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. 

The iCandy Raspberry Review

Back in September 2013 I attended the iCandy 80th Birthday Bash, and it was here that the new iCandy Raspberry was unveiled to me. For me it was love at first sight, from the smooth contours of the frame, right through to the delicious selection of flavours on offer:

-          Arctic Night
-          Atlantic
-          Lush
-          Beetle
-          Sunflower
-          Wisteria
-          Fushia

I was instantly drawn to the beautifully bright  Sunflower Yellow, that paired with a black chassis certainly boasts the WOW factor for it’s stand out vibrance between the colour combinations, and is certain to turn some heads. Following the release of the Raspberry in the fall of 2014, Leo and I were given the opportunity to truly put the Raspberry through its paces, and obviously we were very excited to do so, especially when it was confirmed that the colour way I had fallen in love with was available!

The iCandy Raspberry was set to be Leo’s very final pushchair review (insert sobs and crocodile tears here!) and it was actually because of Leo’s size and age (He was just turned 3 when we started using the Raspberry) that we were asked to get involved with this particular review. Leo’s a tall 3 year old and we wanted to see how the Raspberry would fare with the top end of babyhood. So now after using the Raspberry for a good couple of months, I am happy to share our personal experience using the iCandy Raspberry.

What’s in the box?

The iCandy Raspberry arrived in 2 boxes, one for the pushchair and another to accommodate the Flavour Pack. In each of the boxes you will find:

iCandy Raspberry Box
-          Chassis
-          Wheels
-          Rain cover
-          Instruction Manual

iCandy Flavour Pack (Sold Separately)
-          Raspberry Hood
-          5 Point harness Pads

We also received the Raspberry footmuff along with our pushchair and this is lovely quality, so snug and designed to keep your little ones toasty warm. Leo is a getting a little too big for the footmuff but we have been able to make use of it with the Raspberry in the chill of the winter days that have been looming over us. Leo was especially pleased with the hand pockets available for him to hide his hands away from the icy chill, and although we cannot do the zip all the way up, it did help keep Leo cozy while we have been exposed to the elements. The iCandy Raspberry Footmuff retails at £90.00 and comes separately to the initial price of the pushchair.

Assembling the Raspberry

Assembling the Raspberry is a simple task that doesn’t take very long at all, it was just a case of putting the seat unit onto the chassis and attaching the Sunflower Flavour Pack, consisting of the hood and strap covers, and then opening the pushchair out for the first time. Granted this is where I struggled, I spent much longer trying to put the Raspberry up than I did actually putting it together. You can read more on this in the next section of this review.

Putting the Raspberry Up & Down

It has been said that I am not one to read an instruction manual unless I really have to, and I admittedly spent the first half hour quite simply working out how to put the Raspberry up... Then when it became apparent that I didn’t have the foggiest idea about what I was doing, I decided to read the instructions and even log online to have a look at the instruction videos. Only to discover that I still couldn’t do it. Of course it turns out I had been going about it all the wrong way, and actually it’s very simple to do.

To put the Raspberry up you simply need to open it out, and to put the Raspberry back down again at the end of play, you just need to squeeze the button on the left hand side and push down on the handlebar. It will then collapse in.

The fold of the Raspberry is compact and folds in such a way that keeps the wheels away from the seat, so that when the wheels get muddy (which they will!) you don't have to worry about getting the seat dirty. This for me is a real bonus, as I am so precious about these things!

First Impression

With the Raspberry complete and standing before me I remembered exactly why I had loved it so much at that first introduction, it’s sleek contoured shape and it’s stand out colour way drew me in all over again, and to say I was a little bit excited about getting it on the road for the first time was a understatement.

The Raspberry is a very solid pushchair and I like this, it’s comforting knowing that Leo is secure in his transportation and I don’t have to worry about it tipping or falling backwards. I am one of those parents who do store their changing bags on the back of my pushchairs (Only if I am confident in the weight ratio between bag and pushchair) and it really would take a lot to make it fall.

Before I could do anything with my new set of wheels I had to adjust the straps in order to be able to sit Leo. This was an easy enough job and I had soon lengthened the straps to the limit and sat Leo in the helm of the seat. I noticed straight away that Leo was at the very top end of the seat unit and the straps were rather tight on him. This meant that I wouldn’t be able to put Leo in a thick winter coat over the colder months ahead of us while using the Raspberry. Aside from that though Leo looked comfortable in the seat and he absolutely loved the colour and told everyone it was ‘My new pushchair!’.

