Monday, 12 August 2013

Making life easier

One of the little things that makes my life a whole lot easier is online food shopping, especially since returning to work. I did this whilst on maternity leave too, so I haven't had to do a big food shop in well over a year. Yes, I realise this concept has been around for a while now, but it's something that a lot of people I speak to seem to think is a bit of a hassle. After you've set up your initial list of favourites, it's a breeze to compile your shop each week. Personally I would much rather spend time making the most of my weekend than trawling the supermarket aisles with the masses on a Saturday morning, but each to their own (and I know some people enjoy it)!

I have been using Ocado which I find great - I rarely get substituted items and the delivery drivers are friendly and helpful. The prices are matched to Tesco so the perception I had of them being too expensive was fortunately incorrect. If you have a browse online before placing your first order, you can usually find an online discount code and get around £20-£25 off your first delivery. There is a minimum spend, but a couple of packs of nappies normally gets you over the threshold!

These are a few of my top baby buys from Ocado:

Waitrose Bottom Butter Enriched Baby Wipes - lovely baby wipes which have a gorgeous vanilla smell, I don't find I need to use many of these during a nappy change because they are so thick. They are £2.54 for a pack of 64, but currently (and often) on offer at 2 for £4.

Waitrose Baby Bottom Butter - this cream soothes, protects and pampers your baby's skin, and contains olive oil and chamomile to protect against nappy rash. I have read it is also brilliant as a face cream - I can't vouch for this personally but could be worth a try for bargain skincare! £2.89 a tub or 2 for £4 at the moment (you can combine this with the baby wipes on the multibuy offer).

Waitrose Baby Care Cleansing Cotton Wool Balls - a dull but essential item for any mum and baby! No one wants tiny cotton wool balls that fall apart with a droplet of water on them. These cotton wool balls are large and soft, perfect for changing time and bath time. £1.32 for a pack of 80.

'That's Not My Monkey' book - what baby doesn't love these books?! Currently £3.99 (£2 off the RRP of £5.99), great to add to your basket as a treat for your little one or a last minute birthday present for a young reader.

All of the above can be found at - they will be in my basket this week too!

Happy shopping x

Thursday, 27 June 2013

My favourite websites & blogs

I have really enjoyed discovering new individual websites and blogs over the last few months - there are some great ones out there. I wanted to share a few of them, as they are lovely to browse when you (finally!) get to put your feet up with a cup of tea/glass of wine.... - This shop is local to me, but also does free nationwide delivery on all orders. They stock some fab baby brands - Pink Lining, Bugaboo and Label Label are just a few. The service there is really friendly and orders always arrive speedily. - again this shop isn't too far from where I live, but you can browse their website and order products online. They sell 100% cotton organic baby products which make lovely baby gifts. Baby J has the Hug Me Knitted Bear which is very cute! - a great range of handmade baby items, including blankets, bibs and bags. The prints are gorgeous and unique, while you can have products personalised to your requirements. We have a blanket with baby J's name embroidered on which I'm sure he will keep for a very long time. - this website has lovely ideas for keeping little ones entertained, and they're not expensive either. One post I found very helpful was the Top Toy List for Babies and Toddlers, which has some excellent ideas for 1st birthday presents if you are a bit stuck! - I love this style blog, which covers fashion for pregnancy and motherhood. The clothes and accessories featured are affordable and wearable, giving you new style ideas if you are stuck in a rut during or after your pregnancy. I often take tips from this blog, it is a bad influence as I end up treating myself when I shouldn't...

I hope you enjoy looking at these, if anyone else has recommendations for blogs or websites I would love to hear them.


Friday, 21 June 2013

Avon calling...

I've been a bit quiet of late with returning to work - lots of respect to the mums who make it look easy juggling everything! I think baby J and I have got the hang of our morning routine now, and I'm just about looking presentable when I get into the office...

After a busy couple of weeks, it was lovely to be offered some products from Avon to try when I was in need of some pampering. I haven't ever used Avon before - my recollection of the brand was the Avon ladies who knocked at your door to sell you various products! Things have obviously moved on a lot since then, and Avon is constantly introducing new products on a par with the most innovative cosmetics brands. I was amazed at the prices too, there are loads of great offers so perfect for mums on a budget. Here's my thoughts on a few products that I have been trialling:

Advance Techniques Heat Protection Styler (currently £1.80) - this protects hair from heat damage caused by hair dryers and straighteners, both of which I use frequently! So it was perfect for me, detangling and protecting my hair without leaving it greasy.

