Monday, 23 January 2017

Aromatherapy Associates

Aromatherapy Associates
Aromatherapy Associates is a brand I've loved for years, starting with their essential bath oils many years ago; divine scents in a bottle, that instantly help relax my mind and body. If you want to read my review on the essential bath oils have a look here

Over time I've been lucky enough to try other products in their range. They have been so lovely that I thought I would share them in a post with you. 

Aromatherapy Associates
In the winter I suffer with very dry skin. If left to its own devices it becomes dry, flaky and I suffer from rosacea. For the last couple of months I have been using this face mask once a week. It smells divine; Rose, Bergamot and Geranium enriched with Aloe Vera and Chamomile, it's wonderfully hydrating and a perfect pick me up for my skin.

Aromatherapy Associates
During the winter I get these annoying little bumps on the top of my arms. I have no idea what they are but this little beauty is wonderfully moisturising and makes my skin look noticeably smoother. The Shea and Coco Butter soften and brighten my skin and the essential oils of grapefruit, juniper and rosemary make you smell divine, good enough to eat. 

Deep Relax Balm (£19)
Aromatherapy Associates
Since having Noah relaxing has gone out of the window. In part because I used to have a relaxing soak in the bath as my means of unwinding and with a little one in tow, long lazy soaks are definitely a thing of the past.That is where this little beauty comes in. Even the art of opening it up and smelling the essential oils of Sandalwood, Chamomile, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang bring a reassuring sense of calm. It is an ideal size for my handbag and helps to gently soothe my mind. 

Have you tried any Aromatherapy Associates? Or other beauty pick me ups? Let me know in the comments below. 

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Friday, 13 January 2017

Ottolenghi Spitalfields

Ottolenghi Spitalfields
Since the birth of Noah, going out for meals as a couple have been a scarcity. But as Noah is getting older it is becoming far easier to sit down and enjoy a meal with the little man in tow. 

As a foodie I have really missed eating out and as a consequence have created quite a long list of restaurants that I want to try. Well I have been dreaming of food offerings for well over a year. 

Last month the restaurant abstinence was broken with a visit to Ottolenghi in Spitafields. Hidden down a side street away from the hustle and bustle of the thriving market, Ottolenghi's window of cakes is positioned beautifully to entice you in. 
Ottolenghi Spitalfields 
The menu whilst concise offers creative food utilising exciting ingredients. Salads here take centre stage, now before you turn your nose up the salads here are wonderfully fresh, using imaginative ingredients and offer an interesting change to the usually stodgy wintry accompaniments that come with some meals as an afterthought. 

I was a little bit disappointed that starters don't exist here but the mains more than made up for this. Here you have the choice of hot mains which come with two side salads (£21.75). Cold mains from the counter with two salad accompaniments (£15.70) or a selection of three or four salads on their own (£12.90/£15.50).

The menu offered quite a few mains that I would have happily tried. I settle in the end on the cod cakes in mint and tomato sauce. 
Ottolenghi Spitalfields

I'm pleased to say that the fish cakes maintained their crispy outer crust with wonderful moist flakes of cod despite being in a tomato sauce. The sauce whilst nice had no taste of mint and was reminiscent of tomato passata; but the fish cakes had more than enough flavour that this didn't really matter. 

To go with my main I chose toasted Orzo pasta, red onion, sundried tomato with goats cheese and hazelnut salad. 
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
I really love Orzo pasta and the addition of soft gooey goats cheese and crunchy hazelnuts was the perfect addition.

My second salad was green beans, mangetout, pickled cucumbers, mustard seeds, chilli and peanuts. Whilst this was nice it wasn't an amazing salad. 

Friends settle on the pan fried grey mullet with pickled beetroot and sunflower seed salsa.  
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
I am reliably informed that the mullet was cooked perfectly and the addition of the beetroot really added to the dish. The only complaint was that the portion size was just not sufficient as a main. 

I would have to agree that at a £21.75 price tag this main was overpriced with the serving more reminiscent of a starter. 

The remaining member of the table opts for sun-dried tomato and ricotta croquettes with basil and lime yoghurt. 
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
In comparison to the mullet the croquettes were huge in size. I am told these are delicious.
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
The two salads of choice to accompany the croquettes char-grilled broccoli with chilli and garlic. Hummus, with zhoug, crispy chickpeas and roasted peppers. 

