Our first week on Tour: Manchester

Well this week certainly has been challenging… It’s been a lot of fun but I wasn’t anywhere near prepared for what being on tour with a baby would really be like. Trying to stick to some sort of nap schedule while still fitting in activities around Barney’s work schedule has been tricky but we managed quite a few mornings or days out!

We rented a great flat in the centre of town, which meant walking everywhere was no problem but I struggled to find many ‘baby-friendly’ activities for Isla. Certainly very few places where I could just let her run around. We visited Waterstones’ a few times as they had an amazing children’s section, fully equipped with a Wendy house that Isla was just thrilled with!

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She waited very patiently for some friends but the big kids didn’t want to play with her!! Haha!

Our new SmarTrike (full review coming soon!) was a saviour as Isla loved it so much she was perfectly happy to be pushed around Town & not get out… She didn’t want to get out when we got back to the flat either… Haha!

One of the best things we did was get the Combi Ticket for SeaLife & The Lego Discovery Centre, that we visited on two different days – it was £17.50 each (Isla went free!) if you book online in advance. They are both at the Intu Trafford CentreIntu Trafford Centre which is the biggest (and weirdest!) shopping centre I’ve ever been to. It’s almost modelled on the Venetian in Vegas but bigger & tackier… That said, it was easy to navigate, they have every shop, restaurant, and attraction you could want. The parking was easy & free and they even had a play beach, rides and carousel outside the SeaLife/Lego. We took Isla on the carousel which was so lovely!

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I can’t get enough of this gorgeous outfit!! All from Zara Baby, Top can be bought here & trousers here.

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The Lego Discovery Centre was brilliant even if Isla was a little too young to fully enjoy it. They recommend from 3years up but they do have a Duplo farm for the little ones too!

We loved the ride that she could go on, Barney definitely had to most fun out of all of us! There was plenty to see & do – you can even join in on a workshop with a master builder! The cafe is pricey, but what you’d expect & the baby duplo area was pretty dirty! Other than that a great afternoon with lots to discover and a special shout out to the incredible staff who couldn’t do enough to make sure our day was perfect!

Isla tried her first BBQ at Red’s True BBQ – as you can see… It’s a hit! Big thumbs up from us too – great food at an amazing price, absolutely brilliant service & so child friendly! Isla even got a balloon to take away! Plenty of high chairs & open floor space to bring a pram. (There are a few small steps on the way in!) The baby change is uni-sex but a little dingy! Overall a great place to grab lunch with the family! 

We visited SeaLife & it got off to a promising start with impressive projections & a great set up to introduce you to the Aquarium. Everything is very new & shiny, but a little underwhelming. We’ve been to London & Birmingham SeaLife so were expecting more for our money. It’s very small – but has a softplay in the middle that might make your visit last a little longer than ours did. It didn’t take us more than 30 minutes to walk through the whole thing as there are no sharks, penguins or otters in this one. Isla enjoyed herself & showed off her fishy ‘noise’ the whole way round as she pointed & laughed at them all – that made it more than worth the ticket price!

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We couldn’t resist the cheesy photo block as Isla actually ‘waved to the fishies’ when she was asked too! Haha! IMG_4538

Isla fell asleep just as we were leaving so we headed over to the adventure golf for a little almost adult fun!

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I also took Isla swimming to the Aquatics Centre which was great! They have a huge baby pool with different slides & water sprays! It was warm, pretty clean & had amazingly helpful staff. Make sure you call before you go to be sure that the baby pool is open as we tried a few times & it was broken. They run sessions so be sure to get there early to make the most of your hour in the pool and prepare for a busy changing room after as everyone gets kicked out at the same time!

Isla’s favourite part of Manchester was this rainbow art installation called ‘ Through No 3’ by Liz West! She ran through it at least 100 times & even stopped to take a selfie inside!

Not a bad start to the tour, home next week and then off to Birmingham – so please send any recommendations over to us or leave them in a comment below!

All of Isla’s outfits are from Zara Baby.

My worst day as a Mum…

Today was my worst day as a Mum and as I sit here eating my feelings (double chocolate cake from Patisserie Valerie no less…!) I am only just starting to let go of the stress & tension that I have carried with me all day. We are heading into a new adventure as a family, travelling the country on tour with a musical in a different venue every week. I didn’t go into this lightly; I knew it would be challenging to be away from home but I thought I might get a few more weeks in before the meltdowns began.

We started with a 6am wakeup call from a very excited Isla… we did our best to convince her to make it to her usual 7am but not quite… a short first nap and then we headed down to Manchester’s aquatics centre to check out the baby pool. A sweltering walk, baby wearing in the heat, all the way there only to discover the baby pool was closed but ‘the guy who updates the website isn’t in today…’. Good. Back we go. I got glass in my foot… And on it went…

Do you ever have those days where every little thing seems to go against you? Heavy doors slamming on you – making it impossible to get the pram inside, a screaming baby that keeps trying to pull your hair or pinch you no matter what you do to soothe them, a phone dying just as you need the maps the most – leaving you to ask strangers who all recommend you go in opposite directions… Yup. Now you see why I need the cake.

