Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 in review & hopes for 2017

It's the last day of 2016 and it has been a pretty big year for us as a family. I started it off with the best of intentions and a fresh positive outlook, and I have to say, 2016 was the year that counted and one where we achieved a lot and have a lot to be grateful for.

I started this year with some positive thinking and a determination to make it count. To enjoy the little things more, worry less and general be in more control of my life and the direction I was going in. And, whilst some things didn't go as far as they could have done, I have to say I did a pretty good job and I am proud of what I accomplished in 2016.

It hasn't been a year without its challenges and with any New Years' resolutions, however specific or general they may be, you have to take a big pinch of salt. Nothing will ever be exactly as you thought or hoped for. But the point is just to try. Try your best. Accept and enjoy the results. Try harder next time, but don't be too hard on yourself.

Reading my Happy 2016 post from the start of this year, I still agree with everything I said. The loose resolutions I set for myself are still ones that I want to strive for; I made a really good start this year and they're points that I want to continue working on for 2017.

I entered into 2016 with a particular mantra in mind: Good for you, not for me.

A simple statement but one that I have really tried my best to bear in mind and to give me the chance to enjoy what I have more, rather than concentrating on what I don't. Reading my post about my 2016 mantra, good for you, not for me, I feel inspired again to keep on this path and to not worry as much about the routes other people are taking, wrong turns I may have made or how I have stumbled at times. I want to continue with my happiness affirmations, using my rememberlutions jar to record moments big and small to be proud of.

I will remember 2016 as a year where four of our best friends got married in two weddings, and we were all an important part of their days. We spent seven months helping and building up to the celebrations, with hen dos to Liverpool, a spa, Benidorm and a vintage day out on the railway. We enjoyed each wedding day to the fullest and beamed to see our friends start their happily ever afters.

We've watched Ethan grow and can't believe how much fun he is now and just how much he knows.

We've made some real changes to our home and it has made the world of difference. Our lounge has had the most significant change, we redecorated the hall and our bedroom is so much more welcoming and 'us' now.

Hubs changed jobs and I made some huge changes professionally too. I made a huge leap and took a chance - a couple of chances in fact. I didn't know if I could. I didn't know if I could do it, if I should do it, if anyone would believe in me enough. But they did. And importantly, I did. I believed. I tried. And I have succeeded. Reflecting now on how I felt this time last year, and for the first few months of this year too, I really appreciate how far I have come. It was a big change for me to make and one that I didn't take lightly, but sometimes you have to take a leap. You have to decide that you don't have to accept the way things are; you can be more and do more and there will be people to help you to do just that. So I lept and I landed and I am so much happier for it. Even though my psoriasis still rages on, I have less stresses, worries and nagging voices in my head and I am so proud of myself. Hubs has always known I could do more, and I am glad that I listened to him and took a chance.

Life is about chances, so I hope to take more in 2017.

Because of my new direction, I've also been able to build this blog, my corner of the internet, and have taken it further than before. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had and for the connections I have made - so thank you for being here and for supporting me.

Here's to a 2017 we can all look forward to.

I am hoping for health and happiness for my little family and for all those we hold dear. I want to try and enjoy the moment and not live for tomorrow too much. It's good to have goals, and my diary planning and list-making will be stepping up a gear to make sure I am keeping myself motivated, but I know that I can put too much pressure on myself to be the best at too many things, and ending up feeling like the master of none.

I want to take the faith and the joy and the achievements of 2016 into the new year; I know myself better now, what I am capable of. And in 2017, I know I can enjoy just 'being' even more.


Friday, 23 December 2016

Merry Christmas from our family to yours

It's Christmas Eve Eve and both hubs and I are busy working away at home today to wrap things up before enjoying the next few days together. Our new sofa is arriving, Ethan is enjoying a PJ day at preschool and this mama has a lot of wrapping to get done before the big day arrives...

I wanted to share this quick post to wrap up the best part of 2016 and to share a few photos from Christmases past and present. Ethan was and still is the cutest elf I have ever seen and I can't wait to pick him up later and really start the Christmas celebrations.

