Friday, 25 April 2014

Lara Jill Changing Bag Review

Vlinder Baby Bag
Vlinder oilcloth baby bag, £39.99
When my old-faithful, free Boots Parenting Club changing bag finally gave up and burst earlier this month, I was forced once and for all to find a replacement. I'd been talking about it for months- the bag was really too small, everyone I knew had the same one (resulting in numerous bag mix-ups) and there had been holes in the lining for ages. It had served me well (especially for free!) but with two babies in nappies on the horizon... on to bigger and better things!

Browsing in high street shops, I was horrified at the price of changing bags. Unless I wanted a very basic, small, plain-coloured model, I would have to shell out a small fortune. Quality and function at the right price are absolutely essential- this bag will be used to hold everything I need for two babies after all! 

I turned to independent designers, makers and retailers. Lara Jill bags stood out for me from the rest of the market, mainly because of the gorgeous fabrics and patterns. They are all made from oilcloth, which also attracted me to them- I take my changing bag outside a lot, and a waterproof element is certainly helpful in the Scottish rain! Lara sent me a stunning Vlinder changing bag from her range to put through its paces and review
Love the colours and pattern of the fabric
Loads of pockets and compartments!
The bag was delivered quickly and well-packaged by courier. It was bigger than I expected, measuring 43 L x 14 W x 28 H (cm). The larger size is actually perfect for me, considering I will be using it for more than one baby. I also tend to spend a lot of time out and about and on the move, hence more supplies! There are also smaller bags from the same range available too, in a very similar style. 

It has the option of using a shoulder strap or handles. The handles make it feel like a fashionable adult bag, while the shoulder strap is practically useful. I found that the design of the handles made them soft to carry. The strap is adjustable, so it is easy to hang over the handles of a pram or buggy. Sometimes I go without a pram, instead choosing to wear Heather in a sling- so the fact that the shoulder strap can be made as long as I like is really useful for babywearing. 

There are loads of pockets and sections in this bag, which is a huge bonus for me. There are zip pockets on both the front and back- easily accessible and perfect for my own essentials like my phone, keys and purse. There are also separate pockets on the inside, so no rummaging for dummies, snacks and smaller items! The main compartment is very spacious. Heather and I went out for the whole day, taking all the supplies necessary- and as you can see, there was plenty of room left to comfortably fit her dolly! The 2 elasticated bottle compartments on the sides are a great feature- they accommodate both my water bottle and her milk bottle. 
Easy to hang over the pram...
... or a buggy!
The Vlinder Baby Bag comes with a matching changing mat. It is thin, so doesn't take up much room, yet slightly padded for comfort. The oilcloth fabric really lends itself to this purpose, as it's easy to wipe down. 

This bag is truly multi-functional. We used it as a flight/ travel bag on holiday, and there was more than ample room to carry everything we needed. The shoulder strap came in really handy when our hands were full from carrying suitcases and everything else that comes with travelling with baby!
On a bus in Tunisia
I would highly recommend purchasing a changing bag from Lara Jill- I have thoroughly road-tested mine (both at home, travelling and during a holiday!) and it has ticked all the boxes for me. This bag is clearly made to last, so I look forward to using it for a long time to come. 

Beautiful, budget nursery!

Heather's room
Heather's budget nursery
I am delighted that my first post for Kiddicare's new-look website: Bump, Baby & You has now gone live! I wrote about my experience in creating a gorgeous nursery on a budget, as I know how costs can really add up at this time. 

I passionately believe that the most beautiful baby nurseries are designed with love, and filled with items that mean something. The great news is, they don't need to break the bank! Read my post here at Bump, Baby & You:

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

New maternity range from Kiddicare!

Kiddicare has been one of my favourite websites since my daughter was born- I always shop around for the best prices, and time after time have found that they are cheapest for all things baby and toddler. I was very excited when I heard that Kiddicare have now branched out to sell a new range of maternity clothes, by a company called Mamalicious. The range is available in stores at the moment, with plans to extend to online soon. (Find your nearest Kiddicare here.)
Mamalicious dress from Kiddicare
Their designs closely follow high street and catwalk trends, while adapting and evolving the looks to suit expectant mothers: "shape with style". They focus on keeping silhouettes true to the style of clothing, while providing the extra room where it is necessary. A very simple concept, yet this is what makes the range so good- the clothes accentuate your leaner features and balance out your growing bump. 

Kiddicare sent me some items from the new range to test out, and I have felt amazing wearing them over the last couple of weeks! They have really added to my holiday wardrobe. Being very petite and only 5'1", I have always felt that a lot of maternity clothes swamped me all over and drowned me in fabric... not these ones! 

