Recipe of the Week - The Emergency Lasagna

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Emergency Lasagna

This week we're sharing a yummy lasagna recipe that's sure to delight adults and mini adults.

I whipped up this delicious dish the weekend that Luca arrived home from hospital, and thought if it's simple and easy to do while tending to a sick baby, then it's a great dish to have on stand by for any emergencies. Packed with flavour and nutritious ingredients this is always a winner!

This recipe serves 4 – 6



Ingredients 

For the ragù: 

  • Minced Beef 5% Fat
  • Tinned chopped tomatoes x 2
  • Medium onion x1
  • Garlic Cloves x 2
  • Beef OXO Cube x 1
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Handful of mixed herbs or Italian Herbs
     Other ingredients
  • Lasagna Sheets 12 – 14 (1 box)
  • Mozzarella Balls x 2
  • Grated Mozella 125g

For the white sauce:
  • Large jar of white sauce x 1

Ok, for this part I’ll admit I do cheat and buy white sauce from the supermarket! I’ve never managed to make a sauce that I like and I figure since all the rest is nice and healthy, a jar of white sauce isn’t going to kill anyone!

However, if you are feeling adventurous, you can try this Jamie Oliver White Sauce recipe.

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How to Make

Let’s start with the ragù (meaty sauce)
  • Gently fry off the onion & garlic in a little olive oil. Tip: add a small amount of water to stop the onion & garlic burning
  • When the onion & garlic have softened, add the mince to the pan and cook thoroughly i.e. no pink bits!
  • Crumble the OXO cube and add to the mince, onion & garlic. This is my secret ingredient for my ragu sauces!
  • Add the 2 tins of chopped tomatoes to the mix along with your salt and pepper and herbs
  • Stir together and leave to simmer for about 40 mins. Cover the pan to avoid splashes!


For the lasagne
  • Tip: pre-soak the lasagna sheets in some hot water to soften them. This will help them cook better and faster!
  • Slice the mozzarella balls into medium thick slices
  • Layer an oven proof dish starting with a layer of lasagna sheets on the bottom, then add a layer of ragù with some of the mozzarella slices dotted around, followed by another layer of lasagna sheets. Repeat this until all the sauce, mozzarella and sheets have been used
  • Add the white sauce to the top layer of your lasagna
  • Sprinkle the grated morezella on top and garnish with some more herbs

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    Cooking

  • Pop the lasagna in the oven on 220 degrees for about 15-20 minutes (until the cheese starts to lightly brown)
  • Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5-7 mins

Serving 
  • Cut into generous slices
  • Prepare a crisp fresh bistro salad
  • Serve & Enjoy!
  • This recipe is suitable for freezing leftovers for a rainy day 


Buon Appetito! 

Our Family Week Ends #5

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

May is one of our favourite months and you know why? 

Because the days get longer, the weather gets warmer (yes, even if it means 18 degrees instead of 8 - remember we live in the UK?!), the summer is closer, but most of all, because there are TWO Bank Holidays!!

The first Bank Holiday we went to Portugal -  you can read about that trip here! - and the second time we went to ... Barcelona!! 

We have been to Barcelona 3 times before and we love it every single time so when a great couple of friends invited us to their wedding there, well, we were just super happy to say YES!!



Here's what happened ...

We arrived in our super cool apartment not far from the Sagrada Familia and with a mini super market right next to us whose owner was so nice that Diego got free ice cream! 

OK, I must admit: I'm a no-sugar kind of mum so he never eats ice cream (can't even think about the idea of him being sugar loaded which means more active than he already is!) but hey, holiday is holiday!!

As we did our turistic tours in our previous visits to the city, we decided to spend the day in Barceloneta relaxing in the sun, such a wise choice!






There are so many places to eat in Barceloneta that it's really tricky to choose one, but we liked Suquet De L'Almirall as it looked less turistic and more authentic, and we were quite happy with the result! 


