Mothercare Spring/Summer 2017 Preview: my top picks

This month my London meetings coincided with the Mothercare Spring/Summer 2017 press day by happy coincidence. It meant adding a little bit of sunshine and a lot of bright colours and positive slogans to my day, which were much needed after this week’s sorry events. Plus I got to meet Hannah @ Budding Smiles and Alex @ Lamb & Bear which was a nice bonus (and a good reminder to buy Baby D some his Christmas leggings from Lamb & Bear!).

I’m a bit sad that Scrip is getting too big for some of Mothercare’s clothes because I think the ranges get better and better. For next summer, expect this:

Stripes
Never out of fashion and some can be unisex – I love stripes. Nautical, smock tops and sweet toddler tees to look forward to.
Mothercare topMothercare vestMothercare t-shirt

Slogans
I particularly love the ‘3 months’ and ‘6 months’ vests – taking their cues from the popular age cards. These are fab and would make good presents. My Rainbow Baby is a lovely idea and Little Bird slogans are as joyful as ever. Little Bird happy t-shirtMonth marker vestsRainbow baby vest

Animals
Some roarsome stuff here and great little details. The little faces and ears on the sleeves of this t-shirt and the dinosaur scale leggings are gorgeous. I’m very tempted by the bedding.

Mothercare jumperMothercare cat sleevesAnimal bedding

Perfect patterns
Orla Kiely sleepbags, retro dresses and that unisex babygro (I love unisex now, for obvious reasons!)

Little Bird sleepsuitOrla Kiely sleepbags Little Bird dress

I had a quick look at the ELC   toys – probably just as well I was child-free as a big tractor took centre stage and I wouldn’t have been able to drag Baby D away! Some nice Happy Land pieces and the portable potties looked good. Thanks for a good afternoon, Mothercare!

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From city to country – nine months in

City to CountryA lot can happen in nine months, as I know well. And a lot has happened these past nine months. As well as our move to the country, I’ve started my business, my husband’s started a new job, Scrip’s started school, Baby D has started not one but two nurseries, we’ve made lots of house ‘discoveries’ (mostly costly ones), we’ve had some difficult family news, some positive family news and so on.

On balance, I love it here. I miss family and friends in London and beyond but I don’t regret the move. I love the green, the space and the fresh air. I’ve started to make some lovely friends and so have Scrip and Baby D. But every move comes with adjustments and here are 9 that I’ve had to make (and am still making).

  1. Winter = wellies. Not your flimsy, floral, occasional-snow-day-in-London novelty wellies. Here you need hardcore, thick wellies even if you’re just popping to the shops. It was wet and muddy when we moved here last February and it’s starting to be like that again now.
  2. Milkmen make sense here. The village shop is fantastic and well-stocked but doesn’t open until 9am. We’ve made a fair few early morning trips to the garage 15 minutes away to get milk for breakfast but now the milkman is our new best friend.
  3. Amazon is also your friend. We wanted to be close to Bath, which we are, but when it’s all about getting in your car and parking and traffic, it’s so much easier to order online. Plus, if you’re out, Amazon can leave it in a safe place without you worrying how safe that place actually is.
  4. Everyone says hello. I can understand why you don’t greet everyone you come across with a smile and a cheery ‘hi’ in London but I forgot that wasn’t the norm across the country.
  5. The sky is quiet. It’s like that time a few years ago when aeroplanes were grounded. We get the occasional flight from Bristol overhead or local small planes but there’s no constant hum (we did used to be in the Heathrow flight path). It’s still.
  6. The wildlife is lovely. I grew up with the great outdoors being a big part of my life and I’m hoping the children will, too. There are beautiful birds of prey all around, pheasants all over the fields, owls in the garden and we think we may have a resident hedgehog.
  7. Whereas Scrip was surrounded by tube trains and buses, one of Baby D’s first words was ‘tractor’ (and it’s still a firm favourite) as they regularly rumble along the road.
  8. We now have serious log burner envy. The smell of woodsmoke in the village in the evenings is incredible. A wood burning stove is on our wish list but is way below things like fixing our external leak, unfortunately, so we may have to wait a while.
  9. Village life is village life. Having both grown up in villages we were apprehensive about moving from a big city to a small village but we’ve been made to feel welcome here, and having children means there’s a lot to get involved with. It’s an adjustment, but one we were prepared for.

