Thursday, 5 March 2015

Travel Cots Review - Big Test for Mother & Baby magazine

by Roz

Over the Christmas holidays, A and I found ourselves testing six travel cots for Mother & Baby magazine, an item we hadn't actually got around to buying yet but was on our list. I wasn't approached for this because of or through the blog, I simply replied to a journalist request on twitter. To be honest I hadn't really looked in to travel cots, I just knew I wanted something that was portable, had a good mattress for A sleeping on and was easy to assemble and take down.  We have a playpen that my mum and dad bought for A's Christmas, it's excellent and thankfully stays up in our living room pretty much all the time, but the first time I built it I wanted to throw it out the window in a rage!!

The magazine we are in!

We were sent six different cots which were all different both in style, features and of course price.f The price points of the cots varied from about £50 all the way up to £200. There were three cots I thought were great and my favourite was the Baby Bjorn, which also happens to be the most expensive (B will tell you I'm pretty good at liking the most expensive one of things!). The point of the Big Test is to rank the cots against each other for value, practicality and quality and also list some pros and cons for each cot. I have included my full reviews of the cots below incase this helps any of you who are looking to buy a travel cot soon.

Baby Bjorn Travel Cot Light £200

Pros: The Baby Bjorn is a true travel cot as it is light weight and portable. I found this model the easiest to assemble, it only took me a few seconds and I didn’t need to refer to the instructions. I liked the design of the cot, from both a practicality and looks point of view. The mattress is really good, it has a nice thickness to it and I would be happy for my son to sleep on it every night. The mesh sides meant I could keep an eye on my son whilst he was playing or sleeping in the cot, and the cot itself does not take up too much space but the mattress is quite long, so should last till baby is older.

Cons: The mattress takes a while to flatten out after the cot has been in the carry bag, this is simply due to the way the mattress folds in to the bag. There is no solid base on this cot (the cot is made of mesh) so it would be unsuitable for use outdoor / in a tent.

Overall: This cot is not a cheap option for a travel cot but I believe it is worth the price for the light weight design, which makes it a truly portable travel cot,  and quality of the cot, especially the mattress.

Value: 4 out of 5
Practicality: 5 out of 5
Quality: 5 out of 5

Overall: 5 out of 5

Our favourite the Baby Bjorn


Pros: This cot is a nice size travel cot, it is squarer in shape and had plenty of room for my son to squirm about in his sleep or equally play in with his toys.  I was able to use our standard cot bedding which I liked and I also really liked the look of the cot (navy and white striped). This cot is easy to move about once assembled as it has wheels. You can fix a ‘changing station’ to top of the cot which I think could be very useful when travelling.

Cons: This cot has snap fix sides that I found difficult to fix in place on my own. The cot is not difficult to build but it is definitely easier and quicker if there are two of you to do it. The rocking section (one of the extras) looked like a good addition when I was building it but unfortunately seems to only be suitable for young / small babies (the instructions say up to 12 months), as the area where my son’s head came to rest was not soft or padded and he would have bumped his head if we used it.

Overall: This cot came with a lot of extras which would add to the overall weight (and space required in your boot!) of the cot if you choose to take them with you when travelling. I really liked the look of the cot on its own and my son was happy to sleep and play in this, I’m not sure the extras are necessary but my opinion is based on A being to big to use them already!

Value: 4 out of 5
Practicality: 4 out of 5
Quality: 4 out of 5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Pros: This is a true travel cot and is very light and portable.  When the cot is in it’s travel bag it is very compact and takes up very little space, ideal for taking on trips or storing on a cupboard shelf. The carry bag is good and has a shoulder strap. I really liked the mattress for this cot, you actually inflate it (simply by blowing in some air), which made for the comfiest sleeping area for baby. The cot is also a really good length and I think it would last a good few years before my son outgrew it.

Cons: This cot takes a good amount of time to build. Once you have built it the first time, it would probably take less time as you know what you are doing. Despite the cot coming in a number of parts, I did find it quite intuitive to figure out how it all went together but after a long journey you would certainly have to factor in some build time before your child’s bed is ready. Although I loved the mattress for this cot, I found it almost impossible to attach the mattress to the base of the cot! It took repeated efforts from both myself and my husband and over twenty minutes to attach just the first loop on the base of the mattress to the clip that secures it.  The clips only have a small gap and the loop of fabric on the mattress is just too rigid and small.  

