Thursday, 31 July 2014

Find it hard to look after yourself? #KeepUpSpatone

Surely one of the biggest challenges of being a parent is looking after yourself.  Days spent at home with the kids mean I find it really hard to find time to empty the dishwasher, let alone make and eat sensible meals for myself (the kids always eat really well!).

Add a general lack of red meat in my diet and I used to often find myself low on energy and iron.  I especially noticed when I was expecting toddler girl that I was so so tired, *all* the time.  My routine blood test at 28 weeks confirmed I was really low on iron - 9g/dl rather than the recommended 11g/dl.  The midwife looked slightly horrified - apparently it was one of the lowest results she'd had, and she was surprised I had the energy to get to the surgery!

I set about investigating sources of iron in food, and the results were pretty surprising.  To get the recommended 14.8mg iron women need every day, you'd need to eat or drink at least one of these:

  • 6.5 Weetabix
  • 450g red lentils (a standard bag is 500g) 
  • 548g spinach (nearly three bags!)
  • 1.2kg chicken (that's five or six chicken breasts)
  • 2.1kg broccoli (about six heads of broccoli)
  • or
  • 15 pints of Guinness!

I am not sure I could drink 15 pints of Guinness in a week, let alone a day!  A much easier option is one sachet of Spatone - an iron rich liquid supplement.

After Spatone was recommended by a friend, I took it during my third trimester with baby girl - what a difference!  Being heavily pregnant and with a young son, I wasn't exactly skipping everywhere but I did find the afternoon naps in front of Cbeebies with my son became a thing of the past, and in general I felt MUCH better.

I still take Spatone to make sure my iron levels don't drop so low again, especially when the busy 'don't have time to look after myself' days outnumber the good ones. I take the apple sachets these days, and totally love that it although it has less iron than standard iron tablets, my body absorbs more because it's a liquid and has added vitamin C.


Because of the lower iron content than tablets, I also don't get the *ahem* unpleasant toilet side effects that often come with taking iron tablets.

The Spatone box states that it is ideal for all women including pregnant women, children over two years, teenagers, vegetarians, vegans and active seniors.  You can find out more at the Nelson's website.

If you're feeling especially tired all the time, or suspect you're low on iron, it's definitely worth a try.  I'm not a doctor or dietician though, so I'd recommend a blood test if you're in any doubt.

This is my entry into the Spatone #KeepUpSpatone competition to win a £200 spa gift voucher.  More information can be found at the Nelson's PR Twitter account.  Are you entering too?  I'd love to read your entry!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Camping essentials for family of four

We might be crazy, but all four of us are off to a festival soon.  That's husband, me, son (five) and toddler girl (one).  We're not exactly famed for travelling light so it's going to be a challenge!

We're lucky enough to be staying in a yurt (the main attraction being the posh-ish loos), so at least we don't have to pack the tent.  Good job, because I doubt there will be room in the car!  Here's our essentials... I am grateful for any advice about how to cut things down!

  • Bottles of water
  • Torches
  • Washing up bowl, sponges and liquid
  • Tea towel
  • Cool box
  • Rubbish bag
  • Laundry bag
  • Fruit, so we eat something decent!
  • Toilet roll

Husband and I
  • Clothes for four days
  • Toiletries for the odd shower and teeth brushing (freezing campsite showers brrr!)
  • Towels
  • iPod to drown out the person snoring in the next tent
  • Snacks for late night hunger pangs
  • Kettle and tea bags - the yurt has power - hoorah!
  • Ibuprofen, insect repellent, sun cream
  • Phone charger - the internet is oxygen don't you know?

