Saturday, 21 October 2017

CBeebies Kazoops ǀ Review

In November last year I featured a review for a brand new television show on CBeebies called Kazoops.  The show features a young boy called Monty who, along with his pet pig, must solve various problems faced in every day life.  This week CBeebies have aired some brand new episodes and we were excited to see what new challenges Monty would face and overcome.

Monty has a big imagination and this comes through in the way he views the world and deals with the issues he faces.  The show is aimed at both boys and girl aged between 4-9 years and covers a number of different topics which children may be curious about.

For example, in Friday's episode (which is currently available on BBC iPlayer),  Monty is faced with a dilemma when playing with his cousin Flora.  Flora is a quiet child and doesn't play in the same way as Monty; something which initially puzzles him.

After an adventure under the sea, Monty realises that it takes all kinds of different people to make the world the wonderful place it is. What makes the world such a great place is that we are all different; variety truly is the spice of life!

I love the way the messages are put across in Kazoops along with some catchy musical pieces at the same time.  The characters are bright and friendly and the animation really draws the eye.

I can also appreciate as a parent, that the themes featured in the show open up an opportunity to talk with your children about various topics.  The show is a bite-sized way to introduce these topics to kids and we enjoyed chatting with Meg and Eli afterwards about the ways in which are different from our friends, but how that it such a good and exciting thing.

Just because someone doesn't see things the same way as you do, doesn't mean that you can't get along!

Well done to Kazoops for another informative and fun episode.  If you haven't come across Kazoops before then you can see the new episodes which were aired this week on BBC iPlayer.

*This is a collaborative post.

Friday, 20 October 2017

A Season of New... ǀ Little Loves

I have to admit that I haven't managed to get up a  Little Loves post for the last three weeks because life has been so crazy busy.  We have had lots of new things going on which has thrown us all for a loop but in a good way, if that makes any sense at all?!

Of course I will go into all that in much more detail as I cover the things I have been loving this week (with a few bits stolen from the last three weeks as well!)

I finally finished Mad Ship by Robin Hobb in September and immediately picked up The Host by Stephanie Meyer which I was really looking forward to, having heard such great things and being such a fan of Twilight.  Unfortunately it threw me into something of a reading slump and took me an absolute age to get through.  I was in this strange situation where when I was reading it, I was really enjoying it, but as soon as I put it down I felt no inclination to pick it back up again.  So...the part that I LOVED is that I managed to finish it this week and despite all my feelings I actually cried at the end!  So I guess it redeemed itself.  Sort of.

When we had the house rewired a couple of weeks ago we stayed with some friends and were introduced to some fab new series' on Netflix including The Good Place which stars Ted Danson and Kirsten Bell.  I think we managed to binge-watch around 5 or 6 episodes in one day!  Alongside this we've also been watching Timewasters which is just the most ridiculous show but has really made us laugh out loud and we found time to watch Wonder Woman as well which I enjoyed.

I have recently started a new part-time job which has meant being out of the house a lot more than I used to whilst I learn the ropes.  The kids have been in after-school club for four evenings a week since I began so I wanted to make them a treat on my day off and got some baking done.  I have this really nostalgic memory of the days my mum wasn't working, walking through the door and being able to smell that she had baked and I wanted to do something similar for Meg and Eli, particularly as it has been a tough adjustment for them.  The cakes went down extremely well with all four members of the family if I do say so myself!

I am still loving the black pleather jacket I mentioned in my recent Lookbook vlog.  As long as it isn't chucking it down it goes with just about anything and is so comfortable to wear.

I've been really enjoying the Mellow Pop playlist on Spotify this week.  Something about it has just seemed perfect for the truly autumnal weather we've been having and I've enjoyed not only working with it on in the background but also curling up with my book and listening to it quietly playing on.  I've found some new songs too such as Silhouette by Aquilo and Hoping by X Ambassadors which I've had on repeat a few times.

And Lastly...
We are in a real season of adjustment at the moment with the new house, new school (although I'm not sure I can keep saying that any more!) and now a new job.  It feels like we are constantly on our toes and although I am exhausted come the evening of every single day, I am also really loving it.  We are making progress with the house and Meg and Eli's rooms should be done in the next week or two (we have a date for the carpets to be fitted so are working to a deadline!), we have some time booked away as a family in half term, and we are really just doing our best to embrace this season of new things!