We will be spending Christmas Eve just us three and I have a surprise for little man - tickets to see Marvel Universe Live - as well as a big meal to cook for us. The day will wrap up with Muppet's Christmas Carol, new PJ's and a Baileys (as is our family tradition) before we head to bed to wait for Santa to arrive.

Christmas Day will be spent at home in the morning before we head to hubs' family home for a big celebration, where we will eat, drink and be very merry.

It's my favourite time of year and I will be spending it was some of my favourite people in the world.

I hope whatever you do and whoever you are with, your Christmas is merry and bright.

So merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Speak to you after the Christmas coma of too much food and drink subsides...

Thursday, 22 December 2016

12 reviews before Christmas: 12) Shea Moisture Fruit Fusion Weightless Texture Spray

Three sleeps until Christmas and I have reached the end of my 12 reviews before Christmas series. Phew! Today, I have a handy hair styling spray to share with you which is perfect if you like a 'I just rolled out of bed and looked this good' hairstyle, particularly if you want to put in minimum effort too - it's the Shea Moisture Fruit Fusion Weightless Texture Spray.

I was kindly sent a sample to review and I was excited to give it a go. I wash my hair every other day and I'm not that great with styling; always wanting to achieve that 'effortless' tousled look, but usually putting in too much effort to get it.

This weightless styling spray is a bit like salt spray, although it feels soft and you can run your fingers through your hair, with no tangles.

It's meant to 'deliver a balance of body and definition for an effortless lasting tousled look' and I have found it to be gentle on my hair and it does help to define the natural wave I have to my locks. It's useful for those days when you need to wash and go - I used it while we were away last week, after a trip to the swimming pool, and for those days at home where I have time to let my hair dry naturally and give it a rest from blow-drying and straightening

The spray contains certified organic Shea Butter and Coconut Water blended with Dragon FruitLychee Berry and Green Apple Extracts to 'nourish and energise lifeless hair'. It also has vitamin-rich Imbe Oil helps block humidity to control frizz while Aloe adds weightless shine. 

You don't need to use a lot so it will last a long time, and it's worth trying if you have a natural wave that you want to enhance, without overdoing it with heat styling. My hair is quite fine so this is something I will use now and then rather than every day (I'm a GHD addict, I'll admit it), but it has been really nice to try and it has given me a different way to style my hair.

Shea Moisture Fruit Fusion Texture Spray (118ml) is available from various online shops and from Boots for £10.99 (RRP).

* I received this product for the purposes of review, but all opinions and results are my own.


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Festive fiascos and a Toby Carvery competition!

Christmas is coming which means time with loved ones and the chance to eat, drink and be merry. It's the most wonderful time of the year but it can also be a really stressful time too - from what to cook for Christmas dinner to picking the perfect presents and keeping the peace when spending so much time with people we don't normally see as much.

Apparently, according to a Facebook poll of 500 people by Toby Carvery, almost a quarter of Brits have eaten out on Christmas Day - perhaps in a bid to avoid any festive fiascos or to save on washing up!

The experts in roast dinners asked the public to tell them about the times things haven’t gone quite according to plan, they were inundated with stories, with malfunctioning ovens and greedy pets the most likely causes of Christmas chaos.

Here's what the Toby Carvery survey discovered...


1.       Oven failure
2.       Pets devouring key dishes on the Christmas dinner menu
3.       Messing up timings and forgetting crucial components – pigs in blankets being the most common accompaniment not to make it on the table
4.       Not turning the oven or setting to the wrong temperature – burning or under-cooking dishes
5.       Leaving the giblets in the turkey
6.       Having a few too many tipples to cook the meal properly
7.       Having a few too many tipples to eat the meal
8.       Dessert disasters – dry Christmas pud and burned brandy sauce
9.       Unexpected guests turning up and not enough food to go round (or not catering for the unexpected vegetarian)
10.   Using coffee granules or curry powder instead of gravy granules

Come on, admit it - how many of these ring true to you? I will own up to more than a few of these...! I have left Yorkshire puddings in the oven until dinner was finished, burnt the stuffing so I had to throw away the pan and underestimated the cooking time needed - but hey, no-one really noticed and there was no real harm done.