Our first trip out with the Raspberry was a walk into town, the weather had been trying to thwart our attempt with rain, but I was adamant that we were going to give this pushchair a road test imminently. It’s about a 15 minute walk into our local town, and one I always enjoy and having the Raspberry at arm’s length certainly made this experience more inviting.

The Push
This is always an important aspect when it comes to a pushchair, how does it handle? The Raspberry is lovely to push, and having tried it with both Leo and my nephew over the past couple of months I am over all happy with it. Granted there is a noticeable difference between pushing my just 2 year old nephew in it and pushing Leo, but I think that is to be expected. When pushing Leo solely In the Raspberry it does feel a bit heavy at times, this is most noticeable when walking along an uneven surface where I do have to direct it more to be able to keep going in the right directon.

The Wheels

Up until using the Raspberry I did use a pushchair with air filled tires and this has accustomed me to just being able to bump up curbs, with the Raspberry you do have to tilt it back and lift it up the curbs as it does seem to struggle with the bigger lips you find when mounting the pavement. I have found that it is quite a tricky pushchair to tilt in order to do this because of how the weight seems to be distributed, but as I said earlier the Raspberry is a solid pushchair and I am happy in the knowledge that it  isn’t particularly easy to tip!

The wheels themselves are completely different to anything I have used before, they are made out of a plastic type material and are ideal for nipping around the town centre or shopping precinct. The Raspberry has been designed as an urban pushchair for those living in the town or city, to aid their urban lives. The wheels are ideal for urban terrain and they even handled the grass in our local park rather well considering the overall size of them.

The Basket

The basket is a feature of the Raspberry that I quite simply just love, it’s spacious and accessible which makes it really useful and incredibly practical. It makes shopping a breeze as you can store so much in the basket space. I can fit my much adored Emilia Changing bag in the bottom along with a coat and shoes for Leo and even my camera tripod should I need to, and I can take absolutely everything for Leo without having to worry about taking a bag.  I think for people who rely very heavily on a pushchair in the absence of a car, this basket would be perfect for nipping to the shops and getting the essentials and being able to conveniently transport it all home.

My favourite feature for the basket has to be the hidden storage compartment built into the body of the pushchair. This is where the rain cover is stored so that you can always keep it with you and not take up valuable basket room (Well done iCandy!). It is also a great place to store your valuables such as your phone or wallet, items that you may not want to entrust solely to your basket. 

The Hood

Now the hood on the Raspberry could be comparable to marmite, you are either going to love it or hate it. Personally, I really like it. It's unlike anything else I have ever come across and I quite simply love the soft material that has been used. It's a very generous size and can completely cover Leo when it comes to saving his eyes from the low sunshine at this time of year. It doesn't handle the rain very well, but I always have the rain cover to hand just to be on the safe side.

Living with the Raspberry

We have been living with the Raspberry since mid-September and over the months it has certainly been well used. I do a lot of walking from my home into the local town centre, and with it being too far for Leo to walk, I always pop him in the Raspberry for the journey in. Usually when we arrive he will get out and walk around, but I like to know that we have the pushchair on hand for when he starts to get tired, or more usually…Mischievous!

I find that the Raspberry boasts many positive features that have made using it a real pleasure, but there are a few points that I have noticed over the course of our time using the Raspberry.

Seat Size – Having an older child who is still in and out of a pushchair, I noticed straight away that the Raspberry seat was not as big as we are used to. Leo fills the seat in both directions, but still sits comfortably inside. The biggest realization about the seat unit is the 5 point harness, before our first trip with the Raspberry I extended the harness to its maximum sizing, and still this is tight on Leo. This has meant that he cannot wear a winter coat while he is in it because it quite simply won’t do up. Obviously Leo is at the very top end of the scale at 3 and half, and he is big for his age. My nephew Josh sits beautifully in it and he is an average size 2 year old, so aside from the harness maybe benefiting from having a bit more leeway we are very pleased with the seat unit.

When we first started using the Raspberry it took me a while to adjust to how low down the seat unit was, but 3 months on it is just something we have become accustomed to. In those early days I did feel that Leo was really low down to the floor and that the handle felt quite long even on the shorter extension, but  Leo never minded, he was far too busy pointing out the world as we strolled past turning many head’s with the Raspberry’s flush design and striking colour way.

