Thursday, 26 September 2013

A good day's shopping

I do love it when a shopping trip comes together. I went out on a bit of a mission today, and literally every single thing I purchased was at a discount price - or, in one case, totally free. Can't argue with that! If you want to see the haul, read on...

First up, some self-indulgent purchases from No. 7. I'm not a huge fan of their make-up usually, but when I get the £5 off skincare/£3 off make-up vouchers they do every so often, I usually do find something to buy. To make things even more of a bargain, these vouchers are still valid with the 'buy one, get one half price' offer currently running on the make-up. So, I got the toner for £3 (instead of £8), the BB Lips in Ballerina for £8.50 (full price) and the Smoky Powder Eyeliner in brown for £4 (instead of £8). Result. I'm especially excited to use the eyeliner. 

Next up - a total freebie courtesy of Martin Lewis (thanks Martin). In short, show the voucher on your phone (or you can print it if you're old school) and they will give you a hand cream absolutely free. I was offered a choice of three - almond, hemp or wild rose - I went for wild rose, because it has an SPF of 15 and my other hand creams don't. Smells lovely too. 

On to H&M - this was a pitstop as I'm planning a longer clothes shopping session in the not too distant future - but UNiDAYS is currently offering 20% off all items at H&M for all students, and I definitely need to make the most of that. So I got this jumper for £12 instead of £15. I can't find it online, but it's basically a sparkly blue jumper - perfect, I think, for the forthcoming season. 

If, like me, you have to buy about eleven billionty presents for childrens' parties in the next few weeks, you won't go far wrong with a trip to The Works. I picked up these three books for £10 (£5 individually) - perfect as presents I think. Certainly my kids love new story books and at least it's not going to lose all the pieces or break too quickly. 

In a less than glamourous end to this haul, I also picked up two packs of nappies for daughter number two in Superdrug (I'm a massive fan of Superdrug right now, as they do a 10% student discount on everything) - two packs on offer for £7, and I had an additional 20% coupon, so I paid a mere £5.40 for 50 nappies. I won't bore you with a picture of those, though. 

With all this bargain hunting, I won't feel guilty about clothes shopping next week, that's for sure!

Friday, 20 September 2013

It's the small things...

Blatantly ripping off Inspired by the great post by Lipstick and Lace (and I don't think she'll mind me mentioning that she, too, was 'inspired' - this time by Mummy Limited) I thought I would join in the fun and list some of the smaller pleasures in life. This is in part because, for the first time in a very long time, I actually have some time to take pleasure in the smaller things - and both of their posts made me pause and remember what's important in life. So, here goes:

Maternity leave, being paid through maternity leave so I don't have to choose between food and another Clarins skincare product (obviously just me - I wouldn't deprive the children...), making lists of all the things that need organising in the house, crossing off items on the list, practicing Halloween cupcake recipes with the children, the children actually liking the cakes (even if they aren't the most discerning audience), the school run.
I've never done the school run before - stay with me. 

Getting my figure back after child number four, wearing my pre-pregnancy skinny jeans and not feeling ridiculous (eat your heart out Kate Middleton), getting out the winter jumpers, not wearing the winter jumpers for just a couple more days, putting the wool blanket on the bed for the first time. 

A really, really good glass of red wine while all four children are asleep (these moments are very precious), an uninterrupted hot bath, shopping now the children are all back at school, an Indian takeaway (or any takeaway for that matter) with Mr. Martini. 

Starting the Christmas shopping, planning the Halloween costumes and decorations, knowing I still have time for both. The 'start of a new term' feeling, the possibilities stretching out before you, the extra hour in bed (hopefully) when the clocks go forward. Being completely comfortable with where I am in life. 

Everyday, I am reminded how lucky I am - I wouldn't change a thing. 

Oh, and Mummy Limited - you're totally right - Radio 4 rocks. And I don't care if that makes me sound old!

Selfridges Elle Beauty Box - first thoughts

My past experiences with beauty boxes haven't been great - much as I love the idea of Glossy Box (and others), I was always left slightly underwhelmed and short-changed, most usually by the tiny sample sizes.

However, I love the idea of the Selfridges boxes - there have been a few now - no subscriptions, no clauses, just a simple transaction. If you like the sound of it, you buy it. Job done.

And this latest installment, in association with Elle magazine, is an absolute winner. It's £30, and for that you get:
- Eve Lom Kiss Mix lip balm
- Ciate Cupcake Queen nail varnish
- Ellis Faas mascara
- Perricone MD Neuropeptide Firming Moisturiser Mini (okay, this is a small sample size, but the full size version is £225. At least I can try before I splash that sort of cash)
- Sachajuan leave-in conditioner
- Jurlique Rosewater balancing mist
- Topshop lipstick in Charmed

(Excuse the lighting in this photo.)

You also get the latest edition of Elle magazine. I wasn't that fussed about the magazine to be honest, but I had a read, given that it was included. Boy, has that magazine changed since I last read it (admittedly, that was a long time ago - just goes to show that you really should give things another chance!).

