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NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE CHATS TO // STEPH DOUGLAS | DON’T BUY HER FLOWERS

Steph - Founder - Don't Buy Her Flowers

I’m super excited to share the ‘Chats To‘ feature from these gorgeous chops ! Meet Steph Douglas, mega-Mama of 2 (soon to be 3!), founder of brilliant business, Don’t Buy Her Flowers and one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met!

Here, Steph talks to us about the drive to start up Don’t Buy Her Flowers,  The Man Package and being the daughter to a Vicar. Oh and FYI, Steph and the other INCREDIBLY TALENTED women that were featured in that horrendously inaccurate Daily Fail ‘article’ are worth SO MUCH more to their family, friends and I for one am inspired daily by these wonderful women who go above and beyond in life. I’ve never skim-read something so atrocious, EVER. The article, simply put, boiled down to shoddy so-called journalism from a very jealous battle-axe. These women juggle a million plates without dropping a single one – whilst also maintaining their own businesses and careers, their home and all the while also making their own families, or the families of complete strangers, feel loved.

ANYWAY! Not gonna give them any more airtime than they have already been so lucky to have.

Over to you Steph!

CB: Firstly, please introduce yourself and your brand.
SD: I’m Steph and my business is Don’t Buy Her Flowers – we sell thoughtful gift packages.

CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your name?
SD: Well…ours is a pretty clear idea of what we’re not! The name came really quickly, because of where the idea for the business came from. Lots of brands have really abstract names and unless you’ve lots of money so that people will know what your brand is – which I knew we didn’t – having a name that is very clear is definitely a help.

CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept?
SD: It started after I had my first baby and I received eight bunches of flowers from lovely family and friends who wanted to say ‘congratulations’. I was sitting on the sofa feeling overwhelmed and sore and leaky and the bouquets made me feel worse. It was another thing to care for and I just didn’t have the energy – or the vases! I also found that the things people did that showed they knew how I was feeling and what I needed, whether that was food parcels or the friend that came and did my ironing and held the baby while I bathed the toddler, or just the message from a friend saying “BTW I found breastfeeding hard initially and it might take a while so don’t panic, you’re doing great”, meant so much. It’s very easy to get caught up in the joy of a new baby, and it is a joy, but it’s also many other things including exhausting and I think new mums need looking after. We launched as gifts for new mums and then very quickly our customers wanted to send our packages for Get Well, Bereavement, Birthdays – any occasion when someone needs a little TLC.

The Care Package with Gin™
SHOP // The Care Package with Gin™

 

The Care Package with Thermos Mug™
SHOP // The Care Package with Thermos Mug™

CB: What is your brand ethos?
SD: The idea and everything we do centres around thoughtfulness. We see lots of gorgeous products all the time, but unless they help someone in a practical sense or offer some TLC, they’re not right for our packages.

CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you?
SD: There is an awesome growing network of women doing their own thing and trying to figure out the juggle along with our position in society and how to still be a mother and a partner and a friend and I’m inspired by that community all the time. It doesn’t mean it’s easy or we all get it right, but we’re all trying to work it out in our own way.

Shop // The Man Package™
Shop // The Man Package™

CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up?
SD: We introduced The Man Package a few months ago – our customers asked us for a version of our Care Package for men. They’ve been sent for Birthdays, New Dad’s and Get Well Mostly, and as Father’s Day is coming up (18th June folks!!) we’ve added golfing and gardening magazine options for the older chaps. We’ve also got a Gluten Free Care Package coming up, which is again in response to customers asking for it.

CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice?
SD: The biggest thing I wish I’d known is that people weren’t actually judging me and my choices, and all that time I spent worrying about whether I was getting it ‘right’ I was doing my best and that was all my children ever needed. Mostly I think new mums need to be kind to themselves as we generally are not.

CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia?
SD: It used to be wipes but currently it’s colouring and activity books. Buster and Mabel are really in to them so we can go for food and not be in that intense ‘ORDER NOW!’ rush as we walk through the door, which we were in a couple of years ago. They’re both pretty obsessed with the iPad but we haven’t cracked it out in restaurants yet… will see how long we can keep that up!

CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mum-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without?
SD: Let’s go with my Tiba + Marl bag. Even though they’re officially changing bags, I got it after mine were out of nappies so it’s never carried baby stuff, but it is always rammed with snacks and felt tips and has a protective bit for my laptop so I use it every day. As a back pain sufferer, the rucksack is a saviour. Thankfully they’ve made it a stylish accessory!

The Douglas Squad
The Douglas Squad

CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it?
SD: The juggle. Trying to do too much and then dropping balls and realising I can’t do it all and that something has to give. My favourite thing is weekends with no plans except to hang out as a four. It gives us a chance to recalibrate and the kids are always happiest when we’re not distracted or rushing out the door to meet people and be in line with other people’s timetables. I like seeing other people too (!) but I think with busy jobs and school and nursery, time to be just us is always just what we need and means we start the week a little calmer.

CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out?
SD: I love reading but for some reason it had become something I only did on holidays. I don’t sleep that well and find if I relax with a book before bed I sleep better, so I’ve just bought a load and love the escapism.

CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops?
SD: If I go in to &Other Stories I can guarantee I’ll find something (or a few things) I’ll love. Bimba Y Lola is great and not as widely known – some of their prints are really cool and you generally won’t find everyone in them. And John Lewis is always good for well pretty much everything.

CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why?
SD: Ooh I just got a very cool jumpsuit from Lowie with a tropical print on it and I’m going to live in it over the summer. I love a jumpsuit – less knicker flashing than dresses, you can dress them up or down, plus one item and you’re done. Perfect.

CB:  Choose 3 words to describe yesterday.
SD: Long, expensive and cakey (we were at the Richmond Fair and I was helping on the school cake stand. Doug took the kids off around the fair all afternoon and I’m pretty sure spunked £40 easily)

Steph Douglas // Founder | Don't Buy Her Flowers
Steph Douglas // Founder | Don’t Buy Her Flowers

CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people.
SD: I would normally say that I’m a Vicar’s daughter, but as there was a (terrible and inaccurate) article in the Daily Mail last week that included this fact, it’s probably not a surprise! I have a History degree?

CB: What’s the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
SD: I think it’s the thoughtful things that come when you really need them but don’t even know you need them? I was feeling pretty knackered a couple of weeks ago and a friend stopped in on her way home from work to drop off a cottage pie and a bunch of flowers. I burst in to tears and it was just lovely to know someone was thinking of me.

CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year.
SD: I’m currently reading ‘Big Little Lies’ after watching the TV show and loving it. The characters are just brilliant.

CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view?
SD: I’m actually working on my laptop in the car on my way to West Sussex to my brother’s pub! We’re going through a very idyllic village with a cute primary school and lots of pubs and discussing how one day we will live in the country. Not ready yet though…

CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why?
SD: Oooh, always family & friends obviously, but in a couple of weeks I’m going to Menorca with a couple of girl friends and I am so looking forward to lying in the sun, reading and doing very little else. It’s come at just the right time.

CB: Anymore for anymore?
SD: Don’t forget Father’s Day!

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat, Steph. I also wanted to extend our congratulations and love to your beautiful fam on your lovely news! 💕

Be sure to follow Steph on her own Insta: @Steph_DontBuyHerFlowers and the Don’t Buy Her Flowers Instagram for the latest business updates: @DontBuyHerFlowers

#NeverConciseChats #ClaireChatsToStephDBHF

more ABOUT // don’t buy her flowers.

Don’t Buy Her Flowers was founded with a simple aim: to provide thoughtful gift packages for new mums, because they deserve something lovely just for them.

From launch we received requests to send our gifts for other reasons as well as after a baby arrived – birthdays, get well, bereavement and to say ‘it’s going to be ok’. We’ve had many reports of recipients crying when they open their package, overwhelmed that someone has thought of them.

So what’s wrong with flowers?

Although they are always lovely to receive, we wanted to create something that was more thoughtful and useful for mums and women at those times when they need it most. Something that encourages her to take ten minutes to herself. For new mums, we know having babies is amazing but it’s also a rollercoaster and can be hard. Knowing someone is thinking of you can be a huge boost and it turns out that our customers wanted to express that same sentiment to friends and family for all kinds of reasons.

Flowers say “I’m thinking of you”. A gift package from Don’t Buy Her Flowers says ‘I’m thinking of you, this package is all about you and I hope it makes you feel good’.
‘When I had my first baby, I received eight bunches of flowers. We didn’t have a lot of space and we certainly didn’t own multiple vases. I had to give them away or bin the least fresh to make way for the most recent. I also felt completely overwhelmed with everything – the baby, the visitors, the bodily functions – and trying to arrange flowers and then dispose of them was all a bit much, however pathetic that sounds. I found that other parents felt the same and Don’t Buy Her Flowers was born.’
Steph Douglas, creator of dontbuyherflowers.com

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Eating Out | GLASS, Berlin.

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WHEREGLASS, 10623 Berlin.

DATE: 23.10.2015

TIME: 7:30pm.

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We took the train to Zoologischer Garten and strolled along the chilly, but short, route to GLASS. Filled with the anticipation of a magical evening, celebrating Mr Memoirs’ 30th birthday, we actually passed GLASS! We backtracked and found the restaurant tucked away between building’s.

First impressions were great – we received a very warm welcome and an abundance of smiles. Good start. We were asked to choose where we would like to sit, we decided on a lovely table in the corner, by the window. We were immediately provided with the menu… hidden inside an envelope. Having previously had correspondance with the Host, Juliana, I had decided to keep the new menu a surprise! I had read several incredible reviews of Glass and of the Head Chef, Gal Ben Moche, so had high expectations – and I was not disappointed!

The tasting menu is available with 5 courses (€75 each) or with 7 courses (€95 each). We opted for 5 courses, as well as the wine pairing (€45 each).

