Sunday, 30 June 2013

Lipstick marks still on your coffee cup

As a true beauty addict, I've amassed an extensive collection of lipsticks, glosses, stains, tints, balms... you name the shade, I probably have at least five options to choose from.

Whether you have a busy day of meetings or nappy changes, a slick of a lipstick can make you feel ready to face the day by giving you a flash of much needed colour, but in either scenario, who has the time to reapply their lipstick several times throughout the day?

Colour stay lipsticks have been around for a long time - I remember buying one of the first of their kind, Max Factor's Lip Finity, when I was a teenager. The challenge has been to find a colour stay lipstick that really does lock in colour without over-drying.

Step in Maybelline's 14 Hour Superstay lipsticks. Available in an impressive range of 20 shades, although no one shop is likely to stock them all, these fabulous lipsticks do what they claim - they stay on your lips, true to colour, for a long, long time. Whilst not quite reaching 14 hours without losing some colour (particularly when eating and drinking during this time), the effect is long lasting and more impressive than other products I have tried in the past.

The intensity of the colour is particularly appealing. I chose shade Stay With Me Coral and found it to be vibrant and it gave me real stand out. In fact, I felt like I had professional lipstick on, it was that deep in tone and strength of application.

I applied this first at 11am and had two small touch ups at 3pm and 8pm. By midnight, the colour was still true to shade and in the morning, there was still a distinct colour to my lips until I thoroughly cleaned my face. Best part too? No dryness and no transfer when hubs let me give him a kiss or two. Top marks!

Perhaps strangely, this lipstick smells great too and the packaging is great too. Go buy this now in your go-to shade that you can wear every day AND a bold, making-a-statement colour for when you want your lips to do the talking.

Maybelline 14 Hour Superstay lipstick is priced at £6.99 and widely available as one of their latest launches. Has anyone tried Maybelline's Superstay 24 Hour Dual Ended lipstick? I'd anticipate this to be super drying but would like to know if anyone would recommend it.

* Note: this is not a sponsored post and I bought this product myself to try.


Saturday, 29 June 2013

In my shopping bag this week...

It's Saturday, pay day has arrived and it's time to treat ourselves a little don't you think? Even on SMP, you can still have a little splurge...

Here's what's been in my shopping bag this week:


Maxi skirts, New Look, £17.99 each
Ballet pumps in khaki green, were £7.99 now £4 online (available in 19 colours)
Maybelline Dream Pure BB Cream and Lumi Concealer, as featured here 

Rock and roll bodysuits, George At Asda, £4 each
Love clock, George At Asda, £12
New York fragranced candle, Next, £9
Ladybird 12 piece dinner set, Asda, £16
Little house line lights, Next, £16

Lightweight hooded jacket, Next, £40
You can probably tell we have a real thing for Next in our house at the moment. Their home collections are simply stunning and every room of the house features at least one item from there - in fact, we have pretty much the whole Good Life range!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Friday Film Club: Die Hard 5 & Snow White and the Huntsman

For the first of my Friday Film Club posts, I'm reviewing two films I've watched this week - one for the guys and one for the girls!

A Good Day To Die Hard (rated 12A)
As my hubs, and no doubt any man on the planet, will tell you, Die Hard is the best action movie ever made. Offering the perfect mix of action sequences, an 'every man' kind of hero and a brilliant baddie (Alan Rickman, the legend, is fantastic in this role), the Die Hard saga has now reached it's fifth installment, with a sixth already in the pipeline.

A Good Day To Die Hard is certainly just another excuse to rake in the box office takings based on the kudos of the first three films. After all, audiences still want to see Bruce Willis blow up bad guys and wait with baited breath to hear the infamous phrase 'yippee ki yay mother f*****!'.

So, what's good about the film? It's fast-paced with big budget explosions and adrenaline fueled car races. There's no shortage of cheesy one liners either and seeing Bruce in action is always entertaining in my option.

What's bad about it? The story, whilst easy to follow, is weak and you really couldn't care less about the underlying story. John McClane's son is also rather unsympathetic and wooden to watch and the lack of 'pause' between the action makes you feel quite exhausted by the end of the film.

