Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What's next?

This time last year, I wrote this post as 2012 was going to turn into 2013 and life as we knew it was about to change.


2013 has indeed been the most life changing year. I, like many of you, became a mum in 2013 and it's a role that's always going to take you by surprise no matter how much you plan or buy in advance. Twelve months ago, I could never really imagine what it would be like to have a baby, to have a little person depend on you and look up to you for everything, every day. Ethan hasn't so much changed our lives - you can still enjoy the same things you did before, just with a little more planning or patience - but he has transformed them. Yesterday, we enjoyed a baby free few hours to go to the cinema, our favourite pastime, but the happiness I felt to return to my little man was immeasurable.


He makes me smile, his cheeky personality makes me laugh daily and I love being his mummy. He's such a happy, content little boy and most of all, I'm filled with pride as he is loved by so many people.


This year, I started my journey to become mum but in 2014 I have so much more to learn. In less than a week, our daily lives will change as I return to work and Ethan starts nursery four days a week. All three of us will have some adjusting to do and in just four short months, our angel will turn one year old.


They say time flies when you're having fun and whilst being a mummy has its challenges, every moment is worth it and I can only imagine what the New Year will have in store for my hubs, my baby boy and for me.

 

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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas from my little elf and I!

This is just a quick post to say a big MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of you lovely lot and a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has read my blog this year. I've loved sharing my journey to becoming mum and I can't wait to continue my blog in 2014 as my baby boy grows up. I've met some lovely people through this blog and on Twitter and I really appreciate your support and advice and enjoy sharing in your journeys too.

I hope you all have an incredibly merry time and enjoy every moment with your loved ones. Stephen, Ethan and I will be hosting a Christmas canape and cocktail evening tonight for our family and will be spending tomorrow together as a family of three for the first time on Christmas Day, like so many of you, probably opening presents all day long for our little one.

This has been an amazing, life-changing year and I am so full of love and happiness for my little family. Every day, Ethan makes me smile and being his mum is the best feeling in the world and I know that it will just keep getting better. Here's to a wonderful Christmas and a magical New Year for everyone.







All the photos above have been taken by the super talented Shaun Fellows of Shinepix.co.uk - doesn't Ethan make the perfect cheeky Christmas elf?!

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Monday, 23 December 2013

A bumper bundle of joy

Several weeks ago, I hopped over to one of my favourite lifestyle blogs, iamintothis.com, and entered a fab festive giveaway to win a luxury food hamper from Hamper Gifts worth £100.


And do you know what? I only went and won the competition! Whilst I'd have happily enjoyed the delights myself, I'd entered with one recipient only in mind - my dad.

We haven't been able to spend Christmas together for a while and he's going to be at home this year. He's not one to spoil himself and he would never indulge in a hamper such as this so I wanted to enter on his behalf as I thought it would be a lovely surprise.

And it was! I went for a whistlestop visit back home with Ethan to drop off Christmas presents and the hamper ahead of the big day, although we'll be visiting again in a week for a longer break.

Dad couldn't believe it when I turned up with the hamper and handed it over to him. He was pretty gobsmacked and it took us a while to dig out all the delicious bits and pieces inside. From jams and cookies to chocolates, mince pies, merlot and sparkling wine, the hamper is full to the brim with tasty treats perfect for the festivities ahead and my dad is excited to tuck in on Christmas Day.


A big thank you again to Sam and Teresa at I Am Into This, and Hamper Gifts, for this amazing prize - I was so pleased to share this with my dad.
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Saturday, 21 December 2013

What would you do without your phone?


When I was a teenager, I can remember when my best friend got her first mobile phone, how jealous I was and how, when I finally got one of my own around the age of 13-14, it took me half an hour to type out my first text message, which I believe carried the simple message of 'Hi! I've got a mobile phone!' (no shit Sherlock!).

