Friday 22 December 2017

5 Ideas To Get The Playroom Ready For Christmas

We don't decorate the whole house for Christmas, mostly because I hate tidying it all away at the end of the festive season. In fact, most of the house remains largely untouched by Christmas. Most of our Christmas decorations go in the living room, that's where the tree is and it's where we spend most of our time. We eat Christmas dinner in the conservatory so that room gets a festive update, too. And, this year, the playroom has been decorated as well.

The playroom is at the front of our house, people passing by can see into the room from the street (I imagine they are usually quite horrified by the mess). With that in mind, we decided to give it a little festive update this year. Here is some inspiration to help you update your playroom for December:

1. Put a tree up
This is the easiest way to make a room feel festive. We always get a real Christmas tree for the lounge, but we also have a big artificial tree to go in the playroom. It sits in the bay window so our house looks festive from the street. Unfortunately, the tree has a manic festive theme because Ebony decorated it herself and, for some unknown reason, piled all the tinsel on the top third of the tree. 

If you don't fancy putting up a bit tree, you could go for a miniature real tree with a small string of lights to add a festive touch to the room. Pinterest has plenty of ideas for alternative, child-friendly trees, too. I love the rustic wooden pallet trees, although have never gotten around to making one myself. 

2. Add some festive furnishings
Having some Christmas-themed cushions that can be simply thrown onto the sofa in December is an easy way to add a magical touch to the playroom. Since it's pretty nippy in December, you could also add a Christmas throw to the sofa for you all to snuggle under while watching Christmas movies. You could even switch the curtains, red curtains or tartan curtains would add a subtle Christmas feel to the room, and you could keep them up all year round! You can find afforable, high-quality curtains online from Direct Blinds

3. Get creative
There is nothing Ebony loves more than being let loose on her arts and crafts box. She will stick, cut, glue and paint to her heart's content. We have made lots of Christmas decorations this year, from paper chains to baubles, Christmas cards to festive pictures. The playroom is filled with home made festive art. Ok, it's not stylish, but it takes me right back to my own childhood and the walls filled with cotton wool santas and milk bottle top garlands. 

4. Christmas lights
One of my favourite Christmas traditions is to go out walking to find the best Christmas house in the village. There are quite a few to choose from, whole houses lit up with flashing snowmen and prancing reindeer. Ebony always comes home wondering why our house doesn't look like that. I wouldn't want to go overboard with lights, I like going to look at them but I wouldn't want to pay the electricity bill, but we do have a few fairy lights hung up around the room. 

5. Make a window display
Spray snow, the stuff 90s Christmas dreams were made of! We used to have a box of stencils that we used to fill the playroom windows with Father Christmas shapes, smiling snowman and intricate snowflakes. I have a can of snow spray in the cupboard but haven't been able to use it this year because toddlers love eating fake snow from the windows, so I'll have to wait till next year to cover the windows with fake snow. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Thursday 21 December 2017

Perfect Presents For A Skater Kid

We took Ebony to see a roller derby game once. She was a toddler, probably a bit little to understand what was going on (I was a grown up and I had no idea what was going on), but she sat happily on a chair and watched fierce women zoom around the track. I'm not really much of a spectator, but I can appreciate any sport that has vegan cakes on sale at the matches. I am on board with this kind of sports watching. 

When I was a little girl, I had a beautiful pair of quad skates. There were red with rainbow stripes up the side and I loved them more than it is probably ok to love a piece of sports equipment. I couldn't use them, of course, I have less skill on skates than Bambi has on ice, but I loved how pretty they were. Meanwhile, Laurie was busy learning to skate backwards during his childhood. We are yet to work out who Ebony takes after in the skating department, I worry it might be me and my goal of being a roller derby mum will never come to fruition. In my mind, roller derby mum is way better than 'soccer mom' because there are vegan cakes and a roof (two of my faves). 

