Monday, 30 June 2014

Center Parcs, here we come!

Last November, I wrote this post, simply as something fun to write. Little did I know that I would then be chosen to join the Tots 100 and Center Parcs Family Bloggers Club.


What a year it has been since! I've really enjoyed learning more about Center Parcs and working with the team and today, around midday, we are heading off to the Sherwood Forest village to enjoy a five day woodland break thanks to my involvement with the Family Bloggers Club.

It's going to be a great week, with the three of us being joined by my sister-in-law and her fiance, and we will be enjoying bike rides, meals out, swimming, walking, talking, eating, relaxing and enjoying everything that the village has to offer. Oh, and I'll also be celebrating the big 3-0 come Wednesday.

We're looking forward to the break and to making memories we will cherish forever. Watch this space next week to find out everything we got up to, what we loved and our top tips for staying and playing at Center Parcs.
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Posts revisited: 15 ways to save time as a new mum

Originally posted a year ago, I wrote this to help other new mums to find and save time now they have their hands full...


Everyone tells you before you have a baby how much work it'll be and to make the most of your free time when you can. And it's true - your life does revolve around your little one and rightly so. But I think it's all down to the individual - your circumstances and how you handle things - as to how much time you get to be yourself as well as be a mum. 

It's still early days for me as Ethan is just over 10 weeks old and I'm sure when teething and crawling starts, I may feel very differently, but I wanted to write this post to let other new mums know that you WILL find time to have a shower and you WILL eventually drink a cup of hot tea again. It just takes time for you and your baby to get to know each other and settle into some kind of routine, even if it's just one based on knowing what signs to look for.

There's no rush in getting out and about to mum and baby groups or starting to pick up your old hobbies again but you will find time eventually. 

The more you do to help yourself the easier you will find things. I'm a manic list maker and obsessively organised - I always have been and my work requires me to be - and before baby, I spent my pregnancy and even before this planning budgets and lists of what we would need, when we would need it and how much it would cost. 

The key to getting more done is speed and multitasking. It's amazing what you can do with 10 minutes free time! After all, you never know how long you might have once baby closes their eyes so you've got to make it count. Here's a few tips on how to find or save time which I have found useful day to day since joining the mummy club two months ago:

1. Get a mummy diary. You may think that no work means no meetings or deadlines to keep track of but actually, your little one is about to give our social diary a big boost. From midwife visits and doctors appointments to coffee with friends and baby groups, you need a diary to keep track of where you need to be and when plus important contact numbers. Keep it with you at all times and write everything down - you will get a touch of baby brain and no one can expect you to remember everything.

2. Put a shopping list pad on the wall or fridge in the kitchen so when something runs out, you can jot it down. You don't want to run out of nappies at 3am, trust me! 

3. Use home delivery services for your weekly food shop. Take the time before baby is born or when baby is asleep to create and save your favourite shopping lists so if when you go there the kitchen is bare, you can get what you need straight to your door the next day. This helps you keep track of your budget and really helps you get in with the more important things as a trip to the supermarket with a newborn can really be a trial sometimes if you have a lot to get, have an unhappy baby and the shop is packed with people who have no consideration for a mum with a pram. Before Ethan was born, I created a few template lists on Asda so I could quickly reorder the essentials we use every week - this saved oodles of time and made sure we were eating well and spending within our means. It really is worth the £3 delivery charge.

4. Leave your baby changing area ready for next time. From day one, I'd always set the nursery up with nappies, nappy sacks and wipes all within reach and ready to use the next time little man needed to be changed. Even at 1am, I'd take those extra few seconds to make sure everything was ready and was always so grateful, particularly when Ethan was in a less than favourable mood.

5. Similarly, keep your changing bag well stocked. You'll need nappies, nappy sacks, wipes, sudocrem, hand sanitizer, changing mat, muslin cloth, pacifier and a change of clothes appropriate to the weather (see here for my advice on choosing or creating your own changing bag). I also have a sterilised bottle and carton of ready made milk (as I'm not breastfeeding now) prepared. Whenever you come home, replace what you used. It'll make every trip out of the house easier as you'll never have to worry that you've forgotten something.

6. Buy easy to eat food and drink for yourself. Baby cuddles are great but before you know it, you can spend the best part of the day with them in your arms and no food in your belly. Fill a two litre bottle with water and put next to the sofa for easy access and pick grab and go foods that can be eaten with one hand if needs be, such as yoghurt drinks, breakfast biscuits, dried fruit, cous cous meals etc. Or if you can find time the night before, when making dinner, make lunch for the next day so you can simply get it when you need it. 

7. Invest in a slow cooker and double up portions. Slow cooking is a brilliant way to eat well but save time as everything goes into one pot and you don't need to do anything else. All you need is five minutes to put in your meat, vegetables and sauce or stock and you can then walk away, knowing hours later, a good meal is waiting for you. It's completely foolproof.

8. Streamline your skincare regime. Select the products you actually use every day and put in one bag / vanity case and keep in the bathroom. I keep most of my beauty products in the wardrobe but can't access this when Ethan is in his Moses basket so would often do without. Now, I have my wipes, cleansers, toner, moisturisers, eye cream, cotton wool and hair ties in one bag under the sink so I can make the time to look after myself. I also have a basic make up bag with the key items I use in so if I need to put my face on whilst sitting on the sofa and rocking baby in his chair with my foot, I can!

9. Multitask! When you get up in the morning, pick up all the bottles and dummies on your route downstairs and put them in your washing up bowl to soak. Grab the laundry basket, yours or baby's, put in the washing machine then put the bottles in the steriliser. Then head to the lounge and pick up anything from the night before and straighten things up so everything is back where it should be. In five baby-free minutes, you'll have a tidy house, clean bottles and clean clothes in progress so when you sit down for the morning feed, you'll feel you've achieved some sense of order and you're ready for the day. And when they nap, make the most of it by snoozing on the sofa or running from downstairs picking things up to put away upstairs then taking the bins from upstairs back down with you when you're finished. 