To celebrate the festive season, regardless of the highs and potential lows, I have a £20 gift voucher for Toby Carvery to give away. 

Our home at Christmas

I seem to be a big ball of Christmas excitement if my blog is anything to go by - or my Instagram feeds! I do love this time of year but have had to knuckle down and work this weekend and on holiday to get everything done before the end of this coming week so I can well and truly put my feet up and enjoy the break. Even if I am tip-tapping away on my laptop, at least I have our festive home around me to enjoy.

We always put our decorations up on the 1st December if we can and this year, Ethan helped. Or at least, by helped, he kept taking out a new decoration saying "Mummy, mummy! Let's do this one" and then when it came to the tree, he'd 'help' by rearranging the decorations. To be honest though, he was easily distracted and it was actually really nice to have him so excited with each new box that was opened. We had meant to put the decorations up as a surprise for Ethan but it didn't work out that way, and I'm kind of glad.

Every year, I can't resist buying one or three new Christmas bits and pieces for the house but I have tried to pair things back just a little. Only a little, but with a dog, two cats and a hyperactive toddler, the house can go from just so to oh no really quickly.

So this year, we have painted stairs for the first time so I have decorated these to full effect. We have slightly fewer fairy lights doted around the house but they are on the dresser, a window ledge in the lounge and of course, the tree.

Oh, the tree. We rearranged the lounge to make a bit more room for it and it showcases many of our family memories, including baubles with Ethan's handprints on from the past three years.

The house has a twinkle about it and thanks to my Yankee candle advent calendar, a warm glow and festive aroma too.

Ethan is so much more aware of Christmas now and keeps on saying how much he likes the decorations and how excited he is.

So here's a tour of our festive home - and here's to an exciting one week countdown to the big day itself...


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

12 reviews before Christmas: 11) Coco water

Looking to kick start the New Year with the best of healthy intentions? Yeah, you and me both! There's something about the start of a new year that just makes you want to chuck out the old and bring in the new habits - even if it's just trying to eat more veggies or move your butt more.

I'm sure 2017 will be no different for me, but my concern is 'wellness'; taking time to care for myself better so I can be a better person all round. As we move from the food induced coma of Christmas (did I mention that it's my favourite time of year?), I'll be dusting off my juicer and getting back into healthy juicing and smoothie making.

And I have a supplement I'll be adding to my (increased) water intake too.

For a few weeks now, I have been trying Coco Minerals from nutritionist brand Proto-col. It's a natural coconut water powder, which aims to be an ultra-hydrating and refreshing drink, ideal if you enjoy intense or frequent exercise and training. 

Well, I go to the occasional yoga class or gym session. Honest.


12 reviews before Christmas: 10) Stila Stay All Day, Sparkle All Night liquid lipstick gift set

So, it's quite clear from my posts and my Instagram feeds (particularly @tobecomestyle) that I love my make up and when it comes to my collection of lotions and potions, there's one thing in particular I have a lot of - lipstick! I love everything from a nude to a bold lip and when I discovered Stila for the first time, I found my match made in lipstick heaven in the form of their Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick range.

And for Christmas, they have the perfect taster gift set to offer, featuring some stunning shades and something extra special - a Glitterati top coat that will have you sparkling all season long.

Complete Stila look (#nofilter)

The Stay All Day Liquid Lipsticks have long had rave reviews and it's easy to see why, with so many colours from rich reds to punchy pinks to naughty and nice nudes. They have great staying power, feel comfortable to wear and for me, the shades are just gorgeous so you're bound to find the one for you.

The Stay All Day, Sparkle All Night set (RRP £32 but there are a few offers around at the moment) gives you three different nude options, from a pinky / purple tone to a deeper brown, plus a rich red and a fuscia shade too, as well as the glitter top coat - which works well with all the shades and can take your look from day to night, understated to wow, just like that.


Monday, 19 December 2016

12 reviews before Christmas: 9) Super Yummies

My review today is a super snack range that we found a short while ago called Super Yummies, from Cow and Gate. Ethan first tried out their selection of nibbles when they launched and the kind team sent some of their new products to taste test.

