Sarah Answers Mum’s Big Christmas Question in Mother & Baby

Sarah Beeson MBE is a former health visitor and author of Happy Baby, Happy Family (£9.99, Harper Thorson). In November 2017 Edition of parenting magazine Mother & Baby  Sarah shares her advice on celebrating Christmas as a new family.

Question: We’ve always taken it in turns to go to my parent’s house and the in-law’s house for Christmas. Now we’ve got a baby, we want to stay at home, by ourselves. How should I handle telling everyone – I don’t want to upset them!

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to stay in your own home for Christmas. When it comes to telling your families you and your partner can work as a team by being positive, clear and firm about your decision.

First of all tell both families as soon as possible so everyone has time to adjust and adapt to the new arrangements. When you’re both relaxed and calm each of you could phone your parents to let them know what you’ve decided.

Let your parents know how much you’ve enjoyed their hospitality during past Christmases but that you both feel this is the time to start an exciting new chapter in creating special Christmas memories for your little one. Thank your parents for all they’ve done and if you’d like to make them part of the festivities maybe suggest a family tradition they can pass on in the build up to Christmas Day. Make it clear that it isn't open to negotiation and it’s a decision you
and your partner have taken together.

Discuss with your partner beforehand if you’ve got ideas on how your families could be involved. If they don’t live too far away maybe you’d like to meet for lunch or tea on Christmas Eve and go to a Crib Service with your baby.

Whatever you decide give everyone plenty of notice and don’t feel like the rest of your days have to be spent making everyone else happy. Do what you feel is manageable whether that’s having visitors on other days or going to stay with family for a night.

It may be next year you’ll feel like doing things differently but the way we spend Christmas doesn’t have to be set in stone. Whatever you decide be resolute and don’t get drawn into lengthy explanations or heated discussions. Try your best to be calm, clear, positive and thankful for the love you’ve received and will now give to your own child and enjoy your special first Christmas together as a new family.

Sarah Beeson’s MBE is a former health visitor and author of parenting guide Happy Baby, Happy Family and health visiting memoir Our Country Nurse published by HarperCollins available in paperback, eBook and audiobook.

‘A Cornish Gift’ by Fern Britton #BookReview @Fern_Britton @W6BookCafe @Fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK #BookBloggers

A Cornish Gift by Fern Britton published by  HarperCollins is a delightful collection of short stories available in Hardback and e-book which have previously been published in e-book as separate stories called A Cornish Carol, The Stolen Weekend and The Beach Hut.

If  you’re a Fern Britton fan and have read all her previous books bear in mind that this a collection of previously published ebooks so  you don’t buy the same book twice. But if you haven’t read them this hardback collection of stories would make a lovely gift for someone who is looking for a cosy read this christmas.

Christmas comes to the little village of Pendruggan and Cornwall’s very own Mr Rochester, Piran Ambrose, discovers the true meaning of the festive season when even he can’t resist the village celebrations. Meanwhile, best friends Penny and Helen are embarking on a stolen weekend of blissful indulgence but best laid plans often go awry and the ladies are in for a big surprise. In an idyllic cottage on the Cornish cliffs, the Appleby family and their bearded collie, Molly, are having a holiday to remember. It’s time for a little Cornish escape for all.

full of cornish promise

I read Fern Britton’s Cornish novel A Good Catch last summer and really enjoyed it. Her books are very like her, warm and funny, and this collection of stories were great fun to read. There’s a huge amount of bonne amie in all three stories and it certainly made me want to pack up my bags for a weekend and head from West London to the West Country.

The characters of Ex-Londoner, TV Producer and vicar’s wife Penny, and her otherhalf, the gentle-mannered vicar of Pendruggan Simon, and their good friends Ex-Londoner Helen and her  fisherman boyfriend, historian and brooding Cornishman Pirran, feature in all three stories. As do colourful locals from the village which give the books a saga quality. I recognised characters from A Good Catch as well, and it soon becomes like seeing old friends in the local pub.

