Wednesday, 21 June 2017

5 Easy Ways To Freshen Up A Room

We did a lot of work on the house last year. So much, that I promised we wouldn't have to do anything else for a couple of years. Last spring felt like a long hard slog to get rooms tiled, painted and decorated so I figured we deserved a year off. There's still a lot of work that needs doing on the house and, as soon as spring appeared, I was itching to get started again but I kept my promise. I'm hoping next year I'll be able to convince Laurie that he enjoys DIY (he doesn't) so that we can do some decorating but, until then, I've been focusing on little changes that are cheap and easily made but make the house feel nicer. Here are some ways you can freshen up a room without having to redecorate:

1. Declutter

We have so much crap. Toys, clothes and random unidentified wires seem to leak out of every cupboard and drawer in the house. Even the living room which I really want to be an oasis of calm ends up covered in homework and wooden blocks and random bits of paper by the end of the day. An hour spent decluttering and getting rid of the things we no longer want or need makes a huge difference. I always have a pile of things waiting to go to the charity shop. This is probably the easiest way of freshening up a room because it doesn't cost a penny and can make the room feel new again. 

2. Rent some new furniture

I didn't even know this was a thing until recently, but if you're looking to change the feel of a room, renting furniture might be just the thing you need. There are plenty of furniture for hire UK firms that speclialise in rental furniture. You can rent a new sofa or bed or whatever you need. So it's easy to update a room without having to commit to exactly what you need or fork out to buy a whole room's worth of new furniture. This is a great way to try out different styles and give yourself time to decide whether they are perfect for you and your home. 

3. Update your prints

One of the easiest ways to add character to a room is with wall art. Prints and photographs provide a focal point for the room. Adding a few new prints to your wall can lift a room. If you love the prints you already have, you could consider changing the frames or simply moving the prints around to make the room feel different. 

4. Let the light in

Natural light makes a huge difference to how a room looks. I always think interiors look nicer in the warmer months when there is plenty of natural light flooding into the space. To let in more light, consider changing your curtains or blinds to allow optimum light into the room. You can also use mirrors to draw light in and reflect it around the room. When it comes to mirrors, the bigger the better. This article explains how to use mirrors to lighten a room. 

5. Bring the outdoors indoors

Fresh flowers and plants are a great way of freshening up a room and adding a splash of colour. Some plants can even improve air quality so it's worth looking out for some of those so you can improve the health of your home. Brightly coloured flowers can be used to compliment or contrast with the colour scheme of the room so can make a huge difference to the feel of the room. And, even better, you can change them regularly to stop you getting bored. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

10 Reasons Why Babies & Heatwaves Don't Mix

I want to enjoy the hot weather, honestly, I do. Back in my youth, I would have set up station in my garden wearing just a bikini until the very last rays of sunshine disappeared beyond the horizon. Things are different now though. If I thought last summer was hard work because of the pregnancy (take a look - 10 worst things about being pregnant on hot days), it had nothing on this year. Turns out, having a baby is pretty damn hard when there’s a heatwave, too. Here’s why:

1. You Have To Keep Babies In The Shade
Yep, that’s NHS advice. Keep babies in the shade. Well, fine, that might be doable when you have a newborn who can’t even roll over and lies happy beside you on the sunlounger, but I have a mobile baby. Not only can she move, she can move fast. And guess what? She doesn’t give a crap about the NHS guidelines. She is heading straight for the sun. I can spend fifteen minutes setting up a patch of shade with each and every toy imaginable in it, she won’t even notice it as she’s crawling full speed to the sun.

2. You Spend All Day Playing Sunhat Buckaroo
I spend pretty much all of my time outside just creeping up on my baby from behind so I can stick a sunhat on her head. She keeps it on for a millionth of a second then rips it off and throws it onto the ground. Once she threw it in the road. She doesn’t care about getting a burnt head, she just wants to be free from the burden of headgear.

3. The Baby Monitor Beeps Endlessly
Some helpful person over at baby monitor HQ thought it would be a good idea to fit thermometers into their products. I can see the reasoning, babies shouldn’t overheat so it helps you keep track of the temperature in the nursery. Yeah, well that’s great in the winter when you can just turn the heating down a notch if the alarm goes off. But what about when it’s 23 degrees at night and about eight billion degrees in your baby’s room and you can’t hear what Kimmy Schmidt is saying because the baby monitor alarm won’t stop going off. I know it’s hot, I am literally dripping in sweat, you don’t need to keep reminding me.

4. Breastfeeding Becomes Way More Flashy
It took me a few months of experimenting with various overpriced breastfeeding tops before I discovered the simplicity of wearing a vest top under my clothes. On top up, one top down and I can breastfeed discretely without flashing too much nipple. But I can’t wear two tops in this heat. Trust me, I tried, it was sweaty. So now I’ve had to wear just a single vest top (this is as dangerous as life gets these days) which means I have to whack my whole boob out when I want to feed the baby who screams blue murder with hunger only to turn away from my exposed breast as soon as I get it out. I’m pretty sure the whole village has seen my boob now.

5. Babywearing Is Grim
I love babywearing. It’s so lovely and snuggly and easy. And, in the winter, I got to be super smug about how warm I was because I had a tiny human radiator attached to my front. Well, I’m not so smug now. By the time I got to school for pick up today, I had an actual moustache made of sweat, my baby was covered in sweat and my fringe was greasy. It is way too hot to have a human strapped to my already sweating chest.

