Thursday 24 September 2015

My Nursery Standards: Week 1 vs Week 2

Ebony has been attending the local school nursery for two whole weeks now. In that time, she hasn’t shed a single tear over nursery, she has exhausted me with nursery related chatter and has stained her uniform each and every day. What can I say, the girl loves to paint. Simply put, she loves it. And I love that she loves it, though is it too much to ask for her to at least feign a sadness at our reduction in quality mother-daughter time? I mean, every morning she literally runs the whole way to nursery. Of course, I know this is because she’s excited for her morning, but to the average bystander, it undoubtedly looks very much like she’s running as fast as she can away from me.

Aside from feeling hurt about her unashamed love of being away from me, the mother who gave up everything to stay home and raise her, I’ve been busy letting my standards slip. I knew I wasn’t going to be one of those organised, wide awake mums at the school gates, but I’m actually a little surprised at just how terrible I am at this whole 8:45am thing. Just two weeks in and already I’ve given up on most of my big plans for the academic year, such as:

#1. The dress code
Week 1: Oh my goodness, is that a crumb on the cardigan? This entire uniform must be washed, dried and ironed before I go to bed tonight. Then I will place it neatly on clothes hangers, knickers and all, to await the morning.

Week 2: FFS, is that bright pink paint all down her back? Oh well, at least no-one will see it until she takes her coat off when she gets in there. I’ll just pretend I didn’t see the paint. Or that jam.

#2. The wake up call
Week 1: Christ, this is early. Did I set my alarm wrong? Is this really the time I have to get up FOREVER? Oh well, time to get up and get ready.

Week 2: No, alarm, just no.

#3. Getting ready
Week 1: Oh my, look how adorable she is in that uniform. Even the vest alone makes my heart explode. I must take all the photos. Every single day. And instagram the shit out of them.

Week 2: Oh my god, look how slow she is getting ready! Now we will be even more late. FFS.

#4. Punctuality
Week 1: Only 10 minutes till they open the doors! Oh god, we’re going to be late for our very first day. We must hurry!

Week 2: Great, we’re going to be late again. FML.

#5. The lollipop lady
Week 1: What sort of lollipop lady tells parents off?! Anus. How am I to know I can’t walk behind her?! Busybody. I will never cross with her assistance again!

Week 2: Oh, look, it’s Ebony’s new best friend, the lollipop lady. I shall give her my biggest and bestest smile in the hope she forgets about that time I walked behind her so she won't take her hatred of me out on Ebony.

#6. My day job
Week 1: Look at me! I have three whole hours to work, I’m going to get so much done. I shall fire up my laptop and get started right away. Such a luxury to have all of this time to myself.

Week 2: I am too tired to work. 7:45am is not my friend. I shall make another cup of tea, then I shall continue to check Facebook until pick up time.

#7. Pick up time
Week 1: I need to be there in half an hour, I’d better start preparing now. What sort of snack might she like on the way home? Hmmm, maybe I should take a selection. And her umbrella in case it rains. And my purse so we can stop at the shop on the way home.

Week 2: Oh crap, I’m late. Again.

#8. Friendships
Week 1: I hope she makes lots of friends. I hope people like her. I hope the other kids are nice to her. I hope no-one is mean.

Week 2: I wish she had fewer friends so that we could actually leave at hometime. Why am I stood here waiting for her to finish applying lipstick with her friends? She’s three.

#9. The book bag
Week 1: Oooh, I wonder if there is anything in the book bag today! This is what being a parent is all about. They send me a secret note which I must decrypt and act on quickly so as to present the treasures (signed slips, whatever) the next morning. I am faster than lighting. I hope I beat all the other parents. Maybe then I’ll get a ‘well done’ sticker.

Week 2: Why does that stupid bag look lumpy? Oh god, how long have these things been in here? Why are they always setting me homework?!

#10. The questions
Week 1: How was your day? Wow, how exciting! What else did you do? Who did you play with?

