Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A new car seat for my growing boy

In less than two weeks time, I will have a one year old. A ONE YEAR OLD. How did that happen? Who knew that babies grew up?

Ethan is certainly growing up fast; it's almost happening before our eyes. We will put him to bed at night and the following morning, he's lying there at least an inch taller* with more hair and another tooth peeking through his gums. * might be a slight exaggeration.

I've had to come to terms with the fact that my baby boy isn't really a baby any more, as he totters on the edge of toddlerdom. He's ready for 12-18 month clothes. He's starting to move around a lot more, toying with the idea of crawling / walking. And he's definitely outgrown his first car seat. It's his long legs - I swear, he'll be a giant like his dad before too long.

We've been researching all the new kit he needs for his next stage, from clothes and toys to choosing a new car seat, and we've been sure to take our time. In the early days of parenthood, it's easy to be swayed by special promotions, bright and colourful designs and too much technical blurb to even try and understand. This time, however, we wanted to take our time before rushing in and buying the first car seat that caught our eye.

It's an important decision. It's our son's safety at stake, after all.

I didn't know a great deal about car seats and what features to look out for before so I spent a lot of time looking at the different options, styles and finishes available to understand why some seats cost a little and others cost a lot.

Early on, we decided that we wanted a car seat that would last a long time - it's an investment and you might as well get your money's worth - so we looked at the Group 2 and 3 options, which can last up until the age of 12, or when they reach 150cm in height. Now that's good value!

Here's a helpful chart to make things a bit clearer on what the ECE group ratings mean:

Source: Cybex

When we started looking at different models, one seat really stood out to me; the Pallas-fix by Cybex. Fitting into the Group I/II/III categories and suitable for 9-36kg (approx. 9 months to 12 years), The Pallas-fix features a rather unusual looking adjustable safety cushion at the front to protect your child; completely different to the standard harness / strap design I'd seen on every other model available on the market.

Source: Cybex

My first thoughts were the seat looked a little different but that it had a great design and quality look to it, so I read on to see what the front cushion was all about.

This safety cushion is adjustable and resembles an inflated airbag, which apparently greatly reduces the risk of serious neck injuries from head on collisions without restricting the movement of your child. According to Cybex, it helps provide the highest level of comfort to your child, offers greater upper body movement and has maximum safety in frontal impacts especially when compared to conventional five-point harness systems.

Source: Cybex

With the safety box well and firmly ticked, I wanted to see how easy it would be to fit in the car, use on a daily basis and how it would evolve over time as Ethan grows up.

The Pallas-fix is described as a two in one seat, with the safety cushion for the Group 1 stage, which can be converted at around age three to make it the Group 2/3 seat Solution X2-fix. The seat features linear side impact protectors that absorb the force of side-impact collisions and it's also ISOFIX compatible.

Other features on this fab seat:

Source: Cybex
Clockwise from top left: 11 position height-adjustable headrest, 
comfortable recline function Group 1, reclining backrest and removable seat insert

That's the technical bit done and dusted - but what is it like to use?

Well, I loved this seat from the moment I opened the wrapping to the first time we put it in my car and every time I have sat Ethan in it since. It's a stylish design, the cover material and overall finish is high quality and it is really easy to secure Ethan in next to no-time - a BIG change from his first car seat, I can tell you!

All you need to do is pop your little one on the seat, pick up the separate safety cushion, slot this in front of their body into the two slots either side of the seat, then pass over the seat belt so it hugs against the safety cushion. That's it.

At first, it does look a little unusual, as your child can move their arms either side of the cushion and, in Ethan's instance, they can look rather small sitting in this great big new car seat. I think when we first fitted the seat, Ethan was just on the cusp of being the right size, but he's growing into it more now and he's always seemed very comfortable. In fact, he seems to relax instantly once he's sat in it and stays content or falls asleep in a matter of minutes.

His comfort is also aided by how quick and easy it is to secure him in place, so there's no time for fidgeting and there's no fiddly clips to deal with.

This seat is also available in a choice of colours, which was another plus point for me. Granted, safety and function were my top priorities when choosing a car seat, but I still wanted something that looked good in the back of my car too. Only the best seat in the house for my little boy! I chose the Blue Moon colour option, which is nice and bright (although different than pictured on the website) and will suit him no matter what his age, plus there's another five colours to choose from.