6. It’s Impossible To Dress Them Right
How are you meant to dress babies for a heatwave? I have no idea. I have a whole collection of adorable rompers and playsuits but they’re either too hot or there’s not enough fabric to cover her skin (yes, I might be slightly paranoid about sunburn). Her vests feel too thick to wear. Today I took her out in just a nappy. And I was jealous of her. I would love to be wandering around in just my underwear in this heat.

7. Babies Are Too Slippy
One of the greatest challenges in my life is holding onto my daughter when she wants to go down (this is all the time). I grab onto her and try to keep her up whilst she squirms and flails and battles her way to the floor. This is annoying at the best of times but it’s a million times more stressful when she’s slippy as a ell thanks to all the damn suncream. Putting suntan lotion on her is akin to covering her in oil and then trying desperately not to drop her.

8. Babies Eat Nature
Oh great, it’s sunny, let’s spend time outdoors. Oh no, that’s a flower, don’t eat that. Ooops, don’t eat that twig. Ha, that’s a snail, put him down. Oh, where did you get that stone from? Spit it out please. Oh great, an abandoned cigarette butt, please can I have that. That’s a leaf, don’t eat that. It’s so relaxing spending time outdoors with a baby.

9. Bedtime Is Hard
Bedtime is always hard because babies don’t believe in bedtime. My baby likes to pull books off the side, throw the baby monitor on the floor and crawl terrifyingly close to the edge of the bed. But she doesn’t like to go to bed. It takes ages to get her to sleep. Once she’s finally drifted into a dream, I have to gently pull my arm from under her and climb out of the bed to freedom. That’s not easy when she’s glued to my arm with a thick layer of sweat. I have to peel her skin from my skin just to get away. Obviously, this wakes her up.

10. The Stupid Sun Is Always There
Remember winter? When everything was dark and everybody stayed asleep until morning? Those days are gone. Now the stupid sun shines through my window directly into the eyes of my baby until she wakes up which takes approximately half a second and then she is Awake Forever. Thanks a lot, summer.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Father's Day Gift Guide

1. Personalised adventures with Dad notebook £28 from Maria Allen Boutique  
I absolutely love this personalised wooden notebook. I was sent one to review and the quality is simply gorgeous. Laurie and Ebony are always off on little adventures and I figured this would be a great place for them to record memories. Laurie isn't much of a journal-keeper so I think Ebony will probably be charged with filling it. 

2. No 209 Gin £32 from Amazon 
Laurie likes gin so this is always a safe bet when it comes to gift buying. 

3. Air Pods £198.10 from Amazon 
I think these would change Laurie's life but I also think he would lose them within a week so I'm not likely to actually fork out this much on them. He has some headless headphones but they are slightly ridiculous looking and are already starting to fall apart. 

4. Men's Organic Shaving and Grooming Gift Box £37.95 from Not On The Highstreet 
Can't go wrong with a nice set of vegan skin care. 

5. Cycling Print £20 from Etsy 
I'm currently trying to fill our house with prints because the walls look bare. I like this cycling print from Etsy and think it would look good in Laurie's office. 

6. Google Home £125 from John Lewis
This is basically all Laurie wants in the world. And I haven't got it for him. 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

10 Worst Things About Being Pregnant On Hot Days

I'm not pregnant this year, but I was last year. Those boiling hot summer days you enjoyed last summer? Yeah, I cried through them. I was so pregnant and so sweaty and so swollen. If you are thinking of having a baby in the future, try to time it so that you are at your most pregnant in the winter months. Trust me, a summer pregnancy is absolutely no fun whatsoever. Here's why:

1. "You must be hot, love!" 
There are only so many times you can politely smile at this in 30 degrees heat. I was eight months pregnant when the weather was at its worst (best, to non-pregnant people) and I was having to leave the house to do the nursery run twice a day. I couldn't get down a street without at least one person saying this Whilst Laughing At Me. Builders, old ladies, a guy cutting down a tree, everybody said it and Laughed At Me whilst I waddled along pretending pregnancy thigh chafe wasn't the worst thing ever. 

2. The sympathy
And when people weren't stopping me to laugh at me, I was getting sympathetic looks from little old ladies who 'had summer babies, too'. Great. I was then told in detail about the heatwave of 57 or whatever with the added warning that the weather might be like this during the birth! Isn't there a heatwave coming? Chuckle chuckle. Now, old lady, get lost and leave me alone because I'm very close to punching somebody and I'd rather it wasn't you. 

3. The swelling
I had to stop wearing my wedding ring when I was about five minutes pregnant anyway because my bit fat swollen fingers could no longer house dainty jewellery. By the time summer rocked around, I couldn't even wear my maternity skirt as a ring around my finger because the swelling was so grotesque. Not in a pre-eclampsia way, just in a look-how-fat-my-repulsive-hands-are way. 

4. The shaving standards
Normally, I wouldn't want to go out in a skirt without tights on. Period. Especially if I was on my period. Nobody needs to see my legs. On the rare (and always sunny) occasions I do drag my blindingly white legs out onto the streets, I like them to be shaved and moisturised so that I can tell myself they look like the legs from a Venus advert (though they definitely don't). All of this went out of the window (along with my self respect) when I was pregnant. Shaving takes about three days when your legs are a) the size of Scotland and b) completely hidden from view so I just gave up. Sometimes I would run a razor along my shin as a sort of polite attempt at shaving but this probably just gave the effect of a foot-made path through an overgrown meadow. I couldn't see if they were hairy or not so what did it matter. 

