Wednesday 31 August 2016

Me and Mine August

August has to be my favourite month of the year, even more so now that Dylan is at school.  There is sunshine more often than not, there is so much to do, there are birthdays and cake and there is ice cream.  We are all together, we are always outdoors and we have had such an amazing month.

The sun really has shone this month, and I don't think the temperature has dropped below twenty degrees in weeks.  We have had so many late nights, afternoons on the beach, play dates with friends and mornings exploring.  Everyone is looking a little tanned, their hair has got a little lighter and their legs all seem to have grown a few inches too.

August saw Dylan turning 5 and I celebrated my last 20 something birthday too.  I can still believe that the return to school is ages away even though really it is only a few short days and we haven't quite finished our summer fun yet.

This month Mama is loving watching the sun setting over the sea, Cora's first smiles, all the family days and birthday cake.

Daddy is loving Folk Week, having more time off to spend as a family, drinking iced coffees and racing around the soft play centre with Finn. 

Dylan is loving having all his friends at his birthday party, picking fruit with his friends, spending his money at the festival and learning the diabolo at Folk Week

Archie is loving stripping off at the beach and running in the sea, his conversations with Cora, staying out past bedtime and sleeping over at Grandma and Grandpa's house

Finn is loving walking!!!, dancing at folk week, cuddles with his baby sister and eating chips at the beach. 

Cora is loving smiling at her brothers, growing into the next size clothes, Mummy and bathtime.

September is going to be a big adjustment with the earlier mornings, the school runs and the changing weather, but we have so many wonderful summer memories to keep us going.
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Matching Sunglasses Style

You may have noticed my love for matching and co-ordinated as I love dressing the children matchy.  The same colours or theme to an outfit not only looks really sweet but with four small people to keep track of it can help me spot them in a crowd too.  I love the idea of matching the boys with me or the bloke and one of the best ways to do that is with sunglasses.

Smart Buy Glasses sell designer sunglasses for adults and children and they have some great options for parents and children to co-ordinate. These are three of our favourite pairings from Bolle, Julbo and Salice.  I love the bright lenses and the funky blue frames and I think they would certainly stand out together.

The streamlines black frames look great for active families and the polarized lenses make them look really different.  Check out the Salice selection on the website for these.

The blue frames are nice and bright and scream summer sun.  I love the orange tips on the children's frames too.

The white is more classic and simple and these are what I would pick if I wanted to get matching for me and the boys.  They go with everything but they are still not quite your average.

I have a few matches planned for Cora and I (one of the geeky reasons I love having a little girl) but it is fun thinking of ways I can co-ordinate with the boys as well.

This post is in collaboration with Smart Buy Glasses

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Tuesday 30 August 2016

5 Reasons I am Looking Forward to Breastfeeding Again

This is a Sponsored Post by SMA® Nutrition

In the lead up to Cora's arrival I was feeling a mixture of nervous and excited. I knew that things were about to get very busy, that life with a newborn is exhausting and draining in every sense and that I will truly understand the term 'hands full' as I tackle life with four aged four and under. I also knew how amazing it was going to be, how the adrenaline makes you feel on top of the world, how precious those early days are and how perfect newborn cuddles are.

I breastfed all three of the boys for varying lengths of time and I am breastfeeding this little lady as well. In fact, it is one of the things I was really looking forward to, for many reasons.

1) Everyone wants newborn cuddles to touch their tiny toes, sniff their little heads and marvel at how small they are. I know family and friends will want to take the baby off me to hold, but once she starts crying, it will be straight back to Mama. Breastfeeding means it is only me that can feed her and settle her, that it is me that gets to enjoy those moments of calm, watch her fall asleep milk drunk and hold her close.

2) Breastfeeding is easy - not always at first, but once those early struggles have passed and things fall into a routine, it becomes so easy. There is nothing extra to pack in an already bulging changing bag, no problems if you decide to stay out later and the knowledge that you have everything you need somewhere that you really can't lose!

