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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Baby Trend Festival Buggy

So our first flashback from last year will be our faithful all-terrain which saw us through three of our festivals last year (and I only wish I'd taken it to more).

The buggy in snooze mode up on the hill, looking out over the sight and waiting for sunset

We got the the Baby Trend Expedition LX Jogger just before embarking a 2 week stay at Glastonbury (because we REALLY love the festival...and work there - we're not that over-keen!) If you want to really put a pushchair through its paces, Glastonbury is a good place to start - there'll be crowded walkways, thick grass, hills, mud and miles and miles of walking round! We saw people there dragging round umbrella folds, but I have to say our festival experience would not have been the same without this awesome buggy.



Facts and figures:
  • Locking front swivel wheel 
  • 16" rear and 12" front all-terrain bicycle wheels 
  • Parent tray with two cup holders and snack box 
  • Child tray with 2 cup holders
  • Extra wide, ergonomically shaped rubber handle
  • Can be converted into a travel system with a carseat
  • Adjustable canopy 
  • Trigger fold packs the stroller away neatly, in one piece (wheels detachable)
  • Quick release wheel system
  • Multi-position, reclining, padded seat
  • Fully adjustable 5-point safety harness and tether strap
  • Footrest reflectors provide greater low-light visibility
  • Extra large storage basket
  • Lightweight steel frame construction

First Impressions 
I tried this stroller out in on a last-minute shopping trip and was amazed at how light it was to push - I felt like I barely had to touch the handle to get it to glide along the bumpy tarmac carpark behind my house and I pushed it to the supermarket and back effortlessly. If you decide to break into a jog (which I did out of curiosity), remember to lock the front wheel first or the frame goes a bit wobbly as the front wheel can swivel. 



Getting there
Leo and I went down to the Glastonbury site a week earlier than Daddy, so drove down with a friend in a rather small car. However, the frame folds down into a very compact unit and the large back wheels pop off to make it even easier to store. This meant we were able to squeeze two-weeks worth of provisions for two adults and one baby into a very small boot space! The folding mechanism is simply - you pull two little loops under the handle and it just glides down. The back wheels are quick-release too, and the unit has built in handles at the side which make it really easy to lift. 

A nice spacious seat (aged 9months in the photo)


Getting around
The extra large bike wheels made getting around the site really easy. We were based up in the tipi village, so had to go through long grass on a daily basis - a stroller simply wouldn't have cut it! Although we had amazing weather this year, on Friday night the heavens opened and we found ourselves in the middle of the crowded Shangri-La zone, in the middle of the night, in inches of mud. The buggy was doing well but as the mud was getting thicker and more churned up into that characteristic festival goo, we lifted the buggy and fled back the green grass of our field! Thankfully it is such a lightweight design that it was easy to lift over the muddiest parts to prevent the tyres getting clogged up. 

Design
The seat is quite large so would definitely hold toddlers and older children comfortably - a great feature for parents taking slightly older children to a festival who are happy to walk but might get tired. We loved the adjustable reclining seat, as Leo naps a lot in the pram. The hood is adjustable, and can pivot right down meaning you can shade your child whatever the angle of the sun. The straps were secure and easy to adjust, even when putting a sleeping baby in for the evening! 



Accessories
The little snack box on the parent tray was the perfect place to store a few essentials - antibacterial hand gel, tissues, cash and spare change, mobile phone...this made it really easy to get to the things we needed most often without having to rummage around in the basket. Everyone who saw the parent tray exclaimed: 'a beer holder!', and the drinks tray is indeed great if you are standing still, but rough off-road terrain caused spillages from drinks left in the tray, as we found out. 



I have to admit we did not use the original footmuff or raincover. The footmuff which comes with the jogger is very lightweight and doesn't really provide enough cover for a child sleeping in the buggy at night or using it in the winter. Therefore, we used our cosatto fleece-lined footmuff and a lambskin liner to keep Leo cool during the day but snug at night. During the night we dressed him in his thermals, wrapped him in a blanket and then strapped him into his buggy cocoon. This warm swaddling effect meant he slept really well - better than at home in fact! This meant we could have a great time at night whilst he slept soundly in his buggy nearby - AMAZING! 



For the raincover, we used a generic mothercare cover which has little straps to attach it to the frame. We did not remove it from the frame but simply pushed it back with the hood when it wasn't in use, meaning we were always prepared for a downpour and didn't waste basket space on storing the cover. 

