Monday, 29 June 2015

My June Reads

You may have noticed that there was no May Reads post from me and that's because I simply didn't have time to even think about reading during is by far our busiest month and the luxury of disappearing into the pages of a novel or two was just never going to happen!

All that aside June has been fantastic and I've really loved some of the books I've read this month.

Tuck (King Raven #3) by Stephen R Lawhead
This is the last instalment in the King Raven trilogy and although it wasn't as good as Hood it was miles better than Scarlet and had me in tears at the very end.  If I've said this once, I've said it a thousand times, Lawhead has this beautiful way of drawing you into his stories and making you feel as though you are best friends with each of the characters.  He has a magical story-weaving talent and I've never picked up a book of his which I haven't liked.  Tuck is a continuation of Lawhead's take of the tale of Robin Hood and, as you might imagine, it is told from the perspective of Friar Tuck.  Well worth a read.
Star rating: ****

Mrs Mike by Benedict Freedman and Nancy Freedman
This was recommended to me by Claire after I had stalled on several other F choices for my A to Z authors challenge.  It is the story of Katherine O'Fallon who marries a Canadian Mountie (Mike) and moves up to the Canadian wilderness.  Previously she has known life in civilised Boston and this is really a coming of age story as she learns about the harshness of life in such a fierce environment whilst discovering the beauty and kindness of the land around her and its people.  There is also a gentle romance which flows through it all as Katherine and Mike forge their lives together too.  After finishing the book I discovered that it is based on real events although it seems as though the authors took some creative licence here and there.  Nevertheless I really enjoyed this and would love to read the others in the series which I believe tell the story of Katherine's daughter.
Star rating: ****

The Broker by John Grisham
This is one I've had on my shelf for a while as I ummed and ahhed over whether John Grisham could really do it for me any more but I'm glad I decided to plump for it.  In his final hours in the Oval Office, the president grants a pardon to Joel Backman, a Washington power broker who has been in prison for the last 6 years.  Seemingly nobody understands why Backman has been granted the pardon, least of all Backman himself.  He is transported under military protection to Italy where he is taught how to blend in like a local and given a new identity but before long it becomes clear that several countries are after him and that it was the plan of the CIA all along to release Backman's whereabouts.  Turns out, Joel Backman may just hold the key to the world's most sophisticated satellite surveillance system.  The CIA want to find out who created the system and they hope that when they see who kills Backman, they will get their answers.

This is good old fashioned Grisham.  I won't pretend I understood all of the intricacies of power brokering (is that even a word?!) but I enjoyed the chase and the pace and 'will he, won't he' of whether Joel Backman would beat the bad guys at their own game and in the end actually came to quite like Joel as a character.  I am also classing this as my G even though Grisham is not a new read for me.
Star rating: ****

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
I have heard so many people recommend this book to me that I was expecting great things.  I picked this as my H is A-Z authors.  Although I perhaps preferred the style of The Rosie Project, this is along similar lines.  I can't think how best to sum it up other than to give you the blurb:

'Christopher Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057.  He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched.  And he detests the colour yellow.'  

When his neighbour's dog is randomly killed, Christopher decides to solve the mystery and in doing so challenges himself, and also challenges others in their perceptions of him and the way he is wired.  I enjoyed the book overall but I did sort of feel it left a lot out and there wasn't much substance to it.  I was left wanting more and I know it would have been difficult as it was from the perspective of Christopher but it would have been nice to have a bit more fleshing out of the other people involved; perhaps Mark Haddon could have alternated perspectives?
Star rating: ***

The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas
Set in London in 1870 this is the story of Eliza, a beautiful young woman who is fighting against the stereotypes of her time.  Unfortunately she is of limited means and so her ways of doing this are not so easily found.  Will she settle down, marry and have children like her sister or is she destined for something more?  When she meets illusionist Devil Wix, she is drawn into a world of magic and illusion...a world which is viewed by some as sordid and seductive.  We watch as Eliza struggles to find her place in this diverse and interesting environment whilst still maintaining her independence...especially as she falls ever more in love with Wix and his dreams of grandeur.  I really enjoyed this.  I had no idea what it was going to be like before I picked it up but it was wonderfully descriptive and I will definitely be looking out for her other books.  I gave it a rating of 3 stars because I thought some parts were laboured and slow and were often just another way of repeating information we had already learned earlier on.
Star rating: ***