There’s a huge element of escapism in the books which makes the tone easy to read and refreshing. As a busy working mum, having the excuse to put on my pjs for an early night to read them felt like a real treat. I read a story a night and passed three evenings in the company of lovingly created characters and enjoyed the ride with the same enthusiasm I would have curled up with a copy of The Famous Five many years ago.

Making the transition from screen to page Fern Britton writes with the same affability, good humour and natural charm that have made her a household name as a presenter.

Reviewed by Author Amy Beeson

Come to Book Club

We’ll be chatting about A Cornish Gift at our virtual Book Club on Facebook Live at 8pm Thursday 26 October. Pop over and join us for some book chat.

#BookReview ‘The Woman at 72 Derry Lane’ by Carmel Harrington @HappyMrsH @W6BookCafe @Fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK #BookBloggers

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane is Carmel Harrington’s fifth novel published by HarperCollins. It’s already published in the author’s home nation of Ireland and will be released in the UK on 16 November in paperback and is already available on kindle and audiobook.

Carmel Harrington’s other autumn read is Cold Feet The Lost Years published by Hodder & Stoughton. So, it was lovely surprise to see The Woman at 72 Derry Lane in ITV’s new series of Cold Feet being read by Adam’s new girlfriend Tina.

On a leafy suburban street in Dublin, beautiful, poised Stella Greene lives with her successful husband, Matt. The perfect couple in every way, Stella appears to have it all. Next door, at number 72 however, lives Rea Brady. Gruff, bad-tempered and rarely seen besides the twitching of her net curtains, rumour has it she’s lost it all…including her marbles if you believe the neighbourhood gossip. But appearances can be deceiving and when Stella and Rea’s worlds collide they realise they have much in common. Both are trapped in a prison of their own making. Has help been next door without them realising it?

Win a Book

We’ll be giving away a copy of The Woman at 72 Derry Lane during our Book Club on Facebook on Thursday 26 October at 8pm. Simply  comment during the live to enter.

Authors Carmel Harrington and Amy Beeson

I met the lovely Carmel Harrington at the HarperCollins Summer Party at the V&A in London and she’s a warm and funny in person as she is on the page.

Plot twist

A cry of “plot twist” is the mum of the Madden Family’s favourite phrase when things don’t go according to plan. Family is a really strong theme throughout this book which is packed with scenes around of the kitchen tables of Dublin sharing hopes, dreams, loss and making plans for the future whilst enjoying the odd take-away and bottle of wine.

The book focuses on the lives of glamorous twenty-seven-year-old Stella at number 70 and her sixty-year-old neighbour Rea at 72. Both women are isolated in their leafy suburban homes and have become physically and mentally trapped by the sorrow of catastrophic pasts events neither of them want to talk about. Stella and Rea’s unlikely friendship creates a lifeline for both women to emerge from the shadows of regret and pain if  only they can overcome their fears and face up to Stella’s charming but chilling husband Matt, before time runs out.

There’s lots of fun, warmth and friendship in the book and I really enjoyed the flamboyant character of Charlie who brings fabulous hair, musicals and laughter into Stella and Rea’s formerly gloomy days.

Family seems to be everything for the central characters in The Woman at 72 Derry Lane, both your biological ties and the family you create from the people who support you and help you come what may.

Reviewed by Author Amy Beeson

Come to Book Club

We’ll be chatting about The Woman at 72 Derry Lane at our virtual Book Club on Facebook Live at 8pm Thursday 26 October. Pop over and join us for some book chat.

‘True Love at the Lonley Hearts Bookshop’ by Annie Darling @_AnnieDarling @W6BookCafe @Fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop is the second romantic novel by author Annie Darling for HarperCollins.

Like the novel’s protagonist, since early adolescence I have been a Jane Austen fan. Like any girl growing up in the 90s with a love of books and period drama, the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice made Elizabeth Bennet the ultimate heroine and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy emerging from the lake of Pemberley in his wet shirt, a crush to end all crushes. Why worry about finding true love when curling up with a cuppa and a box set on a squashy sofa offers perfect escapism?

