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Wordless Wednesday – Fuerteventura, July 2012

November 20, 2013

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Halloween at Whitby Abbey

November 19, 2013

I promise I’m not sponsored by the Whitby Tourist Board but with my parents owning a caravan there you can expect quite a few posts about our adventures!

We were at the caravan for half term a couple of weeks ago. Being partly responsible for inspiring Bram Stoker to write Dracula, it’s not surprising that Whitby does a lot over Halloween. 

We visited the Abbey a couple of days before Halloween to see what was on. I can’t say I was overly impressed at the price – almost £18 for the 3 of us (Finn was free) but I hadn’t been before and wanted to explore. 

The actual Abbey is pretty spectacular but apart from that there usually isn’t much to do. As it was Halloween week though there was a ghost hunt for children! Well, more of a wooden cutout of scary things using rhyming clues but we enjoyed it!

The weather was cold but sunny. It was glorious! We had an awful lot of fun…

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Tomy Video Monitor- a review

November 17, 2013

When I was pregnant with Finn I had a big ol’ list of things to buy. At the top of it was a baby monitor with video. We had one given to us when Sam was born and I loved it! Before we had it we were running upstairs at every little murmur and snuffle he made and, as any parents will know, that’s an awful lot of running! Having the video monitor meant we could just look to see if he was ok and not disturb him by rushing into the bedroom every half an hour.

Video monitors vary an awful lot. The picture can be grainy and the sounds great, the sound can be poor but the video fantastic. It’s a bit of a minefield, and unless you read a lot of reviews you’re not going to know how good it is until you try it.

Well, I think I can help you out! A month or so ago I was sent a new monitor (it went on sale 1st November) from Tomy to review and it is fantastic!

‘Tomy’s Digital TFV600 Video Monitor has been developed to give you constant video monitoring of your baby, even in the dark, with it’s built in nightvision.’

This was so easy to set up. We literally plugged it in, angled the camera to Finn’s cot and away we were. We were surprised by how clear the picture was. We had bought a video monitor before he was born (I’m not naming the brand!) and weren’t impressed with the fuzzy pictures. Even at night you can make out Finn’s face easily and tell which baby grow he’s wearing. There is an adjustable zoom which we found useful as we don’t have anywhere particularly close to his crib which we could put the camera. The sound quality is excellent. So much so that I have to turn it down when Finn isn’t in bed so I can’t hear everything going on upstairs during play time and bath time! There is also a sound sensor which visually shows you if there is any noise being made. I like this because I have been known to leave the sound off! At least this was I can see if Finn’s awake and needs me. 

Other features I particularly like are the temperature display (at this time of year I find it invaluable) so I can adjust Finn’s sleep wear as needed; the remote control lullabies (I put these on when I put Finn down and he now knows it’s his cue for sleep), the two way talkback (I’ve not needed this for Finn yet but it’s come in very handy to scare the bejesus out of Sam when he’s naughtily jumping on our bed!), the nightlight (I don’t have to turn the big light on when I’m fumbling for my pyjamas!)

All in all I don’t have a bad word to say about this monitor, genuinely. We are completely thrilled with it and have already recommended it to friends. 

Craig is notoriously hard to please but when I asked him what he thought of it he said, ‘Picture quality amazing, sound is fantastic. If I had to send this back I’d go out and buy one, it’s that good.’

There we go then! Would we pay good money for it? Without hesitating. We’ve had three video monitors over the years and this is by far the best. If you are pregnant, or already have a baby, you need this in your life. 

It’s currently available on Amazon here

(Disclosure: I was sent the monitor for a review but was not paid for my time or told what to write. We love it. Simples.)

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The least energy-efficient cities in the UK

November 14, 2013

With a swathe of recent energy price hikes hitting households in the UK, it’s worth taking a look at the cities widely regarded as being the least energy efficient. With rising fuel costs and cheap energy seemingly a thing of the past, it’s time for these regions to take some positive action.