 

Nowadays, my phone is never found more than a few feet from my person and my iPad mini or laptop is within reach too. Any time I have a question or think of something I want to say to someone, my phone is there to give me answers, help me shop and keep me in touch with the world. It helps me capture my memories of my son and it makes the weekly shop hassle free.

 

I am very aware of how reliant I am on my phone for most of my daily life, perhaps more so since becoming a mum. From googling answers to every question you have throughout the newborn stage and beyond to connecting with you lovely lot and sharing my journey and enjoying yours, my phone is my friend and it keeps me company.

 

But it's not healthy to be so reliant on something that once upon a time, we just didn't need because it didn't exist. Despite being so attached to it daily, when it comes to holidays, my phone is the last thing on my mind usually. I love the idea of properly switching off whenever I have a break and have never had my phone on permanently when we have gone away - only for one or two messages or calls to check-in on things, if that. This past weekend, I didn't miss my phone when we were enjoying Mock Christmas with our friends. I had my closest buds, my husband and my baby boy all together and most the time, I didn't even know where my phone was.

 

However, when we got to Center Parcs, it was a different story. Living in the forest is great but no signal and no wifi made sure that my phone was completely redundant. Because I couldn't use it, it became more of an annoyance as several times a day, I'd think of something I'd like to do or check then realise I couldn't. There was wifi available in the main village centre, so I managed to quickly check my emails and alerts and post a few snaps when we passed through, but otherwise, I was disconnected. And the feeling was quite disconcerting.

 

I really enjoy the calm and relaxation that comes with a Center Parcs type holiday and as I say, a break from routine, particularly one that revolves around modern technology, is good for you, but I have to admit I found this week a little hard. We have a busy run up to Christmas so there were quite a few things I would have liked to do so I wouldn't have to rush around in the last couple of days but without wifi, I had no choice.

 

I think this week has made me appreciate how lucky I am to have these things available to me but also how I am perhaps online too much. When I go back to work, I'll be online all day long so I think in the New Year, I'll need to find a bit more balance so my home life doesn't completely depend on my online life.

 

Do you feel the same? Do you think you perhaps spend too long checking emails, updating Facebook and generally not 'switching off'?

 

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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

What Santa will be bringing our special little boy

With Ethan still a baby and unable to work a computer, I thought it was safe enough to share the main presents we have bought him for Christmas, in case you're looking for some last minute inspiration.


* Rocking Dinosaur
As you may remember, we turned our spare bedroom into a playroom for our little fella and it has a dinosaur theme. One lazy afternoon, I was browsing eBay, as you do, and came across a Mamas and Papas rocking dinosaur. Originally retailing at around £90 I believe, and unavailable now, I snapped up this beauty for Ethan for just £17.63. It's in brilliant condition, looks nearly new and I am sure it'll be something he enjoys when he's a bit bigger.
* Cody Cub
This is an amazing interactive toy from Vtech. It's a cute blue teddy bear which talks to your child and has a variety of activities and songs included to keep little hands busy. It can also be programmed to say your child's name and learn their daily routine plus you can download other features from the Vtech Learning Lodge (just don't ask me how to use it!).  Thanks to Alex at Bump to Baby for introducing me to this through one of her great gift guide posts.


* Ball Pit
This was the first present we picked up and we managed to get some different shaped and coloured balls in the Mothercare sale. I can't wait to see Ethan sat in the middle of this, although when I start finding stray plastic balls everywhere I might live to regret this purchase!

* Books
I've mentioned many times how much I loved reading when I was young and Ethan has an extensive library already, so a few extra books were a must for Christmas. He has 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, the Mr Men library and The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet in his stocking.


* Vtech Crawl Ball
Ethan is just about getting the hang of sitting up at the moment, something we are trying to encourage as much as possible, so we've started thinking about the next stage. It was important to us not to buy toys for the sake of it but to choose things that would help him learn and develop through his next few stages. This ball lights up and plays music and gives baby lots of encouragement to follow it as it rolls away from them.


