Saturday, 11 March 2017

World Book Day Celebration At Home!

Hi All

As an English teacher, World Book Day is super important to me. It's a time where the importance of books is really celebrated and in a world that is dominated by the internet and technology, the pleasure of picking up an actual book and losing ourselves in imaginary worlds seems even more important to encourage.

My work situation this year is a little different and so I was lucky enough to have the day off work with my little girl. I decided we would stay in and enjoy some 'book related' activities! I thought I'd share a bit of what we got up to. I'd love to see what you did to celebrate!

Our morning started with some dressing up time. We've suddenly accumulated a number of Princess dresses since Christmas and this was an ideal time for a bit of dress up time followed by the reading of the traditional fairytale stories. It was lovely to spend some time watching her become each different character and then she was glued to the original stories. We had some precious moments as we cuddled together reading. I love it when she questions the story or gets excited about what is happening. She is definitely going to be a bookworm like me I think!

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We then decided to do some painting....yes, I was a brave Mummy and got the paint out! After a bit of general painting and stamping, we decided to make a hungry caterpillar model. This is one of her favourite stories and mine. She did really well painting the colours in the right place of the egg box! I was very impressed....her skills have definitely come on since we last had the paints out. However, it took a crazy amount of time to dry!! (We had to finish it the day after and I still need to take a picture of the final caterpillar!) We then had fun with a bit of bubble wrap painting. I attempted some Gruffalo shapes but they didn't quite work but we had fun having a go anyway!

Finally, we spent most of the afternoon reading a huge pile of books that she had chosen in the morning! It was so lovely to sit and read together. She obviously isn't able to read just yet but she has been 'reading' to us using the pictures, and her memory, for quite a while now. So we took it in turns to read to each other, do silly voices and just get lost in the joy of books before it was time for tea, bath and bed!

Hope you have enjoyed seeing what we got up to. Did your little ones dress up for pre-school, school? Did you go to any special events? Would also love to know some of your favourite books for children!

Thanks for popping by!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A Visit to Lyme Park (aka Pemberley!) and National Trust Membership

Hi All

Apologies for not posting for a couple of weeks, life took over and I haven't been really feeling like writing. Back at it now though!

One of my favourite things to do at the weekend is to find a little place in the country to enjoy a nice walk and soak up a bit of history. I have always liked visiting National Trust properties, since an early age I've visited properties with my family and enjoyed drives out in the country. Since having our daughter we enjoy getting out as a family and now she is walking around it's nice to go out for walks or find places to have a run around and blow away the cobwebs. We have often thought about joining the National Trust but we've never been able to budget for it. However, we were kindly gifted an annual membership from my in-laws at Christmas and we are loving it so far!

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Last weekend we visited Lyme Park in Stockport, Cheshire. As an Austen fan, Lyme Park will always be 'Pemberley' to me. I love walking up to the hall and around the gardens imagining that I'm part of a Jane Austen novel. I was definitely born in the wrong era! I never grow old of walking around the grounds and being reminded of the scenes from the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. I also often quote the book which my husband doesn't appreciate so much! But even if you aren't a fan of Austen, Lyme Park is truly stunning and well worth a visit.

On our most recent visit we went on a mission to find the adventure playground. Our little one is now 3 and so needs to be occupied a little more when we go to properties such as this one. I have been going to this property since I was a teenager but had never visited the playground. I'm not even sure how long it has been there but we found it! It was quite a drizzly day and so quite muddy as it was in part of the forest but we were armed with wellies and our coats and soldiered on! When we arrived, we didn't think she would be able to really play on it as it seemed aimed at older children, apart from some baby swings and  a couple of small tunnels. However, I underestimate the bravery of my 3 year old! She wanted to go on everything! Luckily, Daddy was at hand to carry her around on most things! But she had a great time, she had no fear, got very muddy and was very much ready for her 'car picnic' and to enjoy a walk around in her buggy in the afternoon. She is at the point now where she wants to walk most of the time but the grounds are very big and so we left our main walk until after she had exhausted herself on the playground, in the hope it would be tantrum free! On the whole it was, just a few little grumbles here and there!

After our car picnic we headed on up to the house to watch a bit of regency dancing! It was brilliant and really brought the house to life and made you feel like you had gone back in time. You can dress up in Regency clothing to experience the period even more whilst you are at Lyme hubby would never agree to it...but it looks like a lot of fun! After a little wander around the house, we went and had a walk around the grounds. I never get bored of walking around and we haven't even touched on the rest of the grounds outside of the main hall and gardens as of yet. Not very buggy friendly so maybe we will explore more when little one is a bit older.

