Mellow Mummy: 2010 : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Birth Rituals Around The Globe

At this time, when we celebrate the start of a new year and our festivities have their roots in the birth of a very special child, it seems fitting that Pampers and UNICEF have commissioned some research into the rituals and celebrations surrounding the birth of children the world over.

Did you know that in Zambia, a baby is asked what they want to be called? The elders offer the child a name, and if the child sleeps through the night, then they are considered to have accepted their new name, if they don't then a new name is offered until the baby sleeps peacefully through the night.

In Cambodia, the mother of a newborn is 'roasted' above a charcoal fire! The traditional ang ploeng ritual requires that the mother sleep in a bed about 1m from the ground above a fire and is believed to increase blood circulation to help the healing process, to make their skin more beautiful and to give them energy for the months to come.


The Maasai people of Tanzania and Kenya try to compensate the mother for the pain of childhood through a number of rituals during a two-day celebration during which, only women may eat meat and only the mother and her child may open and close the gate to their settlement.

The Wolof people of Senegal require that the mother of a newborn child must perform the 'rite of jumping'; The mother must jump over a fire in four different directions before she may sit down after the birth, then the midwife will hold out the child three times and let the mother take the baby on the fourth time. The ritual is believed to prevent madness.

There really are some fascinating ways of celebrating birth, naming babies and offering thanks and many cultures approach pregnancy and birth in differing ways – it make the NHS hospital bed and intermittent health visitor appointments seem very mundane.

Pampers has been working with UNICEF, an organisation which helps traditions like these stay alive. If you would like to be a part of this great partnership then you can support the 1 pack=1 vaccine campaign where, for every pack of Pampers which is bought they will donate a vaccination against tetanus.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Sunday Review - Alva Coleur Make Up

During the Christmas party season, I thought I would try out a new brand of make-up. Until now, it hadn't really mattered to me whether or not my make-up was organic, but organic cosmetics are becoming increasingly more available so I gave Alva COLEUR a whirl!

I tried out a very dashing slightly sparkly purple liquid eyeshadow from mypure. I can't say that I am totally won over by the concept of liquid eyeshadow - one of the things I love most about eye shadows is the ability to make some very subtle blends of shades across the eyelid but with a liquid eyeshadow it is hard to blend colours and the whole effect seems a bit flat. The sparkliness of the Alva COLEUR liquid eyeshadow does compensate for this a bit and I must admit that it does offer good coverage of the eye and the liquid dried surprisingly quickly.

I really liked the colours available for the liquid eyeshadows. The lilac in particular is a colour which can be bright and snazzy when you need it to be, but pastley and girly at other times.

I also tried out the Alva COLEUR Baked Foundation Powder. After my recent makeover experience in London, I decided to give founation another chance. I've never been a big fan - partly because I don't have much to cover (I like my own face as my base) and partly because I don't like the cakey, cloying feeling of having my whole face covered in powder.

Thankfully, after wearing this foundation powder all night, my face wasn't cakey, or cloyey! In fact, I had totally forgotten I was wearing it and my face wasn't shiny at all, it was still smooth and matt. I was astonished!

I found the Baked foundation powder quite firm and hard to loosen enough to be able to put onto a brush or sponge pad but perhaps that it is a good thing - it means you use less of it. It comes with its own separate compartment for a sponge pad. I found it easy to blend and incredibly subtle in colour (which is just what I was looking for)

The Alva COLEUR baked foundation powder is made from all sorts of natural goodies such as Macadamia nut oil and evening primrose oil so is also suitable for sensitive skin. I still don't think I love it enough to wear foundation regularly but for special occasions such as parties, I think that this brand is just my kind of thing.

The Baked Foundation powder costs £16.60 from and the liquid eyeshadow costs £9.70.

The Sunday Review - Renolux Next Confort Group 1 Car Seat

This post was first published in November 2010 on ParentWheels

The Renolux Next Confort car seat is a Group 1 car seat but if you read the instructions carefully you will find that it 'can' be fitted as a group 0 rear-facing seat too although they don't sell it as such.

The seat is enormous. So much so, that I really struggled to get my daughter in through the car door and onto the seat. On the times when I didn't bang her head against the door, I banged my own! The seat sits very high up on it's massive steel base, unlike anything else I have tried.

The Renolux Next Confort seat does have a technical design that I want to love - it is made from a high-resistance steel base with a high-density polyurethane filling making it far more like a normal adult car seat and able of greater impact absorption than traditional plastic bucket seats. It all sounds great, and the kind of safety that you want in your car but the price you have to pay is bulk and weight. It took two people to carry the Renolux Next Confort seat out to our car!

We didn't find the seat easy to fit (although the instructions were surprisingly clear given that they were clearly translated into English). There were large numbers of expletives uttered.

Once fitted, I found the straps disappointing. Although the buckle was easy to fasten and undo, I felt that the straps were floppy, made of poor quality material and were prone to twisting (resulting in yet more expletives).

My first impression of the seat cover is that it was soft and inviting (it had fluffy velvety patches and a very comfy looking head insert for younger children). On closer inspection, I was disappointed with the fabric quality and found many loose threads dangling off it.

It is worth noting that the other mums and dad's who tested with me didn't struggle as much as I did with the Renolux Next Confort.

Image courtesy of amazon

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Sunday Review – Center Parcs Aqua Sana Day Spa

Tucked deep in the magical wintery forest of Longleat, snuggled alongside the Center Parcs holiday resort is a closely kept secret - a luxurious spa. The Aqua Sana spa is open to residents of the holiday park but you may be surprised to learn that you don't need to be a guest at Center Parcs to book a day spa or spa break at Aqua Sana.

This week Mr. B and I spent a relaxing day recovering from our winter colds at the Aqua Sana spa in Center Parcs, Longleat. Our day started with some treatments. From the very moment we stepped into the spa we felt pampered – waiting for our treatments we snuggled up in our towelling robes on huge comfy chairs in a dimly lit mellow room with complimentary teas and waters available. The staff, from the outset, were polite and attentive.

Mr. B. mellowed out with a men's back, neck and shoulder massage. As someone who spends all day in front of a computer, this really is the best way to rub away the stresses of work. Mr. b. particularly enjoyed the cooling gel rub which was fresh and invigorating.