Storage
The basked was great. On such a big site, you don't want to have to go back to your tent every time you need something, and with this buggy we didn't need to! We could carry round all that the three of us needed with room to spare in the basket. The buggy was also a godsend for getting all of our gear from the car to the campsite. We could load SO MUCH onto it, taking the route of carrying Leo in the sling on my front, a rucksack at the back, the tent and wellies in the basket, and a holdall of everything else in the seat (and a bag of food for Dad to carry...Mum the carthorse!) We even saw some parents who had come without their kids using the same buggy as a luggage trailer to get everything onto the site!

Fast asleep at night, snugly wrapped in the footmuff and surrounded by fairylights 


Pimp my Pushchair
We've seen some amazing done-up buggies for festivals and due to getting ours the day before we left, we didn't have a lot of time for customisation. However, the cosatto footmuff was nice and bright, and we added 5m of battery powered LEDs to make it visible at night to avoid collisions with high-spirited revellers and making sure we were always visible. We also added a few bike lights and a bike bell (though that was more for fun than any real practical need). Next year Ill definitely bring out the fun fur and add more lights, fabric flowers, the works! 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Green People - Organic Babies



I recently met a representative from Organic Babies, the natural baby range from Green People. She gave me a delightful goody bag filled with sample sizes which I can't wait to use on our travels, and asked if we'd used any of their range before, which lead to a discussion about toothpaste (bear with me here)...I had automatically bought their kids toothpaste in mint, thinking I'd get Leo used to the standard flavour, but this conversation raised the interesting point of 'why does it have to be mint?', which set cogs whirring.

A few weeks later we received some of the Organic Babies mandarin and aloe vera toothpaste and some of their lavender bubble bath and body wash. I am really impressed by the fact that the range uses all natural scents but doesn't compromise on strength. The natural oils mean that they products don't smell sickly or synthetic at all - the lavender bubble bath is a lovely, strong scent which is really relaxing. The bubbles it produces are more 'fluffy' than with bubble baths made with non-organic variety, if that makes sense. This is because it doesn't contain the SLS foaming agents which can irritate the skin. There are, however, still plenty of bubbles to have fun with!

The toothpaste is a revelation for me. We recently took the plunge and crossed over to natural toothpaste and it's one of those definitive moments where you know you'll never be able to go back. The texture and colour are so different that it really makes you reflect on what they must be putting into the standard supermarket brands! I am massively impressed with the mandarin toothpaste and have been using it myself too! Interestingly, Leo developed a habit of wanting to spread more and more toothpaste on the toothbrush recently, but with the mandarin toothpaste the strong flavour fades gradually and he hasn't been trying to get more and more toothpaste. He's also been more enthusiastic about brushing his teeth, so I'll definitely stick with the mandarin flavour! When I tried it myself, I noticed several times through the morning how smooth and clean my teeth felt, and am really impressed by the performance of the toothpaste - we have well and truly been won over!


What they DONT contain - Green People also sent me a helpful factsheet explaining what their products do not contain and why, and what they use instead. I thought I'd share it here for anyone that's interested as I think it's always good to know exactly what you're putting on your baby's skin.

The Baby Wash & Shampoo

SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulphate) 
This is a known skin irritant (also found in car soaps, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers!) and can be included in your baby's wash and shampoo to create bubbles.
The alternative: The bubbles come from natural corn starch and coconut foaming agents, the softness from Aloe Vera and skin nurturing from Chamomile.

Mineral Oil
These oils create a barrier on the skin so that it cannot breathe or eliminate toxins - much like wrapping the skin in clingfilm.
The alternative: By carefully combining different plant oils such as Apricot Kernal oil, Hemp Seed oil, Sunflower Seed oil, Cocoa butter and Shea butter, Organic Babies create blends that soothe and protect baby's delicate skin whilst providing fatty acids that are essential for normal, healthy skin function.

Parabens
Used as preservatives, some types of Paraben are known to have weak oestrogenic activity, with repeated exposure potentially affecting hormone levels.
The alternative: Combinations of naturally occurring acids and anti-microbial actives produced by plants to protect themselves from bacterial and fungal attack also work well to protect cosmetics as well. Organic Babies select naturally occurring preservatives based on their safety profiles and skin-friendly properties that are suitable for use on baby's delicate skin.

Fragrance
Often hidden under the umbrella term 'Perfume', synthetic fragrances along with colourants are the most common causes of skin sensitivities and reactions.
The alternative: Organic Babies offer a range of Scent-free products for the ultimate mild and gentle skin care and for those who like a subtle aroma, other products contain beautiful, natural essential oils but NEVER synthetic fragrances.

