Review & Uses: Tots Bots Happy Mat And Wet Bags

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In16 months of my child’s life, I have never once used a changing mat. Don’t be alarmed: it hasn’t all been dirty floors, green fields and absorbent sofas :/

My mum made some amazing handmade quilt-like mats out of old cotton sarees and believe it or not, I have been relying on those all these months.

So when Tots Bots offered me to try out their Happy Mat and Wet Bag, I was pretty pleased. Old sarees are great, easy to wash and colourful, but not very waterproof…

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The new addition to Tots Bots Happy Mat and Wet Bag collection is in my favourite print, Kaleidoscope. The mathas three layers: super-absorbent fluffy top layer, a squishy padded middle layer and a waterproof bottom layer.

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If you are a cloth nappy user, you’ll be familiar with the vital wet bag: these are used to keep the dirty, wet and soiled nappies separated from the dry ones. Tots Bots’ wet bags are completely leak-proof, just like their nappies, and can hold up to 8 soiled nappies. They have a zipper to lock the nappies in and a little snap-on handle.

More Than Just A Nappy Accessory

In the past few weeks that we have been using these products we realised that they have more uses than just one.

Here are some of the different ways in which we have been using the happy mat and the wet bag:

1. Play Scene 

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My kids enjoy creative play and we entertain a lot of child-led playing. The other day I found my children had turned  the  colourful happy mat into jungle! The blue kaleidoscope prints were a massive ocean and the fluffy orange was sand. Wooden animals were running rampant.

2. Play Mat

Baby Ro also uses the Happy Mat to simply sit and play on when the floor isn’t cosy on its own.

3. Picnics

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We took both the happy mat and the wet bag to the picnic with us. The mat was perfect for little Ro to sit on and enjoy a few snacks whilst the wet bag was perfect to store some picnic food.  Before heading home from our picnic we used the same mat to change nappy and stored the soiled nappy in the wet bag. It totally saved us from carrying the extra baggage.

4. Swim Kit

Living by the seaside means we find ourselves on the beach quite frequently. We also find ourselves wet very often whether from a small splash in the waves or a swim in the sea, the wet bags come handy in packing up those wet clothes whilst keeping rest of the nappy bag dry.

5. Food Shopping

As a baby wearer I often use a rucksack for carrying extra nappies and other supplies. I also use the rucksack for storing any small food shopping that I have to do. I do not like to purchase plastic bags when shopping, so I sometimes use the wet bag to store food items especially frozen bags of food. It helps keep the rest of the stuff in the bag dry whilst still keeping my hands free as the wet bag fits perfectly in my rucksack even when full.

For the ones who have a buggy, can simply use the snap handles to attach the wet bag full of shopping on to the buggy.

6. Cushion

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The happy mat rolls up easily and the attached strings helps to hold it together by tying a knot around it. This makes it super convenient to pack in the bag but has also been providing my eldest with great neck/head support whilst reading outdoors or simply resting.

7. Mattress Protector

Recently, I have realised my son manages to take his nappy off in his sleep and wakes up bare bottoms every morning. There is a risk of him peeing in bed and I have been using the happy mat as a mattress protector of sorts. I simply place it under his bottoms when I realise that he has taken his nappy off. I prefer this over risking waking him up whilst trying to put the nappy back on. He has managed to pee once on the mat in our bed but the mattress was dry and the sheets were clean too.

Tots Bots is selling their new Kaleidoscope Happy Mat and Wet Bag as a set for an absolute bargain at £22 exclusively available on their website.

 

 

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Why Vegan and Am I Imposing My Beliefs On My Children?

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When I first became a mother to my stepchildren, I was just 22. I didn’t want to make any mistakes in raising them. I used to strive every day to find a balance between being their friend and a responsible adult taking over the role of a mother. I always felt a subliminal social pressure that whispered that if I made any mistakes, all fingers would be pointed at me as a wicked stepmother.

It took me nearly 7 years to realise that there is no parenting without mistakes and there is no society without opinions, whatever one does. One simply has to be mindful about it and be optimistic.

Whose Life Is It?