5. The sound of flesh squeaking against a birthing ball
There is nothing quite like the sound of sweaty ass flesh squeaking against the rubber of a birthing ball as you bounce all day long in a desperate attempt to get the damn baby out. It didn't work. If anything, I think the high-pitched wail of fat rubbing on rubber echoing from the only way out probably put her off coming at all. And who can blame her. 

6. The size of your feet 
If you thought your swollen fingers were extreme, try having a glance down at your feet. I know, you can't see them, but take a photo with your phone and then look at it. No, you aren't wearing your novelty shrek feet slippers, those are your actual feet. That's what your fingers would look like too if they were carrying 14 stone around all day long. Your poor feet, don't even attempt to force them into shoes, just embrace sandals. Flip flops for the win. 

7. You fantasise about fans
I wanted a fan so badly last summer. It was all I thought about. I once went to a friend's house and she had a fan and, even though my friend was taken ill and ended up puking into the toilet, I wouldn't leave because I loved the fan so much. I was cool for the first time in weeks, I wasn't going to let the smell of vomit and the risk of catching a sickness bug put me off. One evening, I sent Laurie out to buy a fan. He came home with a new hosepipe but forgot the fan. He is lucky he survived to tell the tale. 

8. You don't wear any of your maternity clothes
Maternity clothes cost a fortune for something you only actually get to wear for a couple of months. Less than that if it's summer because you will mostly be naked and crying in a cold bath in a desperate attempt to cool the fuck down. 

9. Ice is too slow
When you're pregnant, you should be sure to a eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. Unless it's summer. Then you should eat ice cream and iced drinks and forget everything else. The only problem is, it actually takes ages to make ice. Water freezes so slowly. If you've never noticed this, it's because you've never been pregnant in the summer. Ice is too slow. Somebody needs to figure out a way of speeding up ice for pregnant women. 

10. You spend your time obsessively checking the weather app
Please, please, please don't let the baby come on a hot day, you think, checking the app to see when the weather is going to cool down. Not that the baby gives a shit, they come when they want. They can't even read the weather forecast anyway. 

What's missing off this list? 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

My 5 Favourite Things About Working For Myself

I have been working for myself for just over four years. I am a pregnancy and parenting writer and I create content for a lovely pregnancy website which focuses on empowering women to make informed choices. I love it and feel really proud that I've managed to find work that fits around my family. There are downsides to working for myself, for example, last week when my laptop broke I couldn't just call the IT department and get it fixed. Nope, I had to fork out bazillions of pounds for my new fancy laptop which I am now besotted with even though I definitely can't afford it. But, macbook-induced poverty aside, working for myself is pretty awesome. Here's why:

1. I can bring my baby to work
I don't work full days, in fact, I'm pretty sure I've lost the ability to do that. Over the past four years I have perfected the art of working during naps and after bedtime and I just don't think I could work any other way now. I first started working for myself when Ebony was a little over one. When she went down for her nap, I would scurry downstairs and open my laptop to start work. When she woke up, I usually tried to find something to distract her for five or ten minutes so I could finish what I was working on. It's not always easy to finish an article when there is a small child trying to whack your keyboard, but it's great to have the opportunity to try. 

2. I don't have to wear a uniform
I haven't had to wear a uniform since my terrible, terrible part-time job at a bingo hall when I was at uni. If I did have to wear a uniform, I would probably go for one of these bad boys from Engelbert Strauss's PPE clothing range. I am a big lover of all things yellow. I used to work in my pyjamas but now I have a school run to do so I am usually dressed like a fully functioning human being by the time I sit down to work. 

3. Nobody judges me for the mess
Back when I worked in offices, my desk was a health hazard. It was always stacked high with abandoned papers, forgotten to-do lists and empty bourbon biscuit wrappers (I love bourbons). It wasn't a nice sight and there was some definite judging going on. Whatevs. These days, I am  my only office mate and I am totally ok with the mess. Sometimes I even tidy up. Or, and this is the best, I just work in a room that isn't my office. Ah, freedom. 

4. I don't have to answer the phone
You know what would be great? If we all only used emails and text messages to communicate. Only psychopaths want to have phone conversations. I can talk to my friend and family on the phone but I have no desire to talk to anybody else. JUST EMAIL ME. Stop being weird. I don't want to speak to you on the phone. I want the conversation to happen via email so I can reply at will and control the conversation. Don't ring me. Ever. I wasn't allowed to say that to people before I worked for myself but now I totally can (not that I ever have because, luckily, most people I come into contact with seem to share my love of written communication). 

5. The flexibility
One of the bestest most amazing things about working for myself is the flexibility. I don't work full-time, I just work as and when I can. If I miss a day because Ebony was off school sick, that's fine. If I manage to squeeze in a couple of extra hours because Laurie took the girls out, great. If it's sunny and I want to skip work and soak up some rays, that's fine, too. I get to control it. I have the freedom to enjoy life whilst still earning a living doing something I love and I couldn't feel luckier. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Talking About The Bad Things That Happen

It's not easy to make sense of some of the things happening in the world right now. And by right now, I mean always. There is always something horrible and upsetting in the news. From equality to violence to terrorism, there is always something that is painful, upsetting or scary to read about it. I don't usually share those news stories with Ebony. She's too little, really, to make sense of a lot of those news. I can't make sense of them myself. I didn't tell her about the Westminster attack a couple of months ago, I wouldn't have known what to say. 

