Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Hotel Chocolat Mother's Day treats {review}

You can't really go wrong with chocolates for Mother's Day although it did backfire for me once. Let me transport you back to 1984, the year when Mother's Day and April Fools Day fell on the same day. I presented my Mum with a box of Roses chocolates, only for her to open it and find it was full of pebbles and a plastic spider. Worse still I had no back-up present (I was only 9 years old but I still feel the guilt).

So this Mothering Sunday – 18th March – how about getting your Mum one of these beauties...
I chose to review the All About Mum Selection. For £22 you get 26 huge chocolates shaped like hearts and lips with a variety of fruity, liquid caramel and boozy centres (I love the colours, the pretty red and yellow heart is a Bucks Fizz).

My favourites were the praline oyster shell, the delicious Bison Grass vodka and the dark chilli chocolate, I wasn't so keen on the strawberry with black pepper but kudos to Hotel Chocolat for being adventurous with their flavours.

There is even a little key that tells you how much alcohol is in each chocolate, great for us pregnant ladies who don't want to overdo it but also useful for Mums' who have had a hard day and need a little hit (it's more acceptable to get your alcohol in chocolate form after all).

My only concern is that the price could be too high for children to buy as a present, but there are other sweet little gifts like this keepsake tin of Dark Lemon Truffles for £5.50
And this jewellery box is a great idea, you have something to keep after all the chocolate has gone, and in this household it goes very quickly.

Make sure your kids or other half get the hint by leaving this web page open on your computer... Mothers Day Chocolates and hopefully you'll get something much nicer than pebbles and a spider.

(Also when you spend £35 you receive a free Taste of Spring Selection so you can treat yourself too. Terms and conditions are here).

Disclaimer: I was given a box of chocolates for the purpose of the review, all opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Reduce the cost of running your car - the 5 Rs {Guest post}

This is a guest post from Sainsbury's Finance as part of their Family Blogger Network. It's not sponsored but I did receive some vouchers for joining the network (these will be put to good use towards TU baby clothes!)

To reduce the cost of running your car, it helps to know the 5 Rs

Have you ever stopped to think about exactly how much it costs you to keep your car on the road? No matter how careful you are sometimes it can add up quickly, so when it comes to bringing down the cost of your vehicle, it’s useful to know the 5 Rs.

1) Research
The simplest way to over-inflate the cost of running your car is to let your Direct Debit take care of your annual car insurance renewal. There are good deals out there, but to locate them you might need to shop around.
To find car insurance that meets your needs at a competitive price, you need to ask questions, such as:
  • What features are important to me?
  • What can I afford to have included in my policy and what can’t I afford?
  • What can I do to make my insurance provider view me as a lower risk and therefore give me a lower quote?
  • Can I afford to lose my no claim discount, or should I take out protection against this?
  • Will adding a second driver to my policy have an effect on my premium?
Once you have considered everything you need your car insurance to include, get several quotes and compare prices on a like-for-like basis. You might be pleasantly surprised by how much money you could save.

2) Re-educate
·     Are you really the best driver you could be, or do you drive too fast, ride the clutch and brake harder than necessary? All of these things could be causing your car to guzzle more fuel than it needs to and, with the price of fuel rising by nearly 23% in one year, this could push up your motoring costs unnecessarily.
 ·    When you are driving, consider how your fuel consumption can increase by:
  • driving at speed with your windows open;
  • overloading your car with unnecessary items, like a luggage rack or carrying heavy tools in the boot;
  • constantly using the air-conditioner.
Changing your habits could mean less money spent at the pumps.
 ·     Also, consider taking an advanced driving course. Not only could you improve your driving skills, but your insurance provider might offer you a lower premium as a result.

3) Refuel
As well as paying heed to the amount of fuel you use, you should also think about the cost of the fuel you put in. Thanks to sites like, it’s easy enough to check out the cheapest fuel sources in your local area before filling up. Prices change frequently, so do your research just before heading off to the pumps and you should get the best value available.

