Thursday, 26 February 2015

Visiting London

London is by far one of my favourite destinations within the United Kingdom, the city that never seems to sleep, where there is always something unique and exciting going on, even if you don't wish to visit the typical sights and attractions. 

London is a place that I visit on a regular basis, a place that Leo absolutely adores to go, even if it is just to experience the Underground time and time again. Last week we went on a family visit to the capital, Leo, myself, Granny and younger sister, it was a first for my Mum and sister Alice, who had never really experienced the excitement that can be found in this fantastic city. 

We hopped on the train heading out of our sleepy town and made our way to the hustle and bustle of the city. We enjoyed a morning at Westfield Shopping Centre and visited Base, before we hopped back on the Underground and made our way to your typical tourist attractions. It would have been rude not to take Granny and Alice on a flight to see the famous capital from such a spectacular height. It has to be said that the view from up there really is something very special, and I know that both Granny and Alice really enjoyed their very first flight above London. Leo who has already taken a spin on the London Eye before was so excited to be going back and being able to see the Big Ben. Although since Leo's love for Disney's Cars he has been referring to it as Big Bentley!

It was a truly lovely day being able to spend time with my family and seeing the London sights, and it really wasn't enough time. We hope to go back and just be tourists for a few days, visit Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, and maybe even stay over for a few days during the Easter Holiday's. 

In preparation I have been having a scout about at the hotel's and came across the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury that is located right in the heart of London. It's situated right next to the Russel Square Underground Station which means getting around will be so easy. When I look for hotels I always like to source them near to the tube stations so that I don't need to worry about taxi costs.

After such a super day with the family I am really looking forward to heading back and spending a few days enjoying all the sights and making lasting family memories. 

What do you plan on doing this Easter?

Disclaimer: This is a feature post

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Base Boy's Fashion

In the past I have spoken about the lack of imagination when it comes to little boy’s fashion. I have complained about the sheer lack of range and variety while those parent’s dressing little girls have a huge range to shop from. This post though is not about any of that, it’s actually about what is available, and what’s available especially for those special boys of ours, right from babyhood through to their late teens.

Last week Leo and I were invited along to Base Fashion at Westfield in London for the Spring clothing un-veiling. Having never been to a Base outlet before I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer. I had a mooch online prior to visiting and saw that they stocked well-known brands such as Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi, and even Gucci. I was interested to see what the selection was like and the price tag that matched the high end brands, and whether or not it would be an affordable outlet for me to kit Leo.

We arrived at Base mid-morning and were made to feel very welcome, Leo was given a choice of cake and squash which ultimately made him feel right at home, and I nursed a very welcomed cup of tea. We had even brought Leo’s Granny and my younger sister along for their very first blog event! When everyone arrived, it was time to have a look at the new line up for this coming season, and the big names popped up right away with Ralph Lauren, a beautifully bright vibrant shirt that I could just picture on Leo. This was followed by the Tommy Hilfiger Jeans and Levi T-Shirt that we actually went on to buy. I was impressed with the range that Base offer, from new-born baby grows through to kitting out the teenagers, there was something for each age range and a great variety of choice on offer. I think this is what I loved the most, aside from the fact that there was actual designed clobber that Leo could strut about in.

Of course this is where price becomes a factor, and let’s face it when clothing our children budget is what it comes down to. I am not afraid to admit that I am an avid high street shopper, Leo wears a mixture of different clothing for different occasions, and his wardrobe is kitted out from Next, Peacocks, Tesco and so on. I have never spent more than £20 on a pair of jeans for him, and I do like to hit up the Next sale on Boxing Day to kit out his wardrobe for the next year, so how did Base compare with pricing?

With Base retailing the big names of fashion for younger boys, I have to admit that there were some items that did make me gasp, and then others that I thought were more than fair. Take the Levi T-Shirt that we brought home with us, £15.00. I thought this was reasonable, maybe £5.00 more expensive than I would usually spend? It’s a gorgeous piece and the colour really suits Leo. The Tommy Hilfiger jeans retail at £55.00 and this is admittedly much more than I would spend on Leo’s jeans. I don’t even think I have ever spent this on my own jeans, but then the jeans are well made and generous in sizing so I guess you do get what you pay for. We actually picked the jeans out for a 4-5 year old, Leo is quite a tall 3 year old so I felt that this would give him the most wear out of them. The fit in length isn’t too off at all, and the width is a little big but it’s nothing a belt hasn’t fixed. He does look ever so smart in his new attire, even if he did decide to head out with Grandad the moment he got dressed…Only to return covered in mud moments later!