  • Clothes for four days, plus spares (!)
  • A cap for sunny days (please let there be sunny days)
  • Rain coat for rainy days (noooo)
  • Pyjamas, plus tracksuit bottoms and hoody in case it gets cold
  • Teddy, oh my gosh, we can't forget Ted
  • Books for bedtime to *try* and get him to sleep
  • Toiletries, plus his toothbrush and paste, Calpol and suncream
  • Drinks bottle

Toddler girl - here's where the list gets long!
  • Travel cot, bedding and sleeping bag
  • Favourite taggie blanket to help her sleep
  • Blanket for daytime nap
  • Clothes - enough vests, leggings, t shirts, cardigans to sink a battleship
  • At least two babygros to use as pyjamas
  • Our Chicco Snappy stroller and rain cover (it's brilliant for travel )
  • Milk, frozen, so it lasts a few days in a cool box
  • A couple of frozen meals so she has something decent to eat on the first day
  • Cool bag with bibs, her cutlery,  plate or two, sippy drinking cup
  • Nappies and Cheeky Wipes, nappy bags and mucky wipes bag
  • Change bag for when we're out and about
  • Back carrier - we love our Chicco Caddy knapsack
  • A few toys and books to keep her amused
  • Her LittleLife bumblebee rucksack for use as reins
  • Toiletries, comb, toothbrush, suncream
  • Hats, at least two because we're bound to lose one

Phew!  It certainly seems easier sometimes to just stay at home.  Have I missed anything?  I doubt it - it feels like we're packing the kitchen sink!  Is there a way to cut this down?  I'd love to hear how you manage it!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Balancing working and family life - an opportunity

During the school run, I see so many Mums (and a couple of Dads too!) who have chosen, or been forced to give up work after they had children.  Combining a job or career with the demands of children can be really tough - especially for those with fixed 9-5 jobs or irregular shift patterns.  The price of childcare so often forces parents out of work!

So I was really interested to hear about Bluey and Baloo - a flexible childcare franchise business opportunity.  At the moment, Bluey and Baloo operates mostly in the Wirral/Liverpool/Cheshire area, but is looking to expand further through franchising.

Bluey and Baloo offers flexible and mobile crèches, party and childcare options. Think mobile creches at weddings or family events and entertainment at Christenings.  This type of work typically is needed on weekends or 'out of hours' and I'm sure it's an option that would work for loads of parents who need an income, but can't afford to pay for childcare.

I was really surprised to hear there's very little in the way of competition for mobile childcare services.  Other than play bus hire (hot, sweaty and tired kids - ugh!), people have very little choice when it comes to giving parents a break for a few hours at an event.  This means a mobile crèche can charge a premium - especially with the service levels Bluey and Baloo demand!

There must be so many parents, or experienced childcare professionals who this would be perfect for.  It means you'll be able to combine family life with running a successful business - aren't we all after that?

You can contact Bluey and Baloo for more information using its contact form.  For more info on the franchise opportunity, take a look at the franchise opportunity page.

Disclaimer: I was asked to review the Bluey and Baloo franchise opportunity, but have received nothing in return for my honest opinion.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

It's a man's world - The Prompt

It's been a while since I joined in with Mum Turned Mom's The Prompt.  The idea is that Sara publishes a writing prompt every week, and bloggers (that's me then!) link up.  This week's prompt is:

It's a man's world
Is it though? 
51% of the UK's population is female.  We have women teachers, doctors and lawyers.  The Houses of Parliament have women representatives.  We've even had a woman prime minister.
So is the world we all operate in really a man's?  Is it more that women, generally speaking, lack the confidence to believe it's theirs?  That we really do have a say, and influence in how it operates?
Time and again at work I hear that there's a glass ceiling, that you have to be masculine to be successful, that if you take maternity leave or prioritise your children you can't be as successful as men.

And I hear in the school playground that husbands don't have time to help with 'women's work', that childcare is not important, that they are 'just' a stay at home Mum and are too tired/frazzled/busy to do anything 'meaningful' in the 'real' world. 
Are these not just barriers that women put up for themselves?  I've never heard a man say a woman didn't get the job because of her gender.  But I've heard plenty of women who didn't apply because they don't have (in their opinion) the experience, qualifications, and/or dedication necessary.

