Friday, 30 September 2016

Our life lately - September 2016


September has been a really quick month for us - it only feels like five minutes since I wrote our August round up post, and there's quite a few things I'd like to remember about the post few weeks.

Here's a snapshot of our September:

* Work has been going well for both of us, as we've continued to get used to our new roles and for me, a new career, so September has been a busy one with lots of things to learn and prepare for

* We've been preparing for autumn, my favourite time of year

* We celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary and had two nights off parent duties, in two consecutive weekends - lucky us!

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Thursday, 29 September 2016

To become... style: my Cambridge Satchel companions


Whilst I like a good ankle boot or a funky pair of Converse, by 'thing' is more bags than shoes (probably as I have silly wide, hobbit feet and can't wear just any ol' shoe!). I LOVE bags. Crazy amounts.

When I buy a new one now, I give it plenty of thought as my bag is a big part of my look and I don't just buy anything that catches my eye any more. For me, bags fit with certain looks and occasions, so each new one has to be different to what I already have and give me a different style to work with.

I'm really liking classic designs - the kind of bag that will last and last. So whilst I don't have the budget or desire to have designer handbags, I have invested in a couple of upper high street options that I know will stand the test of time and I will love over the years,

One such bag is the satchel, from THE place to buy them - The Cambridge Satchel Company.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

To become... lifestyle: Sue Perkins 'Spectacles' at Town Hall


Last weekend, I went to see Sue Perkins, known especially for her quick wit and for being part of the presenting due of Great British Bake Off (until very recently, that is...).

I've been a fan of Sue since the days of Light Lunch - a kind of Sunday Brunch / Loose Women from many years ago - and I always love seeing her on comedy panel shows. I think her honest persona and sense of humour are really on point and she has a great deal to say - and worth hearing too.

She was at Birmingham Town Hall as part of a tour, with the audience being treated to an evening with Sue as she brought exerts from her book, Spectacles, to life and answered questions from the audience.

From the moment she came on and addressed the elephant in the room (her resignation from GBBO just days before since it's move from the BBC) to the way she closed the show by singing her own moving version of (who knew she had such a good voice?), she entertained and captivated her audience.
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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

To become... food: Jamie's Evening Favourites


Last week, we enjoyed a rare mid-week evening meal out as a family. We don't often go out to eat, particularly on a school night just as there's not a lot of time to get together and do whatever we need to before Ethan's bedtime routine kicks in.

So last Wednesday was a real treat. We were invited to try the new Jamie's Evening Favourites Menu - which offers three courses for just £18.95 per person from a selection of four to five dishes per course, Mon-Thurs after 6pm. Being fans of Jamie (I have most his cookery books and like the Hello Fresh service he's a part of), loving Italian food and needing a night off cooking duty, we couldn't wait to visit Jamie's Italian at Bullring, Birmingham.

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Monday, 26 September 2016

To become... mum: The 2am club


For at least three weeks now, we've been part of the 2am club. It's an exclusive club of three members and it involves at least twice nightly gatherings, usually, as the name would suggest, around 2am.

Since around six months old, Ethan has been a good sleeper (*touch wood*, *crosses fingers*) and aside from needing one of us to stay with him, or be close by, as he drifts off the sleep (which we don't mind really), he's slept through each night with only the odd disruption if he's unwell or had a bad dream.

So this new routine of waking up at around 2am on the dot and then perhaps again later - or sometimes earlier, depending on when he's gone to bed - has taken some getting used to.

It feels a bit like having a newborn again - but as soon as I think that, I laugh at myself as I remember the awful feeling of sleep deprivation and waking every two hours to feed a baby.

We're not sure what's going on, but we have a theory. After one or two nights of this happening, we wondered whether something he'd watched on TV was upsetting him or if the dragon in Room on the Broom was giving him nightmares.

He then started mentioning a boy. Staring at him. Who he was scared of. For a moment, we thought we were entering into some scary Sixth Sense territory, until one night he said to me, as I was settling him back to sleep, that he was afraid that a boy from preschool was going to come and hurt him.

Had this been on his mind all along?