Advance Techniques 360 Nourishment Moroccan Argan Oil (currently £3.30) - a leave in treatment, this serum is suitable for use on both wet and dry hair. I found it smoothed my hair and left it shinier without being too heavy. A tiny blob was just the right amount, so this is excellent value for money.

Advance Techniques Daily Shine Mirror Shine Spray (currently £1.99) - this lightweight spray made my fine hair look glossy without weighing it down. A bargain for less than £2, this could compete with products 5 times the price!

Naturals Cherry Blossom Daily Hair Refresher (currently £1.20) - I used this on second day hair before straightening. The smell was lovely and fresh, and my hair was smoother. Very useful for those days where you're in a rush with no time to wash your hair!

Soft & Glow Sunkissed Airbrush Spray (currently £2.60) - this self tan was easy to apply, with a pump action spray. It dried very quickly, so ideal for putting on before bed or getting dressed. The spray is clear, so you have to be careful that you don't apply it twice anywhere! After a couple of applications I had a light glow, so this product would be best suited to paler skintones.

Skin So Soft Original Dry Oil Spray (currently £1.99) - the smell of this reminded me of holidays, which is always a positive thing! It was absorbed very easily, leaving my skin soft and with a gorgeous sheen.

Solutions Truly Radiant Vibes Brightening Eye Roller (currently half price at £5) - any gadget fans will like this! It has a vibrating roller ball to smooth in the cream and illuminate the eye area, reducing the appearance of dark circles. The cream has a hint of colour so you can look like you've had your full 8 hours sleep even if it's not true....

Infinitize mascara (currently half price at £4.99) - this mascara contains lash sculpting, lengthening fibres and curling molecules to help shape and set lash curve and length for 24 hours. I found the brush very good at coating every lash, and it would be great for those with thick lashes who are looking for length and curl. My stumpy lashes needed a bit of extra help in the thickening department so this wasn't perfect for me, but definitely a good one for lash coverage and length!

Spectralash mascara (£10) - dial this up to control the amount of mascara loaded onto the brush, so you can decide whether you want a day or evening look. I used this on level 3, as I have short eyelashes that also need volume. I used 2 coats with no clumping and my lashes looked longer and thicker.

Ideal Flawless Skin Loving Beauty Balm (currently £6.99) - every make up brand has a BB cream now, and I have tried quite a few. I loved this one - the light coverage evened out my skin and gave it a healthy glow. The ivory shade was just right for my skin tone, as I often find similar products too orangey. This is easy to apply quickly, and with the addition of mascara and blusher you'll be good to go in a rush.

Glazewear Dazzle Lip Gloss (£6) - this lip gloss was light and non sticky, leaving my lips smooth with a natural looking shine. I tried shade Pink Radiance which is a pretty pale pink.

Naturals Kids Mango Body Wash and Bubble Bath (currently half price at £1.25) - this fruity bubble bath had a lovely smell. It produced lots of bubbles which baby J loved, and didn't dry out his skin. 

Fragrance Spritz (various scents - currently £2) - these sprays are suitable for home and body, so a good multi tasker! The spray gave the house a lovely smell without being overpowering or artificial. Good for those days where you have a guest over and no time to clean, as the freshness will distract from the dust on the coffee table...

If you fancy trying any of the above then it's easy to find your local Avon representative and order from the comfort of your sofa - just go to:

Or to browse new products:

Happy shopping!x

N.B. These samples were sent to me for free, but the review is impartial and all opinions are my own. Many thanks to Rhiannon at Avon.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Money no object?!

I was having a think recently about baby products that I could potentially buy if money was no object! The market for premium baby items seems to have boomed in the last few years - many parents go crazy for top end products for their off spring or follow what celebrities have bought. Here are a few things that I've spotted whilst browsing online (but not actually purchased in case you were wondering!)...

Anya Hindmarch Baby Emergency Kit (£275) - this luxurious piece of kit comes with a changing mat, and pre labelled compartments to keep all those essentials to hand.

Pacapod Coromandel leather changing bag (£195) - you would be hard pushed to tell this gorgeous tan leather bag is actually a changing bag! Complete with the signature pods and a changing mat, it has space for everything you need to keep you and baby happy on trips out.

Brora cashmere baby blanket (£139) - made of the finest Scottish cashmere, this will keep baby warm and cosy all year round.

4moms Mamaroo bouncer (£199.95) - this amazingly hi-tech bouncer copies the bouncing and swaying movements that a mother holding their baby would use. With 5 different (car ride, kangaroo, tree swing, rock-a-bye and ocean), this could be a godsend for the baby who won't settle unless they are being held!

Wishbone Flip (£104) - this 3 in 1 toy is a rocker, ride on and walker, so less clutter and more multi tasking. It looks great and is made from sustainably grown wood.

