Five Post-Pregnancy Boosts for New Mums

I'm not quite sure when the post-pregnancy period officially ends, I feel a bit like I'm still there even though Little E is nearly 17 months old! Those first few months post-baby can be a tough slog and it's easy for mums to forget about themselves in the day to day routine of caring for a newborn and the rest of the family. I've been thinking about a few ways that Mums can take a little time for themselves, working around baby of course!
5 Five Post-Pregnancy Boosts for New Mums

1. Get Out and About

The age that I've left my littlest at has got younger with each baby. I've always had to take my time where I can find it, and around feeding my babies, but as time has gone by I've realised the importance of time alone - even if it's just a 15 minute walk around the supermarket without a little one attached to me!

If you're not happy leaving your little one then take them with you, meet up with a friend for coffee or lunch or check out a 'mum and babies' screening at your local cinema,  the Odeon do Newbies screenings and I think many of the other cinema chains do too. A simple walk in the park can make you feel so much better if you're feeling cabin fever setting in.

2. Book a Shopping Trip
Shopping trip rail of clothes

I found my shape really changed after my first pregnancy and nothing looked right even if it fitted! Now three babies in and those days pre-baby are a dim and distant memory and I find myself sticking to the 'mum uniform' of skinny jeans, stripy top, flats and a cardigan. I had a personal shopper session when Bud was about six months old (Ian walked him around the shops while I had my appointment) and she really helped me to understand my new shape and to find some items that I would never have previously considered. I had my appointment at John Lewis and can't recommend it highly enough. In fact I think I need to book another one now!

Sometimes I'll go shopping and purposefully ignore the children's sections. It's the only way I seem to be able to buy for myself and is definitely good for the soul!

3. Get a Haircut

Pregnancy messes with your hair! If you're anything like me then your hair looks amazing until a few weeks after your baby arrives and then it falls out in clumps and you end up finding piles of it around your home every time you vacuum. I have really thick hair so I can always stand to lose a bit but a good haircut can make all of the difference when you're feeling like you might be losing it all!
Book a haircut

You probably won't get as far as looking at FUE Hair Transplant Costs like Wayne Rooney but feeling like your hair looks great, with a simple cut and colour can make all of the difference.

4. Beauty Treatments

Just before I had Bud a lovely friend bought me a voucher for a 'new mum facial' which I booked when he was around 12 weeks old and it was divine! 40 minutes of relaxing bliss which totally transported me while it lasted. It cleared up my skin which was a bit grey and dull from all of the night feeds and really gave me a much needed boost. If you can't book a treatment, why not invest in a few favourite products and give yourself a pamper session at home? You can work around baby that way and a simple hot bath with some of your favourite bubble bath can be a real restorative.

5. Baby Groups

These are a real love-hate thing for many new mums but I always enjoyed going to those I went to. I didn't make loads of 'best friends forever' but I did enjoy the opportunity to meet people with similar aged babies to me and have a chat. On some days just being able to have a cup of coffee and a chat with someone who knows exactly what you're on about works miracles! I'd recommend 'shopping around' a bit to find the one that works best for you. I've been going to a toddler group for over 6 years now and I think we're part of the furniture there!

If you're looking for groups try asking your Health Visitor or local SureStart Centre. They should be able to signpost you to meet ups in your area and, hopefully, you might find one that suits you It doesn't have to be all Baby Gymnastics and Swimming and Yoga either. These tend to be quite expensive, my favourite group only costs £1 per week.

Obviously all of these ideas are simple ways for any new mum to give themselves a bit of a pick-me-up. If you feel like you're struggling it goes without saying that you should have a chat with your Health Visitor or GP.

Collaborative Post

Puffin Children's Audiobooks - Review

Bud, at six is just starting out on his journey through reading independently and I'm so excited to set out on this road with him. I was an avid reader as a child (still am) and, of course, this means that there are a good few books that I'd love him to read and enjoy just as much as I did. He's a confident reader at the moment and I've been trying to encourage his reading at home without pushing too many of my own favourites on him. Coincidentally Ian and I had been talking about involving the kids more in what we listen to in the car and audiobooks had come up as an idea there. When we were offered the chance to review some of the Puffin Children's Audiobooks, from Mumsnet Bloggers Network, it couldn't have been more timely and I hoped it would be a great way to get Bud involved in a story without tiring him out in the way some of the 'bigger' reads can.