The Toothpaste

Made without: fluoride, SLS, tricolsan, sorbitol, parabens, phthlates, artificial sweetners, petrochemicals and colourants.

Green people use a blend of natural Calcium carbonate to gently clean and remove plaque, whilst natural formulations of organic essential oils Vitamin C and Myrrh combat gum disease. Aloe Vera is added for its soothing effect on tender gums, helping to reduce swelling and also for its powerful antiseptic properties.

The toothpaste retails at £3.50, and the Baby Wash and Shampoo retails at £7.25, for more information visit www.greenpeople.co.uk

Scuttle Bug Scoot!



Today we gave our scuttlebug its first outing. We've had it since Leo turned one, but he was a little cautious at first and eventually built up his confidence using a sturdier wooden trike. Since then, we've used it in the house a lot, but not got round to taking it out. However, when a certain young man woke up incredibly early I decided the only option was to go out and enjoy the sunshine!

The genius feature of the scuttle bug design is that is folds down small enough to put in the buggy basket, so taking it out to the park is no problem at all and you aren't lumped with carrying it around whilst trying to push the buggy, too.



The wheels run really smoothly and on the uneven paving we were on today Leo managed not to tip himself off at all. His special favourite activity was going up the slight slope near the gate of the square and then scooting down shouting 'wheeee'. It took a lot of persuading to get him back in the pushchair!

I first came across the scuttlebug a few years ago when looking for a fun present to buy my little half-brother for his second birthday. Safe to say it was a big success as he used it until his feet were scraping the ground and my Dad had to hide 'the toy that cannot be mentioned' so that he'd accept his shiny new tricycle!



I'm looking forward to lots more outings with the scuttlebug this summer, and the compact fold means we'll be able to take it with us whether it's to the park, a festival or a holiday abroad.

Share your outdoor fun pictures with us on twitter: @familywithstyle 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Lions and Zebras, Oh My!



When your son is called Leo, it's hard not to go crazy on the cute animal ranges. Paperchase has a whole lion themed section right now and I am SO tempted by the cushion! We've bought him the plate and the passport cover (note to all parents, if your cild doesn't have the same surname as you and you intend to travel with them alone, you will need a copy of their birth certificate -- hence our passport cover with the photocoopy and his EHIC inside).




Habitat has also got a cool range of animal print cushions at the moment - though I've got to say we went for the zebra from this range due to a certain young man's slight obsession with zebras (aka deeyores). The nice plump cushion has gone down well in our house and I may have to purchase another one soon!



Thursday, 20 March 2014

Wild Leggings and Sparkly Shoes



H&M kids never disappoints! I found their baby range a bit boring and pretty much the same as all the other baby shops, but the kids clothes are really fun and definitely stand out by comparison with other UK high-street stores. I picked up a selection of their wild animal-print leggings for festival wear over the summer, as well as a pair of silver glittery high-tops! I'm genuinely quite sad that they only stock the leggings up to age 6, or I'd have got a pair for myself!






And just for a bit of fun...the cosmic cat top from the sale range too! Little Leo is a BIG fan of animals and so adores the photographic prints of cats and leopards, and liked spotting the different animals in the jungle scene on the green leggings (this print also comes as a gorgeous A-line dress which I was very tempted to buy and convert into a little romper suit).



Wondering how to pull off these bold styles? Never fear, we'll be sharing some styling tips soon and showing the ways in which we mix and match our little one's wardrobe.


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Sainsbury Sneakers





Yesterday night I missed out on a great gig because I made my all-too-frequent mistake of thinking that getting the weekly shop done on a Friday night is a good idea...cue getting home at 9:45pm and eating dinner after 10 before spending the next couple of hours reorganising the cupboards to fit it all in, in a way that Vik can find the things he needs. However...I did get a few great items from the Sainsbury kid's clothing section.



I couldn't resist these little sneakers, which Leo absolutely loves and wanted to wear as soon as he woke up this morning. I really like the contrast stitching and the elastic laces are quite a cool design. We took them for a trial run this morning, however, and as we were walking along, Leo suddenly started tugging at my arm to go back. I presumed this was because at the moment his favourite place to play is the carpark behind our house (kids eh), but he was really insistent. I realised he was saying shoe and the poor kid had lost one of his shoes a couple of metres behind. The same thing happened again as we were walking back, so I think I may have to try some regular laces. Kids shoes are quite pesky, and as a general rule, if it slips on, it can slip off again! Maybe we just need to stick to boots until he is older...I'll report back once I've tried regular laces.



