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Personally I love the flip flop season and wear nothing but flip flops all summer, so when I saw an advert for flip flops that would tone your legs as you walk, I just had to have some.
I bought my first pair of fit flops, the red and white pair in the picture on here, over two years ago and they are still going strong. This summer I bought a second pair in brown suede as I wanted something that looked a bit more neutral, and I love those just as much as I love my first pair.
I find fit flops incredibly comfortable. They offer a bounce that is like walking on a cloud, and I walk miles in mine, pushing the buggy. As someone who lives in flip flops anyway I don't find the toe post uncomfortable, but I would imagine that if you never normally wear flip flops then it might take a bit of getting used to.
I do think that fit flops tone your legs as you walk, you can certainly feel your muscles the next day as if you had been to the gym and I do think they have made my leg muscles more designed. I wouldn't say they are a miracle fix, but as a well known supermarket says, every little helps!
Fit flops are not cheap, I paid around £40 or each of my pairs, but they do last. I wear mine to death in the summer and both pairs still look great. I find most flip flops don't last even one whole summer, so am impressed that the fit flops have lasted so well.
I wouldn't say they are the most fashionable shoe in the world, but I think they're fairly unobtrusive and can be worn with most summer outfits without looking out of place.
Now I just need to find the money to buy a pair of the fit flop boots for this winter....
Aqua Sana spas can be found within the four Center Parcs resorts around the UK. I have visited the Longleat Aqua Sana a number of times and always been pleasantly surprised at the standard of it.
When you enter Longleat Aqua Sana you do so through the spa shop, which stocks lots of lovely products from brands such as Elemis and Decleor. Whilst you might expect a shop within a spa to be quite expensive, in fact there are some great deals to be had through buying the gift packs, which can be around 50% of the price of buying the products individually.
You then help yourself to a robe and towel and head into the changing rooms. You are welcome to help yourself to as many towels as you like during your visit, which is great because often as spas you only get one which can quickly become wet.
The changing rooms are of an extremely high standard and feature individual shower cubicles, Elemis toiletries, hairdryers and plenty of lockers. The changing rooms have always been immaculately clean when I have visited and they are also kept at a nice temperature.
You enter the spa from the changing rooms through the restaurant. The spa itself has lots of different rooms and experiences, ranging from reflexology foot baths, various saunas, steam rooms and experience rooms as well as plenty of places to just lounge around and chill on reclining chairs or water beds. There is also an outdoor jacuzzi in the centre of the spa, kept at a warm but not too hot temperature and really lovely to use in the evening.
I personally do not like the extremely hot experience rooms and tend to stick to ones like the laconium room which is kept at a lovely warm temperature, the Balinese steam baths and the Indian bossom steam room. I also really like the experience showers which offer showers at a range of temperatures, a range of pressures and with the added bonus of some lovely essential oils. Details of all the experiences can be found here http://www.aquasana.co.uk/sana/aboutthespa/atthespa/new_experiences.jsp.
In addition to the spa facilities Aqua Sana also offers a wide range of treatments including facials, massages, couples treatments and hair and beauty treatments. I've only ever had the facial with Elemis products and I would highly recommend that. The treatment room was immaculate and beautifully decorated and the therapist was superb.
Prices vary for the spa. If you are staying at Center Parcs then you can take advantage of a number of special prices. Previously we have bought passes for the whole of our stay, meaning we could visit as often as we liked, for just £50 each. Most recently, last week, we indulged in a twilight spa at a cost of £40 for the two of us, which seems extremely reasonable.
Although Marwell is just up the road from us, we'd never been until we had our son last year. We're now regulars and go most week.
Marwell is home to a wide variety of animals, from penguins to tigers, rhinos to giraffes there really really is plenty to see, and often you are able to get up really close to the animals. For example the giraffes can often be found in their house, so you can almost (but not quite) reach up and touch them. This close proximity is great for kids as they really feel involved in the experience.
Marwell is particularly well known for its penguins, and one in particular. Ralph the penguin has a skin disorder which causes him to shed his feathers, so he can often be seen in a custom made wetsuit to protect his sensitive skin from the sun.
We are annual pass holders, and if you are local the pass offers excellent value. At £52.50 for adults, £33.50 for children and free for under 3s you only need to visit three times within the year to save money on the standard entry fee.
As well as the huge variety of animals, there are also a number of play areas, catering for children of all ages. There is also a big sand pit play area that children can explore. For the parents there are a number of cafes and coffee shops. Annual pass holders benefit from 10% off in all cafes as well as the gift shop and I highly recommend purchasing a 'Marwell Mug'. This is a re-usable insulated mug that costs £22.50 but entitles the owner to free hot drinks in any of the cafes. A real bonus particularly when the weather's not so great! My only real criticism of Marwell is that the food is expensive, but we always take a picnic and there are ample picnic areas, both inside and outdoors so this isn't a big problem.
