Guilt-free mum treats

I used to think nothing of heading into town in my lunch hour and spending a small fortune on stuff I didn’t really need. Two children and two stints of maternity leave later and I now have to seriously watch what I spend (and kind of wish I’d been a bit more careful in the past, the joys of youth!).

But I have found a few pain-free ways to still indulge in a treat or two. And boy do I need those little treats some days! So here’s how I’ve been rewarding myself lately without breaking the bank  – and some of these are totally free.

Guilt-free mum treats

Coffee – Free from Waitrose
I know it’s a ploy to get me through their doors and spending, but I’m strong, I can resist. Waitrose free coffee is decent, I can always use a caffeine boost and by-passing Costa and the likes easily saves me a good few quid each time I’m out. It’s better for my waistline too as it keeps me both on my feet and away from coffee shop cake. Which also saves yet more money. So far I’m winning!

Glossy mags – Free using library emagazine service

This has been an absolute revelation for a girl who used to be a total magazine addict. I used to buy several magazines every week, starting in my teens. Then by my late twenties there were the wedding mags, followed by the baby ones. Of course, these days having the time to sit down with a glossy is a luxury in itself but given that you can easily blow three or four quid on popping that extra reading material into the shopping trolley, it’s a habit I’ve seriously reined in.

I had weaned myself down to just a single money-saving subscription. But now I’ve discovered I can borrow digital versions via my local library website for free. Many of my old guilty pleasures are there – Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan (I feel so old looking at that now though. Still Good Housekeeping is also available!). And then there’s the celeb tittle tattle titles for a bit of escapism – Hello! OK. And grown-up home decor and food stuff. You get the picture. These can all be read FOR FREE on my laptop, tablet or smartphone (and on eBook readers if you have one). There is no limit on the number of titles I can access and no time limit – it’s amazing!

I’m not sure if all local libraries are now doing this – ours is West Sussex. You can also borrow certain books in this way now too.

Chocolate – Money-saving multi-packs

My desk drawer at work hides a multitude of sins, not least my stationery confectionery stash! Given that most days require a chocolate-coated sugar boost at some point, it dawned on me that buying single bars from our sandwich lady or the corner shop was costing a small fortune. A trip to Sainsbury’s (or your supermarket of choice!) and you can almost always pick up a multi-pack of something for about a quid and it will last you a week. Given that most single bars now cost at least 70-80p, that adds up to a nifty little saving. Does nothing for the waistline but you can’t have it all. And at least at work I’m not expected to share it, or find it smeared down the walls later.

A beauty boost – 3 for 2 deals and a DIY facial

Now I know this isn’t exactly a revelation, everyone knows about these deals. But I did make the most of one of these offers this week when I was badly flagging and feeling decidedly knackered and dowdy. Desperate to indulge in a bit of budget me-time, I bought myself tubes of Manuka Honey Radiance Face Mask and the accompanying Refining Scrub and, for a real treat, a bottle of Argan Oil Perfecting Facial Oil, all from the Good Things range. Buying on a deal meant I got one of the tubes free and was able to justify buying the oil – facial oil being something I’ve wanted to try for a while now. That said, even without the deal the products are reasonably priced for what you get – £4.99 for the scrub, £5.99 for the mask and £6.99 for the oil,

They all smell gorgeous – so good I keep taking the odd sniff when I’m not using them – and it felt fabulous taking the time to wallow with a face mask on for the first time in absolutely ages. I almost forgot it was there and ended up leaving it on a good half hour!

Afterwards, I felt refreshed and I’m sure my skin looked brighter and felt smoother. I really like the way the oil makes my skin feel – super soft and pampered but without being too greasy, which had been something that has put me off trying oil previously. It claims to help treat signs of aging, so fingers crossed it lives up to that promise! So far, so good.

