Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Me and Mine May 2017

Despite my best of intentions, we just aren't very good at getting a regular photo of us together as a family of three. It's such a shame as I would love to be able to look back at a monthly photo of us and see how we have changed, bit by bit, over the past four years.

At least we try every so often! I actually have a couple of photos to share from May where we're together in one shot... amazing!

The first is from our recent Center Parcs Sherwood Forest break, during our encounter with owls, and the feathered friend featured here is called Alan. Alan the owl.


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Sunday, 28 May 2017

#MySundayPhoto - why owl, hello!

The week before last, we went to Center Parcs Sherwood Forest and one of the real highlights of our holiday was the baby owl experience. We got to meet, handle and stroke three owls - the white one is Alan, the tiny one Stella and the large eagel owl was called Carl.

They were amazing creatures to learn about and were very friendly, letting us pet them and Carl even likes being given hugs.

I'm really pleased with these photos we managed to take, in the moment, as the birds let us try and capture some of their beauty.


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Saturday, 27 May 2017

A year ago today

A year ago today, I left my job of almost 11 years to move on to pastures new. It was a huge decision for me to make (you can read how I was feeling at the time here) as it had been a part of my life, and a part of me, for so long.

So many things happened professionally and personally during that time, it was hard to disconnect the two. I remember sobbing as I left the office that last time and, when picking hubs up just a couple of minutes around the corner, he said nothing as he got in the car and just put the media player on. Because he'd made me a special playlist to help me feel better.

It contained lots of pun filled songs, considering the circumstances. NSync Bye Bye Bye. Spice Girls, Goodbye. M People's Moving On Up. John Denver, Leaving On A Jetplane. Will Young, Think I'd Better Leave Right Now. Queen's Don't Stop Me Now. Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell. Europe's Final Countdown. Ending on Green Day's Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life).

Some made me laugh and some brought even more tears.

It was the end of the era. For some people, a job is a job but after so long, it was more and the thought of leaving it behind was terrifying - but exciting too. The opportunities that lay ahead were too good to miss and I wanted - needed - to know I could do more. Be more. Make a difference again. I wanted to find out how others would perceive me, how I would do in a different environment and with new challenges - and the space, scope and belief to do so.  
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Friday, 26 May 2017

Making Better Use Of Natural Light

Are you thinking about making some improvements to your home this year? Would you like to become more eco-friendly to protect the planet? Then you should take a look at some of the ideas on this page. Regardless of the size of your property, you can always save power and use the sun to illuminate your home. That is especially the case at the moment now the good weather has arrived. Depending on how much you can afford to spend, you should choose your improvements wisely. I’ve included some cheap and cheerful options alongside alterations that would provide the best results. So, there should be something for everyone in my latest post...

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Use blinds instead of curtains

Before you do anything else, you should think about the materials used on your windows. Lots of people use curtains because they provide privacy. However, they’re not the best solutions for the summer months. If you want the best outcomes, you should consider purchasing blinds from a specialist retailer. There are many different types and styles available. You just need to select something that suits your home design and personal tastes. Best of all? Most companies supplying those products will make them to your specifications. So, you just need to get your tape measure out, and you can make better use of natural light.  
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Handle with care

I've been trying a few new products recently to help nourish my dry skin, both on my face and as a result of my psoriasis. I've written many times about my psoriasis and as I've just reached the six year mark since my first patch first appeared, I thought I'd share a quick update on what I'm using.

The patches on my head and behind my ears have subsided quite a bit and generally, my psoriasis has improved all over. I still have it quite severely on my legs, noticeable dry patches on my lower arms and a big patch across my tummy, but it has been worse and it has been improving thanks to one new product in particular.



