Happy Valentine’s Day 2015

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This year’s Valentine is really special to my husband and I…

Our story begins in March 2008 – that’s when we first met. We hit it off right from the start, but we only got together officially in June 2008. In August 2008, we moved in together, and in October of the same year, he popped the question. We moved at lightning speed, I know, but hey, when you’re with the right person, why wait? The proposal itself was spontaneous – we were just lying on the bed, watching a movie when he turned to me and asked me to marry him. It wasn’t planned, but for me, it was the most romantic thing ever precisely because it wasn’t planned. Less than a year later, in June 2009, we tied the knot in a small private civil ceremony, and in March 2012, we renewed our vow with a lavish reception in the presence of friends and family.

2 continents, 3 countries and 4 cities later, here we are in 2015, finally settling down in London – we both now have good careers (something we’ve worked so hard over the years for), and in a month (more or less), we’ll meet our lovely baby girl.  Oh, and of course, we’re also looking to buy our own place – our first family home. So yes, this year’s Valentine is really special to us – in a way, it marks the end of our journey as a couple and the beginning of our journey as a family.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! xx

NCT antenatal classes: third and last session vs NHS antenatal classes

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If you’ve been following my blog, you’d know that I haven’t been impressed with the NCT antenatal classes so far (if you don’t know why, please do read my posts on what we did in the first and second sessions). Last week, my husband and I attended our third session, and again, we were disappointed. Honestly, we haven’t learnt anything at all. We talked about skipping the last 2 sessions, but when we thought about how much they cost (£200 for 5 sessions), we were like, “never mind, let’s just go”. That is until we attended one of the NHS antenatal classes, which made us realised that the NCT ones are a complete waste of time and money! I wish I had known better – I would have just gone to the NHS ones right from the start! I mean, we’ve only gone to one so far and already we’re finding it very informative, practical and useful.

Anyway, in the first session, we learnt about natural and uncomplicated labour (so things like: what are the signs of labour, how do midwives measure dilation, how will the baby descend, how and when to push, what can we expect after delivery, etc etc). There’ll be 2 more classes after this, which we will of course attend – in the second session, we’ll learn about painkillers and complicated labour (so things like: breech babies, inducement, assisted delivery (including c-section), episiotomy, and we’ll even be shown the ‘tools’ used in assisted births (forceps, ventouse, etc) – which I think will be very interesting); and in the third session, we’ll learn about breastfeeding. I can’t recommend these classes highly enough; I think they really prepare you for childbirth and beyond (unlike the NCT-run classes!). Plus they’re free and are actually taught by a midwife who will be able answer all of your questions (again, unlike the NCT-run classes!). So yeah, if you’re pregnant, do find out about the antenatal classes that are available at your local hospital. Even if you’re not convinced and prefer to pay for the NCT ones, you should still attend at least one of the NHS classes – it’s free anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose.

My Little Box January 2015 Review

So, my search for that perfect beauty box continues… If you’ve been following my blog, you’d know that so far, I’ve received one from Birchbox and one from Love Lula, and so far, I’m quite happy with Love Lula. But I thought I’d give a few more a try before deciding on which one to stick to. Yesterday, My Little Box arrived from Paris. It’s a January box – I know it’s a bit late, but hey, better late than never. Let’s go see what’s inside:

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Price: £11.00 + £3.95 P+P per month

Got my January box for: £11.00 (using the code: MYFIRSTBOX)

First impression: I like the presentation – the box, the ribbon, the bag, etc. I think it’s chic (as you can see).  But that’s not the most important thing – it’s what’s inside that counts, right? So, first impression when I opened the box was… that’s it? 3 samples, 1 bag, 1 calendar and a small magazine? Although, to be fair, the samples are of a much bigger size than those I received from Birchbox and Love Lula. I suppose, at the end of the day, it’s down to preference – do you prefer to receive fewer but almost full-size products, or more but true sample-size products? I would prefer a mix of both (obviously), but if I had to choose, I think I’d choose the latter. I mean, the idea of a subscription box is so that you can try as many products as you can before deciding whether to buy the full size version or not. Anyway, I’m not entirely disappointed because I kind of like my box. I also like the fact that you can ‘tailor’ what you’ll receive in your box by completing your ‘beauty profile’ online (just like Birchbox).

What’s in the box:

1. 2015 Calendar, £10

The calendar is nice, but does it really worth £10? I don’t know. Of course, it’s a neat idea to include a calendar – this being a January box and all; some people might like it, some people might not… I’m quite indifference really.

2. Sports bag, £20

Again, the bag is nice. It might or might not worth £20. The material is a bit thin, so I’m not sure if I’d use it as a sports bag. But I like the design and the size, so why not.

3. Nailsinc Nail Polish, full size, £11

I don’t really varnish my nails, only once in a while, but I’m quite happy that I got this, just because I’ve heard of the brand for quite sometime now but I haven’t got the chance to try it yet. So, yeah, happy.

