Meeting the Queen Bee

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If you’ve been following me for a while, you will know that I’ve grown into a big fan of Instagram shops and brands. One of the first I ever came across was baby clothing and accessories supplier Bee Bee’s Boutique. At the time, they were running a brand rep search and, after getting approval from Ryan and some friends, I decided to enter Ralphie. With just a few followers to my name, not to mention a feed of photos that were a bit all over the place, the lovely Rhiannon Beeson took a punt on us. And it’s been up, up, up ever since then!

I think the same can be said for Bee Bee’s. Rhiannon set up the store with her own little bee – Lottie – in mind, wanting to find cool clothing and accessories that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to buy on the high street. Today, she stocks a fabulous range of amazing brands from around the world, and her customer base is growing as demand for handmade, on-trend, baby clothes from small businesses continues to skyrocket.

“I’m super passionate about supporting other mumpreneurs and small businesses, and we’re so proud to work with our stockists,” Rhiannon says. “We’re also pretty proud to have a couple of firsts under our belt, being the first supplier of Lil’ Cubs, Hudson Reign and Lyn in Stitches; the first UK supplier of CarlijnQ; and the first European supplier of Coco & Cru.”

Rhiannon has also let me in on a little secret that I’m absolutely honoured to be able to share with you all. Bee Bee’s is now an official stockist of Fred and Noah!

“We’re so excited to be working with the wonderful Natalie from Fred and Noah,” she says. “They were the first Instashop we bought from and we’re totally addicted to their awesome leggings. When we got the email to say ‘welcome aboard’, I ran into the kitchen screaming in total disbelief!

“All of our Fred and Noah stock is ready made and ready to ship so our little bees will get the same quick turnaround. We’re really honoured to be working with them and think this is a really exciting time for Bee Bee’s.”

I feel very lucky to be one of the first to congratulate Bee Bee’s on this fantastic news. The leggings are going to be in great company on the website and they certainly fit the bill in terms of what types of clothing Rhiannon aims to stock – bright and colourful, and funky and bold.

“We also test all of our products before we approach a stockist – how do they wash, what’s the fit like, the material and so on,” she explains. “Talking to mums on a regular basis and looking after our own little bee means we know what’s important. But most of all we go on gut feeling. What brands do we love, what’s their approach with customers and do they fit with the Bee Bee’s ethos? We’re super lucky to work with such wonderful brands.”

When asked what her favourite Bee Bee’s item is, Rhiannon says that it is way too difficult to choose just one. So she opts for one from each brand she stocks instead: “Fred and Noah – has to be the fabulous pink cloud leggings: super soft, bright and funky yet girly print, perfect fit and they last. Lil’ Cubs has to be the Oranges and Lemons baby grows – the little yellow soles are soooo cute and the unisex print makes it one of my go-to baby shower gifts. Hudson Reign – personalised tees without a doubt; they’re just so cool and the quality is amazing. Coco and Cru – all of the blankets are lush but Mint Triangle and the Peach Herringbone are to die for!”

If you haven’t already, you can check out the full range of clothing and accessories at www.beebeesboutique.co.uk. I don’t know about you, but I’m off shopping…

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Operation sleep: the giveaway!

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It’s funny how a plan comes together. I’ve been organising this bedtime giveaway for a while, but it seems to be fate that the week I’m all ready to go is the week Ralphie finally gets his head around sleeping through the night. Cheers all round!

I wanted to do this giveaway as I believe that the bedtime routine is so important. After a lovely day together, you need that time in the evening as a mum to switch off and chill, even if it’s only for a few minutes before you fall asleep! We didn’t really have a good bedtime routine for the first six months of Ralphie’s life. We cuddled him well into the evening and he usually ended up going to bed when we were ready to go upstairs too. I don’t regret one bit of what we did, but now our baby’s in bed by around 7.30pm every night, and it has transformed our evenings for the better. We’ve got our ‘us time’ back and we can eat our dinner in peace. Bliss!

So, to celebrate the greatness of bedtime, I’ve teamed up with some amazing small businesses to bring you all the essentials you need to help your little ones drift off to the land of nod without a tear in sight! To enter, all you need to do is head to my Instagram page and read the super simple instructions on my giveaway post. In addition to liking the post and following all six businesses involved in the giveaway, I would love to hear about your baby’s bedtime routine. What special things do you do before tucking them up in bed? Do you have any tips or tricks you would like to share? We’ll be picking our favourites, and six lucky winners will get their hands on some goodies. I’ll also be featuring some of the best comments in a follow-up blog post next week.

