3 December 2018

The day I made my own perfume

So, I've made my own perfume. For ages I've wanted to do something different, learn something new, and do something just on my own without the kids, so when Buyagift invited me to review a perfume-making workshop with The Perfume Studio, I jumped at the chance. And I had such a fabulous time! The Perfume Studio has also kindly gifted a perfume-making kit for my readers, so you too could try your hand at this in the comfort of your own home.

me drinking cava

perfume studio products

the perfume studio gift set

I was invited to experience the Platinum Experience - designing my own perfume and topping it off with an afternoon tea at Hilton London Kensington. A glass of bubbly in my hand I listened to an explanation of how we would design our own perfumes. 

A perfume stylist explained us all about base notes, middle notes and top notes (the different levels of the scent). It was so fascinating to hear what famous fragrances contain similar types ingredients, and what different types of scents are meant to tell you about their wearer.  

The perfume you make is made from specially pre-prepared perfume blends. There were 21 perfume blends, created by a Master Perfumer, which we could choose and mix from. The idea was that each of the blends was a perfume in itself already, so you would choose a few, typically one base, one middle and one top note, to create your own bespoke favourite blend. And believe me - that was difficult enough! Sometimes you might really like one scent, and love another, and then combine them to find it was just plain odd or unpleasant together.

perfume bottles

trying perfume

So we sniffed and pondered and set aside some scents and selected others, and combined them with each other and pondered a bit more, and every once in a while smelled coffee beans to "re-set" our nose. We would wave the perfumed paper strips in front of our noses with a variety of combinations and try select the best mixture. 

As it's winter now, I decided to go for something heavier, and I purposefully wanted to have something a bit different from the floral scents I usually go for. So out went the light and girly florals, and in went spice and edible fragrances. I chose gourmand and balsamic as base notes, spicy as the middle note, and put a touch of floral as a top note. In the end it worked quite well. I am not sure if it has become my favourite ever fragrance, but I'll definitely get use out of it. And in fact, this has now ignited a want in me to design some other types of perfumes for myself - I'd definitely love to try my hand at creating a lighter perfume with rose and citrus!

After the experience we all went to the restaurant at Hilton to enjoy an afternoon tea and talk about our creations. It was so interesting to smell all different kinds of scents and people did so well! I hadn't had lunch before coming, so I devoured my afternoon tea sandwiches and cakes, of which there were so many I actually left feeling rather full. Nice touch, finishing the perfume-making experience with some tea and cakes and having a good old chin-wag about it all. The cakes were delicious and there was such a good selection from scones to detailed patisserie, there was something for all kinds of tastes, and a couple of savoury morsels too. 

afternoon tea cakes

layered chocolate cake

So yes, this experience was a world apart from my childhood memories of brewing rose petals with water and I got to create something special for myself. While it feels like a more of a girly thing to do, it would be suitable for men as well, as there were plenty of more masculine scents to choose from if that floats your boat. Loved it, and I would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in beauty and perfumes! 

What kind of a perfume would you love?

You might also like: A few lovely Christmas gift ideas for mums

The Perfume Studio has also kindly gifted a Design Your Own Perfume Gift Set (£49) as a giveaway - perfect for a Christmas gift! The giveaway will complete and will be drawn on Christmas Eve, posted in the New Year. Enter below (UK entries, over 18 only). 

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15 November 2018

Checking out the new Lenovo Smart Display device

This Halloween I attended a workshop with Lenovo to check out their newest gadget - the Lenovo Smart Display with Google Assistant. The lovely Kimberly Wyatt was there to demonstrate how she uses the gadget for aiding her kitchen exploits and a few fun Halloweeny recipes to make with kids. I got hands on with the device at the event and it was quite fun to try it, so here are some of my thoughts. 

Please note, this post is sponsored by Lenovo. 

lenovo smart display with weather

kimberly wyatt with lenovo smart display

halloween witches hats

I am finding I am increasingly using hands-free options on my smart devices. When you live with kids, your hands are always full so any little helps! I check the weather, set reminders and ask those pertinent questions like how do you spell "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" using voice control. A tiny bit of time is saved and I am less frazzled and more streamlined. 