We have used this car seat for the past month now, running Ethan to and from nursery during the week and out on a few road trips where he has slept for three hours straight, completely comfortable and without any problems at all. I'm so pleased with how good it looks and how easy it is to use; it really has made such a difference.

The Pallas-fix from Cybex is a higher-end car seat than some options available on the high street. However, I took into consideration the longevity the seat offers, the timeless, stylish design, the quality finish and the unique safety feature of the front cushion when making my decision. For me, I feel these factors make for a brilliant car seat that will stand the test of time - for the next 11 years in fact!

And Ethan seems rather happy with his new seat too.

Top tips on choosing the right car seat:

It can be quite confusing when choosing a new child seat but here's some great advice from Cybex to help make the process easier to understand:

  • Seats with "semi-universal certification" are not permitted in all vehicles. Check the seat manufacturer's compatibility list to find out if the seat will fit in your car. In case of doubt, simply ask your car dealership.
  • Take both your child and your car to the specialised shop and test the seats to find out which one fits best.
  • Remember, child seats should be easy to install!
  • Check the length of the seat belts in the back to ensure they are not too short.
  • Children's harnesses must be easy to adjust, so that they can be tightened or loosened depending on what the child is wearing.
  • The safety seat should offer children who tend to sleep in the car, maximum side support and a comfortable sleeping position (Gr. I) or an adjustable head rest (Gr. II/III).
  • Never buy a seat for the child to grow into. Even though three-year-olds are theoretically old enough to sit in a Group II/III seat, they are often too small for it at the time.
  • Rear-facing child safety seats must not be positioned on the front passenger seat of cars with an activated front airbag. In this instance, the infant car seat must be installed on the rear seat.
  • When buying a new, older and/or used child restraint system, you should always ensure that it complies with the new ECE test standard. The current standard is known as ECE-R-44/04. 

* PR collaboration. I was offered this seat to product test but loved it so much, I didn't want to give it back so the nice people at Cybex let me buy it from them. Thank you!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

My summer style

A dose of sunshine is all I need to whip out the sunglasses and slip on the flip flops. Although Spring has only really just properly sprung, I've refreshed my wardrobe ready for lazy sunny days and there's a lot I'm loving right now.

As the days get longer and hopefully the sun comes out to play, I'm loving bright colours, floaty fabrics and relaxed styling.

Here's a guide to my new season look - it's all about a few key pieces and keeping things fun and not fussy:

* The bag: it all starts with a bag, as it often does with me! Ethan was a very naughty boy (in a good way!) as he bought me a Cambridge Satchel, 13inch, in fluoro pink for Mother's Day, personalised with my initials KVO in silver embossing. It's very special and super bright - I swear it glows in the dark! - and it's a great statement piece that I'm sure will go with lots of outfits over the months ahead. Even the plainest of ensembles is going to pack a punch with this hanging on my shoulder.

* T-shirts: a wardrobe essential that comes into its own in the summer, I've stocked up on a few versatile tees, including polka dots for a chic look, stripes for a nautical / Parisian twist and a really zesty yellow one that adds a real zing to my get up.

* The denim jacket: this is what summer is all about in Britain if you ask me. Sling it over a tee, a shirt or a dress and you're ready to go, day or night. This is a light wash version from Next's new summer collection and already a favourite for me.

* The trousers: this summer, as my psoriasis has left my legs even more unsightly than they were before, I'll be covering up and aside from a few much loved maxi dresses I love to unpack each year, I'm all about chinos. Relaxed yet smart, this season's chino trousers are extremely wearable and in some fantastic shades. I've snapped up a rather vibrant pink/orange pair and a lemon/lime shade too from Next, whilst a neutral pair will see me smart throughout summer. I'm also loving the tapered trousers that seem to be everywhere, with a black and white polka dot pair and a smudge print jersey trouser giving me some comfortable but stylish options for the weekends.

* The jumpsuit: I never thought I'd be able to pull one of these off, but I found a really nice, well-fitting but comfy jumpsuit in Next (yep, I'm in love at the moment!), see top right. I'm planning on wearing it with a skinny belt and heels for a chilled look next weekend as I head out on a hen do. I'm feeling brave and hope I can carry this look off!

