Thursday, 28 September 2017

#TBT - Every Minute Counts

We all know that children grow up fast and we all try to make the most of every moment we have together because as great as every new stage is, it does all seem to pass in the blink of an eye when you look back.

I've been a working mum for over two years now, having gone back to work when Ethan was eight months old. A combination of needs and wants, I do not regret the decision but that doesn't mean I don't have days where I feel working mum guilt.

No matter your circumstances, I'm sure every mum has guilt over something; heck, the media make sure we do. Not being there every day with them, because you have to work. Not breastfeeding them from birth. Any number of ways that can make us feel like we have failed. And it's not just the media - a lot of the time, this sense of getting things wrong, fear of missing out or worry that we have failed our children in some way comes from within.

I personally know that we made the right decision for us, for Ethan and for me. If things had been different, who knows, but what I do know is that Ethan is a very sociable, happy boy who gains so much from his preschool days, and nursery previously, and I do not doubt that he has developed more with this as part of his daily routine than if he had just had me at home with him every day.

There's two stories in the news agenda right now that have made me put this post together. The first being an announcement from Save The Children about how years 0 to 3 are so crucial for the development of children and the need for teachers to be in place at nurseries to make sure the children have as much support and guidance during these crucial developmental years.

In theory, it sounds great. But really, do we need to put more pressure, more structure on our children when they are so young? And in practice, doing this would inevitably increase nursery costs at a time when they are sky high and already prohibitive for so many parents (although, as I've said before, you can't really put a price on the cost of childcare for your little one).


Tuesday, 26 September 2017

What to expect when you drive with bad tyres

I don't know what I would do without our car. I am the sole driver in our family and since passing my test eight or nine years ago, I haven't looked back. Particularly when Ethan came along, our car makes out lives so much easier and I really enjoy being on the road. 

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I used to travel a fair bit for work which I didn't mind - the car can sometimes be the only space I have to myself to think! - but I really don't miss the extra wear on my car that the extra travel used to incur.

Nowadays, my cat takes Ethan to school, hubs to the train station and me to work, then the same in reverse, not to mention weekly shopping trips and visits to friends and family who live further afield every couple of months.

I don't know a great deal about cars, and really I should seeing as my car means so much to me, but I have learnt about the importance of car tyres recently.

I've had a couple of punctures in the past - one when I was four hour's drive away from home - and I have also had to replace my tyres due to general wear and tear. The last time I had to do this was a few moths ago following a service. Two tyres needed to be replaced because the tread had worn down and I just didn't realise what neglecting something as important as this could mean.

Friday, 22 September 2017

LED Colour Strips – How to use them in your home

LED Lighting has come a long way in recent years and there are many different types now available to have in your home. LED strip lighting is known for its versatility – it can be fitted easily pretty much anywhere and with it coming in a range of different colours, it is perfect for providing a little excitement to dull home décor. 

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Whether you are working on a renovation project or your home’s overall image is simply looking a little tired, you will be amazed at what some simple-to-fit lights can do. Gone are the images of tacky, flashing Christmas lights as LED strips have become a lot cleaner looking and definitely have great purpose in your home. Both aesthetically and practically.


Can Your Make Your Bathroom Family Friendly?

When you have a family, you can often find yourself struggling with different ideas. Because you definitely want to enjoy your own tastes and preferences as the person that you are, but you also want to ensure that you family is happy. This can definitely be a conundrum that you face when it comes to your home decor. And in particular, when it comes to your bathroom.

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When you have a family, you can often find yourself struggling with different ideas. Because you definitely want to enjoy your own tastes and preferences as the person that you are, but you also want to ensure that you family is happy. This can definitely be a conundrum that you face when it comes to your home decor. And in particular, when it comes to your bathroom.

To you, your bathroom may have always been the place that you could relax, get away from the world, and unwind after a hard day. But when you have a family, you can often have a new kind of lifestyle to work around. So, can you really create a bathroom that will suit the needs of everyone in the family? Let’s see...


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Nappy days!

Ethan has been potty trained for a while now and is doing well now he has started school, with no accidents (touch wood) for a couple of weeks' - but he does still wear a nappy / nappy pants at nighttime. We don't want to rush things and know that it will take some time to make the transition to no nappies and dry nights.

We've stocked up on size 6 pull up pants and nappies thanks to Sainsbury's, who sent us some samples in celebration of their fantastic Baby's Big Event that's now on in store, until 1st October. We've had some issues with certain nappy brands in the past, with Ethan waking up damp due to leaks in the night, so we've tried different types and so far, Sainsbury's nappies are so good.

Even better with the special offers, as the £3 nappy packs offer beats even Aldi.

Here are the details, kindly passed onto me by Sainsbury's of the best baby buys and why their nappies are so good...


