Friday, 28 April 2017

School days, here we come - how children and parents have a lot to learn

Like many parents, we found out this past week about Ethan's primary school place and we were fortunate to get our first choice. So that's it, in a week our little boy turns four and in less than five months time, he starts school.

School.
Full time education.
Wearing a uniform and everything.
Bringing home homework.
Making new friends.

A whole new adventure for him - and for us. So much for him to learn - and so much for us.


I've written before about how the journey to become mum doesn't end once your baby is born; we are always in a state of learning, with every new stage offering up something new to learn or know or do. I think this is what really keeps us on our toes and feeling like we haven't quite 'got it' just yet - or as soon as we think we have, something comes along and makes us feel completely out of our depth again. Sometimes, parenting feels like one big numbers game, always counting down to or up to the next stage.

We pick up lots of new skills as a mum or dad, and sometimes we can feel like master of none, and the start of school days seems to add a few more into the mix. I wonder how long it will be until Ethan knows more maths answers than I do? Or how many times I rely on Google for answers. I mean, my geography isn't great, I need a calculator or Excel to do simple sums and it's been a long while since I had to swot up on dates with historical significance (although this was one of my stronger subjects).


I think Ethan is ready for the next stage. He's been in preschool since he was eight months old and they do so much for him that there's no doubt they have helped him in so many ways, from social skills and emotional intelligence to recognising letters, counting numbers, writing his name and so many other things besides. He gains so much from preschool and is already used to the full days so I don't think the transition for him will be too difficult.

Although, he will be away from the familiar setting of the nursery, having to wear a uniform rather than his superhero or animal themed clothes and none of his friends will be going to the same school...

I think that I may find it a little harder, on that first day we go through the school gates, his shoes shining and me no doubt holding back a tear or two.

I am excited for him and for everything this new stage has in store. Thankfully, we have a couple of induction days way in advance of the term starting to actually find out more about school life and what this next stage will entail.

In someways, I feel like I'll be going back to school. 'How to be a parent to a primary school child'. Best take my notepad, and an apple for Miss...


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How Do You Get Two Whales In A Car? On The M4

* Collaborative post

What is it with us Brits and travelling abroad? Every time one of us mentions going away, it always has to be somewhere exotic. Don’t get me wrong – I love a bit of sun, sand, and sea. But, I must admit that I’m also a home bird when it comes to the United Kingdom. I have come to realise over the years that we have as much to offer as any country in the world. That’s why this post is going to focus on a country that is close to home – Wales. These are the reasons I want to travel to the Valleys more often. I hope you agree!



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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Oh wait, oh no... it's a Gruffalo!

Like many little ones and toddlers, Ethan is a big fan of The Gruffalo book, and The Gruffalo's Child, and we even have a few pieces for his bedroom that are Gruffalo themed. So you could say that we were long overdue a trip to the deep dark woods to go on a Gruffalo trail, using the recently launched Gruffalo Spotters app from the Forestry Commission - but last weekend we made it to Cannock Chase and enjoyed some Gruffalo spotting in the sunshine.


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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

I see the light!

* Collaborative post 

It is a common issue in many homes now, we aren’t simply getting enough light in through the curtains. Whether we live in dark, depressing homes, or our house isn’t catching the sun at all, it can have a massive effect on our everyday lives. We need a certain amount of sunlight, of course, but living in a dark and grey home affects your mood, which can impact your whole family. So, here are a few little tricks to get some more light into your home...


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Monday, 24 April 2017

Family fun at Town Hall Birmingham - The Scarecrow's Wedding and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Last weekend, we went to see The Scarecrow's Wedding at Town Hall Birmingham, the latest book to stage adaptations of one of Julia Donaldson's classic stories. Ethan's Nanny bought him the book a couple of years' ago when we went to the National Forest Adventure Farm and it's a fun story all about two scarecrows who decide to get married and how all the farm animals help them get ready for their big day.

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Benefits of the minimalist approach

* Collaborative post

When you take a minimalist approach in your home, both in the way you live and the way you style it, you are affording yourself a host of benefits. By de-cluttering your home you can benefit all aspects of your life. By de-cluttering your life you can benefit aspects of your home. Below are a few examples of just how.


