Friday, 17 October 2014

The BEST buy for amazing eyebrows

Source: Cara Delevingne for Burberry
I've been thinking recently about what my essential, can't-live-without-it, make-up item would be and, if I had to pick just one great thing, what would I choose? (Yes, this is the stuff that fills my mind in-between changing nappies and doing the school run. Epic, I know.) And actually, though I use a handful of make-up products every day, I've figured that the thing I love, without fail, is my eyebrow pencil.
Every beauty editor/make-up artist/facialist worth their salt will tell you how your eyebrows 'frame your face' and it's true. It really is. Without them your eyes lose their definition and your face loses its structure and yet some of us still pluck away at them until they're barely-there - only to 'draw' them back in again, as if we're penning birds wings onto our faces, not brows. It's weird, right?
I use mine daily purely for filling-in any patchy bits but also, to define their shape, as I was never blessed with the kind of bushy brows that have gained Cara Delevingne her supermodel status - though I envy them hugely. And when I apply mine, I go for light, little 'strokes' rather than 'drawing' anything on or trying to attempt a shape that is completely different to my own. I also add a little bit of length right at the ends. The result is a slight more groomed looking me - that, a little lip colour and sometimes, if I'm lucky, freshly washed and dried hair (okay, that's pushing it a little) and I can face the school run without worry.
Brilliant brow stuff
Please don't listen to people who tell you that you need to spend upwards of £10 to get a good one. A make-up artist once told me how a certain renowned brow pencil was a brilliant match for pretty much anyone and when I paid up my £17 or so and took it home, I was horrified at how scratchy and well, 'ginger' the colour of it was. Get one that matches your brow colour or is maybe one shade darker for sure but don't opt for black when your hair is light blonde or vice versa. L'Oreal Paris Brow Artiste Eyebrow Pencil, £5.49 is the best I have ever used and just so easy. The pencil is non-scratchy, there's a brush attached for tidying and there's also a wax nib at the other end to help keep stray strands in their place. It comes in three shades and is ridiculously affordable. Job done.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Review: Hydraluron Moisture Jelly

I don't think you're ready for this jelly...
It's been a long time. It seems as if the last few weeks have, quite literally, flown by and I really haven't had a moment to sit and think about my blog. Sorry. In my defense, things really have been super busy. My little boy, Max, started school last week and with it has come uniforms (and ironing!), packed lunches, gym kits, reading books and all that stuff that you have to somehow squeeze in each night. Really, this seemed ages off not so long ago and then, suddenly, it's all happening and your baby is off to school. Sob. And you've lost your iron. And you get a ton of work to do. H.E.C.T.I.C.
 So I'm only just getting round to trying some new products I've been sent recently and I've come across a few gems I thought I'd share with you. For now, Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Jelly, £24.99, is rocking my insane world and sorting out my skin too, which is a great thing. Don't get me wrong, my skin isn't bad (and rarely is) but of late, it's been looking a tad dull and a few dry patches have consistently been cropping up that my usual moisturiser just hasn't been able to fix. So I've been looking for something new.
Hydraluron is an amalgamation of five different moisturising ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, hydrolite 5 and fucogel, which forms a protective film over your skin to prevent moisture loss. So it really is literally packed with moisture. However, the real sell for me comes from its unique texture. Let's talk about the jelly. Okay, so I was dubious at first that this would even hydrate my skin - when you think of moisturiser, it's creams, lotions and balms that usually come to mind. Yet this really does work. I used a teeny amount (you need about the size of a pea) and it softened all my dry spots and left my skin feeling super soft. And as an added bonus, the refreshing texture of the jelly feels amazing when you're up so early you can barely see. So it's a win-win.

(You can buy Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Jelly here. )




Tuesday, 26 August 2014

My new baby clothes crush

Magnificent stuff
You may remember in this money saving post I wrote here that I swore by buying essentials like baby vests and bodysuits from H&M - purely because your baby is bound to ruin/grow out of/poo all over them in a matter of weeks. However, I also said that it's also a great idea because you can then set some money aside for the truly gorgeous stuff that you really can't resist couldn't possibly do without. And this is where Magnificent Stanley comes in.
I came across Magnificent Stanley whilst nosing through a friend's Instagram feed and it was genuinely love at first sight. The simple white and navy t-shirts, body suits and bibs are all gorgeous enough (and amazing quality) but the real hook here is that they're all adorned with beautiful Liberty print fabrics that you can have personalised to suit your little one. And they're all handmade with care and obvious affection by founder and creator Becky Belfield. How nice is that?!
Elsie in her 'E' tee
I went for a navy cotton tee with an 'E' in the 'Thorpe' Liberty print for Elsie and I have to say, I loved it as soon as it arrived, (beautifully wrapped in tissue paper and red and white striped string). It's super soft and the little turn-up details on the sleeves couldn't be cuter but of course, it's the Liberty print personalised letter that makes it really stand out. It's just so pretty. I'm already thinking of getting another, maybe in the 'Geometric' or 'Pears' print for Max and I've bought another for my friend's baby (they make the best gifts). Take a look and I promise you'll love.

(Prices start at £12 for a personalised bodysuit. Visit www.magnificentstanley.com for more details).

Monday, 18 August 2014

Review: Aliens Love Underpants: Live

We love pants!
It's been a super hectic last few weeks both with work and at home which means I haven't had a lot of time to go about testing the latest beauty launches or even thinking about my next blog post. Sorry about that. However, I did go and see a brilliant theatre production with Max, my four-year-old, called Aliens Love Underpants (stay with me) that I thought I'd tell you about. Before I had my one-year-old, Elsie, I made a little pact with myself that, when we were settled, I would dedicate a whole day every couple of months or so to spend with Max. Just the two of us. It means he gets me all day long, with no interruptions and to be honest it works both ways; I get to have these special moments with him that I'll cherish as he grows. 

So, back to the underpants. Those in-the-know i.e parents everywhere, will be fully aware that this is a rather brilliant book by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort all about, well, aliens that come down from outer space to steal your underpants. (It all makes sense when you read the book) It's a genuinely funny little story, not too long or too short and the illustrations are just lovely, so I jumped at the chance to check out how they'd do it at the theatre. And really, it was great. It veers a little from the book in that the story begins with Timmy (the little boy in the book) at school and dreaming of going into space. And the aliens themselves are created with hand held, life-sized puppets which the actors hold and move about (this bit I was really dubious about but the puppets are so well done, it really works). It's classic children's theatre; there are a few songs thrown in, lots of interactive sections where the kids can get involved and a whole lot of silliness. And we loved it. I know Max did because he was singing 'Aliens Love Underpants' all the way home.
(Tickets for Aliens Love Underpants are available here and cost from £10).

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Beauty Editors with Babies: Kate Jones

Kate and Rosie
It might have taken a few lost emails, astray Twitter messages and a bit of pestering (all on my part - sorry Kate!) but I'm so happy to have finally got the lovely beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, Kate Jones (nee Turner), to fill this next 'Beauty Editors with Babies' post. I've known Kate for many years and every time our paths cross, whether it be at a beauty launch or just outside the office, we've always had so much to talk about. At first, I think it was about our shared love of soft rock (!), then, when we both had babies; nurseries, sleep (or lack of it), the work-life balance (and when will we ever have coffee) became our main talking point. As the beauty editor at what is, let's face it, a hugely successful brand such as Cosmo, Kate has got a lot on her plate. She's also a mum to a gorgeous three-year-old girl, Rosie. And she's just got married. So you can see why I was so keen to get her to do this post; she has so much going on, her beauty buys must be pretty damn good to get anywhere near her make-up bag. So here they are. And Kate, I promise, we will have that coffee. Soon.