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4. My Little Beauty Energising Mist, full size, £7.5

I’ve always liked mist… facial mist, body mist, room mist, you name it. So I’m glad I got this. It’s a face and body mist combined and it smells really nice. One thing is sure: it’s definitely going into my ‘hospital bag’ – I think it’ll come in handy during my labour, which is not in a long time now!

5. Talika Photo-Hydra Day, 30ml

This product is expensive! But it claims to be “much more than a moisturiser“; “it’s the first cream to use energy from natural light to delve deep into skin and moisturise it.” Whatever that means… doesn’t matter… it’s a moisturiser (or much more), and it’s an expensive one, so I can’t wait to give it a try.

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The things that have caught my attention this month | January discoveries

1. Micellar Water

I’ve heard of micellar (in French, pronounced “me-sellaire”) water for a while now, but (I don’t know why), I’ve only just tried it this month. “MODELS swear by them, every make-up artist has one in his or her kit and with their no-rinse, three-in-one formulas they’re perfect for travelling and late nights.” (Vogue). So what exactly is micellar water? Well, in a nutshell, it’s a soap free product that removes make-up and cleanses the skin without the need for rinsing, and also tones and moisturises it. It gets its name from micelles, that is, tiny balls of molecules that are made of fatty acid esters, which according to Bioderma, “are similar to the phospholipids of the skin cell membranes and naturally help rebuild the skin’s hydrolipidic film.” Sounds complicated, I know. I suppose, what’s important is that, I gave it a try and I absolutely love it. It’s very gentle yet very efficient in everything it claims it can do. It’s also really easy to use – I just have to soak a cotton pad with it and sweep it across my whole face, that’s it; I don’t have to rinse it off with water, I don’t have to tone my face after – perfect for lazy old me. Okay, I won’t replace my main cleanser with it; I still like to properly cleanse my face (especially at night) with my natural and organic product, but I use it most mornings and as a second cleanser (in place of toner) to wipe away any residue / dirt / make-up left by my first cleanser. So yeah, it’s definitely a product that I will continue using. I’m using Bioderma – a celebrity favourite and one of the first companies that came up with micellar water, but there are plenty of other brands out there you can try.

2. Nourish Kale Enzymatic Exfoliating Cleanser

This was one of the samples I received from my Love Lula January 2015 Beauty Box. I was (still am) really glad that I got this – it’s definitely one of the best cleansers I’ve tried so far. It’s 81% organic, which is a good start, and I absolutely love the smell – it’s very fresh – and the way my skin feels after using it. I like the fact that it’s multitasking – you can use it as a gentle cleanser, a daily exfoliating mask or a weekly revitalising facial mask. I’ve tried them all and I love them all, but I particularly like using it in the morning because, as I’ve said before, it’s very refreshing.

3. James Read Sleep Mask Tan

I first saw this product on board British Airways in one of their duty free magazines and I thought… hmm… that’s interesting – tan whilst you sleep and wake up to a golden glow in the morning. I almost bought it but a few things stopped me: (1) I was worried that it would have a strong smell (from my personal experience, self tan products can have an overpowering smell); (2) I was worried that it would stain my linen; and (3) I was worried that it would clogged my pores (I mean, we all know that skin cells do their repair work most effectively at night, and so I really don’t want to load my face with chemical-laden cream before going to sleep). However, on their website, they say that the formula is infused with skincare essentials, like aloe vera, cucumber, hyaluronic acid, red algae, etc. Sounds comforting enough. They then go on to say that you can also apply it in the morning to build a healthy glow throughout the day. Now that might actually sway me towards buying the product.

4. Priv: The On-Call Beauty and Wellness Professionals

Elle calls it “the beauty app equivalent of the taxi service Uber.” It’s an app that allows you to bring a trained professionals of your choice (be it hairdresser, make-up artists, masseuse, manicurist, etc) to wherever you are. I’ve downloaded the app but haven’t tried it out yet, or rather, I couldn’t, because there isn’t a single registered trained professionals within my area. I suppose the success of this app will depend on how many trained professionals they can recruit, but it’s still early days, so let’s see what happens. Priv is available to download from the App Store and Google Play.

5. Daisy Chakra Bracelet

Again, I saw this bracelet on board British Airways in one of their duty free magazines. It’s designed by London jewellery label Daisy and it’s worn by a number of celebrities, including Katy Perry, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Kanye West, etc. According to Daisy, “the Chakras are the manifestations of spiritual energies on the physical level, responsible for well-being and a happy, healthy life.”; and “The Chakra bracelets are designed to balance your Chakras and ensure your life force and vital energy.” Well, that’s lovely, but for me, I just think it’s pretty, and if it really balances my Chakras, then that’s a plus. Regardless, I’d love to have one.

6. Nutribullet

Of course, the superfood extractor! Which my husband and I received as a gift from a very good friend this month. I love it, we love it, and we highly recommend it! Enough said. I wrote a review here if you’re interested.

Looking back at the second trimester

“You’ve survived the first trimester! Congratulations! But there’s still plenty to do before your baby arrives. Here’s a checklist to help you get organised.”

