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Dear Daisy, It is your first day at school...

Finding that Perfect Dress for the Winter Party Season* AD

The festive season is coming up fast, far too fast if I am honest! I was just starting to relish the autumnal colours and before I knew it the word "Christmas" was being thrown about!

Simply Be By Night Glitter Wrap DressImage result for simplybe christmas dressImage result for simplybe christmas dress

 Usually Christmas comes with lots of parties and celebratory dinners. For these events you will want to dress up and get into the spirit of the occasion or at least have a go if you're anything like me sat with your mum bun! So, more of than not that means going online scouring the web for somewhere like Simply Be and putting together a great outfit that you can wear to several parties.

The fact that the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are on the 23rd and 26th of November gives us the perfect opportunity to buy what you need at a bargain price, any chance of a bargain and I am there! Plus, if you do it now you will not be left running around frantically at the last minute (that old habit I have!). To get you started, I have had a quick look around and identified some great trends that you can tap into to quickly find your perfect winter party dress.

Choose a classic dress

Sticking with the classics is a particularly good approach, they don't go out of fashion and can hang about in your wardrobe for a while. These cuts look good on most women and the fact that they are timeless means you can easily wear them again and again.

Fortunately, these cuts are really easy to find this year. Most retailers have plenty of A-line, maxi, pencil and wrap dresses in their collections. If you are unsure of what the classic cuts are, just click here to find out and decide whether they are right for you or not.

Opt for a luxury fabric

Nothing says special better than a luxury fabric. If you wear a dress that is made from lace, velvet, silk or a nice shiny, metallic fabric people know that you have spent a bit of money on your outfit. Or, at least they think that you have. Although these days, it is relatively easy to pick up a nice lace, velvet or metallic dress for not much more than you would pay for an everyday one but it definitely makes you feel that little bit fancier!

The great thing about these dresses is that they hang really well. The fact that the fabric is relatively heavy is the reason for this. It also means that they are great for covering up any little bulges.

Choose a dress that is easy to accessorise

When shopping for your dress, choose one that you can easily accessorise. Doing this will enable you to create different looks and let you get plenty of wear out of your outfit.  It should also make it easier for you to wear it on an everyday basis once the parties are over instead of it simply sitting in your wardrobe gathering dust.

*This post is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own

Top Tips For Saving Money Before Christmas

Christmas is looming and we all know it can be a struggle with the old bank balance. All of the gifts you need to buy, the special food, clothes and all of the additional funds you need for the special events that come with it like your Christmas party! It’s never easy especially when you throw children into the mix. I have done posts like this before but I wanted to write an updated one with a couple of new additions:

Top Tips For Saving Money Before Christmas
Image Source: Youtube

These are my top ways of saving a bit of money to help lighten the load a little this year.

1- Meal plan. I’ve talked about this before and how it really does help us a family to not only be organised and know what we are doing each evening for food but it also cuts down on waste and trips to the shop. We try to go for dinners that we can bulk and stretch out to at least two days, sometimes even three. For example if I’m doing a chilli then I’ll throw in some extra veg (what ever is lurking in the fridge) or an extra tin of beans or lentils to bulk it up and make it go that bit further.

2- This is more about utilising what you’ve got to free of funds rather than dipping into your bank account. Start working your way around the house room by room and minimalise. Do you need everything, love everything or have a use for it all? If not, sell it! That way you not only free your house up of unnecessary clutter but you also make some £ to spend on things you do need to buy or to put away for a rainy day!

3- Think free! At a weekend it’s so easy to pop out for the day with the kids and before you know it you’ve bought lunch, a coffee, parking, a present the kids have begged you for and so on. Instead go for a walk or a bike ride, visit the library and take some snacks with you or aim to be back home by meal times. It may not feel much of a day out to you but the children will barely notice, or at least mine wouldn’t who are just 2 and 4 years old. All they want to do is be out and about. Basically if you avoid opportunities to spend then you won’t! A prime example of coffee shops for us, it’s so easy to spend way over £10 on two coffees and a snack so I try to avoid it where I can because they all add up.

4- Sleep on it. With this I am talking about impulse buys. The internet is a wonderful yet very tempting place, it’s makes shopping that bit too easy! Instead of clicking buy now on that new pair of boots or what ever it may be leave it in your basket for 12-24 hours and then have another look, is it really necessary?

5- Be a bit thrifty. Not everything you buy has to be brand new. I know some people will stick their nose up at this but what’s really wrong with looking around a charity shop or eBay for that particular toy your after for your son? Or maybe you’ve a thing for Joules clothing, then there are a ton of Joules pages on Facebook where people are selling either brand new or almost new items every single hour and you could pick up a bargain!

