Every Day’s a School Day plus *GIVEAWAY* Maths Puzzle

So despite the fact I’m typing this in what feels like the Earth’s core while the paddling pool is filling outside, I think we’ve all accepted that the Summer holidays are over and normal business has resumed – boooo….

Thankfully the kids have settled back into the old routine nicely while I’m still busy clearing up/recovering from the aftermath of school holidays.

Spud and Flump thoroughly enjoyed their break from the classroom (as much as I enjoyed my break from the school run!) but in an effort to stop their brains from grinding to a complete halt I employed a few sneaky tactics to encourage learning in a relaxed, enjoyable way.

  • Reading. Every year we take part in the Summer Reading Challenge which encourages children to read books in order to earn stamps, which they can then exchange for prizes. This year was particularly special as it was also part of the celebrations to mark the birth of Roald Dahl 100 years ago! It’s free and had both kids devouring books enthusiastically – the power of a scratch n sniff sticker eh?
  • Writing. We chose postcards while on holiday to write and send to friends back home.(Did you know it can take the average 5 year old up to 35 minutes to choose 4 postcards? Neither did I). Spud kept a diary of his adventures in a caravan, wrote to Blue Peter and penned his very first best-seller based on Ronaldo and himself fighting aliens in space in order to save the world from an invasion. I successfully tricked Flump into practicing her writing by ‘playing schools’ with free printouts from this website which worked brilliantly until she decided she was going to be the teacher and I was the pupil.
  • Maths. I wrote about my kids very different approach to learning in Beauty and the Brainbox and this is particularly evident when it comes to numbers! Spud is a natural, he just ‘gets it’ and writes out number grids and times tables for fun . Sadly it doesn’t come quite as easily to Flump who has a more ‘I do not like the numbers and you cannot make me like the numbers’ attitude when it comes to maths. When the lovely people at HappyCalc  asked me to review their new maths puzzle I had a feeling it would be right up her street. I was right…

The box comes JAM PACKED with pieces (138 to be exact), a mixture of illustrations and numbers which are combined to make simple equations and awesome spacecraft creations. As you can see Flump took over the floor with her sprawling masterpiece and the space theme couldn’t have been more apt as this is her Year 1 topic – result!

 

It’s aimed at 3+ from an educational point but to be honest any child who enjoys puzzles would love it. In fact Spud is almost 8 and spent ages playing with it, particularly enjoying all the funny little illustrations (I have to say I was impressed with the details, so many different little creatures to spot!). Unlike any other jigsaw I’ve seen this one is completely free form with no specific rules, allowing the child to create their own original design every time. Ideal for any little anarchist.

If you’d like to get your mitts on one you can purchase here  (currently on offer for around £23 plus P&P) or you can WIN one by entering via the link below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Continue Reading

Cooee!

hello

Hello!!

Just a super quick half pint of a post today as I refamiliarise myself with a laptop and poke my nose around the screen to say “Hi!”

So it’s been 3 weeks, did you miss me? Pah, bet you didn’t even notice I’d gone. Charming! Well I missed you lot, keeping me entertained and distracting me from all the very important things.

We’re at the end of our first week back to school here and so far, so good. With the exception of just one little meltdown (me, in the middle of M&S) we’re settling back into the old routine nicely and so far nobody has lost any uniform and Mummy hasn’t forgotten anything important. OK, I forgot the cheque for school dinners but apart from that, all good. On reflection my kids appear to be doing school a lot better than I am, hmmm… Oh, oh and we’ve walked to school four days in a row now and only had to run twice to beat the bell – I can tell you’re impressed. To be honest though, that’s mainly because we got stuck in a traffic jam on Day 1 and Spud was almost having kittens at the thought of being late for school, as a result we are now too scared to ever drive again JUST IN CASE.

Anywho, now that the chalk dust has settled and I’ve had a chance return the house to some sort of order I’m sooooooooooooo looking forward to getting back to blogging, lots of ideas I’ve been itching to crack on with over the holidays.

More of that soon, school run beckons – lovely to be back, looking forward to catching up with you all next week.

Have a great weekend!

Charlie.

Continue Reading

Zoats- surprisingly ok!

IMG_0917

Ordinarily I’d never have courgettes in the house, I’m not a fan but my Father-In-Law grows them so we usually end up with a couple every few weeks. Never one to waste food I’ve tried a few ways to transform them into something tasty including cake, fritters and tzatziki dip. Today it’s zoats, a combination of oats and grated courgette (or Zucchini, hence the ‘Z’oats). You can pimp your zoats however you please, topped with fruit, nuts, seeds, honey, chocolate chips, basically whatever you would normally put on porridge.

