2014 | Modern Mummy

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

My Health & Fitness Goals for 2015

Usually when I read about new year's resolutions (ESPECIALLY ones to do with diet and exercise) I roll my eyes and shake my head and tut a bit. I used to make them all the time in my teens and twenties, and I KNOW they only last a couple of weeks before old habits are reverted back to. 

In the last five years I've not been worried enough about my weight to start a crazy diet, or felt a desperate urge to increase my exercise. I eat well (everything in moderation) and am very active so, although there have been times where I've fancied losing half a stone, or toning up my tummy, I've not really had the motivation or willpower to do it. If eating what I want and not slaving away at the gym means I'm a little bit heavier and wobblier than is ideal - but I'm happy - then that's the way it should be.

But something this year feels different. Perhaps its the fact I'm getting divorced, or that I turn 35 in June (officially mid-thirties, eeeek!) but I really, really want to start looking after myself.

I'm still not going to make any drastic changes, but I am going to make some small ones that I hope I will be able to stick to for the whole year. What do people call them? 'Lifestyle changes' rather than New Years Resolutions, yadda yadda, eye roll, head shake.

So my plans?

To kick start 2015 with a three day juice fast. You can read all about my first ever one here. After starting to juice two years ago, I now do it every day and whenever I'm feeling a little toxic throughout the year I will fast for a day or two. This year will be slightly different as I have a new bit of kit (my beloved Nutribullet) and will be making smoothies rather than juices. 

Then to spend four weeks doing my annual detox. I do this every January and cut out wheat, meat and dairy for twenty eight days. Since giving up dairy altogether back in May, I'm not sure whether this year will be easier or harder! I've definitely eaten more wheat in the past six months, so I'm suspecting it will be the latter. You can read all about my detox here, and why I do it here.

I have to admit I considered joining a gym, but more for the 'me time' than actual exercise. I'm not one to run on a treadmill, or cycle on a static bike. I'd much rather see the scenery change in front of me and feel the wind on my face. A couple of years ago I got massively into barefoot running and, although there has been lots of controversy over the genuine advantages of wearing these funny looking running shoes in recent months, I really did enjoy it and I think I might start again.

I've also been given some kettlebells to try out by the folks at Aldi (they have a fantastic new range of yoga and fitness equipment going into store on 2 January, which includes cast iron Kettlebells from 2.5kg (£6.99) up to 7.5kg (£11.99) and 1kg, 2kg and 3kg ergonomically shaped Dumbbells (£6.49)). If you're interested in buying some, be quick - because once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Lastly, I'll be wearing taking part in the Halfords #31fitterdays Campaign, and wearing a Garmin Vivofit for the entire duration of January; in the bath, while I sleep - ALL. THE. TIME! The Garmin Vivofit is the ideal fitness companion. Not only does it count steps, countdown to your daily goal, calculate the distance you have travelled and the calories you have burned, it also reminds you when to get out of the chair and move your lazy bones AND it tells you whether or not your getting decent quality sleep (this I am SO keen to see!)

So there you have it. My health and fitness goals for 2015; nothing too hardcore or drastic so hopefully I will have the willpower to keep it up beyond January. 

Anyone else planning on doing something similar? I'll be keeping you posted on my progress and would love to know how you're getting on too!xoxo


Christmas 2014: A Photo Post

Christmas went way too fast this year. It disappeared in a crazy blur of school shows and shopping and Baileys.

This year was all about:

Long lazy mornings. OH MY GOODNESS, my children have actually been sleeping in during these holidays! We've been waking up, refreshed and happy at gone 8am, and enjoying lots of leisurely, delicious cooked breakfasts.

Awesome Christmas lights and decorations (and not just ours at home!). We made the trip up to London and I'm so glad we did. Selfridges' contribution was by far my favourite.

Chocolate. I don't think I've ever eaten so much chocolate. We still have soooo much to get through too (by midnight tomorrow of course).

Christmas jammies! The elves excelled themselves this year; the girls LOVED their nordic style onesies from Mothercare.

Leaving out treats for Father Christmas. We have a special mince pie plate from Emma Bridgewater that we bring out every year. This is one of my favourite traditions for sure. The excitement from the girls the next morning when they see that everything has been eaten is so adorable.

Presents! Father Christmas may have gone slightly overboard this year.....