Denim skirt
During my last pregnancy, I searched high and low for a suitable denim skirt- they all seemed to be either ridiculously long or ridiculously short. This one is perfect, and my favourite Mamalicious item from the range I tried. It sits just below the knee and slim-cut in the right places. It looks like a skirt that my non-pregnant self would normally wear, except that hidden under my top is a soft fabric panel for my bump, so it's really comfortable. I can see me wearing this constantly- I've already worn it to work, casually and out to dinner with friends! 
Subtle stretchy waistband
Looks deceptively like a regular skirt!
Denim tunic and leggings
This denim tunic is extremely cute and comfortable to wear casually with leggings and flat boots, as you can see. I also found it long enough to wear with tights and heels to work, which actually made it look quite smart! The sleeves can be worn full length, however there is a button to roll them up, which I thought added to the sleeker overall silhouette of the tunic. It has a tie at the back, so I can pull it as tight as I like, making it adapt perfectly to my shape as the baby grows. The pin-tuck detailing round the bust is really dainty and flattering.

Black leggings are one of my tried-and-tested maternity wardrobe staples. The Mamalicious leggings fit absolutely perfectly, and the fabric feels stretchy enough to wear later in the pregnancy. They feel really silky and good quality, and labels are placed in the right positions so they don't dig in. 
Denim tunic with pin-tuck detail
I have been invited to a hen night next month, and at 7 months pregnant, I feared I would feel frumpy next to everyone else. This dress has changed that! The fabric is gathered under the bust, and long pleats at the front mean that there is enough room for my bump, without losing shape. The silky feel and geometric shapes are not typical of a usual maternity dress, and I have thoroughly enjoyed wearing it to dinner and on holiday so far.
Port el Kantoui in Tunisia
Out for dinner at Chaopraya in my gorgeous silky dress
How cute is this nautical tankini? I just love the combination of navy and white stripes, with the red polka-dot trim. The straps are adjustable, so would be suitable for both the smaller and the larger bust. I found it brilliant for wearing on holiday- cooler in the sun than a full costume but with added coverage! 
Ready for a swim!
This was my first experience of the Mamalicious range, and I absolutely love it. I'll definitely be adding to my maternity wardrobe, as the clothes are gorgeous, flattering and really well priced too!

Preparing for a craft fair part 5: Business cards

Craft fairs are, above all, a fantastic way to network and promote your crafts. You will have opportunities to meet and chat with lots of different people, including customers, potential future customers and other stallholders. You need to be prepared for this, and having a stack of business cards at the ready is the most effective way to prepare. 
My business cards, from Zazzle
Business cards are available from lots of online retailers, all clamouring with special offers of "free business cards", so it's difficult to know where really does offer best value for money, along with the best quality. 3 big contenders in this field are Vistaprint, Moo and Zazzle, and this post will explore my experience with each.

Vistaprint- I have used Vistaprint before, when I was running Baby Brain, my craft group for new mums. At the time, they were offering 250 premium business cards for £5, and the offer seemed too good to pass up. The premium cards were lovely, clearly excellent quality, printed on thick card, and my own logo looked great on them. They did end up costing a lot more than £5, however, as the shipping was quite pricey. There were also hidden charges on top, such as extra to use your own logo, and extra to opt out of having the Vistaprint logo on the back. 

Moo- This is a relatively new company, and it is unique in that they offer a sample pack of 10 personalised business cards for absolutely free (no postage either!) Another free option from Moo is a showcase sample pack (not personalised) which includes one of each product. I received these samples, which arrived well-packaged and quickly. The cards themselves (classic) were thick and did feel professional. 
10 free sample cards from Moo
The back of the Moo sample cards

Zazzle- My favourites overall. I found that Zazzle had by far the best range of designs available, and even had a ready-made design featuring a pink robot! I also favoured this company because they display costs upfront on their website, instead of adding "extras" on at the end. This honest approach means you can make up your mind while feeling fully informed, instead of a little cheated as you check out.   

The lovely people at Zazzle sent me a voucher to order and review some business cards, along with an adorable reusable coffee flask- which will be perfect for standing at a craft stall on a chilly day! I found that the whole design process was easy to follow, and the website was straightforward to navigate. I opted for the design featuring the pink robot (of course!) which comes printed both sides in colour as standard. Despite it being a ready-made design, it really feels true to my brand. I was able to add as much or as little text as I wanted, and here are my final designs: 
The front of my business cards
Full colour on the back too!
Pink Robot travel mug
Standard delivery on the business cards was very reasonable at £2.84, and it took just over a week for them to arrive. They come packaged in a handy little plastic box to keep them safe. There are loads of matching products on the website for most designs,  including stickers, leaflets, T-shirts and mugs, so in future I would find it easy to add to my Pink Robot merchandise. I am really pleased with my business cards and matching travel mug!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Holiday Bargains... Sun, Here We Come!