The five courses I chose were:

ONION SOUP // GRUYÈRE / BRIOCHE

FOIE GRAS // PONZU / DUCK CONFIT (+ 10 €)

MINESTRONE // SCALLOPS / BEANS / ZUCCHINI

JERUSALEM // POULET DE BRESSE / CAULIFLOWER

CANDY BOX – Dessert – which has to be shared + 20 €

However, we were advised that we’d receive a surprise treat or two before our first course. I don’t think we could have been more shocked and in awe of the ‘treats’s. I, still today, a week on, cannot stop thinking about the first dish we received.

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Dehydrated soya milk with a miso sauce. Actually just the most incredible thing! I could have eaten a bowl full of this.

This was quickly followed by:

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Another sharing treat, the hot-cheese filled crackers to the bottom corners were my favourite! There was also sardine topped falafel and dehydrated egg’s and bacon.

We were then served another ‘breakfast’ style dish:

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This one was a sweet treat – with egg yolk just cooking to the bottom.

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“Taste on a spoon”. One of my favourite mouthful’s of the evening. Ravioli, filled with Oxtail broth, topped with oxtail, greens and parmesan. INSANE. This spoonful was just stunning. The ravioli popped open in your mouth, releasing warm liquor. I have never tasted anything like it.

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Next were served a homemade pretzel bun each, along with 2 slates of butter that were out of this world! One of the butter’s were made with olive oil – using olive’s from the vineyard where one of our wine’s were produced – the other was topped with volcanic salt.

We were then served the first dish we had picked from the 5-course tasting menu.

Mr Memoirs loves anything smoked and earthy, so ‘Forest in a glass’ with its mushrooms and vapour meant he was in his element!

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The waiter was incredible at describing each individual dish – and really set the scene with the Forest in a glass dish. Mr Memoirs remarked that it did indeed feel like he was walking into the depths of a forest, taking in the different scents of the forest floor. The smokiness lingered too – very clever.

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Onion Soup with Gruyere and Brioche. The dish was served with the onion consommé being poured at the table by the waiter, who explained all the fine details to the bottom of the bowl. A warming and tasty dish that left me cleaning the bowl with my leftover pretzel!

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Foie Gras with Ponzu and Duck Confit. There was a surcharge of an additional €10 on this dish, and it was so worth it! The Foie Gras was the best I’ve ever tasted and the duck confit ‘dumpling’ was divine. I could have definitely done with a gravy boat of the sauce however! It was just superb.

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“Minestrone” with Scallops, Beans and Zucchini. The waiter gave us a cheeky smile as he placed these dishes onto the table and declared, “This dish is a lie, it’s not really Minestrone! This dish is made using a lobster bisque…”. I’m not a fish easter, at all, so I was quite apprehensive about this dish to say the very least. But my goodness, it has completely changed my mind! The bisque was filled with bags of flavour, as was the pasta, beans and courgette. I also ate the majority of my scallop! Which is a huge achievement for me – and of course, a huge compliment for Glass. The scallop was so delicate and tasty, I couldn’t help but go back for more.

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Following this, we received another ‘treat’ – a Horseradish Sorbet. Never experienced anything like it. Just incredibly powerful and cooling, all at the same time.

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And now time for the ‘main’ – Jerusalem. Now, I am a person who would not order chicken on a restaurant menu. Chicken is a staple in our house, it makes for a quick and easy dinner for us all; or is reserved for Sunday lunch. Not special enough to order from a restaurant, in my opinion… That was my opinion until I tasted Poulet De Bresse, the most sought after chicken, all the way from France. I can’t even put into words how surprising this dish was – I didn’t want it to end. The chicken was like nothing you’ve ever tasted before, really very special indeed. The cauliflower details were so tasty, as were the peas and grains. Stunning.

…and then came the pièce de résistance. The Candy Box. Presented table-side, by head chef, Gal Ben Moshe. 

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The Candy Box is a magical display of childhood tastes. Obviously, liquid nitrogen is always a bonus too! This was the most memorable and fun dessert we’ve ever had. Gal presented our version of The Candy Box with “H B 2 U”, in celebration of Mr Memoirs’ 30th birthday. Very thoughtful.

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Also, shout out to Juliana who added a birthday candle to the proceedings!

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We chatted to Gal after we’d finished the meal and congratulated him on such a wonderful and unique dining experience. It’s going to be very difficult to top the evening we shared with GLASS. We will definitely be heading back to GLASS when the menu changes – which we imagine to be Spring as Gal tends to use seasonal ingredients. There is also a Vegetarian menu available; offering both the 5 or 7 course tasting menu.

I cannot rate GLASS highly enough – from the staff to the food, everything was just stunning. A relaxed atmosphere with the most unusual dishes. Simply a must whilst in Berlin! (And get a reservation in soon, I can see this restaurant gaining it’s first Michelin star very soon – it is already featured in the Michelin guide – so tables will be at a premium!).

Thank you GLASS.

MM.