1. Belfast

Various studies have been carried out since the year 2000 to determine the energy efficiency of the UK’s largest 20 cities. Independent reports published in 2007 and 2012 both cited the Northern Ireland capital, Belfast, as being the least energy efficient of all the major cities. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveys found that the average level of emissions in Belfast fell by just 4% over a prolonged period, compared with a UK average of 12% – perhaps more worryingly, emissions actually rose during one period! Approximately half of Belfast’s emissions came from domestic properties, indicating that a substantial amount of work needs to be done in implementing green initiatives in areas such as more efficient insulation, heating and lighting. The problem persists across Northern Ireland as a whole.

2. London

Understandably, the vast network of industrial and office complexes across London mean that the city has a huge amount of energy consumption. Studies have indicated that many office blocks and workspaces in cities across the UK are lit and heated overnight, when staff numbers are low; this contributes heavily to inefficiencies in energy usage. The Greater London area fares only marginally better than Belfast in studies of energy consumption and efficiency, meaning the nation’s capital has plenty of work to do to meet government targets for reduction of emissions by 2020. Whilst the enormous number of commuters and businesses across London means that the city is never going to be the most efficient in the UK, it can certainly look to European counterparts like Stockholm for ways to cut energy consumption and implement more efficient technologies and procedures in the future.

3. Nottingham

A 2012 British Gas study of domestic energy efficiency compared the housing stocks in 20 of the major UK cities and discovered that cities such as Nottingham languished near the bottom of the table: this is partly due to vast tranches of older housing but also a perceived lack of uptake of green initiatives. However the news is brighter, with a 2013 project set to boost cavity wall and loft insulation in 5000 homes in the Clifton area – a useful first step to combat rising fuel bills and improve efficiency. In the long term, an expansion of this would see cities such as Nottingham greatly improve their efficiency.

4. Portsmouth

While their neighbours in Southampton have unveiled ambitious and revolutionary plans for renewable energy and efficiency improvements, Portsmouth residents live in some of the worst insulated properties in the UK. A recent report suggested that only around one in six homes in the city had full insulation – the average cost saving that can be achieved by fixing this runs into hundreds of pounds per year. Worryingly, a local survey suggested that around three quarters of residents were deterred from taking action over perceived costs – even though local councils have a range of cheap or free initiatives to help households improve their energy efficiency.

5. Falkirk

Unsurprisingly, the Scottish city of Falkirk features highly in reports about inefficiency, mainly because of the proximity of the huge former BP oil refinery and petrochemical plants in nearby Grangemouth. To its credit, the city council has undertaken a wide range of green initiatives to improve housing and educate residents about energy usage.

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My top 5 ways to get to sleep and stay asleep

November 13, 2013

Finn has started to sleep through now, bless him. I think he knew I was nearing breaking point with sleep deprivation and needed unbroken sleep! Sam was always a good sleeper (though he had his moments!) so I hope Finn has inherited that from him. They don’t get it from me, that’s for sure. I really struggle getting to sleep. Once I’m gone, it’s fine but getting there is always a struggle. I stay up way too late either reading, playing Candy Crush, doing some washing, playing Plants v Zombies, playing Minion Rush or a whole host of time sucking, mind energizing, silly games on the iPad. It’s not a good idea to play on electronic devices for at least an hour before going to bed and I’m going to have to learn that! When I go back to work in March I’ll need a good 8 hours to function well on so I’ll be taking heed of this.

For a few years now I’ve either listened to music or Slimpods to help me relax and drift off. My personal favourite albums are Dido’s No Angel (I find her voice and melodies so relaxing), Cafe del Mar (Volume 7) and Morcheeba’s Big Calm. I started listening to Cafe del Mar albums at uni and this one is my absolute fail safe for relaxing and getting me ready for sleep. Obviously it’s not just me who rates them as a track from Cafe del Mar came 10th in a study to find the 10 most relaxing songs of all time.

Adele was in there as well which surprised me. I like the girl but she’s been so overplayed in the last few years that the opening bars of any of her tracks are like nails on a blackboard to me! The Manchester band, Marconi Union with Weightless has been voted the most relaxing song of all time and now having heard it, I definitely agree!

My tips (from experience) for getting to sleep and staying asleep:

1. Turn off any electronic devices an hour before bed. Read a book or a magazine. Just relax without the distractions of facebook, twitter and Instagram.