I talk to her about upsetting news stories sometimes. Not because they are in the news, but because they get stuck in my head and I feel it is my job to educate her. I have spoken to her about famine, about inequality, about climate change. I talk to her about the issues I feel are important and which I feel we have even just a little bit of power to do something about. I can talk to her about climate change because I can teach her things to do that can reduce her impact on the planet. I can talk to her about inequality because I want her to grow up and see for herself that things aren't fair and that we need to force change. But how can I tell her about horrible things we can't control? 

"Oh fucking hell, there's been a blast in Manchester." Those were the words out of Laurie's mouth at about quarter to eight this morning as we were all sitting in bed. Ebony was playing with her sister, but she paused when he said it.

"What's a blast?" She said to me. I guess I should be thankful she didn't ask what fucking meant and that she instead focused on the word blast. I shot Laurie an angry glare before realising that, actually, I would have to tell her about it this time. Kids at school would know about it, they would be talking about it in the playground. We don't live far from Manchester, it was possible that someone from her school could have been there last night. 

I answered her question. I told her that a blast was another way of saying a bomb had gone off, that somebody had let a bomb off to hurt people and the police were trying to work out why. She had questions, of course. She wanted to know if we knew anybody that lived there, if people had been hurt, if children had been hurt. She wanted to know who did it. She wanted to know why. I couldn't answer that one, but I did my best, explaining that sometimes people want to hurt other people. 

We got dressed, we read her school reading books and we sat down to eat breakfast. Then she brought it up again. She said people would probably be feeling sad about it today. That even if they didn't know the people who got hurt they would still feel sad because it was a sad thing to happen and it's not nice when people get hurt. And that even if the person who did it got hurt that was still sad because nobody ever deserved to be hurt. And then we cleaned our teeth, we put our shoes on and we walked to school. 

Monday, 22 May 2017

7 Family Kitchen Essentials

‘Family kitchen’ is just a polite way of saying ‘messy kitchen’, or is it in my house, anyway. There are always letters from school cluttering up the side, abandoned hair bobbles and clips (the few that actually return home) on the breakfast bar and dirty cups and plates that have been dumped on the worktop. It is a lived in kitchen. Like, really lived in. Sometimes, it’s clean and sparkly and lovely but most of the time, it’s lived in. I thought I would write a post sharing some of the things I consider to be family kitchen essentials. They’re the things I think make life easier or prettier in a family kitchen. I’ve left out the obvious like wooden wine racks to store All The Wine you need to devour at bedtime.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

5 Ways To Encourage A Love Of Space

The idea of space is somewhat terrifying, nothing makes me feel more insignificant than looking up at a star full of skies and realising just how small I am. I am scared of the deepness of the sea, but space is a whole other kettle of fish. It’s just so big. Too big. So big I can’t even begin to comprehend it. But, I want to encourage Ebony to enjoy science and so I’ve been thinking of ways we can learn more about space together. I don’t want her to be one of the many girls who, by the time they leave primary school, have already given up all hope of ever conquering maths or science. I don’t want her to be limited by her gender. I don’t want her to conform to society’s view that science is for boys.

So, I have been plotting ways to get her enthralled in science. She loves learning about how the human body works, she’s fascinated by animals and she really likes ‘making potions’ (these are, almost always, 99% my fancy conditioner). Here are a few of the ways I am, or wish I was, trying to get her into space (har har har):

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Broken Bed

Every so often, something happens which reaffirms to me that I am not exactly killing it at this whole adulting thing. It might be the frantic search for matching school socks approximately five minutes after we need to leave the house every morning (even writing this won't motivate me to seek out socks in advance of tomorrow's pre-school panic) or the fact that we sometimes have to go and buy ingredients for dinner at dinner time because I forgot to organise it in advance. 

Some days, I get the big one off to school on time, whisk the little one home for a nap and then have a productive two hours writing away on my laptop and other days I can't find my hairbrush. Being the adult and being expected to keep family life running smoothly isn't easy and sometimes I find myself failing. 

Take Ebony's bed, for example. Ebony finally got her own room when we moved into this house. She was two and a half years old when we finally transitioned her out of our room (although could somebody let her know this because she doesn't seem to have taken the hint very well). We decorated her room. We painted the walls white, we dug out brightly coloued toys to add a splash of colour and my parents bought her a bed. We didn't go for solid oak bedroom furniture which, in hindsight, perhaps we should have. Instead, we chose a white wooden bed, simple, pretty, perfect. It looked beautiful in her bedroom (bedroom tour here). Or it did until it got broken. 

You see, the problem with young children is that they love to jump on the bed. On all beds. They jump high and far and with enthusiasm. No matter how many times I asked her not to jump on the bed, I would still hear the familiar creak of the springs giving way under her weight as she leapt around the room. Three weeks ago, she had a friend to play. They went upstairs, as they often do, keen to explore the toys hidden upstairs. I was making dinner in the kitchen, the baby balanced in the crook of my arm whilst I cut vegetables one-handed, so I didn't hear the bouncing of the springs. I didn't hear the telltale creak of the floorboards under the bed or the almighty snap when the bed collapsed under the weight of two excited little girls drunk on the freedom of a playdate. 

