Keeping in touch with friends.

Post in Collaboration with GiffGaff.

When did you last catch up with your friends? If I start to answer that question, my response is often the same. I liked their photo on Instagram, replied to their joke on Facebook, or on a good day… sent them a text asking how they were. But when did I last have a proper catch up with my friends?

Life is busy. We are all busy. Work, family, life! Sometimes it is hard to find time to spend with our favourite people. I find myself very caught up in the world of social media, so I do stay in touch with people – but I don’t see them very often. I’ve got out of the habit of calling people to see if they’re free for a drink. Instead my phone does all my socialising. But what if I used my phone for something greater…

GiffGaff

GiffGaff the peoples mobile phone network, challenged me to host a games night with my friends and family. GiffGaff are run by you, and they are all about keeping you in touch with those closest to you. They offer some great bundles, and I tried out the £15 Goodybag – this gave me 15GB of data, Unlimited texts and Unlimited Minutes. I have to say that, unfortunately the signal in my home was not the best – but I do live in a very poor signal area for all networks. What I did notice, is that when I had signal the 4G worked quicker than my usual network provider – which is a huge bonus! You can get a free sim card, and as always when you change network, you can keep your mobile number if you want too.

So, how to use your mobile to really keep in touch..

Texting your friends

The tragedy is very few of us ever phone each other for a chat. We are so used to just sending a text. I always worry that something is really wrong when they phone me. So, I decided to text my friends their invites to come over. It was quite fun as my phone pinged to tell me whether people were coming over or not! – PING! – (You get the idea!).

Games Night

So, with text invites sent and replies accepting received, there was not much more to do…Well, apart from get ready for the party! As part of our party pack from GiffGaff, we received games from Big Potato!

The thing about a board games night is there is plenty of time to interact. You can’t pick up your phone and mess about on social media while playing a board game – or you lose concentration! (Or get accused of cheating!). Now, we are hugely competitive as a family, so I was a bit worried that we may be a bit ruthless, so I had already planned that we would ensure we mixed up rather than be on the same side… (Remember that Pingpong ball scene in Friends with Monica and Chandler? That could so easily be us…).

Data

Of course, I could have used my data when I had my friends round for lots of reasons! Firstly – Order a takeaway – yes who needs to spend hours cooking when you can click through an order – and save money by applying a discount code too if you can! Send those funny snaps you’ve captured during your games night – not forgetting sharing with your group the video footage of the Victorious Winners of the Giff Gaff Games Night 2019 Trophy… (I would have shared it with you if I was allowed…) Oh, and connect to Alexa so she can entertain us with songs all evening – thank heavens for “Alexa, Play Happy Music!”.

Who WON?!

Well, the games went down really well – we especially liked “Weird Things Humans Search for”. However, be aware that if you play this after a few drinks, it is even more hilarious – some of the answers which were being written down were hysterical!

Unfortunately, I did not win. I personally think I was robbed of victory, and that actually I should have won, I blame my friend Ani for distracting me. Not that I’m bitter. Ok, perhaps just a bit. That trophy was shiny!

Phone a friend…

The funny thing is, after you have had a great night with friends, you feel closer to them. It is suddenly easier to call them and say “Hi, thank you so much for coming over! Shall we do it again sometime soon?”. Having a get together has opened up the doors of communication once more. I think it was a great opportunity to get together and talk! We will definitely be doing it again, maybe next half term?

Grief – Talking

Grief is awful. It’s the most horrible feeling. It sort of sits on your shoulder, and you carry it around. While it sits there, quietly, it’s totally bearable. Then suddenly when you least expect it, it leaps in front of you bowling you over. SURPRISE! Although, it isn’t a surprise. You start to become accustomed to carrying it around, but, as time goes on, when you get bowled over it is easier to get back up again. It does get easier. It might not feel it, but it really does.

There’s this even more awful thing though, and that is knowing whether or not to speak to someone about their deceased loved one.

I have really struggled with this. Part of me thought that if we never spoke about them again, it would be easiest. There would be no awkward moments, and no emotions – that would be easiest wouldn’t it?

I quickly discovered that not talking made me personally feel worse. It was like I had bottled everything up, and I got to the point where I just couldn’t not talk about it anymore.

