Monday, 19 December 2011

Stowell's Light Wine

Please note this post has been sponsored by Stowells Wine via Hand Picked Media. Please drink responsibly.





I saw a picture of myself at a wedding recently. On the day I thought I looked really slim and svelte considering I am a mother to two children. However the picture conveyed something rather different; quite a porky looking tired woman who looked like she had had rather too much to drink! Now that the nursing days are behind me, I can at last enjoy a good old glass of wine. However as I am still up and down during the night with Son 2, it makes sense for me to only have a glass or two so I still have my wits about me. This is where new Stowells Light comes in! I was lucky enough to be sent a bottle of the Rose wine to sample.  It is a new low calorie "light" wine that contains 30% less calories per glass than a typical glass of wine (60 calories per 125ml glass). Perfect for the holiday season, and for those Mummies trying to manage their weight. Stowells Rose also has a low alcohol content at just 5.5% which is great if you don't want to get sozzled after a glass or two.  This is what Stowells have to say: -
"A refreshingly light taste experience, Stowells Light is a delicious treat that’s both full of flavour and low in calories.  Stowells Light stands up to taste tests. Bursting with fruity aromas and a touch of sweetness, it’s a fresh choice which can be enjoyed at every occasion, plus it has the added benefit of containing less calories and alcohol than your usual glass of wine."



This Shiraz Rose is a vibrant youthful pink, full of juicy strawberry, raspberry and cherry fruit flavours.  Perfectly balanced with a zesty acidity and a touch of sweetness. 


Stowells Light is available at all ASDA stores nationwide for RRP £5.49
I really enjoyed the wine, I thought it was light and full of flavour without that sickly taste that Rose can sometimes have. I couldn't tell by the taste that the alcohol content was lower than other wines as I thought I would. I liked the fact that I knew the brand of Stowells and feel it is a brand I can trust, especially as I wanted to be sure the wine actually does have a low alcohol content which is especially important for nursing mothers.  My husband enjoyed it too which is unusual for him as normally he isn't keen on Rose. |I also think the wine is very reasonably priced with an RRP of £5.49 as I usually buy wines around the £5 mark. I would definitely buy myself especially round the Christmas period when muchos calories are going to be consumed elsewhere! Love love love.

Although wine is lovely, please drink responsibly ;)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

My Awesome Photo

I remember in the old days, I had loads and loads of photo albums in my bookcase. As a child I loved looking at photos of my friends and family enjoying themselves and smiling. The magic of all that has kind of been lost in this digital age. No-one seems to have the space or the inclination to keep loads of photos lying around like we used to. It's better now really, much more cost effective, no more wasted shots of your thumb or someone with their head cropped off.

Now we have children, we have simply thousands and thousands of photos on our laptop. We keep meaning to back them up or something, we really should do that in fact. I would be devastated if we lost any of those precious pictures of our children, as there are very few we have printed out.

I was looking at Sticky Fingers blog today and have decided to add a picture to the gallery. This week's theme is "My Awesome Photo". So the idea is that you submit a photo that you took which literally made you gasp because it was so good. Now, we don't have a great camera, but just through sheer luck I have taken quite a few pictures which took my breath away, but mainly because they captured something special that only I would see.

Anyway here is my special shot of our special boy with his beautiful blue eyes, on a special holiday in France two summers ago.  Son 1 was just learning to walk and talk and it was so blissful being on holiday in a cottage in the middle of a meadow. He learned so many new words like Pear and Apple and Cow and Digger.  What a wonderful memory that is now.



But I found another picture that I love too....this was the day I congratulated myself for choosing and marrying the right man....

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Fancy Dress Outfitters Review


Most kids love dressing up. In fact whenever we go to playgroup there is "home" corner where most children are fighting over the dressing up clothes. Children seem to enjoy the role play involved and pretending to be a grown up or some sort of super hero.  I can relate to that, however Son 1 cannot!
A few months ago it was Halloween and I was surprised how keen Son 1 was to wear his pumpkin outfit (see pic)

He really seemed to enjoy wearing it so I was hoping we had turned a corner and his phobia of dressing up would be over.















Therefore I was thrilled when I was contacted by Fancy Dress Outfitters about a review of their kids fancy dress range. Here's some info about them:


"Welcome to Fancy Dress Outfitters, your new best friend for fancy dress costumes and all things party.  We want to help you find the perfect outfit to make sure you have the best time, whether you're stopping in or going out.

Why hire when you can buy?  Our costumes are great value, and much more cost-effective than hiring an outfit.

Our fantastic products give you a huge range of choice and quality.  Our reliable UK and international delivery services mean you'll have no worries about getting to the party on time and looking great!  We hope you enjoy visiting us and have an even better time once you've received your items.

Now there's just one question you need to ask yourself – who do I want to be?"