The next morning, Laurie noticed that her bed was a little more diagonal than it used to be. A snapped slat and some broken screws seemed to be to blame. My dad came round, the man who can fix absolutely anything (just ask Ebony - 'you can try, mummy, but when it doesn't work, we can ask papa and he will fix it') with a bit of wood glue and a few spare screws. The two of them disappeared upstairs to fix the bed and appeared triumphant an hour later. It was fixed apart from the slat. That was all we needed to do, replace the slat. That was three weeks ago. Ebony is upstairs now fast asleep on her mattress on the floor because we haven't replaced the slat. Laurie tried, he claims, but Homebase didn't have the right part. I haven't even done that. If I think back to my own childhood, there is no way my dad would have left me sleeping on the floor for three weeks. He would have replaced that slat straight away, he probably had a garage full of spare slats just in case such a problem ever arose. But poor Ebony, with me and Laurie for parents, she has to sleep on the floor. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Motherhood Is

Motherhood is all-encompassing. Five years ago, it washed over me like a tide, dragging me under and pinning me down on the ocean floor as I fought for air to fill my lungs while powerful waves broke over me. Every so often, I summon the strength to swim up to the surface and catch my breath, I fill my lungs with the oxygen I once took for granted but which now feels special as though my very being depends on it, only to be dragged back down to the sandy floor as the next wave crashes over my head. It is exhausting, to tread water in a stormy sea, gulping huge breaths of air into my lungs and not knowing when I might be able to breathe again, so consumed by my battle with and against the ocean that all sense of who I am is lost.

Motherhood is relentless. Even when my bones ache from exhaustion and my brain is filled with nothing more than a dense fog of tiredness, I still rise in the night without hesitation to take care of my children. They come first, their hunger or nightmares or clammy limbs reaching out for a cuddle always take precedence over my desperate need for sleep. I cannot sleep, I have accepted that, not yet, maybe in a few years, but for now, the tiredness is as much a part of me as my left arm. It is always there and, as a result, I have stopped noticing it a lot of the time, but sometimes, as I stare into the bathroom mirror and look at the pink eyes staring back at me, and the dark circles under them and the age lines creeping out at the corners, it comes rushing back to me so powerfully that I fear I will keel over and be unable to get up.

Motherhood is chaotic. It is the desperate juggling act of trying to look after the basic needs of my family whilst also finding the time to write, to invoice, to do admin, to wash laundry and pair socks and cook dinners and shop so that the cupboards aren't bare. It is the endless chore of picking up toys, of cleaning teeth, of remembering birthdays, of making sure everybody is eating well. It is the constant worry that I'm not doing enough, of trying to improve, to be better, to mother in a way that will protect them in the future, it is the late night ordering of parenting books from Amazon and knowing that they will sit gathering dust beside my bed until I finally find the time and energy to read them and, by that point, that it could be too late, that I may already have done everything wrong.

Motherhood is like a kettle boiling, that shrill whistle sounding loudly in my ear while I try to gather my thoughts and think about what to do next, my insides hot whilst frustration bubbles beneath the surface. Motherhood is getting things wrong and making mistakes and wishing I had been better. It is sitting down in the evenings and letting the day wash over me, thinking about where I went wrong and what I should have done instead, it is the never-ending conversation with Laurie about who we are as parents and who we want to be. It is knowing that finding the time for that conversation isn't always easy but that it is always important, that if we stop thinking about it, if we fall into habit and parent without analysis, then we aren't doing it right. There is always room for improvement, there are always apologies to be made and bonds to be strengthened, even when there isn't time because life is in the way.

Motherhood is me. It is always there, even when my children are not. Become a mother rewired my brain and changed the way I see the world. It changed everything. It made the world smaller, it made my fears bigger and it threw my ribcage open and exposed my heart to the elements where it seems in constant danger of getting hurt. It is beautiful and powerful and vaster than any skyscraper. And, sometimes, it's nice to get away from it all. Sometimes, it's nice to escape from motherhood, just for a little bit. I need to walk away from real life, to throw myself back into the past, to meet friends and drink wine and talk about politics and forget about motherhood and all that it entails. That little break, that night away to a different city with different conversations and busy streets and new foods to try, gives me the chance to swim to the surface and take a big gulp of fresh air and remind myself who I am. I am a mother and that is the biggest part of my identity now while my children are little, but I'm also lots of other things and, when the waves break around me instead of over my head, it's nice to remember those things, to breathe them in and hold my breath, letting them rush through my veins, before I am dragged back under again.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Review: Hello Canvas HD Metal Prints

One of the things I love about having this blog is that it's pushed me to get more creative with my camera. Laurie had a pretty good camera but neither of us knew how to use it (Laurie says he does, but why are all his photos so blurry?) so it was wasted on us. This blog became the perfect place to capture my memories of motherhood when Ebony was a baby and I soon began to want decent photos to accompany my words. 

My photos still aren't perfect but they're so much better than they used to be and I love them. I love having gorgeous photos of the girls that I'll be able to look back on when I'm old and grey (now then). I rarely get around to printing the photos though, they just exist in digital form because I'm lazy and cheap and because I take so many photos that it would be truly ridiculous to print them all. I had a load printed when Ember was fresh from the womb because I didn't want to be one of those terrible parents that never gets around to putting photos of the second child up on the wall. I never got around to buying frames for them so they are still in a pile on my desk, so I am just like all the other parents. One day, I will go frame shopping. 