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments #2) by Cassandra Clare
This is the second book in this YA series, you can find my review of the first book here.  It picks straight up where the last book left off which I really liked and I found it just an intriguing as the first not to mention the fact that it finished on an absolute cliffhanger.  It is taking everything I have not to pick up the third book but I'm trying to save it for my holiday as I tend to read them in about a day.
Star rating: ***

Have you read any good books lately?  I always love to hear recommendations.

Linking up with Read with Me and A-Z Authors.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Celebrities, Comfort and a Few Cheeky Tears ...#LittleLoves

Firstly I have to apologise that I was seriously bad at commenting last week on the #LittleLoves posts, I will be making the rounds twice today to play catch up as it just completely slipped my mind with BritMums and then the week of many disasters.

Those who caught up on the blog yesterday will no doubt have seen that this week has been a tough little cookie for me and that means I'm more pleased than ever to be joining in this week and really hunting out the things which have made me smile and brought a little joy and happiness to my days.

I have started this fabulous new book by Greg Illes called 'The Quiet Game'; think John Grisham but slightly less lawyer-ish.  It is set in Natchez, complementing my current love of the Deep South of America and I am just loving it; it has been ages since a book has gripped me so much that I've got my nose stuck in it as I'm sorting washing and cooking dinner but this has done just that.  I obviously haven't reached the end yet but if you like John Grisham then I would really recommend it.

I caught up on the new series of Long Lost Family this week.  It always make me cry but I just love it so much.  Best of all was seeing Nicky Campbell when I was waiting for my train to BritMums on Friday; he actually spoke to me (well he spoke to Lisa from Hollybobbs but I was standing right there so it sort of counts)

There have been lots of little summer sales popping up all over the place this week and I have treated myself to a few new bits and pieces for my holiday which haven't actually arrived yet.  I did snap up these joggers from H&M which have become my new favourite loungewear.  They are really lightweight and loose and so comfortable.  I'm afraid it's all about the comfort factor for me.

Some amazing stories and inspirational words from some of the speakers at BritMums over the weekend.  I especially loved the keynote from Caprice on the Saturday.  It was an incredible story and had me welling up by the end; in particular how hard she fought to have her children and the incredible miracle of making the decision to find a surrogate to carry her baby, the surrogate becoming pregnant and then finding out she herself had fallen pregnant naturally.  Just amazing.

Lots of lovely holiday plans.  That's totally cheating isn't it?  But it's about all I've managed this week.  Although I did construct a tent by only had two poles and it's just a small beach tent but it was hard work and I did almost give up.  It's not my forte in the slightest so I got a huge sense of accomplishment once I had done it.  Especially when the kids retrieved their sleeping bags and retreated inside for a whole two hours.  Oh the blissful peace and quiet...

And Lastly...
I am sharing my Fresh Five over on Tots 100 today and the focus is all about bloggers who have written books.  Alongside my own (ha!) there are also some other lovely choices so if you are looking to pick up some summer reads then hop on over and take a look.

Hope you've all had a great week.


How To See The Best of Britain on a Budget...

I know I am not alone in wishing that I could have a bit more money, that I would be able to jet off to exotic countries at this time of year. When colleagues, friends and family start talking about their holiday plans, it’s difficult not to get disheartened when they talk about Mauritius when you’re going to Mablethorpe.

Yet for many of us, staying at home is just what we know, what we’ve grown up with and - deep down - what we enjoy. You don’t have to break the bank or to save up for three years for the holiday of a lifetime, you just have to know how to enjoy yourselves.

One of the things that makes the British public so great, is our ability to make the most of any situation. We’re used to having to try and save money wherever possible - and no, it’s not about being “tight”, it’s about being clever with our money. 