4) Reduce
The next step is to reduce the amount of fuel you need. Before jumping into the car, ask yourself:
  • Is this journey necessary or would a quick phone call or email suffice?
  • Is this a journey I could share with a family member, friend or work colleague?
  • Could I walk or hop on public transport instead?

 5) Reconsider
Before deciding which car to drive, stop to honestly assess your lifestyle and motoring needs.
  • Are you driving a bigger or higher performance car than you need?
  • Are you aware of which insurance group your car belongs to, and how much this affects your premium?
  • Is the car you drive causing you to pay too much road tax?
 Research, Re-educate, Refuel, Reduce and Reconsider: with the 5 Rs you could make real reductions in the cost of your motoring in these tough economic times.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Nesting and decluttering

I've reached 30 weeks now and the nesting instinct has really kicked in... I've cleaned the oven, scrubbed the shower screen, sorted out clothes, vacuumed neglected nooks, decluttered and planned which DIY jobs need to be finished before the baby arrives. The cleaning is very out of character and had prompted comments along the lines of "we should have babies more often" from Mr – the cheek. Baby brain must be rubbing off on him too because this morning I found a packet of cereal in the fridge door where the milk should be.
One thing I've found useful from a decluttering point-of-view is my camera. I've kept a couple of items of K's old clothes but when I'm itching to hang on to something I remind myself that I have heaps of photos of her in these clothes, and that's the best way to remember them. I find that I'm more attached to her shoes than anything else and even though the shoes are mostly falling apart I feel an urge to keep them. Again, I've kept a couple of pairs but I decided to photograph the others to create a little album of all the shoes she's worn. Who knows, maybe I'll even get it printed up for her one day.

My other challenge has been to use the dregs of what toiletries are in the bathroom before buying any more. There are so many half-used bottles, many predating K's existence! To help me remember I've moved the contents of the cupboard shelves around so that whatever needs using up first is at the front. I seem to have acquired lots of free trial size samples to get through and even Mr has been using up his vast collection of toiletries from Christmases past.

I've been making lists like crazy too. The only problem is that they are all over the place; on my phone, my computer, in various notebooks. I'm suffering badly from pregnancy amnesia and the only way I can remember things is to write them down. Maybe I should make a list of where my different lists are? And then forget where I've put it.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Live and let dye

This is a subject I planned to write about anyway but then Dylon sent me some dyes to try out.

I became a convert last year when I used a machine dye to restore a much loved pair of jeans back to black. (The fact I then got pregnant and only got the chance to wear them once before they didn't fit anymore is irrelevant!) I also revamped K's bridesmaid dress for another wedding...
Girls dress dyed before and after
...using Dylon's, rather inappropriately named on this occasion, "Burlesque Red" hand dye. My thinking is that it's usually cheaper to revamp something you already have (but are unlikely to wear again because of the colour) than to buy something new.

Cotton takes the dye well and the colour was very vivid and solid. One thing to keep in mind is that often stitching or patterns don't take so well – you can still see the pattern at the bottom of K's dress on the right. Also keep in mind that buttons might need changing to match your new colour.

With a baby boy on the way and several big bags of girl's clothes in the loft, I sifted through to see if there was anything that could be dyed to look more boyish. This was also a good opportunity to makeover anything looking faded or worn-out.

I chose the quick and painless way to dye - packs of machine dye. You tip the powder into the washing machine drum – this looks very scary – followed by a lot of salt and the damp clothes to be dyed. After one 40º cycle, then another to get rid of any excess dye, you are left with your finished items.
Here are my before and afters...

Antique grey
Dylon antique grey before and after
The dress is a maternity one that I'd kept from my first pregnancy and that I was a bit sick of. The final colour is more petrol blue than grey (I expect that's because it's viscose not cotton) but the pattern still shows through which is what I hoped would happen. I've worn it a lot more now that it goes with more of my other clothes. The little hand knitted cardie went a strange lilac colour (I have no idea what kind of wool it's made with), so I popped it back in with the next batch of dye...

Jeans blue
Dylon jeans blue before and after
These were my favourite jeans but were looking decidedly dingy. They took the blue dye brilliantly and gave a flat, block colour result. If only I could get into them.