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To become... food: online shopping service for independent food


Do you shop locally, independent or like to know where your food comes from? Following on from my Hello Fresh trial, I'm really trying to shake up what we eat have been introduced to a new online service that could be right up my street.

I love discovering new things so I was keen to find out more about Caprera; an online marketplace for independent food and drink producers, that have been especially selected for customers to choose from. You pick what you're interested in and they put it all together in one convenient delivery. Sounds intriguing, right?

I'll be reviewing them soon so will let you know how I get on, but thought I'd pop a quick post up in case this is your kind of thing to.

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Sunday, 25 September 2016

#MySundayPhoto - F*R*I*E*N*D*S


Recognise this kitchen? Last weekend, we went to FriendsFest at Harewood House near Leeds to relive highlights of this iconic show about six friends - and I went with my three best friends for possibly the best selfie moment ever.

I'll probably write a post about FriendsFest soon, but for now I wanted to share this photo in particular as I can't quite believe how much it really looks like we are sitting in Monica's kitchen...

And on another note, can we talk about kitchen goals?! I absolutely loved visiting the apartment set and think I may just write another post about taking inspiration from the decor...


Photalife
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Saturday, 24 September 2016

To become... mum, style, home


Always one to keep playing with something, never completely satisfied, I've been making some tweaks here and there just trying to improve this little space, my social channels and have a bit of a clearer direction. My head is so muddled a lot of the time and just giving some fresh thought to who I am, what interests me and what I want to write about and share has really helped.

With Instagram being my favourite social channel, I've been keen to be more active and share, like and comment more, hoping in turn to boost my feed to somewhere nearer my Twitter following. I'm always taking photos so this space feels really natural to me and after reading all sorts of advice on how to improve your output, including this really useful post on Dolly Dowsie (thanks Fi!), I've decided to have multiple accounts.

Like I need to juggle more things, right?!

Actually, for me, it's about bringing some sense and control to things. My main Instagram account has always been for anything and everything I like or in my life and whilst I do try and focus on quality photos and thinking what kind of photo style is 'me', I appreciate that some followers follow accounts that have a strong theme. Not EVERY theme under the sun.

So, three Instagram accounts have been born and I've shifted my blog every so slightly and the new Instagram accounts reflect this.

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To become... style: chunky scarves & pinafore dresses


Mums often talk about having a 'mumiform' and it's true to say that most of us probably have a go-to outfit that feels comfortable and suits our day-to-day life and our own personal style.

As I've got older, I've become more comfortable in my own skin and in expressing my own style. I'm no fashionista, by any stretch, but I am a real woman and a real mum so my tastes, choices and budget reflect this. It may be the fact I've tried so many looks over the years, or the fact that it's been a very long time since I bought or read a fashion magazine; I just don't get a lot from them any more. It's either really throw away, targeted at women in their teens and twenties, for women with a purse capacity to match their designer wardrobe or for those considered 'over a certain age'. Being early thirties, with a modest budget, squidgy middle but still a strong sense of self, I do find inspiration hard to come by that matches my likes and my reach - except for on Instagram.

I decided to not let any of the above stop me from writing about style, defined within my own terms, and to share ideas and looks on here as I continue to develop a sense of self on this blog.

So, to start things off, this To Become... Style is all about my new season staples - a chunky scarf and the pinafore dress.

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Thursday, 22 September 2016

HelloFresh - Family Box review #BackToSchool


With the kids well and truly back to school and some kind of daily routine getting back into place, it's easy to find little time for the things we love to do or to enjoy simple everyday things like having a meal together. Ethan's at preschool two so not quite at school yet, but with both of us starting new jobs recently and a few busy weekends, we're really feeling stretched on time and the week seems to fly by leaving me feeling like that we haven't had all that much time to enjoy together, for one reason or another.

That's why, when HelloFresh got in touch, I jumped at the chance to review their Family Recipe Box - because it would give me a much needed push and a good reason to get into the kitchen (which I do really enjoy,when I'm not rushed, tired or uninspired), make some delicious meals and then sit down to enjoy them together - AS A FAMILY!