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Silver Cross Surf Aston Martin Limited Edition pushchair (£2000) - the ultimate in luxury pushchairs, Rochelle from The Saturdays is rumoured to have received this as a gift from one of the JLS boys. The chassis is aluminium and magnesium, while top grade leather has been used on the seat unit and carrycot. Unfortunately it looks as though this is already sold out, as only 800 were made to ensure exclusivity!

I'm sure there are many more out there - so keep those credit cards under control and remember the baby period is relatively short! However, if you really love something...x

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Born Free Product Review

I was recently lucky enough to be sent some samples to try from a company called Born Free, who produce a range of bottles, drinking cups and accessories for babies and toddlers. They were one of the first companies to develop products without the harmful chemicals BPA and PVC, providing parents with peace of mind when feeding their babies.

We firstly tried out the Born Free Training Cup, which is designed to help with the transition from bottle to cup. The spout is teething friendly, which baby J definitely made the most of! It has an ActiveFlow vent, which means that wind is reduced as the baby controls the flow of liquid. Initially Baby J was unsure about the training cup, which I think was down to the different look of the bottle compared to his usual brand. However, he subsequently took to it well, finding the handles easy to hold and the spout comfortable to drink from. There were no leaks when the cup was thrown around and it was easy to take apart and put together when washing.

The second product tested was the Born Free Twist'n Pop Straw Cup, which was the first straw cup that I had tried with baby J. I wasn't sure what he would make of it, but he was very interested and started drinking his water from it straight away. The ergonomic shape of the cup meant he could grasp it easily, and the silicone straw and air vent made it easy and comfortable for him to drink from. The cap twists to open and close the straw and keep it clean. I found that even when tipped upside down with the cap in the open position, no water leaked out. So no pools of water to mop up from the floor, or soaking your changing bag when out!

We really enjoyed trying out the Born Free products, they look stylish while being practical and functional for both mum and baby. I have put the link to the Born Free website below, which provides full information on all their products.

N.B. These samples were sent to me for free, but the review is impartial and all opinions are my own. Many thanks to Corinna at B Public Relations.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Ikea - not just flat pack hell...

When you think of Ikea, it often conjures up memories of bad experiences. Fighting your way through the crowds, arguing over which wardrobe to buy, and swearing as you realise the furniture you have just paid for is not going to fit in your car...

That aside, I have found Ikea great for children's toys and accessories since having baby J. My lovely sister bought him a selection of toys from there when he was born, and they are excellent value for money. It's hard to choose which to recommend as they are all great, but I have listed a few that should help babies and toddlers enjoy playtime even more than usual. If you can cheekily ask someone else heading there to get a few for you (therefore avoiding the chaos yourself) then even better!

Rocking moose £26 - this develops your child's sense of balance, but more importantly looks like great fun. Not a giant plastic eyesore in your living room either!

Bead maze £10 - pushing the beads around the maze is excellent for the development of fine motor skills.

Hammering block £8 - using the hammer to bang the pegs helps with developing those fine motor skills, along with hand/eye co-ordination.

Finger puppets £4 (for 10) - puppets are excellent for teaching babies about object permanence. When the puppet disappears and then returns, they learn that it still exists even when they cannot see it.

Vegetable set £7 - one for older toddlers, to encourage role play and imitation. Would be a lovely addition for a toddler who has a toy kitchen.

Farmyard set £20 - this also helps with role play skills, and recreates fun on the farm for animal lovers!

Train set £8 (20 pieces) - the Ikea train sets combine with other brands, so if you already have an expensive set you can add to it cheaply! Good for improving logical thinking skills.

Happy shopping! x

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Bathtime fun

Bath time can either be a source of fun or stress, depending on the mood of your baby! Initially baby J didn't like being bathed at all, and I dreaded the screams that would accompany it. After the first couple of weeks he started enjoying himself though, and bath time became a fun part of his evening routine. There were (and still are) a few things that made it easier for both of us, so here's a few recommendations:

Tippitoes Mini Bath - we used this for over 6 months, so it was really good value for money at £13.99. The support seat and foam headrest ensured baby J was comfortable, and made it easy for me to wash him while he splashed about.

Safety 1st Swivel Bath Seat - when baby J was around 6 months old, we moved him into the big bath with the use of this seat. As I often bath him on my own, this handy seat has helped me feel confident about keeping him upright and still having both hands free to wash him. He can splash around and play with his toys but without slipping over. The suction pads attach the seat securely to the bath, while it swivels for easy access to wash your baby. Around £8.95 from Amazon or John Lewis.

