but it is very cleverly broken down into small bite-sized chunks and easy to navigate sections so you never feel at all over-whelmed and always want to read a bit more.

There are 9 different sections (see below) – some of which are pretty standard for a newborn app and some of which are so much better. One thing I particularly love is at the top of each page there are hundreds of rotating “tips and tricks” covering all aspects of newborn care – tidbits of knowledge :)

Example of "tidbit" giving information about skin-to-skin

The 9 sections are:

1. Breastfeed
Allows you to enter the time of last feed and which side you finished feeding on. Has an extra section to add top-up volume if you are mix breast/bottle feeding and answers common questions like: positioning and latching, how do you know baby is getting enough milk and has a link to a FAQ section about BF. The only downside is I couldn’t see how to insert the length of feed. Maybe this is because I am only looking in the guest version? Even though number of minutes is not necessarily an indication of amount of milk taken, it can help as a rough guide and I definitely found that really useful when starting BF with Doofy.

2. Weight
You can insert baby’s weight on different days and it is then displayed in a chart form. Also contains useful section on what normally happens to weight over the first few weeks – a common concern of parents. However it would have been nice to have a growth chart with the weights plotted or another form of visual representation of what the weight was doing (rather than just a list) – again I will have to wait and see if that is something which is in the full version or not…

3. Summary
Displays total number of feeds, nappies and milk expressed. Another nice feature is how you can easily send all the inputted information to your email in case, for example, you have an appointment with a doctor or lactation consultant and want to take a printout of feeding/nappies etc.

4. Informed feeding decision
Cindy and Jana are breastfeeding specialists so although they give very balanced advice and do have specific sections for formula feeding etc, they obviously (and rightly in my opinion) provide a lot of information on breastfeeding – for example the benefits of breastmilk, BF rights, milk banks (although this info is for Canadian readers) and advantages to mum of BF.

5. Vitamin D
You can record if you’ve given it that day – the Department of Health recommends all breastfed babies are given vitamin D from 6 months with some higher risk groups from 1 month (

6. Expressing breast milk
You can detail the time and amount of milk expressed, and which side you expressed on (useful for middle-of-the-night-half-asleep-pumping sessions!). It also has a wealth of information including hand versus pump expressing, safely storing your milk and tips to increase your supply.

7. Diapers
You can document the number of wet and dirty nappies and learn the answers to common parenting questions such as what colour stools are normal (with photos of poop to illustrate!) and the normal number of wet nappies to expect in a day.

8. Bottle feed
Let’s you enter the time, amount and type of milk aswell as set a feeding reminder. It also has lots of useful information on, for example, how to prepare formula safely (you would not believe how many people are unwittingly risking their babies picking up infections by not following recommended procedures – and even how many health visitors advise the wrong thing as they are out of date with their knowledge!) and how much formula to give. Initially I was a bit wary as all the information is Canadian (nothing against Canada but I wasn’t sure if their guidelines were the same as the UK) but actually everything I’ve read so far seems to tally very closely.

9. "All about mom"
This section was so informative and not something I’ve seen in any of the other newborn apps. It answers all your random queries like:
-          what afterpains are normal
-          when to be concerned about your nipples
-          what changes to expect to your breasts – whether or not you breastfeed
-          what blood flow is normal after delivery
-          different BF positions to try if you had a C-section
-          when you can start to exercise
-          tips to help your perineum heal
And as a very helpful touch each section has advice on when to seek medical help.
This "All about mom" section covers 14 areas and has so much useful information - things you want to know but never think to ask - definitely a plus point over other newborn apps

In summary

Overall I think this app is excellent – especially as I have only seen the “guest” version so far! It is much more informative than the feeding/nappy charting one I used with Doofy and would be a really useful tool to any mum, especially first-time ones. It is definitely well worth paying for (bargain at under £2!) as it actually contains enough information to rule out needing to read much other information during the newborn period. And, in my opinion, reading information in small chunks like this is much easier to digest than trying to leaf through a book when you’ve got a breastfeeding baby balanced on one arm - perfect to dip in and out of during feeds.

One area this app doesn’t cover which some others do, is sleeping. But to be honest I found with Doofy I would often remember to press the ‘start’ button at the beginning of a nap and would never remember to press ‘stop’ when he woke up so it was a bit pointless! So I won’t miss not having that option with this app.

I will definitely use Nuunest when Doofling is born and if it had a growth chart linked and a timer for breastfeeds then I couldn’t think of anything else that could improve it.