 Our shopping experience at Base was lovely, the staff were attentive and willing to assist. There were changing room facilities for you to try the clothes on the children before purchasing, and this was an aspect I really liked. I don’t think that I have ever come across this in a child’s clothing store before. Now I wouldn’t be able to justify kitting Leo’s entire wardrobe out here because my clothing budget wouldn’t allow it, but I could see myself picking out a few items for a special occasion, items that Leo would get a lot of wear out of.

The Base spring collection looks great, and if I had the pennies I could quite happily purchase many more of the items I came across. Those Tommy Hilfiger Jeans of Leo’s will be the prized item in his wardrobe for some time to come!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a £50.00 shopping voucher for Base in return for this honest account of our visit. All views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The iCandy Emilia Bag Review

I have always had a love for bags and pretty things, when it comes to shopping I know what I want and what I don’t want. As I have got older my appreciation for these material objects has only grown, and I now have some rather lovely bags.

Of course when Leo came along 3 years ago, my prized bags were packed away into their dust clothes for the foreseeable future, and in their place was a changing bag. For me picking a changing bag was as daunting as picking a name for my new arrival, I didn't want my changing bag to look like an ordinary bog standard changing bag. I wanted something beautiful, something unique that would still make me happy in the same way my pre-baby bags did. I spent as long looking for the perfect changing bag as I did trying to find my perfect pushchair, and I had only just had one delivered mere weeks before Leo arrived.

With Leo being 3 and a half we are slowly making are way out of needing a changing bag, but it is surprising how many things you need to take with you. A spare change of clothes, drinks, snacks, sun cream, on the go entertainment for said 3 year old… So when iCandy asked me to test run the new  iCandy Emilia Changing Bag, I jumped at the chance. Looking at the Emilia you wouldn't for a second think ‘Changing bag’, it looks just like my pre-baby bags that I adored so much, and for that reason I love it that little bit more.

Of course just because it doesn't look like your average changing bag, that doesn't for a second mean that it doesn't boast all of the qualities that you NEED with one. The Emilia comes complete with a changing mat, bottle bag and dust bag that all fit compactly within the bag and don’t detract from just how gorgeous this bag really is.

The Emilia East West bag is the special edition from the iCandy bag collection, inspired by English actress Emilia Fox. There are 2 classy colour options available, Ivory and Royal, these both come in Patent but you can choose to have the Emilia in Leather if you wish. I have it in the Ivory Patent and absolutely adore it, it has so much room to store everything for both Leo and myself, and the practicality combined with the elegance of this bag just makes me love it more!

When the bag arrived back in September I knew I was opening up something special. It was delivered in a classic iCandy box, and inside the box was a parcel wrapped in iCandy paper, embellished with Rose petals. Once I had removed the paper wrapping, I came to the bag which was safely tucked away in its very own dust cloth.  I have never opened a package like this and right from the get go, iCandy paid every attention to detail (and that was before I had even opened the bag up!).

Once the opening ceremony was over, I was presented with my rather beautiful new bag. It was shiny, spacious, luxurious and I couldn't wait to use it. My first fears were how the colour might hold out against the elements but I needn't have worried, the patented bodywork of the bag mean that it is easy to wipe clean if it does attract dirt, and for me that is essential when picking a changing bag, because let’s face it.. Kids are dirt magnets! You certainly don’t want to shell out your hard earned wages on a beautiful bag that is not even going to resemble the same bag after a few months of use.

The simple details on the Emilia bag are what attracted me to it in the first place, along with its generous size I knew that this bag would be up to the challenge of getting everything Leo and I needed from a trip to the shops, a day out or even overnight. The Emilia hasn't let us down and it has been incredibly well used over the months, from trips out and about, to long weekends away we have managed to fit everything we need inside.

The bag boasts two main sections that each have four smaller pockets within which makes it really easy to organise for both parent and child. I have one side for everything I need such as my wallet and phone, and Leo has another side for all of his essentials. The Emilia then has a zipped pocked on the front of the bag which is great to keep objects you may need to access more readily.

In terms of carrying this bag there are a few options depending on how you prefer to hold it. You can attach a long cross body strap so that you can drape it over your shoulder or hang it on the back of a pushchair, or you can carry it like a tote bag with the two shorter handles. I tend to carry it on my arm rather than over my shoulder because I tend to use this bag more for myself now than I do for Leo, but that is again the beauty of this bag because even after the baby days are far behind you, you still have a gorgeous bag that you can use for your everyday life.