10. Prepare bottles before you go to bed so when baby wakes in the night, you can grab a bottle whilst still half asleep and be back with them in no time. It really makes such a difference. 

11. If you have an iPad, catch up on your reading or watch that TV programme you missed by having it close by during feeds. Many a time in those early days I read a book by flicking the pages on the iPad screen with my toes!

12. Put together playlists of music to either soothe or distract your baby on your phone so when they're crying, you're not wasting time trying to find something to play.

13. Take turns. Again, it sounds so obvious but you need to let your other half do things for the baby too. You both need time with and without them so trade one lie in for an hour in the bath and you'll both be able to get all the space AND all the bonding time so your baby that you need.

14. Give yourself a little goal each day. It doesn't have to be big but if you have something each day you want to do or accomplish, such as a trip out to grab a coffee, sorting out old baby clothes to give to charity or doing a fitness DVD, you'll find your day has purpose and you'll be getting things done slowly but surely.

15. Talk to other mums. Even if that's via Twitter or reading other people's blogs, you'll find this reassuring and a great way of sharing ideas and keeping in touch with the real world. I really enjoy social media and have chatted to many mums who have helped me in learning how to become mum whilst also keeping in touch with what's going on in the world.

For me, being organised is being happy and a happy mummy makes for a happy baby.

How do you find, save or organise your time? 
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Friday, 27 June 2014

The toddler tapdance

If you read yesterday's post, you'll know that Ethan's entered a new phase where I can't even look at the door without him bursting into tears. I don't know whether it's his age, the weather or if he's feeling under the weather but he's needed me to be close by the whole time we're at home together.

This has made the morning routine more than a little tricky. I'm doing a kind of tapdance routine trying to keep my almost toddler happy whilst also getting myself ready. I've affectionately called this the toddler tapdance.

Here's what it involves:

- Making a fort on the bed with the duvet as a moat and cushions as baracades to contain said toddler for a few seconds at least whilst you dash to the bathroom, grab your toothbrush, squeeze some toothpaste in haste and then dash back to catch your trixy little one before they crowd dive off the edge

- Sitting next to your baba so they can't make another dive for freedom, make up bag to one side, compact mirror in one hand, trying to apply your foundation before they reach round and start emptying the contents of your make up bag one item at a time

- Using one foot to block their descent onto the floor whilst you hastily try to apply your eyeliner without giving yourself  black marker pen flicks that even Amy Winehouse would have thought were too much

- Perfecting the run-to-the-bathroom-singing-Winnie-the-Pooh-for-the-quickest-pee-of-your-life

- Dancing down the corridor whilst your toddler is safe behind the safety gate bars, trying to keep them from crying, scooting left and right, grabbing a phone here, your bag there, your lunch and their  shoes on your return back down the hall, complete with jazz hands for their amusement, before running to the car to dump your stuff before all hell breaks loose 

This is my new morning routine. It certainly wakes me up, that's for sure!


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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Cuddles, crying and the cushion assault course

When Ethan was brand new, our days would be full of cuddles. Needing a feed every two hours meant that he was never far from my arms and we'd while away the days this way. I knew at the time that those days would be precious and that all too soon, my baby boy would grow, become more independent, needing those cuddles less.

Fast forward and Ethan is almost 14 months old. His personality is blooming. His inquisitiveness fascinating. His independence increasing by the day. He can pull himself to standing now, and does so at every opportunity. Six weeks of crawling has seen us transform our lounge into a kind of cushion assault course and we are always on high alert, should a head full of sandy blonde waves come into contact with any hard edges or tiny chubby fingers get trapped in anything just within his eager reach.

Ethan is such a happy boy and the main things that keep his attention right now include reading books (or rather asking us to read his books to him 10 times in a row), playing with his wooden toy ark that Gramps bought him or playing with his ball or musical instruments. Frequently, one of the animals from the ark will find its way behind the wall of cushions, so we now have eyes in the back of our heads.

Despite his intrigue in the everyday, we've still been quite lucky that we can leave Ethan for short periods of time in the lounge, with a safety gate in place at the door, to make a cuppa or pop to the loo. But now, he can pull himself up on his keen but ever so slightly wobbly legs, which means whole new areas pose problems. This is particularly worrying with his changing mat situation, above his cot, as he now spins over and sits up quite easily.

His new found confidence has opened up a world of possibilities to him and when I leave the room, he follows me to the gate to see where I'm going.

And now, it seems, he cries. Even if he can see where I have gone, even if I sing or talk to him, even if it's only for half a minute - his usually cheeky expression turns into a wobbly lip, scrunched up eyes and big fat tears making tracks down his face.

Yesterday was particularly bad. It was my day at home with Ethan and we had a lovely day - shopping, a walk in the sun, playing with his new wooden toy farm - except for the fact he would cry as soon as I started to leave the room.

It's sure to be a phase but he's always been quite independent and happy with his own company for a few minutes here and there so it's quite a change to have him be so clingy.

I can't really complain though; it does melt my heart when I feel him hug me back and it's nice to know that he needs his Mama. Just like he did back then. As I hope he will in the future.

Have you been through or are you going through something similar? I'd love to hear from you and let me know if you have any tips!



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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Exploring the nature of beauty with Weleda

Being a bit of a beauty addict, I've tried many different brands in my quest to look good and feel my best. It's the eternal desire to be beautiful and stay youthful that keeps us searching I guess but recently, I've become rather taken with one brand in particular.


I first started using Weleda products this time last year, when Ethan was still a little bundle of newborn joy and I was looking for the kindest products to use on his delicate skin. I fell in love with their Calendula range (as you can read here) and then later down the line, their teething granules proved to be a bit of a saviour (see this post for more details). 

It wasn't long before I started exploring their product range further, reading review after rave review for products such as their best-selling Skin Food. Jessica Alba, Alexa Chung and even Mr Vanity himself, Simon Cowell, are all famous fans of this range and the more I learn, the more I realise why that is.


