Monday, 31 October 2016

To become... lifestyle: dream a little dream

* Collaborative post


One of the truly amazing things about children is their imagination. When they are young, they have so much to take in and learn, with new experiences all the time, and the whole world is open and exciting to them.

The way in which they view everything around them is just so special and I love watching Ethan play and talk to himself. He makes up stories, he role plays with his toys and he's at such a fascinating age where I can see him trying to make sense of things he has seen, heard or learnt. He's really chatty at the moment and the tales he tells us, and the way he uses logic or imagination, is pretty amazing. I have some really funny, and really astute, conversations with him!

After a spell of sleepless nights recently, he seems to have settled down now and is no longer having bad dreams. It was so upsetting to see him get so upset by something that had happened in a dream; for Ethan, he was playing out some anxieties from real life in his mind when he slept and it could actually take us some time to get him to snap out of it and realise that he was awake and nothing horrible was happening. 

Each night when we put him to bed, we always say 'sweet dreams' and he repeats this back to us too. And every morning, I ask Ethan 'did you have sweet dreams?'. 

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Thursday, 27 October 2016

To become... mum/food: fiendish food for Halloween with Princes


Halloween is just around the corner and there's lots of things you can do to keep your little horrors entertained - for a few minutes, at least!

With it being half term, why not get them to help out at lunchtime and create something a little creepy, but a lot of fun?

Princes Tuna has shared with me some spooktacular snack ideas that are packed full of good things and have a Halloween theme too.

I had a go at creating fiendishly fun food; my tuna spider cups! It was just a simple idea - take a cupcake wrapper, fill with a mix of tuna and tomato sauce / puree, add slide onion, cucumber or carrot as 'legs' and a cherry tomato for the spider's body, and finish with a dab of sauce for the eyes. Simple, tasty and fun!


Here are some further suggestions from Princes...

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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

To become... mum: app-y kids


Since Ethan was little, I have found my iPad to be really useful. It helped me stay awake and keep me distracted during long night feeds and as Ethan got a little older, I started to use it to play music and try out a few apps just for babies.

One of them was KidloLand. We had the free app download and Ethan loved listening to three classic nursery rhymes and the bright animation caught his eye. I was recently approached by the team behind the app as they wanted to show me all the different things it now includes, for an annual subscription of £29.99. Remembering the app from Ethan's baby days, I was excited to download KidloLand again and see what it had to offer - and it wasn't long before Ethan took it out of my hands to have a play himself!

This app is packed with over 800 different songs, games, stories and activities. Plenty to keep little ones busy, right?

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Monday, 24 October 2016

To become... mum: a book review for working parents


When you find out you're going to be a parent for the first time, you do a lot of reading. Blogs, magazines, books; everything is new and there's just so much to learn.

We all know the old saying - children don't come with a manual - and it's true, we all just have to figure things out as we go.

But there are resources out there that can help us be as prepared as possible. When I found out I was expecting Ethan, I started this blog and reading other parenting blogs as a means to share ideas and find support. I also bought a couple of pregnancy books and started reading the relevant magazines each month. The more information I had, the more confident I felt.

Since Ethan was born, blogs have been my main source of information when it comes to this parenting malarkey. It's a lot of trial and error and every child is different, so I haven't really sought any 'expert' advice, other than other people who like me blog about their adventures, and challenges, in parenthood.

However, when I saw that there was a new book called 'The working parents' guide to raising happy and confident children' by Nadim Saad, I was keen to review it.

We all parent in different ways and I still feel like I am finding my groove, particularly when it comes to discipline or dealing with tough mood swings. I am all about structure and finding a good way to do things, but I am also the 'softer' parent and I have noticed that Ethan doesn't always listen to me straight away and at times, I feel like her can run rings around me.

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Friday, 21 October 2016

To become... mum: fun things to do at home this half term


I'm always looking for new places to visit and fun days out, butd I also like finding new ideas for fun activities to do together as a family.

Come rain or shine, we do our best as a family to enjoy different activities together at home and with the autumn weather and half term upon us, we could all do with a few ideas of how to make the most of the break even if the weather isn't on our side.

