A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Thursday, 30 April 2015

My 7 Bank Holiday Payday Beauty Treats

It's a bank holiday and payday weekend.  Here are the treats at the top of my list this month.

Zoella Blissful Mistful Fragranced Body Mist

There's no denying Zoella's popularity, having taken the beauty blogging world by storm.  I'm hoping a few spritzes of this body mist will inspire me.

Zoella Blissful Mistful - £9.00 - feelunique.com
This is described as "a super light and feminine body spritz to scent your body with fresh and floral notes". The spray is enriched with Vitamin E and fruit extracts and is designed to be sprayed all over.

Sleek Blush By 3 in Pumpkin

Sleek Blush By 3 Pumpkin - £9.99 - Superdrug.com

This palette contains three blushes in one compact being a mix of matte, satin and shimmer shades. Highly pigmented and suited to all skin tones.  One reviewer has advised "not to be afraid of the orange" as it blends really well

Benefit Roller Lash

Benefit Roller Lash £19.50 - benefit.co.uk

Benefit's latest mascara claims to be a roller for lashes with a trade marked Hook 'n' Roll brush which separates, lifts and curls. It has an instant curve setting formula which holds for 12 hours. Based on results from a consumer panel of 31 women after 4 weeks, 87% said it gave a long-lasting curl and 94% said it made eyes look more wide open. 

Unless Benefit's "They're Real" mascara, which I found very difficult to remove, Roller Lash claims to be easy to remove.  It also contains Provitamin B5 and Serin, two ingredients known for their lash conditioning benefits.

Lush - May Day Bath Bomb - Badger

Lush May Day Bath Bomb - Badger - £2.95

Who doesn't love Lush bath bombs?  The proceeds of each of these fruity, sweet smelling bath bombs (minus the VAT) will go to the groups behind the "Votes For Animals" campaign which aims to give animals a vote this election.  The groups are Animal Aid, The League Against Cruel Sports, and Save Me. The bath bombs contain fennel oil to stimulate your skin, and antiseptic rosewood oil to soothe and uplift. The fragrance is described as sweet and "sherbety".

Molton Brown Delicious Rhubarb & Rose Handwash

Molton Brown Delicious Rhubarb  Rose Handwash - £16.00 - moltonbrown.co.uk

I love Molton Brown but it is definitely not the cheapest handwash on the market which relegates it to the treat category in my eyes.  I'm always vaguely disappointed when I don't find Molton Brown in my hotel room bathroom.  This new handwash in a Rhubarb & Rose fragrance is definitely a treat.  

It's described as a sweet, moisturising hand wash blended with rose extract and yuzu fruit accord.  It has a 'tart rhubarb' heart note, a gentle rose base note and a comforting musk. Too special to leave out for the kids.

Astrid & Miyu Diamante Evil Eye Necklace in Silver

I love Astrid & Miyu's quirky, yet somehow classic, jewellery designs and this evil eye design might be useful if your boss is anything like some of the joys I've previously worked with!  

Astrid & Miyu Diamante Evil Eye Necklace in Silver - £59.00 - astridandmiyu.com

This delicate necklace has a bohemian style and is crafted from rhodium plated brass.  The pendant is designed with concentric circles made up of white and powder blue cubic zirconia crystals. Astrid & Miyu suggest wearing this necklace with a peasant blouse and wide leg jeans for a throwback to the 70s look.

ASOS 70's Woven Festival Bag

ASOS 70's Woven Festival Bag - £16.00 - asos.com
This is a rattan weave basket bag with long straps, a leather flap and an amazing pattern woven into it. Perfect for the summer.

What treats would be on your list?


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

5 Pregnancy & New Mum Bibles I Couldn't Live Without

When you're pregnant, you've often plenty of time to research every aspect of pregnancy - and there's LOADS of information out there. 

If you're anything like me, you'll be reading all the pregnancy and baby guides you can get your hands on!

There are distinct schools of thought on the best way to bring up baby, from the controlled crying techniques of Gina Ford to the co-sleeping recommendations of James J. McKenna.  

Pram or baby sling? Breast feed or formula? Cot or moses basket? There are reams of information of every aspect of motherhood even down to what to put in your hospital bag.

You really need clear, concise information from a reputable source you can trust and these five books became my bibles. I heartily recommend all of them and they are all available on amazon.co.uk.

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

This was the book I turned to every night and at every twinge.  Murkoff does not sugar-coat the information and points out what can go wrong as well as what is usually nothing to worry about. Don't expect cuddly photos of newborns, but do expect practical, "does what it says on the tin" advice.

Cover of What to Expect When You're Expecting (4th edition)

The latest edition (the fourth) has been completely revised and updated.

"Heidi Murkoff has rewritten every section of the book, answering dozens of new questions and including loads of new asked-for material, such as a detailed week-by-week foetal development section in each of the monthly chapters, an expanded chapter on pre-conception, and a brand new one on carrying multiples. 

