Thursday, 30 January 2014

Running late


Time exists just on your wrist so don't panic. That's a lyric from one of my favourite Travis songs, Indefinitely. And in a way, it's true - we place time pressures on ourselves but time is a construct of our own making.

However, one thing I have learned since becoming a mum, and more so since becoming a working mum, is that time can really run away with you.

I had two trains to catch on two different days for meetings in London this week. I was up early, had both mine and Ethan's clothes picked out and bags packed the night before. There was no rushing needed; we enjoyed a bit of playtime that we wouldn't usually have before I have to whisk him to nursery, as my trains were a bit later than my usual start time. 

I left the house when I intended to and dropped Ethan off with ease. But somehow, between the crazy traffic into the city, work related phone calls en route and the current long-winded walk from the car park to New Street station, I ended up missing both trains. Not by minutes but by seconds. Literally, I was standing there as the doors closed a minute before departure and there was nothing I could do to get on board.

I hate being late and particularly when you've made every effort to be there on time, it's so frustrating that you can still find yourself behind schedule.

With a little one in tow, things that took minutes before can now take an age, particularly as they get older and much more determined to do things their way. Some days it feels like all you're doing is chasing your tail.

How do you cope with juggling being a parent and going to work? Have you unlocked the secrets of time travel or do you feel like each day is like Sliding Doors, where one minute either way can make all the difference?
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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Just three and a bit weeks until #midsblogmeet

As January comes to a close, we now find ourselves less than four weeks away from a very exciting event - the first ever #midsblogmeet for Midlands based mummy and lifestyle bloggers!

Malt Cross
The event is taking place on Saturday 22nd February from 11am to 3pm at The Malt Cross16 St James's St, Nottingham, NG1 6FG. Situated just up from the main square in the city centre, The Malt Cross is a very friendly vintage-style venue, serving drinks and food freshly prepared on the premises.  The venue is child-friendly throughout the day and we have booked tables on the ground floor too. 

The aim of the day is to keep it really informal, chatty and, most of all, fun!  A chance to chill and meet some great people (in real life – not just Twitterland)!


For everyone who has already confirmed they will be coming, there's a blog badge you can add to your own home page. Here’s the HTML code you’ll need:






Blog badge


Emma and I have been so pleased with the response we've had to date and we currently have almost 30 of you lovely people on the guest list. Never fear, if you haven't yet been in touch to say you'd like to come along, there's still time. Just email me (tobecomemum@gmail.com) or Emma (missemmaberry@gmail.com) and we'll make sure you're on the list. We need to know if you can make it in advance so we can prepare the venue and to ensure we have enough goody bags to go around.

We have some fantastic brands on board, helping to support the event, with more to be confirmed, so you’ll definitely go home with lots of nice things to try and perhaps some blog post inspiration too.

We are really looking forward to meeting you all and, if you have any queries or questions, please just let us know.

Kelly x
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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Lost and found

I was a bookworm from an early age and have fond memories of my favourite reads. It seems I'm not alone either, as I was talking to some people on Twitter last week and before long, my feed had exploded as more and more people joined in the conversation, feeling nostalgic for the books of their childhoods.

It became really clear to me that books play such an important part in our development and no matter how much we read as adults, we always remember our best books and fell warm and fuzzy when we recollect the stories that inspired our young minds.

When I was young, I had this book about woodland animals and the seasons of the year. It had a brown cover and I remember being fascinated by the detail of the drawings inside. As time passed, the book became lost - probably sent off to the charity shop along with other bits and pieces my parents could no longer store.

For years now, I've tried to recall the name of it, only remmebering that is was a story about different animals through the seasons of the year. It sounds like a good Google search would come up with something but hubs and I have searched to no avail. I have a few older children's books now in Ethan's library as a result of the search but the book of my childhood remained out of reach.

Until now. Hubs never gave up the search, and had posted the details on one of the forums he regularly visits. Months later, someone made the suggestion of the Fern Hollow series. And one look at the cover and I knew it was true.