A little trip to the gift shop and then we were on our way home. It isn't the closest property to us but it is only about an hour away. We always have a great day out and highly recommend it. The annual membership meant that we could explore both the house and the gardens for free and also park for free, an added bonus as it has quite a pricey car parking charge of £7. I think that is due to how large the property is outside of the main hall and gardens as it would be a fun day out even without entering the property itself!

We have also been to a few NT places that are nearer to us and are planning a few more visits to those that are a little further away but doable in a day. We really enjoy it. It's great to get some fresh air, learn a little about the history of these beautiful properties and spend the day as a family. There is always something for our little one to do, even if it is just a run about on the grounds. We are currently debating which property to do the annual Easter Egg hunt at....we've done this for the last two years with her and it is great fun. I am definitely becoming a National Trust addict and the membership has just allowed us to do this when we are on a bit more of a budget this year! Definitely worth looking into. If you would like me to do a post with more details of the National Trust membership then let me know and I will happily do one over the coming weeks.

Thanks for popping by.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Organization series #1 - My Erin Condren Life Planner

Hi All

A slightly different post today. I love organization, whether that be my life, home, an event, the list could go on. I am an avid list writer and a new notebook brings me all kinds of joy, so today I thought I'd show you my paper planner. Over the next few weeks I thought I would dedicate my Saturday posts to an Organization series. Today it is personal organization.

Since a young age, I have always liked having a diary and various notebooks. My love for stationery is huge! Over the past 10 years or so I have used a range of different diaries and planners to attempt to organize my day to day life. I have used simple academic diaries, Paperchase planners and other branded planners such as Filofax. For me, I still need to write things down on paper, sometimes with coloured pens to make my dull life seem more interesting! I'm not someone who can plan on her phone or via an online calendar. It just doesn't work for me! About five years ago I heard about an American brand called 'Erin Condren' and I fell in love.

Erin Condren is a higher end planner, and it does have to come from America which obviously adds to the cost. Three years ago I was lucky enough to buy one with some birthday money I was given and since then I have invested in one each year. For me, the functionality, the design and the fact you can personalise it makes me keep going back. I use it every day and I definitely get my money's worth. I thought I would give you a little look at it on my blog in my first post in this series.

An Erin Condren Life Planner is a coil bound planner and the basic style costs $55 (around £44 as I write this). It seems a lot for a planner but if you use it a lot like I do, it is definitely worth it. It is about the price of a mid-range Filofax. It is 7" x 9" in size, includes monthly spreads, weekly spreads and note pages. Within the price is also three sticker sheets, a clear ruler that clips in, various calendars, pages to plan your month, as well as a little clear zip pouch with a few little goodies included. Alongside all of that, you also get to personalise it and choose your cover design. There are many covers to choose from, my favourite ones are those you can personalise with pictures. You can include your name or a quote on any of the standard cover designs for free, but the picture ones are a really special way of personalising your own planner for no extra charge!

There are many options you can choose for your Erin Condren Life Planner from the coil cover, to the layout. This year I have opted for the vertical layout, colourful scheme and the standard platinum coil. I do like to use stickers and washi tape to decorate my planner but some weeks it is just plain and simple. Putting aside a little time to decorate my planner each week helps me to relax and keep myself organized in a creative way. This year I have also started to use my planner to keep a memory of my daughter from each day and a picture, although I haven't got around to printing off my pictures yet! That was inspired by one of my favourite YouTubers/Bloggers Jen from Pretty Neat Living. She did it for the first year of her daughter's life and it looked great.

Each month I try to write down birthdays I need to buy for and any other special days such as Valentine's Day, I also like to try and monitor my spending and note anything else of real significance for the month on the lined page provided before each monthly spread. This just helps me keep organised really easily by flicking to each month. I try to keep ahead of myself as much as possible. This is so I can spread the cost and prepare for Christmas! I'm constantly updating it and adding to it throughout the month.

The monthly spread is the one page each month that I want to try and use more. I used to use it a lot in my last job, nothing down meetings, key deadlines etc. Now I don't need to use it as much in my new job I'm a little lost. Any ideas of what I could use it for would be greatly appreciated! Might need to try and find some inspiration on Instagram!

