Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Our Easter Weekend 2016

The long Easter weekend is one that I look forward to pretty much all year.  Mostly because it used to signify the start of two blissful weeks of no school runs but since the council decided to shift all the holidays around, it is now just a lovely long weekend all on its own.  It's a brilliant opportunity for us to spend time together as a family, see friends and have fun and eat more chocolate than we really should!

Unfortunately the weather forecast had other ideas and it looked like torrential rain was going to hit for the entire weekend.  That said, Friday we woke up to blazing sunshine and it turned out to be an absolute beauty of a day.

Friday was our 'laze around' day; we had some plans to see friends in the afternoon which we duly baked Easter cupcakes for but apart from that we just mooched around and did odd jobs.  James cut the grass, I...erm...supervised and the kids played in the garden.  It was one of those days when we really didn't do much at all and yet it felt like such a great day.

Saturday was a little cloudier than we would have liked but it was still pretty mild.  James took Meg and Eli to the Kids AM screening at the cinema with the promise that if the rain held off we would go for a walk in the afternoon to the sand dunes.  Typically, the rain held off until we were actually in the middle of our walk and we got totally and utterly soaked through.

It was definitely one of those situations where we could either have all moaned and grumped about the fact that our wellies were squelching and our coats were no longer doing their job of keeping the rain out and heading away from the sand dunes and into the woods to try and get less wet had actually just made us more chilly...you get the idea.  We decided instead to laugh about it and as much as possible turn it into just another adventure, with the promise of Kung Fu Panda and hot chocolate at the other end of it!  Because the weather was so bad I didn't manage to get my big camera out but I did do a little film:-

Sunday was way more chaotic than we had thought it would be.  We had the great idea to have the Kindness Elves come back and bring the kids Easter treats and the story of Easter, which was all great.

We also wanted to have a special Easter breakfast but Eli was so excited by the appearance of the Elves door that he couldn't actually keep still enough to eat his breakfast and we almost had total meltdown.  Then we had to get dressed and out to church, before coming back for the roast beef James had spent the morning preparing and cooking in the slow cooker.

I had also planned a little Easter egg hunt for the garden but the weather was so crazy that we just had to rush out and do it when there was a break in the torrential rain; which happened to be just as dinner was served!

So a bit more manic than I had hoped for but both Meg and Eli seemed to have a good time, which is what counts.

Monday we headed down to Loughborough to see my parents.  It meant a very early start and we were all a bit grouchy to begin with but it was totally worth it.  We all miss being just around the corner from them and we don't get to see them nearly as much as we'd like so it was lovely to spend the day just us and them.  It was just a shame that school hadn't broken up and we had to hare it back home again at the end of the day rather than being able to stop over.

Despite the weather we had a really nice weekend; sometimes it's just nice to have the opportunity to be altogether without work or commitments getting in the way.  I am particularly looking forward to the Easter holidays now though...providing the weather is better of course!

If you're interested, here is last year's Easter post.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Great Family Movies for Easter

With Easter literally on our doorstep, it's a great opportunity to get together and enjoy time as a family. Whilst we are quite an active and outdoorsy family, we also like to get some downtime and watching movies (or films if you prefer!) is a fantastic way for us to do that.

I know that we aren't alone in this either so I have put together a list of some recommendations for family movies to watch this Easter. It's a great time to snuggle up, tuck into some Easter treats (maybe even the grown ups could get treated to a new TV such as a Panasonic 4K TV) and have a giggle and a good time:_

Featuring actors such as Hugh Laurie and Russell Brand, Hop is an animated film about E.B. the son of the Easter Bunny. It is expected that E.B. will follow in his famous father's footsteps to become the next Easter Bunny but E.B. has other ideas; he wants to be a drummer. So, on the eve of his Easter Bunny coronation, he sneaks off to Hollywood to try and make his dreams come true. This is a heartwarming, coming of age story where E.B. must save the Easter Bunny factory from chicks (yes, really) and accept who is he is. It is an action adventure with just the right amount of comedy and fun for all ages to enjoy.