With Lenovo Smart Display I could imagine using it for several more things. Following recipes and hair tutorials on YouTube would be so handy, making it easy to be hands-on and stick to the task. Not to mention having it on to play yoga tutorials while contorting on the floor. I reckon visually checking a route to the birthday party or the latest addition to our household calendar would be pretty handy too. I've already cracked my silly expensive smart phone by faffing with it non-stop doing the above, so just saying "Hey Google" to get hints and tips would be helpful, and possibly cheaper in the long run.

kimberly wyatt at lenovo smart display event

lenovo smart display with video

cooking demonstration with lenovo smart display and kimberly

me and kimberly wyatt

While I am pretty cool with technology, I also liked that privacy was taken seriously. A while back I went to a work presentation by people much techier and smarter than me and we discussed the anecdotal evidence of online marketing picking up cues from off-line conversations, as well as the technology that does make this possible... Well. Fox Mulder I am not, but having a hard blocks in the form of a mic mute button and a physical camera cover is pretty reassuring should I ever feel the need for it. 

A more in-depth review of the Lenovo Smart Display would be great to do, but if you are interested in it now, make sure you take advantage of the Lenovo Smart Display Black Friday deals running on Lenovo.com from Friday 16th November until Monday 3rd December, as well at major retailers. During this time, the 8 inch device will sell at £129.99 (RRP £179.99) and the 10 inch will sell at £199.99 (RRP £229.99).

a halloween sausage made to look like a mummy

And as for Halloween recipes we made with Kimberly... I made the very easy Halloween sausages for my little big one the next day and they were a great success. As were the skeleton cookies lovingly decorated by me!

31 October 2018

What happened in our lives in October 2018

Every month I write these posts, and every months I have to try rack my brain into what we have actually done. It is so difficult to remember at first, but there always ends up being quite a lot. Now that I have kids I quite often stop to think what did I actually do with my time before having the little buggers. What did I actually do? Lie in bed all morning probably! 

Anyway, as always, another busy month in a family of four.

family in front of cutty sark

family in front of cutty sark

I have loved:
  • Seeing a new place in London - we visited Cutty Sark, the historical ship in Greenwich, and loved it. 
  • Seeing how much my older daughter loves her new experiences - a dance/theatre workshop, swimming school and biking.
  • Seeing how my younger daughter is so quick to grow and develop. We are looking to wean her soon, as she is now 5 months...
  • Jamie Oliver's 5 Ingredients cookbook. I don't love cooking, but I do love these recipes as they are uncomplicated and delicious, with minimal prepping. 
  • Baking Scandinavian buns and a roulade. Both were excellent. 
  • Starting to think Christmas. OK, Halloween parties and prep have been fun, and I have loved them too, but this year I want to go full out for Christmas.
  • Trying to find myself a new computer on Currys

family in front of cutty sark

Aili has loved:
  • Getting a big girl bike, with NO stabilisers!
  • Attending a Lion King theatre/dance workshop, doing the show and henceforth singing the Lion King songs every day. From morning to evening. 
  • Baby Shark song. 'Nuff said. 
  • Her swim school and getting comfortable in water. 
  • Going to Finnish Saturday school, and starting to really learn Finnish much better now.
  • Going to a Halloween party and playing with her second cousins. 
  • Planning her with costume for Halloween. I am planning on dressing her baby sister as the witches little cat...
  • Writing, and more writing. We have lots of great little notes from her, little stories and so on. 
  • Her little sister. She comes in our room early (too early) every morning to make a general racket with loud songs and reading of books, and of course telling her sister how cute she is. 

family on the deck of cutty sark

family on the deck of cutty sark

Aija has loved:
  • Her big sister. Her face just lights up when she sees her big sister. And she finds her big sisters PJ Masks dance hilarious. 
  • Gnawing at everything with her new bottom tooth.
  • Learning to crawl. Finally, near the end of the month, she has learned to crawl and now shuffles quite competently albeit slowly anywhere she wants. Usually towards some sort of a computer lead or mummy's hand bags to gnaw. 
  • Learning to sit. She loves moving around and plonking on her butt for a rest.
  • Looking at you with a perplexed look on her face, mouth open whenever you speak to her.  

Hubby has loved:  
  • Seeing the Lion King show.
  • Teaching our girl how to ride a bike. 
  • Seeing our baby girl learn so many new things all of a sudden. 
  • Visiting Greenwich, Cutty Sark and the Byron Burgers afterwards.
  • Having a parent-teacher meeting, and hearing how our little one is doing very well.  
  • When we all leave the house so he can concentrate on work ha ha. 

family on the deck of cutty sark

family on the deck of cutty sark

So that's been it. The pictures were from our trip to Cutty Sark. Other than that we have just been busy living the life of a family with young kids. There is always so much things happening, school visits to do, kiddy activities, and just general tidying there is not a moment that gets boring. 

How was your October?