I treated myself to a Decleor Classic facial which lasted a whole hour. Starting with a fragrant back and shoulder massage I then snuggled under a warm, heavy duvet for the facial. The facial was tailored to the exact needs of my skin with a thorough cleanse, tone, exfoliation and masque using the wonderful plant- and flower-based Decleor products. Then came the application of the trademark element of a Decleor facial – the warm, heavy oaty masque which plunges you into darkness. After application of a gentle moisturiser I adjourned to the relaxation room to drink fresh water and lie in silence watching the rabbits frolic in the gardens and the squirrels jump through the trees! The quality of the facilities such as this relaxation room and the Elemis cosmetics in the changing rooms really do make Aqua Sana stand out from the other UK spas where the pre- and post- treatment areas can sometimes feel crowded and impersonal and 'own-brand' cosmetics are of an inferior standard.

After lunch (which you can enjoy for free in the Zilli cafe as part of your day spa package), we spent the afternoon enjoying the luxurious delights of the spa itself.

The spa is quite honestly, the most impressive I have ever visited in terms of the range and quality of the facilities. With steam rooms and relaxation rooms to suit all tastes, we were spoiled for choice. We started in the Japanese Salt Steam room and then after a refreshing tropical shower, moved onto the Greek Herbal room which smelled nice, but lacked impact. I think we both enjoyed the Balinese multi-steam room best for the instant impact of the hot, aromatic steam but the menthol heat of the Turkish Hammam came close!

In between visits to the other fragrant steam rooms, the sauna and the sanarium we took quick dips in the small outdoor pool which was great fun as the water steamed impressively in the icy winter air. The meditation rooms were quiet and underused so great places to chill out. During the day, complimentary foot, hand or head massages were on offer to people resting on the recliners at the side of the pool and short demonstrations of products took place. I found that there was always at least one member of staff available to answer questions about the facilities or to offer advice on what to visit next!

I really appreciated the fact that all the facilities in the spa were unisex. Generally, when I visit a day spa, I visit with my husband and it often disappoints me to have to spend much of my day apart from him in single-sex saunas, steam rooms or plunge pools.

I felt that the spa could have benefited from a few more pools. Perhaps a small hydrotherapy or thalassotherapy pool, or even just a plain rectangular pool to pootle up and down in (and make yourself feel like you are doing some exercise!). I also felt that the Zilli cafe lacked atmosphere and could have been made more central to the spa itself. If I choose to spend a whole day at a spa, I often like to curl up on a recliner with a cup of tea or a fruit juice and a good magazine but at Aqua Sana, Longleat, I felt the café was a bit too disjointed from the spa to encourage me to get up and buy a cuppa.

After clearing our poorly sinuses in the numerous steam rooms, Mr. B. and I snuggled up under a duvet in a quiet corner of the spa and very nearly fell asleep. It was as relaxing and mellow as you can possibly imagine! I really think that Aqua Sana Longleat is the best quality day spa I have ever visited and the prices for day spas and spa breaks are incredible value for money.

Remember you don't have to be a short-break guest at Center Parcs to enjoy the luxury of Aqua Sana. Spa Days, breaks and treatments can be booked online at .

Images courtesy of Center Parcs

The Sunday Review - Britax Evolva Group 1-2-3 Car Seat Review

This post was first published on in November 2010.

I get a lot of opportunities to review child car seats which is why it is so significant that the Britax Evolva Group 1,2,3 Car Seat is the one that I chose to spend my own money on recently when I bought a car seat for my parent's car (the grandparents).

I chose the Britax Evolva for the following reasons.

  1. I am continually impressed by the quality of materials of Britax products

  2. It is a brand I know well and trust

  3. A Group 1,2,3 car seat lasts from 9 months right up until 12 years. This means it is good value for money as I shan't need to buy a new one for my parent's car, ever.

The Britax Evolva is ever so slightly tricky to install. It requires you to pass your car's 3-point seat belt, folded, through two holes on the back of the base. Our first few attempts at this were quite stressful, partly because the cars we tried it in had short belts that offered little flexibility during installation, but partly because of unfamiliarity. Since then we have taken the seat with us abroad and have had to fit it and remove it from taxis and hire cars so have become quite accomplished at it – it gets easier and, as ever, Britax do offer red guides on the seat base to help you through the installation process.

Once installed, the Britax Evolva car seat is very easy to use. The belts are well padded and release easily. The belts loosen from around the chest and I found the belt fitting and tightening to be intuitive. The headrest is very easy to move up and down and offers great padding around the head.

The fabric of the seat is very high quality and looks really smart. As your child grows older the seat adapts to them. After Group 1, the integral harness is removed and the seat is used with your car's normal seat belt.

The only thing I don't rate on the Britax Evolva is the cup holders on each side of the base. Maybe it is useful for children to have somewhere to stash their drink, but to me it reminds me of people-carriers in the USA with integral cup holders to hold the super-size sugar-laden soda drinks, not really what I am planning for my toddler.

Image courtesy of Britax.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

I Miss My Wheelie Bin!

I feel like I've returned to the dark ages. Two months ago I moved to Wokingham where the council tax is just about the highest in the goddam country and yet here I am with black plastic bags and a box overflowing with damp paper and cardboard.

In Bracknell, where I used to live, I now realise I was spoilt. We had 3 wheelie bins, one for normal waste, one for paper/card/plastic/cans and one for green garden waste. In an effort to encourage people to reduce their waste, Bracknell moved to alternate bin collections around 2 years ago. After initial uproar, I think people got used to it. It never bothered me as even after Lara was born, we had barely produced enough rubbish to fill our normal wheelie bin each fortnight. In fact, every 2 weeks for our recycling collection was actually what I worried about and we would sometimes struggle to fit all our recycling in. It doesn't take a lot to reduce your waste, just a few small things such as leaving bulky packaging at the shop (which you are perfectly within your right to do). We use reusable nappies so don't have much nappy waste and we compost all of our kitchen waste so after that, there isn't much else to throw away other than food packaging (which is slowly beginning to reduce).