* Musical Table
Asda has a great flash sale a few weeks ago on toys and we bought Ethan an interactive musical table with 30 plus different elements to keep him busy. It can be sat up as a table or placed on the floor, so it should be a fun toy that will grow with Ethan.


* Clothes
Just so he has lots to open on Christmas morning, I've bought his nine to 12 month wardrobe, as he's sure to need the next size clothing in January. It's something that he needs and you know me, I like to be organised!

* Christmas Teddy
To commemorate his first Christmas, we've had a personalised teddy made for Ethan and this will probably be the first thing he opens on Christmas morning. Hopefully it'll be something he cherishes over the years.

There's a few other bits and pieces for Ethan to open, including his first push and go car and some building blocks, so he's sure to be kept busy for quite some time!
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Monday, 16 December 2013

Getting ready for Christmas


I'm a big fan of online shopping - sure, it's great to see things up close and browse all the different options, but living in a bustling city and with a pushchair in tow, sometimes the crowds are just too much for me to contend with. I just don't have the patience anymore!

This is particularly true for food shopping and for that reason, I rely on home delivery more often than not. Asda has a month pass you can buy for £8 that allows you unlimited deliveries so it's great value plus I love the shopping list function as you can save lists in advance or browse you're favourites for a super quick shop.

The Christmas delivery dates were released about a week or so ago and I quickly reserved ours for 23rd December. That way, I know our main shop will be sorted but if something crucial is missing, I still have time to pop out and get it.

My top tips for getting ready for Christmas in the last week are as follows:

* Get your Christmas cards in the post now so they'll get there in time, and hand deliver as many as possible to save on postage.

* Go through your piles of presents and mentally tick off everyone you need to buy for - do this sooner rather than later so if you have forgotten someone, you have time to buy them something. It's always a good idea to keep tins of biscuits, chocolates, wine or an extra gift aside for this purpose.

* Do a stock check of your cupboards so you know what you have already and don't buy extras that you don't need.

* Add non-perishable or freezable items to any shops you do in December so you can spread the cost and slowly build your drinks / snack cupboard, leaving less to be bought before the big day.

* Write a list of everything you'd like to eat and drink over Christmas that you don't already have. Remember breakfast items, some convenient options and make sure you have plenty of nibbles - you never know when you might have visitors popping over so it's nice to have something to offer them.

* Online shopping is a great way of making sure you don't forget anything and helps you keep within budget. Book your slot quick!

* Prepare a rough plan for the last couple of days. Spread the tasks over time and between the members of your household.

* Let friends and family know when you'll be visiting to deliver presents, so you can be sure they're in and you can collect any reciprocal gifts as you go.

How do you like to prepare for Christmas? I'd love to hear your tips for getting prepared and staying stress-free, particularly when you have a baby to still look after!
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Saturday, 14 December 2013

Download decorations and print recipe cards with All About Party Bags

Christmas is a busy time, especially as a mum, so who couldn't do with a helping hand? If you want to make the most of the season with your family but don't have a lot of time, I have something to share with you which can help make life a lot easier...

Georgie from @ForSmarterMums got in touch as she's been working on a special project with All About Party Bags to create a range of Christmas printables, from recipe cards to decorations - great for busy mums who want to have fun with their family.


Everything is available online, ready for you to browse, download and print - check out the Christmas projects here.

Over to Georgie to tell us more...

How the project came about:
There are tons of blog articles with Christmas party ideas, and party magazines that feature Christmassy suggestions, but so far we hadn't found a single party magazine with an entirely Christmas-themed issue, so we decided to create our own! It brings together all sorts of ideas into a 'one stop' resource for busy mums and party hostesses in one place.

What's included:
In the Christmas issue, there's free printable tree decorations, bunting, placemats and placeholders for guests. There's also printable recipes so you can take them to the supermarket to pick up the ingredients, and then use them in the kitchen to bake. Plus there's also advice on costume ideas for the kids, stocking filler ideas and party games for the whole family!