I've never heard a man worry endlessly if their children are getting their five a day.  Stress because the ironing pile is big.  Or worry about how they will cope and balance things if one of the kids gets chicken pox.
Isn't it time that women woke up and realised that we are the biggest barrier to our own success?  That we're the ones who define that success, and the world that both men and women live in. 
And if we define success as staying home and looking after children then that's the world, and if success is career, then that's the world.  And if we try and do both, and juggle, prioritise, delegate and manage families and careers all at the same time, then that's also the world. 
Whichever way, it isn't a man's world.  It is both a man and women's world, and we can make of it what we choose.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Willie's Cacao chocolate giveaway [now closed]

Willie's Cacao is my most favourite chocolate ever, bar none.  I discovered it after the 2008 Channel 4 TV series which followed Willie Harcourt-Cooze from his cacao farm in Venezuela to producing the high-end pure cacao bars in Devon.  He is the master of cacao and chocolate in my eyes.

I thought it was time for a foodie giveaway, so one lucky blog reader will win four 50g single square delicious Willie's Cacao chocolate bars.  I couldn't decide which one to buy as a prize, so I bought all four!

  • Milk of the Gods, sublime single estate milk chocolate
  • Sierra Leone Ginger Lime, layers of exotic flavour
  • Cuban Luscious Orange, delicate orange with honey notes
  • El Blanco, Venezuelan white chocolate

To enter, please complete the Rafflecopter below.  Don't forget to tweet everyday for even more entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • This competition is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Willie's Cacao.
  • You must be resident in the UK to enter. Prize will be shipped to a UK address.
  • Competition runs from 22nd July 2014 until 23:59 on 6th August 2014.
  • Entry is via one and/or more of the methods in Rafflecopter widget.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  Winning entries will be checked and must be current at time of checking.
  • There is one prize.  The prize is four 50g single square Willie's Cacao chocolate bars.  There is no cash alternative.
  • The winner(s) will be contacted by email or on Twitter (if appropriate) by 10th August 2014.  If no reply is received, a new winner may be chosen.
  • I'll do my utmost to get the prize to the winner within 14 days, but can’t guarantee it.
  • The winner's name, as registered when logged into Rafflecopter will be displayed after the end of the competition.
  • Judge’s decision is final.

Win competitions at

Monday, 21 July 2014

Taste test: Soreen apple and sultana, banana and original fruit loaf

I've been a huge fan of Soreen fruit loaf since I was little.  Mum used to give us 'malt loaf', as it was known back in the 80s, as a treat and if I was really lucky, she toasted it too.  Mmmm!

Our son is also a big fan of Soreen fruit loaf and has a slice of original in his lunch box every day.  So we thought we'd run a taste taste for a few of the many variants of Soreen that are available now.

Our son and I put Soreen original, apple and sultana and banana through their paces (it's a tough job, but someone has to do it!).

All loaves are low fat (the banana loaf has less than 1.5% saturated fat) - great!  All have a decent shelf life of around four weeks too - perfect for keeping in the cupboard as a snack when needed, although it never lasts that long in our house!

First impression of all loaves were great.  Fresh smelling and ridiculously squidgy, they all cut through easily with a bread knife to reveal a squidgy cake/bread like texture.  The banana loaf in particular was really dense.  The original and apple and sultana loaves had a good even distribution of fruit.

"Mum, please can I have a piece now you've taken loads of pictures?" - our son, aged five.
Here's our verdict:
Apple and Sultana Soreen fruit loaf - 5 out of 5
A really delicious fruit loaf.  Our son said it tasted like apple flapjack and apple crumble all in one.  I could taste a hint of cinnamon to balance it all out.  Light but squidgy and satisfying, this was our absolute favourite.  It'd be great toasted with a spread of really good quality butter.