Bath thermometer - an essential for bath time, as a lot of new parents worry about getting the water just right! We found a cheap option as good as anything else around, a Duck Thermometer Card for around £4. Just dip it into the water and the liquid crystal display tells you with a minus sign, tick or plus sign whether the temperature is too cold, just right, or too hot.

Cussons Mum & Me products - obviously there are loads of baby products out there to choose from, but I really like this range. The products have always been great for baby J's skin, and I would recommend their baby bath and baby shampoo. These are frequently on offer in various supermarkets for half price, so if you wait until a baby event then you can stock up! I also like Asda Little Angels and Sainsburys Little Ones ranges, which again often have money off.

Baby towels - a soft towel is an essential to keep your baby dry and snuggly when they come out of the bath. You can obviously use any towel, but I like the hooded ones that Ikea do. They are a decent size, as some baby towels are so small that you only get a couple of months use out of them! The designs are cute and they are affordable at £7 each.

Bath toys - it wouldn't be as much fun without toys at bath time! When your baby is young, a few
simple toys usually do the trick. We have stacking cups, boats and ducks, which baby J loves playing with (and is usually still clutching one when he comes out of the bath!). I find that the supermarkets usually have a good range of these, and a brand called Munchkin has a wide range.

Happy bathing!


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Bargain summer toys

Just a quick post for anyone getting excited by the warmer weather and the prospect of their babies finally playing outside!

Asda have an offer on some of their toys at the moment, with 2 for £10 on selected items. A friend alerted me to it and I thought this ball pit and play tunnel were a bargain:,default,pd.html,default,pd.html

The balls are £4 for 100.

Delivery to store is free, can't wait to collect mine next week so fingers crossed the weather stays nice!


Friday, 19 April 2013

A capsule toy collection

It can be very tempting to get carried away with buying cute toys for your new baby - I developed a severe Lamaze habit after baby J was born that I've just about managed to kick. Buying too many toys can be dangerous for your bank balance, and there's no need when your baby is too young to exercise pester power in shops!

It's an old adage but the simple toys really are the best, and can be picked up inexpensively (or you can drop a few hints to those who want to buy presents!). Here's a few recommendations that we get out of the toy box every day, all priced under £10:

Stacking cups - babies love to watch you stack these up so they can knock them down, and as they get older will have lots of fun doing this themselves. We got a good set from Ikea, but you can get them from any large supermarket or baby store, usually for less than £5.

Rainmaker rattle - babies are fascinated by the movement and sound of these toys. I discovered at about 12 weeks old that baby J stopped crying if I started shaking it, so that's got to make it worth buying! Can't vouch for this working for everyone, but he now enjoys shaking it himself. Again, you can pick one up from the above mentioned places for under £5.,default,pd.html

Jingle ball - this has a bell inside, so it is nice and noisy to entertain babies, and encourages tummy time if you roll it in front of them. When they are older it is easy for them to grasp and shake. The Bright Starts flexi ball is around £3.50 from Amazon or Asda.

Links - sets of plastic links are great for your baby to chew on and the bright colours stimulate their vision. Handy to keep in your changing bag as an emergency toy! You can also use them to attach toys to a playgym or pushchair. These are easy to find in most supermarkets - we have the Bright Starts ones but these East Coast ones also come recommended. Expect to pay around £5 for a set.

Tomy Hide'n'Squeak Eggs - baby J was given these for his first Christmas, and a couple of months after that became fascinated with them. He likes chucking them out of the box and playing with each egg individually - they make cheeping noises when they are pressed which he likes! As your baby gets older they can sort the eggs according to shape and colour. A bargain at around £4.50 from Amazon.

Shape sorter - there are lots of these around, whether you want plastic or prefer wooden toys for your baby. These help with hand/eye co-ordination and fine motor skills. I really like the Ikea shape sorter which is a wooden house, and at £7 it is competitively priced.

Stacking rings - as with the shape sorters, you can buy lots of variations on this toy. Again this is good for co-ordination and also colour recognition. A friend has a lovely wooden magnetic version made by Tidlo, which is a classic that will be used for years and is a bargain at £9.99:

Lamaze toys - I couldn't finish without mentioning these, and nearly every mum I know has at least one! These are great for taking out and about, as they have a link that attaches them to a car seat handle or pushchair bumper bar. They are also great for customising your playgym. Lamaze toys all have bright contrasting colours and patterns, along with different sounds and textures to stimulate your baby's senses. Baby J's favourite has always been Captain Calamari! Around £7.50 from Amazon or baby shops like Mothercare or Kiddicare.