Over all I am really impressed with the iCandy Emilia bag and I can see myself enjoying this bag for a long time, it has certainly received many positive compliments when it has been on my arm, and shocked many others when they realise it is a full kitted out changing bag. The attention to detail that has gone into this bag is exactly what iCandy is all about and I couldn't be happier with the Emilia.

The Emilia retails at £200 for the Patent bag as seen here, and £250 for the Leather bag. This does put the changing bag in the higher bracket of the market, but having seen how it  has fared in the months that have passed since I began using it, it is fair to say that it will see you through and last.

Disclaimer: I was sent the iCandy Emilia for the purpose of this review. All views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.

The Upbeat Blogger Challenge

For the past 8 months I have been making a conscious decision to eat better and move more. I began the gym in July 2014 and I haven’t looked back, it has been a huge lifestyle change for me and one that I actually cannot believe I didn't make sooner. In the time that I have spent cooking more homemade nutritious meals I have noticed a number of changes, I have lost weight and made those first baby steps to toning up, I feel more confident in myself and how I look, and I know that the changes I have made (though I may accidentally demolish a chocolate bar every now and again) are permanent and now just my everyday lifestyle. 

I was recently invited to take part in the Upbeat Blogger Challenge, Upbeat is a tasty protein drink that is low in fat and only ranks in on the calorie scale at only 149 calories. It boasts half the sugar content that is found in the vast majority of your typical fruit smoothies and makes a great ‘snack’ after you finish working out, or to even kick start your morning. I could see straight away that taking part in this challenge would be a great way to kick start the year, I was supplied with vouchers to kit me out with a weeks’ worth of Upbeat drinks, and sent a very generous Tesco shop full of healthy food to go alongside and aid the challenge. The nature of the challenge was to see how I felt before I began, how I felt during the week I was drinking the Upbeat drinks and how I feel now that it is all over.

Getting Started
I was pleased to see that everything I had already been cooking and eating was included within the shop, Meats, Fish, Quinoa and lots of fruit and vegetables. This meant I was already off to a flying start. It meant that I haven’t had to drastically change my usual day to day lifestyle, because it’s something that I have eased myself into over the last few months and the food and recipe ideas are all items that I use on a daily basis.

Although recently I have been testing the water and eating outside my usual comfort zone. I have been eating fish such as Salmon and Haddock, and even discovered that I enjoy Dates, Almonds, Cashew Nuts, Celery and Banana’s (I am aware that Bananas are not too exotic, but I have always been put off for some reason..), It really is surprising what you find you like if you give yourself the chance to really experience it. This of course has made preparing meals a lot easier, and I am more than willing to give anything a whirl at least once.   

I stocked up on the Upbeat drinks for the week at our local Tesco, unfortunately they only stock two of the three flavours, Strawberry and Mango & Passion Fruit, the third flavour which I am yet to try is Blueberry and Raspberry, so I will have to hunt this out at some point in the not so distant future.

 Extra Protein
I enjoy a protein rich diet, but since starting this challenge I have made the conscious effort to include it more throughout the day. There are so many options, you could even have a small portion of peanuts for a mid-morning snack and  steak salad for lunch, finishing up with chicken enchiladas for dinner. You don’t have to limit what you eat, you just have to eat more of the right things. I have been by passing rice more and more recently after trying Quinoa for the first time a few weeks ago, Quinoa is a grain that has more protein and fiber than rice or oats, and can be deliciously flavoured with stock or even lemon juice. It’s easy to cook up and is tasty hot or cold, it can be mixed into a salad or enjoyed on the side, and is great to have in the cupboard.

I prepare my snacks and lunches at home, usually the evening before. I find this helps me stay on track and I don’t find myself nipping off to the vending machine at work. In fact since June last year, I haven’t ventured to the vending machine once! A typical work snack for me may be Celery and Peanut Butter one day, Low Fat Greek Yoghurt and rolled outs with berries the next, or even a simple piece of fruit such as a banana. When lunch time comes a knocking I often enjoy chicken, turkey, steak or tuna and a weighed helping of Quinoa with some salad. Another day I may have a Tuna and boiled Egg Wrap with Cucumber. I am really trying to jumble the menu up so I am getting a tasty selection of different foods to enjoy.

Now I am enjoying Upbeat drinks alongside my staple diet too, I have been incorporating them into my after work out snack. Sometimes when I get home from the gym I am peckish and really need a little something to perk me up again. This is where Upbeat has been a great help, it’s always good to enjoy some additional protein after working out, and this seems to hit the spot as an ideal ‘snack’. Both of the flavours that I have tried have been delicious and completely blown my expectations out of the water, having tried the other half’s Whey Protein mixes before I was a little worried as to what I was signing up to. However I needn’t have worried, the Strawberry tastes just like a Love Heart Sweet in my opinion and the Mango and Passion Fruit is equally as delicious.