We had found my book.






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Monday, 27 January 2014

What we got up to at the weekend

I love surprises, particularly planning them. I love getting an idea in my head about what to buy someone or where to take them, then meticulously planning every detail so the whole surprise is perfect. I always feel impatient with excitement, wanting to give the game away, but I've become very good at playing the waiting game, often planning things in secret months in advance.

This weekend was one I had planned since August. It's hubs' birthday today and I knew we'd be needing a little break for just the two of is and with it falling just after the first pay day of 2015, we deserved a treat.

Hubs is a huge fan of the musical Les Miserables even though he's never been to see the live show. He knows all the songs by heart and so I decided it was about time he saw the stage show in London.

After researching tickets to see where the best seats in the house were for the best price, I planned our weekend inside out.

On Saturday, we took Ethan over to his Nanny and Grandad's along with Watson who seemed rather excited to be going on an adventure. After unloading the car, full of Ethan's chairs, toys, milk and food, clothes, nappies, changing bag and everything else besides, we waved goodbye and took a taxi into town. A quick Starbucks later and we were on the train to London. 


Hubs still didn't know what we were doing and it was nice having the anticipation of what was to come. When we arrived, we took the underground over to Covent Garden, my favourite place in all of London. I love the architecture and the mix of shops; it just has such a great vibe. We joined the queue for Shake Shack - a stylish American burger joint with just one UK location - and ordered two cheeseburgers and fries with shack sauce and a peanut butter malt shake. It was delicious, even through it was pricey, and didn't last that long as we were pretty hungry.


We then hopped back on the underground and after a couple of changes, arrived in Southwark. We were staying at the rather cool and original hotel, Citizen M - somewhere I had been once before and I couldn't wait for hubs to see.


Despite it's great room rates, this hotel is somewhere you'll definitely remember. There's a wealth of art and literature to enjoy in the lobby and bar areas and the rooms are unlike anything you've seen before. They have a super king size bed that fits wall to wall and right against the window. It's so big, you're not sure which way round to sleep! 

The bathroom curves into the room and the wall is made of an opaque acrylic which is lit up and can be changed to any colour to suit your mood. There's white modular furniture and nooks for everything you need.


The whole room is controlled by a Samsung tablet, from the blinds, lights and colour mood lighting of the bathroom to the TV, radio, alarm clock and temperature setting. You can set the room as a whole to suit your mood if you like. 

There's a huge selection of recent movies, all of which are free, and wifi is also included as standard.

It's a really unique experience and it makes you want to stay in rather than go out.


But go out we did. Once we were dressed up, we headed back to Covent Garden and another different kind of eatery . Fire and Stone specialise in pizzas with a twist, with 17 varieties inspired by 17 cities from across the world. I had the San Sebastián (chorizo, rosemary potatoes, red peppers and garlic mayo) whilst hubs had a Texas influenced pizza. Yum!


We had to get a wriggle on and made it to the Queens Theatre with minutes to spare - just enough time to grab a G&T and a programme. I'm not a big fan of musicals but I've come to love some of the songs of Les Mis and I really enjoyed the performance.

Hubs was so pleased to have seen the show at last and I was relieved to have pulled off a fun weekend of surprises for him.


On Sunday, we crossed the road to eat at one of my favourite places in London - The Refinery - where we enjoyed brunch and a big pot of English tea. A hop and a skip later, across the wet pavements of Southbank and another trip on the underground, and we were back at Euston to get our train home.


It's always nice to have a little break from your daily routine and it was nice to have some time for just the two of us. However, coming home to Ethan was lovely - we had missed him so much - and today we're enjoying hubs' actual birthday as a family, before our routine gets all muddled up again.
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Sunday, 26 January 2014

Scruffy no more thanks to Scruffy Chops

I've written in the past about how before there was Ethan, we first had our other baby, Watson - the best dog in the world. He was completely besotted when Ethan first came home, always rushing to his side at the slightest shriek, but now, almost nine months later, Watson is a bit 'over' the whole baby thing.