Anything else?
Just that this is issue 1 of the new magazine and there will be plenty more, all with a specific party theme such as pirates, princesses or Easter.

I think this is such a great idea and just love the imagination and thought given to everything. What will you be downloading this Christmas?
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Friday, 13 December 2013

The countdown to our first family Christmas begins!

This weekend, our Christmas celebrations get well and truly underway. Our closest friends happen to not live that close so birthdays and Christmas are key times of year for us to get together and celebrate, big time. For many years now, we've enjoyed Mock Christmas - basically, Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day, all a few weeks early.

Last year I had bump and this year we have Ethan so we are even more excitable than usual. Our friends Bex and Nat both have houses in Durham and we will be splitting our three days of festive frolics between the two. From bubbly for breakfast to the mammoth present opening and huge Christmas dinner, it's always a weekend to remember.


Hubs will be meeting us there after finishing work for the last time in 2013 and Ethan and I will be heading up with a car packed to the hilt with homemade crackers, tins of gingerbread, bags of presents and all the things that a little person needs when you go away - basically, EVERYTHING they own! Add to that the fact we're in charge of snacks and drink for the weekend - think pretzels, peanuts, chips and dip, cookies, chocoloate, pop, Baileys, Mulled wine... - and I have serious concerns that I might just have to take the clothes I'm standing in to wear for a whole week!

After our Mock Christmas weekend, the three of us are heading to Cumbria for five days at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest. We have a new style woodland lodge, complete with real fireplace, and will be enjoying fireworks over the lake, a trip to Santa's workshop and we'll be meeting  real reindeer too as part of their winter wonderland experience. Apparently the village is transformed at this time of year and it sounds like it's going to be the perfect start to our first Christmas together. It'll be strange for us as our first visit to a Center Parcs was last year for our anniversary when we knew we had a little bun in the oven, so now to have Ethan here with us when we go back will be an amazing feeling.



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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

My Christmas Spirit - Center Parcs and Tots 100 December challenge


When I hear Wizard's 'I wish it could be Christmas every day', I can really empathise with the sentiment of the song as there's nothing like the warmth and merriment that the season of good cheer has to offer.

The latest Center Parcs blogger challenge is to write about the 12 things that most get you in the Christmas spirit so here's my list:

1. The tree
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how I love you so! The centrepiece of our lounge, when the tree goes up, you know that Christmas is coming. I love the idea of bringing the outdoors in and really like the rustic look, so berries, pine cones, dried orange slices and cinnamon sticks are all key decorations on our tree. The gentle glow of the fairy lights, the special new decorations each year... What's not to love?

2. The songs
I don't think there's a Christmas song I don't like and there are so many which have a special memory attached. 'Stop The Cavalry' reminds me of my mum dancing up and down the lounge, swishing table napkins in both hands having enjoyed a tipple whilst making Christmas lunch. 'So This is Christmas' by John Lennon was always the first song I heard on Christmas morning, playing on my parents record player, and hubs carries on this tradition for me. And who doesn't love a bit of Shakin' Stevens at this time of year?

They just don't make them like they used to - although I love the new Leona Lewis song - but that's ok, because the old ones ARE the best!

3. The Christmas light switch on
The anticipation of Christmas is amazing and for me, it all starts when the lights go up in town and some celebrity or another, or just St Nick himself, does the honours and turns them on. It transforms drab high streets and never fails to make me smile.



4. The food and drink
There's no point in trying to be good in December, not when there's so much to enjoy, from Snowballs to mince pies, mulled wine to nibbles all evening long. A bit of Christmas spirit(s) should be enjoyed and a cheeky tipple of port when opening presents on Christmas morning is a tradition I intend on keeping. That and Bucks Fizz with breakfast! Of course, there's the big lunch to look forward to, and this year I'll be cooking it for the three of us, as well as hosting Christmas cocktails and canap├ęs on Christmas Eve for our family. It really is a time to indulge and enjoy whatever you like so bring on the buffet I say!