I was sent two outfits (there was nothing in Son 2's size) for Son 1 - a spiderman outfit £19.13 (which he chose himself) and a christmas elf outfit £9.99 (again, he chose himself). However for quite a while I could not persuade him to put either outfit on, he seemed to have an unnatural fear of the spiderman mask. Thankfully my cousin kindly agreed to review the spiderman outfit for me....read below....






My son loved it because it's spiderman and his hearts desire.
 
The colours of the bodysuit were strong and it seemed well made (the  
mask not to the same standard though).
 
The real challenge was the design, in terms of getting on/off as  
rather than having a vertical seam down the back it had a horizontal  
opening at the neck. This proved a real challenge and the Velcro even  
did some superficial damage. The opening was simply not wide enough to  
make this easy to get into/out of.

The outfit itself was age 3-5 and my cousin's son is 4 so I would say the 
sizing is on the small side.

This evening however, after agreeing to "play at Santa". I managed to get my 
son to put the elf outfit on!  

 There was a hat with the outfit but Son 1 was unable to get this on his head! He liked the bell on the end of the hat and kept asking what the bell was for. Naturally I answered it was to call Santa.  

I thought the material of the outfit nice and light, as so many fancy dress outfits can be very hot for children.  He has worn the outfit all afternoon and hasn't been bothered by it at all. He loves the big buttons on the front which cover the velcro fastenings so it is easy to get on and off, in fact he is able to fasten it himself which is a plus from my point of view. 


I have to say he looks really cute in the outfit and I'm looking forward to him wearing it for his Christmas parties. I am going to send him into school wearing it for the party there and also take him to the Christmas party at the children's centre wearing it (with welly boots).  Naturally he will be wearing it on Christmas day too! I think the sizing on this one is pretty good, it is elasticated so quiet forgiving. My son is 3 but quite a big boy for 3 so I think it would easily fit an average size 5 year old (is age 3-5). All in all I am pleased with the outfit and would definitely use this website again.





Monday, 28 November 2011

Cheap and easy meals...

I have now been on maternity leave for over 9 months so am now receiving no money at all so we are completely dependent on my husband's salary. Course this would be the month the tax office decide my husband has underpaid them by £300 but that's another story. Therefore we are now trying to live MEGA frugally whilst still having enough money to go out and enjoy ourselves a bit.

So this week, rather than going to the supermarket, rushing round in a state of panic throwing as many things into the trolley as quickly as possible (think supermarket sweep with kids) before someone (possibly me) starts screaming; today I PLANNED what I was going to buy. I wrote a list.

Here is my menu (for family of 4)

Day 1 - Sausage casserole
Pack of sausages (cheaper in butchers)
lentils
1 carrot
1 swede
1 parsnip
sweet potato chips.

Fry sausages in a pan until browned, chuck in rest of chopped ingredients, pour over boiling water, add stock cube, bring to boil then simmer for an hour.
20 mins before hour is up cut sweet potato into chip shapes, shove on baking tray and drizzle oil over top. Roast for 20 mins.

Day 2
Lentil and Squash thai curry
200g lentils
1/2 squash
1 red pepper
jar red thai curry sauce (make own if can be bothered)
Rice

Fry off squash chopped into cubes and pepper. simmer lentils for an hour
Pour sauce over squash and pepper and add in lentils. Boil rice.

Day 3 - Spag bol

1 onion
Buy cheapest pasta sauce, 39p in Asda. It makes it taste much better.
Small pack of beef mince
a grated carrot
4 mushrooms (chopped very very small so cannot be seen)
1 red pepper (as above)
courgette unless children have phobia of "green". (mine does).
baked beans (small tin own brand)
Smart price style pasta

Fry onion til soft then add mince on low heat. Then add all other chopped veg. Add sauce and beans, simmer for as long as poss min 1 hour. Serve with pasta.

Day 4 - Chicken dinner
Best done on Sunday but I do it any day I have time as I hate that Sunday feeling.
Chicken from butchers spend around £5.
2 carrots
cauliflower
milk about 500 mls.
cheese
potatoes

Cook chicken for desire time. Roast potatoes with skins on takes about 40 mins. Boil carrots in mug in microwave. Boil cauliflower for about 10 mins on low heat. Make cheese sauce - fry knob of butter, add tablespoon of plain flower, slowly add milk on a low heat. Stir lots til goes thick. turn off heat then add lots of grated cheese. Drain cauliflower well, add cheese stick in oven. 
You could make proper gravy or do what I do and use bisto.

day 5 - Chicken leftovers.
Risotto rice
2 mushrooms
any leftover veg e.g. squash.
1 onion

Fry onion til very soft. Follow instructions on risotto packet. Add veg and simmer for 1/2 hour.
5 mins before end add shredded chicken.

Much cheaper than usual shop, any other ideas for cheap, easy, nutritious meals?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Center Parcs

We are going on holiday to Center Parcs soon and I can't wait. I love Center Parcs, even though in recent years it has become a bit pricey. I suppose more people are holidaying in the UK at the moment what with the Eurozone being a bit pricey for us at the moment, therefore demand must be higher for places like Center Parcs so up go their prices! Anyway we have managed to get a week at Elvedon in a super duper lodge for £419.















