Swimming for fun thanks to Swim Academy!

Swim Academy has given Amy untold confidence in the swimming pool

As you know Amy has been swimming with Puddle Ducks and, more recently Swim Academy for nearly three years now.  In that time she has blossomed from a not quite 2yr old who was really unsettled by the water and clung to her Mummy for dear life to an almost 5yr old who happily gets into the pool without me for her Swim Academy lessons each week.  Watching her confidence grow has been amazing – it hasn’t been an easy journey at times, in fact I there were points where I questioned if Amy would ever actually choose to put her face under the water.  There’s been times where it felt like we were taking one step forward and two steps back and then other times where the leaps forward have been sudden and huge – learning to swim has been a huge journey for our little girl, a journey which is of course by no means complete.

Mummy & Amy in the pool at Aqua Nurture

Swimming for pleasure as a family has not really been something we’ve done before – for a long time this was down to ratios – many pools insist on one adult per child for under 5s which meant it just wasn’t possible for us, in fact when we went to Splash Landings a few years back we had to take friends so we would be allowed in!  Of course the fact that Amy didn’t especially love swimming meant that it wasn’t really worth the hassle either – we tended to feel that we were doing our duty in sending everyone to swimming lessons (the big two have been having local council swimming lessons since they were 3yrs old) but swimming for fun wasn’t really fun! Read More »

Summer Memories with Snapfish

Snapfish personalised beach towel

*This post is in collaboration with Snapfish*

Obviously you all know I love a good photograph.  Capturing precious memories to be looked back on in years to come is one of my favourite things to do – be it the big milestones, the exciting trips or the ordinary day to day moments in between.  I have something ridiculous like 400GB of photos on my hard drive, some 44500 images . . . (I think I maybe need to go through and have a bit of a tidy up as you can guarantee that plenty of those will be about 10 versions of the same photo!)

But, what good is 44500 images on my laptop where only I can see them?  I share lots of them on instagram or on my blog, and we do have quite a lot of framed images around the house but this summer Snapfish wanted me to do more with my photos.  Snapfish offer a wide range of products which can be personalised with your photos and text to make something really special.  From a £2.99 fridge magnet through to a £49.99 personalised beach towel, you will find a gift to suit your budget!  (I say gift, I’ve totally just ordered things for myself!)

Snapfish photo fridge magnet

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Molly Brown London – Honey Bee Necklace

Molly Brown London is a British brand selling beautiful, modern children’s jewellery.  This isn’t jewellery to give a baby for their christening or as a special baby shower gift, only for it to be put away and never to be seen again this is jewellery to be enjoyed and worn.  Molly Brown London believe that their jewellery should represent good quality British luxury.  Neither too young nor too grown up in design, their simple, sophisticated pieces grow with their owners making them the perfect gift for any occasion.

“A love of jewellery can be inspired at any age and hopefully indulged for a lifetime.”

Founder Erica Illingworth

Molly Brown London honey bee necklace

For Chloe’s 7th birthday, I chose the Molly Brown London Honey Bee necklace. Made from sterling silver and 9ct gold vermeil, this cute little honey bee instantly caught my eye when I was browsing the site.  I think in part due to Manchester’s traditional connections with the bee but also because it was something a little different, something a little quirky.  (In fairness, the Molly Brown London collection of children’s necklaces is far from twee and traditional).  I adore the way the dainty bee sits just up her neck rather than dangling straight in front of her as a traditional pendent would.

Close up of Molly Brown honey bee necklace - beautiful golden wings

Molly Brown necklaces are adjustable to fit small children through to teens

One of the things I love most about the Molly Brown London jewellery range is that it is all designed to grow with your child – so the 16″ sterling silver chain on Chloe’s necklace has two places to fasten it, one which fits perfectly now, leaving a pretty little chain detail at the back (with the paw print hallmark) or another position to extend it out for when she’s bigger.  I would previously not have wanted to invest in jewellery for a young child for fear of them quickly outgrowing it and it not being worn, however knowing that this beautiful necklace can be worn for special occasion after special occasion brings the old “cost per wear” down quite considerably!

Molly Brown London children's necklace

As you can see, Chloe loves her new Molly Brown London necklace, and we’ll definitely be bearing them in mind next time we need a special present!

