Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Favourite Holiday Reads ǀ Books & Reading

You can't beat a good holiday read.  Whether you want to get lost in an epic fantasy world or pick up a quick and easy read for whilst you are lying on the beach...there are so many different types of books which would be perfect for your next holiday.

As we go to Italy next week I have been planning out some of the books I want to read and looking back over some of my favourites which I thought would be fun to share with you and hopefully inspire your next holiday read:-

The Little Shop of Happy Ever After - Jenny Colgan
Jenny Colgan is the queen of light-hearted reads for me.  Her stories are usually heart-warming with a little romance and a whole lot of self-discovery.  They tend to follow the same format (woman moves somewhere new to change up her life, finds it tricky and then finds love interest) but her books are so easy to read and perfect if you don't want to have to concentrate too much on the plot.  They do leave you feeling a little fuzzy inside too.

The Beachside Guest House - Vanessa Greene
Another great beach read, which falls into the category of 'chick lit' alongside Jenny Colgan, Vanessa Greene's books are easy to read and the two I have read so far have a strong female friendship element which I really appreciated.  There was a love interest or two but I didn't feel like this was the main focus of the Beachside Guest House and again, although they are fairly formulaic, for a quick read you won't find much better.

Blood Count - Robert Goddard
I've chosen Blood Count for this one but I could have just as easily chosen any Robert Goddard book if you want a fast-paced, uncomplicated psychological crime thriller.  Robert Goddard manages to strike the perfect balance for me of spine-tingling but not too scary and books which I can become completely absorbed into for the duration.  I very rarely guess the outcome and they are just the ideal length for reading on a plane.

Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo
This is very much down to personal taste but I love reading a good fantasy book whilst I am on holiday.  I think it is partly because I very rarely have long stretches of time in my day to day life when I can let myself get completely wrapped up in a fantastical world and holidays just lend themselves to that perfectly.  For this I am recommending my favourite fantasy book of last year: Six of Crows.  If you like morally dubious characters and a world you can just fall into then this is the book for you.

The Island - Victoria Hislop
If you aren't able to travel abroad this year but you still want to discover an exotic location then I would highly recommend picking up one of Victoria Hislop's books.  They often mix foreign countries with historical fiction and The Island in particular is one book which has stayed with me for many years.  It is based on true events and focuses around the leper colony of Spinalonga in Greece. 

Do let me know if you pick up any of the books I have mentioned, or if you have any holiday reads you always love to reach for!

This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, 26 May 2017

The Importance of the Small Things ǀ Little Loves

I have to admit that I didn't know whether I could write a Little Loves post this week. With the horrific events of Monday evening happening so close to home, my week has been taken up with worrying about the world we are raising our children in, comforting and talking with people in the village who knew some of the victims and trying to think of ways to explain to Meg and Eli what happened.

But then I realised that the whole point of a terror attack is to stop you thinking of the positives, to think the world is a bleak and awful place and to fill your mind with doubt and worries; to let that overshadow everything else would be wrong. Yes, there is a time for grieving but there is also a time for finding the beautiful moments amongst the dark ones so that is what I am going to do.

I am currently reading The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. It's a ridiculous story about a man who, quite literally, climbs out of the window of the old people's home on his 100th birthday and gets up to all kinds of high jinks. You read about the present day and you also read about his past, when he was supposedly involved in all kinds of major world acts. It's laugh out loud funny, if you can suspend your disbelief and is actually very poignant and political in places as well.

If you saw my social media posts over the weekend you will have spotted that I was pretty ill from Friday night onwards. So poorly in fact that we had to cancel my big birthday party which I was gutted about. What that meant was a lot of days spent lying on the sofa (trying hard not to feel sorry for myself) and I basically binge-watched the entire first season of Melissa and Joey. It's random but quite amusing and as each episode is only 20 minutes you can cram a lot into a day!

A recovery? I think that is about the only thing I can legitimately claim to have made this week but thank goodness because I did not enjoy being ill in the slightest. We have pretty much all had this stomach bug now so I'm hoping that it is finally done and dusted in our household.

It wasn't the jumpsuit but Friday evening before the sickness hit, James and I went a little old school and went bowling on a date. I tried to shake things up a bit and chose some red lipstick to wear which I would never normally go for and it seemed to be quite well received. Or, at least, I forgot to worry about how obvious my lips were after ten minutes or so!