*Affiliate links included in this post

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

5 Books For A Rainy Day ǀ Books & Reading

Although I am a particular fan of lazy days spent reading in the sun, I also think there is nothing greater than curling up under a blanket and losing myself in a good book, preferably with a cup of tea in hand and the sound of the rain hitting the windows outside.  Living in the North West of England means that throughout autumn (and also spring, summer and winter) there is no shortage of grey and rainy days to enjoy reading.

I had planned to pull out some of my favourite reads to show off but as my books are still mostly packed away *sob* you will have to make do with copies of the covers instead!  One day really, really, really soon I will get all my books out and displayed once again.

The main criteria for the perfect rainy day read for me is that it has to be a book I can get swept up in.  Although with the kids I don't often get the chance to sit and read for hours on end, I still crave the possibility that I could find the time to read a book from cover to end in an entire day.

The Storyteller - Jodi Picoult
No surprises here that a Jodi Picoult book is my first suggestion but if you haven't yet picked up The Storyteller then you need to sort it out!  I am a big Picoult fan anyway but this is hands-down my favourite book.  A dual timeline, a World War Two mystery, the usual conflict and grey areas all mixed together with a love interest which ticks along gently in the background but complements the rest of the story perfectly...this is a book which will have you drawn in and turning the pages to find out what happens next.

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
If atmospheric, family-sagas with a strong focus on book lovers are your jam then you will love The Thirteenth Tale.  This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far and I have recommended it countless times since I put it down.  Again it's a dual timeline story with an historic mystery and a present day setting but I LOVED.THIS.BOOK.

Harry Potter - J.K.Rowling
I feel as though you could pick up any of the seven Harry Potter books and devour them on a rainy day.  If you can get some HP common room music going in the background as well then you will really be onto a winner.  Adult or child alike, these books are just so so good and you can easily find yourself caught up in the story; imagining the rain hitting the window pane as you curl up in front of the fire in Hogwarts and not in your living room.

Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo
Fantasy is one of my all-time favourite genres when autumn comes around as I love the idea of diving into another world, preferably one with a kick-ass magical system.  I ummed and ahhed over which fantasy series I would recommend as there are so many I could have chosen other than Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows duology; the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, the Pendragon Cycle by Stephen Lawhead, the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb...but this series just pipped the others to the post.  Morally grey characters, an impossible heist, an interesting backdrop and a clever magic system...if you haven't yet read Six of Crows then I would highly recommend you do this autumn.

Station Eleven - Emily St.John Mandel
Station Eleven may seem like an odd choice because it happens to be one of the bleakest books I've ever read but it is because of the writing style and the setting that this is the perfect book to read on a grey and cloudy day.  Of course, I should probably also mention that this post-apocalyptic story is laced with hope and humanity, and although there are dark moments there are also plenty of moments which fill your heart as well.

What are your recommendations for books to read on a rainy day?

Don't forget you can purchase any of the books mentioned here using my affiliate links (it won't cost you anything extra and it helps support my book buying habits!!):-

Book Depository

Happy Reading!

Currently reading:- Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

*This post contains affiliate links

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Turning of the Season...

I absolutely love autumn; it is by far my favourite season of the year and I think perhaps the thing I love the most is when the season first starts to turn from summer; when you begin to get the gradual changing of the colour of the leaves, the weather becomes noticeably cooler (offering lots of opportunity to bring out those boots and skinny jeans!) and it feels like the perfect time for fresh starts.

I don’t think you get such a clear transition between seasons at any other time of year which is partly what makes it my favourite!

With the kids starting a new school year it just feels natural to make space for out with the old and in with the new and although it is usually the time of year when we have a big clear out, we’ve made bigger changes to our family life this year. Not only did we move house and the kids change school but I also started a new part-time job.  It has been a big adjustment for all of us, one that we still haven't quite got a handle on yet if I'm honest.

Despite the changes that have taken place, it is also a really exciting time of year for us with lots of things going on.  We've been making the most of the slightly milder weather with trips to the park after school and time spent in the won't be long before we can't go out without being wrapped up to the nines so we'll wring time outdoors for all its worth over the next few weeks.