The Fourth Edition incorporates the most recent developments in obstetrics and addresses the most current lifestyle trends (from tattooing and belly piercing to Botox and aromatherapy). 

There's more than ever on pregnancy matters practical (including an expanded section on workplace concerns), physical (with more symptoms, more solutions), emotional (advice on riding the mood roller coaster), nutritional (from low-carb to vegan, from junk food-dependent to caffeine-addicted), and sexual (what's hot and what's not in pregnant lovemaking), as well as much more support for that very important partner in parenting, the dad-to-be". 

Your New Pregnancy Bible - The Experts Guide To Pregnancy And Early Parenthood by Dr Anne Deans

On the other hand, if you want to spend, like I did, hours staring at pictures of developing babies so you can gauge how big your little one is at every stage of your pregnancy, this is the book for you.  

Cover of Your New Pregnancy Bible by Dr Anne Deans

Far friendlier in tone than "What to Expect",  it has clear explanations of the labour process and a great medical reference section. It gives added peace of mind because it was written by a team of eminent specialists under the direction of a leading UK obstetrician.

"....this latest edition of Your Pregnancy Bible has been updated to take account of recent changes in antenatal and newborn care and to provide more comprehensive discussion of caesarean deliveries. 

Given a fresh design, it still contains special fold-out sections on each of the trimesters and the birth process; week-by-week images of the developing baby; in-depth chapters dealing with all aspects of antenatal care, labour preparation, delivery experiences and care of the newborn; comprehensive reference sections on medical treatments and procedures in both pregnancy and the postnatal period and an extensive glossary of ante- and neonatal terminology". 

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer

When Caitlin was born I was completely clueless.  I hadn't even put a nappy on a baby before.  And I certainly didn't know anything about a day in the life of a baby.  For example, I had no idea that a newborn will need substantial naps during the day and will not be able to play for much more than 45 minutes at a time.

It was with a huge sigh of relief that I stumbled upon Tracy Hogg's wonderful Baby Whisperer books. Both this one and her problem solving guide (below) were invaluable in teaching me the importance of routines so that everyone in the family knows what is happening and where they are. Tracy sadly died in 2004 but her advice is still relevant today I think.

"In this remarkable parenting book, Tracy demystifies the magic she has performed with some five thousand babies. She teaches parents how to work out what kind of baby they have, what kind of mother and father they are, and what kind of parenting plan will work best for them. 

Believing that babies need to become part of the family - rather than dominate it - she has developed a practical programme that works with infants as young as a day old. Her methods are also applauded by scientists: 'Tracy's is a voice that should be heard. She appears very knowledgeable about modern infant research and has incorporated this to a level parents can understand. In spite of all the baby how-tos on the market, this one will stand out.'

In case you're wondering The Baby Whisperer method is often described as being in between crying it out methods and no tears methods. I liked it because Tracy does not advocate letting babies cry it out (unlike Gina Ford).  

BUT she does not advocate "accidental parenting" which is where parents accidentally use props to get baby to sleep - like giving them a bottle, or rocking them, for example.

Several methods are given in the book to help parents teach their baby the all important sleep basics which includes a strictly structured routine (E.A.S.Y.) and the pick up put down (pu/pd) method for putting baby to bed. 

E.A.S.Y. stands for Eating, Activity, Sleep and You and Tracy suggests timings for each activity according to the age of the baby.  The Pick Up, Put Down Method looks at how you put your baby to sleep in her cot and focuses on getting her to sleep alone.  Tracy suggests a "Four S" wind down ritual to set the scene (swaddling perhaps, sitting quietly, and shush-patting to help quieten your little one down). Even if you don't adopt her ideas wholesale,  there are enough ideas in the book to help you work out what works for you and your baby. 

The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

The follow-on book to "Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer", this one answers a whole host of questions from parents of babies at differing stages of development.

It focuses on the "Big Three" - sleep, feeding and behaviour from infancy to the age of 3 and explains Tracy's philosophy and methods in much greater detail.  I think you really need both of these books to get the best out of the system.

Annabel Karmel's The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner

Once Caitlin started her weaning around 4 months and had got past the baby rice and simple apple puree stage, I became completely stuck on what to feed her.  Annabel Karmel's books were fantastic at giving a range of ideas for simple purees and combinations to educate your child's palette and to introduce a wide range of foods.

I think it's no coincidence that Caitlin will now eat anything and is quite adventurous in her tastes (olives, for example).   By the time Ieuan came along, he had less of a range of purees and mini meals and, is far fussier with food than his sister.

You will need a good blender and a range of freezer proof pots in varying sizes. 

Annabel Karmel is undoubtedly the UK’s No.1 author on feeding babies and children and this particular book is the one I turned to time and time again.

It contains: "the best first foods to try, tasty recipes and ideas for introducing more complex flavours and textures; meal planners and time-saving menu charts allowing you to highlight and record which recipes your children liked and disliked. The original version of this book has sold over 4 million copies worldwide, with Annabel becoming a leading resource for parents who want to give their growing family tasty, wholesome meals that even the fussiest eaters will love".