Happy shopping! x

Monday, 8 April 2013

Feeding time at the zoo

So you've survived the first 6 months and settled into some kind of routine with your baby...then weaning time arrives. I was surprised how quickly this came round, but it's always nice to be prepared when it does. I had been given advice by my health visitor on how to start the weaning process, but not what to buy! Here are a few products that I have found helpful over the last few months...

Brother Max Travel Bowl - this has been great for taking out and about with us. It has 2 sections for separating foods, a secure lid, and a flap in the lid to store a spoon in (2 small spoons are provided). Costs around £6 from Amazon or Superdrug.

Tommee Tippee Explora Heat Sensitive Spoons - before I bought these I thought that 'heat sensing' spoons were a bit of a gimmick! But these spoons are a good shape and size, and it is helpful that they change colour if food is too hot to remind you not to put it straight in your baby's mouth :-) You can get these for about £3.99 from supermarkets.

Tommee Tippee Roll n Go Bib - these bibs are made of rubber so don't stain or add to your pile of washing. The crumb/mess catcher is useful and they roll up easily for travelling (the clue is in the name!). Most supermarkets sell these for around £3.50, but they are often on offer when baby events take place.

Doidy Cup - when we first starting weaning, baby J would reject water from all beakers. I tried about 4 different brands and had no joy with any. Then I bought an open cup called a Doidy cup, and surprisingly he took to it straight away. If you don't mind getting a bit wet then I would recommend them! They cost around £3.75 from Amazon. The Tommee Tippee First Cup is also a nice simple beaker for when your baby starts drinking water with meals. It has a free flow spout as recommended by health professionals, and costs about £1.50 from various supermarkets.

Oxo Tot Snack Disc - this is a useful little pot for carrying snacks like rice cakes around with you. The lid is secure so no mess in your changing bag, and the pot is slim so it doesn't take up too much room. Around £4 from John Lewis or Amazon.

Annabel Karmel's New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner - I fancied making most of baby J's food myself, and this book has been excellent from starting weaning. Obviously you don't have to follow it precisely, but it gives ideas of which foods to start off with and how to build up to more adventurous meals week by week. I have tried quite a few of the recipes and they have all been well received by baby J!

Beaba Multi Portion Silicone Freezing Trays - these have been invaluable when cooking batches of food for baby J. They are just the right size for the first few months of weaning, and once you have frozen the food the portions pop out really easily. They are not the cheapest at around £7.50 but they are worth it - a lot of trays are hard plastic which makes it impossible to get food out once it has been frozen. Once your baby is eating bigger portions you can just use two cubes per meal instead of one.

Happy weaning! x

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Celebs and their pushchairs

A blog post to be taken with a pinch of salt as it is a shallow one! Being a bit of a celeb gossip lover, I always notice what pushchairs the celebrities are pushing now I'm a mum. If you've got the inclination and budget then here's the latest models and their celebrity fans:

4moms Origami £929 - Jennifer Garner's little boy Samuel looks comfy in this high-tech pushchair. It boasts an LCD dashboard, phone charger, and lights, whilst opening and closing itself at the touch of a button!

Bugaboo Cameleon Sahara Special Edition £929- this new limited edition from Bugaboo was snapped up by Fearne Cotton for her new baby Rex. I think if money was no object I might have one of these for baby J! In addition to the standard Cameleon features, it has a leather handle and soft quilted lining, and comes with a soft cable knit blanket.

Orbit Baby G2 £940 plus hood £59.95 - popular with US celebrities like Jessica Alba and Kourtney Kardashian, you either love or hate the Orbit's futuristic design (I'm not a fan!). It allows you to rotate your baby 360 degrees and has a one handed fold.

Bugaboo Bee £439 plus hood £39 - a favourite of the London and New York based celebrities, this is a great lightweight city pushchair. Sienna Miller has the All Black Special Edition Bee, while Victoria Beckham has the same model with yellow and pink hoods for her daughter.

Uppababy Vista £629.95 - again this is very popular in the US, with Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Jessica Parker choosing it for their offspring. It has a massive basket for any shopaholics out there...

icandy Peach £595 - if it's good enough for Harper Beckham...although icandy made one exclusively in lilac for her that isn't available to the rest of us!

Nuna Pepp £200 - seeing Miranda Kerr's gorgeous baby Flynn in one of these made me want one! Shame her supermodel figure doesn't come with it though...

Mima Kobi £950 - the sleek, modern pushchairs from Mima are relatively new to the market, but we will probably be seeing a lot more of them as various celebrities snap them up! Lily Allen is rumoured to have chosen this for her new baby Marnie.