You see, Weleda products are 100% natural, contain active plant ingredients grown in biodynamic gardens that are blended with skin loving oils to great effect. For almost 100 years, the ethos of 'working in harmony with nature and the human being' holds true and last week, I had the pleasure of seeing how such miraculous plants and flowers are grown to make the most wonderful natural skincare products.

Every year, Weleda hosts a series of insight days in early summer and when I was invited to go along to one, I jumped at the chance. In good company with Mother and Baby magazine, researchers and midwives, I arrived at Weleda HQ in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, ready to find out more about natural beauty.

From the last blogger meet up I co-organised, I knew quite a bit about the company and the saying 'what goes on you goes in you' has really stuck in my mind. The average woman puts 515 different chemicals on her skin each day which is quite a shocking figure to hear and one that has made me reconsider what I am using to cleanse and care for my own skin.


The insight day kicked off with a welcome talk from the MD Jayn, where we were given a brief overview of the company, the products they make and the guidelines they work to. We learnt quite a lot about the company and its products - for instance, did you know that the recipe for Skin Food hasn't changed since 1925?

We then boarded a minibus to go and visit the gardens where many of the plants used in the products are cultivated and grown, just a short distance away. Michael, who was head gardener for 30 years, was our guide and he took great pleasure in walking us round the gardens to see where many all the plants, flowers and herbs used in Weleda's products are sourced from. Each plant had a picture close by depicting what it was a core ingredient in and Michael explained what it meant to be a biodynamic garden and how they care for and harvest the plants according to the pattern of the moon and planets. 

It really was a fascinating talk, one which really opened up our eyes to the power of nature, and we all eagerly listened to the details given about the properties of each plant.



We then visited the area where Weleda grows the beautiful Calendula flowers which are used in the baby range of products. This flower really is packed full of fantastic qualities plus it's extremely vibrant and pretty to look at.

We then headed over to see current head gardener, Claire, who explained how the goodness of the flowers is captured and preserved to make the end products. Essentially, the plant in question is chopped up into small pieces then using a top secret formula, ethanol is added to make a tincture, which is left to develop for a set period of time - in the case of calendula, around two weeks. The remaining liquid after this time is then used in the production of various lotions and potions.

It had been a fascinating morning and my head was buzzing with new information as we returned to HQ for lunch. I met Evelyn Liddell, who works on new product development, and we chatted about natural skincare and its many benefits. She was a fascinating lady and having used Weleda products in the main since 2001, she looked amazing!

Next, Weleda had invited Sharon Trotter, a midwife and expert on mother and baby skincare, to talk to us on this subject after which we heard about all the new products Weleda has launched over the past few months plus a top secret launch - watch this space, all will be revealed here on 4th July!


It had been a really informative day and I enjoyed learning about the theories and practices at Weleda. Their product range is impressive and the regular awards and accolades their products receive are testament to the care and attention that goes into making natural skincare solutions that work.

I'll be sharing more about some of my favourite products soon, including some of the treats from the generous Weleda goody bag, plus the exciting new launch taking place next week. But for now, here's a slideshow of my day at Weleda...


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Monday, 23 June 2014

Meet A Mum - Francesca Govier, Adding Up 2 Be Mum

Fresh from BritMums Live, it's time for another Meet A Mum Monday post. Now, if you were there this weekend, you wouldn't have met today's lovely lady so I am pleased to be introducing you to her now as she is such a nice person and we regularly chat over the magic of the interweb.

So without further ado, today's Meet A Mum is Francesca from Adding Up 2 Be Mum...


1. Hello, what's your name and where do you come from?

Hello! I am Francesca and I am from Glastonbury (Yes it is a town not just a festival site as I have been asked many times before!). I have always lived here and I hope to always be a country bumpkin! 

2. Tell us about your children.

I have one beautiful little daughter: Molly Amaya. She is one year old and growing ever too quickly. As we always say, it's 'Mummy and Molly against the world'! In the future I would hope to have more children and I would love to adopt. 

Molly is at a great age right now where she has just learnt to walk and she is really trying to talk, however she is showing early signs of the terrible twos with lots of tantrums! 

3. When did you know you wanted to be a mum?
I have always wanted to be a Mum coming from a big family, as I am one of four children, with lots of cousins too. I love this kind of connection. The thing that amazes me the most is when we are at family gatherings and I look at my Nan. She has four children, nearly 20 grandchildren and six great-children, and we all exist because of her! This inspires me to create my own family. My sister had her youngest five years ago now and watching her made me want a family of my own even more. 

4. What's you favourite moment as a mum so far?

This is a tough question because every day there is something new! One of my favourite things though is when Molly is playing, whether it be at home, outside, or even in the supermarket, and I bend down and hold my arms out and she runs over to me and gives me a hug. I can't explain it. I remember the first time she did it, in Tesco actually, and that feeling of pure love is just indescribable. There is nothing like knowing I am the one she wants to be with.

5. What do you wish people had told you before you became a mum?

I never planned to have Molly. I was still at University and living at home. People always told me how hard it was going to be, how I would miss my friends and going out, how hard being sleep deprived was and how I would be giving up any time to myself. I think people forgot to mention how amazing being a mum is! I obviously knew this but it would have been nice to hear people talk about it a bit more, rather than express their worries of me being pregnant, young, and at University. 

The other thing I wish people had said more about is the birth itself. Yes it is hard, yes it hurts! But a lot of people recommend you take all the drugs to be pain free. I made the decision that I didn't want this and I think people should have told me it is actually possible and it is worth it.

6. If we were to look in your changing bag, what would we find?

I actually have three! Who said there is a limit to the number of changing bags you can have?! One is kept in the boot of my car as a spare, one is the bag I choose to take out and about with me, and the third is the bag I send to Molly's Dad when she is with him. 