Did I mention, long, lazy mornings and delicious, leisurely breakfasts? I'm ashamed (/proud? - can't decide) to admit that I demolished this entire (HUGE) hazelnut pannetone all by myself (save for two slices) over the course of four breakfasts. It was SO GOOD.

Faces like these. I admit I did spoil the girls this year, I guess to compensate for what has been a pretty rubbish few months for us all, but they are so good (most of the time), and so grateful for anything they are given. Daisy actually only asked for one thing this Christmas, and that was a Magiclip Elsa doll. They're tiny and only cost £9 but they had sold out everywhere so muggins here ended up forking £25 for one on Amazon. I'd have paid twice that for this face! She was so happy! 

Christmas dinner! Mother Earley did goooooood. I ate until I thought I was about to burst..... then I sat down on the sofa to watch the Queen's speech and I was asleep before she'd even started.

Ahhh, afternoon naps. And not just on Christmas Day either. We've all had a few of these, these holidays.

Days out with family and friends. It's been so good catching up with all the people we love over the festive period - and spending time just us too. My work put on a themed showing of The Polar Express which was incredible; the kids all wore pyjamas and had been given gold tickets which were punched on their way in. They got hot chocolates at the interval and at the end were given a little Christmas bell (which I've now turned into a Christmas tree decoration, to be brought out every year!).

We've also been letting off steam in the great outdoors; I love that the girls are proper outdoorsy country kids.

I hope you all had wonderful Christmases too - here's to a happy and healthy 2015 for us all xoxo

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas Day Dresses for the Girls

I'm a big fan of making a huge deal out of Christmas Day. This family does NOT lounge around on the sofa, wearing pyjamas all day, and with a hand permanently stuck in a tin of Quality Street (that's just the morning).

I like to go all out for Christmas lunch and have an entirely gluttonous feast - and with that I also like to have a Christmas Day dress code. New frocks are essential, as are heels and a full face of make up (for me!). I like to make an effort (let's be honest, I don't get out much) and I think it's lovely for us to all look our best when we're spending the day with our nearest and dearest.

This year, Mamas & Papas very kindly gifted the girls their Christmas Day frocks. We have a family tradition that Father Christmas delivers a new party outfit on Christmas Eve so they've not seen them or tried them on just yet, but I thought I'd give you all a sneak peak of the outfits I chose for them.

For Daisy, I picked out this green spotty dress. I love the white collar, the pleats and the contrasting red top button! I've also brought her these Cinderella shoes from Monsoon so I expect they'll be worn together (yes, I know they don't go, but I'm willing to overlook it ;))

For Evie, I chose this two piece fairy set. Oh my goodness, THE CUTENESS!!!! I just adore those little wings and the tutu is beautiful.

If you like them, both are currently in the Mamas & Papas sale - make sure you take a look at the whole collection if you get a chance, as they have some huge reductions (Daisy's dress is now only £10, reduced from £32!).

Outfit posts will be forthcoming after Christmas - and on that note I'm signing off until after Boxing Day so that I can spend some much needed time with my beautiful daughters.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas xoxo

Monday, 22 December 2014

Dinner at Bella Italia

A couple of weeks back, the girls and I spent a particularly Christmassy day in London with Ruth, Florence and Jimmy, of RocknRoller Baby fame.

It's funny really because when I lived in London I was never even remotely interested in the festive light displays all over our capital. Three years after leaving the big smoke for country life I find myself longing to pay them a visit every Christmas!

This year, the West End didn't disappoint. We spent an afternoon at Mahiki with King Julien of Madagascar fame, before wandering round Bond, Oxford and Mount Streets, ooh-ing and ahh-ing giant sparkly peacock feathers and baubles that were suspended in the sky. After about forty five minutes we were pretty chilly so we were especially looking forward to our reservation at Bella Italia on Irving Street.

Although Bella Italia is a very popular and large restaurant chain, I hadn't actually eaten at one before and had no idea what to expect. I presumed it would be very similar to the other family friendly Italian eateries we all know and love, but have to say I was extremely surprised and very, very impressed.

I love finding hidden gems in London; little independent restaurants, tucked away off the beaten track, but sometimes, especially where children are involved, it's easier to just go with what you know, where you know your kids will eat the cuisine, and you know there will be highchairs and crayons.