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Chic, Cheap, Child Friendly: Decorating A Family Home

* Collaborative post

One of the most exciting things about growing up, moving out and getting a place of your own is that you are, at last, able to have things exactly as you’d like. Before, it was your parents who decided what went where and which colour paint would be best. You may have felt that you had a choice in how your room was decorated, but as you become an adult, and especially when you have children of your own, you realise that what children think is choice is actually just the illusion of choice (it works because people are happier when they believe they are in control, and children are no different). For instance, you may have been asked whether you wanted your room to be pink or purple. That is a choice, but it is not one made freely when you realise you only had two options and the fact was that your room was always going to be painted, whatever colour you said. If when you first left home, you rented a place, you did not have that much freedom there either. You could not do any work without your landlord’s permission, and besides, the risk of breaking something and losing your security deposit is enough to deter most people. But when you have a house of your own, you can make any decision you’d like.


This is both exciting and a little daunting because there is so much to think about. It needs to reflect your personality but your home also needs to be a place where you can invite guests for a dinner party for example. Having a child introduces another variable into the equation and makes it more difficult again. You now have to find things for your house that are durable, stylish and safe for children to be around. If you are wondering about what sort of furniture would be best for you, here are a few ideas:


Sofa.jpeg

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Friday, 21 April 2017

Store it, display it

We redecorated our dining room five or six years ago, ripping up the old carpet to reveal old style terracota tiles and painting the room white except for two bold red alcoves either side of the fireplace. It was only ever a room that we went 'through' and never made use of, so since the decor update, we've turned it into a more multi-functional space.

We have a big desk that gives us plenty of storage and display space, I have my Welsh dresser and vintage bureau that I just adore and in front of the large window that looks onto our back garden, we have a fold up dining table.

The room is actually a favourite for us as it is so multi-functional, colourful and is where we let our personalities really come through. The bolder the better! It's also a practical space as we work in it and keep all our paperwork and bits and bobs here.

Finding places to store paperwork and keep Ethan's artwork safe even can be tricky - even when you opt to go paperless, you still seem to accumulate so much paper, don't you think?! Add into it my obsession with stationery and hoarding recipes torn out of magazines, and things can quickly get into a mess.

Thanks to Dandelion Interiors, we have a new feature in the dining room that makes a statement and is practical too.


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Thursday, 20 April 2017

Quiz: underfloor heating vs. radiator heating

* Collaborative post 

We've lived in our house for almost 11 years now and we have made changes, slowly but surely. In fact, it's this time of year that we tend to crack on with DIY or decorating tasks!

There are some bigger changes that we would like to make one day and a key feature I have always wanted to consider for our home is underfloor heating. It has many benefits to offer and it could make a real difference , in our bathroom especially, but do you know how underfloor heating compares to radiator heating?

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3 little must-haves for your child's bedroom

* Collaborative post 

Every parent knows the struggle of creating the perfect bedroom for their child - what theme to go for, how to make the most of space and all those finishing touches. We’re all going to design different rooms for our kids, but there are a few things that each and every one of us needs to include.


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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Summer Conundrum

* Collaborative post

Even though it's only spring, it's always a good idea to get ahead when planning things for you and the kids to do, especially in the summer holidays. As it can be a real conundrum how to keep them amused for all of that time. But what exactly are the options for keeping your little one out of mischief during the long six week summer holidays? Read on to find out.


Family days


pexels-photo-173666.jpeg
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Scentsational

As the sun starts to stream into the house more and more now that spring has really sprung, I'm really enjoying time at home. When the clutter has been cleared, I can really sit back and make the most of the home we have built. One of the things I particularly love is candles and reed diffusers. In the case of the latter in particular, I think it can be really hard to find one that has a good scent that can be picked up as you walk into a room, and not just when you're having a sniff in the shop.


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Time for a tournament?

* Collaborative post

With spring well and truly underway, we’re all starting to look towards summer. Long days, hot weather, and luxury. Or, if you’re a parent, long days, bored children, and stress. That’s right; the summer holidays will be here before we know. They’re never easy, and we all search desperately for ideas to keep kids amused. We want things that get them out the house and burn excess energy. Days out and holidays are all well and good, but they aren’t always practical. We also need ideas for at home days, when we have nothing particular planned but still want to get them outside.