Before you go, here’s a bit more about the businesses behind the giveaway and what you can win:

A Little Bit Milo

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This online children’s fashion and homeware store only launched at the end of last year, but is already making a name for itself as a stockist of some of the best independent brands going.

One of the newest items to join their ever-growing range is Guess Who!, a clues-and-answers set of three books from London-based children’s book publisher Owl & Dog Playbooks. What makes it cool is that it can be opened and read in different ways, without affecting the rhythm and rhyme. I definitely need to get this for Ralphie (I’m a massive fan of quirky books and I hope he will be too!). If you enter the competition, this is up for grabs along with a pear night light. The perfect bedtime combo!

Didi and Bud

Every baby needs a cute, comfy sleepsuit and Didi and Bud do the best, in my humble opinion. If you’ve been following me for a while, you will know that I’m a big fan. Super soft cotton, cool prints – what’s not to love? Didi and Bud’s debut collection includes four patterns – penny farthing, top hats, lace umbrella and vintage bicycle in black, blue, pink and grey, respectively. One lucky winner will get their hands on a sleepsuit in the size and pattern of their choice.

Kokoso Baby

I hadn’t heard of this baby skincare brand until recently when I was looking around for something to treat Ralphie’s eczema. We’ve been to the doctors numerous times and got various potions and steroid creams, but what I really wanted was a long-term natural remedy. We’ve been using the organic coconut oil for a couple of months now and I’m really impressed. The redness on Ralphie’s face has cleared up completely and it’s my first point of call for any flare ups. Plus, it feels lovely to put on. Buttery soft, yet surprisingly not greasy. But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you win, you’ll get a pot to try yourself.

Mama Designs

With its removable inner layer, the Babasac is the perfect year-round baby sleeping bag. And it looks really cool too. We’re currently using ours on ‘summer mode’ without the warm lining, and it keeps Ralphie just the right temperature at night. It’s a great investment piece, as I know it will last through the colder months too. Mama Designs has kindly offered up the green apple Babasac in a size of your choice for this giveaway.

Megan Illustrations

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I know I will sound biased as she is my sister, but Megan is one super talented lady! She has just graduated from the Winchester School of Art with a first-class honours degree in Fine Art and is now taking design and illustration commissions, as well as selling prints and artwork. One of her first jobs has been a collaboration with Cribstar to create a bespoke emoji design, which is being used across a wide range of baby clothing – I cannot wait to see the full collection, which will be available to buy soon. We’re lucky enough to have an amazing piece of artwork in Ralphie’s room. If you win, you’ll get to have your own too!

Milk Moustache

This clothing brand has some of the coolest prints going. Teepees, spots, ice creams, doughnuts – if you haven’t checked them out yet, then you must. We’ve got a few rompers and tops, but when I go back to work and bring in some more money, I’m going to have to try and stop myself from buying the entire range! Milk Moustache is best known for its baby clothing range, but did you know they do cot sheets too? The sleeping eye sheet could be yours, and if you really wanted you could even buy the leggings and top to match. Ultimate camouflage!

Remember, head to my Instagram page to enter. And good luck!

 

Getting creative in the kitchen

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Ryan and I LOVE our food. I mean, we really love it. Our text conversations in the day (while Ryan’s at work) tend to revolve around what we’re having for dinner. At the weekend we make special trips to the market to pick up fresh, local ingredients; we seek out new eating haunts (although we eat out far less now than we used to); we pour over recipe books. You get the picture; we like food, a lot!

When we were trying for a baby, we went on one last big foodie spree in London, our bellies leading the way from one fine restaurant to another – Claridge’s, The Dorchester, Berners Tavern, Hawksmoor; the poshest pub crawl ever! It was actually ridiculous.

As you can imagine, then, it’s kind of out of the question for Ralphie to be a picky eater. In those early weeks of weaning – when he screwed his face up at the mushed carrot I was trying to spoon into his firmly closed mouth – I was worried. But now I’m giving him stuff that more closely resembles proper meals, we’re starting to make some headway.