The menu at Bella Italia is brilliant. It has your standard pizza and pasta dishes, yes, but also has a really extensive grill menu - plus infinitely more starters and sides than you would expect. I loved the kids menu as it gives them loads of options, and my kids love to be allowed to make their own choices, it makes them feel so grown up! It's also very reasonably priced at £5.25 - and that includes a drink too. 

To start, we shared some garlic pizza bread, the kids had antipastini (Grissini Italian breadsticks, cucumber and carrot sticks, served with a pomodoro sauce) and then I had succulent king prawns baked in garlic & chilli butter, with ciabatta. Oh my!

For my main I had a polpette pizza - mini meatballs, cherry bell peppers, roasted red onions, mozzarella and Granello cheese - while Daisy opted for casarecci pasta with bolognese sauce and Evie had the cod goujons.

I ADORED the dessert menus. Their 'Fabulous & Amazing Gelato Cart', where you get to choose your style, your ice cream and your toppings, was just genius! Or if you're like me and tend to overindulge with your main dish, there are mini desserts too. I had a bite sized serving of cioccolato torte with a double espresso, which was just what I needed to satisfy my sweet craving without making me too full. It was gooooooooood. 

In fact everything about our meal was better than good; it was utterly divine. It was fresh, hot and brought to us incredibly quickly. The service at the Irving Street restaurant was wonderful, even before the staff knew we were there to review. There was a bit of a queue ahead of us and I watched as they whizzed around the tables; happy, pleasant, efficient. We also had a bit of an incident with a poorly Jimmy and they were absolutely incredible with him and Ruth.

Thanks so much to Bella Italia for a delicious meal - and the perfect end to a perfect day. The girls and I will most certainly be back.

DISCLAIMER: We were invited to Bella Italia to review the menu. Our meals were complimentary.

Things to See and Do at Christmas

I've been gushing on about how festive I've been feeling a lot this past month. I've written about decorating the house, Christmas jumpers, seeing the lights in London, reading Christmassy books and spending time with friends over a Christmassy meal. I love this time of year so much; it's such a sociable time. There's always so many exciting things to do!

With that in mind, here are megabus.com's top twelve things to see around the UK at Christmas! I'm DESPERATE to go on the Harry Potter studio tour! Has anyone been? Is it amazing??

Happy Holidays everyone xo


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Reading

A lot of my friends seem to be jumping on the book Advent bandwagon this year. As an avid reader with two young children that also love books, I think this is such a lovely idea and one I'm really tempted to join in with next year!

We already have a mini stash of books that come out with the Christmas decorations. They stay out for the month of December and then get packed away when the tree comes down in January. I'd really love to collect twenty four different festive themed ones so that we can read something completely different every night in December (ending with 'The Night Before Christmas' on Christmas Eve, of course!)

Last week we added 'The Best Christmas Jumper' by Rachel Bright and Vicki Gausden to our collection. This is a book produced by Costa in support of Save the Children's Christmas Jumper Day. 

It's a brilliant rhyming story centred around Costa's four festive cup characters, Father Christmas, Reindeer, Snowman and Elf (and Penguin and Polar Bear too) and the illustrations are just gorgeous. It also has a great moral; to work together and not argue!

The book is on sale in Costa Coffee Shops across the country up until the end of December for just £1.50, £1.17 of which goes to Save the Children. It would make such a lovely stocking filler this year - and could come out every Christmas too. Next time you're buying a cup of coffee, why not pick a copy up xoxo

Thanks to Costa for sending us this little festive treat!

All Hail King Julien!

On Sunday, me and my little crew had THE most lovely and festive day in London. 

We got to see the Christmas lights on Oxford Street, Bond Street and down lots of little Mayfair backstreets, and also reviewed Bella Italia in Leicester Square (more of that in another post) but we kicked off the day with heaps of fun at Mahiki courtesy of Netflix and Mothers' Meetings!

We were invited to a special celeb studded screening of the first two episodes of the new Netflix original, All Hail King Julien which is a spin off from the immensely popular film Madagascar and is due to air for the first time tomorrow (just in time for the school holidays!).

I joined Ruth from Rock n Roller Baby and Carolynne from Mummy Endeavours, as well as our good friends (ahem ;)) Pixie Lott, Jaime Winstone and Leah and Jo Wood, for the party to end all parties, where the kids drank virgin coladas from fresh pineapples (us grown ups had wine), we ate delicious party food, we learnt some of King Julien's dance moves and the kids had their faces painted too.