5. The charitable feeling
Christmas brings out the best in people and I felt truly in the spirit of the season when I got involved with Project Shoebox as well as #xmasjumperday. Just doing a little can make a big difference and it really sums up the feeling of the season for me.

6. The clothes
Tacky, cheesy knitted jumpers at the ready! Tis the season of retro taste, where the polyester pullover rules. Oh, and jumping into your PJ's as soon as you get home and snuggling up on the sofa is a must, even if it's only 4pm. What? It's Christmas!

7. The films
Just like seasonal songs, festive films are the perfect way to get into the spirit of Christmas. My particular favourites are The Muppet Christmas Carol (our Christmas Eve tradition), Miracle On 34th Street, Home Alone, Elf, The Santa Clause, The Holiday and Four Christmasses. Pop one of these on and you'll be full of cheer in next to no time.


8. The gifts
It is better to give than to receive (although having a pile of presents to open is wonderful) and I love planning what to buy my nearest and dearest. This year, I started earlier than ever and had everything bought by the end of October and I am so excited to share them with everyone, along with some homemade treats too.

9. The activities
From opening your advent calendar each day to going to festive fairs, meeting Father Christmas and enjoying outdoor events and markets, Christmas is all about getting out and about and there's always so much to do.

10. Friends
Every year, we get together with our closest friends and have 'Mock Christmas'. This year it's being hosted in Durham and it'll be Ethan's first. We spend the day in our festive PJ's, cook Christmas lunch together and enjoy a walk outside before an evening of games and merriment. Why have one Christmas when you can have two?

11. Family 
My mum and dad live in Hampshire so we always plan a trip either before or after Christmas to see them and it's going to be even more special now they have Ethan to spoil. Christmas is about being together and hubs, Ethan and I will be enjoying Christmas Day at home together, with family visiting on Christmas Eve. Perfect. 

12. The magic
As I've said before, Christmas is a time of wonder and having a baby is a great time to start enjoying the magic all over again. It can be as simple as leaving a mince pie out for Santa, but making things magical for your children is about bringing the spirit of Christmas alive.


My favourite tip from Nick at Center Parcs was to get out and about, as to truly get into the Christmas spirit, you need to enjoy the great outdoors and visit loved ones.

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 December challenge. If I'm chosen, I would like to visit Sherwood Forest as I've hard such great things about it.

Fingers crossed!

Kelly
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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Back to work style

Going back to work is a time of mixed emotions; on the one hand, you look forward to doing something you used to love that was all just for you and then on the other, you wonder if you'll be a bit rusty and whether you have what it takes to do the daily juggling act of being you, the professional, and the you that's a mum, who's spent the last few months singing nursery rhymes and changing nappies 24/7.

For me, if I feel good then I can do good, so going back to work means I've taken a look in my wardrobe and made a few additions to help me look and feel like the professional I once was not so many bottle feeds ago.

Here's a guide to my new staple work wardrobe:

1. The shirt


Ever since having Ethan, I've become a fan of shirts. From my passion for geek chic fashion to my need to look the business when I get back to business, I have a few new shirts hanging in my wardrobe that'll look great dressed up with a pencil skirt (I've got a great form fit one from Monsoon) or more smart casual when combined with some skinny jeans and pumps.

2. The shoes


I'm not very tall, height wise I'm pretty average, so heels are a great help when I'm at work but at the same time, I find it hard wearing them all day, every day. In terms of shoes, I tend to prefer comfort over added inches but I found these shoe boots in New Look, in their wide fit range, which will certainly do the trick and will work with almost any outfit.

3. The jacket


I found this soft, structured jacket from Very and knew it would be great for adding a slick edge when I need to look super professional. It's flattering in style and comfortable to wear so I'm looking forward to wearing this for boardroom brownie points.