Hello Canvas got in touch to see if I'd like to try out one of their HD Metal wall prints and I couldn't quite get my head around what it was going to be. Would it look like metal? Would it be grainy? Heavy? Too metal? I didn't know what to expect but I decided to try it out. Laurie's family have their walls covered in photos of the girls so I figured another wouldn't do them any harm. I chose a photo of the girls together, it was taken on Ebony's fifth birthday and I really love it. It's so rare to get a photo where neither of them has food on their face so this is particularly special to me. 

The HD metal print arrived and it is gorgeous. It doesn't look like it's printed on metal, it just looks (from the front) like a high-quality gloss print. It's shiny and clear and bright. It doesn't look grainy at all. I was actually surprised by how much I loved it, I'm not really a lover of huge canvas prints because I think the photo quality is diminished when stretched across the canvas, but that isn't true of the HD metal print at all. I really loved how it looked and the in-laws were really pleased with it as well. 

We were sent the 16 x 20 inch HD metal canvas to review RRP £79. Prices for HD metal prints start from just £19 (currently £15 in the sale), take a look at the Hello Canvas website to see the full range. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

On Turning 31 And Not Knowing WTF I'm Doing

I'm 31 today. It's an age that would have sounded horrifically ancient to me in my youth but which now I can argue is still pretty damn young. I'm not old just yet. Is there ever an age where you accept that you have crossed over to the wrong side of young? I can't imagine reaching it. In many ways, I felt old as soon as Ebony was born. I was 25 years old but I felt ooold. My friends were still young; they were focusing on their careers and going on holiday and posting drunken photos to Facebook and I was breastfeeding and changing nappies and reading blogs about gentle parenting. Life changed. Just like that. 

Now my friends are catching up with me. Lots of them have settled down, some have had babies and sometimes we sit together and talk about how hard it is to be a parent. Being a parent isn't aging me anymore, but my age is. I've finally reached that point where I have to be careful of my references because younger people might not know who Harold and Madge from Neighbours are (imagine if you didn't know who Harold and Madge were?!). My sister told me yesterday that people born in 1999 are now legally old enough to drink, that blew my mind because, er, wasn't 1999 like five minutes ago? Is my love of 90s pop now really that outdated? 

I feel like 30 passed me by. I was pregnant and in the middle of all the decorating and my 30th birthday just kind of happened. There was a party, I was sober, it was as terrible as you would expect a sober birthday party to be. I wanted to think deep thoughts about growing older and reflect on the passing of my twenties but I was so damn pregnant and tired. It's hard to reflect on anything when you can't make it off the sofa without getting heartburn. 

31. It's the age my mum was when she had me. It doesn't sound that old anymore. Growing older is just making me realise that nobody has a clue what they're doing. When you're young, you assume that everyone older than you has it together. You believe your parents know what they're doing. You think that one day it will just click and you'll know what you're doing, too. I'm starting to realise that that's not the case. Or not for me, anyway. I still don't have a clue what I'm doing. We're late for school most days (not late book late, but late nonetheless), I pretty much always overspend by the end of the month (sometimes by the middle) and I still find it really stressful dressing for formal occasions. 

I forget about homework, I do my work scarily close to the deadline and sometimes things just slip my mind. I can never find matching socks (unless they're Laurie's) in a morning, I stay up too late on school nights and the cupboard under the stairs is so full of crap that I have given up going in there. I am not adulting with finesse. I have no clue what I'm doing. Please tell me I'm not the only one. 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

5 Things That Guarantee Me A Good Start To The Day

I'm not a morning person. I never have been. I have spent pretty much my whole life waking up tired and grumpy. There just isn't enough sleep in the day. It didn't matter for a few years when Ebony was little and we could spend lazy mornings slowly dragging ourselves out of bed, but she's in school now so I have to get up. We're rarely there on time, though that is actually down to Ebony's time management skills rather than my own. I can be up and dressed half an hour before we have to leave and Ebony will still make us late by misplacing her shoes or getting distracted by a game.

I'm not a big caffeine drinker so I don't rely on a mug-full of commercial coffee machines and gourmet Fairtrade coffee to get me through the day. I occasionally dabble in the whimsical world of the fruit teas, but that's about as exciting as it gets. And I rarely have time for a hot drink before the school run because I'm too busy trying not to shout at everybody (this takes a lot of effort). I usually have my breakfast when I get back dropping Ebony off at school. I have noticed that it's the little things that matter in the morning. Like, whoever it is that hides Ebony's school shoes every single morning, WHY?! But also, it's the little things that make me feel happy and set me up for a good day. Here are five of them:

1. Waking up before my alarm
There is nothing quite so terrible as being dragged out of a dream by a piercing alarm shrieking next to your head. There is no such thing as joy on a morning like that. If, however, I manage to wake up before my alarm, I feel like a million dollars (even though I've probably had less sleep, go figure). Anything pre-alarm feels like bonus time so it always puts me in a good mood to be awake to see that time of day (as long as it's like 20 minutes before and not two hours).

2. My FitBit
I love my Fitbit. I got it when Ember was born and it has changed my life. It records how much I sleep I get which is both wonderful and terrifying. Mostly, I get enough sleep but on the days I don't, it's depressing to see, in graph form, how many times I was woken up by my many children. Usually, the FitBit brings me good news and, even though I wake up feeling tired, I am soon convinced that I've had enough sleep. Seeing that I've had seven hours sleep instantly makes me feel less tired. It is genius. All new parents should have them.

