Eric's Camera

Earlier in the year Alex and I decided to give Eric Alex's old digital camera.  We thought it would be really fun for him to be able to take his own photos of things, and a good skill to learn.  

Eric has absolutely loved it, and especially likes taking pictures of his toys, of our home and of people. 

I was initially worried he might break it but he is super gentle and careful with it, and always hooks the strap over his wrist.  

He asks to take it on days out as well as taking pictures at home.  

He keeps it in his bedroom and can get it out whenever he likes, which means lots of pictures out of the window and of normal, mundane, messy domestic life!

I've been so impressed with how good some of the pictures he takes are and it has been amazing to see the world from Eric's perspective.  

Lush Christmas 2014

I've started planning Christmas now and am getting really excited.  I probably shouldn't have shared this excitement with Eric quite so soon, as now every day when he wakes up he asks if it's Christmas yet.  Luckily Lush are excited about Christmas too and they launched their Christmas range on the 3rd of October (meaning I've had a little while now to try things out and give you some informed reviews!)

The Christmas range is inspired by three themes: Nordic Pop/German Techno, City of Gold and Storyteller, so expect lots of neon, gold and whimsical, fairytale inspired gifts (and of course lots and lots of Snow Fairy!) This year Lush have invented a self-preseving shower jelly meaning that (except for the shower gels) this year's Christmas products are all self-preserving (so no parabens or chemical preservatives).  This year's soap range is all petrochemical-free and four of the soaps are 100% palm oil free (the others are still made with Lush's palm-free soap base but palm oil is involved in the processing.)  Even better, all the cocoa butter and cocoa powder is Fair Trade! 

I am only going to review things I have actually tried, this isn't the full range, there are many, many more products!  So without further ado...

Yog Nog soap
Inspired by egg nog (but vegan!), Yog Nog soap is sooooo creamy and soft and moisturising.  It is dusted with cocoa powder and nutmeg and smells warm, creamy, sweet and spicy.  It reminds me of butterscotch.  Yog Nog contains moisturising, protein-rich soya yoghurt, so it's the perfect soap going into Autumn to really help dry, chapped, weather-worn hands.  This soap is 100% palm oil free.  It's what we have in the bathroom now and I'm loving it so much, I'm going to have to stock up when I run out.  I licked it and it tasted nice for about 2 seconds, but then soapy.  Just so you know.

Reindeer Rock soap
I adore this soap, it's sooooo pretty! It's a beautiful rich, deep red colour, perfect for Christmas, and decorated with reindeer (inspired by ancient Scandinavian cave carvings).  It is then dusted with raspberry sparkle dust and snowflake lustre.  All the glitter Lush use now is PET plastic-free, and is made either from minerals or seaweed.  Reindeer Rock shares the fragrance of The Comforter bubble bar, with bergamot, cassis, and cypress oil, but to me it's ever so slightly different...I'm not a fan of The Comforter but I love this.  I think it's more berry-ish and Christmassy.  The half-Swede in me loves that this contains lingonberry infusion as it's main ingredient (as we love lingonberry sauce with our Christmas dinner!)

Baked Alaska soap
Baked Alaska is the zestiest, freshest, citrussiest soap in existence with organic lemon myrtle and grapefruit oil.  It smells amazing (like Snow Globe!) It's soooooooo refreshing and brilliant for a morning shower when it's still dark outside and you have to get up for work and the school run.  It's designed to look like a giant snowball with lights shining from the inside, inspired by the amazing Slava's Snowshow, and when you cut into it the brightly coloured centre is revealed...wooo! 

Snowman Fun kit
This is such a brilliant idea.  Lush's Fun is a 4-in-1 product that is squishy and mouldable, like Playdoh.  You can make models with it, make bubbles in the bath by using it like a bubble bar, use it like a soap in the bath or shower and you can wash your hair with it.  10p from the sale of each £5 bar goes to the FunD, making safe spaces for children to play in Fukushima, Japan after the 2011 nuclear disaster there.  This particular bar of Fun is even more special as you get a large chunk of white Fun, a small chunk of orange Fun and a small chunk of black Fun, so you can make snowmen! It also smells scrummy, with fruity buchu, bergamot and Sicilian lemon oils  (like Carrot soap and bubble bar).

