playing The Imagination Tree’s toddler colour match ball game

toddler picking up balls with OXO Good Grips tongsSome ideas are so simple you wonder how it’s possible you hadn’t thought of them yourself.  You feel deflated and question your creativity, your sense of fun, your worth as a Mother…  and then you just laugh and say who cares about all that let’s go grab some plastic balls and a pair of tongs and have some fun.  So that’s exactly what Luca and I did when we came across this Toddler colour match game post from Anna at The Imagination Tree.

As Luca is only 23 months sorting the balls by colours was beyond him (he’s only just mastering two word sentences) but I was surprised at how dextrous he was using the adult size tongs to transfer the balls from the bag to the muffin tray.  I think it helped that the tongs are so grippy and light despite their size.  I don’t suppose OXO Good Grips had children’s play in mind when they designed their tongs but it’s a great bonus feature for an occasionally used kitchen utensil!

This was a great game for practicing hand eye co-ordination, fine motor skills and perseverance each time he dropped the ball.  It occupied him for about half an hour and it was lovely to just sit back and watch him.  He showed no frustration with the task and was virtually silent with concentration excepting the pointing out of ”ball, ball”.   When he’s a bit older it’ll help with learning colours and counting so I’m sure we’ll return to it.  When 6 year old Euan came home from school he was intrigued by the sight of the balls scattered all over the floor, the pair of tongs and the empty muffin tin.  He immediately picked up the tongs and started playing his own version of sorting and dropping the balls.  I love how toddler and pre-school activities never get old when you’re a child who’s simply wired for play.

The Imagination Tree website is my favourite resource for creative play ideas, especially in the school holidays as often the items you need are things you have lying around the house.  The Frozen Dinosaur Eggs Sensory Play are one of our favourite activities (although we only have a couple of small dinosaurs so sometimes improvise with other toys or lego figures!).  If you go and explore Anna’s site I’d love to hear which activities you enjoy.

April 3, 2018 at 12:09 pm Leave a comment

#myheartylife | 12 – gratitude| success| beauty

Reflecting weekly on the beauty in every day moments, reasons to be thankful and celebrating small successes with the #myhearty life linky.
toddler with green pants on his head laughing at selfie - niptinthebud.co.uk
I’m grateful for ….
Toddlers wearing pants on their heads obviously!

This month I have been feeling particularly grateful for family.  My parents have been visiting every Tuesday afternoon since 6 year old Euan was one and I had returned to work 2 days a week.  We had a gap in childcare between George needing to leave for work and me returning home. I always appreciated Mum and Dad’s love of spending time with Euan and it’s been heartwarming to see their relationship deepen from having 1:1 time.  I was especially grateful for the pause Tuesday afternoons brought when I was pregnant with Luca and then when he was a newborn.  I’m still grateful for the weekly meal Mum brings with her and the pause it gives me to put the laundry out or dash around picking things up without being following by Luca or being ask lots of questions by Euan.  The boys love hanging out with their grandparents and with each visit I’m reminded of how lucky we are to have them nearby.  Last weekend it was my Dad’s birthday and I took Euan to the Kingfisher Treasure Seekers Hub in Gloucester to make him a present. It’s a fab craft shop where you can take part in a Make and Take workshop and create anything you like from the huge range of craft materials available.  Euan chose a wooden bird picture frame and made it beautifully unique with tons of PVA glue and shiny things.

I succeeded at …
Slowing down when all my instincts scream ”faster faster, more more”.  It’s not a regular occurrence so I’m taking the win when I can and hope it’ll serve as a reminder in future.  I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated of late that I can only be creative in the short time that Luca naps each day.  If my mind wanders in the daytime and I pick up a notebook to jot something down Luca pulls it from my hand and flings it on the floor!  If ever a child communicated by throwing things it’s Luca.  Sometimes if he’s sat on my lap facing me and I look away to say something to G he puts his hands on my cheeks and says ”this way” as he turns my face back towards him.   Determined not angry, forthright in his actions where he lacks language.   For a boy of few words it’s pretty powerful – his only other 2 word sentences are ”Mumma milk” and ”Dadda burp!”.   After a particularly vexing day last week I resolved to just be present when we returned from the school run; to do less, observe more and enjoy most .  And the irony of it was that by sitting alongside him and participating in his play only as an observer and cheerleader I was able to appreciate that there are moments during our time together when I can find pause and quiet thought without it unsettling Luca.  It reminded me of the value of Special Time where you top your child up before trying to get things done rather than zipping off to do it first impatiently calling over your shoulder ”I’ll be back in a minute, just hang on”.  I quietly reached for my camera and took some photos of Luca absorbed in car play.  I pondered what blog post they might tell the story of.   We played together, he played alone.  I photographed him and thought out this blog post.  Zero frustration,  two hearts brimful and two peaceful minds (well mine was, I suspect Luca’s was something like this ”car, car, brrrrmmm, bang, car”)