I am hoping for some down-time in between now and Christmas but who really knows whether that will happen?!  Every time I think we are ready for a quiet period, something else happens which has us running around again.

I also have lots of ideas of blog posts I want to write which are all autumn related, vlogs I want to film and things I want to share but finding the time is proving a little trickier than I thought so I hope you will bear with me through it all! 

Coats for the Winter Season ǀ Fashion

Now that the nights are drawing in, it is time to go out and buy everyone a new coat. Without a good jacket getting out and continuing to enjoy yourselves is impossible. So, I thought a quick coat fashion piece would be a good idea.

Men’s coats and jackets for 2017
First I am going to start with coats and jackets for men. This year, it looks like the parka is well and truly back in fashion. Parkas look good and are very practical coats. They always have a sturdy hood, so are ideal for wearing to sporting events and for drizzly days. This year, they are available in a big range of different colours and patterns, so there really is no need to buy a boring old green or grey one.

For those men, who are not that keen on parkas, a bomber or Harrington jacket could be a good option. It has been a while since this style of coat was last in fashion, but both these traditional cuts suit most men. This time around the colours are brighter and it is quite easy to buy padded versions that will keep you warm on an autumn day. For the colder months, it will probably be necessary to buy something longer, like an overcoat.

Gilets and fleeces are also worth buying because they are very versatile items of clothing. In the mornings, when it is really cold they can easily be worn under another coat. At lunchtime, when it is warmer, they are ideal for wearing when you slip out of the office to buy a sandwich or run a short errand.

Women´s coats for 2017
Parkas, bombers and Harringtons are also available for women, as well as plenty of more feminine cuts. Military style coats are set to be especially popular. They look just as good with jeans as they do when worn over the top of a suit or dress. Plus, they are usually made from wool, which means that they are extremely warm. 

In addition, padded jackets are still widely available. These are particularly good for wearing on the weekends, to walk the dog or go to the park with your children.

Kid´s coats for 2017As usual, most of the kid´s coats that are available are really just scaled down versions of the ones that are available for the adults. However, there are also a few coat trends that relate almost exclusively to the kid´s coat market. For example, packable jackets are widely available in children´s sizes, but quite hard to find for adults. These versatile jackets are ideal for sticking in the boot of the car, so you have them to hand if the weather suddenly turns nasty. Most of them are waterproof, despite being extremely lightweight.

As you can see, there is plenty of choice. So, kitting everyone out with winter coats and jackets that they like should not be hard. If you want more advice about what to look for when buying a winter coat, all you need to do is to click this link.

*This is a collaborative post

Monday, 2 October 2017

A Little of Life Lately ǀ September

Isn't it strange that the last time I sat down to write a round-up for the month was following a family wedding and here I am again!  I think the fact that in between one wedding and the next we had a whole heap of house stuff to deal with is the main reason why I was missing updates for July and August but I didn't want to let the ball drop completely so hopefully I'll be ready for the three remaining months of 2017 (and isn't THAT a scary thought!)

September was a season of new things for us.  Meg and Eli started not only new school years but also a completely new school and I have been so proud of the way they have settled in.  It hasn't been easy but they've both taken it in their stride with only a few kick-backs here and there.

I also got to enjoy a new experience myself with my first ever trip to the States.  I flew entirely solo to Chicago and I won't harp on about it too much, as you can read my full update here but suffice to say I had a blast and I wish I could go back soon.  Maybe even take James and the kids with me this time.

Just before I flew to Chicago we enjoyed a wonderful family day; naturally I vlogged about it which you can find here but it's been absolutely ages since we spent the whole day with just the four of us and no responsibilties and it was such a wonderful time.  Both James and I walked away saying we need to make sure we carve out time like that more often for sure.

I am also on the precipice of starting a new job.  It's an admin and social media role, covering maternity leave so not necessarily permanent but it will give us a boost in income which is very much needed now we have had to re-wire the whole house and will need to get round and redecorate much faster than we had originally planned.  There are holes in pretty much every room in the house so giving ourselves a couple of years just isn't going to be as practical as we first thought.

The biggest thing which happened in September however was the wedding of my sister.  She got married on the 29th, so just squeezing into September and it was such a gorgeous day.  I wish I could share all of the photos and videos I took with you but suffice to say that she was stunning, the venue was beautiful and it was so great to see family and friends and dance the night away.  That's really the last big family event we have for a while now and although I'm looking forward to a quieter month or two, it has also been nice to stay so busy and I'll probably miss the action!