Butterbear is an absolute delight.  THE CUTEST BATH BOMB EVER! It is a very gentle, white, vanilla scented polar bear full of cocoa butter chunks (like Butterball) so ideal for children, those with sensitive skin, those with eczema, and...well... everybody because just look at him! And he only costs £1.95! Absolute bargain.

Holly Golightly
Eric calls this one 'Christmas Dinner' and asked "will I be able to fly?" when we had this bubble bar.  I have no idea why.  It is an absolutely ginormous bubble bar and costs £4.75, so it's great value for money (I got about 5 baths out of mine, though it's really designed for 2-3).  You break a bit off, crumble it up under the running bath taps and it creates mounds of soft, long-lasting bubbles (perfect for making Father Christmas bubble beards).  It smells sooooooo cosy and warm and festive.  If you like Hot Toddy, it's the same spicy cinnamon leaf, clove leaf and sweet orange oil fragrance.  I think it smells like cola too.  It is absolutely coated in ice blue lustre and silver glimmer lustre glitter and when you pick it up it does seem really sparkly, but that doesn't translate so much in the bath (fortunately!)

Dashing Santa
Dashing Santa is the bath bomb that Eric chose for his treat.  He looks like a flat, golden-footed Father Christmas carrying a gold present and running, inspired by the Liverpool Santa Dash race that Mo, one of Lush's founders, got accidentally caught up in whilst wearing red! Dashing Santa has faster fizzing ballistic mix feet so he zooms around the bath a little bit, making lovely creamy foam.  He smells cheerful, citrussy and uplifting with bergamot, orange flower and mandarin essential oil.  

Snow Angel
Snow Angel is such a pretty bath melt, a beautiful white, shimmery angel, dipped in gold melt with radiant gold lustre.  She smells of the marzipan from the Christmas cake, like Snowcake soap...really sweet, creamy, and slightly floral, with benzoin resinoid, rose absolute, gardenia extract and cassie absolute.  As this is a bath melt rather than a bath bomb or bubble bar it is full of cocoa butter and very moisturising.  The white half fizzes quickly and foams whilst the gold half melts slowly.  You just chuck the melt under the hot tap as the bath is running or plonk it in once you're in the bath.  Eric calls this one "Fairy wings jam hunter"!  

First Snow
First Snow is such a lovely idea...a dusting powder that is reminiscent of the first, shimmery, powdery snow of the year.  It contains snowflake lustre and Geopearl crystal glittering rainbow (what an awesome name for an ingredient!) making it lovely and sparkly, perfect for Christmas parties! You just dust it on to your skin and rub it in, or I like to use it after Celebrate body lotion as the sweet orange, cognac and lime scent of First Snow layers so well with Celebrate!

Celebrate Body Lotion 
Celebrate Body Lotion has returned but this year it is self-preserving which is exciting! It's a very rich, comforting, creamy lotion with an uplifting, citrussy scent that really does make me think of Christmas parties.  It contains lots of almond oil, Fair Trade organic cocoa butter and glycerine to moisturise, with Brazilian orange, lime and cognac oils, orange flower absolute and tincture of Benzoin for the scent. I feel like it's a teeny tiny bit sweeter, spicier and more gourmand than last year, smelling even more like the clementine at the bottom of your stocking whilst you can smell the Christmas pudding starting to cook in the kitchen downstairs! The citrus oils in Celebrate, whilst amazing smelling, aren't perfect for the sensitive, post-shaving skin on my legs, (I'll stick with my tried and trusted Sympathy for the Skin for my poor, dry leggies!) but this is beautiful on my arms and boobs!