They all have nappies, nappy bags, hand sanitiser and wet wipes in. My car bag also has a change of clothes for Molly. This means I don't carry a change of clothes in the bag I take with me if I am just popping out for an hour or two. This bag does however have snacks, drinks, a dummy, a bib, and a few toys in too. The bag I send to her Dad's house may as well have the kitchen sink in! I panick and pack it all! He gets all of the above including nappy cream, a sun hat, a winter hat, sun cream, a spare blanket, a coat, her comfort blanket, Barney, bottles, spare juice, all of her meals and snacks, more clothes, pyjamas, and anything else I can think of that she may need in 24 hours! 

7. What were the top three things you had for your baby that you would recommend to other mums?

  1. A Jumperoo! This kept Molly busy for hours and made her legs really strong. I was at Uni at the time so it was good to know Molly was happy and safe whilst I studied. 
  2. Teething granules. These are the best thing by far to numb those teething pains. I found them much better than gels.
  3. A video monitor - I knew I wouldn't be able to be in a different room as Molly without seeing her so a video monitor was perfect for me. It's good to be able to watch her and make sure the blankets are not too high or see if she settles back down if she starts to cry without trying to creep in the room. I am obsessed with checking it and tend to wake up all night to have a look at her, but it gives me such piece of mind. 

8. What three things could you have done without?

  1. A support/feeding pillow - I had one of the long ones which you could lie on/rest your bump on or wrap around you to support baby, keep baby close and feed baby but I didn't get along with it. It was actually too big and I found it just got in the way and there was no space for it in the bed! I found a normal pillow worked just as well and was much more manageable.  
  2. A bath seat - I think I used it once and found it useless. I had a baby bath and then when she got big enough I just used the normal bath. I wouldn't buy one again. 
  3. A Bumbo - I bought one with a tray and I think Molly has spent about five minutes in it. She hated being in it and always tried to get herself out which made me worry it would tip and she would hurt herself. 

9. What baby brands do you like and why?

Tommee Tppee is my favourite. It's a traditional brand that everyone knows well and I trust. I use most of their products and know I can rely on them. 

Ella's Kitchen is my favourite baby food brand and I find the fruit pouches really useful to take out with me. Molly used these when she was first weaning and now she has them as a healthy snack. 

I rely on Fisher Price for other baby items like Molly's bouncy chair. I love their wide range of products. 

For all of Molly's toiletries I use Johnson's, and mainly because I just love the smell of their baby shampoo! 

For any thing else I need, such as nappies or wipes, I use a supermarket own brand, I find these just as good. 

10. Are you a working mum? If so, how do you find it?

I have recently started work. I only work part time because I knew I wouldn't be able to work full time with Molly. It would upset me too much and I wouldn't want to let a company down that had invested in me so I started my work journey with less hours so me and Molly can get used to it. I plan to increase my hours as she grows up and goes to Nursery. Luckily I have my Mum for childcare so I know Molly is safe and happy. 

In the mornings she is grumpy though as she knows I am going and that makes it really hard to walk out of the door, but once I am gone I think she is okay and it is me with the greatest speration anxiety. I go to see her on every one of my lunch breaks just for half an hour together. I can never wait to finish my hours and just get to be with my baby enough. 

I do not think there is enough focus on how hard it is emotionally to go back to work with a child. My hat is off to those who work full time with a young baby. 

11. What do you enjoy most about being mum?

I love knowing that no matter what happens in my life now, I will always have someone by my side and pushing me to do better. Molly completes me. I don't worry about the things I used to like getting married any more, I have Molly and that's all I need. You really don't know love until you are a parent! 

12. How do you make time for being 'you'?

I used a Supernanny technique to get Molly to sleep at night and it was amazing and has worked ever since, even through moving house. This gives me 'me' time each evening. Albeit most nights are spent doing chores but I quite like pottering around the house on my own. If there is something in particular I want to do one night or I am planning on truly chilling out, then I get Molly to help me to the chores in the day so I have some time free. 

I live my life by lists as my memory part of 'baby brain' never quite returned to normal, so when Molly naps during the day I can get a few things done. This gives me and Molly more 'us' time, makes me less stressed, and enables me to have my own time too. 

13. Tell us about your blog / where we can find you online.

My blog is just over a year old now over at Addingup2bemum. Go check it out and let me know what you think! 

Being at Uniersity with a newborn meant I had little time to speak to my friends and I struggled to attend baby classes. I had read some really cool baby blogs and thought starting my own would be a really good solution and give me the chance to share my worries and speak to other mums. 

I use Twitter and Facebook to reach out too. Come say hello! 

14. What's the best thing about being a blogger?

I love being able to record my life in a way I can share with my family and friends, and its something that will remain forever and Molly can look back on. It makes you reflect on the time you spend with your child and reminds you to take photographs. I also love the support you get from other bloggers, its such a huge community. 

15. Share a crazy fact about yourself.

I don't think I am an overly crazy person! I like to write lists and think everything through logically. A silly fact about me though is that I absolutely HATE plasters! I will do anything to not have one on me and I dread the day when Molly needs one. If I HAVE to have one I will leave it on until it falls off all by itself, otherwise I will be crying like a baby at the attempt of removing it! 

A big thank you to Kelly for Meet A Mum. It has been lovely to meet you all! x 


Thank you so much Francesca - it's been great getting to know you better. I too have more than one changing bag so there's absolutely nothing wrong with that plus I completely agree that people need to talk more about birth, being a mum etc. and focus more on the positives too.

If you'd like to be featured as a Meet A Mum guest blogger, I have some openings in a couple of weeks so just email me at tobecomemum@gmail.com.
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Saturday, 21 June 2014

Reflecting on #britmumslive

I'm writing this sat at Euston station, killing time until my train back to Birmingham. I'm surrounded by bags and my shoulders ache from juggling these bags from shoulder to shoulder, hand to hand. My girly pink Converse are pinching my toes. My bra is digging in and I've had to tie my hair back as I'm feeling uncomfortably warm. 