So now I live in an affluent, expensive town, I would have expected similar waste services but somehow Wokingham hasn't quite caught up. Within one week of living here, we had our black bin bags torn to shreds by foxes or cats with rubbish lying all over the road. Instead of wheeling out our bins each week, we have to either struggle with a normal bin (no lids allowed, the binmen get grumpy with that) or else lug wet, stinky bags to the front garden each week. Our normal waste gets collected each week and our recycling and green waste is alternated. Next spring this will change and recycling will be collected every week - yay!

Our recycling goes into plastic boxes (of which we have a very long row outside our house). The boxes have no lids and fill with leaves and water. I wouldn't like to have to empty them.

Our green waste goes into bags (whose contents blow away in the wind). Next spring, according to a recent leaflet, our green waste bags will be replaced by wheelie bins. Now, this is great news and I'm happy to fork out for a bin BUT what I really want is wheelie bins for my normal household waste and my recycling.

I long for somewhere dry to put my waste and somewhere that is inaccessible to animals. Somewhere that it is easy for me to put out my waste each week.

But no, Wokingham council have stated that for the forseeable future they will not introduce wheelie bins; one of the reasons for this is that they are unsightly and will litter our pavements. Errr????? you mean more unsightly than the black bags along the pavement and the bits of rubbish the cats have torn out of them? And, if they're that unsightly, then how come we're going to get them for green waste?

I don't get it.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Porridge Gate Returns - Meet The Good Guys

A few weeks ago I had a little rant about Blueberry 'flavoured' Paw Ridge children's porridge. My rant was driven by their claims of '100% natural ingredients' which didn't mention where the blueberry flavour had come from, and a whopping 12% sugar, most of which wasn't naturally occurring and had, for some reason, been added as a major ingredient to what was otherwise a healthy food stuff.

As a result of my rant, I was contacted by Rude Health to see if Lara and I wanted to put their organic fruity porridge through our rigourous Mother & Baby tests! I had previously tried some of the Rude Health's museli products, some of which I loved, some of which I managed to offload on my work colleagues because I didn't like the chunky bits!

We tried the Rude Health Fruity Date Porridge, and loved it!

After my previous porridge experience, the first thing I did was check the ingredients. The box contains the following... oats, more oats, oatmeal, dates (12%), apricots, apple, ground apple and cinnamon. Now, that really is 100% natural ingredients and there is nothing disguised with fancy names.

I then checked the nutritional content. Interestingly, it is actually higher in sugar than the Blueberry Paw Ridge but that's to be expected... with this amount of fruit inside the porridge, this is how much naturally-occuring sugar I would expect. There is no added, refined sugar, just that which is contained in the dried fruit.

For this reason, I would never expect to give Lara a huuuuuge bowl of this porridge for breakfast but I wouldn't have any problem giving it to her in small amounts. I know that with a bowl of fruity date porridge then she probably won't need one of the other pieces of fruit that I would normally offer her later in the day. At 16% sugar it is still significantly lower than most "children's cereals" which often come in at between 25 and 37% sugar.

The Rude Health porridge passed Lara's test. She eats it with as much enthusiasm as her other breakfast cereals (which is not that enthusiastically at present as she seems to have gone of the idea of breakfast at present, but things change and she'll be back to breakfasts soon). I wasn't sure I was going to be as much of a fan as I tend to go 'bluergh' to anything that tastes strongly of cinnamon.

Surprisingly, I actually feel that the level of cinnamon is JUST RIGHT. There is just enough for it to taste wintery and warming and I think I'd miss it if it weren't there. The porridge is no more difficult to cook than the finely milled Paw Ridge we tried the other day - it cooks in 3 minutes in the microwave but Mr. B. insists it tastes better when cooked on the stove.

I love the pieces of date and apricot in the porridge, it makes it so much more interesting than a normal plain bowl full of porridge oats.

Rude Health, thank you for proving that porridge can be tasty and healthy.

Monday, 13 December 2010

The Christmas Party Outfit Revealed!

As promised, here is a picture of me in the Christmas Party Outfit I described to you for the Tesco Clothing competition I ran a little while back - my outfit for under £50!.

I matched the outfit with the Laura Ashley pearl set that I won from MumsLikeYou and a pair of tights from

For reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I have a mild fear of tights which is silly because they always make my long legs look pretty damn good! I so rarely wear tights that it is hard for me to choose them so I welcomed some help from lingerieplease. I'm sporting a pair of 30 denier semi-opaque tights by Charnos. They are JUST about long enough for me at 6ft. I was pleasantly surprised that the Charnos tights kept my legs warm (usually I worry about chilly legs when I'm not wearing jeans!). I found them to be very strong, and not delicate (delicate tights and long fingernails don't mix well).

Charnos are a great brand for hosiery - it is the brand I chose for my wedding outfit. LingeriePlease have a wide range of hosiery for all tastes and occasions, including bridal wear and party wear. They charge a flat rate of £2.95 for delivery in the UK which can work out really good value for money if you are ordering several items.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Sunday Review - Slendertone FACE

You probably all recognise the Slendertone muscle-toning belts for perfect abdominal muscles but did you know that Slendertone make a facial muscle toner too? I have been trialling the shiny new Slendertone FACE for very nearly two months now and it has become part of my weekly routine.

About 3 or 4 times a week I use my Slendertone FACE just before I get ready for bed to exercise those pesky facial muscles responsible for making us look that little bit older. The FACE product is designed to target the muscles just under the skin of the face that stretch from the lips to the cheek (the ones whose positions govern where our wrinkles appear) and attempts to stimulate them in such a way as to prevent the impression of a saggy face.

I can't say that wearing the Slendertone FACE makes me feel elegant in any way. It makes Mr. B. laugh every time he sees me!

I am, however, impressed with the results. After just two months I really can notice a difference. I don't think it is a dramatic difference that others would notice but when I look in the mirror, I can see a little bit more shape around my cheekbones – it makes me feel good.

I have a philosophy about the Slendertone FACE that it is like a good cleanser, toner and moisturiser. Ever since I was a young teen I have had a cleanse/tone/moisturise routine that is just part of my life and I like to think that it has done me good. There is no way for me to tell whether my skin would be as lovely (!) had I not had the routine for the last 15-20 years but I'm confident it was and still is the right thing to do. The same goes for the Slendertone... I really think you could build this into your daily routine so that it is simply part of your life and several years down the line you would be incredibly grateful and REALLY see the benefits it has brought.