The Good Dinosaur
Okay, so it isn't technically Easter related but it does feature an egg so that kind of counts doesn't it? Plus, this is the newest family movie on the block and well worth downloading or purchasing this Easter. The Good Dinosaur is the story of Arlo, an apatosaurus who just wants to make his mark on the world but is too afraid to do so. Through a twist and turn of sad events, Arlo ends up separated from his family with only the feral child 'Spot' for company and together they must make their way home and discover who they are along the way.

VeggieTales: Twas' the Night Before Easter
If you are looking for a family movie which will help your children to understand a little more of the story of Easter, then we are huge fans of VeggieTales in this house and we know you won't go wrong with their Easter offering. In a classic VeggieTales story, Marlee Meade must go on a little journey in order to discover what Easter is really all about.

Rise of the Guardians
This is a good option if you have slightly older children but you still want to watch a film with a slight link to the Easter Bunny! The immortal 'Guardians' who must come together to protect the world feature some of the well known names from childhood: Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost, the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy to name but a few, although they are called slightly different things. The story is about protecting the innocence, belief and imagination of children the world over and is an action-packed animated movie.

What do you think of my choices? Can you think of any others to add in this Easter?

This is a collaborative post

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A Weekend Break in Oslo, Norway: The Final Part

It seems like so long ago now that we were out buying thermals, packing our suitcases and trying to keep schtum from the kids about our trip to Oslo.  In fact, just last night we were reminiscing about the trip and how well we thought it had gone and whether we'd be able to do anything similar this year.  I really hope so!

If you are thinking about heading to Oslo then we would really recommend it; it's a beautiful city, the people are super friendly and there is loads to see and do.  Having written three posts sharing what we got up to and some of the photos we took, I also finally got around to putting together a little video of our time there.

You can find the written posts here, here and here, or you may just prefer to watch the video!  It's only a small snapshot of what we did, but hopefully it might inspire you to plan your own city break in the near future.

Monday, 21 March 2016

When Work Doesn't Quite Work...

Around 8 weeks ago I was sitting in my study, contemplating the month ahead and the work I had planned out.  I had this sudden urge to be back in an office environment, to be around other people during my working day and perhaps try something a little more challenging.

I have loved the freedom that being freelance gave me; it came at a time when we needed someone to be at home for school drop off and pick up, and for some one on one time with Eli.  I have been able to be around for assemblies and school events and I love that.  But I also felt the need to push myself in my career again.

Confident that it wouldn't be too difficult to find something in the line of work I was used to, I duly sent off my CV for various jobs in our local vicinity.

Turns out...it's not really as simple as that.

According to the agencies and companies I applied to, I am lacking in recent experience for the type of administrative work that I used to do, but I am over qualified for anything less than the type of administrative work that I used to do...quite an interesting dilemma.

I started off being quite particular about the job I wanted and when that panned out to nothing, I started being less particular.  And I still got nowhere.

I can't pretend that although I am a big believer in doors only opening when it is right, I haven't still felt a little bit injured by the fact that I am finding it so difficult to get a job.  I may have had 3 years out but that doesn't mean that I am not still very much able (and willing) to work hard to do the job.  Or that I wouldn't be good at it.

So what's a girl to do?

Perhaps it isn't the right time for me to get a job, perhaps there is the ideal job just waiting around the corner, perhaps I need to give up the game altogether; after all, my ideal is that I will sign with an agent and get to write books full time but that is a pipe dream which is also failing to turn out quite the way I imagined.

It would be so easy to feel disheartened about the situation.  James has a good, steady job but if I were able to secure a little more work it would just make the extra bit of difference month to month.  I think it would also be good for my well-being; to not just have myself for company throughout my working day but to get to be around other people as well.  However, I am choosing not to feel dispirited.  There is so much that I want to do with my life, so many other things I would choose to do if I had endless amounts of time and resources that perhaps it's time I knocked on a few of those doors instead.

Okay so it isn't quite turning out the way I imagined that it would; perhaps there was a touch of arrogance about my confidence that I would simply send out my CV to a few companies and then waltz into a job, but that doesn't mean that the pull I felt to do something else was a wrong emotion.  Maybe it just means that I am searching in the wrong place and perhaps something even better is just around the corner.

And that's a pretty exciting thought.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Love Life Outside #1

So way back in January (which seems a lifetime ago now already!) I was invited to join a lovely little community called Love Life Outside as a co-host.  I had planned to get weekly updates sharing some of my favourite photos but life just got in the way and I haven't managed to get around to it until now!  If you want to read more about the community you can do here; we'd love for you to come and join us.