Not long after we took Ebony to see the roller derby game, I found a pair of adjustable roller skates in the charity shop. They turned out to be problematic because Ebony insisted on wearing them for the nursery run which meant an already stressful time of the day was now unbearably slow. I do not have the time to drag a toddler around the streets, I hoped she would just glide gracefully beside me like a pro. 

I have looked for a kids roller derby club but there isn't one in Manchester yet (there should be). There was one in Liverpool but I heard a rumour that it has closed down (I have not checked whether this is true). I would love to be able to take her to play roller derby, I think all girls need to learn a sport that teaches them confidence, warrior tactics and the importance of being strong. 

This is a collaborative post.

Monday 11 December 2017

5 Easy Family Holidays To Take In 2018

It is absolutely freezing at the moment and while I’m more than happy trudging through freshly fallen snow, the nonstop rain and biting wind are enough to have me dreaming of warmer climates. There’s a whole movement about creating a life you don’t need to take a holiday from. So instead of working endless hours saving up money to take a holiday you desperately need because you work too much… you just maintain a better work-life balance. I am on board with this theory, but I also like to visit new places and switch off from real life (I miss the days when going on holiday meant no phone and no internet for two weeks).

One of the things I would love to do is travel more. I think sometimes the thought of travelling with small children feels like hard work. Ebony is at a great age now and would be happy on long journeys and in busy cities, but Ember is a toddler and so that feels like it would be hard work. With this in mind, here are five easy family holidays to take in 2018:

1. A family cruise
Cruises sound like a pretty ideal way to see the world when you have young children. The travelling is done on board a giant ship full of entertainment, which sounds pretty perfect. There are loads of different cruise destinations, so whether you’re looking for warm weather or new lands, take a look at what cruises are on offer.

2. Camping in the UK
Camping is about as affordable as holidays come. We only managed to go camping once last year, we went too early in the year and it was too cold and I think I was too traumatised to suggest another trip. But next year, we will definitely be going again. With a heater. It will be easier now that Ember is a little older, too. We tend to arrange camping trips at the last minute so we’re guaranteed good weather, because I am not a fan of camping in the rain. Camping is cheap and easy (apart from the small task of fitting everything in the car which is actually really difficult) and you do tend to end up with no phone signal so it feels like a nice break from real life.

3. A European city break
This is something I really want to do more of. When I was a student, I interrailed around Europe for a month with my best friend and we had so much fun. Interrailing with small children would be beyond terrible (I hear those night trains are full of drunk students...) but the occasional city break would be amazing. Ebony really wants to go to Paris to see Blackpool Tower after learning about France in school (she may not have been listening too closely to what the teacher was saying).

4. A self-catering beach holiday
I have never been on an all-inclusive holiday. I think being vegan would mean the buffet was pretty limited, but also the thought of queueing up outside a food hall filled with hungry toddlers is not really my idea of relaxing. I like going self-catering because it means we have more choice about what and when we eat which I think makes life a lot easier when you have small children.

5. Camping abroad
My childhood was basically spent in a tent in France, or crammed into the backseat of my dad’s rusty Ford Escort on the way to France. For our family holiday in 2018, we’re going to stay at a big campsite in France. But we’re not staying in a tent, we’re in a chalet or something. I am really excited about it, I feel like it will be like a blast from the past. I think we would camp if we had enough room to fit camping things in the car but we struggle to get to the Peak District with all our stuff crammed into the car so there’s no way we would make it to France.

This is a collaborative post.

Thursday 7 December 2017

5 Ways To Raise Kids Who Care About The Planet

Climate change is terrifying, isn’t it? If you really stop to think about, it is absolutely terrifying. I can’t even begin to think about what will happen when climate change really kicks in. I can’t. I can’t bring myself to imagine how people will act when resources are limited, people are horrible enough to each other now.

Well, that’s the cheery introduction out of the way. With climate change looming over humanity as certain and unavoidable as night over day, I think it’s important to educate kids about the environment. Ok, the chance of your child growing up to solve climate change is slim, but somebody is going to have to at least try to tackle the problem. Maybe the things you say, do and teach now will help to inspire the next generation of political activists and scientists.