Evie absolutely LOVED King Julien. I thought she might be a bit wary of a giant, dancing ring-tailed lemur but she spent the majority of the afternoon following him around the club and photobombing all the pictures people were taking of him! 

After four hours of partying hard, it was time to say goodbye. It had gotten dark outside which made it the perfect time for West End Christmas light viewing - and I have to say I LOVED Mahiki's display the best! (I'm all about bright, bold colour ever since having kids.... the tackier the better!)

We had a brilliant afternoon - thanks so much to Netflix and Mothers Meetings for inviting us along xoxo


Monday, 15 December 2014

Me Time at The Cranleigh Golf & Country Club

I talk about Me Time quite a lot really don't I? It's funny because in real life I don't actually get any, not any proper me time anyway. Any child free time I have is usually spent at work, or doing the weekly shop if I'm lucky and get a spare hour. To be honest I get excited when I get to go to the toilet in peace; that's pretty luxurious Me Time in my opinion.

But boy do I aspire to having some proper time to myself. I love my girls to bits but its hard work running around after two little people all day, especially when you're on your own and get no respite in the evenings either. Life is a whirlwind of school runs and toddler groups and food shopping and cooking and cleaning and washing clothes and working and writing. I could definitely do with an extra day in the week; especially if I'm going to cram some Me Time in there somewhere too.

Last week, Alice from An Essex Wife and I were invited to review the facilities at the Cranleigh Golf & Country Club, which is just down the road from me in the Surrey Hills. Both of us have had a rather rubbish couple of months so a day of pampering was just what we needed.

My drive to the Club was so beautiful - and really set the day off to a great start. I'd dropped Daisy off at school and headed off along the B roads through some beautiful villages before reaching the long sweeping driveway of the club and parking up by reception.

We were greeted by Club staff and given a tour of the building; it's a gym, spa, pool and golf course all in one, and the facilities really are fabulous and very well maintained indeed (I was particularly drawn to the state of the art spin studio! It's been a while since I took a spin class but I was definitely inspired to start again!). 

Because I had Evie with me, I couldn't stay for the whole day but after our tour, I did get to spend the most amazing hour at The Retreat, having a full body massage, whilst Evie stayed in the creche - and then the pair of us were treated to an utterly divine lunch, before having to dash back to Haslemere to pick Daisy up from school. 

The creche was fantastic. It was actually the first time I'd ever left Evie with anyone other than her Dad or my Mum so I was a bit apprehensive, and worried about how she'd settle. I stayed with her for fifteen minutes while she got used to her new surroundings and then slipped away for sixty minutes of utter bliss in The Retreat.

When I collected her she was having a whale of a time; she had the run of the place and I had to bribe her with talk of lunch to actually get her to leave!

Lunch in the bar was the perfect end to a brilliant morning. The main bar area is utterly beautiful; all high ceilings and exposed beams and very festive twinkly lights. I ordered a parma ham, parmesan (don't tell the dairy police!) and tomato ciabatta, which came with a side salad, chips and aioli - and Evie had a kids' cheeseburger. I was very impressed with the variety of food on offer for both adults and children and it was very reasonably priced too.

I have to say, the Cranleigh Club really did win me over. I've never been much of a gym bunny, preferring instead to exercise (very moderately, ahem) in the great outdoors, but the panoramic views of the Surrey countryside from the gym really were breathtaking and I could genuinely see myself working out up there. I had a good chat with the membership manager over lunch and can confirm that an off peak membership is on my Christmas list this year!

From a non-members point of view, I will most definitely be recommending The Retreat to my local mum friends. To have a very reasonably priced creche right next door to the treatment rooms makes beauty and spa treatments accessible again! I would be more than happy to add an additional £4.75 to the cost of an hour's worth of treatments. I really, really, really am excited at the prospect of being able to pamper myself and have regular mani-pedis again.

DISCLAIMER: We were given a complimentary day pass to the Club, as well as a one hour treatment and lunch, in exchange for this honest review. Thanks a million to The Cranleigh Golf & Country Club for inviting me and Evie down for the day.

Evie's Cosatto Story Cotbed

This is our third, and final, review as Cosatto brand buddies (weep! I need to have more babies so that I can carry on!). Over the course of the last six months I really have found my absolute favourite baby brand in Cosatto; there's no doubt about that.  I love everything about them - their ethics, their advertising - and, of course it goes without saying that it's their products that I adore most of all.