It’s a truth widely acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a good job, four bossy sisters and a needy cat must also have want of her one true love. Or is it?

The Plot Thickens

When in doubt reluctant bookseller and vicar’s daughter Verity Love asks “What would Elizabeth Bennet Do?”  Verity’s been single by choice since breaking up with her first boyfriend Adam. What she craves is a quiet life in her rent free flat above Bloomsbury romantic bookshop Happy Ever After with her cat Strumpet and multiple copies of her favourite book Pride and Prejudice.

But everyone wants to find true love don’t they? Verity’s friends and family are determined to introduce her to barely eligible bachelors and when her father’s Mr Collins worthy curate is even suggested, Verity needs to put a stop to the unwanted matchmaking but how?

After a chance encounter with handsome architect Johnny who is possession of a good fortune and rather fine house, and no inclination to marry (no, he’s not gay), Verity and Johnny decide to team up and face the summer’s social engagements as “friends” and avoid the blind dates, matchmaking and singles tables.

By the end of the summer, Verity starts to think being in a couple might not be so bad, but Johnny has given his heart away to Caroline Bingleyesque, Marissa, and unlike Mr Darcy he can’t see that she’s no good for him. Will Verity find her happy ending or is there no such thing?

A thoroughly enjoyable read any Jane Austen fan will enjoy and lap up the references to places, people and the comedy of social situations. Find your favourite squashy chair, skip the box set and revel in the romance.

Reviewed by Author Amy Beeson

Come to Book Club

We’ll be chatting about True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop at our virtual Book Club on Facebook Live at 8pm Thursday 26 October. Pop over and join us for some book chat.

#Bookclub on Facebook Live 26 October 2017

We’ll be chatting about the books we’ve been reading during autumn at our virtual Book Club on Facebook Live at 8pm Thursday 26 October. Pop over and join us for some book chat and enter to win our competition when you comment during the live.

What’s nicer then curling up with a good book during autumn. Here’s what we’ve been reading…

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

‘Sometimes I whisper it over to myself: Murderess. Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt along the floor.’ Grace Marks. Female fiend? Femme fatale? Or weak and unwilling victim? Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 1840s, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery.

Read Amy Beeson’s book review of Alias Grace now.

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a good job, four bossy sisters and a needy cat must also have want of her one true love. Or is it?

Verity Love Jane Austen fangirl and an introvert in a world of extroverts is perfectly happy on her own (thank you very much), and her fictional boyfriend Peter is very useful for getting her out of unwanted social events. But when a case of mistaken identity forces her to introduce a perfect stranger as her boyfriend, Verity’s life suddenly becomes much more complicated.

Read Amy Beeson’s book review of True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop now.

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane by Carmel Harrington

On a leafy suburban street in Dublin, beautiful, poised Stella Greene lives with her
successful husband, Matt. The perfect couple in every way, Stella appears to have it all.
Next door, at number 72 however, lives Rea Brady. Gruff, bad-tempered and rarely seen
besides the twitching of her net curtains, rumour has it she’s lost it all…including her
marbles if you believe the neighbourhood gossip.

But appearances can be deceiving and when Stella and Rea’s worlds collide they realise
they have much in common. Both are trapped in a prison of their own making. Has help been next door without them realising it? Read Author Amy Beeson’s book review of The Woman at 72 Derry Lane.

We’ll be giving away a copy of The Woman at 72 Derry Lane during our Facebook Live. Comment to enter.

A Cornish Gift by Fern Britton

Christmas comes to the little village of Pendruggan and Cornwall’s very own Mr Rochester, Piran Ambrose, discovers the true meaning of the festive season when even he can’t resist the village celebrations. Meanwhile, best friends Penny and Helen are embarking on a stolen weekend of blissful indulgence but best laid plans often go awry and the ladies are in for a big surprise. In an idyllic cottage on the Cornish cliffs, the Appleby family and their bearded collie, Molly, are having a holiday to remember. It’s time for a little Cornish escape for all.