Sports are always a safe bet. They can’t play them in the house, so that’s the outside part dealt with. Plus, they get plenty of exercise, so they burn off energy. But, it’s not always easy to get them motivated. Sport comes naturally to some kids, but others fight against it like it might kill them. How do you get the latter group to give it a go? You add a little competition, of course. Throwing a tournament could help get them excited. It might even start an ongoing love. So, what do you need to consider to make sure your tournament goes well?

Pick a sport

The game you choose could make all the difference. Choosing the wrong one could turn an already sceptical child against the idea for good. It might help to stick to sports your kids are familiar with. Ask them what they’ve already done at school, and make a choice based off of that. Girls physical education often focuses on games like netball, while boys play football more.

The gear

You’re also going to need to stock up. First, you’ll need to buy the right equipment. This will vary depending on your sport. Get the correct balls and goals. It may also be fun to stock up on t-shirts for each team. You don’t have to spend a fortune here. Cheap t-shirts in different colours will work fine. It may also be worth stocking up on awards and trophies. Get a large one for the winners, and smaller awards for the losing team to avoid anyone going home empty handed. You don’t want to dissuade anyone or cause arguments!




The right children

You can’t have a tournament without inviting a few of your kid’s friends. Make sure you ask kids who you know will behave. Having one rough child could ruin the game for everyone. Make sure, too, that you invite an even amount of kids. You’re going to need to split them into teams, and leaving things uneven could cause problems. It’s also worth limiting your numbers. As this is your first time, you want a group that you can keep an eye on.

Once you’ve done all the above, you’ll be ready to go. Remember, while the match is taking place, to keep things fun. Competition may be healthy, but kids take things seriously. It’s the taking part that counts!

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Win with Into The Blue: What's on your wishlist this #NationalExperienceWeek?

* Collaborative post 

I'm one of those people who likes to plan and have things to look forward to and with it being #NationalExperienceWeek this week, according to Into the Blue - experts in experience days and adventure days out - I wanted to share with you some things on our wishlist of experiences - and a competition where your wishlist could come true.


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Monday, 17 April 2017

The building blocks of milk protein – the first 1,000 days

* Advertorial post 

It’s not long now until Ethan’s fourth birthday. As it stands, he’s been in our lives for more than 1,400 days, excluding the time when he was affectionately known as ‘Bean’ and when my tummy was his home. It’s a cliché, but just where has the time gone?

Photo taken when Ethan was 8 days old, by Shaun Fellows


The early days were a blur of sleep deprivation, feeding every couple of hours, changing nappies 14 times a day and also dealing with my own recovery following birth. They were also a mixture of first smiles, funny sounds and oh so many selfies with our beautiful little boy, and the door to our house was somewhat like a revolving door with proud family and friends keen to have a squeeze with our little bundle. Those days are precious memories now and as much as I long for a time machine to take me back, I too know now that being a parent just keeps getting better the older your child becomes.

I’ve written in the past about nutrition and our weaning journey and I was interested to do so again, following research from SMA ® Nutrition into how important those first 1,000 days are in helping to build a nutritional foundation for life, from pregnancy to toddlerdom, particularly when it comes to protein. I know that I didn’t know a great deal about nutrition, baby development, heck, pretty much anything about having a baby and raising a child! And I’m still learning, but I’ve found since day one that reading books, magazines, expert advice and posts from other parents has really helped build my knowledge and understanding.

As explored in the infographic below developed by SMA® Nutrition, protein is particularly important in those first 1,000 days as it provides the building blocks needed to develop and grow. This is one of the many reasons why breastfeeding is recommended; because milk protein has been proven to support an appropriate rate of growth* in infancy (*UK-WHO growth charts based on the growth of breastfed infants, and World Health Organisation/Department of Health advice to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months). What’s really clever is how protein levels in a mother’s breast milk change and decreases as babies grow, meaning it always contains just the right quality and quantity of protein needed at that time to help them grow at a steady rate.

We all want to support our children, from the moment they are conceived and born through to toddlerhood and beyond, so having information such as this to hand can really help support us as parents as we make decisions as they take their steps through those important first 1,000 days… and beyond.
  


ZTC1823a/04/17 SMA® Nutrition UK

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An itchy problem - dealing with a dry scalp

* Collaborative post 

If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you may have heard me talk about my psoriasis. It first reared its ugly head six years ago and started as a small patch on my scalp, near my left ear. For the first year or two, it remained as a scalp-only condition, before I started developing patches elsewhere on my body.


