Monday, 29 February 2016

Life & Loves Lately #4

These past couple of weeks, I've had a few sniffles that haven't really developed into a full blown cold but keep coming back for a day or so.

It's been quite busy at home and work and with a few exciting things coming up this year, not least two weddings of our best friends just four days apart in the summer, we are busy making plans.

Speaking of which, did you see my planner post, written with Emma from Summerfield Cottage and Us? It seemed to get quite a few people excited and we realised how many planner addicts are out there. So, we are thinking of starting a linky - watch this space!

There's quite a few things I've been enjoying recently. I've stepped up my skincare routine, as I'm really noticing if I miss a step and I have a touch of dry skin / possible psoriasis flare up around my nose that I've been trying to treat. Every morning and night after cleansing and before moisturiser I've been using The Body Shop Oils of Life facial oil. It feels lovely on the skin and absorbs well and after a month of using this, I have seen a really improvement to the texture and tone of my skin and the flare up has pretty much faded away.

I've also been using a new therapeutic skincare cream called Hope's Relief, developed in Australia and priced around £15.99, and have kept this in my handbag or in Ethan's change bag as it's great for all sensitive skins. Ethan has some dry patches, on his back, and a few little bumps that come up on his arms that he notices and can scratch at.

I've been using this cream as it's perfect for those who have dry skin, eczema or psoriasis like me and it's got lots of gentle skin loving things in it and nothing harsh like steroids. One to carry with me just in case!

I've been trying to tackle my psoriasis vigorously of late and will be sharing the progress I've made and what's been helping soon.

I'm keen to get back into a healthier eating routine again. I've been feeling tired a lot lately and have lacked a bit of enthusiasm when it comes to cooking, particularly at the end of a long working day. Hubs and I are giving the Nutribuddy programme a go starting today, to see if this can helps us kick start some new habits so I'll be sharing how we get on soon.

I'm quite a saucy person, when it comes to food that is, and we've been enjoying the new range of Jack Daniels sauces. I love mayo a little too much and could out Frank's Hot Buffalo Sauce on anything, and now these JD sauces are cupboard staples.

Hubs loves the drink, as do I now, and these sauces have a subtle hint with the habanero version being hubs' favourite whilst I really like the honey one. They're thick and sticky and we've had them with everything from jacket potatoes to glazing tuna steaks and alongside roast chicken.

We've also been enjoying our weekend mornings together with breakfast in bed. The idea of breakfast in bed just feels so indulgent, doesn't it? The reality is actually a fidgety toddler, an iPad on the go and trying not to spill tea or crumbs all over the bed. With our health kick starting, I've opted for half sugar marmalade from Duerr's - it tastes just the same, it feels like the perfect start to spring mornings and Ethan likes it too because it's Paddington's choice sandwich spread!

Speaking of spring, I've got bunches of daffodils everywhere, brighter lip shades and nail colours on the go and I'm just really looking forward to every bring being lighter soon. I'm excited for Mother's Day too (see some of my gift ideas here) and can't wait to share it with my special little guy.


Catch up on my past Life & Loves Lately posts: #1, #2, #3


Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Best Colours for a Shabby Chic Bedroom

I have always loved home d├ęcor and regularly read interiors magazines and browse Pinterest for ideas and just because I like looking at beautiful homes.

I'm not sure how I would describe the style of our house - eclectic, bright, just like 'us' - but think the most common theme or trend that appeals to me is shabby chic.

It's something that's been around for ages and a look that various people I know and blogs I follow emulate.

It's like having a touch of vintage but without being too far into one style.

It works in most homes too and looks great in living spaces - we have a Welsh dresser I love that's painted in Annie Sloan chalk paint, and a bureau with tons of personality - and the bedroom too; think elegant dressing tables and glass perfume bottles.

It can be hard to agree on a colour for the bedroom, as shabby chic is quite feminine and I just love shades of lavender, powder blue and sage green. But getting your other half to agree with your shabby chic furniture vision (this site is great for inspiration) can be a challenge!

In decorating our home over the years, and reading all the experts' advice, when it comes to choosing the right colours for a space there are many things to think about. 

Consider looking at a range of factors that can enhance your particular space from light to existing furniture – colours have the power to make a space feel larger or smaller, and in the bedroom, will set the mood when you wake up.