Stokke Xplory £829 - another celebrity favourite due to it's stylish design, the USP of this pushchair is the high seat, which keeps your baby closer to you. Chantelle Houghton has one of these for her baby Dolly (don't let that put you off!) but action man Bruce Willis has also been seen pushing his daughter Mabel in one.

Happy shopping!


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Activity time

After a few weeks getting to know each other, I felt that baby J and I should get on the baby social scene. This isn't unlike the dating scene - you have to put yourself out there and if you find someone who is on your wavelength then ask them out for a coffee! Classes are a great way to make new friends and give a bit of structure to your week. There are a variety of different classes out there, so it is just a case of finding something that both you and your baby enjoy. You can often trial a class before signing up to the full number of sessions, which is a good idea as you can see if you like it before spending any money. I have tried quite a few different classes which vary in cost and content so hopefully some of my experiences will help you decide which is right for you...

Baby massage - this was the first class we did, from when baby J was a few weeks old. It was a great way of bonding and even though baby J was a bit unsure at first, once he got into it he seemed to enjoy himself! It is also nice to add this to their bedtime routine as massage seems to relax a lot of babies, especially if they have colic. We did a private class as a group of four at a friend's house, and a lady from a company called Blossom and Berry came to teach us for a four week course. Baby massage is a popular activity and so there are lots of different classes running at various venues, wherever you live. Ours cost £40 each but prices obviously vary depending on the length of the course and the location. If your baby has colic or any other issues, you can sometimes get a referral from your health visitor to free massage classes.

Buggybabies - we started Buggybabies classes when baby J was about 12 weeks old. I felt this was a good way for both of us to get some fresh air and for me to get some exercise! There is a lot of gorgeous countryside in the area where we live, and a group of us were put through our paces walking through fields and along footpaths, stopping along the way to do resistance exercises. Our class was run by a very experienced instructor called Jo, who ensured that the exercises were tailored to each individual where necessary, and that all were safe for ladies who had not long given birth! I also attended Jo's Fit4birth Pilates classes when pregnant, and these were also fab. The friends I made through these classes and Buggybabies are all lovely, and we socialise together with and without the babies. Buggy fitness classes are run in most areas and if you are a member of a gym it is worth checking to see if they have any that would be included in your membership. The classes I did are based in the Loughborough area,

Baby swimming - we tried a couple of baby swimming courses and enjoyed both of them. I have to say I preferred the one we did at a lovely hotel as the changing rooms were warm and spacious, as opposed to the first course in a freezing cold primary school! The content of the classes were very similar each week as obviously there is a limited amount you can do with young babies, but included singing, playing and different holds which all got the babies accustomed to the water. Prices are extremely varied on swimming classes - in my area it ranges from about £3.50 per class at the local leisure centre to £13 with a well known franchise.

Baby Sensory - I found these classes lovely for babies, as they are very well thought out with activities that stimulate every sense. Baby J always has a nice long sleep after his baby sensory class which is very welcome! Each class has a different theme so even if you sign up for a year, you shouldn't have the same one repeated. This is a franchise so covers a lot of the UK. The website explains classes in detail,

Surestart Centre classes - if you have a Surestart Centre near you then it is worth checking their timetable to see if they are running any baby groups that are aimed at your baby's age. These are usually free which is a bonus when you are on statutory maternity pay! We used to go to a group called Chatterbabies, aimed at 0-18 months where we sang and a did different activity each week such as hand painting or crafts. This class has now been cancelled and replaced with a similar group called Cherubs. I made some great friends at Chatterbabies and the babies always really enjoyed themselves.

Library groups - check at your local library to see if they offer any sessions for children, as many run story time or singing/playing groups. The class at my library is a mixture of singing and playing (with age appropriate toys, as the children range from approximately 6 months to 4 years). These classes are also free so worth trying out!

Playgroups - worth asking round for recommendations on the best playgroups in your town/village, as this kind of activity tends to rely on word of mouth. I found a lovely playgroup in my village which only costs 50p and includes a cup of tea bought to you - invaluable for mums! It's a nice way of catching up with friends while the babies play.

I found it hard to find anywhere that provided advice on baby activities in my local area, and discovered a lot of information from chatting to other mums. As I have mentioned, Surestart centres are a good place to start, and sometimes notice boards in your doctors surgery may have posters up. Your health visitor might also have suggestions of activities in your area, and can also be useful.


Friday, 15 March 2013

Goodbye handbag, hello changing bag...

