Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Ethan's new Autumn / Winter '14 wardrobe

There's one thing I love buying more than buying clothes for myself - buying clothes for Ethan. I always thought clothes shopping for a boy would be less fun and more limiting but thanks to some fantastic high street stores and imaginative launches for the new season, there's so much choice out there.

From cable-knit cardigans and parkas to long-sleeve graphic tees and character design slippers and wellies, I am in love with the latest clothes for boys. Autumn is my favourite season anyway and I head over heels for the new palette of colours - mustards, teals, maroon and navy - that seem to be dominating for children and adults alike.

In particular, I am LOVING the new season drops for children from Next. I've confessed before that I would very much like to live in Next and slowly but surely, I think our family is starting to resemble a Next catalogue, with many a trinket or cushion around our home sourced from there and all three of us having quite a few Next pieces hanging in our wardrobes.

When it comes to kids clothes, Next has got it nailed in my opinion. The quality is fantastic and the clothes wash really well, there is such a broad range of choice - not just blues for boys and pinks for girls - and the prices are for the most part really reasonable when you consider point one.

As we're entering a new season and as it won't be long until Ethan needs 18 month to 2 year clothing, I decided to get his complete new wardrobe in one go. My thinking was that a) I could get everything he would need, b) everything would coordinate nicely having been bought at the same time, and c) I would avoid overspending or buying more than he would need.

So far, this theory has worked for when Ethan has gone up a size in clothing.

In the early days, Ethan just had too many clothes. I couldn't resist buying them and friends and relatives couldn't either, so he had too much to wear in too little time. You can read about my baby clothes top tips here (this just so happens to be my most popular post, so hopefully you'll find it useful!) but the main thing I've learnt is to plan what he really needs and to work to this.

At his current stage and for the seasons ahead, I've worked to the following:

I know I'll pick up other things as the months go on but I'm pleased that I have most things sorted, all folded away inside his clothes cupboard ready to replace his current clothes in a few weeks time.

Here are some of the pieces I've bought from Next and yes, you may spot a recurring theme. As you may know, hubs and I chose dinosaurs as the theme for Ethan's playroom and now, we can't resist buying anything dinosaur related. Next has some really lovely dinosaur and monster inspired clothes at the moment, from comic-book style character designs through to more traditional prints and suffice to say, I could have bought it all!

Photos sourced from Next

And here's a look at some of the other essential items I picked up from Very and George at Asda, which for me offers unbeatable value and again, such a brilliant range to choose from. We always find what we need at George and particularly when it comes to casual / nursery wear, you can't complain.

I can't wait to see Ethan in all his new clothes. As I say, I love the current colours and styles and he's growing up so fast, he's going to look very grown-up this Autumn / Winter.


Monday, 29 September 2014

Everything is awesome!

We are big film fans in our family - Ste and I met at Blockbuster and built quite a sizeable collection of DVD's over the years - and as we can't get to the cinema very often any more, we rely on DVD's to catch up on the latest releases. That's why, when Suppose.com got in touch to say would we like to review a new release, we happily said 'yes please!'.

We wanted something fun that all of us could enjoy, even Ethan at just 16 and half months.

So, what did Suppose.com send us?

Well, we seem to have a little builder on our hands. He loves building blocks, he enjoys playing with his toy construction vehicles and figures really seem to capture his imagination and can keep him playing for hours on end.

So, I'm sure it won't be long before he discovers Lego. What little boy doesn't like Lego when they're growing up? Or Dad, for that matter?!

So our latest film night pick was perfect - The Lego Movie. 

I remembered seeing the trailers for this and really wanting to see the movie as so many well known actors lend their voices to the characters and it seemed to be quite a witty tale.

And it is. 

We settled down on Sunday afternoon to watch The Lego Movie and it wasn't long before we were laughing along. It follows the story of simple but loveable Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) and his life as a perfectly average Lego minifigure. Every day, he does the same routine (sounds a bit familiar to being a new mum!) and he's happy just going about things as he should, never questioning the world he lives in.

However, he soon finds himself embroiled in an extraordinary adventure where he's mistaken for an extraordinary figure who's expected to change the Lego world forever.

A familiar theme but with many sly adult jokes and pop culture references made this a movie that all the family could enjoy.