This is the safest, all-purpose option. White is neutral, so almost any colour will go well with your walls. White is light and free from commitment, as it can be changed or complimented easily and suits most people's tastes. White is also very good at distributing natural light evenly around the room, so your space will feel bigger; that's why we opted for white the last time we decorated our bedroom.

Technically, I know that this isn't really a colour but it can work really well, for a modern twist on shabby chic. There's no doubt that black stands out, and it's a bold statement but combine with a statement or antique style mirror and your bedroom will be more a boudoir. 

Baby Blues
Baby or soft blue is a bright and graceful colour option. Painting your living room baby blue can make the room feel cooler (we used to have this ourselves) but this can work well in the bedroom, and it all depends on shade and tone. Blue is also a light tone, and just as with white, baby blue can make small spaces feel larger. You could opt for painting your bathroom walls this colour, and bringing shabby chic through with your accessories - it really sets the scene for a bright and breezy bathroom space.

If you're a fan of the this vintage look, you could also choose colours that make your furniture stand out - like we have a vibrant red in the alcoves of our dining room to provide a bold backdrop to our shabby chic items.

Consider colours for the mood they evoke, but generally try and keep things as simple as possible. Less is often more - something I am agreeing with more and more - and the more neutral you go the more decorating freedom you have.

The next project we will be taking on is our hallway and we are leaning towards white and soft grey with pops of colour.

Watch this space for further updates on our home deco updates!


Friday, 26 February 2016

Spring lips

Who else is loving the lighter mornings, evenings and general brighter feel to the days at the moment? It may be chilly but the first signs of spring are starting to pop up and I'm ready to wriggle out of winter (it feels like the longest winter, don't you think?).

Along with adding a few lighter and brighter touches to our home, I'm feeling the need to brighten up my make up too. I shared my new found make up love, Stila, last week, including their fresh new cream blush and this and a new skincare regime plus the Stila one step colour correct base are all helping me look fresher faced.

Well, being a lipstick lover, I've just added a couple of new shades to my collection which I just had to share. Because they are pretty, they have pretty good staying power and because they don't cost a pretty penny, at less than £3 each.

Remember that make up brand of our youth, Collection 2000? It's just Collection now (yes, it's been around THAT long!) and to be honest, I wouldn't normally take a look - not being snobby, I just know what kind of brands work for me at my not-so-teenager-any-more age.

But Collection caught my eye a couple of weeks ago when I was doing my food shop and I've fallen a little bit in love.

First up, I bought the Rose Wood and Taffeta Bloom.

Rose Wood (left) is a lovely nude shade that's really warm and versatile. Great for a low key day. Taffeta Bloom is a dusky rose colour that's very matt in the lips and again, a good day time choice.

And then there's also Pretty In Peach (above) which is a really nice shade of peachy pink/red that's light, has a nice sheen and is a softer alternative to a red lip for the new season.

Then these beauties are from the new Field Day range. And they are just a lovely breath of fresh spring air. 

Pink Rose (left) is a vibrant pink, Tulip (middle) a gorgeous peach/coral and Fuscia (right) a vibrant rich pink.

These swatches are really true to the finish you can expect.All three are matt, keeping the look pretty and not too in your face.

Pink Rose.


They're all less than £3 and for that price, I am really impressed by the fresh shades, soft feel and quality colour and finish.

Well worth checking out this spring.


Thursday, 25 February 2016

Gifts for Mother's Day

Mother's Day has always been a special day for me. I have only had two proper Mother's Day's so far - although when I was expecting Ethan, bump sent me flowers and a teddy bear that's still very special to me - and I'm looking forward to my third in a couple of weeks' time.

I can only imagine they get better and better with time as little ones grow up and realise what it's all about - cue breakfast in bed made by little, enthusiastic hands - and the main thing is to spend the day together.

It's nice to do something special or different to normal and seeing as Ethan likes singing happy birthday to people, I'm hoping for a lovely day together on 6th March.

Of course, being together is all that matters, but every mama likes a gift so I thought I'd share a few ideas.

And, we all have wishlists too, right? So, I've put together a few things that have caught my eye of late.


Flowers: aren't they just the simplest gift idea, but lovely too? You don't have to spend a fortune and my favourites, particularly at this time of year, are the cheapest flowers too; daffodils, tulips and anything bright and colourful.

Chocolates: a box of chocs or other sweet treat is the perfect way of celebrating any special occasion. 

Tea: a nice mug or tea set is a lovely gift idea, and could even be a nice trip out for the day itself.