I've already wandered around the station shops, bumping into displays and making the obligatory purchase at Paperchase. I've just left BritMums Live after two days of chatter, seminars, meet ups and celebrating all that it means to be a mum and a blogger. 


 As I left the bubble and babble of BritMums, I was shocked by how quiet the streets were outside. It was as if someone had turned the volume down. Cars seemed far away and other people were distant to me. I didn't know where I was walking and meandered down the road until somehow I stumbled upon Moor Street underground. 

 It was an odd feeling, to be alone, after the constant flurry of friendly and somewhat familiar faces and snatched conversations on the stairs, in the loos and everywhere in between. I had never been to BritMums before but I am so glad that I took this time out to attend. I got to meet so many bloggers who I follow, tweet, admire on a daily basis as well as meeting all new people to follow, tweet, admire.


The past two days have been intense, with so much to take in and places to be, people to see. I think I'm slightly shell-shocked to be on my own, with my own thoughts and it's hard to adjust. In a couple of hours, I will be home, I will see my husband and, if he's not long been in bed, I will tiptoe into Ethan's nursery and plant a soft kiss on his forehead. 

 I feel a little melancholy if I'm honest. Perhaps it's because I've been away from my bubba for so long. It has felt like a long time. It's been a fun, exhausting, inspiring, overwhelming experience. It's made me realise how many talented people are out there. How I'm one of them, I guess. How much more I can do. Want to do. 



 In many ways, BritMums felt like being at school again. Searching the sea of faces for someone you might know, or who might know you. For me, drifting from group to another, keen to say hello to so many people, not sure where to belong. Learning new things, gathering new ideas. Leaving as a slightly different person to the one who first came in, fresh faced and eager to please. 

 I met so many people and want to thank anyone and everyone who said hello or had a chinwag with me. I hope I didn't come across a complete nutter and I hope we'll talk more in the future. 

 I am so grateful to Udo's Choice for being my sponsor and if you haven't entered my competition yet, go check it out. 



Here's just a few names of a few faces I did see who I'd like to say hi and thank you to: Alex, Charlotte, Alison, KatieGemma, Andrea & Archie, Lucinda, Jade, Emma, Natalie, Cate, Tom, Donna, Donna, Aby... and so many more besides. 

I'm taking away with me some great advice and even greater blogger friends. I have new mantras, for my life and my blog. To know where you're going, you need to share where you have been. Always tell your own truth. Value your voice. 

 And the one thing that has particularly struck a chord with me: you can't be all things to all people. You can only be you. And that's ok.


A mini highlights showreel... enjoy!
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Friday, 20 June 2014

Competition! Win an Udo's Choice bumper bundle for you and your littleone

So, by now, you'll probably have gathered that I am a fan of Udo's Choice, particularly their Ultimate Blend Oil - well, now you can try some of their super supplements for yourself!

To celebrate BritMums Live, Udo's Choice has given me a bumper bundle of goodies to giveaway to one lucky winner. If you fill in the entry form below, you could be in with the chance of winning the following:



  • 1 x 500ml Udo’s Choice Blend Oil
  • 1 x Infant probiotic blend or Junior blend
  • 1 x Digestive Enzyme 60s
  • 1 x Beyond Greens

Ultimate Blend Oil: This unique blend contains omega 3 and 6 and the essential fatty acid 9 with a ratio of 2:1:1. It is made from natural, organic flaxseed, sunflower seed, sesame seed and coconut oil, as well as plant extracts to help keep skin moisturised and healthy. The Essential Fatty Acids in Ultimate Oil Blend are required by the skin’s cells to help them retain moisture and prevent inflammation. Ensuring you have enough Essential Fatty Acids in your diet will give a glow to your skin, lustre to your hair and strength to your nails, according to Udo Erasmus, a world renowned expert on omega oils and author of the book Fats that Heal and Fats that Kill.

Infant Probiotic Blend: Formulated with a viable count of specially chosen microflora strains especially beneficial for an infants healthy intestinal flora. The bifidomicroflora, including B. infantis, should represent the largest population of beneficial microflora in babies, whose immune defences are not yet fully working. The specific strains used in Udo's Choice Infant's Blend have been specially chosen for their value to infant health. 

Digestive Enzyme 60s: Digestive enzymes are catalysts which break down food into its basic components, so our bodies can absorb the nutrients they require to build cells, tissues and organs. Raw foods are rich in enzymes. Cooking food destroys these vital enzymes and may put our Digestion under strain. Udos Digestive Enzyme Blend contains high potency enzymes intended for use as a replacement for the enzymes lost in cooking and processing of food. It provides enzyme activity combinations, which are precisely balanced to optimise the body s utilisation of food nutrients. 

Beyond Greens: This is a wholefood foundation, ideal for supporting and maintaining health. It is made from 50 organically grown whole foods, whole food concentrates and herbal extracts. It contains no fillers, binders or other non-nutrient ingredients. Beyond Greens gives you what your body needs, mucilage, soluble and insoluble fibre, phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, enzymes and probiotics in a healthy, convenient and easy to use fast-food delivery system.


Entry is open to UK residents only and you have until midnight on Thursday 26th June to enter. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Thursday, 19 June 2014

A boost for your little ones

I've been doing a lot of reading as of late as part of my 'new decade, new me' health and well-being overhaul and the more I read, the more interested I become.

I'm certainly not going to turn into a fitness fanatic overnight, or ditch the pizza and chocolate when the mood might take me, but I am readdressing my attitudes and really giving serious thought to what I eat and how I supplement my own health. From making daily green juices to taking supplements, including Udo's Choice Ultimate Blend Oil and Xenca Collagen powder, I want to make sure I am putting good things into my body.

I also want to make sure I am doing the same for Ethan. It's hard enough to get my head around what I should and shouldn't eat each day, let alone an almost toddler who's needs differ from my own.

We all need a helping hand now and then to keep our bodies healthy and in running as they should, particularly when cold and flu sweep around the office, or the nursery. 