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Restaurant GLASS
Uhlandstraße 195
10623 Berlin
Phone: 030-54710861
Email: reservierung@glassberlin.de
Website: glassberlin.de
Opening times:
Tuesday to Saturday from 18:00 to 23:00 clock

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Belle & Boo | Birthday Badge Cards.

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Mr Eli recently turned 2… and it wouldn’t have been an occasion without Belle & Boo would it!
I love Belle and Boo; you can read my previous Belle & Boo posts below>
Mr Eli’s 1st Birthday!
BRAND IN FOCUS | Belle & Boo.
Belle & Boo | Very Merry Christmas (book).

Belle & Boo recently launched their “Badge Cards” collection – a range of 8 number cards for lovely little girls and boys, complete with birth-age badge. You can shop the new collection here> Badge Cards.

Sadly, at the minute there are only 3 ages for boy’s, but I’m sure Belle & Boo will have a great response to the cards and will hopefully extend the range. The “Ellis & Easy” badge card we bought for Eli is so charming and playful. We’re big aeroplane fan’s in our house, so this card was perfect for Eli (who will also be going on a plane for the first time very soon too!). What’s more, the badge is a safety badge, so you can let your little one show off their big age without the worry of them being covered in pin-pricks!

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We love this card so much that I will be framing it and adding it to the growing collection of prints he has in his bedroom – it will fit in just nicely!

MM.

 

xx

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Mr Eli turns 2!

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I can hardly believe it. Our darling little boy turned 2 on Wednesday!

We had a wonderful day celebrating. We started off our day at 5:30am, (as we do most days!), we had lovely cuddles in bed before heading downstairs. We’d set the living room up the night before, ready for Eli to pounce bright and early the next day. We sauntered down the stairs and said a big “1, 2 3… HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” as Eli entered the room. He stood completely still, mouth gaping, in utter shock! It was amazing. We must have stood there for a minute before he gathered that all these bright and exciting presents were actually for him! It was so sweet. He spent the entire morning overwhelmed, not quite sure where to look or where to run to next. It was amazing to see him opening presents this year, and even better when he realised what was actually beneath the wrapping paper. Just the best feeling in the world – I could have watched him all day,  as he was just enjoying EVERYTHING. He even blew out his candles himself this year! (I spent the day previous baking his cake – never have I ever been so stressed in the kitchen in all my life! Blog post on the cake to follow)

We went off to the Big Smoke a little later than anticipated due to the present-opening overload. The weather forecast was torrential rain for the day… but it was bright when we got to London Zoo; and swelteringly hot by mid-afternoon. We went to Colchester Zoo for Eli’s 1st birthday last year… think we may make a Zoo visit it an annual thing for Eli’s birthday as he absolutely LOVES the animals! To the extent that he cried when we would leave a section of the zoo to move onto the next area! His highlights were definitely the giraffe’s, hyena’s, goat’s (!!!) and all the different monkey’s (takes one to know one!).

We had a very full day at the zoo and Eli had TWO naps! TWO! We had a not-so-good experience at Strada in Camden and headed home – we didn’t get in until 10:30pm! Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun!

Eli is the happiest little boy who loves adventure’s. It’s incredible seeing him grow – I never thought we’d actually be able to see it happening before our very eyes, but he is developing every single day. He completed our lives he arrived on 6th August 2012 and we couldn’t be prouder parents. Eli is quite literally magic.

Our precious boy, always ask questions – always be curious. We love you to the moon and the stars and back!

Here are some snaps from Eli’s 2nd birthday celebrations!

#MrEliTurns2

MM.

x

#MrEliTurns2

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So there we have it. As of 21.43 on 6th August, we have our very own 2 year old human!

 

 

 

 

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EVENT | Celebrating 80 years of iCandy.

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A few months ago I was contacted by iCandy; it was all a little bit secret. I was intrigued, excited. Then a few weeks ago I received the most wonderfully presented envelope, in the post, that I’d seen in a long time! Inside was even better, an invitation to the  iCandy 80th Anniversary event on Tuesday 10th September, at superb events venue, One Marylebone, London.

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I was thrilled to be invited and of course made that RSVP shortly after.

Looking forward to the event, I made my journey into London early so that I could meet my OH and he could then take Mr Eli for some lovely food and then home for bed. I arrived at One Marylebone just a little after 6:30pm, where I was greeted with the warm welcome of event staff, a red carpet and a truly eye-catching iCandy facade, laden with vibrantly coloured parasols!

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Upon ticking my name off the guest list, I was ushered upstairs; where I was promptly handed a glass of Moët & Chandon and walked around the show space that displayed all the beautiful iCandy designs to date.

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I paid particular attention to the newest model, the Apple2Pear, as I hadn’t yet seen it in real life. I was astonished at the versatility and function of the design. Coming in 7 different colours, I am drawn to the Chilli and Raspberry Blue colourways. This is definitely the perfect travel system for when your family grows.

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So as the drinks flowed and the very tasty canapés were devoured, the time had come to head downstairs for the show to really begin! I was shown to a magical room filled with all things ‘woodland’, including a huge tree.