1. Clarins Tonic Body Treatment Oil, £39 (clarins.co.uk)
'Countless beauty editor friends recommended this oil to me when I got pregnant, and now I do the same! It's packed with plant extracts that help keep your skin firm and flexible as your bump grows. I used this religiously twice a day and didn't get a single stretch mark (and I was massive) . I also adore the spa-like scent - it felt like a mini treatment.' 


2. Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream, £23 (origins.co.uk)
'Ever since I had a baby I've been obsessed with my sleep-deprived eyes! I've become a committed-tester of line-busting magic potions, and this is my current favourite. It's light but powerful and has a really flattering brightening tint that seems to lift your whole face. Love it.' 


3. Viviscal, £49.95 for 60 tablets (boots.com)
'I absolutely swear by these hair supplements. They're packed with biotin and zinc to create fuller, thicker hair and they seriously transformed my limp, post-baby locks in about six months. It's now the longest and thickest it's ever been.
They're expensive but in my opinion, nothing works quite so well.'

4. BareMinerals Original SPF15 Foundation, £25 (bareminerals.co.uk)
'An elaborate makeup routine is pretty far down my list of priorities these days! This mineral powder foundation is a game-changer. Just swirl it on with a kabuki brush and you get a flawless, retouched skin effect in seconds. And because it's good for your skin, it doesn't even matter too much if you're too knackered to take it off at night. Bonus.' 


5. This Works Baby Sleep Pillow Spray, £16 (thisworks.com)
'This is my standard gift for new mums. It's 100% natural and its lavender, camomile and vetiver blend has been proven to help babies get to sleep more quickly and to sleep more deeply. It smells divine and, yes, IT WORKS. It's part of our bedtime routine, every night (I have the one for grown-ups too!).'

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Ten Time Saving Beauty Buys

It occurred to me recently that everything I use in my beauty routine, whether it's for the face, body or hair has some sort of time saving element to it. I guess that, since becoming a mum, I've subconsciously gone for faster working products because like everything in my life right now, (think eating, cleaning, traveling, working) I am constantly in a hurry.  Even taking a shower needs to be done with a certain degree of speed. And to be honest, I love all of these products. I love that taking off my nail polish now takes five minutes, when it used to take fifteen and I love that I've found a lip colour that's so fool-proof, I can put it on without even looking in a mirror. Seriously, these products are genius. And whether you're a mum or not, I think you'll love them too.

1. Bioderma Sensibio H20, £10 (www.lloydspharmacy.com)
A cleansing water and make-up remover in one. This takes off everything incredibly fast (waterproof stuff too) and soothes any irritation and redness. Brilliant.

2. Clinique Chubby Stick Baby Tint Moisturising Lip Colour Balm, £17 (www.clinique.co.uk)
I can't stress how amazing these are. Think Crayola-thick sticks that go on like a dream, leave your lips with a subtle slick of colour and feeling lovely and soft too.

3. Tangle Teezer, £10.60 (www.tangleteezer.com)
I've raved about this so much but my fine hair genuinely couldn't be without it. I can brush my hair straight after showering with this and it will be completely tangle and tear-free.

4. Bourjois Magic Nail Polish Remover Hands & Feet, £5.99 (www.feelunique.com)
Happy, happy dance. I am so overjoyed that they now do this for hands and feet. Buy this and trust me, you will never buy another nail polish remover again. It's that good.
 
5. Lancome Flash Bronzer Self-Tanning Mousse, £24 (www.boots.com
As a beauty editor, I have tried so many self-tans and though this isn't a newbie, it's still one of my favourites. It blends easily, works immediately and gives the most natural looking colour.

6. Garnier BB Cream Original, £6.66 (www.boots.com)
I think this was the first BB cream to hit the UK and though I've tried loads of others I still think this is the best. It's so easy to wear and the best thing for transforming tired looking skin.

7. Nivea In-Shower Body Moisturiser, £2.37 (www.boots.com)
I'm rubbish at applying body lotions post-shower so this feels like it was made for me. Just shower as normal, apply onto wet skin and dry off. No need for moisturising afterwards. Whoop!

8. Philip Kingsley One More Day Dry Shampoo, £13.50 (www.feelunique.com)
I love dry shampoos but this one really does stand out. It's packed with soothing ingredients so won't irritate the scalp and it's brilliant at absorbing oil when you haven't had time to shampoo.

9. Clinique High Impact Extreme Volume Mascara, £18 (www.clinique.co.uk)
Clinique call this a 'does-it-all' mascara and it's easy to see why. It lengthens, adds stacks of volume, curls a little and gives the glossiest black finish. Love.

10. Percy & Reed Lovingly Light Foaming Treatment Mask, £20 (www.percyandreed.com)
This is great. Most hair masks invariably leave my fine hair feeling weighed down but I use this just once a week (it takes two minutes) and it's healthier, softer and shinier looking immediately.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Better You MultiVit Oral Spray

Lately, I seem to have been dealing with one cold/infection/bug after another and so I've made a little pact with myself to try and get a bit more healthy. In general my diet is pretty good I think but like most people, I'm guilty of eating way too much sugar and caffeine to up my energy levels morning, mid-afternoon and, erm, evening. And it can't be good for me. Anyway. The first thing I really wanted to do was to find some good multi-vitamins and to actually start taking them. Regularly. Not just every few days when I'm feeling really knackered and think it might do me some good. Vitamins don't come cheap and really, what's the point if I'm not going to take them every day.
This is why I love BetterYou MultiVit Oral Spray, £9.95. It's brilliantly good because it pretty much does the job for you. No need to spend precious minutes grabbing a glass of water and prizing open one of those child-proof boxes of pills. Nope. You literally spray this directly under your tongue, four times a day and you're done. Aside from ease, this is also a good thing because the spray delivers the 14 active ingredients directly into the blood vessels under the tongue, which apparently enhances their absorption. And if you're wondering about the flavour? It's described as 'delicious' sour grape, which, in all honesty, isn't quite how I'd describe it but no matter; this ticks so many of my boxes I can stand a little sourness. 
You can buy BetterYou MultiVit Oral Spray here at Victoria Health.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The best book about being a mum

When I had my first child, Max, I was genuinely surprised at how hard I found the whole experience. I really couldn't fathom how I was meant to look after a baby, whilst getting the weekly shop sorted, keeping the flat tidy, ensuring we all had clean (and dry) clothes and getting myself showered and dressed. And all on about five hours of sleep. What made it even more difficult was that everyone around me seemed to be coping just fine with their new arrivals. At the weekly catch-ups with my NCT group, I'd flap about, trying to get through my coffee without revealing a boob or dropping it on the floor (the coffee, not the boob) whilst they ordered a second cappuccino and lunch and a glass of wine. One girl said she had expressed so much, she had enough to fill the top compartment of her freezer. At times, I felt like I was a complete failure.

