Thursday, 30 April 2015

Me & Mine {April}

I know I say this every month but feel like I've had my head in a hole for the past 4 took me completely by surprise that it was Me & Mine today.  I can't believe it!  We've had a crazy busy month and I don't think it is going to get any easier with so many things in the calendar over the next few weeks.

On the one hand I love when we are out and about, seeing friends and family and having a good time but sometimes when we don't actually get to sit down until late it can get a bit exhausting.  James has been working longs hours this month as well so we have been more like passing ships in the night. I miss my husband! 

Thankfully he has booked some time off towards the end of May so we can escape for a few days of much needed R&R. I can't wait.

But back to this month. We have loved:-

*Easter fun.
*Finding out that Eli got a place in our first choice school.
*Getting the cover for my book which is now only a few weeks away from being released!
*Celebrating James' birthday with family.

I hadn't actually planned on using this picture for April but as I didn't even twig it was the end of the month we hadn't managed to take anything else. It was from our wonderful day out at Brockholes which I just cannot recommend enough to anyone local; such a fantastic place to wear the kids out (and who doesn't want that?!)

I also thought I would include this rather special photo. Unfortunately the children aren't in it but we got together with James' family to celebrate his birthday with a murder mystery party and I love how much everyone got into the spirit of it. I am definitely putting this one up on my wall (as much as I think several members of the family might want to hurt me for it!)

So that's our month.  Just round the corner is Eli's birthday, then Meg's and then finally mine...and then we can breathe a sigh of relief. For a short time anyway.

I hope everyone else has had a great month.

dear beautiful

Monday, 27 April 2015

Review: Wubble Bubble Ball

We were recently sent the Wubble Bubble Ball for review: an inflatable ball which is made from a strong, durable and super stretchy material.  It takes it's name from the fact that it looks like a bubble but plays like a ball...

The facts:

* You can buy it with or without a pump and it is very easy to inflate.  The pump doesn't come with batteries so we used a pump from our airbed and it took about 5 minutes to inflate.
* It is okay to use indoors or outdoors (although obviously be careful to keep it away from any sharp objects).
* It comes with a deflation tool so you can simply put it down when you've had enough play and store it easily until next time.
* Having seen a few reviews where the Wubble has burst I'm not sure what we did differently other than not inflating it to its fullest to give it a bit of 'room'.  You can inflate it up to 90cm but we didn't as we were nervous about it bursting.
* It is aimed at children aged 8 and above but Meg and Eli had no trouble playing with it under adult supervision.
* It can be purchased from all major toy retailers.

We had the Wubble inflated in the house for about a week and Meg and Eli had loads of fun playing with it but really the fun is when you get it outside.  Once we were convinced it could handle a bit of rough and tumble we decided to brave taking it outside and chose somewhere we knew there was a wide open space which meant we could give our Wubble a good road-test.

One of my favourite moments was when we were carrying it from the car (inflated) and we passed a little girl who was about 3 years old.  She just stood, open-mouthed and said 'wow, look at that bubble!' as we passed.  Too cute!  

We had lots of enquiries from other impressed parents as well whilst we were playing with it and plenty of people stopped to see what we were doing.  It was great as Meg even made a new friend, all from taking a giant bubble ball out with us.  Who would have thought?!

We did have a few hairy moments when we thought our Wubble was a goner as it catches the wind really well and it got swept off but we managed to catch it.  Me chasing a giant bubble ball across an open field at breakneck speed certainly amused a few onlookers anyway!

The fact that it's lightweight meant both Meg and Eli could throw it high in the air, and the flexible material means it's easy to grip as well.  Interestingly, it is also quite soft to the touch.

As you can see from some of the photos, there were a few picnic benches dotted around and it did collide with these a number of times.  No damage was done although I wouldn't hold my hands up and say that means it is invincible.  It is the same as any inflatable product but maybe because we hadn't got it up to the 90cm it had a bit more give and didn't burst.  I don't know.

What I loved was that it was a great way to get the whole family playing together.  Often Eli can't keep up and loses interest but he loved chasing the Wubble down and when James set up a little relay race for them both to roll the Wubble round obstacles they couldn't get enough of it.