I’d gone for the Good Things range on a whim after seeing an other mum recommend them in Mother and Baby magazine. She was a make-up artist so I assumed she must know her stuff! And I later realised the range itself had been developed by an award-winning beauty writer (Alice Hart-Davis) so, again, I’m happy to bow to this greater knowledge! The fact that the products are made with natural ingredients and contain no parabens, sodium laureth sulphate or sodium lauryl suplhate (SLS) and no mineral oils or other petrochemicals, also really appealed to me.

So, those are the cheap and cheerful treats that have been helping make my days that little bit brighter. I’m always on the look out for more so please share yours with me!

NB: Everything mentioned in this post has been bought or obtained by me, for me. There is no PR jiggery pokery going on here, just my own thoughts, in case anyone wondered.

A couple more posts for anyone needing a positivity boost…

Remember this day… a note to myself

The importance of a little bit of head space

Family Fever
The Giggles Family
Categories: Mind matters, Reviews | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Working mum woes…

Today, juggling motherhood with work has felt difficult. Balancing my priorities and responsibilities has felt almost impossible and I’m left with the feeling that I haven’t been able to perform either of my roles as well as I’d have liked. I’ve felt tired, guilty, frustrated and overwhelmed.

Poor Little Mister isn’t very well. He’s been fighting a temperature and is so miserable. My usually happy, busy little boy has been floored by a nasty virus. Really, I should have been at home with him.

Working Mum WoesThe problem is that working part-time, Monday to Wednesday, means that missing today would have made my short working week even shorter. With some big deadlines looming and the two recent Bank Holidays having already curtailed my hours, staying at home didn’t feel like an option.

Having only recently returned from maternity leave, I do feel under pressure to prove myself again. My work is important to me and, of course, I want others to value what I’m doing. After almost a year out of the office, I want to show that I can still have an impact and am good at what I do. I want to feel good at what I do again.

But my brain just wasn’t feeling it today. After a broken night responding to the little man’s distressed cries, my thoughts were sluggish. My creative juices just wouldn’t flow and any flourish that I might have had in the past felt totally diminished.

I’d arrived late, thanks in the main to an unhelpful fit of willfulness from my toddler. The persistent rain and traffic that seemed to be conspiring against me didn’t help matters either. And Little Mister was never far from my thoughts, even though he was safely at home being looked after perfectly well by Daddy who was in a better position than me to take the work hit.

I know we probably did the right thing today. That I at least was able to get something, rather than nothing, done and be present among my colleagues. But my inner critic keeps telling me that if I’m going to spend a day away from my sick child then I really should have made it count. I should have been firing on all cylinders, producing dazzling copy. I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed all round.

I know I’m being over dramatic and that I’ve heaped this pressure on myself – why do we do that? I know that my colleagues probably didn’t notice that I was struggling to be productive and that I still have time to ‘pull it out of the bag’ before next week. I know today could have been so much worse on so many levels. That I should, and do, feel grateful for all the good things.

As can be said about so many things in parenthood, I know this will pass. It will all be ok. Tomorrow is another day.

Has anyone else been struggling with the juggle this week? Do let me know any tips

Image: Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Super Busy Mum
Categories: Mind matters, Motherhood, Working mum | Tags: , | 12 Comments

Potette Plus 2-in-1 travel potty review

Potette Plus travel potty reviewI have to admit I approached potty training with a certain amount of dread. Actually, make that a huge amount of dread! All I could see ahead was weeks of mess and mountains of extra laundry. Plus our sanity-saving trips out of the house looked set to become an even bigger logistical nightmare than they already were with a feisty toddler and small baby in tow.

As you may have already read, potty training Little Miss, once we really put our minds to it, actually went surprisingly well. But using the potty or toilet at home is only one part of the process and, if you’re anything like us, any more than two days stuck inside the house is enough to drive everyone crazy. So by day three we had to get out.

Now I haven’t written many reviews on this site to date. I’m still waiting for all those lovely PR opportunities and perks that all honest parent bloggers dream of to come flooding my way – and yes, in case anyone was wondering, I am totally up for a few of these! But this is one review I felt compelled to write off my own steam. This particular product, the Potette Plus 2-in travel potty, has proved so useful I had share it here. It’s become an essential item that comes everywhere with us and I’m sure will be used for many years to come with it being handed on to Little Mister when the time comes (sob!) for him to also leave nappies behind.