A week ago I began following Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide, I am the kind of person who needs everything laid out in front of me, up until I began following this guide I was simply winging it. In all fairness to myself I haven’t lead myself to far off the beaten path and I am pleased with the results that I have achieved in this time, but I know that I can do more, so now when I finish my gym session I actually have a few more sequenced exercises to perform. After enjoying my Upbeat I am ready to get going again, I feel energised and don’t have to worry that I may do some un-necessary snacking.

I took the below picture on the left 3 weeks ago (3rd February 2015), just before I started following the eBook and taking part in the Upbeat Challenge. The photo on the right was taken this morning (23rd February 2015).

A week has passed…
I have now been enjoying Upbeat for a week, and I will continue to add these protein rich drinks to my shopping trolley from now on. I am so pleased I took part in this challenge, I may not have altered my eating plan to drastically to take part but that just pointed out to me that I was already heading in the right direction. I have learnt more about the right kind of foods to eat and discovered new foods that I actually enjoy (foods that I wouldn’t have touched before). I don’t feel to different but I do have noticeably more energy after drinking one, and I do find that they help keep me fuller longer, which of course is good if you are trying to watch what you are eating.

Going forward I will be continuing to use all that I have learnt from this challenge, and I am sure the results will speak for themselves. I have got to where I am now through eating better, working out and looking after myself. I look forward to seeing what the next 8 months may bring, because if you truly want something and are willing to put the work in, you will be surprised at just how quickly you will begin to see changes.

Disclaimer: I took part in the Upbeat Blogger Challenge and was provided with vouchers to purchase the drinks free of charge. I was sent a generous shop in order to cook up my meals for the challenge in exchange for this post. All views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.   

Friday, 13 February 2015

Framing the Panasonic TZ55 with Photobox

Last year I shared with you our experience with the Panasonic TZ55 and all of our recent family adventures! For the last few months my camera has been away having a repair made to the lens, it had been safely (I thought) inside my bag. But when I next attempted to use it, I discovered that the lens wasn’t working at all. Thankfully Panasonic have swept in and saved the day and I am just awaiting to have it delivered back to me, and I cannot wait to start snapping again. Although I will be investing in a shiny new camera case for it!

We have teamed up with Photobox as part of the Panasonic Brit Bloggers Program to display some of our favourite images taken on the TZ55 in the time that we have been using it. I love displaying photos around the house and getting creative with how I do it. The trouble I always have is narrowing down my favourite photographs, as there are always far too many!

Having a browse around the Photobox site presents a number of different options to help you decide how you wish to showcase your favourite shots, in a way that others can enjoy them too. I already have so many photo canvases that I decided to stay away from this option, and steer more towards the Mounted Gallery Prints.

The Mounted Gallery Prints are a way to really draw attention to your chosen photo, with the a selection of a starting price of £29.99 it is a very attractive price. There are a selection of different print sizes and shapes to suit your image, and doesn't detract from the photo you wish to display. We opted for the Square 40cm x 40cm and it really is a way to make your shot look the part. 

Yet I still had to decide on the photo that was going to sit pride of place, as it’s a piece that will be on public display, I wanted to carefully consider which photograph was going to be featured.

Eventually I decided on a simple photo of the three of us, Mummy, Daddy and Leo. A simple shot that captures us all and one of my all time favourites, I don't think I will ever tire of looking at this one shot, for the scenic background and what it represents, family. Us. Together. Happy.

The photo was taken using the cameras WiFi connected up with my iPhone, and I think it worked rather well.

I am really pleased with the quality of the finished frame and Photobox delivered it very quickly. It is now hanging on the wall pride of place, 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a Photobox voucher for the purpose of this post to share my views on the service provided and to showcase the TZ55 photo. All thoughts and opinions shared are honest and my own.

A Very Big Heart

Two weekends ago saw a big family walk taking place, it was filled with parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, great aunts, and uncles. It was a cold day at the end of January, and although the sun was shining down on us, it didn’t detract from the overall chill that spun it’s cold breath over everything it touched. Leo had been excited about his walk, and he started off full of energy, running, darting and jumping along his merry way. Of course it wasn’t long before the abundance of energy had deserted him.

