Monday, 23 January 2012

What shall I wear??!!

In a few weeks we are going to another wedding. I now know what to expect when taking small children to a wedding, namely NOT a relaxing fun filled day getting drunk. No, I will be spending the day chasing Son 1 round trying to persuade him not to blow raspberries at everyone who says "hello" to him and using my super Mummy strength to hold him still while pictures are taken. Son 2 is actually easier to deal with as he has the happy habit of sleeping during delicious meals so I can actually eat something. However I know the evening will be a write off. This is when Son 1 will turn into a completely uncontrollable monster and Son 2 will be taking part in uncontrollable crying. I can't wait!

Anyway I'm thinking about what I am going to wear. I was hoping to get something in Coast's sale after Christmas but alas the moment passed and all the good stuff has gone. The only dress that caught my eye was this dress
£49


However I went to try it on the other day and couldn't get it over my head! Oh the shame.

Anyway I have decided to go with something I can actually wear again. I also need to get something that is washable for obvious reasons....messy hands and dribbly mouths. The problem with Coast is that most of their stuff is dry clean only, and duchess satin is a pig to get things out of.




So now I'm thinking about this dress from Oasis. It's not very dressy for a wedding but I could definitely wear it again for a meal out. Or lunch out even. This is the navy one....

£65 from Oasis

...but there is also a red one, I like this one better but don't think it is as versatile....

£65 from Oasis
Now for shoes! I have clown feet so for me shoe shopping is hell and is something I must do alone as I drive everyone mad with my huge feet. They seem to be even bigger than normal these days, a result of pregnancy? Who knows, all I know is that they suit trainers and boots best. But neither of these things are suitable for a wedding. I spotted these torture devices, sorry, shoes in Aldo and think they would go wonderfully with the navy version of the dress.  I love the spiky heel and think it looks a lot  more expensive than £31.49 (in the sale). 
Aldo Smay Shoe
I'm just picturing myself running round all day chasing after two children in these....*shudder*.



Thursday, 19 January 2012

PK Baby Shampoo and Body Wash Review

I feel as if I am always in my local Home Bargains looking for toiletries these days. It is so much cheaper than anywhere else! However, the one thing it is not so great at stocking is truly natural baby and kids bath products. In fact in my opinion, none of the high street stores do well on this score. The best I have found is in Waitrose but they always seem to be very pricey.  I was very lucky therefore to be sent a PK Baby Shampoo and Body Wash a few weeks ago to review on my blog courtesy of www.mummynews.co.uk.

Brand NEW PK Baby is an ultra mild shampoo and body wash for daily use. Created specifically for infants and children, its easy rinse formula contains Chamomile extract to soothe the scalp and Amaranth protein to gently moisturize both the skin and hair. PK baby is colourless, has a non-allergenic fragrance and is paraben, SLS & SLES free.
I was really thrilled when it arrived and surprised at how large the bottle was. The packaging is lovely and very "high end". Now to put it to the test! Both my sons have quite sensitive skin and always come out in a rash with products that contain nasties. I was pleased to see that this product doesn't contain any of those and the ingredients all look very kind and friendly.

Firstly the packaging seems to appeal to Son 2 as he keeps wanting to eat it! He must think it is food from the lovely smell....


The bodywash itself lathers really well, more than I would expect from something that doesn't contain any of those nasty ingredients that cause soaps to do that. I would say a little goes a long way.

The smell is really nice and it definitely has a luxurious feel to it. After using it there was absolutely no rash or redness on my son's skin which is a good sign! I also used it to wash his hair and he didn't seem to mind whereas he usually kicks up a bit of a fuss.  It has a nice glistening effect on the skin which must be the good quality ingredients of the product. I also used it as a sort of bubble bath which seemed to work well although it didn't bubble as much as other products which is probably a good sign.


All in all I love the product! The only negative I would say is the cost at £18 a bottle, however it is quite a large bottle so does last a long time. It might work best as a gift to a new mum/baby.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Things I cook for my children....

I used to enjoy cooking, getting home from work, browsing the cook books, getting the scallops out of the fridge, you know the score. Then I had children. Now cooking is punctuated by calls for "MUMMEEEE I need a WEEEEE", screams from the high chair and general demands on my time.  Now speed is key rather than taste. I have learned it is quicker to boil veg in the microwave even if it does go to mush. Fish can be "pan fried" rather than baked (as can lots of things!) and life would be easier if I had a slow cooker. I also often start preparing tea at 3.30pm on the days I'm not working, talk about eating with the squaddies. When I'm making a stew I sometimes even begin it in the morning when Son 2 is asleep, then I let it simmer all day so the lamb or beef is really juicy and just falls apart, ready for mashing for underdeveloped teeth.