Talk about sunshine indoors, it's perfect for small children and parents alike.

Although it has to be said it's not really a "holiday" when children are involved as every parent knows...

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Duvet Day with Children....

I remember the days before I had children, thinking how tired I was after work and how all I wanted to do was lie on the sofa and groan with the lights on very low. These days when I finish work the true work is just beginning! First I have to go and collect the boys, a mission in itself after battling through rush hour traffic. I am very lucky in that my parents look after my children for free whilst I am at work. I don't know how we would pay for childcare if they didn't live so close as for both boys it would be over £1000 a month. It really wouldn't be worth me working at all! When we get home I then plonk Son 2 in his highchair while Son 1 slinks off to watch TV while I hurriedly through some stuff in a pan, otherwise known as preparing a meal. Son 2 wails in his highchair the whole time as I thrust bread sticks in his chubby fists and desperately race round wishing I was still at work. After lots of clanking of pans, the inevitable dropping of a couple of plates etc I then summon Son 1 to the table. 9 times out of 10 this results in an argument. Finally after using a variety of methods, he eventually agrees to come to the table and sits slumped with his head on his arms. I then have to spoon feed Son 1 (who is 3 and a half) as he has no interest in food and seems to have some form of toddler eating disorder where he needs no food to live. Son 1, 8 months, happily feeds himself although makes sure he gets as many crumbs into all the nooks and crannies of his highchair as humanly possible. I stuff some food down my throat then attempt the mammoth task of clearing up. Shouting is inevitably involved at this stage. After about 10 minutes I give up and assign that job to "Daddy" who is making the hour and a half trek home from work completely exhausted. Bed time is equally as traumatic, not helped by living in a 3 storey house with about a million stairgates.

Anyway, back to the duvet day. Both the boys have a bad cough at the moment, since Son 1 is asthmatic I have to watch him very carefully lest we end up in hospital again on one of those machines they have for asthmatics. Son 2 has two aims in life at the moment - get hold of and destroy my mobile phone, and deprive me of as much sleep as possible. Of course when they are ill, I am ill too. Currently my throat is on fire and I have an eye infection to end all eye infections....so the time when I actually need the most sleep, I am getting hardly any as am nursemaiding my two little ones....welcome to parenting.....

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The boy with the beautiful voice....

I think all parents must think their child is a genius of some sort or another. I have met a lot of parents over the years and it is easy to see those with large egos - those are the ones whose child can do no wrong (even when hitting other children over the head with a postman pat cow!), they see their child as an extension of their perfect self. They wax lyrical over the perfect babyhood, wonderful sleeping habits, make a fuss over the slightest sniffle.  These are the parents who seem to think their child is in some way more entitled than other children. Sigh.

Anyway, I am just as bad, as I am convinced my oldest son is some sort of child prodigy in the singing department.  It isn't just that he can hold or a tune, or that he loves music, it is the lovely tone of his voice, it is angelic! He especially loves music from "the shows" - Les Miserables is one of his favourites along with more child friendly ones like Lion King.  I got a letter from his school the other day about a stage school local to us where they can attend from 3 years old with "affordable fees" (it is an after school type thing). Now my last venture into the performing arts with him failed miserably. Indeed I think it was a relief to all (including the other children) when I eventually removed him from his ballet lessons.  So I'm wondering whether I should pursue this or not, he could have total tantrum style meltdown upon entering, or could love it and it could change his life. He recently started swimming lessons during which I spend my whole time hoping he will not call the teacher "poo poo head" again.

I definitely don't want to be one of those parents who live out their own dreams through their children. As a child I was always out and about doing something, ballet, horseriding, brownies, swimming, recorder club, orchestra, guitar lessons, flute lessons, piano lessons, various other dance classes. I was completely exhausted all the time! But doing all those things also gave me confidence and a large circle of friends. Where is that letter again....

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

More Budget Wedding Ideas!

So I've been having a bit of a think about budget wedding ideas. Most of my ideas seem to be based around buying stuff from ebay. Before I used ebay regularly, I used to think it was only buying stuff second hand. Now I realise there are various "shops" on ebay where you can get new stuff.

  • Pashina as a cover for bridesmaids- recently I bought a lovely gold pashmina for £10 from ebay. It is cashmere and beautiful. Supposedly it was a "second" but I can honestly say there is nothing at all wrong with it. Anyway the shop is called Pashmina Paradise
  • Presents for bridesmaids - it is always nice to buy something for your bridesmaids that they can wear on the day. I actually bought myself some pearl earrings from ebay the other day (not second hand obviously) for a couple of pounds. I figured that in trendy jewellers pearl earrings are about £20 so they must be quite cheap from source, I was right.Anyway I bought these ones 
  • 785 I am wearing them now, have had no itching or discolouring and think they look lovely! Pop them in a nice box, they make a perfect gift.
  • Alternatively you can get a champagne glass handpainted like these ones here which work out at about £11. There are loads of different shops on ebay doing these so is worth having a look and getting the right one.   