Overall: I actually thought this cot would be my favourite, I really liked how light weight it was and how portable this made the cot. The mattress itself was excellent but the frustration caused by trying to attach the mattress quickly made me dislike this cot (as the sleeping environment wouldn’t be safe without the mattress properly attached).

Value: 3 out of 5
Practicality: 2 out of 5
Quality: 3 out of 5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Note: this cot make me so grumpy that I never actually got a picture of A in it and packed it away after the initial test!

Pros: This cot was the easiest of the snap fix sided cots to build, it literally took a minute and I was able to assemble the cot on my own without needing to read the instructions. The travel bag that comes with the cot allows the wheels of the cot to act as wheels to pull the cot along when travelling rather than having to carry it which I thought was a great idea. The mattress on the cot is fine for occasional use and the cot is large enough to use as a playpen and comes with small toy bag attached to the outside of the cot for storage.

Cons: The cot is large and takes up a lot of room once assembled, this could limit where the cot could be used if space is an issue. The cot is not especially light or small when packed away and again this would need to be considered when travelling with the cot.

Overall: This cot offers a good all round travel cot and playpen for a great price. There are some compromises, such as the weight and folded size of the cot and the thinner mattress, which need to be considered.

Value: 5 out of 5
Practicality: 4 out of 5
Quality: 4 out of 5
Overall: 4 out of 5

We got to keep the Baby Dan after testing and it now lives at my mum & dad's house for when either A or one of his cousins goes to stay :) I don't actually have any photos of A in it, that aren't blurry, but the purple star blanket in the shot above shows you how big the cot is.  No chance of A growing out of this in a hurry, I think it's actually longer than his cot bed!

Nuna Sena Mini travel cot £120

Pros: This is a compact and very sturdy travel cot.  It is ideal for using where space is limited.  The mattress is excellent for a travel cot and is surprisingly thick which makes for a comfy sleep. You can also use standard bedding with this cot which keeps things simple. You can raise the height of the mattress in this cot which is great for younger babies (and your back!)

Cons: Despite the smaller size of this cot, it was quite heavy and a bit awkward to assemble.  I found turning it upside down and shaking the snap fix sides was the quickest and easiest way to build it on my own. It will last a shorter length of time than most other travel cots due to the length, the instructions say till approximately 18 months (v c.3 years for most travel cots). Unfortunately my son, at 7 months, was already touching both the top and bottom of the cot.

Overall: Whilst I really liked both the look and feel of this cot, it’s smaller size means it will be outgrown a lot quicker than the other travel cots. Personally I would be reluctant to buy a cot that had such a limited lifespan. 

Value: 2 out of 5
Practicality: 3 out of 5
Quality: 5 out of 5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Erm at 7 months Aaron is too big for the Nuna Sienna Mini which is sold as for up to 18 months!

Pros: This is a large and sturdy cot.  It is brightly coloured, with an animal theme and therefore doubles as a good playpen. The cot is easy to move about when assembled as it has wheels (which lock in place). You can also raise the height of the mattress on the Jane, which would be very useful for young babies who cannot yet sit / stand up.

Cons: The mattress for this cot is quite thin. It is okay for playpen use but my son did not sleep very well in the cot and this may have been because of the hard base of the cot which can be felt through the mattress. I also struggled to fit a sheet in this cot as the mattress is attached to the base with velcro loops through the base of the cot. This keeps the mattress very secure but as these loops are near the edge does not leave much room to secure a sheet under the mattress. The sides and base of the cot are made out of a thin, water resistant type fabric, whilst this may be ideal to keep clean, it is not very soft and I think it might cause my son to sweat in hotter weather.

Overall: If you were looking for a playpen that doubles as an occasional cot, and have the room for such a large cot, then the Jane would be ideal.

Value: 4 out of 5
Practicality: 3 out of 5
Quality: 3 out of 5

Overall: 3 out of 5

A in his Elf outfit :)

As I mentioned above, I wasn't contacted through the blog to take part in this review, nor was I asked to publish a post on the cots.  I simply thought it could help someone pick the best cot for them.  If you have any other questions on the cots above feel free to ask me in the comments below.

