Category Archives: My reviews

NOTHS: Christmas has got Scrip and Baby D’s names all over it!

My lovely sister donned her jingle bells for a preview of the notonthehighstreet Christmas collection this week. Here are her highlights. 

Anything personalised was always a big hit with me when I was little (remember those catalogues filled with pages of personalised coloured pens and pencils?) and if Scrip and Baby D are anything similar, NOTHS have got this aunty’s Christmas shopping sorted!

Tree decorations, wooden zoos, pyjamas, tents, dolls houses and Christmas stockings – you name it, you can have that special name put on it!

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A personalised tent will keep those furry friends safe

There’s a cushion for the cat, a monogrammed chef’s apron for the big chef, a kitchen for the little chef – and a coffee pot for the whole family.

Oh, and if it’s a baby bear or a little badger you’re buying for, they’re covered too!

notonthehighstreet.com Christmas in July 2016

Baby bears can keep snuggly in this sweet sweater

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Cute cubs cuddle up in this charming playsuit

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There’s no mistaking the owner of this beautiful dolls house

They'll have sweet dreams in personalised pyjamas

They’ll have sweet dreams in personalised pyjamas

Original tree decorations

Original tree decorations – flamingos, pineapples and cactuses

Coffee

Personalisation gets grown-up!

notonthehighstreet.com Christmas in July 2016

Christmas is looking beautiful at notonthehighstreet.com’s Christmas in July 2016

Capturing all the charm of Disney – Courage & Kind clothes

Courage & Kind clothesHow many Disney DVDs do you have – a whole library or a choice few? A friend of mine has the entire back catalogue, I think, in all their technicolor glory. Scrip would certainly like a few more and she cherishes the ones she has. I still enjoy them, too. I can easily be persuaded to sit with her and watch Tangled or Cinderella – much more so than My Little Pony.

So why doesn’t that magic translate onto Disney clothes? Not the replica princess dresses but everyday items. Scrip adores her Frozen PJs but they’re really not very charming. Likewise t-shirts and jumpers. So how about these Courage & Kind clothes – aren’t they beautiful? These are from the Alice in Wonderland range and I love how they’ve created clothes which are just as magical as the film.

The dress is gorgeous with a beautiful and clever Alice-inspired pattern, and the cardigan has little felt Queen of Hearts pockets. I’m trying to save these two for a family party but I’m coming under a lot of pester power from Scrip who just wants to wear them all the time.

All of the Courage & Kind clothes are inspired by the classic cartoons but don’t just slap an image of the hero or heroine on the front. They use patterns, imagery and styling in original, interesting ways, creating outfits that charm the parents as much as their children. There’s a boys’ and girls’ range too. They’d also make fantastic presents.

They’re an investment rather than every day, but they’re beautifully crafted and fit well. In fact I’d love some adult versions, please! I know I’m not the only one, judging by the reaction on Instagram.

PS – I love the name! ‘Have courage and be kind’ has got to be my favourite Disney life motto.

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A visit to The American Museum in Britain

American MuseumThe draw of the museum worksheet seems to be strong with Scrip at the moment, luckily. The American Museum in Claverton, just outside of Bath, went one better with a backpack full of activities handed over when we arrived. There are three age-related options – hers was suitable for 4+ years and she loved the little grizzly bear glove puppet who popped out when she unzipped the bag and helped us along the way.

The museum is set in an old manor house – Claverton Manor – in stunning grounds with views around the countryside and down to the River Avon. There’s plenty of parking and a good cafe on the site, plus a gift shop that sells more than just bright, unrelated plastic toys (although I’m sure there were a few of those as well). The museum charts American culture and history from early settlers to present-day with pictures, videos, hands-on displays and period rooms recreated.

The trail booklet inside the backpack guided us around the displays and there was something to do in many of the rooms along the way – ranging from a magnifying sheet to spot something close up, to a little wooden town to build, to a puzzle inspired by one of the beautiful collection of American quilts. She seemed to really enjoy it.

The trail was just the right length and left enough time and energy to have a quick look at the American Toy Story display (on until October 2016). She recognised some of the toys but the best bit was trying on toy costumes and drawing your favourite to add to the wall. Freed from his carrier Baby D seemed to enjoy crawling around here as well.

It’s a shame we hadn’t left any time for exploring the gardens as it’s in a beautiful location and I would have loved to look around. There was also a concert in the afternoon. But unfortunately nap time for D was calling and I think we may just have tired out Scrip as well.

As with anything I visit with small children I vowed to come back alone and actually read the captions of the displays as it was really interesting and a lot of it, moving. And with such a beautiful museum in a breathtaking location I think I may just make it.

More on the American Museum website.