Skin Balm from What Skin Needs (£9.99), is designed to specifically for skin problems including irritation from warm and cold weather, cracked skin, dry skin, and skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. It's a blend of natural extracts and essential oils including Plantolin but also aloe vera, olive oil, myrrh, lavender oil, tea tree oil and geranium oil. 
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Home Improvements That Pay For Themselves

We’d all like to spruce up the house every once in a while, but we’re often held back by the lack of funds available. Since home improvements are, more often than not, a vanity project, the ideas are often discarded and the money is spent on holidays or necessities. However, there is a way to justify getting some work done on the house this summer. Believe it or not, there are some renovations that pay for themselves.
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Insulation
We all know that going green can cut your energy bills, but up until now you’ve only switched your energy provider, upgraded to energy efficient lightbulbs, and started turning off your appliances. You need to think bigger. Around 25 percent of the heat lost in an uninsulated house literally goes through the roof, so why not look into insulating your attic and roof. Effective insulation will slow the rate that heat escapes from your house in winter, and will also slow the rate that heat gets into your house during the summer. In short; it will keep your house at the optimum temperature. You may also find that you don’t need to turn up your thermostat as much to compensate for the escaped heat. Add new insulation along your walls, your ceiling, and your attic wall for maximum efficiency.
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Thursday, 25 May 2017

Brilliant Birthday Party Ideas For Kids

No matter how old you are, your birthday is exciting, isn't it? You don’t quite realise how exciting until you have children to plan for. Birthday parties for children can be simply magical. They’re not just the day for you to remember giving birth and bringing them into the world, they’re the day for you to celebrate another milestone with your child. I've gotten quite emotional on each of Ethan's birthday's so far, particularly when everyone sings him Happy Birthday... sob!

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Planning a birthday party can be stressful, if you don’t know where to begin. If your child is in nursery or school, you’re likely to worry about the opinions of the other children and parents. It’s normal: you want your child to have the best possible party! Before you go completely wild and start planning a party involving the hiring of zoo animals, check out some of my ideas for a perfect birthday party that your child will love...
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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

2 for 1 tickets available for The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show THIS WEEKEND at Town Hall Birmingham!

If you're looking for something fun to do this Bank Holiday weekend, then there's a great offer you need to know about... Town Hall Birmingham is running a flash sale on their Very Hungry Caterpillar Show taking place this Saturday, 27th May, with 2 for 1 on tickets (max. 4 tickets per booking), bought online or via the box office.

From tomorrow (Thursday 25th) to Friday 26th May, enter HC241 online to redeem this fantastic offer. Tickets are £12.50 each so a family of four, with this limited deal, can enjoy a fun time at Town Hall for just £25.


The show is on at 12.30pm and 2.30pm this Saturday and here's what you can expect:

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A taste of summer with Jack Daniels sauces

I love food and I don't mind the occasional drink either (slushy mummy!) and when summer comes around, what could be better than a bit of both in the sunshine? With the sun treating us to its presence more and more at the moment, I'm really getting into the new season when it comes cooking and hope that the first BBQ isn't too far around the corner.

Jack Daniels is hubs' favourite tipple and one that I like now and again too - plus when we eat out at restaurants such as TGI Friday's, I'm quite partial to the JD glaze you can get.

The team at Jack Daniels BBQ Sauces recently got in touch to tell me about their extended sauces range and we were more than happy to try these out.


There's six sauces to choose from, including a glaze (yum!) and a steak sauce, and we've been enjoying Full Flavour Smokey and Sweet Smokey Glaze, with my favourite being the glaze. It's got a nice tang to it and both sauces were polished off in next to no time.

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Monday, 22 May 2017

#WearABigIssue vlog - limited edition slogan t-shirts by street artists so you can #DoGoodLookingGood

One trend that's very big right now, and anyone can wear, is the slogan t-shirt - and there is no bigger way to get involved AND do something for a great cause too than the #wearabigissue limited edition fashion brand launch.



The Big Issue has recruited a host of street and graffiti artists to create cutting-edge protest T-shirts for The Big Issue Shop’s #WEARABIGISSUE campaign, and there are some really stand-out designs to choose from.


The artists have made designs speaking about issues that matter most to them and to socially conscious shopper s, so by purchasing online from the collection in The Big Issue Shop, you are both wearing and supporting a big world issue. 

