Tuesday, 30 June 2015

5 Things My Toddler Can't Leave Home Without

LM is a little diva, with strong opinions about everything. A simple school run can turn into quite a excursion as she runs around the house making sure she has everything ready. I thought I'd share the five essential items for any outing with my mini fashionista...

1. An Awesome Bag, or Two

LM loves bags, and shoes. She's amassed quite a collection since she could walk with donations from mine and Grandma's collections, and some she has been bought for herself. If we're shopping you can guarantee that she'll find a new little bag to tote around while we look, which can sometimes lead to... disagreements about our planned purchases at the checkout! If one bag won't contain all of her treasures then she has no alternative but to add another. She always has a willing slave in me or her big brother to carry them if she gets tired and she's very adept about stashing her accessories in the pushchair shopping basket.

I've never known a little girl with such a strong sense of style and I'm having to adapt my purchasing decisions as she will simply refuse to entertain wearing or using something that doesn't meet her high standards. She loves everything Princess, pink and Hello Kitty and I know she'd love the Damsels and Unicorns rucksack from one of my favourite brands - Pink Lining.

2. Her Favourite Toy

This fluctuates between her Frozen dolls and Hello Kitty at the moment. You know your daughter has too many Hello Kitty toys when it's the sixth attempt to place the right one in bed with her that is correct! If more than one toy is essential she adopts alternative methods to carry them. Yesterday she emptied all of her Gruffalo's Child skittles out of their bag and used the bag to stash her Elsa and Anna dolls. Neither dolly looked terribly comfortable in this!

3. Something Pretty

LM loves beads and bangles and pretty things for her hair so this can take any form. Sometimes it's a simple bow in her hair. Sometimes she rocks a tiara, wand and four or five pieces of jewellery. It depends on her mood and that day's need to sparkle. If she's been able to cover herself in glitter while crafting then so much the better! Again, if a change of mind takes place then the essential bag is needed to stash any items which are no longer required to complete her look.

4. Snacks

Open up LM's bag of the day on an outing and you'll always find a little snack. I'm not sure if she doubts my ability to keep her well fed or if she just likes to be prepared for all emergencies but, from a fruit pouch to a wrapped biscuit or pack of raisins, it's always there. If the bag is big enough to stash her bottle of water then I'll usually find that too  She does like to be prepared for all eventualities!

5. A Big Smile

For all of her diva tendencies LM really is the happiest little girl and she charms everyone she meets with her cheeky grin and happy 'hello' to everyone she meets. Her collection of treasure and the necessary luggage to include it are a small price to pay to be accompanied by such a happy little girl.

What can't your toddler leave home without?

This is our entry into the Pink Lining Ambassador Search

Monday, 29 June 2015

Royal Baby and Sibling Celebrations with Ella's Kitchen

We're big fans of Ella's Kitchen in our house. Their range of weaning pouches and snacks have been staples over the past five years as both Bud and LM have grown up and we've featured them on the blog several times too. The lovely team at Ella's Kitchen offered Bud and LM a little gift on the arrival of their new baby brother and they were so pleased with what we received.

Ella's Kitchen Sibling Gift

Bud and LM received a t-shirt each proclaiming their new status as a Big Sister (for LM) and a Big Brother to two (for Bud). LM really loves her Big Sister tee and can often be found pointing to the words and saying 'Sister' to everyone she meets. They also received a fab extendable colouring book and crayons to keep them busy while I'm occupied with their new baby brother.

Big Sister t-shirt with Ella's Kitchen Smoothies Fruit Pouch

In addition to these exciting items they also received a selection of the yummy Ella's Kitchen products. LM especially loves the fruit smoothies pouches and she was really pleased to try 'The White One' as we haven't bought this flavour before. This is a yummy mix of 100% coconut milk, pineapples, bananas and apples, with a dash of lemon juice They are such a tasty, convenient snack and I can usually be found with a few of them in the bottom of my changing bag in case she gets peckish when we're out and about. 

Ella's Kitchen Toddler Snack Range

Both Bud and LM enjoy the snack range from Ella's Kitchen too. The Bananas and Raisins Nibbly Fingers are another convenient on the go snack and one of LM's favourites. The ee i ee i oh Spelt Cookies were new to us but both children enjoyed them, they didn't last long at all!

Ella's Kitchen sent us the parcel as they were so excited about the birth of Princess Charlotte, and wanted to celebrate with lots of little ones who have recently welcomed a new brother or sister, just like Prince George. They've even created their own news bulletin to report the safe arrival of the little princess!

Ella's Kitchen is a trusted brand in our house and one that I'm sure we will continue to use for a good few years yet, whether with LM still enjoying the toddler snacks or as Little E starts on his weaning journey in a few months. We've so enjoyed celebrating both Princess Charlotte and Little E's arrival with them!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Preparing to Potty Train with Huggies Pull Ups

LM is reaching the age where potty training is surely necessary and we're about to embark upon that journey with her. We've been trying for some time to get her interested and involved but she is taking a little persuading. I've now been offered help from a source who are experts in the field and I'm delighted to announce that LM and I are going to be Huggies Pull Ups ambassadors for the forthcoming year.