While we all like to find a bargain whether that's a few pounds off our shopping at the supermarket or indulging in a favourite pastime it's also important that we can treat ourselves whenever possible - provided that the money is there to do so. 

By keeping the money in the bank you can splash it on the essentials, and if that means going somewhere much less expensive for a holiday so that you can afford to eat out and buy new clothes for your week at the coast, so be it!

“Staycations” are now some of the most popular holidays among the British public. Rather than jetting off to the other side of the world or to the common tourist destinations like Spain, Italy or Greece; we’re choosing the British seaside or a cultural break in one of the many great cities we have to offer. 

Sure, money has played a significant part in the rise of the stay-at-home holiday, but now many of us are finding that we actually prefer it; and there are ways that you can see the best of Britain on a budget. See for yourself:

Family rail tickets
The cost of rail fares has been a contentious issue for years now with rail companies putting their prices up to such an extent that people have had to move house to get nearer to work, or leave their place of work for something closer to home. Yet there are all kinds of offers out there for families looking to get away for a few days in the UK including discounts for under 5s and percentages off when you book a family pass.

Sure, you’re restricted to the towns with major rail networks in order to actually get there, but you can almost always get to a top seaside town for a few days on the beach; while London, Manchester, Edinburgh and all the other cultural cities are well linked by rail. 

Kids go free offers
A lot of the newspapers on sale in your local shops offer vouchers so that you can take the kids away for free, or at least at a discounted rate. In many cases all you have to do is collect a number of vouchers from your paper - which is only going to add up to a few pounds at the very most - and you could save a significant sum off taking the family away. 

It’s always difficult to save up for a family holiday, especially when the schools break up and prices rocket, so keep your eyes peeled - even if you never actually read the paper itself, it’s worth the investment for the savings.

Get cycling!
The best, and cheapest way, to see Britain is by pedal power. So many of us own bikes but rarely use them. Sometimes it’s because we live in the city, sometimes it’s because we don’t know where to go. Whatever the reason is you can see so much more of where you live if you just get out on your bike and go for a family ride.

You can see parts of the countryside you might not normally see by car, and you might realise that you enjoy it so much you decide you want to take your bikes with you on your next “staycation” so you can get out and see wherever you’ve gone on your holiday. The likes of the Lake District or parks such as Center Parcs are great to see by bike and, in the case of the latter, it’s actually encouraged!

This is a commissioned post.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

When Parenting is Hard...

I feel like my title may be a little misleading, as though the majority of the time I find the whole parenting experience a breeze which is really not the case at all.  Parenting is a constant challenge, a never-ending period of adjustment, of making mistakes and of trying to learn from those mistakes.  Of course it is also an amazing privilege and I look at my children with wonder and awe every single day, especially when they are sleeping!

But sometimes there are those times (and I hope I'm not alone in this) when I find myself shutting the door to the bathroom and sliding the lock across just to get five minutes peace, to perch myself on the edge of the bath with my head in my hands and think 'what on earth am I doing wrong?!'

This week has been one long stretch of those moments.  It's funny because I came back from a blogging conference on Saturday to big hugs and tales of how well Meg and Eli had behaved.  Then on Sunday we were out having lunch as a family and a perfect stranger came over and told us how lovely our family was; how well behaved Meg and Eli had been and she congratulated us on doing such a great job.  It was a random and heart-warming moment when we secretly high-fived each other and our clearly awesome parenting skills.

Then Monday morning rolled around.  Since 6am on Monday morning this week has just been a total write-off.  We've had boxes of cereal thrown across the kitchen spilling their contents everywhere (seriously, I had no idea tiny little hoops could travel so far...), we've had refusals to get dressed, we've had kicking and screaming and shouting and fighting and that's just from me.  I jest, sort of.  There have been more moments than I would like to admit this week when I have just lost my temper and resorted to shouting in order to get out of the house just slightly less late than we would otherwise have been.

There have been time-outs and toy removals and tactics of ignoring the chaos unravelling around me.  Every trick I've ever read or seen or heard of has been employed and yet still Meg and Eli have pushed the boundaries and stretched my patience to its absolute limit.