Anyway, here are some of the things I typically make.

Lamb stew
This is good as it is "one pot", takes little skill and is very healthy (I think, I'm not a dietitian but common sense dictates).
  • Don't bother with onions it takes too long.
  • Brown off some lamb.(I get it from the butchers and just say, "a handful" as like most people have no idea about weight. If it's over £3 in money I start squinting and sighing until he says, "ok you can have it for £3).
  • Throw in the mushy veg at bottom of the fridge which preferably includes a sweet one like sweet potato or squash. 
  • Throw in a handful of lentils (precise measuring out is futile).
  • Chop up some potato if you can be bothered.
  • Boil the kettle, pour on enough water so that is covers everything.
  • Crumble in a stock cube.
  • Put lid on and simmer for as long as you can.
 Cheesy Pasta
This is an emergency meal when you get home from a day out, look in the fridge and weep. It depends on you having in the staple ingredients of cheese, milk and pasta (fear not, all these things can be bought in most petrol stations). Son 1 claimed the other day this his is favourite meal of all time. Note it contains no veg (this is a plus in the opinions of most children).
  • Boil some pasta in a pan.
  • Put about 250ml milk in a pan. Heat. When boiling turn down and mix in a spoonful of flour. Keep stirring.
  • When it thickens add a load of grated cheese. If you have nutmeg put a pinch in.
  • Put drained cooked pasta in the cheesey pan (do not put the cheesey mix in the pasta pan - more washing up). Stir round.
Leek  Potato and Cheese Mush
This meal is most appreciated by toothless ones, i.e. babies under 10 months, but it seems to go down a treat.
  • Chop up a leek (or in my case, open freezer door, get out frozen leeks).
  • Cook in microwave in mug with some water in (do not use expensive Emma Bridgewater type mugs).
  • Do same with potato (at same time if you wish).
  • Mix together, stir in some grated cheese with a dash of milk.
  • Mash with a fork - hey presto!
Chicken Risotto
My boys love this one. I admit I have started buying frozen risotto that you can heat up in a pan in 6 minutes, the salt content is surprisingly low. Still it works out cheaper to cook from scratch and this is what this blog is all about so....
  • Use leftover chicken, shred into small pieces.
  • Fry an onion (I buy Easy Onion now, comes in a jar).
  • Fry garlic (likewise, from jar).
  • Fry risotto rice for a minute on high heat.
  • Chuck in any veg, preferably mushy about to go out of date type stuff.
  • Boil kettle, put about 500ml in a jug with a crumbled stock cube.
  • Now you have two choices, either spend half an hour standing there spooning the stock in bit at a time OR
  • Put all stock in at once, transfer to ovenproof dish and stick in oven for half an hour.
  • Near the end, put in chicken and perhaps cream or creme fraiche plus cheese.
  • Voila!
Mushy Apple
This is great for puddings.
  • Peel apple, chop off the the core.
  •  Slice into small bits.
  • Fry in a pan with butter, add orange juice and cinnamon
  • Serve! A variation here is to add cocoa powder or melted chocolate to the pan for older children.
Chocolate Bananas
  • Slice bananas
  • Fry in a pan with butter.
  • Add a small packet of chocolate buttons or similar.
  • Mix round then serve.

Banana Bread/Cake
This is a really easy one and great for when you have some leftover bananas that are about to turn.
You won't be spending ages stirring either.
  • Mash up two bananas (kids like doing this).
  • Add three spoonfuls of sunflower oil
  • Add about two spoonfuls of sugar.
  • Add about four spoonfuls of plain flour.
  • Add a teaspoon of baking powder.
  • Chuck in an egg and a handful of raisins
  • Stir then put into a loaf tin.
  • Bake in oven for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees. (grease tin if you can bothered).
I like this because using the sunflower oil saves you from having to cream the butter which is annoying and gives me arm ache. The raisins and banana also mean it is vaguely healthy. I actually adapted this recipe from the I Can Cook website on cbeebies (bit ashamed to admit that) but they have some quite good ideas on there for kids food. It does annoy me though that they don't use a capital I.

 I still hate cooking.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The ghosts of outfits past....

I love looking at other people's fashion and style blogs but I can't explain why. It's not like I am actually going to buy or wear any of that stuff,it just makes me happy. Then I started thinking about all the time and money I have spent on clothes in the past 15 years. It must go into tens of thousands, but it's funny, no matter how much I spend and buy, I never feel satisfied that I have enough!  It got me thinking though about the ghosts of outfits past...where are they now....well, here is some of the evidence taken on my phone camera!

