Monday, 24 February 2014

Hobbledown - the stuff of dreams or a living nightmare?

I should admit, before going any further, that I am not a great lover of huge soft play areas with adjoining areas for adults (we've got wifi, don't you know) in an attempt to pretend the areas suit adults and children alike. Website images of parents serenely sipping a latte and enjoying a healthy snack, while the children all play nicely together on the overgrown 'ark', or whatever monstrosity the soft play is supposed to look like, rarely exist in the real world. Or, if they do, I haven't found one. I live in hope.

Eldest Martini was invited to a party at 'Hobbledown - A Mysterical Adventure' in Epsom this weekend, and because Mr. M. was already to committed to a work event, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to take the rest of the clan for a day out. Little did I know that I was actually expected to stay with, and monitor, Eldest Martini, which somewhat hampered the plans. 

The utter chaos in the Play Barn didn't help either. Absolute mayhem is the understatement of the century. The tables are far too close together for pushchairs - there is an area for them near the entrance, but that's not overly helpful if your seven month old is sleeping in it - and the seats aren't really suitable for smaller kids that have clearly outgrown high chairs. Youngest daughter fell off the bench. Twice. 

Image from Hobbledown website. No parents, serene or otherwise, in this one. 

The food was actually pretty good - both daughters had the lunch boxes and were particularly impressed with the yoghurt straws. Although now they want to know why we don't have them at home. Another fail in the 'Best Mum in the World' stakes. I don't know what the party food was like, but I'm reliably informed the chocolate doughnut went down well. It certainly went all over his t-shirt. I hope he did eat some. 

Once we'd left the Barn, though, things were much better. There are various animals to see and some great play areas, where the kids can dig for treasure. This kept them entertained for hours. Plus, there are some lovely big tables that you can sit at and watch them do their worst. Wellington boots are essential. As is a hoover for the car - if you're anything like us, you'll be taking half a sandpit home with you.

We certainly were lucky with the weather - it was a beautiful day yesterday - and I admit that the outside areas certainly made it for me. I think we'll definitely visit again in the summer. Would I recommend it? Yes. But don't go in thinking the Play Barn is a sanctity of inner calm. The quest for that one continues.  

Tickets for children over 2 cost £8.50; adults are £7.50 (both weekend prices). There are discounts for the forward planners among us. For further information on prices and opening times, click here

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Review: L'Oreal Elvive Fibrology Haircare Range

Ladies - prepare to banish fine hair. Well, maybe not forever, but let me assure you, this range is pretty damn good.

You may already know that I have seriously fine hair, which has not been enhanced with four pregnancies. Far from it. Nothing has really helped in the past, so I was somewhat skeptical when I saw the claims of these products - 60% fuller? It can't be true.

Such a sucker for the marketing, however, and enticed by a 3 for £10 offer from Boots, I decided to give it a whirl. I bought the shampoo, conditioner and thickness booster.

In short, it was so good, I went back and bought the full range - which, as well as the shampoo, conditioner and thickness booster, also features a serum and a thickening masque.

You can feel the products working from the first use. They don't smell particularly bad - obviously not scented in the way a high end product would be, but that, in my humble opinion, is more than acceptable. 

If you're interested in the science bit, it's all down to the molecule filloxane, which basically increases each hair's diameter by penetrating into the fibre, expanding and ultimately thickening the hair. The claim that this increased thickness will last for around 10 washes is probably true - I couldn't testify to it for definite because I only switched up with my other shampoo a couple of times before returning back to fibrology. The claim that your hair will get thicker with each wash is true. 

I have seen some reviewers complain that the thickness booster is only a tiny tube compared to the conditioner - but it does clearly state that you don't need to use the booster every time - a couple of times a week will do it. The products start at £2.99 and the most expensive is £6.99 at Boots. Bargain, even when not on offer. 

I am super impressed with these products. If you suffer with fine or thinning hair, this could be the answer to your prayers. It certainly was to mine. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Sunday Brunch

It's Sunday, you're slightly hungover and you're in need of some decent food. Enter this fantastic Sunday Brunch, if I say so myself. It's basically scrambled eggs, loosely in a Mexican style - this basically means throw in a bit of chilli.

For this marvellous creation, you'll need:

4 sausages of your choice - we went for merguez, and they were fantastic, but don't feel compelled - anything you like will do
1 tablespoon of oil
1 onion
A handful of cherry tomatoes - deseeded and diced
I green chilli (or more if you can take your spice) - deseed if you wish
4 large eggs
Pinch of salt
2 tortillas

Step 1: squeeze out the sausage meat and create mini meatballs. Brown in the oil - you don't need much, because there's quite a bit in the sausages. Add the onions, tomatoes and chilli and saute until it all smells very tempting:

Step 2: Griddle the tortillas to heat them up:

Step 3: Beat the eggs and add the salt. Then add to the pan with the meatball and onion mix:

Step 4: Stir and push the whole contents around until the eggs begin to set. Be brave - don't overcook them. Then it's time to plate up. Tortilla, with scrambled egg delight on top. This went down a treat with Mr. M on this fine Valentine weekend. 

