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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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Book Review: “A Passion For Baking” by Jo Wheatley

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 06-07-2012

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I love baking. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing since I was little and used to “help” my Mum in the kitchen. Now I’m a Mum myself finding the time to bake does prove tricky. I can’t wait until Little Man is old enough to join in, though I don’t look forward to cleaning up afterwards! When I do find the time – usually at weekends when Daddy takes over – there’s nothing I enjoy more than whipping up a cake or a batch of biscuits for my little family to enjoy, and this book is perfect for doing just that.

Available exclusively at Sainsburys for a bargain price of £7.99 “A Passion For Baking” is the debut book from the winner of The Great British Bake Off Jo Wheatley. Whenever I get a new cookbook – and yes, I own a ridiculous number – I flick through it immediately to see what stands out for me. After a few moments of flicking through the pages of “A Passion For Baking” I was salivating. Not only does this book contain loads of recipes that I actually want to make, but the photography makes me want to make them right now! Page after page of beautifully photographed food, either as a completed bake or as partial ingredients, makes this book a visual feast. My personal favourites are the photos of the Mini Mississippi Mud Pies and the Raspberry Torte. But this book contains so many recipes which I can’t wait to try out on my family.

For Fathers Day this year we had Jo’s American Pancakes with some fresh fruit. My Husband and I have been to the USA twice – once when we’d been dating a year, and again for our honeymoon – and on both occasions visited New York. Our main memory from these visits is the food – mostly the sheer size of it – but specifically the breakfasts. Nothing started the day better than a stack of pancakes, more often than not with maple syrup and some crispy bacon. Jo’s American Pancakes are JUST as delicious, and brought back amazing memories. They were light and fluffy, and super easy to make. I can see them being made again and again in our house for years to come.

Baking conjures up so many memories for me, and I look forward to making lots of new ones with my Little Man, and this book.

“A Passion For Baking” is out now, and available from Sainsburys.

Product Review: Ella’s Kitchen Munchy Biccies

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 20-03-2012

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Since my Little Man has become more mobile and begun walking he is desperate to go outside every day. This is brilliant I know, but it does mean I have to keep finding new places to take him! I’d let him rampage around in the garden but its currently a work-in-progress whilst Grandad and Daddy sort out some new grass. So we find ourselves going out every day, and more often than not twice a day!

Going out and about with an enthusiastic toddler brings a whole range of challenges, but the one that is probably most important to Little Man is snacks. Mummy has to have a good supply of snacks with her at all times to ensure whatever he fancies at a moments notice is available. Whilst I generally carry around his bodyweight in blueberries, grapes and satsumas – seriously this child would live on fruit if I let him – I do also like to have a few biscuits with me too. Whilst his usual biscuit of choice is the humble digestive, we were recently introduced to a toddler friendly alternative.

Munchy Biccies from Ella’s Kitchen come in three flavours – Cheese & Apple, Cinnamon & Orange, and Banana – and as with all Ella’s Kitchen products are 100% organic. They are healthy wholegrain biscuits which don’t contain any concentrates or refined sugars. So whilst my Little Man thinks he’s getting a yummy treat, I know he’s only getting the best. My Little Man is renowned for eating pretty much anything without complaint and these biscuits are another hit. They are perfectly sized for little hands – I admit they do look a little unappetising – and come is handy packs which you can pop straight into you bag or pocket.

So if you’re ever in Sussex and see me and Little Man on one of our MANY outings, you’re more than likely going to find us with a packet of Munchy Biccies close at hand.

Munchy Biccies are available now from all good supermarkets.

Mothers Day Gift Guide

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 02-03-2012

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Mothers Day is just over a fortnight away – March 18th if you’re curious – so if you’re looking for something a bit different for you own Mum or your Mother In Law, or you want some inspiration for what to drop hints about for yourself, take a look at this lovely lot. You’re bound to find something to suit!

Hotel Chocolate
You can’t go wrong with a nice box of chocolates, and The Jewellery Box from Hotel Chocolat is a guaranteed hit. The box contains 10 individually wrapped chocolates – which were delicious by the way – and when they’re all gone it leaves a stylish box with mirrored lid that is perfect for storing your own treasures in. You can buy this gorgeous box from the Hotel Chocolat website.