All hail ‘the original folding potty’

I bought our Potette Plus back in September for about £14 – this seems to be the average price, although at the moment you can pick them up online for a bit cheaper. Prior to purchase I’d spent several hours pouring over the various travel potty options on Amazon – oh the glamour of parenthood! This one seemed popular and, while not the cheapest option, customer ratings were generally very good. And since it is both a travel potty and a toilet seat, hence the 2-in-1, you’re effectively getting two products for your money. Pennies well spent I’d say (sorry, I really couldn’t resist the pun).

It’s described as ‘the original folding potty’ and boasts a string of awards from various parenting publications. The original Potette was, apparently, invented by a grandad who couldn’t believe the amount of paraphernalia his daughter had to take with her when going out with her little one.

What a cool grandad? And yes, like his daughter, the sheer amount of stuff that leaves the house with us these days meant I was desperate to find the smallest option possible. I’ve seen parents cart a full-size potty in a carrier bag around the park but it’s not a look I wanted to go for.

Small but perfectly formed

Potette Plus foldedWhen it arrived, I was quite amazed by how compact and lightweight the Potette Plus looked and felt. It really does fold down very small, as you can see from the picture, but at the same time it doesn’t feel at all flimsy. The plastic is satisfyingly solid and there are rubberised grips on the legs to hold it steady when in use.

It is fantastically portable and so easy to discreetly stash under the buggy – we have a fairly compact Babyjogger City Mini – without hogging all the space for our other gubbins. I usually leave it under there and can actually fold the buggy with it still in situ, meaning it never gets forgotten.

So how does it work?

Potette Plus as pottyWhen the call panic of nature comes the legs unfold and click into place to make a surprisingly sturdy little potty which you use with an absorbent, disposable liner, AKA a really posh bin bag, to collect whatever your little darling has been brewing. The beauty is that once they’re done you can just tie the bag up and go! It’s just like getting rid of a dirty nappy. Everything is nicely clean and hygienically contained, no yucky used potty to sort out or stash somehow.

The liners cost around £10 for 30, which may be a bit pricey for some but I’m willing to pay for the convenience. And since we try to encourage Little Miss to use the toilet wherever possible we’re still only on our second pack of bags.They have an absorbent, fragranced pad that turns liquid to gel. It’s claimed the bags, which do feel thicker than your standard plastic bag, are leak-proof and I’ve yet to have proof to the contrary. Apparently they also make good travel sickness bags should you need them! And they are biodegradable so they are not as bad for the environment as you might think.

‘Get the frogs wet’

Perhaps the most important thing about the liners is the frog holding an umbrella print! We use this as encouragement… Little Miss loves to ‘get the frogs wet’! Overall she has never once complained about using the Potette Plus so I’m, assuming it’s fairly comfortable – she’s used it for plenty of alfresco wee wees! Thankfully the girl has had the good manners to have never needed to poo on it! But in general it’s been a really useful thing to have, especially for trips to the park and long car journeys.

One thing I would say is that in the early days, when the toddler is new to toilet training and you’re still getting to grips with how the Potette Plus works, it’s easiest to have the potty set up ready to go before it’s actually needed. That way you’re not having to fiddle around unfolding it and sorting the liner at the crucial moment.

2-in-1 greatness

Potette Plus as toilet seatThe big bonus with the Potette Plus is that it can also be used as a toddler toilet seat, which is how we’ve used it most. It’s made the transition to using ‘big’ loos out very easy. Little Miss feels secure and the sides make a handle of sorts giving her something to hold on to. It does also mean that if the loos look a bit dubious she barely has to touch anything other than her own seat, which feels more pleasant to me.

Minor niggles

The only negatives, and these are little niggles that aren’t enough to diminish my love for it, have been that the ‘travel carry bag’ that came with it lasted only a couple of months before splitting. It was, essentially, just a thick, plastic draw-stringed carrier bag. Ours is now fashionably stowed in an M&S carrier! Not a big deal but something more durable would have been better.

