fathers-day-gifts-ideal-for-lockdown
Lists, Unlikely mum makes

Father’s Day Gifts for Lockdown

Last year for Father’s Day I was looking for things my toddler (not quite 2 at the time) could help make, or be a part of. It turns out that some of those Homemade Father’s Day Gifts for Kids actually go quite well in lockdown. So for anyone struggling for a gift idea this year, whether it’s because you can’t get the gift or experience you would like to give, or you (or your kids) can’t see your father or grandad due to lockdown, I’ve come up with a few ideas that you should be able to recreate.

fathers-day-breakfast-in-bedBreakfast in bed
It’s a simple classic that might be more welcome than usual under the current circumstances. If your kids are old enough, they can obviously do the making, while I’ve found that younger children like our 2 year old are very good at carrying plates and helping deliver the breakfast. No matter what the breakfast preference is, hot or cold, vegan or full-English, this allows you to practise kitchen skills with your little one while giving dad a long lie and some time to himself – a rarity in quarantine!

Movie night hamper
So you cant go to the cinema or for a day out for fathers day but that doesn’t mean you cant bring the cinema to you. Why not fill a hamper (or decorate and fill a cardboard box) with great movie night treats. Some recent movies have already been released on DVD so you could include those, or a family/dad favourite. Top up with popcorn, snacks and drinks and all that’s left to do is turn out the lights for an at-home cinema experience.

fathers-day-painted-stonesGardeners gift – painted stones
If the dad or grandfather in question is a bit of a green fingers and takes pride in his garden, then some painted stones are a nice personal touch. All you need to do is collect some large stones from the nearest park or beach (don’t travel too far just for stones!) and let your kids paint them how they fancy, whether its a rainbow, spots or maybe a frog or something else befitting for their garden. For an extra special touch, why not match the theme of the garden for an ideal fathers day garden gift? They can be used as ornaments, plant markers or even a doorstop for the shed.

The gift of chores
What better fathers day gift to give than the gift of chores? Your little ones can help out around the house, doing daddy’s usual chores if feasible – a 2 year old may not be able to operate a lawnmower but they can help with the dishes! Why not make the gift last longer with the promise of doing the chorea for a whole week? If you’re thinking of a grandad, there’s a promise to help when you are able to see them again, or there’s the prospect of doing some gardening or car washing if able to maintain social distancing!

fathers-day-ticket-giftSports fan gift – ticket to a match
If your dad or grandad is football mad, or can’t get enough of the rugby, why not give them a coupon which promises to buy a ticket to a live match when live sports (and spectators!) are allowed again. An alternative is always to give sports merchandise in lieu of a game – nobody can ever have too many mugs, especially of their favourite team/player, in my opinion!

The gift of solace
This one is quite important in lockdown, as peace and quiet can be hard to come by when family is always around. Mums are given a lot of encouragement to practice self-care and to carve out ‘me-time’ but it’s just as important for dads. Why not give the gift of solace and ensure the kids (and mum and anyone else!) are out of the house for a couple of hours, giving dad a little bit of time to himself. Whether he chooses to have a nap, a bath, play PlayStation, or finally get round to that thing he was meaning to do, the choice is entirely his. There’s a lot to be said for some quiet time to gather your thoughts and having space to enjoy things to yourself.

Postable gifts

If your child won’t be able to see their dad on Father’s Day for whatever reason, but still want to make sure their father receives a gift then why not create something that will fit in the letterbox, and let the postman brighten their day? This is especially applicable to grandads whom most kids probably don’t live with or won’t have seen for weeks already.

Handmade cards
It’s cheap and cheerful but it contains all the love and thought and effort (and mess!) from your child. Your only limitation here is the contents of your craft drawer. Whether it’s a beautifully hand-drawn card, stencilled, coloured with crayon, paint or felt-tip, additions of glitter, pipe-cleaners or cotton wool, the handmade touch is sure to bring a smile to your dad or grandad.

Photo frame
If you’re like me and still keep an old-school collection of printed photographs around then why not create a lovely photo frame with your favourite picture of you and your dad or grandfather? Or why not let your child choose their favourite photo, or a cute group photo of your kids to send to their fathers or papas? The photo frame part is simple – either use a spare one you have in the house (Ikea multipacks sometimes come in handy!) or get creative with your kids and a cardboard box. We’ve all got so much more cardboard now the recycling hasn’t been collected in weeks, we might as well make use of it!