And then I read this book. 'What Mothers Do' is unlike any other parenting book you might read. It doesn't tell you what to do, how you should be feeling or what you're probably doing wrong. Instead, it's just a completely reassuring, honest and truthful account of what you and thousands of other real mums are feeling and doing - even when it looks like you're doing not very much at all. The author, psychotherapist Naomi Stadlen, bases the book on a weekly discussion group she held with mothers for over twelve years and it's full of real conversations with some of them, dotted within chapters such as 'Nothing prepares you,' 'The power of comfort' and 'I get nothing done all day.' It's not at all negative; in fact, I'd say it's such a positive, rewarding read purely because it makes you feel like you're not alone and that, yes, you can do it. And you are. Brilliantly. And that woman with the beautifully braided hair, pushing a pram with one hand and firmly holding her flat white in the other? She's finding it tough too. She's just good at braiding hair.

(You can buy What Mothers Do here http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Mothers-Do-especially-nothing/dp/0749926201).

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Astoundingly easy oatcakes

How great are oatcakes?! I mean, kids love them, adults love them, dogs love them (well, I'm not sure about that one but they probably do). And they are just so healthy. Honestly, I love that, when Max, my four-year-old is peckish, I can whip out a little packet of these without feeling a smidgen of guilt and he genuinely loves them. I don't have to do any bribing at all to get him to eat them. And we all know oats are slow release carbs so won't give him any freakish highs come snack time and make him jump all over the sofa.
So as I was doing my last online shop and ordering another two or three boxes of the stuff, I thought about maybe trying to make some instead ( I KNOW, right?) and I mixed and mashed a few recipes together and I did it! And you know what? They're pretty great. So I thought I would share this with all you mums out there who always have an opened packet of oatcakes crumpled up at the bottom of your changing bag. Have a look, I bet you do. These are easy, won't take more than 15 minutes to get together and honestly, they taste really good. Even my husband thought so. These are cheese ones but obviously, you could leave the cheese out or, I'm even thinking of adding a few dark chocolate chips next time for super healthy sweet treats. Oh Gwyneth would be proud.

Ingredients
225g medium oatmeal
1 tbsp plain flour
80g cheddar cheese, finely grated
100ml warm water
1 tbsp olive oil

Method
1. Preheat your oven to 200c.
2. Mix your oats and flour together and stir in the cheese really well - you don't want any clumpy bits.
3. Drizzle over the oil and add the water then mix it all together until you get a sticky dough.
4. Sprinkle some plain flour onto a table and roll out your dough so it's about 5mm thick.
5. Cut out your shapes with a round pastry cutter and place on a greased baking tray.
6. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until lightly golden.
7. Leave to cool, enjoy and store any left overs in an airtight container.

Yum!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Clinique Chubby Stick Cheek Colour Balm

I have a confession to make. Though I'm a beauty editor and sometimes, quite literally, haven't been able to see my desk due to the amount of new lipsticks, mascaras and foundations that have found themselves there, I don't actually wear much of it. It's not that I don't wear any at all. More that, like most beauty editors I know, you are sent just so much stuff, that it's almost overwhelming. And also, after years of industry experience, you come to realise that the best look for most of us is the simplest one (i.e dewy skin, rosebud lips, long lashes and good eyebrows) and doesn't require 20 different products to get it.
Which brings me to Clinique Chubby Stick Cheek Colour Balm. I really don't know what is going on at Clinique but over the last five years or so they have been knocking it out of the park in a big way when it comes to new launches. Of course, their original Chubby Stick Moisturising Lip colour Balm was just brilliant (and has scooped up something like a billion beauty awards). But then there was the Chubby Shadow Tint for Eyes (genius) and then, Moisture Surge CC Cream (again, amazing) and their more recently launched (and gorgeous) Soft Matte Lipsticks. And now, they've gone and done it again with their Chubby Stick Cheek Colour Balm.
What I love about CSCCB is what I love about all of these products. It is so easy. No brushes, no fiddly applicators and no danger of over doing it. In short, totally foolproof. You simply twist up the colour stick, dab on to your cheeks and smudge in with your fingers and the heat from your skin will help it blend in effortlessly - and leave you with the aforementioned 'dewy' glow you're after. And, once it's settled, it's non-drying, humidity-resistant and long lasting too, so won't have disappeared by the time you've packed up your horse cart buggy for that picnic in the park. Buy one. You won't regret it.

Clinique Chubby Stick Cheek Colour Balm, £19, is available in four shades. Buy it exclusively at www.clinique.co.uk from 18th July or nationwide from 1st August.

Monday, 16 June 2014

The perfect Cornish retreat

The Emerald's stunning gardens
I have meant to write a little post about the amazing place we stayed in to celebrate my brother-in-law's 40th birthday recently. Not purely just to brag but because I genuinely think it's a real find and somewhere that anyone would love - whether you've got kiddies or not. (Though it is brilliant for kids). After somewhere to relax? Love a landscaped garden? Swimming pool a must? Fancy a tennis court five minutes from your door? And the kind of decor you'd get in a boutique hotel? This place ticks all of those boxes. And then some.
The Emerald is a glorious retreat tucked away in the Cornish countryside which houses five properties, all completely different, all completely beautiful, dotted around five acres of gardens. You can rent each one out separately but there were 22 of us (including 10 children), so we had the whole place to ourselves (whoop!) and each family or couple had their own unique private space. We stayed in The Gatehouse, which sleeps four to six and is a little bit more rustic than the others (think very fancy farmhouse) but still comes with the same mod cons - smart televisions, coffee machines, underfloor heating. If you're after something a bit bigger, there's also Drift and Coast, which each sleep six and come complete with glass fronted balconies, outdoor hot tubs and even little 'snugs' where the kids loved sneaking off to watch television. And for two, Fern or Cedar come with private decked terraces and hot tubs. Cosy.
Drift
Aside from the amazing accommodation, what The Emerald really has going for it is that there is so much to do. It's the best place for kids. We all know the great British summer can be, well, not so great but you'd seriously have no qualms about booking this place because there's the indoor swimming pool (open all hours and mood lit if you fancy a bit of night swimming), the gym and smart TV's or, when it brightens up a bit, there's the tennis courts, table tennis and play area. And the kids loved the gardens; the winding pathways, huge trees and little lake provided the best hideouts for playing (and an Easter egg hunt). If you do ever want to leave, of course there's also the Cornish coast to explore. We loved taking a trip on the King Harry Ferry in Trelissick, lunch at The Pandora Inn in the stunning surroundings of Restronguet Creek and dinner at Rick Stein's in Falmouth. I'd never really explored Cornwall before but in all honesty, I think all of us were a little bit amazed at just how beautiful it is.
Balcony view
So really, this is just my very own shout out to The Emerald to say just how great it was and how everyone should just go. The warm and ever-obliging owners, Tim and Brigitte have created an amazing place, that's not only beautiful but zero carbon too - it's the UK's first ever zero carbon holiday accommodation - and I can't imagine the amount of work that must have gone into it but there's a lot of love in it too. And it really shows. My advice? Book it soon because this place is going to be busy.