With that in mind, here are five easy-peasy ways to teach your kids to care about the planet. Because they really need to, before it’s too late. They were let down by all the previous generations and now they need to sort it out. So, please try the following to instil a love of nature in your kids:

1. Plant some trees
Climate change solutions start at home, so you need to create an eco-friendly garden for your kids to enjoy. Luckily, you can do this as a family and it will be a fun bonding experience as well as teaching you all to be more mindful of the planet. Think about your outdoor space and work out ways to make it a more nature-friendly habitat. Planting trees is a great way to create a beautiful outdoor green space. Trees attract a lot of wildlife so adding trees to your garden is great for your garden’s ecosystem. Landmark Trading has some great information to teach you all you need to know about planting your own trees. They also sell all of the accesories you'll need to get started in the garden.

Plant wildflowers on your shed roof, turn the flower beds into patches of wildflower and install a homemade bug hotel in your garden. Try to create a garden that is a welcoming place for animals and insects. Get your kids involved in creating birdhouses, hedgehog homes and other habitats. Whip up some bird feeders for the winter months, plant flowers that will attract butterflies and have plenty of wood in your garden for insects to enjoy.

2. Spend time outdoors
You need to spend time in nature to truly appreciate it. Today’s kids are spending more and more time in front of screens, and yet it is important that they pay close attention to the changes occurring in the world around them. Councils are reducing green spaces, schools are keeping kids indoors during wet playtimes and kids are spending less time outdoors than previous generations. Kids don’t climb trees, run through muddy puddles or build dens like they used to. Instil a love of nature in your kids by letting them immerse themselves in nature. Encourage them to explore, let them get muddy and join in their outdoor games.

Outdoor play doesn’t need to be reserved for warm weather, there are plenty of ways to keep kids occupied on cold, winter days. Go for scavenger hunts, see how many different types of trees you can find, collect foliage to make a winter wreath. Pinterest is overflowing with outdoor play activities so head there for inspiration.

3. Choose bedtime stories that teach environmental awareness
I like stories with a strong message, so we have shelves of moraltastic books. I should probably write a separate post filled with my favourite eco books for kids, but in the meantime, try these:

If you have any favourite eco books that didn't make it onto this list, please share them in the comments below. I'm always on the lookout for new books!

4. Pick up litter
Picking up litter is a really easy thing you can do to improve your local environment. It stops litter ending up in the sea, and it teaches a valuable lesson to your child about the importance of community and doing your bit. Look out for abandoned litter in the street and pick up anything you find. If you have a public green space nearby, you could head there with a litter picker and set a goal of collecting 10 items of litter before going to play at the park.

5. Lead by example
You can talk up the environment all you want, but if you’re being hypocritical, your kids are going to notice. If you want them to care about the environment, you need to care about it, too. You need to stop using the car for short journeys, you need to eat locally produced in-season food, you need to recycle everything you can and try to avoid waste. You need to switch lights off, encourage the school to improve their green policies and write to your MP to find out what they’re doing to prevent climate change. You really do need to be that change you want to see. Inspire your kids to make a difference, too.

This is a collaborative post.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

5 Tips To Save You Time This Christmas

Christmas is very nearly upon us, although I admit I’ve been feeling that way for months. Now, with just weeks to go, I have got most of my big jobs out of the way but I still feel as though there isn’t enough time to get everything done (why did I think I would have time to decorate two Christmas Eve boxes?).

I had forgotten how limited time is when you have a small child in the house. I spend most of my days chasing after her, cleaning up after her and then there is very little time for anything else. So, at this stage in my life, time-saving tips are everything.

Contact Numbers UK has launched the #OneLessWorry campaign to highlight ways to minimise the stress at Christmas. And, I figured I would share a few of my favourite Christmas time-saving tips in case anybody else is so busy tearing after a toddler that they haven’t had chance to write their letter to Santa yet. Here are five ways to save time this Christmas:

1. Do the big shop online
Why would you do it any other way? I honestly don’t get it. The days of trekking around supermarkets arguing over the last bag of brussel sprouts are behind us now. You don’t need to do that anymore. Just get yourself an online delivery slot and fill your trolley with more food than you can carry. I have an Ocado shop arriving on the morning of Christmas Eve and this will save me so much time compared to having to do a big shop myself.