Two of the victims of Monday evening lived in the village which is connected to ours and school held a beautiful memorial for them yesterday just before the end of the day. One child from each class released a pink balloon and we held a moment's silence for them. Each child was then given a balloon which we were asked to tie outside our homes in remembrance. It was, obviously, something I would rather not have had to attend as I would rather it hadn't happened but I thought that it was done really well, in a respectful way and it was good for the kids to be told what happened in a way which was relevant and helped them to understand.

And Lastly...
I reached 1,000 subscribers on YouTube just recently and since then I've been steadily climbing up which is just incredible. I seriously value every single person who watches my videos and comments on them. To celebrate I am doing a Q&A and running a little giveaway. I'd appreciate anyone popping over and leaving me a question (I'm nervous I won't get very many!) and if you wanted to enter the giveaway as well then that would be fab.

Have a wonderful bank holiday weekend all.

This post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Upcoming Book Releases ǀ Books & Reading

Sitting down and looking at all the upcoming releases for the rest of 2017 makes me hyper aware that there are so many books I want to read before the end of the year and that's before I even contemplate the 80+ books already lounging, unread and untouched on my bookshelves.

I've made good headway this year with my TBR pile and have tried really hard not to start any new series I can't finish (i.e. they haven't finished being written yet) or buy books unnecessarily (you can see how well that is going here...) but there are always going to be books which I am particularly excited about getting my hands on throughout the year and so I thought that today I would share some of those with you.

For total transparency, the links here are affiliate.  Using them means I (at no cost to you) get a small commission which keeps me in my book buying habit is always gratefully received.

Godsgrave (Nevernight #2) - Jay Kristoff
This is one of the twistiest (yes, it's a word) books I read in 2016 and I am so excited about the sequel!  It's hard to go into too much detail without spoiling anything but it bascially picks up the story of our protagonist Mia Corvere who is at the Red Church, a school of assassins.  It is vicious and graphic and diverse and utterly fascinating.  I did a full non-spoiler review of the first book which I have shared below, if you are interested:-

Released 5 September 2017

Origin (Robert Langdon #5) - Dan Brown
Dan Brown is like wine for me.  I know I shouldn't keep having another glass and yet sometimes I just can't help it.  Don't get me wrong; I loved Angels and Demons and even the Da Vinci Code ticked the boxes for me but since then his books have wandered a little too closely to the predicatable and formualic side of the tracks.  Yet there is something which keeps me reaching for the next one when it comes out nevertheless.  They aren't difficult to read and I appreciate the attempts he makes to twist storylines and imbue them with a hint of mystery.  Although allowing Tom Hanks to be cast as Robert Langdon is something I don't think I'll ever get over...

Released 3 October 2017

And now two books which have technically already been released but which we are excited to get nonetheless:-

Assassin's Fate (The Fitz & The Fool #3) - Robin Hobb
This has been released in the most beautiful hardback cover but as I already have the first two in paperback I am patiently waiting until March next year when it will be released *sob*.  Robin Hobb is one of my all-time favourite fantasy writers and this series is just as good as her others.  She has two other trilogies which feature Fitz and The Fool and are well worth reading before you begin this trilogy as we pick up where there stories left off.  And I honestly can't go into much more detail than that except to say that if you like strong character-led, adult fantasy books which rich description and the ability to get lost in another world...then Robin Hobb is an author you need to try.

The Dark Prophecy (Trials of Apollo #2) - Rick Riordan
Okay so technically I'm putting this is for James rather than for me as I'm still gradually making my way through Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series but I know that we will be purchasing it pretty soon after the release date as Rick Riordan is undoutebdly one of our favourite authors.  His books are middle-grade (age 8+) but they are absolutely hilarious and so well written that you really don't notice they are actually books for children.  Honestly.

This current series is about the god Apollo who has been cast back down to earth after upsetting his father, Zeus and trapped in the body of a teenage boy.  Of course, he still thinks of himself as a god and not as an awkward teenager so the calamity, and hilarity, that ensures after that is pretty much guaranteed.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

5 Simple Family Home Improvements ǀ Home & Interiors

Home improvements come in many forms and yes they can be fun! The mistake many people make is to try and do too much at once, but with some simple home improvements you can really enhance your family home in just a few simple steps.