To Become Mum verdict: your other half is sure to enjoy this but if he's a true Die Hard fan, he'll probably be disappointed. You, meanwhile, will find it easy to follow and you may like the sight of John McClane's son. Easy, throw-away watching for the weekend. 2/5.

Snow White and the Huntsman (rated 12)
I love fairy tales and so was looking forward to seeing this film. Plus it has Chris Hemsworth, of pwoar Thor fame, as the leading man to Kristen Stewart's leading lady, Snow White. I'd also heard that Charlize Theron was great as the wicked stepmother.

The basic story everyone knows - Snow White has a wicked stepmother who's incredibly vain and dispises Snow for her pure beauty and innocent nature. This is the centre of the film, with Charlize stopping at nothing to keep her youthful looks at the same time as exacting revenge on every man for the hurt that one caused her long ago.

Hemsworth is the huntsman, funnily enough, instructed to capture Snow when she escapes and you can guess where this goes.

What's good about the film? Charlize indeed plays a good villain and the special effects used to demonstrate her powers are very creative. The arrival of the seven dwarfs is fun and proves to be a highlight of the film.

What's bad about the film? Kristen 'woo-is-me' Stewart is as dead-pan as ever and it's hard to sympathize with her when she has no emotional range. Chris tries a Scottish accent (at  least that's what I think he was aiming for) and fails. The love story is shoe-horned in. The ending is too abrupt.

To Become Mum verdict: worth a watch for the villain alone but overall, it feels too long and there's just no real connection with the characters. Perhaps I expected too much? With a second film planned, this film obviously has its fans. 2/5.

Forget waterproof mascara - this is labour proof!

The perfect mascara is the holy grail most women strive to find. Whether it's lash lengthening, volume building or eye colour enhancing, mascara can make ANYONE look great. The eyes are the windows to the soul so enhancing these with some thicker, longer, curlier lashes can make such a difference.

Finding the right mascara for you can be really tricky, particularly when there's so much beauty jargon mumbo jumbo spouted out by advertisers. It's like the goldilocks of the make up world - this one's too wet, that brush is too big, that one clumps lashes together. I'm also a firm believer that you shouldn't have to go high end to meet your high expectations.

As you've probably already noticed, I'm a beauty product addict and cannot resist a new release on the shelves of Boots or a special offer - and don't even get me started on pretty packaging (Soap & Glory, you have a lot to answer for!).

So, in the past couple of months, I have tried no fewer than five different mascara a from high street brands. Despite concluding every time I try a new one that I should stick to my tried and trusted Maybelline One-By-One, I find myself drawn to the fancy new wands and exaggerated promises of new mascara s.

From the ones pictured above, there's only two I'd recommend. Give S&G Thick and Fast a go if you can handle a big, fat brush. And if you are looking for a waterproof mascara that actually works and doesn't fail at the first drop of rain or splash of sea water, you must go and buy Maybelline's Rocket Volum Express. This baby is not just waterproof - it's labour proof!

Promising 'the most explosive, beautiful lashes ever!', the 'Supersonic Brush and Fast Glide formula loads on big, sleek volume instantly', this is a must have if you're going on holiday this summer to sunnier climes.

On the morning of my labour day, being a little vain and wanting to perk myself up (seriously, I wear mascara every day because my lashes are so fair, people think I look unwell if I don't), I tried this mascara for the first time. And after 23 hours of labour, a day in hospital and our first night with baby at home later (I didn't remove my mascara all that time - naughty I know), this mascara still looked perfect. My lashes were long, defined, with a slight curl and there were no clumps or crumbly bits on my cheeks. Just take a look at the photo below if you don't believe me.

Maybelline Rocket Volum Express is available for £7.99 at Boots, in both standard and waterproof versions. Go, buy it today!

* Note: this is not a sponsored post and I bought this product myself to try.


Thursday, 27 June 2013

Which BB cream to believe in?

More than a year ago, BB creams burst onto the UK market and immediately started creating a buzz in the beauty world. Since then, every brand seems to have come out with their own versions, with some now on their second or third lines and with the new CC creams trying to take over as the latest must have multitasking product.