4. The bag(s)



I, like every other lifestyle blogger out there, sought after the much coveted Zara City Bag but for me, my desire was to no avail. Never fear, for Zara introduced a new, similar design, the Office City Bag with Zips (pictured above left), and as I've been a very good girl this year (I've had a baby don't you know?), I'm hoping that I'll be treated to this very soon. In addition, I've purchased the H&M black handbag (pictured above right) which, importantly, is big enough for A4 files (something which is quite hard to find on the high street without going down the shopper bag route).

5. The organiser 


As a self-confessed stationary addict, I bought this large Filofax style organiser from Paperchase a while ago as I like a diary that sits open of its own accord and I've added lots of useful features such as post-it notes and handy zip folders so it should keep all my important work bits and bobs safe and in one place. It also has a similar look to the style of my design crush Orla Kiely's work.

Take a look at my new YouTube video, where you can see more of the new additions I have made to my wardrobe:


My theory, at least, is by starting afresh with a few new clothes and accessories, I will feel confident as I fall back into my old job of PR professional, from the hours of 8.30am to 5pm, Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. But Wednesdays will be reserved for jeans and converse as I enjoy my precious time away from the office with the most important little man in the world. 


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Monday, 9 December 2013

Pull on your Christmas jumper this Friday for Save The Children

Not only are Christmas jumpers THE must have wardrobe staple this month - the wackier, the better - they can also help improve the lives of children around the world. How? Well, for a few years now, Save the Children has championed the Christmas jumper and this year, national #xmasjumperday is this Friday, 13th December, so now there is no excuse not to dress like a festive fool.

This year, there's an added element too for bloggers...


Pull on your favourite Christmas jumper, get your camera at the ready and strike a selfie pose for charity. For every blogger who uploads a post about the campaign, along with a festive shot of themselves in a Christmas jumper, £10 will be donated to Save the Children. Make sure that you also tweet the link to your blog post to @westfieldlondon so that they know you’ve taken part and can count your entry. There will be various Save the Children events going on at Westfield London over the festive season so be sure to check out their Twitter feed for more details.


Here's my #seasonalselfie of me sporting my favourite Christmas jumper (I have several) as I bought it when I had bump this time last year or, as I affectionately called it at Christmas, my little pudding!




Be sure to check out the top Christmas knit picks, as chosen by Sam and Teresa, over at I Am Into This for some festive fun inspiration,
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Midlands Blogger Meet Up - be there on Saturday 22nd February!

Last month, I asked the Twitterverse if anyone knew about any upcoming events for Midlands based bloggers. At the same time, there were a few of us chatting about how nice it would be to meet one day and that's when the lightbulb moment came. Why not organise our own Midlands bloggers event?

Fellow mastermind Emma from @LivePeachy and I soon met and our plans for the best blogging event the Midlands has ever seen were born!

The Midlands Blogger Meet Up (#midsblogmeet) will be on Saturday 22nd February 2014 at a central Nottingham location TBC soon, from 11am until 3pm. It's the perfect chance to meet fellow mummy and lifestyle bloggers, make new friends, share ideas and enjoy some treats too. It'll be BYOB too -  you can bring your own baby if you'd like to or come alone for some well deserved 'me' time, it's completely up to you.



Emma and I are busy working on the details but hope to make this meet up a must for every blogger in the area who is passionate about parenting and lifestyle. It's a unique chance for us all to meet face to face and we hope it'll be fun, interesting and we might all learn a few things too. They'll be a goody bag for everyone who attends so in case any fabulous, and perhaps local, brands are reading this, please do get in touch with either Emma or myself as we'd love to have you on board.

So, go on, put Saturday 22nd February in your diary now and don't forget to drop us an email (tobecomemum@gmail.com) to let us know that you'd like to come along, just so we can keep track of numbers and send you all the details closer to the time. Oh, and please tweet and share this event with your followers using this hashtag: #midsblogmeet

Emma and I can't wait to see you at the Midlands Blogger Meet Up and if you have any questions at all, then just get in touch.