3. Having the school uniform ready
I want to say I'm the kind of person who irons an entire week of uniform on the Sunday. I think I've managed it once. It was a good week. But I usually spend my Sunday evenings panic-washing the uniform and so it isn't ready to be ironed. Half the time I can't even find most of it. So, I'm not that person. Sometimes, I actually manage to iron her uniform the night before and hang it on her bedroom door. On those mornings, I don't have to run around trying to find matching socks or iron any polo shirts, so those mornings are the best. I should really prepare clothes the night before more often.

4. Looking human
Trying to look human is never easy, especially when you have a baby who can find danger in less than a second. I have to get up early so I can shower before Laurie leaves for work. Then I have to dry my hair whilst Ember shouts angrily at me in baby language (I don't know what she says but it looks a lot like 'pick me up, woman'). If I manage to straighten my hair, put on some mascara and wear a clean t-shirt, life feels good. If I catch sight of myself in the hall mirror on my way out and don't feel like crying, I know I'm going to have a good day.

5. Leaving the house on time
This one is hypothetical since such a miracle has never actually occurred, but I'm pretty sure leaving the house on time would make me feel amazing. I think I'd strut to school feeling like a mum boss (as in boss of being a mum, not the patronising term for a boss who happens to have children). I would walk up to those school gates and wish people a good morning. There would be on hell of a spring in my step. Probably. Not that I'll even actually find out.

What are your morning wins that set you up for a good day?

This is a collaborative post. 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Why Timber Is The Perfect Material For Your New Conservatory

An orangery is a great way of adding space to your home. An orangery can provide you with that additional room to make your living space a little homier. Orangeries have been around for years and have historically been seen as a luxury for the upper classes. Though they still offer high levels of luxury they are now much more affordable thanks to modern building methods and materials.

Though conservatories have traditionally been home to uninspiring wicker furniture, orangeries have always been seen as a classy and stylish way to extend the home. Rather than appearing like an add-on to an existing home, orangeries have character that will improve your home. Some people use orangeries as dining rooms, others use them to create a large versatile family space and others use them as a more traditional garden room.

If you want an affordable extension that will last, you should consider a timber orangery. Modern timber is long-lasting and stylish, allowing you to create a conservatory that will last. Using timber allows you to get the look right, you can choose any number of wood stains and paint colours for your orangery. As part of their impressive range of home improvements, Reddish Joinery offer timber orangeries made from a high performance and long-lasting engineered timber known as accoya.

Orangeries are an affordable way of extending your home but they are also great at creating the light and airy feel that is popular amongst contemporary home owners. The glass lets plenty of light into the room and allows you to make the most of your view. You’ll be able to sit comfortably and watch your garden bloom in the summer or the golden leaves fall in the autumn. Unlike many conservatories, orangeries don’t have to be stuck onto the back of your property like an afterthought either, in fact, many homeowners choose to integrate them into the living space of the room. Open plan living and a surge in popularity for kitchen-diners that lead out into the garden have seen an increase in the number of people choosing to add timber orangeries to their homes.

Timber has properties that allow it to naturally retain heat which means your conservatory will retain warmth in the colder months. Combined with modern glazing, this means the timber orangery will stay warmer in the winter months. The combination of engineered timber and modern glazing will also work to keep the room cool in the warmer months, making it the perfect addition to your home.

If you’re not a fan of the look of PVC conservatories, then a timber orangery might be the extension you’ve been looking for. The timber makes contemporary houses look even more modern whilst also looking at home on period buildings, it’s a timeless building material that suits pretty much any style of home. The long-lasting building material doesn’t require much in the way of upkeep either, aside from the occasional wood treatment, there’s very little you need to do to keep your extension looking brand new.

This is a collaborative post.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Real Nappy Week: Cheeky Wipes Review

This week is Real Nappy Week so I figured now is as good as time as any to talk about real baby wipes. I don't actually ever use the term real because it sounds weird to me, I usually say washable. I don't want other mums to get worried that I'm implying their nappies are mythical or imaginary next to my really real ones. 

We have used washable wipes ever since Ebony was a teeny tiny newborn (she never seemed tiny at the time because she was 9lb, but now I've pushed out a 10lb7 blob, I think of Ebony as a little dot). We knew we wanted to use washable wipes because they are better for the planet. A friend recommended Cheeky Wipes and we haven't looked back since. 

Baby wipes have a pretty terrifying impact on the environment. Most contain plastic fibres which do not biodegrade and so they exist, in some form, forever. If they make their way out to sea (and many do), baby wipes are ingested by hungry sea creatures such as turtles who mistake them for a healthy snack (specifically a jellyfish), this can be fatal to the sea creatures with bellies full of plastic. Even if you don't flush your wipes, they end up sitting in a landfill forever. 

Cheeky Wipes are an eco-friendly alternative to disposable baby wipes. We already had a decent stash from our first child, but Cheeky Wipes very kindly sent us an All-In-One Kit to review this time around. The kit features 25 terry wipes (you can choose other fabrics such as bamboo and even a choice of colours), some essential oils to add fragrance to the wipes, two storage tubs (one for clean and one for dirty) and some bags to store your wipes in when out and about. 

