Sunday, 31 May 2015

Me & Mine {May}

Did anyone else get a whiff of beautiful summer weather this month?  I feel like we are edging ever closer to long days spent at the beach, ice creams just because, wild hair and mucky feet and not going to bed until way past bedtime...or is that just me?

Having just been away this month for half term I am so ready for it to be the summer holidays!  Just 8 weeks and then total freedom.  I have the best memories of the summer holidays when I was growing up; of the simplest things really like Mum taking us camping for 3 weeks whilst Dad went to work (although my sister did get struck by lightning on that particular trip so it may not have been all that great...) or running round the village and causing mischief, buying paintbrush lollies from the local butchers for 25p or getting a big bag of sherbert sticks for £1 and holding bets on how many we could tip into our mouths before we had to swallow...and I love that Meg and Eli get to start making those same kinds of memories now and I can be a part of that.

But back to May, this month we have enjoyed:-

*Lots and lots of birthday fun.  That's all 4 of our birthdays done and dusted for 2015 and I can start planning what happens next year!
*Publishing my book.
*Eurovision.
*Going away for a week to Wales and getting some much needed time together as a family.

I had hoped that being in Wales would give us a good opportunity to get a nice family photo but despite taking my tripod with us I completely forgot to get it out, so we mostly took selfies whilst we were out and about.  Not that I really mind...we are all well versed in taking family selfies now and the kids will ask to take one wherever we go.  I think they are definitely the product of having parents who love to Instagram life!


We did manage to capture this one shot of us at the beach although Meg is grimacing as she has sand in her eyes (despite the gorgeous blue sky the wind was up and there was literally sand blowing everywhere) and who knows what Eli is doing; I sort of just leave him to get on with things now rather than insisting he smiles.  You just need to take a look at my IG feed to see what happens when you ask him to smile for a shot.


Although every once in a while you do strike gold...


So that's our little monthly round-up; I hope everyone else has had a good one.



dear beautiful

Friday, 29 May 2015

Books, Beaches and A Little Bit of Eurovision #LittleLoves

It has been a long while since I've joined in with #LittleLoves but something I am going to get back on board with.  I love reading about the small things which have made other people smile in the week, and thinking back on my own.

It was pretty easy to make my choices this week as we've just been away and spent 5 lovely days together as a family so I had lots of fab moments to choose from.

Read
I've been a bit 'off' reading lately; I think it is a result of having spent too many days staring at the manuscript for Secrets...but whilst we were away I did manage to finish reading Tuck which is the last in a trilogy about the legend of Robin Hood written by Stephen Lawhead.  I'll admit, I shed a tear when I finished as Lawhead just has this amazing way of sweeping you up into the story he has created and making the characters feel like your friends...and then he invariably goes and bumps off one of the best.  


Watched
We didn't get chance to watch too much whilst we were cocooned in our cottage, which is probably a good thing.  However, I did subject James to Eurovision; it is without a doubt one of my little pleasures in life.  No guilt here whatsoever; I love it and unashamedly so.  My favourite is never the winner although I did enjoy Sweden's offering, but I loved Norway this year.  It gave me little chills.




Wore
I picked up some gorgeous summer clothes in H&M before we went away for Meg and Eli, in particular my favourite is this little outfit.  Meg has hated trousers since she was tiny, and it is always a real battle to get her to wear them but these are so floaty and lightweight that she will be able to put them on in the summer when it's a bit cooler but won't feel like she's wearing trousers, if that makes sense?  I'm on the lookout for an adult pair now as they seem super comfy.

Yoga on the beach? Why not.



Heard
Some good news for some friends.  I can't share too much but it was a stressful time for them and they've had a break and got some great news which will pull them out to the other side.  Hurray!  


Made
Fire!  Honestly, who would have thought getting a log burner going would be so tricky?  Apparently (according to James) it is something to do with the level of seasoning the wood has had but all I knew was that without fire the cottage got very very cold in the evening and there was no hot water.  We struggled for a few days to get the fire to last but finally we made it work.  I felt very proud of my fire building skills although I don't think I'd be much good out in the wilderness.  Bear Grylls I am not.



And Lastly...
Feel free to slap my wrists at this point but I just have to say that I am really pleased with how well Secrets of the River is being received.  I've struggled with knowing how best to promote it but have had some lovely bloggers sharing about it, and reading it too.  Watching the little reviews going up and up in number makes my day.  I'm not a bestseller yet but I'm trusting that slow and steady will win the race (or something....)

