Thursday, 24 May 2018

Bambo Nature Press Launch at Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens

We were recently invited to an event at the very beautiful Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens in Northamptonshire by a new environmentally friendly family brand called Bambo Nature
The event was to launch their new vegan and cruelty free skincare range as well as showcasing their eco nappies and wet wipes

The event was planned with children and babies at the forefront. The whole day was hands on and relaxed, plenty of activities to keep little ones entertained and boy was Callie entertained! We were introduced to the brand and given a bit of background into the ethos and history. 

Their nappies are Skin-Friendly with no dangerous chemicals and or allergens. Eco-Friendly using sustainable resources and less waste. Sleep-Friendly with maximum absorbency and are ultra-soft and flexible.

After we had the chance to meet the brand and take a look at the products the tiny babies were given massages with parents getting guidance from Emma at Tiny Toes Reflexology Callie however was never going to sit still long enough for a massage and got stuck in to some craft activities with amazing natural materials. We crafted a stunning dream catcher which I am in love with and Callie loved threading the wooden beads and bamboo...mostly onto Mummy's fingers! 

We then had a mini photo shoot with Natalie from Imaging Eye Photography. She was great with Callie and really made her relax in front of the camera. She already has her 'Cheese' face down to a tee but I think all of the candid photos taken throughout the day were perfect too. 

After a spot of outdoor painting we all enjoyed a delicious lunch complete with the yummiest victoria sponge and I was able to sit down and talk to a couple of other bloggers and the brand themselves. We talked about Callie's sensitive skin and I was able to try some of the Splish Splash Bath Oil out on her arms. It is fragrance free and felt really gentle and soft. She has mild eczema so I am always cautious about trying new products but they are really good. 

We were sent home with some products to try out, the nappies fit perfectly, are absorbant but thin and flexible. The wipes come in a larger pack size which is great and they aren't super soapy or heavily scented like other wipes on the market. Most of all though we wanted to try out the Bath Buddy Hair and Body wash so into the bath both kids went for lots of splashing...and I mean lots, I got soaked! 

The hair and body wash was so mild and Callie didn't come out of the bath with flare ups like she quite often does with lots of the leading brands. We then lathered her up with the bath oil and it soaked in nicely leaving her skin really soft and moisturised. 

Actually that night I decided to try the Love Balm Soothing Cream myself. It has the colour of a barrier cream but a bit looser than Sudocrem. I wasn't sure how it would rub into my skin but it actually was easy to use and didn't feel greasy. The next morning my makeup went on so well and my skin felt the best it has done in a long time! 

Although Bambo Nature nappies and wipes are on the higher end of changing products when it comes to their price, I do think they are a great disposable alternative to cloth nappies and a good in between item if you are wanting to embrace an enviromentally friendly lifestyle but are unsure if cloth nappies are for you. 

The skincare products however are really reasonably priced at £3.99 for the Snuggle Time Lotion and Bath Buddy then £7.99 for the Love Balm and Splish Splash Oil which will both last a long time. 

Overall we had a great day out and I am really glad to be able to share this brand with you!

Bambo Nature UK: @bambonatureuk on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram 

Imaging Eye photography: @imagingeyephotography on Facebook @bannernatalie on Instagram 

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Aldi Garden Event

Although the weather hasn't quite got the memo it is actually spring. Spring is the time where everyone and their aunt dig out their lawn mowers ready to get out in the garden. Strangely for us this spring the only garden work we are doing is sorting it out ready to hand back to our landlords. If you didn't know already we are moving house soon and we will be in for the summer! 

I have already started making plans for our new garden and when Aldi asked if I would like to feature some items from their Garden Event I was made up. Our new garden is small but I am quite looking forward to less grass to mow and a clean slate when it comes to plants. My plan is to make it like an extension of the house. Lots of comfy seating, potted plants, a water feature and tonnes of twinkly lights for those summer evenings. Which was where Aldi came in. 