Tokens and coupons
I touched on this last year in my homemade father’s day gifts post, but it’s an easy and post-friendly option. If grandad loves sport, get him a coupon to watch a match at a later date. For a bonus create a whole book of coupons to be redeemed post-lockdown. Some great ideas include tokens for different chores, favourite meals or snacks, tokens for trips and adventures, “ask gran/ask mum” tokens and so on.

more-eco-friendly-mum-lockdown
Lists, mum life

Becoming more eco-friendly in lockdown

I’m never sure what the latest buzzword is when talking about being kinder to the planet – reducing my carbon footprint? Yes, I’m certainly trying to do that. Net zero carbon – feels like a made up BoJo phrase. Environmentally-friendly is good but a bit old-school, not to mention a pain to spell, so I’ve settled for eco-friendly.

Whatever the appropriate term, I’m trying to become more conscious of my (and my family’s) consumption and waste during lockdown. I know that makes it sound like I’m on poo-watch (only for the toddler) but I’m really taking a more general overview of our whole lives and boy, are we bad to the planet without even realising!

Here’s how I’m trying to combat that by making small, eco-friendly changes to our day to day lives.
(Any products mentioned are purely my opinion – I haven’t been paid or incentivised to use anything)

Personal care

It really irks me that a lot of the beauty world care about creating products that are made naturally, with no animal products or testing, yet they are put into non-recyclable bottles, containers and packaging. I’m also aware that over the years I’ve been conditioned to believe I need stuff I don’t, and that the things I’ve been told are good for me, like a specific shampoo and conditioner set or aerosol deodorant, aren’t particularly good for the environment.

Shampoo/Conditioner – I tried some shampoo and conditioner bars from a local ethical food shop, Made Guid, which focuses on sustainable, low carbon products and local makers. However, this particular kind didn’t work well for me at all – I have long thick hair and I was there for half the day trying to get the bar through my hair, and it still never felt particularly clean after. But I will persevere and try and find another brand whilst still on lockdown – so nobody can see any greasy or frizzy side effects!

Native-unearthed-deoderant-balm-glass-jarDeodorant – I already wrote a review about Native Unearthed Activated Charcoal deodorant balm, which I absolutely loved. It was a surprise tester product I received in a Birchbox months ago but I will be looking to purchase it again from another store or find a similar alternative locally.

Skincare – There have been horror stories about face wipes for years, but the fact they are convenient meant I usually kept a pack lying around the house. However, since using Liz Earle hot cloth polish for over a year, I’ve never felt the need to use wipes. The cloths are reusable, machine washable and lift off even the most stubborn makeup. The cleanser is brilliant and I’ve noticed much less breakouts since using. Plus I bought a big tube last autumn and I’m still using it daily – value and less packaging!

Kiddycare – I won’t lie, my child is still in disposable nappies which I know is a massive problem in terms of landfill and the fact they aren’t biodegradable. We are trying our damndest to potty train, but he’s not having it yet. I can’t conceive using cloth nappies because I think it’s more than my washing machine or household plumbing system could take rinsing poo into, but maybe they could make nappies that are more biodegradable?

We’ve also switched from using sponges to flannels to wash, again from the reusable/washable point and we try to stick to products in recycled packaging, not giving into demands for overly-plastic cartoon-looking bubble baths and the like.

Next steps – moving onto things like bamboo toothbrushes (we can do it!), hairbrushes etc and more natural body care products which can be refilled or use less packaging. I already have bamboo makeup brushes so we’re making progress! Plus find that ideal shampoo bar for my hair.

Food

Less meat consumption – All the vegans out there will probably be outraged at the amount of meat we eat as a family. However, since the start of the year, we’ve been trying to change mindsets and attitudes. Having said that, it’s only really filtered to us parents for the moment as I want my child to be able to experience lots of different foods and nutrients and let him decide what he does and doesn’t like. I’m sure many toddler parents will attest to tantrums over food, and so taking away things he likes right now just feels like an unnecessary battle to us. Whilst he eats sausages (if he could have them for every meal, he would), we have been trying to eat one veggie and one vegan meal a week. Admittedly, this has become much harder in lockdown, with many of our regular foods suddenly not in stock (pasta-gate anyone?) but we are still trying nonetheless. I don’t think we’ll ever get to a place of complete veggie or vegan diet but we are also conscious to ensure the meat we do eat is Scottish, and locally produced where possible.

strawberry-sustainable-food-lockdownSustainable food – This was previously a buzzword I used consistently for a catering client in a past life, but actually I’m focusing on caring more about where our food comes from and what it contributes in terms of carbon footprint, local economy and of course, health. Part of this is making changes such as using the local butcher for meat (easier in lockdown as I can walk to the shop in 2 minutes) and checking the origins of my food in the supermarket. Why buy raspberries from Spain when there’s a plentiful amount grown in Scotland? And do you really need a mango that’s travelled halfway around the world when there’s perfectly good fruit grown locally?

Additionally, by buying local from butchers, fishmongers (ew, maybe you, but not I!), bakers or greengrocers, we are contributing to the local economy (more buzzwords!) and more importantly, local people who’s livelihoods have no doubt been affected by coronavirus.