LM is a Huggies Pull Ups Ambassador

Huggies Pull-Ups know exactly what they are doing on the potty training front and their Pull-Ups are the only disposable potty training pants currently available that are specifically designed to make potty training easier. They are a pant which allows your child to pull them up and down and sit on the potty, but will keep them dry in the event of an accident too. They are tailored especially for girls and boys and for day and night time. Their Disney® graphics with their bright colours and characters are designed to attract little ones, make learning fun and encourage independence.

Huggies Pull Ups have new features designed to make potty training easier. The daytime Pull Ups now include a Learning Liner which allows the child to feel the wetness for a few moments to help them learn the difference between dry and wet and to help them work towards staying dry themselves. Pull-Ups Night-Time provide extra absorbency and increased protection during the night without having to revert back to nappies and means your child can use the stretchy sides to pull them up and down on their own.

Huggies Pull Ups Potty Training Pants

LM has now been wearing Pull Ups for a couple of weeks and refuses to wear her old nappies now. She loves to see Minnie and Cinderella on the front of her Pull Ups and I can easily check if she has wee'd using the panel which acts as a wetness indicator for her. She's not quite ready to use the potty at the moment and it's main purpose is being used as a seat or a source of amusement at the moment. I am keen to try and get her trained over the Summer but LM is incredibly strong willed and can't be persuaded to do anything she doesn't want to!

Huggies Pull Ups Potty Training Pants

I'm confident that Huggies Pull Ups are the perfect partner for us over the coming months and I'm looking forward to sharing our potty training journey with you all.

If you're starting Potty Training, or doing it at the moment check out pottytraining.co.uk for lots of expert help and advice. You can even request a free sample pack to try Huggies Pull Up Pants with your toddler. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Reflections on Britmums Live

There are hundreds of Britmums Live posts around at the moment and I always enjoy the opportunity to read the attendees' reflections upon their experiences at the event. This was my second year there and was a rather different experience than last year, for a variety of reasons.

I wanted to share my thoughts about our time in London and, as none of you really care what I ate for my dinner on Friday night, I think I'll do this by telling you what I learned this weekend.

A brand new baby is a great ice breaker...

When I realised that I'd have a teeny, tiny baby by the time Britmums Live rolled around this year I announced that I was going to have to sell my Super Early Bird ticket. All of my friends said 'why? Just bring baby along.' So I didn't sell my ticket but I did worry about how I would find it and, when Little E was overdue, I was keeping a close eye on the calendar to work out exactly how old our new arrival would be by the time we travelled to London. In the end Little E was 24 days old at Britmums Live, the youngest baby there, and a definite ice breaker as some people ran towards me to meet him! I had the opportunity to meet up with bloggers who I didn't know much beyond a passing chat on Twitter and to chat with those I knew better - like some of the fantastic #BlogBumpClub (many of whom had their gorgeous babies with them too) - and I really don't think I would have chatted to so many people without him there.

A photo posted by The Brick Castle (@thebrickcastle) on

Britmums Live is easy with a baby...

Perhaps easy isn't the correct word here but I genuinely wouldn't be put off attending Britmums Live with a small baby. Not that I will ever be in that position again! Beyond his aforementioned ice breaking abilities, Little E spent most of the weekend just as he would at home. He was pushed in his pram, and carried around by me or others. I found it easy to find places to find a quiet spot to feed him in and I was so pleased that I was never on my own when I did so. One of my favourite places to sit and feed was the outside area as the sofa cushions were the perfect support for breastfeeding and there was usually someone I recognised out there to sit and chat with while E fed. This was rather nice as I got the chance to have a proper chat with a few people who I wouldn't have spoken to properly otherwise. Little E and I even tried babywearing for the first time... we'll ignore the fact that he was sick all over me five minutes after this photo was taken!

Babywearing with Little E at Britmums Live

If you're going to have a small baby next year I'd definitely take them along with you, at Little E's age they only care about milk, cuddles, a clean nappy and sleep and he hardly cried at all.I think it is harder with more mobile babies as they do require a little more entertaining than tiny infants but there are many, many worse places to take a baby to than a conference filled with 700 other mums and dads.

Sleep deprivation means that you constantly check the badges of people you meet, even if you've chatted to them every day for the past few years...

I'm usually great with names and faces, I'm quite proud to be 'the one that recognises people' but this year I had to rely on squinting at badges rather more than I was comfortable with. I was so tired on the Friday that I managed not to recognise a couple of people who I've met a few times before! Complete fail. I think I was better on the Saturday, after a decent night's sleep.

It doesn't really matter what you do when you are there...

I attended the same number of breakout sessions this year as I did last year. Three in total. It's not very many if you look at the packed schedule but it was right for me this year, and last year. The difference is that I was completely comfortable in my choices this year and I didn't feel like I was being a bit naughty in skipping sessions. I always go to all of the keynotes, they are an important aspect of the conference for me and I usually find them inspiring and emotional. That was no different this year, except for the penultimate speaker on the Saturday. I really struggled to understand the message Caprice was attempting to deliver and I think it was my most disappointing experience of a keynote at any conference I've attended.