You might also like: What happened in our lives in September 2018

22 October 2018

What the Cutty Sark is really like with kids

I've long loved Greenwich - it is one of those destinations I always recommend to London visitors. This time we we're invited by Royal Museums Greenwich to visit Cutty Sark, the big historic sailing ship right on the riverfront in Greenwich. It is one of those sights you can't miss when you are wandering about the area, and a gorgeous sight at that. I've long wanted to see the ship myself too so was glad to take my family along to review the Cutty Sark experience - this is what we thought of Cutty Sark!  

Please note, this post is in collaboration with Royal Museums Greenwich.

cutty sark in london

family picture

touching the hull

under the big ship cutty sark

touching cutty sark

Cutty Sark is a historic sailing ship built in 1869 - it was one of the fastest at the time, reaching speeds of about 20 miles an hour. It was used as a cargo ship for a while, first for tea from China, then for wool from Australia, until steam boats took over. Then, after 3 decades of use as a training ship, it was finally retired on a dry dock in Greenwich in 1950s. 

I loved that there was so much to learn about ship building and you could see it all with your own eyes. Some of the things we learned were that the skeleton of the ship was made out of steel. Even if it was more expensive than wood, it's less bulky, so you could fit more cargo in. And they did - some of the loads were more than £1m in today's money! You could even touch the copper hull when walking underneath the ship. I actually thought the copper was just a decorative touch, but no - it was installed to stop barnacles and others from attaching to the wood. 

There was so much for kids to learn about and try. Down below the decks there were different interactive things to touch and play with, such as a wooden play ship, a steering wheel with mechanics on show, moving seats to demonstrate what being at sea might feel like, demonstrations of cargo and so on and so on. On the decks, you could visit the living quarters of both the officers and the ordinary seamen. You could see the kitchen, carpenter's work station, the toilets and even try one of the beds if you fancy being a sailor, and much more. There were talks by Cutty Sark characters we managed to catch a bit of, and during half term also story-telling for kids. 

cutty sark shadows

cutty sark figureheads collection


chocolate cake

cutty sark hull and shadows

child and boxes

My daughter loved interacting with the exhibitions, trying the sailor beds, and pretending to be a pirate. I especially loved walking underneath the ship. It was beautiful, and you could appreciate the ship from a very unique angle, and like I mentioned, touch it too. It was also fun running around the deck, imagining what life must have been on the ship, and certainly gave my daughter much to think about. 

Other big plus from me was that nearly everything at Cutty Sark was accessible - probably about 95%. We brought a buggy with us, and could use a lift to reach all areas, except one part of the top deck. There we did the traditional parental tag teaming, so we could both see what was going on while our baby slept in her pram. I thought it was great for visitors with mobility issues as well, as you could see much of the exhibitions from the accessible deck areas, although some indoor areas (like the officer's living areas) were not possible to enter if you have difficulty mobilising.

I really think it was such a fantastic place to visit with the kids, there was lots for them to do. My 5 year old daughter said: "I loved touching the ship, being in the ship, and being on the ship. ... It was really good, I loved it". Big thumbs up from us! 

ship mast

mum and kid on cutty sark deck

cutty sark views

life boats on cutty sark

ship kitchen

officers area cutty sark

family on cutty sark

Top tips for Cutty Sark:
  • You can book tickets to Cutty Sark on their website, or walk up on the day. You can also get combined tickets with Royal Observatory.
  • Nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark - go figure ha ha! DLR is quite easy to take, and you get good views too via Canary Wharf. 
  • The other great way to get to Greenwich is to take a boat to Greenwich Pier, which is right in front of the Cutty Sark. My favourite route is from Westminster to Greenwich Pier, so you get to see all the sights on the way. 
  • Check out their events - especially around school holiday times. During half term there is story-telling for kids. There are quite a few other events after half term too. We also saw Cutty Sark characters telling stories of the ship's past which was good fun. 
  • You can take a buggy - it is nearly all accessible with the help of lifts! This is also fantastic if you have any mobility issues. Alternatively, you can leave the buggy downstairs in a buggy park and have your kid walk around. 
  • You can get a trail map for kids (great for kids of reading age), or ask for a backpack with toys and stories (possible good for the younger guests). 
  • The experience takes about one to two and a half hours. We took our time and sat down for quick drinks, so we were there well over two hours. 
  • You can have an afternoon tea, if you book 3 days ahead - looks like a lovely experience! For food, there is a small cafe at Cutty Sark, and if you want a bigger meal, right outside on the riverfront there are a few family friendly restaurants. We visited Byron Burgers on the day. 
  • Have a chat with the attendants - they are very knowledgeable and helpful. We had some great chats with them and learned a lot about the ship's past! 
  • Fab for a rainy day visit as well - it will just add to the feeling of being at sea! And there are plenty of indoor areas to shelter in. 