* The dress: I needed to find a new dress for a wedding in a couple of months, which I also intend on wearing on my, ahem, 30th birthday. This one just screams summer so I'm hoping it fits as good as it looks when it arrives this week. I'm thinking a big statement neon necklace and tan wedges...

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Win a pair of tickets to The Baby Show Birmingham

When you're expecting, you're like a sponge, soaking up all the information you can about birth plans, advice on prams, the benefits of breastfeeding and so on, all in an attempt to feel as prepared as possible.

If you're like me, the more information and advice you have, the better you feel so when your bundle of joy arrives, and then grows through the various stages of their first year, you know what to expect. It's still a huge learning curve and nothing can fully prepare you for what having a baby will be like, but if you've done your research, you'll at least have an idea of what to do.

I read books, I read blogs, I spoke to my midwife, my colleagues, my doctor, I joined email updates from all the major baby brands and the NHS... and I would have gone to The Baby Show too if it hadn't happened so close to my due date last year.

The Baby Show is an exciting and informative event for families and it will be coming to Birmingham's NEC next month, from 16th to 18th May. The show is home to hundreds of exhibitors who will be showcasing the newest, most innovative baby products and clothing . There will be a variety of talks and sessions with well-known child care experts who are on hand to give their tips and advice on a wide variety of child development topics, including weaning guru Annabel Karmel (whom I love!), celebrity breast feeding expert Clare Byam-Cook and baby sleep expert Jo Tantum.

What a great line up!

Even though I've come to realise that no-one knows your baby better than you and you will always find the best way to do things, I can see how helpful The Baby Show can be to new and expectant parents. Much in the same was as wedding fairs and exhibitions give you a good cross-section of ideas and contacts, The Baby Show is a great way to find out what's new and to speak to experts about the various things that may be keeping you, and your baby, up all night.

This year, I will definitely be going along to find out about the latest baby products and to report back to you all - I just wish the show had been a little earlier last year, as it would have been great to visit prior to Ethan's arrival.

I will be going to the show on Saturday 17th as a guest of Dorel - the makers of the Maxi-Cosi and Quinny baby strollers - as they have something quite special to reveal. How exciting!

Even more exciting for you perhaps is the fact that I have a pair of tickets to The Baby Show Birmingham to offer one lucky winner, for a day of their choosing - entry details via Rafflecopter below!

One person will win a pair of tickets to the show to attend on a day of their choice, the competition is open to UK residents only, it ends on 2nd May and the winner will be notified the next day.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Easter to do list

It's become a bit of an Easter tradition for us to use the four day weekend to tackle those household tasks that pile up. 
Ever since we moved into our house almost eight years ago, we have taken part in an annual DIY project of some kind, making the most of the long weekend to really get things ship shape.

Last year, we were close to Ethan's arrival, so the Easter weekend was all about the finishing touches to his nursery and sorting out our long lost garden.

The year before, we redecorated the lounge and built an entertainment centre, and the year before we transformed our dining room into the fun, bright space it still is today.

This Easter will be about getting to grips with the oodles and oodles of 'stuff' that seems to have accumulated over the past year since Ethan was born. You know, the nooks you find to shove bits and bobs you haven't yet found a home for? We have a few. 

Although we don't have any big scale plans for our Easter Spring clean project 2014, I want to use the time we have to a) get things in order and reduce clutter, b) tidy the garden so we can venture outdoors soon, and c) enjoy some relaxing time as a family.

Here are the tasks on my Easter to do list:

  • Sort out the seemingly endless piles of paperwork that can be found in almost every drawer and on every shelf in our lounge
  • Pack away / give away Ethan's old clothes (which are currently hidden behind the chair and under the cot in his nursery), keeping the ones with specific sentimental value and letting go of the rest 
  • Clear out the kitchen cupboards of all useless clutter (we have a million mismatched tupperware boxes, I'm sure) and deep clean the kitchen
  • Tidy the patio, pull up weeds and mow the lawn
  • Create a photobook of Ethan's first year for his birthday
  • Update Ethan's record journals
  • Final plans for Ethan's birthday party
  • Wrap his presents (as I doubt I'll get the chance to again!)