*We were sent Chloe’s Molly Brown London necklace free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Children’s Headphones from Snuggly Rascals

When we were kids, entertainment on long car journeys can be summed up by games of I spy and a Winnie the Pooh CD on repeat . . . Thankfully things have moved on a bit these days and all three kids use their tablets on longer car journeys to watch films, play games and listen to music.  However, much as my parents endured hour upon hour of Winnie the Pooh on a long drive down to the South of France, I have no desire to listen to the blip blip of whatever game Ben is playing or the Bing theme tune on repeat . . .  If you’re on your tablet in the car, then you need your headphones on thanks kids!

Of course children’s headphones are often quite bulky – I remember the very first pair we got for Ben when he had a portable DVD player (and I’m talking about seven years ago when I was commuting to Leeds daily) were so big that he struggled to get his head securely in the headrest of his car seat – which aside from being uncomfortable is actually just not safe!  Since then they’ve all had a couple of pairs of headphones each and they’re not as bulky as they used to be but they can still be quite uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time in a car seat.

children's headphones in car seat

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Personalised Bento Lunchboxes from Petit-Fernand – Review & Giveaway

As a primary school teacher and a parent I’m a big fan of personalisation – anything which makes it easier for children (or their teachers) to identify their property is a win.

Petit-Fernand offer a range of personalised bento-style lunch boxes with customisation options including colour, font and background images meaning you can perfectly tailor your child’s lunch box to suit their likes!

Ahead of our trip to France last month, we ordered Ben, Chloe and Amy new boxes featuring the limited edition nautical and Liberty prints (you’ll need to be quick if you want to order one as they aren’t available after 17th June but there’s new limited edition prints on the way and the standard range are super cute too!)

Petit-Fernand liberty print lunch box

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Fantasie Lingerie – The best bras for big boobs?

From my very first bra, I was always an M&S girl – getting regularly measured and fitted to ensure I was getting the right shape and support for my increasingly ample chest.  In my early to mid twenties I had a lovely pair of fairly full and perky 36DD breasts however, three breast fed babies down the line, with my forties staring my in the face, my boobs are not what they were – yes they’re still big but now they hang low, they lack any volume or fullness so in the wrong bra they just look sad.  This is unflattering, uncomfortable and just now how I want my boobs to be!  The beautiful balcony bras I used to love no longer fit properly – my boobs now tend to just sit in them, looking flat, rather than feeling shapely and supported.

In recent years, I have found my bra choices in M&S becoming increasingly limited – I know that a “full cup” style suits me best but all too often these are designed for older customers and just leave me feeling frumpy.  A couple of years ago, Mum bought me a gift voucher for Bravissimo for Christmas – somewhere I had always avoided shopping as I didn’t think my chest was “that big” and I had this misconception that Bravissimo was really expensive.  In reality I think that yes, Bravissimo do sell bras that are a little more expensive than M&S but they’re not ridiculous, and certainly not as expensive as I had thought they would be.  Regardless of cost, when I got my first bras from Bravissmo, friends actually commented on the difference proving that a correctly fitting, supportive bra can be a complete game changer.  I felt like I had my boobs back!

Through a mixture of trial and error and with the help of a great fitting at Bravissmo, I’ve learned that I suit a full cup style with side support which pushes up and forward to encourage the natural rounded shape that I miss.  Unfortunately a full cup isn’t seen as being the most youthful of styles and as such the colours and fabrics are not as modern as I would like – on my last trip to Bravissmo I found the full cup bras available in my size were really old-fashioned and matronly.  I actually ended up just buying the same bra as the one I was wearing and left feeling thoroughly frustrated that whilst I did have a lovely bra that fitted and supported my boobs – I just didn’t seem to have any choice in buying pretty patterns and colours.  I shouldn’t have to be stuck with boring old lady bras just because I wear a 40F! Read More »

Summer fun with Gazillion Bubbles

The appeal of playing with bubbles is universal.  I don’t care who you are, old or young, the pleasure of creating huge bubbles, watching them bob about in the air and popping them cannot be denied.

We took some of the Gazillion bubble range on holiday to France with us last week – this is a far cry from your Mum topping your bottle of bubbles up with Fairy liquid when you were a kid.  In our experience Gazillion bubble formula is perfect for making lots of big bubbles, not just one that pops pathetically on the wand but masses of bright, colourful bubbles!   The Gazillion bubble formula is non-toxic and non-staining making it perfect for indoor and outdoor use.