Definite #sealofapproval

***Disclaimer: I was sent this app free to try but with no obligation to write a review and all opinions are my own***

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Cooking for a first birthday

So I'll start by saying I am not a naturally talented cook, and although I enjoy baking it is not the most relaxing thing I can think of after a long day at work (mainly due to the washing up afterwards...). So initially when thinking what to do on Doof's birthday I thought I'd buy food (including a cake). But then I got a bit more sentimental about it being his first ever one and, coincidentally, saw a picture of the most gorgeous cake on a twitter feed and the most awesome biscuits and so thought I'd try and recreate them (albeit in a very amateur way!).

So here goes...

The cake

I initially saw a rainbow cake on someone’s twitter feed – I’d never seen one before and loved the idea. Since then I have seen them all over but I still love the idea and everyone at D’s party and at his nursery (I made a second one to take into them) were very impressed and couldn’t believe I had made it myself!

There are a million different recipes online and really you can use any basic sponge recipe and just colour the sponges separately. I found this site though which has a recipe but also loads of useful tips, comments and advice - I'd definitely recommend reading all of Kerry's advice before you start.

Top tips:
-          Kerry suggested using disposable cake tins for cooking to save washing up. I couldn’t find any of the right size so instead bought 3 cheap reuseable ones (which are standard cake size so I’ll definitely use them again) and that only meant one lot of washing up in between. Also to be honest, using the cake release spray (instead of buttering the pans) meant the cakes slid out so easily that I actually didn’t even need to wash up between the different colours
-          I would recommend using paper bowls to mix up the different colours though. This meant no washing up and the bowls could just be thrown away. Definitely worth doing!
-          I used a skewer to dip into the colour paste and then drizzled it over the mixture. If I had used a spoon I would have used way too much colour – you only need a small amount to get vibrant colours with the gels I had
-          And on that note make sure you use colour gel or pastes – don’t try and use regular food colouring as they will just ruin the taste of the sponge :(
-          If you need to transport your cake any distance make sure you check you have an appropriate container. I carefully measured to ensure the 6 sponges would fit – they did. But I completely failed to take account of the extra height that icing would add – so the finished cakes did not fit and I had a perilous journey with an unboxed cake balancing in the bottom of the buggy on the journey to nursery…
-          I used bigger cake tins as I wanted the cake to be wider and not quite as tall and precarious looking
-          I changed the icing – firstly I wanted to be able to see all the layers when the cake was assembled (although some people like to completely cover it in icing so it is surprise when you cut into it) and I also thought having buttercream icing between every layer would be a bit much – especially for 1 year olds! – so I alternated buttercream in one layer and then jam in the next one. I think it worked pretty well, made the cake look a bit different and meant it wasn’t quite as sweet

All in all this was a surprisingly easy cake to make which has a high visual impact factor. I’d definitely recommend anyone to try making it. I also made 2 other variations – one for Doof’s smash cake where each layer consisted of 5 colours and another one which I took to work which had 4 colours in 2 different layers. The different possibilities are endless…

The biscuits

I’d never heard of icebox cookies before but they seem to be pretty common in America. The basic recipe is one which you make up and then chill in the fridge before moulding it into whatever shape you want and cooking them. I saw these very cute lion cookies and when I looked at the blog I found there were 2 other variations!! So the mission to make lion, turtle and penguin icebox cookies was made…

Susan has given really clear instructions on her website and so to be honest I’d say read all her steps and follow them! However there are a few things that I did differently (most of which are due to USA vs UK I think).
So here are the few places I deviated or did something slightly different:


I’d never heard of using “cups” before as a measurement so here is the standard gram measurements if you want to convert the recipe :)

1 cup flour = 140g
1 stick butter = 115g
1 cup icing /powdered sugar = 160g
1 cup caster sugar = 200g


I didn’t have any of the special coloured powders (ube powder and matcha powder). For the lion it didn’t matter as I used custard powder and cocoa powder as per the recipe, whereas for the other animals I used the green and purple food pastes that I had bought for the cake above. I had to knead the mixture quite a lot to distribute the colour evenly but the result was pretty good and it definitely suited me better than trying to track down something I was never going to use in any other recipes. It did mean I had to guesstimate how much extra flour to use though to make up for not adding the coloured powders

Recipe quantities

I did a trial run of just the lion cookies and the quantities on DFD blog made millions! So when I made them for Doof’s bday I halved the recipe – it still made way too many (by the time I had made all 3 animals). It was fine in the end as I took a box into nursery and a box into work but if you don’t want to be eating animal cookies for the next few weeks then I would probably quarter the original recipe!