He just gets on with what he's doing - namely, chasing Arty (one of our cats) around the house or hiding chew toys in the unlikeliest of places - and we do our best to give him as much attention as possible.

After all, I'm back at work now so Watson has lost his daily companion and has had to adjust to a new routine himself.

We've let his fur grow all scruffy again as it really emphasises his character and it seems only fair when it's cold to let him have a thicker coat. He's been long over-due a proper bath and so at the weekend, I bundled up my pooch for a spot of pampering, courtesy of Scruffy Chops.

Before his bath

Scruffy Chops specialise in dog shampoo that achieves something quite amazing - clean dogs that don't smell of wet dog. They offer three different shampoos and one conditioner treatment in their current range, and all of these come in a nicely designed pouch that's easy to use and doesn't look out of place next to your own lotions and potions in the bathroom. Perhaps if you mistook it for your own shampoo, you'd still end up with a glossy coat, I mean head of hair, full of shine and vitality?!


The great thing about these shampoos is they have been created with your dog in mind. They contain natural, organic ingredients such as Dead Sea Minerals, Aloe Vera, Oatmeal, Vitamin E and Pro Vitamin B5 - not that different to what you probably treat your own skin and hair to!

This mix of quality ingredients ensures that your dog's coat is left fresh, full of shine and soft to the touch whilst being kind to their skin (no nasty chemicals here, thank you very much).

With this peace of mind, you can simply choose your favourite scent. We were kindly sent the brilliantly named Rhubarking Mad shampoo to try, which smells like rhubarb and custard, sweet but not sickly, but there's also Sugar Doggy (brown sugar) and Zest In Show (pink grapefruit) available.


Watson stood in the bath and waited patiently while I wet his coat before lathering up the shampoo and working this through. He tends to really enjoy bath-times and aside from running around like a nutcase afterwards, trying to get dry, and he behaved himself while I gave his fur a good shampoo and rinse. The scent was pleasant and not overpowering and it was both easy to work up the suds and to wash them out afterwards.

He obviously thought the shampoo was pretty tasty too!

Next, we had another treat in store. Scruffy Chops had sent us some of their Muddy Marvelous Dead Sea Mineral conditioner to try, as an extra treatment. I've never used a conditioner on Watson before, although he may have had this on a visit to the groomers, so it was nice to add this to our washing routine. The conditioner is quite light and easy to work through the fur, and ideally should be left for a couple of minutes. Watson was starting to look a little cold so I washed this off after a minute or so then wrapped him up in a towel.


He always ends up looking like a sheepdog when you start to dry his fur - it just sticks right out and goes rather fluffy for the rest of the day. A few blasts of the hair dryer, and Watson was ready to show off his new coat.

Usually there's a smell of wet dog after we wash him, no matter what we have used, but we were pleasantly surprised at how nice he smelled. We definitely picked up on the subtle coconut scent of the conditioner but again, the smell wasn't too overbearing but it could be detected, which is a real plus point.


All in all, we really liked using the Scruffy Chops products and we're pleased to have found a fresh, fun, fragrant range that helps our little furry friend look and smell his best.


Scruffy Chops is available to buy online, with the shampoos priced at £5.99 and the conditioner at £6.99. You really must check out the website - the 'about us' page tells the interesting history of how two dog owner friends came up with the idea and their furry friends who've helped them develop their product range.


* Note: I was sent a pouch of shampoo and a pouch of conditioner for the purposes of this review but all opinions are, as always, my own. Oh, and Watson's too on this occassion.
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Saturday, 25 January 2014

Our new routine

The end of this week marks the end of my husband's current client project so he no longer will he endure the five hour round trip commute on a daily basis to Leeds, just so he can spend his evenings with me and our little man. Hurray you might expect me to say - and yes, that's great news.