I'll admit I was actually dreading today when Eli wouldn't have preschool.  I was picturing myself hiding upstairs in the study and pretending I had work to do so that I wouldn't have to listen to him whinging and whining.  I couldn't imagine how my week could get any worse and I didn't want to find out.

And then this morning it all seemed to go without a hitch.  The kids woke up and got dressed and ate their breakfast pleasantly.  They put their shoes on and got into the car without a single protest.  Eli asked whether we could go on a bear hunt in the woods with Pepper and he walked the entire time without a peep of a moan.  Currently he is playing with his superhero figures whilst I get some work done.  Playing nicely without a toy being thrown or smashed or taken to pieces.  

I am under no illusions that it might not last; that this might be just a brief reprieve before it all kicks off again but it has served as a reminder to me that parenting is sometimes the hardest and most challenging journey you can go on but those times when you want to press the palms of your hands to your eyes so hard just to stop the roil of frustration, those times when you look through your cupboards to see where the pills are which have transformed your child from a gorgeous little angel into a squawking little horror, those times when you break down when your husband walks through the door because you are convinced that somehow you are doing everything wrong and you have inadvertently begun to rear tearaways...those moments don't stay forever.  

Underneath the boundary pushing and the rule stretching and the periods of sometimes downright disobedience, is your loving child.  You might not always see them but they are there.  And these times when parenting is tough is just another learning curve.  It rubs away the rough edges and reveals the parent you never knew was hiding underneath.  I would never have described myself as a patient person but I know now that I am 100 times more patient than I was prior to having children.  I am 100 times more giving and more gracious and more loving.

As parents it is our job to teach and to guide, it is our privilege to show our little people the right ways to behave and respond but I also think that sometimes it is them teaching us.  I know that is certainly true for me.

I want to encourage the mama who feels like parenting is too hard right now...who is wondering how she can survive another day of drama and chaos...who feels tears brimming and her heart sinking when she hears 'M-u-u-u-u-u-m' because she knows what is will get better.  It will get easier.  And you will come out of this trying season having learned more than you ever thought possible.  Those beautiful children you are raising are just being children and, believe me, I know that sometimes it is hard to see it but hang on in there.

You are not alone and although it sometimes feels like you might be seeing wave after wave of proud mama posts (and I admit I do my fair share of those too...) there are also those out there who are having a hard time.  Who are finding parenting hard.  I will raise my hand and say that has been me this week without a doubt but I cling to the knowledge that I am not alone and that it will end.  

And you know there is always the future to look forward to.  When you can sneak into your child's bedroom at 6am when they are 14, 15, 16, peel open their eyelids and shout 'get up, it's morning.  Don't you know the sun is up and it's morning!'...just to get your own back.

And now I have to sign off as I've just caught sight of Eli walking past the study brandishing a felt tip pen and that can only mean one walls are in danger of being treasure-mapped.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

When Mums Know Best...

If I could go back in time and tell my younger self anything it would probably be not to fight so hard against everything my mother told me.  I was a typical teenager, full of angst and determined to be right about absolutely everything.  I'm sure it caused far more arguments than was strictly necessary.  Isn't that always the way of things?

So when Littlewoods asked me to write a post to share about their #MumsKnowBest campaign it wasn't hard to think about times when my own mum knew better than me:-

* There was the time I dyed my hair at home against my mum's advice and it turned out bright orange.  Just in time for the school team photos.  I had to spend the entire year walking past at least six photos of myself in the PE department with humming hair.  Attractive.

* The time I refused to tie my trainers properly during a netball tournament because that just wasn't cool and I ended up falling and twisting my ankle so badly I couldn't carry on for the remainder of the games.

* The time I got my ears pierced for a second time when I was out with some friends in some dodgy back street establishment and they ended up horribly infected because I couldn't wait like my mum had told me.

* The time I was convinced I wanted a harpist at my wedding despite my mum pointing out that it really wasn't 'us'.  The bridezilla in me fought tooth and nail but in the end I conceded and then found out my Dad had booked an amazing live band which turned out to be perfect.