Join us for Book Club

We’ll be chatting about the books we’ve been reading during autumn at our virtual Book Club on Facebook Live at 8pm Thursday 26 October.

‘Alias Grace’ by Margaret Atwood #BookReview #BookBloggers @MargaretAtwood @ViragoBooks #AliasGrace

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood was first published in Great Britain by Bloomsbury in 1996 and then Virago Press in 1997. It was Short-listed for the Man-Booker Prize in 1996 before Atwood won the Booker Prize with another incredible book ‘The Blind Assassin.’

I first read ‘Alias Grace’ after finished my degree in English Literature & Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2003. After watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Channel 4 this summer and rereading the book I decided to go back and read more Atwood. I found myself devouring her prose as hungrily as I did as an undergraduate. Though much has changed in my life and the world around us in those intermittent fifteen years my reading of the book has undoubtedly changed as well.

Now A TV Series

‘Alias Grace’ is currently a new series on Netflix and I’ll be certain to try to watch it very soon. There’s TV-tie-in edition of the book to accompany the six-part series.

‘Sometimes I whisper it over to myself: Murderess. Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt along the floor.’ Grace Marks. Female fiend? Femme fatale? Or weak and unwilling victim? Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 1840s, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery.

The Plot

The book is set in Canada and is a work of fiction although it is based on the housemaid Grace Marks who was convicted at the age of sixteen with her supposed paramour and fellow servant James McDermott for the brutal murder of Mr Thomas Kinnear and his lover and housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in 1843. After which McDermott was hanged but after numperous petitions, Grace’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment at Kingston Penitentiary

Dr Simon Jordan a young American is keen to establish his own asylum and is invited by the committee petitioning for Grace’s release to come to Kingston and write a report on her. In his efforts to uncover the truth, Dr Jordan spends afternoons with Grace as she sews for the Governor’s wife and daughters at the Governor’s house. As Grace spins out the tale of her impoverished childhood in Ireland, emigrating to Canada and her work as a domestic servant Dr Jordan is ensnared by her story and so are we.

A book where fact and fiction is so intimate, sinister and blurred it is a fascinating revelation of the sensual workings of the mind and the grubby realities of the body. Is Grace the victim or do we want her to possess the power of a murderess? As Dr Jordan strives and fails to uncover the real Grace, we the reader switch places with him as analyst as we learn about his actions, feelings and fantasies. When all is said and done it is Grace herself who has the last word.

Reviewed by Amy Beeson

Book club Discussion

We’ll be chatting about Alisa Grace at our virtual Book Club on Facebook Live at 8pm Thursday 26 October. Pop over and join us for some book chat.

7 Baby Sleep Tips To Try

How much should my baby be sleeping? The truth is all babies vary in the amount of sleep they need and their sleeping patterns. Some days (weeks, months…) are easier then others and I know it can be especially hard when you’re desperate for a little shut-eye yourself.

Mums and dads will often have slightly different methods of getting the baby off to sleep, and having a variety of techniques up your sleeve certainly comes in handy. Here are seven sleep tricks that have worked for me and some of the thousands of parents I’ve had the pleasure of supporting over the years. (The days of the week is just for fun, you’ll find what works for you).


1. Help your baby relax with gentle, rhythmic shushing sounds which is like the blood circulating in the womb. Try this for a minute or two until your baby is calm.


2. Some babies like gentle stroking. This rhythmic motion and the warmth of your touch can be very soothing and help your baby get off to sleep. Got that? If not here’s a demonstration…

Repeat the stroking for a few minutes until the motion causes their eyes to close.


3. The motion and the closeness can help your baby relax and drift off to sleep. Repeat at least ten times, dropping your shoulders down and away from your ears, closing your eyes if you want to. As your body begins to relax so will your baby.


4. Your gentle touch can reassure your baby that you’re still near them. You can gently rock them to sleep or sit quietly with your baby until they drift off into a peaceful sleep.