So, here's some of my suggestions of fun things you could do together this half term...

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To become... days out: Places to visit this half term in the Midlands


So half term is upon us and whilst Ethan isn't yet at school, many of our friends are teachers and it's hard not to get carried away with half term madness - and the lead up to Halloween.

I've pulled together some our favourite things to do and places to see across the Midlands that are well-worth checking out, as we all know it can be hard to keep little ones entertained and you need to make those pennies stretch as far as you can...


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Thursday, 20 October 2016

To become... dad: Legends of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses at Symphony Hall Birmingham


I have been working with Town Hall Symphony Hall Birmingham for a little while now and have been lucky to see some great shows - including Stick Man, Sarah Millican and Sue Perkins - and the weekend before last, hubs and I enjoyed a very different kind of evening.

I have never been to see a full show of classical music but when I saw the Legends of Zelda show at Symphony Hall, I was excited - because my husband is such a big fan of this game series.

I really enjoyed the change of scene but to give you a real flavour of how good this show is, may I hand you over to the much more knowledgeable Stephen - aka To Become Dad - to tell you more...


***
My job involves a lot of writing. Sometimes, sitting in a busy, open plan office, it can be hard to concentrate, to focus on the task at hand, so what I like to do is to pop some headphones on and listen to music. Because I’m writing, however, I can’t listen to music with lyrics, for fear of suddenly writing something wholly inappropriate into a new business bid. So instead I listen to soundtracks and those soundtracks are mostly from my favourite video game series. World of Warcraft. Deus Ex. Final Fantasy VII. Civilisation V. Epic, sweeping scores that get the creative juices flowing and bring back strong, vivid memories of playing those games. One of my favourite game series, featuring one of my all-time favourite main themes, is the Legend of Zelda series.

The Legend of Zelda series has some of the most recognisable music in gaming. The fact that a number of the games, in particular Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker, feature heavily the use of a musical instrument used to effect gameplay means that there are likely millions of gamers out there that would instantly recognise Epona’s theme, or the chest-opening jingle, or the roaring main theme.

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

To become... mum: kindness is contagious #BrightFuture


I am a positive person by default and as Ethan gets older, I am realising just how much my mood, my actions and what I say can have upon him. He is really impressionable at the moment and doesn't miss a thing, so I am conscious of considering my behaviour and being a positive role model for him.
So when I heard about the Unilever #BrightFuture initiative, it felt like something fun and relevant to be a part of.
Their goal is to unite communities and encourage small changes in everyday life that have a positive impact on the world.
According to their research, 83% of British parents felt the birth of their first child made them want to change some aspect of their life for the better. Nine out of 10 parents and 8 out of 10 children agree that if everyone does small things to improve the environment, “together we can make the world a better place”.
And it may sound like quite a big claim to make, but I do think that when you become a parent, you do see the world a little differently and you know that you want to do what you can to make the right impression and lead by example.

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

To become... home: hassle free housework


I like to keep a tidy house - to me, a tidy house is a tidy mind - and I seem to spend my life picking things up, putting bits and bobs away and clearing clutter.

Honestly, I don't know where half of it comes from sometimes!

With a husband who likes to spread out a bit, a three year old who seems to have a zillion toys and three furry pets that like to rule the roost, it's no wonder really that there's always something to do in our house - and that's before you put me into the equation, with all my stuff. Work stuff. Blog stuff. Clothes and bags and too many lipsticks.

This is perhaps why I am better at tidying than I am at cleaning. I don't mind cleaning really, and when I do do it, I feel a great sense of satisfaction. And it's easy to get carried away, as soon as one area is looking spic and span, another area doesn't look quite so good in comparison.

The trouble is, things never stay clean for very long. Particularly at this time of the year.

A house is for living in, after all, and we lead busy lives so there's always something we'd rather do.

I like to have a good deep clean every season and Hassle, the cleaning service with staff available in many cities across the country including Birmingham where we live, contacted me to lend a helping hand.

How could I refuse?

