What I wore – Lori & Lumps Lace cowl

This cowl has pretty much made the season for me. My friend Tash crocheted it and it’s a real testament to her craftsmanship, quirky personality and joyful dedication. She recently launched her crochet business Lori & Lumps Lace and there is lusting a-plenty to be had over the collection there.

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There are dragon shawls, swirling scarves, children’s cardigans, mermaid tails and much more, all exhibiting her careful stitching and beadwork. Many of her pieces are made from beautifully hand-dyed merino yarn.

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You can probably tell I’ve been drooling over her shop for a while! I kept saying that I would buy something and I finally have. I’ve ordered two of her My Little Pony hats for the girls for Christmas. Talitha, for some reason, has decided that Coconut Cream is her favourite and I couldn’t resist choosing Rainbow Dash for Ophelia.

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In the meantime, this beautiful, crazy cowl is brightening these chilly, grey days and garnering lots of compliments. She’s named it her “Serendipity Cowl” as it was the product of a happy accident! From the moment I saw it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it! I was actually planning to buy it but she ended up offering it to me for the purpose of this review.

Her prices are extremely accessible (the cowl is valued at £29), especially when you consider how much work goes into each piece. I love giving gifts that are handmade, added bonus if it means supporting an independent business. So as our thoughts turn towards Christmas *hint hint*, I suggest you take a look here.


Pacapod changing bag – function meets style

I’ve been trying out the new PacaPod Idaho-Marine changing bag and wishing this is were the changing bag I’d started out with. My changing bag history began with ugly but functional changing bags I’d been given and moved on to non-changing bags that ticked the boxes for me aesthetically but didn’t allow me to find a blessed thing.

Pacapod - stylish changing bag

I love that PacaPod combines both style and functionality. There are so many pockets! There are also two pouches inside that pull out and can be opened to lie flat. One for food and bottles (if this is what you need) and one for changing stuff. I could see that being particularly useful on a flight when you want to nip to the loo with just your changing bits.

My only gripe is that the changing mat is too small, in my opinion and the changing pouch can just about fit a couple of cloth nappies if they’re on the smaller side.

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Other than that, the bag itself is very spacious and, provided that you don’t overpack, it’s brilliantly comfortable when worn across the body, which has worked well for me when I’ve had a baby in a hip or back carry in a sling.

The bag comes with hooks you can leave attached to your pushchair. They’re really rather useful if a bit fiddly. You can attach the pods on their own or the PacaPod itself.

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This is a bag I happily use when I don’t have small children in tow. I could see myself continuing to enjoy it long after a changing bag is needed. The Idaho-Marine has a laid back look which is perfect for the every day but smart enough for situations that call for it. Read more about it here.

Thanks to PacaPod for sending me this bag for the purposes of this review.


Makey Mamas and How to make a natural teething bar for your baby

A few weekends ago, I enjoyed trying out a Makey Mamas workshop to learn how to make simple, natural skincare products for the whole family.

I first heard about Makey Mamas in the various Bristol Facebook groups I’m on and was intrigued. Offering creative classes specifically for mothers, from newborn photography to crocheting booties to sewing harem pants, they sounded great fun and value for money with most classes costing around £25 and less.

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I love the ethos of the company from the idea of getting mothers together to create to their commitment to using repurposed and organic materials. The Makey Mamas Facebook Page, which also doubles as a blog is often a source of entertainment and education.

We tend to avoid using harsh chemicals in our home and on our skin but “natural” products can be pricey and, honestly, a bit hit and miss in terms of how well they work. So I was intrigued to try making my own.

A weekend class suited me well with Laurence dropping me off and taking the kids to the central library for the morning.

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We started by introducing ourselves and saying a little bit about what brought us to the class. One participant mentioned that she just loved learning alongside other women and this really resonated with me, especially once the class was over and I was positively radiating with what an informative and empowering experience this turned out to be.

That’s the thing, on the face of it I might have thought, “Oh, but I can just Google stuff or buy a book and whip up something”. Some people might but actually sitting down and exploring natural ingredients and essential oils, talking about their benefits and the care you need to take with them then actually making stuff right then and there has helped me walk away knowing that I can confidently do this.

Misty Tunks who runs the workshop is a wealth of information about skincare, essential oils, making and even beekeeping (so we learned some fascinating stuff about beeswax and bees hives!)