Thursday, 28 May 2015

We Were On A Break...

If you are a regular reader then you may have noticed that things have been a little quieter here than usual.

This time of year is always chaos; we are thrown into birthday season and as Meg and Eli get older so their expectations rise of what will happen for their special day.  I loved planning Meg's ballet birthday party and I will never forget the sheer look of joy on her face but I was left completely exhausted in the days that followed.

Not least because two days later it was my birthday and the long awaited day of my book release which also brought its own levels of fun (think automatic pre-order cancellations and disappearing books!)  This has been a rollercoaster in itself and continues to be so.  I am constantly amazed that even one person has bought the book, and love hearing how people are finding it.  James says I need to have more confidence in it and promoting it, telling people how great it is but that really isn't my style so I'm afraid you will have to put up with a tad more self-deprecation for now.

With all of that going on I was really pleased when last Friday rolled around and we took a long awaited and much needed holiday in Wales.  We are lucky enough that James' auntie owns a cottage in North Wales and we were able to visit and stay for 5 wonderful days.  Just getting away from home can make such a difference to the way I feel within myself...I was supposed to be downing tools and stepping away from social media and the book and the blog for the duration of our time there and whilst I didn't quite manage that (sad to say I did find myself sneaking a look at Amazon to see if there had been any more reviews in the early hours one morning...) I did find myself scouring Twitter less and only popping onto Instagram a couple of times.

I even managed to get some reading in which is something I haven't had the brain capacity to do for a number of weeks.  I adore reading and getting lost in a fictional world; is it my ultimate way to switch off...getting to lie on the beach in the blissful sunshine, listening to the kids building sandcastles and splashing in the sea and reading was wonderful.  Even if it was on my kindle and not an actual, real paper book!


I indulged in far too many ice creams, didn't get as much writing done as I had hoped and am sure I have come back more tired than when I went (the perils of walking for hours and sleeping in a different bed) but I have also come back completely re-inspired about the setting for my next book, with some lovely new memories and a real desire for it to be July for our 'big' summer holiday and two weeks together as a family.



I'm sure I will be writing up our holiday in more detail, once I've waded through the 600 photos I took and 80-odd videos I filmed but for now I wanted to give you a little update.  I am still here!


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Giveaway: Gro Anywhere Blind

When Meg was small we had this little routine at bedtime where we would take her to the window, wave goodbye to the sun and then draw the curtains.  It was one of those little habits we cultivated so that she would know when it was time for her to go to sleep for the evening and something we carried on after Eli was born.

Of course, there was no issue whatsoever when it was winter and dark of an evening but no fun at all during the lighter months.  

'Mummy, Meg see sun.'
'Sun say hello!'
'No bedtime, not dark.'

These were just some of the arguments we had to contend with.  Of course we still have those disagreements now but Meg and Eli are old enough to understand why it is still light.  When they were small we had no chance of persuading them.  So we were delighted when we discovered, on a random trip out to a baby store, the Gro Anywhere Blind.

The Gro Anywhere Blind is a fab portable blackout blind which attaches to windows using suction cups.  Not only does this make it adjustable but it also ensures a snug fit so no sneaky slants of light creep through.  You can use it at home and take it away with you, making certain that wherever you go your little one will know it's time to go to sleep.


Some of the facts:-

*Adapts to fit any window up to a maximum size of 130cm x 200cm
*Velcro fastening makes it easy to adjust to fit smaller windows
*Comes with handy travel bag
*Made of premium black out material
*Conforms to highest applicable British and European standards.

Best of all, The Gro Company have kindly offered one of their Gro Anywhere Blinds for me to giveaway to one lucky reader!

Just complete the rafflecopter below for your chance to win.

UK entrants only please.
All entries will be checked.
Please note the prize is not supplied by me and is non-transferable.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you aren't lucky enough to win this time then you can still beat the lighter nights and buy a Gro Anywhere Blind currently just £24.99.



UK competitions at ThePrizeFinder

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Ballet Party : Meg Turns Six

This year Meg was determined that she was going to have the best birthday party ever.  Those who regularly read the blog will know that her plans have been wild and extravagant covering everything from horse drawn carriages to sparkly party dresses.

Whilst we couldn't quite keep up with all her demands, we were confident we could give her a special day to be remembered, especially when she mentioned that she'd quite like to learn a ballet routine with some of her friends.  There was a theme we could work with!