For kids: Ethan loved the bright colours and the catchy music. I was also a fan of the film's anthem, Everything Is Awesome, and it took a long time to get it out of our heads! Ethan watched intently for quite a long time, which is impressive for his age and I think he was quite fascinated by the characters.

For him: Hubs really liked the attention to detail as everything in the Lego world is made from, well, Lego - even the sea - and it was quite amazing how they brought this world of small plastic bricks to life. He also liked some of the cameos from characters from other franchises.

For her: I particularly liked the quirky cast of characters, such as the two face cop (hilariously voiced by Liam Neeson) and Morgan Freeman playing the God-like figure, naturally.

The Lego Movie was fun, colourful and had a real sweet sentiment at its heart; the Lego world isn't all it seems, but I don't want to spoil anything if you haven't see it. A lot of the best jokes were featured in the trailer, so it wasn't quite as funny overall as we had hoped, so make sure you avoid trailers before watching, but despite this we still enjoyed it and we're sure that Ethan will like watching it even more as he grows up.

We give The Lego Movie 3.5 bricks out of 5 as it was really well made, had a great cast and offered something for kids and adults alike - it just lost it's way a little towards the end and the main story 
was fairly predictable.

Thank you to Suppose.com for sending us this DVD to review! It's a really handy website that promises to help you pay less for the products you love, meaning you can track items online such as The Lego Movie and buy them at the best possible price.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Me and You - September 2014 / #MySundayPhoto

I've been taking part in the Me and Mine photography project, created by Dear Beautiful, for a few months now and saw that she also has a photo project for couples too.

It's nice to remember that you were once a two before the pitter patter of tiny feet and I recently realised that there aren't that many photos of Stephen and I since Ethan came into our world; usually, it's one of us plus Ethan in photos.

So, in a bid to keep a record of Ste and I together over the months and even years, here's my first Me and You photo, taken at our wedding venue when we went back to see if again after four years. It's the first snap of the two of us in a long time, taken by a kind waitress, and it was taken on our fourth wedding anniversary so a nice memory to make note of.

dear beautiful

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Protection for your tots bot

I love writing this blog and can't wait for the day when I can share it with Ethan. My letters. Our days out. His milestones. My memories.

However, I am sure that this latest post will earn me the label of 'world's most embarrassing Mum'.

I'm talking about Ethan's little tush. 

Now don't worry, future Ethan, I'm not going to be sharing any photos. No, those will be saved for our family photo albums...! 

I'm just talking about the subject of nappy rash. Ethan has suffered with a sore derrière off and on for quite a while now. Quite often, his nursery will tell us he's 'been a bit sore today' and other times, from nowhere it seems, his rump will become quite red and angry looking between nappy changes, no matter how frequent these are.

Before he was born, I, like many mums, stocked up on the essentials and one of these was Sudocrem. Right at the top of my list and bought by the bucket load it seems, I'm still using the first tub of Sudocrem I bought and if our usage to date is anything to go by, the remaining unopened tubs will keep us going for a very long time yet! Sudocrem was always an 'essential' to my mind and it has been a saviour when Ethan has a spell of nappy rash.

It really can look so sore so suddenly, I can't help but worry.

So, when Sudocrem got in touch to tell me about their new Care and Protect lotion, I was grateful to have a potential solution to the problem. Whereas standard Sudocrem Antiseptic Healing Cream is used to treat nappy rash, Care and Protect is all about preventing it in the first place. 

In a lighter lotion-like formulation, and certainly not as heavy as the traditional cream, Care and Protect can be used at every nappy change to protect their bot from the nasty chemicals in their wee and poo (nice!) that can cause irritation. It's a hypo-allergenic triple-care ointment that's really smooth on the skin to provide a protective barrier to safeguard skin by sealing in natural moisture.

As it comes in a convenient tube, this new cream is a must-have for your nappy bag. We've been using this every day to keep red bottoms at bay and so far, so good. It's easy to apply, seems to absorb quickly and appears to be very soothing.

I may even supply some Sudocrem Care and Protect to Ethan's nursery to use (they provide Sudocrem Antiseptic Healing cream as standard anyway), particularly if his nappy rash returns / persists as he does seem quite susceptible.  