American MuseumAmerican MuseumAmerican Museum

 

We’ve also visited the London Transport Museum, braved central London with a toddler and here’s my London (children’s activities) Bucket List.

Rainbow boards – a splash of colourful fun

Rainbow Boards ReviewDo your children remind you of yourself when you were young? Scrip definitely does me, in so many ways. Particularly her imaginary play – she’s always acting out make believe games. Sometimes she brings Baby D into her role plays (much to his bemusement!), sometimes she’s at the dinner table with toys, cars or even the salt and pepper pots and sometimes I find her in a corner of the sitting room with teddies lined up, chatting away.

She’s just started to play ‘teachers’ which was one of my favourite games when I was little. And now she’s got a new prop in the form of a bright, sunshine yellow Rainbow Board – dry wipe board on one side, felt pin board on the other.

As she’s not yet at school she didn’t understand at first how to ‘teach’ using the board but she loved being let loose with the wipe board pens. There’s a nice big area to write on and wipe off again (half the fun) and there’s also the pin board. She loved the responsibility of pinning things on with drawing pins and soon found some drawings, post cards and birthday cards. Plus random pieces of cardboard (we have a lot of those).

Her new, bigger room may be fast filling up with things but when something new is as colourful as this, I’m not complaining. It’s so much nicer than a plain white board and Rainbow Boards come in green, yellow, pink, blue or orange – and all attractive shades.

Teacher Boards also sell notice boards and wipe boards on their own as well as glass boards made of hardened safety glass in a variety of colours which would be nice for a kitchen.

There’s a wide range of colours, shapes and sizes. This one’s large but it’s easy to store as it’s flat. Not that she’s letting me store it at the moment – not while there are teddies to teach.

Thank you Teacher Boards for adding a welcome splash of colourful fun to Scrip’s room.

The Yellow Rainbow Board we trialled was £65 excluding VAT.

Win tickets to the Baby & Toddler Show (and 1/3 off for everyone)

Baby & Toddler Show Win

Tomorrow is a year on from Baby D’s due date. He actually kept me waiting 12 more days but this time last year anticipation was building. Now I can barely believe I’m almost a mother to a toddler.

There’s been a lot of Googling first birthday presents and trying to find things we don’t have already courtesy of his older sister. Also things he’ll enjoy but won’t be quickly taken off him (no guarantees there). We’ve only bought some board books so far but we’re still researching.

To find anything and everything you can possibly want or need for your baby or toddler, the Baby & Toddler Show is the place to go. It’s in Sandown Park in Surrey from 15th April (which happens to be D’s first birthday!) to 17th April.

We’ve been to the Baby Show twice and, although I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it it was a fab day out – packed with so much to see, do and play with and lots of pushchair miles to push around (good for ensuring a long nap afterwards!) We got some great deals on products like our Ergo baby carrier and Mia Tui changing bag, and there were some useful talks and goodies.

This one is the biggest of its kind and Sandown Park is really easy to get to, with free parking, easy access for bumps and babies, and a huge Vital Baby Feeding Area and Baby Changing Area. Here’s what you can expect:

* Money saving with deals on baby essentials – 100s of unique and useful products which you won’t find on the high street

* Guaranteed best prices on car seats, prams, buggies and furniture – find all the big name brands in one place including Bugaboo, Britax, Mamas & Papas, Maxi-Cosi, Quinny, Silver Cross, Cosatto, Bloom, Cybex, Joolz…

* Over 150 top brands and products to test, try, compare and buy – meet knowledgeable experts and have hands-on demos to find the right products for you

* Hear from expert speakers giving new parents everything they need to know on sleeping, feeding, budgeting, first aid and more

* Plus – all mums-to-be and new mums will receive a goody bag which includes nappies, cream, wipes, cosmetics and more.

To win a pair of tickets for any day of the show, just enter via Rafflecopter below.

Or to save 1/3 on tickets go to www.babyandtoddlershow.co.uk and quote code SBT23 – adult tickets £8.

All tickets with a promotional code MUST be booked online ahead of the show. The online box office will close at midnight Thursday 14th April.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The small print

  • 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 on or between 15th – 17th April 2016.
  • Competition closes at 12.00am on 10th April. Any entries submitted after this date will not be included.
  • Tickets must be booked before midnight on Thursday 14th April.
  • The winner will be selected randomly through a prize draw and announced on newmumblings.com and through email.
  • There is no cash prize alternative.

Ethical and healthy – 7 ordinary uses for coconut oil

Coconut oil usesIn the aftermath of the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, when Sri Lankans were having to rebuild their lives and livelihoods, some hope came in the form of the creation of new, sustainable businesses. One of these was Coconoil – a range of products made using virgin coconut oil made from Sri Lankan coconuts.  Just over a decade later, 200 people are employed by the company.