Bar the odd sneaky takeaway, we cook everything from scratch. I’ve been determined to do the same with Ralphie’s meals too. We haven’t yet reached the stage where he eats what we do, but that’s mainly because he eats at 6pm and Ryan isn’t usually back from work until 7. Plus, I do like my food seasoned.

That doesn’t mean to say, though, that Ralphie’s meals can’t be flavoursome. Bland, single flavour purees didn’t really do it for him, so I started mixing things up fairly early on. I combined pears with broccoli and parsnip, banana with avocado, prunes with sweet potato and carrot – not necessarily the most obvious combos, but he liked them.

And then I wanted to get even more adventurous. I needed to start adding more protein, fibre and general variation to his diet, so I began scouring the internet for recipe ideas. I came across an absolute gem on Instagram (@young_gums), which I check on a daily basis for food inspiration. The recipes are compiled by a lovely London mama who is weaning her baby girl, and they’re healthy, fun and simple. My go-to favourites are the Tuna Niçoise Smash, Mini Moroccan Tagine and Mexican Eggs. But all the recipes are great. If you’re in a bit of a baby food rut, I urge you to check this fabulous account out.

I am also very pleased to say that I’ve finally sorted out Ralphie’s highchair situation! Don’t worry, he has had a highchair for a good few months now, but I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect insert for it to keep him eating comfortably. I eventually found one from Kidly, and I held out and held out until I could get my hands on it. Nothing else compared. While we waited, poor Ralphie had to make do with a blanket behind his head, which he quite enjoyed rubbing his food covered fingers into. Lovely! When it finally arrived I was probably far more excited than I should have been. But just look at it! Isn’t it the coolest highchair insert you’ve ever seen?

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Mealtimes are fun affairs in our household. They’ve now become a great deal more messy and noisy (who knew shouting at the top of your voice and blowing raspberries is the thing to do while you eat?!), but I’m hoping that Ralphie picks up mine and his dad’s passion for food. Now all I need to do is figure out portion sizes. Ryan did the breakfast shift the other day and proudly showed me two empty bowls of porridge – he made up seconds because Ralphie was enjoying it so much! Yes, I want a food lover on my hands, but I don’t want him to be obese.

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Think outside the bulb

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I stumbled across Bulb London’s Instagram page (@bulb_london) a couple of months back (this happens quite often these days!), and I was immediately captivated.

I absolutely love it when I find something different and quirky – and this new kids’ lifestyle and décor brand is definitely that. Their designs are unique and clever. As soon as I saw their amazing lightbulb decoration, I was desperate to get my hands on one.

After months of hard work and preparation, Bulb London opened its virtual doors last week. In between running her new business and packing up orders, Agnete Rinne – the amazing mama behind it all – took some time out to tell me what Bulb London is all about, and what inspired her to set up her own business.

Before we hear all about Bulb London, tell me a little about yourself and your family.
We are a trilingual, modern, lifestyle-conscious family living in London. I came to the city in 2006 to study and I’m still here (laughing). I’m originally from Rīga, the capital of Latvia.

I have always been creative; my mum was a painter so I guess, she ‘pushed’ me down the same route, which I’m grateful for. I painted portraits back home, but wanted to try something different when I came to London. So I went for visual arts and graphic design. I’m not exactly a computer person, but I’m happy I hold a degree. I met my partner Farhan (everyone calls him Haan) during our university days, and we are still going strong. Oh gosh, we fight and argue – not only we are from different cultures, but we have our wonderful daughter Mia as well as our joint business to juggle.

So how did the idea for your business come about?
My mother use to paint, as did my grandfather, so I come from a very artistic background. I have a natural eye for colour and shape, and I always wanted to do something big; sometimes I think people don’t dare to dream big enough. So one day me and Haan sat on the sofa and we were like “f*** it – lets do it!” My creativity is unstoppable, but I need someone to manage me, therefore we are a great match. Trust me, not everyone can work with their other half, especially with a control freak like me!

Where did you get the inspiration from for your fabulous designs?
Our darling Mia is the heart of Bulb London. As a parent, I have a job to be a role model to my daughter, and by extension, to other young people too. I also understand how to turn a lightbulb on in someone’s head. Creativity equals inspiration, and if you’ve got a creative mind, you don’t ever stop working. It’s about how you deliver your idea.