Overall, we'd give them 3/5. Love the design and the style, and at £8 they were very reasonably prices, however the elastic laces and slipping off incidents were a bit disappointing.

We'd love to know where you get your kids' shoes from - let us know @familywithstyle on twitter. 

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Urban beach wear


We are really impressed by the collaboration between London-based kidswear designers Boys&Girls and street artist Malarky. As an East London family, we love exploring the creations which pop up on walls and roofs, and in local art galleries and studios. We're always on the look out for bright prints and cool colours for our little raver baby and these t-shirts and sweaters are perfect. It's great to see more and more bold British designs rather than having to always turn to Scandinavian designs for kidswear. Plus the designs are made with organic cotton, and printed with eco-friendly ink! For pricing and purchasing, go to Boys&Girls!







Friday, 21 February 2014

Sharks, Starfish and splish-splash penguins!



Last weekend we spent a sunny Saturday on the Southbank, one of our favourite places to let Leo run around and explore. This time, however, we had a mission: to check out the Sea Life London Aquarium, which houses on of Europe's largest collections of global marine life.

Arriving
We took the tube to Embankment, then crossed over the river. We warn parents that when crossing the bridge, there was a lift on one side, but no sign to warn us that the lift down on the other side was out of service. Therefore, it's advisable to make sure you plan your route carefully and make sure you have a spare pair of hands, and a light-weight buggy!

If you intend to visit on a weekend, be warned that this is a very popular attraction, so booking tickets in advance is advised! We arrived late-morning and got through the priority booking queue quite quickly, however when we arrived at the front Leo promptly closed his eyes and fell asleep! After lunch the queues were much longer, so getting there early will save you time waiting to get in,
There is a buggy park just after the entrance, so you don't have to worry about carting the pushchair round once you get to the underwater creatures.



For younger children
We took our 18month old, so he was mainly enchanted by all the fishes (since then he has been talking about 'fishies' rather alot), and loved the fact that a lot of the tanks come low down enough for him to look in by himself. He was a little but surprised by the shark-floor, where you walk over a clear floor as you enter, but soon lost his inhibitions, running around and trying to keep going back to his favourite tanks!



For older kids 
Each section of the aquarium has a map showing which part of the world the sealife in that section is from, and there is also a strong emphasis on conservation and how to care for the oceans. This includes posters, a film and some hands-on activities such as suggestions of which types of fish are the most sustainable meal-choices.



Visitors young and old were mesmerised by the larger fish tanks, where you have a vertiginous view through the huge tank which spans several levels of the centre, and contains large sharks, sea turtles, rays and other fish. When watching the activity, it was easy to find yourself drawn in to their underwater world and forget about the crowds around you admiring the same view.

We caught the sharks' feeding time, which was really interesting to watch, and there is a full schedule of talks and displays for visitors to watch every day.



Our highlights
  • The jellyfish are a very popular display, and we definitely learnt some interesting facts as well as admiring these wondrous creatures in a back-lit tank with colour-changing lights. 
  • We didn't know that most piranas are not carniverous...or that they look so attractive! 
  • The huge sharks and seaturtles are an awe-inspiring sight.
  • The shark tunnel - feel like your in with the fishes!
  • The penguin ice adventure: everyone loves these funny little creatures! So elegant underwater, swimming in formation towards the glass and coming to say hello, yet so clumsy once out on their 'iceberg', slipping and sliding till they dive back into the pool. 



Photography

We took some pictures for the blog, and the sealife is certainly very beautiful, however we would urge visitors to be mindful about how many photos they take. Whilst the odd photo here and there is a good memento, walking round simply pointing and snapping not only detracts from your experience, but also ruins it for everyone else, especially is you leave the flash on (which is banned because it startles the fish). Take some time to absorb the scene: if you are there on a quieter day, sit on one of the benches opposite the tanks and really take it in. You could even take some pens and paper for children to draw what they have seen, either in the aquarium on a less busy day, or afterwards at one of the Southbank's many spaces which are perfect for families to grab a break and a coffee (we went to the Southbank Centre).



For real enthusiasts, the sealife centre offers a selection of experiences: feeding the sharks, snorkelling with the sharks, and feeding the turtles. I have to say I am more comfortable when I am on the visitors' side of the glass, but this would make a unique and memorable gift for a marine-life lover.