"Mum, can I have some more?  That one's the best!" - our son
Original Soreen fruit loaf - 4.5 out of 5
Yummy, squidgy with a great distribution of fruit.  The loaf held its shape well and was a nice texture.  Tasted perfectly cooked, with a nice balance of barley and raisin.  Delicious!
Banana moist Soreen fruit loaf - 3.5 out of 5
This loaf gives you squidgy energy with the addition of banana.  Of all the loaves, this one was the most dense.  The banana flavour was strong throughout and although our son really liked it, it was a little strong for me - this is probably a good thing so you don't eat the whole loaf!  Still delicious, and again would be great toasted.

You can visit the Soreen website for information on all variants and loads of delicious recipes at  I particularly love the sound of this heavenly sounding chocolate Soreen flapjack:

At the time of writing (July 2014), all these variants were on offer in Asda at two for £2.  Bargain!
Family Fever
Disclaimer: thanks Soreen for sending me the original and banana loaves to review.  I purchased the apple and sultana loaf myself.  All views and thoughts are mine, and my son's.  Please don't use images without permission.


Sunday, 20 July 2014

My Sunday photo

Life is getting easier now toddler girl's getting older and we all can eat out more easily.  We went to Pizza Express yesterday, and she absolutely loved the chocolate fudge cake that was part of the kids' menu. Some of it even went in her mouth!

For more pictures like this, please follow me on Instagram at

Linking up with One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo.


Friday, 18 July 2014

Proud #WotW

It's been a week of reflection - our son has just finished his reception year at school.  I am so proud of him.  We had a great school report, showing just how far he's come.  He spoke at his graduation ceremony, and was clear and confident.  He received a trophy at football on Monday.  He is a happy little boy.  I'm so proud to be his Mum.  Sometimes I wonder where he came from.

Linking up with Jocelyn at The Reading Residence for this post.

The Reading Residence

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Baby girl becomes toddler girl

It feels like she's been taking her time for ages, but finally baby girl became toddler girl a week or two ago. 

She's off!

It is lovely to see her walking on her own.  She still crawls sometimes because it's faster, but she loves to walk and climb and walk and climb.  She particularly loves our stairs and tries to walk up them all the time!
I'm so happy she's walking, but it's tinged with sadness as our baby days are now over.  Here's to the next chapter.  Even more mischief!
Have you reached any milestones this week?  I'd love to hear.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Heaven #TuesdayTune

It's our son's last week in reception year at primary school.  This afternoon I went to his graduation, and a lovely montage of pictures of all his class was playing to the acoustic version of Heaven by DJ Sammy.  I tracked it down on iTunes - it features Do.
"Oh thinking about our younger years,
We were young and wild and free
There was only you and me"
I, along with lots of other Mums, was overcome with emotion.  The song is so powerful, and it seemed so fitting.  It will always take me back to that school hall now.
I'd love to know what song you're listening to this week - is there one which has moved you?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Teacher buy or not to buy. That is the question.

Should you buy a thank you gift for a teacher?

It's the end of our son's first year at school. He's had a great reception year and has settled really well into school.

The quality of teaching and care he's received at school has been excellent. The progress he's made with literacy since last September is brilliant.

We, genuinely, are really pleased with his school.

So should we buy his teacher an end of year thank you gift? It's the talk of the playground, and I'm really in a dilemma about it.

Some people are going all out - tens of pounds for a one off treat. Some people are doing small gifts like chocolates. Some are giving a bottle of wine.

And I don't know whether to join in or not. Would you?

Teaching is after all, his teacher's job. She has done what she's supposed to do. At parent's evening and after every school concert, we’ve said thank you and told her how pleased we are with our son’s progress.

The education our son has received is also down to a whole range of people within the school - his PE teacher, the classroom assistant, all the cooks and dinner staff, playground supervisors, even the cleaners who regularly have the unpleasant task of unblocking toilets. It seems disrespectful to give a gift only to his teacher. So should I send something for all?