Outdoor Entertaining for the Seasons Ahead

As the last remnants of the summer sun slowly fade away, you may be considering saying goodbye to your garden until springtime comes around. But before you put the gas BBQ in storage, hang up your tongs and stash away your patio furniture, ask yourself this: are you selling your outdoor space short? Autumn and Winter bring with them some of the most fun and special occasions for us to enjoy with family and friends. There’s also a myriad of spectacular changes in nature that really deserve to be appreciated close up. So, don’t let the colder weather put you off spending time in your outdoor space during the seasons ahead! Now’s the time to start adding social events to your calendar and scheduling some seasonal parties to remember.
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Prepping your space
During the summer months, flowers and foliage can provide a convenient colourful backdrop for garden based events, while the later sunsets make chatting into the small hours a welcome possibility. From Autumn onwards, you may need to be a little more creative with your decor and put some planning into providing the warmth and light needed for this type of thing. But, with a little extra effort, you’ll often be rewarded with an occasion that feels extra special thanks to the seasonal magic in the air.

Rather than packing items like garden furniture away, think about investing in good quality weatherproof covers. If you usually store your BBQ away for winter, this year make sure you keep it in an easy to access spot instead, this way you can fire it up for al fresco autumn/winter dining!

The weather in the UK from September onwards is changeable at best, so before you start booking dates in your diary and sending out invites, you may want to put some contingency measures in place too. A fire pit or chimnea will keep you cosy when drinks and chats with friends carry on into the night and a stash of soft and snuggly blankets can bring a welcome helping of hygge to any occasion. When it comes to dressing the scene, remember that fairy lights aren’t just for the Christmas tree - they look great in the garden too. Use outdoor lights to brighten trees, hedges and benches and add a little sparkle.

To ensure you have all your bases covered, whatever the weather, you could invest in a temporary outdoor structure such as your very own glamping worthy garden yurt. Or, make it even easier to bid a hasty retreat indoors when the weather turns with bi-fold doors that allow you to enjoy the best views in comfort. Slim-styled bifolding doors with bigger glass panes let you take in more of that firework or Christmas lights display.

Outdoor occasions for your diary
Once you’ve got the basics for all-weather outdoor entertaining in place, it’s time to plan in some parties to be proud of. Here are just a few upcoming occasions that can be made extra memorable when celebrated in the open air.  

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Review: back to work in style with Jacamo

Hubs recently started a new job and with the change in seasons, he was on the look out for a new coat that would look smart for work and could weather whatever weather we have in store. He's 6 foot 4 inches and broad shouldered, so sometimes, finding clothes that fit - particularly in arm length - and that look the part for work can be a real challenge for him.

Step in Jacamo. They have a huge selection of menswear including options designed for tall men, and when they asked if Ste would be interested in trying something from their current collection, including coats, it couldn't have come at a better time.

When we first looked at the styles available, I wasn't sure if we would find the kind of thing Ste was looking for, or if it would be the right style for his build, be too expensive or that there would be too few options to consider.

But I was wrong; Jacamo had a huge selection of coats and jackets and there were at least 10 that I highlighted for Ste to look at that would fit the bill.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Family Meal Planning: Some Ideas to Ease the Burden

Family meal planning is one of those tasks that sounds so dry and dull, but it doesn’t have to be. For a start, it can really help you to improve your family’s diet and provide everyone with interesting meals. On top of that, it can provide you with room to do new things and have fun while you cook. That has to be a good thing, so here are some ideas to transform that burden into a pleasure.

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Discuss Ideas with the Family

First of all, you need to make sure that you’re making meals that your family enjoys. This is not always easy because, as anyone with experience of cooking for children will now, tastes can change pretty quickly. One week they love a certain food and a few weeks later, they can’t stand it. So, discuss your weekly plans with your family to ensure no one is going to have a problem with what’s for dinner in the week ahead.


Monday, 18 September 2017

Meal review: The Crown and Anchor Sizzling Pub and Grill, West Bromwich

One of my favourite things to do is enjoy a meal out and last weekend, we headed to the newly refurbished Crown and Anchor pub in West Bromwich, part of the Sizzling Pub and Grill chain and just 10 minutes drive away.

We were invited along to sample the new surroundings and enjoy a meal and it was great timing, as Ethan was about to start school and we wanted to do something to celebrate. My Mother-in-Law joined us and we really enjoyed everything that the pub and team had to offer.

We were warmly welcomed, with Ethan given some colouring to do, and had a table reserved for us in the family friendly section of the pub. It was a bustling Saturday, early evening, but not too busy and with other families enjoying their meals.


Thursday, 14 September 2017

The perfect transitional dresses to take me into the new season

I am a big lover of dresses and by far have more of these in my wardrobe than any other item. As September rolls on the the blustery and cooler weather starts to take hold, dresses can make for the perfect transitional item as they are perfect for layering; be it with a long-sleeve top or shirt on underneath a pinafore style or with a cardigan, wrap, jumper, blazer or chunky scarf to keep the look warm and comfortable.

And I have found two perfect dresses to help me step into the new season, courtesy of Simply Be.