Santa Baby Lip Tint
Santa Baby lip tint is a really moisturising, cola-flavoured lip colour containing such beautiful ingredients: Fair Trade shea butter, extract of cinnamon stick and mandarin, organic rose hip oil, extract of cherries and dates, safflower oil, Cupuacu butter, Persian lime oil...the (quantitive, in English as well as latin) list goes on! I was surprised by how amazingly pigmented and long-lasting this lip tint is, much more like a lipstick than a tinted lip balm, and I like to just smudge it on with my finger.  

So White shower gel
So White is back this year as a shower gel as well as a bath bomb, and it is soooooo fresh, crisp and apple-y.  I really like this shower gel and have been reaching for it most mornings.  I'm not really a fan of fruity smells, I usually find them too sweet, synthetic and cloying but this is really just like a real, juicy apple...very refreshing and not too sweet.  It contains snowflake lustre so it's all shimmery, as well as rose water and rose absolute which leave your skin really soft. 

Hot Toddy shower gel
Another new shower gel this year is Hot Toddy, and I think I was the most excited about this product out of all of them! It's a deep red shower gel flecked with gold glimmer lustre and smells so warm, cosy and Christmassy.  It contains clove leaf, patchouli, lime, cinnamon leaf and sweet orange oils alongside benzoin resinoid, fresh organic lemon juice and ginger infusion so it's really spicy and sweet.  It also contains Fair Trade aloe vera gel so it's really soothing for the skin.  I've really enjoyed using this on colder mornings, after a run or to get me in the festive mood.  It is also perfect for pairing up with Holly Golightly or Cinders in the bath! 

Snowman Jelly
I think Eric's favourite product this year is definitely the Snowman Jelly.  It is a super-cute, seaweed based jelly that lathers up in the bath or shower, shaped like a snowman! It has the same fruity buchu, bergamot and Sicilian lemon oil scent as the Snowman Fun kit (so they're great to use together) which is great for boosting your mood in the cold, dark winter.  Eric thinks it's absolutely hilarious as it is so wobbly and slippery in the bath that he can't hold onto it...He laughs his head off!

Have you tried any of the new Christmas products? What's on your wish list? Please share in the comments!

Lush Halloween 2014

Yesterday marked the instore launch of Lush's Halloween and Christmas range so I wanted to review some of the exciting limited edition products! I'm only going to write about the Halloween products today as Halloween (it irks me to write Halloween in the new-fangled modern way, rather than Hallowe'en!) will be here sooner, but look out for my post about the Christmas range next week....

Wizard is a purple, shimmery bubble bar that you crumble under the running taps of the bath to create mountains of bubbles.  It smells like Jingle Spells bath ballistic (sorely missed!), an absolutely amazing mix of ylang ylang, tangerine, fennel, gardenia and juniperberry essential oils.  It's very fresh, autumnal and great for clearing your head.  It also contains popping candy and silver glimmer lustre, violet sheen sparkle lustre and snowflake lustre which go all swirly in the bath so it's really fun! It costs £3.25, and my preference with the bubble bars is to break them in half and get two baths out of them. 

Sparkly Pumpkin Bubble Bar
Sparkly Pumpkin
Sparkly Pumpkin is a beauteous bubble bar covered in gold glimmer lustre.  It contains juniperberry, lime and grapefruit essential oils so it's great for uplifting your mood.  It smells a fresher, more citrussy version of spiced pumpkin pie, and it really reminds me of Hallowe'en.  It's one of my favourites! It is priced at £3.50.

Lord of Misrule Bath Ballistic
Lord of Misrule
Ahhhh Lord of Misrule, how I missed thee.  A returning product, this is a bath ballistic, which you drop in the pre-run bath and relax amongst the fizzing colour and scent.  I think this might be my favourite bath ballistic ever.  It's definitely top three.  The Lord of Misrule was a person appointed in late Mediaeval/early Tudor times to manage the court's Christmas festivities including the Feast of Fools, a period which usually included lots of mischief and drunken revelry! The ballistic is warming, sweet and spicy, with black pepper oil, patchouli oil and Fair Trade vanilla absolute.  The green Christmas-cracker-crown exterior contains a wine-coloured centre and popping candy.  I'm going to buy about a hundred.  I wish they made a perfume of this...hint, hint.  Although Icon perfume smells similar on my lovely man.  This one costs £3.50.