What are your plans for this weekend? Do you save up your DIY tasks? Will you be brushing off the BBQ in the hope of sunny weather?

Whatever you're doing, have a great one!

Kelly x

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Changing needs

For me, choosing the right changing bag was a big decision. In my pre-baby planning days, I spent hours and hours searching online, reading reviews and comparing products. I wanted to find the 'right' bag for me, that provided lots of storage for all of baby's things and would look cute on my shoulder or hanging across the bars of the pram.

It was one of those things I could buy early on that would make me feel 'prepared' for our new arrival. At least, that's how I felt at the time!

I wrote this post just before Ethan came along, and it proved very popular as other mums were keen to see which bag I had finally chosen and why. Everything I said still holds true for me now, but what I have learnt is that you have changing needs from your changing bag and it's unlikely you'll find one that will take you through from bump to baby to toddler, without finding a few limitations or simply wanting something new to use.

Changing needs - choosing the right bag

I'm currently in a changing bag limbo, as we outgrew my first bag within a few months, as soon as Ethan's clothes got a bit bigger and I had to take more out and about with us.

Here's our first changing bag, which you can read about here:

Then, my very talented friend made us a bespoke changing bag, complete with matching changing mat. Isn't it lovely? You can read all about it here, and we still use this bag, particularly for small trips out or as Ethan's nursery bag. Trouble is, as he gets bigger, so do his clothes and I'm finding we need to take even more bits and bobs out with us.

From snacks to toys, I take pretty much everything but the kitchen sink it seems when we leave the house, even more so when we go out for the day. At the moment, we're using a backpack as a shared bag solution; it's not great for organising things in an easy to find way - very annoying when it comes to changing Ethan on the go - but I can cram in most things, including my purse and car keys if needs be.

Changing needs - what's in my changing bag?

So, what's in my changing bag now that Ethan is almost a year old? Well, what isn't?! Of course, there's the obvious items - travel changing mat, nappies, nappy sacks, baby wipes and Sudocrem - but a changing bag is much more than that these days. It's a lunch bag and entertainment pack too!

My mummy changing bag checklist:

  • Folding changing mat
  • Nappies (at least four, just to be on the safe side!)
  • Nappy bags (I use these to put dirty clothes in too if Ethan needs a change while we are out, keeps the bag from getting damp)
  • Wipes
  • Cream
  • Bongela (for help with teething spells)
  • Calpol (just in case they get a little poorly out and about)
  • Complete change of clothes (bodysuit, tshirt, trousers, plus Ethan's shoes as he refuses to keep them on!)
  • Spare bibs
  • Muslin cloths
  • Snacks (I pop Ethan's organic savoury snacks and baby biscotti into small plastic tubs to keep them fresh and avoid crumbs in the bottom of my bag)
  • Meals on the go (if we're going out for a while or I'm not sure if they'll be something suitable for Ethan to eat, I pop a jar of food, some fruit and a spoon in my bag, plus his drinking cup and possibly a bottle and mini bottle of milk to have all bases covered)
  • Hand sanitiser 

Other items which may find their way into the changing bag as well...

  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses
  • Purse and keys (if I don't want to take my own bag!)

To help with the load, I have a stock of things in the car just so I don't get caught out - you don't want to forget your changing bag and have a case of an explosive nappy! I have some of the basic bits and pieces in a small bag in the car, plus Ethan has a basket of toys that 'live' in the car, which are smaller and easier to play with and can help to keep him entertained if we're going for a longer trip. I always know I have something to hand for him to play with and as they're different toys to those that he plays with at home, it helps to keep things fresh.

I'm sure as Ethan gets bigger, they'll be a must-have travelling companion and all sorts of other things he wants to bring out with us, so I might end up hauling a great big holdall around with us before long!

I'm currently browsing the wide range of bags that Kiddicare has on offer to find a new bag that can handle everything we need now. I've always wanted a Pink Lining bag but will have a good look at everything on offer before picking the one that's just right. 

I'm like the Goldilocks of changing bags!


The other day, I asked some of you lovely mamas on Twitter what your top three things you absolutely must have in your changing bags were, and here's what some of you had to say:

Thank you to everyone who shared their changing bag must haves with me - great to see what items help you out on the go, think I might add some bubbles to my bag soon!