I found beauty in …
Nature and the industrious work of a pair of magpies who had spent a couple of weeks preparing their nest in a tree opposite the back of our house. From our bedroom window we had a perfect view straight into the tree and enjoyed their comings and goings and the fact that their presence kept the seagulls quiet.  On Sunday as the boys enjoyed the beautiful sunshine while playing in the yard they suddenly heard the buzz of a chain saw.  Luca ran in to me in the kitchen and Euan fearfully called out ”what is someone chopping down?’‘.  I went upstairs to look through the back window and saw two men cutting branches from the tree with the Magpie’s nest balanced within its branches.  I hoped it was just a bit of sprint time pruning.  It wasn’t.  Half an hour later they had chopped all of the branches off and spent the next couple of hours burning the wood.  The next day at breakfast time Euan spotted one of magpies up on the rooftops and looked sad as he remarked ”the magpie is up there Mum looking for his home but it’s gone hasn’t it”.  We all felt really sad for the magpies and hope they find another tree to build a new nest in before they are ready to lay their eggs in April.  It’s hard having to explain to a kind hearted child that the beauty we appreciate is not always appreciated by others and can be destroyed so suddenly.  I was reminded of gentle parent L R Knosts perceptive quote  “It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”  We hadn’t taken any pictures of the Magpies so here’s a photo of the boys drawing in the back yard on that lovely sunny afternoon before the chain saw shattered their peace!  I see such beauty in watching a child absorbed by their own creativity.

Thank you for reading.  My previous #myheartylife reflections can be found here.
I’d love to hear what you’re finding beauty in, feeling grateful for and celebrating success with in the comments.

If you’re publishing a blog post that fits in with one or all of the #myheartylife prompts why not join the linky?  Mary is away this week so there’s plenty of time to get your thinking cap on for next time.  Enjoy living your hearty life.
#myheartylife linky logo copy

March 31, 2018 at 1:00 pm 5 comments

beetroot and chocolate cupcakes (using less sugar)

20-03-20_BLOG Beetroot and Chocolate muffins-6The first time I made these beetroot and chocolate cupcakes was long before I had small boys to bake them for.  I’ve only made them a couple of times since then as I now realise as a health conscious parent that they’ve got more sugar in than you might want to give your baby/toddler.  On the plus side though they have a portion of veg in and good fats not just a dose of sugar/carbohydrate so if you feel the urge to eat cake it’s not all bad.

OXO Good grips measuring cups_beetroot and chocolate cupcake ingredients - nipitinthebud.co.uk

beetroot and chocolate cupcake ingredients in OXO Good Grips measuring cups

I struggle with sugar cravings at certain times of the month and often eat healthily by day then lose all will power by the evening and reach for sugary snacks.  This week I decided to embrace the idea of a sweet elvenses after a slow walk home from school drop-off with Luca.  I had everything I needed to make these beetroot and chocolate cupcakes, a willing helper and my list of favourite podcasts ready to play on Stitcher.  When I reviewed the recipe I felt confident reducing the amount of sugar would make them more tooth kind without compromising the flavour.  At nearly 2 years old Luca is such a lover of cake and all things sweet so this reduced sugar version is definitely the one I shall return to now (please note I didn’t say ‘low sugar’ as they’re not! – I’ve included the nutritional information at the end of the ingredients list)

I think this recipe could work with even less sugar with the addition of a banana.  I reduced the sugar content by more than half that of the original recipe and switched out castor sugar for a 5:1 blend of coconut sugar and stevia.  The quantities below made a tray of 12 cupcakes the perfect size for toddler hands (they look small in the picture below because I optimistically used muffin cases forgetting I’d halved the ingredients!)

20-03-20_BLOG Beetroot and Chocolate muffins-8

Ingredients to make 12 cupcakes or 6 large size cupcakes

185g beetroot (one large beet)
150ml oil (I use rapeseed oil or coconut oil)
150g self-raising flour
50g dark chocolate melted or cocoa powder
55g raisins
2 eggs
50g sugar (I used coconut sugar this time)
10g stevia

Nutritional value per cupcake (calculated using the free app Myfitness pal):

213 calories, 17.6g carbs, 14.9g fat, 2.9g protein

To make beetroot and chocolate cupcakes

  • Pre heat oven to 185°c
  • Cook raw beetroot until soft or use pre-cooked shop bought beetroot and blend (I used the Magimix this time but have used a hand mixer before as well)
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs into the oil.  Add to the cooked beetroot and mix well.
  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the melted chocolate to the egg/oil/beetroot mixture.
  • If using cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate add it to your sifted flour in a separate bowl.  Add the sugar and raisins.  Mix well.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix everything together lightly.
  • Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases bake for 20-25 minutes until brown and risen or a fork comes out of it clean.