And I would say there is a knack to clicking the legs in and out that some people pick up quicker than others. Annoyingly, my husband got it straight away. I found it a bit of a fiddle to start with and some of the less favourable reviews I’ve read were because of this. I will admit there have been a few occasions when I’ve cursed the legs for not immediately complying as I’d like but we’re talking a few seconds of faff and the pros of the potty far outweigh any momentary strops I might have with it!

I do also wonder if bigger children might find it a tad on the small side. Little Miss is quite petite so this hasn’t been an issue for us but we’ll see with Little Mister as he will definitely be much taller and more sturdy when he reaches her age – he’s on the 91st percentile for weight and 98th for height.

But so far the Potette Plus 2-in-1 travel potty gets a firm thumbs up from us. It’s proved a very sound investment, if toddler toilet gadgets can be described as such! I would definitely recommend it. It certainly made getting out and about during those earliest nappy-free days feel far less stressful than it could have been.

For those who like to co-ordinate, it’s available in several different colour combos: light blue/dark blue (we have this one), pink/purple, green/blue, white/light blue.

You can find out more and watch a video of how it works on the Potette website.

For more on how potty training went in our house the following posts might be of interest:

A relieved mum’s top 10 potty training essentials…

A tale of two potty triumphs!

Fanfare for a poo!

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Family Fever
Categories: Reviews, Toddlerdom | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Now you are three…

I can’t believe more than a year has passed since I wrote the post ‘As you turn two’. What a year it has been! And you have grown and changed so much darling. Looking back at last year’s birthday pictures, you look so small and your hair has yet to grow into the beautiful head full of long auburn waves it is today. You’re still yet to have your first ever haircut though!

Just writing this fills me with so much emotion. Your baby days seem long behind us now, and they were truly magical, wonderful days. You taught us how to be parents – you still are, every day teaching us more, of course. But you, our first-born, taught us what it was like to feel the all-encompassing love of a parent for their child. I know there are so, so many more magical moments yet to come. And a whole load of fun. And giggles. And cuddles. Now you are three We are so proud of the little girl you are fast becoming. There have been so many major milestones this last year and you have taken them all in your stride – moving to your much-loved big-girl’s bed, potty training and, most importantly, becoming a big sister when your baby brother arrived ten months ago. You’ve also now moved up into the oldest (gulp!) room at nursery, which you’ve absolutely loved.

As I started writing this you were sleeping peacefully on the sofa across from me – a rarity these days since you have generally dropped your daytime naps now. But you hadn’t been very well. You were just getting over a 24-hour sickness bug that had been doing the rounds. Peppa Pig birthday cakeWe knew you were coming down with it when you turned down the last piece of your Peppa Pig birthday cake. You never usually turn down cake! And, as we’re on the subject, it was a pretty spectacular cake. I don’t like to brag but Mummy and Daddy did a surprisingly good job of recreating your favourite TV character in icing form!

So now you are three. As you say yourself, you are ‘getting bigger’. And you can be fiercely independent. “No, I do it all by myself!” is a common phrase these days. You like have a go, to figure things out and copy us grown ups. You can get very cross if we try to help.

Yet sometimes you’ll ask – and it makes my heart lurch – “Am I still little?”. You like to play at being a baby. It’s your way of being like your little brother. You can be so cute with him. You often join him on the floor, crawling next to him. And while the two of you do already squabble sometimes, usually when you want the same toy, you have always accepted him as part of our little family, from the day we arrived home from hospital with him. We know that you love and care for him and that is so lovely to see. Birthday girl Favourite things…

So, what does our now three-year-old love most right now?

You’ve always been a girly girl, from way back when you first started to make your own choices. At nursery you loved playing with the dolls before we ever even had any in our house. And since you could barely walk you’ve loved pushing a buggy along. I try not to gender stereotype and, of course, you like plenty of other things too but you have always seemed to be naturally drawn to the pink end of the spectrum.