As with anything, you want to know that you're doing what you can to keep your little one comfortable and knowing I'm doing something to keep Ethan's skin soft and rash-free means a lot. 

At £3.99 for a 30g tube, it's a small price to pay to keep his posterior as soft as, well, a baby's bum. 

Find out all you need to know about nappy rash here and click here for full product details on Care and Protect.

Sudocrem has partnered with TV and radio presenter Katy Hill to launch a campaign to improve public changing rooms after discovering that 50% of mums avoid shopping because of poor changing and feeding facilities when out and about.

I've certainly seen my fair share of awful abodes and in those early days, I'd really think about where I was going and what facilities there would be for Ethan - sometimes, it was just all too much and I'd rather just stay at home than put up with the hassle.

Well, to champion the benefits of good facilities, Sudocrem Care & Protect and Katy Hill have launched a campaign to encourage retailers and restaurants to improve what they have on offer and they’re asking parents to vote for the best in the “Baby Changing Room Awards”. 

Based on last year’s award winner, John Lewis in Reading, it might be easy access combined with spacious, clean and comfortable facilities or it could be something more quirky, like the addition of a sofa and a TV.  

“It’s vital that parents have access to good baby changing facilities when they’re out and about with their baby. With two kids of my own, I know it’s the little things that count and facilities, which have been developed with parents in mind, are right up there with the coffee!” says Katy, who's also a mother of two.

If you would like to nominate a changing room for the award, then let Sudocrem know which baby changing room, why you want to nominate them and preferably a photo on Facebook, on the Sudocrem website or by emailing babychangingroomawards@satellitepr.com. Entries will be judged by Katy, expert midwife Nikki Khan and Sudocrem.  

* Thank you to the Sudocrem saviours for sending us a tube of Care and Protect to try - Ethan tooshie really appreciates it!

Friday, 26 September 2014

More photos from our perfect Yorkshire getaway

Yesterday, I shared with you our recent mini break to Yorkshire where we stayed at the beautiful Ox Pasture Hall Country House Hotel. It's a real gem and a fantastic place to getaway from it all, to visit for afternoon tea or to book for a special meal (the food is excellent) or even as an intimate and charming wedding venue.

We has such a lovely couple of days there and took so many photos, I decided to share this second post so you can see even more of the beautiful hotel facilities, grounds, food as well as everything we got up to during our stay.



Thursday, 25 September 2014

The perfect Yorkshire getaway

Last week, we were visiting our friends 'up North' and decided to extend our stay as we had a week off from work and it also happened to be our fourth wedding anniversary, so we wanted to make the most of our time together.

We had received an invite to visit a rather lovely country house hotel just outside Scarborough called Ox Pasture Hall, and when we had a look at the website, we couldn't say yes quick enough. We had been looking forward to our week off together for ages and wanted to do something special so staying at a luxury hotel was something we simply couldn't miss out on.

Ste, Ethan and I decided to visit Ox Pasture Hall Hotel at the end of our trip away and were grateful to have a day or two to rest and unwind in its beautiful settings.

We arrived on the Tuesday afternoon and were warmly welcomed by Lynsey, who confirmed the details of our stay, and Jason, who kindly helped us with the dozens of bags we had brought with us (I can never pack that light!). We were told that a wedding was currently taking place but that we should still feel free to enjoy the grounds, and it soon became clear that this hotel was a stunning setting for a wedding. Charming, well-maintained and with an intimate feel, Ox Pasture Hall Hotel had all the characteristics that sold us on our own wedding venue.

Jason guided us through the courtyard and up to our luxury suite on the first floor - room 25, named Richmond. 

When we stepped inside, I couldn't believe how much space we had - at least twice that of your usual hotel room - and it took no time at all for Ethan to start exploring on his hands and knees. We unpacked our things, took in the view over the grounds to the rear of the hotel and even had a sneaky peak at the wedding party who were gathered in the courtyard for a spiritual ceremony.

At 3pm, we headed back down into the main hotel building to enjoy afternoon tea in the cosy drawing room, which we had to ourselves. Jason was our host and he served us with a tasty selection of sandwiches, mini cakes and handmade scones with a choice of jams. Ethan's eyes almost popped out his head and Ste and I wasted no time in enjoying these delights - we'd eaten light that morning especially!