And then there are the neverending costs of school. Last month alone we've had a school trip, raffle tickets and prizes, cake making and buying, class photos, school dinners and an artwork sale. These costs aren't insignificant, so do we really want to add 'gifts' to those?

But then, there's the peer pressure of all the Mums in the playground who will be giving a gift. I know our son would feel really left out if he was the only one who didn't give a gift out of his whole class.

He likes his teacher, and teaching assistant. He knows they work hard for him. Any he has asked if we can get something for the dinner lady that goes out of her way to help him every day.

They've all done a great job so why shouldn't they be rewarded with a gesture of thanks?

I'd love to know what you think, and what you did in this situation. Please help me make up my mind!

June's been and gone

June's been and gone..

I really don't know where this year is going, we are half way through summer and the school holidays are nearly upon us (gulp!).

Here's what we got up to in June:
  • A trip to Twycross Zoo for our son - his first school trip for the day
  • School sport's day and our son winning the running race
  • BritMums Live; inspiration, tears and knowledge. I can't believe I went!

  • Work being stressful, but it all being ok in the end
  • Baby girl growing up fast, so fast
  • Ellie Goulding in my car's CD player
I'd love to her what you've been up to over the last four weeks, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Back to Life - Soul II Soul #TuesdayTune

I love a bit of old school, and this definitely fits the bill.  I discovered it again on iTunes and have been listening to it all week.
Soul II Soul
Back to Life

"However do you want me,
However do you need me."

This song has been around for 25 years, since 1989.  How unbelievable is that?  I love it!

What are you listening to this week?  I'd love to know.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Win GUMIGEM silicone teething necklace [now closed]

GUMIGEM teething necklaces are fab - designed in Scotland, each piece of stylish jewellery is made from silicon and is completely safe for teething babies to chew on. 

They're washable, BPA free, soft, flexible and suitable from birth.  How great it that?

I have this gorgeous Malteether milled heart necklace worth £12.95 to give away to one lucky reader. Complete the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and don't forget to tweet every day!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • You must be resident in the UK to enter. Prize will be shipped to a UK address.
  • Competition runs from 7th July 2014 until 23:59 on 28th July 2014.
  • Entry is via one and/or more of the methods in Rafflecopter widget.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  Winning entries will be checked and must be current at time of checking.
  • There is one prize.  There is no cash alternative.
  • The winner(s) will be contacted by email or on Twitter (if appropriate) by 1st August 2014.  If no reply is received, a new winner may be chosen..
  • I'll do my utmost to get the prize to the winner within 14 days, but can’t guarantee it.
  • The winner's name, as registered when logged into Rafflecopter will be displayed after the end of the competition.
  • Judge’s decision is final.

Win competitions at

Sunday, 6 July 2014

My Sunday Photo

This week I was at an event with work, and was lucky enough to be at the Shangri-La on floor 36 of the Shard in London.  The views were spectacular, and I resolved to take the kids there.  It was a really clear day and you could see for miles around. 

We are so lucky to live in such a fantastic country, with access to such talented architects and engineers, and have green space all around too.

Linking up with One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo.


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

One in a Million - Aaliyah #TuesdayTune

This  is in my top five favourite songs of all time; I've been listening to it a lot over the last couple of weeks.

Aaliyah, One in a Million

"Your love is one in a million
It goes on and on and on
You give me a really good feeling
All day long."
The song is the second track on the One in a Million album which was released in 1996.  It's edgy pop R&B, and was written by the ever talented Missy Elliott and Timbaland.  I remember it standing out a mile at the time as different to anything I'd heard. 
It's stuck with me since, and I still listen to the album and this song in particular regularly.  To me, it hasn't aged at all, and would still stand up in today's charts.

Tragically, Aaliyah died in 2001 - an unbelievable 13 years ago.  I clearly remember hearing it on the news.  Rest in peace - you touched my life.