But the one thing I really wish I had listened to my Mum about was something she told me after Meg was born.  She told me to soak in every minute because the time goes by so quickly.  She reminisced about being able to remember when we were all babies and how it didn't seem that long ago.  

At the time I just thought she was saying it because all her children were grown up and she was, older (sorry Mum) but actually she couldn't have been more right.  I have no idea where the last six years have vanished to; I can't believe that Eli is old enough to start school in September, that Meg will be seven on her next birthday.  It seems like madness.  Partly because I still don't feel old enough to have an almost seven year old and partly because it just seems to have happened in the blink of an eye.  Just like my mum told me it would.  I wonder if she will ever stop knowing don't stop being a mum just because your children are grown up, do you?

Has your mum ever known best?

It makes me smile because I am now in the same position as my mum all those years ago.  I hear echoes of things I was told by my mum as I tell Meg and Eli.  Simple things from 'fasten your shoes properly' to bigger things like 'you'll cut a hole in your t-shirt if you keep waving those scissors around'.  I hope that I can be the voice of wisdom to my own children as much as my mum was to me, and that Meg and Eli listen to me a little bit more than I listened to my own mum, although I'm sure that won't always be the case!

This post was written in collaboration with Littlewoods.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Babies, BritMums and Builders...

What a difference a week can make to the weather; as I write this there is rain hammering against the window and I've had to turn all the lights on as the sky is so dark.  Surely this time last week I wasn't sunbathing in the garden!? 

We did manage to get out to Speke Hall last weekend whilst James was at work and the weather was beautiful, it's just such a shame it didn't last!

This week I have read so many birth announcements it is unbelievable...clearly this is a good week for babies to be born!  Massive congratulations to everyone who is enjoying newborn snuggles right now.  I am not in the least bit jealous...nope, not at all.  Well, maybe just a smidge.

I have been watching two new seasons of my favourite shows this week; America's Next Top Model and Who Do You Think You Are USA.  It's makeover week this week for ANTM and I can't wait, it's my favourite part of the whole season.  There will be hysterics, there will be androgyny, there will be will be brilliant.  I laugh so hard because I know that if I were blessed enough to be tall and have model-esque features Tara would cut all my hair off which would make me sob.  And then sob some more.

Other than my wellies I have been trying out different outfit combinations for BritMums this week.  I am no fashion blogger preferring to be able to get myself dressed in less than 10 minutes flat but I'm hopefully going to gain some confidence and use the chance to dress it up a bit more.

I like to listen to music whilst I work at home as it makes me feel less conscious of the fact that it's just me and the dog in the house.  My album of choice this week has been 'Now That's What I Call A Song'...there are some classic belters on there which definitely make me glad I'm on my own although I did realise halfway through I Believe I Can Fly that I had the study window open and there were builders directly underneath.  Hope they enjoyed my heartfelt performance!

I have had such a crazy week that my 'made' for this week is a little poor I'm afraid...I did make a superhero city for Eli so that he would be occupied whilst I cleaned and tidied the house.  Unfortunately there was a major disaster and the whole city got destroyed before I could take a photo...yeah, thanks Eli.

And Lastly...
As you read this I will be sat on the train whizzing towards London and BritMums Live.  I am terrified and excited in equal measures and just hope that I have a wonderful weekend meeting familiar faces and drinking lots of wine.  In fact the thing I am looking forward to most is getting to stay overnight in a hotel and not being woken at 6am by the kids!

Have a great week all.


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Our Trip To Conwy, North Wales...Part Two

This is the second part of our trip to Conwy during the May half term break.  If you want to see part one then click here.

Having been to Betws-y-Coed and done all things river related, the following day it was my turn to choose where we went.  Naturally being in Wales and there being an abundance of the things seeing as the Normans tried very hard for many years to conquer Wales and my being such a big nerd and all...I chose a castle.

Penryhn Castle actually isn't a real castle at all but rather a grand country house.  Of course I didn't realise this until we had actually arrived.  I think I was led a little bit by our flashy new National Trust membership status!

Despite this it was actually a really lovely day, rain aside.  There was a special Victorian event taking place so there were lots of people dressed up engaging with visitors, there were Victorian games set out in the yard for children to play with and the house itself was beautiful, if a little like a rabbit warren.

