The £2.99 Dresses and a Children’s Clothing Epiphany

I have three girls. My eldest is at school and wears uniform so has little choice in what she puts on in the morning during the week. However, I have a daily battle with my three-year-old twins.  I was a bit of a tomboy at their age and only ever wanted to wear trousers. They on the other hand want to wear ‘beautiful dresses’ every day. We can often have a 20 minute meltdown if it’s a day I’m putting them in trousers, leggings or shorts for pre-school. I ‘win’ in the end, but it’s a rather hollow victory and certainly not a great addition to the morning routine.

Some of our H&M haul

Some of our H&M haul including 5 of the £2.99 dresses

All of the dresses I’d been buying until recently were fairly pricey from places such as Boden, Petit Bateau and, luckily due to my husband travelling to the States, Ralph Lauren (much, much cheaper than in the UK). John Lewis is also another port of call. It tends to be cheaper than the aforementioned but can still be quite pricey, although they have a childrenswear clearance on at the moment. They’re all lovely clothes but not necessarily the clobber I want them to do painting in at pre-school or wear to messy play.

I also have this thing where I like to buy each child the same number of clothes each – although I’ve started to sneakily buy my eldest the same thing in two colours so that she can eventually pass them down to her sisters. As you can imagine x 3 gets pretty expensive and there never seem to be enough dresses for every day use.

I then had an epiphany on discovering Boots’ Mini Club and H&M Kids. Boots always do loads of offers; currently they’re doing two for £8 and half price on a variety of lines, including cropped leggings, tunics, dresses, shorts and T-shirts and trousers. I bought a number of tunics and a variety of leggings, which all mix and match. Then there’s H&M: it’s clothing is always really well-priced. Right now they are doing girls dresses aged from one to eight years for £2.99!! I’ve stocked up on loads of the £2.99 dresses, and then some shorts and other dresses, which are still a modestly priced £5.99. The girls are absolutely elated, I don’t have  to wash favourite clothes every other day and I can save the more expensive items for special occasions. It means we can compromise by alternating between dresses and shorts/leggings/trousers. Win win.

Sensational Butterflies at The Natural History Museum

Our three girls are big fans of butterflies and on Sunday all five of us went to the Natural History Museum‘s Sensational Butterflies exhibition in London, courtesy of Three Mobile.

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Car selfie

We arrived in Kensington well ahead of our designated time slot so that we could have a look around the main museum a bit first, and also so that we could be assured a parking space in a nearby street. Parking can be extortionate in central London, but on Sundays the unthinkable happens and you can find street parking that’s free :-)

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With our exhibition tickets we were able to avoid queuing for the museum itself (it was pretty busy) and go straight in. We’ve been before so we revisited favourite displays and then went outside to the temporary tropical butterfly house, which contained butterflies from Africa, Asia and South America.

We were immediately surrounded by butterflies when we entered, which saw the girls literally squealing in delight. They were there in huge numbers and in all sorts of colours.

We were all fascinated by the different butterfly species we were seeing and the staff were great at answering our questions. The children were off the scale excited when the butterflies landed on us, especially when one landed ‘on mummy’s bum’.  They also loved stamping their cards, which charted the lifecycle of a butterfly. The younger two just love sticking and stamping anything, but my eldest, at six years old, was actually taking in the information at each stamping station.

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The girls were taken by all the exotic colours and how close they could get, but my husband and I were absolutely amazed by the rows and rows of dangling chrysalises in a specially made frame behind glass. They were beautiful and rather eerie at the same time. We actually saw a butterfly emerge whilst standing watching. Absolutely fascinating.

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Lucky enough to see a butterfly emerge

 

The butterflies get 'drunk' on rotting fruit

The butterflies get ‘drunk’ on rotting fruit

The girls were really reluctant to leave, but we tempted them away with the promise of lunch at the restaurant in the museum’s Green Zone. All three are still talking about seeing the butterflies. Find out more about Sensational Butterflies.