The brake system on the Raspberry is another aspect that I like, it’s a simple flick on, flick off using your foot, a very simple feature that is yet another luxury for a busy Mum. The only not so great aspect about the brake that I have found is that it is rather low to the ground, and when I take big steps I occasionally find myself catching it with my feet.

Overall…What did we think?
Over all I like how the Raspberry handles and will definitely be keeping it around for baby number 2 (One day!). I love how the Raspberry looks, and I like how it handles itself in the urban setting. Living in a small town it has been ideal to take out and about with us on our strolls into the centre and then of course down to the local park for a play on the swings and to feed the ducks. We haven’t used the Raspberry on public transport at present as I drive and the occasion hasn’t called for it, so I cannot comment on how the Raspberry would be in those instances, but for our needs, and the location we live in, the Raspberry has been ideal.

I don’t think it will be long now before Leo completely outgrows it (he is now 3 and a half) so the Raspberry can accommodate older children, but it has been a bit of a squeeze what with the five point harness. If you are interested in the Raspberry I always recommend finding a local place to go and test drive one for yourself, just to give you an idea of exactly what you need, and to get an idea of what it is like to use. Of course if you have any questions, I am happy to help where I can. The Raspberry will most certainly be used again when (not if) baby number 2 makes an appearance!

The iCandy Raspberry retails at £420.00 and is available to buy directly from iCandy.

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

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Outside the box

‘We have to turn our attention to Leo starting school’ said the speech therapist, I looked her straight in the eyes and said ‘That’s all that I have been thinking about. I just want to make sure that the support is in place should he need it.’ She glances at her sheet of paper with Leo’s notes and then says ‘I would like to recommend the pre-school forum, it’s not something you would personally need to attend, it’s basically where a number of health professional’s discuss a number of children who may benefit from extra support in school. How would you feel about that?’ I nodded and said ‘I am willing to do anything that will help Leo, so of course by all means’. ‘Great, well here is a leaflet explaining the forum in some more detail for you.’ Leo runs up and drops a toy car onto the table and the speech therapist observes him carefully. A number of questions follow… ‘Does Leo usually do as he’s told? Does he understand instruction? How does he play with other children? Is he learning at nursery? Is he well behaved?’

My answers seemed to fall on deaf ears, just as they always do in the company of our speech therapist when it comes to getting a word in edge ways... Leo has a perfect comprehension and understands everything that is asked of him. He does however have many excuses in the line-up if the instructions are something that he doesn’t want to do. I told them about how beautifully Leo had played with his friends on a recent weekend away, how they didn’t just play alongside one another, but actually played. I told them how he is always coming home and talking about what they have done at nursery that day, naming the children and that yes, he is learning! The speech therapist turned to the nursery leader, more interested in her response and everything I had said crashed and burned into a deep dark void. The session that she could have spent one to one with Leo and seen for herself exactly how much his speech had come along was lost to idle chit chat. With that she said ‘Thanks for coming in Laura’, and that drew, what I can only assume was our final speech therapy session to a close.

Leaving the meeting I began thinking about all the hoops that they want pre-school children jumping through before they are even 4 years old. I feel like it is one big circus act and until Leo walks that tight rope well-rehearsed enough to put on the show of his life, nothing is going to be good enough for any of them. With nurseries now being in line with Ofsted and the Early years Foundation, they have had to conform with their learning systems and uphold a certain standard, which of course means that the children have to get in line with what is being asked of them so that the standard’s don’t drop. The kids have to conform and make sure they are stood inside that box, because if they are out of it then you can expect to find yourself in meetings about your child’s development over the duration of your child’s nursery stint.

Leo is his own person, he loves to play with cars, trains and get outside in the fresh air. He doesn't like being taken away from his free play to sit in a circle with the other’s and sing nursery rhymes, but he does like singing along with chart music on the radio. Leo chats my ears off at home and asks ‘what are we doing today Mummy?’ but at school he seems to be shy and keeps himself to himself. Leo loves to cuddle up on the sofa at the end of the day with his blanket and his juice, and adores a bedtime story. He has the sweetest nature and biggest heart, he’s never any trouble at nursery and they all say how well behaved he is. If another child takes something off Leo he just stares at them in dis-belief, he doesn’t snatch it back, or lash out. He just looks hurt. So my beautiful Leo may be stood outside the box, and he may refuse to conform, but why should my 3 year old conform to anyone’s premeditated expectations? He has his entire life to be graded and tested, but right now he is a pre-schooler, and the only thing he should be conforming to is having a good time and learning through play.