I loved this smock type top - from Dorothy Perkins plus cropped city trousers from Per Una

I loved this holiday combo - top from George, denim cropped trousers from Next outlet

Honeymoon in Sydney - summer dress from M&S

Feather coat from Oasis, jeans from Oasis, boots from Clarks on a bench in Scarborough

Dress bought in Boden sale dancing in France


Isabella Oliver maternity dress. It looked better in real life (I hope!)


Me on the left - Coast dress, love that one
Actually while I was looking for these pictures it dawned on me how few pictures there actually are of me...why is this? Am I always the invisible hand behind the camera, do I avoid pictures? If so why? From now on I will make more of an effort to appear in pictures, if I have time to think about it that is.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

My Birth Stories

The other day I was sitting and talking to my parents in law about giving birth and how you never forget exactly what happened. 36 years on they still remember every detail about what happened the night my husband was born. Every time I write about the night(s) I gave birth it makes me cry, which is exactly why I never watch One Born Every Minute.....here goes.

Son 1 – May 2008.

I had quite a straight forward pregnancy up until my 20 week scan. The sonographer mentioned something about a low lying placenta but I didn’t take much notice and just ended up skipping out of the place thinking, “la la la it’s a boy!”




It wasn’t until my next midwife appointment that I realised the full implications and the midwife said, “you do realise you are going to have a c-section don’t you?”. Apparently the wording on the scan report “placenta is occluding the os” was quite serious. I couldn’t believe what she was saying, there was no way I was having a section!

However events took over, and at 34 weeks I was sitting down to a nice dinner when I felt a “gush”. I thought my waters had gone, but when I looked down it wasn’t water everywhere, but red blood. My husband and I completely panicked and I immediately thought the worst, as blood is the last thing you want to see when you are pregnant. I rang ward 21 who told me to ring 999 which I did. I just remember crying waiting for the ambulance as the phone operator kept telling me to feel for the head!

I had no idea that I might expect to bleed so heavily. I was received in hospital by lots of people which was reassuring but also scary. I was seen by a doctor who made me sign a consent form for a hysterectomy if they couldn’t stop the bleeding. I was 29 and this was my first baby so this was quite a blow to think I wouldn’t be able to have any more children.

Eventually the bleeding stopped, they had this mobile scanning machine (so when they tell you you have to wait ages for a scan they do have this machine available!) which showed the baby was ok and not in distress.

To cut a long story short I was sent home and told to not leave the area which was annoying as we had booked to go to Center Parcs.
Anyway two weeks later I was holding a watering can when I felt the same “gush”. I rang 999 immediately and this time I knew they would deliver my baby that day. It was strange to think that only hours earlier I was having lunch in Emporio Italia in Ilkley!

There was a big rush and I kept hearing things like “grade 4 placenta praevia, severe bleeding, hysterectomy” etc. As I was waiting for surgery I suddenly started having strong contractions (to top it off). I was wheeled in for the spinal block and had a strong one as I was waiting for it to take effect. One of the midwives had her hand near my mouth and for some reason I will never understand I suddenly felt the urge to bite her, she shouted, “she’s going to bite me!”. Hee hee. Anyway the surgery went to plan although I was very shakey and shivery from the anaesthetic. The baby didn’t cry for quite a while when they took him out and I was starting to panic as no-one was telling me anything. Suddenly I heard him cry and it made me cry too, I remember shouting, “where’s my baby?!” They weighed him, he was 6lb 5oz at 36 weeks. Unfortunately not only had my husband forgotten the camera, but also my bag, so my beloved baby was dressed in clothes from the charity basket, I will never forgive myself for that.















Son 2 – February 2011.

My second birth was totally different. This time there was no low lying placenta, which I had been really worried about. I was under consultant lead care which I felt was unnecessary as there was nothing else about my pregnancy that was high risk aside from the fact I had a previous section.

At 40 weeks +3 I started to feel very “icky” and had bad period pains. I had had a sweep the day before and also electro acupuncture which I highly recommend. That night I started to have mild contractions and also brown spotting, but not a show as such (in fact I never had a show at all). The next day I watched sex and the city and lay on the sofa. It was strange for 8 or 9 minutes I felt completely normal, then I would have a really painful contraction for 30 sections, then I felt normal again. The tiring thing is that you know it won’t be long before another one comes round again. I took a couple of paracetamol (useless) and had a bath. At 5pm I rang labour ward and said I couldn’t take it anymore and could I come in. We went in (yes in rush hour traffic) and was told I was in early labour! I nearly cried, how could that be early labour! I said I couldn’t take the pain anymore but they said I was only 1-2 cm dilated and had a long way to go. The contractions were very strong even at that stage so this was pretty disheartening. Anyway they gave me some Codeine and sent me home (arggh!). I paced the house til 2am in agony, I had no idea it would be THAT painful. All hynobirthing techniques etc went out of the window and I became a primeval beast. I only spoke when absolutely necessary and apparently had a funny look on my face!