Stationery: any excuse in my book, but a nice notebook, pen or notecard set is a really thoughtful gift idea.

Perfume: a lovely treat, everyone loves perfume. I'm a fan of The Body Shop fragrances, for high street options, and the Japanese Cherry Blossom is a beautiful scent.

Hand cream: a bit of a mum-present-classic and the Hemp Hand Protector from The Body Shop is a-mazing - a real handbag must-have (and very much on my list).

Scarf: another typical mum gift idea, I love the new swallow print from Cath Kidston on the scarf above - versatile and perfect for spring too.

Jewellery: I wear quite a bit of jewellery and each piece means something special to me, like the Pandora ring Ethan got me for Mother's Day last year. I've just seen the necklace above in Pandora and it's just so beautiful - four hearts, joined together to make a four leaf clover.

Quirky gift: if you take selfies or shots of your family as often as I do, a selfie stick would be quite handy to have indeed.

Say it with a t-shirt: I really want to join the 'Mother' jumper bandwagon. I love the simplicity of these jumpers and tees from Selfish Mother and how wearable they are. I like the baseball style top and the scoop neck sweatshirts, like the coral and gold version pictured above and the simple grey with pink text version too, plus the new 'Winging It' design is delightfully tongue-in-cheek. I also came across The Dandy Kid and their fun slogan jumpers, with School Runnings (and Breaking Dad) being my particular favourites. Definitely fun choices for cool mamas.

There's a few other gifts I'm sure we wouldn't all mind receiving that don't cost anything; a lie in, a bubble bath in peace, a hot cup of tea... am I right?!


Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Picking the Perfect Planner

So, if you've read my blog for any amount of time, you probably know that I am a planner. I like to be organised (as much as I can be) and have things to look forward to as well as knowing what needs doing and when. It motivates me and brings some order to the chaos that can be family life (you can read my top tips for getting organised here).

It's not possible to plan for everything, and I don't take it to extremes, but if I have something written down and thought through, it really helps.

That, and I LOVE stationery. Always have.

And I'm not alone. There's such a huge trend of late for people loving paper and planning - there's link ups such as Jocelyn's #BringBackPaper and #SundayStationery and countless YouTube videos of people sharing their love of planners.

Emma, from Summerfield Cottage and Us, and I are kindred stationery spirits and having chatted for a while, realised that we both shared an obsession with planners and the wonderful things you can do with them.

So we decided to write a joint post about our planner passion, to share what planners we have chosen and how we use them.

First of all, here's my planner story...

Why do I plan?

I have to plan as otherwise, things just won't happen. I get on edge if I don't know what's going on, or when or what I need to do.

Planning makes me feel in control and as I've said, it makes me feel in control and a sense of calm. Honestly, writing a to do list is so simple but so therapeutic! It allows me to make sure all the essential things get covered off and that I make time for the fun stuff too. 

As a couple, we don't tend to run into things without having thought them through first and knowing what we want, when we want it and how we can make it happen makes me feel good. Having goals is a good thing and planning helps me to get there.

There's so many different things to think about - shopping, bills, work, appointments, nursery, friends, family, blog ideas... - it's impossible to keep it all in my head!

I also like to keep a record of our lives and the people and things going on, so my planner is something that means a lot to me.

The planner I chose and why

Finding the right diary has been a long, tough journey and really, I realised that a planner, that allows for more than just daily entries, was the best solution for me.

I've flitted from Filofax diaries to standard ones from Paperchase, and each one had it's good points, but none of them had everything I needed, all in one. Whilst I had thought that a smaller diary (A5 or the Filofax personal planner size) would be best, as I could pop it in my handbag and take it with me anywhere with ease, I've realised over time that I need something a big bigger. I have large (scruffy) handwriting, my notes can be a bit all over the place and ideally, something more than a diary works for what I need.

With this conclusion, and my new stationery discovery, Kikki K, I just had to opt for one of their large time planners.

It's just like a Filofax and those inserts plus those from Paperchase fit inside perfectly.

Kikki K is a Swedish brand that can be bought online and shipped to the UK, plus they have a new shop and a pop-up too at Covent Garden. I fell in love as soon as I saw their ranges - beautiful colours, lovely designs, clever paper craft ideas and motivational messages - and it took some time to choose which planner I wanted.

I loved their peach design (Katie from Mummy Daddy Me has the medium planner) and the ice blue was beautiful too, but I opted for the sunshine yellow leather planner, in large (currently on sale for £28.80), as I love yellow, it looked bright and cheery and the inside had a striking black and white striped fabric lining.