From kitchens to bedrooms, living rooms, hallways and everything else you can think of with our simple family home improvement tips you can revolutionise your household. Simple things like using artificial turf samples to spruce up your home office can add a unique twist to your home, so let’s take a look at our amazing home improvement tips below.

Artificial Turf 
Artificial turf is great for gardens but it can also be used indoors as well; it makes a quirky and interesting flooring choice for one thing! But if that’s not to your liking then there’s plenty more you can do with artificial turf.
Nothing really brings the beauty of the outdoors indoors like artificial grass. The synthetic surface is a great home improvement tool and really lets you add a touch of nature to your home.

Make Your Home Inviting  
The first thing many people will see when they face your property is the front door, and that’s your key to making your home look like an inviting and happy place. We don’t really think about our front doors often, do we? Which is odd when you consider how much we use them in our day to day life.

A simple coat of paint can work wonders and really make your home stand out; try using a unique or unusual colour to really make your home stand out from the crowd. If you want to add to that home improvement then you could also add some outdoor lighting to frame the door or even add a new door handle or knocker.

Add Some Art to the Walls
This is one home improvement the whole family will enjoy getting involved in, simply adding a splash of artwork to the wall of any room will help give your home some more personality. You could get out some canvas or paper and some paints and even make a family occasion of it, creating your own artwork will be a fun activity the whole family will enjoy.

But if you prefer to buy your own artwork, traditional paintings or photography, that’s just as good. You could follow a theme or just go with the flow there’s no right or wrong way to do it, it is art after all.

Get Some House Plants
House plants don’t just add a dash of colour to the family home they also help keep the air clean and healthy. Having a few house plants is also great for teaching young children about the responsibility of looking after flowers and plants.

Don’t be put off if you’ve heard about the troubles of keeping house plants alive either, house plants come in many different types and some are surprisingly hardy. So do some research and find out which plant is best for you.

Add a Feature Wall
Feature walls can really breathe new life into a room! The great thing about this family home improvement tip is it can be used in any room as well and it’s quick and easy. First choose a bold colour and decide which room you want to freshen up and then paint one wall.

It might seem a little crazy at first but once you see the impact a feature wall has, we think you’ll agree that it’s an amazing home improvement. If you’re not too keen on painting then wallpapering a single wall is also a great alternative. 

*This is an advertorial guest post*

Friday, 19 May 2017

Panoramic 34, Jumpsuits & New Books... ǀ Little Loves

Happy Friday!!  I won't lie, we are into the second day of my very exciting 30th birthday bonanza so I'm feeling very chipper indeed, even if the weather here in the North West has decided to truly let me down.  I've had to cancel my cocktail garden party for this afternoon but hopefully will be going out with James instead so all is not lost!

But as it's Friday that means time for my Little Loves of the week:-

I am currently reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  It is set during the 1960s in Nigeria and about various people in different stations of life and how they were affected by the civil war.  It's a period in time which I knew nothing about before picking up the book and although it is fictionalised I have found it utterly fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

As you might expect, I quite a few new books for my birthday so I'm having a hard time deciding what to choose next.  I'll pop a birthday haul up soon and hopefully that will get me some advice and recommendations!

We have just discovered Taskmaster on Dave and have been loving that this week.  It's the most random concept; basically four comedians do various tasks set by Greg Davies and compete to be the winner.  The tasks are things like painting whilst riding on the back of a horse and throwing an egg the furthest without it breaking...just the most random stuff but completely hilarious.  I think it is on to its fourth season now and I don't know how it passed us by but we think it's brilliant.

This week we headed into Liverpool and made the climb (well, we went up in a lift...) to the 34th floor of West Tower for afternoon tea.  Meg had decided she didn't want a party this year but she wanted to go shopping with her best friend so we did a bit of clothes shopping and then went for afternoon tea at Panoramic 34.  I should have a vlog going up about it on Sunday (7pm GMT!) but it was amazing.  Everything from the staff to the view was just fantastic and I think we may have set the precedent for birthday treats now!