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I was seated on front row, or FROW as you fashionista’s will refer to it these days 😉 Once everyone was seated we were treated to the most amazing sounds of Whinnie Williams – voice like an actual angel!

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Other familiar faces to FROW were Imogen Thomas, Grace Woodward, Jasmine Guinness and Jodie Kidd. We were then introduced to iCandy‘s Managing Director Martin Boyle and joint CEO’s the Appel Brother’s themselves. It was incredible listening to men with such passion for their work – and their teams. I was in literal tears during the speeches. A new partnership between iCandy and The Lullaby Trust was also formally announced; and a cheque of £5,000 was given to the trusts’ CEO, Francine Beats. iCandy have teamed up with ex-Mulberry designer, Janet Collin, who has created a special new changing bag; the Emilia bag. £10 from the sale of each bag, will be given to The Lullaby Trust.

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Following the speeches was a fashion show, previewing the 2014 collection. New flavour packs in bright colours, upgraded designs (including a black chassis) and fashion-conscious handbags.

The highlight for me was the big reveal of the forthcoming new model to the iCandy family, The iCandy Raspberry. Of which, I was in actual awe – both during the catwalk show and post-show, where I stood for a good 30 minutes watching the hands-on demonstration, showing us all the multitude of ways the pushchair can be flipped and changed around, as well as folded up. The iCandy Raspberry is a stunning piece of innovative design, in form and function. The design is very, very neat, lightweight and stylish. The iCandy Raspberry is suitable from birth, but does not have a carrycot! Brilliant! There is however a very snuggly newborn “Pod” that will keep your brand new arrival warm, cosy and most importantly, secure. This pushchair has been designed for the city-dweller, someone who needs a pram that is adept in crowds and along city streets, lightweight to get up stairs and on public transport, but it’s also pretty darn cool too! The best-looking pram I’ve EVER seen – and we’ve seen A LOT of prams! This design can lay completely flat, but also reclines for older children; it’s also forward and parent-facing. Bonus. I also want to mention that I was shocked at how small the Raspberry was when folded, it’s tiny. We currently have an iCandy Strawberry and although it folds down well, we do struggle to get it in and out of the car – and it does take up pretty much the entire boot of our VW Polo. The Raspberry would give you back your boot, if you’re in the same situation!

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I also loved the large shopping basket on the iCandy Raspberry, which features a ‘glove compartment’ as I fondly like to call it. The hard case could house your raincover, keys, phone etc, great for keeping your valuables out of sight. The iCandy Raspberry will come in around 7 new colour flavour packs, names to be confirmed. But the colours that were displayed were just stunning. I want them ALL! I love that you can swap and change the colours around – so versatile.

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After the demonstration I headed over to the cupcake table, passing the very lovely ’80’ cake and took 2 cupcakes home. One for me with a midnight cup of tea and one for OH, who’d had a tough evening with Mr Eli. We both really appreciated those delicious cup cakes, believe me! I also thoroughly enjoyed my lovely iCandy goodie bag filled with lots of lovely catalogues, magazine, leather-bound note book, mug, pen and yummy chocolates!

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What an absolutely amazing evening was had by all. I just want to say a BIG THANK YOU to iCandy for inviting me to the event. It was wonderful to meet the brains behind the brand and to experience the passion of everyone involved.

MM.

 

PS – Apologies for the rubbish quality of some of the photos. The show was very quick-paced and the lighting changed frequently. Plus, to be fair, I need a new phone!

 

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What Eli Wore: Eli’s 1st Birthday!

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What Eli Wore >>>

Ralph Lauren Oxford Shirt, Ralph Lauren Shorts, Converse Kids Hi-Tops.

Where from? >>>

Ralph Lauren Oxford Shirt, £55, available at House of Fraser

Ralph Lauren Shorts, £45, available at House of Fraser

Converse First Hi-Tops, £22.99, available at Office Shoes

Mr Eli looked super smart on his 1st birthday last month. He generally wears clothing like his Daddy and his birthday was no exception. His beautiful Ralph Lauren Oxford Shirt features a button down collar and signature Ralph embroidered logo to the chest. We rolled his sleeves up, which made this shirt look even cooler (but also helped keep stains at bay whilst he was eating/rolling around). His shorts too are Ralph Lauren, with a flat front and red embroidered signature Ralph Lauren logo at the left knee. These shorts look really smart and are so far, very hardwearing! Eli finished his birthday outfit off with his trusty Converse Hi-Tops in a blast of vibrant red. His little shoes took quite a beating on his birthday – we’ve just ordered some new ones, this time with rubber soles, just like Mummy and Daddy’s real-life Con’s!

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MM.

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Mumsnet: This Is My Child | Mr Eli has Talipes and Benign Paroxysmal Torticollis.

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I have been looking, with interest, at some of the posts that have been published during the This Is My Child awareness campaign via Mumsnet. We live our life day-to-day as normal. Because THIS is our ‘normal’. Eli is our first born and we know no different. But I suppose, our story is different. I’ve not really highlighted Eli’s Talipes or (recently diagnosed) Benign Paroxysmal Torticollis on my blog before. I have mentioned in a few posts about his Talipes. But nothing in depth. So here it goes!