But what do you do when this tiny person relies on you to be an all knowing oasis of calm and comfort at every moment of the day? It’s taken me nearly a year to say, you know what… it’s ok. Sometimes you lose your temper in a public shopping centre when they bite you and make you bleed. Sometimes you just have to let them cry because you wouldn’t let them steal from the LEGO shop. Sometimes you can’t be the perfect mother. It’s taken me nearly a year to realise that’s just not a thing. But we survived. We made it back to the flat that I really can not find for the life of me no matter how many times I come here. We had dinner with no tantrums, a relatively calm bath & only a few tears at bedtime.

As she finally relaxed into my arms and gave up the fight she’d been battling all day, I told her how much I love her. Again and again. Almost as a, ‘Sorry I wasn’t good enough today’. But tomorrow is a new day & we’ll start again. I’ll try to be more patient, properly prepared, better organised… the list goes on.  For me that’s what being a Mother is; finding the strength when you thought you had no more to give.

For tonight I’m going to take a deep breath, which may well be my first of the day & keep telling myself ‘It’s ok’, while I resist the urge to google how many calories were in that giant piece of cake…

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The Body Confidence Programme Review & Results

The day I gave birth to Isla was the best day of my life & she continues to bring so much joy every day but as a new Mum I think it’s very easy to lose your sense of self. My life has changed in every way possible; new house, new life, new town, new baby… all wonderful things but all together, a lot to deal with. When you add to that a new body that you can’t recognise as your own anymore, it’s easy to forget that you can be anything other than a sick & dribble covered mess that probably hasn’t showered for a few days…

I have slowly learnt to embrace the stretch marks that cover my stomach and my ‘mum-tum’ but the complete lack of confidence is not me and I’m just not willing to stay like that for a second longer. It was time to make a change or two… or three!

I was very kindly invited to join The Body Confidence Programme by the brilliant Ru-Tee who has meticulously put it all together with the promise of reducing by 16 inches over 8 weeks, which is two jean sizes!!

When you start the programme you get a food list, menus, daily emails and weekly conference call with Ru-Tee and all the other brilliant people on the programme to discuss your triumphs & challenges of the week. In the first call I was asked about my energy levels and my confidence that I said were both around a 2/10. Not good enough. Certainly not to walk down the aisle & feel great about myself. I was asked to take some ‘Before’ photos which actually made me feel sick at just the thought of doing it let alone sharing them at the end of 8 weeks… but I took a deep breath and just did it!! I will share my results and those photos (AHH!) at the end of this post!

The food list has no sugar, dairy, gluten, chemicals or anything you can’t pronounce so you have to cook everything from scratch and use all organic produce. I’m not the world’s greatest cook and since having the baby I’ve barely had time to feed myself a good meal even once a week, so the biggest challenge for me was always going to be time-management. After the first week of juggling, it got much easier & fit easily into our daily routine! Part of me doing this programme was allowing myself to put ‘me’ first for once & not allow any ‘mum-guilt’ to seep in!!

The first week was incredibly hard, I’m not going to lie. I am a self-confessed sugar addict so going cold-turkey was always going to be difficult. The cravings were like a little devil sat on my shoulder saying ‘Go on, just a little won’t hurt!’… I pushed through, stayed strong and emerged through the fog to find more energy, and much more balanced emotions!

As the weeks went on I consistently lost the inches and started to feel better about myself bit by bit! You get one cheat day a week, that I basically binged on everything I wasn’t allowed so that I would stick to it 100% the rest of the week! Speaking of percentages – there are lots of lifestyle aspects to the programme and along with your measurements every week you assess how well you’ve stuck to these too! For example – ‘Went to bed by 10.30 every night – 80%…’ ‘Chewed your food 35 times – 20%…’ Err… must eat slower… must eat slo… Oh wait it’s gone. Still got to work on that one…

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The most important thing for me was the support that you get, as I found I doubted myself by Wednesday every week… Am I doing enough? Am I sure that’s on the food list? What if I’ve put on inches this week…? It’s so easy to do but those conference calls were a saving grace. To hear that 10(ish) other people were going through exactly the same thing, makes it so much easier to stay focused. You feel like you are part of an incredible team and that spirit is encouraged and fostered by Ru-Tee’s enthusiasm and genuine love for what she does!

Week 5 was one of the hardest for me but once the end was in sight and I started to fit into my old clothes again, the confidence I had once taken for granted was starting to emerge. I found myself running after Isla with ease & not needing to nap during the day at all. These changes happened slowly over the 8 weeks but by the end my energy was up to a 9/10, my skin was looking so much better and I hadn’t been sick once!! I’ve spent most of my life ill – constant colds, flus and being stuck in bed for weeks at a time. To not be ill for a whole 8 weeks in a row is a huge deal for me, and regardless of the weight loss that in itself is invaluable!!

The promise of the programme is to reduce by 16 inches which is 2 jean sizes…

I reduced by… Drum roll please…

40 INCHES!!!!

Yes… seriously! I have taken the crown for best ever results on the programme… I would like to thank Isla for her words of encouragement, Barney for his constant support & not offering me Baileys… No, I’m just kidding.