Review and top tips for visiting Cutty Sark with kids. A historic ship in Greenwich London, and a great place for kids to experience and learn about.

Have you been to Greenwich? What would you recommend there?

17 October 2018

How to make weaning easy and fun: The HiPP way

I can not believe it is nearly time to start weaning my little baby in a couple of months. This time, we are doing it the HiPP way, with the help of the fantastic weaning hamper we were sent. Here are some of my top tips on making weaning easy and fun, that is, feeling HiPP! It's all about feeling confident in yourself and not stressing about it, just have fun with experiencing new things with your baby.  If you want to join the fun, you can win a similar weaning hamper too, just check the end of the post.

Please note, this post is sponsored by HiPP Organic.

baby gnawing on toy

Last time I weaned was five years ago, yikes, it's been a long time. Back then we bought a lot of HiPP Organic as I loved their environmental and organic ethos. I loved there were no added preservatives or colours, it was just pure food, something I might make in my kitchen, except of course a lot quicker and more convenient as I could just pick it up in the supermarket. This time, we are going right back to feeling HiPP and confident again!

Our weaning journey is due to start soon. In preparation I have checked the latest weaning advice, and will also use some of the experience I had with my first child to make the process as easy and fun as possible. HiPP Organic has written a handy guide for these signs I will be keeping my eye out for. Some of the signs include being able to sit unaided and being able to coordinate eye-hand-mouth movement well - and once I feel confident these happen, will try some foods on her then.

hipp weaning products

How to make it fun: 
  • Start with savoury vegetables. Babies are accustomed to sweet things (their milk is super sweet!) so their taste buds are in for an early and interesting surprise. HiPP Organic has many savoury jars suitable for early tasting - I'm liking the sound of the Tasty Vegetable Risotto for example.  
  • Remember to charge your camera and capture those great first expressions after tasting their first savoury foods - it is bound to be fantastic!
  • Try to relax and feel confident about the weaning journey. Most of their diet is still going to be milk so focus on offering different taste sensations rather than quantity. If they refuse their food, again, breathe deeply and just try the next day again. Have fun exploring new things together. 
  • Where possible, let them try to hold the spoon too, at least for a bit. Dip them in purees, and let them taste it themselves. It's messy but never mind - it is a fun learning experience for them.
  • Offer babies some finger foods - small pieces of soft banana or a well-cooked broccoli works well. With my first daughter we started off with rice cakes as they are easy to hold and dissolve in mouth. 
  • Baby rice is easy on their tummies, and you can mix it with their usual milk, making it a very familiar taste for babies. 

baby gnawing on a spoon

baby and weaning products

How to make it easy:
  • There are so many different varieties and combinations of flavours available from HiPP Organic - pick up a few, and mix and match them! I found it so easy to pick up a few pouches and jars. Sometimes I would offer a single flavour and sometimes mixed. 
  • Once you start them off with simple purees, start increasing a mix of flavours. I found it quite good fun to make some simple purees myself, and then pick up from the supermarket the more complex, or the ones that I could not bother to faff with! I might make something like an avocado mash myself, and then pick up a HiPP Organic jar of a more interesting recipe, such as Tasty Vegetable Risotto or My First Sunday Dinner.  
  • In the interest of making it easier for you and your baby in the future, start them on lumpier textures as soon as they are used to purees. You don't want them to be too accustomed to silky smooth textures (like it turned out with our very picky first-born...). 
  • In a rush to go out somewhere fun? Pick up a jar to take with you, or even pick it up on the way. You can spoon out what you need, and save the rest for later. Glass jars are also recyclable.  

It's a fun journey to take with your little one, and just reminds you how quickly they grow. Soon they will be joining you at the dinner table and sharing the same meals, and you'll learn their likes and dislikes.

baby looking at weaning products

Our weaning hamper includes a variety of sweet and savoury jars of various textures, a few pouches, baby rice and cereal, setting us well up for the start of the weaning journey. Another fun thing is also that you can Feel HiPP in the bath now too - with the HiPP bath products. We loved that they were free-from allergens and ultra sensitive - just what you would want with your baby.

hipp bath products

What are your top tips for weaning your baby?
Top tips on how to make weaning simple, easy and fun, from a busy mum of two. Includes ideas for first foods.

Enter below for a chance to win a similar HiPP weaning kit (contents may vary) - UK entries and over 18 only. 

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