Giant bubbles with Gazillion

Children popping enormous bubbles

bubble popping fun

We took the Giant Incredi-buble wand down to the beach with us to make the most of the open space while we made some enormous bubbles using the specially formulated giant bubble solution.  We did find that because it was a little windy, we had to keep waiting for the breeze to drop to be able to make the best bubbles – it was a bit frustrating but totally worth it when we got those huge streams of bubbles!

Gazillion bubble wand on the beach

Stream of Gazillion giant bubbles on the beach

enormous Gazillion bubbles at the coast

Gazillion incredi-bubble wand

Enormous stream of Gazillion bubbles

bubble tunnel Gazillion

Little girl popping huge Gazillion bubbles on the beach

popping Gazillion bubbles

Back at the campsite we tried out the new Gazillion Crazy Wands (£3.99 a pack) – these photo-booth style wands made the kids giggle.  Ben had thought the bubbles might change according to the shape of the bubble wand but of course that’s not the case, the bubbles form a typical round bubble shape once you’ve blown them.  Blowing bubbles from the Gazillion Crazy Wands isn’t as easy as blowing bubbles from a standard bubble wand but for the novelty value they’re great fun!

Gazillion crazy wands

photo-booth style bubble wands from Gazillion

The Gazillion Bubbles Tornado Bubble Machine is the ultimate bubble machine, perfect for creating a storm of bubbles in seconds and ideal for parties!  It’s worth pointing out that batteries aren’t included – something I had failed to notice meaning we couldn’t use the machine on holiday in France – we’re now saving it for a family party next month instead!

Finally the 2L Gazillion Bubbles Premium Solution is an enormous bottle of bubble solution with a suitably large 7-in1 bubble wand.  You’re not going to run out of bubble solution in a hurry with this!

Gazillion Premium bubble solution

Gazillion Premium bubble solution makes lots of bubble to pop

little girl popping bubbles

*We were sent our Gazillion Bubble goodies free of charge for the purposes of review.  All thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Pressure Washing from Fantastic Services

There’s no doubt that pressure washing the drive is a satisfying job to do but it’s also messy and hard work.  The last time I did our drive I was pregnant with Ben so we’re talking somewhere in the region of nine years ago . . . I remember being surprised to discover that my drive wasn’t actually all one colour and in fact, underneath all the dirt and grime, there was a pattern of pink and grey block work!

Fast forward almost a decade and there was definitely no visible pattern on my drive – our block work has actually been completely relayed after several years of building work but it remained filthy.  At the front of the house it was just grubby from years of use and of course being a building site, whereas at the back of the house it was green and mossy.  This is an issue every year – I’ve tried weed killer, washing powder and scrubbing brushes, but it remains resolutely green & slippy.  We did borrow a pressure washer from my Dad a couple of years ago only to discover that our kitchen tap was a funny shape and we couldn’t attach the hose to it.  Our outside tap had been disconnected years before due to pure water pressure (though sorting this out is on Dave’s never-ending to do list!)  It’s one of those jobs that has just been left – it was too much hassle to actually sort it out and not really at the top of my priorities list.

I was more than happy to hand the task of pressure washing our drive to Fantastic Services – I actually asked them to do all the block work at the front of the house, down the side and also into the back as well as the concrete panels at the bottom of our fences.  I was particularly keen to have them clean these at the back of the house as my neighbour is very sloppy with his paint work and over the years has dripped white paint and fence stain down our side of the fence (literally every single time he paints) – which whilst annoying is easily rectified by painting over it however the concrete panels are a difference matter and the unsightly spillages really get my back up!!  My Dad had previously suggested that pressure washing should clean most of it off so I was excited to see what a difference the team at Fantastic Services could make.

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

The guys from Fantastic Services arrived bob on 9am as booked and were quick to get started.  I showed them a choice of taps in our kitchen, utility and downstairs toilet but was told that they wouldn’t be able to use any of them – I panicked that the appointment had been a waste of time and that they wouldn’t be able to complete the job after all.  As it turned out, in the absence of an appropriate tap, they just pulled out the dishwasher and fastened their equipment on there instead!  Once they had their equipment set up I showed them what needed cleaning (as per my booking) and left them to it.  The service took 4 hours in total – 4 hours which I spent working quietly in the house,  4 hours where I didn’t have to get filthy or break my back cleaning my driveway!