There's just a slight downside.

The new client project he will be working on for three, possibly four, days a week is based in Woking. As it involves two trains, the journey isn't commutable so from next week, hubs will be working away from home and staying at a hotel for two nights a week.

Damn.


When I was pregnant, he was based in London so I spent the working week alone, with just my doggy and two cats for company, plus the occasional Skype call when the hotel's wifi was working. It's the life of a consultant and not one to moan and stamp my feet when something like this arises, I accepted the circumstances for what they were; not ideal, but necessary. I'd try to keep myself busy at home on those evenings alone, enjoying the programmes I like to watch on TV and going to bed early just because I could. I tried my best to stay positive and, for the most part, I succeeded but if I think back to those eight months he was working away during the week, I have to admit it was hard. Even harder with a bump and no friends or family to check-in on me or keep me company.

I could have let it break me but I chose not to. Stephen was working hard to do well at work and I was busy building a nest for our future bundle of joy.

Fast-forward nine months and we have a baby boy who's settled well into nursery, I'm back at work and we're all pretty used to our new routine.

Now it's all change again!


For the foreseeable future, Monday to Wednesday, hubs will be working in Woking, travelling on a Monday morning and returning on Wednesday night. The hope is the remaining two days of the working week can be spent on project work from home, but we'll see. With my non-working day being Wednesday, that means there's quite a long period of the week when it'll just be me and my little man, eating together, playing together and hopefully, having sweet dreams together (that is unless his teething continues causing the odd night-time troubles).

Ethan is young enough to adapt to the change without much difficulty. He's taken to nursery so well - he's a very happy, content boy and the team there say that the younger the start, the easier it is for them to settle into the routine.

I'm not quite so young but I've had to look after the house by myself before and at least this time, it won't be every day of the working week. It's hard for hubs to be away from us but we have to focus on the positives and make the most of our time together. Those two nights will be a breathing space for him, and he's already planning trips to the cinema and meeting with people he knows in the area. For me, it'll mean quality time with Ethan and that's so important now I am a working mum.

I know so many mums, including ones I have met through this blog and Twitter, have to do the same and no matter what your circumstances, you find a way to make it work.

I just need to remember that everything we do, we're doing for our future. With that in mind, we can get through anything.
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Friday, 24 January 2014

Washing up with Persil Warm Spice

Housework isn't something that a lot of people tend to enjoy - unless you're a Bree Van De Kamp type - and when you have a baby, it's just difficult to find the time or energy. Throw in going back to work, and it really can slip down your list of priorities.

There's one household task in particular both my husband and I avoid doing the most and it's the washing up. It just seems that no sooner have you cleaned your pots and pans and got your kitchen spick and span, the pile of washing up just starts to accumulate all over again.

Unfortunately, we don't have enough space in our kitchen for a dishwasher so anything that can help make this daily chore a bit more enjoyable is great in my book.


Enter Persil and their limited edition Warm Spice washing up liquid! I received a bottle of this just in time for a mammoth washing up session (literally, the postman arrived with the package just as I was rolling up my sleeves) and although it's obviously a seasonal scent, with the launch taking place pre-Christmas, I was looking forward to enjoying scents of cinnamon, cloves and citrus from my suds.

I love these scents no matter what time of year to be honest and with it being cold outside, I think they're just as lovely to enjoy now, even though the Christmas decorations are packed away for another eleven months, until the sun decides to get its hat on in (hopefully) a few months time.

I squirted a small amount into the hot running water and immediately I could smell the spicy notes. The bubbles started building in no time and I did think to myself that perhaps I didn't need as much washing up liquid as I had put in - great, maybe this bottle will last me a good while yet!?


I powered through washing four dinner plates, three bowls, two side plates, four mugs, three glasses and some cutlery and to be honest, I could have done more as there was still plenty of bubbles in the bowl. However, I had a 10 minute window before lunch was going to be ready so that was all I needed and I was surprised at how quickly I got through it all, with everything nice and clean and drying on the side of the sink.