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All the materials and equipment, including portable stoves, were laid out. We made three very different products: a bar, a balm and a cream. We specified whether it would be for us or our babies to decide how many drops of each essential oil would be included. We also had a list of essential oils and their benefits to help us personalise the products to our needs. I’m including a teething bar recipe at the end that I made for Ophelia, who’s been teething hard at the moment.

Makey Mamas - creative workshops for pregnant women and mums of young babies

In addition to the products we’d made, we walked away with a surprisingly thorough pamphlet of notes about making skincare products. I’m looking forward to making more at home. I left the workshop buzzing. If I were pregnant, I’d totally be doing the bump casting workshop next. I’ll certainly book on to another class in the future.

Check out the Makey Mamas creative workshops available here. They even have a couple of Christmas gift making sessions.

On to the recipe I promised!

Baby teething bar recipe  Makey Mamas

Natural Baby Teething Bar

20g cocoa butter
20g coconut oil
20g beeswax
6 drops of lavender oil

Combine all ingredients except lavender oil in a double boiler. Stir constantly until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the lavender oil. Pour into molds (we used cupcake liners and a cupcake tin). Allow to cool completely before removing from molds. Makes 1 bar.

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I was invited to attend this workshop for free but I’ve gone on and on about it because it really was that good.


New Be Cool Scooby-Doo! cartoons – win a £100 Amazon gift card

There’s lots of spooky fun about this week in the lead-up to Halloween so it may just be the perfect time to introduce your kids to a classic from our own childhoods, Scooby-Doo! It’s as silly and amusing now as ever but kids aren’t just watching it on TV anymore. Now you can watch videos, play games and download printable activities on ScoobyDoo.com and The Warner Bros Youtube Channel makes it even easier for kids to watch the mystery squad, on-demand, and from any device.

Scooby-Doo! is now giving away a £100 gift card for Amazon, so this is a great time to check it all out. Watch the video then enter for your chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In association with Scooby-Doo!


Mother’s Milk Books review and giveaway

I first came across indie publisher Mother’s Milk Books a few years ago, both through La Leche League (the breastfeeding charity that has been a source of strength, support and community to me since becoming a mother) and through chatting about breastfeeding and parenting online.

Their tagline “Celebrating femininity and empathy through images and words” pretty much encapsulates what drew me to them and the books they publish. I say “they” but the press is run solely by at-home mother and founder Dr Teika Bellamy.

Mother’s Milk Books receives no funding and makes no profit but they are putting out such important books. I want to tell you about three of them, which Mother’s Milk Books are giving away to one of my readers.

Mother's Milk Books

Musings on Mothering

After meaning to for ages, I finally bought their Musings on Mothering – About Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding: An Anothology of Art, Poetry and Prose at an LLL event last year. The collection covers broodiness to the first feed to remembering our own mothers. It is page after page of voices speaking what is true about the human experience of being mothers, fathers and children, illustrated often with children’s artworks. Musings is a beautiful and powerful book. Describing and sharing our family experiences artistically (fathers’ voices feature too) can mysteriously connect us. This collection realises that mystery.

In strangers’ arms my mother’s touch,
My friends when all alone
In strangers’ eyes my father’s face,
In all my pathways, home.

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The Forgotten and the Fantastical

This is an entirely different sort of collection. The Forgotten and the Fantastical brings together modern fairy tales for adults, filtered through many different voices and experiences.  The writers take on Red Riding Hood to the Arthurian Legends, leaving only echoes of the familiar. Every tale is thrillingly unexpected. I found myself wanting to read some of them aloud – so strong was the sense of the oral tradition on the page. The authors’ notes at the end complete the experience. It’s definitely worth getting your hands on, especially if you’re looking for something to easily dip in and out of.

“Grief made no reply but the boy could see her clearly now. She had swelled from a voice in the wind to a grotesque face that enveloped the whole grey sky, her great mouth opening in a putrid mess of rotting teeth and stale blood.”