In terms of durability, I don't know how long it will last.  We have had the Wubble for 4 weeks now and although it has deflated and needed to be blown up again it is still going strong.  Our next mission is to try it out at the beach although I think we will have to be extra careful as there are obviously plenty of ways in which it could get spiked.  I'll let you know how that turns out!

You can see a snippet of it in action here as well, watch the whole thing or skip forward to 1:21 to see me running.  It's attractive.

Family Fever

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Vintage Craft, Nature & Family Fun...

I won't lie, I am loving that the weather has finally turned for the better.  I was beginning to get a little jealous of seeing everyone's photos of playing outdoors and catching the sun whilst staring at the grey skies of Southport.

So this weekend was the perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy the UV rays and get all those lovely benefits.  I have wanted to visit Brockholes Nature Reserve since last year but we just never seemed to get the time.  When James looked it up and realised there was a vintage craft fair taking place this weekend, there was no stopping us.  I am totally in love with that kind of home decor and couldn't wait to see what was on offer.

First stop was the fair; we had a good look around the stalls and I picked up a couple of little trinkets to bring home.  Meg got some wonderful wire hair bands too which look really cute on her.  The company is Okaycokey if you wanted to have a look for yourself.  The hair bands are brilliantly made and perfect for little girls as they stay put!

After we had exhausted the delights of the vintage fair we headed up to the playground which was absolutely rammed.  Clearly everybody had the same idea as us and had decided to visit for the day.

You couldn't move for small people entangling themselves under your feet so I was glad when Meg and Eli's interest waned and we decided to go for a walk instead and explore a bit further.

We found a little valley and decided to stop for a rest.  Well, some of us.  Meg determined to build herself a den, which she did with very little help from anyone else.

Eli decided he would get some sunbathing in and let Meg get on with all the hard work.

He was quick enough to reap the benefits though when Meg declared her den was done.  I love how well they are playing together at the moment.  The current favourite game is Peter Pan.  It's hilarious to hear their interpretation of the film as well as watching them reenact the scenes.  Unfortunately I am often drafted in as the Tick Tock Croc which is less flattering.

After our little break we followed one of the many paths down into Red Scar Wood.  The kids wanted to find one of the natural pools and it seemed like a fairly good bet that we would find one through the woods.  There were quite a lot of people dotted around and most seemed to be heading in that direction so we thought it wiser to follow their lead.

After much tree climbing, bluebell admiring and worm digging we finally reached a gorgeous spot of water.  Eli was very disappointed that he couldn't actually swim in the water but still enjoyed sitting with James and spotting the different types of wildlife.

The motorway is literally in front of where they were sitting but was totally masked and it couldn't have been more tranquil if it had tried.

We spent some time appreciating the view before heading back for a much needed milkshake.  On the way, Meg and Eli clambered over a large upturned tree that we found, swinging from the branches, scooping out the holes looking for bugs and climbing way higher than we were comfortable with.  I love that they have such adventurous spirits, especially Meg although you do have to watch carefully as she is completely fearless.  Eli isn't so much and he needed James' help to be confident enough to climb to the top.  He was very pleased with himself once he had though.

I think I'd quite like to go back to Brockholes when there isn't an event on, as much as I loved the Vintage Craft fair as I think that was the reason it was so busy.  It would be nice to take a picnic, find a secluded spot and while the day away.

And here's a little video of our trip and some of the fun we enjoyed:-

I am linking this up with Let's Talk Mommy's Share With Me.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Big School...

Last night I, like so many other parents, felt anxious about what the morning would bring...the result of our primary school application for Eli.

On the one hand I was feeling pretty confident.  Meg was already in our first choice school and siblings often come high up on the list when allocating school places.  But on the other, as the date got closer and closer, little niggles started in my mind.  What would I do if he didn't get a place?  Would we have to move them both?  And so on.

I woke at midnight when my phone went crazy with tweets and checked the results, relieved to see that he had been given a place at our first choice school.  I know that for a number of parents this wasn't the case and I know how hard that would have been.  It was the very thing I was so concerned about for us.

Mixed in with all the relief was a huge dose of sadness that Eli really is almost going off to big school.  With Meg she just seemed so ready.  I don't know whether that's because our home situation was different; I was working and she was in private nursery more than she was at home with me or simply a personality thing: she took to school like a duck to water and has never looked back.