One of the things that comes with being a mum is often the loss of your lovely fashionable handbags! They are stashed away and out comes a huge changing bag containing everything your baby could ever need. So it's always a good idea to find yourself a changing bag which fits in with your usual style as much as possible. There are loads out there but watch out, a lot of them are not that cheap. You will probably be using this bag every day for the best part of a year though, so think of it as an investment. I've put together a few ideas below on changing bags and what you should put in them!

Changing bags - the brands I would recommend are Pacapod, Oioi, Storksak and Yummy Mummy. These brands produce practical bags which include changing mats and insulated bottle holders but still provide a touch of style. Depending on your personal taste, you can get simple prints in grey or beige, or cute floral and cupcake prints. These brands can all be bought at John Lewis or good baby boutiques. I also found it helpful to keep an eye out on a website called, which has discounts on designer brands. I got a Pacapod and an Oioi bag and paid around half of the usual RRP for each of them.

Changing station or nappy wallet - these are smaller bags that you can take with you if you're popping out quickly, or keep within your changing bag to have everything to hand for a nappy change. Good brands for these are Skip Hop, Yummy Mummy and JJ Cole. Some of them have the changing mat as part of the bag, so you just unfold it and you've got your changing mat there and pockets for your nappies and wipes.

Mini packs of baby wipes - these are a lot less bulky than carrying round the full size packs so take up less room in your bag. Asda do these small travel size packs for around 50p.

Snooze shade - I keep one of these in my changing bag so if baby J wants a sleep while we are out, I can put the shade over his pushchair to ensure it is dark and he doesn't get distracted and grumpy when he is actually just tired! On a recent holiday to Norfolk this worked really well and we managed to have a few lunches out while he slept. Ideal if your baby is nosy or needs darkness to sleep well.

Small toys - it's always a good idea to keep a couple of toys in your changing bag and when your baby gets bored you can whip one of them out. I like the mini Lamaze toys and Nuby toys (which you can pick up from supermarkets and are often on offer). Colourful links will often entertain babies for a while and can be bought for less than £5.

These are just a few of the things that I would always keep in my bag - I haven't mentioned the obvious like a change of clothes, muslins etc! If I have missed your 'must have' let me know...

Sunday, 24 February 2013

One for the mums!

I recently started to think about my favourite time saving beauty buys since becoming a mum. Obviously there is no need to change your whole beauty regime, but sometimes when time is tight you need a few key products you can rely on to keep you feeling and looking good when you dash out of the door! Here are a few of my recommendations:

Batiste Dry Shampoo - this is a lifesaver when you don't have enough time to wash and dry your hair before going out. Just spray it on, give it a rub into the roots and brush it through. This is definitely my second day hair saviour! Around £3 from supermarkets, Boots or Superdrug.

Boots No.7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Gel and Day Cream - having previously bought my skincare product from one of the premium brands, I decided to give No.7 a try when I received a money off voucher at Boots. I was really impressed - the cleansing gel removes makeup brilliantly and left my skin feeling clean and soft. Followed up with the Day Cream, I only need these 2 steps to look after my skin. Boots are always doing £5 off skincare vouchers or 3 for 2 on No.7 products, so if you time it right you can grab yourself a bargain. At full price the cleansing gel is £9 and the day cream £12.50. The range includes products for normal/oily, normal/dry and very dry skin, so there is something for every skin type.

Tinted Moisturiser or BB cream - these are great for slapping on without too much effort, and give you a healthy glow. One product I love is Estée Lauder Sheer Tint Release Advanced Multi Protection Anti Oxidant Moisturiser SPF15 (bit of a mouthful!). However it is £36, so definitely one for Mother's Day/birthday/Christmas. It gives light coverage and makes you look like you've just had a lovely holiday in the sunshine! Alternatively I find the BB creams from L'Oreal and Maybelline are also good, and under £10.

Aldi Under Eye Concealer - surely the must have product for all mums who aren't getting enough sleep! I really like Aldi's Lacura concealer pen which is light reflecting and covers fine lines and wrinkles. A bargain at £3.59! I have tried expensive concealers in the past, but this does a great job without the high price tag.

Maybelline Dream Touch Blush - a dab of this gives you that healthy glow if you are feeling a bit washed out. I really like the berry and apricot shades, which are £6.49 each. Maybelline is often on 3 for 2 (currently on at Boots) so you can treat yourself without feeling guilty!

Clinique Chubby Sticks - great for putting on in a rush, these sticks are a cross between lip balm and lipstick. They give your lips a bit of colour without making you look too 'done'! They cost £16 so not cheap but I think they are worth it.

Neutrogena Hand Cream - my hands are looking terrible at the moment from the amount of time my hands spend in water, whether washing hands from changing nappies or washing up from baby J's meals. I tried this hand cream a few days ago and it has really helped - my hands are a lot softer and much less dry. I bought it for £2.50 from Boots, reduced from the usual £3.