Pressure washing requires no detergent, the cleaning is done purely through the force of water hitting your driveway – it’s a filthy job as the muck is lifted from your path or fences and moved towards a drain.  As such this means that in the process of cleaning your driveway or patio or whatever else you are cleaning, other things are likely to get dirty.  I’m pleased to say that as much as possible the team from Fantastic Services cleaned up after themselves – cleaning my windows, wiping down the front and back doors and anywhere else that had got covered in general filth as they were working.  That said, my fences, garage doors and walls were left with a fine coat of muck – this is something which is easily dealt with by brushing it once it was dry – something the guys from Fantastic Services wouldn’t have been able to do whilst it was still wet without just smearing it everywhere!  The lawn also ended up pretty dirty as a result of a slow drain but this will sort itself out.

I couldn’t believe the difference – my drive was once again pink and clean and those concrete fence panels?  Well they are by no means perfect but the difference is immense and I can’t stop looking out of the kitchen window at them!  If I’m honest now that everything has dried, I think there are bits that would benefit from another going over – particularly the bottom of the fences or the back of the house where it was especially dirty and difficult to drain but realistically there are 100 times better than they were before.  Unfortunately my garage doors have suffered at the hands of the pressure washer and some of the paint has been removed so they will have to be repainted this summer, some sections of fencing will also need re-staining where they’ve been caught by the water as you can see in the pictures.  Pressure washing block work does remove all the sand between the blocks so it’s important that once everything is dry, you replace this with kiln dried sand (it fills in the gaps, keeping the blocks stable but still allowing for drainage) – this is top of our to do list over the coming week while the weather is still good

The cost of the pressure washing service from Fantastic Services was  £138 and yes, I guess I could have invested that in a pressure washer and done it myself but honestly?  Having someone else do it was just so much easier.

*The pressure washing service from Fantastic Servies was provided free of charge as part of my ambassador role.  This post contains affiliate links which means if you do book a service I might earn a small discount off my next service at no extra cost to you*

Kona Sandals from Strive Footwear – Review

I’ve always found shoe shopping fairly challenging – I’ve got big feet – reasonably wide size 8s if you please.  Since having kids they’ve got worse, they’ve spread and my arches have collapsed which is probably due to the inordinate amount of time spent in flip flops during pregnancy when my ankles and feet were too swollen to fit into anything else!  I love the idea of heels and pretty details but always finding myself reverting to the same comfortable flats – which is why I now have three pairs of Saltwater sandals, some gorgeous Hotter pumps and a pair of Hotter pumps and the spend much of the rest of my time in my trainers.  I fear its a sign of age that I now go for comfort and support over everything else – I have no time for uncomfortable shoes, that said I still want to look and feel nice!

I was recently introduced to Strive footwear, a brand concentrating on women’s orthotic footwear – slippers, shoes and sandals which are designed using biomechanical footbed technology to support your feet.  I have a terrible habit for wearing very flat sandals which I don’t think is really doing my feet an awful lot of good in the long term so I was excited to see what Strive had to offer.  After spending quite a while browsing the site I eventually settled on a pair of metallic Trio sandals – sadly these didn’t fit.  The straps are not adjustable and I couldn’t get my feet into them.  Back to the drawing board!  Next on my wish list was a pair of Hotter pumps – I loved the contrast of the thick black elastic and thought they would lift my standard mum uniform of leggings nicely.  Unfortunately they didn’t have my size in stock (though I’ve noticed today that they’ve got them in again and I’m sorely tempted to order a pair!)  Eventually I settled on a pair of black and bronze Kona sandals (continuing the distinct metallic theme of my picks!) working on the basis that the adjustable straps would give me the best chance of a good fit!

Black and copper sandals from Strive footwear

Whilst I was right and the fully adjustable straps did allow for a completely customisable fit, my feet were too wide for the footbed.  Gutted.  Accepting that perhaps my feet are just too wide for Strive Footwear I decided to see how Mum would get on with my Kona sandals as they colour way is right up her street.

Mum loves shoe shopping just as much as I do . . . she struggles with fit and comfort – a broken ankle some years ago and a more recent hammer toe have just compounded the issue.  However, as I have mentioned already, the fact that all three straps on the Kona sandals are fully adjustable means she can really make sure they fit perfectly and, even better, they can be loosened off as the day goes on to accommodate for any swelling.  (Personally the effects of heat and a dodgy ankle mean this is something I have to consider too!)