We literally have zero plans for October at the moment however which I have to say, sounds quite nice as it will give us the chance to really start making our new house a home.  We are planning to try and get away to Scotland for a few days in half term but that now falls in November (which seems crazy late) so doesn't really count for this month although we will probably have to invest in all kinds of thermals so we don't freeze over the coming weeks.

And that is it for the round-up.  I'll see you next month!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

5 Unforeseen Problems When Buying A House ǀ Homes & Interiors

I know...I know...another house related post.  The thing about purchasing a renovation house is that it becomes your entire world and is pretty much all I think about during both my waking and sleeping hours.  It also puts me in a pretty good position to share about unforeseen issues because we have (unfortunately) had plenty of those!

As is standard with any house purchase we had a survey done before we put in an offer and it threw up the usual problems you would expect with a house of this age.  Gutters would need replacing, pipes were a little bit worn, windows would probably need to be updated in the next 10 years...on and on the list went but nothing seemed too large to be dealt with and so we duly put in an offer and moved forward.

As you may have noticed since if you've followed my Youtube updates we have run into various problems (such as having to move out again as we have the whole house re-wired) and so I thought today I'd write a post about some of the other unforeseen issues you can sometimes run into when purchasing a house and how to look out for them:-

The electrics
I'll start with something I can 100% speak about from experience.  Our survey picked up that there was a new fuse box and that the electrics were most likely okay.  On this basis we didn't feel it was necessary to have an additional survey done but I so wish we had.  If you are purchasing an old house and there is any likelihood that the wiring has not been recently replaced then I would suggest having additional checks made, even at your own expense.  We called in an electrician to move a light switch in Eli's room which should have been a pretty simple job and found that new wires had simply been attached to old wires and that the actual wiring was over 50 years old and completely in pieces.  We have now had to come up with an extra couple of thousand pounds to have the entire house rewired and we've had to move back out to get this done as promptly as possible.  It became something of a necessity when one of the light switches gave James an electric shock!

I think this also should cover the central heating and boiler if there is no evidence that it has recently been replaced.

Asbestos is one of those things which, hand on heart, I thought had been over and done with, until it was flagged in our survey as possibly being in the garage roof.  I was aware that it had been in old houses and that it caused health issues but I didn't really understand the extent that it is still present until I read this post by Your Legal Friend.  Asbestos kills around 6,000 people every year which is absolutely shocking!  We know that it is not in our home but it may possibly be in the garage which we are planning on taking down at some point in the future.  Due to this we will have to arrange for additional tests to be carried out and if the asbestos is present then we will need to have specialists remove the roof rather than doing it ourselves, disturbing things and running the risk of health complications.  If you have any question marks about whether asbestos is in your home then have it tested.

Japanese Knotweed
Japanese Knotweed is an invasive plant which can cause serious structural damage if it gets into your property and is left unchecked.  If you have a survey done you should receive information about what to look out for but it is important that you check for yourself.  Your local council should also have information about whether your property is in an area which is affected by this aggressively growing nuisance.  In fact, its growth is so rapid that if you spot it and fail to treat it then you can be issued with an Antisocial Behaviour Order and fined up to £2,500.  Definitely worth having a quick check.

Damp is one of those tricky blighters which it can be impossible to spot until you start peeling back the layers of your home.  It can be papered or painted over, or covered with new flooring and unless it is a persistent problem you are very unlikely to realise it is in your home until it's too late.  That said, there are some things you can look out for: discolouration of walls and ceilings, condensation in windows or a musty odour in the property.  If you've already moved into a property and discovered damp then it is going to cost you, but it is certainly a problem worth fixing sooner rather than later and one well worth calling in the professionals for.

Future developments
There has been a huge upsurge in property development all across the UK and if you are looking to buy a house which is surrounded by open land then it is worth doing a little research to see whether that land is likely to be bought and built on in the near future.  This was something which actually affected our decision to pull out of the first house we put an offer in for; it backed onto some stunning open farmland with views for miles but shortly after we put in an offer we discovered that the farmland had been sold and hundreds of new houses were about to be built, and would end up overlooking our garden!  Future developments could affect the value of your property as well as simply spoiling the views you may have fallen in love with.  A quick check with your local council can usually help you find out whether the land is earmarked for any development.

