Spend Less, Read More part one…

There’s sales everywhere – and competitions everywhere. Euromillions claim they’ll create a few more millionaires before Christmas, and it’s all well and good, but I never win competitions, so I’m not holding out much hope.

So instead I thought I’d do a piece on places I spot bargains, that kind of thing.

There’s a few blogs I follow – and have recently found Playpennies which is a brilliant site – somewhere with so many posts about things I never realised I needed until I read them! Need a hooded towel for your little one? Why pay more when you can get decent character ones from Play.com? See, I’d never have thought of looking there and would have forked out twice as much. Add it to your rss reader/subscriber thing, you wont regret it – they’ve done all the hard work to make it easier for you.

When I hurt my back earlier this year I had many days lying in bed recouperating – and with that discovered Lidl Photos. Some people might get a bit sniffy about Lidl, but actually compared to some Photobox or Snapfish photos I’ve had printed, the Lidl ones have been by far the superior quality. There’s been a deal to get a free photo book on there for a few months now, though sadly not Mac compatible (so that counts me out).

Vistaprint have been offering bazillions of free things as I’d ordered up some business cards from there, with just shipping costs on top (at £3ish). I got 10 photo Christmas Cards from them at no cost – considering when I did them in H’s first year they cost £25 with shipping on top via another high profile photo company, I’ve saved a packet. I’ve had a few things where hidden charges creep in, so be aware.

The Book People keep coming to my husband’s work and I keep making him buy things for H, such is their fabulously wide selection of books – then they really taunt me by turning up at a local fair – we love The Book People, H’s current Meg and Mog obsession (and with it a baby octopus one) stems from the six titles in a bag they’re currently doing.

Finally, if you’re like me and horribly disorganised, then you’ll not have a Christmas Cake sorted yet. Fear not, as Delia’s make your own at Waitrose has been reduced to just £5 in-store – although on seeing the ingredients in sachets, I do kind of wonder if I could have done it myself? Naaah, far too lazy. There’ll be a feature on the making of the cake to follow… once we’ve bought the extra bits we need. I think we’ll probably skip the icing and just have fruit cake…

Poundland has been great with our Christmas preparations, it seemed to be the only place which did glitter (shame on you WHSmiths!), and had stick on snowflakes for the windows which are pretty cool. I also got a large Christmas Stocking for H to put under the tree (it had a plastic window on the front which I picked off), which we may well fill up with fruit next Saturday… worth checking anyway, if you haven’t already!

That’s all for this time….

Santa at Painshill Park

We’re regular visitors to the wonderful Painshill Park in Cobham, and for the first time yesterday we visited to take H to see Father Christmas.

Santa at Painshill Park

We got tickets for 4pm (the earliest you can go on a weekday), just as the sun was setting and the fairy lights were coming on – the park looked beautiful, and it’s definitely something worth experiencing at that time of day if the weather is good.

You enter the park the usual way, and take the disabled/step free route towards The Grotto which is signposted with random Santas along the way. A 20 minute walk when your little one is in a buggy is probably more like a 25-30 one when your toddler wants to walk – so leave plenty of time!

You get to a large tent next to the big lake, and wait your turn – you’re checked in with a number and an age appropriate card for the present, and there’s refreshments available (mulled wine!) – though these are at an extra cost.

We waited for a very short time (we were number 6), and took a short walk from the tent into the grotto, where Santa was waiting on his sleigh, shook H’s hand and asked all the right questions. H told him she wanted “a baby octopus” and looked a bit disappointed when she realised her present wasn’t one..

Actually, the only criticism I’d say was the present H got was really young for her – but she was happy with it, and actually, the Santa was excellent, so that far outweighs anything else.

The setting of The Grotto for Santa was fabulous – it looks gorgeous inside and isn’t too cold (it was a chilly night), though worth bearing in mind you can’t take buggies in there, as there’s five or six steps as you leave the grotto to get back onto the island – there is buggy storage outside the main tent though.

It was a lovely smoothly run experience (thank you elves!), also helped by H being given a present which had an activity book in it which she sat and coloured in while we waited. I would defintely come back next year, plus heading back to the car park (now with toddler in buggy as she wanted to open her present) in the dark with all the lights was lovely.

Highly recommended!

I Schwim

I’ve gone on about this promotion so many times to people I’m making myself sick of it – but it’s a brilliant promotion, and one which if you time it right you can get amazing benefits from.

 

Schweppes Abbey Well bottled water comes with a cap which will get you a free swim. Not all pools are doing this, so you need to check their website. This promotion has been running for almost three years now, and I’m hoping is going to continue after January 2012 (as it has done for the last two years…) all you do is check your pool, check the times the pool will accept the swim bottle cap for (my local posh gym will only do from 12-2 on most days, whereas the regular pools are all day), turn up with your swimming things, swim.