The hummus with the pomegranate is an absolute delight an explosion of flavours. If your interested in making some Ottolenghi salads yourself at home have a look at their website for some divine inspiration. 
  
Our mains went perfectly with a cold crisp bottle of Barbera Bianca, Castello di Cigognola (£35).
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
I really enjoy Italian wine and this bottle was wonderfully fruity perfect with the fish and goats cheese in the salad.

The star of the show however has to be the desserts. I will be dreaming about these for quite a while. 

I instantly knew what I wanted passion fruit meringue .  
Ottolenghi
This was the perfect combination of sweet from the meringue, pastry, mixed with the tartness of the passion fruit. Definitely one of the nicest dessert I have had in a while. 

The wonderful thing of dining with friends is you get to sample all the desserts. Next up was carrot and Walnut cake with cream cheese icing (£5.50). 
Ottolenghi
The cake was lovely and moist but best of all was the quantity of cream cheese icing. No scrimping here. 

Next up was Vanilla Financier with plum, mixed berries and poached pear (£5.50). 
Ottolenghi
The sponge was deliciously moist and the tartness of berries against the poached pear yummy.

Last in our dessert offerings was apple and sultana galette (£5.50).
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
Now whilst I wouldn't have picked this myself I am reliably informed it was delicious. 

So there you have it, Ottolenghi offers a relaxed family friendly restaurant, with good food and service if you love your salads and smaller portions.  

The temperature in London has certainly dropped over the last couple of weeks so salads are off the menu for now. Any other good foodie suggestions to add to my ever growing list?


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Friday, 9 December 2016

Tesco Festive Food

Festive Food
There really isn't any better time of the year for a foodie than Christmas. I start dreaming about all the food possibilities I can be eating from about October onward. So when I received an email from Tesco inviting me to their Christmas showcase in June, I didn't have to think very hard before hitting the reply button. The thought of being able to see all their Christmas food offerings early and share them with mini FoodieForce was an exciting proposition. 

Noah had a wonderful day seeing his first Christmas tree, snow and presents
Christmas tree and gifts
Christmas

So here's a round up of the event and the best food offerings. 

The Night Before Christmas:
Having something to snack on for Christmas Eve is a must, but it has to be low effort. Tesco's Finest have taken the stress out of the foodie feast this year with mini Venison pies, £6. 
Christmas party food
Filled with rich venison, mulled wine ragu and a crispy parsnip, potato rosti star, they are the perfect addition to any table (more specifically mine). 

Another perfect appetiser mini pulled beef toasties with Red Leicester cheese, £5.  
Christmas Party Food
The beef brisket was cooked in a smoky sauce and the tangy Red Leicester cheese was the perfect accompaniment. 

Wow your guests with the Tesco Finest three tiered seafood platter, £32.50. The first thing to say is I'm not sure how Tesco achieved such a great price here. 
Christmas food
Three tiers of seafood heaven, presented on a slate bed. The platter comes with a whole lobster, dressed crab, king prawns, smoked salmon and mackerel pâté. A real showstopper.

Christmas Dinner: 
Festive Food
I personally love a succulent British free range turkey for my Christmas dinner. The meat is full of flavour, garnishing it with bacon means that the breast stays nice and moist, serve with traditional stuffing balls, sausages and vegetables.

Tesco Finest British Free Range Bronze Basted Turkey Crown, £14/kg (1.5-2.25kg).
Christmas Food
Top tips:
For evenly cooked sausages, score down the middle before frying or grilling.

Using stuffing in your bird, only stuff the neck, stuffing the main cavity prevents it cooking evenly. 

Dessert offerings:
The Reveal Dessert, £12. Camera at the ready, swirl the warm toffee sauce across the Belgian chocolate dome to create a show stopping dessert.
Christmas desserts
For the children amongst us, Tesco have some really fabulous novelty cakes this year. 
Novelty Christmas Cakes
Tesco snowman cake, £10 with a delicious vanilla sponge topped with buttercream. Santa cheese cake, bursting with strawberry and marshmallow topping. The perfect cakes to delight and cheer up any Christmas table. 

