What Would your Doodles Say about You?

It’s not often I get the chance to rub shoulders with celebrities like Sophie Dahl, Antony Cotton and Vic Reeves, so when I recently got a cool request join them and some other ’slebs’ in submitting a doodle for analysis by a graphologist as part of National Doodle Day on February 11, I jumped at the chance!  The project is just a bit of fun really, to raise awareness of National Doodle Day which, has raised over £200,000 for Epilepsy Action and the Neurofibromatosis Association since it began.  You can log on to view and vote for your favourite doodles, or find out more about how you, your school or your company can get involved with fundraising, here.  Doodle Day is supported by DodoPad, a company that makes the most fabulous, whimsical diaries, organisers and other products designed to make busy lives just a little easier!

I’m a fairly prolific doodler – a result of spending far too much time on the phone – and it wasn’t long before this scribble had emerged on my notepad, so I duly sent it off and this is what the graphologist came up with:

“Likes to be in company so she can “bounce off” others. Emotional, sensitive and needs to be re-assured from time to time. Will bend or even break the rule to achieve if needed! Tendency to cross her bridges before she gets to them.”

Which is quite scary if you ask me – especially the last part, which is something I am guilty of both at work and at home, I’m always trying to plan things before I have all the facts!  As well as analysing my doodle, DodoPad very kindly sent me one of their fabulous household organisers to try out – perfect as I’m always trying to be more organised and crossing my bridges before I come to them!  The file is really excellent – it has lots of wipe clean planners, handy pockets for filing important documents as well as bills and other bits that need to be dealt with – essentially it’s got a home for all the things I normally keep in a dishevelled pile on my kitchen worktop, all in a handy binder that I can easily throw in my bag as needed.  You can also buy extra ‘modules’ that turn your organiser into a diary as well – perfect if, like me and most other mums, you’re juggling busy work and home lives and find yourself arranging dental appointments for the kids one minute, and business meetings the next!  You can view the Household Organiser as well as DodoPad’s full range of fantastic products, which includes everything from diaries and student organisers to wedding, pet, house move and pregnancy planners hereAnd if you enter code 10NDD when you purchase before 31 March 2011, 10 per cent of the net value of your order will be donated by Dodo Pad to National Doodle Day.  Happy doodling!

Emily Maternity Lingerie Rocks – Especially with 20% OFF!

Following one of my previous posts about the lack of pretty, practical maternity lingerie available for bigger busted mums-to-be, I came across UK brand, Emily Lingerie and was very excited when the company agreed to let me road test one of their gorgeous bras.

I received the ‘English Garden‘ underwired maternity bra in size 34F.  The bra features black satin fabric with a vintage-inspired floral print, delicate lace edging and a pretty bow embellishment to the front centre.  The cups are cotton lined for comfort whilst the bra features ’soft’ lightweight underwires and six back fastenings to accommodate your changing shape during pregnancy.

When the bra first arrived I was won over straight away by the design – it looks and feels luxurious and just like ‘real’ lingerie, unlike many of the matronly maternity bras available to bigger breasted pregnant women.  The matching French knickers make this a gorgeous, sexy set.

I found the bra extremely comfortable to wear and it was also very supportive. The fit was good and corresponded well to that of my other lingerie, although I found the back size slightly big – not enough to affect the fit of the bra but if you are a borderline back size I would recommend you opt for the smaller size.  The cup size was spot on and the bra gave me a nice shape under clothing, although on a purely personal note I would have liked some light foam padding of the cups for an even smoother silhouette under close fitting tops. The underwire was perfectly comfortable and did not rub or dig in at all – it’s difficult to say whether it will remain comfortable as my pregnancy progresses but with the flexibility of the wire and the extra back fastenings I am confident I will be able to adjust the fit for comfort well into the final weeks.

A personal bugbear of mine with maternity bras is the fact that many have high necklines which are visible under scoop or v-neck tops but this bra has a plunging style that in no way restricts the type of clothing you can wear, while the straps are not too wide and also pretty enough to be on show if required. Priced at £33 this bra is by no means cheap but is definitely the best I have come across so far and a real investment piece that will see you through pregnancy and beyond – I know I’ll wear mine again after breastfeeding has finished but before my breasts have returned to their normal size.

The ‘English Garden’ style is one of two underwired maternity bras offered by Emily, and they also have a selection of beautiful soft cup maternity bras in addition to a number of wired and non-wired nursing bras.  I will definitely be purchasing additional items from the range, and I was very excited to hear from an insider at Emily that a white version of the ‘Paris’ bra is currently in the making, as is a range of ‘basic’ bras in black, white and nude! And if you fancy adding some of this gorgeous lingerie to your maternity/nursing wardrobe, you’ll be delighted to hear that we have an exclusive 20% discount to offer for MumUnplugged readers – simply enter code MUMMY10 at the Emily checkout to receive your discount!

Review: Boppy Breastfeeding Cushion from Chicco!