We are already the proud owners of the Cosatto Ooba Kimono travel system, the Pretzel high chair and, a month ago, we added the Babushka Story Cotbed to our collection. We all LOVE it.

I'm a huge fan of colour, which is probably why I adore everything Cosatto so much. Evie's previous cotbed was a traditional, white one, which had been handed down from Daisy. Daisy actually made the move from cot to cotbed at eighteen months but there was no chance of me letting Evie do the same. Every child is different and Daisy was very good at bedtime so removing the cot bars really wasn't a big issue at all. Evie, on the other hand, is a MONSTER at bedtime and I want her to stay in a cot for a while longer.

Which brings us onto the Cosatto cotbed! I loved it from first glance; the vibrant red colour, the matryoshka doll design (I collect them!), the fact it's girlie without being pink. Then there's the three mattress heights, the extra storage by way of under bed drawer, the space saving over cot changing mat - three really thoughtful details that make a massive difference. I think the thing I love the most is the fact it has an in-between stage for when you're starting the cot to bed transition; you can remove just one side of the cot and keep it as a sofa/day bed - and I'm hoping that by keeping one set of familiar cot bars it will make the change that little bit smoother.

So we have been using our cotbed for a couple of weeks now. You all know that Evie is a terrible sleeper, and I'm not going to say 'IT'S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! SHE IS NOW SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT!' because it would be a bit fat lie. I can - very happily - confirm, however, that bedtime is now a joy and she absolutely loves going to bed. I don't think that's a coincidence!

Here's a little video of bedtime with our story cotbed xoxo

The Cosatto Story cotbed is also available in a yellow robot design and you can purchase both from their website here and is priced at £420. We were sent one in exchange for this honest review. Thanks, Cosatto, it has been a pleasure working with you xo

Friday, 12 December 2014

Daily Outfit ♥ Christmas Jumpers

Evie wears: Novelty Christmas Reindeer Jumper, £13-14
Daisy wears: Mint Fairisle Jumper, £12-13
both c/o Mothercare
Both wear: Jersey jeans, £5 c/o Nutmeg from Morrisons (seen before here)
Biker boots, £48 - Clarks (no longer available but similar here)
Hats & Scarves c/o Anna Söderström

Today is officially Christmas Jumper Day - wear yours with pride and donate £2 to Save The Children by texting JUMPER to 70050! xo

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Lactofree Winter Warmers: Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate Recipe

The Nutribullet truly is a wonderful thing. I HONESTLY love it more than any other kitchen gadget I own, and have even been advising friends to choose it over the Vitamix when I've been asked my preference (sorry Vitamix, but there's just no comparison; you're three times the price, three times the size and three times as difficult to clean!!).

I use it every day for green smoothies and am making it my mission to experiment and whip up some other recipes in the new year.  

My latest concoction is Lactofree Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate. It also has some sunflower, chia seeds and bananas thrown in for good measure so that you can feel extra virtuous whilst drinking it. (Hot chocolate that contains two of your five a day?!! Yes please!)

Although my diet is predominantly dairy free, I only have a lactose intolerance so have used Lactofree milk here. I personally prefer the taste of Lactofree to soya, hazelnut and oat milk and am lucky enough to be able to drink it. If you are entirely dairy free you can, of course, swap this for your favourite dairy alternative.

Makes just over 1 pint of hot chocolate so enough for two... unless you're feeling greedy of course! ;)

2x bananas
1x tbsp peanut butter
1x tbsp chocolate spread
1x tsp chia seeds
1x tsp sunflower seeds
1 pint milk

What to do.
Stick it all in your Nutribullet and blitz!
Then heat slowly on the hob at a low temperature (you really must do it gently or it will burn and/or go lumpy.... I know from experience. Patience is a virtue!)
Pour into your favourite mug and enjoy xo


New Year's Resolutions

It's hard to believe we're coming to the end of 2014.

A lot has happened in the past twelve months; lots of brilliant, happy memories have been made - but we've had to deal with some sad and very hard things too.

I guess it's all part and parcel of growing up and it definitely makes you realise the things that are most important to you.