You love wearing dresses. I live in jeans but you now point-blank refuse to wear them even though so often you want to be like mummy. If you could, you’d wear a party frock every day. Maybe I’m just a scruff, hey! (I like to think casual). Anyway, you certainly have very strong opinions when it comes to getting dressed in the morning.

And you still love pretty much all footwear. Whereas some kids find it a major drama, shoe shopping is always a treat as far as you’re concerned!

On the subject of pink, the pink fairytale castle wendy house you got for your second birthday is still a firm favourite. Currently taking up half the ever-decreasing floor space in our living room. Anything princessy or sparkly usually goes down well and, despite Daddy’s aversion to everything Disney, the songs from Frozen have managed to penetrate these walls.

New loves include your birthday bike, pink (of course!) with a dolly seat on the back for Waa-Waa AKA Big Dolly (although as anyone familiar with Baby Annabel will know, she’s really not that big!). Since Christmas 2013, Waa-Waa has been your trusty sidekick and sometimes naughty alter ego, the toy you sleep with every night. You also adore Woolly, the musical spider, another birthday present, who sings you to sleep every night at the moment (your little brother is also partial to a bit of Woolly when times are desperate and nothing else will calm him!).

Food-wise, pizza and pasta remain top of your ideal menu. Followed by chocolate cake! And we’ve recently introduced you to the treat of hot chocolate when we’re out. What’s not to like?

The salmon encroute served up at nursery is probably lurking at the bottom, if not thrown on the floor. You refused it as a baby and it continues to get the thumbs down now although your baby brother demolished the same meal this week. We have yet to find a food he won’t eat! In fact, we’ve yet to find anything he won’t try to eat. Grass, sand, carpet, books… anything goes with that one. You were always that bit more discerning. And mashed potato is also a no-no at the moment. It makes you gag.

You love being outside, be it at nursery, the park or in the back garden. Inside, you love making houses, getting involved with cooking – especially cake! And you still love books and will ask us to read them one after another.

You love being with family, especially your grandparents and young cousins. Family gatherings are so much fun these days. And at nursery you have your little group of girly friends who you always talk about and look forward to seeing and playing with.

You’ve changed so much this last year. As a friend at church who hadn’t seen you for a several months told us only yesterday, you are gorgeous. Full of questions and curiosity. A little bit cheeky. A bit of a joker. And we love you so much. Happy belated third birthday!

Super Busy Mum
Categories: Mummy memories, Toddlerdom | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

Little Mister at nine months

Little Mister at 9 monthsSo, the Little Man is now just over nine months old . We’ve enjoyed a whole three quarters of a year in his wonderful company. And – deep breath – today is his first full day at nursery… Mummy may be feeling just a little bit emotional right now!

This morning, for the first time, we dropped both children off. I cried in the car park afterwards! I now have two whole days to myself before returning to work three days a week from Monday. The house is so quiet! I’m sitting drinking a coffee while typing at the laptop during daylight hours for the first time in ages. And I’m trying to resist the urge to call nursery and check he ate his breakfast ok! Hopefully he’ll be settling down for his nap now so I’ll at least give them a chance to see how that goes first. Little Mister in cot

Right now time seems to speed up yet also slow down at whim. On the one hand, it feels like he’s been here forever. Last summer and those blurry newborn days seem so long ago. The weeks pass so quickly. But it also feels like so much has happened between then and now that it can’t possibly have gone that fast.

At nine months, Little Mister is such a cheeky little chap. He makes us laugh all the time. He is loud and full of energy. Always busy, a real little explorer and incredibly nosy. Even nosier than his sister – and she doesn’t miss a trick.

He chatters, squeals, shouts and growls. A lot. The growling seems to be a bit of a speciality. There’s excited growling, especially when music is playing or he’s found something good to play with, and then there’s his trying to get to sleep growling. The latter is somewhat less appealing when it’s performed in the early hours.

He can now commando crawl at great speed across a room. If he spots something he wants, especially something he shouldn’t really have, he will launch himself forward to grab it. He’s also pretty good at reaching up and it won’t be long before he’ll be pulling himself up properly on the furniture.