Food packaging – This has been a bugbear of mine for a while – why do you need to put something frozen, which is already sealed in a cardboard box, inside a plastic wrapper too? Some things are happily frozen in the cardboard without the plastic and that seems fine, so I’m not sure what the problem is. Also, things that come in foil trays or plastic tubs – with card sleeves over the top? Or mostly anything for kids – multipack cartons of juice wrapped in never-ending plastic for instance.

I’ve long since abandoned the little poly bags for loose fruit and veg and can safely say they taste no different having journeyed bareback in the trolley. And of course I use bags for life or reuse plastic ones from the ever-growing bag cupboard. Now I’m taking the next steps of consciously not buying heavily and unnecessarily wrapped products. Those little multipacks of fruit shoot? No thanks, diluting juice only (Travis may hate me but thems the breaks!). Plastic inside cardboard? You’re not clogging up my bin thanks!

Any packaging in fact
So anyone living in the UK will probably agree that it’s been surprising to see how much packaging – even recyclable stuff – we encounter on a weekly basis. The council have stopped collecting recycling bins, but I’ve still been filling my blue bin (lol, filled it weeks ago rather) and have been keeping the dry recycling in my house until the bins are collected again. The problem is, it’s made me see how much excess packaging there actually is. With everybody ordering online at the moment, everything comes with extra bubble wrap, plastic outers, and boxes within boxes (probably just Amazon) which are wholly unnecessary.

Next steps – I’m on a mission to reduce our packaging, and if that’s not possible then at least reuse or repurpose what we have. While we’re in lockdown we may as well attempt a few Blue Peter projects with all the boxes and loo rolls and egg cartons lying around. Or I may start using the boxes to pack away old things we don’t use very often, ever in the hope we may be able to move house once lockdown is over!

Cleaning

Tools – I bought a bamboo brush for the house a couple of months ago and I’ve found that it’s a pretty good, sturdy brush. Not like the cheap ones you get (even though it only cost me a fiver!). It’s also meant that I’m hoovering the kitchen/hall/other laminate floors less often which is a win in terms of electricity usage.

Products – I’ve made the conscious decision to buy less (and eventually no) disinfectant wipes. Admittedly this has been nudged along thanks to panic buying at the beginning of lockdown. I had been a massive fan of Flash Wipes for cleaning the toilet in particular (who wants to reuse a cloth full of the whole house’s pee?) but obviously this is terrible in terms of environment. So for the greater good I’ve got myself a ‘toilet cloth’ which shall be used, cleaned and reused for only the aforementioned.

I have also resisted “Hinching” because although I love a good hack as much as the next person, I don’t believe in needing 40 different cleaning products when just 4 will do. I’m not into the mass consumerism of cleaning and sometimes the old ways just are the best. Vinegar and water is fine to clean my windows with and one disinfectant spray can disinfect every room. I’m not a Mrs Hinch basher – I love Zoflora too, and think it’s a fantastic multi-purpose product but I don’t need 5 other things if I have that.

Next steps – I really want to try a laundry egg as I’ve heard a lot of good things about them. Plus from what I can tell, they save you money as well as the environment, so it’s a double winner.

pinterest-become-more-eco-friendly-lockdown

5-essential-baby-products-blog
Lists, Parenting

5 essential baby products I couldn’t live without

There are loads of so-called baby essentials out there, and for first time mums, choosing the right products to help you care for your baby can be daunting. I was definitely in those shoes before Travis was born, and with baby shows, events and brands all offering different things from genuine essentials to new products that position themselves as genius new life-hacks, it was a bit overwhelming to know who to trust and what to buy.

With a bit of hindsight in mind, I’ve made a list of the top 5 baby essentials I don’t think I could have lived without. In my opinion these were the best things to fork out on for my situation, but yours might be different. I’ve not been approached or paid in any way to promote or review any of these products so you can make of that what you will!

Oh, and I’d be grateful if you could let me know of any of the amazing products you couldn’t have lived without as a new mama!

Nappy Bin
The single most useful thing that we were lucky enough to be gifted with before having Travis was an Angelcare nappy bin (other brands are available!). I was sceptical about using disposable nappy bags as my conscience already eats me up enough that we use disposable nappies and they are terrible for the environment, but on the same note I didn’t want a smelly bin all the time. As a new parent, putting the bins out (especially if you live in a flat) can get pushed to the back of your mind as you juggle a new found lack of sleep with trying to care for a tiny human’s every need as well as your own. So this nappy bin which sooks in stinky nappies and takes away the smell, means your home smells poo-free, your baby is clean, and nobody has to take a trip to the bin unless it’s full. Plus less plastics on disposable nappies – yay!