We were invited to choose three books from a selection and the three I chose were as follows: The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy, The Complete Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis and Roald Dahl Reads Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Other Stories. There was a wide range of titles to choose from but I went for these as classics from my childhood and those that we would enjoy listening to as a whole family. All of the audiobooks are presented on CD in deep plastic cases which keeps them all together and protect them from sticky fingers and scratches.
Puffin Children's Audiobooks - Review Worst Witch Chronicles of Narnia Roald Dahl Reads

The first set of CDs we started to listen to were Roald Dahl Reads Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Other Stories. This set contains five stories presented over three CDs. The stories included are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Enormous Crocodile and The Magic Finger. The first two stories are abridged while the latter three are unabridged. Bud was so excited to see this CD as Roald Dahl has been a feature of their learning in school this term and they have been reading The BFG there. He was really pleased to have some more stories to listen to and couldn't wait to get started.

With this particular set of CDs we did something different than with the others. Bud has had the book version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sitting on his bookshelf for some time now but has dismissed it as a bit 'too hard'. We decided that we would try listening to the audio book and then reading the chapters between us and we've been doing that at bedtime over the past couple of weeks. This has been a real success with Bud and he can't wait for his next session with the CD and book. We tend to only read a few pages and listen on with the corresponding story but it's quite magical to read the words together and then hear Roald Dahl's voice speaking his own words. We actually have all but one of these stories at home already so I think we will be continuing our 'project' with the other discs in this set. It's been a fantastic way to start him with Roald Dahl at home.

Our next set of CDs found it's way into the car straight away and we've made our way through the first book of The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy. The set comprises four books - The Worst Witch, The Worst Witch Strikes Again, A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch and The Worst Witch All at Sea and they are unabridged. They are read by Gemma Arterton, the actress famous for her role in St Trinian's and Quantum of Solace. Her voice is really well suited to Mildred Hubble's adventures and these CDs instantly transported me to my youth when I would borrow the first three The Worst Witch stories from the library and devour them. I read all of them several times and I'm quite glad I never knew the agonising wait for the next one as it didn't come out until 1993, when I was 16!

Both Bud and LM have been really interested in The Worst Witch, Bud is used to listening to stories at school but, as LM is that little bit younger (4), I was quite surprised that she could follow along with the stories too and we've already had to sit in the car for a few minutes as we were attempting to park at a crucial moment in the story! Gemma Arterton's narration is perfect for the story and she makes the story even more engaging. I can see this being incredibly popular on our car journeys over the next few months.

The final set of CDs we were sent is simply wonderful. The Chronicles of Narnia plays a massive part in the childhood reading of so many people. As soon as it arrived it got Ian and I talking about when we remembered discovering the stories, which we read first, who our favourite characters were and so much more. This is so much more than a simple audiobook, in fact it's a dramatic performance presented by a full cast which makes it delightful to listen to. The cast includes Bernard Cribbins, Sylvester McCoy, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw and Timothy Spall (I can guarantee that if you're thinking, that sounds like... then it probably is them!) The seven stories are presented across 14 CDs and 15 hours so it might be a set to enjoy across a full holiday. We decided to present the stories in the way that we were introduced them and the 'traditional' order, starting with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Both Bud and LM have seen the wonderful film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe which helped when introducing the audiobook. Bud did find it a little harder to follow than the simply narrated books (commenting that it was like watching TV with no picture) but after a little while he decided 'I'm going to turn off my eyes Mummy', which really helped him to grasp the different people speaking and follow better. It really is so wonderful to listen to and I can't recommend this set highly enough. I feel like it is one that we will return to again and again as a family in the future.

We've really enjoyed our first experience with children's audiobooks and I think they are definitely something that we will expand upon in future especially in the car and as 'read along' bedtime stories. They have added an extra dimension to reading with my children and I've loved sharing some of my favourites from my childhood with my older two. It's been the perfect way to do so.

Mumsnet have pulled together some of their own recommendations for 'the best audiobooks for children' click through to read their suggestions and listen to samples of the audiobooks, including those I have featured above.

Do your families enjoy audiobooks? Which are their favourites?

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

Bratz InstaPets - Raya - Review

LM loves the Bratz dolls and was really excited to see the brand new InstaPets range advertised on TV recently. When I was asked if she would like to take a look at one, the answer was a resounding yes! LM loved seeing the 'Bumblebee doll' - Raya - and she was lucky enough to be sent that one. She was so delighted that she cried happy tears!
Bratz InstaPets - Raya - Review Blog Bumblebee

The new Bratz Instapets range sees the five girls as animal lovers, each accompanied by their own Kawaii spirit animal. Animals often feature in the Bratz boxes but this is the first set of dolls where they have been the main focus. The idea is that the Bratz girls use their phones to snap their pets and share the photos on Instagram, or pics of themselves wearing their cute, animal-inspired outfits.
Bratz InstaPets - Raya - Review