So a slap on the wrist for me and a promise that I will be sharing my favourite photos from the week each Sunday here; so long as all the sickness bugs we've been battling stay away of course!

This week I haven't gotten out as much as I would have liked to.  I mean, I've sat in the garden and enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine and I've taken the dog for a walk but we haven't been down to any of our special outdoor haunts which I'm hoping we can rectify at the weekend!

I am constantly inspired by the photos which get shared on the Instagram page and it definitely pushes me to think about different places we could go and visit; now that the weather is starting to brighten up a little it is getting easier to persuade the whole family to get outsid as well.  In fact, yesterday the kids played in the garden until well after their bedtime and it was pitch black before I had to call them inside.  They had been out since the moment they came home from school and although by the time they actually came in, it was a heck of a lot colder, I love that they had been able to do that because of the lighter evenings.  It is something I am looking forward to a lot more of as we race towards the summer.

Over the last couple of weeks I have shared a number of outdoors posts but these are my two favourites.  I keep harping on about washing on the line but I seriously love the feeling when you can peg it all out there and the freshness of the clothes when you bring them back in (it's how I get my kicks these days!) and then this photo from Mother's Day when Meg and Eli were racing through the sand dunes.  Those kids love beach life, even when they have to layer up in order to enjoy it.

A photo posted by Jess McGlynn (@jmcglynn) on

As for my favourite community photos; this week it was such a hard choice.  I managed to stick to just four although I could have gone on and on...

A photo posted by Natalie (@natalie_g_photography) on

A photo posted by Lisa 🌿 (@mysweetreverie) on

A photo posted by April Brover (@brovermama) on

Don't forget to keep on sharing your brilliant ourdoor shots with us over on IG and use the hashtag #lovelifeoutside to be featured!

Friday, 18 March 2016

Roller Skating, Backstreet Boys and YouTube...#LittleLoves

Isn't it funny how quickly time goes by.  You miss a week or two and then suddenly the end of March is looming!

It's been such a beautiful week this week; I've had washing out on the line every day and is there any better sign that Spring has arrived than that?  Sitting and working with the sunshine beating through the window is such a good feeling.  I just hope it sticks around and doesn't start raining again any time soon.

I've managed to get in quite a lot of reading this week.  I've started a book called The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I had heard good things about Kazuo Ishiguro although this was one book I hadn't come across before.  I talk it about it in more detail in this post but it's basically a fantasy book about memories and whether it's better to know everything, the good and the bad or whether sometimes it's better to be able to forget things.  Quite interesting but not really what I was expecting!

I got to watch one little girl be very pleased with herself this week when she finally managed to conquer rollerskating.  She had been out practising every day since the weekend and she managed to go all the way along our patio without falling over.  She was literally beaming from ear to ear and it was so lovely to see. 

I bought two new bottles of nail varnish this week; a coral colour and a peach.  They are both Rimmel 60 second nail polishes which I love as I can get my nails painted so quickly.  The polish doesn't always last but it's really easy to touch up and both colours just fill me with thoughts of Spring which is a winner for me.

I watched a documentary about Backstreet Boys this week (I needed something only semi-interesting to have on in the background whilst I worked) and it put me in the mood for some of their older albums which I haven't heard in so long.  The kids looked at me like I had completely lost the plot when I was belting out some of their classics whilst cooking the dinner but I enjoyed myself!

Eli had a playdate earlier in the week so I made some little fairy cakes for that whilst also filming a tutorial to share on my newly revived YouTube channel.  It's my first video of this kind and I am hoping it has turned out okay although I haven't finished fully editing it yet.

And Lastly...
As I just mentioned I've decided to try a little bit harder with my YouTube channel.  I got into vlogging in the early part of last year but then it sort of waned; I really enjoyed it though and it's one of my goals for this year to regularly vlog and share videos.  I've got a couple of new ones on there so I'd love for you to check it out!  

Feel free to share your channels with me as well and I'll pop over and subscribe as I love connecting with similar vloggers.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

What I'm Reading: Spring Update

I have begun to notice a slight pattern with my reading habits; I go through stages where I seem to devour book after book and then times when I hardly seem to turn a page.  I suppose it's reflective of how my life is at that moment...sometimes it's crazily hectic and sometimes I have a lot of spare time on my hands to occupy with reading.