Perfect Prep Machine
The Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine is money well spent for any formula feeding mother. It sounds stupid but if you’re not used to getting up multiple times a night, and don’t like keeping a sleeping baby awake longer than necessary (because new rules say you can’t keep formula for more than like an hour or something equally as silly) then this is ideal. Just make sure it’s topped up with water, press a button, add formula, press a button and hey presto, your baby’s feed is ready, with their exact amount and at the right temperature in just two minutes. Word to the wise – Tommee Tippee products (especially this one) can be expensive, but there will usually always be a deal on the Perfect Prep Machine if you shop around for baby events etc. At the time of writing this post, you can grab it for a reasonable price at John Lewis of all places.

A good travel system
I can’t stress the importance of a good travel system for your baby. As we live one floor up with outside stone steps, a pram and buggy with air tyres was essential for us to bounce up and down the steps. As I said, I’m not being paid to write about any products, but for me the Venicci 3 in 1 travel system was ideal for our circumstances. It also came with a cup holder which was an added bonus for all those caffeine induced walks in the park! Travis still fits in his buggy at 18 months (despite being the height and weight of an average 3 year old) and I can’t relate how good it is to be able to pop the car seat onto the frame if you’re nipping out to the shops in a journey which must be done in the car. We ran into a few issues with our back wheel (tyre tube and wheel had to be replaced multiple times) but I think that’s an anomoly as anyone else I’ve spoken to with a Venicci pram system also swears by it!

Sleepyhead
I was fortunate enough to be gifted a Sleepyhead Deluxe by my work colleagues as a mat leave gift, but they can be quite pricey. There are similar brands available, and they basically all do the same thing. There are various health warnings that babies shouldn’t be allowed to sleep in them, that you have to watch them etc, but I honestly found this a lifesaver for naps. Travis could quite easily sleep on the couch inside it while I either napped on the other end of the couch or pottered about tidying the living room or whatever. It was also the perfect size to take in the car when visiting family, because as we know naps are inevitable when they are so young, but you don’t want to be carting around a moses basket or travel cot everywhere in case your child naps! Plus, if you’re having one of those utterly unbearable nights where they wake heaps of times and just want a touch from mum or dad, then the Sleepyhead is ideal for placing on top of the covers on your bed, meaning your baby is snug and close to you, without the worry of a quilt covering their face etc.

 

Sling/baby carrier
As a Scot, I was fortunate enough to receive a Baby Box when Travis was born, which came with a bunch of useful items in, including a baby sling. Now I have to say the different ways to tie this and secure your baby absolutely baffled me, but I did love the sentiment. I had already purchased a baby carrier with money gifted to us for Travis when he was born, and I can honestly say I’d probably still be using it today if 1) Travis wasn’t a giant and 2) it didn’t burn down in our house fire. Travis was quite a colicky baby, which meant he was a lot more comfortable if he was elevated. This was fine to a point, but considering he weighted 8lb 15 when he was born, you could imagine the strain on my arms as he got to 3, 4, and 5 months old. The baby carrier was the ideal solution as it meant he could be upright and close to me, without the strain on my arms or back. It also meant I could perfect skills like going for a wee while he was strapped to me, making life that little bit easier for everyone.

 

Those are my 5 top baby essentials that I definitely could not have lived without, but I’d be keen to hear of anyone else’s – after all, every baby and every situation is different!

5-essential-baby-products-for-new-mums

Lists, mum life

Birchbox advent calendar: week 2

Another week in December has flown by already, and with it I’ve had another great batch of Birchbox treats from my advent house. This week has seen another mix of practical and fun treats appear behind the drawers. Here’s what I uncovered in the second week of advent:

Birchbox-makeup-advent-calendar

Amika soulfood nourishing mask
If there’s one thing your hair needs as the temperatures drop to freezing and below, it’s some TLC to protect against the harsh conditions. This soulfood mask provides the nourishment hair often lacks with lots of heat damage at this time of year.

Beauty Pro black peel charcoal mask
If your hair feels more dry and damaged in the winter, imagine how your face feels! There’s nothing quite like a charcoal mask to draw out imperfections and provide some much needed deep cleansing.

Tangle Teezer brush
Tangle teezer products are so handy for anyone with long hair. They are perfect for popping in your bag if you know you’re going to be out braving the wind and all sorts of other hair-tugging weather. I also like to use mine on the shower to remove tangles and ensure conditioner spreads right through my hair properly.

Pixi skin treats glow tonic
A glow can often be lacking in skin at this time of year due to late night partying/wrapping presents, harsh weather, central heating and over indulging in food and drink. So a lovely skin tonic is just what the doctor ordered!