A cheese board at Christmas is a must, with some lovely chutney's, grapes, figs and crackers. 
Christmas Food

Tea Time Treats:
Decorate your own Gingerbread house, £5.
Christmas food
I love family baking with Noah and a Gingerbread house means the children can let their imaginations run riot and create a masterpiece of pure yummy indulgence. 

Create your very own cute penguin cupcakes.  
Christmas Food

I am one of those strange beings that likes sprouts, I have done since I was very little. Often I can be found clearing sprouts off the plates of those who detest them. 

Don't like sprouts, don't worry Tesco's have come up with the perfect antidote. Chocolate truffle sprouts £3, Belgium chocolate that will have you fighting over the last one. 
Christmas food
Still not convinced, well Tesco has lots of other yummy offerings. The peppermint snowflakes, £3.50 and Belgian milk chocolate honeycomb, £3.50 get my vote.
Festive Food

Festive Drinks:
Christmas calls for a lovely bottle of fizzy and Tesco Finest Prosecco, £10 is a great price. 
Festive drinks
With wonderful flavours of apple, grapefruit and citrus its a great accompaniment with any roast. 

Not a fan of the fizz, why not rustle up some Christmas cocktails? 
Christmas cocktails
Need some inspiration? Have a look here

What are your favourite Christmas food and drink treats? Share in the comments below. 

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year. 
Festive food

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Monday, 14 November 2016

Baby essentials

Baby Essentials
As a first time parent it can be really difficult knowing the difference between what are essential need to have items and ones that are very much considered nice to have. 

One thing I have learnt through being a parent is lots of items you think are essential, have proved to be nothing of the sort! 


Everyone will offer you advice and their personal pearls of parenting wisdom, but whilst nicely meant it can sometimes be overwhelming. 

In my case this meant I sat and procrastinated about what to buy so much so, that our baby was in danger of being born with nothing ready. 

I am pleased to say however that I did eventually get my act together well almost together before Noah's birth. 
Baby essentials
Quite a few people have asked me to do this post, so it's dedicated to the items we have purchased and found really useful. This is in the hope that it will help other soon to be parents distinguish between useful products and those that are a gimmick or non-essential. I've left it eleven months so that I can genuinely say and feel confident in the recommendations I am making. 

The important thing to point out before I say anything else is that a new born baby in fact needs very little in the way of products and goods. They need love, food and somewhere cosy to sleep. 

Clothing:
You will have romantic views of outfits you will dress your little one in: tops, trousers, dresses, tights, waistcoats, coats etc. The reality is they will live in baby grows (all-in-one suits) no one has time to be faffing with separate items, well not till they are about six months old. 

Stock up on at least fourteen baby grows and twelve baby vests. Make sure the baby grows and vests have poppers and that you can quickly access nappies and easily remove/put them on.

Baby Essentials
Buy those which are appropriate for the season in which your baby will be born, long sleeves for Winter and cap sleeves for Summer. This also applies to cardigans (minimum of two), Jackets and hats. 
Baby essentials
Refrain from buying loads of things yourself, you will have loads of new born clothes that will be gifted to you, so many so you could put your baby in a different outfit everyday. If you want to purchase bits yourself go for the outfit that your baby will come home in from the hospital, a coat, or purchase baby clothes that are older, six to nine months. 

Sleeping: 

There are numerous options for sleeping, Moses basket, crib, cot and many products on the market promising you and your new baby a good nights sleep.

We decided not to use a Moses basket for many reasons, friends had advised us that they were a total waste of money, that their little ones would not sleep in them and for those that would they only last a few months. 


Instead of a Moses basket we opted for a Stokke Sleepi Mini (£445), beautiful in design, the wheels make moving it really easy, the size is amazingly efficient and it meant that Noah happily fitted in our room for the first six months. 



Stokke Sleepi Mini
It also meant that we didn't then have the issue of transferring Noah from Moses basket to a cot. This also has the benefit of being able to be extended to a full size cot and bed.

I also highly recommend our Chicco Next2Me Bedside Crib (£165). Perfect for being close to your baby, feeding and from my experience getting back to sleep quicker as involves less getting up and down in the night. 