One of the best things about breastfeeding is that you don’t need loads of kit to do it – in fact all you really need is a pair of boobs and a hungry baby!  But there are a few things that are really useful for a breastfeeding mum, and one of those things is a breastfeeding support cushion.   A feeding pillow can significantly help mothers when breastfeeding. It can help reduce the tension that builds up in the back, neck and shoulders of mothers during feeding; relieve the pressure on the mother’s tummy during feeding with its circular shape, and provide secure support for babies whilst they suck.

Chicco have recently launched US bestselling breastfeeding cushion, ‘Boppy‘ in the UK and when they offered me the opportunity to review the product I jumped at the chance to find out why it’s become such a firm favourite with our breastfeeding counterparts across the pond!

The Boppy pillow was designed by a mum in America 20 years ago and in that time it has gone on to become the undisputed market leader. Over a million are sold each year and are used in over a quarter of all US homes. It has won numerous awards including being voted ‘Best Product of the Year’ by American Baby.

The Boppy is designed to create an ergonomic ‘nest’ shape and its ‘Miracle Middle’ adapts to the contours of each individual mum’s body for a snug, comfy fit whilst feeding. The exclusive fibre padding used in each pillow means it keeps it shape and for practicality, the pillow and slipcover are machine washable at 30˚and can also be tumble dried.

The first thing I noticed about Boppy was that the product is quite heavy and the filling quite dense, which I initially thought might be a negative point.  However when it came to actually using the product I soon realised that this is exactly the thing that makes it so great!  The pillow really does ‘hug’ around you and feels very secure, while the fact that the filling is so firm means your baby is positioned at exactly the right height for feeding – no need to support pillow or baby with your arm.  I gave the product a ‘dummy run’ with my two-year-old even though we are no longer feeding and I can confidently say it would support even his weight easily.  I used a much floppier breastfeeding pillow when he was small and although it did help with positioning, it didn’t give me the level of hands free support that Boppy does – this product would have been a godsend in those early days when we were struggling to perfect the latch.

Despite its weight/density, the pillow itself is quite compact and the packaging doubles up as a handy waterproof carry case that would be handy for travel.  The slipcover is well made and pleasantly soft; it fastens with a concealed zip for comfort and safety and is available in five cute designs to suit all tastes.  I really liked the fact that the entire pillow can be machine washed and dried without losing its shape because as we all know newborns can be messy little creatures!

The Boppy is also extremely versatile for growing babies and as well as being used as a feeding pillow it can be used as a nest for small babies to lie in, a support for use during ‘tummy time’ and a safety net for little ones who are just learning to sit up!  Again I thought this was a major plus as the product isn’t cheap and the multiple functions mean it offers better value for money – although I would still buy it even if it had no alternative uses.  I would definitely recommend this product to anybody who is planning to breastfeed their baby.

Sold exclusively through Mothercare in the UK, Boppy prices start at £39.99 for the ‘Bare Naked’ pillow without slipcover, through to £49.99 for the pillow plus one of five cute cotton slipcovers or £59.99 for the pillow plus a velour slipcover.  Extra slipcovers are also available.  For further information visit the Boppy website or tel: 028 2587 8300.

10 Activities for a Sunny Afternoon

Given the unpredictable nature of our weather recently I was almost tempted to call this article ‘10 ways to spend a snowy afternoon’, but seeing as our wee Norn Irish climate finally seems to have caught on that we’re officially in British Summer Time I’ll refrain from treating you all to that one, for now at least.

After such a ‘wintry’ winter, I know I’m not alone in hoping that our summer this year will be just as textbook – the brand new barbecue that’s been sitting in a box in our shed since 2008 is certainly hoping to get an outing! When you’ve got kids around, the prospect of long, sunny days spent in the garden followed by balmy evenings with a glass of Pinot, while the little darlings sleep the dreamless sleep that always results from a day filled with fresh air frolicking, is quite simply blissful. When the sun shines, everyone is in a better mood – we’re more relaxed, more patient, more open to spontaneity and having fun – and what better combination is there when it comes to spending quality time with your children? As an added bonus, there are loads of things you and your little ones can do on good days without spending very much money – many of them without even leaving your own back garden! Read on for our top ten ‘fun in the sun’ activities…

Get the paddling pool out!

This is an absolute classic – I’m sure most parents can remember the rush to get that inflatable pool filled with icy water from the hosepipe at the first glimmer of sunshine and today’s children are no different! That said, there’s a whole host of fancy pools and accessories on the market these days; no more turning blue in the face for mums and dads thanks to the ready availability of foot pumps, no more sunburnt shoulders thanks to the invention of pools with built in UV sun shades and no more messing about with bin liners and Fairy Liquid to make water slides (or was that just me?!) – you can buy them ready made! Of course, most kids will be perfectly happy with a cheap and cheerful paddling pool – fill it with warm water to increase their playing time and avoid chills. The pool will warm up naturally if placed in full sun but if you do this, make sure your little ones are wearing appropriate sun protection and hats.