There was also a lot of surrounding land which we had fun exploring.  I would like to go back one day when the weather is nice and maybe walk a bit further as we were all a bit worn out from the previous day and the damp weather didn't help much.

After a brief rest at home we ventured out again to do some geocaching.  I had spotted that there was one about 100m from the cottage up in the abandoned quarry so we took Pepper with us and went on a final exploration.  

On our last full day in Wales we decided to drive for an hour and headed into Barmouth.  We fancied going somewhere a little bit seasidey which had a soft play so Meg and Eli could burn off some steam and we could sit and enjoy a peaceful(ish) cup of tea.  We didn't really realise until we arrived that Barmouth would be so picturesque.

We found a funfair, wandered down to the seafront, browsed in some quaint little stores and just really enjoyed our day.  We finished off with an ice cream from one of the most amazing ice cream parlours I have ever seen (check out my video of our adventures here if you want a glimpse of this)

I was really sad to come home; it's so nice sometimes to just get away from the every day and especially watching the kids and James together, they don't often get that much of his undivided attention in a big block.  It made me really excited for our summer holiday when we get two whole weeks together and also made me keen to make sure that we schedule in some time away later on in the year as well.  

Packing my Suitcase

Timeouts: Yes or No?

Made popular by parenting experts such as TV's 'Supernanny' Jo Frost, it's been the 'go to' parenting technique to deal with tantrums for some time now. However, many child behaviour experts now want us to call time on the timeout.

How do Timeouts Work?
The principle behind the timeout technique is that it provides a break in hostility between caregivers and children during those times when emotions have run so high that rational discussion and action have ceased to exist - the 'meltdown' that all parents dread. The child is isolated: put in a safe and quiet place where they are given a set time in which they must calm themselves and reflect on the behaviour that led to them being told off. 

When implemented correctly, both parent and child are able to level themselves off and re-engage when the emotional stress has subsided and they are able to re-establish communication in a civil and constructive way. When used incorrectly, the timeout itself can become a bone of contention, be used as a form of isolation punishment, and end up serving only as a little breathing space for the parent to take back control of their own emotional state.

The Problem with Timeouts
Although the timeout technique definitely seems to work, some child psychologists now believe that it is not, in fact, such a great way to discipline to children - mainly because the timeout doesn't necessarily provide the opportunity for the child to examine and understand the cause of their behaviour, or ways that they can control their feelings in future. 

"Time-outs are an attempt to change the behaviour of the child, but don’t allow either parent or child to find out what caused the behaviour. So behaviour is changed in only very superficial ways, and the underlying problems are not addressed or resolved." Pat Torngren

Research has shown that repeated exposure to emotionally traumatic experiences can have long term consequences on brain development, structure and function and that scans of children subjected to isolation as a form of punishment show the same brain patterns as those of children being subjected to physical punishment and violence. So, although obviously a far better option than smacking, or yelling, the timeout is still a punishment based discipline. As a result some now even consider that it may be a form of emotional abuse.

The Alternative: Positive Reinforcement
With advances in research into children’s psychological development, new theories and techniques have begun to surface that offer alternatives to punishment discipline. Having a better understanding of the causes of distress and emotional outbursts in kids has provided insight in to what is really going on in a child's mind when they 'play up'. Positive discipline techniques are built around offering sympathy and support instead of scolding and plunishment when emotions run high. The result, they say, is calm, relaxed and happy children.

You can find more interesting facts and parenting tips over on Sunny D's website.

This is a collaborative post

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A Family Event Worth Saving For...

It is probably no secret that I love to plan parties.  My pinterest boards are awash with ideas for children's parties, vow renewal celebrations, Christmas decoration ideas and just general party prettiness.  It's a bad habit I have, dreaming up excuses to gather people together but I just love it.  I think I thrive on the last minute chaos which inevitably ensues because I have chosen to hand-make individual tutus or bake and decorate a five tier cake in a design I've never practised before.  Or at least, that's what I tell myself afterwards when I'm collapsed on the sofa enjoying a large glass of wine and an entire tub of ice cream!