When it arrived, it was even more beautiful than on the website. It has a lovely feel to it and the inside flap has two handy notepads, space for letters or notes, place two business card / post-it holders, and there's a notepad at the back too, plus a pen loop.

I have to admit, the 'K' on the button clasp makes me smile, as it's like it's been personalised just for me.

How I use my planner

I have split my planner into different sections, including my day to day diary (work appointments, occasions, daily reminders), a month to view section (to plan my month at a glance) and then two sections for more detailed planning.

Here, I'm trying to make daily planning notes for our meals, so we plan out our shopping and cooking so we can make the most of everything we have and eat well too. I am also trying to plan in 'me time' or other things we should make time for. For this, I use the Kikki K study planner sheets, as there's six columns per day, so you can choose a topic or theme for each column. This would also work well if you want to keep track of each family member's daily activities.

The other section I have for more detailed planning is for my blog, so I can note ideas that I have then plan in when certain things can be scheduled for. It helps me to think things through and come up with new post topics or remember linkys I like to join up with.

I have different coloured pens to write appointments, notes and reminders - gel pens, as I like the finished look they give - plus orange arrow stickers for meetings and pink heart stickers for things like days out, which I picked up from Paperchase.

I am also a collector of post-it notes and can't resist a sticky note or tab in a fun shape or pretty paper print. And don't even get me started on washi tape!

I have a pencil case with my favourite go-to items in, that I take with me when taking my planner to work and so on, then keep other bits and pieces at home as I like to sit down and take more time on a Sunday to look ahead to the week coming up and have fun with my planner.

I also enjoy scrapbooking, and have the Project Life range, so have added this to my planner. They have smaller album pages and with the use of a single hole punch, I have made these in perfectly so I can use the journal cards too (these are also what I used to create my blog header).

My planner inspiration

When you start to look into, there's so many planner addicts out there and some people seem to turn their planners into works of art. My planner updates are much more sporadic, but that doesn't stop me from gasping in awe of the wonderful things you can do - and aspiring to make more time to try some of these things out for myself.

Kikki K has a number of planner inspiration blogs, like this, and videos, including this one and this one, which encompass things like their Paper Lovers Book, which I have but have yet to play with. They also have tips on the benefits of planning your day. Watching these videos, I can't wait to start using this...


Now, over to Emma...

Why do I plan?

I'm the first to admit that I'm not very good at getting motivated and I will put things off or simply just forget that they need to be done at all which actually really frustrates me because I hate being unproductive. 

The only way I've found that works really well to get me motivated, organised and productive is to write lists and keep diaries, I don't know what it is about lists but I love them and if I make a list of things I need to do they get done, if I don't then they just never seem to happen, it's as simple as that.

I have a diary for work and blogging and I write lists for meal planning, jobs I need to do around the house and food shopping and all of them are separate so I thought it made sense to get one personal planner that I could put everything into and I could then be completely organised and have everything all in one place.

The planner I chose & why

There are lots of different types of planners out there in many different sizes so choosing 'the one' was not easy. There are coil bound planners where you can't take the pages out, ring bound planners where you can take pages out and also add things in or more notebook style planners that are stitched like the travellers notebooks. 

Then you need to decide on size, do you want the larger A5 planner which fits a lot in but isn't easy to carry in your handbag or the personal size planner which is quite a bit smaller but very portable, so many decisions.

I've seen a lot of people with the Erin Condren Life Planner which looks great but it's quite expensive and has to be shipped from the US so I decided against that one initially just incase I decided planning wasn't for me. 

I watch some Youtubers who use planners and I noticed quite a few of them had a Kikki K personal planner which are ring bound and come in a variety of gorgeous coloured leather covers, they really caught my eye and when I noticed Kikki K were having a sale with 40% off some of the planners I fell in love with the Ice Blue Perforated Leather Medium Personal Planner and immediately placed an order.

I chose the personal size because I wanted to be able to carry it around with me if I needed to and I liked the idea of a ring bound planner because I knew I wanted to add things and customise it to make it really work for me. The Kikki K only comes with monthly inserts which is a bit of a pain because I definitely needed weekly inserts so I had to order those separately, I chose not to order them from Kikki K because I wanted some that were a bit cuter and more decorative so I ordered some from an Etsy shop online.