I love the name of this bath ballistic and it's a super exciting new shape! It has popping candy to make it crackle, and faster fizzing ballistic mix at either end, so it will spin around in circles in the bath shooting out different colours like a firework.  Rose Jam fans will love the sweet rose, geranium and Sicilian lemon smell.  It is £3.50.  

Northern Lights, left, and Sparkler, right
Northern Lights
Another fizzing firework of a bath bomb, Northern Lights is beeeeautiful purple coloured ballistic dissolving into blue and neon green, inspired by the Aurora Borealis.  It's also sprinkled with little silver stars, delightful! It shares it's relaxing floral jasmine and ylang ylang scent with Christmas Eve bubble bar so is a great one for after a stressful day.   It costs £3.50.  I'm noticing a theme here with the pricing!

Fairy Ring
If you've read Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree stories you'll know that a fairy ring is a circle of toadstools in the grass in the woods, inside which fairies dance, at the gateway between our world and theirs.  Lush used this as their inspiration for this soap which is the CUTEST SOAP EVER! It looks like a little toadstool house.  Adorable.  It has an earthy, calming, floral fragrance with jasmine, ylang ylang and vetiver alongside antibacterial, circulation-boosting, nutrient-rich shitake mushrooms.  It's a very gentle soap and reminds me of the smell of Alkmaar (if you remember that one!)  It costs £4.10 for a minimum 100g, but bear in mind the soaps are cut by hand and it can be really tricky to get it bang on 100g!

Wizard's Hat gift
There is also a Halloween gift this year...aren't we spoilt?! It contains Wizard, Sparkler and Star Light Star Bright bath melt - which is a zesty lime, lavender and ginger Fair Trade organic cocoa and shea butter melt covered in silver lustre (it's here for Christmas...) You can also wear the cone as a hat! It is priced at £13.25.  Magic...

Have you tried any of the new products? Which ones do you like the sound of? Let me know in the comments!

Eric's First Week At School

The First Day (written 8th September 2014)

I've been so excited about Eric starting school, and his own excitement has increased mine even more...we've had to do a countdown of how many nights are left before school, yesterday he kept asking if he could go to bed from lunchtime at about 12pm (no exaggeration) so he could wake up and go to school, and this morning when he woke up he came running into the bathroom whilst I was in the shower and banged on the shower cubicle with both fists like a maniac shouting "IS IT SCHOOL DAY?!" It's been like waiting for Christmas.  So I thought we'd be absolutely fine.  I was wrong! We happily chatted about the upcoming day over brekkie (although he was too excited to eat lots).  Then Eric cheerfully got dressed in his new school uniform which he loves.

But then the cracks started to show.  I was desperate to get a really lovely picture of him in his school uniform...To start with Eric humoured me, and wanted to take some pictures of me on his camera too, but I think my emotions started to get the better of me and I got really stressy trying to get him in exactly the right place and to smile (the best way to get children to smile is not to repeatedly ask them to smile until they get upset, I know this! The best way is to say 'bottoms') and then we both got upset and I felt awful.  Perversely the best pictures are the first ones when he was genuinely happy (of course! I hate forced photos).  What was I thinking?! I think it was just my emotions about the day.  I apologised for upsetting him.

Then, leaving exactly on time (very rare for me) we scooted to school, and Eric seemed a tiny bit apprehensive, although still excited.  He kept saying his knee hurt and he was tired so I pulled him along a bit, and he didn't stop and talk to friends as much as usual.  When we arrived we put his scooter in the bike park and waited in a queue with all the other parents and children outside the classroom.  He was excited but more cuddly than usual.  He held my hand all the while, which is usually reserved only for walking by the road, and when I kissed him on the head he kissed me on the tummy, then we had a hug.  I felt tearful but kept excitedly talking to him and framing it positively.