The Slendertone FACE is astonishingly compact and easy to use. There is a tiny hand-held electronic device which you charge up from the mains (my charge lasted me about a month!). To start the treatment you place a headseat around the back of your head and rest the electronic pads on the top of your cheeks. Each pad has a small gel pad to cover it and safely transmit the electronic pulse to your muscle. The unit has 3 different settings – a 10 minute treatment, a 15 minute and a 20 minute workout, one for relaxing, one for zuzzing yourself up a bit before a night out, and one for really working those muscles!

You are totally in control of the level of the electronic pulse and can change the power quickly using the buttons on the unit. I managed to get to level 37 out of 100 after a few weeks of getting used to it. I had been planning on doing a Jackass style video of me trying to get Mr. B. to use the FACE at level 100 but I thought that might be a bit irresponsible!

The Slendertone FACE has an RRP of £300 with sets of replacement pads costing £20 for 12 week's worth. It is, no doubt, the most expensive facial gadget I've ever laid eyes on but compared to the cost of a facelift in the future, or other cosmetic treatment, I think its a far better investment in my future if I really can integrate it into my daily routine. You can buy the Slendertone FACE at Harrods or

I know it's shallow but it comes in a gorgeous presentation box that really makes it feel like a luxury product and it is incredibly exciting to open it up and see the wonders inside! The product comes in either black or white and is suitable for women or men.

Promotional Images courtesy of MSL Worldwide

The Sunday Review - L'Oreal Revitalift

This week I have a guest review from Jane Willis from The Competition Grapevine (aka my Mum) of L'Oreal's Revitalift Moisturiser for 40+ skin.

I have been using this for several weeks now and have not found any significant change in my skin. My usual cream is L'Oreal Age-Reperfect so I presume the active ingredients are very similar. The Revitalift cream seemed to be slightly heavier on my skin and not quite so easily absorbed - an advantage at night, but the very slight residue it left made it less suitable for day time use,especially as I am a spectacle wearer and find cream residue around the outer eye area can smear my glasses.

One thing I did particularly like about the cream was the fragrance. When I was in my teens, I already had dry skin so while friends were trying the latest anti-grease ands pot treatments, I was already buying moisturiser. As soon as I opened the Revitalift jar I was taken back to the smell of my first ever moisturiser. I can't remember the brand name but there was a very 1960s style dolly-bird face on the jar!

Overall I prefer Age-Reperfect but wouldn't rule out buying Revitalift in the future

Image courtesy of L'oreal

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Making Bathtimes Funtimes with CuddleMat

As a Mummy, part of my mellow routine is long hot soak in a nice-smelling bath. To me, bathtime is chillout time.

Very soon after Lara was born we worked out that for Lara, bathtime is not a chillout time. To start off with, bathtimes were 'scream very loudly and get very worked up – times'. Over the months we did manage to calm her down somewhat by joining her in the bath – an annoying habit that we have yet to break. So these days we try and make bathtimes funtimes!

We have plenty of bath toys that Lara plays with. Our Brother Max toys have been a firm favourite but Lara is slowly beginning to lose interest in favour of her Bob The Builder car wash which attaches to the side of the bath.

One of the other ways we entertain her is with bubbles. With Lara's sensitive skin, I have to be a bit careful with bubbles. We've tried all sorts of organic and sensitive skin products which are lovely but my current favourite is the Boots Dreamtime calming bubble bath which is not organic or paraben-free but is hypoallergenic, smells great and has an added bonus – I'm convinced that ist helps us with the wind-down after bathtime ready for bed.

These days Lara quite enjoys her baths, in fact, the screaming starts when the fun stops and she has to get out of the bath. It seems such a shame, having worked out how to make the actual bathtime lots of fun, that the whole process has to end in tears.

Last week we became the proud owners of a brand new Cuddlemat from Cuddledry. The colour-changing bathmat is the answer to our problem! We have a purple bath mat which changes colour to a rather striking shade of neon pink when you dribble hot water on it! It is great fun for Lara (and Mummy and Daddy) when she gets out of the bath because she can see her wet footprints make coloured patterns on the mat. She is so busy making footprints that she doesn't notice us wrapping her up in a towel and drying her!.

Our splattery creation!

Now that she knows what it does, Lara pokes her head over the side of the bath and splatters water over the mat to make even more splodgy patterns! I'm really glad we've found something that can extend the funtime of bathtime even when Lara is out of the water.

The Cuddlemat is made from 100% cotton and the colour-changing effect won't diminish through a normal washing cycle. At £14.99 I think it would make a wonderful gift for any family and I really can't recommend it enough – great fun!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

When Does A Mummy Have Time To Be Ill?

Over the past month I have had a cold, then Mr. B. had a cold, then Lara got a horrid vomit virus which scared the hell out of us, followed by a horrendous cold. Finally, last week I caught the dreaded virus off her. It has been one thing after another.

In the olden days (pre-Lara), if I were ill, I'd take a day, maybe two, off work; curl up in bed and get myself better. These days I just can't do that. In the past year since returning to work after maternity leave, I have taken 1.5 days off work due to illness and another 0.5 due to Lara's illness. Even this makes me feel guilty.

But it's not the guilt or disappointment of missing work that bothers me, it is the fact that, even when I am so ill that I can't face a day in the office, I still have to be a mummy. There isn't any option not to be a mummy. You can't take a day off motherhood. So, at 7am I drag myself out of bed to get Lara up, dressed and fed before Mr. B. takes her to the childminder and then again in the evening I snuggle up with her on the sofa while Mr. B. makes the dinner.

Last week I was so ill that I simply couldn't do the snuggling bit. I couldn't get out of bed, and when I did (several times in the night to deal with a snotty daughter) I felt rough as... It is a helpless feeling of total inadequacy so I am thankful that I have a lovely, helpful husband who can take over, and some fabby parents who can step in too.

All this raises the question though, do you have the time to be ill?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Are Pants More Important Than Make Up? Discuss

I don't wear make-up to work. Does this make me weird? According to a recent survey by Sheer Cover mineral make-up, most women would rather leave the house without their underwear on than without their make-up on! Err... ok.