(Find out more about The Emerald here www.emeraldcornwall.co.uk).

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Swimwear Part 2: How to wear it well

Boden's gorgeous Sorrento Swimsuit, £59
As a follow-up to this week's post on some of my favourite swimsuits about at the moment, I thought it might be worth getting together a few little tips on wearing them well - for those of you who feel it's helpful! But fear not, I'm not professing my own tips and tricks (of which I have none). Nope, instead, I've asked a proper stylist and friend of mine, Anna Woodham to divulge some of her secrets. Anna has worked with the likes of Holly Willoughby, Alesha Dixon and The Saturdays (check out www.annawoodham.com) so knows a thing or too about what works and what doesn't. Here's what she had to say... oh and isn't this swimsuit from Boden absolutely amazing?! It comes in loads of colours and even has hidden control panels and detachable straps. Ticks every box, right?


1. Look for ruched or frill details if you want to flatter your tummy and hide any post-baby weight.

2. Styles with control panels, illusion lines or dark panels down the sides will take inches off!

3. Frill straps or shoulder details will take any unwanted attention from your tummy, drawing eyes up.

4. Don't be afraid of colour; if you have a tan, corals and even reds can look amazing.

5. Moulded cups give great shape if you feel you're lacking in that department so don't overlook them.

6. If you're still stuck, you can't go wrong with a classic, black swimsuit. It works on everyone.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Five Favourite Swimsuits

Giselle for Paris Vogue. It's not fair.
This week I'm diverging a little to bring you a fashion-esque post on swimwear. Earlier this month, I spent a week in Cornwall and though I felt utterly mortified at the prospect of being in any sort of swimwear so early on in Spring (err, hello pale, stubbly legs and wobbly tummy), I reluctantly dug out my old swimsuit. This would be okay if we were talking about a nifty little number that cleverly disguises a bit of a mum tum (or as my mum puts it, 'a belly like a squashed tomato'). It would also be okay if it had, I don't know, a lovely strap detail or pretty print. But no. It's a black Speedo number, with pastel pink edging and high V-neck. Awful. And actually, though it disguised my post-baby tum, it made me feel worse - in hindsight, I should have just picked out a prettier bikini, slapped on a bit of fake tan and got on with it.

Anyhooow, the moral of the story is; next time you get invited on a lovely holiday and there's a small chance you'll be in swimwear and you're a little worried about a wobbly tummy, buy a new and lovely flattering swimsuit before you go. I grant you, it's not that easy to come across a goodie (and please do ignore all those magazines with charts that tell you to choose one according to what 'fruit' shaped boobs you have - I kid you not, I spotted one only this week). Simply choose one that won't ride up your backside when you're lifting your toddler into the pool or fall down when he's using you as a float. And that's all you need really. Job done.

(left to right) Topshop Spyrograph Print Swimsuit, £36, H&M One Shoulder Swimsuit, £14.99, River Island Geometric Floral Swimsuit, £25, Whistles Cruz Blotted Floral Swimsuit, £75, French Connection Nancy Plaid Swimsuit, £42.





Monday, 19 May 2014

Beauty Editor's with Babies: Lisa Durant

Lisa and Luca, aged 3
I've finally got together another 'Beauty Editor's with Babies' post and I'm so excited about this one. Mostly it's because it features my very lovely and gorgeous friend, freelance beauty editor Lisa Durant. I worked with Lisa way back when she was the Beauty Director at InStyle and quite honestly, I've never worked with a nicer (for want of a better word) person or even team. They were all brilliant. She also brings me coffee every time we meet up for play dates with our boys. Even if it means parking up, getting a car seat out and back in again. Even in the rain. You see?! And, of course, I'm also excited because she divulges some amazing must-have products and know-how. And as someone who has made it through a lot of InStyle '100 Best Beauty Buys Awards,' and a mummy to a gorgeous little boy, Luca, (see picture, how cute?!) she knows what works and what doesn't. Here's what she really rates.

1. Clarisonic Sonic Facial Cleansing, from £99 (clarisonic.co.uk)
'Before having my son, Luca, I didn’t really see the point of this cleansing brush. Of course I didn’t, I was child-free with perfect skin! Now I’m devastated if it runs out of charge mid-cleanse. One extra minute cleansing with this brush equals plumper, glowing, super-clean skin that looks marginally less haggard.'

Charlotte Tilbury Colour Chameleon
2. Charlotte Tilbury Colour Chameleon, £19 (charlottetilbury.com)
'However short on time I am in the mornings, I can’t expose my naked face to the world. And mascara alone doesn’t cut it for me, so these shadow pencils have transformed my morning routine. It takes a second to smudge across my lash line (or get more involved for a rare night out – woo!), blend with my finger, add mascara and I’m done.' 

3. Dr Hauschka Neem Hair Oil, £22.95 (feelunique.com)
'I could have cried when my hair fell out after pregnancy. My hairline not only crept closer towards my crown, but the ends turned into a knotty, dry mess. This intense oil saved my hair from the chop. Massage it in before bed (don’t forget to really work it into your scalp too), wash out the next morning and it leaves hair softer and shinier than any heavy-duty hair mask I have tried.' 

4. La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Hand Cream, £5.50 (escentual.com)
'Changing nappies, potty training and being a germ-fighting mum means my hands have taken a battering and this is the only product that makes a difference. It creates an invisible film over skin, healing cracks and irritation. It’s hardcore stuff, but feels like you have nothing on.'

5. Weleda Calendolon Ointment, £6.75 (weleda.co.uk)
'I literally can’t live without several tubes of this in my life. It’s the only thing I’ve found that instantly clears up eczema flare-ups, soothes heat rash, burns, scrapes and insect bites. Luca calls it ‘Mummy’s magic cream’ and it literally is just that.'

Monday, 5 May 2014

No more plastic.

After sorting out and bagging up yet another load of plastic toys that my four-year-old never plays with and carting them to the local charity shop, I've made a decision to try and not buy so much, well, crap. To be honest, it's also because I am just so over picking-up/sorting/tidying every teeny piece of plastic into the right set or trying to find a bare corner for another huge contraption that won't tuck neatly into the children's IKEA storage boxes we've just bought. I realise this just makes me sound like a weird, controlling mum but actually, when I think about it, it's the nicer, wooden stuff that Max tends to go back to again and again. His Batcave/Thomas Trackmaster/Spiderman bike have rarely been picked up since he got them at Christmas.

So there you go. I'm having a plastics amnesty and anything that's barely been touched in the last year is going to (eventually) go. Of course I know Max's current obsession with anything superhero-related doesn't really fit my new aesthetic ideal - no-one does a beautifully painted, wooden Spiderman figure for instance. And things like Lego are always going to have a place in our home - and we all love a bit of Lego. However, I'm going to think more about what we do buy him; from the big stuff to those rubbish plastic toys stuck on the front of magazines which he loves getting - but invariably end up in the bin when they break hours later. And I already have a gorgeous Wendy House in my sights for Elsie.

So here's a few of my favourite wooden toys that are genuinely loved by us all in the Rudolf household. They tick all the right boxes in that, they're beautiful, well-made and most importantly, actually played with over and over again.