We were provided with a Samsung Galaxy S6 for the day so that I could record and share the experience with readers of the blog. The butterflies were a great subject to try out the handset’s 16 megapixel camera. I’m no David Bailey, but it was very easy to get great photos, especially with the pro function. Inspired by what she was seeing, my eldest, who is very snap happy, disappeared off for 10 minutes and clicked away. I didn’t show her how to use it, she just figured it out and took some lovely photos, so the phone’s pretty intuitive. It has a longer battery life than other phones I’ve used, so great for a day out where you want to capture a lot. It also boasts wireless charging capabilities. When I got back home I played about with the camera functions and found some great features and effects. Pop art anyone…?

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Being Excluded from the School Trip

I’ve just been reading about the five boys that were excluded from their primary school trip to Disneyland as it was oversubscribed. The five names that were pulled out of a hat couldn’t go.

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I suppose the first reaction is: Disneyland… for a school trip?? I think there’s a huge pressure on parents to cough up for increasingly ostentatious trips. However, putting that aside, I think it is unfair.

True enough, parents were informed beforehand that there weren’t enough places, but why was a trip that they couldn’t all go on an option in the first place? Surely there were other choices available?

People have commented that children have to learn that there are disappointments in life; you just have to suck it up and get on with it. Yes, they do have to learn about not getting everything they want, but there are plenty of opportunities for that lesson. Why have something that is guaranteed beforehand to disappoint an unlucky few, especially something that is divisive and singles them out from their peers?

OK, so I’m particularly passionate about this because IT HAPPENED TO ME (and boy do I not want to be in the same situation ever with my kids)!!

I’m 36 now so we’re going back rather a bit, but when I was at middle school (so I’d be about 11, actually I was definitely 11 as it was Italia ’90) there was a school trip to Normandy as part of our French studies. I loved learning French and was probably quite precocious in my appreciation of French culture, so was soooo excited about the prospect of going there with my friends. The trip was oversubscribed by two out of the entire year of almost 90 and I was one of the two drawn out of the hat not to go. I was devastated. Properly devastated.

My best friend at the time, who hated French, kept banging on about how much she couldn’t wait to go. I remember that I couldn’t stop crying.  Then kids at school began to say how they no longer wanted to go, which made me even more upset. I REALLY WANTED TO! It wasn’t a flash in the pan disappointment. I just didn’t get over it.

My mum booked a gîte in Normandy for the whole family at the same time as my year group was going to be there. I know that this certainly would not have been possible for many and that I was VERY fortunate that, as a family, we were able to do this, but she knew that I wasn’t just being a brat, that I really loved French and would have done anything to go; she even got the itinerary off the teacher so that we could replicate everything (I was a bit of a nerd like that).

We had a fantastic time and I have so many wonderful memories from our trip, but to this day I remember how so upset I was when I got drawn out of that hat.

The Allergy & Free From Show – Win Tickets

Do you live with allergies, intolerances, eczema or coeliac disease? Perhaps gluten, wheat, eggs, nuts or dairy are no-go in your house, or maybe you need to avoid dust mites, latex or other materials…

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If any of the above affects you or your family then The Allergy & Free From Show – Europe’s largest ‘free from’ family day out - is for you. The next one is at Olympia, London, the 3rd-5th July and Mum2Mum Markets has given The Parent Social a pair of fast track entry tickets for me to give away.

A bit more about the show

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The Allergy & Free From Show is an event full of products (food, drink, skin, hair care, household items and more), cooking classes, talks, expert advice, kids activities… all ‘free from’ and all dedicated to improving the life of people with allergies and intolerances.