Sank and Sky Australian Pink Clay exfoliating treatment
Sand and Sky products have featured in Birchboxes before, so I have a rough idea of what to expect with this one. Exfoliators are always needed at this time of year to get rid of dead cells, and what better way to do so than in a powerful mask form. The mask takes just 5 minutes to work its magic, using macadamia seeds to exfoliate while the pink clay clears your pores and Australian finger lime adds a freshness and glow to leave your face completely refreshed.

Nuxe Paris beautifying scented body lotion
This body lotion has a smell like you wouldn’t believe. The “Prodigieuse” scent is a beautiful blend of orange blossom, magnolia and vanilla, and leaves the skin bright and moisturised with a satin finish. I think I’ll definitely look into the full size version of this once my advent sample has ran out.

Lord and Berry Couture Kohl Kajal Eyeliner
This eyeliner is exactly how I like them – black as my soul! Although I prefer a liquid liner for eyelids, you can’t beat a bit of kohl for a quick fix and for that bottom lash line.

*Disclaimer, this is not sponsored or paid in any way, just doing it to share the love!

Lists, mum life

Top 6 Food & Drink Christmas Gifts

There are far too many great food and drink Christmas gifts out there to choose from, with many long-standing brands bringing out various specials just for the season. However, I’ve come across a few that are sure to hit the right spot with almost anyone this Christmas. Well, almost anyone in my family at least!

Ellis Gin

I discovered this gem at Helensburgh Winter Festival earlier in the month. Ellis gin is handmade in Glasgow and in small batches, with only a couple of flavours currently available. I opted to buy the bramble gin in a bauble for a Christmas gift, though they had plenty of choice in terms of bottle size and gift packs, with the option of a small bottle and glass, or gin and mixer combos. I love trying new things and supporting local makers so this is a no brainer if you like to give unique gifts that are made with love.

Johnnie Walker White Walker Limited Edition

If you’ve any Game of Thrones fan friends or family (over 18) then this will be sure to warm up their winter. The show has partnered with Scottish whisky Johnnie Walker for this limited edition collectors bottle named White Walker. A homage to the White Walkers on the show, this brand new whisky is best served straight from the freezer.

Dean’s Glitter Shortbread

Dean’s Shortbread is a fabulous, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread brand from Huntly in Scotland. Their traditional shortbread rounds can be found in many supermarkets, and they offer a great festive flavour range. However, their glitter shortbread adds some much needed sparkle to Christmas, without steering away from the traditional flavour. This one is sure to go down well with nans and for those ever expanding gifts for teachers, coaches, lollipop men/women, and anyone else society has told us we should be gifting at this time of year! With a £2.99 price tag it’s a perfect add-on for a bigger gift too.

Peaky Blinders Rum/Whisky/Gin

 Well Sadler’s Ales have gone all in with a range of Peaky Blinders spirits. Fans of Sadler’s and of the TV show will appreciate that there are several different gift options on offer, with variations of their spiced gin, spiced rum and whisky available to purchase. If you want to pay homage to the show and Thomas Shelby himself, then the Peaky Blinders gin is the ideal choice.

Saltire CandySaltire-candy-christmas-gift-food

Another great discovery from Helensburgh Winter Festival was Saltire Candy. They make all of your old fashioned boiled sweet favourites, all beautifully packaged forany occasion. They also had some flavoured fudge which we tried (the Hebridean sea salted caramel fudge was my favourite) and a few varieties of the traditional tablet and macaroon which looked like the perfect stocking filler. They were only a couple of pounds for each little bag. Plus you’re able to personalise many of their gifts too, for that extra special touch.

Fry’s selection box

A great gift for any chocolate lover in your house. It’s a collection of the three Fry’s favourites – chocolate cream, peppermint cream and turkish delight. Obviously the latter isn’t to everyone’s taste but I think Fry’s creams are fondly remembered by some of the older generation in our family for sure. I first found this gift in B&M but have since seen it pop up in a few stores and supermarkets, and it’s pretty inexpensive as far as Christmas gifts go – around the £2-3 mark you’d expect to pay for a selection box.

do-dont-dunkeld-scotland
Lists, mum life

Do’s and Don’ts in Dunkeld

At the end of October the other half and I managed to escape for a quick getaway to the beautiful village of Dunkeld in Perthshire. The overnight stay was a gift from Craig’s parents for our engagement earlier in the year.

This was the last possible weekend to book our stay, so in true last minute Unlikely Mum style, we squeezed our visit in between work shifts and babysitters and headed for a very short romantic date night essentially.

Although we didn’t have much time to spend there, we definitely made the most of what we could, and noted some pointers for anyone else looking to travel around this area – particularly on a short timescale. I’d definitely recommend visiting Dunkeld and the surrounding area as it’s such a beautiful and mainly unspoilt part of Scotland, with lots to still see and do for tourists.