The staff were great and the food was really delicious! A bit pricey yes, but all of the restaurants there are, so no surprises! Diego loved the squid ink rice, after this we can really say he eats E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G !!


My parents arrived in the afternoon and we walked around, and had dinner in a very particular place called La Paradeta where you choose the fish from the stall and tell them how you want it cooked and they cook it for you straight there! 

There are no waiters, they just call your table number and you get the food from the kitchen and there you are ready to enjoy some super fresh food just cooked for you the way you like! We liked the whole experience and we loved the food, however I the staff calling table numbers very loudly every ten seconds was a bit annoying!



Next day was the Wedding day! 

I love weddings in general as I am a very emphatic person and I feel and share the intense emotions of love, joy of all the family and friends celebrating such a unique day! Yep, I needed a tissue when the bride arrived and met the groom, and also when they exchanged the rings!

It was amazing being with some of our best friends who live in Birmingham, in such a romantic venue and celebrating such a lovely and special moment of an incredibly beautiful couple!

I must say that thanks to my parents taking care of Diego, Fede and I could really relax and, of course, drink a decent amount of wine!!!!!! 

Grandparents are the BEST!



On the last day in Barcelona I decided to buy myself a gift and wow, it felt fantastic! 

You mums know how almost impossible is to find time & motivation & get rid of the guilt when you think you should save money or spend it on your children etc. so much that I honestly do not remember the last time I went shopping - so the Desigual store was just there, a few steps away & Diego was napping so I told myself: WHY NOT?!!! 

This is the result:


We arrived back on Monday and today is time to go back to reality again, guess how the weather was in Birmingham when we landed? Rainy, of course! 

But who cares, we have the sun in our hearts and will treasure those fantastic memories forever!

Here just a few considerations for you if you are thinking to visit Barcelona with your little one(s):
  • It is super pram friendly: there are lifts everywhere!
  • If you want to visit Park Güell it is important to book in advance to avoid disappointment as it gets sold out quite quickly!
  • If you want to know more about the apartment we stayed in and the restaurants we went to just drop a comment or write an email, I am super happy to help!
  • Barcelona is the heart of Catalunya which means you would never get to try a better crema catalana anythere else! Make sure you have some, it's just awesome! 

*Note: Diego's finger went in before I could take a proper pic, and for the avoidance of doubt yes, he loved the crema catalana and he ran for half an hour non stop after having it!!!

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What were you up to this bank holiday week end? Have you been or are you thinking about visiting Barcelona? 

Don't forget to check back tomorrow for Jenn's review and visit of Peppa World, it's not to be missed!! 

Can't wait to hear from you! 

Lots of Love,
Julia

A Survival Guide for Warm Weather

Friday, 26 May 2017

Temperatures are to remain high over the weekend and if last night is anything to go by, sleeping can be an issue. 


I remember the summer that Luca was born, and there was a 5 week heatwave . . . it was HELL! We lived in an apartment at the time and it had large sash windows which basically made it feel like a glasshouse. And if we slept with the windows open, the birds would start chirping from 3 or 4am!

We had a similar situation last night and I got 4 hours sleep. I don't even want to admit how much coffee that I've had today! 

With this in mind, I thought I would put together a quick survival guide for babies and toddlers when the weather gets warm, and how you as Mamma bear can keep your cool too. 

I've pulled some tips from travel experience too, and from suggestions made by Luca's Nonna (Grandmother in Italian) 

So here’s the Bella Mamma Guide to surviving warm weather with babies and toddlers.