At the end of the day, washing up needs to be done so why not enjoy it as much as possible? I'm a big scented candle lover and no matter what the time of year, spiced apple, vanilla and cinnamon scents are my favourite choices. The same thinking goes for washing powder and now washing up liquid - buy with your nose! I can confirm that Persil's washing up liquids lather well, the bubbles last and the dishes come out nice and clean, but with all those practical benefits ticked off the list, why not go for a scent you like? It really lasts too, so whilst your singing away to the radio, you can let the scent help enhance your mood.

The Persil washing up liquid range has an RRP of just £1 for a 500ml bottle, which is going to last a long time unless you get a little squirt-happy, and once the seasonal scent of Warm Spice has left the shelves, you can choose between Pink Blush, Orange Crush, Lemon Burst and Apple Fizz. To find out more, visit www.persildishwash.co.uk.


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Thursday, 23 January 2014

Snap up a stroller (or anything else you need!)

Yesterday, I wrote about how Ethan is getting too big for many of the things we first bought for him, such as his bouncer chair, and it got us to thinking about what he will soon need for his next stage. I've always assumed that items such as car seats, pushchairs, cot beds and so on are expensive so I like to do my research in advance so I know what costs we might be facing in the near future.

His car seat probably has a couple of months of life left in it but in terms of travel, we were keen to find a pushchair sooner rather than later. We bought a 9-in-1 travel system before Ethan was born and whilst I'm pleased with our purchase, the one thing I have never been keen on is the pram seat attachment. With the frame of the system being quite large as well, we decided that we would need something more compact and easy to transport as we have a few mini breaks planned in the next couple of months and baby's just don't seem to travel lightly.

That's when Kiddicare got in touch with me. I have used Kiddicare for various things in the past and have always found myself spoilt for choice (choosing a highchair took me forever!) and their service is great too. They currently have a big sale on - which does end soon, so you best be quick if you want a bargain - and they wanted to see if there was a stroller that suited our needs within the sale that they could send to us to try.

I was thrilled to have this opportunity and after much comparison and consideration (including reading reviews on Mumsnet - I can't help it, I HAVE to research things thoroughly before buying), hubs and I decided that the Chicco Echo stroller was the one for us.

Source

Normally retailing at £99.99, this stroller currently has 40% off in the Kiddicare sale, making it just £59.99 - a complete bargain, I can tell you, as it looked the best on paper and it has lived up to our expectations in the flesh.

One of the reasons we chose it is because of the design. It's smart, modern and has a sleek look and we liked the contrast of the black frame, hood and detailing against the turquoise blue fabric seat and rear cover. It really looks the part and it's great quality too. 

Our travel system always confuses other people who have no idea where to start when it comes to taking it apart, and there is a knack to it. However, the Echo stroller is really easy to put up and to take down. To open, you release a catch on the right hand side, pull the handles of the chair towards you and then push down on a bar at the back of the chair, at the bottom, to secure the frame. Done! To pack the stroller away, you push the bar at the back of the chair back up with your foot then there's another lever to press with your foot, just to the left, and you just fold the chair back up until the clasp catches. Simple!

Here's a quick video to show you how easy it is (it's a little easier than I make it look here, as I thought the catch was on the left but it's actually on the right!):

Overall, the stroller is pretty lightweight, which is one of the most important things when you're choosing something like this, and has a handle on one side so it's easy to carry.





We took the stroller out for a proper test drive - the three of us and Watson, our dog - and we were very impressed with how easy it was to manoeuvre. It feels lightweight to push but at the same time, the frame feels solid and not flimsy in anyway. The handles are positioned quite high up but feel comfortable and there's plenty of room in the basket underneath. 