1. Chad Valley Wooden Alphabet Trolley, £11.99 (argos.co.uk)

Max was given one similar to this as a baby and we still have it for when Elsie starts walking. It looks great and he loved stacking and playing with the blocks as well as practising his first steps.








2. Pintoy Wooden Trike, £45.77 (amazon.co.uk)

We 'borrowed' this bike from our neighbour after her little boy moved onto the balance bike and we could hardly get Max off it. In fact, he sometimes has a little ride around the garden on it even now. It's just lovely.





3. Tidlo Animal Sorting Cube, £14.99 (argos.co.uk)

This is probably one of the sweetest little sorting blocks I've ever seen - and as well as sorting shapes, there are animal pictures to pair up too. We have one ready for when Elsie moves on from playing with spoons and plates.




4. Brio Rail & Road Loading Set, £54.95 (woodentoystore.co.uk) 

Ah, how I love Brio; Max and his daddy have spent hours (days even) putting together their little wooden rails, teeny trucks and bridges and have built up quite a collection. This stuff never gets old and lasts and lasts. Love.



5. Plan Toys 50 Wooden Building Blocks, £17.99 (adventuretoys.co.uk)

I've been meaning to get a set of these for aaaggges but in the meantime, we've been building towers with our Jenga blocks. You can get loads of versions of these and Max loves playing with them at nursery - I think they're just one of those toys that kids never tire of.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sophie the Giraffe Baby

Sophie the Giraffe (or Sophie La Girafe) is one of those things, like the Bugaboo or the BabyBjorn that you just feel like you have to own when you have a baby. It's like some sort of unspoken law. And the funny thing is, before I even had my first child, Max, I remember spotting these little giraffes propped up in pushchairs and thinking they were just a cute toy babies went gaga for.  I had no idea of Sophie's brilliant ability to soothe sore gums, (by way of her little legs, ears and horns) and her instant calming effect - Sophie's contrasting spots mean she's recognisable to even teeny babies. Really, she was Max's first proper toy. And when I lost Sophie no1. in Victoria Park and literally re-traced our steps to find her (I didn't), I was genuinely a bit sad. Silly, I know, but that's how lovely the little giraffe is.

This probably explains why I am SO excited about Sophie La Girafe Baby - a collection of 7 baby bath and body care products. To be honest, I only heard about the range through a friend so maybe I'm a little late to the party or because it's not sold via the usual suspects, it's yet to really be discovered but I have to say, I love, love, love it. So a little about the range. It includes essentials like Baby Oil, Hair & Body Wash, Protection Cream and Body Lotion which all contain lovely, gentle things like lavender extract, oats and shea butter. They're all ECOCERT certified (meaning over 95% of the ingredients are of natural origin) and they smell amazing - a little like that old fashioned baby powder. It also all looks ridiculously pretty.

Prices start at £10.99 so it's by no means cheap but when you equate that to a couple of Starbucks coffees, it doesn't seem so bad, right? And really, doesn't every babies skin deserve something special.

You can buy Sophie La Girafe here at www.sophielagirafe.co.uk. While you're there, check out the whole Sophie range too.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Cowshed at Shoreditch House

Happy Monday everyone! So you may remember how, in my last post I moaned and groaned about how exhausted I was feeling and that I had barely had time to myself for, well, months. Well, with the advent of not only my birthday but also, Mother's Day, (I obviously loved last week) I had a few amazing treats - the best of which was a pedicure at the Cowshed Spa in Shoreditch House - all booked and payed for by my lovely husband. And it was such a relaxing experience, I thought it might make a nice little post to tell you all about it.
Before I get into the treatment itself I just want to say how much I genuinely love Cowshed. Being a beauty editor I have had a lot of treatments and been to so many spas, I couldn't even begin to count them all. Cowshed is one of those places that stands out for its all-round simplicity and relax-inducing loveliness. I always say it's the kind of place that feels exactly how you imagine your dream bathroom to be; everything from the fluffy towels and sink-in-them-sofas to the candles permeating the air and the little retro televisions create a homely feel that I swear has an immediate de-stressing effect.
At Shoreditch House, the spa lies on the ground floor, tucked neatly away by the entrance. It's such a lovely space - huge timber tables, vases of flowers and oversized industrial lighting gives off a cool, New York vibe but not in a snotty, minimal way (which I'm so over). After being taken to my own (giant sized) sofa, putting my feet up and ordering a coffee, I was feeling pretty happy and a bit smug. Then it got even better. I was given a set of headphones, the little TV in front of me was switched on and it started; only continuous episodes of Sex and the City. On repeat. All the way through my treatment. I didn't have to make small talk. Or even chat about my holiday. How good is that?!

And the pedicure itself, was of course, brilliant. I haven't gone near my feet since the last pedicure I had before Elsie was born and it showed. I almost felt bad for the therapist. But she seemed unfazed by it all (hopefully that means she has seen much worse) and went to work tidying, removing hard skin with an electric file, giving my nails a short, square-ish shape and painting with my chosen nail colour (Essie's Coral Reef). My feet looked amazing afterwards. Sort of new. And in that little hour I had relaxed, de-stressed and even laughed (partly due to the hilarious sex scenes of Samantha and co in SATC and partly because the foot filing bit was so ticklish). It was great. Take yourself there for an hour and you will feel a little more like you again. I guarantee it.

The Cowshed Pedicure, is £48 for 60 minutes. You can book it here. http://www.cowshedonline.com/spa

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Eating for energy

Today, I am SO tired, I just might cry. As I write this I'm sitting, in my pj's, having just cleared up breakfast. I haven't showered yet. My right eye is slightly swollen and dry and I have no idea why (and can't get to the doctors to find out). I'm feeling slightly guilty that my 4-year-old is in front of CBeebies whilst my baby is sleeping and also irritated about all the things I need to sort out and just don't have the time to. I'm already thinking of making coffee number two to get through the morning. It's very likely I'll have another few of those to get through the day. And a few sweet treats or so. And crisps later. And wine.
I know this caffeine/sugar/snacking diet isn't doing me any favours. But either is the fact that I haven't had a whole night's sleep for about nine months or rarely had more than two hours to myself since my baby was born. (In fact, I had two solid hours once because an old neighbour booked me a hair appointment as a surprise (BEST surprise ever) and I get the odd hour every now and again when  my lovely mum-in-law whisks both kids off to the library so I can sleep/tidy-up/do some work). Sometimes it is SO hard. And I'll admit, I'm feeling it.
So what to do? Well, aside from trying to get out of the house at every given opportunity (just a walk in the fresh air with the kiddies in tow is massively uplifting) I'm trying to re-think my diet. I really think that switching sugary snacks for healthier ones, ditching the huge rounds of toast at breakfast and constant caffeine hits has to help with my energy levels. And actually, if it even makes a minute difference, that will be something! So I enlisted the help of a proper nutritional therapist, Eve Kalinik (read more about her here www.evekalinik.com) to give me some tips I can really use. (I've already started switching afternoon coffees for smoothies - and Pret have some fab new green smoothies). If there's something that works for you, let me know too.