So there you have it - my 5 pregnancy bibles, now handed on to other expectant mums so that they can feel as comforted by them as I did.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I will only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Tips for Getting The Most From Your Babysitter - And Your Date Night

There's often nothing more nerve wracking when going on a night out and leaving the kids at home in the care of someone else.

But, for the sake of your relationship, your self-esteem and your mental health, you really need time out, adult conversation and a chance to be the person you used to be - if only for a short while.

How much trouble could they be?

How do you stop yourself from spending all night with your mobile in your hand in case the babysitter calls? I'm talking here about toddlers and older children, by the way, rather than very young babies. My parents and sister would babysit for us when the children were babies.

Make sure your babysitter is up to the job.

There is no legal age requirement for a babysitter but the NSPCC recommends that no-one under the age of 16 should be left alone to look after children.

Frankly I think even 16 is too young, no matter how responsible their own parents may claim them to be.

You may feel differently if the babysitter is a member of your own family or an older sibling of course, but I would rather play safe and ensure that a responsible adult was looking after the kids in case of accident, sickness or some other emergency.

There are babysitting websites such as www.findababysitter.com where you can buy a monthly subscription (currently £25 a month).

You can post your requirements and receive messages from prospective babysitters free of charge but you'll need to subscribe to message them if they do not include a contact number.

Whilst schemes such as these offer the added peace of mind of being able to put you in touch with far more local babysitters than you could probably drum up by just asking around, and some background checks are carried out, you may find that lots of your messages are from eager teenagers looking to earn some pocket money.

I also found lots of messages from babysitters who lived so far away from me it would have taken them a couple of hours to get home!

You still need to take steps to ensure you find the right person to look after your kids, even if it is just for a night out.

I always interview any new babysitter and make sure that they meet my children.

I've found the babysitters who are truly interested in the job generally don't mind a quick 20 minute meet 'n' greet.

Kids are usually very upfront about whether or not they like someone and it's a great way to see how the babysitter interacts with the children.

Sitting on a sofa clutching a coffee and observing them from the other side of the room isn't that great a sign.

The best babysitters I have had have found themselves dragged off to play / colour / inspect toys and haven't minded in the slightest (well, maybe just a bit!).

Leave a list of emergency telephone numbers

It's a good idea to have a typed list of emergency telephone numbers to give to the babysitter.

We usually visit the same restaurants on our rare nights out so I add the restaurant telephone numbers to the list.

I also include the number of a nearby responsible adult (in this case my parents) in case we are in an area where mobile reception is poor.

Leave stuff for the kids to do.

Our current babysitter always brings a selection of craft material and some DVDs but you may want to have similar things available to help the babysitter out.

Leave clear instructions about bedtimes and bedtime routines.

Our babysitters know to put our kids to bed at 8 pm.

We've found in the past that telling a babysitter to put them to bed "when they're tired" means kids will suddenly be bright eyed and bushy tailed way past 9 pm. It helps the babysitter to know which toothbrush / toothpaste/ comforter is required and whether doors should be shut and lights left on or off.

Leave even clearer instructions about any medicines to be given and in what situation.

Generally, I'm talking about antibiotics and medicines like Calpol or Nurofen here.

Make sure the babysitter knows where they are and most importantly when the last dose was given.

To be honest, if my kids are unwell enough to need medicine we usually stay home but this isn't always possible I know.

Let the babysitter know under what circumstances you must be called.

This will vary according to the level of trust you have in the babysitter.

If your child just wakes and needs comforting, the babysitter should be able to handle this but if your child is sick, for example, you really need to know so you can come home.

Be clear about when you are likely to be back.

We are not exactly rock 'n' roll types (any more) so we are usually back before 11 pm.

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly I don't think it's particularly fair on the babysitter to leave them there into the small hours and secondly, given that the average hourly rate for a babysitter is between £6.50 and £7.50, you can quickly find a night out becomes very expensive indeed.

Check that the babysitter can get home safely

It's just courtesy to ensure that your babysitter isn't wandering off home alone in the dark.

Have their pay ready and make sure you've agreed what that will be beforehand.

Make sure you have the right money to pay the babysitter on hand as soon as you get home.

You don't want to be rifling through bags, pockets and down the back of the sofa to find the right money - and your babysitter will be eager to get home.

Dress up

This is your chance to dress up, glam up and be a woman again.

Some of you might have managed to maintain immaculate levels of grooming despite having children but I seem to have been welded into a pair of black leggings so it makes a nice change to see my legs again and slip into a pair of heels.

Try to relax

This is your time so make the most of it.  I find I often get so stressed before I go out I get a headache.  I'm working on becoming a little more chilled.

Don't just talk about the kids

If you have made sure you have the best babysitter for the job then you should be able to relax a little and concentrate on your date.

Chat about your holiday plans, what you'd like to do in the future, how your partner's job is going, what your ambitions are. 

This is your chance to try to reignite any spark that may be less bright than it was between you.

Don't constantly look at your mobile.