It’s pretty obvious that Susan from Diamonds for Dessert is a professional baker and so an amateur like me will probably need to take some shortcuts along the way. One place I definitely cheated was on the final decorating. I bought some of these pre-filled Dr Oetker writing icing tubes and then used different colours for each animal.
- caramel for lion faces
- black for penguin and turtle eyes
- white for penguin flippers
- yellow for penguin feet and beak
- dark brown for turtle stripes

Other tips that make life SO much easier:
-          Definitely wrap everything in cling film when trying to roll it out flat or even mould it into a log. Makes it so much easier and less sticky
-          Don’t skimp on the fridge time – I actually left mine in the fridge for much longer than she said (mainly because I was disorganised and so was stuck doing something else!) but that didn’t matter at all and the mixture is much easier to handle when chilled
-          The biscuits get a lot larger when they are cooked so leave enough room between them on the baking sheet

Next year…

So what am I going to make next year? I have got the cake bit decided already – saw this amazing upgrade from my rainbow cake on Red Ted Art's blog – a surprise pinata rainbow cake… can’t wait to try it!

Another thing I want to make are these mini fruit pancake kebabs. I figured any tiny drop scones would work well and cake pop sticks as a safe (non-spiky!) alternative to cocktail sticks – I wanted to make them this time and actually bought all the ingredients but ran out of time and so never made them. I was also going to have a range of fruit – some with strawberries, some bananas, some mango etc. Next time... :)

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Cake smash!!

So this post is massively overdue as Doof celebrated his first birthday in October… but I blame a combination of working and being a bit disorganised, followed by Christmas and then awful all-day-long morning sickness – all of which mean I haven’t blogged for a very long time. Anyway all going to change now as I have so many posts I want to write and am starting tonight :)

I first saw the idea of a cake smash on a random photography website when Doof was only a few months old (I can’t even remember which one) but I instantly thought it looked so cool and so saved up the idea for when he was turning one.

So here is a combination of what I read, what I did and tips for anyone else thinking of doing a cake smash… (more tips can be found here)

The cake

A pretty crucial part of the whole “cake smash” is obviously the cake. I decided pretty early on I wanted to do a multi-coloured cake as firstly I was making a rainbow cake for Doof’s actual birthday so thought it would tie in nicely and secondly I thought it would look good in photos with lots of different colours.

I used the same recipe as for Doof’s birthday cake but instead of making separate layers I make a double layers with chunks of different colours. I then iced it with pale blue buttercream and sprinkled it with lots of 100s & 1000s. I also had a large “1” candle which provided a bit of a focal point and something for Doof to pick up and play with.
Two layers of cake in the oven
Finished cake ready for smashing :)
The setting

The two main things we had to consider were practicality and lighting. Lighting was pretty much a problem wherever we were indoors as it was a dull autumn day with not much sunshine. But from a practical point of view the best place to do it was at one end of the sitting room.

So I set up a little “stage area” consisting of a tablecloth draped over the back of two chairs, with the light from French windows behind me as I was taking photos. I picked a light blue tablecloth (my choices were slightly limited as I left that bit pretty late to organise!) and we happened to have that already at home. It also made clean up easy as we just shook the crumbs off outside and then put it in the washing machine.

I discounted using a white one because of the colour of Doof’s outfit but if he had been in a coloured vest I think a white backdrop with a coloured cake could’ve looked really good. I also discounted using any kind of shiny surface (like plastic disposable tablecloths) as these would reflect the light in weird ways.

Blue tablecloth forming the backdrop and floor
The camera

We’ve got a DSLR which was perfect for shooting an indoor cake smash as to get the best results you really do need to be able to fiddle with the shutter speed, ISO, lighting etc. As the lighting wasn’t amazing I ended up shooting with a fast shutter speed (so there was no blur), kept the f-stop high and used a bounced flash diffuser (to avoid over-whitening the skin/having red eye but adding a bit more light to the mix).

If you have a large overhead light that could also help (we didn’t) and if shooting on a bright summer’s day rather than a dull October afternoon I imagine light might not be so much of an issue.

Try and take a mixture of full body shots and close ups and move around during the shoot to get different angles - although to be honest this is much easier said than done as a cake smash can last only a few minutes (and some of that may well be spent depositing the baby back in front of the cake!). For all these reasons having someone else on hand to help was really helpful. It's also nice to have a picture of the cake pre-smash and at the very end.