My main new years resolution for 2015 is to spend as much time as possible with my family and friends. There are a few trips I'd like to take in order to make this possible; I'd like to spend more time with my family in Wales, I'd like to visit my friend in Dubai, I'd like to go on some adventures  with my daughters, exploring parts of England we've not been to before and spending some quality time altogether.

I'd like to start exercising. Yes you did hear that right! I've always been active but I feel as if my body needs more. I used to practise yoga a long time ago and I'm keen to start it up again, and I quite fancy a bit of running too. In 2005 I ran the Great North Run and I'm already contemplating signing up again for my 'tenth anniversary' year. I know everyone takes up a massive health and fitness regime in January, and I'm usually the first pooh pooh them, but for the first time ever I'm listening to my body and I really want to make some changes this year.

And then there's the Me Time. It's funny how, once you're a mum, you feel incredibly guilty doing anything for yourself. I said exactly the same thing last year and nothing has really changed, but looking after yourself, physically and emotionally, is so important when you've got little people looking up to you and depending on you. This year I'm going to carry on with the NYNYStyleProject, take up some new hobbies; yoga and running as I've already said, and I also want to start painting again and to open a shop for my silver stamping, I want to study astrology (something I've always been fascinated by and have dabbled in, in the past) and I want to make Modern Mummy bigger and better than it has ever been before.

So onto my blogging resolutions!

I want to improve my photography. Taking photos has become something of an obsession of mine. For my birthday, back in June, my brother gave me a Samsung NX11 camera and I just can't get out of the habit of using my bloody iPhone. I'm determined to master it and take some brilliant shots - and I'd like to join in with some of the photography projects other bloggers host too.

Aside from all things family, I want to focus predominantly on two topics; style and health. Over the past two years since I've been juicing, I've never felt better and I want to share more recipes with you and try and spread the word about the benefits of drinking juices and smoothies. I honestly can't get enough of it! My latest bit of kit is a Nutribullet which is revolutionary really as, for the first time, making smoothies is super easy and super affordable.

Style-wise I want to increase my Daily Outfit posts and keep the #NYNYStyleProject hashtag going over on Instagram. We've built up such a lovely community and although I'm not sure whether I'll continue with the daily prompts lists, I don't want to say goodbye to the Project altogether just yet.

And on that note, all that's left for me to say is that I hope you and yours all have a wonderful Christmas and to wish you all the best for the New Year. What are your plans for 2015? xoxo

Post written in collaboration with TheCircle


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Personalised wrapping paper from Wrap Me

I had a really nice surprise last week. I very rarely get something in the post that I'm not expecting so it was a real treat to have a little parcel arrive - especially when I took it out of it's postage box and saw that it was wrapped in wrapping paper that had been personalised just for me!

It came from a new company called wrap.me which offers a personalised service that designs unique wrapping paper using your photos. They can be taken from Facebook, Instagram or your camera roll and, after you've created it, your chosen design will be sent to you within three to four days.

What an amazing way to make that special gift extra special, eh? I'll definitely be using this company this Christmas!

Visit wrap.me to find out more. Prices start at £4.99 including VAT and delivery.xoxo

Have an Extra Special Personalised Christmas with Next!

Christmas is only three weeks away (eeeeek! How did that happen?!!) and after a tough couple of months, I'm determined to make this festive season absolutely brilliant for the girls - as well as for myself.

I've been doing quite a lot of shopping at Next this year - they are SO good for clothes and homewares and I LOVE their next day delivery service (it's so perfect for impatient shoppers like me that hate waiting for their purchases to arrive!). With Christmas around the corner I turned to them for party outfits and stocking fillers and was really excited to see their new personalised santa sacks; even more so when I was asked if I'd like a couple for Daisy and Evie!

They're made from super soft shenille that looks like rustic hessian and have a pretty red ribbon to keep all the presents safe inside them and they're really rather roomy at 82cm x 71cm. I can't wait to fill them full of lots of treats for the girls; having an extra layer of present opening in the form of a stocking or sack seems to make Christmas morning all the more exciting! It's like pass the parcel but the music only stops on you.... YAY! They are available online here and cost just £16 each - and you can choose both the recipient's name and who it's from (or just have 'Santa'). Delivery takes up to twelve days.

Other presents I've chosen for them from Next (so far!) include these cotton Frozen duvet bedsets, these AMAZING cat hats and gloves (I want some for myself!) and a pair of wellies for each of the girls (I went for these and these).