Put it next to your plate if you must but try to concentrate on your date. On the other hand, make sure your phone is fully charged when you go out.

Eat something

Yes I know - you're spending money on yourselves - so try to enjoy it!

If you're like us, it may be quite a while before you're able to go out again so try to make it memorable.

The world won't implode if you have a Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Book your taxi home before you leave.

Worth considering if it's a Friday or Saturday night and you face a long wait to get a cab.

And if you're taking the car, put your mind at rest by checking the fuel level and having cash on hand for the car park.

I always love coming home after a night out and going upstairs to give Caitlin and Ieuan a sneaky good night kiss and to straighten their bed covers.

They look so angelic when they sleeping.

And I feel extra happy, having had a break of a couple of hours.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Baby Gifts Fit For a Princess (Or Prince)

Will it be a girl or a boy? Kate is keeping us waiting but if you know an expectant mum and want to be super organised, here are some lovely gifts which would suit the most regal of babies (and their mums and dads).

For Baby

Union Jack Soft Leather Baby Shoes - £22.99 - baby-gifts.co.uk

Bio-Baby Steiff Rabbit Grip Toy With Rattle - £17.99 - baby-gifts.co.uk

Inkless Handprint & Footprint Kit - £7.95 - notonthehighstreet.com

Personalised Baby Hoodie - £22 - gettingpersonal.co.uk

Personalised Large Bonnie Bear - £22.99 - gettingpersonal.co.uk

Personalised Name Frame - £35 - thelittlelavendertree.co.uk

For Mum

Merci Maman 18 ct Gold Plated Heart Liberty Bracelet - £29 - John Lewis

Merci Maman Duchess Girl Personalised Charm Necklace - £99 - John Lewis

Pink Lining Sunflowers Changing Bag - £79 - pinklining.co.uk

The Care Package - £26 - dontbuyherflowers.com

For Dad

Pint and Half Pint T-Shirt - £33 - BoutiqueToYou.co.uk
Personalised Square Silver Fingerprint Cufflinks - £129 - notonthehighstreet.com

Daddy Outdoor Nappy Bag - £25 - babyshowerhost.co.uk

I think these make a change from the usual flowers and chocolates, don't you? And if mum is going to breast feed, champagne is a no-no!  You might also want to get a little something for a soon-to-be-sibling too.  Caitlin was fascinated by Ieuan's arrival and had a cuddly toy to assuage any pique at being temporarily eclipsed in the attention stakes!

If budget is an issue, probably the most welcome gift of all is an offer to babysit, even if it is just to let the new parents have a coffee out together, or why not offer to help with something like the ironing while the new mum takes a well deserved nap?

For a new mum, sleep is the best gift of all!

How To Win The Lottery - Guaranteed?

How to win the lottery - that's what we all dream of, isn't it?  Despite the odds against us, many of us hold our breath, particularly on Tuesdays and Fridays when the Euromillions jackpots have rolled over to staggeringly large amounts.

Now I don't advocate gambling but I do play the lottery.  I think of it as my way of giving a bit to charity and, let's be honest, for most of us, winning a lottery jackpot is the only way we are going to join the ranks of the rich and famous - quickly, at any rate.

Online lottery ticket service lottosend.com recently carried out some research in advance of World Wish Day on April 29th and found that the top 5 wishes of a 1000 people surveyed across the UK were as follows:-

1.win the lottery [7%]
2. health [6.6%]
3.money [5.9%]
4.world peace [4.8%]
5.happiness [3.5%]
I'm not sure what the other 72.2% wished for but I imagine you'd need cash for most of their desires.

Interestingly, men wanted money most [6.5%] but women wanted health [7.9%].  Money was the top wish for both the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups, but both the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups wanted to win the lottery.  The 55-64 and 65+ age groups valued health most (unsurprisingly!).

So the big question is - how can I improve my chances of winning?  

You've got to be in it to win it, they say.  And it is possible to enter lotteries not only in the UK but in Europe and the US, as long as you check the local laws about collecting your winnings! This should increase your chances rather than always sticking the the National Lottery in the UK.

The Telegraph has compiled its 10 tips for maximising your chance of a lottery win [here].  These include a couple of surprises including not bothering with ball number 13 (in 20 years it's only appeared 229 times which is the lowest of any ball) and instead choosing number 38 which is the most drawn at 314 times. Only 11% of lottery millionnaires won by sticking to their tried and tested numbers such as birth dates, anniversaries and door numbers so you'd do well to mix your numbers up occasionally.  Your chances of winning are also significantly raised if you join a lottery syndicate, making sure you have a written agreement between the members of course!

Other things you could consider are:-

- playing less often but buying more tickets when you do - apparently this increases your chances

- don't choose pretty patterns - it's popular to pick your numbers by creating diagonal lines or vertical lines on your ticket, increasing the risk of having to share the jackpot with others who choose the same way.