20-03-20_BLOG Beetroot and Chocolate muffins-720-03-20_BLOG Beetroot and Chocolate muffins-10

March 23, 2018 at 2:03 pm 4 comments

living with intention – 10 questions that help

Happy first day of Spring. I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom 2018 seems to be flying by? I was flicking through my journal this morning as my daily thought dump has fallen by the wayside. I was reminded of this lovely little reflective ritual I adopted for the first time at the start of the year. I’m sharing it to remind me to make it an annual habit from this year onwards and because it might be something you’d find useful in 9 months time. I think it’s a nice alternative to making well intentioned new year resolutions to review the year you’re saying farewell to. I highly recommend reading the full article article by Daisy U on the No Sidebar blog click here

Luca wowcam with Happy New Year glasses.jpg

10 questions to live with intention – an end of year review

1. What makes this year unforgettable?

2. What did you enjoy doing this year?

3. What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?

4. What’s your biggest win this year?

5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?

6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

7. What was your biggest regret and why?

8. What’s one thing that changed about yourself?

9. What surprised you the most this year?

10. If you could go back to last January 1st, what suggestions would you give your past self?

I don’t wish to share my answers to all of these questions (perhaps I will come January 2019 when I’m comparing notes) but here are the first 3 answers at least. It’s certainly good to be reminded of the things I’m grateful for. It may change day to day but ultimately the rock on which all my experiences are grounded is the strength of my relationship with George. Ever grateful to be going into each New Year with him by my side.

”Some of the things that made 2017 unforgettable: Euan turned 5. I celebrated my birthday with friends for the first time in over a decade. Luca had an earthside birthday and then a 1st birthday. We went to the Isle of Wight, camped on Exmoor National Park and visited family in Germany. Euan and I grew veg at the allotment. We had a half term adventure to the Science Museum with cousin Kian. Euan won best costume for his BFG outfit on World Book Day. I chose not to return to work. A dear friend got married. One of my photos was published in the Children in Need ”This is Britain” photo book. All sorts of terrific things. The realisation that I don’t need to give energy to upsetting things. I started to let go”

”I enjoyed all of the above. Getting back into blog writing. Taking photos. Having a really good connection with the boys. Committing to a monthly Hand in Hand parenting group.”

”I’m grateful for George. Supporting me with the tough stuff even though he doesn’t always get why anxiety makes it tough. Gifting me Tuesday mornings for time alone. Working full time so I don’t have to. Telling me I’m a great Mum. Loving our boys as fiercely as I do.”

March 20, 2018 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

#myheartylife | 11 – gratitude| success| beauty

Reflecting weekly on the beauty in every day moments, reasons to be thankful and celebrating small successes with the #myhearty life linky.

I love Beavers a lot!

”’Yeeeeessss” to the question ”Do you love Beavers?”

I’m grateful for ….
.. being taught to sew as a child by my Mum just as her Mum had taught her. She made it fun and encouraged me when I became frustrated. We made a skirt together when I was 15 which landed me in hospital when a lose wire in the sewing machine gave me an electric shock. I’ve hoarded fabric cuttings over the years but never made anything else. I have bigger ideas in my head than my abilities can maintain! But I am grateful for the unshakeable confidence in my ability to stitch and have no fear or loathing when it comes to stitching jobs for E like adapting World Book Day costumes or sewing badges onto his Beavers uniform. For someone who lacks confidence in many other areas of my life it gives me a warm feeling to know I’ve got this. Thanks Mum.

I succeeded at …
..prioritising sleep on my one child free morning. On a Tuesday I love to start my day with a swim. Night times with Luca can be exhausting and this week I was tired and headachy the moment my eyes opened on my swim morning this week. I felt a slight lump in my throat when I swallowed and wondered if I was developing the cough the boys both have. The cough that kept E from his swimming lesson on Sunday. I decided a swim for me was likely to lead to further exhaustion and potentially earache or a cold so after getting the boys dressed I crept back into bed. I fell asleep listening to the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Centre’s ”Body scan for sleep” (works every time, go check it out if you have any difficulty dropping off). I woke 2 hours later so clearly made the right decision! I didn’t get anything on my to-do list done that morning but I had practiced good self-care and felt like my mind was clearer, calmer and more able to work out what my priorities really were this week.

brothers in blanket - nipitinthebud blog

I found beauty in …
Father and son. One learning, one helping. Both smiling, both exhausted by the end. E showed no interest in riding a bike until fairly recently. We don’t have a garden and live near a main road so even trips to the park would have involved carrying the bike there for him and restricting his use of it. We figured we’d wait until he was older and asked for one and he just didn’t until this Christmas. The poor weather has meant only now is he learning to ride it.