So…? Perfume
For a slightly longer lasting gift how about a bottle of the classic So…? Perfume or a Body Spray? So…? has been around for years and its range gets larger every season. The Original So…? fragrance combines tangerine and orange blossom with vanilla, sandalwood and patchouli and has been a favourite in my house for a long time.  It is available in a 75ml body spray, a 100ml eau de toilette, or a choice of two gift sets from the So…? website.

Pinky Knits
If you’re after something a bit different for a Mum who enjoys crafts why not try a Pinky Knits Kit? Launched this year at Top Drawer the Pinky Knits Kit allows you to knit without using needles. In fact all you need are your fingers! Casting on is simple following the instructions on the side and then you work the wool to create a knitted “noodle”. This “noodle” can then be transformed into anything your imagination can come up with! There are instructions for making a snood or a coil twist scarf, but the “noodle” can easily be turned into a hat, a cushion cover, or even a bag! Pinky Knits Kits come in a range of colours and can be found online at their website.

Mama Baby Bliss
The Little Bag Of Mama Bliss is the ideal gift for Mums celebrating their first Mothers Day. The bag contains some “Ooh” Relaxing Bath Soak which as well as providing some much needed chilling out for Mum also aids post-natal healing with its calendula, aloe vera and  geranium. There is also a tube of “Aah” Soothing Mummy Baby balm which is perfect for soothing sore nipples or chapped skin. I use this on my eczema and its amazing, and my Mum is also using it on some flaky skin caused by an operation she had last year and its working a treat for both of us. Finally there is an “Uplifting Bliss Stick” which gives Mums a little boost when applied to pulse points. The Little Bag Of Mama Bliss can be found at the Mama Baby Bliss website a long with hints and tips for creating a blissful mama this Mothers Day.

 

Keep Calm For Mums
Parenthood can be difficult and at the end of a long day Mums can often be left feeling fraught and reaching for the nearest bottle. If you need a helping hand to get your through those days get yourself a copy of “Keep Calm For Mums” from Summersdale Publishing. This lovely pink book is packed with witty and uplifting quotes which are sure to bring a smile to your face and get your through even the most nightmarish day. “Keep Calm For Mums” is available from all good bookshops, or direct from Summersdale.

Stockwell Ceramics
Stockwell Ceramics is based in Cornwall and they produce a range of buttons, pendants, brooches and earrings made from beautifully coloured ceramic. You might have spotted their items in the V&A in London, or The Natural History Museum. As well as their standard range they often create bespoke commissions, but I think my favourite of their items is this lovely bird brooch. You can view their range now at their website.

Period Features
If you’re looking for a gift with a slightly more classical look to it you’d be best going to Period Features. Period Features primarily sources products for period homes, such as wallpaper, furnishings and heritage paints. However they also do a range of classic items like napkins and feather dusters. I particularly like the French Soaps and the traditionally packaged bath salts. The soaps are traditionally hand made and look beautiful as a decoration as well as in use. The bath salts look exactly as you would expect in their period paper packets. Period Features can be found in Leek, Staffordshire or online.

TeaJay Tea
Every Mum I know loves a good cup of tea. I know I certainly do. Whilst I am typically more like to reach for my usual brand of tea, I do occasionally fancy something a bit different. Why not send your Mum some TeaJay Tea to try? Their teas are inspired by music so are all named after songs. They have a wide range of herbal, fruit and Rooibos to choose from which make ideal teas all year round – they can all be made into delicious ice teas during the summer months. I rather enjoyed the Corazon De Melon which is delicious mix of honey, melon and guava with a hint of strawberry. TeaJays tea can be bought in varying quantities at their website.

Honey Tree
Honey Tree are bespoke stationers who create personalised stationary, invitations, labels and sell unique artwork from their online store. For Mothers Day they have a lovely range of labels for those Mums who enjoy making jams and preserves, or their own drinks. Labels can have just an image on or text too are designed by you so you are getting exactly what you want. The quality is great and ordering couldn’t be simpler.