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Ideal temperatures:

A room temperature of between 16-20ºC (60.8-68ºF) is recommended - 18ºC (65ºF) is just right. Use a room thermometer to check the temperature, and see the latest SIDS safety guide below for the right amount of bedding to use -

  • 18°C: A sheet and two blankets
  • 20-22°C: A sheet and one blanket
  • 23°C-plus: A sheet only

How to cool the room down:
Number 1 rule - keep curtains and blinds closed during the day. English and Irish people have a tendency to fling open the curtains as soon as the sun shines! But it's the worst thing you can do. 
Our Mediterranean relatives keep curtains and blinds closed during the day. You can leave the window open, just try to limit the amount of sunlight that comes in. This avoids a greenhouse effect, where the heat builds up and up inside, and which is why the house feels particularly warm at night time. 
A lot of night sweats can be avoided if your house is kept cool throughout the day. 
Cool the room down before bedtime with a fan if possible & remove unnecessary bedding. You want the room to be a comfortable temperature so they can fall asleep easily. 

Hang wet towels over chairs or windows when it's really stifling. The evaporating water will help the air to cool and open windows and doors in several rooms to create a breeze through the house.
Fans & Air Conditioning:
As mentioned above, the trick is to cool the room down before bedtime. Don't leave it till the very end of the evening or you might have a later bedtime on your hands!
Just a few guidelines for using fans around babies and toddlers (I honestly didn't know this stuff when Luca was born!)
Don’t allow the fan to face the baby, and absolutely keep it out of reach of babies, and especially toddlers who might be in their own beds with no guard rail. Fans are highly attractive to little fingers! 
Make sure you turn the fan off before you go to bed. The room should have cooled down enough and while it might feel humid, it won't be too uncomfortable to sleep in. 
Avoid air conditioning as much as possible, as it can be dehydrating.
Bedding & Clothing:
This was my biggest worry! What if he's too hot or cold?! Luca was only 8 weeks when the heatwave hit and I hadn't a clue how to dress him. However, hopefully the temperature guide lines above should help you decide what clothing and bedding is appropriate but also , don't forget to listen to your gut instinct.
In hot weather a cool water bath helps cool them down nicely and gets rid of any sticky sun cream. They'll feel instantly cooler and fresher! 
Last night Luca slept in just his nappy and he was pretty happy! I put a light sheet over him and he slept well (until 4am when teething pain hit!) But overall he was a lot more comfortable. 
When he was a baby I struggled to know if he needed a sleep suit, vest and/or a grobag. For young babies you can try a vest and a sleep bag with a 0.5 tog. If they wake and they feel warm you can either remove the vest or replace the grobag with a light sheet. You'll know what your baby needs. 
If your baby does wake up and is hot to the touch, wipe them down with a damp towel – on the face, neck, arms and legs – and open internal doors and windows, so a natural, flowing breeze is created.
Another good tip is if you have waterproof sheets or mattress protectors, it’s worth removing them during periods of warm weather as they can make babies and toddlers sweat more.
Important point -

Babies and toddlers can seem a lit more lethargic in warmer weather, and some sleep more deeply. But if you feel that their behaviour is off and they haven't eaten or drank much check in with your GP or ring 111. 

I hope these pointers help a little and you all manage to get some sleep this weekend. If you do have any questions, pop them in the comments below and I'll get back to you asap!

Jenn x

The Truth About Sleep Deprivation (plus 4 tips to survive it)

I can still remember the moment that exhaustion entered my body, and for a long time it felt like it never left. 


Maybe you can relate to the feeling etched across our faces in this photo?

Sleep deprivation on your first child is like nothing that you have ever experienced before. There's no way of knowing or for-seeing how it will feel or how it will impact on your life until the moment your little bundle arrives. 

Your body is healing from birth, your boobs are sore and tender, and everything just feels slightly 'off'. Then the fun of cluster feeding starts, and if you're lucky you *might* get a few hours rest in between each feed, but it never amounts to what you or your body really needs. 

But like the Queen that you are, you shuffle on. Doing your best to mould yourself into this new way of life. But it's tough, my god, is is tough.

There are days you want to (and do) cry your eyes out, mostly likely in the shower where you have some time to yourself and as the water washes over your bone tired body, you feel every drop and realise the exhaustion is almost painful. 