What better way to get in on the slogan tee trend? #DoGoodLookingGood
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Making A Child Friendly Home

Bringing a child home for the first time can be a scary. You have loads of new responsibilities. And, the weight of these will make you question whether or not your home is 'ready.'

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Making a house ready for kids is more than just safety, too. You have to think about your child’s ability to use your home in later life. And, you have to make sure you have enough space. To help you out, in this post, I'll be going through some of the best ways to improve your home before the baby first arrives. So, now, you just have to get to work...

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#LifeLately - our family mini break at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest

If you read my ultimate guide to staying at Center Parcs, you'll know how we are big fans as a family of this UK mini break destination. This past week, we visited Sherwood Forest for a midweek break, Monday to Friday, and packed a lot in whilst also doing very little on some days too. And of course, I packed a huge amount to take away (I can't help it!) - so much so, next time I might have to hire a mini bus!

That's the secret to the Center Parcs break; you can be as busy as you like, trying new experiences, or as laid back as you want, just going with the flow and enjoying your lodge and the slower pace of life.

On Monday, we arrived at lunch time, had a good look around then checked into our lodge before picking up our bikes. On Tuesday, we booked Ethan on a pony trek which he loved, then we explored the beach and playgrounds. We even squeezed in some time at the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. That evening, we went bowling together as a family for the first time which, again, Ethan loved, and he actually beat us both on the first game! We then went to Hucks for dinner, as I love their hot buffalo chicken wings.

Wednesday we took as a lazy day, as it did not stop raining. Our friendly neighbourhood ducks didn't mind it at all though. We did take Ethan to Little Outlaws, an archery session, which he really enjoyed, at the Jardin du Sport. On Thursday, we all went to Baby Owls in the morning and met three beautiful owls called Alan, Stella and Carl. It was great to see them up close and we all had the chance to hold and stroke them. In the afternoon, we played a game of Adventure Golf (Ethan treated it more like a game of hockey) and then treated ourselves to some ice creams. We had planned on going on the beach again on Friday, but after checking out of our lodge, returning our bikes and enjoying a late breakfast at the Pancake House, the rain was still coming down so the beach was the last place we wanted to go.

Here's some highlights from our latest Center Parcs holiday - follow me on Instagram to see more - and following the photos, I have shared details of how much our holiday cost and some recommendations:


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Sunday, 21 May 2017

#MySundayPhoto - duck tails

We stayed at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest this week (I have a blog post coming up tomorrow all about our visit) and one of our main memories will be the lovely ducks and geese that came to visit us every day at our lodge.

There was Mr and Mrs Duck, a sweet little couple who were always close by, lots of geese and some baby geese too that popped over to our place in search for food.

They were very friendly and we were able to take some great photos of them saying hello.

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Friday, 19 May 2017

In The Doghouse... Bringing A Pet Home

If you're thinking about a pet for the family, you need to think long and hard about what it can do to you as a family. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but it’s so easy to get a pet now and not really have the means to look after them properly - it really is a big commitment.

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A pet can be a wonderful addition to any family - I for one have always had several pets and can't imagine not having any around. They can bring families closer together, instil a sense of responsibility in the children, and, if you opt for a dog, it will get you out of the house more than you already do. But what do you need to do to make sure that everyone is ready for a pet?

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By Chloe Ferry matte liquid lipsticks... by me

I have an addiction... to lipstick. I have far too many, I'm sure, but there's so many different shapes and finises - even when it comes to nudes, I have several that I love that have different tones to them, to suit what I might be wearing.

Of late, I have become particularly obsessed with matte finishes and liquid lipsticks in particular. I have several Stila shades and love them, but having bought all the shades that suit me, yet I still felt that there must be more out there for me.

Introducing By Chloe Ferry.