1. Start the day with a balanced and nutrient dense breakfast. It needn't be laborious; a smoothie is super quick for busy mums and kids love them. Just make sure that they're not heavily fruit based. And one cup of good quality fresh coffee in the morning is fine - just make sure you're having organic beans to avoid high levels of pesticides and not processed instant versions.
2. Swap mid morning or afternoon coffees for a green juice. We often reach for quick fire stimulants like coffee because they give a rapid boost in energy. The problem is that this spike in cortisol is followed by a sudden crash leaving us feeling even more depleted. This spiking also affects insulin levels and can in turn promote fat storage particularly around the middle abdominal area.  The best and easy swap is to have a green juice instead. I love PLENISH sweet sexy greens (plenishcleanse.com) as it has all of the plant based goodness from greens including a wealth of nutrients such as magnesium, folate and iron.
3. Make an energy packed lunch.
Simple things like a quinoa salad is great and if you make double the amount it's extra time saving. Quinoa takes 10 minutes to prepare and has all of the nine essential amino acids so is considered an excellent plant based protein source.  Mix with some sliced avocado, a handful of rocket, a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds and dress with some lemon juice and olive oil for a nutrient dense, energy boosting and most importantly deliciously easy quick option. Fast food super-food style!
4. Opt for healthier snacks when you're out and about.
Lots of coffee shops are starting to have natural nuts which is always a good option. And raw chocolate that is high in its cacao content is a better choice than the usual cakes and cookies. The point is though that if you are following a healthy diet most of the time then the odd treat isn’t going to hurt, just don’t make it a regular thing. 
5. Eat three meals a day.
Constant cups of coffee and that glass of bedtime wine are often a result of grabbing quick fix options on the go and/or skipping meals so its important to make sure to have three balanced meals a day. Making sure to combine protein and carbohydrate with each meal is fundamental to this, which for example means salmon with broccoli or as above a quinoa salad with some delicious veggies. This helps to balance blood sugar levels and leaves you less susceptible to the willy charms of the Italian Roast and Pinot Grigio.




Friday, 21 March 2014

A must-buy, multi-tasking moisturiser

It's at this time of the year that I completely re-think my skincare. Post-winter and pre-summer (fingers crossed) my skin just doesn't seem to know what to do with itself; it's a bit patchy, a little dry and a touch greasy in the T-zone and my usual moisturiser just doesn't cut it anymore. It's too rich, creamy textured and feels like it's smothering my skin with hydration when, now Spring is here and the weather's a little bit warmer, it's not needed so much.
So hurray for Clinique Superdefense SPF20 Daily Defense Moisturiser, £39. Hang on, I hear you say, that's been around for aaaagggeees, surely she, being a beauty editor and all, should know that!? Well actually, this is the reformulated and improved version of the original moisturiser (which I also loved) and really, it's quite brilliant. This is why:
1. It provides full spectrum UVA/UVB protection, as well as an SPF20. I've used an SPF on my skin for years.  I'm sure my complexion is relatively line and pigmentation-free because of it.
2. It minimises the appearance of UV damage (that's age spots, fine lines and irritation) you've already got with enzymes called photosomes.
3. It's more moisturising than its predecessor due to a blend of barley and wheat germ, barrier-building ingredients that hydrate and strengthen but not overwhelmingly so.
4. It feels amazing. Anti-irritants like sea whip extract (taken from a coral renowned for it's anti-inflammatory properties) and caffeine instantly soothe and the whipped-up texture is just right; not too heavy or too light.
5. The original is an award winner. You know all those beauty awards magazines spend months putting together and testing products for? The original version of this has won a ton of them. Expect this improved version to do the same.
6. It's so easy. So usually, I use a moisturiser, then a tinted one with SPF over the top or a bit of foundation. And I might have to spend a few minutes applying a bit more on drier areas or massaging it in a little. This isn't easy when you have an eight month old and a four year old waiting for milk/trains/Ben 10 dvd's. With this, I simply apply it and go. See.

You can buy this online at www.clinique.co.uk.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Childs Farm: your new bathcare essential


When my first baby, Max, was born (four years ago - eek!) I was a real stickler for using only natural, super mild products on his skin. It seemed weird to start adding coloured bubbles to his bath and fragranced body washes to his flannel when his skin was so delicate and well, new. Maybe it was the beauty editor in me  - after all, I read so much about the sorts of ingredients brands use to make things foam/smell/feel that it influenced the choices I made on my own body care - so why should it be any different for my baby?
And that's when things got tricky. If you're after natural, mild, bath and body care products (that won't leave your skin feeling like sandpaper the second you step out of the bath please) for you, then you are completely spoilt for choice. Okay, so you might have to dig a little deep to find the more affordable stuff - I love Aromatherapy Associates De-Stress Bath and Shower Oil but at £37, my purse doesn't - but Organic Surge Shower Gels, are just £4.35 and lovely. However, when it comes to the kids, the variety just doesn't exist. Trust me. I have looked and looked.  
So I whooped a little and did a little finger dance on my laptop when the adorable kiddies bath and bodycare range,  Childs Farm, popped into my inbox. Seriously, where has this stuff been hiding? It ticks every single box on my wishlist; firstly, at £4.69 it's brilliantly affordable, it contains over 98% natural ingredients, no SLS's (the drying stuff that makes the bubbles in your bubble bath), no artificial colours and is dermatologically tested too. Oh and I love that it all smells and looks so good; the strawberry, organic mint and sweet orange essential oils are gorgeous and check out the super cute imagery on the bottles; all taken from the real Childs Farm which is based in Hampshire.
As an added note, it may be worth mentioning that the range is created by Joanna Jensen, a mum of two who, after searching for natural, fun products for her own girls fine hair (and drawing a blank) came up with her own. How great is that?

(You can buy Childs Farm here at www.childsfarm.com and at Ocado, John Lewis and pharmacies).

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Beauty Editor's with Babies: Sarah Cooper-White

Sarah with Poppy, aged 3
Lately I've found myself on Twitter or Facebook almost every few days asking beauty editor friends who also have little ones what they might use for boosting lank hair, revving up dull skin or simply for the odd energy boost. Though I'm a beauty editor myself, I'm always fascinated to know what works for other people and like to know if I'm missing out on something! And to be honest, I'm a bit nosy too. Anyway, I thought you might want to know what some of the girls swear by and a few of their insider tricks too. So here is the first of my 'Beauty Editor's with Babies' series. Enjoy.

The lovely Sarah Cooper-White, 35, writes for (amongst others) matchesfashion.com, Boots Health & Beauty and Dare and just happens to be an amazing floral designer too - just check out her website poppyandpeonies.co.uk. Sarah also has a gorgeous three year old little girl, Poppy, so, as you can imagine, she has her hands just a little bit full. So who better to give us the lowdown on her favourite beauty buys right?

1. Creme de La Mer Eye Concentrate, £130 (cremedelamer.co.uk)
'I have a toddler that has never slept well so hiding my perpetual tiredness has become something of an art form. This is the best eye cream I have ever used. Yes, it's pricey but it really does the job.'

2. BareMinerals Stroke of Light Eye Brightener, £22 (bareminerals.co.uk)
'Hides my eye bags perfectly and isn't too thick so doesn't sit in the lines around my eyes - which have got so much worse since having a baby!'