  • For father of the bride and groom, I love cufflinks. These can also be bought for the best man and ushers.  There are loads on ebay, but these are the ones I like (no p&p cost) for £7.99. They are just like the ones I got my dad, but they were £20. (can't get the picture to come up on these sorry!)
  • Tiara - I'm not really a veil girl, I consider them old fashioned and also a little irrelevant bearing in mind most couples have lived together for years before tying the knot! But I do love tiaras. Get a hand made one rather than buying one - I had mine made from scratch to match my dress and it looked great and was just mine. This is one thing I wouldn't buy second hand as I think they are pretty cheap new anyway. I've just had a look online but there are so many I can't choose. I used Linzi Jay and the tiara was beautiful.  
Makes me wish I could get married all over again! Minus the cost of course.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Budget Wedding!

In 2006 I got married. At that time, I considered myself pretty savvy when it came to spotting a bargain, but in reality I knew nothing compared to what I know now. I did practically no research, just bought what I fancied, got ripped off by the hair/make up woman and generally paid top dollar for everything! If I was to do it again, this is how I would do it differently:-

1. Get invites from ebay. I like this ebay seller who does personalised wedding invites - 25 rfor £7.50, what a bargain!


2. I would buy bridesmaid dresses in the Coast sale. Something like this for £69.
.

You can also get dresses from ebay from places like Thailand. Too many to choose from but easily found.

3. Get your wedding dress from a highstreet store like BHS or Debenhams (Coast have them too but quite pricey). I actually really love vintage wedding dresses now (although didn't in 2006!) and love this sort of thing which I found on ebay.  £218.

4. Get a friend with a posh car to let you use their car instead of a wedding car, pop some ribbons on the front (ebay!) and save lots of money!

5. Use "silk" flowers. One of my friends did this, they look lovely and also you can get everything in advance so less stress on the day. £10.50 for this one





6. For favours look on ebay! I've just had a quick glance and I love this ebay shop which sells lovely wine glass charms, 99p each! If you had the energy you could get one for every single guest, I think that is a nice personalised touch and also saves doing name cards. Two in one!











I need to go to bed now, will think of some more wedding money saving ideas in my sleep....zzzzzzzzz.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Children and Weddings

This weekend I went to a wedding. It is always lovely to be invited to a wedding, and of course I love an opportunity to get dressed up.  It was also the first time I have had something altered to work in a different way. In this case I took a long Coast bridesmaid type skirt to an alteration shop and had it made into a knee length skirt. It looked lovely with a Coast bustier and a sash round my waist which was once a bridesmaid sash.  But this was the first time I have been to a wedding with two children, in short it was hard work. Son 1 has never really entered a church before so had no idea you are supposed to keep your voice down. During the bit of the service where you are meant to speak out or forever hold your peace I offered him a lolly pop which might seem a bit infra dig but the alternative does not bear thinking about! Son 2 of course started screaming as soon as the service started so I watched most of it through the glass in the side chapel.

Once we got to the hotel Son 1 started acting up and refused to be in any photos. I kept having a quiet word in his ear and miraculously he would tow the line, it might have looked like I was giving him a stern talking to. In reality I was bribing him with sweets.

During the meal by some miracle Son 2 was asleep in his pushchair and Son 1 was given a colouring book which was a godsend as it kept him sitting at the table for a while.  However during the speeches he started shouting, "I am a dog! Woof Woof!" I felt my stress levels rising!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Do It Yourself Nail Wraps!

A few months ago, before I went on holiday, I decided to invest in a set of Minx nails for my toes. I had it done in a salon, it took about an hour and cost me £20. I must say included in this was a sort of mini pedicure, cup of tea, and a nice chat with the nail technician.



However, I was pretty excited to see in Boots,

that Nails Inc Nail Wraps can be bought in store and applied yourself for a fraction of the cost! These cost me about £7.95 in Boots and I have used them twice already. It takes me about 15 minutes each time and they last a couple of weeks if you apply them properly. All you need to apply them is a hair dryer or some other means of heating the wraps until they go bendy. Then you stick them on your nail, press them on, heat them some more hey presto! After a few gos they look really good and I'm pretty sure no-one could tell they weren't Minx ones.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Monday, 10 October 2011

Family Money Saving Ideas!

Like any Mummy, I am always looking for ways to save money. Here are some of my top tips that I have gathered over the years!