We are off on holiday today for a week in the sun, away from the constant grey drizzle that has been around since last summer! I wanted to share some holiday bargains I've found, and some ways I've kept the costing of packing down. I wrote a post a while ago about how to book a holiday on a budget (Going On Holiday Abroad... the Thrifty Way!) so consider this part 2. 

Buggy: One item I knew I would have to buy was a lightweight, folding buggy. Our pram is just too heavy and bulky for a flight, and Heather is getting to the age and stage where a buggy is more suitable for her anyway. After shopping around, I chose this buggy from Kiddicare's spring sale- reduced from £59.99 to a very affordable £27.99 (including free delivery!) Borrowing a buggy is of course an even thriftier option- however, since we will continue to use it after the holiday it made sense to buy one of our own. 
Kiddicare buggy, less than half price at £27.99!
Baby clothes: Toddlers need a lot of clothes on holiday, even just for a week. Suncream, eating in restaurants, swimming, sand and ice cream mean frequent changes of clothes. Kitting them out needn't break the bank though! Think about buying second-hand- lots of used holiday clothes are in perfect condition, as they have generally only been worn for a week-long holiday! We bought lots of things for Heather is as-new condition, for next to nothing on eBay and in local thrift shops. I've packed lots of handmade baby skirts, so saved money that way too. We cheerfully accepted hand-me-downs from my sister-in-law, and here are a few highlights from Heather's new(ish!) summer wardrobe: 

Gold Baby Gap sparkly cardi, £2 from Merry Go Round
Beautiful summer set, second-hand from my sister-in-law
Handmade skirts, around £2.50 each to make
T-shirt selection, most around 99p from eBay!
Toys: Small children have absolutely no concept of how much things cost, or where they came from- if something is fun, it's fun. I opted for lots of small items instead of fewer, larger things, and sourced them as cheaply as I could. This inflatable ball was one of my favourite finds, and at only £1.49 from eBay, including delivery, it's a total bargain. I'll blow it up when we get there, so at present, it takes up next to no room in my suitcase.  
£1.49, from eBay!
While shopping for swimming nappies in Asda, I found these cute mini In The Night Garden cuddly toys, reduced to £4.77 each. Just the right size to pop in our flight bag, I'm excited to see Heather's reaction when she sees them- and I'm hoping they'll make up for the fact I've woken her up at 3:30am to catch a flight! 
Upsy Daisy and friends, reduced in Asda!
Sun Cream: I haven't been on holiday for a few years now, what with buying a house and having a baby- but was sun cream always so expensive?! Even taking into account the "buy one, get one free" offers in nearly every store, it was coming in at around £6 for a 200ml bottle. This adds up, considering that we need both factor 50 for Heather and factor 30 for us, and enough to last a week! Aldi came to the rescue with its Lacura brand, at £2.79 a bottle. It actually smells really nice and rubs in just as well as its expensive counterparts.  

Trunki: Buying a Trunki in itself is not very "thrifty", as it's not an absolute holiday essential. However, we were given a gift of money from a relative to buy Heather "something for her holidays" and I wanted to choose something that would last her past this one week. This fun ladybird Trunki has been a brilliant choice already- she loves climbing on it and pulling it along, and once she discovers that it's full of toys and books, she'll love it even more. Since she will be able to use it for several years to come, it's worth the money. I shopped around for the best prices online, and bought this one for £34.99 in Kiddicare's spring sale- including delivery. 
Harley the Trunki, £34.99 from Kiddicare
I'd love to hear your thrifty tips for going on holiday... go ahead and add them in the comments! 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Handmade Easter Headband

We were invited to Heather's first baby Easter egg hunt yesterday, and I jumped on the excuse to make something festive for her to wear! Her granny bought her a lovely yellow dress and cardigan last time she visited, from the gorgeous new Nutmeg budget range at Morrisons. She looks great for spring, and the tone of yellow really suits her. The outfit needed a flamboyant final flourish, so I gathered my felt and fabric scraps... 
The Easter extravaganza!
I started out with a simple felt flower headband, but as you can see, I got a little carried away in the festive theme! I ended up with a cross between an Easter bonnet and a headband, complete with traditional chick, Easter egg and bunny. 
Cheeky Easter chick 
My favourite part of the extreme Easter creation is this bunny. I'm going to make more of these as brooches, and add them to Pink Robot's woodland felt brooch collection. I love his little twitchy nose and fun tail. 
Easter bunny with a pompom tail
I had a few tiny scraps of floral fabric lying around, which I would normally throw away, but I thought that mini flowers would add to the bright, cheerful theme. I like the differences in texture the fabric provides, next to the felt. 
Scrap flowers
I'd love to hear about your ideas for baby Easter bonnets... including how to keep them on the baby's head! Could I get her to keep it on long enough to take a photo? Erm... Nope! 