Looking back, I wish I could return to a time where my dry, flaky, itchy scalp was the only skin problem I had to worry about. But I then remind myself just how bad my scalp did get, and how it affected me.

You'd think that having a condition such as that, where no-one else could see it, wouldn't be so bad but in some ways, the fact that people couldn't see it, yet it was so uncomfortable and stressful for me, made it feel even worse. No-one knew what was happening, but all the while, it was driving me to distraction.

It became a cycle of stress; I would be stressed about my dry, tight scalp and the big crusty patches that were forming and I couldn't help myself from scratching, and picking, particularly because I would get patches of skin caught in my hair that I didn't want other people to see, but also as it became a stress reaction. And from doing this, I would then become even more stressed about the condition - a real catch 22!


I've tried a full range of psoriasis ointments and dry scalp treatments over the years and I much prefer the pharmacy and over-the-counter options, as the prescription treatments are often smelly, greasy and can really affect the condition of my hair.

Alphosyl and T-Gel Therapeutic Gel have been the best itchy and dry scalp shampoos I have tried, particularly when I've had a really bad flair up.

Touch wood, crossed fingers and rubbing a rabbit foot here for luck... my scalp psoriasis does seem to be a world away from what it used to be and aside from a dusting of dandruff flakes throughout the day, I no longer have big patches or worry about the impact it's having on my hair.

We all have to find a way to get along with the conditions we have, particularly if there isn't a cure, so finding a treatment that works for you can make all the difference to the way you look but, importantly, the way you feel.

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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Spring wardrobe updates with Apricot

With the weather getting warmer and the sun (mostly) shining, I felt it was time to breathe some fresh air into my wardrobe. There's so many great trends around at the moment that I love and I think can work for anyone, including denim shirt dresses, dungarees and jumpsuits, cold-shoulder tops and dresses, detailing such as embroidery or buttons and gingham, to name a few - and all of these can be found in the spring / summer 2017 collection from Apricot.

It's a brand I haven't come across before but as soon as I was introduced, I quickly found several items that would suit my style and be great for the new season. With the chance to review some pieces of my choosing, I couldn't resist and I ended up picking three new items to update my look with.

As a working mum of the one, doing the nursery run twice a day, I like to wear comfortable clothes but that doesn't mean I don't like to try some trends and make an effort. There were quite a few things on Apricot that caught my eye because of this; a balance between wearable and on trend.

The first item I chose was this denim style shirt dress (£24), in dark denim but also available in a light wash denim too.


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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Master of Mum


There's lots to learn when becoming a parent and I don't think you ever reach a point where you think 'I've totally got this!" - or, if you do, it tends to be short lived as your little one throws a curve ball and you suddenly feel like a newbie all over again.

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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Read with Fonics App

As Ethan approaches his fourth birthday, and with school just a summer away, it's got me thinking about how much he's learnt - but also how much he also has ahead of him, including how to read and write.

His preschool have done a great job at establishing numbers and letters, colours and shapes, and Ethan's language and speech has always been amazing to us; the things he comes out with! He's also blown us away with his memory skills - recalling The Gruffalo and telling the story out loud as he looks at the pictures, with almost no words missing. 

And whilst I know that there will be lots to learn, plenty of time to do it and a school for Ethan to flourish in, I want to be sure we are shadowing his progress and supporting wherever we can.



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Monday, 10 April 2017

Hop to it and try this Easter egg hunt game for the chance of winning a rattan garden set

* Competition collaboration 

Who else is loving the sunshine we're enjoying at the moment? Here's hoping that it lasts until the Easter weekend - wouldn't it just be lovely to get out into the garden?

We're planning an Easter egg hunt at home with Ethan. Hubs has been out and making the most of the finer weather to tidy the patio, build a new storage unit for our gardening bits and bobs and mow the lawn. I have some coloured eggs, clues and different treats (not all of the chocolate variety) to hide here and there for Ethan to find and know he'll be so excited this year to see that the Easter bunny has been.

If you're like us and relishing the chance to get outdoors this Easter holiday, or even looking ahead to the summer break which is on the horizon in the not too distant future, then you might like this fun competition I have to share with you.