DO head to Howie’s Bistro

20181026_185645

This lovely little bistro was recommended to us by a taxi driver, and it was defintely worth the hype. I had some mushroom starter that I couldnt pronounce if you paid me (pictured) and a vegetarian moussaka. The other half opted for soup (it was souper cold. See what I did there?) and a massive chicken burger. There was so much food that neither of us could manage a dessert, despite the choices being mouthwatering. They have a healthy collection of gins for a smallish restaurant, and a decent choice of beers, wines and other spirits too. Howie’s Bistro is definitely a winner in my book

DON’T go out without planning how to get home

We may have picked up some dining tips from our taxi driver, but she also told us that she was only working until 10pm. On a Friday night. I will never get used to taxi companies/taxi drivers in remote areas not being available 24/7. Dunkeld also has buses running to various locations, and there’s a train station not too far outside Dunkeld, but if you aren’t staying right in the centre of the village, then it pays to check with the local transport and taxi drivers, so you’re not left stranded when the pub shuts!

DO head to nearby Birnam

We took a short drive into Birnam the next day (from the main village it would have been a nice walk, but we were staying just too far away for that). It’s another small and beautiful village, and one which boasts the Beatrix Potter Exhibition & Garden. I didn’t realise that Beatrix Potter had a connection with Perthshire until we visited, so it was really interesting to find out more. The garden is also cute and quaint, with various characters of the author’s appearing in statue form throughout the garden.

DO visit in Autumn

Maybe it’s just my love of the orange, yellow and red hues, or maybe Autumn is just the best time to visit Dunkeld. It’s so beautiful and picturesque, and the views will take your breath away. Plus, Autumn means it’s hit-and-miss weather-wise, but perfect for exploring out of season once the rest of the tourists have gone home to find their thermals.

DON’T go for just one day

I can’t stress enough the fact we really crammed our visit. There was so much we left unseen, and so many activities on offer that we had to pass up. Within our hotel alone there was the opportunity to quad bike, clay pigeon shoot or walk through some of the lovely nature trails. Other nearby visitor attractions include the Scottish Liqueur Centre in Bankfoot, Active Kids Adventure Park in Stanley and much more.

DO bring a camera

I’m so glad I brought my camera, even though we only had time to capture a few snaps in the morning. As I said, Dunkeld and the surrounding area is so picturesque, a camera is a must-have for any keen photographer. Plus, if you arrive at the right time of year, you might snap some deer as well as the usual pheasants, grouse and other Scottish wildlife which are in abundance in this neck of the woods.

dunkeld-scotland-travel-tips

makeup-birchbox-subscription
Lists, mum life

My Top 5 Birchbox Makeup Finds

I’ve been signed up to Birchbox for over 2 years now, and every time I think about cancelling, they seem to send me a brand new product I love. Don’t get me wrong, I have loads of stuff I probably will never use again (if I’ve even tried it yet!) but I’ve managed to discover a few great makeup products that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise known about, least of all tried. As this was my sole reason for signing up to this beauty subscription service, I’ve got to say it’s been good value for money so far!

I should point out that I’m in no way affiliated with Birchbox, I’ve not been asked to write this post by them and I don’t receive any commission or payment in kind from them, I just really love their service!

Here are the top 5 makeup products I’ve found thanks to Birchbox:

Benefit Bad Gal bang mascara
I am an absolute mascara fiend so I’m always very open to trying new mascaras in any shape or form. Having tried Benefit’s Roller Lash before, I knew I was in for good things. The Bad Gal Bang mascara does exactly what I want it to do, so it’s ideal for me. It’s thick and dramatic, and defines every last with minim clumps so it’s now a staple in my makeup bag, and I’ve made several repurchases through the Birchbox shop.

Beautaniq Beauty fill + tame eyebrow gel
This eyebrow gel was a complete game changer for me. I’d never succumbed to any eyebrow trends before, and have never had them waxed, threaded or even plucked. Make of that what you will, but with fair brows it’s never been a problem for me! However sometimes my brows are just too pale and there are patches which could do with a bit more hair. This is where Beautaniq Beauty brow gel comes in. Considering I use the blonde shade, it’s darker than any eyebrow pencil I’ve used before, or would normally choose myself. However the shade works with the rest of my makeup and provides the finishing touches without creating obviously fake looking brows.

Model Co highlighter trio
This isn’t something I use every day, but instead only when I’m going out and want to contour my face (ain’t nobody got time for that on a work morning with a 1 year old!). So much so, I’ve only just run out of my original Birchbox sample which I received about 18 months ago! I love the creamy texture of the Model Co highlighter trio and the shine that it leaves on the skin. It’s so easy to blend that even a novice like me can do it!