I had mine with a cup of tea. Tequila is optional. 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Why didn't I discover this before?

I admit this isn't the most trendy of posts, but I felt I must share my delight (yes, really, DELIGHT) in discovering Aptamil's Anti-Reflux formula. There. I said it. The truth is, every since tiniest Martini was born, he's struggled to keep down his milk - breast feeding or formula. It wasn't threatening his development or anything like that, but it wasn't overly pleasant for him to throw up after ever feed - and it wasn't doing much for my wardrobe either. Plus, the washing was killing me.

So, not massively a problem in the wider scale of things, but not pleasant. It's probably why I didn't do anything about it sooner. However, when browsing in the formula aisle of the supermarket (I really do like shopping, whatever I'm buying) I came across this specialist formula on the top shelf. To be honest, there's a whole world up there I didn't even know existed - lactose-intolerant, vegan (seriously?) and all manner of options for those that aren't buying the bog standard formula. So I thought I'd give it a whirl.

In short, it only bloody works. I'll admit to being a bit skeptical - it is a couple of pounds more expensive and I'm generally cynical about anything that's readily available to solve problems - probably down to bad experiences in the past. No matter. Basically, this stuff is like glue - it's super thick (if you're interested, that's the carob bean gum - it's often used to increase the consistency of foods) - and this helps reduce the regurgitation. It looks like this:

(Obviously I've used up most of this box.) But, basically, it looks pretty much the same as the No1 or No3 formula. The major difference you'll notice when you add it to the water is that it doesn't sink in - it sits on top until you shake it - quite vigorously. Then you leave it for 7 minutes to thicken up - and then voila. Dinner is served.

You'll need fast flowing teats with this - we use the X cut ones - unless you want your bundle of joy to suck really hard in order to eat. Like I said, it's super thick. 

The only down side is that it does leave the little one a bit constipated. A bit of online research leads me to believe this is a common problem. Now that our little man is also eating solids, it's not such an issue, but I do sometimes give him regular No3 formula in the evening to help loosen things up. Overall, I don't know why I didn't try this before. Could have saved on those washing bills...

Saturday, 1 February 2014

I'm still alive!

This week saw the end of my (final) maternity leave - this definitely is the last one, I promise - and the inevitable return to work. I've started at an agency, which is fantastic (especially at 5pm last night, when I rediscovered the drinks trolley that clearly is rolled out at every agency across the country - law firms would do well to learn from this) - although I have to admit it makes me feel just the tiniest bit old. OLD. If I start dressing like I'm in my mid-20s, shoot me.

I appreciate yesterday was a particularly bad day to travel (a combination of fires and people going under trains caused major delays) - but I certainly haven't missed that. I think this video may well have been taken at Wimbledon...

(It wasn't, but you get the idea.)

Anyway, I wanted to list some of the fantastic things this maternity leave afforded me, before I totally get sucked back into work and forget it ever happened:

1. Having tinest Martini (obviously, but thought I should write it down, just to be sure)
2. Being there to see eldest Martini start school - and enjoy (yes, enjoy - probably because I knew I wouldn't be doing it forever) the school run
3. Seeing Martini 2 start nursery. She was so excited - and she's loving it. Every day she does something new - watching her learn is fantastic
4. To be honest, just the time with all four mini Martinis was brilliant. I made the most of every second (well, the majority of the time anyway)
5. Getting to know our nanny better. We trust her every day with the most important things in our lives - so its lovely to know more about her day to day life (she, on the other hand, is probably quite grateful I've finally gone back to work!)

And some slightly more selfish, but equally enjoyable, benefits:
6. Being able to go to the shops during the week, when it's much quieter. Except in school holidays - when, I feel, children should be banned from all outdoor activity that interrupts my daily schedule
7. Having a bath in the middle of the day, just because I can
8. Having an extra glass of wine on Sunday night, because I don't have to get up and go to work the next day
9. Releasing my inner baking goddess (at least that's how I like to think of it), because I have more time to do it
10. Being able to spend more time with my Mum - just the two of us - because everyone else is at work

Maternity leave is a very precious thing - and I'm really glad I finally got the chance to make the most of one before declaring Martini Towers officially full. Now, where's that holiday brochure?