Week 2: Right, sure, yeah, then the teacher tied all the naughty kids up. Of course. And sent them to prison. Yep. And there were no toys. And the slide had been dismantled. And they wouldn’t let you eat a snack. Sure.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

7 Things I Need for the Perfect Movie Night

Evenings in our house usually take one of three forms. The first is that Laurie has work to do, so we both sit on the sofas with our laptops and I repeatedly huff angrily and ask how long he’s going to be. That’s probably the most common. The second possibility is that we are caught up in a television show and watch it obsessively until we can no longer stay awake. This happened most recently with Sherlock, I know, years behind, but it’s so good. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch. Totally get it now. The third and most enjoyable evening is movie nights. A movie night means we are free of work and aren’t currently knee deep in binge-watching a television series. With that in mind, here are seven things you need for the perfect movie night:

#1: A good movie
This one is non-negotiable. If the film is crap, we just turn it off and try a different one. Quitters and proud. The only way we can ever agree on a film is if one of us puts one on sneakily while the other person is out of the room. Otherwise we end up arguing over whether we should watch a gory, violent drama (Laurie) or something a little cheerier (me).

#2: Technology
Technology-wise, we’re not all that up to date, but we have enough to string together a movie night. Ebony chewed through the remote for our tv when she was a baby (excellent parenting skills, I think you’ll agree) so we have to get up to turn the volume down. We do that a lot because I live in constant fear of waking Ebony up even though she sleeps like a log, I think it’s a throwback to the baby days when everything woke her up. If it was the perfect movie night, I’d want a fancy new tv like this Panasonic 4k tv. We have an Apple TV box with a linked Netflix account so that’s where most of our movies come from.

#3: No distractions
If there’s one thing that ruins movie nights, it’s me texting. I need to leave my phone in another room to stop myself (on a side note, what does self control feel like?). Now that Ebony is pretty reliable (ish) with her sleep, we don’t have to worry about being disrupted by her waking up. I don’t think we watched many films when she was a baby, there was just no point. I think I spent most of my evenings walking up and down the stairs or commando crawling out of the bedroom in the hope of not waking her, which never worked.

#4: A blanket
I really love going to the cinema. This is a recent love. It’s so nice to be totally away from every possible distraction, and to just be absorbed into the movie. But, you can’t take a blanket. Well, you probably could, but, erm, I wouldn’t. We bought a blanket when we visited the Ideal Home Show last year and it is one of my favourite things. It’s a brightly coloured patchwork quilt and is really warm to snuggle up under. This blanket is a regular fixture at movie night.

#5: Pyjamas
Nobody should be forced to endure movie night in jeans. There should be no buttons or zips where comfort is involved. Pyjamas all the way. I consider it a strict dress code.

#6: Popcorn
I’ve never been a huge fan of popcorn, I’ve always liked it and had it on occasion but I’ve just never really been that bothered about it. But then I discovered salt AND sweet. This is now my new favourite thing ever. I know it’s really not good for me, at all, regardless of how few calories it claims to concern, but I don’t care because it tastes so good. I think it’s actually addictive.

#7: Hot Chocolate
No movie night is complete without a hot chocolate. There should be vegan marshmallows and, ideally, amaretto. This combined with the popcorn is probably the reason I should limit our family movie nights. But I won’t.

What are your movie night essentials?

Monday 21 September 2015

5 Wonderful Things About Raising a Vegan Kid

Raising a vegan child is awesome, not only does it shock unsuspecting old people, it is a great way to teach your child compassion. This month marks my eight year vegan anniversary. When I was pregnant, I was regularly asked whether I was going to raise the baby vegan. While I understand why people wonder such things, it always seemed like quite a ridiculous question. If I think veganism is the right thing to do, and trust the health and nutritional benefits for myself, why wouldn’t I want to raise my child vegan?

We live in a world where eating animal products is the norm, and deviating away from that is unusual, so I can see why people think it’s strange to raise a child vegan. But, for me, veganism is normal, and eating animal products is grim. I never questioned whether I would raise my child vegan,I didn’t need to give it any thought, I just always knew that I would. In the same way that I wouldn’t raise her to be a racist homophobic climate skeptic, of course I wouldn’t raise her to eat animals.