Leo walked up the steepest muddiest hill I have ever come across, and he handled it much better than I. We were slipping and sliding trying to find our footing, but each attempt was thwarted by mud, but Leo kept on climbing…Despite eventually going full front into the mud, covering his lovely snow suit and his hands in sticky, squelchy mud. Of course this was quickly rectified, and soon I was sporting leggings with those very muddy hand prints all down them, but thankfully Leo was smiling again.

It was around this time as our ascent continued, that Leo looked behind him and saw his Granny struggling to get up the hill. Granny suffers with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the walk hadn’t really been tailored for her, or a 3 year old for that matter, but still they both soldiered on. Leo saw his Granny trying her hardest to get up the hill, he saw her slipping and sliding and he looked worried for her. In a split second Leo had turned on his heels and started marching back down the hill to his Granny, it was then that Leo took her by the hand and began to pull her up the hill. He was helping her, trying to make sure she was ok, because he was worried she might fall over and hurt herself.

Granny looked very pleased with her little Grandson that day, I would even say rather proud. She thought that Luke or I had put Leo up to it, but in matter of fact it was as much a surprise to us as it was to her, and it was all done completely off Leo’s own back and merit. When I asked Leo about it later he said ‘I scared Grandma fall. I help her up’. I gave him the biggest hug for being such a thoughtful little boy, but that’s Leo all over. He’s observant and caring, so of course he was going to go out of his way to try and help his Granny.

It was only last week that Leo and I were sat watching a film together in the lounge, when he took his blanket and draped it over me, tucking me in with him while we snuggled together. ‘You not cold now Mummy’ he said once we were all tucked in. Then Leo noticed that my feet were coming out the end of the blanket ‘You got cold feet Mummy!’ he said, and he pulled a pillow out from under him to place over my feet. Then just to make sure I really wasn’t cold, he piled pillow after pillow onto my feet to ensure they were warm.

Leo has such a big heart and is just so loving, watching him sharing his kindness with the people he loves and encounters is such a magical sight. It means that I have done something right along the way, and he really is a credit to me.

My beautiful, caring little man <3

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Pre-School Jabs

On the 28th January it was time to take Leo for his next set of jabs, his pre-school jabs. I knew the time had been creeping up on us, and having postponed them twice before they called up the day prior to advise us of a cancellation for the next day, and invited us to bring Leo in.

I tried my hardest to explain to Leo that he was going to the doctors for some special medicine to stop him getting poorly. I told him that they would put it into his arms and it may hurt for a minute or so, but that he would be absolutely fine and that I would be there the entire time. This didn’t seem to phase him and off we set for the doctors surgery. Leo had brought his Nintendo DS along and he sat patiently in the waiting room having a race on Mario Kart until his name was called and we were beckoned inside.

The nurse performing the immunisations that day was absolutely lovely, she put us both right at ease. She got down to Leo’s level and explained to him very simply what she was going to do. ‘Now you’re a big boy Leo and will be starting school soon, I need to give you some big boy medicine to help stop you from getting poorly. Is that ok with you?’ Leo who was still engrossed in his Mario Kart game looked up and said yes, and then carried on with what he was doing, completely oblivious to what was about to happen. The nurse turned to me and explained which immunisations Leo would be receiving, asked me to read through the paperwork and sign my consent.

I held onto Leo tightly, placed his game console on the desk beside us and held his arms. We explained to him what was going to happen and that it would all be over very soon, but I guess explaining imminusations is a bit of a grey area because you certainly don’t want to scare them. Leo was still until the first injection went into his left arm, and then the screaming started. Maybe it was the shock of what had happened? Maybe it was the horror that Mummy had gone along with it? Or the overall hurt that he had just experienced. He buried his head in my chest and I was just trying to concentrate on keeping him still. I explained that there was one more that needed to go into his Right arm, and then that would be it, all over and done. Of course now he knew what was coming, he wasn’t exactly accommodating to the idea, so holding him very tightly I assisted the nurse as she put the final vaccination into my beautiful boy.

Leo’s cries rang out, he was a right state. I held him tightly and he kept on repeating ‘Lady hurt me!’ over and over again. The nurse then presented Leo with a certificate of bravery and some stickers for being such a good boy. This did help quiet him down and it wasn’t long before I had my smiley little man back again.

Leo keeps telling me now ‘No more injections Mummy, no doctors. The lady hurt me!’ – God help me the next time I need to take him to the doctors… But for now I have explained that there won’t be any more injections until he is much bigger.

Strangely though these set of injections which I had actually been dreading, weren’t as bad as I first thought. I had convinced myself that they would be awful because of Leo being that much older, but the reality was that yes he got upset, but he got over it all very quickly too, and it meant that we got a cuddly day on the sofa together watching movies and enjoying snuggles.