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Parents’ views wanted: homes and gardens

Blogging in a coffee shopThe furniture specialists at Rattan Direct are on the hunt for parents’ opinions. They’ve put together a 2 minute survey (I’ve just done it and it really does take 2 minutes) on how people are using their homes and gardens now and at Christmas time (yes, it’s less than two months away…)

There’s also a section on that source of many a family argument, Brexit, and how it might affect spending. It makes you think. We’ve just been given planning permission (hooray!) for a home office/family room and extension which we’ll hopefully do in phases. So we’ve been talking to local building firms recently.

In the short term builders seem busy and to have ample work on the go but in the longer term, who knows? There’s a lot of uncertainty around pretty much all future spending at the moment.

I’ll be looking out for the results soon. Here’s the Rattan Direct survey (no personal details required).

A collaborative post with Rattan Direct.

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Win an extra special dinner date

14570698_1794279780788117_8328664318184775630_oI’m feeling slightly jaded tonight after a meal out for my husband’s birthday yesterday. We went to the fantastic Hudson Steak House in Bath – as a veggie this was a sacrifice for my husband! Luckily I found my food delicious and imaginative – sweetcorn fritters and a side of french fries with truffle and parmesan. Yum. And apparently the steak was rather good, too.

Nights out are few and far between so it’s nice to organise something extra special. With Georgian architecture, like our new hometown of Bath, Grade I listed Moggerhanger Park is just that. It’s a beautiful country house hotel set in over 30 acres in rural Bedfordshire.

If you fancy sampling something a little special there’s the chance to win a meal for two and wine at Moggerhanger’s restaurant simply by liking and sharing their post. Simple.

They’ve also got a reputation as a lovely wedding venue so worth a peek.

This is a collaborative post with Moggerhanger Park.

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So, are you missing London?

missing londonI still love going back to London. We all do. When people ask if we miss it it’s a difficult question to answer. I think my husband does more than me. I love being back there – the buzz, the scale, the opportunities – but I’m seeing it through different eyes now.

I don’t feel like it was the best place for us to continue our family life, and that was one of the most important reasons for moving. However, I didn’t fall out of love with it (when you’re tired of London etc.) and I’m glad it’s still only an hour and a half away. My sisters live there as do some really good friends and I do miss them.

I’m enjoying our life here and making friends at Scrip’s school, our local toddler group and in the village generally. I love the fresh air, big skies and space. I love the fact we can hear owls in the garden and see buzzards overhead. We can walk to school past fields and hills and head out to pick blackberries from our door.

So, I do wish I could bring some of my London life here – particularly my family – but I appreciate why we moved and everything we all have here.

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Best of the West – five recommendations for under fives near Bath

five under fiveWhen you have children or start looking after them, you discover an area in a way you never did before. When you move house, you get to do it all over again. I’m really enjoying seeing what this area of the West Country has to offer families. Seven months in, here are some of my favourite day trips so far in the Bath area.

The classical one – The Roman Baths
This was a no brainer and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. I first went with my mum, a historian, when I was quite a bit younger and I still remember its amazing beauty and sense of place. Years later, I’m pleased to report that Scrip really enjoyed our visit. There were children’s activities to complete but what I found particularly good were the holograms of Roman people projected into some of the baths. It really brought everything to life. The Baths are very popular, so expect crowds.

The one for small children – Ugly Bugs
It’s cheap and cheerful and my two love it here. Plus there are fish and chips for lunch: what’s not to love? It’s not far from us in Warmley and, while it’s not plush, it’s clean and not too crowded as they stop entry when all the tables are taken. It’s also a manageable size so you can see the children at all times (unless they refuse to move from the ball pool, as Baby D sometimes does). It suits small children age five and under. Arrive early for half price entry.