Today I went to the Spirit Health Club at the Holiday Inn in Sutton, and with my free swim bottle cap I got my swim (very good for my back), a sit in the spa at the side of the pool (those water jets went right into my back, lovely!), a steam room session, oh and a sauna too. Oh, and if you’ve not brought a towel with you, it’s one of those nice gyms that will provide you with one – if you’re close to this gym, don’t forget to get a token for the lockers before you go in (I did).

Even better, these bottles are often on promotion – supermarkets will do two for £1. So strictly speaking it’s not a free swim, as you’ve had to buy a bottle of water, but heck, for the extra pampering I got today I’ll take it, thanks.

Bushy Park Pheasantry Cafe and grounds

Bushy Park is somewhere I’ve been visiting since I was little – although I’m not from London, that side of my family lived in the area, so it’s somewhere I’m familiar with.

Recently a new cafe and fenced in area has opened, the Pheasantry Cafe, which also has toilets (outdoor, they’re not in the dining area) a community room and education centre.

The nicest bit about this area is how fenced off it is from the rest of the park – it’s somewhere your toddler can wander around (supervised of course!) and not go too far – there were even parakeets in the trees. There are ponds (with ducks and swans), worth mentioning, though this wasn’t a problem for us.

The cafe itself had plenty of space for buggies, approximately 5-6 highchairs, and was reasonably priced too. Definitely one we’ll keep going back to anyway.

To get to the area, if you’re coming from Hampton Court, drive towards Teddington, and you’ll see signs on your left. We’ve always headed to the right where the play area is, so it was nice to go somewhere different.

Carmine Beauty Box

Okay, so after getting my first Boudoir Privé box last weekend, I went a bit crazy and had a look around at other boxes out there – Carmine offer a discount for the first box, I knew I’d get the November one (only the second one they’ve done) which looked kind of interesting, so I went for it – and it arrived this morning.

Inside there’s some good samples, and definitely things I’d think about using.

• Lulu’s Time Bomb – Flashback Night Cream. Yep – Lulu – this is described as a ‘extremely powerful anti-ageing time machine’ – and while my love of Dr Who kind of went when Christopher Eccleston left, I’m willing to give this a go.
• New CID – iPout Lipstick – okay, another lipstick. H looked in horror when I said I had one, while I looked on in amazement at the really simple idea of building in a mirror – and get this – a light too, for when you apply it. Brilliant!!
P1040414-300x225• Dainty Doll – Eyeliner Pencil. Oh yes, it’s Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud’s makeup range which made me feel a bit young, but actually, it applies really nicely, and I can see myself using it a fair bit – in a nice browny shade too.
• Neom Organics – Real Luxury Body Lotion – apparently an equivalent to fine chocolates and champagne, my very dry skin liked it, although I think I probably need some more… packed with the smells of lavender, jasmine, basil and more – smells gooood.
• Cosmetics A La Carte – Brow Ink. Okay, this one is the one I’m liking the look of the most – a semi-permanent ink where you can draw in eyebrows and not accidentally wipe them off. I’ll let you in to a secret – when I was about thirteen my sister threw a swingball bat at my head (I kept winning), and it split a section of skin open on my eyebrow – it’s never been the same, and always looked odd on photos. This could give me proper eyebrows again! So I’ll definitely be using it. It can also be used as a liner – I would definitely buy this.

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Anyway, without trying to compare the two boxes too much, I’d say right now Carmine appears to be more my kind of thing, I’m definitely going to get another box of each to see what’s on offer for December (some perfume please, or a good concealer!) – now if only someone would start doing a Mummy Box…

December’s Giveaway

This time we’ve two more DVDs – this time they’re both Peppa Pig ones – again kindly donated by Entertainment One, for you to do your best to win.

P1040286-300x225 The two DVDs are Peppa Pig ‘International Day’ plus more, and Peppa Pig ‘My Birthday Party’ – both feature loads of episodes (10-11 per disc), and are the more recent episodes of the show.

The competition? Well, it’s Christmas, so this time I’ve decided to be a bit more generous – while I’ve only two DVDs, we’re going to pick two winners this time – and there’s plenty of opportunities to have a go.

Here’s several ways you can enter –
• Tell me in a comment below your best joke which would go in a Christmas Cracker.
• Like the Mum Friendly Page and the Mum Friendly Group on Facebook, and let me know you’ve entered the competition by tagging either in a post, so I can see you’ve entered (and do feel free to join in the chat)
• Follow Mum Friendly on Twitter – username MumFriendlyJo and retweet this competition link (and let me know, so I can keep a record!)
Submit a review on the Mum Friendly site – you need to go to the place linked, but you don’t need an account to post.
• Tell Your Friends!

