Saturday, 28 July 2018

Family Memories with Cheerz (plus a discount code!)

It was my birthday last week, birthdays and anniversary's always make me a bit nostalgic, thinking back to childhood parties and memorable presents. Its funny how memories work, I have vivid memories of my 4th birthday but after that I feel like my memories are based on photos I have seen of cakes and tearing through gift wrap. Photos are such a big part of childhood memories, I don't have many photos of my mum and its something I really wish I had more of. I try to take lots of photos of us as a family, and its part of the reason I love Instagram so much - its all about making and keeping hold of those precious memories.

I was recently contacted by Cheerz to ask if I'd like to try one of their photobooks. I love the idea of photobooks, I have made them before as gifts, but found the whole process of designing and laying them out to be tedious. So I was a bit apprehensive at first, but thought I would give them a go. I used to love going through the family photo box as a kid and Zoe loves sitting with me and looking through her baby albums. So as a bit of a birthday treat for myself I thought I would make up a book of our wedding (which was in September 2017). I have some printed ones for frames, but it actually so lovely to have a book we can all look through and remember that magical day.

I also got a few little photobooth style prints and some heart shaped magnets, they are so cute and would actually make lovely wedding favours or thank yous.

I absolutely love the look and feel of the book, you have complete control over the colour and design of the front cover, with an option for wording on the spine too, which will look so lovely on a bookshelf. The design tool is really intuitive to use and get the photos sitting nicely together. I still found it a bit of a chore to pull together but that is mostly as my own personal system for filing photos on my Mac is so bad.

There was an option to auto fill the book, which I used and then tweaked as and when I wanted, it really was so much easier than other photobook places I've used, and the designs are really modern and sleek.

I used the laptop to create mine, but they also have a really great mobile app, which can integrate with instagram too!

Cheerz have also offered readers of my blog a 20% discount on their site with the code CUPCAKE20 until the 27th August (including gift cards).

What do you do with your photos? Please tell me I am not the only one who is crap at storing them? I have about 30,000 photos on my macbook in desperate need of sorting and filling.

I received the photo book as a gift in exchange for this post, all thoughts and views are my own


Monday, 16 July 2018

Making the Most of our Weekend - Lightwater Valley

Since going back to full time hours at work back in March 2018, I have really tried to make the most of our weekends as a family. So, with this in mind I thought I would start a new feature all about how we make time for ourselves as a family.

It is so easy to get caught up in the rat race of full time work then spend the weekend running errands and cleaning, forgetting to fit in the fun. I'm not going to lie and say everyone weekend is a high octane thrill ride, sometimes its just a quick trip to the leisure center swimming pool and feeding the ducks on the way home, but every moment, no matter how small, that we spend together as a family - this is how memories are made.

Having said that, this first edition of MTMOOW (making the most of our weekend) is pretty high octane, lets start this with a bang!

We decided to take a trip to Lightwater Valley - a theme park in Ripon, Yorkshire.

I haven't been to Lightwater Valley since a year 8 school trip! We did a quick search of similar places within a few hours drive, and it seemed the most affordable. I was a bit worried there wouldn't be many rides Zoe could do, but for kids over 1 meter tall there is LOADS. Although, most they have to be accompanied by an adult, which I wasn't super thrilled about. Although in all honesty I really did enjoy some of them.

I actually think I might be raising a little thrill seeker! She snubbed the 'baby' rides for the more exciting rollercoasters and the wonderfully names 'Trauma Tower'. She rode the Ladybird rollercoaster 8 times and cried when we had to leave as she wanted to have one more turn.

She even asked if she could try the Ultimate! Sadly she wasn't tall enough. We found the height charts super helpful for showing her why she couldn't ride, with the green/amber/red indicators she cottoned on pretty quick which she could ride.

The only downside to the day was the food, if we were to go again I would 100% pack a picnic. The food was expensive and all burger, hotdogs, chips and sweets - not a vegetable in sight. Also from an environmental point of view there was so much plastic, I would have liked to have seen a water fountain or free tap water on offer. Heck, I would have even paid to refill my bottle rather than having to buy multiples.

I know these places make their money on the concessions, but I was really disappointed by the selection on offer.

All in all a very successful trip, Zoe is dying to go back to the 'fun fair' as she calls it. Although at £55 for the three of us, we won't be able to do it that often.

Along with this new blog feature I will be starting the #makingthemostofourweekend #mtmoow hashtags and sharing some of my faves in subsequent posts or on my IG stories. Lets share how we make time as families, and share ideas for awesome activities over the summer!