The outfit

If you google “cake smash outfit” or if you put it into a site like Etsy there are a million suggestions. I wanted something quite simple but nice and also that made it obvious that Doof was one. On Etsy I found the perfect thing:

I love the cat in the hat, loved how simple and cute it was and even though it came from Canada the service was super quick and despite me having to order another size (Canadian babies are obviously a lot larger than English babies as Doof still wears the 6-12 month size one now!) both arrived only a few days after ordering. I would definitely order more things from MySunshineDesigns in the future.

The date/time

We deliberately didn’t do this on Doof’s birthday. Some people like to have a mini cake smash during the actual birthday party but we decided to have them on completely separate days – that way we could have fun smashing cake without worrying about anything else and could then enjoy celebrating his birthday with friends without mess and chaos everywhere!

So Doof had his cake smash 2 days before his birthday – another benefit was we could do it at the weekend so both me and his dad could be there (definitely a bonus for me having an extra pair of hands to help!!).

We did it on a Sunday afternoon and timed it for after his afternoon nap – around 3pm. That way worked perfectly for us as he wasn’t tired and had just had a beaker of milk (my attempt at preventing him from going on a complete sugar-induced-rampage as I thought letting a hungry baby loose on a icing-rich cake might be asking for trouble…).

The "after" plan

Have a clean-up plan in place before you start… I ran a really hot bath before we started which meant by the time Doof had had his fill of smashing it had cooled to a nice temperature and was ready for him to be dunked straight in. Definitely an advantage of doing a smash at home rather than outside in a park etc was the proximity of a bathroom! Although to be honest Doof didn’t actually get that messy so we could have just used a handful of wipes – but you never know which baby is going to be the crazy super messy one…

Nice warm bubblebath and a lovely clean baby :)

The final verdict:

Doof was much more delicate than I thought he would be and needed some encouragement to get started but it was so much fun to do – both the preparation and then watching him have fun.

Would I change anything next time? I think I might use more icing (and maybe top it with some whipped cream as that would be much easier to smash/make a mess with) and also get him to taste some icing at the start so he knows it is something nice to eat. Doof had never eaten cake before so wasn’t sure what it was/what to do with it to start with. I'd also leave purple out of the cake as that looked quite dark and boring in the photos.

We will definitely do it again for his second birthday – I imagine that will be a LOT more messy! Come back in October 2014 to see what happened…

If any of you have done a cake smash already, or are planning one, I’d love to hear more and maybe pick up some more tips for the next one :)


Final nursery update

So for any of you who read our initial nursery sagas (Part 1Part 2) I thought I would write an update to let you know how Doof gets on now…

Doof has now been in nursery full time for 5 months and he absolutely loves it :)

He starts at 7.30 in the morning and is there til 6 and has so much fun. When I drop him off in the morning there are never any tears, he is just straight into playing with the toys (if he is the first one there) or with the other children. In the evenings he is always excited to see me but if I watch him before he realises I am there he is always playing happily and I have never seen him crying.

The staff are all great. They seem to genuinely care about all the children and give lots of cuddles and attention and they have different goals for each child to work towards depending on their development so I feel they don’t just see it as a job but actually them being an important part of the childrens’ lives. Within a week of him being there everyone knew his name (even the staff in the older room) and they all say hello and wave at him when they go past. It definitely feels like a family there, even though it is a decent-sized nursery and part of a large nationwide chain.

The cynical part of me might wonder if all the niceities are just put on at drop-off and pick-up times to impress parents but because of my weird hours I often take Doof in late if I’m on a late shift or pick him up early if I’ve been working nights. On all these occasions I just arrive unexpectedly at any time and always witness the same.

The only time I have ever questioned our decision was when Doof got really bad nappy rash and they were only changing him once every 6-7 hours. I was a bit nervous about saying something as I didn’t want to ruin any relationship with them but when we did say something they were very happy to change him more often and said that if we wanted they would change him every 2 hours! I think Doof is just pretty chilled out when his nappy is full and so doesn’t fuss to be changed so was maybe getting overlooked.

So all in all I am so happy we chose nursery over a nanny and, more specifically, that we chose that particular nursery.

For anyone starting out at the beginning of the nursery-settling-in-process – definitely take heart from our journey because at the start I never thought Doof would even last 2 hours there. When I look back at that time now I can’t believe it!

Now all we have to decide is what we do when we have 2 kids and nursery becomes twice the price…