My previous #myheartylife reflections can be found here

If you’re publishing a blog post that fits in with one or all of the #myheartylife prompts why not join the linky? Simply add your blog link at the bottom of Mary’s latest post here. Sharing comments with other #myheartylife bloggers is always lovely and if posting your cheerful moments on social media too please use the tag #myheartylife. Enjoy living and sharing your hearty life.
#myheartylife linky logo copy

March 17, 2018 at 12:16 pm 2 comments

how it feels sometimes parenting a 3 year old

8-11-15 - E sticking 4 copy 4B

Trust him.

Fretting. Comparing. Fearing. Worrying. Judging. Wanting. Hoping. Wishing. Lacking. Erring. Deliberating. Procrastinating. Postponing. Trying. Working. Modelling. Learning. Grieving. Sickening. Incapacitating. Immobilising. Paralysing. Frustrating.

Trust him. Let go. Re-frame.

Invigorating. Dreaming. Bettering. Moving. Touching. Giggling. Tickling. Imagining. Creating. Making. Baking. Legoing. Cycling. Walking. Dawdling. Scooting. Dashing. Swimming. Splashing. Bathing. Reading. Singing. Dancing. Collecting. Drawing. Sticking. Cutting. Pegging. Mixing. Painting. Brushing. Helping. Wondering. Umming. Ahhing. Watching. Waiting.

Trust myself.

Struggling. Saddening. Maddening. Gladdening. Improving. Growing. Capturing. Memorising. Building. Breaking. Sitting. Playing. Sticking. Recharging. Giving. Never ending. Loving.

Trust him. Anxiety’s a liar.

14-11-15 - E with purple mixels copy 4B

2015. I remember the day I wrote this. George was away and I was having a tough time responding patiently to Euan’s craft making meltdowns. In a moment of pause later, while he was absorbed in his drawing, I wrote out all the words I was feeling. The words that screamed “not good enough”, filled me with sadness and made me question my worth as a Mother. I took a deep breath, looked at him absorbed in his drawing, and thought of all the words I was experiencing. And slowly my load felt lighter. Trust him.

March 16, 2018 at 10:54 am 5 comments

#myheartylife | 10 – gratitude| success| beauty

Reflecting weekly on the beauty in every day moments, reasons to be thankful and celebrating small successes with the #myhearty life linky.

I’m grateful for ….
People who share their wisdom and resources to help others find peace, joy and purpose.  I was feeling a bit glum last week in that can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it kind of way.  As an Introvert with a tendency toward anxiety I find comfort and clarity in listening to others talk about the issues I struggle with. From the safety of my own home, with no pressure to interact, I often find the encouragement I need to fine tune my intuition about what I need to do by listening to audio books or podcasts. I downloaded the Stitcher Radio app to my phone last month and it’s like finding a kindred spirit and having a loving friend in your pocket whenever you need one. I no longer need to wait until the evening to unravel with a book (by which time I’m usually too exhausted to concentrate and it feels like work). I can listen to podcasts while I cook, tidy or hang out with the boys. Sometimes I look for a podcast title that is my exact concern. Often it’s enough to know that others struggle too and calms that critical voice that tells me it’s only me that feels like this. Sometimes I can then just accept how I’m feeling like a compassionate friend and stop looking for the fix-it. Often I scroll through episode titles and click on something unconnected to my situation that piques my interest and still find a positive take away from my listening time. My 5 favourite listens from the last couple of weeks have been:

Oprah’s super soul conversations – talking to the late Maya Angelou about her childhood, her relationship with her Mother and standing up for what you believe in

The other F word – how personality types deal with anxiety (the other F word, in case you were wondering, is ‘failure’)

Hand in Hand parenting – how brain science fuels our upset behaviour and how by understanding it, we can create calmer, more contented households and better relationships with our kids.

The Savvy Psychologist – 5 ways technology is making us anxious (highlighting how on-line communication provides connection and support but reduces our ability to deal with in-person conversations and uncertainty)

The Life Coach School – being decisive (how staying in the confusion of uncertainty is a decision to stay stuck!)