I know this sounds a little 'doom and gloom' when buying a house should be an exciting prospect but I speak from the heart when I say that the last thing you want is to move in and discover a whole host of problems which will end up costing you more money in the long run.  We should have unpacked, redecorated and settled into our new home now but instead we are living out of suitcases in a friend's house whilst our unforeseen issues get fixed!  And that is definitely not what we would have chosen.

*This is a collaborative post

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Making Your Hallway A Welcoming Space ǀ Interiors

Regular readers will know that we have recently bought our first home and that it is something of a project with every room in the house needing to be updated and refreshed.  We had planned to take our time but one project which can't be ignored is the hallway.

Our front door opens straight into a space from which the stairs, the kitchen, the play room and the lounge lead and it has (unfortunately) been laid with a cream coloured carpet.  The carpet is in pretty good condition but with two young children and a dog it just isn't the most practical.  Think plenty of muddy footprints!

So because of our need to replace the floor, we've been thinking about how we can really uplift the space and make the most of it.  It isn't a huge space but it is the first one which people see when they come into our home and the first one we arrive in when we come home laden with all our stuff after a day out.

Predominantly we want a space which is both stylish and practical.  One which looks good but which functions well for a family.  We will be replacing the carpet with laminate or solid wood flooring which will simply work better for any wet or muddy feet as it will be easier to clean.

Ideally I'd like to invest in a slimline storage unit which can be used to hide the shoes although we don't have space for this in the hallway so we need something which could be kept in the play room without looking out of place.  We will probably invest in a shallow basket for the shoes which get worn the most, and which can live closer to the front door.

The stairs themselves are also carpeted in the same cream carpet and the mouldings will need replacing as they are fairly old-fashioned.  I am a particular fan of the Benchmark from Cheshire Mouldings and these really suit the style I am after; they are both elegant looking and practical.

Because the space is small we also need to keep the colour scheme quite bright, to bring in as much light as possible.  Finding a balance with this will be tricky because light colours show the dirt up much more easily.  Light colours can also be quite cold and the idea would be to create a space which was warm and inviting for people coming into our home.

If we had the space I would also definitely want to buy a bench of some sort as I think this makes the perfect addition.  With a brightly coloured cushion for a pop of colour and an inviting space for people to sit down when they are putting on shoes.  It would also serve as a handy space for book bags and lunch boxes first thing in the morning so nothing is forgotten!

How would you style your entrance hall?

*This is a collaborative post

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

A Bookish Adventure in Chicago ǀ Travel

Some of you may have spotted from my Instagram that I recently went on a trip to Chicago.  This was a huge deal for me; my first time in the US and a meet-up with some ladies which I met through being on Youtube.

It sounds so strange to say it out loud in that certainly sounded strange at immigration when I landed at O'Hare airport as well!  But although I never quite believed that I would actually travel to America when we planned the trip well over a year ago, somehow when we were altogether it felt entirely natural.

These are women which I speak to on a regular basis, outside of just commenting on each other's content.  Women whose lives I knew about, and who I felt I have come to know fairly well so although it was odd to think we'd never actually physically all met, as soon as we were together it was just a whole lot of fun!

Of course with us all being on Booktube the obvious reason behind our meet up was to enjoy some of the more bookish delights in the city but we also did a number of touristy things as well which was ideal for me and my first trip across the pond.  I spent a couple of days in Madison with Katie before heading into Chicago to meet up with Mollie and Julie.  Although this wasn't our original plan I feel like it worked out so perfectly as I got to see some of the Mid-West as well as the HUGE city which is Chicago.

We went on an architectural boat tour in Chicago which was probably one of the highlights of my trip.  It meant that we got to see parts of the city we would probably never have discovered otherwise as well as getting some insight into the history of the city and the surrounding area.  When I say that Chicago is HUGE, I really mean it.  Everything, buildings included is on a vast scale and just looking up made you feel really, really tiny.

Shockingly I didn't take too many pictures of the trip but I did a whole lot of filming and I am currently working my way through the footage which I hope to be able to share and upload soon.  We filmed a number of collaborative videos too which will also be uploaded soon by the other ladies.