I had some fruit that was looking rather sorry for itself so decided to use that up. IMG_0910

For this bowl I used:
Half a massive courgette (1 small courgette) grated
1 apple grated
1 banana (half mashed, half reserved for topping)
Large splash milk
Topped with blueberries, banana and cinnamon
IMG_0912

Just mix it up and either cook on the hob or microwave as you would porridge and add toppings. The result? Now I’m aware the concept may sound very wrong, but actually the courgette doesn’t affect the flavour one bit and the texture is similar to grated apple. It bulked up the meal (that’s a tablespoon in the top image!) added fibre and sorted my courgette quandary – all in all a total winner, I’ll definitely be trying this one again, maybe with a scoop of protein powder next time (proat-zoats??)

Have you tried zoats yet? More importantly can you recommend any other recipes that use lots of courgettes (that don’t involve a spiralizer)??

x

 

Continue Reading

Glossybox August 2016 – Quick Nosey

I returned home from a few days in Norfolk with the family to find my very first Glossybox waiting for me (shout out to all posties who hide stuff behind the bin and save me a trip to the depot- I love you.) This is a VERY quick post just to show you the contents. I’m no beauty blogger but if you want a nice shiny review with pretty pictures a quick Google should bring up plenty of professional offerings, this is just for anyone who fancies a nosey.

I was quite looking forward to opening that myself actually.

I should start by saying I’m not particularly high maintenance when it comes to my beauty regime but I’ve always been tempted to give Glossybox, My Little Box or Birchbox a try. Last week I spied a code which bagged me “£20 worth” of extra booty with my order so decided to treat myself and see what all the fuss was about.

 

I paid £13.25 inc (very pretty) P&P, here’s what I got:

MUA Full Size Eyeshadow Pallette (£4): I was pretty happy to receive the ‘Heaven and Earth’ (bronzy browns) option as I’ll probably get more use out of that than the bluey grey alternative.

IMG_0900

Spa To You Deep Pore Facial Cleansing Brush Full Size (£6.99): Never one for creamy cleansers, I love a good scrub and am a devoted face wash and flannel user when it comes to cleaning my mush. This product is right up my street, you just apply your face wash as usual and use circular motions with the brush for a good ol’ exfoliation. It comes with a nifty little stand/cover which turned out to be not so nifty when it kept falling over backwards. I propped it up against the wall, the world went on, my face felt suitably buffed. I like it, I’d probably use it 2-3 times a week rather than everyday.

IMG_0899

Mudmasky Facial Detox Purifying Recovery Mask 20ml (£53) Their website states £60 per 60ml (!!) but currently offering 20% to Glossybox subscribers. At this price I’m going to enjoy every ml. I used it after the cleansing brush above so I’ve probably taken strips off my poor face but actually it felt really nice – tiny tiny ‘scrubby bits’ (how am I not a beauty blogger?) which I like, went on really easily and smoothly, smelt a bit like washing up liquid, made me look like Elphaba from Wicked (bonus points). Dried hard but as the layer is quite thin it doesn’t do that horrible crackling thing which freaks me out a bit. Washed off easily and left my skin feeling really soft and not at all tight or irritated.

IMG_0898

Cowshed Wild Cow Invigorating Body Lotion 30ml (300ml £20) Not sure I would spend £20 on a body lotion for myself but I have had a few Cowshed products in the past and really liked them. From the packaging I assumed it was going to be menthol/eucalyptus which I hate so I was very pleasantly surprised when I got my nostrils round it.This one smells so good, similar to the gorgeous Origins Ginger range or Champneys Citrus Glow range. Luxuriously thick but easily absorbed, this went on beautifully. I. Smell. Lush.

IMG_0897

GB Monogram Pochette designed by Rae Feather – Either you’re up to speed with this monogramming accessories brand du jour, or like me you’ve never heard of it because these days the closest you get to monogramming is scribbling your kids initials on their PE kit. Anyway, the inclosed newsletter informs me that the likes of Louise Redknapp, Poppy Delevigne and Coleen Rooney are big fans. Smallish but handy little zip purse useful for stashing bits and bobs.

IMG_0896

All in all I’d say I got my money’s worth. These are products that I can use and although I may not necessarily have bought them for myself, the whole idea is that the box is a little treat. I like nice smellies as much as the next person but in all honest beauty isn’t really my thing so while I may not seem over enthusiastic about my Glossybox, I don’t mean to sound negative. If beauty is your thing then I’d definitely give it a try, I think you’ll really like it. Me however, well my idea of a treat remains a (large) wodge of cake or a glass of red.