Now I will admit that I didn't know who Chloe was. I haven't watched Geordie Shore before, but have seen the stars pop up here and there. When I first heard about her new cosmetics range, what drew me in was the matte liquid lipsticks, in stunning shades, rather than her name. For some people it may be the other way around, which of course is all part of the appeal, and looking at Chloe's social accounts, it's clear that this lady knows how to give it some lip. She has the most amazing full lips I think I've ever seen, and the shades all jumped out at me.

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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Where To Wander With Kids

Summer may finally be upon us (save for a few rain showers here and there), and this gives many parents ideas of getting away for a family break. Whether it’s in the same country that you’re residing in now, on the continent or even a slightly longer plane journey to get to where you need to be, it’s that sense of relaxation that you need; that you’re entitled to; that you deserve. You may have kids coming with you, but pick up on their excitement and you’re sure to have a whale of a time.

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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Making Family Memories

With the whirlwind of the 21st Century world, doesn’t it sometimes feel like life is passing you by - blink and you’ll miss it? It can be difficult to juggle so many different things, but family life has to be a priority. These years are the most formative of your child’s life, and the idea of forgetting them is terrifying - well, it is to me and that's why this very blog exists.

Making family memories isn’t just about taking photos of holidays or going to see school plays. It’s about taking a moment to appreciate new experiences, collating important mementos, and creating little family traditions that you can keep while your child grows up. Here's a few ideas of what I enjoy doing that you might like too...

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Today I don't like vegetables

Hubs, aka To Become Dad, has started writing a series of poems about and for Ethan, to capture the funny little quirks of his character. I think they also perfectly sum up life with a toddler / preschooler and I'm sure plenty of other parents can relate.

Here's the first poem that started the whole thing off - hands up who has a child just like this...?!

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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Home Design: Putting Together The Final Pieces Of The Puzzle

Decorating the inside of your home has never been more fun or effortless. The options available make it simple and easy to create a unique space for your family. Unfortunately, though, far too few take full advantage of this. Instead, a lot of houses look bare on the inside. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. With minimal time and expense, anyone can DIY their home into something special. It just takes some patience and research to get started. To help you out, this post will be going through some of the best ways to change your home to make it nicer. And, it will be giving you some tips to find new inspiration for your home.

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apartment, chairs, contemporary
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10 Awesome Ways To Cut Your Energy Bills

Do you dread seeing the utility bills land on your doormat? If the bills for gas and electricity are starting to get you down it must be high time to do something about it. The information and media reports surrounding energy prices can be confusing. It is also true that the future of energy pricing is tied in with the political situation. Will prices rise, fall or be capped at a certain level? No-one knows the answers to these questions and this can make householders nervous.

You also have to consider the issue of the environmental impact. Which are the most environmentally friendly ways to heat and light your home? Families who are concerned about their carbon footprint need accurate and easily accessible information. Here are 10 top tips for cutting down your power consumption so that you can save money and protect the environment at the same time...


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Monday, 15 May 2017

Ethan's fourth birthday and a day out at Chessington World of Adventures

On 5th May, Ethan turned four and we headed to Chessington World of Adventures, down south near Leatherhead, for a fun day out. It was quite a way for us to go, there and back in a day from Birmingham, but hubs and Ethan had never been, we had some vouchers to use and with the new Gruffalo River Ride Adventure plus the pirate themed area, we knew our little adventurer would love it.


And we weren't wrong!

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Preventing Accidents At Home: Top Tips For Safety-Conscious Mums

If you’re a mum, you’ll know all too well that it’s impossible to prevent every accident around the house. Short of following your kids around with a giant roll of cotton wool, there’s no way of keeping them safe every minute of every day, but there are ways you can reduce the risk of unwanted accidents at home. Here are some of the most common problems parents face, and some simple tips to prevent them.

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Sunday, 14 May 2017

#MySundayPhoto - pirate play

Ethan loves pirates and we bought him a themed Playmobile set for his fourth birthday - which he absolutely loves! With some sun coming out last weekend, hubs took Ethan's play table, filled it with sand and brought the whole pirate adventure to life.

Here 's just a couple of my favourite photos of my little swashbuckler...