Fast forward a few years later, I gave birth to a rambunctious little baby who is from me but not mine. He is a person of his own. I think about this a lot. For years, I had an insecurity that my stepchildren will never be mine, and that I could raise them, provide for them and just like that the biological mum could come and take them away from me, while I stood helplessly. But it was only after giving birth to my baby I realised that life is not ours to own.

It is with this thought that I started to become mindful about life: mine, yours and theirs. It is the exact same thought that also made me realise that if life is not for us to own, it is also not for us to take. I want my children to know that it is not ok to kill or pay someone else to kill an animal (or any living being for that matter) for you. I don’t want them to think that it is okay to kill some animals for your food and entertainment and not some others.

Like them, all lives are free spirited or should be. If they have a will to want to live, they are not ours to take.

The Holy Cow

In India, the cow is a holy being. She is also called “the mother cow”, because people feed off of her milk. But guess what? She is not our mother, and her milk is for her calf. In saying so, I am not denying how cow’s milk may have come to the rescue of many human lives, and it had or perhaps has its place. Having said that, in a rich, evolved and developed world, we do not need it for our survival or even sustenance.

As a breastfeeding mother, I feel quite strongly about this subject. I personally don’t like the sensation or idea of breast pumps and so to think of the cows forcibly being impregnated, and then separated from their calves only to then be constrained and milked day in and day out while they bellow for their babies disgusts me.

I don’t know why we think it is acceptable to take away the milk from a baby cow (to whom the milk belongs and is formulated for), and give it to a human baby. How is that fair?! Nevermind fair, but it isn’t even healthy. (Check out my post on how to go dairy free)

Am I Imposing my beliefs on my children?

I suppose that is a matter of perspective.

I also imposed meat on my children or rather, “eat what’s on your plate”, to be precise. For years, I imposed a glass of milk on them every day, I also imposed (still do) restraints on how much TV they can watch, I imposed that they must keep away from fast food chains etc. We all impose our beliefs on our children in some form or the other until they grow to a certain age and start making or demanding to make their own choices.

Baby Ro has been raised vegan so far. I plan to keep him vegan through his childhood but he will of course have the option when he can fully comprehend the reasons behind being vegan. Reuben and Irene, like all of us in the family, were preconditioned into eating meat, seafood and all things dairy. It is not only a hard transition for them but also a choice they have to make for themselves. They are big enough to understand as to why I chose to be vegan, and they are free to transition slowly or not. They know that mummy will not pay for a dairy ice-cream but happily buy them an ice-lolly or any other non-dairy option.

I try to practice mindful living all the time. I believe in reducing waste, growing your own when you can (failing miserably at the moment) , shopping locally and organically if you can, being compassionate towards others and standing up for others in need. I am aware that as a parent, I have a big responsibility on my shoulders to model an image that I’d like to see in my children. I make mistakes too, but I am working on them and I am so very optimistic that my kids will pick up on some of it if not all to contribute towards a better, cleaner and gentler future.

Are the kids simply going vegan to honour my choices or to please me?

Well who is to say but them!

Firstly, I don’t think my children aged 10 and 9 years old are so naive. Irene accepted veganism right away but Reuben has only just transitioned pretty much completely after watching me be consistent for almost a year and after visiting the animal sanctuary. (Reuben says he will be flexible when traveling and that is fair). So I think they have made a conscious choice.

And even if they are going vegan for me, I don’t see why it is a bad thing. I appreciate their respect for me and my choices. I appreciate that they want to follow my spiritual journey and to be honest, so far I am well impressed. My positive perspective suggests if they are going vegan to honour me, that’s great because it is only leading them to live a healthier, more compassionate and a life that involves a lot of thinking and mindful eating.

I am vegan for my children, I am vegan for the animals, I am vegan for our health and I am vegan for the environment.

 

Vegan Kimchi Recipe

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Kimchi is a global culinary phenomena. I was introduced to it by my husband a few years ago. We have a jar of kimchi in our household as a staple, partly because of my step-children being half-Korean but mostly to do with its health benefits.