Marwell has ample free parking, which is a real bonus, particularly in the holidays. There is also a free road train inside Marwell, is great when little ones are tired and you just want to be able to take in the whole park. The train gives a great view of many of the main attraction animals such as the leopards and zebras. There is also a rail train at a cost of £2 per person which runs at peak times.
We bought a pair of these bedside tables when we moved into our first flat and I think they are great. Where else could you buy a bedside table for less than £8? Surely only at Ikea.
These bedside tables are of course a very basic design, but they provide a shelf for storing your bedtime reading or a couple of baskets containing all your vital nick nacks. They also provide that all important surface for your reading lamp, alarm clock and night time drink....what more can you ask for really?
Made of solid wood, these are sold untreated so can easily be waxed, varnished or painted to co-ordinate with your bedroom colour scheme. The Rast is relatively compact, measuring 40cm high, 52cm wide and 30cm deep so is ideal for smaller bedrooms.
We found this easy to put together with just an allen key, and once constructed it was sturdy and stable.
Overall I think the Rast bedside table is ideal for anyone on a budget, or anyone looking to furnish a small bedroom.
I bought my Mamas & Papas Frankie Ziko when we saw an ex-display model on sale for a hefty discount. I bought the Mushy Peas colour way- a combination of dark green exterior and seat, with bright green lining and I have to say we had lots of compliments on the colour!
I found this pushchair sturdy and easy to push. My only slight issue with it was that if I was walking particularly fast then the front wheels had a tendency to skid, making it hard to steer. I have no idea whether that is a design fault or just a problem with my one.
This pushchair is easy to fold, although it is heavier than some strollers.
My son always seemed very comfortable in this pushchair. The fleecey strap covers made it nice and snuggly for him, and the fact that it reclines meant that nap time wasn't a problem. The pull down hood provides some sun shade and the straps are nice and secure 5 point harness ones.
I really like the raincover for the Ziko- it is part see through and part waterproof fabric and zips onto the hood. This makes it incredibly easy to use, and can also be left on the pushchair when not in use- it simply folds back over the hood. Great if the weather is changeable!
The shopping basket is a good size, although inaccessible if the seat is reclined but I guess this is the same with most reclinable pushchairs. There is also a poppered pocket on the back of the puchchair which is really handy for popping your keys or phone in!
Whenever I go into my local Hobbycraft I am suddenly struck with an enthusiasm and inspiration for craft which never seems to strike me when I am at home! I suddenly feel like I need to start cross-stitching, scrap-booking and whatever else I happen to see, even if I only went in for some glue or something!
Hobbycraft stocks an immense range of craft resources and materials, including fabric, sewing equipment, all manner of paper goods, paints, storage for all your crafty bits...in short anything you might ever need for any crafty hobby.
The stores are well laid out. Each craft area has it's own section, making it incredibly easy to find what you want. I also like that fact that many things like beads and sheets of coloured paper are available individually so you can just buy what you need.
I don't find Hobbycraft the cheapest place to buy many of the things they stock, but it is a convenient way to buy as you can browse each of the sections and see exactly what it is you're buying; something that is really useful when you are looking for a specific colour or finish. While many items can be bought cheaper online, it is often less convenient to do so. Hobbycraft also always seem to have some good bargains available at the ends of the aisles and in special offer 'bins', which is always a bonus!
I also really like the free craft leaflets that you can pick up arround the store, giving you instructions of various craft projects.
Overall I feel like I could waste many a happy afternoon browsing around Hobbycraft, dreaming of what I could make and picking up some lovely bits and pieces.
I find Boots No 7 brand of make-up quite hit and miss. Some products, like their nail varnishes, are brilliant and offer really great value for money, but I am less keen on some of their make-up like their mascaras. However when I noticed that they had brought out a mineral make-up range for No 7 I decided to give it a whirl.
First of all I decided to try the blusher, and I went for the soft damson colour which is a pretty pinky shade. At £8.75 I thought this was quite reasonably priced for a blusher, but as I had a £5 off No. 7 voucher I only actually paid £3.75 for it, which is an absolute steal.
This blusher is a loose powder in a smallish pot. You simply shake a little of the powder through the holes in the top and apply it with the blusher brush that comes with it.
This blusher gives a lovely soft, matte finish and really does last all day. I found the colour to be pretty, and you really only do need a tiny amount so I imagine that a pot would last for ages.
The one downside of this is that I found it quite messy to apply, in that there inevitably seems to end up being an excess on the brush which needs to be tapped off, so I suggest applying it over the sink.
I'll definitely be buying this again though, especially if I can get it when there are £5 off vouchers around.