Remember if you're going for a cot you will also need a fitted sheet I opted for The Little Green Sheep organic fitted sheet and a mattress protector (but can also recommend DK Glovesheets), cellular blanket and a baby sleeping bag.

Baby Essentials
Baby Essentials
But our best product definitely had to be the Sleepyhead Delux Portable Baby Pod (£110). 
Sleepyhead Deluxe Portable Baby Pod
Sleepyhead Deluxe Portable Baby Pod
What might seem like a very expensive pillow, was an absolute godsend. This is the pillow just keeps on giving, I found so many uses for this pillow, tummy time, play mat, perfect for travelling, changing station and a lovely bed that little Noah was wonderfully snuggled in.  

You only need to read the wonderful reviews for this product to see that it is money well spent. The only downside is that the Sleepyhead is outgrown well before eight months. At six months we moved Noah into the Sleepyhead Grand.


I found finding the right baby monitor incredibly stressful. I knew that it was an important purchase and so did plenty of research. But seriously there is just too much choice. Do you go for audio only, one with video, what about a sound and movement sensors. One word STRESS!


For me personally I wanted a monitor with a sound and movement sensor, sudden infant death syndrome frighted the life out of me. So we opted for the Angelcare Movement and Sound Monitor AC401 (£74.99).  

Baby Essentials

This has been a great monitor, it has relaxed me knowing that the alarm will go off if movement and sound is not detected. 


It was easy to set up but you want to make sure that you have done it right, especially if you have chosen a movement pressure pad. Setting this up after birth having had little sleep and under pressure is not advisable. 


In the early days white noise is also a great way to settle a baby. I found the following apps great for at home and on the go. Sleepy Sounds and Sound Sleeper. If you're looking for a teddy Ewan the dream sheep combines soothing music and lights babies seem to love him. 

Baby essentials
Bath and changing:
Some people will tell you that a baby bath is not essential but to be honest I really think it is. Whilst it takes up space and you probably won't use it beyond three months, the alternative is a top and toe baby bowl or holding your baby desperately trying not to drown them and breaking your back over a bath at the same time. 

I still remember bathing Noah for the first time they feel tiny and like you might break them. A baby bath means that your baby is securely supported and gives you the ability to use your hands to wash them. 

I chose the Tippitoes Mini Bath (£13) which was a great buy, deep enough to wet the entire baby but allows them to sit comfortably, supported with anti-slip pads. 
Baby Essentials
Another wonderful bath is the Angelcare Soft Touch Bath (£18.99) with support. 

You will also need towels and toiletries as well as a thermometer for the bath to check the water temperature. Finding towels with hoods for a baby is a challenge, shops to look in are Mothercare, Dunelm and Mamas and Papas. 

Baby essentials
Stockpile a supply of nappies, wipes and cotton wool. Go easy though on purchasing too many first stage nappies; babies grow quickly and they will out grow this size quickly.  
Baby Essentials
One thing I didn't register for ages, is that most newborn baby nappies have a marker on the front which changes colour when your baby needs changing.

A great purchase for disposing of nappies has to be the Tommee Tippee nappy disposal bin (£24.95). Ours has been well used and I would absolutely repurchase it. 

Baby Essentials
In the UK rubbish is collected weekly and in some areas general waste fortnightly. Nappies absolutely stink but this bin means that they are hygienically locked away and can conveniently be disposed of in your weekly rubbish.  

Feeding:
I have written a whole post on breastfeeding here

Breastfeeding is a lot harder that it looks it can be one of the most stressful things about being a new mummy but I promise if you stick with it that it does get easier. In the early days it's painful and very tiring to have a little person constantly feeding (cluster feeding). 

A feeding essential that I found useful; have at least two tubes of Lansinoh cream, use it regularly after each feed, even if you don't have pain to start with. Make sure you pack a tube in you hospital bag. 

Baby essentials
It's tempting to express milk early on, don't resist the urge at least till you are in a routine with your feeding and milk supply. I would say at last six weeks. Buy the best breast pump you can, trust me it will be money well spent. I went for Medela Swing Breast Pump (£134.99).
Baby essentials
Its worth sharing that most breast pumps you can purchase different size teats. 