So, big surprise this is birthday related!  We are going out for a meal with family and friends tomorrow night and I've bought a jumpsuit to wear.  I have never worn anything like this before and I really wanted to try something different so hopefully I won't chicken out at the last minute and stick to my skinnies and a nice top.

I have been enjoying listening to Rag'n'Bone man this week.  I've heard his music on the radio a few times but Spotify recommended his album to me and I decided to give it a go.  I've found it makes great music when the sun is shining and I'm sitting in the garden.  Erm..I mean when I'm busy working!

And Lastly...
I was talking to some friends yesterday about turning 30 and realising that I still feel as clueless as ever.  Is there an age when you think 'right now I'm really a proper adult'?  I always remember thinking that 30 was so old and being sure I would have everything together by this age and yet I still feel like one day someone is going to come and knock on my door and say they've come to take over!  It's such a strange one.  

Have a good week all!


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Bookish Goodies ǀ Lifestyle

Spend just 10 minutes in my company and it will soon become obvious that I am something of a bookworm.  But even more than that...I am a lover of bookish goodies.  Anything inspired by a favourite read is right up my street and I have a number of quotes and stories which I am always on the lookout for.

With my birthday just around the corner, I had been spending a little more time than usual scouring for bookish trinkets and goodies and I thought I would share some of my favourite items with you.  

I mentioned Etsy in another post from this week, about my rose gold picks of the moment and it really is a great place to head if you want something personal or unusual either for yourself or to give as a gift.

I don't think you can ever have too many bookmarks, especially not ones which can be personalised with quotes you love or want to be reminded of when reading.  I also don't think you can beat any item which is covered in foxes and designed to keep your book intact; I seriously need one of these in my life!  I love to carry my books out and about with me; it's one way I get so much reading done but the amount of times a corner of the book gets creased or the cover gets get the picture!

I have used Bookworm, Candles & Craft a number of times now.  Although bookish candles are getting more popular in the UK, they used to be really hard to come by and postage from the US was just insane.  These candles are adorable though and I ordered a Harry Potter themed box at Christmas from here which had a number of other themed goodies inside and was just perfect.  I'd seriously recommend checking them out.

I adored Little Women when I was growing up so I had to include this necklace when I spotted it.  I might try and find a print with the quote on because there's just something very lovely about it.  I also had to include this blind date with a book because I think it's such a cool idea.  I definitely need to arrange one for myself.  And finally, what better addition to your shelves then beautiful roses made out of your favourite novel?

This is my all time favourite place to go for items with quotes on.  In fact, I was given a Jane Austen mug last year from my sister which came from Redbubble and one of my favourite sellers on there: EvieBookish.  

What do you think of my choices?  Have you got any tried and tested places for bookish goodies? I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Must Haves for Outdoor Entertaining ǀ Home & Interiors

Although we are having to move house in the summer and I am having to say goodbye to my beautiful south-facing, suntrap garden that still hasn't stopped me making plans for some summer additions to facilitate outdoor entertaining.  In fact, if the weather last week was anything to go by, we may have already had a big slice of summer weather come and go!

The warmer months are the perfect opportunity for outdoor entertaining, especially when you have children.  The adults can relax and enjoy good company, food and wine, and the kids can keep themselves occupied and burn off all that excess energy without leaving the interior of your house in ruins.

For that reason I have been planning out some of the additions we need to make to our garden in order to relax and make the most of the summer (I am leaving off admitting whether that will be in our current garden or our new one...) and the things which I believe are essential for outdoor entertaining:-

Somewhere comfortable to sit
Plastic green chairs might be easy to keep clean and easy to store but they don't encourage people to linger outside and soak up the last of the evening sun.  For this you need furniture which is comfortable and inviting so that people want to stay outside, get cosy and have a chat with one another.

To go along with this, you also want to ensure you have some cushions and throws.  Throws are perfect for not only adding a pop of colour but for throwing across legs when the sun has set and the air begins to turn cooler.

Pretty Lighting
There's something about soft outdoor lighting which just brings a warm and ambient atmosphere to a patio area.  I personally am a lover of fairy lights and lanterns but you could go with any lighting theme.  If you are lacking in colour for your outdoor area then here is another way to inject some bright colours into your scheme as well; there are plenty of attractive solar lights available such as the ones I discovered here which would work perfectly.