The lilac cardi ended up a much better grey colour...
Thanks to Dylon for supplying the dye to have a play with. They have plenty of colours to chose from and it's worth the short-lived horror of seeing black liquid swishing around your washing machine when the result is clothes that feel like something new.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Ocado diet

Let me begin by telling you that I'm not good with weights and measures.
I also prefer to shop in a real supermarket rather than online because a) I like to see what's in the reduced section, b) I like to sniff and squeeze things, and c) I like my bananas an exact shade of greeny-yellow (pantone 387 if you're interested).

Mr and I agreed that when the baby arrives it would be a lot easier to get our groceries online, so we signed up with Ocado to use the £15 off voucher that they are flashing about for first-timers.

After an initial set back when they were out of stock of milk, yes, milk, I managed to fill my basket with our usual shop and booked a delivery slot which was free. The delivery came on time and everything on the list was there however there were still some surprises.

I appeared to have done a Lilliput shop...
 On the left: what I ordered, on the right: what I thought I had ordered. Same here...
And the smallest pack of mince I've ever seen... that is a teaspoon for scale.
I've learned the hard way that I need to actually read the description, not just look at the pictures. Maybe it's better if I just stick with the supermarket and my green bananas.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tesco Blossom & Maison Boo {review}

Over the past weeks I've been testing some products on my bump. They are designed specifically for pregnant women; one is a budget brand, one is a luxury/organic brand.

 Tesco Blossom

What they say: The Blossom range from Tesco is designed with mums-to-be in mind. All products are dermatologically tested, hypoallergenic and suitable for sensitive skin.
The products I was sent all had the same fragrance; a warm, almost coconutty smell that was light and not overpowering.

Bath milk (£3 for 300ml )
Lots of lovely bubbles that left my skin subtly fragranced afterwards with none of the tightness that some budget products can leave. A big bottle for the money and great for K too, she loves to hijack my bath and make beards with the foam!

Stretch mark oil (£3.50 for 100ml)
The bottle comes in a pretty box and the oil is easy to apply and not too greasy afterwards. I generally prefer oil to cream in Winter because you can warm it up in your hands first. The instructions say to use it twice a day, I'm using it (alternately with the Maison Boo oil below) every other day and no sign of stretch marks... yet.

Tired leg spray (£3 for 100ml)
I've started to get a horrible feeling of my skin being too tight at night so I'll be keeping this by the bed for a quick spray. I think it would be more useful in Summer when you want to cool down. My only criticism is the strange double lid – there is a plastic lid on the spray nozzle and then another lid over that one on the bottle, surely one is enough?!

All available from Tesco.

Maison Boo Body Bootique

What they say: The heart of Maison Boo is a beautiful farm in rural Staffordshire where everything is made to order in small batches using only the purest organic and natural ingredients.

Love the name, love the logo but not so keen on the butterfly packaging design although the glass bottles look good.

Organic foaming bath (£11 for 200ml)

Smells lovely and fresh with eucalyptus and black pepper but NO bubbles. Not even one. I didn't even realise that it was supposed to be a foaming product until I read the label properly. I still use it as it smells relaxing but I'm not sure if the lack of bubbles is down to my London hard water, or just a problem with this batch.

Stretch mark oil (£13.95 for 100ml)
An uplifting and clean – in a Neals Yard kind of way – smell. Out of all the oils I've tried (Palmer's, Bio Oil, Nuxe, Tesco Blossom, Little Me) this is my favourite, it's pricey but worth it as a little goes a long way. I found it absorbed quickly and was the least greasy of the lot. The one drawback is that it's for use only after you are 3 months pregnant which I imagine is down to the essential oils it contains.

Available from Health food shops, and Maison Boo online.

As for whether these products will keep the dreaded stretch marks at bay, who knows? Apparently they are genetic so you could be lubing up all day long and still get them, but I enjoy giving my bump a little pamper and I find that it eases the tightness of the skin.

I was sent these products free of charge for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.


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