We went back in, they said I was about 3cm and I thought they must be joking. I refused to go home and told my husband to go home and get some sleep as I just wanted to be alone to deal with the pain. I somehow managed to get to sleep and just sort of lay writhing around in a triage room. I felt forgotten about and pressed the bell about 8.30 as I felt like an alien was ripping itself out of my body. I told them I needed to push and they said, “hang on the doctor will examine you”. Well it’s a bit difficult to hang on in that state but I did and he exclaimed, “I can feel the head”. Well I did kind of mention that.

They dragged/pushed me into a delivery suite and tried to get me to go on my back on the bed but I refused. I also kept ripping off the heart monitor which was promptly put back on again. My husband had not arrived yet as when he rang the hospital at 9am he was told I was still in early labour!

One of the midwives had read my birth plan and realised I wanted an active labour so brought a yoga mat for me to kneel on. I refused to put my feet in stirrups or to have an assisted delivery as I knew I could do it myself. However I kept saying things like, “I’m so frightened” which probably didn’t help but I was so scared of the pain of the baby coming out. About 15 minutes before he came out I went into “the zone”. I had no idea that when you push the head goes out then pops back in again! This kept happening and I started thinking I was never going to get him out. I just kept pushing and pushing and eventually his head crowned. I was told to pant but I was so desperate to get him out I just kept pushing. He slithered out and I was the first person to hold him. I was utterly elated and couldn’t believe I had done it without even gas and air all on my own. My husband had arrived in the nick of time and was there to cut the cord. The midwife said it was a textbook VBAC and I felt so proud of myself! I couldn’t believe how much green gunk and blood there was on the floor, it looked like a blood bath. There was a bit of trouble getting the placenta out but I just pushed it out and it popped out. I needed two stitches, they actually asked did I want to bother with anaesthetic (erm yes please I’m not that mental). I was actually quite impressed how much the staff had stuck to my birth plan and felt really empowered. This time I got to dress him in his own clothes and got lots of pictures. No trauma, no drama just a precious baby weighing 8lb 7oz, born February 2011.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

How to start blogging....

It's been over 6 months now since I wrote my first blog post and I can't believe how much I have learned in that time, or how much blog envy I would get when looking at other peoples blogs.  There is so much I would like to do with my blog (if only I had the time) like design a proper logo and sort out the layout, but the main thing I have learned is that your blog is only as good as the content in your posts. Although the look might attract initial readers, it's what you say that keeps people coming back.

There has been a lot of stuff in the media recently about bloggers earning 60k a year. Maybe this is true for some people but the majority of bloggers I have come across simply do it because they enjoy it. For me it is an outlet to the outside, the real world. I have, of course, accepted and enjoyed various freebies that I have written fair reviews for. I have written one sponsored post and for that I was paid, I admit. But none of these freebies have paid for the hours and hours of time I have spent when the children are in bed, scouring the internet looking for lovely things I wish I could buy if I had the money. But what I have finally realised is: no-one is interested in any of that stuff, those posts get practically no views! The posts people want to see are general information about me and my family and our day to day life, who would have thought it! Who would think anyone would want to read about silly old me.

Having said that, it can be pretty soul destroying to look at your stats every once in a while and see the visitors tail off....so I've written some pointers that I have learned, purely altruistically.