The outdoors one – Westonbirt Arboretum
We came here for Autumn colour last weekend, but still found lots of green leaves after our Indian summer. It was still lovely. The treetop walkway was a highlight as was the den building area. With a newish walker on small legs we didn’t get very far in a few hours and we only scratched the surface. Dogs are only allowed in certain areas but we seemed to see quite a few of them along the way. Entry is quite pricey – as is the food – so it could be worth looking at a year’s pass.

The local one – Dyrham Park
My cousin – who grew up near Richmond Park – wasn’t particularly excited about seeing the deer here, for obvious reasons, but they’re still pretty exotic to me and you usually spot the fallow herd on a trip to Dyrham Park. It’s very close to our new house and it’s a lovely spot – a country house (currently being renovated) enclosed by swooping hills on the entrance and with more formal gardens behind. The play area has ride-on tractors (perfect for our resident farm vehicle spotter, Baby D) and there’s a nice cafe.

The Harry Potter one – Lacock Abbey
I’ve only seen one of the films (or half of one, I think) but some of Harry Potter was filmed at Lacock Abbey and you can see why they chose it. It’s a lovely, atmospheric building and it’s been a winner with Scrip on a few occasions. Downstairs is the 13th Century Abbey; upstairs is the Fox Talbot residence, which is interesting in itself but also because it was one of the birthplaces of modern photography. There are some good children’s activities, including a playground just outside, and lots for grown ups to see. Make sure you have a walk around the National Trust village, too.

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Healthy school snacks – we’ve been trying Pulsin’

Pulsin review

Two and a half weeks in and food has featured heavily in our school conversations (it’s one thing she is keen to talk about – she definitely has schoolnesia about most of the things that go on in class).

Food-wise there are the healthy snacks the school provides (carrots on Monday, apparently), the anticipation of school dinners (definitely macaroni cheese every day), the after school nourishment and the questions over packed lunches (I’m holding out on these – hopefully the promise of hot macaroni cheese will tide her over for a while).

We’re currently all about the snacks here – especially with Baby D’s appetite. So Pulsin’ Kids’ Fruity Oat Bars scored highly when we were sent some to try. The bars are gluten free, dairy free, soya free and include only natural sugars. They come in strawberry, blackcurrant & apple and orange choc chip flavours so still feel like a real treat.

She loved them and I really enjoyed the raw chocolate brownie that found its way into the package for me – thank you! I also like the fact they’re made in Gloucestershire which is just next to us (we’re now in South Glos).

We trialled them before she started school and they were described as a school lunch bag or snack time treat and now she’s started and has the hunger of a bear I can see why they’d be good. Certainly worth considering over carrots…

Pulsin’ Kids’ Fruity Oat Bars are £2.99 for six 25g bars in a multipack. They are available from selected leading retailers. Thanks for sharing some!

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Are you going to the Baby & Toddler Show? Win a pair of free tickets…

Baby & Toddler Show Win

New school…new season…new baby? Not for me! But if you have a new little one or one on the way have you considered visiting the Baby & Toddler Show? It’s the biggest of its kind and it’s returning to Sandown Park, Surrey, on 23-25 September.

We’ve been twice and have come back with some really useful things – like my Mia Tui changing bag, which I love, and my Ergo 360 baby sling. It’s also a very child-friendly day out. Baby Scrip loved playing with toys in one of the baby areas and toddler Scrip went in her first ever creche there (and loved it).

If you fancy winning a free pair of tickets, the giveaway is below. And for everyone else, save 1/3 on tickets by using the code BTS34 online.

So what can you expect there?

* Really good deals on top brands and baby essentials – 100s of unique and useful products which you won’t find on the high street (I can vouch for that).