A Decent BBQ
I have to admit that I am not the best when it comes to cooking on a BBQ but I like to put that down to lack of practice and decent equipment!  I'm also not a fan of the smoky smell which then pervades absolutely everything but I have been reliably informed by James that I am wrong about this so there you go!  The main advantage of a BBQ is that communal eating really brings people together, it invites them to settle down and relax, to stay a while and chill out and if you have put all the effort into creating the perfect outdoor space then you really want to get the most out of it, correct?

Final Touches
These include any final decorative accents you might want to include to really make your outdoor space welcoming as well as fun and interesting napkins, plates and plastic cups so that there are no unfortunate breakages.  This is especially key if there are small people running about the place!  It's unlikely that the plates and cutlery you use on a daily basis are brightly coloured and interesting so use your outdoor entertaining as an opportunity to go wild.

Have you got any ideas for outdoor entertaining must-haves?  I'd love to hear them!

I found the majority of the items I have linked to here at UncommonGoods; a retailer which strives to support and provide a platform for artists and designers as well as ensuring that all items are created without causing harm to animals, people or the environment.  As if you needed an even better excuse to go ahead and purchase from them they also offer shipping to the UK.

This is a collaborative post.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Rose Gold Favourites ǀ Lifestyle

I am currently having something of a love affair with Rose Gold.  It has long been a favourite of mine, ever since James bought me a necklace a few years ago with intertwining hearts; one white gold and one rose gold to symbolise Meg and Eli.  I instantly adored it but the emergence of rose gold onto the mainstream market has been quite slow and it's only just recently that it seems to be everywhere.

This season in fact, there seems to have been an explosion of rose gold items onto the market and I am loving it.  I have already picked up some trainers, a few pieces of jewellery and a couple of bits for the house with plans to accessorise for a family wedding with rose gold as well.  Seriously...I am addicted.

If you need some inspiration on where to start with your own rose gold obsession then here are a few of my favourite pieces.  Etsy is a great place to start if you want to find all kinds of beautiful rose gold items from jewellery to prints and it's often the first place I will turn to if I want something a little more unusual.  

I could honestly have spent hours lost in the world of Etsy but here are just a few of my top picks:-

I absolutely adore these freshwater pearl earrings with rose gold wire; I am seriously considering them for a family wedding we have coming up as my dress has hints of rose gold (of course!).  The Harry Potter inspired necklace is so perfect for any HP or bookish loving peeps as well.  I wish I'd spotted it before my birthday because it would definitely have appeared on my wishlist!  You can't go wrong with rose gold home accessories or prints either; I think both the concrete dipped letters and the wall print would look perfect in my study.  The coaster and the paperclip are self-explanatory; cute and real must-haves!

New Look also have some great rose gold home accessories in store at the moment; I've picked a couple to display in my study already including this clock but I've got my eye on a few other pieces.  Especially if we move house and I get to start again with the decor in my home office!

Other high street stores like Primark and H&M have a good selection in their clothing and home ware departments and Not On The High Street also have a pretty good offering if you wanted to pick out a few other pieces although I think my Etsy choices will keep me going for a good while yet.

Are you enjoying the rose gold trend at the moment?  Do let me know any of your favourite pieces and places to shop!

Friday, 12 May 2017

A Double Whammy... ǀ Little Loves

This week you get two for the price of one!  If you saw me anywhere on social media last weekend you will no doubt know that Eli managed to split his head open on Friday morning so all my plans for joining in with Little Loves (not to mention his birthday party which was booked for Friday afternoon!) kind of went out of the window. 

As I'd already written the post, I figured I would just add to it with a few bits from this week as well.

I read and finished Harry Potter #6 and Wintersong by S.Jae-Jones and am currently reading Seas of Snow by Kerensa Jennings.  Although the Half Blood Prince (#6) is the one Harry Potter book which just makes me want to weep I am loving jumping back into the world for my first ever re-read and now I just have the final book to go!  I know I absolutely raced through that one so I'm looking forward to picking up more details I missed first time round.  Wintersong is a YA Labyrinth re-telling and it was a fairly quick and simple read although not quite what I was expecting and I can't decide how I feel about it yet!