Starting a blog and Getting Readers
  • Choose a catchy cool name that encompasses what you want to put across. I rue the day I called my blog bargain mummy buys. What was I thinking?! Oh well too late now.
  • Use blogger or wordpress and follow the tutorial, simple as that.
  • Don't bother with adsense (this is when you have rotating adverts down the side of your site, through add gadget). I've earned pennies from it and I believe it puts readers off.
  • Make the "about me" section prominent. This is one of my most viewed pages.
  • Include a disclosure (just google or take a look at mine, I don't mind if you use it!) especially if you are going to be reviewing.
  • Don't have too much going on down the sides of your blog, try and strike a balance between colourful/eye catching and overwhelming your reader. I've noticed some of the most successful blogs have hardly anything in the side panels.
  • Always respond to any comments, keep the conversation going it will keep people coming back.
  • Create a facebook and twitter page and create an RSS feed direct from your blog to your twitter account.
  • However sometimes go in and update your facebook and twitter manually. This will make you look more "human". 
  • Follow relevant people/companies/groups on twitter and they should follow you back, thus exposing you to more followers/readers.
  • Retweet other people for purely altruistic reasons then hopefully others should do the same for you.
  • Make sure all the names tally up as it will then show better in search engines, e.g. your title, URL, twitter handle should all be the same.
  • If you insert a picture of a product, when you save it to your hard drive, use the actual name of the product e.g. Stowells as the file name, it will then show up more on search engines.
  • Use loads of photos and video clips, particularly of people, it just gives people more of an insight into your life.
  • Write about stuff you would want to read. Don't make your posts too long (don't always follow that advice).
  • Leave comments (genuine of course, not just for the sake of it) on other people's blogs. Leave a link to your site if appropriate.
  • Sign up for sites like blogher, britmums, netmums, mumsnet and babycentre and also blogger match if you want to be sent items to review.
  • Enjoy it! It's not your job, it's something you have chosen to do for purely selfish reasons. Simple as that!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Top Pictures of 2011...

Last year (sounds strange to call it that!) was an amazing, tiring, stressful and wondering year for the Bargain family.  We were lucky enough to have a new addition to our family when Son 2 was born after thinking for a long time we would never have another child.  Giving birth to him naturally was the most amazing thing I have ever done and the thing I am most proud of doing.  After a 36 hour labour I popped him out with no help from anyone, not even gas and air.  I can't say it wasn't painful (it was, very) but I felt utterly elated and never knew it could be like that.  I was the first person to hold him and he latched on immediately. Everything was perfect, and although feeding him "myself" wasn't easy, I stuck with it until just a few weeks ago when he was nearly ten months.  At the beginning, there were times when I thought I wouldn't get through three weeks of feeding but it does gradually get easier, and I think I have finally exorcised my demons about not exclusively feeding Son 1 without the help of formula. Here is a lovely clip of him just minutes after he was born...
video


In July hubby got a great new job with FREE parking (big consideration!) and although it's a bigger commute, he is so much happier and that makes all of us happier. We had a lovely holiday in the South of France AND Center Parcs.

AND I started writing this blog....I never thought I would have so many great responses and take so much pleasure from writing it. 

Anyway, enough blathering from me, here are some pics of our amazing year....

A few minutes old in the same outfit Son 1 wore when he was born
Son 1 meets Son 2!
Cute cousins breaking our spare bed
The first Halloween experience!
Thankfully they get on really well...
First day at school for Son 1

Son 2 on his first photo shoot
video


xx

Xpresso 2 Go Ceramic Travel Mug Review

Everyone knows men are impossible to buy presents for. I always think it must be so easy for men to buy for their wives/girlfriends, jewellery, high end cosmetics and handbags all go down well and require no thought at all.  Anyway with that in mind, I was pretty happy to be approached by ideasbynet to test out one of their stocking fillers on my willing husband! We usually set a £50 spend limit on each other so I try to get 5 gifts worth around £10 (a book, a CD, CK undies, port glasses and a bottle of port) but this year he had an extra gift, a lovely ceramic travel mug!  This is the info from ideasbynet :
"Coffee shop paper cups are great, but as coffee drinkers know, leaky lids, wobbly paper, sticky spills and scolded fingers can be a bit maddening. We introduce the Xpresso 2 Go Travel Mug, a practical and eco friendly alternative to paper cups. The Xpresso 2 Go is a reusable double walled thermal ceramic mug with a re-sealable, reduced spill, silicone lid. It makes even the best coffee taste better…and if you use it at Starbucks they’ll even charge you less for your drink!"

I love the idea of it being eco friendly by saving on getting a plastic cup each time you get a takeout, but I suppose that relies upon you remembering to take it with you when you go out for a coffee. Luckily hubby has a Starbucks at his work so he could take this to get his daily latte and be green AND save money on his drink (appealed to me for obvious reasons!).
video


Our main worry was that it would leak if tipped as the lid feels very rubbery and upon first glance I was not convinced it would stand up to the tip test. However as you can see from this short clip it did not leak (apart from through the spout as you would expect!)  erm please excuse the messy kitchen.

The other worry was that the mug would feel scalding hot to touch but as you can see from these pics it was fine (prob due to the ceramic-ness of the mug).



All in all hubby was very pleased with his present and says he is going to take it to work with him to use for his daily coffee. He also likes the ceramic feel of the mug which makes it feel more like a "proper" drink rather than drinking from a plastic cup.

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