Dirty Little Secret eye shadow crayon in Gold Plated
This is a fairly recent Birchbox makeup treat, and one I fell in love with since I received it! The DLS eyeshadow crayon originally came with 2 shade options, and subscribers were invited to choose their preference in the month before it was due to arrive in the box. I’m glad I chose gold plated as I feel like it makes my blue eyes pop. It’s a great shade for a sweep of colour during the daytime and mixed with other shades to bring life to a smoky look in the evening.

LOC (Love of Colour) lip pencil in Bohemian Rose
This was in one of my first event Birchboxes, and this particular shade was in partnership with Millie Mackintosh. It’s so light and summery and is the shade of pink I think goes with pretty much anything. I’m not sure if this exact shade of this LOC lip pencil is still available to buy, but I’d recommend trying one of their other shades just because it’s so creamy and nourishing.

preparing-first-birthday-party
Baby M's firsts, Lists

Preparing for a first birthday

I actually can’t believe my little munchkin will be a whole year old in a few short days. The last year has been the most exhausting and amazing of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Well maybe except to make it longer as the time with my precious wee lamb has flown by!

Now it’s time to start preparing his first birthday which will be an interesting (and probably more exhausting!) affair. I love planning a good party and I’m all about the details, so I couldn’t wait to get stuck into the party planning. However I’m well aware I’m not super mum and have more creative ambition than talent, plus there’s a million amazing ideas on Pinterest to give you party envy, so I hopped between excited and apprehensive as to what to do.

In the end, we’ve opted for a Winnie the Pooh party, which has made me want to run off and live in hundred acre wood already. Whatever you choose to do to mark your little one’s special 1st birthday, there are a few tips to help plan the perfect day:

Prepare in advance
It sounds silly but prepare as much as you can in advance. You know when your little one’s birthday is, and the date will be the same every year, so that gives you plenty of notice to start any planning and preparing in advance. Preparation can include everything from the kind of gift(s) you want to buy the birthday babe to any party ideas, birthday outfits and more. However you choose to mark your little baby’s first birthday, just make sure you organise it in advance so that time, budget and feasibility don’t change your plans.

Tell people any expectations or boundaries
If your family is anything like mine, you may have to make a few boundaries clear in advance of any celebrations. For instance, it’s second nature for grandparents and aunts and uncles to spoil Travis; he literally gets something new every time he goes to his Nana’s. Don’t be afraid to put boundaries on things like this, as after all, it’s your child and your home and your rules after everyone has gone home. Some people might think that’s rude or ungrateful, but if you don’t want visitors staying all hours or giving your child a toy or treat you’re not ready for him to have, then sometimes it’s best to make things clear from the outset.

Make a Pinterest board
To be honest, I love any old excuse to make a Pinterest board (mine is not the most blog or business savvy, but it’s how I like it!) So this tip comes as no surprise. Pinterest boards are ideal as they allow you to gather all your ideas in one place and then research, test, purchase or use later. If you’re making the birthday cake yourself, why not have a board for different cake recipes and design ideas? If you’re throwing a party, you can pin just about anything in any theme to your board. If you’re super organised, you could have a different board for each element of your birthday celebration.

Take plenty of photographs
This one is a no-brainer – it’s your little one’s first birthday after all! There will be no other milestone quite as precious for you, so it’s important to mark the occasion whatever you do. There’s no need to go all out either – if big elaborate cake smashes aren’t your thing, there’s no reason you can’t use your smartphone to create some great memories, then edit and print them online.

Have fun
Most importantly of all – have fun! A lot of stress, time and effort can go into planning parties and celebrations, and there’s nothing worse than worrying about how everything should be going at each minute of the day. It might be hard, but try to relax and enjoy the day and the time with your little munchkin; after all, (s)he won’t be one for long!

 

food, Lists

Best freebies for mums and mums-to-be

There are loads of freebies and samples available for mums and mums to be – you just have to know where to look to find them!

Here are a few of my favourites and where to find them:

Bounty
I 100% recommend the Bounty app and picking up their packs from ASDA if possible. The app contains screeds of information and resources from the moment you find out you’re expecting, right up until, well at least 11 months as we are still getting updates and information! Plus, as  your bump grows week by week, the app shows you how big baby’s foot would be at that moment – majorly cute! They offer multiple freebie packs, from when you’re expecting, to when your baby is born (that pack is usually handed to you in hospital) and for when your little one is growing. I mentioned getting their packs from ASDA – their packs are also available at Boots, and possibly still Argos, but especially when you get to the growing family pack, some of the freebies change. ASDA’s includes samples of their nappy and babycare range, as well as items from George.