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Hangout at the Octopus Hideout this Easter

We headed to the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham earlier in the week for a sneak peek behind the scenes as they launched their latest attraction, just in time for the Easter holidays - the Octopus Hideout.


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Saturday, 8 April 2017

Pretty practical - antique style wood serving trays

Even when we've completed a room makeover, I can't help but keep adding pieces here and there - you know, the finishing touches that can bring the whole look together. And thank you to Dandelion Interiors, I've done just that with some beautiful rustic style real wood serving trays.



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Friday, 7 April 2017

Bring a hotel vibe to your bedroom


* Collaborative post

Something most of us can agree on is that there really isn't anything better than a night in a luxury hotel. It is one of those occasions where you just seem to have the best night's sleep ever (without a sneaky toddler appearing in the middle of the night to join you), and returning to your own lowly bedroom afterward can often be pretty disappointing. But what if you could bring that luxury hotel vibe to your own home so that you can revel in it 24/7? Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

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Do you need a break from parenting?



* Collaborative post

This post is sure to ring true for many of you and I think we could all do with a little more time to be ourselves, for our own benefit and for that of our children too...

All parents would tell you so: Being a mom or a dad is a full-time job. It’s true. Once you’re a parent, you don’t stop being one. But being a parent doesn’t mean that your child should receive all your attention all the time, anytime. Before being a parent, you were a woman or a man who enjoyed some time to recharge their batteries; you were in a loving relationship, you were one of many friends.

These things don't have to change just because you've had a baby!


It’s important that we remind ourselves as parents of one universal truth: Having a child doesn’t mean that we should forget who we were and what we loved to do before. While parenthood changes your life, it doesn’t negate everything you’ve done before your child was born. And from time to time, you need to maintain the link to who you were before you had a child, for your sake. This doesn’t mean that you don’t love your child anymore, or that you are a worse parent for it. But before being a parent, you are a person, and as such, you have personal needs to attend to.



The Important 'Me' Time


Young parents often feel guilty at the idea of taking
some me time. They often feel like they are abandoning their child. It’s important for your own well-being that you schedule a few hours throughout your week that are entirely dedicated to you. What you do with those is up to do. From painting your nails to watching your favourite TV show, there is no limit. What matters is that you give yourself the time to relax and to remember that being a parent doesn’t define your life. It is only one of the many roles you have.


The Important Couple Time


Keeping some time together as a couple can be challenging when you first have children. But if your family is happy to look after the baby for a couple of days, you should definitely plan a romantic weekend away. There’s no need to travel to the other end of the world for it. London, for instance, has plenty of romance to offer. From spotting the perfect bunch of flowers at the Columbia Road Market to riding a horse through Hyde Park, you will find plenty to do. If you’re one for quirky and thrilling entertainment, try the Jack The Ripper Tour that takes you through Victorian East End. You’ll be needing his arms around you to sleep tonight!

The Important Social Circle


Finally, if you remember having friends before the birth, you still have them. While there may not be as many partying nights as there used to, nothing is stopping you from inviting your friends for an afternoon tea at home. Or maybe you can organize a garden party in the summer when your baby is a little older. It’s essential that you don’t let parenthood destroy your social circle. Being a parent doesn’t stop you from having fun with your best friends. These two sides of your life are perfectly compatible if you try. They are not mutually exclusive.

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A thank you to our nursery and why preschool workers are heroes

Ethan has been at the same nursery and preschool since he was eight years old and he has loved going almost every day. Some days he may say he doesn't want to go, but any protests are quickly replaced with smiles and a wave over the shoulder when he gets inside and sees his friends.

We really like the nursery we chose and have got to know the staff, as much as we can, over the past three years and I feel quite emotional about him moving on - not necessarily because it means he will be starting his school years, but more about the fact he has known the people there, and many of his friends, since he was a little bubs.