I will also be sharing separately the experiences we had of the bookstores in Chicago as we visited a good number and I feel they very much deserve their own post!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Chicago, Heatwaves and Moving Out... ǀ Little Loves

I, for one, cannot believe that September is almost at an end.  I feel as though I have neglected this little corner of the interwebs when in truth, I've been so busy that I've not had much time to think about anything let alone blogging.  With my sister's wedding next week however, we will finally have completed everything we had planned for this year and I am looking forward to a quiet two months before the festive season (yes, I went there!)

This week has been no different in that I've been here, there, and everywhere...although this one was a little more special as I spent the week in Chicago; my first time in the US.  But more of that later...

You would think that 16 hours on planes would have given me plenty of time to read the 900 or so page of The Mad Ship but I am still wading my way through.  I know I've mentioned before about Robin Hobb's style of writing; it is predominantly character driven with rich fantastical elements and a story which is never predictable.  This is the second book in her Liveship Traders trilogy and I am thoroughly enjoying it, despite the length of time it has taken me to read it!

We were excited to see the return of Taskmaster this week for the fifth season.  In particular I am excited because Aisling Bea features and she is one of my current favourite comediennes.  I also watched three movies on the plane to and from Chicago: Table 19, Baywatch and Beauty & The Beast.  The latter was by far my favourite although I still can't quite reconcile Emma Watson as Belle and not Hermione Granger!

Could there by any other answer for this than the trip to America?!  I met with a group of friends and it was the first time we had ever all gathered together in person.  I was the only one coming from the UK but we all travelled to meet in Chicago.  I spent a couple of days in Madison with one of the girls, to try and beat that sneaky jetlag, before coming back into Chicago for the weekend.  It was a whirlwind trip but so much fun and it was so easy and natural to be altogether.  It was a strange feeling coming home as I missed James and the kids so much but also immediately missed the girls.  Who knows when we will next take a trip like that?!  It's definitely something I will cherish.

I had planned a whole autumn wardrobe for my Chicago trip only for there to be a heatwave in the city so I had to rethink and repack.  This is probably one of my favourite outfits that I wore during the day, along with my much loved playsuit when we went out one evening.

I listened to Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them on the journey out; it is narrated by Eddie Redmayne and is probably one of the best audiobooks I've listened to in a while.

And Lastly...
Things continue to progress with the new house.  We have to move out again on Monday for a week so that we can have the house rewired and once that is done we should be able to finally get on with redecorating and making it our home.  Progress will be slower than we would have liked thanks to the need to rewire but I'm excited that there is only this one final hurdle and then we can relax and finally unpack and settle in!

Hope you all have a wonderful week.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Where I've Been... ǀ An Update

Summer is always a quiet time in the blogging world; having the kids off for six weeks and trying to balance childcare with finding the time to write, not to mention working, is always tricky and something that I often struggle with.  I do tend to post during the school holidays just somewhat more erratically however this year you may have noticed that I pretty much dropped off the radar.

In part this was because I committed myself to completing VLOGUST which turned out to be far more work than I had perhaps appreciated and also because it turns out that buying a house, moving into a house and renovating said house is much more complex than we first thought!

We had everything carefully planned out, from the work we could get done before we moved in to how far our finances would allow us to go before we had to slow the pace down.  Typically it has turned out to be nothing like that.

We decided that our priorities were going to be the kitchen and the kids rooms.  The whole house desperately needs updating but it was clean and intact so we figured that we could make do and just redecorate once we were in.  So our first jobs were to pull out the old kitchen and strip the kids rooms, which we did before we moved.

That was where the fun began!  We have struggled and struggled to find a plasterer meaning Meg's room has remained an empty, dusty shell for the past six weeks.  We thought at one point that we had secured someone but when the day came he just never showed up.  So that was the end of that.  In some ways however I'm glad that we didn't get very far with her room because the bombshell that was to land later would have meant it was a total waste of our money.

In addition, we ploughed ahead and ripped out the old kitchen fully intending to have it replaced before we moved in.  But through one issue and another we ended up having to move in before the kitchen was even halfway to being ready.  I can now officially confirm that having no washing machine, oven or sink is a complete nightmare when you have young children.