They’ve recently set up a new project with 200 smallholders from five villages in Ghana and they hope they can replicate some of the success they have seen in Sri Lanka, helping to create much needed work and income streams.

I love coconuts, whereas my husband’s not so keen, so it’s not something we have a lot at home. But as well as being interested in its ethical production, I’ve loved having my tub of Coconoil on the side in the kitchen. I could equally have it on my dressing table. It’s an amazing, adaptable little product that I knew very little about before.

It’s also fashionable with the likes of Hemsley & Hemsley extolling its health benefits (its fatty acid speeds up the metabolism and can lower the risk of heart disease). It’s also found favour with British celebrities like Alesha Dixon, who says she’s ‘addicted’ to it, and Tinie Tempah (that one surprised me!). Coconoil is cold pressed, meaning there’s no heat involved which can reduce its benefits.

I particularly love the subtle coconut flavour in cooking. It’s probably not cheap enough for everyday family use but it certainly adds something to a stir fry, sweet dishes or even roast veg. But I’ve also tried it on my skin. It’s worth saying it comes as a tub and is set, with the texture of thin butter.

Here are just a few of the uses I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks:

  1. Some oil on my face during this cold weather – warm it between your hands first. Research showed it was better than mineral oil and I loved the feel of it on dry skin.
  2. Handcream – I wash my hands a lot during the day and this is a nice alternative to commercial handcreams.
  3. Lips – it sinks in well and has a subtle flavour.
  4. Smoothies – a few teaspoonfools give a nice taste to a healthy smoothie.
  5. Frying and roasting – it doesn’t smoke until it gets very hot so is good to fry with.
  6. Flavouring – great for Thai curries.
  7. Sweet snacks like seed filled flapjacks. Yum.

Worth a little try.

Thanks to Coconoil for sharing their story and letting me try a tub. Prices start at £4.94 and you can buy online.

Home overhaul and win a pair of Ideal Home Show tickets

Ideal Home Show winOur new home makeover is really more of a maintenance job at the moment – we seem to have come across electrics, heating and plumbing issues, and that’s just what we’ve discovered so far. So the extension’s on hold…

But we have managed to make some rooms into our own over the last few weeks and it’s getting more like the family home I envisaged. I love the fact Scrip and Baby D have their own, decent-sized bedrooms they can play in and enjoy.

Whether you’re updating your home, are a keen DIY-er, or just like a bit of window shopping, the Ideal Home Show could be just the place to get some inspiration. Held at the Olympia London with over 650 exhibitors, the latest household gadgets and styling, it’s just about the biggest house and garden showcase you could hope to browse.

The Ideal Home Show runs from 18th March – 3rd April and I’ve teamed up with one of their sponsors, Plumbs Reupholstery, to offer the chance to win two free tickets.

If you haven’t heard of Plumbs, they reupholster furniture, returning it to its former glory (much cheaper than buying new and you can make it your own, with over 800 fabrics to choose from).

What home improvements are you planning? If you’re dreaming of overhauling your own, like me, and you’d like the the chance to win the tickets, you can enter through the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A few T&Cs

  • Entrants must be 18 or over and UK residents.
  • The prize includes a pair of tickets to the Ideal Home Show 2016 at Olympia in London. They can be used for one day on or between 18th March – 3rd April 2016.
  • Competition closes at 12.00am on 17th March. Any entries submitted after this date will not be included.
  • The winner will be selected randomly through a prize draw and announced on newmumblings.com.
  • There is no cash prize alternative.

Clean out of patience with spring cleaning

Greener cleanerI had a cleaner before we moved. Most of my friends in London have cleaners and our new tenants (who are at least a decade younger) quickly asked for my cleaner’s details. My cleaner also became a friend. I looked forward to Natasha coming for more than just making my home sparkle – we always had a nice chat, sometimes shared a coffee and baby D LOVED her.

Now I have a bigger space to clean, a few months’ worth of dust from an uninhabited house  and unfortunately no more inclination to clean than I had before. I know I need to (or we need to, but I’m at home more at the moment so I’m the default) and I like a clean and safe house. But it’s not something I relish.

It’s a daily task – especially with two children – and I like speedy cleans but I also like good cleans. I usually lean towards products that promise to banish everything quickly (and, probably, chemically). I like the idea of eco and more responsible cleaning, but are cleaning products that do good, actually good?