(PS below are the products I received with my code for a bonus gift worth £20)

A very wearable full size 10ml Nails Inc varnish  ‘Uptown’. This picture makes it look a bit more peachy than it really is, it’s more of a rosey pink. Really happy with this.

Eylure false lashes . I LOVE how pretty false eyelashes can look but I HATE  the feeling of them on my eyes and these are some chunky bad boys so if I ever did manage to apply them properly I’d probably have to walk around with my eyes closed.

Collection 2000 Teal Gel Eyeliner. Pretty sure the eyeliner will go to my makeup obsessed friend who can rock any look, unlike me who would look like a pantomime dame if I attempted anything remotely trendy.

Hope you enjoyed this sneaky peek into my August 2016 Glossybox!

Continue Reading

The Kids Are Alright

Somehow we are already halfway through the Summer holidays. Usually that statement would be one of reassurance, spurring me on through the second half towards the finishing line, where I can collapse in a heap at the school gates and be wrapped in a foil blanket by a member of St Johns Ambulance.

IMG_0766 (Edited)

This year however, something very, very strange is happening. After doing a quick check that I’d actually got my dates right and we were indeed at the halfway mark, I didn’t feel any sense of relief at all. In fact my heart sank a little knowing that the weeks are going by far too quickly and before I know it we’ll be diving into the new academic year.

So what has changed? How have we gone from a situation where I spend weeks dreading the arrival of the holidays and counting down the days until it ends, to one where the whole thing is a relatively pain-free, dare I say enjoyable experience?!

Now I know there’s a current trend of parents slagging their own children off, calling them everything under the sun and generally highlighting the many ways they make our lives a misery. While I find some of it funny, (Katie at Hurrah For Gin is just genius!) I won’t be referring to my kids as  dickheads, tw*ts or little f*ckers anytime soon (can’t promise I won’t be thinking it now and again though). Every parent knows children are hard work, they are relentless in their demands and have the ability to push you to the limit by breakfast but really, they are just being kids and sometimes kids can be annoying. As much as we would all love a tranquil existence with our impeccably behaved offspring it’s just not realistic to expect children to behave like anything other than children. In fact as parents it’s our job to deal with their little ‘challenges’ and ensure that they don’t develop into fully grown adult dickheads!

So apart from the incessant demands for my attention, requests for food, constant bickering and all the other perfectly normal shenanigans that make up family life, I guess what I am really trying to say is – the kids are alright. In fact they’re more than alright, I’d even go as far as to say it’s actually quite nice having them around! Yes, this is basically the post where I admit to sometimes enjoying the company of my own children. I can almost smell that Mother of the Year trophy.

IMG_0755

The obvious difference this Summer is that Flump and Spud are a year older, 5 and almost 8. This has such a big impact on many aspects of their abilities and behaviour versus previous years. In other words, they can enjoy doing way more stuff without everything resulting in some sort of emotional meltdown – HURRAH!!

Most days they can happily go from one activity to the next without needing to ask “What can I dooooo Mummy?” every 5 minutes and can play together or independently for a decent period of time too. Most days. Flump is more than happy in her own little world but Spud sometimes needs a little bit of guidance so we have a ‘Summer Rules’ sheet on the wall listing all the things they need to do before they are allowed screen time. This includes a certain amount of time reading, doing a craft, completing worksheets, making their beds, playing outside etc and usually this is more than enough to keep him entertained between breakfast and bedtime.

Days out are a much more enjoyable experience too. As long as I keep a constant supply of snacks and water on hand at all times the world’s our lobster. Playdates are a pretty relaxed affair with the little ones happy to play together (between snacks) and although there is an age gap, Flump is now more than capable of holding her own with the big boys and much to their annoyance often enjoys joining in with their games.

Where in previous years I wouldn’t have even attempted a trip to the shops unless it was absolutely necessary, so far we’ve managed a couple of pretty successful days shopping (even a Primark haul!) relatively fuss free. One of those included a trip to IKEA which the kids requested so they could go to Smalland for an hour, well I’m not gonna argue with that! Win win.

Lazy mornings, dawdling walks to the local playground, visits to the library and the odd trip to the coffee shop for a treat have broken the days up nicely and kept us happy with little effort or expense.

Credit where it’s due, they really have been pretty good company so far.