I found it really useful to read about what other mum's take with them, particularly when I had a newborn on my hands, so why not share the contents of your bag on Twitter, using the following hashtag, to help other mums pack everything they may need? #whatsinmychangingbag

* PR collaboration 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

The reason for my little impromptu break from blogging was because I was beside the seaside. I had meant to write a few things up before I went but things got a bit hectic and I ran out of time.

We headed east to the seaside town of Skegness to spend a long weekend celebrating one of our best friend's 30th birthday. They booked us in at Butlins, and aside from the fact we had to fashion our own kind of mattress for Ethan's cot as they didn't provide us with one due to 'health and safety reasons', we had a camp ol' time for sure.

On Saturday, we braced the chilly breeze for a walk along the seafront, playing on the penny slots and enjoying fish and chips by the sea. In the evening, we dressed in our Disney finest for dinner and were largely mistaken for members of staff. We had a lovely time celebrating our friend's birthday and Mickey (Ethan) was on his best behaviour and even waved properly for the first time.

Sunday was another day of firsts as Ethan tried his first ice cream, sat on the beach and tried some jelly - it was quite a momentous day for him!

Monday was our last day, so we enjoyed breakfast as a group before we had to hit the road, taking a slight detour to visit the house my grandparents lived in and where I spent most of my childhood holidays. It was really nostalgic being there and during the car journey, I worked up an idea for a book that you never know, one day I might just write...

Friday, 11 April 2014

Mix up your routine

Yesterday, I had a topsy turvy start to my day; first, I washed my hair with conditioner, rinsed, then lathered my mane with shampoo, second, I put moisturiser on my wet skin, rinsed it off then jumped out the shower.

No, I wasn't half asleep, bleary eyed mixing up the bottles in the bathroom. The reason for my shower shake up was to put two new beauty routine theories to the test.

First up, reverse hair washing. Sounds like a completely ridiculous idea doesn't it? I mean, we've all spent our lives washing our hair with shampoo then following with conditioner, in that order, every time. No questions asked. It tells us so on the bottles themselves! Of course you have to wash your hair first before adding conditioner, it just makes sense.

Well, apparently not. The latest trend to cause a buzz in the beauty world is to wash your hair first with conditioner, rinse, then follow with shampoo once or twice, depending on your usual preference.

'But why?' I hear you cry!

The theory is that washing your hair this way round is that it won't dry your locks out, with the promise of soft, shiny, full of body hair.

The great thing about this trend is that anyone can give it a go - no purchase of new products required. I thought it sounded completely mad but was interested to see if it made any difference. It felt strange to start with conditioner but I went with it, then followed the advice of using a small amount of shampoo (around the size of a 10p coin - the amount we should all have been using all along), before rinsing then drying.

I added my split end protection cream before brushing and blow-drying as usual, and was pleased not to have been faced with a head full of tangles. Straight away, I noticed my hair had a nice shine to it, but didn't look greasy at the roots as I had feared.

The end result isn't too far removed from how my hair normally looks but I do feel like I have more natural body and shine than usual. My advice? Give it a go - you never know unless you try and this could be one beauty trend that could make all the difference for you.


Secondly, I recently bought the Nivea In Shower Body Moisturiser (currently on offer in Boots for £2.37 for 250ml). A gimmick of a product if ever I've heard one, you are meant to apply this in the shower after washing, leaving it for a couple of minutes before rinsing off then towel drying as usual. It's like conditioner but for your skin.

I wanted to give this a go as I am too busy / lazy to moisturise my body as much as I should and dislike the still-tacky feeling I'm left with when I put on my clothes for the day. I love the new Vaseline Spray and Go as you can read here and wanted to see if an in-shower moisturiser could really add anything to my routine.

I chose the honey version as I'm a little obsessed with the stuff at the moment (I have the Body Shop lip butter and face mask and I even drizzle honey in my morning juice).

The Nivea In Shower Body Moisturiser smells lovely and has a nice creamy texture. It's easy to use and I did notice a difference when I stroked my arms later on in the morning. My skin felt smooth and my dry patches near my elbows weren't as bad as they can be.

I do still think it's perhaps another product that you don't really need but if you're like me and you often skip on the moisturiser as you have somewhere to be / something better to do, then this is a nice addition to your shower routine.
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