I haven't been watching much, preferring to read instead especially as the sun has been gloriously shining for most of the week but we did catch up on the latest episode of Modern Family which has to have been the funniest of the season yet.  I could honestly have watched 40 minutes of Mitch and Cam making their way around the airport.  I also started watching Blindspot this week and am loving it.  It's been ages since I've found a good US mystery thriller show and this one just ticked all the boxes for me.  I can see myself racing through Season One in no time.

Big surprise for this one...a cake!  Well, if you want to get all technical about it, James made the cake but I ordered the cake topper so I had some (limited) involvement.  Despite Eli's head injury we were able to go ahead with the party so he got to enjoy his Harry Potter cake and his party bus (thank goodness!)

Shorts!  We have been so blessed with the weather this week with temperatures rising to a solid 20 on a couple of days.  There has still been some breeze which has made it feel cooler but overall it has been a pretty blissful week and I have been making the most of it; which my freckled face now reveals!

The Happy Birthday song!  We have now celebrated both Eli and Meg's birthdays and they both had a fantastic time.  I am taking Meg into Liverpool with a friend on Sunday for some girlie time and shopping which she chose rather than having a big party and then it's just my birthday to go which, did I mention is next Thursday and is going to be my 30th...eek.

And Lastly...
Does anyone else just look at their children and think how did you get to be that age?  It is mind-boggling to me that I now have an 8 year old and a 6 year old.  I still feel 19 most of the time myself and yet Meg and Eli are both just growing up so quickly, it's crazy and at the same time so wonderful to see them becoming more capable and more grown up with their own (strong) opinions about things.  I just wish time would slow down a teensy-teeny bit.

Have a great week all!

*This post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Book to Movie Adaptations I'm Excited For... ǀ Books & Reading

Although I don't get the chance to watch as many movies as I once did, particularly when they first come out, I still tend to keep an eye on upcoming releases.  Especially when they relate to books which I have read and enjoyed.

I am, unfortunately some might say (and I'm looking at you James...), one of those book loving people who has to have read a book before they will watch the film version.  Just so I can point out all the inaccuracies and changes and if I find out that I've inadvertently watched a film without first reading the book, well...that's just the worst feeling.

I jest.

Kind of.

So this year, I have been eagerly anticipating the following book to movie adaptations and I can't wait to see how they have been done:-

Hidden Figures - Margot Lee Shetterly
I know this has already been released and I have it on good authority that the film is amazing.  I finished the book last month and haven't made it to the cinema yet so this will probably be one I watch when it is released on Blu-ray but it looks fantastic and the trailer just gives me all the tingles...

The Circle - Dave Eggers
This was a book I picked up after watching the trailer and realising Emma Watson and Tom Hanks were both in the film.  It's not the type of book I would usually read, I think it might actually be my first ever techno-thriller and although I thought the ending of the book was a little flat, I'm interested to see how they have taken the story and translated it into movie format as I think the writing lent itself particularly well to a screenplay.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This is apparently set to be released in 2018 and will star Lily James.  I adored this book, not only for its quirky writing style which is epistolary but because it is based on true events which took place during the Second World War.

Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
This is another World War Two book and it has been one of my favourite books of the year so far even though it's such a hard hitting and harrowing story.  I think it might be one to watch at home so I don't have to leave the cinema with tear tracks on my face!

And finally, a book to movie adaptation I can't help but mention even though I haven't decided whether I will be able to bring myself to watch it yet.  The book literally had me in pieces so I can't even begin to imagine how it will be when everything is laid out visually and just right there for me to see.  I am of course talking about...

The Shack - William P Young
This really challenged the way I thought about so much and I read it before I had children and it still wrecked me so watching it now as a parent is going to be really tough I think!  Yet watching the trailer does make me want to watch the film, especially as I absolutely love Octavia Spencer.

Are there any book to movie adaptations you are looking forward to or ones you would recommend?

*This post contains affiliate links

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Treat Yourself As A Busy Mama ǀ Lifestyle

Parenting is a tough gig sometimes...if you saw my post yesterday you'll know that the fun doesn't stop even when your children get slightly older, never mind when they are still teeny tiny babies not sleeping through the night.

As a parent you have to be on all the time, from first thing in the morning when your children peel your eyelids open at an ungodly hour in the morning to last thing at night when you are creeping into their rooms to check on them as they sleep and hoping against hope that you don't stand on anything pointy and wake them up with your shrieks of pain!