I haven't ever used any of these products before, so I'm very keen to try them out - especially the Perricone moisturiser, the leave-in conditioner and the Ellis Faas mascara. I've heard great things about them - it will be interesting to see if they live up to the hype.

The limited edition boxes have now sold out online, but you can register your email address here to be alerted when the next box comes out. On past form, there hasn't been a bad box yet!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Review: Rimmel Scandaleyes Retro Glam Mascara

I've been on the hunt for a new mascara for a while now - my Max Factor False Effect never really lived up to expectations and is too old to be of any use at all - and I decided to try out another high street option, rather than spend precious resources on a luxury item. I'd rather save that for foundation. Or serum. Increasingly, I'm thinking it's far more worth spending out on skincare and saving on certain make-up, but I digress.

It was a toss up between this Rimmel mascara (just how many versions do they do? It seems almost limitless) and Maybelline's Volum Express Colossel. In the end, the Rimmel one was on offer and Boots was also out of the Maybelline one - so decision made. Simples.

I have pretty short, uninspiring eyelashes - I'm always very jealous of people with long luscious lashes - and I'll admit that my expectations that this would create a 'bold, wide-eyed false lash look' were not high. The brush is an 'hour-glass' shape - basically, it has a dip in the middle - designed to 'plump lashes, fanning them up and out for volume'. 

Can a brush really achieve this? Well, yes, is the answer. This mascara really did add volume to my lashes. This mascara probably isn't for everyone, as it could probably add some real punch to those blessed with decent lashes, but for me, it's great. 

Also, after several uses (including one trip out to a theme park - I truly have put this mascara through its paces), I can confirm that it doesn't flake, doesn't end up half way down my face and doesn't disappear to nothing by lunchtime. In short, it doesn't disappoint.  

It's no longer on offer at £4.99, but it is part of the 'buy one, get one half price' deal currently running at Boots. Get yours here

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Health Visitors - good for your health

I'm no stranger to breast feeding or babies (count 'em, I've done four) - so I was shocked, to say the least, when my Health Visitor decided smallest Martini had ankyloglossia - or tongue-tie, to you and me. Surely, I would notice that? He is feeding, latching on fine and gaining weight. 'Not a chance' was my reaction. Unperturbed by my clear dismissal of this diagnosis, the Health Visitor referred me to our local tongue-tie clinic. I wasn't even aware such things existed.

However, no xx community should be without one. The team there were welcoming, reassuring and friendly. They quickly confirmed a minor tongue-tie (clearly, I am no doctor) and quick as a flash, had snipped the offending piece of skin straight off. The change was remarkable. Although I hadn't felt any pain, it is now clear that the latch had not been what it should be. And, in one feed, smallest is clearly much happier. Snaps all round.

It was sad to hear, then, that these clinics are under threat of being closed, due to reduced budgets. Whilst I totally understand that money does need to be saved, I'd have thought it was a bit short sighted to cut a service that clearly provides such long term benefits by enabling mothers to breastfeed successfully. I, for one, think these clinics are fantastic - so I hope they won't be feeling 'the snip' of the budget cutters. Only time will tell. 

Some facts about tongue-tie:

- it can affect feeding, speech and oral hygiene
- it can cause problems kissing (if you ever let your children do that - the jury's out for me!) and eating ice cream
- it often runs in the family
- until 1940, tongue-ties were routinely cut to help feeding. It stopped due to a fear of unnecessary surgery

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Chessington - it's out of this world

As a special treat the day before Eldest Martini starts big school, Team Martini went en masse on a day trip to Chessington World of Adventures. It's not even ten miles from our house - who knew? - and I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting fantastic things (totally based on a fairly blah experience about 15 years ago. Hardly fair, but then, who said I was fair?). I was quite wrong. It was FANTASTIC. 

All three Martini children enjoyed different things at the park - and there were no queues, which was a bonus - so we could go on rides more than once when demanded! The Octonauts theme to the Sealife Centre was a big hit and I was super impressed with the First Aid team - eldest Martini was stung by a wasp, but thanks to the TLC he got from the first aiders it didn't ruin the day. 

We had also considered going to Legoland, but it was actually closed yesterday (it's closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in September) so the decision was made for us. But, after our experience yesterday, I think it was the better option. Here are my top tips to get the most from the day:

1. Plan ahead. Sounds obvious - but there are some really good offers online, some even better than the obvious 2 for 1 coupons that are everywhere. We made the most of the adult/toddler deal - £19 for one adult and one toddler under 5. Also, ticket prices aren't done by age (apart from this adult/toddler deal) - they are done by height - which is good news if your children are shorter - especially because they can still go on a good portion of the rides. 

2. Visit the zoo. The Skytrain ride is good, but you can't beat walking round the zoo. We did that in the afternoon, and it was a great way to entertain the children after the excitement of the rides in the morning. Leave more time for this than you think - I was amazed how fascinated the kids were to watch a lion basically lying down doing absolutely nothing. 