With three and a half years of experience tucked neatly under my belt, I can honestly say that raising vegan kids is easy. Here are five of the best things about raising a vegan kid:

#1: It teaches compassion
I want my daughter to grow up kind and considerate to others. I want her to be compassionate to others, mindful of her impact on the planet, and passionate about the causes she believes in. Veganism is the perfect starting point for this. I’ve been having conversations about veganism with my daughter since she first learned to talk. She knows that some people eat animals, and that we don’t. She knows where different animal products come from. And, most importantly, she understands the impact that this diet has on the animals themselves. She knows cow’s milk is created by mothers to feed their babies, and that people drinking it means the calves can’t. She knows that animals have feelings and family connections, just as we do. I haven’t sat her down and explained the ins and outs of the ‘rape rack’ or slaughterhouse methods, because I don’t want to horrify her. But she understands veganism in an age-appropriate way. I hope that this foundation of compassion and individual action will set her in good stead for the future.

#2: It’s harder to find junk food
It’s not impossible, not by any stretch of the imagination. Pretty much all food can be veganised nowadays. Supermarket shelves are filled with vegan cheese slices, chocolates and sweets. So it’s not difficult, but it is slightly harder. And I think that’s a good thing. I don’t have to endure a tantrum each time we go shopping because my daughter wants sweets. She has ice-cream sometimes when we go out for food, but not many places have dairy free ice-cream so it’s not a regular part of her diet. It’s great that so many products are vegan, but it makes it that little bit easier for vegans to eat crap, which I don’t really think is that good a thing. Especially where my three year old is concerned.

#3: Shoes Are Way Cheaper
This one probably isn’t the reason many parents choose to raise their kids vegan, but it’s definitely a hidden benefit. I don’t have to spend a fortune on the go-to brand for kids’ shoes, because I can’t. They’re all made from leather. Instead, I can save a fortune by choosing shoes made from manmade materials. Bargain.

#4: I won’t have to lie to her
One of the things I find pretty disturbing about modern society, is that we fill our children’s lives with animal characters. We point out cows in the field, we watch Peppa Pig on tv, and we cover their bedroom walls in sheep and other animals. Oh, and then we feed them all of these animals for dinner. At some point, children make the connection between the chicken they’re looking at, and the one they ate for lunch. And when that moment arises, it’s only too easy for parents to dismiss their child’s reaction. No kids want to eat Peppa Pig. I don’t have to worry about my daughter finding out that I’ve been feeding her Peppa, Saun and Nemo, because I’m not.

#5: I know how lovely my friends are
I have been surprised at how much effort my friends have made to help Ebony feel included at playdates and parties. I always take plenty of food and expect to provide the vegan options, but so many parents have found and made vegan foods for Ebony to enjoy. This might sound ridiculous, but it’s really moving to see people making such an effort to include her. Parents have provided cheese spread, chocolate buttons, biscuits and crisps specially chosen so that Ebony can have them. I know Ebony wouldn’t mind if she couldn’t eat the food, knowing that I’ll have some for her in my bag, but she always looks so excited to find out there is special vegan food available just for her. It’s so lovely, and really makes me feel grateful to have found the friends we have. It’s nice to know I don’t have to worry, that people get it, and that people don’t want her to be left out.

Are you raising vegan kids? What are the benefits you find most enjoyable?

Thursday 17 September 2015

Ebony's First Ice Skating Experience

I can’t ice skate. At all. I can drag myself round, sweating profusely, whilst gripping onto the side and clawing myself round the ring, with a look of sheer panic on my face. And that’s about the best I can hope for. If I encounter a more terrified looking ice skater holding onto the side, I might sometimes try to expertly skate past them. But most of the time, I lose my balance, shit myself and slow-mo skate back to the safety of the perimeter.

Laurie, on the other hand, can skate backwards. And forwards, And fast. And he does all of these things while I use my fingertips to heave my hefty weight around the rink. I also have a deep fear that, should I fall, my fingers would be immediately sliced off by a fellow skater. Probably Laurie, skating backwards. A childhood friend with very protective parents managed to pass on a whole host of incomprehensible fears to me, and this is one of them. That the dull blades on a pair of rented roller skate might be able to cut off part of my body.