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Conquering the Curls. - Our curly hair care routine.

One of my most asked questions on Instagram is how I deal with Zoe's curls. I do not have curly hair so its been a bit of a learning curve for me too, but I thought I would write up a little 'what we do' post. I am no expert, we have just experimented and come up with what works for us right now. I am completely open to tips and tricks, or product suggestions that you love.

Zoe had quite straight hair up until her first birthday when it started to curl, it was still quite fine but over the past 2 years it has thickened and grown curlier and curlier. It is almost to her bottom when wet, but as it dries it bounces up into wonderful ringlets.

We have tried all sorts from the Curly Girl Method, to Low-poo/No-poo, serums, oils, leave in conditioners etc... Some worked well, some did not, but we have learned and added to the routine as we went. We stumbled across a brand called Curly Ellie 6 months ago and fell in love. The brand was developed by a Mum of a curly haired child who was fed up of the pain of combing her curls so developed her own range of products. The products are gluten free, SLS free, SLES free, dairy free, peanut free, wheat free, silicone free, paraben free and we are free of all mineral oils. ANother thing I like about the products is they are mostly coconut free (the shampoo has some ingredients derived from coconut oil), so many products aimed at curly hair are coconut based and Zoe has a coconut allergy so I am wary.

So without further ado, let me talk you through our routine...

This is Zoe's hair pre-wash. We tend to only wash Zoe's hair once a week (unless needed, she's three so something comes home with sand/paint/beans etc... in her hair). We find washing less actually really helps combat dryness and frizz. If we want to neaten up her curls midweek we tend to just spray with water and apply some leave in conditioner and allow to dry naturally again.

We start with a thorough shampoo, we do love the Curlie Ellie Shampoo as it has no nasties and smells amazing, but it is pricey so we also have some silicone free Superdrug stuff we love too.

Her pony friend is getting in on the action too, luckily Zoe is really good with water and doesn't mind getting it in her eyes etc... But having a toy in their that she gets to wash helps her with sitting still through this process.

Up next is conditioner, I apply a generous amount, especially around the ends and knotty bits, then grab a comb. We have tried a plethora of combs over the years but have settled on these wooden beard combs! They are cheap (ebay) and wooden so can withstand a lot, I cannot tell you the number of plastic combs we have broken trying to comb out knots. One important point to make is that we only ever brush Zoe's hair when wet, with plenty of product, brushing when dry is a big no no with curls - you'll end up with a HUGE frizzy helmet of hair rather than bouncy ringlets.

My method for combing is simple, lots of conditioner and tackling it section by section. You lift up a small section, hold it tightly below the root and comb downwards, its important to hold it so that when you comb you don't pull at the root, your hand takes the brunt of the pulling meaning little to no pain for Zoe. I hope I have explained that well, if not I can post a little video - let me know.

An additional occasional step (we don't do this every time) is a hair mask, if its feeling super dry or neglected, or we have a fancy event coming up I might add this in to give it that little bit extra. Its just a case of slathering it on, leaving it for 10-15 minutes then rinsing. I've also used some Lush products like H'suan Wen Hua, which is a product I use on my own hair.

Once you are all rinsed and done splashing about, its time for the post bath products. I know this seems like a lot, especially for a child, but its only once a week and its honestly worth it for me.

I use the Curly Ellie detangling spray and leave in conditioner. The leave in conditioner is the wonder product for me, if you buy any of the Curly Ellie range this is the one - the superstar. Once out of the bath I use an old cotton t shirt to squeeze excess moisture from Zoe's hair (rubbing curls with a towel is another no no, frizz central), and then spray with the detangler - combing it through to ensure all knots are gone. Then I rub a small amount of leave in conditioner in my hands and run it through her hair, focusing on the ends first then the front (so less product goes on the front and more at the back).

I run my fingers through as I do this to separate the curls a little and style her parting to the side, as when its central it tend to fall into her eyes, so a side part is easily managed with a clip.

I always make sure she has some toys or her tablet for this bit as asking a 3 year old to sit still while you comb and style is a big ask. She does love having her little pamper sessions though, and the detangling spray means we rarely get any tears or upset with brushing.

I try to let her hair dry naturally and completely before bed, although we are having some issues with her waking up with frizz, we are planning to try a silk pillow next to see if it helps combat this. With the hot weather though I think its unavoidable sometimes. I quick spray with some water and a bit more leave in conditioner in the morning and she is good to go though.

I hope this has been helpful, and please do share your own curly tips or tricks!

I purchased all of the products myself, this is not a paid review in any way

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