I like the fact that there are lots of little pockets on the inside of the Kikki K covers to keep little accessories in like memo pads, sticky notes and paper clips which comes in handy, it also gives you the chance to decorate your planner a little bit and really put your stamp on it which I also love. 

I've already switched out the dividers for cuter ones and added a few little accessories to make it reflect my personality more. I think it's fun things like that that will keep me interested in my planner and continue to use it all year round.

How I use my planner

To keep myself on track with everything that's going on in my life I like to sit down every Sunday and plan out the week ahead, I use washi tape to decorate my weekly pages and then add in cute and colourful stickers to show when I'm working or when tasks need to be done and also if there is something I need to remember like an appointment or a birthday.

I really enjoy the creative aspect of decorating my planner, I find it relaxing and as silly as it may seem it really gets me excited and motivated to get all of my jobs done that week. 

I also plan out all the meals we're going to have that week and then I have a notepad in the back of my planner for my shopping list so I then jot down any ingredients I need to buy to make the meals as well as anything else we may need.

I have a finance section in my planner where I like to keep track of my income and expenses for my business which is really important when it comes to doing my tax returns etc. I'm quite bad for not keeping track of these things even though I know they're really important so it helps to have a dedicated section in my planner for this.

With regards to planning out further than a week in advance I write appointments and important events on a sticky note and pop it in that week and then when it's time to plan that particular week I can take out the sticky note, decorate my planner as normal and then add in the appointments afterwards, that way I don't forget anything.

My planner inspiration

The main reason I got into planning was through watching videos on Youtube of people planning out their week in their planner using pretty washi tape and stickers, I find the videos really relaxing to watch and I love to see how they turn pretty plain, boring pages in to a work of art. 

I started out watching videos by Elle Fowler on her Glam Planner channel where she decorates her Erin Condren planner using stickers from various Etsy shops aswell as more recently her own as she started designing her own sticker range, through her channel I moved onto watching Andrea's videos on her channel Scribble Prints Co where she also decorates her planner using other peoples stickers as well as her own.

I then started to look for other planner Youtubers to watch and came across my favourite channel at the moment which is Jenna Rose xo, she does weekly Plan With Me videos and I don't know what it is about her videos in particular but I just really enjoy them, she's funny and easy to listen to as she talks you through what she's doing and I always look forward to watching her videos, she definitely inspired me the most to start planning and to buy my Kikki K planner.

My other favourite and most inspiring Youtube planner at the moment is Stef from Noveltea Corner, she designs the most beautiful and creative spreads in her personal planner I'm just obsessed with watching her videos. She gives me so many brilliant ideas and I look forward to her new videos every week.

So, there you have it! The confessions of two planner addicts!

We hope you liked taking a peek inside our planners and we'd love to hear if you're potty about planning too - and if you have any suggestions of shops we should look out for.


Monday, 22 February 2016

The Ordinary Moments / Living Arrows #8 / 52 - cuddles and tantrums

This past week, we've been through the two extremes; cuddles, all day long with little man who has been overloading the affection, then tantrums, for no reason at all or for silly things like giving him his dinner when he's been saying he's hungry. 

Shocking behaviour, huh?

We started last week off with little man feeling under the weather. He'd been quite tired in the Sunday afternoon and by Monday morning, he really wasn't right. He'd slept in our bed and was extremely hot to the touch and had a sniffly nose, so I stayed home with him. 

He was really feeling sorry for himself, and pretty much sat on my lap all day, under the blankets, bringing my arms around him for 'cuddle cuddle Mummy!'. If he did try to get down to play, thinking he felt better, he soon turned around again and need his mama.

He slept in our bed again as he couldn't settle and on Tuesday, hubs stayed with him as I had two places to be for work. I felt awful leaving him, but by all accounts, it wouldn't have made much difference as he slept most of the day on the sofa. Hubs brought his bedding down and he seemed to snooze it off, so by the time I came home that evening, he was full of beans and sporting oh so cute bed head hair.

He went back to nursery on Wednesday and seemed much better (thank heavens for Calpol, saviour for all parents) and whilst I was so pleased he was feeling better, I did miss having all those extra cuddles.

He's a very affectionate little boy generally but growing in his independence every day so it was rather lovely having him need me so much again, like when he was younger.