IMG_0587

In order to make the most of our time together I’ve made a few changes to my own behaviour which have without a doubt allowed me to enjoy the holidays in a much more carefree manner. Primarily, I’ve taken a big (temporary!) step back from blogging, writing if and when the notion takes me, dipping in and out of Twitter much less than usual and joining linkies a little less often too. This alone has made a huge difference – although I do feel like I’m neglecting my lovely blogging friends a bit I know they are a great bunch and will completely understand that family takes priority.

Spud and Flump are growing up far too quickly for my liking and every day I lose a little bit more of my babies as they figure out who they are and develop into little people! (Sad face.) I am very, very lucky to have the option of being a SAHM and I’ve realised that even though the kids won’t appreciate that now, hopefully in years to come they’ll remember the day we found ‘the tiniest frog in the world’ or knocked on fairy doors in the forest.

And so will I.

IMG_0716

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Back To School??

Schools-out-for-summer

7 days. We are 7 days into the school holidays and already I feel like I should be sewing name tags into PE knickers*. OK, I get it. I know that as parents we’re responsible for kitting the crew out ready for the first day of term. I know it makes sense to just get it out of the way as quickly as possible, weeping into our ever-emptying purses as we go.

(*Pah, ha, ha AS IF!! I’ll be using my trusty Sharpie to scrawl initials onto washing labels like every year!)

We’re all used to seeing ‘Back to School’ signs in-store before the kids have even broken up for the holidays, I’ve already seen a few blog posts on the subject too but I’m sticking firmly to my usual Head-in-Sand technique. Is it too much to ask to just NOT have to think about school for a while? School-runs, PE kits, fundraisers, parents evenings, homework, packed lunches, random costume requests, assemblies, sports days, sick days, school trips, Nativity plays, birthday party politics, Harvest festival, after-school clubs, lost property, show and tell and the endless list of things that make up the school year – please can we just enjoy our holidays happily in denial that it’s all there waiting for us again in a few weeks time?

This will be my fourth year of ‘doing uniforms’ so I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be any different this time round. Here’s my personal method to dealing with the back-to-school prep (I’m not suggesting it will work for everyone):

  • Read emails from M&S advertising 20% off uniforms in June. Make mental note to take advantage of this offer saving time and money before the holidays start. Completely forget (mental notes are no longer a reliable form of reminder, make pointless mental note to write everything down, or even better set reminder on phone so I can’t forget to read it.) Remember the day after the offer has expired.
  • Ditto Startrite.
  • Spend 5 weeks not thinking about school
  • Plan a quick trip to Clarks to get the kids feet measured.
  • Approach the clipboard wielding member of staff and add your name to the waiting list (page 7) along with the entire population of Bedfordshire with children under the age of 12.
  • Have the mental ‘Should I pop next door for socks/water bottles/hair bobbles while I’m waiting?’ debate. Decide not to risk it.
  • Follow 5yr old around putting sparkly shoes with flashy bits back on the shelf, explaining why they’re not an option for school shoes and trying to ‘big up’ the lovely plain black, tat-free pair.
  • Thank God for 7 yr old boys who just want to get any pair and get out!
  • Purchase 2 pairs of ridiculously expensive school shoes, safe in the knowledge that after one day in the playground they will resemble something Worzel Gummidge might wear.
  • Momentarily feel victorious before remembering you still need to buy uniform!
  • Rifle through rails of uniform in the hope of finding anything other than age 15-16 polo shirts.
  • Feel a bit sick
  • Spend the rest of the day online sourcing the required items/sizes (speedy delivery obviously) and hoping everything fits.
  • Hunt out old school bags – containing homework form to be completed over the holiday! Quickly Google stuff. Print, cut, stick while child reluctantly labels things.
  • Bath, bed, book, lights out.
  • Wine.
  • Set alarm.
  • Make mental note to be more prepared next year.

Like I said, my way may not be the most pain-free approach to Back to School, but somehow, every year I manage to present the kids at the school-gate in a shiny new, grossly oversized uniform, ready to be adorned with biro, grass stains and a number of unidentified mystery stains in the coming weeks.

Ironically I live just around the corner from the official school uniform supplier and walk past a lovely display of embroidered badges and printed logos on a daily basis – it literally couldn’t be easier for me. Maybe I’m just a bit ‘homework on the bus’, maybe I should be a sensible, organised, responsible grown-up but actually we’re far too busy learning to ride without stabilisers and chilling on the paddling pool while we can!

Schools-out

So are you a super-organised Smuggy McSmuggerson or a bit of a Last Minute Larry like me??? Either way I hope you are enjoying the holidays so far! x

Continue Reading

Mr Grey

shocked

Today I found my first grey hair, I can’t say I’m surprised.