While his sister was generally more calm and cautious, slow and steady, he wants to have everything, to be everywhere. Everything is a source of wonder. He has no fear! Peepo But he still loves a Mummy cuddle. I adore the way he comes over to me and puts up his chubby little hands up to be picked up. The way his little face lights up when I come back in the room. Yesterday he had been fine during his induction session at nursery but as soon as I came back he pushed his lunch aside, which he had been happily eating, and cried for me to come and get him from his highchair. I was touched (if not feeling just a bit guilty) that he chose me over food!

He now has five teeth, the latest ones being his top two and just a few days ago we realised a third bottom one had popped through, which probably explains why he woke up suddenly and was very upset the night before. He is a great eater and with his new gnashers is increasingly keen to feed himself more finger food. He rarely turns anything down but especially seems to enjoy a home-cooked, mashed up roast dinner. And he gets very animated about his favourite dessert, yogurt.

Jungle gym play

He loves the bath, which he and his sister generally now share. He’s always eager to get in, kicking his legs in excitement as we carry him through. He loves all the toys, is perfectly happy for us to pour cups of water over his head and his speciality is splashing with Little Miss. I can’t wait to take him swimming soon.

He and Little Miss are getting a bit better at playing together these days. She will get down on the floor and crawl with him, which is very cute. And yesterday she was desperate for him to join her in her pink fairy castle wendy house! Hopefully as they get older they will become real little buddies.

So what else has he been up to since his last update at seven months? Well, the end of February saw a very special day, his Baptism. We all attend the local church we were married in and his sister was also Baptised there at a similar age so it was lovely to welcome him into the church family and share the occasion with our relatives and friends.

Little Mister

He took it all in his stride. No tears! Clearly he loves water. If he could have touched it, or better still got in and splashed he probably would have!

That said, we had wondered how happy he would be on the day as he had been very suspicious of the vicar when he came to visit us at home. I think it may have been a beard and/or black-framed glasses issue! Both our children have seemed to have a bit of a dislike for these, especially when in combo! Either way, he’d looked terrified and burst into tears on that home visit – how to make someone feel incredibly guilty! But when it came to the big day, that particular vicar was unwell (hopefully nothing to do with my offspring!) and the other vicar, who is probably a more familiar and definitely un-bearded face, stepped in.

We had a lovely little gathering afterwards and he received some beautiful gifts, which both he and his sister loved unwrapping. A special mention also to my talented mother-in-law, who once again made us a beautiful and very, very moreish Christening cake.

March saw another landmark in any baby’s life, his first go on a swing! Needless to say, our little daredevil loved it and the higher you push him the more likely he is to squeal with delight. His sister has also enjoyed having a go at pushing him. It makes trips to the park much more fun, although when we’re a trio the logistics are a starting to get a bit more complex.First swingThe end of March saw our first family mini-break, a trip to Peppa Pig World to mark his sister’s third birthday – more on those events to come in another post! He enjoyed the rides, of course, but was a bit less enamoured by the unfamiliar travel cot on our first night away.

Late March/early April is always going to be a busy but wonderful time for celebrations. There are now three family birthdays; Little Miss, mine two days later and also one of his cousins around the same time. Then it’s Easter. I couldn’t resist the blue bunny ears for his first Easter! His sister had pink and I somehow ended up in a spare pair of white ones my mum brought down. They look especially fetching worn with pyjamas!Easter bunny

All in all, it’s been a busy few weeks and life as we know it is all set to change yet again now I’m going back to work. My baby boy is getting bigger and more able all the time and I know that nursery will keep him fantastically entertained on the two days he’s there. I’m looking forward to summertime activities with our little clan – last year I was hugely pregnant for half of it. I want to grab every opportunity for fun and treasure every little moment as I know they pass fast. But for now, at least, he’s still my big-little baby!
Sleepy Little Mister

Categories: Baby days, Motherhood, Mummy memories | Leave a comment

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