Roz xx

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Earth Conscious reusable breast pads review

by Bex

I was recently sent a pair of washable bamboo breast feeding pads from Earth Conscious.  I've mostly been using Lansinoh disposable pads despite buying a set of reusable ones so I was keen to try another brand.  The ones I had previously were fairly stiff and quite comfortable but I found the Lansinoh ones much nicer to wear and had good results from them.  I haven't had much of an issue with milk leakage, most likely due to the fact I feed the twins on each side at the same time and they like to eat often so my boobs manage to keep up but rarely have enough excess to leak!  I do find breast pads handy for a quick mop up after feeding and to prevent any nipple sticking to bra incidents though.  Ouch!

These new breast pads from Earth Conscious are made from lovely soft bamboo fabric which makes them very comfortable to wear.  They're much more pliable than the thick stiff fabric ones I bought and although they have a towelling side, I haven't had any problems with sticking.  The reverse side is a nice soft velvety fabric which helps hold them in the right place.

I was offered black or cream and since my other ones are white and sometimes poke out the top of my bra/top after a hasty re-covering when feeding in public, I went for black so they'd be less obvious when wearing dark tops.  Unfortunately they come with a wide band of white stitching over the edge so they are still obvious if showing at all.  It kind of defeats the purpose of having two colour options in my opinion.

During the twins' illness recently I had much more of a problem with leakage as they were having trouble feeding while all bunged up so they often had to stop during a feed (frequently getting sprayed in the face as a result, who knew boobs could spray?!) and they had less of an appetite so I was constantly full of milk!  These pads had no problems preventing me getting soaked through during/between feeds.  They also wash well and survived the tumble drier!

They're currently in the sale at just £4.99 for 3 pairs.

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Forever House - our finished Kitchen!

by Roz

The kitchen in the house is finally finished!!!  I am so excited to share it with you as so many of you helped me out with advice on paint colours, splash back colour, which worktop to go with, the lights...I hope you all like the finished room.  If you remember the room wasn't a kitchen when we bought the house, as shown here, so we got to plan the layout exactly how we wanted.  This was obviously great as we didn't need to have our sink or oven in a certain place as we needed to run new plumbing and wiring, but did mean we had endless discussions over how big to make the island and if we had space left for a table in the window. I shared our ideas for the kitchen here and I think you'll see we've stuck with a number of them, as well as picking some different finishes.

I thought it would help to include a few before shots, it seems strange looking back at how the room was!

We are so happy with the finished room and I just know we are going to spend so much time here making fabulous memories. I think back to all the work we did in this room, from the hours we spent ripping up the carpet, and underlay that was glued to the floor, removing the layers upon layers of wallpaper, chiseling out the chimney breast to allow our units to sit flush against the the work we got tradesmen to do, such as the knock through, the plastering and the plumbing and wiring, it's certainly a complete transformation.

Our kitchen units are from Ashley Ann, who make all their own units in their factory in Scotland and also have a showroom in Glasgow which was handy for all the planning meetings! We went round a number of kitchen suppliers, including Ikea and Howdens, once we decided we wanted the high gloss white doors and Ashley Ann came out with the best price for the taller units we wanted for the room. Their service has also been excellent and I would highly recommend them.

It took us forever to pick lights for the room. There were plenty of lights I liked but as we needed three of them, the cost  ruled out so many of the ones I found. In the end we actually picked these lights in a pale purple colour, only to order them and find out they had been discontinued. Arghhhhh! It was choosing the green lights that resulted in us agreeing to paint the kitchen walls a pale green. The colour is Celtic Forest 4 from Dulux and it's lovely and calming and works so well with all the white in the room.

The oak floor up close 

I'm also very happy with our choice of floor. We went with an engineered oak board, that runs through our kitchen and lounge, in a super wide and extra long plank. The colour is perfect, it's a brushed and oiled finish, and is so much warmer and softer underfoot than a tiled floor. We had engineered wood floors in our flat, so we know how hard wearing they are, yet we also have the option to sand and reseal the boards at least once in the future.

If you look in the before picture, you can see there used to be a door (to a cupboard) on this wall. We knew the kitchen units would make this unusable, but B came up with the idea of utilising the space and creating a book and wine rack. It's genius and so very handy. We made it out of unfinished mdf and then just painted it in white eggshell to match the rest of the wood in the room. Having my cook books on show does actually temp me to use them a bit more often rather than just cooking one of the 10 meals we eat most often!

I took the photo below the day after the knock through between the kitchen and our lounge. It took us a long time to find someone to make the oak glazed doors I pictured in my head for the opening. Most of the places we tried in Glasgow were very expensive and in the end we found a excellent firm called Premier Joinery in Falkirk. Our doors are beautiful and I could not recommend the guys more.