3. Maybelline New York Le Colossol Mascara, £7.99 (feelunique.com)
'Even if I don't have time to apply a full face of make-up, I always wear mascara just because it never fails to make me look 'awake.' Maybelline are good quality and brilliantly affordable.'

4. Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath and Shower Oil, £39 (aromatherapyassociates.com)
'As much as I love my little one, running around after her all day can be exhausting. A soak in this amazing camomile and sandalwood based oil (and a glass of wine) is almost as good as a spa treatment.'

5. Lanolips Lovely Lanolin Golden Ointment, £17.99 (lanolips.com)
'I recommend this to all my mum friends. It's amazing as a lip balm and super nourishing body cream and because it contains medical grade lanolin, you can use it on sore nipples when you're breast feeding too.'

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Tracy Anderson Method: Post-Pregnancy Workout

Okay so firstly, I have to apologise to any followers or those of you who might just drop by now and again on this late post. I am exhausted. And I don't just mean the kind of tiredness where, you've gone to bed really late a few nights in a row because you've been obsessed with watching the entire box set of Girls. Nope, I mean, up every 3 hours, all night, every night for weeks, even months. This baby business is pretty tough. And it's meant that just pulling together my energy to pick up every last bit of Lego at 8.00pm has been an effort. Let's just say I'm getting through a lot of coffee.

Anyhow. I've been trying to use Elsie's nap times productively and instead of just hoovering I've been doing the odd exercise DVD (I know, right?). It probably sounds completely contradictory to what I've said in the previous paragraph, seeing as I'm so tired but I really do find the odd hour spent raising my heart beat instead of just crashing out does make me feel a little lifted. And I've always exercised, so a home workout is my way of getting something in when I wouldn't otherwise have time.

So on to Tracy Anderson. You've probably heard of her because she's the trainer behind Gwyneth Paltrow's amazing post-baby body (have you seen her in Thanks for Sharing BTW?) and she's also worked with Madonna. She has stacks of DVD's and I've wanted to try one for ages simply because she reputedly gets amazing results (and a bit because I heart Gwyneth). And what could be more appropriate than the Post-Pregnancy Workout? I bought it, laid out my yoga mat, closed the curtains and got ready to weeeerk.

And boy is it work. The 45 minute DVD is split into a couple of different sections, all focused on mat work and namely, one loooooong abs workout, legs, a bit of bum and arms at the end. The abs section, which is first up is really tough. If you imagine how wobbly your abs are after having a baby, hitting them with any kind of exercise is a shock in itself but Tracy doesn't mess about; there are all kinds of crunches, abdominal twists and she even sneaks in a few planks - which are notoriously bloody hard even on tight, toned tummies.

So there's no getting around it, this one is TOUGH. I didn't put on a whole lot of weight after having Elsie and I think I'm fit-ish and I found it really hard. However, I think if you put the work in (Tracy recommends you do the DVD at least four times a week) this would really work. My muscles ached in that kind of smug, 'I've-just-exercised-really-hard' way after just one session and it's inspired me to try and keep at it. Tracy put on 60lbs when she had her baby too so that's inspiration, right there, on your TV screen. If you need more, rent Thanks for Sharing and check out Gwyneth in her underwear. She's 38. She's had two children. Amazing.

Buy The Tracy Anderson Method Post Pregnancy Workout DVD, £7.50 here. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anderson-Method-Presents-Post-Pregnancy-Workout/dp/B003FMUILQ


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Paddington Bear for babyGap

So a few weeks ago I whittled on about how you can save money on all sorts of baby stuff. And something I've learned is that there's just no point spending oodles of money on ridiculously pretty and pricey vests and grows that will undoubtedly get ruined (it takes just one colossal baby poo to do it). Instead I buy all my essential vests/grows/leggings like these gorgeous long sleeved body suits http://www.hm.com/gb/product/23172?article=23172-A for super cheap but splurge a bit on nicer cardigans, jumpers and little jackets that might see my baby through a whole season.

And this week, whilst my beauty editor friends were waiting with baited breath to check out what Peter Pilotto and Target had come up with for Net a Porter, I was super excited to see what the Paddington Bear and babyGap collaboration was going to bring about. Yes, forget high fashion, these days it's all about cute-as-a-button baby booty. Paddington Bear you say? BabyGap? Seriously, what could be cuter? (or cleverer - hats off to Gap). And as if to prove a case in point, it's the perfect range to spend a little more on if you're after an essential item or just something you absolutely love.

Saying that, there is SO much to fall in love with in this collection, you might find it hard to know where to start (or when to stop). I personally love this Quilted Denim Jacket, £29.95, which will be perfect for when Spring arrives and Elsie is no longer tucked up in her all-in-one. It's a bit Isabel Marant no? And there are loads of pretty Paddington-esque cardigans, leggings and even a teeny trench coat, which I LOVE but reckon getting a six month old in and out of it might be more hassle than it's worth.

Anyhow, it's all pretty adorable. Find the range here http://www.gap.co.uk/browse/category.do?cid=1006703&departmentRedirect=true&kwid=1&sem=false#department=166 and be quick as I reckon this lot will fly.




Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Secret to a Beauty Editor's Skin

After almost 15 years in the beauty industry, I've got to really know my skin and what works for me. To be honest, its been a huge amount of trial and error, simply because, as a beauty editor you just get sent so much stuff and, you're supposed to try it all. Everything. More often than not, I'd get sent maybe five to ten skincare products a day so really, this was just impossible and I'd kind of got the whole thing down to a fine art - I'd only really try the brands I knew well, the formulas I know suited my combination skin and the textures I loved. After all, there's only so much fiddling about with your skin can take before it has a mini meltdown and spots/dry patches/irritation ensues.

However, there's one product I've been desperate to trial for ages. I mean really trial, not just take it home, leave it by the bathroom sink and slap it on when I remember. And it's the battery operated cleansing brush. Yes, yes, I know I'm a bit late to the party but I so love my muslin cloths and lately, when I've been time pressed, my fingers have been pretty good too (a few minutes of face massage teamed with your cleanser works wonders). Also, the brush that rakes in all of those awards (deservedly) costs in excess of £100. Really? Okay I get that price per usage it works out great but I knew that if I wasn't working on a magazine and getting one to try for free, I would probably never spend that much.

So I give you Olay Regenerist 3 Point Super Cleansing System, £26.99 (boots.com). I have been using this every evening for the last three weeks or so and I can wholeheartedly say that it's brilliant. Why? 1. It cleanses your skin four times better than using your cleanser alone would. 2. It feels great. As the little brush whirls around on your skin it really does feel like it's getting right in there, delving into and ditching any specks of dirt that have tucked themselves into every pore. 3. It's SO easy. Being a new-ish mum this is essential. Massage a bit of your cleanser onto your skin, press a button, move it about for 60 seconds and you're done. 4. You can even do it in the shower. 5. It makes your skin look better. Sweeping away all that gunk means your skin is better prepped to get all that good stuff you're paying for in your moisturiser. 6. It's £26.99!