I was sent a selection of their solar lights and am thrilled with the range. Starting at £2.99 with these gorgeous crystal glass stake lights which will look great in amongst some planters. My favourite have to be the crackle ball lights which come in a pack of 6 and are great quality despite being only £12.99!

I was also sent 3 large plastic planters at £7.99 each and a grey hanging basket. They are all well made and really hard wearing, ideal for our garden with Callie 'The Destructor' McDonald! I can't wait to pick up some new. plants for them but I currently know nothing about botanicals so will have to do some research on which ones I am least likely to kill off within 2 weeks. 

The final items were BBQ and furniture covers, great for keeping them all clean and dry in this unpredictable weather. We may actually need to buy a BBQ when we move though as our last one is still sat having been uncleaned since last summer after Joe forgot about it. Off to the tip with that bad boy I think and I vow to make sure one of us cleans the next one after each use. 

I have created a mood board over on my Pinterest for the garden and cannot wait to get started. I will be sharing more pictures of these products in the new garden so do pop over to Instagram where our First Time Buyers updates take place on an almost daily basis! 

Aldi Garden Event is in store now and can also buy some select specialbuys on the Aldi website -

Sunday, 8 April 2018

"Goodbye Bock Bocks" a Farewell to our Pet Chickens

If you have been following the blog for a while you will know we used to have chickens. We gt our first ones when Callie was tiny and hatched 2 from eggs. In total we had 14 chickens which sounds crazy in the space of a year but I wanted to document our backyard farmers journey so here is our story.

We started out with 3 hens. A white scruffy looking Silky we named Steve. She wasn't pretty and pristine like the other birds in her enclosure but we always end up backing the underdog and so she came home with us. Alongside Steve were two Plymouth Rock's called Red (because I had a chicken called Red as a child named after Hellboy) and Zelena because she had a little green ankle tag so we named her after the Wicked Witch of the West!

We got on really well with the three of them but after a while Steve began to get broody. We decided to buy some fertilised eggs to put under her and see if we could get some chicks. Several eggs and weeks later an egg hatched. We were on holiday at the time so my Dad chicksat, he has always bred birds so was the best person for the job. Along came little Rainbow!

We were in Center Parcs when Rainbow arrived and Ted named the chick for us. Rainbow was a Polish chicken and was so so beautiful. Not long after one of the other eggs began to hatch and unsteadily at first little John hatched out, Ted named this one too. John was a bit weaker but after 2 days was perfectly well.

Not content with having two babies to take care of alongside the 3 hens Joe decided to buy a couple of tiny chicks to join the family. We found a local breeded who specialised in Serama's, they are the smallest breed of chicken you can get and are adorable. We picked out two fluffy yellow chicks and introduced them to John who was still very small. We named these two Nelson and Murdock after the characters from Daredevil, sadly Murdock didn't live up to his namesake's strong persona and died a few days later. This was when I began to realise having pets would be an emotional rollercoaster!

Nelson, John and Rainbow continued to grow and get stronger. The two Polish adolescents were constantly sizing eachother up and John in particular gave the big girls a run for their money!

It wasn't long after that Joe was speaking to a work colleague who had two larger hens that he was looking to rehome. Joe being a sucker for a feathered tail and perky crest agreed to take them on and that was it we had gone from 3 hens to 8 in a few months! Our new friends Frank (named after The Punisher) and Major (a character from iZombie) were big girls. Compared to our bantams they were quite big and kept picking on the babies. Our worry about them hurting one of the little ones meant we sadly had to rehome them. 

My sister had a friend who happily took Frank and Major on and as far as we know they are very happily living their life in the next village to us. For us though we had a rocky few months. Red started to get a funny cough, she didn't seem right so we separated her from the flock for a while and not long after Rainbow was experiencing the same symptoms. Separating Rainbow from the others too we thought they were just a bit unwell and some TLC would help but sadly Rainbow didn't make it and a couple of days later Red died too.

I cried for those birds. They lived happy lives but there was just nothing we could do when they got ill. We couldn't justify vet fees for all of them and had no idea what was actually wrong. Thankfully the other hens were fine and continued to thrive as a family of 4. 