If you've ever spent more than two minutes in the company of a child then you don't need me to tell you how exhausting it can, both physically and mentally, but something which we just don't do enough as parents, and this mama is as guilty as the next one, is to treat ourselves to some 'me' time.

Downtime is so important for our sense of well-being and yet so many of us feel guilty about wanting time away from the kids.  Honestly, I hear you.  We have booked a break to Italy in a few weeks time to celebrate our anniversary and my birthday and we are going without Meg and Eli and I cannot tell you how many times I have worried over leaving them behind.  Yet at the same time I completely recognise that in order to be my best self, I sometimes have to take a break, step away from my children, and take some time out to relax, unwind and reset.

If that sounds like something you desperately need as well, then leave the guilt at home and consider one of these ways to treat yourself:-

1. Buy something new...for you
Whether you are a lover of the perfect pair of shoes, a new handbag, a book or just a cute little trinket, treat yourself to a little shopping trip which is all about you.  It can be so easy to go out to shop for yourself and come home with armfuls of items for the kids but leave that to one side and concentrate on getting something that you want.  It doesn't need to be flashy or expensive, but it does need to be for you.

2. Carve out some alone time
This can be as simple as asking your partner or a friend to take your children to the park so you can relax in a warm bath for an hour or you might fancy booking an urban retreat at a spa to really escape from it all for a while...however it looks, this is about carving out some time when it's just you on your own.  No distractions, no chores, no worrying about things that need to be sorted out or children, just you and your thoughts.  

3. Give yourself a break
Our lives are dictated by 'to do' lists in so many ways and it can be hard to let those things go but it can be such a relief to just relax the strings a tiny bit every once in a while.  Yes, it would be nice to live in a house which was spotless without piles of clothing everywhere and not a piece of Lego in sight but achieving that can take up all of your time.  Give yourself permission to not get it all ticked off every once in a while.  You might be surprised at how liberating it feels.

4. Escape into a good book
I am a huge bookworm and I cannot tell you how many times I hear parents say that they wish they had time to read but they just can't fit it in and it makes me so sad!  Reading is a fantastic way to disappear into another world and there is nothing so relaxing as sitting down with a hot drink and losing yourself in a book for a short time.  You could give 5 minutes whilst the kids are occupied or 15 minutes right before you fall to sleep...but switching your brain off to the outside world and diving into a book is a fantastic way to unwind.

5. Plan a girls night
Chatting about everything and nothing at all over a glass of wine (or two...) is the ideal way to treat yourself.  It can be energising to be around friends and to give yourself the opportunity to let your hair down, something us mamas don't get to do as often as we used to!  Whether you plan an evening at home with close friends or you head out to make a night of it, this can be another brilliant way to treat yourself.

We are all busy and we all have things to do but hopefully this will have given you some idea about ways to treat yourself as a busy mama.

*This is a collaborative post

Monday, 8 May 2017

Accidents Happen... ǀ Parenting

On Friday morning I was standing at the self-service checkout in Tesco, picking up some last minute bits for Eli's party that afternoon when I received a phone call from school.  In that one phone call I probably heard the words almost every parent dreads... 'accident' 'head injury' 'ambulance'

Naturally I abandoned my shopping (thank you to the member of staff who thoughtfully completed my check out and left my shopping for me to collect later!) and drove straight off to school, all kinds of thoughts running through my head.

With impeccable timing, the day before his 6th birthday and the day of his birthday party, Eli had collided with a wall and cut his head open.  I suppose in order not to panic me, school had given me very little information to go on, reiterating to me that he was fine but could I come right away.  In some ways this was worse as I had created a whole image in my head of what I was going to find when I got there which actually turned out to be nothing like the reality of the situation.

Don't get me wrong...there was A LOT of blood.  A LOT.  I think the description Meg's teacher used when talking about it to me this morning was 'pumping out everywhere' and I saw the spot afterwards which had needed cleaning and it was huge.  Eek.

But once we had taken him up to A&E with the blessing of the paramedics and their superiors (who were fantastic with Eli the whole time) and the cut had been cleaned up, it was obvious that it was going to be okay.  The cut is around 1cm and under the hairline and the staff at the children's hospital were able to neatly glue the skin.