There’s no point in denying, it was clearly galvanised.

The brazen strand in question glistened, dazzling in the sun.

Oblivious to my attempt at ‘youthful’ messy bun.

So this is it, the day has come, much to my dismay.

I need to hatch a cunning plan to camouflage this grey.

OK, calm down. DO NOT freak out. It’s not that bad, good heavens,

This brunette was ‘au naturel’ ’til just gone thirty-seven!

So weighing up my options in this tricky hair dilemma.

Davina-style Nutrisse goop or The Body Shop for henna??

It’s been so long (those ‘Sun-In’ days are well and truly gone).

The last time I bought hair dye Byker Grove was blimmin on!

Perhaps I’ll rock this silver streak just like Caitlin Moran

Ah yes, except she’s uber-cool, I’ll just look like her gran.

Apparently it’s ‘in’ you know, silver’s all the rage

But due to lack of collagen, I’ll only look my age.

I’m sorry folks, it’s just no good, I’m not that brave let’s face it.

Surrendering to nature?  Not quite ready to embrace it.

Vanity just won’t allow these glossy locks to fade

‘Ageing gracefully’ ain’t happening, not if I was paid.

The answer then seems pretty clear, it’s obvious no doubt:

I hunted down that little hair and pulled the b*gger out!

 

 

Continue Reading

Shove your spiralizer – I’m older and wiser

I’ve written previously about my own experience with diets over the years but when I read recently that leading members of The National Obesity Forum had resigned following a disagreement about their latest diet report I found it unnerving. I mean, if these guys, the ones with the findings of numerous scientific trials and years of medical research under their noses can’t agree on basic guidelines for healthy eating then who can we rely on?!

idk.png

As we know there are no shortage of diet options to consider, from the multinational, multi-billion pound big boys (Weight Watchers, Slim Fast et all) with their processed but convenient offerings to the current wave of self-confessed, (often unqualified) healthy eating ‘foodie’ experts. You know, the ones with the bone-broth recipes and the trust fund? Well I’m the first to hold my hands up and admit to entrusting my diet to all the above and more, certain that it would result in me rocking my bikini on the beach this time.

spiralize

Eventually I realised I was basically funding the industry that was preying on my own insecurities and reinforcing the idea that physically I wasn’t quite up to scratch. It was probably the combination of getting older and having kids that made me realise 1. life’s short, I should probably stop wasting time weighing chia seeds and 2. suddenly wobbly bits aren’t as big a deal when you’re busy keeping humans alive.

My children are 5 and 7 and both understand the basic effects of healthy or (too much) unhealthy food already. Personally I believe this is important but I am all too aware how it can quickly turn into an obsession later in life, especially with girls – not to mention the emotional issues to boot. The best I can do is stress the importance of a healthy balance and raise them to be confident, clued-up individuals (no pressure!)

I completely understand a quick ’emergency health kick’ a few weeks prior to the holidays or following a month of existing on mince pies and green triangles for example, but when half the weekly food shop requires a trip to Holland & Barrett, sorry I’m out.

good fat

So, older and wiser (?) I have finally realised that what has been made to appear difficult, almost impossible all these years, is actually very, very simple. It’s not sexy, it doesn’t involve ground Peruvian root vegetable powder and it won’t get you a book deal. It IS common sense, moderation, a bit of self-discipline, a bit of exercise and a lot of positivity.

Below are a few sources of inspiration I enjoy using these days that don’t promote any type of extreme diets or require any form of food w*nkery. They cover a range of aspects that I consider to be important to my overall health, I hope you enjoy them too and find them useful:

**FOOD**

Food & Nonsense A registered dietitian, Helen tells it like it is and debunks the myths surrounding foods and fads. A really great site for anyone with an interest in health, nutrition and exercise.

Nic’s Nutrition Also a registered dietitian,  I have followed Nic online for a few years and although she does incorporate foods that could fit into the ‘trendy’ category, the recipes on the site are generally very doable and usually offer alternative ingredient options. Not a fan of protein powder? No problem, use hot chocolate powder instead! There are also recipes for special dietary requirements and many articles on nutrition.

**FITNESS**

Fitness Blender Free workouts for any fitness level – so many home workouts to choose from. You can tailor your programme to suit your own needs, oh did I mention,  IT’S COMPLETELY FREE?!

Food For Fitness I first discovered Scott through his podcasts when I was looking for something fitness related to listen to while I was out walking. His guests come from a wide range of health and fitness industry professions and cover topics such as motivation, eating disorders, mindfulness, food quackery and much more. Bonus points for the healthy, high protein recipes made from – wait for it – normal food!