We went into the cloakroom and found his peg to hang up all his things then went into the classroom and said hello to his teacher, who already knew his name.  He was immediately confident and ran to the investigation area and started playing.  He gets a bit excitable and distracted so he flitted round the classroom to all the different areas, playing with lots of things.  He confidently introduced himself to new children and got stuck in playing with them straight away.  The classroom was way hotter and more crowded and chaotic than I expected.  I thought there would be 22 children in the class as 44 places were offered, but I think they've done it differently and made split year classes, as there were probably about 28 children plus their parents, and it felt like 100.  The time came for the parents and carers to leave and I got a cursory goodbye and a quick hug before he ran off to do something else! I walked home and the house felt empty, with too many redundant toys.  I felt so emotional I had to have a cry on the phone to my boyfriend, who's been through this before with his daughter.

I was really excited to pick Eric up at 12pm (he's just doing half days for the first two weeks), and I thought he'd have had a brilliant day, so I was quite surprised when he came out of the classroom crying.  It transpired that he couldn't find his drink bottle.  It was in his school bag, I hadn't realised there was a special box to put the drinks in in the morning.  His teacher told me he had also cried during the day as he hadn't been chosen first to pick a song.  Then he lay down on the ground outside the classroom and wanted to go to sleep.  I felt instant worry and guilt that he wasn't enjoying it, "maybe he is too young", "maybe I should homeschool", etc.  I felt awful and sad for him.  We went to the playground after school to play with his old preschool friends and I think that little bit of familiarity helped cheer him up.  Talking to the other parents reminded me that although he went to the preschool attached to the school, and has been to his classroom and met his teacher lots of times, the set up is different, the routine is different, there are new children not just old friends and 6 weeks of summer holidays without preschool is a long time.  I understand him feeling overwhelmed.  I sat with him and watched films and talked to him all afternoon.  He was super tired and went to bed and to sleep an hour earlier than usual

The rest of the week (written 16th September 2014)

The second day of school started better.  In the morning we were ready nice and early again and Eric went outside to play with the children from next door and next door but one, then we all walked to school together, which he loved and made him happy.  It seemed to give him more confidence for the day.

He was a bit quiet going into his classroom again on the second day, but once inside he busied himself straight away playing.  He was fine when I left, the same nonchalant goodbye, and he was happier than the first day when I picked him up.  Every morning we now walk to school with the neighbours and every day since the first he comes out from school increasingly happier and more confident.  He's his usual self again.  If I ask " How was school?" he'll say "I've forgotten" or "I don't know", but he'll tell me little snippets of information if I ask more specific questions, like "who did you sit next to today?" or "did you have circle time today?", and he's starting to volunteer information without being asked.  He especially loved PE and really excitedly explained the game they played to me.

Every day after school we go to the playground for an hour.  We check his book bag when we get home and he now has a poetry book and a reading book to look at every day, which I then sign off in his reading record.  He was really excited to start having school dinners this week and to my immense surprise he has tried everything so far.  He goes to sleep an hour earlier now at 7:10pm  and is sleeping really well.  There have been some blips... a late morning when he didn't want to put on his school uniform, school shoes not coming back from Daddy's house, etc., but overall he's settling in so well and seems really happy.  I couldn't be prouder (or more relieved, phew!)

Review: Feather & Black Chevron Pouffe

Since becoming a single parent I have been sorting and organising and changing a few things round the house, to make it feel less like the home I shared with Alex and more like 'mine'.  I have been sanding, painting, rearranging, slowly packing away Alex's things for him to pick up.  It's in equal parts sad and emotionally helpful.  I've also bought a few new things: a new bed and mattress for Eric, a new mattress for me (to put on my old pine bed that has been in the garage for far too long), cushions, storage.  And with somewhat perfect timing Feather & Black super-kindly sent me their chevron pouffe in ivory and black to review.