I'm stronger than I think I am...

On Thursday night on Facebook I was in tears and talking to some of my best blogger friends on Facebook and the idea of attending Britmums Live felt completely impossible. I wasn't packed. I had work to do and I'd barely slept for two nights. I was exhausted and planning a trip to London with a brand new baby. To their credit none of them complained and said I had to go but I knew I did have to go. For me, and for Jenny. A few weeks ago Jenny was asked to read her post, Dear Elspeth, as one of the Bloggers Keynotes on Saturday evening. I nominated Jenny to read the post and it remains one of the most powerful and moving pieces of writing I've ever read. Jenny asked me to stand alongside her as she read in support, and to take over if she couldn't continue. I was so honoured to be asked and there wasn't really anything that would have prevented me from being there for her. I felt like I would burst with pride as Jenny read her words to our community and I watched as they wept for her and Elspeth and all rose to applaud her and salute her courage.

A photo posted by Jen Dixon (@mymummyspennies) on

Prior to Jenny's reading I couldn't allow myself to be moved by any of the blogger keynotes, and had to listen impassively but afterwards I could relax and allow myself to be taken along on the emotions of each post, whether happy or sad. I must mention the beautiful writing in 23 Week Socks' Twinkle Twinkle which absolutely broke me and I sobbed along with everyone else. It was very hard to listen to with my infant son sleeping in his pram beside me and was an amazing tribute to NICU families and the teams who work so hard for them.

Bloggers are the best friends I could wish for...

If you're taking a tiny baby to London for the weekend, you really need to be accompanied by people you trust to help if you need it and I couldn't have chosen a better group to travel with. Colette and Jen were the most amazing travelling companions for Jenny (who was two weeks post-op from major abdominal surgery), Little E and I. We didn't have to worry about bags as they dragged ours as well as their own, and I appreciated being sent to bed by Mary on Friday night when she realised that the hotel reception wall was actually holding me up.

Whenever I needed a minute I always had someone around who I could trust to look after Little E and I loved the opportunity for so many friends to meet him properly.

That I'll definitely be back next year...

Early last week I was thinking that this would be my final Britmums Live. I was expecting to find it hard with the baby and to have a similar experience to last year. It was so much better though and I'll definitely be returning next year. The opportunity to spend two nights away from home every year, with some of my very best friends is too good to miss out on and I enjoyed it more than I thought possible this year. It was relaxing from beginning to end as we set our own pace, thanks to Little E and Jenny's recovery, and I can genuinely say it was the most stress-free trip to London I've ever had. When you live in the North like us, Britmums Live is the only opportunity we get to meet up with many good friends, without it I simply wouldn't see many bloggers I know well and like very much. Events which we both get invited to are seriously thin on the ground! Britmums Live is one of the rare opportunities I get to be me now, and although I was still firmly in mum mode this weekend with Little E, I still had the chance to enjoy everyone's company.

L-R: Fiona, Mary, Jen, Jenny, Helen, Eileen, Anna, Kel, Colette and me

This gorgeous group of women is the reason I'll probably keep returning to Britmums Live, while they do anyway! I really couldn't have done it without them.

Little E and I were sponsored to attend Britmums Live by tommee tippee who I'm so excited to be working with as one of their Mumbassadors this year. I'lll be sharing lots more from them over the coming months, including a very exciting product launch next month.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Perfect Bacon Sandwich for Father's Day

Is there any better breakfast for a Dad than a chunky bacon sandwich with their choice of sauce and accompaniment? Roberts Bakery don't think so and, as a result they have created their own guide to the Perfect Bacon Sandwich on their Facebook page to celebrate all things Dad this Father's Day.

Robert's Bakery sent out a bacon sandwich kit for me to make Ian his perfect bacon sandwich this week. He has fairly simple tastes so the sandwich saw me take Robert's Bakery Thick White Soft and Fluffy bread, a few slices of best smoked bacon (seriously, what is the point of unsmoked bacon?), salted butter and some brown sauce to create the ideal bacon butty for Ian.

The Perfect Bacon Sandwich for Father's Day Roberts Bakery bread

Using the Roberts Bakery tray that we were sent we assembled a lovely Breakfast in Bed tray for him, including a mug of coffee featuring Bud and LM's cheeky grins (a perfect Father's Day gift), a glass of orange juice, the bacon sarnie and some strawberries. The final finishing touch was a handmade card from LM. I think this would be the perfect Father's Day breakfast for Ian and Bud and LM will be serving it to him on Father's Day this year.

The quality of the bread and the bacon are key to a top notch bacon sandwich and Roberts Thick White Soft and Fluffy was simply perfect. Chunky soft bread which didn't fall apart as the butter melted and the sauce absorbed, and very tasty too.

The Perfect Bacon Sandwich for Father's Day Roberts Bakery bread

If you're passionate about a bacon sandwich check out the Roberts Bakery Facebook Page and their guide to the perfect one. Why not like their page while you are there,to keep up with their news.

What will you be serving for breakfast this Father's Day?

Disclosure: We were sent a Father's Day breakfast kit to make the bacon sandwich.

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