It's got me thinking about all the memories Ethan has made at nursery, even though he's young, and everything they do for the children. Here's just a few things I am grateful for, that make me smile or that I will remember from Ethan's nursery and preschool days:

* The way the staff are always cheery, happy to see the children, handle strops and tears and take exploding nappies in their stride

* How the staff call us 'Mum' and 'Dad' when we pick Ethan up and they tell us about his day

* All the stages that they encourage and support - it amazes me how much they know and how much they do to help the little ones learn shapes, colours, numbers, emotions, social skills... the list is really endless

* The lovely seasonal displays they create, in the reception and in the rooms

* When Ethan moved up from one room to another, they would always prepare a summary sheet that day with photos and a full account of what he had done and how he was settling in

* The creativity they put into everything - honestly, I wouldn't be able to come up with half of the ideas that they do

* The little trips they take the children on, from popping to the local greengrocers and working with the florist down the road to display artwork from the children to taking them on trips to see Santa and on the bus into town to visit a science museum

* Seeing the photo slideshow on the screens giving snippets from the fun the children have been having

* The variety of activities keeps them all so busy and the garden is always a highlight of Ethan's day

* The artwork and presents they make for special dates and occasions, they are so thoughtful making handmade cards with the children and even inviting mums, dads and grandparents in at Easter and Christmas and so on to celebrate together with the group

* The nativity they put on for parents last Christmas was so wonderful and really showed how much fun the children have together

* Really, just how they take care of Ethan and his friends just like they are their own children, always there with cuddles to make them feel better

Just look at that smile! We took these Easter eggs from the Co-op into nursery for the staff to say thank you, as part of the #GoodEgg campaign


It can't be an easy job for them - we all know that being a parent can be really challenging, so just imagine dealing with someone else's stroppy toddler moments - and they must be so worn out by the end of the day. But I hope that they too know how much we appreciate them, as working mums and dads and as children learning about the world. We hand over our pride and joy to them every day and they do whatever they can to entertain, care and guide our little ones.

I'll never forget the first day that I dropped Ethan off to nursery, on my first day back at work after maternity leave, and how I couldn't even say anything to the staff because I was that full of emotion, my eyes filled with tears and a lump in my throat. It was so hard to do but in a short space of time, I saw how much the nursery did for Ethan and how much it helped him to grow and it became easier to drop him off and leave him behind. For the thought and care they have shown, I will always be grateful and in next to no time, I no longer worried or got upset about taking Ethan to nursery because he loved to be there. Each week, we have watched him gain so much from the experiences he has with his friends, both adults and children, and for that reason I will feel so much when he leaves the nursery for the last time.

I'll probably have eyes filled with tears and a lump in my throat all over again.


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Thursday, 6 April 2017

A beautiful home doesn't need to cost the earth

* Collaborative post

We all want to be able to live in a comfortable, beautiful home. But many of us also want to be able to live in a home that's as energy efficient as possible. Not only because it's a great way to save money but because it's also a great way to save the planet. Luckily those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive. Aside from switching off lights when you leave a room, which I'm really hot on, there are a few ways that you can make your house beautiful while saving energy.


Lighting



Source

The biggest drain on your electricity is the lighting in your home. It's pretty understandable that this is the case, after all, no one wants to walk around in a pitch black home. You'd end up constantly walking into your furniture for one thing! Even though many people are pretty careful about turning lights off to save energy, many traditional bulbs can be a serious energy drain. Luckily things like G9 led Bulbs are not only extremely efficient but they also give off a warm, pleasant light. No one wants their home to suddenly feel like an office building just so that they can save energy.


Thick curtains to save heat



Many homes are practically haemorrhaging heat during colder periods of the year. Even if you can't see obvious places where the heat is escaping, it's likely that it's still happening pretty much constantly. Thick curtains are fantastic for preventing heat from escaping during the cold months. But they can also bring a sense of opulence and class into any home. By picking the style of them carefully, focusing on both the way they look and how much energy they save, you're able to have the best of both worlds.


Double glazing



Source

Another way to save heat during the cold months, if you're home doesn't have double glazed windows then you have a serious problem. Without them, you're basically throwing money down the drain during the autumn and winter. You should replace all of the windows in your home with double glazed ones so that you can keep the warmth inside while still letting in as much gorgeous natural light as possible. It's not that expensive to do any it really will make a whole world of difference.


Fix up your loft



For most people, the loft has two things going for it. It's a space that's not being used very efficiently, and it's letting huge amounts of energy out through the roof. It's incredibly important to insulate your loft properly but why not go the extra mile and turn it into a more useable space? You can make it into a den for your kids, a guest room, even a home office!