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Monday, 17 October 2016

To become... mum: how I fell for a Paw Patrol scam


I like to think that I have some level of common sense and that I wouldn't fall victim to fraud or scams. I mean, a lot of them a pretty obvious, aren't they? Emails from suspicious addresses claiming to be your bank, dodgy looking letters... surely I couldn't be convinced by something so clearly fake.

Right?

Wrong.

On Tuesday morning, bleary eyed, I headed downstairs to make a cup of tea and had a scroll through Facebook and any notifications I'd had over night, as I usually do when I'm waking up and getting set for the day ahead. Someone had tagged me in a post and my eyes widened as I read about a children's event that I just HAD to get tickets for.

Ethan is a big Paw Patrol fan; he has all the toys, he knows all the words to the songs and he has a backpack and hat and scarf which he wears with pride. The event in question was for Paw Patrol Live - coming to the UK for the first time, on a fun-packed tour to a few cities and with the chance to meet the pups themselves.

Amazing. You often hear about character appearences at toy store etc. and this sounded like a great event and something that any Paw Patrol fan shouldn't miss out on.


Within minutes, I had clicked through, filled in my details including the names for each person for the tickets, and purchased three passes to Paw Patrol Live. It all looked like any other ticketing site I had been on and the barcode tickets and confirmation I received via email straight away all seemed as they should.

I rushed upstairs to tell my little man just what Mummy had been doing and his face lit up, as I knew it would, when I told him about the Paw Patrol party. Just a month to wait...

All seemed well - until I received an odd email later that afternoon, when I'd just got to Asda to do some food shopping before picking up Ethan from preschool.

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Saturday, 15 October 2016

To become... days out: Spooky goings on at Sea Life Centre Birmingham


Half term isn't far away and one of our favourite family friendly local attractions, The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham, has some spooktacular fun planned to keep little ones busy...

From 22nd to 31st October, the Sea Life Centre has a special Spooky Seas themed event on which promises to have those little ones intrigued and entertained for hours on end.

You can feast your eyes on the attraction’s fascinating jelly fish species. In existence for over 650 million years, these intriguing characters move like ghosts through the water. There will be various themed displays to explore and mysterious sea creatures to discover including the not so scary sharks and red-bellied piranhas.

Visitors can also prepare for a scare as the moray eels peek through their hiding holes in Red Sea Wreck and the Ocean Tank. These unique creatures can grow up to a whopping three metres in length, have razor sharp teeth and a tough leathery skin. These fish are one of the few known species that can swim backwards, so watch out!
If you’re looking for Halloween-themed family fun this half term, then you and the kids are in for a real treat (and no tricks!!) at The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham.
For further information or to pre-book tickets online, click here

We are family blogger ambassadors for Sea Life Centre Birmingham this year so wanted to share with you the latest news and events - to find out about our past adventures under the sea, just follow this link and you can see all our past posts.

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Friday, 14 October 2016

To become... home: sitting comfortably


Years of working at a desk has helped to give me poor posture and aches and pains, from my lower back to my shoulders and neck. I started a new direction in my career a couple of months ago and I am more mobile during the working day as a result, but I do sit at a computer a lot still for work and blogging and even when sat on the sofa, I can get aches and pains.

I've even noticed that if I sit at the dining table or another table for work, I get uncomfortable after only a few minutes. I can also recall bruising my coccyx (tailbone) when I was a young teen and had to have radiotherapy on it to ease the pain; but this has lingered on into adulthood.

Keen to make some changes, improve my posture and help ease the discomfort I feel, I have taken up yoga after a 15 year absence which is helping and has given me some good exercises for releasing tension and strengthening my core. And then there's my new Sittingwell support cushion.

The friendly team got in touch to offer me one of their clever cushions as they thought it could help me and my back everyday, whenever I sit down.
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To become... home: Safe and sound

* Collaborative post


Home sweet home. The place we spend time with our nearest and dearest, a place we make our own and somewhere memories are made and our things are kept safe.

I often think about how we protect our home, not least because of Ethan and our pets, but also because I just couldn't bear to loose anything we have worked hard to achieve. We give careful thought to opening and closing our blinds, as I'm conscious that if they are always closed, it might look like we are away and if we leave them open, are we inviting unwanted attention?