The weekly spread I use a lot. This is where I keep my memories of my daughter (and will eventually put the pictures of her in the bottom boxes!), where I write all of my daily to do lists and where I like to use my stickers and washi tape to make it look attractive. I really enjoy using them and helping them to make time for me, as well as planning lots of nice things with the family. I use the sidebar to write down my goals for the month so that I can track whether I achieve them each week and space to write down why if I don't. Each day I leave space to write a 'to do' list, which is usually all of the chores around the house that need doing! The top box, generally, is my day time so I will note down days out, my 'to do' list or things that are important on that day. The middle box is then usually what I do in the evening. I have a separate academic diary to write down work timings, meetings and the like as that is easier to carry around now that I travel quite a lot. It also means that I can use my planner more for 'homey' things.

There are also note pages at the back which I haven't quite set up yet. I am going to track my savings challenges and organizational challenges that I am going to be working on this year. De-cluttering, budgeting and saving are some of the things I want to work on this year and so thought these pages would be the perfect place for them. I also use the stickers at the back of the planner, the blank ones come in handy a lot, as do the birthday ones. They are repositionable which is great for me as I am a bit of a perfectionist.

There are lots of other accessories that you can buy for the Life Planner, some of which I have purchased and all have been excellent quality. If you want to know anymore details then please let me know in the comments.

I really enjoy using this planner. It has everything you need for it to be functional, is totally my kind of style with the patterns and colours and it makes me enjoy getting myself organized as a Mummy and at least intending to keep it that way!

Hope you enjoyed this post and I'd love to know if you use a paper planner or diary or are you an electronic planner? I'd love to know!

Thanks for popping by.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The 'Dummy' debate

Hi All

Since becoming a Mum, every little decision you make seems to be criticised. It seems that everyone has an opinion and whatever you do, someone will disagree with you! One of the biggest 'sticking points' that we came across was the 'dummy.'

For us, we didn't give our daughter a dummy for quite a few weeks. I can't remember the exact time but we tried to follow the advice from the health visitor and comfort her in different ways. However, when we couldn't comfort her anymore, no matter what we did it would seem, we decided to give it a go. In all honesty, she didn't take to it straight away but she finally got the hang of it and it helped us to get through some very difficult days and nights where she was extremely restless.

We did have some people comment that she shouldn't have one and they weren't afraid to openly share their opinions. As a new Mum, this made me feel terribly guilty that I was doing something really damaging, that perhaps we shouldn't have used it and that I was failing not being able to comfort her in any other way. I went through weeks, months of doubting she should have it but then finally realised that it was our choice, it was what worked for her not anyone else's child. This is true of so many things as a Mum. We are made to feel like our decisions are wrong and are made to feel guilty, not often realising that each child is different and that people all parent differently. This seems such an easy thing to say now. At the time, I was a new Mum, a Mum who was doubting everything she was doing having not done it before, constantly looking for advice and some support, but often facing strong opinion which both hit my confidence and made me analyse every single decision I made.

So, we had decided to give our daughter a dummy. That was it, the decision was made. Then came the 'when are you going to take the dummy away?' question. As she grew into a toddler, and still used her dummy for comfort, this was the next challenge we faced. I knew we needed to start the process when she was about 2. Not because of what anyone had said or what the textbooks said but because she didn't need it anymore. She could self-sooth and could use other things to comfort her at night. However, that was easier said than done. Not only did I have a demanding toddler who knew her own mind to contend with, I also had my own emotions to try and deal with at the same time.

For me, the dummy still signified that she was a baby, silly as it sounds. That she still needed some comfort that she had when she was my little bundle. For some reason I found it really hard. I found it hard to let that part of her go, but also to watch her cry and upset her by taking her dummy away. I'm a soft touch I know! I can't help it. So I really needed my hubby's help in this. I turned to him at the end of Summer and we finally were able to take away the dummy!

How did we do it? It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. Over the recent months she had been chewing her dummies and popping them, so we started to tell her that the one she had at that time was the last one, we didn't have anymore to give her and that she would have to be a 'big girl' when she popped that one. She seemed to be ok with this. I was quite surprised! Then the day came when it finally popped, and I'm so glad it was at the weekend! I have to admit letting hubby take over. We did have tears and it did take her a bit longer to get to sleep over the next few days but in all honesty that seemed to work for us. Going 'cold turkey' as it were! She soon adapted to not having it and so did I. I did shed a few tears if I'm completely honest, sounds so silly now.

Am I glad that we used a dummy? Yes I am. For us, it worked. For others, it doesn't. And that is absolutely fine. We need to remember that we are the parents, that we can seek advice but that perhaps it shouldn't be forced upon us, that we are all different and so are our children. Has it done her any harm? Nope. Did it do us any harm? Apart from my feelings of guilt, that are probably going to always be there now I'm a Mum, nope.