3) The knowledge that I am providing my baby with the very best start in life. The first 1000 days (pregnancy through to her 2nd birthday) are so important and my breastmilk adapts to my baby's needs providing her with the right amount of essential proteins she needs to grow and stay healthy. Protein in breastmilk is vital for growth and development and is the foundation for their cells, muscles, brain and other tissues I still find it amazing that my body makes all of this on demand! The World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months as breast milk has been proven to support an appropriate rate of growth as the level of protein in breast milk changes as your babies grow. When babies grow at an appropriate rate it can reduce their chances of becoming overweight and obese later in life.

This video from SMA Nutrition shows the importance of protein in breastmilk

4) The extra calories having a newborn is exhausting and cake is one of the best ways to get through it. Breastfeeding mamas get an extra 500 calories a day which makes me feel so much better about all those extra biscuits I will be eating! It also means that the inevitable 'mum tum' shrinks a little faster, although I know with four pregnancies under my belt it is just a part of me now.

5) Savouring those moments, knowing that it won't be long before she is running around and not needing me so much. Knowing that whilst I am feeding my baby there is nowhere else I would rather be, that I am doing the most important thing I can be. Being able to stroke a tiny cheek, watch little fingers curl, little toes wriggle, a little body warm against mine. Being forced to slow down and appreciate the moment, exactly as we are, savouring the baby days.

I know that things may not stay easy, but it is something worth fighting for and I am enjoying every moment of breastfeeding my baby girl.
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Saturday 27 August 2016

What the Kids Wore - Goretex Shoes

Our Summer Bucket List was long and I never imagined we would get so far through it.  There are still so many things I want to do before they go back to school and some that I doubt we will be able to fit in, but we have had so many adventures that I will be sending them back to school and nursery content with the amazing summer we shared.

One of the things I was really keen to try with the boys was fruit picking.  I have never taken them, which doesn't make much sense considering how much they adore fruit of every kind.  We packed a picnic and plenty of water last week and met a group of friends to spend the morning at a PYO farm.  We happened to choose a ridiculously hot day which meant it was actually pretty quiet and we had the strawberry fields to ourselves.

We collected a few plums, apples and redcurrants but really it was all about the strawberries.  I don't know whether more were consumed there or brought home, but we got home to discover that Archie had tried every single strawberry in his punnet to check it was juicy first.

The boys were recently sent some Goretex trainers and they were ideal on this hot day as they are so breathable.  The fact they are waterproof meant we were prepared for all weather and they kept the boys feet protected when they found hay bales and wooden crates to climb on and over after our picnic.  

We are loving our free range summer, the exploring, discovering nature, running and climbing, playing with friends, staying up late and getting dirty.  The boys are having so many adventures and their shoes are keeping up with them well!  Cora spent the morning cuddled up in the sling which made both of us rather warm and rather glad to find a bit of shade to cool down in for a picnic lunch.

We had such a wonderful time fruit picking that I am hoping we can make it back there before the end of the season to fill up the fruit bowl again.  We are definitely going to be picking our own pumpkins and I am sure their Goretex shoes will be needed to keep them dry by then!

What else have you got planned for the final days of summer?

Disclosure: We are Goretex Ambassadors this year so we have been asked to share our big day adventures.  
All words and pictures are my own.

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Friday 26 August 2016

Three Bear's Threads

This summer has been about picnics, days at the park, muddy knees, late nights, dirty fingernails, sunkissed noses, bare feet, salty hair and fun.  The boys have spent almost all of it outdoors and they have needed clothes that let them explore, run, dance and play.  Three Bears Threads sells clothes with personality that are comfy, bright and perfect for kids like mine. They were each sent an outfit recently and they have formed part of our summer staples.

The day that I took these photos was so bright and we were at a little nature garden at the park.  They were watching dragonflies, practicing walking and balancing, looking for caterpillars and hoping for ice creams on the way home. 

 Finn has the most expressive face when he is walking, he still looks utterly amazed with himself.  His t-shirt is just brilliant and we have so many comments on it.  His leggings are stretchy and a great fit with a playful print (both items are 1-2 and he is a pretty average sized 17 month old).

I adore Archie's hot air balloon top - we seem to have gravitated towards balloon prints this summer, and the monochrome with a splash of colour looks amazing in real life.  

My skinny legged little one wore the leggings as baggy trousers (These are a 4T and he is an average 3.5 year old) and loved them.  I was tempted to swap them for a smaller size but he likes the comfy relaxed fit and refused to take them off.