As the immune function of our little ones develops, they may be more susceptible to colds or tummy bugs. Their bodies are just more vulnerable and anyone who has taken their baby or toddler to soft play or who has them at nursery during the week while they work will know just how much they like to share - germs included! From day one at nursery, Ethan had a runny nose and he's had a couple of instances where he's had a bad bottom, either due to something he ate that didn't agree with him or something else he may have picked up.

Who knows? We want to protect our children from every bump and all the nasties out there, but we can't. To my mind, I'd rather do something to help give him the best chance of staying fit and healthy if I can, which is why I've been reading about probiotics for children. 

Udo's Choice Infant's Blend Microbiotics, RRP £22.99

According to Udo's Choice, babies pick up friendly bacteria from their mothers at birth and through breastfeeding but recent studies show that only 9% of babies born by caesarean section had Bifidobacterium, one of the key 'good' bacteria families. Formula fed babies can also lack these 'good' bacteria as pasteurizing can kill them and antibiotics too can distort gut flora balance. 

To give babies and toddlers a helping hand, Udo's Choice has an Infant Blend Probiotic powder which is easy to add into their daily diet to give their gut flora a boost. It contains seven infant & toddler-specific bacterial strains, can be mixed with breast milk, formula, water or juice, is suitable up to five years of age and can be bought direct from Udo's Choice or from local health stores or pharmacies. 

I think that supplements such as this are really worth considering, particularly if your little one is quite prone to picking up upsets or if you just want to make sure they are as healthy as can be from the inside out. 
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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

My sponsor for BritMums Live

BritMums Live is in just TWO DAYS - wow! - so I thought I would share with you a little bit about my rather lovely sponsors.

As you may have read, I am on a bit of a health overhaul at the moment. I've had enough of being stuck in the same routine when it comes to food and fitness and have been researching and trying lots of new things to help me change my attitude and my habits.


The first step I took was to start adding Udo's Choice Ultimate Blend Oil to my daily diet.  It's a daily supplement packed full of Essential Fatty Acids which you add to your food to help give you the boost you need on the inside for healthy skin, hair and nails.

I first heard about Udo's Choice from a great lifestyle blog a friend of mine is co-founder of - www.iamintothis.com - within a natural health and beauty supplement post - and after I took the six week challenge (read about how I got on here) I have kept it up.



Here's some more information on Udo’s Choice Ultimate Blend Oil, in case you too would like to try this superhero supplement:

Udo’s Choice Ultimate Blend Oil is regarded as a beauty ‘secret’ of many celebrities like Jemma Kidd, Yasmin LeBon, Elle MacPhearson and Sophie Dahl. Jemma has been noted as saying: “Since using Ultimate Oil Blend my concealer has virtually been made redundant.  Now I use make up to enhance my features, not mask them.” 

This unique blend contains omega 3 and 6 and the essential fatty acid 9 with a ratio of 2:1:1. It is made from natural, organic flaxseed, sunflower seed, sesame seed and coconut oil, as well as plant extracts to help keep skin moisturised and healthy. The Essential Fatty Acids in Ultimate Oil Blend are required by the skin’s cells to help them retain moisture and prevent inflammation. Ensuring you have enough Essential Fatty Acids in your diet will give a glow to your skin, lustre to your hair and strength to your nails, according to Udo Erasmus, a world renowned expert on omega oils and author of the book Fats that Heal and Fats that Kill.

I am very grateful to Udo's Choice for being my BritMums Live sponsor and the more I read about their products, the more interested and excited I become. 

Udo’s Choice also have the Ultimate Digestive Enzyme Blend in their range, which is a blend of seven active plant-based enzymes that are said assist the breakdown of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, soluble fibre, starch, milk sugar and complex sugars. 

Many enzyme products on the market contain enzymes derived from animal organs which only work in a narrow ph range and are typically only capable of digesting protein or fat. However, Udo’s Choice Enzymes have a wide ph spectrum allowing them to function throughout the entire digestive tract.  Along with protease, formulated to be active in the stomach, bromelain, which prefers the small intestine, has been added providing a superior formula for digestive health. The enzymes are designed to be taken before heavy meals to breakdown foods quicker and prompts digestion. 

There's also a range of Udo's Choice Microbiotics which provide good bacteria for the gut, with a different type suited to each member of the family, from newborns to grandparents. I'm really interested in this and will be sharing more on their Infant's Blend Microbiotic tomorrow, plus I have an exciting competition launching this Friday, so stay tuned!
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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Meet A Mum - Sara-Jayne, Keeping Up With The Jones Family

One day later than normal but worth the wait I promise... may I introduce you to Sara-Jayne from Keeping Up With The Jones Family...




1. Hello, what's your name and where do you come from?

Hey!  I’m Sara-Jayne and although I come from the Midlands, I’ve lived in Hampshire for the past 13 years and raised our family here.

2. Tell us about your children.

I have two blond little boys who are 4 and 2; with each of them I’ve been in labour on Valentine’s day…my first was born on the 15th and second on the 14th February.  I’m also 38 weeks pregnant with our third little bundle of blue.  I say little, but he’s expected to be around 10lbs like my other two boys.  I grow grasshoppers with super long legs!  

3. When did you know you wanted to be a mum?

As soon as I met my husband.  The moment I met him I knew.  I’d never felt that way before about anyone.

4. What's you favourite moment as a mum so far?

There are so many…just when I think it can’t get any better, something else happens!  Giving birth were the best moments of my life though.  I made humans!  Last week, watching our four year old compete at his first JiuJitsu competition and come home with a gold medal literally made my heart explode with pride.  I’m incredibly lucky.

5. What do you wish people had told you before you became a mum?

To trust myself and buy some ear plugs.  I had no idea how many people would rudely force their opinions on parenting on me.  I think that the less time we spend giving others advice and gossiping about them to others, the better our own and our children's lives will be.  If people want advice, they ask for it.  I wish more people realised that…or at least were more tactful.