Well it turns out they can be. I was given some Greener Cleaner products to try – all made with sustainable ingredients and packaging and all chemical free. Here’s what I thought:

  • The Eco-Flek dustpan and brush, scrubbing brush and dishbrush look like my plastic ones but are actually made of sustainable wood pulp and recycled plastic. A great idea and not too expensive. I’ve never had a scrubbing brush before but it was great for jobs like getting grout on tiles clean and getting rid of paint residue.
  • I loved the glass cloths that you use with just water. They were brilliant, quick and left windows smear free (but used quite a bit of elbow grease). The microfibre were also good but I already use these to polish.
  • The eco Limescale Remover was a revelation. It used Eco-friendly and sustainable ingredients to cut through limescale and grease in the new house. It worked as well as my usual commercial ones.
  • I’m also using my squeegee every day. Do that and you can keep surfaces smear-free with no need for shower or tile cleaners.

The verdict? I’m an eco convert. Maybe I’m late to the sustainable party but I was really impressed. I might not be changing everything in my home straight away but I will be using these products again.

Thank you Greener Cleaner for sending me these to trial.

 

Fitness Friday: my Farfetch workout outfit

Farfetch workout outfit

As marathon trainees rocket past me in the park I’m usually the dawdly one balancing a flat white on the pushchair handle. Actually, I am thinking much more about fitness this year – maybe because it’s hard-wired into our DNA every time January comes around, but also the nicer weather has meant we’re spending a lot more time outdoors.

I try and walk wherever I can and I still do a lot of baby carrying, so I have noticed that running up and down stairs doesn’t leave me breathless at the moment. The next step is a class or even the gym to shift the final, stubborn baby weight.

When Farfetch gave me the chance to create my perfect workout outfit it was a pleasure to browse their site (and I may just have strayed onto the designer dress, bags and shoes pages as well). My three year old even had a go at choosing her favourite fitness items – the gym bag is inspired by her.

For the uninitiated, Farfetch features clothes from 300 boutiques in just one easy-to-navigate site. It’s for women and men and you’ll find clothes from the likes of Stella McCartney and Moschino plus other designers. It wasn’t easy picking just one outfit but I tried to go for things I could realistically see myself in, and that might motivate me to get active. The sports bra is stylish and could double up as a top (once I’ve toned my tummy), the graffiti top is so full of energy and I just love the Good Vibes vest.

It’s almost enough to make me get up and go for a run (after I’ve finished my coffee).

Here’s what I chose:

Little entrepreneurs: Enterprising Child book review

Enterprising Child Book ReviewI can probably count the number of books I read last year on the fingers of one hand (not including Tommy Thumb). I’m not one for resolutions but I am looking forward to reading more this year, and I’ve just finished my first book. I was asked to read and review Enterprising Child by Lorraine Allman with Mary Cummings.

It’s a dip-in, dip-out book – perfect for snatched moments here and there – and it’s been an eye-opener as it’s not necessarily the kind of book I would usually reach for. As I was discussing with a mum friend yesterday, if you start trying to being a better parent by reading you could easily end up spending all your time trying out different approaches.

But, truth be told, I liked the hard-hatted little girl on the front and as I’m starting my own business this year I thought it was relevant to try and engage Scrip in a realistic, achievable way. We play and learn a lot together but I hadn’t thought about play making her enterprising or entrepreneurial so I wanted to see what the authors suggested.

Rather than aiming to create the next generation of Richard Bransons, as the book says, ‘Enterprise is all about creativity and the courage to create something of value’. I must admit I usually think of people as being potential entrepreneurs or not – I hadn’t thought that everyone could benefit from entrepreneurial thinking. But I’ve reconsidered.

The book’s clearly laid out and easily digestible, with good forewords, intros and further information about the benefits of being enterprising. The main content is divided into different chapters to cover activities for different age groups. I focused on 4 – 6 year olds as, *sniff*, my oldest is soon to be four. The book closes with interviews with adult entrepreneurs and a collection of younger ones.

I liked the activities. Whereas some were very much what I’d expect them to be – like playing shop and helping out at car boot sales – there were other activities that particularly appealed, centring around encouraging children to think of solutions themselves. When you’re queuing, for example, rather than sighing and moaning, how about asking your child why he/she thinks there’s a queue and what could be done to speed things up? Or resolving conflict – rather than giving children a solution when they both want the same toy, how about involving them in the compromise?

Obviously not everything will work for every child, but all of the activities made me think. I do often rush in with the answer to Scrip’s many questions and I have now started asking her what she thinks is the answer. And sometimes she’s right, and often she has some funny suggestions but she seems to enjoy being asked.

As well as the book there are also a supporting Enterprising Child website, apps and an enterprising toy guide, although I haven’t yet looked at these in great detail. All in all Enterprising Child was an interesting and informative book which may just get you thinking in a different way.