Everything stems back to when I was pregnant. I had a very tough first few weeks, after a bleed we were told that the pregnancy might not be viable at a 5 week early-pregnancy scan and told to return in 3 weeks time; where we saw the most amazing and incredibly tiny flickering – a heartbeat! PHEW!

We so looked forward to that 12 week scan. The sonographer was lovely, but seemed concerned. Eli was jumping ALL OVER, I thought she was just having difficulty measuring up dates because he wouldn’t keep still. She then turned the machines off and said she was sorry to tell us that our bundle of joy had a “nuchal fold measurement on the cusp of high”. The exact measurement was 3.5 mm. This was indeed the cusp before they offer you further investigation. We needed to know. We were informed that a high NT measurement could mean a multitude of conditions, including Down Syndrome. This was heartbreaking. This baby was so wanted – we needed to know what we were facing. We had ‘counselling’ and I had bloods taken. The nurse then called University College Hospital London and told us they had a referral for the the very next day. We were told we could have a more in-depth scan at the Fetal Medicine Unit; where we would also be offered the option of CVS – which would indeed confirm any anomalies, through a horrendously invasive procedure. After the lengthy scan with several specialists, we were advised that we could either go ahead with CVS there and then, or wait… It had been picked up that there was a lack of nasal bone; another marker for Down Syndrome. Our world shattered. HOW WOULD WE COPE?! We went ahead with the CVS there and then. It was like a whirlwind.

The procedure was horrible. Just horrible. I had soreness and tenderness for a few days after. Not to mention the constant worry and stress of the risk of miscarriage. It was a very very hard time for both of us, waiting for the results. 3 weeks passed and we received a letter confirming that everything was spot on with Eli. He didn’t have any of the common anomalies that CVS tests for.  We were over the moon to say the very least. PHEW!

But this was not the end of our hospital visits. To cut the (very!) long story short – we had a total of 9 scans. Because of the NT measurement, Eli’s heart, organs and growth was routinely monitored. He developed fantastically. At the 25 week scan, it was found our baby had a degree of Bilateral Talipes.  But it was “extremely mild”. PHEW! It was corrective. We were happy. In the grand scheme of things.

Fast forward to almost 42 weeks pregnant, I was just a HUGE pregnant ball; unable to move, pretty much. That little boy was so so squashed up inside my petite 5 ft nothing 1″ frame. I was eventually induced. Which, shock horror was just the WORST thing ever. (Incidentally, I would never recommend an induction. Just bloody wait till the baby wants to arrive!). After 30 hours of labour, Eli was pulled out of me in an emergency situation using Ventouse. He was out, safe, at long last. PHEW.

Or so we thought.

We both immediately looked at his feets. Yes, they turned in, but probably weren’t half as badly affected as we were imagining.

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Again, fast forward to 8 weeks old. We’d not been seen by a specialist. Not even had a referral. At Eli’s 8 week check the GP who was head of the surgery, told me that his feet would ‘correct themselves when he learns to walk’. I wasn’t happy with that. We’d been massaging, manipulating and exercising Eli’s feets since birth, but at about 8-10 weeks had hit that brick wall. They weren’t getting any better. With the encouragement from @BexandMic on Twitter, who’s beautiful son Hugo was also born with Talipes, I kicked off at the Health Visitor. I got a referral to see a Physio about his feet. At the very first appointment our lovely Physio, Jenny, pointed out that Eli’s head was tilted to the left. I couldn’t understand what she was referring to, he just couldn’t hold his head up yet… She explained it looked like he had something called Torticollis. Possibly from being so squashed up during pregnancy, possibly from the trauma of being pulled out so quickly. I was given exercises to do with his neck regularly, after a week, his head was straight! I still to this day can’t believe we didn’t notice it. Looking back at photos, his neck is completely to his shoulder on every single one. There was still tightness after a few sessions with the Physio and more manipulation on our part. We eventually saw our consultant, Mr Tuite at Broomfield Hospital on 31st October. Eli was almost 14 weeks old. Worryingly, most children with Talipes begin their treatment shortly after birth.

We were devastated when Mr Tuite said that Eli would in fact require plaster casts to begin the correction process. Mr Eli was pretty mobile at 14 weeks old! He was used to his bedtime routine and his bath. We knew the casts were for the best though. We had to do it. We were told Eli had really mild Talipes, again, so would require 2 weeks worth of casts…

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6 weeks later Eli was still in casts. It was incredibly tough.

Being the age Eli was, we got a lot of stares. You could just tell people must have thought he’d been dropped and had broken legs. When people asked what had happened, they didn’t understand. They made me feel like the story I was telling was a pack of lies. It was just a horrendous feeling. We did however have luck on our side, in the fact that it was Winter when Eli was in casts. It wasn’t hot, he would have been so much more uncomfortable if it was! He spent a lot of time in long socks and snow suits! In hindsight, I wish I’d been more confident with his casts. Embraced them more. Decorated them, even. The casts did not hinder Eli in any way, he was rolling over in them and they were SO heavy and awkward. He kicked his legs up and down and bashed the casts to bits! He was so brave – he didn’t sleep at night, but hey, he doesn’t now either!