I recently filmed a little Q&A with the kids for my YouTube channel and one of the questions was what they thought my favourite thing to do was.  I was really pleased with both the kids said reading; I hope that my love of the written word will continue to inspire them both to read a lot as well.

At the end of February I also thought I would try something a little different and I took my monthly round-up of books I had read over onto YouTube.  Seeing as that's twice I've mentioned my channel in the last two paragraphs you might have noticed that I am trying to work on my content and am revisiting the world of vlogging.  I really enjoyed filming my reviews although I have come to realise that when it comes to books I can certainly waffle on for a long, long time!

If you are interested to see what I've been reading then please do take a minute to watch (I know 11 minutes is a long time to listen to someone natter about books so I won't be offended if you skip your way through!) and do let me know what you think...could I be more concise or are there details I didn't include that you'd like to see?

When it comes to what I am reading at the moment...I'm currently working through 'The Buried Giant' by Kazuo Ishiguro.  This was a book that James bought me for Valentines Day and I had literally no idea what to expect when I picked it up.  To begin with I didn't even get that it was meant to be written as a fantasy until I became so confused I had to do a little digging into the book and the author.  Now I understand a little bit more of the premise I'm really getting into it.

I was also sent a book called 'The Versions of Us' which I have been dying to read so I have another level of motivation for getting to the end of my current read as well and that will almost certainly be the next one I choose to read although we recently got sent some Amazon vouchers for switching broadband provider and I already have a basket full of books in anticipation so I can't necessarily guarantee it will be the book I read next!

As for my own current manuscript, I am continuing to work on it diligently alongside refining my synopsis for 'Secrets of the River' and sending that out on a fairly regular basis to agents.  Hopefully it will be picked up but if not, then I will keep along the self-published lines.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Siblings {March}

I am struggling to get my head around the fact that we are already in the middle of March and that it's time for my monthly Siblings update.  How is it Easter in a couple of weeks?!  This year really just seems to be flying by.

I am sad to say that I haven't seen much of my two little munchkins this month.  Illness, work demands and their love of weekend sleepovers at their Nana's has meant that the only time I've spent with them has been the short period before and after school and only when they haven't dropped their bags, thrown off their coats and disappeared upstairs or outdoors.

They are both so much more independent now and although I am often to be found repeating myself to 'hurry up and put your school shoes on' or 'stop squabbling with each other', I'm having to remind them less and less about every day things like getting ready for school, reading their school books and so on.  Whilst I quite like it, it also does make me a little sad.  Eli in particular seems to have come on in leaps and bounds just recently and I'd quite like him to stay as my baby for just a short time more (i.e. forever)

There has been some 'healthy' sibling competitiveness going on this month too.  I mentioned in last month's post that we had switched their after-school stuff around and this has meant giving each other updates about how they are getting on.  Cue lots of random embellishment, mostly coming from Eli's corner, about how amazing they each are.  I love their sense of confidence and would only perhaps wish they were being slightly more truthful!

Eli also made it onto the bench at school again, which means he received a special commendation from the headteacher for his behaviour.  Apparently Meg only made it onto the bench once whilst she was in Reception so (despite the fact she's been on numerous times since) we've had lots of mentions about that too!  She is having to learn that things just cannot be equal all of the time and it's something she isn't finding very easy.  It doesn't seem to matter that Eli also regularly gets sent to the headteacher's office because he hasn't been doing what he's been asked and Meg has never even had a warning card...it's all about the reward for her.  She's going to be learning some tough lessons over the next few years I think.

With all the madness of the month just gone, I am really looking forward to the Easter break.  The way our Council work, they have decided that rather than start the Easter holidays whenever the Easter weekend falls, we will have it at the same time every year so we have the long weekend and then two weeks off school to look forward to.  I am hoping for good weather so we can get out and about and I can spend some quality time with my two littlies.

And because I can't seem to go a month without having a whole roll on 'candid' shots of these two, here's some to finish the update off!

The Me and Mine Project

Monday, 14 March 2016

An Update...

I know things have been quiet over here of late and for those who regularly come to read my posts or who are subscribed to the blog, I thought you probably deserved some kind of update and explanation!