Now that your shop is live, what products can people get their hands on?
We launched on 1 June. We worked day and night to go live. Every single thing – from the sketches to the final products – we’ve done ourselves. We have a range of prints, kids’ room deco and tees for kids aged 1-8 years. We also created a tote bag for people who like to ‘think outside the bulb’.

If you could choose one favourite item from your range, what would it be?
Am I allowed to have favourites? (laughing) It’s definitely the Mama Queen print – it’s a portrait of me! I also love the black bulb all over print tee.

I know it’s early days, but what’s in the pipeline for Bulb London?
We are basically building a baby – creating it, evolving it and developing it. At the moment, we are working on our adult range of tees. We’ve got so much more to give. I truly believe that we could all change our entire consciousness if we dared to dream big.

Visit Bulb London’s website to discover the full range. And be sure to check out Agnete’s Instagram page for some amazing lifestyle shots.

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Mum dating

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Making friends with other mums…it’s a bit like dating. Well that’s been my experience of it thus far, anyway.

At the grand old age of 28, I thought I’d pretty much got all the friends I needed. But then I had a baby, and after the initial influx of guests and well wishes, it all tailed off. People had their own lives to get back to – lives that don’t revolve around my little bundle of joy. And I realised that maternity leave was going to be a bit lonely if I didn’t get out there and start finding some new mum friends.

I’ll admit it took me some time to get going. It’s tricky. I joined a couple of baby groups. As you enter the room for that first session, you look around the room searching out the mums that look like you may have something in common with. Of course, we all share one thing in common – we’re mums – but you need more than that. It’s like dating – you need to click!

Even when you do think you’ve met a mum or two that you think you like the look of, you’ve then got to initiate next steps. If you want to meet up outside of baby group, you need to find a way of contacting them. And you’ve also got to hope that they like you too. “Erm, do you fancy swapping numbers?” Awkward!

But I can tell you from experience that it is so worth going through that awkward stage. I kind of wish I’d bitten the bullet sooner. I went out for lunch and a walk with a super lovely mum and our babies last week for the first time – and I thought, ‘why on earth haven’t we done this sooner?’

Funnily enough, I’ve also made some fantastic friends through the power of social media. If you’d have asked me eight months ago that this would be the case, I think I’d have been pretty surprised. But there are some fabulous ladies who I now count as close friends, all of whom I’ve met or reconnected with through Instagram and Facebook.

A couple of months ago, Ralphie and I also met up with a group of mamas through a group we’d set up on Instagram. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous, especially when you hear about some of the weirdos on the internet. But we turned up and everyone was so sweet (which is a relief, because they’re probably reading this!). We’re in the process of organising another get together soon. Pretty cool, huh?

One thing I will say is that mum dating really isn’t that scary once you get into it. Plus, don’t forget that you have your wingman or lady next to you. These babies of ours are great for breaking the ice.

Tea with Didi and Bud

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If you follow Becky Hodges on Instagram (@just_another_instamum), you will know that she’s partial to a good brew. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such pretty cups of tea! But in between sipping on a strong Assam with a drop or two of honey (her personal favourite), holding down a part-time job, being wife to Dean, and mum to Monty (nearly three) and Willow (17 months), Becky has also been busy creating her own baby sleepwear line. I don’t know where she finds the time!

Launching next month, Didi and Bud is an English homegrown brand with a focus on design-led, minimalist sleepsuits. Everything, from the sleepsuit patterns to the beautiful prints are Becky’s creation, with a little help from her nearest and dearest. The top hat pattern, for instance, was designed by her and then drawn by her dad.

Named after her two children – Didi is the name affectionately given to Willow by her big brother, and Bud comes from “little buddy”, something Becky has always called her son – Didi and Bud is all about bringing a classic yet modern twist to baby sleepwear.

Fresh and minimalist

“I wanted to create something different – something with a minimalist feel and a real focus on the design element,” Becky says. “I’ve always loved the babies looking little and being comfy, but I wanted to see more grown-up designs. Yes, these sleepsuits are for babies, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be adorned with bright colours, teddy bears and Disney characters.”

Becky’s debut collection takes on a quintessentially English, mini gent and little woman theme. “English fashion is very much about ladies and gentlemen at the moment, and I wanted to translate that to babywear too,” she says.