Kimchi is a spicy fermented pickle that is really good for your gut. I swear Kimchi will resolve all your health problem. As a kid, I grew up on my grandma and mum’s homemade Indian pickles; packed full of turmeric and ginger and all sorts of other fermented food like steamed dhoklas (lentil cakes) and dosas (lentil pancakes) — and I am aware of how these superfoods are a labour of love. Kimchi is the same, and you can’t rush it.

Traditionally kimchi has anchovy paste in it or shrimp paste, but I wanted to make a vegan version that tastes like the real deal. Making it at home is cheaper, healthier and more customisable. Most store brought imports are far too sweet for our palette anyway. Also making it at home and having it in the fridge means not having to go to the Asian supermarket (which for us isn’t very close and often shut at the weekends).

So here is a recipe that finally worked after years of trial and error. Hope it works for you. Making kimchi is an art. So if it goes wrong, don’t be too disheartened and try again. It is totally worth the effort.

Ingredients:

1 head of Chinese Cabbage, Chopped in big chunks

2-3 Tablespoons of Korean Hot Pepper Flakes (or more depending on your taste)

10 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

2 Inches of Ginger, grated

1 tablespoon sugar

1 Big White Onion, Sliced

3 to 4 Spring onions, chopped

2 teaspoon of tamari

a handful of dried seaweed or kelp, crushed or torn into pieces

1-2 eating apple, sliced

A whole Lot of Salt (or about 12 tablespoons)

Method:

After chopping up the cabbage wash them thoroughly. Apply and massage a lot of salt onto the cabbage and let it rest for a couple of hours. Then wash it again.

Next, soak the cabbage into salted water preferably overnight.

In the morning, wash the cabbage thoroughly, this is an important stage, because by now the cabbage must have absorbed a whole lot of salt and you don’t want your kimchi to be too salty.

In the final stage, make a paste with half of the onions, ginger, garlic and all of the apples.  Now mix in the red pepper flakes and combine. Massage the cabbage and the rest of the onions, garlic, ginger and tamari along with all of the seaweed with this paste.

Put this kimchi mix into a clean and sterilised mason jar or any air tight container. Let it ferment for about 12 hours and then store it in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. As it rests in the fridge, you will notice an organic brine being produced which is referred to as “kimchi juice”. This juice means, your kimchi is fermenting well.

Tips: If by any chance your kimchi is not fermenting, you may need more sugar or longer period of time outside the fridge. Simply take it out of the fridge and let it rest for a few hours and pop it back in the fridge. 

And if you notice your kimchi has fermented too much, don’t throw it away. Koreans often use over-fermented kimchi to cook with. They make for a great ingredients for kimchi chigae (soup), kimchi pajong (pancake) and kimchi bokkum-bap (fried rice).

Vegan Victoria Sponge (Basic Yellow Cake)

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One of things I missed since going vegan was baking. I tried and failed at baking good cakes so many times that I gave up. I used to bake some really good cakes before, and I used to find baking very soothing so I have missed it for a while.

Vegan cakes were so difficult to bake that I was this close to baking a non vegan cake for my not so vegan husband on his birthday but I ended up baking nothing. Anyhow, I did not want to do the same for my daughter’s upcoming birthday so I experimented until I nailed it!!

Chocolate cakes seem to be much easier and forgiving than yellow sponge cakes. But here is a recipe for a perfectly soft and moist yellow cake for your victoria sponge.

I am not going to share the recipe for the buttercream because there’s too many online. Just google it and you will find many.

So here it goes:

Ingredients:

300g dairy free margarine (plus extra for greasing)

300g self raising flour

300 g caster sugar (I used granulated)

200g soya yoghurt (I used alpro)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground flaxseed (or xanthum gum)

any vegan milk (optional)

2 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence

Method:

Preheat the oven on gas mark 5/190ºC.

In a bowl, beat the margarine and the sugar for 4-5 minutes (this stage is important, unlike buttery eggy cake vegan cakes require some work). Now mix in the vanilla and the yoghurt.

In a separate bowl mix in the rest of the dry ingredients with a fork.  Once combined, mix in the dry ingredients with the wet. Mix it all in thoroughly so that there are no lumps.