We've tried the HelloFresh weekly recipe box subscription service in the past, opting for the Classic Box for five meals for two people, at a cost of £49 (you can also choose it for three or four people and for four meals, too, but our option works out the best value). As an existing customer, albeit one that hasn't ordered for a month or two, I was keen to try the Family Box as an alternative option (there is a veggie box to choose, too), and couldn't wait to share how a working week in our life looks meal wise - as the results, in my experience, have always been tasty and we've never been disappointed.

I have quite a lot to share and say about our experience with HelloFresh, so I've initially shared the four meals we had in the Family Box (which, based on this combination, is priced at £64), how they turned out and our rating of them in terms of taste and ease of cooking, then I have gone into more detail about all the things we have enjoyed about the boxes and service...

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To become four? #TBT

This week's #TBT post is all about contemplating having another child and if you ever know when the time is right to try for another baby, and go from one to two - originally written when Kate and Wills announced they were expecting Princess Charlotte. I really enjoy reflecting on how I was feeling at a certain time and the question of whether or when to have another child is always on my mind...


When you start seeing someone, you're soon asked 'Is it serious? Are they the one?'.

When you become serious about them, you're then asked 'When will we hear wedding bells?'.

You walk down the aisle, arm in arm, and almost before you reach the end, the questions of 'How long do you think you'll wait before you have children?' begin.

And then, if and when the pitter patter of tiny feet can be heard, you find people asking 'Do you think you'll have another?' and 'How long will you wait?'.

All these questions are said with the best of intentions. From friends, from family and even well-meaning strangers. They're commonplace queries about the different stages in life that people tend to follow (anything slightly outside of these parameters is generally avoided or can garner awkward responses and confused, raised eyebrows).

You may have a feeling about how you will respond my time, life and circumstance all come into play and sometimes, by answering these questions, you can almost become trapped by them. It's like putting it into words, out loud, to people other than your other half, becomes a verbal, binding contract. There, you said it. It's official. It's like you've made a commitment that people expect you to see through.

But what if you can't?

What if things have changed so you can't save for a baby just yet? Or perhaps you have difficulty and baby making isn't going to be so easy for you?

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Thursday, 15 September 2016

Dinosaurs before dishes #TBT


I wrote this post just over a year ago, when I went from part-time (4 days a week) to full-time work. I like to reflect on my thoughts and feelings and see how things may have changed since and wanted to share this again as it's something that a lot of mums, and dads, can find difficult...

Being a mum is a full time job, of course, and it can be full on. Finding time to run a household, do all those daily tasks that need doing and take care of a little one too, let alone yourself, is quite a challenge and one I write about and reflect on just as much as any other mum, blogger or otherwise.

Then there's work.

I love what I do and I knew I would always be a working mum. It's just something I knew would need to happen, to keep us going and give us the chance to do what we need to, long before Ethan was a bean in my belly. I had worked for almost eight years developing my career at the time I went on maternity leave and it was always in my plan to return. To keep busy. To put food on the table. To give me a chance to play another role, with big people in the big wide world.

It doesn't mean it was an easy choice. In many ways, it was a decision made for me; financially, it was a necessity. But when Ethan came along, and those maternity days just starting slipping away, it was a hard choice to make.

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Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Smile! whitening kit & electric toothbrush review


I'm generally a pretty happy person and smile easily; to make people feel at ease, to make myself feel at ease, to show how I feel and to express who I am as a person. 

I don't have the best teeth (despite having a brace briefly in my teens) and I'm pretty sure my smile is lopsided, by my smile is just that - my smile, and it's part of who I am. Even Ethan's starting to mimic my smile (he has my dimples too) and will tell me to smile if he thinks I'm sad or to make us both feel happier. It's so sweet.

The last time I really thought about my smile was before I got married, six years ago (this weekend). I remember buying a teeth whitening kit as a way to make me feel more confident. Sometimes, it's the little things that can make a difference, isn't it?

I recently heard about a new teeth whitening kit from Australia's number one tooth whitening brand, White Glo, and was keen to try it out so I could brighten up my smile. I love my tea and coffee, a little too much perhaps, and red wine too, all of which we know can stain your teeth. I've gotten over my fear of dentists and have been a few times in the past three years, where they have given me a scale and polish to clean things up, but I wanted to try a treatment at home to make a quick difference should I need it.