There’s a few ways to enter, anyway…

As before, H will pick a winner from her Tiny Tears Sleeping Bag – we’ll miss Christmas, so it’s going to be a New Year thing – we’ll aim for the 30th December to pick the entry, to get it posted as soon as possible after that… TWO winners, okay? Two!

Good luck!

Tilgate Park

Rory and I took Isabella there a few weeks back on a glorious autumn day. It is a huge park with plenty of buggy friendly, paved walkways. There is also lots of grass lawn to run around on and picnic (when the weather is good). There is a small lake in the middle of the park with geese, ducks and black swans. There is also apparently a walled garden and other small themed gardens around the park as well as a cafe but didn’t get there ourselves. There is also a craft studio area where you can view people doing their handiwork.

There is an enclosed play area with lots of fun things to climb on, rock on, swing on, slide on or simply play on. Isabella took an instant liking to the giant slide (wide enough for adults without getting your bum jammed unlike the normal slides).

We also saw sheep there. There is apparently a nature centre with lots of animals including reptiles, farm animals, spiders, snakes etc. Free entry all round!!!

Don’t be caught with paying for parking in the main parking area. If you approach Tilgate Drive from the A23, there is free parking on the left hand side near the bottom before you get to the main parking area. Entry to park is free!!!

Well worth several visits as there is too much to see in one go! We’ve only done one visit so far with more to come!

M&S Sutton

Following on from Jo’s post about H loving a coffee, my 2 year old is a big fan. Until today he has only drunk “coffee” in pizza express but we had a break from Xmas shopping in the M&S coffee shop in Sutton today and I spotted they did babycinos for 50p – a small cup of warm frothy milk with chocolate sprinkles, a little biscuits on the side and 5 mini marshmellows. He loved it and felt very grown up. I spent a lot of time in the M&S coffee shop while on maternity leave and know that the changing facilities are great, there was plenty of space in the coffee shop, lots of highchairs and no objection to us giving him food from home

Boudoir Privé

I decided that as I’ve been putting a little bit of cash away each month in a Christmas Club, part of my treat for myself would be to subscribe to the Boudoir Privé Monthly Beauty Box. I’m not big on fashion (as anyone who knows me can tell), though I do like my fancy makeup. I’m a creature of habit, quite happily stuck in my Clarins land, though do like to try other things, and quite frankly, I deserve a treat – it hasn’t been the greatest year. This was also inspired by Mummy vs Work, and her review of Glossybox.

Boudoir Privé

I did weigh up whether I’d be a Boudoir Privé or a Glossybox kind of girl, and after reading lots of reviews, I think as I’m a bit older, BP may be more me. We’ll see… You pay £10 a month (though this price has now gone up to include postage & packing), and you get a box full of surprises each month.

Boudoir Privé box

 

 

My first box has just arrived – and ooh, it’s all in the presentation! It’s small enough the postman brings it (rather than a van), even though it wont fit through the letterbox.  It’s packaged in a good strong outer card box, with a pretty pink inner, all lovingly wrapped and sealed with a card and ribbon, with information (and prices) on the samples you’ve received.

This month’s box contained Dead Sea Spa Magic – Silky Smooth Body Lotion 50ml, Korres Wild Rose 24 Hour Moisturiser 10ml, Rahua Voluminous Shampoo and Conditioner (two 10ml & 8ml sachets in a nice organza bag), Vinies Ayurveda’s Soul Luminous Skin Mask (two 15gm pots) and Studiomakeup’s Rich Hydration Lipstick 4g (full sized!).

Boudoir Privé goodies

 

On the card you’ve prices to buy this stuff – and the lipstick alone is £12.25. Given the box was £10, I’ve already gained… (the skin mask is £32.85 for 40gm – crazy prices, potentially I’ll have amazing skin!) – these are properly lovely cosmetics, a treat, and something I’ll be making sure I save for a good pamper occasion (rather than just everyday).

Boudoir Privé

I’m really looking forward to next months box – these aren’t brands I’d be splashing out on normally so I’m quite enjoying this treat…. would I buy these after sampling them? If they’re comparable in price and quality to my Clarins love-in, then maybe..

The Brighton Baby Show, November 13th 2011

Phew, another Baby Show, another weekend of chaos, but at least this time it’s near the sea, so you can breathe. Add to this the weather was amazing, and we had to do it. I’d never been to the AMEX Stadium, though knew roughly where to head – and after a while wondered if I’d got it wrong, and whether it’d be obvious to see where we turn off; there were no signs, but eventually the stadium was pretty easy to spot.