Being a beauty product addict, I've tried quite a few BB creams over the months and have to say, all the mainstream brands offer something to suit almost every skin type.

The original UK launch cream was Garnier Miracle Skin Perfecter and I did like this as it gave good coverage and was easy to blend, but having very fair skin, the light version still wasn't quite light enough for me. A good all-rounder product. Next I tried Boots' 17 All-in-One Magic Make Up and Skincare. At around £5 and always part of some offer or another within the range, this is a good shade for lighter skins and gives very good coverage, particularly if you suffer with red tones like I do.

I then picked up the L'Oreal Nude Magique BB tube. For anyone who has some colour to their cheeks, this product is amazing. It's a pearlescent colour when squeezed out with a purple tone until blended. Best worked in with your figures, and quickly too, this product feels so light to wear yet seems to transform your skin instantly. Seriously, it looked like I had a new layer of fresh, blemish free, radiant skin - but the downside was the tone was far, far too dark for me despite choosing the lighter of the two tones. So, if you usually use medium toned products or have a bit of a tan (I dislike you either way!) then try this, I promise you won't be disappointed. It's more of a wonder product than a BB cream in my opinion so I would still use your usual moisturiser base.

No7's BB cream has been my favourite to date as its easy to blend but gives really good coverage and leaves you with a radiant glow - perfect for those days when you're feeling a little grey.

Today I bought the new version from Maybelline - Dream Pure BB 8-in-1 Cream with 2% salicylic acid for oily skin. I haven't tried Maybelline's BB creams before but thought I would try this. As Superdrug and Boots both currently have an offer on - buy one get one half price - I also picked up their Lumi Touch Highlighting Concealer Wand. Having a newborn means my under eye area needs even more of a helping hand than usual and having tried various products across the price ranges, I thought one more purchase couldn't hurt.

You can certainly see a difference between the before and after images - the cream evened out the red areas, was smooth to apply and blended well into the skin. For a busy mum on the go, this is a handy handbag item to have but if you're having a bad skin day, like me today, you may still need some concealer here and there.

Next, the concealer. Again, I think you can really tell the difference between the before and after photos. At first, I was worried the shade (ivory, naturally) was too orange but this blended into the under eye area to counteract the grey / blue tinges. Subtle but effective, this concealer doesn't feel heavy but does the trick. For £6.99, I'm very pleased with the result.

These two products helped this new mama to get ready in a fraction of the time. I'm also trying the new Maybelline Superstay 14 Hour Lipstick in Stay With Me Coral (what can I say, I'm a sucker for a special offer) as shown in the above pic. Love the colour, it feels smooth to apply but with good coverage that feels like it will last yet I don't feel like I'm wearing heavy lipstick. Will have to see if it lasts 14 hours though...

* Note: this is not a sponsored post and I bought these products myself to try.


The first two months

A snapshot of Ethan's first eight weeks in the world
My baby boy will be eight weeks old this coming Sunday and I'm coming to terms he's no longer a newborn. I know he's still very young but the time has already come to pack away some of his first sleepsuits, as he only fit tiny baby clothes until just recently.

Weighing in at a healthy 9lb 9oz last Thursday, my little boy is growing up and already I'm facing the conflicting emotions of a new mum who wants her baby to remain tiny forever but also can't wait for the next milestone. We've already reached quite a lovely one - Ethan gave us his first 'real' smiles last week! He's always looked like a smiley baby but these smiles were different, in response to seeing mummy or daddy's face up close and often accompanied with 'ga' and 'goo' noises. Heart melting.

It's crazy to think he's almost two months old and whilst I can remember labour day clearly, it also feels like he's been here for much longer. Perhaps that's the sleep deprivation talking or the fact that we have taken over 1,500 photos of our little man already, not to mention videos of his flailing arms and hiccup fits (everything he does is just so cute).