So now, I will say “OH! Gosh she would have loved that – she adored those!”. Or I will talk about those funny times, or where a photo was taken. It still hurts, don’t get me wrong – it does. But it also makes me smile. But that is me. I have the idea that by talking about my loved ones, I keep their memory alive.

However, I also totally understand those who would rather not talk about their loved ones. Sometimes the pain of remembering them is too great. Verbalising a loved one in a past tense is too painful. To try to not think of them, or at least not think of them as gone.

My advice, if you know someone who has lost a loved one, just say something to them. You can talk about the weather, your favourite cake, or ask them if they’re ok. They may cry, they may ignore you, or it may bring you closer.

Storage Tips for a Growing Family

Collaborative Guest Post

Storage needs grow and change all the time to keep pace with hobbies, interests and professional needs. Keeping up with a growing family, so everyone has the storage for the things they need right now, is tricky. After all, it’s not like you can just rearrange or expand the whole house. 

Seasonal Storage

Finding storage for absolutely everything you own can be a real challenge, if not downright impossible. Taking a seasonal or rotational approach can solve the problem when you rent a self storage unit to cope with the overflow.

This approach works for just about all possessions that you use for only part of the year. You can include items such as garden furniture and tools, out of season clothes that are bulky to store at home, and toys or games that are too good to get rid of but which have temporarily fallen out of favour.

Toys in particular are a good example, because kids change their minds about what they like so often. The toy they can’t live without this week might very well be completely discarded next week, and suddenly be in hot demand again next month. 

Coping with fads and phases is difficult when you’re trying to keep everything neat at home. Put items into self storage and they’ll seem fresh again when they haven’t been seen for a few weeks.

Self storage can also help with recycling, repurposing and reusing toys and sports equipment. Save items that are still in good condition but which older children have discarded. Younger children can then enjoy them in the future without you going to the expense of buying new stuff.

Storage Furnishings

Even when you’ve cleared the decks at home of things that you’re not actually using, it can still be challenging to keep everything else neat and tidy. Storage furniture can really help.

When you are updating or replacing existing furniture, choose new items that include some storage such as end tables with drawers or shelves beneath the surface, lift-up coffee tables or ottoman and divan style beds. 

Storage furniture in bedrooms is particularly useful, since in children’s rooms they can store all kinds of sports equipment and toys without cluttering up wardrobes. They are great for storing spare linens or towels in master bedrooms.

In addition to storage furniture, don’t forget to use the vertical space we often overlook. A column of open shelving will fit in just about every room of the house, offering handy storage or display areas for either practical or ornamental objects.

Hidden Places

Speaking of vertical spaces, there are many vertical spaces that we rarely consider. In particular, what about the vertical areas on the ends of cabinet runs in the kitchen? 

Hang a towel rail here to hold tea towels or oven gloves, or install a narrow shelf with a railing front to house your favourite recipe books. The end of a run of cabinets on the wall is a handy place for a spice rack. Alternatively, you could pop a noticeboard there to hold children’s artwork, shopping lists, postcards, photographs, or anything else you like to display and change often.

Still in the kitchen, another hidden storage area lurks beneath kitchen cabinets. If your floors and walls are clean and well sealed, you could consider replacing traditional kick boards with hinged or sliding doors. Whilst this area isn’t very tall, it is very long and could have multiple uses for storage purposes.

Part of the key to keeping on top of storage needs, is to recognise that what works today will not necessarily work for all time. Having a self storage locker or unit available definitely helps to keep the house uncluttered and spacious. Using that alongside some of these other tips will help make your life more relaxed and stress-free.

Juno My Baby Elephant – Review

A little while ago we received Juno The Baby Elephant to review. As a family we’re wild about elephants, when I say we were quite excited by the delivery it’s an understatement!

Juno arrived boxed beautifully, and it was quite easy to unpack her. She needs 4 x AA batteries which are not included – so do remember to get some ready!

Play with Juno!

The more you play with Juno the Baby Elephant the more she will learn. She starts off very shy, her ears covering her eyes, and the more she is played with – the braver she becomes! She really responds to touch. My daughter loves put her into cuddle mode and getting Juno to give her a kiss.