See you there!

Kelly & Emma


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Sunday, 8 December 2013

All wrapped up

One of the tasks that most people don't seem to look forward to at Christmas is wrapping the presents. I get it. The idea of buying pretty paper, bows and ribbon is quite an exciting one if you're a stationary lover like me but when faced with that huge pile of presents, not to mention those awkwardly shaped toys and tins, it can seem like a complicated, never ending task. And then there's the Sellotape - no matter how hard you try, you ALWAYS lose the end!

I enjoy wrapping presents but only really for the first hour or two. I really like to make presents look pretty but it can be so time consuming and with a baby in tow this year, it'll be harder than ever to get the time to get everything wrapped up.

So, having looked on Pinterest and given some thought to the best ways of tackling our vast store of presents, if thought I'd share some of my top tips for making your gifts look gorgeous and getting through everything in time for the big day:


  • Organise all your presents into piles for each person - this way, you can clearly see everything you have bought and if there's anything else you'd like to get. Knowing how much you have to do will help you work out how much time you need.

  • Plan your wrapping in shifts - this will help keep your interest in the task at hand whilst allowing you to fit it in to your already packed daily routine.


  • Choose a theme - I like to pick a theme for my wrapping paper and accessories, so it's clear which presents are from me. It's also a good way to economise, so you don't buy too much or you have lots of things left over because they didn't match anything else. I'm a big fan of brown paper combined with twine or ribbon - you can add your own stamp to it by using ink stamps with festive messages or patterns. Luggage tags are great for as gift tags, just stamp out a festive shape, such as a snowflake, or stamp a Christmas message. Last year, I made personalised tags for each person using my mini alphabet stamps. It was time consuming but the end result was worth it.



  • Create your own embellishments - I love the idea of adding crafty or natural touches to gifts and have seen lots of ideas involving pine cones and sprigs of holly. Put any scraps of pretty paper or other craft materials to good use. Last year, I bought some Scandinavian style wooden tree decorations and tied these to the gift bags of gingerbread I had made. They looked super cute and they could be used again by the recipient.

  • Opt for a hand worn Sellotape dispenser - ok, they cost a bit more than just a standard role of sticky tape, but my god do they make things a lot easier!
  • Google 'how to' wrapping videos - Kirstie Allsopp shared some fab ideas for wrapping awkward shaped items, such as round biscuit tins, and YouTube has many helpful hints if you're struggling to wrap something. If all else fails, I find the Christmas present cracker works well for anything round!

What are your top tips for perfectly packaged presents?

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Saturday, 7 December 2013

Collectable Christmas villages

My love of Christmas has been firmly established on this blog and now that we have Ethan, I couldn't be more into the season and keen to start family traditions.

I'm also something of a collector, albeit an impatient one who finds it hard to wait to buy a new addition to whichever collection I'm keen on at the time. From Starbucks mugs to novelty shot glasses from holiday destinations, I am a magpie and love to record memories any way I can.

Having visited garden centres with much excitement every since I was young, I've always wanted one of those light up houses, complete with moving train or ice skaters, to display at Christmas. I've become a bit LED light obsessed this year and started researching light up decorative houses online.

That's when I came across Lemax - a range of collectable porcelain houses and figurines, including a seasonal selection, that you can add to over the years to build a beautiful scene in your home. There's Santa's workshop, a ski lodge, a B&B, a toy store and so many other quaint buildings to choose from, averaging in 25cm in height. You can even buy figurines such as carol singers or a family bringing their Christmas tree, plus foliage and street lamps, to add even more realism to your display.

I've bought an LED house this year but not from this range but hubs said how lovely it would be to build our own Christmas village, choosing a new addition each year.

Here are some of my favourite buildings - if we were to buy one this year, I think it would be the new Santa's Workshop. Which one would you choose?