Emma’s Diary
Similar to Bounty, Emma’s Diary offers a wealth of information and advice for mums. They have an app that I’d definitely recommend any expectant mums download. They offer goody bags for mums to be, new parents and as your family grows. You’ll often find Emma’s Diary at baby and toddler shows too. They are a must-bookmark resource of everything you could ever want to know about pregnancy through to taking care of a growing baby. They even have a baby names section if you’re struggling in that department!

Cow and Gate
Cow and Gate were one of the first freebies I came across – mentioned in mum’s forums and possibly also even by Martin Lewis (Money Saving Expert). I signed up online with them, and within a few days I got a welcome pack through the post with information about the brand, what resources they have available online and over the phone. It also came with a pregnancy diary which was part-journal, part full of tips and reminders of things such as what to pack in your hospital bag, areas for name suggestions and more. Nearer to when Travis was born, I also received a wee Cow and Gate teddy for him, along with some milk vouchers. In fact, Cow and Gate are really good at sending out vouchers and samples, which are handy to even share with other mums if you don’t end up using their milk. They also offer money off their food products too, which have been a lifesaver for us.

Ella’s Kitchen
I love how handy the Ella’s Kitchen fruit and veg pouches are. There’s no denying they have been a great help in weaning Travis and are still useful to have around, to make sure Travis is getting the right amount of fruit or veg a day. However I could easily have overlooked them as a more expensive supermarket brand, had I not signed up to receive a freebie. Not only do they send a coupon for a free pouch, you also get a handy weaning guide, wall chart, stickers and more.

Arla
You may have heard of Arla on the TV adverts – you know the ones for the Skyr yoghurt? Well apparently they do a range of different milks too – and some are perfect for kids growing up (post 12-months it seems). in addition to offering various vouchers for their milk and yoghurts, Arla also give you a cute height chart for signing up to them, so you can mark your baby’s height progress as their bones grow healthy and strong from the milk presumably!

Pampers Baby Club
With the rate babies go through them, who wouldn’t love some free nappies? Pampers baby club regularly send out samples, starting with first size for newborns when you sign up. We’ve just recently received a couple of pairs nappy pants, along with a coupon for money off a full pack. Coupons are also a regular occurrence, along with some great rewards you can redeem on the Pampers Baby Club app. Scan receipts of your nappies to collect points and claim freebies such as magazine subscriptions, vouchers for nappies, baby books, toys and more.

Baby Box
Ok, so this is a slight cheat but by far the best freebie out there is the Scottish Government’s Baby Box. Unfortunately you’ll have to be living in Scotland, which your child being born here in order to get one, but there’s honestly nothing else you could need for a newborn that doesn’t come in this box. Clothes, thermometers, bath stuff, carrier – there’s so many good things inside I wrote a post dedicated to it last year.

Those are my top baby freebies I’ve found – well at least the ones that seem to be regular and stable, rather than flash freebies or sales. Can you think of any I’ve missed? If there are more good ones out there I am always keen to try them, so please share your wisdom!

Lists, travel

What to pack for a holiday with an infant

We are off on our first family holiday in September (Its so soon I can’t wait!), and truth be told it’s the first holiday in about 4 years where I’ve taken more than hand luggage with me. I’m always one for packing light, so I’ve been a bit overwhelmed at the possibility of going abroad with a baby and all the luggage that comes with him. After all, it took me about a month to stop taking everything but the kitchen sink with me on a walk to the park when the little man was tiny!

Over-packing can be just as much of a problem as under-packing, and I think the only real way to combat this us to have a super organised checklist of things to take before you go.

Here’s what’s on ours, hopefully you find it useful!

packing-essentials-infant

Aside from the obvious things like nappies and wipes, it’s important to pack some food and milk, at least to get you started. Sure, they can weigh down the case, but it saves you scouring the whole holiday destination trying to find your little one’s brand of formula or favourite dinner!

Clothing
As a general rule, I’d suggest packing 50% more of each main clothing item per days you’re away. (E.g. if you’re away for 10 days, take 15 vests, t-shirts etc)

packing-infant-clothing

Sun and pool safety
Obviously this is only really relevant if you’re travelling to a warm sunny country or planning a pool/beach type holiday.

Hand luggage
You’ll need to take the usual essentials plus some extras and probably more entertainment to keep your little one occupied on the flight! Not too different from packing for a long car journey or day out, there are a couple of extra must-haves in the baby bag for a flight. For instance you might be changing time zones when you fly so perhaps a change into PJ’s is needed in mid-air? Flights – particularly long ones – can be boring for infants so be sure to take as much as you can reasonably fit to keep them entertained.

Plus, not really hand luggage, but you will probably need to take it throughout the airport – don’t forget the travel buggy!

Just listing this out has made me giddy with the prospect of all the packing and organising to come! Let me know if you can think of anything I’ve missed. I’m sure I’ll come back to this post with much hindsight once I’ve been abroad and back!