I haven't actually shopped online here before but given the chance, I found more than a couple of things that would suit my style and the autumn months ahead too.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Day in the life: our trip to London with London Midland #spon

Ethan finished preschool early so we could have two weeks together to enjoy the last of the summer holidays. We started our quality family time the other week with a visit to London aboard a London Midland train, who invited us to enjoy a trip way. The three of us ventured from Birmingham New Street to Watford Junction in search of the wizarding world of Harry Potter (Warner Bros. Studio Tour).

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Ethan has only been to London once before and hubs and I have only ever been to the studios once in the past, so we were all set for a couple of days of adventure - having booked an overnight stay in London to really make the most of our travels, courtesy of London Midland.

We left Birmingham on the 8.33am service on Tuesday, armed with snacks and our iPads too as we had heard all about the onboard entertainment system, Motion. It's just been updated with more content for the whole family, with titles such as Minions, Despicable Me 2, Secret Life of Pets, Thomas and Friends... and many others.

Seeing the signs for Motion, we had no sooner taken our seats than Ethan asked to "watch something!" and so our journey began. He had a look around at what Motion had to offer, watching some Peppa Pig and then enjoying a game where you play a cartoon frog and have to try and catch all the flies. Daddy quite liked that one too...!


Our summer holiday memories - #TsumTsumTravels

As Ethan starts school today, I am really pleased to say that we made the most of the summer. He was in preschool for the first part, as normal, and we also got to see some of his friends outside of nursery time too. We visited my parents in Hampshire and saw Paw Patrol Live - and then, we had two weeks' off together! During this time, we went to London on the train, visited the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour, had a day out at Cbeebiesland, stayed with friends in Durham and had a few quieter days at home too.

And during each adventure, Ethan had a couple of new friends along for the ride.

He loves Tsum Tsum toys because they come in all his favourite Disney and superhero characters, and I like them too because they're small, cost no more than £3-£4 each and they're great for us to grab as we head out the door so Ethan has something to play with in the car and when we're out, without having to take a whole backpack load of things!

We were kindly sent a new Tsum Tsum Vacation Pack from Posh Paws International, which launches exclusively at Clintons this month, and it was a great gift to have for our adventures.


Monday, 11 September 2017

Review: Stepping back in time at the Vintage Tea Dance at Symphony Hall

The other weekend, me and three of my friends, wearing our vintage style frock finest, hot-stepped to Symphony Hall Birmingham for a vintage themed event. It was the Ever-After Tea Dance, in the afternoon, with a Dance Spectacular to follow in the evening so you could choose which event suited you best, and the focus was on fun and learning a few nifty moves.

It was great to see the Symphony Hall transformed and taken back a little in time. It is a stunning venue anyway, but for the first time they installed a temporary dance floor over the lowered stall seating so that guests could sit and drink tea, enjoy a cake and then learn how to lindy hop on the dance floor with a live band.


Friday, 8 September 2017

Ready for school

This week, it's been hard to not see a flurry of starting school photos appearing across your social feeds as children across the country have kindly posed in front of a door or fireplace at the request of their proud parents for that first school photo - and I will be no different come Tuesday when Ethan starts reception.

It's a proud moment in every parent's life and a big step. It's the first time that his future is determined or constructed by someone else, in some way. It's the beginning of formalised teaching and learning and tests. It's the start of the next decade and more of his life.

Many parents I know have felt nervous or anxious about this moment. About the changes ahead. Remembering their little ones as just that - their little ones. How time flies. They've grown up so fast. I can't believe that they are starting school.

But you know what? I can believe it.

Ethan has grown so much in the past few months and having been at preschool for three and a half years - two and a half as full time - he is ready for this next stage. At least, I think so. I am sure that I will wobble on Tuesday morning and have a lump in my throat when I see him in his uniform for the first time, and when we drop him at the school gates. No doubt. But it won't really be from nerves or feeling worried about how he will do. I think he will thrive and love school life. I am also sure that there will be hard days, where we're running late on the school run or he's decided that he doesn't want to go to school that day. But he will have a great time and I do think he is ready.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

A house to make me beam with pride

Do you ever daydream about your dream house and what it might look like? I have so many ideas collected from over the years, having worked in the home and lifestyle arena for more than a decade and just loving everything to do with the home.

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My idea of a dream house changes all the time as I am influenced by so many things. I'd like to live somewhere with a lot of greenery around me, as I love nature and have always had a thing about trees and woods. My family home growing up was next to a wooded area and because I lived next to a large school, where my Dad worked, I had the chance to explore and wander at the weekends. Through the woods, across the field, around the conker trees and down to the canal.

To me, these places are magical and I do love the look of natural wood furniture and finishes in the home. It brings a classic, timeless look that is guaranteed to last a lifetime and it gives such a cosy feel. My dream house would be something like a converted barn, or would have mock features to make it a mix of modern home with striking wood touches. We've stayed in a few cottages with friends for a weekend away where there have been beautiful features such as oak beams and I have always fallen in love with this kind of look. 

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