In my head, I get that it is still a good 4 and bit months away and a lot can change in a short time but I just can't picture Eli at school.  There are so many things I worry about for him: that he prefers his own company and will struggle to make friends, that he will try and play with Meg and she won't let him, that I won't be able to wrestle him into a shirt and tie, that he's such an active little boy they won't meet his needs at school properly, that they won't see all the wonderful things which make Eli tick.  I don't remember having these worries for Meg.

Is it because he is my baby or because he is less sure of himself than Meg?  Even now I know that she can walk into a room of total strangers and make a friend.  This morning Eli put himself in the cupboard at playgroup just to get away from the smaller children.  

You think having done this once before I'd be an old hand.  One of the reasons I love this blog is because I was able to look back and see that actually, Meg did have some wobbles initially but that she soon overcame them.  This gives me hope that actually it will all be okay, in the end.

This is a stage that he has to take and as a parent all I can do is prepare him in the best way I can and then hope and pray that it will be alright.  Maybe he will flourish, maybe he will struggle but as with all the other challenges and stages we have faced, I know that all we can do is support him as he takes his next step into the world.

I think to myself, 'what would I tell another parent going through this for the first time?' and I know I would offer reassurances, that it isn't as scary as we imagine and that although you feel sad that first day as you watch your little person skip or run off into reception it soon gets so much easier.  I know all of this and yet...and yet.

There are so many dreams I have, for both Meg and Eli, and I want nothing but the best for them both.  To see them achieve the things I never did, to have the freedom to be themselves, to soar.  This is just the start of the journey for Eli and whilst I believe in my heart that whatever happens he will be fine, I can't quite dampen the squeeze of panic which shoots across my chest every now and then as I think about him taking this first foray into school life.

Big school...for my not so big boy.  


Keep Your Pets Safe This Summer

As the weather finally began to warm up this week I spotted a number of posts on Twitter and Facebook about dogs in cars.  How several cars had needed to be broken into in order to ensure that the dogs left inside didn't overheat or dehydrate.

It always surprises me that people would forget something like this but it got me thinking and so when Argos Pet Insurance got in touch to ask whether I would share my thoughts and tips on keeping pets safe this summer, I was only too happy to oblige.

We have a rescue dog, Pepper, who is an absolute sun-fiend.  If the weather is even slightly nice she will stand at the back door and bark until she is let out.  Once outside she will take up her resident spot on the decking, collapse and not move until forced to.  

Of course what this means is that we have to make sure that she doesn't overheat as the daft thing wouldn't move out of the sun of her own accord.  It's a lot cooler in the house and as the weather gets increasingly warmer I will need to make sure that she isn't spending all day out there basking.

There are other considerations too, so here are just some of my top tips:-

*Don't walk your dog at the hottest point of the day: this might seem like a great idea, especially if you yourself want to get out and enjoy the weather but it will cause them to heat up a lot faster.

*Never leave your pet in the car on a hot day.  Even with the windows open the interior of a car can heat up incredibly quickly and your pet will have nowhere to go and cool off.

*If you are planning on doing some gardening, make sure you don't leave the products out and check the labels before you apply.  You might need to keep your pets away from certain sections of the garden for a period of time.  Anything which contains insecticides or potential nasties can be harmful to animals if ingested.

*If you take your dog down to the beach, watch out for riptides or strong currents.  Our last dog, Alfie, was a brilliant swimmer and would love nothing more than spending hours in the sea but it is easy to forget that they can be caught unawares by a sudden surge in the current just as we would.

*Provide access to fresh water.  Fresh water is a must and it is a good idea to place a bowl outside if your pet is hanging about in the sun as well as inside.  I often call Pepper to the water and stand over her as she drinks so I know that she is drinking regularly.

If we are going out then we take an extra bottle of water along with us although I have noticed more and more that dog-friendly places often have a drinking point.  The photo below was taken at a pub we stopped at last summer.  They didn't have a drinking station but the manager offered us this for Pepper as it was so warm.

*Just as we get bitten and stung more in the summer, the same goes for pets.  Be sure to check fur and skin regularly and make sure that you have some insect repellent and treatment just in case.