What are you buying for your kiddos this year? xoxo

DISCLAIMER: Next sent the girls a personalised Santa sack each, free of charge, in exchange for this honest post.

The iCandy Raspberry: A Review

The iCandy Raspberry has caused rather a lot of controversy within the blogging world recently and has been met with really mixed opinions. I think buggies can be quite a difficult thing to review, as everyone has different wants and needs - and this is why it's important for bloggers to write entirely honest and impartial reviews about them. 

I, personally, am a big fan of iCandy. My very first travel system (paid for with my own, hard-earned cash when I was pregnant with Daisy I hasten to add) was an iCandy Cherry in mulberry and I was completely and utterly in love with it, using it again when Evie arrived. More recently I was asked to review their new range of luxury changing bags, and was sent the Verity which I am also head over heels in love with.

I was very excited about my impending Raspberry delivery. In all honesty, this is probably going to be the last buggy I get (unless I have more babies, which is pretty unlikely!) and I liked the idea of my first and last ones both being made by iCandy. I was also really interested to compare them to see how their features and functions have improved over the five-and-a-bit years since I was first introduced to them as a brand!

First up, lets take a look at these features and functions, as described by iCandy themselves.

The Raspberry is a lightweight pushchair, suitable from birth. iCandy say;

"Hopping on and off buses, from cafés to cabs, up curbs and through the city, with its agile chassis, ease of fold and innovative, spacious storage capsule, this quick and easy stroller is the smart choice for urban adventures with your newborn or toddler."

It can be parent or forward facing, has a large, easily accessible storage basket with an innovative storage capsule that can also be accessed when the stroller is folded, and has 4 wheel independent suspension with tyres that provide you and your child with an extremely smooth ride.

Folded, the dimensions are a teeny tiny 85.5cm x 54cm x 36.6cm and the pushchair weighs just 8.4kg.

Now onto my thoughts on the Raspberry! I've been using it for a full two months and although I'm a country dweller rather than a city one, I'm a pavement pounder so this buggy has certainly been put through its paces, covering 4 miles a day minimum (that's just the school run!)

Good points:
The aesthetics. There's no denying this is one good looking pushchair! I love the black chassis and really struggled to choose from the seven colour options! (In the end I went for the super smart 'Beetle' which I think looks great for winter).

The shopping basket is huge and very easily accessible in either parent or forward facing mode. This is such a big deal for me; in my eyes the basket is a key selling point when it comes to choosing a pram. I am forever slinging bits and pieces in there - whether it's just my Ruby & GINGER nappy purse when I'm nipping out for 5 minutes, or if it's fully loaded with waterproofs and wellies for days out to the park, or heaps of shopping when I'm on my way back from the shops. It's got to be big and I've got to be able to get to it no problem!

The storage capsule within the shopping basket - perfect for storing a damp rain cover without getting the other items in your basket wet (why hasn't anyone thought of this before?!! - good work iCandy!!) - or for valuable items you want to hide away.

The size. There has been much talk about the size of the seat being too small but I disagree - and I have a big two year old! It's very narrow I agree, but not uncomfortably so, and this is brilliant when nipping in and out of shops and using public transport. 

The extendable handle is amazing when you need to reduce the amount of space the buggy takes up e.g. when on a bus or train, or in a cafe. It's quick and easy to adjust and I think iCandy have actually taken into account the importance of being able to reduce the buggy size to take up minimal space when out and about, rather than just having an extendable handlebar for comfort when pushing.

The footmuff has pockets which are BRILLIANT. I don't know about you but I REALLY struggle to get Evie to wear gloves. She is very happy keeping her hands warm inside the pockets and, again, I've never seen this on a footmuff before.

The seat recline is brilliant and it's smooth and easy to do without disturbing a sleeping child.

The fold is teeny tiny, making this the perfect stroller if, like me, you have a small house and/or car.

Bad points:

The hood. As you can see in the photo above, it's very flimsy and also not at all shower proof. Because Evie can so easily pull it down (and does, regularly) it has distorted out of shape over the course of the past two months and the rain cover will no longer sit on it comfortably. If Evie plays with the hood while the rain cover is on, she ends up with the plastic lying flat against her face which annoys her.