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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Stick Man, that's me! Birmingham Town Hall show review


On Saturday, we headed to Town Hall - fast becoming one of our favourite places in Birmingham - for an afternoon of family fun. We, like many other families, are big fans of the children's author Julia Donaldson so when we heard that there was a new live production of Stick Man, we couldn't wait to see how they would translate the story to the stage.

"I'm Stick Man, I'm Stick Man, I'm Stick Man - that's me!"

As we took our seats, the whole hall was a babble of excited children and Ethan was quite literally on the edge of his seat, trying to get first sighting of Stick Man himself.

We were sat in the upper circle area. I haven't sat there before but actually, for shows with little ones in tow, it's quite a good choice. Down in the main hall stalls, you are slightly closer to the stage, but being in the upper level, you have tiered seating so there's a good view for everyone (although Birmingham Town Hall also provide child booster seats, should you need them, which is really helpful).

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Saturday, 10 September 2016

Our winter bedroom makeover inspiration


With the new season, I always like to add a few new touches to our home to make it inviting and autumn in particular is a time where I want to 'nest' and make the house feel nice and snug.

Having overhauled our lounge completely back in May, and also making over our hall, stairs and landing at the same time, it's made me want to update other rooms too. The bathroom needs to be ripped out (maybe next year...?) and the kitchen is small so there's nothing to be done there until we can replace it completely. Ethan's room, the nursery, is still lovely and we will keep it the same probably if we have another bundle in the future, and the spare room, which we have decorated as a dinosaur themed playroom, is complete really too. Aside from new carpets / flooring in four rooms, which we will get around to, there's just our bedroom that needs a new lease of life.

We updated our bedroom just last year, on a budget and the overall look was great. I was really pleased with what we achieved and it made the room feel different. The trouble is, I've never been fully happy with our bedroom. It could be the laundry pile which only ever seems to get bigger, or the fact that we have to have certain things in there so the space is used up and the layout is pretty much determined.

But it's never been just right.

So, with a budget of £150 and some inspiration taken from this month's Asda Good Living magazine, I've been inspired to give our bedroom a fresh new look.

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Friday, 9 September 2016

My current make-up routine


I'm one of those people who isn't blessed enough to be able to roll out of bed and just head out the door without a speck of make up on. Oh no - I need some help! And not just a slick of mascara kind of help.

At the moment, I've got quite a good routine going and know how to get my 'look' done in around 15 minutes.

It consists of the following products, in the following order:

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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Preparing for Autumn #TBT

We're coming in to my favourite time of year and I thought I'd take a moment to share some of my favourite things about this season, from past posts, including preparing our home for autumn and my favourite lipstick shades for the months ahead.


***


September has begun and I'm embracing autumn without hesitation. Summer didn't ever really get going, did it? My maxi dresses were never worn and my tan never had the chance to begin (not that I ever go an impressive shade, to be fair).

So, I'm saying so long to the end of summer and taking a big giant leap into autumn. My favourite time of year (in the lead up to Christmas).

Here's what I'm looking forward to:

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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Our life lately - August 2016

I may be a bit late in posting this but I want to start a monthly post, at the end of each month or thereabouts, to summarise the different things we have done, favourite photos and our main memories as a family as the months go by.

I've done this ever since I started my blog really, almost four years ago, but never with regularity so I'd like to do this now so that I can look back with ease as the months go by and see a summary of everything we did each month.

Some months there will be more to tell than others, no doubt, but I want to remember the little things too. I may also try to join in with the Me and Mine linky - if we ever get more than a wonky selfie of the three of us together!

To save these posts becoming an essay, as they easily could be, I'm going to keep things brief and then feature a snapshot of favourite photos that summarise the month that has been.

So, here's to August 2016...

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I'm a Heavenly Tasty Organics Mum


I'm always on the look out for new food ideas for Ethan and like to have a good stock of snacks in to make sure there's always something for him to nibble on whether we are at home or out and about.

Variety is even more important now as Ethan gets older, as he's starting to get a bit picky. Some days, his appetite is hit or miss (at home, at least) and any range of options I offer doesn't always fit the bill for my sudden fusspot.