By the weekend, things were very much back to normal and back to his terms. He'd had two mornings when he had a complete meltdown from the moment we woke him to get him ready to dropping him at nursery. He loves nursery and is always happy within a couple of minutes leaving, but for some reason, he just doesn't get on with the start of the day and can make the whole process really difficult.

'No' is the word of the day and there's nothing that he cooperates with, which usually results in Daddy having to step in or us rushing him through brushing his teeth ourselves just to get us all out the door.

Aside from the upset at the morning drop off, he's also been quite contrary with us all weekend. Refusing to eat his dinner, and pushing things away then doing it again when he's told not to. Saying 'no' to everything. And generally whining for what seems like no good reason.

It's like a switch goes on just like that and he's not in a good mood and nothing you do is quite right. I've learnt that these spells pass quickly most times if he's just left to sulk and work it out for himself. At the start of writing this, we'd got into a debate when he was asking me to help him up and then, when I had helped him, he'd say 'no Mummy!' and slump back down again. Now, as I type this in my iPad, whilst Muppets Treasure Island plays on TV, he's come over to the sofa and sat next to be, of his own free will, and is hugging my arm.

Toddlers, eh? 

I see them as teenagers in training - having swift mood swings and keeping us on our toes.

I would rather skip the tantrums, but the cuddles make it all worth it.


Thursday, 18 February 2016

Why is there so much focus on the 'cost' of children?

It's a topic that comes up time and time and time again; how much it costs to raise a child. Always by some 'experts' and always quoting an incredible figure that most of us just can't relate to.

It makes a great headline, sure. It's easy to quote on news bulletins, on the bus, to your colleagues at work or in passing to other parents or to scare those yet to have any children of their own.

But what does it really mean? And why do we seem to take so much delight in regurgitating the fact that yes, children cost money?

Gosh, I didn't realise that a child would cost me anything. That having a son would mean our outgoings would rapidly rise and, if the headlines are to be believed, eventually bankrupt us before he leaves the nest.

I just feel there's so much focus on the 'cost' of our children.

It would be nice to talk about what's to gain. To consider the positives and just change the language we use, the media use, when it comes to parenting.

Cost of raising a child. Childcare costs. Working mums. Working dads. Entitlements. Maternity rights. Paternity rights. Shared leave. Impact on career. Gender roles. Ticking clocks. Missing out.

There's so little focus on the wonders of parenting, the reasons why we decide to have a child and sometimes, more than one - it's any wonder that anyone of the current generation even contemplates the idea of having a family any more.

Within the same week that the cost of raising a child captures the media's attention for it's annual five minutes in the spotlight, so too has the debate over childcare costs been added to the news agenda. This time, following the government's hopeful plan of increasing free childcare hours from 15 to 30 hours per week later this year - with the response from the National Day Nurseries Association being one of warning, as half of nurseries say they won't be able to afford to offer this.

I thought that with the childcare debate entering a new phase, I'd share a post I wrote in 2014 on the whole topic and why I felt, and still feel, that it's hard to really put a price on the cost of your childcare because really, what they offer, is priceless...


The Family and Childcare Trust has issued its annual report and has found that many parents pay more for childcare each year than the average British mortgage bill.

I'm sorry, but was that headline supposed to shock us?

If you have a child and you need to work, the options available, and the associated costs, aren't a mystery to you. Every penny of your monthly income is accounted for and childcare is a huge percentage of most family's outgoings.

Some mums are fortunate to have family who live close by and who can help provide childcare whilst they go to work. This is a great resource if you have it, but comes with its own considerations and complications, with many family members providing this support free of charge due to circumstance.

However, if you have to work and you don't have a support network in place, you need to rely on a childminder or a nursery and neither option is cheap when you look at the grand total.

But to be fair, you need to think about how much this annual childcare figure works out on a monthly, weekly and daily basis, and understand what's included that can be given a monetary figure (nappies, wipes, food and milk throughout the day), and that which can't be costed in financial terms (education, entertainment and care for a child you are responsible for).

The Family and Childcare Trust's report says that the average family with one child in part-time nursery and another in an after-school club incurs £7,549 in fees per year. Full-time childcare costs for a family with a two year old and a five year old come to an estimated total of £11,700 per year. These costs represent a rise of an incredible 27% in just five years, whilst the average wage has remained relatively unchanged during this time.

For us, we have Ethan in for four full days per week and our childcare bill comes to just over £800 (as of now, he's in five days a week at a cost just shy of £1,000). And yes, this is bigger than our mortgage, by quite some way. And yes, this has a big impact on our family finances.