I think it may well be the time of year but we have been hit pretty hard over the last couple of weeks with various bugs and illnesses; I am still unwell on a regular basis with my chronic pain although I have an appointment coming up in the next few weeks which I am really hoping will see an end to it.  Aside from that, James was unwell a few weeks ago and then last week he caught tonsillitis which completely knocked him for six.  I've just been doing my best to juggle all of the plates which hasn't been easy because of my fatigue and other things so it's not been the best of times in our little household!

We've also had church related conferences and work stuff to try and balance and I also decided it would be a great time to restart my vlogging channel (although I can't think why!!) so it's been a bit of a hectic time for us and something had to give; unfortunately it was my little space on the internet for a week or so.

But I am back with a plan, and loads of posts and things I want to share with you and we all more or less seem to have recovered.  As I'm writing this, I've got washing on the line and the sun is shining so I am feeling hopeful that Spring has truly arrived this time and we won't have any more random snow flurries or torrential storms sweeping our way.  It would be nice to get some milder weather and set the cold to rest I think.

Somehow in between all of the sickness and busyness we have managed to find time to spend together as a family.  My mother in law has been amazing these last two weekends, having the kids over for sleepovers to free up our time to attend events and things and we've found Sunday is the only day when we've been altogether so we've really been trying to squeeze a lot in.  With the arrival of the nicer weather that means a lot more time down on the coast and I recently came across a lovely little section of woodland and dunes whilst walking the dog which has been our go-to place just recently.  There are lots of little valleys which are quite decent in size and mean that James and I can sit down and have a chat whilst the kids run around, never out of sight.  I imagine they will be blissful little pockets of warmth in the summer months and I just hope it doesn't get too busy.

We spent a few hours on Mother's Day there which was wonderful and just what I needed and I've been back a couple of times throughout the week as well just to embrace and enjoy the fresh air for a short period of time.  I've found just recently that my stamina has been a lot less and with a lot of energy needed for clambering over the dunes in the brisk air, I don't manage to last too long.  As I said before, I am hoping this will soon be sorted out!

So that's just a little update and I hope to be back on top form this week and beyond.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Signs of Spring at Dunham Massey

Earlier in the month we decided to take advantage of the clear skies and head out to nearby Dunham Massey.  

Dunham Massey is situated in Altrincham, Cheshire and it was very easy to find, taking us about an hour to reach from Southport.  It is owned by the National Trust and consists of an ancient deer park, winter gardens and a beautiful Georgian house.  I always love driving through Cheshire as it's such a stunning part of the country.  With clear blue skies, the sun beaming down and rolling green countryside surrounding us, it felt like the perfect day to head out.  If only the outside temperature could have been as generous!

One of the main draws for us visiting Dunham Massey were the gardens and the ever increasing signs of Spring that we were hoping to discover.  Snowdrops, daffodils even some irises were all in appearance during our visit and although it was bitterly cold it was nice to see the signs of warmer times ahead beginning to crop up.

We weren't able to see inside the house (which might have been for the best with all the energy Eli had brimming inside him) and we ended up being too chilly to really make the most of the surrounding parkland but we spent a couple of hours exploring the gardens, completing a trail and visiting the Orangery where some children's activities were taking place.  

The National Trust staff members we met were all very friendly and helpful, pointing out good places for us to explore, sharing with us about the activities in the Orangery and suggesting what we could do whilst at Dunham Massey.

One of the things I really like about the National Trust is that there are nearly always family fun activities taking place; ways to keep little ones interested.  Dunham Massey is no different and both Meg and Eli enjoyed the puppet making on offer and the garden trail.

As it was a clear day, it was really quite busy when we arrived and we had to queue for a short time to get into the car park.  I can imagine that in the summer it would be even busier but the park is so big that it never really felt like we were on top of everyone else.

Feeding the ducks, tree climbing, running around; even if you don't head into the house then there is still lots to keep families occupied.

It would certainly be a great place to head in the summer, armed with a picnic and some garden games I can imagine spending many more hours just soaking up the picturesque surroundings.  I can confidently say that we will be returning later in the year.

Dunham Massey is free entry for National Trust members.  Paid entry is £14 an adult for entry to the House and Garden or £8.80 for access to the Gardens only.