I promised you those before & after pictures… So here they are… *Gulp*

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I’ve never committed to anything like this before but the programme encourages lifestyle changes that you can implement after your 8 weeks is up! I’ve continued to follow 75% of the programme since I finished (I’ve gone back to drinking caffeine and alcohol!) and while my weight loss has slowed, I’ve continued on my journey in a way that is sustainable for me in the long term! I loved the food on the diet & there’s nothing faddy about it. All good food that never leaves you hungry as so many other diets I’ve tried in the past have!

I’m incredibly proud of the hard earned success but I honestly couldn’t have done it without Ru-Tee’s support. Dieting can be incredibly lonely & the temptations have always been too much for me – but that support just lifts you up and carries you through to the end of the 8 weeks! If you are feeling like you’ve lost yourself since having a baby and feel like finding your energy & confidence again I can’t recommend this enough! Commit to it and to yourself because you deserve to feel wonderful again!

If you want to join the next programme it costs £450 & starts on Saturday 13th August – you need to sign up by Monday the 8th at 2pm to secure your place and you can even use my special discount code to get £50 off: Poppy50off

To use the code just select the £450 payment option – add it to your basket and enter the code into the coupon code box.

More information can be found on the website here – if you have any questions, leave me a comment, drop me a message or get in touch with Ru-Tee!

I can’t wait to hear all about your journey & see your results so please send me your before & after photos so I can share in your success too!

 

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

Raising a daughter in a world that will always value her second rate makes it my job to show her that she can be more, every single day. To teach her that she will be valued and valuable for more than how she looks but by her actions & contributions to this world! I want her to know that she can be bigger than the choices our broken society gives her. Join me in celebrating today & every day by telling the women around you just how incredible they are.Women's DayAdventures With Isla Baby Blog

Cybex Aton Q Car Seat Review

Choosing the right car seat is one of the most important things you can do to keep your little one safe – but it really is a minefield for new parents! After staring cluelessly at a wall of plastic & material with a startling price range (You can get a car seat from £20 in certain supermarkets… surely that can’t be safe!?) I’d never heard of ‘ISOFIX’ let alone what the current government safety standards were… So my research began…  I was kindly helped by an incredibly knowledgeable sales assistant at Mama’s & Papa’s & we were on our way!

So here are the top things you should know…

  1. You MUST have a car seat for your baby, even if you don’t own a car – if you are planning on bringing baby home from the hospital.
  2. Choosing the right car seat for your baby’s age & weight is crucial.
  3. Be careful about borrowing/buying a second hand car seat – you must make sure it’s never been in a crash before & that you have the manual so you can install it properly.
  4. Check the weight range on the car seat you are buying. Group 0 is from Birth to 22lbs. Or Group 0+ is from Birth to 29lbs. (It’s worth noting that a new standard called ‘i-Size’ is being introduced in the UK. Car seats using this standard will be classified by height rather than weight. Which will eventually replace the old weight-based classification, but not until at least 2018.)
  5. Your baby should stay rear-facing for as long as possible as it’s 80% safer.
  6. Check your car has ISOFIX points – if it was made compulsory for all cars made after 2006. (Metal bars that secure the chair directly to the car with no need for a seatbelt).
  7. You will need to purchase the ISOFIX base separately so remember to budget for that too!
  8. Never leave your new baby in the car seat for more than 2 hours at a time. Once they can sit up un-aided this does not apply.

Anyway… After all that… We found our car seat… PHEW…

The Cybex Aton Q Car Seat.

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Oooh… Aaah! I hear you cry!

I love how it looks – especially with the shell sun canopy cover up. Also it’s still looking pretty perfect, after 6 months of use!

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Isla’s taking all this VERY seriously.

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The Aton Q is group 0+, suitable from Birth to 13kgs/29lbs. It has:

– Safer sides – superior side impact protection.
– Telescopic shock absorbers – retractable side impact rods help the energy absorbing shell soak up the force of a side on collision.
– Easy up and down – seat height adjusts automatically.
– Adjustable headrest – 8 comfy positions plus an integrated harness guide.
– Energy-absorbing shell – cushions the impact in case of a crash.
– Super comfy straps – extra wide Y-harness straps with soft belt and crotch pad.
– Ready-made shade – integrated XXL foldaway sun canopy in matching colours.
– Sun safe – all fabrics are UPF 50+.
– Removable covers – easily slipped off and safe to wash at 30 degrees.

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When I put Isla in, I put the straps tucked up into the headrest so they don’t get in the way & I can easily grab them to secure her with no fuss!

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We got a baby mirror so we can always check on her & now she’s obsessed with laughing at that funny baby in the mirror… until we reach 30mph & she’s out like a light!

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It is also travel system compatible with our Urbo 2 Pushchair which is great if we are just popping into a shop quickly & don’t want to disturb nap time!

The only downside is, it is heavy. I really struggle to carry it very far with Isla in – but as it clips right onto the pram – this is rarely an issue.

Cybex do a full range of beautiful & incredibly safe car seats for every age group! You can see them here. We are already looking at the next stage up for Isla but we have quite a few months of life left in our Aton Q before we will need to make our next big decision!