Shared at these fabulous link parties... 
Craftastic Monday
Handmade Tuesdays

Wrapping gifts beautifully- #pindoit for Olive Dragonfly

I was delighted to write a guest post for Bex at The Olive Dragonfly while she's away enjoying a fabulous holiday in Thailand... lucky thing! 

I love the idea of #pindoit, as I have so many wonderful projects marked on Pinterest, and never get round to doing them. As luck would have it, this is a busy gift-giving time for me, so I chose to try a series of pins, on creative gift-wrapping ideas. 
My beautifully-wrapped offerings!
Wrapping a gift thoughtfully can instantly add luxury, giving the "wow" factor to the smallest of presents. You needn't spend much money either- these wrapping methods actually cost less than buying gift bags and fancy wrapping paper. For my #pindoit projects, I used brown parcel paper, costing only 50p for 3 metres, bits and bobs from my craft stash, and recycled materials.

Pop over to The Olive Dragonfly to see more pictures, find the original Pinterest links, and read about how I created each of these wrapping styles. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

The best face serum ever... on a budget!

An ongoing quest of mine is to find the perfect face serum for the perfect price. I have had eczema since I was a baby, and although it's a lot better now, my skin is still very dry and sensitive. I've heard all about the "pregnancy glow" that lucky women are supposed to get- but sadly, I am not one of them. Instead, since falling pregnant I have been "enjoying" the combination of adult acne and dry patches... nice! 

Most cheaper high street face creams are full of additives and chemicals, and tend to make my skin come out in angry hives. The few serums and creams I have tried that do agree with me are very expensive, costing over £20 a bottle. One avenue I had never pursued was the natural, handmade serums available- until 2 weeks ago, when The Apothecary sent me a jar of their Eye & Throat Serum to try and review
Old-fashioned, charming box
The serum arrived, with the packaging fitting right in with "The Apothecary" branding. The old-fashioned script and cardboard box looked like it contained a concoction from a chemist of past times. The little glass jar inside added to this theme, and I was very excited to open it. 

The aromatherapy cream is fragrant, but I found the scents difficult to place at first. It contains rosehip oil, celery seed and collagen gel, as well as essential oils like jasmine, rose, calendula and frankincense. There is a very detailed description of the natural ingredients and their benefits on Etsy, and I think it would have been perfect if there had been a little note included in the box with this information. 
Cute little glass jar
Immediately after the first application, the skin on my face felt moisturised and soothed. About 10 minutes later, I noticed that my skin was smoother with fewer laughter lines (!) and the colour was much more even. My cheeks have been red in recent weeks, and even one application of this serum calmed them right down. 

Although the seller recommends using this cream once a day, I have been using it morning and night since I got it 2 weeks ago. The jar looks deceptively small- I have been using a lot each time, and it  is still over half full.  When I use it in the morning (around 5 minutes before I put makeup on) I have found that I no longer need primer under my foundation. This serum is perfect as a nourishing makeup base. Since discovering this cream, my acne and dry patches have totally vanished, my skin is really even in both texture and colour, lines have become much smaller and I feel great! 

I have also used the serum on a persistent patch of eczema on my finger, whenever it flares up. Straight away, the patch appears much less inflamed, and by the evening it is all but healed, with the itch gone out of it. 

This is, by quite a large margin, the best face serum I have ever used, and at £12.50 a jar it is more affordable than high street serums. Double bonus! The Apothecary has a whole range of skin creams and perfumes, for various specific skin conditions. I recommend this product 100%, and will definitely be buying more once my jar runs out. 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Owl cushion tutorial: Guest post for Scot Bloggers

For those of you who enjoyed reading about the peacock outfit I made for my daughter for Hillary's Blinds competition, the full tutorial for the friendy wise owl cushion was featured on Scot Bloggers website yesterday. Scot Bloggers is a great website, showcasing the diverse range of blogs from writers all over Scotland. 
Wise owl cushion
Pop over to the Scot Bloggers website to find out how to make your own! Here are some photos from the tutorial...
Adding details to the owl.
A perfectly owlish eye!
Make your owl cushion as plump as you like!
My finished owl on the sofa.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Cheeky Wipes Review: Eco-Friendly, Thrifty Baby Wipes!