Strive footwear - Kona sandals with adjustable straps

comfy summer sandals from Strive footwear

adjustable straps for customisable fit

sandals for all day wear from Strive

The Kona sandal is designed for all day wear with supportive footbed technology and a cushioned micro-fibre lining.  The contoured sole unit with BFT technology is a step up from the very flat sandals I tend to wear personally and means that the shoes will minimise se foot fatigue all while improving posture, balance and body alignment.  I’m all too familiar with the aches and pains that come with wearing too flat shoes all day!

Whilst I’m pretty gutted that these super comfy sandals are not going to be a part of my own summer wardrobe, I’m pleased to have been able to add something new to Mum’s!  (Dad actually said he prefers them to her Birks!)

*I received the Kona sandals from Strive Footwear free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and options remain my own (or Mum’s!)*

Ion8 pod – Review

With an ever increasing focus on the need to reduce plastic waste, as a family we are keen to eradicate as much single use plastic from our home as possible.  This is an ongoing process and, needless to say, we are learning as we go.  Of course one way to do this is to use reusable drinks bottles when we are out and about.  This is something I’ve previously been quite slack about, preferring to buy drinks as we need them over remembering to fill up and cart around enough bottles for the whole family.  However this is clearly wasteful – both in an environmental and financial sense.  As I say, we are learning as we go!

One of my biggest issues with carrying bottles around is that they tend to take up too much room in my bag and there is always the risk of them leaking.  The kids have bottles which they take to school (if they remember) and Dave & I both have Klean Kanteen bottles which we use for hot drinks – particularly when we’re camping or Dave uses his to take coffee to work.  But they are sizeable and fairly weighty – I certainly wouldn’t want to lug one around in my handbag all day.

We’ve recently been introduced to the Ion8 range -specifically the 100% leak proof kids water bottle, the Ion8 Pod.  The Ion8 Pod is a 350ml size making it ideal for children – fitting perfectly into school lunch boxes or backpacks.  Having to carry their bottles is probably the single biggest reason why my children often “forget” to take theirs or bring them home again from school.  If they were safely tucked inside their school bag this would be a different matter entirely!

Ion8 pod - kids leak proof drink bottle

My favourite design feature of the Ion8 Pod is that it is the same width as a standard soft drinks can which means it will fit all standard cup and can holders – a bit of a game changer in the car where lots of the other bottles we have tried just don’t fit comfortably (something I have previously tested by spilling hot chocolate all over the foot-well of my car whilst turning a corner . . . )  It is worth mentioning that the larger 500ml Ion8 Slim is also the same width so if you need a larger drink, you don’t have to compromise on being able to fit your bottle into a cup holder.

Whilst the Ion8 Pod is marketed as a kids’ water bottle, I think the smaller size makes it perfect for popping in your handbag when you’re out and about – you know I’m fully lusting after a navy one for myself right?  I’ve said before that I’m practically a camel and rarely drink enough so having a smaller sized bottle in my bag might finally solve this problem!

Little girl using reusable drink bottle

Little girl drinking from Ion8 Pod

All three kids love the Ion8 Pod – the easy to open flip top and the smooth liquid flow make it easy to drink from – there’s no need to worry about sucking or holding it at the right angle as can often be the case with some bottles. The lockable flip top lid means that the drink spout itself remains clean (as opposed to the kids’ current bottles which just have a twist up spout).  Thanks to the wide neck, the bottle is simple to fill – you can even pop ice in on a hot day which I know Ben will love for school!  The bottle is actually suitable for both hot and cold drinks which I must admit really surprised me – I don’t know that I would naturally use it for hotter drinks but it’s nice to know the option is there.  It might seem a little odd to talk about the texture of the bottle, but actually it makes quite a big difference, the soft feel makes it easy to hold and also just looks far nicer.  The carry strap is a bit of a bonus as carrying a drink bottle around in your hand is never going to be comfortable for long.  I was also pleased to discover that I can pop the ion8 drink bottle into the dishwasher (something which I can’t do with our Klean Kanteens annoyingly!)

Ion8 Pod lockable flip top lid opens with one hand

Ion8 Pod flip top lid and spout

Ion8 Pod carry strap makes the bottle easy to carry around

So all in we love the Ion8 Pod, my only problem with it is that we only have one!  I think I’d better invest in some more.

*We were sent the Ion8 Pod free of charge for the purposes of review.  All thoughts and opinions remain my own.  This post contains affiliate links*

 
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Reducing single use plastic waste with the Ion 8 Pod reusable drinks bottle