The size of the straps and footmuff. Admittedly my little reviewer is probably one of the oldest (if not the biggest) out of all the children taking part in this current review campaign. She has just turned two and weighs 32lbs so she is very nearly too big for it (it's suitable for children up to 15kgs/33lbs). The straps are already at their largest and she cannot fit in them comfortably when wearing a coat. Similarly, the footmuff isn't long enough and, at 89cm tall, Evie's legs have to bend to fit in. It has a very innovative peaked hood that I love the design of but this won't stretch over Evie's head and ends up behind her neck which looks rather uncomfortable. Both the footmuff and the seat liner slip down while the child is in situ.

The break is unreliable. It's excellently located, easy to apply and worked very well to begin with but, two months later, it seems to have a mind of it's own and often disengages itself.

It doesn't take kerbs very well. Unless you physically lift the front wheels up over the tiniest step (I'm talking as little as an inch high here), the buggy tips forward. I've never had this with any other buggy I've ever tried so am not sure what might be causing this. It's not the biggest problem in the world though, as I've just got used to lifting the buggy up and/or making sure I use smoother, dropped kerbs.

I really do like our Raspberry but would describe it as a 'fair-weather' buggy. Although it's brilliant for chilly winter days, the hood and rain cover really aren't any good in the rain at all. If you want something super stylish as well as being compact and nippy - for trips out to the shops and for use on holiday - then this is definitely the buggy for you. I would, however, advise prospective buyers to purchase this buggy while their children are young as I have a feeling Evie will outgrow it entirely during the course of this winter which is a shame. She only turned two last month and I would expect a buggy to last at least another year. There's no way I can risk having her in it without the straps done up as she would try to escape - and as soon as her thick winter coat comes out of hibernation I know they won't do up over it. I hope we'll be able to use it again in the spring as I really am quite fond of it.

The iCandy Raspberry retails at £420 and is available from all good retailers, or direct from the iCandy website here. We were sent one for free in exchange for this honest review.

Monday, 1 December 2014

A Traditional Wooden Dolls House

With Christmas well and truly on the horizon (our Christmas tree is up now - did you see the pictures?) it's definitely time to start thinking about presents.

I'm on a really tight budget this year so I'm determined to only buy thoughtful, wanted gifts and to shop around for the best prices for them. I'm not going to buy anything 'just for the sake of it' either, which is something I'm usually guilty of every year.

The first tick on my Christmas shopping list is something for Evie. She loves playing with her big sister's dolls house, so I've got her one of her very own. I've been looking at wooden dolls houses for the last six months and had expected to pay around £100 for a three storey Georgian style one. They're pretty readily available, and my favourites were the Early Learning Centre Rosebud Country House and the Great Little Trading Co Cherry Blossom House - that is, until I discovered ASDA's George Wooden Dolls House.

Did you know ASDA sold wooden toys? I didn't. Admittedly I don't have an ASDA supermarket nearby so I'm not a regular shopper there but their full range is available online and it's really very impressive.

I've not put the dolls house together yet (pics to follow after Christmas!) but have taken it out of the box and can confirm that the quality is fantastic. It's really heavy and solid and looks so darn pretty!  In actual fact, it's such a beaut that I'm planning on keeping it downstairs and putting it in the window of our front room so that every one calling in or passing by can see it!

It has five rooms over three floors, all connected by a central staircase, and they can be accessed by the hinged front, or the removable roof. It's painted cream and has a pretty pink tiled roof with shutters on the windows and pretty flowers growing up the walls. It really is a timeless, traditional toy and I can imagine it being handed down to other members of the family in years to come.

The best bit of all? The price. When I saw it I was gobsmacked as, like I said already, I had fully expected to have to fork out around the £100 mark for something like this.

It's £35. Thirty five English pounds. How amazing is that?

I've also got the ASDA dolls house furniture set to go with the house, which contains simple pieces for the kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom in pale pinks, whites, blues and greens. The cost of this (£15) is the same as single room sets from other leading toy shops, so a mega bargain. The other popular sets are of a similar size so will fit into this house though, so if you have them already or see something you particularly like they can be mixed together.

I honestly can't wait to set it all up and have a play give it to the girls! (Although it's for Evie, I know Daisy will enjoy playing with it too). Roll on Christmas xoxo

DISCLAIMER: ASDA very kindly gifted us the George Wooden Dolls House and Furniture Set for the purpose of this post. All words and thoughts are entirely truthful and my own.
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