Photalife
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Friday, 12 May 2017

My mama bracelet from Kaya Jewellery

I'm a gal that loves her jewellery and for the most part, each piece I own and wear has some special meaning attached to it. From my Pandora charm bracelets and rings that have been collected over the years, many as gifts or to document different stages, to other items I have found and loved along the way, I am never without my jewellery and like to keep special memories close.

I was excited to discover Kaya Jewellery - an online shop dedicated to 'meaningful jewellery for baby, child and mum' - and found a few different pieces, from bracelets to pendents, that were just my kind of thing.



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Wonder Wo-Mum: Creating A Safe Home For Your Family

You have to do everything as a mother. On the one hand, you love being the head of the family and responsible for caring for your little ones, but, on the other hand, you absolutely hate it; the exhaustion and stress such responsibility brings can be crippling. On top of everything else, you’re constantly battling to keep your household safe both for your children and from your children (our kids aren’t always as respectful of our homes as we are). Your partner might be no better either. If you’re ready to save the day as wonder wo-mum, yet again, and create a safe home for your family then here are some pieces of advice.


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Thursday, 11 May 2017

#TBT - There's a method in my mumness

I like revisiting past posts and this one from over a year ago I can still relate to, and thought other mums might too...


This parenting malarkey is a funny old business. When you think you've worked your little one out, they go and throw a spanner in the works.

Refusing to clean their teeth in the morning, and kicking off big style, then running to the bathroom in the evening to brush their teeth with glee, asking for more toothpaste. Eating the meal you've lovingly made for them, sprinkled with cheese and made just the way they like it, to exclaims of 'this is delicious Mummy!' only to be told the next time you serve it, 'I don't like this. It tastes horrible'.

It's a never ending see-saw of getting things right and seemingly getting things wrong, and keeping the balance is a hard thing to do.

That's parenting all over; balancing.

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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Are You Ready To Help Your Friend After A Relationship Breakdown?

A friend in need is a friend indeed, and there’s no moment that underlines this quite like when they’ve split up from their partner. This will be one of the hardest times of their life, which is why your love and support can make a world of difference.

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Mindful Monsters from Scope, launching today

I recently wrote about mindfulness as a parent and I'm always keen to find out about new activities and ideas for Ethan, so when I heard about the new Mindful Monsters activity cards from disability charity Scope, I was keen to find out more.




Launching today, Mindful Monsters is a way to donate to Scope in return for a fun set of activity cards. Each pack gives us parents a new way to help our children to develop important life skills through exploring the concept of mindfulness, while spending quality time together. We just had the first pack come through in the post and they are clear, bright and feature quick and easy activities that we can do with Ethan, any time, any where.
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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

How To Transform Your Hallway in 60 Minutes

Hallways can be a tricky area to keep organised, clean and looking attractive. As it’s the entrance to our homes it’s crucial that it’s a welcoming space, but with all the family constantly in and out all day, every day, that’s easier said than done. Following on from our own hallway makeover, today I have some really quick and easy tips to get your hall organised and looking chic in record time, and on a tight budget too.

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Don't Move: Improve! Home Improvements to Add Value

With growing families, many of us are tempted to pack up and look for a new property to live in. But when you own a home, it is never quite as straightforward as that, unfortunately. The same goes for thinking about moving when you’ve got children; it is never that straightforward. You have to think about bedrooms, outside space, as well as the all-important decision about schools and catchment areas. So unless you really have to move because of a job relocation, for example, it could just be worth looking to improve the home that you already have.

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Monday, 8 May 2017

Our ultimate family guide to Center Parcs: which location to choose, what to do and top 10 tips and things to know before you go

We're going away to Center Parcs in May for five days and I can't wait to head back into the forest. We have been to stay at all of the locations, except Elveden; first Longleat, then Whinfell twice, Sherwood once and Woburn before Christmas last year. This time, we are going back to Sherwood as it's the closest to us and we have a full agenda planned. But of course, you can choose to do as little as you like too - that's the beauty of this kind of break.