When we go away for the weekend or longer, our house is looked after by one of our family, as we have two cats and we've never put them into a cattery or anything like that. Our dog, if he's not coming away with us, goes to a dog-sitter to stay and someone comes to stay at our house, or makes morning and evening trips to check on things and keep the cats well fed.

It gives us peace of mind that everything is well taken care of and, touch wood, we have never been unfortunate or the victim of theft or crime.

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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

To become... style: hair consultation at Anthony John Salons, Lichfield


My hair has been my 'thing' ever since my parents first let me get highlights. It's not particularly great hair, but I've used it as my way to express myself and over the years I have tried out various styles and colours and combinations. I'm known for always changing it up and for making dramatic changes; I just like experimenting and I'm always looking for the 'right' look for what I have in mind.

I've had bad experiences too over the years with hairdressers and salons and as such, I haven't stuck with anyone for all that long. There's a good hairdresser I've been to since going red and more vibrant, but it's not that convenient for me to get to.

I love the experience of a salon; having time to treat myself and take time away. It doesn't happen as much as it used to, B.C. (before child), but I would like to book in this time for me more often.

And I have found the perfect place.

Last week, I was invited to a special evening event at Anthony John Salons near Lichfield, for local bloggers and the chance to meet the team, tour the salon and pick up some style tips too.

Whilst I may change the colour and style quite frequently, I am pretty hopeless when it comes to styling my hair. I find it tricky to blowdry (I use a Babyliss rotating heated hairbrush which is pretty good at adding volume) and I still can't perfect my GHD curls. So, I was looking forward to a night of pampering (on a school night, no less) and picking up some top tips.

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Monday, 10 October 2016

To become... mum / food: #FloraLunchbox challenge


I've always struggled with lunchtime planning, for me and for Ethan. I think it's hard to be imaginative, particularly during the busy working / preschool week, to create balanced options and to make sure lunchbox prep doesn't take too long.

I'm even more uninspired when it comes to myself, so when I heard about the #FloraLunchbox challenge, I was keen to see what ideas they had to offer and to give lunchtimes a rethink.

Armed with Ethan's new trusty lunchbox, here are a few ideas and tips I've come up with to make lunchboxes more fun and filling:

* Pick a fun lunchbox - a good starting point, picking a fun design that your child will love will help, plus think about the size. You want something where you can fit lots in, and multi-compartment ones I think are a great idea as you're prompted to add variety to what they will be eating.

* Make it fun - sandwiches don't just have to come in squares or triangles, and we have a few different cookie cutter shapes that make the humble sandwich something a lot more exciting to eat. You could try hearts for Valentines Day, bats for Halloween, gingerbread men for Christmas... get creative!

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A conversation with Jo Malone - this Sunday


I love candles and home fragrances and particularly at this time of year when I want to wrap up warm, snuggle on the sofa and enjoy being at home. I've always aspired to own a Jo Malone candle, and one of her women's fragrances too, as it's a brand I've been inspired by and one I know many friends love too.

So the following event at Town Hall Birmingham, who I am a reviewer for, is something that fans of her should not miss...

Following the Grand Central branch opening last September, booksellers Foyles has collaborated with Town Hall Symphony Hall on major author events for autumn across both venues.

The inspirational British businesswoman Jo Malone, founder of Jo Malone London and Jo Loves will be speaking about her book My Story this Sunday, 16th October 2016, at Town Hall.

Jo Malone’s story will be of particular interest to those who know and love her much admired beauty and fashion products and those who are interested in hearing how she was able to create a global business from humble beginnings. Jo left school at fifteen and hit upon her idea for a creative business when she was working in Belgravia. She opened her first shop in 1994, went into Bergdorf Goodman in 1998 and, in 1999, sold out to Estée Lauder while continuing as its creative director.
“As much as this is a personal story of sheer determination and bloody-mindedness, it’s also an invaluable manual for any would-be entrepreneur”, Evening Standard review for My Story.


Jo Malone will be in conversation at Town Hall this Sunday - see here for tickets and more information.