Most people comment on the ovens when they come in to the kitchen for the first time. Yes three ovens might look a bit over the top. But this is my dream kitchen. Our flat had two ovens that were constantly in use when I cooked for friends or family on a regular basis. So we went with three for the forever house. They are Neff ovens and I might be a little in love with them. The single oven in the middle has a slide and hide door :)

My ovens!
The ovens are all slightly different, we have a microwave combi, a single oven and a steam oven combi. We went with Neff as the appliances in our flat were all Neff and we'd never had any problems with them and liked the way they looked. Neff however is not a cheap brand. Up steps B and manages to buy all three ovens and the two warming drawers from our kitchen company as ex display appliances. Saved us a fortune! We went with much cheaper brand for our integrated fridge, freezer and dishwasher and with hindsight it would have made sense to at least read some reviews before ordering these as we already miss our old dishwasher.

I really love having a table in the window. A eats all his meals here sitting in his fab tripp trapp (bought second hand on eBay) and we find ourselves doing the same more often than not. It's great family time. B and I disagreed about the table versus a dropped section on the end of the island. Personally I'm so glad he was happy to go with my preference of the table, as sitting looking out to our garden or to the Campsies in the distance is just lovely. The table is a small, cheap one we picked up in Ikea and I think it actually looks quite small in the space. It works for us just now, especially with A knocking lumps out of it every meal time.

Our induction hob lives on the island and was a real splurge.  Again we had one in our flat, are you seeing a theme?! We love cooking on it and how easy it is to keep clean and the safety aspect is great too. We also have two pop up sockets on the island which come with usb ports for charging phones, iPads, etc. The island is so big that it is usually covered in clutter though, do any of you manage to keep your kitchen clean all the time? Going to bed early usually wins over me loading the dishwasher.

We went with a grey blue colour for our splash back and I really, really like the colour.  A local firm did it for us and it was a much cheaper option than tiles as we only needed one cut out in the glass.  I really like how it looks against the white gloss units and our grey quartz worktop. Our tap is a boiling tap, something B really wanted, and it's great not just for making hot drinks but when you need to fill a pan for cooking.

The stainless steel sink is probably the only think I dislike. I love the size of the sink, it's deep and wide, and I love having a half sink again, but oh my is it scratched. Very scratched already. Urgh. It's an under mount sink and our quartz was cut around it so we have no option to change it. It's minor in the grand scheme of the kitchen, as you can't see the scrapes unless you go inspecting the sink, but I certainly would not recommend a stainless steel sink to anyone.

One area of the kitchen I was very excited about was our pantry. I pinned so many images of beautiful shelving and neat, orderly food and drink. Let's just say one day!

The pantry door...

...that hides the mess!!

The room has a window and is a great size. It has lots of potential for the future!

Well I hope you all liked the finished room, it's been great writing the post about it :)

Roz xx

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The best bits

by Bex

Now I've written about the twins' birth, our time in hospital, breastfeeding and baby products, I feel I should write about the twins themselves and where better to start than listing all of my favorite things about them and about being a new mum!

I've decided to make this post just that - a list.  Lists are quicker and easier to write which gives me more time for editing pictures of them while they're asleep!  ;)

So, in no particular order, the best bits (so far):

The noises they make, especially the satisfied noises they make when eating and the little squeaks and sighs in their sleep.

Watching them enjoy their baths, kicking their legs about and enjoying the warm water - they rarely cry when they get out now too.

Watching them stare at the mobile I made them.  Now they can see better, they seem to love watching it twist and bob about above them during nappy changes.

Priya's super soft hair tickling my face when she snuggles into my neck as I carry her through to the nursery between night-feeds for her nappy change.

Kissing them all over their gorgeous, soft faces.



When we're all waking up in the morning and I bring them into the bed beside me for cuddles.  I could watch them for hours!

When they stare into my eyes during feeds.

Kal's stretching face.

Priya's yawns.

Their gorgeous smiles, especially the cheeky ones!

Taking photos of them.  Dozens and dozens of photos.

Watching them grow and get chubby little wrists and folds as my breast milk does it's magic stuff.

Playing with their little toes every time I get their legs out out for a nappy change.

Kal raising one eyebrow.

Massaging their wee bodies after a bath every night and then winding down with a story and one last feed before bed.

More cuddles.

When they smile in response to me saying hello or chattering away to them.

Seeing them all snuggled up with Daddy.

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