Now, I love a good Christmas Party and one of the things I most enjoy is getting glammed up. I have a collection of make-up that I enjoy experimenting with and can work wonders with; party is a great excuse to have a good play with all of my exciting products. But, this is one of the main reasons why I don't wear make-up every day of the week. If I did, then it wouldn't be so much fun getting ready for a good party, would it?

Sheer Cover's study revealed that of 100 women asked, 32% of them would rather go to a party without their underwear, coat, or any friends than they would go without their make-up. Half of the respondents said that they go the extra mile at Christmas when it comes to slapping on make-up.

The silly thing is that at this time of year, there are so many other things that can cause havoc with your skin, that piling on EXTRA make-up is just a recipe for a facial disaster. I consider myself to have pretty damn fabulous skin most of the year and the fact that I am sparing with my make up is a major contributing factor. With the drying effects of the cold weather and the inevitable increase in alcohol consumption that Christmas brings, what I want is a subtle, gentle way of making myself look party-ready.

My skin concerns are reflected by Armand Beasley (make up artist to the stars and general glamour guru) who has been enlisted by Sheer Cover to offer some tips (which you can read here) on how to look fabulous during the party season without putting your skin through hell.

A couple of weeks ago I was treated to a Sheer Cover makeover in London which made me look... well... grown up. I didn't need converting to mineral make-up – I've been using it ever since my wedding make-up artist introduced me to it, but if you don't already know, mineral make-up is fab for several reasons.
  • It is incredibly long lasting so you don't need to keep topping it up

  • Mineral-based face powders absorb oil from your skin so you don't look shiny in photographs

  • The colour from eyeshadows and blushes remains vibrant for a lot longer

  • Mineral eyeshadows applies more smoothly than other eyeshadows I've tried

My favourite products from the Sheer Cover range were the Sheer Cover base protector which made my skin feel flawless before putting on any make up at all, and the Sheer Cover Modern Neutrals Lip Gloss collection – the colours are perfect on me and they last for hours and hours.

So, I am kitted up for my Christmas Party on Saturday but I still refuse to wear make-up to work. I work in an all-male office and despite Sheer Cover's research demonstrating that most blokes lie when they say that they prefer women with a natural look... I am not going to start wearing make up to work to impress them! I will continue to wear underwear though. Just to make things clear.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Who Steals A Buggy?

Bugg theft is a real issue for many UK parents. According to recent research from Halifax Home Insurance, there has been a worrying increase in the number of reported buggy thefts as buggies and pushchairs become increasingly expensive and more desirable.

We had to get my parents to help us out with the purchase of a travel system for Lara – it is a big expense. A buggy or travel system can often be the single most expensive item of baby equipment that you buy and with the price of travel systems often pushing through the £500 barrier, it is no surprise that there is a growing black market for second-hand buggies.

I do understand that financial pressures may drive people to buy second-hand buggies from unknown, or disreputable sources but I just can't get into the mind of anyone who would steal a pushchair from a mum or dad. Given the estimated 315,000 buggy thefts per year, people obviously do.

When I am at a park or playground where I have to leave my buggy outside, I often worry about abandoning it because it is tricky to keep an eye on a pushchair and a toddler at the same time. Occasionally, when I visit places such as Legoland where I have no choice but to leave my buggy unattended, I deliberately take my less pricey umbrella pushchair because I am uncomfortable leaving my buggy free for anyone to nab. The Halifax research revealed that at home, or just outside your home was the most common place for your buggy to be nicked, but cafes, shopping centres and car parks also featured highly.

I have been trialling the My Buggy Buddy Lock which is designed to make it harder for thieves to take your buggy. It is a dead simple combination lock that is very fast to apply. I slip it over the main handle bar of my Mothercare Mychoice (it matches the handle wonderfully) or around the frame of my Maclaren. When I have to leave my buggy for even a few moments, I can find somewhere to hook the clip onto, snap it shut and turn the combination. Easy. I've used it on park railings and outside supermarkets but I recently saw someone in a cafe attach their My Buggy Buddy lock to a spare chair while they popped to the baby change – if someone really wanted to steal their Buggaboo then they would have had to take the chair with them!

We also have a My Buggy Buddy Clip which is a similar shape. It is designed as a more sturdy, secure way of attaching bags to your buggy. It won't solve your weight distribution problems but it is certainly a more effective way of clipping shopping to your buggy handles than the little plastic clips you can buy. I didn't find the My Buggy Buddy Clip so much of a lifesaver on my Maclaren because it is actually quite easy to hang bags from the individual handles on this, but with my Mothercare MyChoice which has a single bar across the top, it is a lifesaver. I have always struggled with bags on the handle bar and have tried several brands of plastic clip which all pop off or fall off with the weight of the bag. This buggy clip can't fall off or pop off and I can put it anywhere across the width of the handle bar.

The My Buggy Buggy Lock is available for £8.49 and the My Buggy Buddy Clip for £5.99 from

Images courtesy of threepipe

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Sunday Review – Mummy Mitts

Over the last few days, I've had plenty of use for my new Mummy Mitts and they've done their job well. Mummy Mitts (as featured on Dragons Den!) are mittens which attach to the handle bars of your pushchair or pram.

As Mr. B. pointed out to me, motorcyclists have had something similar for years. A pair of mittens which you simply slip your hands into and which, being attached to the handle-bars, you know won't fall out of a pocket, or off the roof of the buggy. I found the Mummy Mitts most useful when shopping... it drives me mad that I NEED a pair of gloves on when pushing the pushchair as otherwise my fingers turn blue and drop off (ok, nearly drop off), but that when I go into a shop, I need to faff about taking the gloves off to open my purse or look at things on the shelf. With the Mummy Mitts I simply slip my hands out, do my thing, then slip them back in again, exactly where I left off.

I found the Mummy Mitts a little less useful at the park where I wanted to keep them on all the time and had to take one hand out in order to undo the velcro around the buggy handle-bars. I think I'd revert to normal gloves in this scenario. I also found that the mittens didn't work so well on the Maclaren compared to the Mothercare Mychoice because of the location of the handles. When the handle-bar is directly in front of you then it is dead easy to slip your hands in and out but on the Maclaren, the handles are actually at an angle and it doesn't feel instinctive to slip your hands into the Mummy Mitts at this angle.