- avoiding 16, 41 and 20 which perform just as poorly as number 13
Whatever you do, just make sure you keep your lucky ticket safe as you will need it to claim your winnings.  I like to play online so that there is always a record of my entry. And be aware that the National Lottery UK has a 30 day time limit for reporting lost tickets and has previously refused to pay out when that deadline has been missed. [The Daily Mail]. Another good reason for playing online.

What makes some people luckier than others?  Richard Wiseman who has written extensively on the subject in his book "The Luck Factor" says that there are 4 psychological principles you can observe with 'lucky' people [The Guardian, 2/4/15]

They create and notice opportunities by building a strong social network, developing a relaxed attitude to life, and being open to change. 

They tend to often listen to their intuition and act quickly. In contrast, unlucky people tend to overanalyse situations and are afraid to act. 

They are confident that the future will be bright, and these expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies because they help motivate lucky people to try even when the odds are against them. Unlucky people are sure that they will fail and so often give up before they have begun. 

They are highly resilient, and keep going in the face of failure and learn from past mistakes. Unlucky people get dragged down by the smallest of problems and take responsibility for events outside of their control. 

Now I reckon that if you can cultivate a mindset like that, you really will have won the lottery!

This is a sponsored post.


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Silent Sunday - 26/04/15


Saturday, 25 April 2015

9 Tips To Maintain Your Weight Loss

After putting on 4 stone when I was pregnant with Caitlin in 2007 and only having ten months between pregnancies, it is not surprising that after having Ieuan in 2009 I was still 2 stone overweight. I was determined to lose the excess in time for my wedding in 2011 and to return to my healthy weight of 9 st 9lbs (I'm 5 ft 6).  

Baby weight gone in time for my special day in 2011
I did this by following Rosemary Conley's low fat Hip and Thigh diet and, even though it has been overtaken in popularity by diets like the 5:2 diet and a whole host of healthy eating plans (such as Deliciously Ella's for example), I still think there is a great amount of common sense in the Conley approach.  

Give and take the odd 'blip' over Christmas and holiday periods, my weight remains around the 10 stone (140 lbs mark).  I won't lie.  It requires quite a bit of self discipline to ensure I don't go crazy and return to the days of multiple take-aways each week and creamy restaurant desserts and I still don't eat as much fruit and veg as I should.  But I have managed to keep my weight relatively stable and avoid putting the pounds back on.  

There are a million diet gurus and I am not medically qualified to tell you what to eat. But here's what has worked for me and the Husband, who would eat peanuts and crisps till they came out of his ears if left to his own devices.

1.  Weigh every day using a decent set of scales like these from Ozeri which remember your previous weight measurement and tell you by how much it has increased or decreased.  They'll also tell you your BMI. 

The standard advice is to weigh once a week but I find daily weighing helps keep me on track and if my weight has increased I can make sure I eat lighter on that particular day.  

2.  Eat breakfast but eat it later  

A bit in line with the idea that fasting is good for the body and that having a mini fast between your evening meal and a later breakfast does you good.  I find that eating a later breakfast stops you reaching for biscuits around 11 am and also makes you less likely to go mad a lunchtime.

3.  Don't eat two main meals a day

By that I mean either have a bigger lunch and a smaller dinner or vice versa.  If we have a roast dinner for example, we'll have sandwiches or soup for lunch.

4.  No takeaways

Given that a portion of fish and chips can contain as many as 2000 calories (i.e. practically a full day's calorie allowance), let alone the fat content of some of our favourite curries, we just don't bother with these any more.  

We will have a bag of chips whilst on the sand at "Barrybados" though. Nothing like lots of salt and vinegar on your chips and a brisk walk on the sands at Barry Island - and we wouldn't deny the kids one of life's greatest culinary pleasures.

5.  Find something to snack on that's healthy and that you really enjoy eating

It's pointless munching your way through pallets of crispbread and carrot sticks if you hate the stuff. Better to eat a few olives (which I love) or even a few squares of dark chocolate than to eat the crispbread and carrots and get so depressed you end up eating biscuits because you're starving.

6.  Buy clothes that fit you NOW

There is no point in wearing clothes that are too small because you don't want to go up a size because I find you get so depressed because your jeans are too tight that you cheer yourself up by eating. You do need the discipline though to make sure that you go up one size and don't keep going.

7.  Improve the quality, decrease the quantity

Think like a foodie. Better one or two glasses of a really good quality wine than a bottle of cheap plonk;  one or two squares of an amazing dark chocolate than a selection box.  No, it's not a question of money either.  Lidl and Aldi have some amazing choices.  

8.  Take each day at a time

Women come in all shapes and sizes. As the life coach Fiona Harrold says - gorgeousness is yours for the taking and it is available to everyone.

9.  Make sure you're losing weight for you

You're not daft. You know too high a weight is bad for your health (and your fertility for that matter). You certainly need me to point that out but if you're healthy and otherwise happy just make sure you're losing weight for you and not because some guru in the Daily Mail's 'sidebar of shame' has decreed "stick insect" is the look to aspire to.

This is a sponsored post.