I do like ice skating though, who doesn’t?! And have wanted to take Ebony for ages, so we decided to go during the summer. She has a book (one of many) about a little rabbit who ice skates, and whenever we read it she talks about how much she wants to go skating. I found out that the ice rink in Altrincham offers toddler and parent sessions. They have them during the week, but the thought of taking Ebony ice skating alone is terrifying. I couldn’t possibly hold onto her hand and skate, how would I pull myself round? I also don’t want to pass my skating techniques down a generation. She doesn’t need that in her life.

So, to celebrate the fact that I now have weekends (hooray, nursery and the weekday working hours it provides), we decided to go to a Saturday morning session. The only problem with this plan was that we don’t live in Altrincham and traffic was terrible. The toddler sessions feature a short lesson, followed by an hour and 1 minutes of playing on the ice in a cordoned off bit. FYI, it is cordoned off with cones, so if you skate like me, you cannot get round the ice rink. You must freestyle across the middle. Or, do as I did, push out a baby, wait a few years and then use that child to be your Get Into The Cordoned Off Area Free card. No need to let go of the side at all, you just need to smile to your child as you crawl through the restricted zone.

Thanks to the traffic, we completely missed the ice skating lesson (which is a shame, because maybe I would have learnt how to skate), but got there in time to play. They have penguin aides for the kids to hold onto, and you can totally pretend to you’re helping them and actually just use the penguin aides yourself. They also had sledges, and a few random walker style toys. Ebony channeled her inner bambi, legs flailing all over the ice, but seemed to really enjoy herself. The toddler session was supposed to finish at 11:45am but the cones and toys were still out when we left after noon. It wasn’t too busy, though there were some amazing toddlers ice skating likes pros around the ring. I know this because they kept flying past me as I slowly pushed one foot in front of the other in an attempt to ice skate round some teenagers [warning: if you’re crap at ice skating, it is not a good idea to try and skate round teenagers. Teenagers laugh at you when you make weird noises/sweat/accidentally moon them/all of the above].

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Finding Peace

girl flying kite

Three and a half year olds are, erm, dynamic. They are fast-moving, constantly evolving and intent on having their own way. Well, mine is. I thought the terrible twos were a myth, but I know for a fact that threenagers exist. Ebony is determined, strong-minded and loud. She bulldozes anyone who gets in her way (me), fights with her rivals to the bitter end (me) and doesn’t like to be told no.

And I love all of this about her. I want her to have all of these characteristics when she’s older, and that means I have to find a way to live with them now. It would be lovely to have a child who did everything I said and never argued, but I want a daughter who can hold her own. I don’t ever want anyone to mess her about, stand in her way or dictate her choices for her.

Living with an opinionated, self-assured, argumentative three and a half year old isn’t always easy. It's International Peace Day on the 21st, so I thought I'd share some of the things I do to find (and keep) peace in my home, and in my relationship with her:

  1. Slowing down
    It’s all too easy to rush through life. There are always trains to catch, friends to meet and chores to be done. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and so we end up rushing to try and fit as much in as we can. I’ve noticed though, that on the days we rush, neither of us has as much fun. We simply don’t have the time for connection. I don’t have time to stop and notice her playing, and she doesn’t have time to explore and investigate all of the things she wants to. And so I now make a conscious effort to slow down. We have to rush, of course, to nursery and for the train. But we don’t overfill our days anymore. We leave ourselves time to walk slowly, time to explore and time to talk.
  2. Keeping things tidy
    I’m not sure if this is something person to me, but I really struggle to get things done when the house is messy. I can’t sit down to work because I’m distracted by the dirty dishes or the pile of laundry. Our house gets messy really easily, with three people leaving clutter around it only takes a day or two for things to descend into chaos. I find that it really affects my mood when the house is messy, so I’m trying to keep things tidy. I’ve been reorganising rooms recently to try and make sure everything has a place. I’ve also been taking a few moments at the end of the day to just gather up those stray toys that seem to creep into every corner of my home. It doesn’t take long, but it makes me feel so much better.
  3. Being mindful
    Mindfulness isn’t something I know much about, but it’s something I’m trying to become more aware of. Mindfulness is about slowing down, appreciating things and being more aware of yourself and others. I think mindfulness is particularly useful for young children, and I think it’s something many people do without realising it. Stopping on the way home to talk about the sky, or pausing before a meal to really appreciate the smells, colours and tastes on offer, are just little ways you can become more mindful. I know that these years will pass quickly, and I try to be mindful of that each passing day.
  4. Being compassionate
    Continuing on from mindfulness, I’ve been focusing on becoming more aware of the moods in the house. If I can tell Ebony is tired after a busy day at nursery or frustrated because she couldn’t do something she wanted, I try to be mindful of that. It’s sometimes easy to forget that she’s three, and I can end up expecting too much from her. Being compassionate to her needs, as well as my own, is useful when navigating disagreements between us.
  5. Picking my battles
    This is an important one. I have always picked my battles with Ebony. Life is too short to be constantly at loggerheads with someone you love. And it’s crap to be told no all the time, so I don’t want that to be the soundtrack to her childhood. I want her to be safe, happy and considerate of others. And I’ll tell her she has to hold my hand to cross the road, but I’m not going to argue with her about what she wears. She is her own person and will probably spend the rest of her life making decisions I wouldn’t make for her, given the chance. As long as she’s safe, happy and isn’t hurting anyone, what does it really matter?
  6. Prioritising sleep
    Sleep is lovely, and also, a bit of a distant memory. Ebony sleeps well, but she still usually wakes once during the night. She doesn’t wake for long and easily falls asleep again. I’m a night owl and am not great at going to bed at a decent hour. Now that I’ve got to drop Ebony off at nursery before 9am each day, I’m trying to go to bed a little earlier to make this easier. My 7:30am alarm has been a bit of a shock to the system, but it’s definitely easier to cope with when I’ve had a good night’s sleep.

  1. Connecting
    Connection is something we all take for granted. We’re family, therefore we should love each other, right? But that’s not really how it works. You only get out what you put in. To get the most out of people, you have to invest as much as you possibly can. For me and my three year old, that means time to read stories, time to listen to her talk about her day and time to answer her questions. It means giving her my full attention. Leaving my phone in another room and really tuning into what my daughter is saying.

What do you do to find and keep the peace in your home?

Monday 14 September 2015

A Visit to All Stars Lanes

Over the summer holidays, I made it my mission to do as many fun things with Ebony as possible [on an unrelated note, I’m now very skint]. We did quite a few new things, including a visit to the cinema (Inside Out is amazing) and a trip to our nearest ice rink (not near at all).

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time with my sister too. After two years abroad, Rosie has now firmly settled into the role of Ebony’s favourite person. One day we decided to take Ebony bowling. She’d never been before and it seemed like a good ol’ fashioned school holiday activity.

There’s no bowling alley near us, and since we were meeting my sister, we decided to go to All Star Lanes in Manchester. Situated on Deansgate, it was easy to get to and handily close to the Museum of Science and Industry where we decided to spend our morning.

There is a restaurant at the bowling alley, but a quick glance at the menu didn’t reveal much in the way of vegan options so we decided to grab lunch at Dimitris instead. I over ordered for Ebony and ended up with a little doggy bag of food to take away (and throw away, because it turned out Ebony was not a fan of cold food).

All Star Lanes wasn’t quite like the bowling alley I remember from my youth. There were no arcade games, the drinks didn’t come in paper cups, and it wasn’t that busy. In fact, we were the only customers when we arrived. By the time we left, I think about two of the other lanes were in use. It’s much smaller than a typical bowling alley, and has only around six lanes, meaning you can enjoy a more intimate bowling experience.