(illustrated by the inspirational Emily Rutherford @artwithanxiety on Instagram )

I succeeded at …
Using my one child free morning a week to do something that fills me with joy by completing my photography coaching with Shane. Instead of doing a 1 day session he kindly allowed me to split my time across a few weeks so we had some workshop time running through camera basics, an hour bimbling in the gardens with Luca (trust me that was long enough in the freezing cold) and a couple of hours talking processing and editing using Adobe Lightroom.  It was such a relief to learn how to rescue those slightly blurry-but-beautiful snapshots and revive a mediocre picture shot in poor light. I’m excited by the difference this will make to the photos I take and having Shane on hand for further advice when I need it. Here’s an example of original photo on the left and edited version on the right.

I found beauty in …
The snow and watching the boys play out in our small back yard. Euan wasn’t interested in going out during the day and Luca gets too cold as a hat and glove refusing toddler. But after dinner as it was getting dark they suddenly had the urge to play. It was beautiful watching them work together to build a wannabe snowman and help each other when something didn’t work out. It always tugs my heart strings that we don’t have a garden for them but E declared ”I’m glad we have a yard and not a garden so the snow doesn’t get all muddy”. I love the bond these brothers share.

My previous #myheartylife reflections can be found here

If you’re publishing a blog post that fits in with one or all of the #myheartylife prompts why not join the linky? Simply add your blog link at the bottom of Mary’s latest post here. Sharing comments with other #myheartylife bloggers is always lovely and if posting your cheerful moments on social media too please use the tag #myheartylife. Enjoy living and sharing your hearty life.
#myheartylife linky logo copy

March 12, 2018 at 9:24 am 1 comment

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About Nip it in the bud


Welcome to my blog about growing and cooking allotment veg since 2009 and growing sweet boys since 2012. Take a walk with us through our life in Gloucester with a boy, a baby and 3 cats.

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The boys and I had the most gorgeous morning at the allotment. I was pleasantly surprised how much we achieved despite a wandering toddler. We returned with lovely forced pink rhubarb from our plot grandad Dave and also some greener rhubarb from our old plot neighbour. #nipitinthebudblog #gloucesterlife #allotmentgardening #growingwithkids #pinkforcedrhubarb
So happy and proud of the infinity Lego cube he's just made. Thank you @sarahfrugalfunforboys for the inspiration and video link #welovelego #gloucesterlife
Not a bad view for my walk home after singing with @musicalgeorgemoorey . I agree with the graffiti! #nipitinthebudblog #gloucesterlife #loveglos @gloucestercathedral
Wow, what a way to spend an hour, singing our hearts out on George's final #spacesgloucester recording. So proud of this guy and the beautiful music he's made in collaboration with some other beautiful musicians #gloucesterlife #lookcloserlistendeeper
A beautiful bright sunny evening and I'm excited to be joining @musicalgeorgemoorey here for the final recording of his #spacesgloucester music project.
NOURISH for #mindfulapril with @mamas_scrapbook - a scrambled egg start to my day. A carb heavy diet makes me lethargic and effects my mood so this sets me off on the right foot. Toddler L also loves it and it eases my mind about what else he eats in the day if I know he's had a good breakfast. #gloucesterlife #nipitinthebudblog
GROWTH - day 18 of #mindfulapril. One son the size of an emperor penguin and one the size of a Gremlin! #gloucesterlife thebudblog #glou
Obsessed with anything with wheels, I turn round to see Luca has nabbed someone's scooter at the park and is legging it! #gloucesterlife #nipitinthebudblog #scootingtoddler
Well this has been interesting! After a conversation with @pocketfulofconkers I did a Myers Briggs personality test and it seems to be pretty accurate (ISFJ 'Defender'). Do you know your personality type? How has it helped you to understand yourself or the challenges you have with others? #nipitinthebudblog #gloucesterlife #myersbriggspersonalitytype
BREATHE - day 17 of #mindfulapril. 6 years old and so happy to be doing this for the first time. His nearly 2 year old brother would try it right now if only he could reach! I'm definitely go to have to learn to pause and breathe when he's bigger. #nipitinthebudblog #gloucesterlife #mumbloggeruk
#mindfulapril day 16 - LIGHT. Luca, our little "bringer of light" bored of life on the outside when he was just a day old. Crazy to think he'll be two in just over a week. He brings us so much joy but is also a good metaphor for accepting the shadows that come with the light (aka he's a right monkey!) #nipitinthebudblog #gloucesterlife #lucabringeroflight
Missing this fella now he's back at school today. We'd happily go to @wwtslimbridge every day if we home schooled! #nipitinthebudblog #gloucesterlife #loveglos #slimbridgewwt #outdoorexplorers #mumbloggeruk

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