Then came the icing on the cake.  We had arranged for an electrician to come in and move the light switch in Eli's room.  This was one of the few jobs that actually needed doing in his room before it could be painted and re-carpeted.  We had figured his room would be the most straightforward and had everything ready to go but on closer inspection it appeared that although the fuse box in the house had been changed (giving the illusion of recent rewiring) in fact none of the wires have been changed and they are all falling to pieces and otherwise totally unsafe.  

At this point we were living in the house, surrounded by our belongings, with no kitchen and no option but to stay put.

And that is pretty much where we are still.  There is very little point in unpacking and redecorating as we need to get the entire house rewired which means holes in walls and floorboards pulled up.  The kids have gone back to school and are still, sadly, sleeping in my study as this is one of the only clear rooms, with hardly any of their belongings.

One small blessing is that our kitchen is finally useable and when we have the house rewired we shouldn't need to disturb it too much.

So that is where I have been, muddling through, trying to keep us all above water and getting as much done as we can before we have to pack up and vacate for a week whilst we have the house rewired.  In many ways I am pleased that we discovered this issue before we had spent too much time redecorating as we'd have needed to start from scratch again but it isn't always easy to keep that in mind!

We are still trying to keep smiling, and to see this as just a short blip in what will be a wonderful family home when we finally get to settle in.  Which will hopefully not be too far from now!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

5 Quick and Easy Ways to Get a Low Maintenance Garden ǀ Lifestyle

There are lots of reasons why you might be looking for a low maintenance garden. For us it has always been about creating a space which is suitable for the kids to play in, where they can’t damage any flower beds or expensive plants and which is fairly easy to maintain. Neither of us are particularly green-fingered either so the time when we do want to sit and relax in the garden we don’t want to be worrying about pruning back bushes and so on.

A low maintenance garden can be a really attractive and practical space which suits your individual needs whether you want grass or no grass at all, a space for exotic flowers or just something which doesn’t take a lot of time to look after.

1. Artificial Grass
If we didn’t have the dog then this is definitely something we would look into as cutting the grass is just one of those chores we always end up leaving until the last possible minute. It doesn’t help that the weather can’t be relied upon in the UK so you never know whether it will be dry enough to mow the lawn, and you can have extended periods of wet weather which cause the grass to end up resembling a jungle more than anything else! Artificial grass solves all those issues; most of it looks and feels pretty natural nowadays and it doesn’t need much maintenance throughout the year.

2. Composite Decking
Decking is a great low maintenance alternative to a lawn and provides an excellent space to entertain. It is fairly easy to install decking but like any wood product, it will need some regular upkeep to make sure it can last being outdoors in the elements. You might also want to consider composite decking which is a wood-free flooring option. Millboard composite decking looks like wood but it isn’t, meaning you don’t have to worry about warping (or splinters in children’s feet!)

3. Raised Flower Beds
Keep weeding to a minimum and contain any flowers you might have in raised flower beds. Not only will that help to stop them being trampled by children but it should also make pruning and maintaining them as straightforward as possible.

4. The Right Sort of Plants
If you do want to have some plants in your garden but don’t want to be forever cutting them back then it’s worth looking some hardier plants and flowers. Low maintenance plants include the likes of Azalea shrubs, Lavender bushes, climbing Hydrangea and Geraniums to name but a few. It would also be worth speaking to your local garden centre to see what sort of plants they recommend for the area as the soil and weather can also make a difference.

5. Leave No Gaps
Weeds will push up in any available space so try not to leave any gaps in which they could take root. Either cover with turf, artificial grass, decking or some other hard landscaping or create flower beds with your carefully selected plants and shrubs. One of the major downsides of gardening is weeding so if you don’t want to be forever plucking up the opportunists then leave no gap unfilled.

*This is a collaborative post

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Back To School ǀ Family Lifestyle

I know, I know...the kids have only just broken up for their school holidays and already I'm sat here writing a post about going back!  I write this from a place of experience; having left getting all the school supplies together until the last minute I can honestly say that it is worth being prepared to save yourself a real headache come the start of September.

The only area in which I think it pays to leave it as long as possible is school shoes.  You just know that if you buy school shoes at the start of the holidays, they will no longer fit by the time the new term rolls around so I always leave those as late as possible.  The rest however, I would definitely recommend sorting as soon as you can.