I can’t remember the last time I went bowling, I’m pretty sure it must have been in my teenage years (many centuries ago), but Laurie insists we have been since then. I assumed we’d have to have the bumpers on, but it turns out technology has improved since the 1990s, and now they can programmed to appear and disappear between players as if by magic. Which is great and all, if you can bowl, which I can’t. I had been hoping to exploit the bumpers for myself, but no such luck.

They had the ramps to help kids bowl, Ebony did have a go without but it was quite a tense fifteen minutes while we waited for the ball to slowly edge its way towards the pins. She needed to be lifted up to place her ball on the ramp, but could push it off with enough force that she managed a few strikes. I didn’t have quite so much luck, but can confirm that the television screens have a huge variety of animations to show when your ball ends up in the gutter. Ahem.

I did actually manage to get one strike, but it was on the very last go. I forgot you have three turns so have told Ebony it was her go, she proceeded to get a strike. I didn’t tell her my mistake. It didn’t make a difference to the scores, she won by miles anyway. I want to blame it on the bumpers, but they weren’t up when she scored me a strike.

We originally booked for one game but ended up staying for a second. It was not cheap (for three of us to have two games and a drink it cost £46) but was a much nicer experience than the bowling alleys I have visited in the past. It was fun to take Ebony to a quieter bowling alley, and I will definitely be going back.

Friday 11 September 2015

And Then You Were Gone

From the day you were born, I barely let you out of my sight. You came everywhere with me. Happily snuggled up in the sling at parties and weddings. I carried you from room to room throughout the day, never wanting you to be left alone. You shared my baths, stared at me while I peed (not in the bath) and slept on my chest while I made dinner. We went everywhere together, inseparable best friends who didn’t want to be apart even for a second. You slept on me or Laurie in the evenings, while we watched television, and then accompanied us up to bed at night. You slept next to me, my arms around you for protection, snoring softly with each breath.

Then you learned how to walk, and we didn’t need a sling anymore. You followed me all by yourself. You would appear in the doorway to help me unload the washing or tidy up the toys. You would run off across the park by yourself, but always looked back to check I was still following you. You were independent, but you still wanted me closeby. And still, every night you snuggled up in my arms for sleep. We went on adventures together, and every stick or stone (and once a dog poo) you stumbled across was proudly presented to me as a gift. We spent our days reading books and playing as you explored the world around you.

You seem to grow so quickly, in just the blink of an eye I notice that you look older, taller and more grown up than you did before. When you turned thee, your best friend, Daisy, started preschool so you wanted to start too. You did just one morning a week. You didn’t cry the first time I dropped you off, you were just excited to go and play with you best friend. In fact, you didn’t cry once at preschool, always so excited to play with their toys and see your friends.

And then it was summer, and we spent eight glorious weeks together. We visited the beach, went bowling, ice skating and to the cinema. We went to museums, parks and art galleries. We hung out with your friends and you got to know your Auntie Rosie a little better. We played in the garden, we read stories and we played with all of your toys. And even though I didn’t get so much work done, we had the best summer ever.

And then it was time for nursery. You didn’t want to go, you said, you wanted to stay at home with me. You said it once, and then never again, as your excitement for nursery grew. We bought your uniform, chose your special nursery wellies and talked about what you might do at nursery. And you started to get excited. You told me you were looking forward to making new friends, to playing with dinosaurs and to playing in the house.

We went to a taster session together, and you switched between strolling around confidently and shyly holding my hand and taking me with you. You wanted me to read you a story, then you’d run off and play again. On the way home, you told me it was just like preschool and you loved it.

Then this morning, I dropped you off there alone. You were excited from the moment you opened your eyes, ignoring my hangover (note to self: don’t drink on school nights anymore) and telling me how excited you were to play in the house again. You got dressed, telling me how cute your uniform was. You grabbed your coconut milk and ran out the door. You ran the whole way there. When they opened the doors, you proudly showed them your vegan milk before turning and giving me a big cuddle. You told me to have a nice day at work (again, ignoring my hangover) and gave me a huge kiss, then you ran inside without a backwards glance.