The Sealife London Aquarium in numbers: 
  • 2 million litres of water 
  • over 500 species
  • more than 40 sharks, of 12 different species 
  • over 65 displays 
  • over 30 varieties of sea-plants and foliage
  • 14 themed zones over 3 floors

Share your experiences of aquariums with us on twitter: @familywithstyle 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Slummy Mummy Mondays

I've been trying to think of a way we can share our slummy mummy moments, a sort of 'we all have those moments' amnesty, because nobody is superwoman! In the end, I've decided we should do it on Twitter, with my new resolution to get down with social media. So, from now on we'll be having Slummy Mummy Mondays (#slummymummymondays), where Mums (and Dads) can share their tricks for getting through it all. Some say it's being slummy, others may say parenting hacks, for which reason we'll be dedicating another day to those. For now it's just a chance to share and have a laugh, but hopefully once it gets going, I'll organise some prizes for the slummiest stories.

If you're pregnant, never fear, as slummy mummies-to-be definitely qualify, too. To get started here are a few of mine...

Slummy Mummy-to-be 

During the recent tube strikes I got stuck on my journey home (when I'd thought 'No, I won't nip in to that coffee shop to use the toilet, I'll be home in 20minutes), I reached the stage of desperation where I was wondering if I was going to have to pee under the railway arches as I walked home. I thought about the road-trips I've made on my travels through India and Africa, and how when abroad,with no convenient service stations, you just get on with it in nature...until I reflected that the last time I had such an emergency was not in a developing country at all, but in when I was on Venice beach in LA and the public toilet queues were half an hour long, and all restaurants required a $15 spend. Hello parking lot...

Another one from across the pond: because pregnancy makes you tired, I ended up taking a nap on the beautiful lawns by the sea in Santa Monica...me, and all the local homeless people. In my defence of both of these actions, I was in my third trimester by then, and you'll know all about what that means!

Slummy Mummy Monday #1 

I decided to make a 5 minute cheesecake for my birthday (recipe to follow), and couldn't find the measuring cups anywhere...but guess what, Leo's sippy cup makes a pretty good substitute.

Measuring raisins for our raw-cheesecake base


So what's the point of this? I think we see so many 'gleaming examples' of parenting, which are just not realistic. Pregnancy is a time to glow, but also a time when you need many more naps and pee breaks than the average person, and some days maybe growing the baby is all you feel up to! Once you're a parent, there are always hundreds of unexpected obstacles, and sometimes the best way round them is to cut corners. So, let's celebrate those moments where we aren't the domestic goddess, but just a sleep-deprived, worn out slummy mummy!



Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Being a Dad: Being a Man Festival, Southbank Centre


All of a sudden the Being a Man festival at the Southbank centre this weekend has come onto the radar, and I can see why everyone's talking about it it - it sounds great! The most recent place it popped up was on woman's hour (BBC radio 4), and I have to admit when I told Vik about it, I described it as woman's hour for men, but cooler!

The event, which runs from Friday to Sunday, is open to all (I asked their press team to make sure, since I have to admit I am really interested by some of the talks myself), however Sunday is more geared towards men sharing their opinions and there are some workshops which are exclusively for men (however there will be others running at the same time which are for everyone).


We hear a lot in the media about what it is to be a women, and women's issues, however the question of what it means to be a man is neglected in comparison, so BAM festival is filling in an important gap. To give you a taster, here are some fantastic quotes from some of their speakers this weekend:


‘It sure is time to talk about men: men and change; men and women; and why many men fear both change AND women!’
Jon Snow – journalist and broadcaster


BAM offers a potential space to put to bed some myths, take men to task and celebrate, without gloating, half of the human species.’
Akala – rapper and poet





There are talks and workshops on all aspects of male identity including: 

  • Being a Dad
  • Being a Gay Man
  • The professionals 
  • Sex - Fidelity and Promiscuity 
  • Being a Black Man
  • Being a Bloke 
For more information about individual workshops and the programme contents, check out the BAM webpage.

The festival opens on Friday with the artist Grayson Perry - an extraordinary man!

From a personal perspective, I think I have become a lot more aware of what it means to be a man in todays society since becoming a mother. I am very conscious of the social pressures and influences which my son will encounter as he grows up, as well as witnessing and sharing Vik's experiences of being a father. I actually first heard about the event through the UK Burner community, as Larry Harvey (founder of Burning Man), will be speaking on the Being a Dad panel, which also includes David Lammy MP, young fathers practitioner at St Michael’s Fellowship Se├íny O’Kane, actor Charlie Condou, and writer and journalist David Aaronovitch.

Tickets for the festival are selling out quickly, and although more will be made available, it is best to book in advance to ensure a place. 

We'd love to hear your feedback if you visit BAM this weekend - maybe do like us and make a day of it - there are loads of family-friendly attractions on the Southbank!