The pouffe is available in ivory with red, black, charcoal, blue, green, taupe and orange, so it would fit in with most colour schemes.  It costs £90 and is available to buy online.  They are 40cm x 40cm x 40cm so they can fit smaller spaces (like my tiny lounge!) 

I love the chevron print, I think it's really fun and cool whilst still fitting in surprisingly well with my quite beachy, relaxed, country style.  The footstool is made from chunky cotton knit fabric with bean bag filling, which is sooooo cosy and comfy, and means you can bash it around to get it into the optimum comfy shape for your feet or bottom! I am really looking forward to putting my feet up on it after playing in the snow in the winter with a cup of tea.  

It seems to be made to an excellent standard and I am genuinely impressed with it.  All our bedding is Feather & Black too, and it is such good quality: crisp, high thread count cotton, it washes really well and has nice extra little touches like good buttons! So I would highly recommend the brand.

Eric adores the pouffe and likes to sit on it to watch films or play board games at the coffee table.  It frequently goes missing and I will uncover it later in his bedroom where he has dragged it all the way upstairs to read on.  I think it might end up living in Eric's bedroom! 

Note: I was sent the pouffe to review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Summer Holidays and Starting School

Unbelievably the summer holidays are nearly over.  The first week dragged and it was difficult to get used to looking after and entertaining my bright spark 24/7, but since then the weeks have flown by, and Eric will be starting school in just two weeks.  

We've done some lovely things during the summer: we've been to the beach, to the woods, to Bookbarn, for picnics, to VegFest, walking in the Quantocks, to the cinema to watch How To Train Your Dragon, to Hestercombe, to a fun fair, played Badminton at the local courts, been for a bike ride on Eric's new bike, to a steam rally where he had his face painted for the first time, it was Eric's birthday and he had a Peter Pan themed birthday party.


But there have also been many, MANY 'normal' days of just being at home, doing normal things like housework, playing and watching films, which has felt disappointing. There are some things from my Summer Bucket List that we haven't completed: going to London, going on the steam train to the beach, paddling in the stream, having a bonfire and going camping.  I'm going to make sure we camp out in the garden next week and if the weather's warm again we'll be in that stream! I'm trying to remind myself that it's ok it hasn't gone exactly like I imagined, things were bound to be different as we're getting used to being a single parent family, and I'm trying to remember that life doesn't end when Eric starts school...we'll still have time to do fun things together! 

Eric's really excited and looking forward to going to 'big school', but it's a bittersweet feeling for me.  I'm mostly really excited for him, he's such a sociable little soul and he loves to play, I think he'll relish the learning opportunities at school as he's clever and inquisitive and needs a lot of interaction.  He loves to plan things and know what's happening in the day so I think the structure of the school day will work well for him.  I don't think he'll miss me too much as we have quite a strong bond and I think he's secure and confident due to that attachment.  He's had lots of sleepovers lately without me: at his Daddy's, his friend's and my Mum and Dad's  house, and he has been fine and loved it.  But I know I will miss him.  Change is hard.  

I will be working more from October which I'm really happy about, and after the intensity of parenting during the summer holidays I think it will be nice to have some time to do housework and some 'me time' again whilst he is at school, so I can recharge my batteries and be able to give my all at home and work.   

A few days ago we bought Eric's new school uniform, which I was so looking forward to, but was in fact very stressful as town was so busy and everything had run out! Eric excitedly chose a pencil case and pencils, and some Usbourne Wipe Clean Alphabet and First Numbers books, which we've been looking at together.  I've been ironing and sticking his name tags onto everything.

It's going to be a happy but emotional moment seeing him in his new uniform the morning of his first day of school, and hearing about his first day.

Do you have children starting school for the first time? Let me know how you feel about it in the comments!