We queued and got checked in, and once the doors opened we were ushered through quickly. This was good, however, the biggest downside with the new venue (last year it was at the Racecourse) was that you couldn’t get from one side to the other if you had a buggy – you had to leave the venue. Actually, I lie, that wasn’t the biggest downside – that was not being able to get a phone signal inside the main areas! A lot of the traders were having problems with this too, and at one point one trader had to walk over the other side of the room for his card machine to connect – it worked though.

Anyway, I’m not here to moan, I’m here to tell you about more companies that we met and saw their nice things.. so read on.

Flyer-wise, we got some good ones – Toy Rentals – brilliant idea (although I am the world’s worst at returning library books, or LoveFilm DVD’s) – check out http://www.toyrentals.co.uk – it’s set to launch in January 2012.

Mathemagical have loads of stimulating toys, games and activities relevant to them, and teaching them about maths – making it all good fun. Classes run in Brighton, Horsham and Worthing – head to http://www.mathemagical.co.uk

If I was an extremely wealthy person I’d be able to afford to get away, so for now I’ll dream from afar, but Mama Me Time offers stylish retreats for pregnant women and run away breaks for mums – http://www.mamametime.co.uk

Haven’t You Grown‘ Sales feature Baby, Toddler & Children’s Nearly-New Clothes, Toy, Book & Equipment Table-Top Sales – find details of upcoming sales at http://www.haventyougrownsales.co.uk

Kiddie Coupons is a great idea – and currently running in West Sussex. The 2012 edition costs just £15 and has coupons, great ideas for family days out and dining, and lists all child-friendly features at each and every venue – brilliant! http://www.kiddiecoupons.co.uk

Brighton has a new destination for children’s grooming, haircuts, pampering, parties and shopping – hello Bertie & Belle – head over to http://www.bertieandbelle.co.uk for more information – it opens on December 10th 2011.

Onwards to the excellent products and traders we saw and met – BundleBean was there and looked really busy – have you bought one yet? Have you read my gushing about them yet? Should I gush more…? With the weather so mild right now, our BundleBean is getting a lot of use.

Ohh we fell in love with the Rokka. It’s gorgeous, so versatile and it’s several toys in one – it becomes what a child’s imagination wants it to be – we were impressed with it – even though it’s quite expensive. You need to see it to believe it, and have a good drool – fabulous stuff – http://www.rokkaplay.com

My Wondercube had their stand – we bought one last year at the previous Brighton show, and it was nice to see again – it’s still going strong, and so many stories you can tell with it as your child grows up – http://www.mywondercube.com

Quack Quack Moo had a stand – we’d been sent one of their blankets for review back in April, so it was nice to meet up with them – we picked up one of their Buggy straps and H has been using it when we’re out and about – she quite enjoys holding on to it. A bargain at £2.50 too. http://www.quackquackmoo.co.uk

Baby Choes are lovely – really simple black and white prints on shoes which appeal to newborns, made from really soft leather – you need to check them out – http://www.babychoes.co.uk

Pixie and Punk had a stand, so I finally got to check out their t-shirt/toy/book combination – though only went for a book (they had one about various countries around the world which I’d not seen anything similar to) – I kind of wish I’d bought a t-shirt now… next time! http://www.pixieandpunk.com

The Nod Pod is new, and looks lovely – perfect for newborns, it is a baby blanket brought up to date. It keeps legs, toes and heads covered, and keeps arms safely wrapped up too. The blanket works with baby carriers, car seats and pushchairs without needing holes and zips to accommodate straps.  The blankets are made from supersoft fleece and I think it’s a damn good idea – I wish we’d had something like this when H was little. http://www.nodpod.co.uk

One that interested me a lot was a sample of ‘Dry Like Me‘ – a pad which would go into a pair of pants, while potty training. I’m working on a feature about potty training – if you’ve got this far, then do pop over to the Mum Friendly Facebook Group (if you’re on there) and let us know your tips if you have any – so many people do so many different things, and there’s so many things out there! I think this is an excellent idea, though I didn’t find their stand, unfortunately. However, I love samples of things and being able to try them out – so I’ll definitely try this one! http://www.drylikeme.com – you can register to test things on their site too – worth doing!

All in all it was a good baby show – loads of stalls all packed into a better sized area than last year – and even better, lots of information for local groups and activities – something which I’m sure Brighton isn’t short of. H got to meet Mister Maker “I was a little bit shy, I didn’t talk to him” she said after she’d had her photo taken with him – even though she’d been having pretend conversations on her Makka Pakka phone all the way down in the car with him. Aaah, toddlers. There’s some great stuff linked above – please take the time to visit them – they’re all lovely.