And boy, did he! As soon as I unpacked these treats, Ethan opened up the rice cakes and almost polished them off in one sitting.

The squeezy fruit and yogurt pouches are favourites too in our house and never seem to last long around our toddler...


Friday, 16 December 2016

5 Key Points for the Perfect Pregnancy

* Sponsored post

Bring pregnant is a wonderful experience for most women. There are tough times, especially as your belly starts to grow and you have a wriggling baby at night time stopping you from sleeping.

Being proactive and making changes to support your physical and mental health in pregnancy can make for an ideal time leading up to the birth as these five tips from HARTMANN Direct show:

#1 Eat Well

Aim for a healthy, balanced diet pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and after the birth too. Small changes make a big difference;
  • Aim for five portions of different coloured fruit and veg daily
  • Choose wholegrain carbohydrates, rather than white, so brown bread instead of white bread, as it contains more fibre
  • Eat protein every day such as fish, lean meat, eggs, nuts and pulses
  • Include dairy products too
  • Have at least two portions of fish a week, with one being an oily fish such as salmon – oily fish contains omega-3, important in baby’s brain development
What you don’t need to do: eat for two! You don’t need extra calories in the first six months of pregnancy but in the remaining three months, you can up your intake by 200 calories.

#2 Take Supplements

But before you leap on the supplement and vitamin aisle at your local supermarket, bear in mind that if you are enjoying a full and healthy diet, you may not need to take anything extra. Always consult your doctor or midwife before you take any supplements.

If you are not eating well or are too sick, supplements replace the vitamins and minerals you would otherwise be consuming in food:

Folic Acid – you need to make sure you having at least 400mg a day pre-pregnancy and for the first three months too.
Vitamin D – 10mcg of vitamin D is important for baby’s developing skeleton.
Multivitamins – some women take a course of multivitamins that contain the right levels of folic acid and vitamin D but remember, too much of a vitamin and mineral can be dangerous to both your health and your baby’s, so check the levels of vitamins etc. you are consuming.
Fish oil – although fish oil is a healthy fat, if you take a fish oil supplement, make sure it is made from the fish body and not the liver. Cod liver oil capsules, for example, contain a retinol form of Vitamin A, which is not recommended in pregnancy.

#3 Exercise

Pregnancy is not the time to start a new exercise regime that is high impact and vigorous but, maintaining a level of activity and exercise is important for your own well-being, as well as that of your growing baby;

Exercise builds strength, stamina and endurance, three things that will help you cope with the extra weight of pregnancy and the demands of labour. It will also help you get back into shape after the birth too and can help stave off depression or feeling low in your mood, a common occurrence for many pregnant women.

A brisk walk or swimming, along with yoga and Pilates are ideal activities during pregnancy.

#4 Pelvic Floor Exercises

Being pregnant places a growing strain on your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles help you control your bladder and bowel. Pregnancy hormones also contribute to your pelvic floor not working like it usually does.

Pelvic floor exercises can be practiced before, during and after pregnancy. As well as helping you control your bladder, a strong pelvic floor can help with labour and giving birth too.

# Rest

The first few months of pregnancy are demanding, thus getting plenty of rest is needed. As you enter your second trimester, you may feel a new surge of energy and people may comment on your blossoming! This is all down to hormones, being active and eating healthily.

In your final trimester, the baby is now big and your body is dealing with extra weight, as well as water retention and a new surge of hormones to prepare your body for the impending birth.

Rest is important and your body will tell you when you need to take some time out. This can be sitting and relaxing, enjoying a good book or catching up on your sleep after restless nights.

Pregnancy should be an exciting time, a time in which you discover how amazing your body is and look forward to welcoming your new addition to your family. But it can be a difficult time too, so be proactive and take steps to look after yourself!