I think it is so important to value the time you get to spend together as a family, either because you are seeing in a milestone event or just taking the opportunity to gather people who are flung far and wide for one special day.  This doesn't necessarily mean throwing a grand affair (although if money was no object I imagine I would do so at the drop of a hat) but rather finding ways to make the time as wonderful as possible and create memories which can last for years to come.

Of course there are some times when there are things worth going all out for; in two years time I am in fact facing a double whammy.  In the summer of 2017 I will turn 30 *cough cough* and it will also be our 10 year wedding anniversary.  Although these two events are a few months apart we are thinking how great it would be to throw some kind of big bash and invite all those people we have only seen sporadically over the years; some of whom we haven't managed to spend more than a few hours with since we got married.  

I have been quite restrained and haven't started pinning anything yet (it is still two years away after all...) but an idea is gradually taking shape in my head and I will admit that I have surreptitiously scouted a few venues whilst we have been out and about.  It's edging towards being the sort of wedding I would have if I were getting married now, if that makes sense although it won't be anywhere near on the scale our wedding was (she says...)

Regardless of the size, an event like this won't come cheap and in order to make it happen we need to consider that we probably need to start saving.  I love the idea that we will be able to gather friends and family and celebrate something as momentous as 10 years of marriage...and not forgetting the 'other' thing as well.  To dance the night away with our nearest and dearest to the delicate flicker of candlelight and already you begin to see how easily I could get carried away especially when James has got to turn 30 first (haha) and we've still got several more birthdays, Christmases, New Years and Easters to see through first.  I need to have my priorities in order!

But shhh...maybe just keep your eyes peeled for my next pinterest board.

This post has been written in collaboration with Legal & General.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Siblings {June}

Someone asked me the other day how I make sure that my two children get on so well and play so nicely together.  I answered honestly...that I have no idea!

 Maybe it's because it has just been the two of them for 4 years.  Maybe it's because when we moved they took security from having each other.  Maybe it's because they have complementing personalities which just seem to gel...I don't know the reason but I do know that comments like this make my heart swell.

Of course they aren't always best friends and they do play up; this month it seems they have been scrapping a little more than usual.  But just as quickly as things get out of hand they are back to normal, curled up on the sofa all over each other, back to being the tight little team we know and love so much.

Their little spats make me smile because they remind me so much of how I used to squabble with my brother and sister.  'Your leg is on my side of the chair!' 'Stop looking at me!' 'You told!' And on and on.  And then we would be best friends again just like Meg and Eli within a few minutes.

The big game at the moment seems to be camping and den building.  Every afternoon when they get home from school they ask me to light the tealight in their lantern and they go off out into the garden on a camping expedition.  Whenever they visit their Nana's they always want to create a den out of the clothes airer and bed sheets and huddle themselves away.  

I'm not sure what it is about the game they love so much but seeing as it often keeps them occupied for hours at a time, with them only resurfacing when they want me to refuel them, I'm quite happy to oblige!  I just hope they haven't run out of steam for it before the summer holidays roll around.

I love that we are edging ever closer to the summer holidays...just 6 weeks to go!

dear beautiful

Friday, 12 June 2015

Ideal Homes, Singing Princes and Floppy Hats #LittleLoves

This week we were back to normal with school and nursery and work (boo hiss) with the exception of the weather.  The last few days have been so wonderful here, I've even managed to get a little bit of colour from sitting out in the garden whilst Eli plays.  Typically though it's meant to rain tomorrow.  James is working so I'd planned a day out for us; let's hope the weather forecast turns out to be wrong.

Yesterday I managed to sit and flick through Good Housekeeping and Ideal Homes whilst Eli occupied himself in the paddling pool and the sandpit.  Ideal Homes is one of my favourite magazines; I love seeing how other people have decorated their houses and the interior choices they make.  I always think I should have been an estate agent in another life as I could happily look around other people's houses all day long.