The first week we perhaps took on too much, with visitors every day. I think we were quite rattled by our new addition and after week one we were shattered, so buttoned down the hatches and kept it just us three pretty much for week two. This was the best thing we could do; we knew beforehand that we should take it easy and not do too much too soon but we hadn't counted on my recovery being quite so painful. I developed an infection in my episiotomy wound but once I managed to get hold of some antibiotics, things started getting better and I could sit normally again. It made such a difference and it was like I was a new woman. Not as well as before birth but getting there.

The whole sleep deprivation knocked us for six, particularly as little man wanted feeding every two hours, day and night. My top tip to anyone who has a pregnant friend or family member is never utter the words 'you best get plenty of rest now, you'll need it!' This phrase is said all too often and makes the whole thing seem like a joke and having gone through it, I can tell you losing as much sleep as you do once baby comes along is no laughing matter. I had hallucinations and we both felt ill, we were that tired.

But thankfully, things have got better and we have been able to establish feeds every three, and sometimes four, hours now. Not great but certainly much easier, as it means there's one less feed during the night. We've also got over our addiction to Google; our main source of information whenever we needed to check if something was normal or if we were doing something right, which was pretty much every other minute. Sadly, we felt that the midwife care we received before, during and after birth left much to be desired and honestly, if we weren't as savvy as we are, we don't know how new parents are expected to cope.

We've survived our first trip away - down to Hampshire to visit my parents - and we got through a week where it seemed after every feed, Ethan was sick. We've been out to meet other mums for coffee and we even visited Twycross Zoo - it's been quite an eventful time for little man. 

In between, I'm trying to find a balance between having quality time at home, having cuddles, appreciating every moment, and getting out and about so that we get some fresh air and don't get cabin fever.

I'm not sure if it's even sunk in yet that I am a mummy. I certainly felt our connection grow with Ethan's first real smiles and I commemorated that day by getting a new tattoo (it was something I had been planning, but I spontaneously got it done there and then when I went to make an appointment). I chose a swallow, which is a symbol of love, family and loyalty, as they always return home, and I had the tattooist form the tail feathers into the shape of an 'E'. It's not everyone's 'thing', but to me, it's a permanent tribute to my beautiful son (he really is gorgeous, I know I'm biased but just look at him!).

My latest body art, still healing

We're all doing well and every day just gets better and better.Sure, the washing up piles up and simple tasks like having a shower are much trickier these days, but Ethan is simply wonderful and I am very, very proud to be a mummy. It could just be the best thing I ever do.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

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Beautiful Picture Books by Oliver Jeffers

I have always loved reading and as a child, I always had a book in hand, even in the bath (Danny Duck was my favourite splash safe read, which is now part of Ethan's library collection). I have always loved art too, studying it at GCSE and A Level and still partaking in the occasional sketchbook doodle. Because of this, I am a huge fan of children's picture books and can spend hours in Waterstones looking at the range of stories and styles on offer.

I have such fond memories of the books I had when I was younger and sadly there's one or two that I no longer have which I would really love to find, but not remembering the titles means this will probably never happen. I can't wait to start reading my favourite tales to Ethan and for several years, I have been collecting books to one day share with my children.

My absolute favourite author / artist is the wonderful Oliver Jeffers. With a back catalogue of 12 beautiful picture books, Jeffers has a distinct style and a special way of telling a tale that I find captivating as I'm sure many children do too. In fact, his quirky drawings have been used in print and advertising too - if you've seen the current Kinder TV ad for their 'Face of Kinder' competition, you'll already be familiar with his work.

The first book I came across was Lost and Found, a story about a boy who makes friends with a penguin, which won the Nestle Smarties Book Prize Gold Medal and the Blue Peter Book Award in 2006.

Artwork from Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

However, his first title was How To Catch A Star, which also features the same boy who was Jeffers main character in his stories at first, with four tales in total dedicated to his adventures.

What makes these stories so special is the delicate way Jeffers weaves his words and paints his pictures. Each story is simple but has real heart, as you follow the boy on his journey to catch a star, find his penguin friend, teach his penguin friend how to fly and find his way back home with the help of a helpful alien. The illustrations again seem simple at first glance but the more you look at each watercoloured page, the more you see and the stunning use of colour really makes you want to display these books, not keep them stacked on a shelf. For this reason, I have six of his books on display rails in my dining room.