I set to work, diving into all things tutu related; think lots and lots of pink.  Kate from Feather Grey Parties helped with the accessories, sending us some of their new gorgeous pink and gold themed party pieces which really got the ball rolling.  They were really high quality and although I could have got lost in trying to decide which of the Feather Grey Party themes would work best I'm glad we went for the Pink Sparkle Party.  Pink and gold worked perfectly alongside the ballet theme and inspired a number of the other decorations that we used.  



I bought a number of different coloured tutus and set up a little dressing up stand; the girls loved rooting through the tiaras and skirts, trying different ones on and looking at themselves in the mirror.  Apart from the tutus, this stand was made up entirely of items from our house...a very cost-effective little station which kept them occupied whilst we waited for everyone to arrive.



We paid for someone to come along and teach the girls some ballet steps from babyballet®; Miss Katherine was absolutely brilliant and the girls took it so seriously!  She had them all in first and fifth position and doing demi-pliĆ©s by the end and they continued to practise their moves long after she had said goodbye.  She also played a number of games with them and was just really engaging, knowing how to keep them all involved and concentrating on what they were doing.  It was magical to see, especially knowing that this was something Meg had really wanted.




Although we also had some wand making and games lined up, the babyballet® section was by far the favourite and seeing Meg's face when Miss Katherine walked in (we had left that part a surprise) was priceless.  She has been performing ever since.  I think we may be looking up local ballet classes in the not too distant future.



I didn't manage to capture any photos of the wand making as I was too busy trying to ensure that nobody stuck their fingers together but we basically bought some pre-cut sparkly foam pieces, some dowel and some ribbon and PVA glued it all together, tying the ribbon around the dowel stick at the end.  I had hoped this task would last a little longer than it did but each of the girls loved making their wands and the only hard part we found was trying to stop them whisking them off and around before they had fully dried!

The cake table was also a favourite; lots of parents commented on it and the girls were dying to nab the treats from the second they walked in.  I made the tutu which tied underneath a plain cake stand myself using tulle and ribbon, and then just used bits and pieces from around the house to bring little extras and sparkle to the table.





Unfortunately I didn't make the cake myself as I think that would have just been one step too far for my sanity!  It is just a standard supermarket princess cake.  Nobody seemed to notice so shhhh!



For the food we decided pre-filled lunchboxes would be the easiest option.  We packed them beforehand with crisps, yoghurt and a chocolate treat and then made heart shaped sandwiches with a variety of fillings which we then offered out.  We also filled the cups from Feather Grey Parties with grapes and strawberries to try and inject something healthy amongst all the sugar.





The party bags were provided by All About Party Bags who offer a range of pre-filled party bags and boxes.  Naturally we chose a ballerina themed bag which came with a set of stickers, a chain bracelet and some adorable charms and a selection of party sweets as well.  It cost just over £40 for 12 pre-filled bags and they came packed up and ready to go; perfect when there was so much else for me to be thinking about on the day.  The bracelet and charms got lots of compliments and Meg has loved wearing hers.  They have all kinds of themes so are well worth checking out.



The final element to the day was the nail station.  Meg's auntie very kindly offered to paint nails so whilst the other girls danced amongst bubbles and balloons, she pampered each one, very willingly painting lots of different colours.  It was a lovely addition and I hope each girl went home feeling like an extra special little lady.



I have to say a huge thank you to Feather Grey Parties for their stunning party decorations and All About Party Bags for their contribution to the day.  You made a very sparkly party extra magical and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend both to anyone looking to plan a birthday party (or any special celebration) in the near future.

Meg had an absolutely wonderful time and I truly hope we made her sixth birthday everything she wanted it to be.


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Secrets of the River is here!


Nearly two years after I sat in the garden of a beautiful gite in the South of France and scribbled out some notes for the characters which had been wandering around in my head for so much longer...18 months after James bravely believed in me and worked out how I could quit my job to pursue writing full time without casting us into the depths of poverty...and just a few months after I pressed the final full stop on the last line...Secrets of the River has been released!

If you'd like to buy Secrets of the River you can find it on Amazon UK and Amazon.com.

Release day wasn't anything monumental; I went shopping, had some nice lunch (as it was also my birthday) and tried not to constantly refresh the page to see whether anyone had decided to buy it already.  It didn't really work and I should apologise to anyone who walked into the back of me as I stopped abruptly on the high street to check and double check.