Sustainable materials



This is definitely a more significant step than any of the others, but it's a great option for anyone looking to extend their home or even have it built from scratch. When making any structural changes to your home, try to make sure that they are done with sustainable materials. Not only are they incredibly effective and strong but they are infinitely better for the environment than more commonly used building materials. By doing this, you can set up your home as energy efficient as possible from the very beginning.

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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

#ThankGoodness mid-week meal with Dolmio

When I'm organised and prepared, I can be really good with the cooking in our house and I do enjoy time in the kitchen. But all too frequently these days, I get to the evening, we all pile in the house... and my enthusiasm for cooking can just go right out the window.



That's why I love having go-to recipes, like spag bowl, and a cupboard stocked with staples - and also why I said yes to Dolmio when they challenged me to celebrate my #ThankGoodness moment and share some mid-week meal ideas based on what they sent to me.



It was a really good delivery filled with veggies, beef mince and chicken breasts as well as jacket potatoes and, of course, two large jars of Dolmio sauce  - so much in fact, I could already see at least four meals being created from the selection. So it was challenge accepted!




The meals I made, based on the shop above and using the Dolmio sauce as the key ingredient, were as follows...



Spaghetti bolognese 
This is the way I like to make it...


500g Dolmio sauce
500g lean beef mince
Handful of mushrooms
1 x red pepper
1 x onion
1 x courgette
2 x celery sticks
1 carrot, grated
4 x garlic cloves (there is garlic in the sauce but I like it strong!)

Dash of Worcester sauce
1 x tbsp cinnamon (trust me, it works!)


1. Brown the mince with some oil in a pan.

2. Finely chop the garlic and add it as the meat starts to turn. Add the dash of Worcestershire sauce and cinnamon too.

3. Slice the mushrooms and add to the pan. Dice the onion, pepper and courgette, chop the celery (finely dice if you have fussy little ones) then add all of this to the pan too and mix through.

4. Once the vegetables have softened, stir through the far of Dolmio.


5. Grate the carrot into the bolognase (a great way to hide even more veggies into this dish) then leave to simmer for a further 20 minutes or so.

6. Boil the kettle and put some spaghetti on in another pan. If you also fancy some garlic bread, pop this in the oven too, on a low setting.

7. Keep stirring the bolognase and when the sauce is bubbling away, strain the spaghetti and serve. Don't forget a sprinkling of parmesan on top before you serve!

This bolognase has six different vegetables packed into it and will be lovely and rich thanks to the Dolmio sauce.

Fajitas



I used half of the second jar of Dolmio and stirred this into my fajita mix, which consisted of chicken breast cut into chunks and sliced green peppers, onions and mushrooms, cooked until brown and then sprinkled with Mexican spices. 



The Dolmio helped to bind everything together and make it extra tasty, and all I had to do was serve with grated cheese and wraps and dinner was ready to go, with everyone getting stuck in and making it their way.



Gnocchi 
A great mid-week dish that's super easy and quick to make. 


Pick up some gnocchi and bring to the boil in a pan on the hob - this will take around four minutes. Pop a Mattessons smoked sausage in the microwave for one minute then chop into thin slices. Drain the gnocchi and put half a jar of Dolmio into the pan for a couple of minutes, adding the sausage and some drained sweetcorn (you can add any other veggies you have left over too). Stir in the gnocchi, sprinkle on some cheese and in five minutes, you'll be enjoying a tasty and filling dinner.



I also made two other meals using leftovers from the above dinners. The next day following on from the spag bowl, I added some chilli powder and kidney beans to the remaining bolognese in a pan then served with baked potatoes and a sprinkle of cheese. Depending on how much you have left, you could have this as a hearty lunch or served with salad for dinner time. And with the veggies leftover - courgette, peppers, onions, aubergine - you could chop into chunks and use Dolmio to make this into a ratatouille, to serve as a side or spooned over roast chicken breasts. Simple!

Having a stock of Dolmio sauce in your cupboard means you've always got a meal ready to be made in next to no time. I know that some people worry about what's inside ready made sauces, so I thought I'd share the following guide from Dolmio so you can be informed and see there's lots of good stuff inside:


And here's a video to see everything that goes into every jar:


What would you do with a jar of Dolmio? What are your #ThankGoodness go-to recipes?



This post is an entry for the #Dolmio #ThankGoodness Challenge, sponsored by Dolmio.www.dolmio.co.uk/thankgoodness



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