I remember reading about the concept of Yo! Sushi years ago when the first one opened in the UK, and I loved the idea of drinks on tap and food on a conveyor belt. It wasn't until last year that I actually visited a Yo! Sushi and I wasn't disappointed.
Customers are seated around a conveyor belt, either actually sat up to the belt or in booths adjacent to it, depending on the outlet you visit. Plates of various japanese inspired food then whizz round the conveyor belt in front of you and you simply help yourself to the ones you want. The plates are colour coded with each colour being a different price, and at the end of your meal the server simply adds up what you've had from the empty plates.
In addition to the cold food on the conveyor belt, which is mostly various types of sushi, edamame beans, salads, veggie dishes and puddings, you can also order additional dishes from the menu. These include hot noodle dishes and larger sushi hand rolls. To be honest I've found the hot dishes to be disappointing and tend to stick to the plates on the belt which I've always found to be delicious and of a really high standard.
There are taps for still and sparkling water around the conveyor which you help yourself to, or you can order from a range of drinks with your server.
I really like the standard of the sushi at Yo! Sushi, and I also really like the model of helping yourself from the conveyor then simply settling up at the end. It removes the need to wait while dishes are prepared brought to you, and it's just really fun!
This was recommended to me by several mummy friends, and while the ugliness of it put me off at first, I'm glad I ended up buying one for my son when he was about 6 weeks old.
The seahorse is a soft toy, about 10 inches tall with a plastic tummy that you gently squeeze to get it to light up and play soothing melodies to your little one as they drift off to sleep. The music and light lasts for 5 minutes, then switches off. The melodies also feature gentle bubbling sounds which mimic the noise in the womb, so this also helps your little one to drift off.
When my son was little this really helped him sleep. I would put him down sleepy, switch this on and he would drift off. It was also great in the night because often just a go of this would send him back off to sleep.
Now he is older (10 months) his sea horse still helps him drift off to sleep, and the melodies also mask the sound of me creeping out of his room. The soft glow enables me to see him in his cot when his room is otherwise completely dark, which can be useful. He can also now switch it on himself, which he often does in the morning when he wakes up and he now loves wrestling it around his cot!
The thing which seems to separate the seahorse from other similar toys is that the music and light last a full five minutes, where as most last much less than this.
I would highly recommend this for getting littlies off to sleep. One of my very best friends is pregnant and I will certainly be buying her one of these when here baby is born, even if it's not the prettiest thing in the world.
I am fortunate to have been blessed with quite long dark eye lashes, but I am still a devoted mascara wearer and am always looking for the ultimate mascara that will make my lashes longer, thicker and darker.
I've used several Maybelline mascaras in the past and I've always been impressed by the value for money they offer and the results they give, so when I saw this on the market I thought I'd give it a go, particularly as I bought it on 3 for 2 in Boots.
I bought this mascara in black, and applied one coat to my lashes. The results were impressive and I could see a big difference between my naked lashes, and my lashes with this on. My lashes looks thicker and longer and I would say on my already thick lashes it does give a false lash effect.
I personally like this mascara better than the bog standard Maybelline one (in a green and pink tube). It is slightly more expensive, but I personally think it is up there with the premium mascaras such as Lancome and Estee Lauder. Since I started using this I have recommended it to several friends and they have all been converted.
My top tip would be to seek it out on offer somewhere, as it frequently is and that makes it even more of a bargain.
Before I had my little one I never thought I was the sort of person who would get excited about a highchair, but how wrong I was! I am positively evangelical about the Antilop, and I recommend it at every opportunity.
Firstly I love the fact that you can get the whole highchair, including the tray for under £15.
Secondly I love the fact that it is so easy to clean because there are not awkward seams or creases of fabric like you get on most highchairs. The seat is one piece of moulded plastic, the tray is another that clips on the front and the legs simply click into place.
Thirdly and most importantly I love it because my son is so comfortable in it. He will very happily eat his breakfast, lunch or dinner in it. He will also quite happily sit in it and read a book or play with toys. He's well supported, but he also has the space to move around a but if he wants to. He doesn't slip down in the same way that he does in many more 'reclined' style highchairs.
It is also really easy to transport or store because you can simply remove the legs.
But don't take my word for it, these highchairs are so good that Ikea use them by the dozen in their restaurants so if you want to try one before you spend the princely sum of £15 then pop down to your local Ikea and pop into the cafe!
Did I mention that I love this highchair!
We bought our son a Jumperoo on the recommendation of several friends with babies of a similar age, and I am very glad we did. This has provided him with many hours of entertainment over the months and he stills gets plenty of enjoyment out of it now, at 10 months old.
The Jumperoo is basically a bouncer suspended on a frame. Baby sits in a seat in the middle and can bounce, spin the seat round and look at all the toys on the frame. It also has two music choices and flashing lights on teh front when switched on.