Friday, 24 April 2015

5 Best Beauty Buys On My Shopping List This Weekend

I'm looking for some new beauty buys as the May Day bank holiday and Whitsun week approach in the hope of some warm weather in which to glam up a bit. Here are my top 5 best beauty buys to splash some cash on.

BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream [£26]

This is a BB, a CC and a tinted moisturiser all in one and claims to give a 215% increase in skin hydration after just one week. It's ultra lightweight and easier to wear than a foundation. It comes in 10 shades, too.

BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream 

Mini make-up essentials in a neat box, Benefit's Primping With The Stars contains everything you'd need to look glam. It contains what Benefit views as its iconic products and with the inclusion of They're Real mascara and Benetint, it's hard to disagree.

Benefit's Primping With The Stars

Charles Worthington London Instant Root Boost [£9.99 exclusive to Boots.com]

I'm dyeing to try this (ha!).  It comes in 5 shades, light blonde, dark blonde, warm brown, brown and dark brown and claims to cover grey hair, hide root growth and add temporary colour.  Anything that lengthens the time between expensive hair colouring appointments is fine by me.  Now that the sun is appearing my hair seems to be growing faster and that means so are the odd grey stragglers!  

Charles Worthington London Salon at Home Instant Root Concealer

L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Exfotonic Body Polishing Gel £7.99

I really need to practise my fake tanning and this product is ideal for refining the skin and sloughing away dead cells in preparation for your tan.  It's enriched with AHA and contains microbeads for gentle exfoliation.

L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Exfotonic Body Polishing Gel Tan Optimiser

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Or Dry Oil Golden Shimmer 50 ml [£21]

If I can't master the fake tan, my fall back plan is this gorgeous multi purpose dry oil from Nuxe which contains plant oils and Vitamin E and tiny gold particles which will add a shimmer to face, body and hair. There are no preservatives and the product is silicone and mineral oil free.  

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse OR Multi-Purpose Dry Oil for the Face, Body and Hair
What would be on your beauty wish list this weekend?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Things You Should Never Say To An Older Mum

I had my first child at 43 in 2007 and my second at 45 in 2009. I believe the NHS termed me a 'geriatric' mother, even though I was in better health and fitness than many of the much younger mums to be.  In the back of my mind I was well aware that there would be those who would look on having a child in my forties as being selfish but, in general, most people have been accepting and nothing but kind.  

On the other hand, there are those who can't quite resist trotting out a few of the gems below:

"Oh, was it, you know, a natural conception?"

People are fascinated by how we late mums conceived.  It is a reasonable enough question I suppose and I do know women older than me who have traveled abroad for IVF or egg donation. But why people can't quite grasp that, until you have your menopause, you are still technically able to have a child, I don't know. Does the method of conception affect your ability to be a good parent?  Hardly. And, the answer to the question is, yes it was.

"But aren't you menopausal"?  

The average age for menopause in the UK is 51.  And average, maths lovers, means that many women will reach menopause AFTER that age.  

"But aren't you very tired?"

Having a child is tiring.  Having two children is even more tiring.  Prior to giving birth I was not spending my days lying on a chaise longue being fed peeled grapes.  I could even walk unaided. What does my age have to do with it?

"I suppose you find you're so much more patient"

Nope. I still have all the patience of my son in the Lego shop.  I think anyone who has a child (or adopts, fosters or becomes a step parent, come to that), goes through a rapid learning curve, taking on all sorts of skills and personality traits that they never previously considered.  I'm still as impatient but I am learning strategies to deal with it.  Rioja for instance.

"So when you're reaching retirement, they will only just be going to college?"

Possibly true but given that retirement age will probably reach 70 for all of us sooner or later, I might not quite have a bus pass. Us late mums are hit by a triple whammy - retirement, kids' university fees and caring for elderly parents. I think in future the shape of the family will change; extended family will become much more important and child care will be shared through the generations (in a model which already exists in parts of Europe).  

I think our friends will play an important role too. Stats say that something like 1 in 4 women born around 1964 (my birth year) are childless. I have many friends who are single, childless and in poor health and I can quite envisage adding them to the family mix!

"But don't you and your husband worry about dying while your children are still young?"

Of course we do!  One of our main preoccupations is staving off illness and making sure we maintain a decent level of fitness. But life doesn't come with a guarantee and parents can die at any age. I wish I had met my husband ten years ago. I wish my first pregnancy (a year before Caitlin) hadn't ended in an early miscarriage. I wish. I wish. I wish.  

I would still tell younger women to have children in their twenties and thirties whilst their fertility is much higher, but I completely understand why women choose to have babies in their forties. For me, the chance to experience having children and build a family would always outweigh anything I could possibly achieve in my career (I was a marketing director for a Welsh law firm).

You can call it selfish if you like. But I maintain that having a baby is always a selfish act. As Richard Dawkins explains in his book "The Selfish Gene", we are programmed to reproduce to ensure our species' survival.  The drive is more primal than just the urge to paint a nursery and knit bootees.