Our girls were always very noisy. Steve more so than the rest would make such a fuss about laying an egg and it was no surprise to us when John started to make noises too. She is just learning from the others, she will be laying soon...but one day the tiniest little squawk became a crow and John wasn't a girl! She was a he! A little polish cockerel who was beginning to get a bit big for his boots. His feisty nature had him sizing up the older girls and one day he decided to jump our 6 foot fence and made a run for it. 

We searched the whole village worrying he had been run over but hours later found him in the garden behind ours, an alley separating the two fences, hiding from their pitbull! We couldn't keep him anymore he needed space and was getting too loud to be in a built up area. Off he went to the local farm shop where he would live for a few weeks before someone took him on. We checked on him a week or two later and he had gone, hopefully to somewhere nice. 

That was us down to 3. Steve, Zelena and little Nelson. 

Yeah...this is Joe's flock we are talking about here! 3 didn't last long and a few months later he talked me into getting another 4 Serama's. From the same breeder as Nelson and Murdock came Dart and Dusty (Stranger Things fans will get those ones) Chip (who had a bad leg) and Mamba (Black Mamba...the most aggressive chicken we have had). Two black and two brown. They were very cute, they settled in well with the others and started laying within 2 weeks of being with us. We now had 7 hens but because they were small the space was fine, they got on well and life was really good. 

Life was good. We wanted to keep them forever, our feathered family, but our house move threw a spanner in the works. Our deeds state "domestic pets only" and upon further clarification that doesn't include chickens. Our babies had to go. 

We made a decision to sell them at a low price to anyone who could provide them with a happy life and a local farm agreed to take all 7 of them together. The farm is amazing, they have cattle, sheep, a riding school and the birds have free reign of the farm with a cosy roost to come back to at night. I sobbed as we drove away leaving our girls behind, I cried 3 more times that week as I saw their empty run or thought I heard pecking at the back door. I miss them now but our new garden wouldn't have been big enough even if we were able to take them with us. 

I will miss them, we all will but it was the right choice to make. They are happy in their new home and they gave us an amazing insight into breeding animals that we never would have had. We have plans when the children have grown up to move to a house with some land and to start our own smallholding. Joe can be the real Old McDonald! 

Friday, 30 March 2018

Our First Time Buyers Journey - Saving for a Deposit

When it comes to buying a house of course the first step is getting the deposit together. It is by no means easy but there are a few things you can do to get there quicker. We are so lucky that we both have a steady income, we have low overheads and minimal childcare costs but there are smaller things you can do, little changes you can make that will help with savings.

It is hard to increase the money coming into your household. It means new jobs, working overtime and not to mention tax returns if earning on top of your regular salary. This can include things like online surveys, babysitting, dog walking or anything that is an additional income which needs to be declared. The easiest way to save is to reduce your outgoings.

This sounds like a no brainer, we all know saving money means spending less but you would be surprised how much money you waste without even thinking about it. For example Joe and I sat down recently and worked out how much we spend on takeaways, meals out, lunches (yes all food related) and it was quite shocking. We could have saved up to £500 more a month if we had been more sensible with food. 

Cut down on unnecessary spending by writing weekly meal plans, shopping around, prepping for lunches and planning outings ahead of time to pack a picnic. My meal plan template looks pretty and will help you plan ahead and keep those food bills down.

Other outgoings you can reduce include utility bills, insurance and phone contracts. Shop around and see if you can find a cheaper deal, don't just let them roll over at the end of each renewal term as the chances are you will find a better deal elsewhere. 

Speak to colleagues and see if you can organise a car share to reduce petrol costs, if you are a smoker then consider quitting, stop picking up that overpriced coffee on the way into the office or check out my post about buying clothes on a budget!

If you have children then teach them the importance of saving and cut down on unnecessary toy purchases by doing your food shopping online! We got conned into wasting £7 on a toy today just because we nipped to the shops to get a couple of bits we had forgotten in Aldi this week.