Limited Edition Prints are also available, and these make a lovely gift. There is a wide range available and they come either mounted or framed and mounted and are signed too. You will find prints that are kitchen and garden themed that any Mum would be proud to hang. I am a big fan of the Fork & Spoon print which I think would look great in the kitchen, or the range of Heart prints would be a great way to show your Mum just how much you care. You can view the full range of prints, and the array of labels at the Honey Tree website.

Wood And Willow
Wood And Willow is a small family run business and #SBS winner who sells items to “Make Your House A Home”.  They sell a beautiful range of gifts for both the house and garden, and also feature a lovely selection of UK Handmade items. You will be spoilt for choice on the Wood And Willow website when it comes to buying something for your Mum, or at other times of the year, but my favourites include the Heart Shaped Frame Trio and the Red Gingham Apron Set. The frame trio is off-white in colour and would be ideal for photos of Mum, Dad and Baby. The Apron Set comprises an apron, oven glove and quilted pot stand. It comes direct from France to add a little French chic to your kitchen. The Wood And Willow website can be found here.

Boots
If your Mum is in need of a little pampering and you’re thinking a nice gift set is the way to go then you can’t go wrong in Boots where there is a great range from Champney’s on offer.  My picks are the “Indulgence Oriental Opulence Travel Collection” and the “Best Of Spa” sets which both contain handy sized products including bath soaks, shower gels and hand creams. If you’re after a gift for a Soon-To-Be-Mum how about the “Extracts Fairtrade Mini Body Butter Collection” which will be perfect for keeping bump nice and soft, and includes a Cocoa Butter which is good for helping prevent stretch marks. A full range of Boots Gift Sets can be found in store, or online.

Gumigem
How about a gift that’s both for Mum and for their little one? Jewellery wearing is generally a nightmare when you have a small child so most Mums forgo their collection until their children are older. With Gumigem you don’t need to! The stylish necklaces feature what look like solid stone pendants so are fashionable, but the “stone” is actually made from the same material as most traditional teethers. This means you can look stylish whilst your baby can safely chew on your necklace during times of teething, and if they do pull hard on it the safety catch at the back releases meaning no more strangling Mum! The necklaces come in four shapes and a range of beautiful colours, and are even worn by celebrity Mums like Denise Van Outen and Michelle Heaton. The full range can be viewed here but if you want to buy a Gumigem this Mothers Day I sell them with prices starting at £10, so get in touch for details!

Curvety
If you’re after clothing for that slightly curvier figure take a trip to the Curvety website. They stock a range of glamorous and fashionable clothing to dress your beautiful curves in style. From dresses, trousers and skirts to an amazing Bridal range as well as the all important shoes Curvety covers everything you could possibly want. In addition to their vast clothing range they also sell accessories including the gorgeous necklace you see below, which would look great on any woman, regardless of size. The full Curvety range can be found online.

The Old Bag Company
Perhaps a new bag is in order for Mum this year, but you want to get her something a little different. What about the “Sophie Canvas Bag” from the Old Bag Company? The bag comes with an array of pockets to store all Mum’s bits and pieces and has a waterproof liner in case of any spills. It’s machine washable and inside every bag is a message from the Old Bag Company children (who all the bags are named after) so you know you’re getting the genuine article. Available in six colour choices this bag is perfect as a handbag, shopper, beach bag, hand luggage or funky work bag. This bag, and the rest of the spotty and stripey range, can be found at the Old Bag Company website.

Swanky Maison
If you want to get your Mum something totally different whilst supporting new and up-and-coming UK designers head over to Swanky Maison. Swanky Maison is an online boutique that sells gifts and items for the home that have been designed and made here in the UK. The range of items on there is mind-blowing – I was on there for hours pouring over the gorgeous things – and I defy anyone to not find something they love. One of my favourite designers on there is ‘Red Brick Glass’. Based in Dorset, Wendy the founder of ‘Red Brick Glass’ creates a stunning array of glass items using a her kiln, finishing them all by hand and packaging them beautifully. I adore these glass lanterns, available in a set of three, with their delicate butterfly print on them which are fired in the kiln to ensure they won’t scratch off. I think these would look pretty in the garden, as centre pieces at a spring wedding, or just around the bath when Mum has that much deserved relaxing soak. ‘Red Brick Glass’ and a host of other talented designers can be found on the Swanky Maison e-boutique website.