Some of what you’ll find at The Allergy & Free From Show:

  • Try & Buy –  1000′s of ‘free from’ products
  • Just for kids – time to have some fun with Allergy Adventures
  • Learning Theatre – seminars from the UK’s leading experts
  • The Sainsbury’s Kitchen – inspirational ‘free from’ cooking classes
  • Sainsbury’s Recipe Exchange – swap recipes and tasty food ideas
  • 1-2-1 Consultations – receive advice and information from specialist

For more details about the event visit: http://www.allergyshow.co.uk/london/

To win a pair of fast track entry tickets for The Allergy & Free From Show simply like The Parent Social Facebook page and share or Tweet this post. A winner will be selected at random on the 22nd June. Good luck!!

•    Tickets (worth £10 each) can be used on any day you choose
**  These are barcoded, numbered e-tickets in the name of The Parent Social. They need to be printed

My First Mum2Mum Market

I did my first Mum2Mum Market last Saturday. I really enjoyed it and made a nice little profit too.

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Mum2Mum Markets are nearly new sales for selling and buying children’s clothes, baby equipment, toys and books etc. The name’s a little discriminatory as there’s nothing to stop dads buying or selling!

The markets are held all over the country and you can find ones local to you by visiting the website. Prices for your ‘pitch’ vary according to location, but I paid what looks to be the highest amount at £25 (that’s Surrey for you!). This gets you a decent-sized table with plenty of room around it to display items. After paying that, you keep 100% of your takings. I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually make as I had lots of clothes to sell – so not high value items like high chairs, buggies or cots. I’d already successfully sold these sorts of items via Preloved UK (I’ve written about my online selling experiences before: Making Money From Home (and de-cluttering). As I was a bit chicken, I decided to do it with a friend so that we could share the initial cost.

The ladies behind Mum2Mum Markets do a great job of marketing the events and will ask you if you have any specific items that you want to promote, which they’ll then push via their social media channels. They provide sellers with notes about all of the logistics. They also include some helpful tips about what they’ve found works selling-wise based on their experiences.

If you’re thinking of doing one here are my tips:

  • Don’t get too hung up over what you initially paid for something. People are looking for a bargain. Think about whether you really want to lug something back home to sit back in the loft
  • That said, you can always start with prices a little higher and see how you go in the first half hour (that’s when we were busiest) and reduce a bit after this time. You’ll quickly judge if you’ve priced too high
  • Get a hanging rail to display any really good quality clothes you’re selling (if you can’t borrow one, they have them to hire for £5)
  • I was trying to shift clothes in large volume so I made boxes of items for 50p and age ordered them. Mum2Mum Market say that secondhand baby and children’s clothes are the least profitable items to sell. Therefore you have to be realistic. This method worked well for me. It also worked particularly well alongside the rail as people could differentiate quickly between the more select items and the more every day stuff
  • Don’t take every single item you’ve got stored at home as it risks looking like a jumble sale, which is off-putting. Keep it seasonal for a start
  • It’s good to have a variety of things on your stall (and not all piled high). This is where sharing the stall with a friend helped. My friend had more major items, I had mainly clothes. This meant that the stall captured more people
  • Make sure you have a good float with you

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I did reduce quite a few of my things in price as the morning went on (sales last for two hours),

but there were a couple of designer items that I really felt I couldn’t part with for a hugely discounted rate. People kept looking at them but didn’t buy. I don’t think this was the right place for them. I’m selling these on Preloved. So if anyone is in the market for a beautiful Ralph Lauren girl’s summer dress or a hand embroidered and smocked Sarah Louise summer dress then let me know :-)

I’ll be back doing another sale in Autumn. I’m looking forward to it and I’m slightly wiser.



Family Favourites – Pork, Chorizo and Cannellini Bean Stew

This is a recipe that’s made it onto the meal planner and is adapted from allrecipes.co.uk.  It’s hearty, easy to make, extremely cheap and the kids love it. If we haven’t had any green veg that day I do some green beans with it, otherwise it’s just crusty bread to dunk or served with some rice.

The children love helping out in the kitchen, but this requires some quite difficult cutting so you may want to just get the older ones involved.