I like the Mitts themselves. They look smart and not too girly. They are made from a wind-proof fabric that keeps my hands really toasty warm and I am pleasantly surprised (as a lady with very long fingers) at how spacious the mittens are. I would say they could do with being a tad tighter around the wrist to help prevent nasty draughts, but that may just be BECAUSE my hands are longer than most.

At £17.99 from they would make a great Christmas gift for a chilly mummy (and there is free P&P until December 10th)! You can also buy matching Bubby Mitts so your little one can look just like you!

Images courtesy of Mummy Mitts

The Sunday Review - Britax King Plus Group 1 Car Seat Review

This post was first published on in October 2010.

We recently tried out the Britax King Plus Group 1 car seat with our 1 year old daughter. As a group 1 car seat it is forward-facing and is suitable from about 9 months to 4 years old.

The Britax King Plus is not the funkiest of car seats – the grey base gives is an every-so-slightly 80's feel about it. It isn't all bells and whistles and is not even the most advanced of Britax's group 1 car seats but it is easy to use and represents the good quality and value for money that we have learned to expect from Britax car seats. All of the materials are of high quality, particularly the hard-wearing seat covers.

The most impressive thing about the King Plus seat is its ease of fitting. The whole seat flips forwards from the base leaving you plenty of room to easily stretch your normal 3-point seat belt over the base and into the very clearly marked red slots which guide you. We managed to fit the seat on our first attempt (this is very unusual!) using just the label on the side of the seat which shows pictorial instructions. We then validated this against the instruction manual.

We found the headrest on the Britax King Plus to be extremely easy to adjust to our daughter. It was a simple mechanism that required little explanation. The headrest offers great padding and impact protection.

The straps on the King Plus threw us to start with as they extend from the middle rather than responding to a tug at the top like our existing car seat. We have found that Britax car seats do seem to have the most comfy-looking, thickly-padded shoulder belts around.

One of the selling points of the Britax King Plus is the 'click' mechanism on the belt which 'clicks' to indicate when the belt is tight enough. I expected this to be a great thing to resolve arguments between myself and my husband on whether the belts were tight enough. Actually, I found it miselading – it seemed to click frequently, and often when I felt that the belt was far too lose. I think I am happier using my own judgement when tightening the harness.

The Britax King Plus has quite a deep recline so that when you are travelling on long journeys, your child can be more relaxed. The recline function doesn't require you to take the seat out of the car so it is possible to recline the seat without even waking your child!

The Britax King Plus car seat retails for around £179.99 but can be found at the major retailers such as Amazon, Halfords, and Kiddicare for a little less.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

How I Save £2,228 a Year Being Green!

Last week I took the Tesco Greener Living quiz and found that, according to Tesco, I save my family £2,228 a year by making small changes to my lifestyle that help both the environment, and our finances.

The survey asked me a series of questions about my household activities such as the temperature at which I run my thermostat, whether I have a Hippo water saving device in my toilet cisterns, and whether I've insulated my home.

I don't feel extraordinary, but I managed to give positive answers to all but three of the questions which accounts for my massive 'savings'.

Yes, I KNOW I use the tumble drier too often and I KNOW it is just about the most expensive electrical item to run in my entire house but as a working mum, in the winter, I find it indispensable. I have however, invested in a small collapsible clothes airer that I can put up in my (bliming freezing) garage and I also have an electricity monitor attached to my meter so I am painfully aware of the cost to me of using the goddam tumble drier. Apparently, if I reduced my reliance on it, I could save another £58 a year.

I DIDN'T know that there existed such a thing as a shower water regulator – I shall investigate! Thank-you Tesco.

And I DID know about Solar energy but I haven't yet found a supplier who acknowledges that as a working family, we really don't want to buy back energy during the weekdays because our energy consumption is nil during these times – if it costs me the same as normal to use power during the evenings and weekends, I'm not interested.

So, with my £2,228 worth of savings, what am I going to splash out on? Ummm.... nothing! I don't feel like I'm saving anything. To me, this is real, every day life. I'm not about to buy us an overseas holiday (that WOULD counteract all of my green efforts, wouldn't it) and I'm not going to buy us a day out or any goodies. I'm going to just keep on doing what I'm doing. Saving water, reducing energy usage, re-using where possible. Small, simple steps that make a real difference.

There were one or two questions I felt were missing in the Tesco Greener Living Survey such as questions about metering of utilities, water usage/re-use and general product re-use but I guess that these aren't in the interests of Tesco because they can't sell me anything to solve the problems. Despite this, I feel the survey is worthwhile, and thought-provoking.

Now, I'm not going to get into a discussion/fight about Tesco and their attempts to reduce their enormous impact on the nation/globe because I'll probably shout at someone... but if you do fancy reading about their attempts to reduce packaging (weight) then you can do so here.

I'd be interested to know what your scores are! Are you a green dreamer? or an eco-saint? how much cash could you be saving?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Christmas Celebrations - The Gallery

This is my entry to this week's gallery where the theme is 'Celebrations'. This photo is one of my favourite Christmas photos and, as if I needed a reason to inspire me to make our Christmas celebrations extra special for Lara, then this is it.

The photo is of myself and my younger sister just after having opened our Christmas presents on Christmas day. I don't know how old we were but I can see the magic of Christmas in our eyes (and no, its not just red-eye!).

A short while ago I posted a blog about choosing presents for Lara based on the things I loved most - in this picture you can see my much, loved Tiny Tears doll in an outfit and blanket that my Mum knitted for her, and Butterbear, my Wuzzle! I believe that my little sister got Rhinokey that day too. If you've no idea what I'm talking about, google Wuzzles!

I really hope that I can make our first family Christmas in the new house as lively, fun and celebrationary as I remember it from my childhood.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Our Weaning Story - 12 Months On

This time 12 months ago, Lara started her amazing adventure into the world of solid foods. We started weaning Lara at about 18 weeks old, at the point when she would quite gladly have bitten off my hand for the chance to try something other than milk. I thought it would be fun to look back on all of the blog posts that I have written over the past year about our weaning adventure.