Rimmel 60 Seconds Nail Polish (around £3.69) I tried this for the first time last week and was very impressed! I had pretty much given up on painting my nails as I never seemed to have time to wait ages for them to dry. As all mums know, there is always something you feel you should be doing rather than sitting down and relaxing! Then a friend suggested fast drying nail varnish so I gave it a go. I picked a bright red shade called Ready, Aim, Paint, which instantly glams up your nails for a night out. It does take a bit longer than 60 seconds to dry, but after a few minutes I could get on with my jobs or playing with Baby J without fear of smudges! It only lasts for a couple of days without chipping, but this is without a top coat or base coat which would probably prolong your manicure.

I would always put mascara on my 'must wear' beauty list, but I am still hunting for the perfect one. If anyone has any recommendations then it would be great to hear them!


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Early weeks

For my first post, I thought I should go back and start at the beginning...

Before Baby J was born, I felt I should get organised and buy everything I would need well in advance. I panicked that after he was born, I wouldn't have time or the inclination to do any shopping! Afterwards I realised that this was wrong - you don't actually need that much stuff in advance and the shops will still be there when you have the time and energy to venture out with your new baby. Online shopping has been invaluable for me as I can shop from the comfort of my sofa and compare prices to make sure my money is going as far as possible. Here are my useful items that helped me in the first few weeks/months as a mum:

Baby sleeping bags - once Baby J reached the required weight for these, they were really helpful in keeping him cosy and providing peace of mind for me. When I was using blankets/sheets, he would kick them off and I would worry about him getting cold, the blankets going over his face etc! I found the Gro Bag branded sleeping bags good, and you can often find these for half price in TK Maxx. You can also buy cheaper versions in the supermarkets, they usually start from as little as £10.

Gro Egg Room Thermometer - this looks good in any nursery, and at a glance you know if the temperature of the room is ok for your baby. It changes colour to let you know whether the room is too hot/too cold/just right so you can dress your baby accordingly and add or remove layers when putting them to bed. You can now buy Gro Egg shells for a few pounds so your Gro Egg has an identity such as a penguin, owl or monkey. My husband did think I was slightly crazy when I bought the monkey shell a few weeks ago but I have to say it does look cute!

Playgym - these are perfect for keeping your baby entertained from a very young age. I bought the Baby Einstein play gym for Baby J and he still loves it now at nearly 8 months old. It has lights and classical music which keeps him entertained. It costs around £50 new, but I
picked mine up on ebay for around a third of the price. Obviously there are lots of other options available - a few friends have the Fisher Price Rainforest play gym (again around £50) which I also hear good things about.

Cot mobile - this became part of baby J's bedtime routine, as it would be switched on every night when we took him into his nursery to put him in his cot. We chose the Fisher Price Rainforest Mobile (around £45), as it had classical tunes and soothing rainforest sounds. This has been great as the rainforest sounds settle him, and he associates these with sleep time. There are lots of different mobiles to choose from to co-ordinate with your nursery - I have also read good reviews of the Tiny Love Classic Mobile which costs around £30.

Baby Monitor - for a lot of parents this is one of the most important purchases as it provides peace of mind. There are a multitude of options to choose from, starting from a basic model up to an all
singing, all dancing movement and video monitor. We went for one of the Which best buys, an Avent Eco Dect model and this has been perfect for our needs. The sound quality is excellent, it has an intercom so you can talk to your baby (or tell your partner to get the dinner ready for when you finish the last feed!) and has a nightlight and lullabies. We were also lent an Angelcare movement monitor but I could never get it to work! However I know a lot of friends highly rate the movement and video monitors which obviously tend to be at the top of the price range for baby monitors.

Baby bath - I found it much easier to use one of these rather than putting Baby J in the big bath. In fact we like it so much that he is still in it, although we need to make the move to the big bath so he has more space to kick! The Tippitoes Mini Bath (around £14) was comfortable and supportive, so It was easy to bath Baby J even if I was on my own.

Muslin cloths - boring but essential! These are a staple for most mums, as they can be used for wiping up milk dribbles/baby sick, can be used as a cover up when breastfeeding, or as a comforter for your baby. Baby J loves to have his with him whenever he has a nap which has proved to be a cheap and easy way of settling him, with the bonus that I never have to worry about losing one as it can be quickly replaced! I bought packs from Asda and John Lewis for a few pounds and I think this is one item where quality does not matter so much.

None of these things are essential, but they were great for me in the first few weeks and months. Would love to hear what anyone else would recommend to help other mums!