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I’ve just been sent some products from Dettol to try out so this was a perfect opportunity to road test them.

I particularly worry about hand washing after handling raw meat, especially chicken and pork. We’d been sent their hand wash. Sad I know, but I really loved this as it was a specific kitchen one and is a No-Touch Hand Wash System. This solves an issue I’ve always had when cooking: you touch something full of bacteria, you then use the soap and transfer all the gunk onto it, which you then pick up next time you use it. This is fab as it senses your hands and dispenses the soap. My fellow kitchen cleanliness obsessive compulsive – my dad – was also very taken with it.

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Testing out the hand wash

Obviously the kids love it as it’s a gizmo and fun. It does what you’d expect from Dettol in that it kills 99.9% of bacteria and removes viruses. However, as an added bonus it’s odour neutralising and effective against pungent smells such as garlic and onion, which is very handy as about 90% of what I cook contains these two ingredients. The unexpected result – as I don’t associate germ killing with being gentle – was that my eldest said it didn’t make her eczema sore. This is usually a real problem and she won’t go near most soaps. This contains moisturising ingredients. A real winner.

So, on with the recipe…

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Pork, Chorizo and Cannellini Bean Stew

Ingredients (serves 5) 

  • 850g pork shoulder steaks/pork shoulder
  • 400g tin cannellini beans
  • 250g of cooking chorizo
  • 2  x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 large red onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 teaspoons paprika

Method

  1. Slice the pork into strips and fry off in a casserole dish (which has a lid) until brown all over. Remove from the pan and drain off the fat
  2. Cut the chorizo into small chunks (or cheat and buys the ready cubed) and add to the pan, brown off for two minutes then add the chopped onions, four teaspoons of paprika and the chopped garlic. Fry for a further two minutes until the onion has softened
  3. Add the pork back to the pan along with ½ a pint of water and the tinned tomatoes. Season to taste
  4. Simmer for one hour on a low heat with the lid on. Then remove the lid, add the cannellini beans and simmer for a further 30 minutes
When you let a six year old help...

When you let a six year old help…

Trust me when I say it's the best it's been!

Trust me when I say it’s the best it’s been

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were also sent two different disinfectant sprays. I used Dettol’s Power & Pure Advance Kitchen Spray for the clean up operation. It was very effective at cleaning the hob, which got splattered. Our kitchen is next on our hit list for renovation. The hob is vile and never looks amazing. However, the spray was the best I’ve used. It blasted through stuff without the need for scrubbing and as it breaks down to just water and oxygen you don’t have to rinse afterwards. As before, it kills 99.9% of bacteria, including E. coli and influenza virus (H1N1).

So, cooking and cleaning in the one post. There’s still hope of becoming a domestic goddess.

10 Reasons to Be Thankful You’re Not a Royal Mother

1) You didn’t have people from all over the world and the UK’s media camped outside the hospital on ‘womb watch’ for days/weeks before your arrival. In fact, NO ONE seemed prepared for your arrival at the hospital

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2) You didn’t have to contemplate what designer dress you would wear on leaving hospital hours after giving birth and consider whether your choice would be well-received or slated. Your biggest style dilemma was probably whether to dress your – still very noticeable – bump in over- or under-the-bump leggings

3) Ok, being preened by others so you look wonderful sounds nice on the face of it, but would you really want people fussing about blowdrying your hair, applying your make up for ages and squeezing your still swollen feet into heeled shoes? A quick flash of a mascara wand, a touch of Touche éclat under the eyes and a bit of lippy = job done in two minutes and then out of there

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4) You didn’t have a photo call 12 hours after giving birth, with the pictures ending up in every UK paper and around the world. You probably had a few private snapshots, which you may have shared on Facebook if you were feeling particularly brave. You certainly didn’t care about whether you had a VMPL (Visible Maternity Panty Line)

5) You weren’t constrained by tradition when it came to name choices for your baby. Let’s face it, she was never going to be Princess Daiquiri or Princess Audi (both appeared on the list of unusual baby names 2014)

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6) The world and its wife didn’t debate about your naming decision let alone run a book on it. Although family and friends may or may not have ‘discussed it’ in private

7) You didn’t have to prepare for The Queen coming over when your baby was three days old. The Telegraph is streaming live updates on this and also includes this useful counter… WHAT ON EARTH?