You can thank me later.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Sleep: How to Get Some

It's six months since Elsie was born and, I have to be honest, we are on our knees a little bit from a lack of sleep. It's not that she doesn't sleep; actually, she goes down really easy at about 7.00pm and wakes at around 11pm which I am SO thankful for as it means I can at least eat and get in an episode of whatever box-set we're currently watching (Boardwalk Empire). Nope, it's the 1.30/3.30/5.30 wake-up calls that follow that I'm tearing my hair out over - well, I would be if I had any hair. So I am more than open to any advice right now.
And what do you know but this week,  the lovely people at Pampers asked me if I'd like to have a chat with Baby Sleep Expert Jo Tantum, who is also on the panel of experts for their Love-Sleep-Play Campaign - find out about that here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4pnwBScep8. Obviously I jumped at the chance and actually, I think I picked up a few pretty good tips. Some of them might sound pretty obvious but sometimes, you need an expert (Jo has 25 years experience of working with babies) not your mum, to guide you in the right direction. If you'd like to share yours, I'm all ears!

1. Remember the sleep 'triggers'
Unless we are out and about, Elsie is rubbish at napping throughout the day - and it's so important to get her doing this if she's to sleep well at night time (an overtired baby is not a good thing). Jo suggests I use exactly the same routine I do at bed time for her naps too; so pull the black-out blind down, change her nappy, pop her in her sleeping bag and have a little cuddle. Usually, I'm so desperate to get on with things, I just pop her in her cot, pull the blinds and hope for the best. Oops.

2. Babies need a lot of naps
Jo told me that babies (at least at Elsie's age) should be having around two hours of wake/play time before they'll need a little nap again. I'm often so busy I don't pick up on this but the last few days, I've been looking out more for her I-want-to-sleep signals (pulling her ears/burrowing into my chest/gentle moaning) and popping her into her cot. Cue: happier, playful baby when she's awake.

3. Try the stealth settle
Though I'm pretty hacked off that my baby wakes up three times a night (I thought girls were meant to be better FFS!), I have to admit, I haven't really tried that hard to settle her when she does wake. And more often than not, I'm feeding her within a few minutes of her crying. Yes, I know. Jo suggested that next time she woke, I made 'shush' noises whilst at the same time slowly pushing, (not patting) her bottom, almost like a massage action. I tried this the other night and it worked. High five.

4. The 15 minute break
Usually, straight after feeding Elsie at bedtime I would pop her straight into her cot. Big mistake. Huge. In doing so, I've pretty much been showing her that she needs a feed to get herself to sleep. Great. Now, I'm feeding her 15 minutes earlier and maybe having a little bedtime story instead. I hope this doesn't mean she'll want Twinkle Twinkle every time she wakes up now?!

5. Keep them dry
During my Skype chat with Jo, I also had a little demonstration of how Pampers latest nappy, Baby-Dry (from £11.99 for 54) works - yes, they even used the blue water! They're pretty clever because they have a Double Dry-Zone; one which absorbs the wee and another that locks it in and all for up to 12 hours - so it's pretty much the perfect bed time nappy. Actually, I was already using the nappies anyway and am a Pampers devotee but, as they suggested, I'll use these just for bed time and maybe the Active Fit during the day. You can get the new Baby-Dry nappies here: http://www.boots.com/en/Pampers/Pampers-Baby-Dry/

Learn more about the brilliant (and lovely) Jo Tantum at her website http://www.jotantum.com/

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Baby Stuff: Six Ways to Spend Less

When it comes to babies there is, seriously, just so much stuff you need. I'm not talking the latest Stella McCartney baby jeans (that will be £42 please) or the ridiculously cool, clear perspex cot Kim and Kanye have reputedly invested in for their little one. Nope, I mean the real basics; nappies, wet wipes, clothes, formula and bath time bits and bobs that you really couldn't afford to be without. And though, with my first baby, I pretty much just bought whatever I thought was reasonable enough in cost, I rarely looked at cheaper store-own brands or searched around for deals. I just popped them into my virtual online basket and there you have it. Done. However, this time around, I've tried to be much more frugal and endeavoring to shop smarter. Here are my tips - let me know yours.

1. Buy nappies in bulk
I've always bought my nappies (Pampers FYI) in my usual weekly shop and though I've kept an eye out for the 2-for-1 deals and all that malarky, I often miss them. I also do this a lot: run to my local pharmacy when they're out of stock at my supermarket and buy teeny packets which obviously ends up being much more expensive - and there are no snazzy deals to be had in such smaller, niche shops. And then I discovered Amazon. Brilliantly, they sell HUGE boxes of big name nappies for bargain prices (at the time of typing this, you could buy a box of 156 Pampers for £16.50 as opposed to £5 for a pack of 30 at Tesco - amazing!). I think Amazon also do a 20% of all nappies if you sign up to their Amazon Family service.

2. Try store-own wet wipes
I admit it, I won't buy any other nappies than Pampers but that's because I've tried every other brand and they're just not as good. However, when it comes to wet wipes, I've been a bit more experimental. I always look at the ingredients as I hate for mine to be fragranced (and some are even if they say they're for sensitive skin) and honestly, I sometimes test them on myself to see if they really don't sting. My latest find? Essential Waitrose Baby Wipes, £1.12 for 80, knocks spots off the others; they're super gentle, come out the pack separately and not in handfuls (which is so annoying) and, at £1.12 come in much cheaper than the £2 you tend to pay for most brands.

3. Search for bargain bath buys
I only use natural or organic bath products on my little ones and absolutely heart Burt's Bees Bubble Bath and Weleda Baby Calendula Cream Bath so much but, at around £9 each for both, I don't feel the same way about the price. However, take a little virtual trip over to Boots.com and the lovely Weleda Cream Bath is a teeny bit cheaper at £7.95. And at the moment, they're doing a 3 for 2 deal on selected Weleda products, so you could nab the brilliant Weather Protection Cream, £6.95 and the Shampoo and Body Wash, £7.10 and get the cheapest for zero. Deals like this come up a lot on Boots - always worth checking out.

4. H&M
I'm having a little bit of a love-in with H&M at the moment, having just bought another of their cute, 2-Pack Bodysuits, £4.99, (see left) and a Chinti & Parker-inspired striped body with pink heart emblazoned across the front. They are so worth stocking up at for vests and bodies that your baby outgrows super-quick (or completely ruins with an atomic poo) and are 100% cotton too. Save your bigger splashing-out sessions for lovely knits, jackets and coats that will last all season.

5. Be organised
In preparation for my second baby I carefully went through all my first child's old clothes, strategically chucking out, charity-shopping or holding onto and labeling bags of stuff I knew I could get a second wear out of. I was so organised. Or so I thought. This week I was GUTTED to find a whole box of immaculate, hardly-worn baby clothes tucked away in the loft that Elsie is now too big to wear. Other things I've never used? A set of Avent newborn baby bottles/a pack of 12 muslin cloths/completely girly OTT summer dresses. I'm still breastfeeding so the bottles and teats are redundant, I no way needed so many muslins and putting a newborn in a frilly dress just wasn't going to happen. It definitely pays to think (hard) before you buy.

6. Always look for deals
Top places to find deals are at good old Boots (often online only) and Amazon. I've seriously bought every last packet of cotton wool, nappies and wet wipes through these online stores rather - but only after I've done a little research and compared prices  first. It takes a bit more time but you can end up saving a huge amount.