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Oy Yew

Oy Yew is a children’s novel, suitable from age eight, which equally targets adult readers. Gripping from the start, it is dark, tense and wickedly humorous. It follows the plight of Oy Yew, a parentless waif who adopts this name since it’s how he’s been addressed as long as he can remember. He’s enslaved in a great house, along with other waifs, all underfed to stunt their growth and they must creatively make their way to freedom. The fantasy world and characters that author Ana Salote has created in Oy Yew are rock solid. I echo another reviewer in affirming that this is a classic in the making. I’m looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

“He fed daily on the smell of bread, letting the vapours swirl around his brain and conjure themselves a high-risen floury loaf. He would sieze it with his two hands, break open the crust and inside it would be fluffy and white with a puff of steam, and he would scoop out the new bread and eat. That warm salt vapour would feed his mind for hours, but his body did not know bread.”

To win a copy of Musings on Mothering, The Forgotten and the Fantastical and Oy Yew, tell me what your favourite spot for reading is and enter the Rafflecopter widget below.

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Outsidethebox mineral makeup workshop at Thornbury Castle

I had a pretty different start to the week last week, rocking up to Thornbury Castle for a workshop with Outsidethebox mineral makeup.

I love makeup and wear it most days. I’ve finally reached the point in my life where I feel OK about going out without it but, for me, makeup is about having fun and being creative.

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I would, however, like to improve the quality of the skin beneath the makeup. At 29, I still get a lot of blemishes and I have quite oily skin, which is genetic. If I take a closer look, I’m starting to notice lines across my forehead and around my eyes and mouth – the inevitable signs of ageing. I don’t mind them that much – they will happen – but I’m also not exactly looking to hurry them along.

So, I was really interested hearing about the benefits of mineral makeup in addressing these skin concerns. Outsidethebox’s focus is on creating healthy products with natural ingredients, sourced from the UK, Europe and the USA, and no harsh chemicals. Their star product, 100% organic Jojoba oil nourishes and heals the skin, tackling both ageing and acne. Jules Derrick (pictured applying Jo’s makeup below), the woman behind the brand, recommends using it on its own at night and mixing it with dry mineral makeup when applying it.

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Jules takes such a personal approach with Outsidethebox. Her passion for makeup and the people who wear it is obvious. The brand was conceived following her own scary skin reactions to conventional makeup she’d worn for years. She wanted to create makeup that would be kind to skin suffering non-contagious conditions and supportive of all skin regardless of type.

With the help of White Rabbit Makeup Artist Gemma Louise Williams, a day and an evening look were demonstrated. Jo from Slummy Single Mummy had the day look makeover with only a couple of products in just a few minutes.

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Thornbury Castle’s marketing manager modelled the evening look and what struck me was how perfectly the foundation was colour matched.

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In fact, the diversity in the foundation range is pretty exciting and Outsidethebox are also happy to mix colours to give a completely bespoke shade should someone need it. I was surprised at how easily Jules was able to match foundation to my skin and after she’d put concealer, foundation and finishing powder on my skin just so I could give it a go, it felt like I wasn’t wearing anything.

I’ve particularly enjoyed using the natural mineral lipstick made with Jojoba oil, shea butter, Vitamin E and Lavender essential oil. It’s surprisingly long lasting and feels amazing on my lips.

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After the workshop we got to take a little look around Thornbury Castle before enjoying a cream tea. As an Early Modern studies graduate it was a real treat to step into the room Anne Boleyn stayed in and walk through to Henry VIII’s room, now both rooms any guest can book.

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It’s the only Tudor castle you can stay in. It’s not that kid-friendly in terms of staying (lots of windy staircases, great for defending the castle, not so great for little legs) but it would be perfect for a weekend getaway. I’ve also had this idea that Thornbury was far away from Bristol for some reason so was pleasantly surprised it only took about 25 minutes to get there. Lots of fun discoveries for a quiet, autumn Monday morning.

Outsidethebox makeup at Thornbury Castle


What she wore – Mini Street Style

Talitha has been loving this dress we were sent by Mini Street Style. She’s mad on the colour. She also keeps calling it her Autumn dress because of the pattern’s scattered pink leaves. I love that it’s a dress she can freely move in because of the cut and jersey material. Long sleeves mean that she can forgo a cardigan on a mild day and it’s casual look is perfect for hard play. It runs a little big, though, so I’ve had to roll up the sleeves a bit.

It’s part of their Vintage range which is one of three rather different collections that Mini Street Style offer – all casual and Japanese inspired. At the moment, you can sign up to Mini Street Style’s e-newsletter to be in with a chance to win a £300 voucher.

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