**HEALTHY MIND**

The Moderation Movement brilliant, interesting, no BS articles with a common sense approach to health, fitness and body image. I could spend my entire day on this site!

Honest Mum Vicki’s site is jam packed full of articles on food, fashion, blogging tips, lifestyle, family (her adorable boys!) and much more. Most importantly for me, Vicki is all about encouraging women to believe in themselves and helping you to achieve success (however you define it). Her positivity is contagious, building women up and leading by example! This article actually inspired me to ‘go public’ as a blogger which was a huge step in self-belief for me, as someone with no writing experience.

Headspace “Gym membership for the mind”. A great little meditation app for when things are getting a bit much and you just need to Ctrl-Alt-Delete your mind. I used the free trial and then took out an annual subscription which gives you lots of options to choose from based on what you need. Cheaper than therapy and more socially acceptable than gin before lunchtime.

Deliciously Stella Yes I did spell it correctly, no I don’t mean the other one. If laughter is the best medicine then there is nobody better to tickle your ribs when it comes to mocking the current wave of Insta-foodies. Follow her on twitter or Pinterest for ‘alternative’ options to green juice or avocado on toast. Oh and she does podcasts too!

So there you have it. Now I’d love to hear any recommendations you have for similar no-nonsense inspiration or body positive champions. If you enjoyed this please feel free to comment below and share the love. X

Continue Reading

Carry on Blogging!

THE (1)square

After last week’s epiphany following my weekend break from blogging I’ve been enjoying a newfound sense of balance and sanity (well, where blogging is concerned anyway). I usually take an ‘all or nothing’ approach so trying not to get bogged down with ALL THE THINGS  is taking a bit of restraint but overall I feel much better for it. There’s no limit to the amount we can do in a bid to grow and promote; interacting via linkies and twitter chats or just enjoying reading a few posts with a cuppa for the hell of it.

Generally, you get out what you put in and rightly so. I know there are pro bloggers out there who work day and night growing their brand and running their blog as an actual business. There are also parents who work full-time and yet find the time to post regularly, run linkies and competitions, hang out on Twitter and still remember to bring the PE kits on the right day and fashion a solar system costume out of some loo roll tubes and a grapefruit the night before ‘Space Day’ (HOW?!). I am neither of these people and unfortunately have no plans to be anytime soon so I need to accept that and be realistic about what I can  achieve in the time I’m willing to dedicate to my little blog baby.

So that’s that all sorted, jolly good. This zen-like approach lasted all of a week before it suddenly dawned on me: OH MY GOD IT’S ONLY THREE WEEKS UNTIL THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS!!!!!!

scream

If I’m struggling to keep up now how on earth will I manage a whole 6 weeks (8 in Ireland) with the kids at home?! Over half term there was an understandable lull in activity amongst a lot of my fellow parent bloggers; however that was only a week or two, hardly a huge deal but the whole of the school holiday? How the hell does that go?  Seriously seasoned #pbloggers , what are we looking at here? 6 weeks of tumbleweed or an enormous increase in ‘pre-loved’ posts? (Actually I don’t really mind these unless they are about how to make a Minion Jack-o-lantern in the middle of April). I had considered entitling this post ‘EVERYBODY PANIC!’ but then realised it may just be an overreaction on my part, the pros have probably been preparing for this since new year.

boy-scout-4

The obvious solution would be scheduling posts and while I totally get why a pro would go down this route, it just doesn’t sit well with me personally. My little blog is mainly ramblings on what’s happening in real-time, a natural progression from one post to the next depending very much on what I’ve experienced/read/discovered prior to writing the post. Rightly or wrongly, I want my posts to be authentic, reactive or even just a good old chinwag depending on how I am feeling, not something premeditated or written under duress because I feel I should be ‘keeping the blog ticking over’. I am not saying scheduling is a bad thing for other bloggers, just that it doesn’t fit naturally with my approach right now. Like I say, I’m not a professional blogger so this may not do me any favours or could be perceived as detrimental to my success, whatever that may be, but I can only make decisions based on my gut – hey, my blog, my rules!

Ok so I think we’ve gathered that scheduling probably isn’t going to be a way round this little dilemma (unless we’re scheduling extended toilet breaks?), so what are my options?  How can I cobble together something remotely cohesive without it taking even longer despite 649,352 interruptions, mainly due to snack demands, tending to imaginary injuries and bum-wiping requests?