Do what is right for you and your child. It's hard to ignore those that are around you, especially if they are forcing their opinions on you, but try to stay strong. It's so hard being a parent, sometimes we need to remember to give ourselves a break. Easier said than done I know. I hope this has helped anyone feeling the same way about using a dummy, or trying to get rid of a dummy.

Thanks for popping by!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Five things about me!

Hi All

Five things about me.....

  1. I love all things 'crafty' - scrapbooking, card marking, crochet, planner decorating, drawing, colouring etc. The list is endless. 
  2. My favourite book is 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen. Elizabeth Bennet is my favourite character of all time.
  3. 'Murder She Wrote' is my guilty pleasure. I love following Jessica Fletcher on her travels. Angela Lansbury is a legend!
  4. My dream job would be a writer. I know that there is at least one book inside of me...
  5. I have only recently got into little sister is my guide!
Would love to hear something about you. 

Thanks for popping by!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Three years old....where did that time go?

'I want a Princess Party Mummy, all pink and sparkly. With all my friends to come and play. Please Mummy.'

The theme was set, at two years old you had told me exactly what you wanted. You already knew your own mind. An independent, strong woman in the making and I couldn't have been prouder. As I wiped away a tear from my eye, I thought back to the time when I was planning your first birthday. All Mickey Mouse themed as you were so excited every time you saw him. Now you were a mini me, being able to articulate exactly what you would like, based on exactly what you loved.

Planning the party took over. This was the bit I enjoyed, despite having to do it in the week after Christmas and before your birthday. Feeling like an awful Mummy for not organising it sooner, I got to work on the plans for your special weekend. A Princess party for the kiddies and a meal out for the grown-ups. Things started coming together and before long I could envisage what it would look like.

The day before your party, we were running around picking up balloons, food shopping and choosing a birthday cake. It was then you started to get excited, started to want to help put up the decorations and started to show how grown up you were. I asked if you wanted to help me make up the party bags, you couldn't wait. Chatting away to me about how your friends would enjoy playing with the bubbles and playing 'Pass the Parcel' the next day, I hadn't really thought about the fact that you were turning three. A few months back I had applied for your Nursery placement at school. I hadn't thought about it then either. When we took away your dummy, signalling a huge change from baby to toddler for me, I hadn't thought about it then either. Had I been pushing it out of my mind? Trying not to think about it. Probably. It was something I was finding hard, my baby girl was growing up and I didn't want to think about it. All I was getting from those around me was that 'it was time for another.' That wasn't what I wanted to hear. I also didn't want her to stay the same age. I was excited about her becoming more sociable, more independent and the thought that I may soon get a hot cup of tea. But part of me was feeling emotional, it was hard to pinpoint why...

The day of your party arrived. Your face as you came in the room and saw all of your decorations up was a picture. You were so grateful, thanking me and your Daddy for getting the house ready for your party. To us, it was simply some pink decorations from Home Bargains, party on a budget, but to you it was pink, girly and Princessy. Everything you had asked for. I was so proud of you for thanking us, no prompting, just your kind and caring nature shining through.

You transformed into Princess Belle and your friends arrived. An afternoon of utter chaos (with nine children under seven running around) but a lot of fun followed. You of course gave 'clear instructions' (you weren't bossy at all...) to your friends, especially when it came to the party games. You struggled to understand why you couldn't win the prizes for the games but Mummy found a little something to distract you, Mummy's are good for that sometimes.

Princess food, cake and juice had gone down well. Glittery tiaras, party bags and pin the horn on the unicorn were also a big hit. When the last guest had gone, we collapsed on the sofa as you were still enjoying being Princess Belle, twirling around the room, not sure how you were still going after such a busy day. When reminded that it was your birthday the next day, the excitement was there again and you went to bed happily dreaming of the day to follow.

Operation third birthday prep and second mini get together was next. As I cleared away the remains of the Princess party, I reflected on how lovely it was to see you dancing and playing with your friends. You were a little social butterfly, despite not going to nursery. You were polite, if a little bossy at times, but you shared your toys without any drama and included all of your friends in everything you did. Your dance moves really should have won you 'Musical Statues' but we couldn't be seen to be biased! As soon as money improves I am getting you booked into some dance lessons! Daddy spent his night building your doll's house, something you had said only yesterday that you needed to ask for off Santa next year, and I spent the night tidying up ready for round two the next day.