It has been said by the nursery and the speech therapist, that it does seem to be that Leo just doesn’t want to conform. But there is a big difference between not wanting to, and not being able to, and if Leo wanted to he could. Just like his Mummy he is head strong and stubborn. If he doesn’t want to do something then there is an excuse at the ready and a pair of stubborn feet to dig into the ground. Apparently Leo and I are more alike than I ever did realise.

In my first year at school I didn’t conform either, I couldn’t read for that first year through either being let to fall through the cracks or laziness on my part. My parents actually moved my school through the worry that I wasn’t being taught everything I needed to know, and within weeks at being at the new school I was reading like I had always known how. I can actually remember learning to read, I remember the first time it just clicked in my head and the book I was reading ‘Winnie the Pooh and the blustery day’.

There is so much pressure on children to conform these days, but I couldn't be prouder of how far Leo has come along, in his own way at his very own pace. Learning cannot be forced, and it will happen in its own time, when they are ready. One day Leo will have to conform, just like I did. But I don’t feel that time is now,  he’s still so young, and while I know that he is absolutely fine, and coming along in his own time, I will make sure he has all the aids in case he needs them, but I will not let anyone make me worry about him, because I know him better than anyone and Leo is a bright, articulate little boy, who will do everything when he is good and ready.

That tight rope will just have to wait.

43 Months Old

The end of January saw your 43rd month swing around, it had been a busy month spent with family and friends, and you were full of smiles and laughter as always. I had been watching you and listening to you intently, and loved hearing you come out with new words and sentences from your now bursting vocabulary. You would tell me ‘it’s a disgusting one’ when I lent in to give you a big kiss, and would promptly wipe the kiss of your face in a matter of seconds knowing full well that I was going to plant another on you the moment that you did!

We had been spending lots of time together as a family, days out and about to do fun and exciting things were on the cards for most weekends of late. We took a trip to Birmingham and spent an afternoon strolling around the SEALIFE Centre, and for the very first time you stopped to enjoy the sights of the aquatic life swimming around, instead of hurtling around like a looney toon. It was really special getting to show you all of the different marine life that is housed at the SEALIFE Centre, you were over the moon when we discovered ‘Nemo’ and ‘Dory’ swimming around! The overall show was stolen by the penguins who you could have sat and watched for hours. You got down on the floor and watched them swimming under water, and then as the penguins each hopped out, one by one onto dry land, you jumped up and ran to get a closer look as they waddled along. One even came up close and personal to you and you couldn’t wipe that cheeky smile of yours away.

We even took a visit to Build A Bear, where you had such a super time. You picked Olaf out of the wide selection of bears that were on offer and opted to have a Strawberry scent input in his foot (exclaiming ‘He smells like sweets!’)  and Elsa’s ‘Let it go’ tune in the other. You helped the lady stuff Olaf by holding your foot down on the machine, and in a matter of minutes you had your very own Olaf bear.

We even took a trip to Devon to see family friends, you had been talking about going to the seaside for weeks and were so excited to be seeing Bella and Dora for the first time in months. You spent the 3 hour car ride listening to The Muppet’s Most Wanted Sound Track, playing your DS and having a sing song. You were in fact as good as gold, and we only had to make one service station stop along the way for you to stretch your legs, and pick up a bag of Mini Eggs! The journey was a first for Mummy, who took on her very first long distance drive! Yes! Even on the motorway!

We spent the weekend in Devon and took a few trips to the cold January Seaside, armed with our wellies and Winter coats! You seemed to agree that visiting the beach in Winter is actually one of the best times to go, what with having the entire beach seemingly to ourselves, the ability to jump in the surf in our wellies and just ultimately be big kids were some of the best highlights for us. It didn't matter that it was bitterly cold for long, and rain was falling on occasion, we had a great time, and you didn't want to come home!

Your 43rd month signified that it was only 5 months until your Birthday swung around again and you turned 4 years old. FOUR actual whole years old, somehow the idea still seems crazy because you can’t be that old, but times ticking by and soon you will be starting your first term at school. That little baby of mine is growing into a big strapping young boy,  at 43 months (3 and a half) it was hard to in vision you as the little baby that you once were. You were so independent and headstrong, such a grown up these days it was hard to remember that this wasn't always the case. Somewhere along the way you grew up, you learnt to walk and began to lose all of that baby chub I loved so much, you learnt to talk and do things for yourself but you still kept that cuddly side to you (for me anyway) and I relish that every day.