  • Buy toiletries and household supplies in shops like Home Bargains/B&M Bargains etc, so much cheaper.
  • Plan every meal in advance before going to the supermarket, only buy the actual ingredients you need, save treats for weekends.
  • Buy nappies through Amazon and get them delivered to your door. If you subscribe you can save even more money.
  • Pampers New Baby Size 2 Mini Nappies - 2 x Economy Packs of 62 (124 Nappies) 
    • Rather than paying for expensive baby groups etc, find out about your local children's centre, where activities usually cost around £1.
    • Take drinks along in a sippy cup for your child wherever you go, saving on buying drinks out.
    • Buy stuff on ebay.
    • If you can't find what you need on ebay use discount codes wherever possible from sites like hotukdeals and buy online.
    • Use quidco when buying online to earn cashback.
    • Find out about local discounts, e.g. in Leeds there is a Leeds card which entitles you to discounts on all local attractions, swimming etc.
    • Children would honestly rather spend a week on the beach in the UK than be roasted alive on holiday in Spain.
    • Create a blog and ask for freebies and discounts on things you like then write about them on your blog! 
    • Certain professions, e.g. teachers can get free entry into attractions, take proof of employment (works abroad too!).
    • Print your photos using online websites, not in those instant machines.
    Please post any more you can think of!

    SANDS RESORT SCARBOROUGH

    I mentioned to one of my yummy mummy friends the other day that we were going to be staying at the Sands Resort, she clearly thought I meant somewhere in the Caribbean but no, I was in fact referring to our very own, Scarborough!
    The Sands



    I never used to like Scarborough as every time I went there as a child, it rained. We went a few years ago as a family with my brother and parents and as the weather was great, we really enjoyed it. I also like the steam train that runs from

    Pickering to Goatlands (where Heart Beat is filmed don't you know!) which is quite nearby.



    Anyway, the apartment was fantastic, truly 5* with gorgeous en-suite and sea views from the terrace. They even put a bottle of bubbly in the fridge to get the party started!  Scarborough is  definitely a place for kids with tacky amusement arcades, donkey rides, surfing, fish and chips, dodgem rides, candy floss and sticks of rock.


    However there are also nice restaurants and trendy bars for the evening, if you take along the grandparents to babysit that is.  In terms of things to do there is a Sea Life Centre

    and of course Peasholm park which has a random Chinese theme. We went on the dragon pedelos (£5) which my son loved.




    It was pretty wet and windy but I did really enjoy it, particularly my Yorkshire afternoon tea with a glass of kir royale (champagne not sparkling wine!).

    The Sands Resort was £199 for two nights with car parking space.

    Thursday, 6 October 2011

    GIFTS IN MIND FINGER/FOOT/HAND PRINT JEWELLERY REVIEW!

    I am a real fan of new and innovative things in every area of my life, I love gadgets and good ideas and also small companies who are really passionate about what they do. That is why when I stumbled across this website (well actually through their ebay shop) Gifts In Mind I became instantly excited. Here is some more information about them: "Gifts in Mind's range of hand, foot and fingerprint Jewellery is hand crafted at our studio in Nottingham. We take pride in producing the finest quality jewellery at an affordable price whilst paying close attention to detail and customer satisfaction. Our fingerprint necklaces and fingerprint cufflinks are second to none and will become a special treasure that will last a lifetime. We believe that their is no finer quality fingerprint jewellery on the internet"

    I love the idea of a keepsake of something that you can never get back, the beautiful hand/foot or finger print of a small baby to keep forever. My eye was instantly drawn to the lovely charms and pendants on the website, these were the ones that stood out for me.

    Sweetie Bracelet from £38


    from £28

    from £35

    from £28





    The way it works is that Gifts in Mind send you a kit with everything you need and then within 14 days of returning the prints the jewellery is sent to you.

    Anyway, I was lucky enough to be sent some kits and jewellery to test and review!

    First of all I was sent the fingerprint charm kit as this is the most popular item on the website.

    Everything I needed was inside an envelope - the two moulds to capture the fingerprint, a little bag to place the mould in, and a padded prepaid envelope to send everything back in - perfect!

    It might look daunting but the whole thing was so easy, made easier by the very straightforward instructions. Basically you join the two different coloured putty together, make a ball, then place your child's finger firmly on the mould. 

    These are the two different bits of moulding clay that you simply roll together in a ball.

    Completed! I rolled the two moulds together.

    Son 2's finger placed on the mould. You have to let the mould set for about 10 minutes before placing it in the envelope.

    One padded envelope for the mould, the other for the hand and foot prints.
    I was also lucky enough to be sent a kit for making a hand and foot print, the hand from Son 1 and the foot from Son 2. This was even easier than making the finger print! How it works is that included in the pack is an inkless substance that is actually invisible on the skin but makes an impression on the special paper in the pack. you simply wipe it onto your child's hand or foot, it is a bit like a wet wipe then place their print on the pape. I had a few practice goes before and had to be quite "firm" with putting my children's prints on the paper but actually had no mishaps! You do need to be careful as the substance gets on your hand and it is easy to get this on the paper without realising it. I assume that Gifts in Mind would work around that though if there was a problem.