Have a picnic!

It is a fact universally acknowledged that food tastes better when eaten outdoors and wee ones will delight in spreading a rug on the grass and enjoying lunch al fresco. Of course, you can do this in your own back garden (why not invite their cuddly friends for a teddy bears’ picnic?) but for a real treat, pack a cool bag or basket full of their favourite sandwiches, fruit, crisps and drinks and take it to the beach or park – they’ll work up a great appetite running around and polish off the lot! Other brilliant picnic foods include pasta salads, cold cooked sausages, wedges of Spanish omelette or quiche, and skewers with chunks of cooked meat, tomatoes etc. For more ideas click here.

Set up an obstacle course!

This is great fun for slightly older children and also great exercise for kids and parents alike! You don’t need masses of space, or loads of expensive kit – the toys and sports equipment you already have will work just as well! If you’ve got a pop-up tunnel then great, but if not you can make a tunnel using plastic garden chairs; make a balancing game by drawing a line on paving stones with chalk and get your kids to walk along it; challenge them to do ‘keepy ups’ with a tennis racket and ball and use cushions or rolled up jumpers on the ground and get them to ’slalom’ in between them – use your imagination! And don’t forget the stopwatch to see who’s the fastest!

Have a painting party.

A gorgeous day is a great excuse to make the sort of mess best reserved for outside spaces that can be hosed down afterwards and children of all ages will have a whale of a time making giant works of art. Using washable poster paints, fill a number of large plastic tubs or trays with different colours and then place large pieces of paper on the ground – the reverse of a leftover roll of wallpaper is ideal. Make sure the kids are wearing old clothes – shorts and short sleeved t-shirts are best, and then let them go wild making hand and footprints or even printing with leaves, stones and other natural materials. When they’re done, peg the artworks on the line to dry while you rinse everyone down in the paddling pool!

Do some gardening!

Perfect for overcast days when it’s not warm enough for water play, a spot of gardening is a fun and educational way to spend an afternoon, and your child will love lending a hand as you get on with seasonal maintenance. It’s a good idea to invest in some child-sized garden tools such as a small plastic wheelbarrow, a trowel and rake and a little pair of gardening gloves – this way they can help you with most jobs from collecting fallen leaves and deadheading flowers to pulling up weeds and planting. Even very little ones will have a whale of a time with a spade, a watering can and a container with some fresh compost. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try growing some summer berries or vegetables – you’ll be surprised what you can get them to eat when they’ve grown and harvested it themselves!

Break out the bubbly……

…well, the bubbles! Tiny kids love watching them, big kids love popping them – bubbles really are good clean fun! ‘Manual’ bubble wands are as effective as anything but for a full-on bubblefest we definitely recommend Early Learning Centre’s Bubble Machine – just add the mixture and switch on for instant, plentiful bubbles that will have little ones squealing with delight.

Have a treasure hunt!

This is best suited to large, rambling gardens or even a public park if you’ve got the time and inclination to set it up beforehand. The idea itself is simple; hide a series of clues (try picture clues for younger children) that will eventually lead them to the treasure, which could be a sweet treat or a small toy each. Give them a map indicating roughly where each clue is hidden and then watch as they learn about teamwork while having fun into the bargain! This idea works brilliantly at birthday parties and you can even split the children into two groups and challenge them to reach the treasure before their competitors.

Set up an ice-cream factory!

This idea was inspired by my American surrogate mom who used to set out huge feasts of flavoured ice-cream plus bowls of M&Ms, nuts, sprinkles, wafers and chocolate along with a selection of ice cream sauces, and then allowed us to help ourselves! Definitely not for the faint-hearted (or for the very young, who might just overdose on all that sugar) this is a perfect post BBQ dessert option and children will love piling their plates high with colourful, delicious concoctions.

Go camping!

OK, so before you start freaking out at thoughts of sharing a tent with a load of creepy crawlies, we mean pretend camping! Pitch a tent on the lawn and set up camp for the day with books to read, songs to sing and games to play – even good old snakes and ladders is more fun when you get to play it outside! For older kids, you could light the barbecue as evening draws in and toast marshmallows as a special treat before bed.

Go on a mini-beast safari!

If the above-mentioned creepy crawlies make you shudder then this might be an activity best reserved for Dad – yep you’ve guessed it, time to get bug-hunting! Little ones have a natural curiosity about living things and most are far less squeamish than their parents. You can buy special kits on websites such as Amazon that have equipment for humanely catching and studying bugs or you can make your own. Kids will enjoy identifying the different creatures they can find, counting limbs and wings and learning more about what the insects eat, where they live and such. You could even get them to draw pictures of the bugs they find before releasing them back into the wild. If you really can’t tolerate creepy-crawlies, a nature safari is a good alternative – encourage your kids to explore, looking for interesting objects like weird-shaped rocks, unusual foliage or twigs and wildlife. As you walk, talk about what you see and answer their inevitable questions about the world around them!