Check your bank account and move to a different savings account if you can find one with a better interest rate. Banks will also offer you great deals for transferring to them, a few years ago we moved to Halifax and got paid £100 for moving. Don't make this a regular thing though as it can damage your credit rating but if you have been with the same bank for years why not consider moving and making a bit of extra cash?

I also have a list of 30 Ways to Save Money which I think could be really helpful, there are some quite unique tips there.

It is a struggle I am not going to tell you saving for a deposit is easy but it will be worth it. You will need to make big changes but with the above tips you should be able to get well on your way to buying your new home!

For more about our First Time Buyers Journey and for a sneak peek of our new house pop over to my Instagram page

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Organising your car with Summer Infant Travel Accessories

Who else has a car like this?

Ok perhaps I am exaggerating but honestly until recently my car was a total dumping ground. I had spare clothes, empty water bottles, wrappers, leaves and all sorts of crumbs in it. This is part and parcel of being a parent but enough was enough. 

Awful right?

I had a big clear out and with the help of Summer Infant travel products, a vacuum cleaner and a duster I was able to make my car a comfortable place to be for both myself and the family. 

I started by emptying out the clutter that had build up. Nobody needs 3 coats in the car and it certainly isn't hat and sun cream weather anymore. I lay it all out on the grass next to the drive and would come back to that later. Next I vacuumed out the footwells and boot, making sure to get all those little crumbs up and perhaps the odd half eaten biscuit. Then came the dusting, Ted loved this bit and as Callie was at nursery he was the only child I needed to keep busy.

Once the inside of the car was clean and relatively shiny I organised my CD's in a lunchbag I had spare, it was the right shape for CD's and stopped them cluttering up my door compartments. I then popped an ice scraper in the glove box and any spare change in my cup holder for car parking. The kid's pasta bracelets from nursery took pride of place on my rear view mirror (later discovered that was illegal so removed them) and it was time to move on to the back seats.

I wanted to make car journeys comfortable for the kids so picked them up some seat belt cushions. Ted has Toy Story ones which I think were from Poundland a year ago and we were kindly sent these lovely Fawn Cushy Straps from Summer Infant. They are really soft and will help to hold Callie's head up when she falls asleep in the car. She loves the fawns too although I did think they were bears at first. 

So comfort sorted next I needed a way to stop Ted from destroying the back of the seats with his muddy feet. This was where these Seat Protectors came in. They come in a pack of two so we put one in Joe's car too. The extra storage at the top is super handy for storing spare wipes, a nappy and a change of clothes as well as any random toys. For long journeys we pop snacks in and some books for Ted. They are really easy to use and just strap around the front seats.

Moving on to the boot I cleared out all the things we didn't need in there reducing it down to the essentials. Using a reusable hessian bag I restocked with my picnic blanket, a warm blanket, an umbrella, my trolleybags, the usual car stuff obviously stays in there (no expert on those matters) and Callie's storm cover for the pram alongside her Rayshade which although isn't really used much at the moment is really useful for sunny days.

All of that loaded back into the car and the pram squished in the car was good to go! Now really how long until it is back to the way it started? 

Do you have any advice on keeping the car clean and tidy with children?

Thursday, 22 March 2018

5 Favourite Places to Eat in London

I love food. My goodness do I love food. London is an amazing city and full to the brim of incredible places to eat. These are my favourites!

Jane Roe Kitchen

A tiny little restaurant on Old Street, a few doors down from the Easy hotel with the most incredible veggie burger I have ever eaten. A brioche bun filled with roasted onions, aubergine, rocket and delicious halloumi accompanied by skin on fries. I love the interior of the Jane Roe Kitchen too with its vintage rustic feel and lots of old nick nacks. Perfect for a chilled out delicious dinner with friends.

This family run restaurant lies just off Oxford Street and has a small but perfectly formed Lebanese inspired menu. The Halloumi or Falafel wraps are heavenly, my sister and I ordered both and swapped half! All dishes arrive in reused cans or mess tins which is very cool and I can't wait to go back.