We were sent the terry wipes this time but also have some bamboo ones left from last time. They are both really soft and easy to use. The terry ones are thicker but the bamboo ones have the edge when it comes to softness. Personally, I like having a mix. I like the bamboo ones best but the thicker terry ones are great for messy bums. We just have the white wipes but I really love the brightly coloured sets, they would brighten up any nappy change area. 

If you've never used washable wipes before, you're probably thinking something along the lines of 'eeeew you must get poo everywhere'. You couldn't be more wrong. I find Cheeky Wipes way cleaner to use the disposable wipes. Disposable wipes are so thin, and they end up getting messy quite quickly when you're doing a dirty nappy change, but Cheeky Wipes provide much better protection. 

We use washable nappies too so we just chuck everything into the dirty nappy bin and it all goes into the washing machine together. The wipes wash really well and dry very quickly. We use a tumble dryer and they take no time at all but I have also dried them on radiators and on the line on occasion and they dry really quickly even without the modern godsend that is the tumble dryer. We have plenty of wipes so there are always some clean, so it's worth getting a couple of packets to make sure you have plenty to hand. 

The wipes are really soft and I've never worried about using them on my baby's skin. Even in those early days when most people are using cotton wool, I've just used the Cheeky Wipes as normal. They don't contain manmade chemicals like many disposable wipes so there's no reason to avoid using them on a newly born bum. 

The essential oil mixes smell great though we don't use them very often anymore. I used them a lot during the newborn days when Ember would lie peacefully on the changing table and await her butt being wiped, but there days nappy changes are a bit more hectic (rolling, crawling, cruising death-defying eight-month-old adventure baby, anyone?) and I tend to just wet the wipe under the tap as I wrestle my naked baby out of her dirty nappy. But, back in those lovely early days, I had one of the tubs constantly filled with sweet-smelling Cheeky Wipes ready for that next nappy change. 

The Cheeky Wipes All-In-One Kit comes with bags to make transporting your wipes even easier. There's a little bag for clean wipes and one for dirties that you can just chuck in the wash when you get home. There's no need to use disposable wipes just because you're out of the house, Cheeky Wipes are easy to use at home and on the move. 

I really love the Cheeky Wipes, they're one of the best products I have found since being a parent. They are so easy to use and can really reduce your impact on the planet. If you buy them this week, Cheeky Wipes are offering a 25% discount on all orders made during Real Nappy Week so you'll get a bargain. Make sure you take a look at their site today

ps I've just noticed they do a weaning kit of wipes and that is probably the most genius thing ever. Weaning is so messy. 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Real Nappy Week: Bambino Mio Review

When I was pregnant with Ebony, we bought a birth to potty kit of BumGenius cloth nappies. I think it cost us somewhere in the region of £300. Ebony was out of nappies by about 18 months and by then the velcro on some of the nappies was past its best. When I was pregnant with Ember, we replaced the velcro tabs on the nappies to give them an extra life. Thankfully, now most of the nappies are fine but there is one or two where the strip of velcro needs replacing as well and I can already tell you I will never get around to doing that. 

I noticed that Bambino Mio cloth nappies were going to be on sale in Aldi as part of one of their baby events and I decided to go down and get one to try out. It was only £9.99 which is cheap for a washable nappy and I figured it would make life a little easier for me because the more nappies I have, the less nappy washes I need to do. Plus, they had a design with bikes on and Laurie loves to cycle so I figured this would reduce the risk of the 'why are you buying more nappies? We have plenty of nappies' conversation. 

Since buying the nappy with the bike print, I have been back to Aldi and bought two more Bambino Mio nappies (the one with the kites on, since you must know).And I ordered two other designs online that weren't available at Aldi. I love the Bambino Mio nappies so much I figured I should share that here. They easily get the most use out of all the nappies we have because they're always the first ones I reach for. I love the prints and colours of the nappies, the nappies we had for Ebony weren't quite so exciting so it is still a novelty to me that Ember has such beautiful nappies. 

They're also really easy to use. The side tabs are really sturdy and simply pop closed after use so you can protect the velcro while washing. I've been using them for a few months now and the velcro is still good as new, I imagine it will last longer than our last set of nappies did just because the velcro seems to be better protected. The velcro securely fastens the nappy so Ember can't open them and pull them off (also a bonus). 

The nappies are all-in-ones so the inner padding is attached to the nappy (unlike other nappies which have two separate parts; an inner padding and an outer nappy). There's a little tab you can pull before you stick it in the wash to get the inner pad out for washing but it stays attached to the nappy throughout. This is so much easier than having to dig around trying to find all the pieces for the nappy each time. It's only a small thing but it is saving me plenty of man hours. 

The nappies wash really well and dry quickly despite the hefty inner padding. I haven't had any leakage problems with these nappies because the padding is thick enough to absorb anything and everything she throws at it. I haven't found anything I don't like about these nappies yet, they're easy to use, look amazing and are good value for money. My local Aldi still has a few of the nappies in so it's worth popping into your local store to see if you can get them at the bargain price of £9.99. 

Bambino Mio is currently offering 15% off all of their nappies to celebrate Real Nappy Week, so if you're thinking of getting some cloth nappies, now might be the time to do it. You can get one of their all-in-one nappies for just £13.59 for this week only. If you're looking to stock up, you can get their birth to potty pack which contains everything you'll need for the first couple of years for just £212.49. You can browse the options on their website here.


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