The five dolls each have a different animal theme and are accompanied by their own bobblehead animal pet - we have Raya with her bumblebee, Jade has a cat, Sasha a rabbit, Yasmin with a frog and Cloe's pig.
Bratz InstaPets - Raya - Review

Bratz InstaPets - Raya - Review Accessories

Raya is dressed in a cute bee outfit, with skirt, t-shirt and bumblebee deeley boppers completing the look. Her accessories are all bumblebee themed too, with earrings, phone case, sunglasses and even her shoes seeing the yellow and black colour scheme.
Bratz InstaPets - Raya - Review

The doll has the usual Bratz bendable knees and wrists but this is the first edition we've had which has articulated elbows, this makes the dolls really poseable. LM loves being able to put her doll into different positions and sit her down. She has the usual lovely Bratz hair which can be brushed using the lip hairbrush which comes with every doll, of course Bumblebee Raya's is yellow.
Bratz InstaPets - Raya - Review

Bratz InstaPets - Raya - Review

The Bratz InstaPets range is really good fun and the on-trend bobbleheads are a great addition to the characters, LM has named her's Jessica after a nursery friend. This is the first Raya Bratz doll LM has had and she's found her home in with her growing collection, and been played with regularly since her arrival.
Bratz InstaPets - Raya - Review

Check out the full range in the Bratz commercial here:

Club Petz YoYo the Panda - Review

We love interactive toys, and pandas in our house so you can imagine how excited LM was to receive her very own Club Petz YoYo the Panda from IMC Toys recently!
Club Petz YoYo the Panda - Blog Review  IMC Toys

YoYo is an interactive panda with so many different features to discover. The panda is quite large, I'd guess around 40cm tall. Her fur is really soft and snuggly and her eyes and mouth move. She arrives with her own baby bottle and piece of bamboo and a cute pink flower bracelet around her left paw.
Club Petz YoYo the Panda - Review Blog IMC Toys

YoYo has ten interactive functions which makes her a really engaging toy. Check if she's hungry by placing the bamboo to her mouth, sometimes she will eat it, sometimes she will sneeze! LM loves making her sneeze so I often find her with bamboo in hand seeing how YoYo will react to it.
Club Petz YoYo the Panda - Review

Just like a human baby, LM can give YoYo her bottle. She will drink from this, making happy sucking sounds then her eyes will gently close and she will fall asleep and gently snore. If you put her down then the toy will become inactive but a simple tickle on her tummy will wake her up again. She giggles so happily when tickled and LM can't help giggling along with her. YoYo makes kissing noises when she's happy, as if she's blowing kisses to you.
Club Petz YoYo the Panda - Review Blog IMC Toys Bottle BambooThe Panda is sensitive to movement so will call out to you when it senses you are around. The little noises are so sweet and LM always rushes to pick her up and play with her again. It can be a bit alarming when we're watching TV and the children are in bed and you suddenly hear the Panda calling out to you though.
Club Petz YoYo the Panda - Review

For the grown ups, YoYo requires 4 AA batteries which are supplied although these didn't last very long for us and quickly needed replacing. You can switch off the panda on the base which helps to preserve battery life as the sensitivity to motion won't be working when the toy isn't being played with. We always try to remember to switch her off for this reason.
Club Petz YoYo the Panda - Review

As I mentioned before, the toy is pretty large, all the better to show off YoYo's big eyes and all of their movements. LM, at 4 (and small for her age) can carry her around quite easily although Little E tries to pick her up and gives up.
Club Petz YoYo the Panda - Review Blog IMC Toys

YoYo the Panda has been a huge hit in our house. All three of the children have really enjoyed playing with her even though LM has claimed her most and she now lives in her room. Bud and LM picked up on all of the interactive features quite quickly and even Little E has worked out that she giggles if he pats her tummy. The toy is aimed at children aged 3 and over, which I think is perfect. We've had some pretty poor interactive toys over the years but this is definitely one of the better ones. LM really loves YoYo.

YoYo is available from all usual toy stockists with an RRP of £49:99. To see her in action check out this Smyths Toys promo.

The toy was supplied for review purposes. 