Could this be a new obsession? Have I gone mad?? It seems to be a bit like model railway collecting but when you see some of the displays people have built, often around the base of their Christmas tree, they do look very pretty and have a lovely enchantment to them.
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Friday, 6 December 2013

My last month of maternity leave

This time next month, I'll be dressed in smart clothes, my leather bag filled with my organiser, pens and business cards, cup of coffee in hand, as I return to my original day job of Head of Division for a top PR agency. No more PJ days. No more guilty pleasures like Jeremy Kyle. No more play groups. No more cuddles with the cutest boy in the world at any time of day.


I've said before that I wanted to make the most of my maternity leave and I think I really have, so I am feeling good about returning to work; I love my job, my team and clients and will relish the chance to go back to 'being me' as I was before I became a mum. But, and it's a big but, I, like every other mum, love my baby boy so much and being a mum has added a whole new dimension to who I am.

Over the past eight months, I've got to know our little fella, I've enjoyed our home, I've made new mummy friends through this blog and Twitter and in person too at various baby classes and groups. I've taken Ethan swimming for the first time. We've had coffee dates and play dates. We've enjoyed days at home when anything else seemed like too much. We've been best friends who spend every day together but now it's time for me to share him a little more with other people.

And what a person to share! Everyone always says to us how happy Ethan is and what a content baby he seems to be and we always beam with pride at such comments. We had his induction evening at his nursery this week and Ethan turned on the charm big time, smiling and reaching out for the different members of staff and drawing a group of cooing women around him (and hubs) as we were leaving. He seemed interested and happy and today will be his first of three settling-in days between now and the 6th January when he will go to nursery for four days a week.


It was really nice to see the nursery again and we're quite excited really for Ethan as he is going to have an amazing time from what we have seen, albeit tinged with the guilt of being working parents. Wedsnesdays will be Mummy and Ethan days and as a family, we're going to do all we can to enjoy every evening and every weekend together. I guess it's just a case of being organised - the laundry and washing up will still need doing and we'll have our own work pressures to deal with, all the while needing to play and feed and bathe our baby boy. But it'll all get done because it has to and millions of other parents manage.

There are so many milestones in the journey to become mum and I'm so glad to have my blog; don't worry, I won't be going anywhere! Be it weaning, walking or working, every new stage in your life as a mummy is new, exciting and scary at the same time. But it's important to remember you're not alone and I wouldn't change it for the world.
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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Putting the magic into Ethan's first Christmas

You may recall from my Christmas traditions post that we're keen to make this Christmas super special for our special little boy, even though he won't remember it, because we will remember and we want to start traditions that we'll enjoy as a family every year.

And thanks to the wonder of Twitter, we've been introduced to something new that's going to be a tradition for us at Christmas and all year round as we try to bring a touch of magic and imagination to our little boy's childhood.


The Magic Door Store was being talked about a lot by people on my Twitter feed last week and as soon as I checked out what the fuss was about, I became very excited. The Magic Door Store sells enchanted entryways for magical folk to come into our homes and spread festive cheer. We chose a purple elf door to fit into a little nook in our fireplace surround, almost camouflaged by the colour of the wall behind. Complete with a knocker, this door will allow Santa's little helpers to come into our house to keep an eye on our little boy and report back to Santa throughout December, but during the rest of the year, it's sure to be used by the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy too.

The doors are beautifully made and have really ignited our imaginations so I can only imagine what Ethan will think of his elf door as he grows up.


With the door in place and our advent calendar on display, we've been able to kick our Christmas celebrations off and I'll be sharing a few pics of our tree and house decorations soon.


Every day, we open a drawer on our calendar, nibble on the chocolate treat, and read what festive task we'll be doing that day. On the 1st, it said to write a letter to Santa so, with some direction from Ethan, we wrote a letter and left it outside the magic door, ready to be delivered to the man in red himself.


Whilst Ethan may not be able to appreciate the details yet, he certainly likes the lights we have dotted around the house and we're really enjoying each day in our winter wonderland home as a family of three.


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