When the time is right we will sit down with Caitlin and Ieuan and tell them the story of their birth and reassure them that we will do everything in our power to stay with them as long as we are needed.  We will tell them that they were wanted, loved and not some random throw of a dice in the last chance fertility saloon.  

I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had not had children.  I might have had a better wardrobe, more exotic holidays and a flasher kitchen but I think I would have felt dead inside - like my life had been a bit of a waste.

I'm happy to talk about my experience as a late mum but please try to remember that it is the Pacific Salmon that dies after spawning.  I've never felt more alive.

50 Things Mums Say (Bet You Will Too)

You know that feeling when you realize you are turning into your mother?  Oh yes.  I'm there.  Do you recognize any of these?

Ieuan Hobbis

 Shut the door - were you born in a barn?
 Because I say so.
 Ask your father.
 It's not big and it's not clever.
 If you pick your nose your brain will cave in.
I would never have talked to MY mother like that.

It'll all end in tears.
I told you so!!!
 If you make that face the wind will change.
I'm not running a taxi service.
Close your mouth when you're eating.

Who used the last piece of loo roll and didn't replace it!
Wet towels do not belong on the floor.
Because I say so, that's why.
I don't care what Timmy's mother says, this is the way we do it in this house.
Any more of that and there will be no more iPad for a week.
Don't walk on my carpet in muddy shoes.

I'm going to count to 3.
If Lucy jumped off a cliff would you do that too?
If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

If you don't eat your vegetables you won't grow up big and strong.
Jam sandwiches are not a 'healthy' tea.
Why did you ask for it if you weren't going to eat it all?
When I was young we ate what we were given.

Stop fidgeting.
Stop shouting or the neighbours will be round.
I don't want to see either of you before 7 am.
Stop rolling around in your school uniform - you'll look like a bag of rags.
You've got birds nesting in the back of that hair.
Are those potatoes growing in your ears?

Where's your father got to THIS time?
Stick your finger in that plug socket and you'll go bang.
No, it's January.   You can't go without a coat.
No, you can't go to church dressed as Elsa and Spiderman.
I bet Spiderman never spoke to his mother like that.
And I bet Ironman ate his vegetables.
Hulk went green because he ATE HIS VEGETABLES.

Is your father out of that bathroom yet?
No you can't stay off school for a grazed knee.
Or because you feel 'a bit strange'.
Yes you can have a cuddle.
Yes we both love you - to bits.


Get back in bed.
Yes that was the music from Emmerdale.
Yes the moon is a different shape tonight.
Do you really need fleecy pajamas on in June?
No I don't know what we are going to do tomorrow yet.
Yes we still love you.  
Night night.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

20 Tips To Be A Good Parent

Being a good parent.

Everyone has their own definition and boy, is it easy to judge others without knowing or understanding their individual struggles.

Caitlin will be 10 in November and Ieuan will be 8 in June so I figure I must have learned something by now.

Parenting tips - Caitlin & Ieuan hugging each other at Dyffryn Gardens, Wales

Here are my 20 tips to be a good parent:-

1. Be a role model.

Kids watch you all the time - and they copy. That's why counting to ten is such a useful skill. If your kids see you consistently losing your rag and having a 'grown-up' tantrum, rest assured you'll be seeing more of the same from them.

2. Cuddle them often (especially boys).

You can't really show too much love, can you?  And I'm so aware that the day will come when cuddles, sitting on my lap and nestling up together on the sofa will be deemed 'not cool'.  In fact I tear up just thinking about it!

3. Be present. 

We're all (probably) guilty of not giving our kids our full attention whilst looking at phones or PCs. The truth is you have to sacrifice what you want to do to meet your child's needs. You need to be there mentally as well as physically.

4. Don't do their homework for them.  

There sometimes comes a point when, after much stropping, pleading and pen throwing, we may consider just doing the kids' homework for them just to keep the peace.  We're not doing them any favours and worse, we're not letting their teachers know where they may need extra support.  

5. Establish consistent rules from the beginning.  

We recognised quite early on that it was going to be far easier to instil a sense of respect for others and discipline into our kids when they were young.

The idea of doing this with teenagers was never appealing!

The rules we teach our kids will shape the people they will become - hopefully in a good way.  And if we don't teach our kids any rules, how will they look after themselves when we are not there?

6. Explain your rules and decisions.

For example, we explain to Ieuan that his early bed time is so that he can 'recharge' (like his iPad!) and be full of energy for enjoying the next day.  Caitlin knows that she should drink water so that her brain and body are hydrated so she can learn easily at school.

7. But don't micro-manage them.  

I'm guilt of this (see my post here).  Play is a way of learning and being creative; of putting ideas together and finding out what works.

If you stifle this creativity, you take out all the fun of play - and being a child.  You just have to put up with some mess and chaos. I'm still working on this one!

8. Encourage their independence.

Again this comes back to setting consistent rules and limits so that the child feels free to explore.  To succeed, we really need both self control and independence.