Juno comes with her toy mouse, and her peanut. Sometimes she will eat the peanut and other times she will toss it – watch out as she has a really good throw! We have been hit on the head a couple of times by Juno being a little naughty and throwing her peanut across the room! I love the fact that you can offer her the peanut (or mouse) and she will take it with her trunk!

We learnt quickly that if her batteries run flat she only plays to a limited degree – e.g. her trunk won’t move up and down! The only negative I have about Juno is that she doesn’t have a volume control, so when I tried to play with her after the children were in bed, she woke them up! Mental note, don’t try playing with Juno without your children’s supervision!

Watch Juno!

I took a short video of Juno in action, just so you can hear some of her sounds! I was hoping she might throw the peanut but she was getting tired instead!

Juno has provided hours of fun, and continues to do so! I think she will be a very popular toy for Christmas 2019 on many lists!

Juno the Baby Elephant is available in Smyths Toy Store RRP £79.99

5 Halloween Books for Pre-Schoolers

Tomorrow we are off for our weekly library visit. I love owning books, but I also love visiting the library. It is a place to go on a wet afternoon, great with a toddler in tow, and it provides the choice of so many books! Our little library has quite a limited collection, but they are always willing to order books in – although I confess that we don’t often use that service!

I digress, as it’s almost Halloween, I have decided that we should choose some super spooky books to read! So, I’m sharing some of our favourite Halloween appropriate books for Pre-Schoolers with you;

Winnie the Witch – Winne and Wilbur Written by: Valerie Thomas

We love Winnie the Witch! They are great fun to read, and beautifully illustrated! Winnie and Wilbur is hilariously funny – my 5 year-old is highly amused when Winnie keeps tripping over Wilbur!

Lydia Lou – Written By: Julia Donaldson

By the author of the Gruffalo, a Ghost tries to wake up Lydia Lou by making lots of noise with the help of animal friends. It’s a really funny story, and we usually find we get a bit loud when reading it – you won’t be able to resist making the sounds!

Funny Bones By: Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg

When I was little this was one of my favourite stories! Yet, I’ve not read it to my younger two children as yet… So, we are going to get one of the series out from the library so I can re-live reading about the skeleton family!

Yuck! That’s not a monster! By; Angela McAllister and Alison Edgson

Can a Monster be pink and fluffy? Well, that’s the question this family of little monsters are asking! This is a lovely tale, about how we’re all different. I think monsters are appropriate for Halloween, and it is such a lovely story I couldn’t miss it off the list!

Room on the broom – By Julia Donaldson

No Halloween reading list would be complete without Room on the Broom! The marvellous witch who tries to give everyone a lift on her broom stick. Will they all fit? What will happen? It’s a lovely adventure which my daughter is fascinated with every time we read!

Eco Panda Re-usable Make Up Pads – Review.

Gifted – Review Post

I’ve been taking steps to reduce our waste for several years, and each year I try to tackle something new. But, one of the first switches I made years ago, was rethinking my make-up removal. I switched to re-usable options from single use facial wipes. Yes, many years ago, I too was that person who bought into facial wipes. They seemed an easy option, and I didn’t realise how awful environmentally they were until someone explained. My first switch was just to a flannel, and then years later I got my first re-usable facial wipes.

Many of my friends are still facial wipe users, or buy cotton wool pads wrapped in single use plastic. It’s all about ease, and re-usable is hassle – right? Well no. Re-usable wipes are such an easy switch, and actually will save you money oh and from running out! I think most of us have been there, with a full face of make-up at the weekend and no way to clean it off…

Re-usable Make-up Removal Pads

Eco-Panda sent me a set of their make-up removal pads, they come with a container to store them in – which looks beautiful in the bathroom or on your bedside table. Each pad is super soft, and so they glide across your skin – use your normal make up remover with them. Once used, pop them into the net laundry bag included – it’s made from cotton so no nasty micro-plastics to worry about. When you’ve enough in the laundry bag, you can wash them in the washing machine just pop the bag straight into the machine. I’ve only just needed to wash mine as you get a good supply – 18 in total, plenty for a weeks supply!