But it's money well spent.

Unfortunately we do not have the choice when it comes to work - we both need to bring home the bacon in order to cover our bills and do what we need to do. In an ideal world. things would be different, but I do the best I can to focus on the positives.

Bubs and I, shortly after I returned to work when he was eight months old
Hubs and I both have our own careers and independence. Ethan has the best of both worlds - two days with us, enjoying quality family time, plus evenings which are precious to us, and four days at nursery learning new things and developing so fast.

When you break down the cost of childcare, it actually makes you feel a lot better. For just under £50 a day, Ethan is looked after for an average of 10 hours, has two milk feeds, three meals which are freshly made and nutritionally balanced (two of which come with dessert!), nappies, wipes and cream are included, then add in the non-stop playing, learning, cuddling and sleeping whilst being looked after by a friendly team who treat him as one of their own. That's such a lot to provide and I can see the savings in my weekly shop as four days a week, I don't need to give him more than a bottle of milk and a couple of nappy changes.

This isn't even taking into account the wages of the nursery staff who, when you do this calculation, can't be earning very much at all.

But it is what it is. When you are leaving the most precious thing in the world to you in someone else's care, no figure sounds quite right.

It's hard for me to leave him at nursery each morning but seeing how happy he is and the warm welcome he receives makes it so much easier.

I'm in the position where I need to work and that by doing so, I'm not just working to cover my childcare costs, but I know that for many people, it just doesn't pay to go back to work so I fully agree more support needs to be given to parents who are struggling to work and do the best they can for their children.

Childcare is such a big proportion of my monthly salary but it is an investment. An investment in Ethan, his development and our future.

Read more on the Family and Childcare Trust's report here.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Here's my card

First impressions count, so the saying goes, and in my experience they really do.

That's probably why I put so much effort into my blog and how it looks. It's important that it feels just right and that it gets across something about me, my family and what I write about. 

In the online world, it literally takes just seconds for people to switch off and on blogging, you need to know you've come to the right place, you can see something you can relate to or you get a feel that you're going to like that person or what they write about in an instant.

And sometimes, making a first impression as a blogger requires actual real life contact...! 

I remember going to Brit Mums Live in 2014 and meeting the mums behind the blogs I had been reading for a long time. So many faces, so many blogs - and sometimes, only when the business cards were exchanged did the penny drop and I fully link up blog names with 'real' people. 

I still have all those cards, tucked away in my bureau. Sure, I follow people I know and I am a regular reader of across all the social platforms where you can also find me - Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Bloglivin... - but I just like having something I can hold in my hands and keep.

Just a small card, a few inches in size, filled with the personality of someone you've met.

My own blog cards haven't changed since then, although the mum and baby in the picture have both aged another couple of years and the blog they're for has changed quite a lot too.

Until now. I was running out of cards, having used them at various blogger meet ups and events, and wanted to get some new ones printed that would reflect my blog's look and tone now - and have a picture that at least looks a bit like I do at the moment.

And Aura Print stepped in to help. 

They offer a range of different designs as well as a design service so you can customise your card to your heart's content. That way, no too cards are ever the same.

I looked at the Impakt Colour Core Business Cards and the helpful Aura Print designer I liaised with came up with a concept for me (note: you can upload your own artwork - so you could use something like PicMonkey to put this together - or you can pay extra for the design service).

After a few tweaks, I was really pleased with the design.

I wanted the card to feel like an extension of my blog, but then realised that I do go through phases where I like to change the layout or colours, so as long as the general feel was right, then that would be good enough.

The main element of my blog look is my header, and this is featured on one side of my card whilst my details and a couple of photos are on the other.

It's best time include all the information you want someone else to know - who you are, where they can find you and your preferred contact details, plus a hint about what your blog is about.

What really stands out about these cards is the colour core. This means the edges of the card are coloured and it gives you a really cool way of making your card stand out from the pack (I opted for Intense Yellow).

I didn't realise until the cards arrived just how amazing the cards were. They are extra thick, which gives them a solid, premium feel that will surely make a good impression when you hand them over. And the colour core really adds an edge.

I'm super pleased with how these turned out and looking forward to sharing them. I have a fair few (250, priced from £35) so they're sure to last a while too, and they are certainly a quality option to go for if you want to make a great first impression. 

Now, who wants one of my cards...?!

As ever, all opinions are my own. Let me know what you think of my new cards below.

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