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8) You didn’t have to get your boobs out in front of ma’am and her entourage

9)  You weren’t touted as a potential ‘Breastfeeding Ambassador’

10) You could be yourself

Quick Round Up of Some Good Offers

Joseph Joseph Nest Measuring Cups

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I used to be rather affronted by recipes that used cups as a unit of measurement. However, after my husband bought a set from de rigueur kitchenware brand Joseph Joseph I was converted. The nest of eight measuring cups (shown above) is now just £7.oo at John Lewis. Bargain!

Wine & Prosecco

Save 25% on wines exclusive to Waitrose (including perennial favourite Valdo Prosecco) at WaitroseCellar.com. They’re also offering free delivery and Click & Collect.

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Clarks

Clarks has its mid-season sale on until Sunday 10th May (midnight) and has some big reductions on a huge range of men’s, women’s and children’s shoes. There’re plenty of seasonal shoes in the sale, but as a boot fan I reckon these are worth the investment for Autumn! £160.00 down to £80.00.

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Boots

I personally think that the Boots Advantage Card is one of the best loyalty schemes on the market. It’s just launched its Triple Points Event which runs until May 5th. Rack ‘em up!

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Have a great Bank Holiday all!

15 Things You Are Likely to Hear When You Have Twins

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You’ve got your hands full!

  • Two for the price of one!

  • You’ve got your hands full (especially if you have another child)

  • Are they natural?

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  • Buy one, get one free!

  • Just wait until they’re both walking

  • Double trouble!

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  • I bet they keep you busy

  • Just wait until they’re both teenagers

  • Do you feed them yourself?

Getting ready for a feed. Yes, I did feed them myself...
Getting ready for a feed. Yes, I did feed them myself…
  • Just wait until they’re both (insert any milestone you wish)

  • Double the work, but double the joy

  • Are they good?  - no they tag team so that they compound my sleep deprivation

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  • Ooo, I don’t know how you manage

  • Multiple mums are special (!?)

  • I always wanted twins

  • And the bonus one: Are they identical? This is regularly asked about twins that look nothing alike and even boy/girl twins!?

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Relaxation Time and TV

We returned home from the school run today in the usual chaos of animated discussion about everything that had happened in the  day, throwing off of shoes and coats, and the finishing of snacks that had been started en route. My eldest got changed out of her school uniform. I had an important call to make so ushered the three girls into the playroom. I heard the TV go on immediately and felt rather disappointed that they weren’t playing instead.

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I ended up leaving a voicemail so went to join them in the playroom straight after. I got my eldest’s reading homework out and sat down to listen to her read, saying we should do it before dinner. At that point she looked at me and said: “I’ve been working really hard all day at school, we’ve only just got in and I want to relax for a bit.”

I’m not a big fan of them watching too much TV and regular readers will know that we do a lot of activities – indoors and outdoors -that don’t involve the gogglebox, but I did find it rather hard to argue with her. She’d been looking forward to an episode of My Little Pony that is on this afternoon. I know if there’s an episode of Corrie or Eastenders that I want to watch, no-one is going to get in the way of that particular guilty pleasure.

Dinner will be ready in 15 minutes time, there’s no TV in the dining room and I’ve said that after they’ve eaten there’ll be no TV. They all agreed without protest. We’ll do the reading and then we’ll play some games together.

I’m left thinking that perhaps children really do need some downtime that literally just involves sitting back and tuning out for a bit. All things in moderation.