    Foot at the ready with inkless substance on! Invisible to you or I.

    Easily made foot print on paper included as part of the kit.

    Son 1's hand, excuse changing mat in background! Inkless substance on hand ready to print!

    One hand print! Note slight smudges of ink around the hand, did not affect the charm that arrived.


    All I had to do then was simply place everything in the prepaid envelope and send it off! Less than 14 days later here are the results!

    Finger print charm, beautifully presented.



    I couldn't get a good picture for some reason in the box but this clearly shows the hand print on a necklace.

    Hand and foor print on a necklace, the names of my children are to the left of the prints.

    Slightly better picture showing the relative size and prints.

    I placed the finger print charm on an existing charm bracelet of mine.

    I am over the moon with my necklace and charm. As you can see above I placed the charm on a bracelet of mine and have had so many questions and compliments about it! People keep asking me where I got it from and seem genuinely intrigued about it.  The necklace I also love and have worn every day since it arrived. I keep seeing people glancing at it and have had lots of comments from strangers etc asking how I did it, where it is from etc.  I have to say that the quality of the jewellery is excellent and in my opinion is excellent value for money. I have done some quick research on other similar companies on the internet and some of them are charging twice as much for the same product.

    I would thoroughly recommend this jewellery either for yourself or as a present (for Christmas?) for Grandma/Auntie etc. I think the charms would work well with a Links of London bracelet or similar. Although Gifts in Mind do their own bracelet for £38 which I think is really good value for money.

    Especially for BargainMummies Gifts in Mind have kindly given a 10% discount on all their products using code bmumsb10. 

    Love love love!

    Wednesday, 5 October 2011

    Obsession with school places...

    For some time now I have had a bit of an obsession with primary school places, i.e. will my son get a place at the school I prefer? It seems the answer to this question is, no. This might sound sad but I am now going to desperate measures to work out whether he stands a chance of a place or not. I have used google earth to calculate the exact distance between our house and the school (30 metres) I have looked at the map showing the end of "priority one" (the end of which is out garden wall), recently I have even taken to "interviewing" other parents in our local park. "So, how old is X? What school will they go to? WHERE DO YOU LIVE?" On the advice of my friend Emma I have compiled a little table of encounters with other parents, age of children, address etc etc. I have even started conducting research regarding number of children in the area in private childcare arrangements, i.e. those who didn't apply to the nursery. My son didn't get a place at the nursery but he was 3rd in the waiting list. There are 8 extra places in Reception so in theory he should get a place, but this isn't taking into account the children who never applied for Nursery in the first place or those who immediately turned down the place. I know of one child who is his school year and lives further away than us with no siblings, BUT her birthday is in March so she was able to join after the Easter holidays in the year above and do one year and one term in the Nursery, therefore we should take precedence, arrrgghhhhh, I am obsessed......

    Tuesday, 27 September 2011

    Crying it out? Or never a minute to myself?

    I have two happy healthy children, for which I am very grateful.  I realise I am lucky having children when so many other people wish, hope and pray for a child at any cost.  I must admit the lack of sleep thing is something I have learned to live with. When Son 1 was born, the fact that he didn't just pop off to sleep at night was a complete revelation, what was I supposed to do with him?! It all seemed endless, I aged about 5 years in those first few months. Then over time it started to get easier, he still woke in the night for a feed, but then went straight back in his cot and straight back off to sleep. I still felt exhausted, but at least I knew what to expect.

    Now I have two children I am even more tired, I have cried through tiredness it is so severe.  The problem that I have is that Son 2 has never slept in his cot since he was born, he is now 7 months. He instantly wakes up as soon as I lie him down and screams hysterically if I leave him even for 10 seconds. Even in the day I have to feed him to sleep and then hold him until he wakes up, or else go out somewhere in the car  or pushchair. It's only since he has been big enough to go in his highchair that I have been able to get any "jobs" done at all. Most of this blog has been written one handed while holding baby with the other arm! I have chronic tendonitis in both wrists and hands through the strain of constantly holding him. The other problem is that he won't take a bottle, I have tried every brand of formula and bottle and he simply WILL NOT DRINK from them, in fact he screams in terror at even the sight of a bottle! That means that I can never go out for the evening, or have a night away, or even a LITTLE BREAK which I so badly need.  So basically Son 2 is sleeping in our bed while my husband sleeps in the spare room, he will only sleep lying on my arm next to my body ready to feed at a moments notice. When he is in bed he actually sleeps quite well usually waking only once or not at all, but I feel stiff and sore in the morning from lying in an awkward position.

    Anyway last night I was so tired and he just wouldn't go to sleep in his cot.  I was at my wits end as my husband was working late and so I was on my own and just wanted some "me" time. I knew Son 2 was really tired so I just put him in his cot and shut the door. He screamed for 35 minutes although I kept going in to check on him (though this seemed to make him more angry!).  Eventually I just laid my hands on his back and he suddenly went to sleep! He woke at 10pm for a quick feed then went back off again.  I assumed it was a one off until just a minute ago when I lay him in his cot again, he complained loudly for a second and again I lay my hands gently on him and he immediately went to sleep.
    I really hope I have cracked it as I am SO TIRED....but I still don't like the idea of crying it out.