Disney Tsum Tsum Vinyls from JAKKS Pacific - Review

We're a house full of Tsum Tsum fans and have amassed a good collection of both the plush and squishy varieties over the past few months, so we were all rather excited to see a brand new range of Tsum Tsums arrive from JAKKs Pacific - Vinyl Tsum Tsums!
Disney Tsum Tsum Vinyls from JAKKS Pacific - Blog Review

The toy market has gone a bit mad with blind bags and collectible ranges recently and both Bud and LM are big fans. Whether watching videos of blind bags on YouTube, or asking to spend their pocket money on them the surprise element is a huge hit in our house. The Vinyl Tsum Tsums are available in different sized packets, ranging from small blind bags upwards but have added the surprise element to their packs with a mystery Tsum inside each nine pack of the range.
Disney Tsum Tsum Vinyls from JAKKS Pacific - Review blog

Recently LM and Bud were sent a three pack and a nine pack of the new range and they were absolutely delighted. They spent time looking closely at each of the Tsum Tsums and were super excited to spot that there was a mystery Tsum inside!
Disney Tsum Tsum Vinyls from JAKKS Pacific - Review

Find out what our mystery Tsum Tsum was below!

This was our first experience of the Vinyl Tsum Tsums and I was pleasantly surprised by them. They are in three different sizes which can be stacked easily and you get one of each size in the three pack. It's great to be able to see which characters you are purchasing, especially when you have children who want a specific one, but equally, the mystery element in the larger packs is very popular with my children too.
Disney Tsum Tsum Vinyls from JAKKS Pacific - Review blog

The Tsum Tsums themselves are very good quality and I think they will stand up to play well. Ever since they arrived LM has claimed them and carries them around in a small bag. I can often find her acting out some of her favourite Disney movies with the Tsum Tsums and snippets of the dialogue can often be heard. Some of them have found themselves becoming the pets of her larger dolls! The three sizes work well together, although the smallest are very little and need to be kept well away from her little brother.
Disney Tsum Tsum Vinyls from JAKKS Pacific - Review

The collectors guide is really informative about the range and it shows which characters are available in which size, and when others will be launched. LM and Bud had great fun ticking off those Tsums they had received and working out which ones they would like to add to their collection.
Disney Tsum Tsum Vinyls from JAKKS Pacific - Review collectors guide

Vinyl Tsum Tsums are available in all usual stockists now with an RRP of £4:99 for the 3 pack (21 different sets to collect), and £14:99 for the 9 pack (includes 2 exclusive to this size pack and 1 mystery Tsum Tsum).

Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiaAdventures - Review

LM has been a Sofia the First fan for some time and the adventures of the little girl who suddenly becomes a princess when her mother marries the King are familiar to all of us in our house. She already has some of the lovely Sofia the First toys available but she was delighted to receive a wonderful parcel of the new range from JAKKS Pacific recently.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review

A big box filled with tissue paper and toys is always so exciting, and this was a fantastic delivery. Find out what was in the box here:

Once unboxed it was time to get started with the toys. First up we had three of the Sofia the First with Royal Friend 3" figure sets. LM has quite a few of these figures from past collections and we both really like them. As Sofia and her friends are little girls it is appropriate that these are small figures and that each comes with an animal friend. They aren't a fashion doll like some of the other Disney princess dolls, instead they have moving arms and and are simply  hinged at the waist which allows them to sit and stand.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Blog  Review

LM received Sofia with Clover, Jade with Crackle and Ruby with Mia. The animal friends are a really nice addition and one that has really enhanced the way LM plays with the figures, especially as Clover and Crackle are two of her favourite characters in the show. Amber and Sofia in two other outfits complete the range. These are lovely little sets which I can see making their way into a few Christmas stockings this year. RRP £5:99.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Blog  Review

Next up we have two Sofia the First Mini Playsets (RRP £9:99). First is the Royal Prep Art Class which sees Sofia dressed for painting with a big easel on a stand and paintbrush. The painting canvas rotates between one side with an outline of Minimus to colour in, and the other having a blank side. This is easy to turn to the side you require by simply pushing it around. What isn't immediately apparent is that the paintbrush actually works! Simply dip the sponge end in water and apply it to the canvas on either side to reveal a surprise! LM loved this interactive element to this playset, I think it's been her favourite element of any of the toys.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review

The second Mini Playset is Princess Amber's Closet. All Sofia the First fans will know how much Princess Amber loves her clothes and this set really reflects that. The closet part of the playset rotates like the easel in Sofia's art set, with a row of beautiful gowns on one side and a mirror on the other. The playset has an Amber figure wearing her trademark yellow dress. In addition there is a feather headdress, necklace and skirt to customise her look further. Both LM and I really liked this element as, with the nature of the small dolls, they can't be changed, so having items to add was a very good idea. There are other playsets available in the range, including a Princess Sofia Magical Lab and I think that they work really nicely together, especially with the addition of the 3" figures and their animal friends. LM has been playing really imaginatively and using the sets and the figures to tell stories from some of her favourite Sofia episodes.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review