2. Use lavender oil. On a swatch under your pillow, some pot pourri in your bedroom, a spritz of lavender room spray – it all helps! I love the scent of lavender and often use Sam & Finn’s lavender bath bubbles to help me relax. If it works for them…

3, If you have anything on your mind, worries or things to do the next day, write them down. It’ll help to forget about them. Until you wake up that is!

4. Have a warm, caffeine free drink. Horlicks, hot chocolate. If you’re from the North, a nice hot Vimto!

5. Listen to relaxing music. Most of the chill out albums available are fantastic but you can easily pull a play list together yourself. The top 10 songs to relax to can start you off! Feel free to add my favourite: Morcheeba’s The Sea.

PR Collaboration.

And the most popular food with babies is…

November 9, 2013

Finn is 14 weeks old now and our thoughts are turning to weaning. I can’t actually believe we’re at this stage already! And I haven’t even finished writing his birth story!

I saw a study yesterday by Ella’s Kitchen who, using a ‘Thrill O Meter’ measured the levels of thrills experience by babies when they tasted new flavours.

When I was weaning Sam I went down the traditional route of purees – starting off with apple, pear, carrot, butternut squash etc. It turns out that carrot was only 10th on the Thrill O Meter and the others weren’t featured at all! The top 10 foods were

1. Mango
2. Cinnamon
3. Lemon
4. Coconut
5. Banana
6. Papaya
7. Red pepper
8. Apricot
9. Sweet potato
10. Carrot

I wouldn’t have even thought about giving a baby cinnamon, lemon, coconut or red pepper so I’m going to revise what I’d planned to give Finn. I want food to be exciting and interesting for him rather than bland or boring. I made a lot of my own food with Sam and will be doing the same this time. I’ll be taking inspiration from this study and adding cinnamon to apple, making tropical fruit puree with mango, coconut and papaya and also throwing in a bit of baby led weaning with chunks of banana, red pepper and sweet potatoes. I have to admit though that I don’t make everything myself (and I certainly won’t have time once I go back to work) so I’ll also be turning to the Ella’s Kitchen pouches for help!

The sciencey bit about the study:

The results were calculated by analysing increased Galvanic Skin Response from certain foods, combined with facial expression and body language analysis from parents to determine how positive the response was.

When babies become excited in response to a food, or the anticipation of a food, their bodies and minds get ready for action.  Their hearts beat faster, their eyes open wide, and their breathing quickens.  One physiological effect of excitement and sensorial engagement that can’t be seen by parents is the micro-fluctuations in sweat levels, which the thrill-o-meter closely monitored through Galvanic Skin Response.  A rise in Galvanic Skin Response, together with positive facial analysis from parents, expressed just how excited the baby was when tasting the food.

Brendan Walker, Thrill Laboratory comments: “Food can be really exciting for babies – whether it’s a first taste of cinnamon, juicy mango or exotic coconut.  Different foods can stimulate different physiological responses and this innovative study is designed to reveal just how thrilling different foods are for babies and to help Ella’s Kitchen continue to explore and understand babies’ taste buds, both scientifically and creatively.”

And I couldn’t not include this video of the cute children!The little girl’s face when she tries lemon!

How did you wean your little ones? Any tips? It’s been 5 years! 

Tell ‘em about the honey mummy…

November 8, 2013

Remember that? I loved Sugar Puffs when I was young! Still do to be honest. So as you can imagine I was very excited to be offered 2 boxes of the new cereal and some cereal bars from the Honey Monster.

Sam has recently graduated to ‘normal’ breakfast foods at long last. He’s a faddy eater at the best of times but breakfast was always a battle. Most days he has beans and sausages but now, finally, we’re into cereal. He especially loves anything with chocolate unsurprisingly!

There are two cereals – Honey Wows and Choco Wows. Sam immediately claimed the Choco Wows as his which suited me as I rather fancied the honey ones!

Choco Wows

 

Honey Wows

The Choco Wows are ‘a milk chocolate coated multigrain cereal fortified with vitamins and iron’ or as Sam calls them, the chocolate circles. Delivering a range of vitamins and minerals for just 0.6g of saturated fat per serving, they’re a great breakfast for anyone. The chocolatey flavour is just right and I like to eat them without milk for a sweet snack that won’t do too much damage to the diet!