* I am a blogger partner with Town Hall but wanted to share information about this event
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Thursday, 6 October 2016

Canvas decor

* Collaborative post


It's no secret that I am a big fan of photos. It's also pretty clear from my blog posts and my Instagram feed that I love everything to do with the home too (btw, I have a new interiors dedicated Instagram account if you also like decor ideas and snaps).

I have always been a photo taker and nowadays, it's easier than ever to capture a moment to look upon again and again. I chose my phone for the quality of the photos it takes and it's never far from reach. It's so convenient and means that at any time, I can take a snap of a moment I want to remember. I also have my DSLR too, which gets used on special occasions or trips where I can have a spare pair of hands.

It's almost too easy to point and click. We can try again if we don't get the photo we wanted and sometimes, it's easy to get caught up in the 'capturing' of a moment rather than the 'living' of it.

And sometimes, those photos stay within our phones, our cameras. Trapped. Unseen and undocumented.

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

This post I wrote a couple of years ago and it comes back time and time again as a topic of discussion, as the media seems to like to emphasise the cost of having children, but I feel this focus can really have a negative impact on how we feel as parents...


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.

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Tuesday, 4 October 2016

To become... Style: my Disney X Cath Kidston Winnie the Pooh Dress


When I first heard that Cath Kidston would be introducing new designs in collaboration with Disney, I actually squealed. Two of my favourite things, coming together? A match made in my own dreams, for sure.

It's a decision that seemed to divide Cath fans. Some reacted in horror at the thought and granted, I can't see any fashionistas jumping with joy at the collaboration.

But for me, Cath is at her best when she's having fun, playing with quirky ideas and putting a whole new spin on modern vintage.

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Monday, 3 October 2016

Put a vintage ring on it

* Sponsored post


When I was about to get married, just over six years ago, there was one item of jewellery that I really wanted to wear.

My Nanna had a vintage engagement ring that was a platinum band with two diamonds set either side of a beautiful saphire. It was a beautiful ring and I thought in borrowing it from my Mum, it could represent something old, borrowed and blue all in one.

It would also be a way to have part of my grandparents, who were married for 60 years, present on my special day as sadly they were no longer with us.

Unfortunately, the ring had been misplaced during a move and has never been recovered, so I couldn't wear this piece of jewellery that held so much history.

I really love jewellery and each piece I wear (and I wear a lot) has a meaning behind it or is special for sentimental reasons. My Mum is the same and I know that she wants to pass on pieces to me, and I too want my jewellery to become something I can share and pass down to a future daughter or daughter-in-law, or perhaps grandchild.

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Saturday, 1 October 2016

Home sweet home - our personalised canvas


As you'll know, I love everything to do with home ideas and our home is full of colour, personality and little touches. In particular, I like creating wall displays with photos, framed prints and other items (just take a look at my hallway update, lounge makeover and Flying Tiger haul posts if you want to see what I mean!).

I'm also a big fan of buying prints and frames and canvas photos for people as gifts. It's a really nice way to create something special and show that you have put thought into the present, and everyone likes to have something up on display in their home to make them smile.

I was invited to review an item from the personalised print canvas website Posh Canvas, which I was really excited about and had a little difficulty deciding which one to go for.

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Rethinking rooms and radiators

* Sponsored post


We've lived in our house for 10 years now. 10 years! In that time, we've had three pets, our little monkey and slowly but surely, we've started to make changes.

There's lots of ways to make a house a home. Accessories, new floors, updating furniture. You can work with what you have, finding ways to make the most of your space, or you can make alterations or bigger changes so you can have more freedom.

One thing we would really like to do is remove the radiators. They're all really quite old and when we had our boiler replaced a couple of years ago, we discovered that one of them wasn't even connected. A real waste of space!

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What to watch tonight...

* Sponsored post


We are big media users in our house - with laptops, iPhones, tablets, iPads and various entertainment services. I guess we're like a lot of families today; technology at our fingertips and plenty of options.

It's just as well, as we all have different taste when it comes to what to watch on TV.

I am an X Factor fan, I'll admit it. It's easy entertainment and there's always something happening that has everyone talking. Hubs, on the other hand, really isn't keen at all. He likes gritty TV shows like Breaking Bad and the like, and will only watch TV if it's something that he will really get into.

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