The Torticollis would occur when Eli seemed to meet new milestones. It wasn’t constant. It was irregular. His neck tilted for around a week when he started rolling, sitting up and crawling. But also seemed to coincide with teething too. We continued to repeat the exercises and manipulations.

Mid-December 2012 and Eli went into Ponseti Boots and Bars 23 hours a day. He got an hour “free” where we gave him his bath and he had a kick about afterwards. This was a huge relief. We could get back to normality somewhat. We hadn’t even thought about the visual  impact the Boots and Bar contraption would have on other people. After our journey, we had just accepted what we had to go through.

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In the coming weeks, I had an array of comments and conversations about his B & B’s.

“They’re funky boots” “Thanks! They’re to straighten his feet” “ohh… I thought they were just fashion accessories! I’m so sorry. Didn’t realise your son was ill”. “He’s not ill?”

“Does he have broken legs?”

“Does he have broken hips?”

“Is that a contraption to stop him wriggling away from you?”

“Do they make him taller?” “WHAT?!”

 Etc. Etc. Etc.

We had a lot of nasty glances. A lot of nasty sniggers. I’m REALLY not thick-skinned at all. Like I say, I’d completely accepted that this was his treatment. It did not bother me. This was normal to us now – this was part of our every day lives! Until someone pointed his feet out, or made that eye contact, that’s when I’d think. Then it would upset me. But, I needed to get through that for him. It was in his very best interests. He wouldn’t be able to walk without it! Had we just been too blasé about the entire thing?!

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Eli wore his B & B’s for 23 hours a day, for 6 months. Most children wear them for 23 hours a day for just 3 months, then hours are dropped throughout the day until they eventually just wear them at night time. To our surprise, Eli went straight down to just nights at our next review. This was just insanely cool. It was just magical seeing him so free. His feet look PERFECT! We’re so so pleased. We’re also convinced though, that Eli struggles at night time because of his boots and bar. He’s free all day long, then come bedtime he’s confined. He can’t move with ease. It’s uncomfortable and heavy. He will sleep for 2-4 hours at a time. Then I will need to settle him. There has been nights where I have taken his bar or both his boots and bar off, and he’s slept soundly. I’m sacrificing my sleep so he can walk. Easy decision. I do worry it’s not good for him, the broken sleep. But what can I do?!

At 10 months, he started pulling himself up and cruising around his play pen. I can’t tell you how proud we both were. It was just so special; still is! SUPER PROUD PARENTS!

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Not long after Eli started standing up, there was an afternoon where Eli was particularly miserable. Anyone who knows Eli knows he is a jolly boy. Barely cries. He’s only ever grumpy in the night! He was super grizzly. I put it down to teething. Then he projectile vomited. His neck was tilted. He went floppy in my arms, the colour drained from usual his rosy cheeks, his eyes rolled back and he seemed to pass out. I was beside myself. Naturally. I rang my OH who calmed me down. I’ve never been so frightened, it was seriously scary. This had happened previously, but I wasn’t there. Another bout of sickness and drowsiness and I let Eli sleep. We then recalled another time when he projectile vomited (he was never a sicky baby so could recall these occasions clearly). Within in a few hours, his neck was back to its mid-line straight position. Without any manipulation. We worked out that they all coincided with his neck tilting. Could the Torticollis be causing this?

I took Eli to the doctors – who were, USELESS. He googled Torticollis and told me what Wikipedia says… He said he’d seen just one other case of this and to go back to the Physio if I was concerned. Hell yeah I was concerned. We didn’t know if it was underlining with something else. I went to Portugal for 4 days. Eli had another bout of the sickness and drowsiness with the Torticollis. Again, his neck had straightened up itself by the next morning. It was all definitely linked.

I went to the Physio again after my trip. She was lovely, she explained that the condition was Benign Paroxysmal Torticollis. This variation of Torticollis comes in waves, or ‘attacks’. The attacks can last anywhere from minutes, to hours, to days and is accompanied by vomiting, pallorataxia, agitation, infantile migraine, unsteadiness of gait upon learning to walk, general malaise and nystagmus. All sounded about right. The periods in which the child’s head is tilted and other symptoms appear can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days, with a frequency of anywhere from two per year to two per month. Looking back at the frequency of the attacks, we’ve found they seem to happen at the beginning of the month – every month, so far. It seems to surround teething, more than milestones now.

So now we know.

But what to do about it. Well, we’ve been told my several doctors and the physio (as well as Google) that Benign Paroxysmal Torticollis is something that Eli will grow out of, probably by school age.

His most recent attack was on 6th August, his 1st birthday. His neck didn’t straighten up quickly this time though, it’s taken a good 10 days this time.