For the past few weeks, we've been trying out the Heavenly Tasty Organics Superfoods range and I'm pleased to say that we're really enjoying them, and I'm proud to be a Heavenly mum as a result.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

All about oil - my top beauty tip


There's always some beauty trend or another proving popular and being a bit of a beauty addict / hoarder / try anything type of person, I usually give them a go. How long I stick at them or whether they become a part of my regular routine, well that varies.

But one trend that is becoming increasingly widespread that I am a big believer in, and will continue to be, is oils.

Facial oil is rich in nutrients and can do wonders for your skin - and from my experience, it's a lovely part to add to your routine and it really makes a difference. A difference you can feel and one I think you can see too.

I also love oils to nourish my hair; Morrocan Oil is one that I was seriously impressed with on my last visit to the salon and have brought home to me, and coconut oil is another that I think is a real treat, for your hair and scalp as well as skin.

As such, when I was asked if I would like to try a sample of Lorena Ã–berg Skincare Miracle Oil, I snapped up the offer.

I've shared my struggles with psoriasis on here and have found that natural oils can make a real difference, so for this and for beauty purposes, I've been using the sample to give my skin a treat over this past month.

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Bagging a bargain through the seasons


I, like most savvy mamas, like a good bargain and I'm always looking out for the best deals, voucher codes, free delivery offers or when big sales start. I can also be a bit of an eBay addict. That's why when I saw the following 'buying guide calendar', I wanted to share it makes a good reference guide as to when you can pick up different items at the best prices.

Having previously worked in retail, and being a regular shopper at many shops so much so that I've started to notice their sales patterns, I know that stock is rotated according to demand and the seasons always push certain products forward - and the bargains start to come out.

I've shared the infographic here in case you too want to know when you can probably snap up that next big purchase at the best price... I know many people who have used something like this to get their Christmas shopping done way in advance at a fraction of the cost, so it's great for family budgeting...

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Monday, 5 September 2016

One year to go


Today, children go back to school and for many mamas, it's the very first day of school and a brand new chapter.

I know a few mums who have shared this next step in photos and in blog posts and I'm watching keenly as it's just one year until I will be in those shoes.

Another mum at the school gates, excited, nervous and no doubt teary-eyed.

I took time to take some photos of Ethan, not least because he's had a hair cut and looks super grown up - and of course, I take lots of photos of him all the time. But I wanted to have a photo or two to look back on, in one year's time, to remember how we were and how it felt before my little man joined school.

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Friday, 2 September 2016

Wedding Fashion Tips for Pregnant Brides and Bridesmaids

* Collaborative PR post


Later this month, hubs and I will have been married for six years. Six! Time flies but when I actually think of it, a lot has happened in that time. It's been four years, to the day, since we found out we were going to be parents so that adventure has brought so much.

We have been very lucky in the way things worked out for us - move in together, buy a house, get married, start a family - and two sets of friends have also just got hitched this past month, so it's had me reflecting on weddings and how special they are.

We loved our wedding day and we'd do it all over again, for sure, so in that spirit, I have a post to share with you today about wedding fashion tips for pregnant brides and bridesmaids, in case you're looking for some inspiration...
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Thursday, 1 September 2016

Outsider - a night with Sarah Millican at Symphony Hall

I'm a comedy fan and have seen a fair few stand-up comediens, abeit none that recently. There is one comidiene in particular I'm fond of - and not just because she sounds a bit like one of my friends (who is from Durham and would not approve of me saying there's a likeness) - and that's Sarah Millican.

Source
She always comes across as a down-to-earth northern lass and her striking accent, sweet, high-pitched voice coupled with her astute observations and humorous honesty make her incredibly relatable as well as extremely funny.

The charm of Sarah is that whilst she may sound sweet, her words are much more to the point - and she doesn't beat around the bush (ahem)!

On Monday night, my Sister-in-Law and I headed out to Symphony Hall in Birmingham City Centre for a night in with Sarah, as part of her current Outsider tour. I'm excited to be working with THSH on a few reviews and this was a brilliant one to kick off with.

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