Weaning is a very personal thing and if there is one thing I believe, it is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. I know people who have struggled (and still struggle several years on), I know others who opted for ready made purees right up until 1 year old but now have perfectly healthy children who eat a varied diet, and I know some parents who took a strict baby-led-weaning approach with no solids at all until around 8 or 9 months. I also know that the way we weaned Lara has worked incredibly well for us, and one year on, I have a little girl of whom I am proud. She has an appetite for sweet and savoury foods of all types and is never afraid to try something new – sometimes, when sitting in a restaurant with my 17 month old girl devouring a plate full of real, grown-up food, I get an enormous sense of achievement. Weaning can be great fun.

12 months ago, Mr. B. and myself approached weaning onto solid foods with trepidation. All of the government advice tells you over and over again that you shouldn’t introduce solids until 6 months and yet our parents were both egging us on, saying that 4 months was the time to start. Lara was clearly ready for food and already had teeth coming through so we gave it a try. We started with baby porridges ( more than just a refined, bland baby rice) and fruit purees made by yours truly. We found the Annabel Karmel website a great place for finding recipes. We bought some little freezer pots so that I could make batches of baby food and put them in the freezer so that we could rotate meals and ensure that Lara had a good variety of flavours and textures. I used some printed quidelines that I got in my NCT lessons for how much of what type of food I should be offering Lara each day but quickly learned that the pots I had bought were too small and that my quidelines were totally useless! Lara went from the 1-or-2-teaspoons to the enormous-bowlful stage within a fortnight! So, here’s a top tip: don’t bother with tiny freezer pots, just buy bigger ones straight away.

As we approached Christmas last year, Lara was eating three homemade meals a day. Porridge in the morning, fruit mixes for lunch and a savoury meal in the evenings. At this point, I introduced Lara to a beaker of water with her meals. It took her quite a while to get used to the sucking motion but she soon got the hang of it. We also had a play with a few different types of bibs.

When Lara started going to the childminders in the new year, this introduced me to a whole new world of lunchbox food! I was very good and continued making Lara home-made baby food that the childminders would warm up for her. Into the new year, Lara started showing an interest in finger foods. By 8 months old, Lara was eating most of her foods by hand and in general, would refuse anything that I offered her on a spoon – opting to try it herself instead. At this point, we began to take the Baby-Led-Weaning approach more and more. By this I mean that we offered Lara a little bit of everything that we ate ourselves. This approach helps us a lot because it means we don’t have to cook a separate meal for Lara – we all share our family meals. Lara is one of few babies I know who was weaned in quite such an adventurous manner. We have an adventurous repertoire of meals (largely involving curry, I might add) and Lara seems to enjoy them all. We’ve had our wobbles – Lara went through a period of turning her nose up at beef, and then at anything involving tomato. At present, she will start screaming if she just hears the word yoghurt.

Just because we took the BLW approach, doesn’t mean that I DIDN’T offer Lara pre-packaged baby foods. No. As someone who loves to cook, I also enjoy a good takeaway, or a lovely meal out – I use convenience foods for myself, and I also use them for Lara. We did try one or two products from free samples that I wasn’t wowed by. Jars were never my thing, much sloppier and blander than anything I made myself. We did try Organix baby foods which were fine for back-up foods but our favourite were Plum Baby which just seemed most similar to my home-made foods in texture and ingredients. As Lara became more proficient in finger foods, we also discovered a great range of toddler snacks on the market that she still enjoys.

At around 10 months old, I started to offer Lara cutlery for her to learn to use. At 17 months she still hasn’t quite mastered the art but is very proficient with a spoon, and a fork when she chooses to be. One of our best investments has been our Boots crockery sets. We have several of them now! Simple BPA-free bowls and plates which are sturdy and well-shaped to allow Lara to move the food around with her spoon and fork without getting it everywhere. You don’t need anything more fancy than this. We also love our Brother Max bowl as I can fill it full of food, snap the lid on and put it into Lara’s lunchbox.

At 1 year we introduced cow's milk. These days Lara eats the same meals as us. Despite my recent porridge rant, I'm not someone who monitors every single little thing that my child eats. I know that she gets a generally healthy diet made from fresh foods so I'm very relaxed when it comes to offering snacks or treats. I do have one or two rules that I try to stick to when making my own food - no added salt or sugar. I tend to add seasoning to a meal immediately before I serve it these days so that I can make sure Lara has her portion first - this also allows me to add more chilli powder to mummy and daddy's food at the last minute too.

Over the past few weeks and months we have had lots of opportunity to try our different toddler drinking cups and highchairs. Our weaning journey is nearly over. In the coming weeks we hope to move Lara out of the highchair and into a booster seat at our brand new dining room table. Within a couple of months I expect her to have mastered the art of cutlery and then after that… well, who knows? Maybe my job will be done? Or maybe Lara is saving her fussy-eater stage for when she is a bit older!

I’m certain that her adventurous and unlimited diet has contributed to Lara’s social skills. I know that I can take her to friends, family and restaurants and not have to worry about finding something for her to eat. Holidays and travel are so much easier now that I don’t have to take anything special for her to eat and drink. Lara enjoys mealtimes – they are a big part of our day that we love to share with her.

If you would like to learn a little more about weaning, take a look at all of the information available at Boots Parenting Club

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Sunday Review - Alva Sanddorn Cleanser & Toner

At my stage in life, I look to anti-ageing products for prevention, rather than cure, of the signs of age. I've little experience with anti-ageing products but now is the time to learn! Over the past month I have been using the Alva Sanddorn range of anti-ageing natural beauty products and I've enjoyed it.

I was going to write you a review all about how I was having trouble identifying the scent of the Alva Sanddorn anti-ageing products but I've just looked it up - it's Sea Buckthorn! Sea Buckthorn plants produce small orange berries that are citrussy in flavour, I tried some sweets flavoured with them earlier this year (eeeeew euuurch). Who would have thought that they would also be great as a skincare ingredient? Sea Buckthorn is high in provitamin A, vitamin E and fatty acids - prefect!

The scent is fascinating. Every time I use the Alva Sanddorn Cleansing Milk, I pour the pale orange liquid onto a cotton pad and for a few brief seconds I enjoy that almost-peachy smell but then it warps... and turns into a musty, unpleasant aroma so I hurry up and get on with the cleansing process.