I peeked through the window and saw that you’d kicked off your school shoes and were switching them for a pair of princess heels. You didn’t look around for me, or look upset that I’d gone. You’re too independent for any of that. You just want to play and have fun and make friends. And so I walked home alone, shedding a couple of silent tears on the way. The house felt eerily quiet when I got home. Your dressing up clothes sit in a heap on the living room floor, and your breakfast things are still on the playroom table. But you’re not here, because you’re too busy growing up.

Friday 4 September 2015

It Could Have Been Me

It's easy to feel helpless when faced with the world's problems. There are so many to fix, where do you even begin? It's all to easy to dismiss yourself as too small to help, too busy or too useless. Every so often, however, something happens that forces people to mobilise. Something so loud that it silences that nagging voice in our heads saying we don't have the time or skills to make a difference. Something big. 

The harrowing photographs of a child, his life cut short as his family tried to find a safe place to call home, have spurred the world into action. Where last week there were unsympathetic and bigoted headlines, now there are calls for help. Where there stood politicians firmly refusing to help, now there are promises of change. Not huge change, certainly not enough change, but some change. 

I wrote down my thoughts when I first saw that photograph, the one that kept me awake for most of the night, thinking about my own three year old. Thinking about how two children bought at the same time can have such different stories. Thinking about how fortunate we are for everything we have, to have each other. Wondering how I could help. 

I'm lucky to live in an area that is welcoming refugees with open arms. My local council announced long before that world-changing photograph that they were going to offer homes for 1200 refugees. Not all councils have been so compassionate. If yours hasn't, join the campaign and ask them to. 

Over 11,000 children have died in Syria since the war broke out. A million more have fled their homes. Their homes, filled with happy childhood memories, are no longer safe for them. Save The Children are helping to provide the children in Syria with food, safe water, medicine and shelter. They are keeping children safe where the international community is failing to. 

You can donate £5 to the Save The Children Syria crisis appeal today by texting SYRIA to 70008. 

Or you can donate online if you'd prefer. 

The terms and conditions for donating via text message can be found here.

Thursday 3 September 2015

Making Home Improvements on a Budget

The one problem with stretching your finances to buy a house, is that there isn’t really much left in the pot for home improvements. I do most of my decorating on Pinterest these days, saving up ideas for when we can finally afford to actually do things. Our house was given the once over with a huge tub of magnolia paint before it went on the market, and at first I thought that would be bearable for a while. It turns out, however, that it really only takes a few months for the sight of magnolia to make your insides scream in despair.

The problem with our house is that most of the rooms that are left to do actually require quite a bit of work. There is (so much) hideous textured wallpaper in some of the rooms, crazy 1980s arches to be taken down and plastering to be done. The next room on the list is our bedroom, which requires the destruction of some pretty hideous 1970s fitted wardrobes and the removal of some questionable polystyrene ceiling tiles (goodbye, fire hazard). My plan is to have the bedroom done before Christmas, though that might be a little optimistic. Especially considering my expert decorators (mum and dad) are away on holiday until late November.

I was originally hoping to get the living room done before Christmas, but have since decided we actually need a major overhaul downstairs. I think the playroom and living room need to swap locations, and that means it’s a bigger (and way more costly) job than I was anticipating. So it’s moved down the list. The thought of spending another year in this magnolia living room is too much, and so I’ve been looking online for home inspiration for a temporary fix.

Yesterday afternoon, I started painting the walls white. A joyous job when it all soaks into the textured wallpaper, so I imagine this may take a while. I decided it was worth doing because the playroom will be white anyway, so I’m not doubling up on my workload. I’m hoping the white paint will make the room feel a little cheerier, and make it a nicer place to sit in the evenings. The living room has been completely neglected since we moved in, we haven’t even put up a single picture hook, so once the walls are painted I’ll be able to start putting pictures up.

I know it won’t make a huge difference, but just making it less magnolia will be wonderful. And then I’ll be able to start stockpiling bright accessories to liven up the room. And then, you know, the magnolia somewhere else in the house will start to drive me crazy instead and I’ll have to paint over that too. I can’t quite believe we’ve been in this house for over a year and the magnolia still dominates.

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