We love how you can escape the outside world, become a part of a village and choose to do as much as you like or simply relax. The surroundings are beautiful to wake up to every morning and the accommodation and facilities are excellent.

The questions I often get asked about a break to Center Parcs is which location do we like the best, what's on offer and what are our top tips - so I thought I'd share with you some thoughts following our experiences over the past four years.


Whinfell

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Transform Your Loft Into A Luxury Hotel Room

Are you tired of having nowhere for your guests to stay when they come over except on a blowup mattress on the floor of the living area? All homeowners want guests to be impressed when they come to stay and when they have to blow up their own bed, this idea kind of goes out the window. The good news is that you have the perfect option if you want to create a fantastic guest room. You can convert the loft. It’s easier than most people think to do this. The first thing to figure out is how much work your loft will need.

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How To Make Education Fun

Education is important, but it’s difficult to get kids to take an interest in their lessons when they’re mostly learning from textbooks and computers. Often, it feels like they’re just counting the days until the next school holiday, and who can blame them when their little heads are trying to remember everything they’re taught on a daily basis.
As parents, you know how your child learns best, and you can devote more time to helping them achieve their goals, unlike their overworked teachers. Here's how you can supplement your child’s education by encouraging them to learn outside the classroom.
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Saturday, 6 May 2017

Best of British Art Galleries

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If you’re a keen photographer (or just like to have a go, iPhone in hand like me) then you'll understand the appreciation for the art of photography. You understand what people enjoy seeing when they look at a photograph. You understand why people enjoy looking at them in the first place. And the fact that you understand all of this means you are in the perfect position to enjoy looking at photography yourself. More to the point, you are in the perfect position to enjoy looking at art yourself. Photography is art, so by enjoying photography you enjoy art — even if you don’t think you do. Even if you’ve never been to or thought about going to an art gallery before, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t enjoy doing so.

It’s never too late to get yourself in the world of art, and you don’t have to fly across the globe to do so. You can get yourself involved in it in British galleries! Below you can find details on a few of them.



Whitechapel Gallery



There are a number of top art galleries around Shoreditch but none are as rich in history as Whitechapel. It has been a cornerstone of art in London for over a century and has housed artwork from some of the most famous artists to ever grace the planet. Picasso, Freud and Kahlo are just a few. This is a gallery that is open all year round and even houses photography for those of you who are only interested in that field of art. There are plenty of stylish hotels to stop in in the area too, as expected in this part of the world, such as the Dorsett City, London which is just an eight minute walk from Whitechapel. By staying here, or in any hotels of the like in the area you can experience the grandeur of a gallery both in the gallery itself and in the place you stay.


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Whitechapel Gallery

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Thursday, 4 May 2017

Dear Ethan... as you turn four

Dear Ethan, it's been such a long time since I last wrote a letter to you. The last one was written when you were two years nine months, and now, as of tomorrow, you will be four. FOUR.


It's an age you've been ready for for some time I think. You know you're going to be four, and can count it on your fingers, and you also know that being four is quite a big thing to be. Because you will be going to school. In just over four months time.

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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

3 years ago: Ethan's cake smash

I love receiving reminders on my phone about photos and status updates from years gone by and I've been reminded that three years ago, we did a cake smash with Ethan, just before he turned one. The photos are some of my favourites still and it was great fun to do - easy, too. So, as I am feeling pretty sentimental this week as my baby boy is about to turn four, I thought I would share the post again...



The idea is a bit messy but oodles of fun. You take one baby, one cake and see what happens. Oh yes!

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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Make your home sparkle without time or money

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If you’ve never walked into a friend's home and instantly felt your body fill with envy then we’re going to say you are a fibber. We’ve all been there. You go to a friend's for a lunch party and you can’t help but stare in total awe at their vision, their attention to detail and their stylistic prowess. You leave after lunch determined to overhaul your own home, but you don’t for two reasons: time and money.

But what if I told you that you can overhaul your home without it costing a ton of time and money?

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