1. Stationery
Is there anything better than buying a load of new stationery?  It used to be my favourite part in the run-up to the new school term.  Even if your children don't need to take their own pencil cases or equipment into school they will almost certainly need supplies to complete their homework so why not buy some cool stuff to make up a homework box?  We love Smiggle for fun and exciting stationery items.

2. Uniform
If you want to be thrifty then try to buy uniform which kids can grow into as the year progresses.  They won't be the only one with sleeves slightly too long on the first day!  There is honestly nothing worse than buying a whole wardrobe full of new uniform only to find that it doesn't fit when the first term ends.  Obviously you don't want little Joe to be tripping on his trouser legs as he walks into school but the roomier you can get away with, the better.  It also gives you plenty of time to get labelling up to make sure that you don't lose all that shiny new uniform within the first week.

3. Essentials
Water bottles, lunch boxes etc - these are items which tend to be whipped off the shelves pretty quickly so make sure you snap them up as soon as possible to give you more choice when you come to buy.  You might also use the opportunity to invest in a new watch for you and the kids to ensure that you aren't late on the first day back!

4. Nerves
If you are a school first-timer or perhaps you are moving schools (like we are this year!) then nerves are a rite of passage you will face either throughout the holidays or on the first day.  Both times Meg and Eli started school we spent time talking to them about what it would be like, the type of thing they would have to do and the names of their teachers.  If you've done a walk-round of the school beforehand then this should help as you can go through what the school looks like too.  Honestly, kids adjust so quickly that after a few weeks it'll be like they've always been there so try not to let the nerves get the better of either child or parent.

5. In The Last Week...
Although it is nice to breathe a sigh of relief when the holidays roll around and you don't have to be up and out on the school run first thing, it can also pay off to start getting back into the swing of things in the final week. Don't wait until the first morning of school to get everyone up and dressed and out as it will hit you like a ton of bricks.  Likewise, make sure that in the week before you go back to school you check all uniform, shoes and any other essentials you need to take to make sure there is nothing you've forgotten about.

*This is a collaborative post

Saturday, 29 July 2017

British Music Experience, Liverpool ǀ Day Out

It wouldn't be a school holiday if we didn't jump on the train and head into Liverpool and this summer turned out to be no different when we were invited to come along to the British Music Experience and check out their new summer programme.

The British Music Experience is housed in the Cunard Building, right on the docks and is a fantastic location for this interesting and diverse attraction.  The Experience tells the story of music from the last 70 years through memorabilia, costumes and instruments.

We were given a guided tour through the different decades which was a lot of fun and there was a quiz to keep the kids interested.  As a musical family we really enjoyed getting to discover the roots of some of our favourite bands and Meg in particular was excited to learn more about The Beatles (her current preferred choice alongside Little Mix!)

For me, the most fascinating section was definitely the early 90's and then moving into the BritPop era as this was a huge part of my childhood.  It was a little cringe-worthy to remember the mania which used to surround bands like Boyzone and Take That but a lot of fun too and trying to explain to Meg and Eli about the bands we used to like along with our tour guide was amusing as she just looked at us like we'd never been young enough to enjoy bands like the Spice Girls!

We also attended a story-telling workshop complete with percussion instruments in which the kids had to help complete the adventure by playing along.  At 8 years old, Meg was probably slightly too old but Eli was very keen to get involved and I think for younger children it would be fab.

Just outside of the room where the storytelling workshop was held there is also a craft table set up although we didn't stop to have a go at this.

Without a doubt though, the best part of the experience for us was the Gibson Interactive Studio where there was a whole host of instruments available for the kids (and the adults) to have a go at playing along with a recording studio and a dance studio.

Both Meg and Eli loved that they were able to get hands-on and have a go and we could easily have spent a couple of hours just in this section alone.  I practically had to drag them away and remind them that we needed to go and eat lunch at some point!

There is also a cafe on-site; the Star Cafe is open to visitors and members of the public (you don't have to be going through the Experience) and serves a selection of hot and cold drinks  and food as well.  We kicked our tour around the Experience off with a croissant and juice and it went down very well.

We love Liverpool anyway but I would definitely say that a visit to the British Music Experience would be a fantastic addition to any trip down to the Docks or just when exploring the city.

*We were offered entry into the BME in return for a blog post.  All thoughts and opinions are, of course, our own.