The afternoon tea was beautifully presented, had a good range of options to suit all tastes and was just the right size for two people so you were left feeling satisfied but not uncomfortably full. The lounge we were in was really nice and I could have quite happily fallen asleep on the plump leather couch... if I hadn't of had a toddler to look after!

We decided to head back to our suite after our tea to have some down time and Ethan very much enjoyed scooting around the room, following us from the bedroom to the lounge to the bathroom and back again. The whole suite was beautifully designed, with matching solid oak furniture throughout, plush carpets, kind size bed, leather sofa, two TV's, a luxurious bathroom complete with bath and waterfall style open shower and fluffy robes hanging in the wardrobe for us to use. There was plenty of space for all three of us to relax and we spent the next couple of hours playing, catching up on some reading and just enjoying doing not very much at all.

We had a table reserved in the Courtyard Restaurant for 7pm - Ethan tends to stay up quite late and he was in a good mood, no doubt as he had the chance to try all of our food even though he'd already had his dinner! Jason was again on hand and served us some bubbly to start our celebrations. It took us some time to choose from the menu, but in the end I opted for the fishcakes followed by lamb then finished with raspberry Crème Brûlée and raspberry milkshake, whilst Ste chose ham hock, beef and his favourite sticky toffee pudding.

Every dish was beautifully presented, just the right size and utterly delicious. It had been a long time since we last went out for a meal together, and even longer since we'd eaten such fantastic food. Just look at our photos - don't they just make your mouth water?!

We had a really pleasant meal but soon it was time for Ethan to go to bed. He'd done very well at the table and made friends with the couple sat next to us, but it was getting late and he needed a well-earned sleep - as did we!

We stopped by the bar to pick up some milk to take back to our room for Ethan, said goodnight to Lynsey and Jason, who were both still working, and retired to our suite for a quiet drink and a snuggle on the sofa.

The next morning, we all woke refreshed after a good night's sleep (although the water fountain outside our bedroom window kept hubs awake to begin with!) and we headed down to breakfast. We quickly took up the offer of a full cooked Yorkshire breakfast and hubs and Ethan tucked into the pastries and yoghurt also available. 

When our cooked breakfast arrived, we were unsurprised to see it had been thoughtfully presented and looked completely delicious, just what we wanted! It was honestly the leanest cooked breakfast - sausage, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and black pudding - and the tastiest bacon I've had in a long time, without any grease on the plate whatsoever. 

To walk off the sizeable start to our day, we decided to explore the grounds. Ox Pasture Hall Hotel boasts 17 acres of gardens and grounds set in the North York Moors National Park and on a quiet Wednesday morning (the wedding party were clearly still in bed!), we had a lovely time taking in the surroundings. 

The scenery was beautiful and there were plenty of benches, seating areas and viewpoints perfect for wedding photos or just to enjoy as a guest.

As Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is around three and a half hours drive from where we live in Birmingham, we decided to stop off in Scarborough before heading home. We'd read a few Yorkshire guides in our hotel suite so were keen to see the town, so handed in our keys to Lynsey before bidding the hotel and the extremely personable staff a fond farewell.

As we were walking back down the path to our car, we got chatting to an older couple who it turned out were regulars at the hotel. Even though they lived in Surrey, this was there fourth visit to Ox Pasture Hall and they and their dog Millie were enjoying a peaceful break. The hotel is pet friendly and very much so from what we saw. Several couples were staying at the same time as us with their dogs and they were allowed in the bistro/bar area too which was nice to see. The couple said to us they kept coming back because they loved the hotel and its location and the staff were always so friendly. It was lovely to hear and resonated with our experience.

We had a wonderful stay at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel and couldn't recommend it enough if you're looking for somewhere special to stay. The setting is stunning, the food is of a very high standard (and underpriced if we're honest based on everything we tried - but shh, don't tell the hotel that!) and the bedrooms are very comfortable.

Whether you're a couple or a family, with or without a much-loved pet, or if you're looking to say your 'I do's' somewhere with character, this is the place for you.

I have so many photos from our stay, including ones of us as a family and more of the hotel facilities and grounds, so I will be sharing a few more in another post tomorrow. Don't miss it!

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