    The idea is I suppose that the baby learns no-one is going to come no matter how loud they cry, but this is an awful thought - learned helplessness! I wonder what other people think? I used to be pro cry it out as it worked with Son 1 but it only took about 5 minutes, with Son 2 he could honestly cry for hours and hours!

    Monday, 26 September 2011

    Child Friendly Pubs and Restaurants Nationwide

    Before we had children, my husband and I were a little addicted to eating out. Hard day at work? Meal out! Nasty cold? Nothing a latte and a croissant won't fix! So it came as a nasty shock to us that children and eating out really don't mix. I no longer know what it feels like to have a "relaxing" meal out. If the service is slow and the food is bad I can no longer laugh it off like I used to and now go into toddler style meltdown. Before children I would never have dreamed about eating out in a "chain" style pub or restaurant (unless I was on a hen night of course), now it is a staple. We know what the menu will have, we know our child will eat the food, we know it is just noisy enough so no-one can hear our toddler say, "this tastes of poo" but just quiet enough so that we don't have a headache for the rest of the day. We know chains have balloons, baby changing and usually some sort of play area. Soulless? Yes. Convenient, Yes!! So I want to compile a sort of list of my favourite chains and say what experiences we have had there and why we like them.

    1. Beefeater. We first went to a Beefeater when we were staying at a travellodge at Ashford before catching the Eurostar to France. It was late, we were tired, it looked ok from the outside though I was not keen. When we walked in I was very surprised, nice wooden floors, tables separated from each other into little booths, but most of all I couldn't believe how busy it was! We had some sort of bargain menu (something like £9) because we were eating before 6pm (the shame) and had two courses one of which was steak and it was delicious! Our son was happy as he got to have spag bol and some sort of chocolate sundae. The whole meal came to less than £40 including a bottle of wine and two courses each. Now I insist on going to Beefeaters whenever we go out in a group.

    2. Pizza Express. Two of the best things about Pizza Express is a) you can use Tesco clubcard vouchers x 3 in most of them, b) the constant vouchers for 2 for 1, half price pizzas etc which make a meal out for 4 of us come to less than £30 including a small dessert. These days, I always get the leggera pizza as it has less calories, and for dessert I get this coffee and a small lemon meringue thing which is divine. The kids menu is a little pricey in my opinion at £6.25 but includes crudites, pizza/pasta and a lovely sundae plus bambinocino (never seen any child drink this). Love!

    3. Pizza Hut. Yes they are desperately unhealthy and I am convinced they fry the pizzas as the bottoms are always glistening with fat but kids love it there, plus there is one in Bingley where we live. Again there is always some sort of deal on, e.g. kids eat free, cheap and cheerful!

    4. Starbucks. I'll keep this brief - high chairs, baby changing and them most delicious raisin toast in the world. All kids love their raisin toast.

    5. Not strictly a restaurant but Waitrose cafes.They do a really healthy kids lunch box for about £3 which is a real winner and actually has freshly made sandwiches rather than prepacked type ones. My son loves it and I can get a crayfish sandwich.

    6. Any Vintage Inn. Highchairs, baby changing, also nice soft drinks for those who are pregnant/driving etc, e.g. sparkling elderflower £1. The specials are usually better than the main menu and there is a good kids menu which my son seems to enjoy. Winner.

    7. Wagamama. An actual healthy kids menu and children love sitting on the wooden benches. They have those cool grip on high chairs which mean you don't have to be constantly moving your child's highchair around everytime some idiot walks past. They do a great health drink I think it is called Raw juice or something. Very good.

    8. Pret a Manger. Quick is the key factor here, plus they have high chairs and baby changing. There are kids sandwiches if you get early enough (before all the cheapskate adults buy them!) in reasonable flavours (is that the right word?) such as cheese/ham etc. Lots of healthy choices too e.g. fruit pots and yoghurts and comfortable surroundings. There is one in Leeds where they have a small child play area type thing.

    9. Red Hot Buffet. The good thing about buffets and children is that if they don't like something it means they can try something else without wasting your money. We went to this one yesterday and it was definitely better than average. There were lots of different "stations" e.g. Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian and you could basically help yourself as many times as you liked. The kids really enjoyed it and it gave them a chance to try things they normally wouldn't go for. Best of all in their opinion was the ice cream factory at the end!

    10. Miller and Carter. Not sure if this is strictly speaking a national chain (just had a look there are quite a few dotted around now) but I really like it. It is essentially a steak house but is quite "swish" as my dad would say and not just aimed at men. There is a nice trendy looking bar where you can get champagne and nice wines, and it is generally done out pretty well. There is a really good kids menu with a variety of options. Bingo!