Now I know you may think I’m overreacting slightly here, I mean it’s not like I post every day but every blogger knows it’s not just about firing out a post, it’s as much about joining in and sharing the love too. So here’s my master plan, or how I intend to juggle a decent amount of blogging while actually enjoying the holidays with my little cherubs:

 

1. Time Management: It takes me bloody ages to write a post. I am simply unable to bang out a post without agonising over whether or not it’s perfect. At least 80% of that time is spent faffing, so there’s definitely a case for just trying to minimise the faffery and getting on with it. In truth faffery is to blame for most of my time-wasting sins including getting distracted by notifications of posts I follow (I’ll just have a quick peek…an hour later I’ve commented, clicked on 3 in-post links, signed up for a free subscription box and started a 7 day trial on PicMonkey!)

I’m experimenting with setting a timer while writing this post and so far I’ve had a phone call from my brother and a man turn up 4 hours early to quote me for replacing the garden fence panels. Both of which are great but also perfect examples of how my futile attempt at time management has gone to pot without the kids even being here!

Cunning Plan: It’s pretty obvious that most of these distractions can be avoided by just switching my phone off for an hour. NEXT!

2. Choose Your Moment: Now onto minimising interruptions of the non-technological variety AKA kids, who unfortunately don’t come with a ‘silent mode’. Of course I don’t expect them to let me get on with anything uninterrupted for longer than 3 minutes despite my desperate pleas for a bit of peace ; (in a similar way to how they suddenly have no end of urgent questions and require an abnormal amount of trips to the loo when you’ve asked them to get into bed!)

All parents waved goodbye to the certainty of uninterrupted time lonnnnnnng ago and it would be selfish of me to expect them to behave like anything other than normal, inquisitive, rambunctious little scamps anyway.

Cunning Plan: Time to get clever, think about what really holds their attention. An afternoon film and popcorn is usually a winner in our house when the kids are hot and tired and should guarantee some peace once a week. 

3. The Notebook: A trip to the playgroynd, moochingat the library or a scoot around the park. There’s a good 30 minutes where I am basically surplus to requirements (in their eyes) with the exception of the odd swing-pushing request.

Cunning Plan: With my trusty pad and pen by my side that’s just enough time to plan out the bones of a post, catch up on a linky, enjoy reading that post I bookmarked or reply to blog comments.

FullSizeRender [106641].jpg

4. Brucie Bonus: Sunny day? Fill that paddling pool, slap on the factor 50 and the kids are good to go for the day. Arrange a playdate rota with friends so you have a day child free couple of hours every so often. Suss out what’s on locally for kids; lots of councils, sports clubs and churches run free or reasonably priced sessions over the holiday- take advantage of them.

Cunning Plan: When opportunity knocks……………BLOG!

5. Bribery: So the post is ready to publish and you literally need FIVE MINUTES to do a final read through. Suddenly a little person appears at your side requesting the entire contents of Hobbycraft for something really cool they just saw on Mr Maker.

Cunning Plan: The promise of ‘getting the paints out’ in exchange for a few precious minutes if perfectly acceptable in such an emergency.

6. Lower your expectations: When I had my first child one of the pearls of wisdom many parents offered me in relation to housework was ‘lower your expectations’. You will never again have the ‘luxury’ of being bored enough to wash down the skirting boards or vacuum the curtains. Similarly, with little people around to keep you busy, lowering your expectations of what you can realistically achieve with your blog will save you a lot of stress.

Cunning Plan: Relax. Remind yourself you are not the only one short on time at the moment. I’m a Mummy before everything, that’s my priority and I refuse to feel guilty about enjoying that time with my kids free from the pressure to post. 

IMG_0082

I’d love to hear what your blogging plans are in preparation for the holidays – are you a fan of scheduling or just planning to take a bit of a step back and enjoy the Summer?

XX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Blog : OFF

After the months of excitement and build up, one of the biggest blogging events in the calendar finally arrived last weekend: BML16. A day of talks, workshops and networking opportunities for bloggers and a great excuse to share an actual bottle of bubbles (rather than the usual virtual emoji variety) with all those fellow online chatterboxes we’ve been looking forward to meeting.

If you saw my last post you already know I couldn’t actually make it which I’m still a bit gutted about to be honest. However, my alternative plans involved flying to Amsterdam with a group of girlfriends for the weekend, which softened the blow a little (pun intended).

So while a lot of those who made the trip to Fancylondontown for BML16 will be writing up their experience of the event, I can crack on with a post about my weekend’s shenanigans in another awesome capital. Except I won’t.