HARTMANN Direct has a range of discreet incontinence pads and pants, perfect for use during and after pregnancy. 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

12 reviews before Christmas: 8) Jump Nation Birmingham

For some, the Christmas break can be a rather long period of time to fill - particularly with hyperactive kids in tow, buzzing from filling their faces with chocolate from their selection boxes! When the big day has passed, the presents have been unwrapped and cabin fever starts to kick in, why not go out for some family fun? I was recently contacted by the lovely team at Jump Nation trampoline parks and, at some point between Christmas and New Year, we will be going along to the Birmingham venue to jump, jump, jump around and burn off some energy (and possibly a few calories too, to get a head start on all those healthy intentions the New Year always inspires!).



Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Christmas isn't just for kids

I, like many people, love this time of year and Christmas is always a special occasion. It's a time to spend with family and friends and to get involved with a little bit of magic, even if you've stopped truly believing.

It's fair when people say that Christmas becomes extra special again when you have children, as you get to see it all through their eyes.

But, why should you have to be under four foot in height to enjoy the fun and silliness of the season?

Last weekend, we went away for three days with Ethan and our dog and three couples - our best friends in the world. It was time for our annual mock Christmas celebrations (read about previous years' herehere and here). We've been getting together a few weekends before the real Christmas as a group for nine years now; cramming in to one of each other's houses or, more recently, booking a cottage somewhere scenic to spend time together and be big kids.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

12 reviews before Christmas: 7) Stila beauty palettes

I first discovered Stila make up at the start of the year and I have to say it has been love ever since. They recently opened a concession at Harvey Nichols at The Mailbox in Birmingham and I popped along to discover all that was new - and a few days later, was surprised by a package of glimmering gold boxes, full of beauty treats just for me...

I'll share a general beauty round up of all the bits I have been trying out but for now, I have a lovely gift idea for a lady in your life who likes her make up and who covets new things to try out, that come in pretty packages.

Stila Perfect Me, Perfect Hue Eye and Cheek Palettes (RRP £28) come in four tonal shades from light to deep so you can find the perfect mix to compliment your own skin tone. Of course, I have the 'Fair Light' kit.


Monday, 12 December 2016

12 reviews before Christmas: 6) The Tale of the Great Rabbit and Squirrel Adventure DVD

Next up in my 12 reviews before Christmas is another great buy for children and a perfect stocking filler too for Peter Rabbit fans...

I've always loved Peter Rabbit and have the classic books collected for Ethan, and he has enjoyed both the original and the new version of the TV show.

This latest DVD, The Tale of the Great Rabbit and Squirrel Adventure, from Abbey Home Media, is a fun filled series of six stories - plenty to keep little ones busy through to Boxing Day at least!

A great addition to a child's DVD library, I know that Ethan will be thrilled when he opens this up on Christmas morning.


Saturday, 10 December 2016

9 Christmas Money Saving Tips For 2016

* Guest post

Christmas can a stressful period even though it's associated with bottomless glasses of Bailey’s, Michael BublĂ© album, or even mince pies. The reason for this is that when you sum it all up, it does add up to a significant period in the year.

However, this does not always have to be the case. It is possible to avoid spending too much on the less important parts of the season. Here are 9 ways to save this Christmas...

Friday, 9 December 2016

12 reviews before Christmas: 5) JORD wood watches (& special offer)

I always find that the men in my life are hard to buy for, at Christmas, for birthdays and for special ocassions such as Father's Day, Valentine's Day and anniversaries. They're just tricky customers, right? To mark important milestones, I like to find something unique that will be treasured for years to come - and what better than a really special timepiece, just like JORD wood watches.

I saw these stunning watches first a couple of years ago on social media and have drooled over them ever since. I love the combination of new and old, natural materials and modern styling, and think that they are real conversation pieces too.

When I had the chance to review one, I was spoilt for choice; there's a whole range of different wood types, dial colours and styles available, some specifically for women, some just for men and others that are unisex designs.

I decided to treat one of the most important men in my life, my husband, to a timepiece that is truly special - just like him.

After browsing all the options, I went for the Conway watch design in dark sandalwood and burgundy (priced $229 / £189). I liked the rich wood tone and thought that this watch would be versatile and work with the type of tones and style of clothes Ste wears.


Thursday, 8 December 2016

Getting prepared for Christmas with Arthur Price

I love being a hostess and whilst my culinary skills may be limited, I really enjoy putting together a dinner for friends or family and paying attention to all those little details - at at Christmas, presentation and your top table is even more important.