And Dylan at 5 is all about looking 'cool'.  He would live in jogging bottoms if you let him and so I love that these get his seal of approval but are also a little bit different, a bit more fun than your average.  

Of course all the photos I have of him came out terribly or he was doing something ridiculous in them!

Cora wasn't missed out, she was sent a vest and leggings too, although the vest didn't last long enough that day for me to get the camera out.  Her leggings are stunning though and have plenty of growing space as I rolled up the cuffs. (They are 0-3 and she was 7 weeks old).  The subtle print is really unisex and super soft.

I was really impressed with the items, my favourite bits have to be Finn and Archie's tops as they are so unique but all four loved their new outfits.  Three Bears Threads has a sale on at the moment so there are some real bargains and all of these items are perfect for Autumn too.

Thank you to Three Bears Threads for sending all four children such beautiful post!

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Wednesday 24 August 2016

A Little Sister

The school holidays have been an adjustment for us all - six weeks of having four children full time.  A new baby to challenge and develop existing relationships, so much time together, so many opportunities.  The boys have always been close, but they are used to their time apart, to spending time with other children and in different situations.  This summer has been about us.

Dylan and Archie are the best of friends, of course they fight like only brothers can, but they play so well together, they chat and giggle and create and bond.  There are 18 months between them and that age gap shrinks the longer they are together.  Finn has always been the baby, but since Cora arrived he has had to step up, and he is changing so much now, desperate to join in with his brothers, determined in everything he does.

And these three boys of mine, they have a baby sister.  They are learning all over again, finding their place in the new dynamics of our family and having to share me with another (demanding) little person.

They adore her, all three of them and I am so thankful that her entrance has been so smooth.  Dylan regularly declares her to be his best friend and he lays next to her, his hand on hers as he sucks his thumb and stares at her.  He is convinced that he is her favourite as she gives him the most smiles and talks about the things he will do with her.

Archie's caring side comes out around Cora and he starts singing her nursery rhymes as soon as she starts crying.  He is curious about her and asks to have her on his lap the most.  Sometimes he is a little too curious and tries to lift her up, not entirely gently but mostly he strokes her lovingly.

And Finn, the boy who has been our baby for so long, and who loved his role as the youngest has surprised me with his lack of jealousy.  As soon as Cora is low enough for him to reach he crawls or toddles over with the biggest grin on his face to give her kisses.  He is gentle, he pats her, strokes her hair and kisses her on the forehead.  He may try and crawl over her at times, or give her the biggest cuddles when she is just trying to get some sleep, but you can see how desperate he is for her to be bigger and more responsive.  He loves an audience and he is going to be the star of the show once his little sister is able to give him more attention.

When Cora is awake, they are less interested in each other and more interested in her, each one vying for a space in her eye line.  She watches them calmly and with interest, sharing more of her smiles with her brothers than she does with me.  They don't have to work as hard or be there at the right time of the day.  At 8 weeks old she is already used to the chaos that comes with being the youngest of four and she is happy (so far) with her place in this family.

These boys of mine have taken to their baby sister so naturally,  they have made the transition from three to four so much easier and she is a lucky little girl to have three big brothers.  I never imagined a little girl in our future but it feels like she has been around forever already. 

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Saturday 20 August 2016

Graco Evo XT Review

graco evo xt review, Graco Evo, Pushchair review, Graco stroller

The Graco Evo XT is an all terrain buggy suitable from birth and we were sent one to test for Finn. For me, the most important features of a pushchair are the ability to parent face and a big basket and as this ticked both boxes, I was excited to try it out.  The Evo XT is easy to put together and only took me a few minutes.  The trickiest bit was the pin in the back wheels but once you get the first one in the second one seems so much easier!

graco evo xt, graco stroller, graco travel system, graco review

The seat unit seemed pretty generous and Finn fits in comfortably.  At 17 months his legs fit perfectly  and he has space to grow upwards.  The seat sits pretty upright as well as lying flat which is ideal for a nosy toddler.  I like how flat it lays for his when he is asleep and it means I can use it for Cora too if I want to swap them around.