Pregnant Woman Thoughts | www.angeliquelee.co.uk | mirosh17tatyana/123RF

1. Keep taking your daily folic acid (400mcg) and calcium (10mcg) supplement

I’ve talked about the importance of taking these supplements before (see my post “Looking back at the first trimester“), so I’m not going to repeat it here. But I’d like to reiterate that if you’re like me and you can’t be bothered with buying different supplements separately, you can always take an all-in-one pregnancy tablet (such as Pregnacare) which contains all the vitamins your body needs. I just find it so much easier.

2. Keep going to your antenatal appointments with your midwife

If this is your first pregnancy, you’ll have 3 antenatal appointments during your second trimester (one at 16 weeks, another one at 25 weeks and the last one at 28 weeks); otherwise, you’ll have 2 at 16 weeks and 28 weeks. Your midwife will test your urine sample for protein, check your baby’s heartbeat, bump size and your blood pressure at every appointment, and at your 28 weeks appointment, she’ll also take your blood sample. They’re all pretty routine really and each appointment lasts about 40 minutes or so (depending on whether you have a lot of questions to ask or not).

3. Go to your anomaly scan appointment

This is a detailed scan, which checks how your baby is growing and for physical abnormalities in your baby. This is also the scan at which you’ll be able to find out the sex of your baby (if you want to, of course). It’s supposed to last about 20 minutes, but mine took almost an hour because my baby just refused to move so the sonographer couldn’t check everything properly the first time. I had to move around, jump up and down to encourage my baby to change position. Luckily, she did; otherwise, I’d have to come back for another scan and that would be a pain. As with your dating scan, don’t forget to bring some change if you want to buy photos of your baby.

4. It’s probably time to break the news to friends and family

At the end of the day, this is your pregnancy, so you should have the ultimate control as to when to tell your family and friends and how to go about it. My husband and I did it in stages – we told our family after my first scan and we started telling our close friends when I was in my second trimester. But that’s about it; I suppose, we’ll tell more people after the baby’s here.

5. Keep yourself active, healthy and comfortable

Basically… watch what you eat, listen to your body, take extra care when taking any medicine (check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist if you’re not sure), exercise, get enough rest, etc, etc. I’ve written about this in my post “Looking back at the first trimester“, because, well, you should start doing all the above right from the start anyway and continue to do so throughout your pregnancy.

6. If you haven’t already, start organising your finances and prepare for your new arrival

Again, this is something that I think you should look at from as early as possible, especially if you want to get your hands on amazing bargains. So, if you haven’t done so, make a checklist of what you need for your baby and slowly buy them when you spot a good price. My husband and I managed to save more than £1000 just by being organised. If you’re interested to know how we did it, read my post “For all those bargain and freebies hunters out there“. While you’re at it, don’t forget to think about insurance, childcare, benefits, etc. On that note, you might also be interested in “From bump to baby: understanding your benefits entitlement and financial options“.

7. Go for a holiday

You and your partner might not get the chance to go on a holiday alone together for a while after your baby is born. For most couple, the second trimester is the perfect time to book a vacation – you’re not feeling as sick and tired as you were in your first trimester and you’re also not feeling the strain of being heavily pregnant yet. My husband and I went to Tenerife for a week when I was 28 weeks pregnant – it was perfect, it was a beach holiday, so I was able to relax and it’s nice to be able to get some sunshine when it’s freezing in London. If you’re flying, remember to get a letter from your midwife stating that you’re fit to fly. I didn’t have to show mine but it’s good to have it with you just in case.

8. Start shopping for maternity clothes (if you need to)

I didn’t. I’m now 33 weeks pregnant and I’m still wearing my normal clothes. I just stay away from jeans, tight-fitting skirts, etc, and embrace leggings, loose dresses and jumpers. I personally think that if you choose your clothing smartly, you can get away from not having to spend money on maternity wear. My post “Style bible: ‘non-maternity maternity’ wear” should give you some ideas on how to choose what I like to call ‘double-function’ pieces.

9. Decide which antenatal classes you’d like to go to and book your place

The free NHS-run classes or the pretty expensive NCT-run classes or both – the choice is yours. I signed up for the NCT-run classes and paid £190 for 5x 2 hours classes. Why? Because I read and heard that they’re much better than the NHS-run ones. Unfortunately, I was wrong. In my opinion, they’re just not worth the hefty price tag. You can read all about it here and here… the classes are not finished yet, but I’ve come to terms that I will not learn anything from them. I’m utterly disappointed – I’ve attended 3 classes, that’s 6 hours, and I think it’s worth 10 minutes on google. So if you asked me, I’d say, go to the free ones and google everything else. And of course, bring your partner along to the antenatal classes.

10. Start thinking about your maternity leave, benefits and entitlements

Remember that you have to tell your boss that you’re pregnant by the 15th week before your baby’s due date and you also have to tell your boss in writing the date you propose to go on maternity leave.  If you’re not entitled to receive statutory maternity pay, you may be able to apply for maternity allowance, and there also other benefits that you may be entitled to depending on your circumstances. So it’s a good time to start sorting these out and don’t wait until the last minute.