2. Use a gift wrapping service
When you contact stores like John Lewis, they will ask whether you want gift wrapping when you make a purchase. Say yes, it will save you loads of time and it means when you get home you can shove that gift in a wardrobe and forget about it until the big day. Aa an added bonus, all your gifts will be expertly wrapped instead of looking somewhat unhinged (my personal wrapping style).

3. Buy Christmas presents all year
Ok, I don’t start in January, but I am pretty organised when it comes to Christmas presents. If I see something I think somebody will like, I buy it, even if it’s summer. This not only helps to spread the cost of Christmas, but it also means that by the time I come to start my shopping, I’m already halfway there. I also do a lot of my present shopping online which saves me loads of time. I plan what I’m going to buy in advance and that takes away some of the stress and also reduces the chance of me overbuying (though I sometimes still do…).

4. Set aside some time to get the last few bits
There are also ‘a last few bits’ you need to get. It doesn’t matter how organised you are, there will be ‘bits’. And you will need them. So, plan for them now. Set aside a couple of hours to just blitz those final jobs in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Pop into town and get all the things gathering dust on your list. Avoid Saturdays because town is rammed then and the queues will slow you down and end up eating away at your free time.

5. Keep on top of the house
Christmas is all about welcoming visitors into your home. People come round for dinner, they pop round unexpectedly to drop off presents and they come in for a mug of mulled wine. You need to have your house ready for visitors at all times. I am not good at this, my house usually looks like a bombsite unless my mum has just been to visit. It is way easier to keep a house tidy than it is to tidy a house, so this December I’m focusing on keeping the house clean. This means picking up after my toddler (sob, so messy), keeping on top of the laundry and generally trying to give the illusion that my mum has just been round.

What money-saving tips are keeping you sane this Christmas?

This is a collaborative post with Contact Numbers UK.

Monday 4 December 2017

Gone In A Flash

(Firstly, when I was typing the title for this blog post, I missed the 'f' off flash so it could have been an entirely different type of blog post)

Today, I was slumped on the sofa in the kind of post-apocalyptic slump I retain for periods and The End Of The World. Ember was sat across from me, bored out of her mind because I had refused to take her to playgroup for fear of drowning everyone in my menstrual blood (let me know if there is too much period in this blog post, ok?). Elevated on the sofa by my princess and the pea-sized bed of sanitary protection (the ceiling-high pile of mattresses, not the teeny tiny pea, obvs), I kept a lazy eye on her while she entertained herself. 

She stomped over to the fireplace and threw herself down upon it with anger. We have an embarrassingly large collection of Christmas books currently leant to each side, she grabbed one and started thumbing through it. "Da da da da," she muttered loudly to herself, staring intently at the cheerful drawings of the dead-eyed snowman in the story. 

I looked at her and thought about how I didn't remember her sister ever doing this. And then it hit me, she probably had, I'd just forgotten. She probably shared many of her younger sister's quirks only they have been forgotten now thanks to the passing of time. I remember some, those caught on video, mostly, the ones I have actual proof of. The rest have faded into nothingness over time, mere blips in the timeline of my life, small, inconsequential, forgotten. 

And then I realised that this would happen with Ember, too. These things that seem huge now, as I'm sure they once did with her sister, they will be forgotten. Throw away memories discarded as tomorrows' chip wrappers. 

And then, in no time at all, she will be five. Almost six. Long-limbed, articulate, funny. No hint of the toddler I once held close, the baby who snuggled into me, the three-year-old who loved me more than anything. She will grow, change, blossom, and this little girl, these memories, the chubby toddler hands, the mullet of frizzy blonde hair, the gappy teeth, they will be gone. Replaced by someone bigger, older, wiser. Someone I can't ever believe was so little. 

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