The hood is generous and protects well from the elements.  When the seat is reclined it creates a huge amount of shade which is ideal for creating a good napping environment or keeping little ones out of the sun or wind.  

The handlebar is adjustable and at five foot nine I found it most comfortable when it was pushed upwards.  It was easy to change and to tuck away when we are storing it or on public transport as it folds right underneath.

The basket is very important to me as with four children I carry around a lot!  It was really generous and I could fit in my changing bag, blankets, jumpers and still have space.  It was easier to access when the seat unit is facing out, but I could get everything in and out just fine with the seat parent facing too.  

This pushchair is designed to handle rough terrains and I have found it great to use at the park.  We haven't been anywhere more adventurous to test it yet, but pushing it though parks, around town and on the school run it handles well.  The front wheels are lockable and the large back wheels help it move easily and it is comfortable and easy to push.

This pushchair folds in one piece, although it is best when the seat is world facing, which we never really do.  It is not as compact as an umbrella fold stroller, but smaller when folded than your average travel system.  Generally I would say its place is somewhere in the middle.  The Evo XT is easy to manoevre, light and collapsible like a stroller, yet has the large basket, the parent facing option and the adjustable handlebar of a travel system.  It is suitable from birth and offers protection from a newborn without needing a carrycot and would be a great option if you want to buy just one well chosen pushchair to last your child from birth until they no longer need it.  It is compatible with a carrycot and car seat so you can turn it into a travel system and comes complete with a raincover and footmuff (although it has been too warm for us to test the footmuff just yet)

Graco evo xt, graco stroller, travel system

The design is simple, well built and sturdy and we are enjoying using the Graco Evo XT.

I was sent this pushchair for the purpose of this review but all thoughts and opinions are completely my own. 

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Wednesday 17 August 2016

What the Kids Wore - Busy Little Bee

There is something so wonderful about having clothes made especially for you.  Something so satisfying when asked where something is from and answering that it is a one of a kind piece, unique and handmade.  I love supporting small businesses and work at home mums, I love finding the perfect item and I love these clothes made by Katie at Busy Little Bee.

Katie has such a huge array of fabrics it is incredibly hard to pick what you want, and there are so many different style of clothes.  You can mix and match different prints, experiment with pockets and hoods and she works with you to get everything just right.  Finn's romper is perfect for the summer as it keeps his knees covered whilst he crawls but his arms out and the cuffs mean it doesn't pull over his feet.   I think we will pop a vest underneath to help it see him through Autumn too.  I adore this lolly print and the grey stripes go perfectly.  We have so many compliments everywhere we go.

Archie's trousers are ideal for a busy three year old and since he decided that he hates jeans and anything restrictive I have been hunting for more fun and stretchy trousers for him.  Covered in monster trucks which are quite frankly his favourite thing, he picks these out as soon as they are clean in his wardrobe again and the stretchy waistband fits perfectly on his slim waist.

Dylan's t-shirt is a little bit more grown up, but still playful and comfy.  He loves the print and it is great for making up stories with.  He is starting to have an input in what he wears and if he doesn't consider it 'cool' then he won't touch it so this tee definitely passed the test.

Cora was sent an amazing pair of bib shorts with a co-ordinating top.  I just adore this style on babies and I love the colours and prints on her.  It is perfect for the hot summer days we have been having and just so sweet - who can resist little baby knees on show!

And it isn't just children who should get great clothes! I am often wearing cheap clothes that have been sat in my wardrobe for years whilst my children enjoy beautiful new things each season.  Katie makes adult clothes too perfect for pregnancy, breastfeeding and beyond.  This skirt adds a wonderful splash of colour into my wardrobe and is so comfy on my post-baby belly too.  Having to go back to buttons and stiffer waistbands the next day is always tough!

These clothes are all exquisitely made and perfect for active, growing children (and adults).  With so many styles and colours from simple and plain to completely eccentric there is definitely something for everyone!

Disclosure:  I was sent these items free of charge but it was my choice to blog about them and all photos and opinions are completely my own.
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Saturday 13 August 2016

Share Your Outdoors

My memories of childhood involve building sandcastles on the beach, swimming in the sea, climbing trees, rolling down grassy slopes and being outdoors.  My childhood was before the days of laptops and tablets, when kids TV was only on for a short while each day and when playing 'out' on the street was the normal.