The Honey Wows are the same but instead of being coated with chocolate they are coated with honey – a particular favourite of mine. The honey flavour isn’t overwhelming which is good. I tried a new (to me) cereal a few months back because it contained honey and I just could not eat it – the sweetness was overwhelming. These though are nicely flavoured and not too sweet. Again, I love them with milk but also dip into the pack for the odd handful when I’m feeling peckish. There’s even less fat in these with just 0.5g of saturated fat per serving.

Also new from the Honey Monster are Stix – crisp rice and cereal bars containing either Honeycomb & milk chocolate or marshmallow & vanilla yoghurt. Nom. Seriously, nom. We couldn’t decide which of these we preferred as a family but I think I’m leaning towards the marshmallow ones. Light, fluffy & delicious with only 3% of a child’s daily calories, sugar and saturated fat. A yummy, healthy snack for them.

choc stixwhite stix

 

 

Ultimately though, the main question is – would I pay good money for them? Yes I would. The cereals are low in fat, high in taste, keep me feeling full until lunch and count towards my daily vitamin and mineral allowance. For Sam, they are tasty enough to keep him interested without too much sugar. I’m quite happy with him going to school after a bowl full of these. The Stix bars are just fit and I will be buying them again for our family.

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(I was sent a sample of each of these but was not told what to write. All opinions are my own.)

Nails of the day: My first Essie!

October 19, 2013
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Although I haven’t been blogging on my ‘maternity leave’ I have been buying a whole load of nail polishes and trying them out. I can’t not wear polish – it is intrinsic to my being!

A few weeks ago I saw this new Essie polish in Boots and fell in love. I’ve never used this brand before but a few of a the nail blogs I follow (yes there are such things!) really recommend them. At £7.99 they’re at the top end of what I like to pay for a polish, just because I change the colour every few days anyway and get bored with the same ones. What’s the point in paying a fortune? This is well worth the money though.

4 days in, bearing in mind I’m washing up, doing laundry, changing nappies, tapping away on the laptop and iPad, it hasn’t chopped even a tiny bit. For me that’s seriously impressive! The brush is nice and wide, making application a dream and I’ve found two coats is ample. Post pregnancy my nails have been fantastic – they’re long and strong for the first time in a long time. I’ll share with you soon what I’m doing to keep them that way. Here you go though: my current favourite polish, Essie’s naughty nautical. It’s a beautiful sea green and I hope you can see the slight shimmer in there. Did I mention I also love the names!

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Whitby

October 17, 2013

Last year my parents were considering buying a caravan. We had one when my sister and I were younger and we used to love it! Of course as we got older caravanning holidays weren’t cool and trips to Greek islands were. We fell out of love with the caravan and eventually my parents sold it. Now, as a parent of 2, a caravan would have been great! We encouraged them as much as we could, envisioning my towing it to various parts of the UK and enjoying family breaks. This was totally impractical bearing in mind I have never towed a caravan, didn’t have the right license and my car is too small to tow! Minor details. :)

For various reasons, these plans were shelved and I started to look at Haven and Pontins instead.

Earlier this year my parents headed off to Whitby for a weekend away to celebrate my Dad selling his business (Bread and Basil is no more!). Whilst they were there I got a call saying they had bought a static caravan on cliff top site in Whitby. Just like that. As you do!

Fast forward a few months and we totally understand why they fell in love with Whitby. It’s a beautiful town with so much to do there and in the surrounding area. Plus the views are stunning. We go for the weekend quite often and went for a week in the summer holidays after I’d had Finn. My parents take Sam in school holidays and we’re all going up for half term in a couple of weeks. The weather has always been beautiful so we’ve gone for walks, played on the beach, on the camp site playground and hung around in town, usually at Wetherspoons. ;) This time I’m looking forward to exploring different parts of the East coast including Scarborough, Bridlington and possibly Filey.

Our family holidays for the foreseeable future are sorted!

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Wordless Wednesday – Finn, 11 weeks

October 16, 2013

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