People will try and ease the pain by telling you that baby will sleep through the night in no time, and you won't know yourself when they do. 

But I spent many months bottling up the urge to scream at these people. Honestly, it doesn't help, it just adds pressure to an already tiring and difficult situation. 

I will never confess that I know anything about getting a baby/toddler to sleep through the night. Ever. I feel like I've tried everything (baby massage, sleep coaches, books, later bedtimes, earlier bedtimes, eliminating certain foods before bed, ditching sleep associations etc...) I could probably give you a few pointers, but the truth is -

The pursuit of a sleepful night is ironically exhausting!

Luca has just turned two, and most nights we still have 1 or 2 wake ups. I don't say that to petrify you, I say that to save your sanity and to help you avoid comparing yourself to other mums who's babies sleep through the night from an early age. Babies and toddlers who don't sleep are actually more in the majority.  

I think Luca was around 14 months old when I finally 'gave up'. I stopped fighting the lack of sleep and I stopped trying to 'fix' the problem. After 14 long months, I decided to just roll with it and it has been one of my biggest and best parenting lessons. I concluded that I was blessed with a baby who loved to cuddle, and as his Mamma that is the biggest honour I could have; to be the person out of 7 billion on this planet that he wants to wrap his arms around and nestle into the nook of my arm even at 3am. 

Other people looking in on a situation like this might tell you all that you're doing wrong, that your baby or toddler should be sleeping through the night, but I've come to realise that no one knows your baby better than you do, and no knows what the best solution for you and your family is, better than you do. And even if you're still not entirely sure what to do, it's 100% to do what you need to do to get some sleep. 

It's taken a while to get to this place, and there are definitely things that helped me along the way. While I don't offer any miracle cures to sleep deprivation what I do know is how to navigate and handle the sleep deprivation a little better. 

Through trial and error, through learning and growing as a Mum, the tips that you're about to read are my own. And while they won't cure your exhaustion they might help you feel that your situation is 'normal', and that you’re not alone.

new mums sleep deprivation

1. Look after your health
This is one thing that I let slide massively after having Luca. I stopped taking my post-natal vitamins (because I usually forgot!) and I stopped checking in with myself and asking myself how I was feeling. I reached for sugary snacks and coffee to give me that lift and ended up gaining more weight post pregnancy than during pregnancy!! Dear friend, please make sure you look after your health. Try eat nourishing food more often, drink lots of water, take your vitamins, and check in with your GP or HV if you’re not feeling good. It will be the best gift you can give yourself and your baby. Healthy mamma = happy baby.


2. Lean on each-other
One of the biggest feelings you have when you’re sleep deprived is that you’re alone and no one understands. I have to admit, I think Dads get a hard time in the media for not hearing the baby cry because of genetics and DNA and I do believe that mums are more programmed to the hear the cries of their babies (it’s a protective instinct) But Dads are going through a huge transformative period too. They definitely bear the brunt of your tired moods and irritability. Tip #4 - In the thick haze of exhaustion don’t forget to lean on each other and talk to each other. A baby, especially the first, can put a huge strain on a relationship, but the best teams pull together. Let your partner know exactly how you would like support and don’t forget to spend time together not discussing babies. If you get an opportunity for a date night, grab it! Or if a date at home is on the cards do something fun like playing board games, dance or cook together. Honestly, it will make you feel a million times better.

3. Do something for yourself
A baby changes your life, no doubt about it. Your life suddenly pivots and becomes all about them. When you do get a moment to yourself (either Dad is on baby duty or a friend or family member is helping out) I used to feel at a loss! I couldn’t think of things to do, and so I’d go shopping but then I’d mindlessly wander around feeling bored and just go back home. Tip #3 - Note down 5 things that make you feel great – going to a movie by yourself, a swim, a yoga class, a coffee with a friend, getting your nails done, or a lovely blow dry – whatever they are, write them down and when those precious moments of freedom roll around you’ll know exactly how to spend them. Time for yourself to relax is vital when you're tired. You need to rest and that doesn't always involve closing your eyes. Little things that remind you of who you are can make the situation more manageable. 