5. If your baby is restless your touch and closeness may help calm them. Got that? If not here’s a demonstration…

Take deep breaths in and out and sit with your baby for a few minutes until they settle.


6. It’s a good habit to put your baby down to sleep most of the time but many parents find their baby wakes when they do. Waiting until your baby is in a deeper sleep and you’re relaxed and calm helps make the transfer smoother.


7. Songs and tunes your baby recognise from life in the womb can work wonders on some babies. I remember when the Australian soap opera Neighbours was popular lunch-time and tea-time viewing. Pregnant women would often put their feet up and relax to enjoy the show. I found there was a whole generation of infants who stopped crying when they heard the Neighbours theme song as a time associated with relaxation and calm from their days in the womb.

Some techniques will work for you and some won’t; it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong – every baby is different. With patience and perserverance you’ll find the right way for your baby to drift off to the land of nod a little easier.

You can read my chapter on sleep in Happy Baby, Happy Family and read about a few mums who were kept up all night (one by spooky goings on) in my book Our Country Nurse. Sarah Beeson MBE. 

Facebook Live Baby Sleep Q&A & Competition

We’ll be answering your parenting questions and chatting about sleep at our next Facebook Live Q&A on Tuesday 3 October.

Enter to Win

When you ask a question during our Facebook Live you’ll be entered to win a copy of Sarah Beeson’s first year baby advice book Happy Baby, Happy Family and a pack of Faye & Lou muslins.

Why We Love Faye & Lou

We first came across Faye & Lou muslins at The Baby Show and have been big fans ever since. We often give these beautiful bright and colourful 100% cotton muslins as a new baby gift to friends and family.

A muslin is such a useful gift and can be used to mop up spills and as an extra layer. We’ve heard back from the many mums we’ve given them to that they don’t fad in the wash and when you’re in a group you don’t get them mixed up when you have a colourful muslin and everyone else’s is a dull white!

Where white muslins can become grey after a few uses, Rainbow muslins stay bright and colourful. Pastel Star Muslins: Lilac, Violet & Pink – 3 Pack is worth £11.95, Size – 60 cm x 60 cm, 100% cotton, Machine washable at 40c. (The colours are colorfast and will not fade)

Ask Sarah your questions and enter to win at our next Facebook Live Q&A on Tuesday 3 October.

Twitter Chat on Mums and Mums-To-Be Mental Health for PND Awareness Week #PNDAW17

It’s important to look after yourself during pregnancy and motherhood. Mums and mums-to-be mental wellbeing is just as important as their physical health. That’s why we’re supporting PANDAS Foundation PND Awareness Week.

Twitter Chat


Sarah Beeson MBE will co-hosting a twitter chat with PANDAS on how we can all take more care of ourselves and support other mums as part of PND Awareness Week 4-10 September. We’ll be focusing on the stress and anxiety women can experience during pregnancy.

Join us on Twitter 8pm Thursday 7 September Follow @NewArrivalBook @Pandas_UK using hashtag #PNDAW17

Foods to Avoid During Your Baby’s First Year

During weaning it’s recommended you avoid the following foods due to unsuitability of certain foods i.e. honey and be careful feeding them foods they might be allergic to.

Avoid:
Soft and blue cheese
Cured meats e.g. Salami
Raw Eggs
Honey
Some Nuts
Pate
Salt
Shellfish
Smoked Salmon
Sugar
Sweetener
Unpasteurised dairy
Whole-wheat

When your baby is around seven to eight months old you you can start to introduce cows’ milk in cooking, eggs, nuts, fish and more family foods including protein like chicken and fish. It’s best to do this one at a time in very small amounts and watch carefully for any symptoms they might be allergic.

To prevent choking please use ground nuts if you’re using them in your baby’s food. If your baby is diagnosed with a food allergy or eczema or you have food allergies, eczema, asthma or hay fever in your family history you may need to be extra careful about peanuts and peanut products.

If you have any concerns talk to your GP or health visitor first.