Eco-Friendly Packaging

I really like the fact the the pads come in a storage container and with a laundry bag. It makes the whole process so easy! I was impressed that they arrived in a cardboard box – no plastic waste to be seen. The pads and the container are made using Bamboo. Bamboo is a great material as it is bio-degradable and fast growing. The pads are also Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, for the absence of harmful substances. So keeping your skin and the environment really clean.

I have to say, I am really keen on the Eco Panda Make-up removal pads. They feel lovely on my skin, and are beautifully presented. They would make a wonderful Christmas gift for any beauty fan. You can buy reusable make-up removal pads from Amazon.

My 20 Month Old

Looking back at photographs, there has been so much change in 12 months. I no longer have a baby, he is very much a toddler boy. It seems strange that a year ago he was still very much a baby. I feel as though we are racing towards being a pre-schooler.

Favourite things

Helicopters are a favourite. We see military air craft daily, so I think this is where his fascination has started. When N can hear one approaching he will run to the window and stand watching until it flies over. He will point and try to say “copter” or “ane”. This summer we went to the Bournemouth Airshow, and he was delighted to watch the planes and helicopters. I’m already planning ones to visit next year!

He also has a love for all things with wheels, current favourite toy is a Happyland Fire engine which my eldest son had when he was 2. I think it shows that plastic toys can be great, if they’re decent quality and built to last. We have looked after it for 9 years, and I hope once N has finished with it we will pass it on to another family to enjoy.

Food

So, we’ve entered a bit of a fussy stage. N has developed a dislike of pasta, and a love of rice. He seems to like strong flavours, and is keen to try food as long as it comes from someone elses plate! Breakfast seems to last most of the morning at the moment. He eats before the school run, after the school run, and then about an hour later too. It means we seem to miss having a proper lunch? Back to school has thrown our schedule out!

Sleep

The only reliable naps come on the afternoon school run. Which I understand as to be honest I’d quite like to nap through them too! Bedtime we are having to rigidly stick to 7pm, or he refuses to go to bed or sleep at all. Sticking with 7pm at the moment means it all flows nicely, and he is usually asleep by 7.30pm.

Communication

While we can’t hold a conversation, over the last week N has begun to really try hard to communicate. The natural pattern of a conversation has begun. He will attempt to respond to questions with great enthusiasm, mostly in babble with some hand gestures or pointing. He has also started to show a great interest in other children of his own age. Which means we are making friends wherever we go!

5 Ways to Beat The Monday Blues.

So you’ve had a great weekend, and then Monday comes along. Back to the school run, back to work. Monday brings the stresses of a new week, and all the stuff left over from last week too! So I’m sharing my 5 favourite ways to handle the Monday Blues!

Make a List

This sounds so obvious, but having a clear list of tasks needing doing really keeps me on track! Whatever my plans, I find I’m lots more productive if I have a to do list to work with. I put everything on the list, including school runs. This means I tick off something before the day really begins and put myself into a positive mind set!

Check your diary

Anything exciting happening on your Monday afternoon? I try to make plans to have coffee with a friend on Mondays. It’s a great distraction, and it almost makes Monday a part of my weekend!

Monday is a good day…

Starting the day with a positive attitude helps me bound through Monday. I try to imagine what great things are ahead, what potential opportunities may present themselves! So, instead of worrying about the things I can’t change, I try to be positive about the good things which might happen!

Get Moving

Make Monday a day when you walk to work or school. Take your lunch outside, or sit out on your doorstep with your coffee. There’s been research which says getting out in nature is good for you. Well getting out for a walk in nature may not be practical on a Monday, but taking the children to the park after school might be a great way to burn off their energy and give myself a dose of fresh air!

Monday Music

Create a playlist of all your favourite songs, the ones which make you feel as though you can do anything! A Monday playlist will make your day great, play it at every opportunity! Not a big fan of music on a Monday morning? Look for an amusing podcast. I have to have music as I can’t concentrate on podcasts while I’m dashing around on a Monday! But my playlist keeps my mood high, and makes me laugh – as honestly it is the most ridiculous mix ever! But it’s my way of making it through Monday with a smile on my face!

I’m Wearing tweed this Autumn!

Disclaimer; Items gifted for review.