Tesco Nail Varnish
If your children are just reaching an age where they understand the significance of Mothers Day and perhaps want to spend “their” money on a present for Mummy then Tesco might just have the answer. Their “All About Nails” range is perfectly priced at just 99p per bottle and they have large number of colours available from the brights to the on-trend pastels, and whilst the price is cheap the quality is fabulous. So come on Dads, why not nip out to the supermarket with your children this weekend and grab Mum a present they can buy themselves? ‘All About Nails’ is available now from your local Tesco store.

Yankee Candle
A Housewarmer candle from Yankee Candle is a gift that Mum, and the rest of the family, can enjoy for up to 150 hours. Presented in a large glass jar with glass lid this is an epic candle that will also make a lovely decorative feature in any room of the house. When it comes to scented candles I prefer something subtle to provide a nice background smell as opposed to something overpowering, so for me the ideal Yankee Candle would be the Vanilla Satin – a gentle classic fragrance. This fragrance, and others, is available in several sized candles from small tea-lights to the mighty large glass jars from the Yankee Candle website.

Afternoon Tea
She’s probably spent years slaving over your tea, and now she can have a fantastic time unwinding with a different type of tea, scones, and a selection of scrumptious cakes on her tea for two experience. Whether you opt for afternoon tea at Harrods or you whisk her away to any of 20 elegant rural locations across the UK, she’ll simply love this traditional treat. Tea For Two days out are available from the Buy-A-Gift website.

Product Review: Pillow Pets

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 23-02-2012

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This spring sees the launch of the Original Pillow Pets in the UK, thanks to Mookie Toys.

At first glance this is just a large cuddly toy, but underneath is a small Velcro strap. If you undo that and secure the protective flap over, you are left with a large soft pillow. This makes an ideal pillow for on long journeys, or to use at nap time, or if you’re my Little Man something to lie on whilst you watch television.

 

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at these at Toy Fair 2012 a few weeks ago. They are so soft and cuddly it was hard to put down, and since Little Man’s Monkey friend arrived in our house he’s had to fight Mummy and Daddy for cuddles with it!

There are a lot of similar style products on the market but this is the original, and without a doubt the best. Available in a range of styles – Panda, Penguin, Unicorn, Puppy, Monkey, Ladybird, Pig and Bee – you can pick up a Pillow Pet from Amazon, Toys R Us and other major retailers. They will soon be available direct from the Pillow Pets website.

Mio Solo Nappy Challenge Week

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 21-01-2012

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Last week Little Man and I embarked on something new. We used real nappies. Since day one we’ve used disposables and I’d never really considered using anything else. I envisaged the washing machine being permanently on, and I wasn’t particularly keen on getting any closer to the contents of his nappy than I needed to – especially those early explosions! Just after he turned one in October last year and money seemed to become even tighter than usual I gave real nappies a thought. People kept raving about how much money you could save by using real ones, and how amazing they were, so I did a bit of research. The choice out there is wide and varied and I felt a little out of my depth. It was brilliant therefore when I was contacted by Bambino Mio and asked if I’d like to take part in their Mio Solo Nappy Challenge. I immediately said yes, and then, I must admit, wondered what on earth I’d let myself in for!

My parcel arrived at the beginning on January and I was rather excited to open it and take a look at the new Mio Solo. The Mio Solo is a one-size-fits-all nappy that is suitable from birth right through to potty training. It comes in six colours all with a sweet themed name, and is designed to be simple to use and super-absorbent. It features velcro fastenings, poppers across the front to adjust to fit any sized baby, and a pull out inner to make them quick drying.

 

In our pack we received the blue (Flying Saucer), yellow (Sherbet Lemon) and white (Marshmallow) Mio Solo, a Mio Boost – an additional absorbent pad to use during the night, some Mio Wipes, some Mio Fresh Nappy cleanser to use in the washing machine and a roll of Nappy Liners. The nappies looked simple enough to use – the fastening is very like that of the disposables we already used – and the washing didn’t sound unrealistic either. In theory I was ready for the challenge – but how would I fair in practice?