Now grease two 6 inches cake tins with some margarine and dust it with some flour. Now divide the mixture half and half into the two tins.

Bake the cakes for about 20 minutes and then check if the middle is cooked with a skewer. If it comes out clean the cake is ready. The cake must have a light brown hue on it and it should come away from the sides of the tin quite visibly (don’t sweat if they don’t).

Let the cake sit in the tin but outside the oven for ten minutes and then take them out of the tin and cool it completely on a rack.

Once cool, decorate it whichever way you like. You can make your own buttercream or buy some from the supermarket. I simply out some raspberry jam in between the two cakes.

Please try it and let me know how it was!!

Tip: With Vegan Cakes I have learnt that it is best to divide the cake batter into two batches and then place them one on top of the other when ready. If you try and bake one fat cake, it end up very stodgy.

 

 

Bombay Aloo

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“What is that?”,were my thoughts when I saw it on the menu in the UK. In 21 years that I spent growing up in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), I never came across a dish named so. But when I ate it, I knew instantly what it was!

Bombay Aloo will mean different things to different people and just like any curry, every family will have their own version.

Here is my dad’s version. Bombay Aloo served in England tastes closest to what my dad used to make.

Serves 2 – 3

Ingredients:

5 diced potatoes

1 1/2 tsp turmeric

2 1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 tbsp oil

Salt and Sugar to taste

Coriander to garnish

Method:

Boil the potatoes. I used the pressure cooker. Two whistles and then I let it rest.

In a pan, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds. Once they pop, add the drained potatoes. Add all the spices and gently fry until everything is mixed. Don’t mix too much, you risk mushing up the potatoes. Cook until potatoes turn slightly golden and spices loose its raw smell. Garnish with chopped coriander. Serve hot!

How To Replace Dairy?

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As a breastfeeding mother, this topic of eliminating dairy from our diet resonates at a very personal level.

Ever since I started nursing my baby, I developed an aversion to dairy. I could not for the life of me express my milk without feeling extreme discomfort and unease. The idea made me squirm. So to think of a cow with her udders attached to a machine sucking milk out of her which is originally meant for her calves became simply unacceptable for me.

Cow’s milk is for calves, just like my milk is for my baby. My milk is not for my dogs or cats. Humans are the only species in this entire world that consumes milk from another species long after their body has no need for any dairy consumption whatsoever.

A well balanced wholefood or plant based diet will make sure that you get your daily calcium intake without having to consume any form of milk at all. And the long-standing belief that milk is a vital source of much-needed calcium has also been widely debunked. (For a wide ranging review of some of the debate around this, see this piece in the Guardian).

Indeed, worse, Colin Campbell, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, claims that: “cows’ milk protein may be the single most significant chemical carcinogen to which humans are exposed”.

My daughter suffered from very bad eczema and stomach upset. Ever since I took dairy out of her diet, her eczema and tummy have resolved themselves and never come back.

Why? I suspect lactose intolerance, which numerous studies have found to be incredibly widespread. Lactose is the sugar in milk, and it needs to be broken down by the enzyme lactase that lives in our intestines and bowels. “If the lactose we absorb is greater than our lactase capacity, undigested lactose travels to the large intestine, where it ferments, producing gas, carbon dioxide and lactic acid. The result? Bloating, cramps, diarrhoea and farts.”

Did you know that a stunning 75% of Indians are lactose intolerant?! Uncle keeps farting? Get him on hemp milk instead!

Anyhow, so how to transition into a non-dairy lifestyle. It is easy!

There are so many plant based milk available

Soy Milk

Almond Milk

Oat Milk

Hemp Milk

Coconut Milk

Hazelnut Milk

……and many more

Nutritional Info Comparison

Soy Milk (per serving of 250 ml)                         Cow’s milk (per serving of 250 ml)

Calcium          : 300 mg                                               Calcium          : 300 mg

Protein            : 8.5 g                                                    Protein           : 8 g

Fat                    : 4.8 g                                                    Fat                   : 9 g

Saturated Fat : 0.8 g                                                    Saturated Fat :  5.7 g

Total Carbs     : 0.8 g                                                    Total Carbs     : 11.7 g

Sugars             : 0.3 g                                                    Sugars              : 11.7 g

Vitamin B12   : 1.0 ug                                                 Vitamin B12    : 1.0 ug

How can I get enough Calcium?