The additional care that Eli requires surrounds his Talipes and his Benign Paroxysmal Torticollis. We don’t know when he’ll be out of his boots and bar, could be at his next appointment (28th August), could be when he’s 3 or 4 or 5. We also worry about relapse; there’s also cases where the feet have been over-corrected so they point outwards. We also do not know when he will have another attack of Benign Paroxysmal Torticollis, or the severity. I have to carry dozens of muslins with me, just incase he projectile vomits. I often worry it’s just going to come out of nowhere. I also worry about when he goes to nursery – are there people who are going to be able to look after him if he has an attack? Luckily, at the minute, I can work from home. But he will need to go into nursery sooner rather than later, for him to be able to socialise with children his age, more than anything else.

We currently do not receive any help, support or funding. I do know of people who have been granted Disability Living Allowance for their children with Talipes.

I’d absolutely LOVE to hear from others who have experiences with Talipes or Benign Paroxysmal Torticollis. The latter being quite rare, so not heard or seen anyone else who has had a child with BPT.

Would we have had it any other way? Ideally, I’d love to have Eli without all the discomfort and challenges he’s faced – of course I would. But my goodness me, he’s a brave boy. He’s SUCH a character. And frankly, it’s made me and my OH better people. We’re stronger. We understand.

Worry, worry worry – isn’t that what all parents do?

MM.

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BRAND IN FOCUS | Belle & Boo.

For those who know me, will indeed know that I have a penchant for all things old. I love things with character, a story. I’m a particular fan of 70’s interior, as can be spied throughout our family home. I wanted Eli’s bedroom to be no different (it is however still a work in progress, so I will follow up with a blog post when it’s all lovely and finished!). I came across the wonderful world of Belle & Boo completely by accident – but fell in love straight away. The illustrations are just beautiful, harping back to a by-gone time. All their products feature the whimsical drawings, everything they craft is of the highest quality (as is their lovely packaging!) and it’s just such a lovely, original and nostalgic brand.

Before Eli had even arrived I purchased the Pirate Party money tin for his nursery… but knew I’d be back for more!

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As soon as we moved house I wanted a few more  Belle & Boo pieces, so came up with the idea of using their greetings cards as pictures and promptly bought the simple white frames.

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But then of course, a fortnight after we moved into our new home, it was Eli’s birthday! I knew I’d seen some party decorations on the Belle & Boo website – and I just could not resist! I purchased some plates, napkins, a beautiful party garland, table cloth (which sadly does bear the stains of the incredible pulled pork buns and burnt beans that we had as our party food) and party bags.

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Everyone commented on how unusual and lovely the decorations were – oh, and how they matched our home perfectly too! We didn’t really have a a ‘theme’ for Eli’s party – we just wanted all of our close friends and family together to celebrate (plus we’d just moved house!), but the Belle & Boo decorations MADE the theme. I was so so pleased with how everything looked and I will certainly treasure all of the  Belle & Boo pieces from his party. In fact, I’m thinking about putting the party garland up in his bedroom, we only have bunting along the one wall, the addition of the garland would work really quite nicely.

MM.

 

Belle & Boo have not asked for this review or paid commission. I am solely passionate about this lovely brand and wanted to share my pieces with you.

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Mr Eli’s 1st Birthday!

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This weekend we celebrated Mr Eli’s first birthday with party at our (newly moved into!) home. All his friends came and the sun even made an appearance too! Here are some snaps from the day 🙂

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Dj Boy!

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Eli’s AMAZING cake! Made by Lady H Bakes, Essex.

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Eli wearing his amazing cake!

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I ADORE Belle & Boo, I used their party pieces as a kind of theme for the party.

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Ball pool fun!

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Eli and some of his buddies.

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A worn out birthday boy, ready for bed!

We had a wonderful day, with wonderful company and wonderful food. Thank you to everyone who came and celebrated Eli’s very first birthday with us!

MM.

xx

WHATELIWORE: Ralph Lauren Oxford Shirt, Ralph Lauren Shorts, Red Converse Hi-Top Trainers. Blog post coming soon. 

 

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Mr Eli turns ONE!

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This was us, a little after 9:43pm on Monday 6th August 2012. I cannot believe our beautiful baby boy is now ONE! This year has just flown by. Mr Eli has been so so brave throughout all the challenges he’s faced – he’s the happiest little boy, with the cheekiest grin!

To celebrate his birthday yesterday, the three us of took a trip to Colchester Zoo. It was just brilliant. We had the BEST day! Colchester Zoo is just 45 minutes away from where we live; and after a recent trip to a farm we knew animals BIG animals would go down a treat with the birthday boy! He loved seeing the elephants, zebra’s, rhino’s and of course, all of the different types of tortoises! Can’t lie, OH and I enjoyed it thoroughly too. We made lots of “woah” and “ahh” noises throughout the day.

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Just a perfect way to spend the day reminiscing over Eli’s first year on the planet and how this bundle of joy has grown into such a handsome chap.

Happy very FIRST birthday Mr Eli. You’re our absolute world and we love you more than anything.

xxx