While it seemed like a perfect opportunity to write about something exciting, I just didn’t want my weekend with the girls to be blog fodder. This was a getaway- from normality, from being a mum/wife/daughter/sister/blogger, from shopping lists and meal plans, after-school and weekend clubs. A brief, but much appreciated break from the routine of day-to-day life. Sorry guys, what happens in Amsterdam….

blogging-break
Image: Defining Hopes

So I had made the decision in advance that I wasn’t going to blog about my little Dutch adventure. I neatly folded my Blogger pants, put them to one side and mentally switched the blog OFF. Then chucked my Party pants in the case and headed straight to the departure lounge bar.

However, my Twitter feed was obviously awash with #BML16 excitement and the temptation to have a quick peek was there as long as I had my mobile attached to my hand.

In an attempt to keep my nose firmly out of Blogland for a couple of days (harder than you’d think, even without the BML buzz!) I had to be strict with myself on a few occasions and in hindsight it was definitely the right decision. I really did manage to completely switch off and enjoy just being Charlie Brown for a few days and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is struggling to find the blog/life balance (actually leaving the country is optional).

So if you feel like you’re becoming a slave to your blog, or it’s seriously impacting on other areas of your life (she says, currently avoiding eye-contact with the vacuum cleaner), here are my 10 tips on how to survive going cold-turkey. Think of it as a quick stint at The Priory for some blogger rehab, you’ll come out the other side with an empowering, newfound sense of balance.

  • Decide which dates you’ll be checking into rehab and make them official, put them in the diary and tell someone, preferably someone who will be happy to have your full attention again, well for a while anyway.
  • Try to avoid dates that coincide with a MASSIVE blogging event but if this is the case, drop a tweet to explain your absence and wish your pals a fab time. There’s always next year.
  • Plan alternative coping mechanisms. Preferably something you’ll look forward to, this is no time to be ‘getting on with stuff’, the whole point is to remember what life was like before writing posts about everything. Remember the good old days when you did stuff purely so you could brag about it on Facebook?
  • Do some pre-rehab admin. If you’ve joined in a linky every week from day dot without fail, warn the host of your plans in advance to avoid a serious case of dreaded blogger’s guilt.
  • DO NOT schedule a post. Although this may seem like a good way to ‘keep the blog going’ in your absence, this is about realising you can just STOP for a while and the sky will not fall in. Scheduling posts is cheating, plus the temptation to read or reply to comments may be too much!
  • Ditto scheduled tweets. In fact delete the Twitter app for the duration or just switch to your personal account if you have one. You don’t want your phone having a fit everytime you enter a wi-fi hotspot as the result of a bunch of Twitter notifications- avoid the red circle of temptation.
  • Take a tonne of photos if you fancy but do not actively seek out or set up Instagram friendly shots. I’ll admit to posting one teeny shot over the weekend, but that was because it made me smile and was too lovely not to share – I mean, a ceiling of clogs – how cute?clogs
  • Once you’ve successfully completed your rehab session take a moment to reflect. Hopefully, after the initial shock wore off, you will have experienced a strange sense of freedom, the blog fog will have lifted and it is almost as if you are seeing the world through the eyes of a normal person. Congratulations – you’ve regained your grip on reality!
  • Where you go from here is up to you. Try to avoid diving headfirst into 3 days worth of tweets  (sooooo tempting with all the exciting ‘stuff’ happening this weekend) or binge reading the backlog of posts from every blog you’ve subscribed to. Nobody will be offended, trust me. More importantly, you will realise that nobody has forgotten who you are, a few tweets in it’ll be like you were never away.
  • Chill yer boots. Don’t feel pressurised into panic posting! Grab a cuppa, choose a few posts to read and enjoy. Actually enjoy. I went with

6 personal reflections on #BML16

by  Tim at Slouching Towards Thatcham – a great honest review of the 1 day event this year versus the 2 day format of last year.

I’m a Loser – Britmums #BML16

by Stevie from A Cornish Mum, her words, definitely not mine! A refreshingly honest, funny, (sorry Stevie- it did make me chuckle!) ‘losers’ view. If you ask me she’s totally winning at Blogs.

Finally a totally BML16 unrelated, but great, personal post on a sensitive issue by Vicki at Honest Mum

Let’s Talk About Race, Racism & Feeling Like The ‘Other’

So there you have it, my slightly tongue in cheek, but (mostly) failsafe 10 step plan to recalibrating your blog/life settings to suit you and realising the importance of maintaining a healthy balance going forward.

I hope you enjoyed it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject and if/how you try to achieve the right balance for you?

 

Continue Reading