Having a messy one-year-old means that I go through an awful lot of baby wipes. I was using over a packet a week, and with an average of 60 wipes per pack, that amounts to over 3000 wipes a year going into the bin, and ultimately into landfill sites. I had been feeling guilty about the number I was personally responsible for throwing away, and with another baby due, I was not prepared to double that number!
We all know...
...babies can be!
... how yucky...
I had never considered reusable wipes before, but the environmental benefits and money-saving benefits intrigued me. When Helen at Cheeky Wipes sent me an all-in-one kit to try and review, I was very keen to give it a go. 

The all-in-one kit
Kit contents, excluding boxes
First impressions...
My kit contained an instruction booklet, 25 white terry cloths, "mucky" and "fresh" essential oil blends, boxes for fresh and dirty wipes, bags for on-the-go use, and a mesh bag for putting in the washing machine. The whole kit looks really professional and sharp, even down to each terry cloth boasting a "Cheeky Wipes" label- and you know how big I am on branding!  

I was a little overwhelmed when I opened the box- having been used to just opening a pack of disposables and using one! However, once I took everything out and read the instructions, it was actually very easy. All you need to do is fill the "fresh" box with a couple of centimetres of water, add drops of the essential oil mix, then pop the cloth wipes in.  
My "fresh" wipes, ready for use!
The Cheeky Wipes label
Getting started... 
The clip on the "fresh" container means that the wipes stay moist and fresh for 3 days. When I need a baby wipe, I just open the box and take one out. They smell gorgeous, and in turn my baby's skin smells gorgeous! I have found that 25 wipes is about the ideal amount needed for 2-3 days, before I wash them. 

The larger box is for the cloths once they have been used. All you need to do is line it with the mesh bag, fill to the line with water and add the "mucky" essential oil blend. Once the cloth is dirty, I put it in the box until I am ready to put a load of washing in the machine. 
The two boxes: "fresh" and "mucky"
Out and about... 
I found that using these wipes while out and about was convenient and hassle-free too. The all-in-one kit includes two waterproof bags- one for a bundle of fresh wipes, and which keeps the dirty ones safe and separate in your changing bag until you get home. The bag for dirty cloths has a mesh lining, which is detachable when it comes to washing. The wipes were a real conversation-starter when out with other mums- they seemed impressed with how convenient they were to take out, use, and put away again. 
Holds about 15 wipes
With detachable mesh insert

The Cheeky Wipes are small, so don't take up much space in the washing machine. It is recommended that they are washed at 60 degrees, and with all my daughter's clothes, towels and bedding I tend to put a hot wash on every couple of days anyway. You don't need to wait for them to dry before putting them back in the "fresh" box and using again!
Unzip the mesh insert and pop it in the wash!
Can you even use them for...?
The wipes are suitable for cleaning up everything- including baby poop! It took me around a week to build up to using them for this purpose (yes, I was a little bit squeamish at the thought!) They did work very well at cleaning my baby's bottom (I must stress this fact!), and I put the cloth wipe into my "mucky" box without any problems. So far, so good. However, when it came to transferring the mesh bag from the box into my washing machine, the drips of water onto the floor were unavoidable. This does not normally bother me, but when the water had a "poopy" element to it, I was put off. Tipping the water out of the box to wash it wasn't the most pleasant task either on this occasion. 

In conclusion, I am truly converted to Cheeky Wipes... for all uses, apart from dealing with dirty nappies! I decided that using a couple of disposable wipes a day- only if necessary, and only for dirty nappies- was a big improvement on using them all the time. My husband and I now use Cheeky Wipes for Heather's mucky face and hands, and for wet nappies. They do clean more thoroughly than disposables, smell nicer, cost less long-term and are much better for the environment. I would recommend switching to anyone (and have been doing so!) 
Cheeky Wipes put an end to this! 
There is actually a Cheeky Wipes kit especially designed for hands and faces, so when the time comes to replenish my kit, I have my eye on the pretty multicoloured wipes- you can buy all the elements separately. The all-in-one kit I have is currently on offer at £29.99 (normally £39.99) so I think most people with one child would see the financial benefits in a few months' time. People using the kits for more than one child, however, will benefit much quicker! 

Discount Code: Cheeky Wipes are offering £5 off orders over £40, using the discount code gmd123 at the checkout. Visit the website now! If you are thinking about making the switch, feel free to ask me any questions about my experience.