It's a special day so you want to put your best foot forward, even if it's just you, hubs, the kids and the dog!

This year we are going out for Christmas lunch with hubs' family which we have never done before but I'm quite looking forward to. However, my tradition of putting on a spread on Christmas Eve will continue, even if it's the three of us, as the festive season is all about food and celebrations.

Cutlery and silverware specialists Arthur Price recently held a special event at The Grand in Wolverhampton to start the season in style and celebrate their new partnership (the newly refurbished Grand has been decked out in Arthur Price finest).

There was Christmas cocktail making, chef Simon Smith creating a three course Christmas dinner in just 20 minutes, interior design tips, cake making advice and Simon Price demonstrating how to lay the perfect table for Christmas lunch.

An incredible event for sure and lots of tip top tableware advice to be had!


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

...days out: a spot of shopping & a visit to Santa at intu Merry Hill

A couple of weekends ago, we headed to intu Merry Hill to do a spot of Christmas shopping and to stop by and see the man in red, Santa Claus himself, in his special grotto.

For you see, intu's grotto aims to be a different kind of experience, where you don't simply meet Father Christmas, but little ones get to enjoy some reindeer games with his elves first, making snow and using Lapland magic (I have been sworn to secrecy so can't tell you any more....!).

Here's what you can expect: Santa’s Grotto at intu Merry Hill has been created to offer something really different this year. Upon arrival, you are greeted by one of Santa’s elves and inducted into the secret reindeer clan. You’ll be given your very own reindeer antlers, and the all-important passport containing the magical Christmas chant.


...crafts: Christmas card display ideas

Today, I'm sharing two simple but attractive ways to display your Christmas cards - no blu tac stuck to doors required!

I wanted to make the most of the cards we receive this year whilst also keeping clutter to a minimum so after a bit of Pinterest inspiration, I've made two different display options which are really easy to recreate at home.


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Our life lately... November 2016

Last month was all about starting the festivities and getting in the mood for all the fun December has in store. To be honest, we have really got into the seasonal spirit early this year and with Ethan being so much more aware of everything this year, it's got us all excited.

The build up to Christmas is definitely the best and November was a pretty lovely month for us...

* My blog reached a milestone, turning four at the start of the month, which is quite something and makes me so proud. Since changing jobs earlier in the year, I've been able to do a lot more with it and my hard work has been paying off - so my blog is somewhere I can really enjoy sharing my interests and our family adventures.

* We had an amazing day out at Thomas Land Drayton Manor - it was such a lot of fun, Ethan was a real daredevil on the rides and we packed so much in, it was a great way to start our Christmas countdown

* We've been pretty creative this month and discovered Chalkola chalk markers - and I have a 20% discount voucher for all you lovely readers!


Monday, 5 December 2016

12 reviews before Christmas: 4) Accessorize Lily perfume

Today I have a lovely gift idea for a lovely lady in your life - from teenage girls to, well, not so teenage girls like me!

A must-have under the tree every year for me is some smellies. It's when I get to stock up on some sweet smelling treats to treat myself to in the months ahead and a bottle of perfume is always such a nice gift to receive.

As well as loving perfume, I also love Accessorize so imagine my joy when I heard about their new scent, Love Lily.

I am a firm believer in trying out lots of different perfumes to try and find your signature scent and also that you don't have to spend a lot of money to find one you'll enjoy.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

12 reviews before Christmas: 3) Peppa Pig Electronic Learning toys

Next up in my 12 reviews before Christmas, I have a fun and educational gift idea great for little ones who love a certain pink pig character...

Ethan is just like most toddlers and has been an avid Peppa Pig fan from an early age. I don't know what it is about Peppa, George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig but kids just seem to go crazy for it!

At age three and a half, Ethan is well into learning phonics at preschool and we're keen to held support his learning, and any toy which is fun to play with but has an educational purpose too has to be a great idea if you ask me.

So, when Santa comes down the chimney, he will be delivering to our little boy Peppa's Alphaphonics Campervan (RRP £19.99).

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