Sunday 8th January, 2017. You turned three. My little girl was three. The time seems to have flown and I made a vow in that moment to cherish every second I have with you. This year you will start Nursery school, next year you will start actual school. Your excitement made me well up, I was so emotional, moreso than last year, I'm not quite sure why. Every morning you wake up and cheer me up with your beautiful smile, no matter what the time is, you can win anyone over with that smile. 'What are we doing today Mummy?' is your usual question, and even today on your birthday, you asked what we were going to do. When I reminded you of the day your face was a picture.

Walking into the living room, it took you a moment to look past the wrapped up presents and balloons waiting for you, but you then finally saw it. Your doll's house. Hugs and kisses were given all round, and you couldn't wait to play with it. Grateful for all of your presents, well clothes weren't much of a hit but show me any three year old that likes clothes. We did the whole family meal and get together with friends without children thing and you didn't complain once. You enjoyed it, especially when the waitresses sang 'Happy Birthday' to you. I was emotional then too....I still say my hormones aren't right after having you! The only thing that used to make me cry was 'Mary Poppins!'

As your birthday grew to a close, you were getting tired and understandably quite overwhelmed with everything that had happened over the weekend. Off you went to bed, still needing your bunny, still insisting on a family hug, still my baby girl.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Goals for 2017

Hi All
Image result for 2017

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and that the beginning of the year is going well for you. I realise that I completely failed in the run up to Christmas. Life took over and unfortunately my blog took a back seat. However, I'm back at it so fingers crossed I can get myself back in a routine.

Today I thought I'd share with you my 'Goals for 2017.' This seems to be a bit of a trend this year, not resolutions but goals. I prefer it I think. It seems less pressure in a strange way!

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Anyway, I decided to do things a little differently to begin with. I kept seeing lots of people choosing a word as their main inspiration for the year and basing their year around it. I have chosen the word 'focus.' For me, 2016 was a year where I felt lost. A year where a lot of things changed and some I had no control over and even if I did, I had no idea what to do. So this year I have decided to 'focus' on a number of things but to perhaps find that part of me that feels secure and in control of my life. I might discuss this further at some point in another post but I didn't feel like I could only have a word! I still needed some goals to help me achieve that 'focus.'
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  1. Exercise more - probably on most people's goals/resolution lists! The hubby and I have been debating whether to try the 'Couch to 5K' programme....we will see! I would like to do some more HIIT workouts, I enjoy watching Lucy Wydham on YouTube so might start off with those and then see if we can work up to the 'Couch to 5K' challenge between us! I just want to get into a realistic routine of exercising a few times a week and enjoy doing it. Any recommendations of any fun workouts would be great. I love to dance and so have been thinking of finding a dance class at some point later in the this space!
  2. Improve my job situation - this has been a huge change for me in 2016 and one that I'm still not sure what to do. We are getting by but I need to make some important decisions, 'focus' on what I want to do and start working towards it.
  3. Take time to 'self-care' and 'do more for me' - this might sound quite selfish but I know I don't do this enough. Since becoming a Mum, I have really struggled to get the balance back in my life, all I am at the moment is a Mummy, and as much as I love that and feel extremely blessed, I know that it is not healthy for me to not do things for myself and by myself sometimes. So I am really going to work on this in 2017.
  4. Improve my skincare routine - to be honest it is pretty non-existent at the moment! I have been dabbling a lot more in make-up and got lots for Christmas so I want to be able to play around and it not completely ruin my skin! Plus, I am 34 this year and really need to be taking more care of it. Hoping to try out a few products to improve this over the next few months and settle into a night time routine to rectify this.
  5. De-clutter the house - or continue to do this! I feel like I am starting to make a dent now. We still have a lot of clutter and things that we can donate or dispose of but I'm glad that I'm feeling a bit more motivated about it again rather than feeling too overwhelmed with it all. Might share a little more of this with you at some point.
  6. Commit to my writing on a weekly basis - I love to write and have a few projects on the go at the moment but none are currently getting my full attention. I really want 2017 to be the year where I 'focus' on my writing, decide the direction I want it to go in and also complete at least one of my current projects.
  7. Read more - this is always on my goals list for the year but this year I want to make a real effort to read different genres. Push myself out of my comfort zone, something I'm always encouraging my students to do!
  8. Finally, to enjoy life and make more memories as a family - pretty self-explanatory but I really want to spend more time and make more memories with my little family and document it so that I can look back and enjoy reliving the moment in a few years time.
I think that is enough to be getting on with! Some of them are things that I've been working on for a while but hoping that my word 'focus' will help me to achieve them in 2017!

I would love to hear what your 2017 goals are if you would like to share in the comments.

Thanks for popping by!