* Guaranteed best prices on car seats, prams, buggies and furniture – all the big names including Bugaboo, Britax, Mamas & Papas, Maxi-Cosi, Quinny, Silver Cross, Cosatto, Bloom, Cybex and Joolz.

* Over 150 top brands and products to test, try, compare and buy – meet knowledgeable experts and have hands-on demos.

* Expert speakers giving new parents everything they need to know on feeding and weaning, babywearing, first aid and sleep.

* The RLSS UK Baby Academy and a free first aid taster session to learn vital first aid skills.

* Piccolo, the new organic baby food brand inspired by the Med lifestyle – visit the stand to try all the products and talk to Piccolo’s team of nutrition experts about all things weaning, food and nutrition. Plus, hear from Piccolo’s infant nutritionist, Alice Fotheringham at the Expert Advice Workshops.

Sandown Park is easy to get to, there is free parking, easy access for bumps and babies, and a huge Vital Baby Feeding Area and Baby Changing Area.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Facebook // @BabyandToddlerShows
Twitter // @BabyShows
Instagram // @babyandtoddlershows

The rules

    • Entrants must be 18 or over and UK residents.
    • The prize includes a pair of tickets to the Sandown Park Baby & Toddler Show 2016. They can be used for one day of this September’s show.
    • Competition closes at 12.00am on 20th September. Any entries submitted after this date will not be included.
    • Tickets booked using the code must be booked online before midnight on Thursday 22 September.
    • The winner will be selected randomly through a prize draw and announced on newmumblings.com and through email.
    • There is no cash prize alternative.
    • Children under 16 attend for free and do not require their own tickets.

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Cheat’s Chocolate Fudge: a five minute recipe

Chocolate FudgeI made this with Scrip on one of our afternoons together after a half day at school. She’s always loved baking and sometimes we need a quick, simple recipe that doesn’t involve a sink full of washing up (but that leaves a very lickable spoon). She does tend to ask about tasting whatever it is as soon as we get the ingredients out but she managed to control herself during this one (and I did, too).

This is fab – it uses store cupboard ingredients and makes an impressive-looking fudge. I can’t pretend it’s up to true Cornish fudge standards (mmm Roskilly’s) but it’s tasty and moreish (best to cut it into small pieces). It’s also easy to halve the mixture and still get a decent amount. Enjoy.

Ingredients

500g (1lb 2oz) icing sugar
50g (2oz) cocoa powder
50mll (2fl oz) milk
50g (2oz) cold butter, chopped (mine was actually room temperature)
Large handful of roasted and salted peanuts or raisins

Method

Put the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large microwave-safe bowl; whisk to combine. Add milk and chopped butter and cook on full power (800W) for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, line a tin or serving dish roughly 15cm x 25cm (6in x 10in) with baking parchment.

Whisk the hot mixture until smooth (it will thicken as you do so), then stir in the nuts or raisins. Empty into the lined tin, level the surface and chill for at least 20 minutes before cutting into small chunks.

I originally found this recipe in Good Housekeeping. Another five minute recipe favourite is my chocolate oaty slices.

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Phrases I thought I’d never say

drying dayI’m back to my pre-baby weight now (it’s taken 16 months this time around) and am wearing so many more of my old clothes. I’ve also had a few days away with my grown-up family on my own and I had a bit of time (and sleep) which helped me realise I’m feeling much more like myself. Although it’s definitely a new version of myself.

I guess it’s a normal part of adulthood but the new me says things the old me might shudder at. And she says them without irony.

Along with warning my children ‘It will all end in tears’ (and knowing I was right) last week, these are a few utterances that have come out of my lips recently..

  • It’s a good drying day [seriously – when did the washing become the first thing I thought about as I opened  the curtains?!]
  • Oooh is it that time already [at 10pm]?
  • Are there any more good boxsets on?
  • Do you fancy a hot chocolate [not Horlicks quite yet]?
  • I’ll just whizz the hoover around.
  • Just a spritzer for me [and I actually mean it].
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