I adore autumn, but sometimes I do struggle with whether to wear a coat. It’s too chilly not to, but my winter coat is just a bit too warm! I find a gilet invaluable over the Autumn months and I was recently sent a tweed gilet from Ryedale Country Clothing.

Ryedale are a British country clothing brand which started up in 1954. Their ladies waxed jackets, men’s Tweed coatsbody warmers and flat caps are all made in the North of England.

I adore tweed, I think it’s a style which is never really out of fashion. Many years ago when I first graduated I bought a tweed suit second hand as I was desperate for the jacket it came with. I wore the jacket for an entire winter, then sadly lost it on a weekend away. But my passion for tweed has continued since then. I own a couple of tweed skirts and of course there’s my tweed Po-Zu boots too. Tweed is a great hard wearing fabric and really warm too – it seems to stop the wind. Whether you’re in the country or city, I think as the months get colder, tweed is a great option!

Tweed Gilet

I opted for a blue tweed , perfect for wearing with jeans (which I wear a lot!). The pink thread running through the tweed makes it easy to wear and gives the blue a warm tone. It’s easy to wear over a shirt or jumper to keep off the chill. I’ve also discovered that it will work really well as a layer under my wax jacket once the weather turns colder.

I’m quite tall so I was delighted with the length of the gilet, as it is longer than some. The fit is great as there’s an elasticated section across the back – making it comfy to wear while driving too. There are well placed deep pockets perfect for my phone or dog treats if out walking the dog.

Will you be wearing tweed this season?

Fall Fitness: Tips for Staying Healthy During the Autumn Season

Collaborative Guest Post.

The leaves are beginning to fall, and along with thoughts of football, hoodies, and nights by the bonfire, comes the chillier temperatures. With those chilly temperatures comes the very real possibility of colds, the flu, and depression. While people already know that taking care of yourself is mandatory, no matter what season it is, it’s important to work hard to stay healthy during the fall of the year, so the winter sniffles don’t get you as well. 

Because everyone knows that between the chilly weather and the upcoming hustle and bustle of holiday plans, it’s easy to start feeling under the weather and just as easy to try to ignore it until it’s too late. There are quite a few sicknesses that flourish well during the fall of the year, but if you stay healthy, you can possibly avoid the majority of them. How you might ask? Read on below to find out. 

Fight Off Depression

One of the worst things about the fall season for many people is the fact that the days are shorter, which can lead to seasonal depression. If you already have issues with severe depression, then the fall of the year can be tough to get through. It’s important that if you start feeling overly depressed, you contact a reputable doctor for depression treatment right away. 

Consider Getting Your Flu Shot 

The debate over whether the flu vaccine prevents the flu or just makes it worse continues to rage, as it has for quite a few years now. It’s worth noting at this point, however, that the flu shot isn’t effective for everyone. You should talk to your primary health care provider before determining whether the vaccine is right for you. It is something to consider, but not without the approval of your doctor first. 

Add Autumn Harvest Vegetables to the Table 

Eating the fruits and veggies that are in season is never a bad idea. Carrots and sweet potatoes, which are fall foods, are full of antioxidants and help to support your immune system, so you should have plenty of those on the dinner table for you and your family. Other autumn harvest foods you might want to consider adding to your diet are brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, winter squash, and even tomatoes. Red, green, orange, and yellow bell peppers are full of vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy this upcoming fall season as well. 

Stock up on Soups

Of course, you’ve heard all of your life from your mother and grandmother that soup is the best thing for you when you’re sick. They might just be right, but eating homemade or even canned soup can help to boost your immune system as well. The salty broth of the soup actually helps to thin out mucus when you have a cold, just like cold medicine does, but it’s all-natural instead. 

Take a Walk in the Autumn Air

There is nothing like a brisk walk in the autumn air to help you not only boost your immune system but clear your mind as well. As the temperatures start to plummet, most people don’t get out and get the exercise they need the way they did during the summer. Taking a short walk before or after dinner can help you stay healthy both physically and mentally as well. 

These are just a few of the ways that you can stay healthy during the fall season, and leading into winter as well. Fall is a wonderful time of scents and chilly nights, you want to be able to enjoy them without being sick, following these tips will help with that.