Ethan looked comfortable in the harness, which features pads for comfort, and there's five positions you can move the chair back to, so if little one has a snooze, you can lie them down. 

No snoozing for Ethan though, he was far too interested in swinging his feet (we had put the footrest down) and enjoying to ride. 


The stroller also comes with a raincover which is a big plus point. Our travel system cost a lot of money and we then realised a little later down the line that we had to spend more to get the corresponding raincover - something we should have thought of before.


We couldn't be more pleased with our new stroller and it's definitely a good idea to make the most of sales such as this whilst they're on as if you wait until you absolutely have to have something, you could end up paying a lot more. We've always planned ahead when it comes to Ethan, so we get the best price and have what we need for when we need it. There's lots to find in the Kiddicare sale and they deliver in super-fast time (we had our stroller next day),  so if you can, I'd recommend you take a look as most of the savings available are quite impressive.


We probably would have been willing to pay £99.99 for our stroller as it really has ticked all the boxes for being easy to carry and transport, simple to put up and pack away, comfortable for Ethan to sit in and for us to push and all wrapped up in an attractive design. But to get something this great in the sale is even better.

We may have only used the stroller a couple of times but I can tell it's just the trick for running Ethan about town and for when we go away as a family. Ah, to have some boot space again!

The Chicco Echo stroller is suitable up to three years of age and you can find out all about it's specifications here on the Kiddicare website. But be quick, the sale ends soon!


* Note: we were sent the Chicco Echo stroller by Kiddicare for this review. However, we selected this model ourselves and all opinions are my own.
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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Best seat in the house

With his nine month birthday just around the corner and his nine to 12 month wardrobe unpacked, Ethan has well and truly grown out of his bouncer chair. His legs dangle over the edge and now he can sit up, he keeps pulling himself forwards and nearly toppling out the chair altogether.

It was a sad day when we had to pack it away in the loft - it's been one of the main ways in which we've been able to calm and soothe Ethan since the day he was born (take a look at this post, look how tiny he once was!). What on earth are we going to do now?! Ethan is an extremely happy and content boy but the bouncer chair was always able to calm away any teething tears and it provided him with his own seat in our lounge, where we could keep him in one spot whilst he played away with his various toys.

He's yet to start crawling but as he's so confident with sitting up all by himself and reaching for things, we know we can't leave him for even a second as he'll be off causing all sorts of mischief. So, we asked ourselves, what DO you get to replace a bouncer chair? We can't have him sitting on our laps, the sofa or on the floor all the time after all.

Hubs did some research and we chose two new options for Ethan to enjoy in the place of his old bouncer chair.

The first time Ethan tried his new beanbag chair

The first is a beanbag armchair for toddlers from Dunelm Mill, in the sale for £23.99 It is quite a soft seat which you need to position properly before putting your child onto it, whether you want them to be sitting up or more relaxed and reclined, as beanbags can just move all over the place. It has a fun safari print that is quite muted in it's colours so it's not too 'in your face' like some kid's items, and Ethan loved it from the first time he sat his little tooshie on it.

Lazy afternoon in his armchair - just needs a pipe and slippers!

The second option we now have is the Car Playnest from Galt, which again we bought in the sale from Amazon for £36. It's quite big when assembled (it has a fabric cover which goes over the inflatable ring) but it's already proved very popular with our little boy. It has a nice space in the middle for your child to sit inside and if they should wobble or fall any which-way, the playnest is well cushioned so they won't hurt themselves at all. It has a detachable dashboard with a steering wheel which turns, a horn than 'toot toots' and a key that revs the engine when you put it in the ignition. Around the edge, there's side mirrors and there's also two flaps, one either side, that have a picture underneath of a cat and a dog, obviously passengers along for the ride!

I'm so pleased with this purchase as it's great quality, there's lots for baby to look at, feel and play with and most importantly, Ethan is secure sitting inside whilst also having freedom to play.

Don't just take my word for it though - look how happy he is in his new racing car playnest...










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