My dining room
Since his picture book debut in 2004, Jeffers has gone on to tell more tales of wonder, including those of an incredible book eating boy, a girl who keeps her heart in a bottle to keep it safe and a boy who has a moose as a pet.

Jeffers has also started a new mini series of stories, focusing on the mischievous Hueys, who can be likened to the minions in the Despicable Me films. The second book, It Wasn't Me, has recently been released and I'll be reviewing this soon.
However, this isn't the only new picture book that Jeffers has released this year, as The Day The Crayons Quit is another new title to have just hit the book shelves - great news for a fan such as me. I'll be off to buy this to add to my collection so will post my thoughts on this brand new picture book soon.

If  you're looking for a great story with warmth and a lesson to learn and want a book that is beautiful to look at, Oliver Jeffers is sure to have the perfect picture book for you and your child.

Friday Film Club

I love films. I'm not a film buff by any means - that's my husband, who can recount endless information on almost every film ever made and ever actor to have lived on cue. I don't say that to be sarcastic; truly, his knowledge of moving pictures is impressive and incredibly useful in pub quizzes.

We met each other when we both started working at Blockbuster as uni students, at a time when there was still the excitement and romance of going to your local video store on a Friday night to browse the latest releases and argue with your parents / friend / date about what genre of film you should rent and whether you should buy salted or sweet popcorn (salted, of course). This was way before LoveFilm, Netflix and illegal downloads rendered independent rental shops and Blockbuster relatively redundant and in turn made us all a little complacent in much the same way Sky did when first introducing the British family to more than four, maybe five if you were lucky, terrestrial TV channels.

Anyhow, my main role on a weekend night shift was 'Active Seller', where I would pace the shop floor, stalking unsuspecting customers to ask them whether they needed any help choosing what to watch. Yep, I was one of those annoying shop assistants who seemed to appear from nowhere to pounce on you and ask you in a very cheery way whether you needed help. Surely, you're more than able to choose a film for yourself, right?! I promise I was very friendly and not too pushy, unless I was on the till and had the snack bundle to push on you (don't judge me, it was my job), but I digress.

As a result of being an Active Seller, and from hooking up with my now husband and amassing a DVD and Bluray collection reaching 1,000 different films and TV series (blimey, think of all the bags and shoes you could buy...), my knowledge of movies has grown and is one of my main hobbies. I guess it's an extension of my love of books - storytelling is the same in any medium and I'm a sucker for 'Once upon a time'. When the titles start to roll, I'm drawn into the imaginary world shown on screen and become captivated by the characters and swept up by the stories being told.

Becoming a mum means I have rare opportunity now to go to the cinema, something that was our main weekend pastime. You could guarantee that we would have seen any of the major films within days, sometimes hours, of being released and this past year we became Cineworld Unlimited members - a film fanatic's dream. Now, we've missed so many new releases, I fear even my dad would know more about what's this year's must-see movie, and his last trip to the cinema was to see something in black and white (a slight exaggeration perhaps, but we're talking about a man who once put Kill Bill on to only spend half an hour watching the DVD menu title sequence over and over before realizing he wasn't actually watching the film).

However, I still have a passion for the big screen and whilst my Friday night viewing will be restricted to the latest DVD release, I hope to be able to share some of my movie recommendations with you. I'm no Barry Norman but I like to think I can match the perfect film to the right person - it's the active seller in me.

So, I'm starting my virtual Friday Film Club. Each week, I'll post about what I've been watching that's new as well as a few favourites of mine, plus I'll give them my To Become Mum rating. If your a subscriber to Empire magazine, don't cancel just yet - my reviews are merely for me to share my film loves and hates rather than to be brilliantly analytic, extremely detailed and well-researched pieces of literature.

Watch this space for more details on my pick of the week and do let me know if you have any recommendations to share or if you too want to chat about your latest trip to the cinema. Just don't forget the popcorn.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Jeans that will love your mum tum and bum

Like every woman, there are things about myself I would like to change. And like every mum, I'm still getting used to my body now that baby is here.