Eli was so brave throughout the whole thing.  As you might have expected, he cried after the initial impact but his teachers and the paramedics said that he didn't cry once afterwards and although I saw his little bottom lip wobble when I arrived, he kept it together and was very co-operative with all the medical staff.  I know his behaviour doesn't make a difference to the outcome but having dealt with Meg's serious injury a few years ago and the subsequent drama we have to deal with every time we see a doctor about anything because she is now completely terrified, it was just nice to go in and be dealt with without having to drag a screaming child in to see the doctors and nurses!

We were told to look out for the usual signs of concussion associated with a head injury and given information about how to look after the cut until the glue had time to do its job and Eli was even given the go-ahead to have his party which was the thing really worrying him at that point in time!

The thing about this parenting lark is that there really is no formula for accidents which occur at random.  We laugh now about Eli's terrible timing but really, he is a bouncy and energetic little boy so things like this are just bound to happen and I am so pleased that it wasn't worse. 

I mostly wanted to write this post for posterity, as in a strange twist of events, Meg also injured her head around her birthday a few years ago (kids, eh?!) but also because I posted a few pictures online and had a flurry of people asking me what was going on.  Eli is fine, we are all fine, and so long as he doesn't bump his head again in the next 5-7 days...the cut should heal up nicely.  

Now if only I could just do something about these extra grey hairs I've developed...

Thursday, 4 May 2017

East Lancashire Railway, School of Wizardry ǀ Day Out

As the Queen of all things last minute it was with excitement that I spotted a comment on Facebook from a fellow blogging friend about the East Lancashire Railway's latest event...a School of Wizardry.  With two children who absolutely adore Harry Potter I knew that this was the exact type of thing they would love.

We haven't attended an event on the East Lancashire Railway before but it is located in Bury, about an hour's drive from us.  For myself and the two kids it cost around £25 for tickets for the School of Wizardry tickets.

Our journey didn't quite start at Platform 9/3 but it did start on Platform 3 at Bury Bolton Street Station with teachers from the Grand Old School of Wizardry mingling amongst the parents and children and talking about the adventures we were about to have once we had boarded the train.  The teachers came to introduce themselves and sang the school song and then we were led down to the train and our carriages.

The ELR staff were unbelievably accommodating.  We had chosen to pick our tickets up at the station and not only did they give me change for the car park (more on that later) but when it transpired that Meg had managed to lose our tickets they guided us to our seats.  We were unfortunately known as the 'family without tickets' for the rest of the trip but it was worth it.

All the children were given a School of Wizardry booklet which they were to complete as we journeyed from Bury to Rawtenstall.

Each of the school teachers also passed through the carriages and taught their specialty before rewarding the children with a sticker once they has successfully accomplished their lesson.  Running through all of this was also the theme that the Sorting Hat had been stolen by a Marauder and the children needed to help get it back!

I won't go into too much more detail about what was involved as I think it was nice to have some surprises but I thought the teachers (who were from Attic Door Productions) did a fantastic job of being engaging with the kids, even after the lessons were finihsed and we were heading back to Bury they stayed in character and continued to walk up and down the carriages chatting with the children.

I have to take my hat off to the lady playing the flying instructor as she sat and patiently listened to about fifty of Eli's 'best' jokes on the way back as well and never lost her composure!

After a brief stop at Rawtenstall where we were allowed to disembark from the train and watch as the steam engine changed directions, we hopped back on and made our way back to Bury where we hopped back off the train for one final photo with all the staff and the train's ghost.

Overall I thought the event had been well thought out and was executed extremely well.  Meg and Eli had such a good time and I loved that we weren't left waiting until a teacher arrived to take a lesson but that the booklets kept them engaged throughout the journey.  The School of Wizardry will be returning to the East Lancashire Railway in the summer and I would highly recommend it.

The only downside and point to note is about the parking.  There isn't much parking nearby if you aren't familiar with the area (as I wasn't) and the ELR car park fills up quickly.  Whilst we were visiting there was also some work being done so there were fewer spaces than usual.  I left my car out of the way but outside of official parking bays and received a parking ticket from the Council.  I wasn't the only one to get a ticket either so it is definitely worth arriving early or having a back up plan for where to head if the car park happens to be full.