We bought this when our son was about 4 months old, and to be honest he was a bit young for it, although he would happily sit in it and look at the toys for a few minutes By the time he was six months old he was bouncing like a maniac in it, but seven months he would whizz the seat round and now at ten months he just loves it all.
The fact that there are two toys, a parrot and a frog, hanging down as well as the various spinning and moving toys on the tray adds real interest for little ones. The Jumperoo is lovely and bright and I am a big fan of the rainforest theme.
There are two downsides to this toy as far as I can see. Firstly it is quite expensive for a toy for a baby. I paid £80 for a new one from an eBay shop, but the seem to go from about £80-100 in the shops. Personally I think it was worth the money, as it has provided a lot of pleasure for my little one. They also have quite a good resale value, so it is possible to get most of your money back once the Jumperoo is no longer required. Secondly the Jumperoo does take up quite a lot of floor space as the base is pretty wide. We have it tucked away in the corner if the lounge, but I guess it wouldn't really be suitable if you had a small room.
Overall I really like the Jumperoo. Now my son is quite mobile it is great to have a toy that contains, but that he enjoys being in! Anyone with a child of a similar age will know what I mean.
When me son got to about 7 months old it became clear that all he wanted to do was stand and play and I suddenly realised why play tables were such a good idea....
We looked at a few different play tables, but I really liked the variety of activities on this one. It also seems to be nice and sturdy and well made. The colours are nice and bright and also fairy unisex.
The table has two settings, which are changed by flipping the page of the book in the centre of the table. One is a musical setting, the other an ABC setting. My son is a bit obsessed with books, so we flick between them fairly regularly in this house.
My particular favourites in this are the frog holding the banjo, and the violin. Both okay great little tunes. Whilst the sounds and music do get slightly annoying after a while, I have to say that the general quality of sound and the fact that there is so much variation on this means that it is actually one of my son's less irritating electronic toys!
My son is now 10 months old, and this is undoubtedly one of his favourite toys. He will happily spend quite a while standing at it, and the fact that the legs are so sturdy means that it remains upright even when he leans all over the place, which is more than can be said for a lot of his toys.
I think that this table will lose a lot of its appeal once he can actually walk, but for now it definitely earns its place in my toy crowded living room as it really does hold the attention and offer hours of playing fun.
I am the first to admit that I am a coffee snob, and would much rather have a good cup of tea than a bad cup of coffee, and I was under the impression that all instant coffee was bad coffee....I was wrong.
Unlike most instant coffees, Via is proper coffee but ground extremely finely. This means that when you pour (almost) boiling water onto it it brews immediately in the cup, and little residue is left.
We have always only drunk freshly ground coffee at home, brewed in a cafetiere, so to say I was sceptical about Via would be an understatement. But I was pleasantly surprised, Via is good! It doesn't have that slightly dishwater like taste that I associate with instant coffee. The flavour is deep and bold and really hits the spot.
Via is available in three varieties- Italian Roast, Colombian and Decaf. Italian Roast is the most intense, and has a definite smokiness about it. Colombian is lighter and less smoky, and decaf tastes similar to the Colombian in my opinion. In all honestly I would rather have a nice cup of freshly brewed Kenyan or Guatamalen coffee, but if I can't be bothered to get the cafetiere out just for me, or if I am out and about or on holiday then I find Via a perfectly good substitute and head and shoulders above any other instant coffee I have ever tried.
I am the first to admit that I am a complete Starbucks addict, and since I have had my son I think I have actually got worse. I swear one of his first words will probably be babycino!
I am a big fan of the reward card. It's a prepay card that you load up with money, you need to start it off with at least £5 and then you can top up with any amount over £2 whenever you want to. You then use it to pay for your purchases in Starbucks.
But the real fun starts when you register your card online. This is a simple process and only takes a few minutes to do. You the get a number of benefits. Firstly your balance is protected, so if you do lose your Starbucks card you can just phone customer care and they will send out a replacement with a balance on. Secondly you get sent various vouchers for free drinks and money off drinks through out the year, usually when Starbucks launch a new drink such as at Christmas time. Thirdly, and in my opinion most importantly, you get various benefits in store.
These benefits include free Wi-Fi access in store, which is useful if you want to surf the net while you enjoy your coffee. You also get free 'extras' in your drink This includes free flavoured syrups, free whipped cream, free soya milk and free espresso shots. This is great news for me as I like to drink soya milk, but don't like paying an extra 35p for it. I'm also a fan of flavoured syrups so often save 70p a time in my drink. You also now get 50p any size filter coffee when you pay with your Starbucks card, and you can also pick up any free tall size drink when you use your card to buy a larger size pack of Via in store, or any pack of whole bean coffee.
For me the Starbucks card is better than a standard 'collect the stamps; card because it gives me an instant, substantial discount everytime I buy a drink, plus lots of other little extras as well.