In all honesty, I've been very lucky. During pregnancy, whilst my bump grew to quite an impressive, but rather beautiful, size, the rest of me pretty much stayed the same. I was fortunate enough to avoid swollen feet and I managed to wear most of my existing wardrobe (although maternity leggings, tights and long vest tops were my staples - read more about these here).

Having been for my postnatal appointment at the doctors, I've discovered that I've returned to my pre-pregnancy weight, minus 3lb - bonus! Now, I'm no skinny minny, but it was nice to see the scales being favourable as I had avoided any weigh-ins throughout those nine months I was growing a baby.

However, I still have a mum tum that needs to be kept under wraps. It's always been my problem area so I don't really feel too down about it now and I really think every mum should be proud of every dimple and every stretch mark. Your tum was your baby's first home and every mark is a reminder of those special months you shared so you should never feel ashamed - wear your wobble with pride!

With all that being said, I still would like a helping hand to keep me looking a bit more trim in the tum and finding a pair of jeans to suit my post pregnancy body was a key priority.

Thanks to New Look, my search is over. They have a special range of 'Shaper' jeans available in a variety of styles, whether you can rock a skinny or find bootcut to be the most flattering for your figure like me.
Designed to smooth your curves and make the most of your derrière and stomach area, the special seams in these Shaper jeans work wonders without feeling too constrictive. After all, there's nothing worse than jeans that cut you in half when you sit down - they're supposed to be the best mix of comfort and style.

Flattering on your figure and flattering on your purse at just £22.99 for the bootcut style (check online, they've just gone down to £15 on special offer), I'd highly recommend these if your looking for a new staple jean that will help you look your very best by giving you support where you need it most.

A real solution at a real price that real mums can afford. They've certainly got the To Become Mum seal of approval.

*Note: this is not a sponsored post - I simply had to share these great jeans!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Welcome to the world

Introducing my beautiful baby boy
Welcome to the world Ethan Timothy Robert O'Hanlon. Born 5th May 2013 at 12.47am, weighing 7lb 4oz.

My labour story in a nutshell...
I woke up at 2.05am as my waters had broken - turns out, these were just my back waters.
Contractions started around an hour later. 
Called the midwifery unit and they said to come in after breakfast.
First examination showed I was 1cm dilated and should be able to go home. 
Sadly, my blood pressure was too high and I went over to triage in the main hospital to be assessed.
During the next six hours, I had to sit on a narrow, hard bed in a corner of a corridor, with contractions getting stronger. 
Second examination showed I was only 1.5cm dilated - not what I wanted to hear.
Doctor advised I might have to go to the induction ward but then decided to transfer me to the labour ward.
Finally, around 4pm, I went over to the ward and was at last allowed gas and air.
My blood pressure was spiking and the pain was so strong, I didn't feel I was coping at all well.
Third examination and I had made it to 2cm - big woop!
Anesthetist came and told me about the epidural, which I gladly agreed to, to help my blood pressure. I was getting double contractions at this time and was finding it very hard to deal with.
By the time of my fourth examination, they expected me to be 4cm - well, take that, I was actually 9cm!
Two hours later, I was ready to start pushing. The epidural had made me so numb I couldn't feel a thing.
After one hour of feeling like my head was going to explode, the midwives decided that I needed help.
With the assistance of forceps, an episiotomy (ouch, ouch, ouch) and at least eight people in the room, Ethan was born quite suddenly at 12.47am.
We spent the next hour cuddling and getting to know our little guy, then called friends and family to tell them he was here.
After passing out in the shower, I finally had some food and was transferred to the antenatal ward at 6am, hoping to get some sleep.
My drip battery died and I had to go to find a  midwife. I had to do this again when it beeped to say it had finished.
At 7.30am, with no sleep whatsoever since 2am the day before, the midwives opened all the curtains on the ward and declared it was breakfast time.
I should have been discharged in the morning but in the end, we were released at 4pm, shortly after   hubs / the new daddy and both sets of grandparents came to visit.
We arrived home, shattered and quite bewildered - we were now parents.

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