My children are growing up in a different time - technology is everywhere, staying indoors is becoming more fun and too many things are considered too dangerous for them.  We still love getting out though, exploring our environment, discovering nature in all its glory.

This is what our outdoors looks like . . .

Being outdoors means fresh air, dirty fingernails, scuffed knees, windswept hair, worn out children, blue skies and feeling good.  Our go-to spot is always the beach - it is only a short walk from our house and the possibilities are endless.  We never get fed up of going, we never get bored and there is something so healing about watching the tide

We have a harbour down at our local beach and it is the perfect spot to sit and watch.  The water lies more still, the boats all line up and there is so much to take in.  We sit outside and eat our ice cream discussing which boat we would like and why and we love to watch the world go by.

There is nothing quite like the freedom of exploring the woods - there are insects to discover, log piles to navigate and trees to climb on.  There is always something new to discover and their imaginations run wild.

The Aspinall Foundation are asking bloggers to #ShareYourOutdoors for a chance to win some amazing prizes and I nominate Victoria (VeViVos), Hayley (Sparkles and Stretchmarks ), Sushi (Beach, Walk, Muse), Kara (innocent Charms Chats) and Jennie (Edspire) to take part.  You can win an overnight stay at Pinewood Shepherds Hut including dinner and breakfast!

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Friday 12 August 2016

My Breastfeeding Essentials

Cora is the fourth baby I have breastfed.  I fed her brothers for different lengths of time and I have no clear idea of how long I intend to feed her for yet.  I know that at the moment it is working for both of us and I hope that we have many more months left.  I love everything about breastfeeding, how easy it is once you get past the initial hurdles, how cheap it is, how lazy I can be, how much less I have to carry in my changing bag.  I love the bond it gives me with my babies and the fact that as soon as they start crying they come straight back to me.

I really believe that the only things you need to breastfeed are you and your baby, but that doesn't mean that there aren't products that make things easier and comfier along the way.  These are my breastfeeding essentials:

1) LanaCare breastpads - These are so comfortable and made from wool which contains natural Lanolin.  They are huge and cover the entire breast as well as helping to protect from mastitus and blocked ducts (which I have been lucky enough to have never suffered from) and they are low maintenance.  I have never leaked through them or had any issues.

2) Lanolin cream - Babies can take time to get a good latch - after all they are learning too, and evenings spent cluster feeding can leave your nipples feeling rather sore.  Lanolin cream is by far the best I have tried and you can leave it on to feed unlike some alternatives that need to be washed off first.

3) A nursing dress - this may not make everyone's essential list but I love wearing dresses and made sure I bought a few that were feeding friendly so that I didn't feel so restricted in what I wear.  Check out Frugi, JoJo Maman Bebe and Tiny Vikings

4) Plain Vests - I have a huge drawer full of plain vests which I now wear under everything.  I cover them with a nice top and when I need to feed I use the 'one up one down' approach.  The top comes up and the vest pulls down so that I can feed baby without getting a cold tummy.  I love the H&M longer ones and they are only around £4 each

5) Food and Drink - It is so easy to forget to eat properly with a newborn and I seem to be constantly thirsty when I am breastfeeding.  I have a whole stash of water bottles in the fridge so that I can always have one with me and I don't have to worry about spilling it (or the boys spilling it!).  Having snack bars makes life so much easier too and you can get ones that are specifically designed for breastfeeding mamas like Nutrimum and Freida's Pantry which are packed full of vitamins.

Breastfeeding essentials, breastfeeding mama

Whilst you can feed a baby without any of these things, these are my essentials for making life easier and more comfortable.  What are your breastfeeding must-haves?

breastfeeding essentials, breastfeeding

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Tuesday 9 August 2016

The Last Firsts

Every first is exciting and we are experiencing them so regularly.  First smiles, first steps, first day at school.  Dylan had his first sports day recently and it was amazing watching him run alongside his class,  playing as a team, jumping in a sack.  With Cora we are dealing with the last firsts though.  She is our last baby, the final member of our team and her firsts will be the last ones we marvel at, the last ones I photograph with joy, the last ones we proudly share with the world.  