4. Move 
I feel a bit of a fraud writing this last one as it’s only recently that I’ve got back to exercising. I developed a fear and anxiety around exercising post pregnancy because I convinced myself it was going to hurt so much, and lets be honest when you’re feeling exhausted, who in their right mind would want to exercise?! But hear me out on this one . . . exercising has been one of the biggest contributing factors in helping me feel better (I can’t believe I just wrote that!) But think about it -  fresh air, heart pumping, endorphins jumping . . . movement is so good in helping you to feel better. Even if it’s a brisk walk around the neighbourhood with your favourite music playing, I guarantee you will feel better, even if you’re exhausted!

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Post natal exhaustion isn't a joke and it can be a difficult patch to navigate, especially if you sleep disruption is on-going. But know this, I understand and I sympathise because it isn't easy, but I hope some of these tips help. 

And for peace of mind let's just say this - it might not feel like it's getting any easier but it does become more manageable, just make sure you put yourself first when you need it. 

I'd love to hear from you. Have you suffered post-natal exhaustion? Did you do anything to help support yourself? Let's chat in the comments.

If there’s anything you’d like to share personally about your journey with exhaustion, I'm here to listen and talk. You can email me at info@bella-mamma.co.uk

Keep going gorgeous mammas, you're doing better than you can ever imagine xx 

The Happiness Diaries #3

Thursday, 25 May 2017

We can’t believe it’s Thursday again and time for another edition of the Happiness Diaries!

This week is a particularly hard week and the heaviness of what happened in Manchester weighs heavy on our hearts and minds. 

In the face of such atrocities it can seem virtually impossible to find anything to smile or feel good about. It’s much harder to search for the light in a darkened room but we believe the only way to combat such darkness to keep shining light and love as much as we possibly can.



For this reason, we would like to shine some light on a dark week even more, and we truly encourage you to do the same. 

In doing so, we reflect and show respect to the vibrant and happy lives which were taken for this earth too soon. 

Here's what is making us happy this week . . .

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Julia

A sunny day 
We had a proper summers day with sun and 26 degrees on my day off in the UK! Incredible right?!  

I spent most of the day in the park with Diego who loved running around and climbing on the slides and going fast on the swing! 

Any mum would understand what it means when they are finally physically independent nd not relying on you holding them all-the-time!!! 


Skype
We Skyped with my brother and Diego calling him "Cioooo" (Zio is Uncle in Italian!) FOR THE FIRST TIME!


Love not Hate 
Knowing that despite all the hate and craziness and violence, this world if full and abundant of love, giving, support, help and true kindness.  #loveformanchester

Love in Barcelona

The sweet feeling of expectations and pleasure about getting ready for our trip to Barcelona and our friend's wedding! More on this next week! 


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Jennifer 

A day with Luca 
Monday was a little unusual for us as I decided to keep Luca home from nursery and I took a parental leave day. After the weekend which saw him admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties (more about that here) I felt we would both benefit from some quality time.



The sun shone in our favour and we enjoyed epic babycinos in town, followed by some play time in the garden with his water toys. It was such a lovely day, I’m so glad I followed my instinct and enjoyed our mother and son day. 



Quality Time
Lately I’m really trying to put some focus on my own quality time. You know how it goes – when you do get a bit of time to yourself you usually run around trying to do a million chores and to clear some of the ‘to dos’ off the list. But on Monday while Luca napped I sat in the garden with a cup of tea and read my book. It was so nice, I really need to make more time for this.



Girls Night 
I finally managed to squeeze in a long overdue girl’s night with my good friend Louise. Louise owns English Gentleman (which is a premier online men’s accessories brand) and she’s just about to leave corporate life behind (HIGH 5 GIRL!) 