Sometimes it's hard to recognise whether a child needs independence or whether they are just pushing the boundaries.

9. Adapt your parenting to fit the individual child.  

As a 9 year old, Caitlin's needs are definitely different to those of her younger brother. We try to stagger bedtimes and to give her more grown-up tasks to do around the house, which is helping her develop her sense of self-esteem.

10. Avoid harsh discipline.

A real hot potato but we have found that it just does not work.  If you show aggression, you are teaching aggression.

Better to have the consistent rules mentioned above with a set of clear consequences e.g. if you are rude to mummy and daddy, there will be no iPad today.

Again, you need to tailor your approach to the individual child.  We had very little success with the 'naughty step' and 'time out'.

We also learned that any consequences have to be enforced as close to the 'misdemeanour' as possible, otherwise the child does not learn the cause and effect of their actions.

11. Treat your child with respect.

This comes back to a child's tendency to learn through observation.

If we respect our children, hopefully they will respect us and others.

Thankfully we have moved away from the old philosophy that "children should be seen and not heard".

Our challenge today, however, is to balance their needs and ours.

There are some who think that parenting today has become much too liberal with too little respect being shown to adults and especially teachers.

12. Grit your teeth at picky eating.  

I have written at length about Ieuan's aversion to vegetables [here] but he is gradually getting better at eating a wider range of food.  He now expends so much energy running everywhere I think he's too hungry to care but oh the hours we've spent at the table waiting for him to chew and finally swallow one tiny piece of carrot!

It does get better - last Friday I nearly passed out with shock as he came home from school and asked for a ham sandwich.

13. Bedtime routines are important. 

I remember reading that sleep is the time when babies and children's brains develop, hence the importance of getting younger children to nap.

We have always been really strict about observing sensible bed times. Naps are long gone but if the children are under the weather, really stroppy or just exhausted, we will have a family 'siesta'.

Nowadays the kids are in bed around 7:30 pm, possibly 8 pm at the weekend but no later.

14.  Time with your partner is equally important!  

You need 'adult time' at the end of the day, particularly if, like mine, your partner works long hours or works away a lot.

I always think it's sad when you go out for a meal and the restaurant is full of couples not talking to one another or, worse, looking at their respective phones.

You have to have more in common than just bringing up the children together.

15. Guilt is unavoidable.

So you need to learn to deal with it - ideally by talking to other parents in the same boat or, if they are still around, your own parents.

Grandparents can really be a vital source of support, can't they?

Working mothers feel guilty about working.  Stay at home mothers feel guilty about not working.

Either way, being a parent is the most responsible job of the lot.

16.  Don't try to make your child your friend.

Remember that TV series (probably Channel 5) where the mums tried to out-dress / out-dance / out-flirt their teenage daughters by going clubbing with them (and then wondering why there was very little discipline in the house)?

It's probably not very fashionable to say so but I think at some point you need to step aside and let your daughters shine.

That is not to say that you should dress in beige and take up knitting yoghurt but a bit of dignity in some cases wouldn't go amiss.

I also hate it when parents call their children 'mate'.  If you're trying to be your child's best friend, it's going to be very difficult to exert any discipline or authority.

17.  A caesarian birth is still a birth.

Much nonsense seems to have appeared on Facebook recently claiming that real women have a natural birth and having a caesarian is a cop out.

Leaving aside the fact that this is deeply insulting to those who had to have sections, it completely ignores the fact that the most important thing is to get the baby out safely at minimum risk to the mothers' health.

18.  It is not a crime to not breastfeed.  

If you can't, you can't. I can't bear stories where mums are made to feel bad because they struggle with breastfeeding.

I breast-fed Caitlin for 10 weeks then had to give up because I was not producing enough milk.  Ieuan went straight on to formula.

Yes, we know that breast milk gives a baby the best start but Ieuan seems to have survived well enough on SMA.

19. You do not have to lose the baby weight in 6 weeks after the birth.  

I put on 4 stone with Caitlin.  Largely because eating cheese was the only thing I could do that made me feel any better.

Ieuan was born 20 months after Caitlin so although I had lost a couple of stone in between pregnancies, I still had 2 stone to shift before my wedding in 2011.

I did the Rosemary Conley eating plan and took a year or so to lose it all.

Babies don't stay small for long.  As long as you are healthy why not make the most of your precious time with your baby rather than counting calories and making yourself even more stressed at what can be a challenging time, especially for new mums.

20.  Go with your gut instinct.  

It's great to gather as many tips as you can to shore up your confidence as a parent but there are times when you have to trust your own gut instinct.

You will know when your child is really ill and when they are just 'hamming'.  You will know when they are really upset.

At these times, particularly when it comes to children's health, you have to be pushy and stand your ground.

Demand second opinions.

If you're really worried, take your child to A&E or an out of hours doctor.

Yes, you may be thought of as the neurotic mum who's there every time their child coughs but I would rather that than miss a diagnosis of something like measles or meningitis.

I hope you found these helpful.  Are there any you would add?
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