Pepper is a member of our family and comes almost everywhere with us so it makes sense that just as we make plans to protect Meg and Eli and ourselves from the hotter weather, that we would do the same for her.

And of course, these are just some of the steps you could take this summer.  Have you any others to add?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Siblings {April}

I don't even want to type it, how is it April already?!  I seriously feel as though I have blinked and a quarter of the year has just disappeared before my eyes.

As I write this we are still just rounding up our Easter break which has managed to be stretched out over 3 weeks.  I shouldn't complain, it has been nice having the kids off.  I just wish they could have had 2 weeks off at the same time instead.  It would have given us more opportunities for family days and more time for Meg and Eli to play together.  I have to say that this particular school holiday has been one of the best with very little falling out.  Or maybe I shouldn't say that in case the next half term break is awful!

This month I thought I'd share a little insight into my mini siblings.  They love to play with each other and, according to Eli's preschool teacher and Meg's Year One teacher they pretty much talk about each other All.Of.The.Time but there is a certain moment, each day, when you really see that in action.

Each morning they come downstairs, having got themselves dressed and sit at the table ready for their breakfast.  I don't eat with them as I'm usually bustling around packing bags, or making lunches ready for the day ahead.  So it is just Meg and Eli sitting together, eating their cereal and having a little chat.

'How did you sleep last night?'

'Did you have any scary dreams?'

'What are you looking forward to today?'

'I'll miss you when I'm at school.'

It is so grown up and yet it is also so innocently sweet.

I love to just pause what I'm doing whilst they are unaware that I'm listening and hear what they are discussing that day.  The little reassurances they offer one another if they had a bad dream, 'next time wake me up and I'll give you a little cuddle.' or if they are feeling like they'll miss one another, 'we can play a really great game when I get home.'  It has to be one of the most heart-squeezingly beautiful moments in my day.  What a great way to start off.

They wouldn't talk like that if they knew that I was eavesdropping, or if I was at the table with them instead preferring to have my attention so I adore that they can have this little moment together as they start their days.

My two cheeky siblings.  Who love each other so very, very much.

And just because it makes me smile, here's one for the cutting room floor:

I also created a video of some of the fun my little siblings had over Easter which you can find here.  For the record, I think the accent Meg is attempting is French.  Maybe.

dear beautiful

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

My Top 3 Dream Holiday Destinations

I have always wanted to travel.  I don't know whether it comes from a deep rooted fascination I have with other cultures, with history and where we have come from or my love of the exotic but I definitely have a dash of the wanderlust whizzing around my system.

I was lucky in the fact that James is also keen on travelling, not so much in that we didn't get much time together before the arrival of Meg which sort of put paid to any serious travelling for a while.  As the kids get older we are now starting to feel more adventurous again, to branch out a little in our thinking about where we could go.

Prior to having children we did get to go on some amazing holidays: the Maldives for our honeymoon.

Oh, take me back.

Another one of my favourites was Egypt (my parents are there right now, lucky devils!)

Bruge is beautiful, but so cold in winter.  It's a good excuse to eat hot waffles and drink lots of hot chocolate though.

But I'm not writing this to tell you about all the places I have been.  As interesting as I know you are finding it all.  Rather Transun are asking bloggers to share their top 3 dream holiday destinations to be in with the chance of winning a trip to see the Northern Lights I was keen.  James has wanted to see the Northern Lights for as long as I have known him, whoever said I wasn't a romantic?!  So fingers crossed we might be able to make his dream come true and win me some excellent wife-points in the process.

Just reading what is involved in that trip is making me excited.  How fantastic does it sound?

But anyway, onto the good stuff.  My top 3 dream holiday destinations if money and time and children fussing in airports were no object:-

3. Machu Picchu, Peru
I refer you back to my comment about being really interested in history; can you imagine how awesome it would be to stand and stare at the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu?  I wouldn't even mind the trek needed to reach them although I might have to do a bit of training first.  And give up the wine of an evening.  But still, to be somewhere which has such deep and mysterious roots in history would just be awe-inspiring.  Maybe I can think of a novel which could be set there and would give me a good excuse for a visit?  I think this comes under the once in a lifetime category for sure.