The Alva Sanddorn cleansing milk is a very light lotion that feels great on the skin. I find it refreshing, even before I wash it off. It seems (from the amount of gunk of the cotton pad afterwards) very effective at cleansing and I do find it quite moisturising. I know that if I forget to moisturise before I leave the house in the morning then my skin will feel fine without.

The algae extracts, organic jojoba oil and shea butter all add to the moisturising qualities and the Sea Buckthorn protects against UV rays. Alva Sanddorn products are all pthalate, paraben and sulfate-free.

The cleanser is good but the toner is great. The Alva Sanddorn Facial Tonic comes in a small glass bottle. It is alcohol free, so great for my slightly sensitive skin and after use, I can feel my face is clean and clear, my pores are open and my skin is ready for action. The smell is a lot less overpowering than the cleanser. I really enjoy using this tonic as it makes my face feel bright and tight. As with the other Sanddorn products, it delivers great moisturising properties too.

Alva Sanddorn products are available to buy from mypure who have a wonderful range of organic and natural beauty products.

Images courtesy of

The Sunday Review - Senzimi Skincare

I am really enjoying my journey of discovery of sensitive skin care products - I had no idea that there was so much choice available when I first developed sensitive skin this time last year. I've recently been trying out Senzimi products.

Senzimi have lots of great information on their website about the causes of sensitive skin and the things you should look out for on ingredients labels if you are a sufferer. Their products are paraben free, sulfate free and mineral-oil free (which is one of the things that causes my skin irritation).

The Daily Cleanser is a wash-off cleanser which means it leaves you skin feeling really squeaky clean. Because it is free from synthetic fragrances, I found that it lacked that bit of zing that I look for in a wash -off cleanser to help me wake up in the morning. I didn't feel any greasiness after using it but then again, my skin didn't feel amazing and I know that there are wash-off cleansers out there that can really make your face feel taught, bright and ready for the day.

The Daily Moisturiser is very easily absorbed (despite looking a little oily on my fingertips). It is designed to help soothe irritated skin and reduce the effects of UV damage so it is a great long-term moisturiser. I didn't notice any dramatic differences to the way my skin felt after using it but I certainly didn't feel any ill effects, any irritation or redness. I actually have grown to really like this as a daily moisturiser for wearing from the start of my day all through my working day as its light and doesn't sit heavily on my skin. The fragrance is a little over-powering though.

The Daily Moisturiser boasts some wonderful ingredients such as the miracle-working argan oil, rose hip oil, oat extract, cucumber extract, aloe vera and olive-oil derivatives. All lovely ingredients that I shall leave to do their work on me!

Senzimi products are available to buy on their website

Images courtesy of New Chapter

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

5 of the Best - Winter Buggy Cosies and Cosy Toes

Following on from my popular review of summer buggy shades, I thought it would be appropriate right now to review some winter buggy inserts and cosy toes.

These days, many pushchairs and travel systems don't come with cosy toes included. When it comes to buying one, remember you don't HAVE to buy the same brand as your buggy, there are lots of choices out there which are universal buggy inserts. The branded cosytoe on my Mothercare MyChoice almost brings me to tears every time I have to try and put it on so I have been on the lookout for a replacement. Here are my experiences

Wallaboo Footmuff
The Good Bits
: It is made from soft microfibre suede on the outside and is snuggly on the inside. Every time we go out in it, people stop us to comment on how great and warm it looks. Its thick and can cope with very cold weather.
The Bad Bits: It is a bit too short for my toddler's legs - perhaps more suited to a smaller baby. It is also so special-looking that I find myself worrying about getting it dirty. I have to take the top part of the Wallaboo off when I fold up my umbrella buggy as it it so big and snuggly that it prevents it from folding properly otherwise.
Price: £69.95
Buy From: Hippychick
Rating: 7/10

Jojo Maman Bebe Polarfleece Buggy Cosy
The Good Bits
: It is quite easy to fit to pretty much ANY buggy and of all the cosytoes that I tried, I found it the easiest to zip up around Lara. It was lovely and long and spacious which added to the ease of getting Lara into it.
The Bad Bits: Because of the wonderful length it did get quite dirty at the base (but it was easy to wash). It got wet pretty quickly in the rain.
Price: £24.00
Buy From: Jojo Maman Bebe
Rating: 8/10

Jojo Maman Bebe Reversible Waterproof Fleece Buggy Cosy
The Good Bits
: Very much like the Polarfleece Buggy Cosy but with one side of the fabric as a water resistant, wind resistant fabric. We prefered it because it kept dry for longer in the rain (long enough for me to find the raincover or leg it back to the car). It has great length even for Lara's long legs.
The Bad Bits: I found that when the water-resistent fabric was on the outside that the buggy cosy slumped in the buggy when we used it, less so on the fleece side - maybe I just needed to tie it up tighter to the frame of the buggy? It meant we sometimes had to hoike it up when Lara was still sitting inside it! It is still my favourite of the lot though in terms of its wide range of uses and value for money.
Price: £34
Buy From: Jojo Maman Bebe
Rating: 9/10

Morrck Baby Hoodie
The Good Bits
: Although it isn't strictly a cosytoe, the Morrck baby hoodie does make a great buggy (or car seat) insert for smaller babies. We liked the soft scrumptious hood and the fact that it easily flaps open and closed and you can wrap your little one up as tight and snug as you fancy!
The Bad Bits: For older children with wiggly legs and flailing arms (like Lara) the wrap doesn't stay wrapped for long.
Price: £35.99
Buy From: Morrck
Rating: 6/10

Concord Hug
The Good Bits
: Officially targetted at the Concord Neo buggy, this is an incredibly snuggly 'sleeping bag' that reminds me of the wind-proof sleeping bag my Dad used in the army! It is fleecy on the inside and water/wind resistant on the outside. The Concord sleeping bag is incredibly thick and by using the draw-strings you can really tighten it up around your child like a wintery cocoon! I am pretty certain that it is the warmest of all the cosytoes we tried. My favourite part is that you don't need to undo the buggy straps to get the sleeping bag in and out so it is INCREDIBLY easy to fit.
The Bad Bits: In slightly warmer environments you can unzip from the front (which is far easier than most which are at the side/bottom) BUT the fabric is very thick and rigid and means the sides flap about a bit.
Price: £50 approx.
Buy From: Kiddies Kingdom or Mothercare
Rating: 8/10
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