Better yet, when I got home the postman had been and delivered a proof copy of the paperback.  Possibly the best birthday present yet (sorry James).


Massive thanks to everyone who has supported me in this.  Now I just need to hope that people like it enough to leave reviews, to tell other people and maybe to share about it too.

Squee! 

Monday, 18 May 2015

We Are Golden Eggsplorers!

I am really excited to be able to share with you the fact that we have been chosen as Golden Eggsplorers (or ambassadors!) for Reading Eggs.

We were first introduced to Reading Eggs when Meg was a few months from starting school and I was in the initial throes of worrying over whether we had done enough to prepare Meg ahead of September.  As someone who loves reading, it forms a huge part of our daily lives and I have been reading to both Meg and Eli since they were tiny.  Meg is equally as much of a bookworm and although I wouldn't credit Reading Eggs with singlehandedly teaching her how to read, the introduction to phonics is a really soft and fun way to begin the process.

We are just now beginning to go over these same steps with Eli in preparation for when he starts Reception in September (sob) and I am confident that it will be an equally exciting experience for him as well.  He is really into learning letters and will often 'sound' out words and ask me what they spell so I think he is just at the right age to start now.  And of course I'm sure Meg will be on hand to 'help' him if required!

As part of being a Golden Eggsplorer I will bring you news, updates and giveaways throughout the year but for this first post I am pleased to introduce their School Readiness Campaign; this is running from today until 18 June and they are offering a free 4 week trial to the Reading Eggs program and to Mathseeds as well.

Reading Eggs is aimed at children aged between 3-7 years and there is Reading Express for those aged 7-13.  Mathseeds is aimed at 3-6 year olds.  It is a really enjoyable and easy way to get your children interested (or re-engaged) with reading and maths and it something Reading Eggs as a company are passionate about which I think comes across in their colourful and diverse program.  They have won a number of awards and have many glowing reviews on their website from parents and teachers alike who have seen great success with the concept.

If you've never come across Reading Eggs before or you want to give their free trial a go, why not hop over to the School Readiness Campaign and have a look for yourself.  I'm sure you will begin to understand exactly what we love about it.  



Friday, 15 May 2015

Siblings {May}

I must say this every single month but I am always surprised at how quickly this year seems to be disappearing before our eyes.  We are almost in the sweetness of summer and the long stretch of holidays, and beach fun, staying up light just because it's light and too many excuses to indulge in ice lollies on the way home from school.

Although I say I am constantly caught out that we are shooting towards the end of May, I am also kind of looking forward to it too!

We are in birthday season right now, Meg's ballet party is tomorrow and then my birthday is on Monday...yippee!

This month we have seen the difficulties which can arise from having Meg and Eli's birthdays so close together.  Initially Eli had said he didn't want a party and so we organised to take him to CBeebies Land and Alton Towers (which I will write about some time soon...) and he had a small get together with some of the children he knows from playgroup.  Meg on the other hand (which I might have mentioned...) was thinking big...she wanted all the extravagance of a party and I have done my best to create something magical for her.  

Of course now Eli sees all the effort we have put into sorting Meg's party out, he has decided that actually he would quite like a do-over on his birthday and this time he wants a party.  I caught him opening my birthday cards yesterday and when I asked why he said it was because he had decided it was going to be his birthday instead of mine.  Nice.

I think next year we might go back to having a joint celebration for them.

Jealousy and birthday squabbles aside; we continue to tick along much as we always do.  A little bit of fighting here and there, but mostly lots of love and cuddles and declarations that they really couldn't have done better than to get each other as a sibling.


I have started to wonder how it will be when Eli starts school and Meg gets no space at all from him.  The Infants are all in one playground and Eli has already said a number of times that he can't wait to be able to play with Meg once he gets to be in Reception...it may make for an interesting adjustment period in September but I hope that I am worrying for nothing.

Meg's friends all seem to find Eli hilarious and cute so no doubt he will be king pin of the playground being fussed over by the older girls.  Which he will love.


We are heading off to Wales shortly as part of the two weeks we are having off school for an extended half term and INSET days which should be lots of fun; and should give me lots of opportunities to grab some sibling photos and then we will be in June!  Bring it on I say.


But right now I need to get back to decorating a cake stand...because Meg is her mother's daughter...did someone say OTT?!?

dear beautiful