Cora's first day was the last time I will hold a brand new baby of my own.  Her first bath was the last time I will cuddle a baby so tiny in the water, her first steps will signify the end of having a baby in our house.

Everything about knowing she is our last baby is emotional.  I love this stage, the squishy newborn bubble of sleep deprivation, nappy changing and sleepy cuddles.  I know how quickly these early days go and I still can't get my head around the fact that this baby girl of ours is already six weeks old.  Every day feels so precious knowing I will never hold my baby this small and fragile again.  Every first of hers is a last for me and every day, week and month that passes is a step closer to the next stage and the end of this one.

Dylan's first are so exciting, a step forward, something new for us all.  Archie's are anticipated and amazing still, Finn's are so special as we remember how far he has come and Cora's are wonderful and slightly sad at the same time.  Today I packed away her 'up to one month' clothes, and they are going to be passed on to another newborn, not saved for one of mine.

This is the last time I will watch the boys welcome a new sibling, watch their faces as they take in how tiny this new person is, watch the beginnings of their relationship.  I am taking comfort in the fact I get to watch it all develop, see them grow together hoping the four of them stay close.

The first big smile that I am so eagerly awaiting will be the last time I spend so long trying to get a baby to show me affection.  The first time Cora starts to crawl will be the last time that we babyproof the house, her first day of school will by the end of having a child at home.  I am so excited to be part of their childhoods, so blessed to be their mother and get to experience it all, but please can we just slow things down a little? I am not ready for any more last firsts.

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Monday 8 August 2016

iCandy Peach Blossom

With two children that can't yet walk, a double buggy is a part of our everyday life and Finn and Cora have been enjoying their new set of wheels.  We bought our first iCandy pushchair when we were pregnant with Dylan over 5 years ago and they are a brand that we trust and love.  The iCandy Peach Blossom is a versatile double travel system which I have found comfortable for both children, easy to push and ideal for getting around.

This pushchair can be used for two newborns, two toddlers or a newborn and toddler.  Both positions can be used with a carrycot, car seat or child seat although so far we have only used it in the combo shown in these pictures.

Cora has a carrycot on the bottom and unlike the apple2pear this one is rigid.  It feels and looks secure and snug and is easy to attach and remove.  The carrycot, like with most double buggies, is relatively small but Cora fits perfectly and still has growing room in all directions.  It is suitable for overnight sleeping and we often use it for daytime naps if she lets me put her down.

Finn sits up top at the moment and as a large 17 month old he still has plenty of space.  The straps are easy to adjust and do up and he loves his new ride.  The seat can be reclined easily and Finn has no problem falling asleep in there.  In this mode, the seats both face outwards, but when we change to two seats we can have them both facing in, with the top seat closer to me.  I do miss having Finn facing me and that is one of the only changes I would make to the peach blossom.

The peach is easy to fold, but both seats and the adaptors need to be removed first.  It doesn't take long and everything slots back in to place very easily.  The chassis has a long strap so that it can be carried over one shoulder and that has been brilliant when taking it out and into the car.

The black chassis really stands out and I love the colours of this pushchair.  I chose it knowing I would be using it for both a boy and girl and I love pushing it.  We are finding that the black frame scratches more than our others but with four small children to hustle out the door each morning it may be the way we treat things.

This pushchair can also be used as a single and I have loved taking it out with just one baby in it as well.  In double mode with a carrycot the basket size is limited ( but still able to fit in two raincovers, two blankets and jumpers for all four children) but in single mode the basket is huge and perfect for shopping!

I love pushing the peach and can do so one handed with no problems.  Curbs are easy to manoever and it is much lighter than I expected considering there are two children in there.  We have the seat unit ready for when Cora is sitting up so I will update this post when we have given it a good go with two full size seats.

I love this pushchair and it fits our needs perfectly at the moment.  Both children are comfortable and secure and I love the way it feels to push.  This buggy looks great and we have so many compliments.  
The Peach Blossom is currently £955 for the main components, and then an extra £172.50 for the carrycot.  There are lots of other co-ordinated accessories you can buy from footmuffs to travel bags to cup holders.  

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