I discovered this restaurant on a recent blogging trip and fell in love. We had brunch and were able to try a host of dishes from the brunch menu. I highly recommend the granola and the avocado on toast. The atmosphere is great and the decor is beautiful. It is close to Tottenham Court road so perfect for a little breakfast before a day of homewares shopping.

I discovered Whitecross Street Market when I went to BritMums Live in 2015 and my friend Lucy and I arrived early and were feeling peckish. The food market hosts a range of different cuisines and I dare anyone to walk through without being tempted by some of the dishes. We had Falafel salad and took it off to the Barbican Centre to eat in the sunshine. I have just realised most of the dishes I have mentioned are vegetarian. I am not veggie myself but a huge fan of healthy tasty food and very often will choose a vegetarian option. That said my next restaurant features ALL THE MEAT!

With a few restaurants dotted across London you are rarely too far away from a Bodeans. This classic American BBQ joint is wonderful and really authentic. My brother is a huge foodie so after we attended Masterchef Live 5 years ago we popped to Fulham to visit Bodeans and were so impressed. The beef brisket was melt in the mouth and they had possibly the best mac'n'cheese I have ever tasted! We have American diners in Northampton but they are nothing compared to these places. Go prepared to leave with a full tummy and an empty wallet!

Hopefully when I visit London next I can put a few more favourites on my list. Where should I go next?

Friday, 16 March 2018

Our First Time Buyers Journey - Help to Buy

Welcome to our journey to becoming first time buyers. I am so excited to share this with you, when it comes to buying a house for the first time there aren't a lot of real stories out there and I wanted to be open and honest with how the process has been for us. We have been renting for 10 years now with lots of ups and downs and it is so good to finally be buying a house. We have come a long way since our tiny 2 bed flat.

This first post is about the early days. How we decided on using the government Help to Buy scheme and where our home owners journey started. I will be sharing my tips on saving for the deposit in the next few weeks but lets assume for now you have started to get your deposit together and are looking at options. 

What is Help to Buy?

The government Help to Buy scheme is available to first time buyers and also people looking to move up the property ladder. It allows you to buy a house with just a 5% deposit and a mortgage of up to 75% of the value of the house. This means the remaining amount (20%) is lent to you by the government with 0% interest for the first 5 years. You are able to repay the loan any time within the first 25 years (although this will depend on the terms of your mortgage) or when you sell the property. 

Persimmon who we are buying from have a handy calculator on their website and more details on how to qualify for Help to Buy. 

How will we pay the government back?

Our plan is to put money aside each month to repay the government at the end of those 5 years and alongside remortgaging to the value of the property after 5 years (keeping everything crossed that the house increases in value) we should have the money to settle the 20% loan. 

Are there any downsides to this scheme?

From year six a fee of 1.75% is payable and will rise each year based on inflation. 

The scheme is only available on new properties so you will need to find a development in the area you want to move to. 

It also isn't available for buy to let properties (which I think is actually a benefit for us as the houses aren't being scooped up by landlords to rent out)

This scheme relies heavily on house prices increasing in 5 years time which is always a gamble. If you are unsure this scheme is right for you and are able to it may be worth saving for a bit longer to secure the 20% deposit needed for most properties and waiting a while. 

If I am honest I think this scheme is only worth considering if you have a good steady income. I can't understand how a couple on a lower income or a single person will be able to afford their mortgage repayments, general bills and saving enough to pay the government back but that is your call to make. 

Our choice

We decided that 2 years of paying into our landlords mortgage (10k a year) just didn't make sense so we made our choice to go for the H2B and take a leap of faith! Having made the decision to use this scheme our choice between buying a new property or an older one was sort of made for us. I will be sharing my pro's and con's to buying a new build in the coming weeks but I hope this post has been helpful to you. 

Please pop your email address in the subscribe box on the right hand side to get updates into your mail box and I will be back with more updates soon!

*This post isn't an advert for Help to Buy, these are the facts we have been given and our honest opinions on the scheme as first time buyers.