LM also received the Sofia the First Royal Camera, this is a really fun toy which has been found in her bag wherever she's gone since it arrived. If only because having her own camera means she can 'be like mummy'. The camera is beautifully decorated including Mia, Sofia's blue bird friend. As you hold the camera to your eye you can press the shutter button to cycle through the various different iimages from the show. This is really fun and reminds me of the Viewfinder toys that I used to play with. This is the perfect accessory for little Sofia fans and LM is very pleased with it (RRP £9:99)
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review

The other perfect accessory in LM's parcel was this super cute Sofia the First Royal Tiara. This is decorated with lots of gems and really sparkles. It can be a little tricky as we find that the front of the tiara detached from the band quite easily so we need to make sure it's attached properly before LM wears it. She insists on it and it looks so pretty in her hair and it looks just like Sofia's own tiara. I think she may well be asking Father Christmas for a Sofia dress to wear to complete her look. (RRP £4:99).
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review Tiara

The parcel was rounded out by a fantastic Sofia the First backpack. LM loves a backpack, especially when it features one of her favourite characters. This is a really roomy bag with the addition of a second pocket which is perfect for smaller bits and pieces. She's actually been using it to keep all of her Sofia the First toys in since it arrived and she was super excited when Grandma bought her a Sofia the First keyring to attach to it. The straps are fully adjustable which means it will grow with your child. We both love the watercolour-style view of the kingdom design on the bag.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review backpack

LM's final item was a copy of the Sofia the First magazine. We love magazines in our house and it is one of Bud and LM's favourite treats. We've never bought the Sofia the First magazine before but LM and I really enjoyed looking at it together. It has a good mix of fun, educational activities and stories and LM loved the alphabet poster in the centre of the magaizine.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review Magazine

We really rate the new range of Sofia the First toys and I think they will delight a lot of children. The figures are age appropriate and really reflect the style of the TV show well, this makes them great for imaginative play and LM has really got on board with that element of play with these toys. They are really good quality and well priced.

The Sofia the First range from JAKKS Pacific is available from Smyths Toys now.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Review

The Octagon Theatre in Bolton is a familiar haunt of mine, going back many, many years but it's been a while since I last had the opportunity to take in one of their productions. I had the pleasure of being invited to the press night for their brand new production, To Kill a Mockingbird, this week and decided to take my Dad along with me to check out the launch play for the Octagon's 2016-17 season.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Review Blog

To Kill a Mockingbird is a very familiar story for many. A feature on the GCSE syllabus for a number of years, and a modern American classic, it's part of the literary fabric of the 20th Century and has been interpreted many times on both stage and screen. The Octagon's staging marks the start of the first season under new Creative Director Elizabeth Newman, a winning start in my opinion.

The story is set in Alabama against a background of racial tension in small town America. The oppressive Summer heat is echoed in the simple, but effective set design which worked well in the Octagon's round, with a combination of red dust floor and effective lighting transporting you to Maycomb. Harper Lee's story sees the town lawyer, Atticus Finch defending a black man, Tom Robinson, against rape and assault charges, not simply against a jury but also against the closed minds of the community that both live in.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Review

Narrative is driven by Jean Louise 'Scout' Finch, both as the young girl on the scene and an older version of herself, thirty years on, appearing on stage as both observer and narrator. This device works very well and both Scouts put in excellent performances. We saw Jasmine de Goede (the children's roles will be alternated between two actors) as the young Scout and she was ably supported by Che Tugui as her brother Jem, and Adam Crompton as their young friend Dill. The older Scout was played Barbara Drennen and her emotional and sorrowful performance is well countered by the energy and vibrancy of the young actors.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Review

The other stand out performance for me was that of Rob Edwards as Atticus Finch. His world-weary portrayal of the lawyer who is struggling to raise two children alone sees a magical transformation when he takes to the floor of the courtroom to defend Tom Robinson and during his final summing up in the trial you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. Three other noteworthy performances  were those of Tom himself (Marc Small) in a quiet but powerful performance, Remmie Millner as Helen Robinson, and Leila Mimmack as Mayella Ewell, who manages to portray raw emotion through her body language whenever she is on stage before beginning her witness statement during the trial.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Review

In essence the production reminded me that the tensions explored in To Kill a Mockingbird don't go away, set against a post-Brexit UK, and a Trump nomination in the US, there are still many lessons to be learned from Scout Finch and her family and friends.

To Kill a Mockingbird runs until 15th October, to book tickets and explore forthcoming shows visit