Regardless of how you decide to feed your baby you will need breastfeeding pads. They are as much for keeping milk in, as they are for protecting your nipples rubbing on clothing and getting sore. I loved the Johnson's nursing pads. 

Baby essentials
With a baby under one you will need to sterilise everything. I loved my Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Microwave Steriliser (£19.99).
Baby essentials
Within four minutes I could sterilise bottles, breast pump attachments and other feeding utensils. 

Travel:

Buying a pram and pushchair is a big investment, think wisely about your needs and lifestyle. I've known loads of friends who have regretted their pushchair purchase six months in. 

Big is not always better, consider your needs, are you living in a busy city? Will you be getting on and off busses? Huge off terrain wheels then are probably not the easiest to navigate around shopping isles and on a bus. Also think about the weight of your pushchair, if a lift is out could you carry the pushchair and your baby. 

We did absolutely tons of research to find a pushchair that met our needs, our Babyzen Yoyo plus 0+ (£485) is definitely the best purchase we made and still is eleven months on.

Baby essentials
This is a brilliant everyday pushchair, it is lightweight, easy to collapse, works on a variety of terrains and can travel in the overhead locker in the cabin of an aeroplane. I have used this pushchair everyday, taking it over cobbles, gravel, thick grass, down and up steps, run with it, folded it and un-folded it hundreds of times as well as taking it abroad.

A perfect addition to your pushchair purchase will be a Snooze Sleep Shade (£19.99), protection from the sun, wind and black out for such much needed sleep.

Baby essentials
If you intend to travel in a car with your baby you will need a car seat, in fact most hospitals won't let you leave without one. Like prams there is so much choice and it can be overwhelming. Car seats come in different groups which are specific to a child's age, weight and height.   

We went for the Cybex Cloud Q Group 0+ in Autumn Gold (£220). 

Baby essentials
As a family we do a considerable amount of driving so we wanted a car seat that passed all the latest safety standards and checks. I also wanted a seat that was comfortable to ride in for Noah. We have been really happy with the car seat, with detachable covers for easy washing.

Travelling in a car with a new baby can be stressful if you can't physically view them. One of my best purchases was the Streetwize extra large super view mirror (£11.95).

Baby essentials
The mirror was easy to fit, is large in size and as its plastic you have no worries of it shattering. Having this mirror has meant I could see Noah and an added benefit he could see us.

A baby needs changing lots so when out and about on your travels you will want a bag that holds everything you need for your little one. I am going to do a what's in my changing bag post in a few weeks but until then here is a sneaky peek at mine.

baby essentials
I was keen to have a bag that was practical but also looked nice, PacaPod changing bags are just that. 
I loved the Jura (£59) in beautiful Cranberry, which comes with a 3-in 1 bag, changer pod, feeding pod and changing mat. 
Baby essentials
Play: 
Babies don't require many toys, Noah wasn't really interested in any until around four months. There are however some parent essentials that mean you can place your baby down whilst doing every day tasks.

For me our best purchases have to be baby activity gyms and a swing seat.

Mine and Noah's favourite activity gyms have to be the Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Gym (£69.95) and Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies & Lights Deluxe Baby Play Gym (£36)
Playmat
Playmat
Our baby swing for me was a god send, Noah hated being put down which made showering or really doing anything impossible. The Fisher Price Rainforest swing and seat (£59.99) meant that Noah would happily swing away to soothing nature sounds whilst I got on. 
Baby essentials
So there you have it all my baby essentials and products that I have really valued buying. Do you have any recommendations or things I have missed off? 

There are also some essentials for you too, now I can't really say I thought about this before the birth of Noah and I wish I had. You will need a minimum of two good nursing bras, getting ones that un-clips at the strap and have modesty cotton inside are fab. You will also need nursing tops, failing having any of these a vest top under a jumper or top will suffice. Easy to open nightwear to feed is also needed if you are breastfeeding.  

Lastly a good bit of advice from a mummy friend is that with Amazon Prime anything you need or have forgotten can be with you either within 2 hours or the next day, so there is no need to stockpile. As an added bonus, you can while away a few hours whilst the baby is cluster feeding, Internet shopping sneaking in treats for yourself amongst the essentials!

Other pregnancy and parenting posts to read:


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