Challenge 1: The Stay At Home Challenge
This sounded a perfect way to start – staying in! I was glad to do this as it meant I had clothes on hand in case of a leak and a stock of other nappies in case I panicked. I also had cream to hand in case my Little Man’s sensitive bottom reacted to the real nappies by coming out in a rash. The first nappy went on without any problems. Little Man didn’t notice anything different and the elasticated leg cuffs meant he could cruise around the furniture with ease as he always had. When it came to changing they were simple to take one off and replace, though the liners did tend to stick to his bottom a bit. At the end of our first day I was still happy and there was no rash – perfect.

Challenge 2: The Out & About Challenge
One day two we had to venture out. This was fine as it was our Sing & Sign class that morning. Into a Mio Solo he went and into the car seat. The class is a short drive away but it would be the longest he’d sat with a Mio Solo on so I was curious about leaking. He also spends the whole class crawling and cruising around, standing up and climbing about – all that action would put some strain on the nappy. I changed him at the end of the class and it was simple to do even away from the well stocked changing table at home. The liner and wipes went into one nappy sack to be thrown out, and the wet Mio Solo went into another to be taken home and washed. A successful out and about challenge.

Challenge 3: The Overnight Challenge
This was the challenge that caused the greatest sense of dread and panic amongst the bloggers taking this challenge. I wasn’t going to take any chances so when we put the nappy on before bed I put the Mio Boost in straight away and added a liner. Little Man sleeps on his front with his bum in the air so I was worried that any overnight wee would gather at the front of the nappy and leak out. He went to bed at 7.30pm and the sceptic in me expected a wake-up call around midnight with a wet bed. I checked on him at 10.30pm when I went to bed and all was well – no leaking, no smells. Everyone slept through and he started chattering to himself at 8am as usual. Unfortunately when I went to get him up the front of the nappy was wet, as were his pyjama bottoms and the bed sheet. Thankfully he hadn’t got the duvet too! Admittedly there wasn’t anything like as big a leak as I’d expected, but sadly gravity won. I will be retrying this challenge after advice from the Bambino Mio team but I think I did everything they’d suggested. We’ll see what happens.

Challenge 4: The Dad, Grandparent Or Babysitter Challenge
Dad was probably more sceptical than me at the start of this challenge. His parents had used terry towelling nappies on all four of their children and being the oldest he can just remember the washing machine being on 24/7. He was concerned that I’d be spending my days washing and that nothing else would ever get done! Dad was impressed with the design of the nappies and happily changed a couple during the course of the challenge week. No problems at all. They really are totally simple. I plan to get Grandma to change one next week!

Challenge 5: The Washing & Drying Challenge
My biggest fear was all the washing. Would they dry quickly enough? Would they come out clean and reusable? Would my washing machine be on for the rest of my life? Well obviously with the fact I only had three nappies I can’t really comment on how often the washing machine would be on if we were doing this “properly”. To only use Mio Solo’s for every nappy change would require a larger supply and a few more washes, but that wouldn’t be a major hardship. Washing them at 60 degrees with the sanitiser in and my usual non-bio washing liquid was fine. I put them in with towels which could also withstand the temperature and I was pleased when they came out perfectly clean. After an incident involving poo and Mummy forgetting to put a liner in for the first time I was a little scared – especially with is being the beautifully white nappy – but even this came out crystal clean and sanitised. Pulling out the inner pad meant they dried very quickly and fastening the velcro tabs back during washing meant I didn’t have everything stuck together during the cycle.

If you disregard the minor overnight problem these nappies were great. A lot less complication and fuss then I’d expected, and the fact that Little Man didn’t seem to notice at all was a bonus. At the end of our challenge week I think we’ve all thought a lot about washable nappies, and whilst we won’t be making the change 100% we will definitely keep using washables during the day, and saving disposables for night time. I highly recommend trying the Mio Solo to anyone considering making those tentative first steps into washables, especially if you’re a past user of disposables. I’m always available on Twitter if you want to chat (@SussexMummy) or if you want to share any comedy poo related incidents. I don’t think my Twitter feed has ever been so full of chatter about poo, wee and nappies ever. Thankfully it wasn’t our house that experienced the “Poonami!”

Thanks Bambino Mio for letting me take the challenge – I had great fun!