    Bella Mama Cara Dress Review!



    I was very excited the other day to be sent a dress from the lovely Bella Mama! When I enquired about doing a possible review I never dreamed Kirsten (founder) would send me an actual dress, but it was obviously my lucky day.

    "Bella Mama is a small, busy boutique specialising in chic, contemporary breastfeeding clothing and transitional maternitywear for new mamas, blending fabulous style with amazing comfort. To complement this, we also offer a lovely range of beautiful baby bags, swaddling blankets, nursing necklaces, nursing covers, changing mats and indulgent skincare."

    I have been struggling for some time to find beautiful, but affordable nursing clothes. I was starting to give up and just revert back to "normal" clothes and keep pulling my top up, but thanks to Bella Mama I think I have changed my mind!  The clothes on the website look very stylish with an indulgent edge, just what a new mum needs, no frumpiness in sight!



    When I opened the parcel I was utterly amazed at what a beautiful item it was. The dress itself is called "Cara" and is a deep purple colour made out of jersey material - but good quality jersey. It hangs beautifully on the hanger (see picture)

    and I would say it of better than usual quality for a jersey style dres (£45).  The real test though, is what is it like when feeding! Well I put it to the test yesterday when we went out for my birthday meal to Leeds new hot spot "Red Hot"(pardon the pun). Normally it is the sort of place I avoid but with four small children in tow it was ideal. I felt really comfortable all day in the dress even during my hot flush episodes (is this normal?) when in other nursing clothes I often get very warm and flustered probably due to the type of material.  However in my Bella Mama dress I felt lovely. I felt absolutely comfortable feeding in it as it is very discreet with a sort of gap in the neckline (see video) to allow easy access while still allowing a certain amount of coverage.  Due to the good design I was also able to move around easily in the dress and didn't feel constricted at all which is very important when you have young children. The dress also has a fashionable feel and hangs/moves well in a fluid line. It feels very comfortable against the skin and I didn't need to wear any vests etc underneath it. There is a tie at the back which isn't visible in the picture but is great as it means you can adjust the dress to suit your individual shape.




    After our meal we then went to Leeds City Museum as I had heard they have some great exhibitions for kids. I wasn't disappointed and found there was a great sort of archeological display and a play area. At 2.30 there was a story time which gave me opportunity to feed again while sitting in front of a young man who was reading the story. I didn't want to embarrass him but as the dress is so brilliantly designed he clearly didn't even notice I was feeding! Result!



    Here is a short video showing the dress in all its glory and demonstrating the easy feeding access.


    All in all I really love this dress and will definitely be getting some more clothes from Bella Mama as their designs are right up my street (as Cheryl Cole would say).

    Sunday, 25 September 2011

    BUBBLE AND BALM

    I was lucky enough to be sent some lovely Bubble and Balm products the other day to test and review. I love receiving things to review and it really cheers me up when I see my friendly postman delivering a parcel my way.  I really love the idea of Bubble and Balm as from reading their website it comes across that they are a very passionate company who clearly believe very strongly in their product.
    One of the items sent to me was the antibacterial luxury handwash

    which retails for £4.99.  The description is as follows: - Glycerine-enriched l
    uxury handwash with an essential oil anti-bacterial formulation effective against MRSA, E coli and other nasties. No artificial colours / fragrances and triclosan free, suitable for vegans / vegetarians. Stylish aluminium packaging.

    It DOES look pretty cool in our bathroom. Anyway, having used it I do really love it! It smells lovely and the smell lasts for a while on my hands. The smell itself is really fresh and clean without being clinical.  When it comes out of the pump it does initially feel a little "thin" compared with other hand soaps but I think this is just because it doesn't contain all the parabens and nasties contained by other soaps. It actually lathers really nicely and I think a little goes a long way.  I have used it on my older son's hands after using the toilet and am pleased to report there has been no adverse reaction which is unusual for him as he has very sensitive skin.  

    I was also sent the citrus soap in a tin



    Retails for £4.99, here is a short description: Pure clear glycerine soap with an uplifting blend of essential oils including lemon, mandarin and grapefruit. No artificial colours / fragrances, suitable for vegans / vegetarians. Packaged in a stylish recycled aluminium tin that doubles up as a watertight soap dish. 85g.

    This soap also lathers really well and again, a little seems to go a long way.  I like the fact it is kept in a tin as this is far more hygienic and means there is less residue on the sink for me to clean off.  My son also likes the fact that the soap has its own "house" to live in and likes taking the top on and off. At the moment I am using it as a bath soap for my sons but I think it would work just as well as a hand soap. The smell is beautiful and leaves a lovely lingering clean smell in the room as well as on the skin. It isn't as drying as normal soaps and makes skin feel really soft. So far there have been no allergic reactions which I sometimes find with other soaps on my children.  For the money I think it is well worth it and would certainly consider buying this as it would last so long. Love love love!

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