As you can see in the nutritional facts above that plant-based milk and cow’s milk have the same amounts of calcium in it. (If you are on a vegan diet you’ll need less calcium per day)

I do understand that plant-based milk can either be difficult to get hold of in some places or a bit expensive. Worry not, because there are so many food items that can provide you with sufficient amount of calcium in a day.

Brown or White Bread (Calcium is added to bread by law in the UK)

Chia Seeds

Kale

Spinach

Broccoli

White Beans

Black Eyed Peas

Almonds

Dried Figs

Seaweed

Sesame Seed (Tahini)

Tofu

Oranges

Tip: I drink two big glasses of green smoothie a day on top of a balanced diet. That ensures I get my daily dose of iron, calcium and other nutrients that I may have missed out.

But I Can’t Live Without Cheese? 

Sure. You won’t live long with cheese either. Cheese is full of saturated fat and salt. So if you are health conscious, cheese shouldn’t be your favourite.

Anyhow, there are a lot of plant-based cheeses available in the market now. There are also a lot of Youtube videos on how to make your own cheese. Cashew being the main ingredient but I make my cheeses with almonds too (watch this space for some tasty recipes!)

Supplementing

I don’t supplement but I have nothing against supplementing either. If in doubt, always supplement yourself with an over the counter stuff. Just make sure you don’t overdose on calcium. It can have bad effects on your kidneys.

I am not a huge supporter of taking pills. I try to consume a well-balanced diet so if possible, do you research and try and eat healthy. Do not concentrate too much on one nutrient. If you eat a wholesome diet, you are bound to get a whole range of nutrients than one.

Confessions 

You must have a heard a lot of vegans promote the idea that non-dairy products are as good as the dairy products. Some even claim that one can’t tell the difference.

Even though that might be true in some cases, in my experience, it isn’t true in most cases.

Non-dairy products do not taste like dairy. Plant based dairy can replicate the texture, the look and the nutrition but not necessarily the taste.

Non -dairy does not taste bad, it tastes different and a slow transition would be best. I started off with sweetened milk to develop a taste for soy milk. Once I got used to the texture and all, I switched on to the unsweetened milk. Trial and error baby, trial and error!

It takes time to get used to non-dairy products. But the way I think about it is that my taste is not bigger than my desire to be compassionate and healthy. Infact, after almost a year of not consuming dairy, I could not tolerate a kiss from my husband who was in the middle of eating dairy ice-cream! It’s all a matter of habit. Your tastebuds will evolve.

Non-dairy options are healthier than dairy in most cases because of it’s added vitamins and minerals. Infact most fortified dairy products have added vitamin D, which is important for effective calcium absorption, especially if you come from a cold country like me.

Don’t have to be a vegan to try non-dairy! Start incorporating non-dairy slowly into your diet rather than taking it out completely if you are not into absolutism.

Let me know your experience with non-dairy? 

 

Lullabum AIO Plus by SuperBottoms Review

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Ever heard someone say, “living childhood through your children?”

With Lullabum by Superbottoms you can do just that. Lullabum is covered with motifs and songs from your favourite bollywood songs for children.

Now who doesn’t love a fluff bum? I do. And to have a fluff bum covered in memories of childhood makes my heart go all warm and fuzzy.

What’s more? Some of the songs on the Lullabum are the songs Baby Ro absolutely loves as well. So you can only imagine my excitement when I received a package from Superbottoms!

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Speaking of which, let’s just take a moment to appreciate this beautiful packaging. In todays times when it is very difficult to get away from plastic packaging, it was a pleasant experience to have received a paper package.

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We received a Lullabum All-in-one Plus nappy from Superbottoms. These nappies are meant to last from about 5 kgs to 17 kgs (babies are usually potty trained by then) which makes it extremely economical in the long run.