We watched Into The Woods for the first time yesterday.  We had no idea what to expect and I'd heard mixed reviews but I quite enjoyed it; not sure I can say the same for James.  My favourite song was 'Agony'; I thought it was amusing and didn't take itself too seriously.

It's hats again this week!  With the arrival of the good weather, I finally had a chance to wear my new floppy sun hat.  I have wanted one of these hats for ages but never had the confidence to buy one and wear it.  I don't have the right kind of head for hats so always feel a little bit awkward.  Okay, so it's first outing was in my back garden where no-one could see me but I'm hopeful when we go to France I won't feel like a complete noodle.

I heard this song for the first time this week whilst I was driving back from swimming.  It's one of those songs which I can't really pinpoint why I like it so much...I just do.

We got creative this week and made some paper plate animals.  It's unusual for Eli to have the sticking power to do something, let it dry and then come back and finish it off so I was quite impressed that of the 5 animals we started, we managed to finish 3 of them.  

And Lastly...
I am super excited to have been gifted a ticket to BritMums.  I ummed and ahhed about whether I was going to go or not but now I am and I can't wait.  It will be so nice to say hello to familiar faces and maybe meet some new people as well.  I just need to get over my natural shyness in the next week and a bit!  If you are going to be there please do come and say hello.

I hope you have all had an amazing week.


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Our Trip to Conwy, North Wales...Part One

Because of the type of work James does, and the long hours he is required to work, we don't often get away as a family; particularly now that we have to make sure we go away during school holidays. 

We try to make the most of our time together when James is not working but still, there is something about going away for a longer period which is just so wonderful.  I loved watching James and the kids play together; our time is usually so rushed and is crammed in alongside housework and cleaning and food shopping at the weekends.

So getting 5 whole days in the Conwy area of North Wales during May half term was just fantastic and we really tried to wring out as much as we could.  

We were staying in a small village which was a former quarry settlement; in a cottage which was part of a row of terrace houses formerly used by the quarry workers.

Having checked the weather forecast almost non-stop in the run up to our arrival, we knew the best day was our first day so we decided to head to the beach.  Just outside of Porthmadog is Black Rock Sands, a sandy stretch with shallow sea making it ideal for those with younger children.  It also had a great backdrop and is one of the few beaches in the area which allows you to drive your car directly onto the beach (although this did ruin quite a few of my pictures).  I think we paid £5 for all day parking.

Since we moved to a coastal area, Meg and Eli's confidence has grown massively around the sea and from the minute we arrived they were begging to go splashing.  The weather wasn't really on our side for a prolonged time in the water; it was warm when the sun was out but really quite cool when it went behind a cloud which unfortunately it did, often.

We spent all day on the beach, enjoying fish and chips and lots of ice cream before heading back to the cottage for the evening.

The next day we headed into nearby Betws-y-Coed.  James was really keen to walk beside a river and do some exploration so we geared up for that.  When we set off, we had a rough idea of where we wanted to go but we weren't sure that the kids would manage to walk far before they got tired.  I have to say it was one of my proudest mama moments watching Eli come to live in the woods.  We walked 6 miles and he didn't complain once.  I can't say the same for Meg but she did walk without needing to be carried which is a plus.

He had dressed himself up as an explorer and took it upon himself to lead us to Swallow Falls and he just loved it.

The walk was just so peaceful and picturesque; although we were often passed by other groups of people we quickly lost sight of them and it felt as though we had the whole woods to ourselves.

One of the kids' favourite parts of the route was the Miners Bridge, which is where (believe it or not) the miners used to cross the river on their way to work.

The falls themselves were pretty amazing too.

On the way back we took it slightly easier, and let the kids splash about in the river.  Neither of them fell over which was a big plus although we did have some very wet feet by the end of the day.

Before we headed home we stopped off at a cafe in the centre of Betws-y-Coed for some well earned treats.  There's a whole stretch of places to eat but I chose this cafe purely because of the blanket box.  I love it when there are little details like this and we all took full advantage.

Needless to say we were all wrecked when we finally made it back to the cottage and we all slept very well.  I loved the effect that the outdoors can have, especially on hyperactive children.

Stay tuned for Part two!

My Travel Monkey