2. Boston, USA
Having never been to America, it always surprises people that my first choice of city to visit wouldn't be somewhere like New York or LA.  I'm not saying that I wouldn't love to visit those cities at some point, especially New York at Christmas a la Home Alone but for me, Boston holds the real draw.  I love the accent, I'd love to attend a Red Sox game, I'd love to stand in Harvard Square and pretend I was a student (haha) and don't even talk to me about the stunning Public Library.  There's even a Museum of Science to keep the husband interested.  See?  What more could you possibly want?!

1. New Zealand
If I'm truly honest, I'd actually prefer to move here rather than just take a holiday but this definitely comes top of my list.  Glorious sandy beaches, stunning scenery, majestic mountain ranges, not to mention Middle-Earth, what isn't there to see in New Zealand?  I'd love to set aside 3 or 4 weeks and just travel around covering as much distance as possible although I'd stick to the North Island as I think that has the most concentrated number of wonderful attractions.  (I'm totally lying, I'd stand on the furthest stretch of the South Island away from each and every attraction going if I could just get myself over there.)  And then James would probably have to drag me back to the airport to come home as I just know I wouldn't want to leave again at the end.

It was hard whittling it down to just 3 as actually when I think about it there are loads of places I'd love to go: Paris, Prague, Goa, Canada, China...I need to get some serious air miles under my belt.

What do you think of my choices?  Is there anywhere that you have always wanted to visit?  I'd love to hear them!

Monday, 13 April 2015

In the Second Week of Easter...

The second week of Easter was the only week Meg and Eli had off together, so we were determined to make the most of it.  Already since we dropped Meg off at school Eli is looking a little lost and forlorn.  He does miss Meg when she is at school and he is at home.  

The weather was so beautiful in the first half of the week that we tried to be outside as much as possible, going for long walks, visiting the beach and so on.  There was a real sense of spring being in the air and I loved it.  I was so disappointed when it started raining at the weekend.  I want the warmer weather to stick around!

I find that being outside not only wears the kids out so much more than if we are stuck inside all day but it also puts us all in a great mood.  I know when I am suffering with the anxiety I get every now and then nothing beats a good brisk walk in the fresh air to boost my spirits.

The kids have a special place they like to go for walks.  Every time we go we walk a little bit further before having to turn around and head back for the car because they are getting tired.  

They love to measure how much further they think we've gone than the time before and I have promised them that one day we will make it to the end of the path, wherever that might actually be!

One of the best parts of the week was definitely going to the Liverpool Echo Arena and seeing Mr Tumble's Circus.  I wasn't sure how interested Meg and Eli would be as these days they are mostly all about Disney Junior but they were laughing and dancing along and when Mr Tumble arrived I thought Eli was going to topple over the barriers he was craning so hard to see.

As the beautiful weather continued we found time for bug hunting and tea parties.  Just two of Meg and Eli's favourite pastimes.

And Meg found opportunity to sit and have some quiet time withouth her little brother bothering her.  We are finding more and more that she needs that extra space to stop her becoming overwhelmed and heading into a meltdown.

Although we often head to the beach whatever the weather, when it is sunny we are reminded just why we made the decision to move to the coast.  Choosing the north west often gets us funny looks but a beach is a beach especially when the sun is shining.

On this particular visit, I managed to find some driftwood which would be perfect as a shelf and poor James had to carry it all the way back to the car.  It's a chunky old thing and a little damp on the bottom but I am confident that I can transform it.  I love the idea of using up a piece of wood which has washed up and would otherwise have just been left to rot or dragged off again when the sea came back in.

Of course, all that said, there are some days when you go to the beach and it's cold and it's raining and it's miserable and you think, why did we do this again?!  Sunday was such a day and although the kids loved being outside, I think perhaps the garden would have been a safer choice.

So between the visits to the beach, the park, walking in the sunshine and just generally enjoying not having to be at school or work we had a really great second week of Easter.  I don't know how I can top it this week for Eli.  

And here is a little video of some of our Easter holiday fun.  It's less than two and half minutes long but I hope you enjoy it.

I am linking this post up with Let's Talk Mommy's Share with Me.