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Lullabum came with one detached organic cotton bamboo insert/soaker and it also had an attached organic cotton bamboo lining soaker with a suede lining on top that goes against the baby’s skin wicking away the wetness, thereby keeping the baby dry. The good thing about suede is that it keeps the baby dry without wicking away the natural oils from baby’s skin. This helps prevent rashes and irritation. I really liked the feel of suede.

So the detached soaker snaps onto the popper provided just under the attached soaker. There is also a pocket available to insert any extra soakers if you baby is a heavy wetter. These nappies are meant to last 4 to 5 hours at daytime and about 10 hours at night time.

Like all cloth nappies, absorbency improves with use. I only washed Lullabum once before use and I had no problem for 4 hours. We even had an explosive poo-nami once and I was impressed with it’s hold. There was no leak whatsoever.

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The fit of this nappy can be as snug as you prefer. I have been a velcro nappy user to be honest. Lullabum is my first nappy with poppers. The reason I avoid poppers is because my baby is a wriggler and I have to be as quick as possible before he manages to get out of my various body lock tactics. Having said that, I am impressed with the fit you can achieve with poppers. I had to play around a bit to get the right fit. But with a few adjustments and a couple of trial and error, we got the perfect fit. I also had a fear of poppers popping if that makes sense. But even with my 14 month old trying his level best to pull the nappy off, he could not and that was a triumph in itself. His expression of loss was priceless!

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Another impressive feature of this nappy is it’s narrow crotch width. Narrow crotch makes for an excellent trim fit. It is less bulky and prevents the soakers or inserts from bunching up in between the legs. Now I have heard that narrow crotches and less bulky nappies automatically equate to less absorbency but this was not the case with Lullabum in my experience! So this nappy is perfect for leggings, tights and jeans kind off outfit!

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Lullabum has soon become one of our favourites from our stash of nappies. It is my go to nappy for travel purposes. We took it to the woods with us over the weekend and 4 hours went by, we forgot about nappy changing yet Lullabum kept Ro absolutely dry and comfortable. It is compact and less bulky to carry. The design is so bright and colourful that I can pair the nappy with just a top/tshirt and we are good to go. We like to wear it just on it’s own though as you can see!

In terms of cons, I actually do not have any real qualms about this nappy. Having said that my heart did sink a little when I saw a stain on it after the poo-nami. All my other nappies have a microfibre layer that goes against the baby’s skin and microfibre’s do not stain, period! But seems like suede does! But nothing that couldn’t be sunned out. I hung up the washed nappy to dry in the sunshine for 24 hours and voila, Lullabum was as good as new, soft and fresh with no stain in sight!

In terms of cost, like any cloth nappy Lullabum is a bit dear at Rs. 780 i.e £10 + shipping. Having said that, cloth nappies are expensive to buy but they are very economical in the long run. I have known family and friends who have used the same set of cloth nappies for their four to five children. If you don’t plan to have more children, you can always resell them. Cloth nappies keep their value and resell really well. You are sure to get half of the money back in the end. Lullabum with it’s cute desi print and brilliant performance is sure to sell well.

Superbottoms are available only in India and Amazon US at the moment. Shipping to other countries is available on request which can be made via email. Superbottoms is also working on it’s website to make global shipping options available online. So watch this space for updates.

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Last but not the least, Superbottoms sent me an unexpected surprise Superbag as well. This particular one is called Purple Love. Anybody who knows me will know how much I love elephants, so it was such a brilliant coincident that of all the amazing prints, Pallavi chose this particular one for me.

This bag has two compartments and a two hooks to hang it up somewhere. The bag is huge and I carry it with me all the time. I use the front pocket for pooey nappies and the big big for pee filled nappies. It is perfect way to compartmentalise the nappies. This bag can be used for so much more than just nappies. This bag is staying with me for life, I can tell you that!

I am so pleased to see another mommy all the way in India, making an effort to reduce our footprint in this world by making these amazing ecofriendly nappies, thereby making the future of our children cleaner and healthier. Please support small businesses that are trying to make a difference. Bring a change to your life and the life around you. Choose Cloth!

P.S: These products were sent to me by Superbottoms for a review. Although it is a sponsored post, all the opinions stated are my own and honest!