To start with, there will be four different patterns you can get your hands on – the penny farthing, top hats, lace umbrella and the vintage bicycle, in black, blue, pink and grey, respectively. While proud of them all, she admits that the penny farthing is probably her stand-out piece. “I’ve got a big monochrome crush, and I’m so pleased with how this one turned out. I hope it will be popular with all the other monochrome lovers out there too.”

Made in England

Aside from the aesthetic, Becky has also been determined to produce her sleepsuits locally and has paid a great deal of attention to sourcing her materials. “From the start, my aim has been to create safe and comfortable clothing which I am ethically and socially proud of,” she says. “I was keen to support British makers, but it was also important to have absolute confidence in the materials I was choosing.”

Months and months of preparation have got Becky to where she is today. Last week she unveiled Didi and Bud on Instagram, and from 1 June she’ll be taking her first orders.

“I don’t know if I will make a success of this. But I feel like I owe it to myself and my littlies to give it a go,” she says. “As a new mum who’s recently stepped away from my career and then stepped back again, I realised that I wanted to be in control of my work/life balance. I don’t want to be a commute away from my children.

“Like many mothers, when on maternity leave, I found myself feeling more creative. I couldn’t turn my back on that,” she adds. “I hope this new venture will teach me a lot about the creative world and what it takes to be a mumpreneur.”

Different is good

To anyone else thinking of setting up their own business, Becky has a tip or two. “I guess I’d say, trust your gut instinct. And make sure your ideas are your own; have faith in what you’re doing. My babygrows are meant to be a little bit different, so I completely understand that they won’t appeal to everyone. I’m just following my own ideas and what feels right for my designs, similarly to the way I am with my children.”

And finally, Becky says that you should always prepare yourself for the odd setback. “It will happen, but it’s about figuring out how to bounce back. Oh and buy lots of teabags!”

You can find Didi and Bud on Instagram. The website is coming soon.

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To post, or not to post?

Today, I posted my 1,000th photo on Instagram. No prizes for guessing whom it was of!

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In the grand scheme of things, it’s a relatively small milestone. But it has made me reflect on the choice I’ve made to share Ralphie so publicly with you all – one square at a time.

As with most things, it started little by little. Bursting with happiness, I announced his birth across my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. I also set up a private album on Moment Garden for sharing photos with close family and friends. I still use it to this day and intend to long into the future. It’s brilliant for keeping everyone in the loop on Ralphie’s development, and it’s ideal for posting stuff you perhaps wouldn’t necessarily want to put into the public domain.

If you scroll back through my Instagram feed, you will see a noticeable progression from me posting the odd photo of Ralphie to what I have today – which although still very much amateurish, is an unashamed portfolio of my little boy and the amazing outfits he wears. Most we’ve bought for him, but, as is becoming more the case, many have also been gifted to him in return for the photos I post.

Why do I do it? Well, I guess firstly it’s pride. Plus, we enjoy it; I love taking photos of the little guy, and he is more than happy for me to, especially when I sing and make him laugh. It also perfectly complements what I’m doing with this blog. And it makes complete financial sense! This boy grows out of his clothes fast, and I am on maternity leave, after all.

The brand rep searches were a big driver. As each post got more and more likes, I decided to try our luck at representing some baby clothing brands, and we’ve been pretty successful. I feel privileged to work with some amazing people and support the work they do.

My profession has undeniably impacted my perception towards social media and how comfortable I am using it. Although I wouldn’t necessarily class myself as an expert, I use social media all the time in my job, and that has filtered through into my personal life too.

But the fact that I am writing this shows that I’m a bit conflicted. In the last few days alone, a few instances of people sharing photos of Ralphie without my permission has made me question whether or not I’m doing the right thing. Yes, my profile is public, but it doesn’t mean you can take my photos.

And what if these photos are seen and used by the wrong people? Well, at the risk of sounding incredibly naive, all they are seeing is a fully dressed baby. Unless you know us personally, I like to think there’s not really a huge amount you can deduce from my photos about our day-to-day life.

There are a lot of bad people in this world, but there is also a great deal of good. On a daily basis, my Instagram feed and the community I interact with is about celebrating the good in life. Yes, people may be on there for all the wrong reasons, but there are also a great many more on there for all the right reasons.

As my son grows, I may change my mind about the way I present him, or don’t present him, on social media. For now, though, I think I’m happy with what I’m doing.

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