Needless to say we had MUCH to catch up on! I had to tear myself away at 11pm, but it was one of those catch ups that leaves you feeling happy, optimistic and motivated. Just what the soul needed! Thanks Lou! X 

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There you have it ladies, a lovely round up of things making us happy this week. 

Let us know what's been making you happy in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you! If you haven't already, start thinking about what makes you happy now! Grab a copy of our Happiness Diaries download

Have a wonderful week.

Jenn & Julia x 

Recipe of the week: No Stress to Impress!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

 No Stress to Impress!

If you are a mum for sure it happens that you don't have a lot of time to dedicate to the kitchen but sometimes you still want to impress if you have guests coming over! 

Here's a couple of ideas for super simple and delicious appetisers that sure will impress, leaving you time to add a bit of lip gloss and enjoy a glass of vino! Hooray! 




Ingredients:
  • Puff Pastry 
  • Tomatos
  • Brie Cheese
  • Ham
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Any filling that you like!
How to make:
  • Have a look at the pics below for some nice shapes that will impress with no stress!
  • It literally takes few minutes to cut the filling and shape the puff pastry into cool forms and it will be a success!  






  • Put in the oven as per Puff Pastry pack instructions and enjoy!

Buon Appetito!



Want to see more tasty and simple recipes? Here's some we recommend for you 
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What are your family enjoying this week? Have you tried any of our recipes yet? Let us know in the comments below x

Our Family Week Ends #4

Tuesday, 23 May 2017




Hello and Welcome to another of #OurFamilyWeekEnds post! 

*WARNING*
Lots of incredible places, precious adventures  & delicious food  involved - might be contagious!

Let' get going!  

#OurFamilyWeekEnds #4

This weekend things didn't really go as planned at all but - hey that's life! 
Here' what happened...

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Julia & Fede planned a nice BBQ outside in the sun to inaugurate their sort of new garden, however of course it rained all day non stop! No worries, we had a plan B ! Fede removed the dust from our precious huge pan which a friend of us used to use when we were all without babies and partying together all the time, and Fede cooked lunch for everybody! A mixture of vegetables and meats with some farro directly from Italy!



Food was good and company was good and we enjoyed it indoor as Mr Sun decided not to show up! Ironically Sunday was an absolutely beautiful and sunny day!! We went out and Julia got new shoes for next week as they will go to some friend's wedding, and then we enjoyed a little snack & drink outside in the sun

Unfortunately, Jenn, Freddie & Luca could not make it because Luca was not well at all, here's what happened to them. . . 

Luca had a cough last weekend, something we put down to the changing weather lately. He went to nursery on Friday is good form, but by lunchtime things were drastically different. His breathing had gotten worse and he was struggling to play. Freddie picked him up early and tried to make an appointment with our family GP, but by the time they got home Freddie felt Luca's breathing just wasn't right and he was even struggling to talk. Freddie has suffered from asthma since he was a child and he feared Luca was having an asthmatic attack. By the time I got to the house he had a bag ready and was getting Luca into his car seat.



His quick thinking got Luca to the hospital and he was admitted with low oxygen levels and placed on a nebuliser and oxygen mask to try open up his airways. It was heart breaking to see him like that but I was so thankful that Freddie had acted so quickly, and the medical staff were amazing; they were so attentive and informative.  


Thankfully he was discharged early on Saturday and we spent the weekend recuperating at home. My dad was also visiting from Dublin, and it was great to have an extra pair of hands to help out! Luca loved having him around and he was a great distraction. It also helped that he had brought treats!


Needless to say we’re all still feeling a bit tired and jaded from the weekend, but we do have Peppa Pig World to look forward to this weekend and a bank holiday! Fingers crossed for a more relaxing time together!

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We hope you've all had a lovely weekend! Tell us all about it in the comments below! 
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