6. If we were to look in your changing bag, what would we find?

A few months ago, a lot of crumbs!  At the moment, nothing…both my boys are happily using the toilet and I’ve yet to pack my new one.  I’m having a Petunia Pickle Bottom bag shipped from the USA, I’m very excited!  We’re a cloth nappy family and whilst our little one is small he’ll be wearing Lollipop softies so it will be packed with those.  I also love Burt’s Bees products, their nappy cream  is so deliciously scented.

7. What were the top three things you had for your baby that you would recommend to other mums?

My Medela Swing breast pump, my BOBA baby sling and our Fisher Price Jumperoo.  Without my pump I would never have made it breastfeeding for so long.  My BOBA sling made it so easy to go places with both boys on my own without worrying about a pram, and with our jumperoo, as our boys both walked at 8 months it was a great source of excitement for them to be leaping around in front of the huskies. 

8. What three things could you have done without?

My beautiful mahogany cot, as we co-slept with both boys, the musical rainforest bouncy reclining chair as neither of them wanted to spend any time in it, and the super expensive food processor we bought, as we decided on baby led weaning after many home grown, home made, rejected purees from our first born (except for my cinnamon apple sauce, he liked that).  
9. What baby brands do you like and why?

I love Fisher Price, because they’re colourful, durable products with a great track record in our family. Ella’s Kitchen as Jensen helped out Ella’s dad at his cookbook launch and he was just lovely (and his products are scrummy). Silver Cross because I was a Silver Cross baby and I just adore their prams, and Janie and Jack clothing from the USA because their garments are beautifully made and last so well.    

10. Are you a working mum? If so, how do you find it?

I’m a part time working Mum; I work two half days at school as a Junior School teacher, teaching sports, French and grammar.  I love contributing to our family, but I hate being away from them whilst they are so small even though they go to their grandparents.  I’m very grateful to be a teacher as I changed careers before we were married from an insolvency lawyer at KPMG.  I can’t imagine how I would have been able to be as flexible in that role.

11. What do you enjoy most about being mum?

The love.  I never dreamed I’d have children due to medical problems and now I’m about to give birth to my third!  There isn’t a day when I’m not told how much I’m loved, or cuddled and kissed.  I look at my boys and I can’t imagine how my life would be without them.  I love raising them, growing up with them as they develop into little individuals.  

12. How do you make time for being 'you'?

I don’t.  I would be lying if I said I did.  My family live 140 miles away and so I don’t really have a way to find time to myself.  I can count the days of me time I’ve had in the past four years on one hand.  Sometimes I feel burned out but then I realise how fast and fleeting these years are and I remember that I had 32 years of being me before I had children.  My “me” time is usually squinting at the screen, trying to edit photographs at 3am…although I am going to Britmums as long as I’m not in labour.

13. Tell us about your blog / where we can find you online.

I blog over at www.keep-up-with-the-jones-family.com and you can find me behind the scenes on Instagram regularly.  I’m on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook too.  I’m everywhere!

14. What's the best thing about being a blogger?

I’ve met some really lovely people, but mostly I love that I’m constantly learning…there’s always something I don’t know about blogging which keeps my brain cells firing, and I’ve discovered my love of photography through my blog.  It challenges me to keep improving.    

15. Share a crazy fact about yourself.

I’m a Disney Bride; my husband and I were married in Walt Disney World in 2008, when I rode in Cinderella’s carriage pulled by white ponies and had Mickey and Donald as guests at my wedding!  It was the happiest day of my pre-mommy life.  

Other than that, I can speak and write Japanese, mush huskies, and I played rugby for years as a tight head prop (number three, at the front of the scrum, getting messy!). I’ve swam with sharks and I have a huge obsession with crocodiles after years spent in love with Steve Irwin.  


Wow, what an inspiring lady! Thank you Sara-Jayne - you're boys are gorgeous, your passion for your family is wonderful and I really hope I do get to see you at BritMums this weekend unless baby number three has any other ideas!
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Sunday, 15 June 2014

Happy Father's Day!



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Friday, 13 June 2014

One week until BritMums!


I'm going to BritMums Live next week and can't wait! It's my first time, I'm being sponsored by Udo's Choice and there's so many people I'm looking forward to meeting in person.

This latest video is all about what I'm looking forward to and what I will be wearing too...

Let me know if you'll be there too!


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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Shake up your wake up - brilliant breakfast ideas from Sam at I Am Into This

I don't like breakfast. There, I've said it. I much prefer the foods you can eat at lunch and dinner and never have cared for cereal. Bleurgh. 

I know, I know - it's the most important meal of the day. For me though, I can't stomach eating when I first wake up and when it's a work day, or any other day in fact when we have things to do, I use the old excuse of not having enough time. More often than not, I need something that I can grab and go and, more often than not, I generally skip breakfast altogether or just nibble on something at my desk or in the car. You can probably guess that what I nibble on isn't the best choice or the best way to start my day, but nothing else really appeals. I'm more of a savoury person, preferring my fruit in a glass, so that doesn't help to inspire me either.


But, I've reached a point where I want to make a change for the good of my health so I have enlisted the help of someone I know who knows her way around the kitchen and knows what you need to eat, to help me finally embrace breakfasts.


Sam writes over at I Am Into This and is also a self-described over-tweeter too. We used to work together and since then, I've admired her passion for life, genuine interest and insight into health and her yummy looking recipes that she's always cooking up.


So, I set Sam a big challenge and here's the brilliant breakfast ideas she came up with...



As a huge food lover (yep, that is just a polite way of saying ‘greedy’), I’m a breakfast devotee. From the second I wake up in the morning, I start getting excited about what’s for breakfast.

From overnight oats to quinoa porridge, green smoothies, boiled eggs and sweet potato breakfast hashes, I can’t start my day without a big meal. You see, if I do, I turn into a grump, then devour the entire biscuit tin come 11am.