3. Print off the itinerary so you know what's happening when. I made the school boy error of not confirming when Captain Barnacles was going to appear at the Sealife Centre - not something I'd ever do again. Whilst I, bigger Martini, was not that bothered, apparently the smaller Martinis were not in agreement. A person inside a huge costume that bears more than a passing resemblance to a cartoon character is not to be sniffed at. Fortunately, they got to meet Kwazii, so total disaster was averted. Just.

4. Pack snacks. While I can't bring myself to pack a full picnic and lug it around all day, it's not so hard to take some water bottles and some fruit. Prices on the park are high and there are many tempting alternatives that smaller Martinis would have quite happily had - such as doughnuts, chocolate marshmallows and crepes (come to think of it, so would I...).

5. If you're going to be a total sucker like me and actually buy the extortionate photographs at the end of some rides (and in the Sealife Centre - that one was good because we could all get in one photo and pose for it!) - then admit this fact in advance and make the most of the 4 items for £20 option. I didn't and then ended up spending more than this by the end of the day - don't make the same mistake we did. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Super storage - vacuum bags

I am an absolute sucker for anything storage-related; I'm verging on OCD and having a place for everything is almost a religion. Smallest Martini is now almost 8 weeks old so I'm starting to get some time to myself - cue organising the house. It hasn't really been done since we moved in two years ago - mainly because it would appear that I'm always pregnant and thus too tired to lug heavy, bulky items around. But, no more! What joy.

A well-earned trip to Lakeland (am I the only one that could spend hours in this shop? I do worry about some of the products they sell in there - a stand for a stirring spoon, anyone? - but seriously, I could spend whole days just looking at all the different wares) was in order. I left with multiple vacuum pack bags and also these fantastic vacuum tote bags - which basically have vacuum bags in them but then shrink down into a tote bag that zips up and is stackable. It even has a clear panel so you can see what's inside. Lakeland, you are spoiling us...

I've used vacuum bags before, but they've never quite worked - maybe they were okay once or twice, but then they stop sealing properly. These bags, however, are guaranteed for five years - so even though they were a bit more expensive, I'm hopeful that they will last. If they don't, I'll be complaining. 

Check out the tote bags here and the regular vacuum bags here. Argos also has cheaper options if that's your preference. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Post-pregnancy make-up essentials

As promised, I've been meaning to do a post on my post-pregnancy make-up essentials for a while now. My skin changes quite a bit through pregnancy, so my post-natal routine is pretty important in the attempt to get back to normality (whatever that is). 

Two things are absolutely key: products have to be quick and easy to use - multi-purpose products are king - and they have to be long-lasting. Getting the chance to put on make-up is an achievement; the chances of top-up opportunities throughout the day are non-existent.

So, my current routine is as follows:

1. Primer - Essential. I never used to bother with primer, but now I wouldn't be without it. I'm a big fan of Garnier's Purfect Blur - it has a very similar consistency to the more expensive Porefessional by Benefit - it really does make a visible difference and is a great base for make-up. 

2.  Concealer - I'm currently using Touche Veloutee by Terry and although I was very happy with it during my pregnancy, it's not working for me right now. It's very cakey under the eyes - possibly because the skin under my eyes is so dry right now. I'm on the hunt for a replacement so any recommendations welcome.

3. Tinted moisturiser - Mac Studio Moisture Tint - fab, because it has SPF 15. It's light but effective coverage, and has seen me through both pregnancy and post-natal (so far). I might need to change it in the colder months, but so far, so good. 

4. Powder - Rimmel Stay Matte pressed powder in transparent. Works a treat - highly recommended. 

5. Blusher - No. 7's blush tint stick - I really wanted a Nars Multiple, but was on a budget, so compromised with this. It's okay, but not brilliant. Doubles as a lip stain too, but I'm just not that keen on the consistency - and it's staying power isn't the strongest. It will do, but I won't be repurchasing. 

6. Eye liner - Chanel Le Crayon. I love this eyeliner. Stays put, lasts forever and looks great. Not cheap, but if I only put on one bit of make-up, it's eyeliner. A keeper. 

7. Mascara - my search for the ultimate mascara continues. I've been using Max Factor's False Lash Effect mascara. Award-winning it may be, but it doesn't work for me. It flakes and a good amount of it usually ends up on my cheeks. Not attractive. 

8. Eye shadow / brows - years ago, I bought a four-part customisable palette from Bobbi Brown. I haven't yet had to replace the shadows I choose to go in it, but they were great choices if I say so myself. No matter how many other shadows I try, I always end up back at these. You can see that some do need updating (and excuse the one that has been attacked by Martini Mini number 3) - I'll have to see what's still available when I restock. But, if you're a sucker for the ultimate control of what's in your palette, then this is a great option. 

9. Lip balm - mainly because I use what ever's to hand - I have a few randomly about the house / my bag / the car. My current favourite is Palmer's Cocoa Butter - and it's an absolute bargain at less than £2. Winner.