In fact, I refuse to leave the house until I’ve eaten something, no matter how many times my little ones (two-month-old and a 20-month-old) cry / want changing / want a hug. This usually means I’m late everywhere.

I can’t be alone in this, can I?

Anyway, I leapt at the chance to blog for Kelly when she challenged me to come up with some fresh ideas for breakfasts. I’m currently writing my own recipe ebook, so this means I’m trying new breakfasts most days – and these are some of my current favourites!

Forget your sugar-laden breakfast cereals (yes, put down that Special K this second!) and, instead, embrace protein-packed or natural goodness instead. Make breakfast a good, honest meal and you’ll see a boost for the rest of the day.

I hope you enjoy,

Sam x

  
CINNAMON NUT GRANOLA

This granola never lasts very long in our house. I tend to grab it by the handful and eat as a mid-afternoon snack to stop that energy slump come 3pm.



Ingredients:
(Serves 6)

120g dried, chopped dates, soaked in hot water
250g oats
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp natural nut butter (any kind)
200g mixed nuts (I used almonds, cashews and walnuts)
3 tbsp mixed seeds
6 tbsp Lucy Bee coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Method:

1) Preheat the oven to 160C, then puree the dates until semi-smooth. Tip all the ingredients into a bowl, then stir the pureed dates through. 
2) Spread onto a lined baking tray, then bake for 15 minutes Reduce the oven to 110C, then bake for a further 30 minutes. 
3) Leave to cool then transfer to a container and serve with greek yoghurt.


PANCETTA EGG CUPS WITH SPICY SALSA

These egg cups are super easy to make and keep me going all morning. The spicy salsa is optional, but really takes it to the next level  - I love to add chilli to breakfasts as it boosts the metabolism.

Ingredients:
(Serves 2)

8 slices of Pancetta
4 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the salsa:

½ red onion
½ red pepper
½ yellow pepper
2 tomatoes
Crushed, dried chillies
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Method:

1) Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Line four holes in a muffin tray with layered slices of Pancetta (two to each hole). Crack an egg directly into each ‘cup’, then season with salt and pepper. Cover the tray with baking paper and then place in the oven to cook. It depends how you like your eggs, but this should take between 20 and 30 minutes.
2) In the meantime, get a start on the salsa by chopping all the vegetables into small cubes. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, then heat the vegetables through gently.
3) Add a dash of balsamic vinegar to taste, then 1-2tsp of dried chillies (depending on your tastebuds!).
4) Season with salt and pepper, then cook off the vinegar but don’t fry.
5) Serve the salsa alongside the eggs, with slices of buttered rye bread toast.


SWEET POTATO AND FETA HASH

This sweet potato hash works just as brilliantly for lunchtimes too – I love it as my weekend brunch recipe.


Ingredients:
(Serves 2)

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp crushed chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
3 handfuls chopped kale
50g feta cheese, chopped into chunks
2-3 slices of Pancetta, chopped
2 eggs

Method:

1) Heat 2 tbsp of olive or coconut oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Once hot, throw in the onions and sweet potatoes and give them a good stir. Next, sprinkle over the cumin, paprika and optional chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes have softened – around 15 minutes.
2) Add the kale, feta and Pancetta to the pan for the final 5 minutes of cooking and then start cooking your eggs. To do this, you want to heat 1 tbsp coconut or olive oil in a separate pan, then crack in the eggs (one at a time) once the oil has heated. The eggs are cooked once the whites have set – you want a runny yolk!
3) Tip the sweet potato mixture onto plates, then top with the fried eggs. Sprinkle with more chilli flakes and extra salt and pepper, if desired.


CREAMY COCONUT QUINOA PORRIDGE

Quinoa is brilliantly versatile as it soaks up the flavour of pretty much anything, and it also happens to be extremely protein-rich. This is a great, gluten-free alternative to porridge.

Ingredients:

350ml coconut milk
80g quinoa flakes
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp unsweetened dessicated coconut
1 tbsp maple syrup (or to taste)
Coconut cream, Greek yoghurt, mixed berries to serve (optional)

Method:

1) Mix together the coconut milk with the dessicated coconut vanilla extract and maple syrup.
2) Place the milk mixture into a sauce pan and heat it gentle. Pour in the quinoa flakes, then let it come to a boil before simmering for a few minutes, or until the flakes soften and absorb some of the milk.
3) Pour into bowls and top with your choice of toppings.


TWO INGREDIENT BANANA PANCAKES

Who doesn’t love a recipe which only needs two ingredients? These Banana Pancakes are a great way of using up overly-ripe bananas at the end of the week. I like mine served with a dollop of coconut cream, a sprinkling of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey.


Ingredients:
(Creates 6 pancakes)

One large, ripe banana
Two eggs

Method:

1) Mash the banana until smooth, then crack in the eggs and beat together until combined.
2) Heat a saucepan on high and add a tablespoon of coconut oil. Wait until it’s heated and melted through, then adjust the heat to medium-low. Pour a circle of batter into the pan (I use 2 tbsps, but it depends how big you like your pancakes), then cook for about one minute before flipping. 
3) Heat the other side for 30 seconds to one minute, then serve. 


CARROT CAKE OVERNIGHT OATS

Creamy and indulgent, this is a great breakfast full of flavour and spices.. Better still, you make it before bed, meaning it’s there and ready to roll come morning.

Ingredients:
(Serves 2)

70g oats
280ml almond milk
One banana
One carrot, chopped
2 tbsp pecans
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp dessicated coconut
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch nutmeg

Method:

1) Combine all the ingredients in a food processor, then pour into bowls, cover and place in the fridge overnight.
2) In the morning, add a splash more milk if desired, then top with a drizzle of maple syrup.

Thank you so much Sam for these amazing ideas. Just goes to show that breakfast doesn't have to be just toast or cereal, with a little planning, you can have something super tasty and filling to set you up for the day. I'm committed to make a change... I just don't know which one to try first!
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