6- Voucher codes. I used to be the person laughing at those others who would scour magazines and things for coupons to save that bit of money on their shopping. Now I’m not as In to it as that but if I’m buying online then I do a simple Google searching for vouchers for that particular store and quite often I’ll find a voucher of some kind such as free delivery of 20% off if you spend £20 etc. It’s always worth a look. 

Ideas for Half Term days out in Shropshire

Half term is coming, seemingly a week later than the rest of the country but it is just a couple of days away here in Shropshire. It couldn't come any sooner either, it has felt like a long first term for Daisy and the tiredness is kicking in.

I thought I would share some ideas for days out and things to do in Shropshire over half term in case you are at a loss at what to do with your family.

The Pumpkin Farm -  Llynclys Hall Farm Shop near Oswestry. Essentially a "free" day out where you can get all of the autumnal feels, the kids can run free safely and you can find yourself a hot coffee whilst they roam about. And of course you can support a local business if you make any purchases! If you've seen our latest post then you'll know we have been a few times and love it every time. 

The Severn Valley Railway - Now, we haven't been here for a few years but by all accounts is still a fantastic day out. The train service will be up and running from October 27th to November 4th for half-term! Tickets can be pre-booked, or are available to purchase on the day. The real life trains are running daily, giving you and the little ones the chance to experience a bygone age in the Severn Valley Railway. This could be a hit for those older children as well as the little ones who are pleased with anything mechanical and moving like my son, Alex!

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm - This is a local favourite where you can take the family to visit Acton Scott Historic Working Farm near Church Stretton. Children under 2 are free and the other admission prices aren't too bad for a day out, we have always found the £9 for an adult worth it. You could take a little picnic for lunch or there is a good little cafe there if you wish to have lunch or coffee out. You can expect to see lots of animals and some demonstrations of how life may have been historically including heavy horses etc. Much better on a nice day weather wise, but one to have on your list! 

The Shropshire Wildlife trust - There is a great little centre by the Abbey in Shrewsbury. This is much better suited to the little kids, probably under 6 but the Shropshire wildlife trust also do a programme of activities for those of an older age which look great too, but these will need to be booked on to. For little ones though you can just turn up and dip in the pond, play in the big sand pit and mud kitchen area and they will love it. Some of the sand pit is under cover too which is a good rainy day option! Again you don't have to pay admission but can support them by purchasing drinks in their small cafe etc. We did a post about this not long ago and you can find it here

Apley Farm shop - have a Spookley Pumpkin Festival on during half term where  you can ride the pumpkin express, hear the Spookley story, pick your own pumpkin from the pumpkin patch & carve it in the carving cavern. It looks like a great week and something we will likely head to this week. 

Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge - Have a Candy and Cobwebs week going on which looks great for all of the family. A Halloween trick or treat event especially (sourced from their website) for under 8s and  grownups.

On arrival, all children taking part will be given a fun activity sheet to lead them around some of the exhibits in the Victorian Town - there will be a goody bag for all children who have a go at all of the activities. 

Children joining in the event can:

Dip a candle
Listen to a spooky story
Play a trick on the townsfolk
Design and colour-in a pumpkin

That time of year again: Pumpkin Patch Shropshire

If you have read my blog for a while then you will know that last year we visited the beautiful Llynclys Hall Farm Shop near Oswestry especially for some pumpkins and I really have been counting the days down until we can go again.

I love autumn and everything that comes with it, the colours, the weather, the smells, you know what I mean I am sure. I love taking photographs and love to compile them at the end of the year into memory books of that year and quite often there is a void between summer and Christmas festivities so this is the perfect day out. I just love having something fun to capture and the colours of the pumpkin farm really sparked my creativity.

pumpkin farm shropshire

It was a nice dry, sunny weekend again and I always like to get out when we can and of course something more interesting than our usual walk down to the play park goes down well with the kids.

Llynclys Hall Farm Shop is not too much of a drive for us and it was well worth it. If you have never been before then it really is worth a trip. It is free entry and although it will probably only fill about 2 hours of your day, it really was nice. Last year it was more of a barn stacked with millions of pumpkins but this year you can go on to the patch and choose your own, which me and my camera just LOVED!

As you would expect there were a lot of pumpkins and so Daisy found this brilliant, trying to lift them, finding funny shaped ones, baby ones and massive ones! This year they had lots of coloured variations too, I am naturally drawn to the beautiful grey ones! They had built a tiered wall from hay and placed pumpkins all over it which was lovely to take photos of. There were just loads of photo opportunities.

pumpkin patch shrewsbury, free days out shropshire

They had a barn with kids activities in such as chalk boards, ride on tractors and cars, drawing tables etc which was a nice little touch. And for us, a coffee van. We had a hot chocolate and a biscuit while the kiddies roamed about which warmed our cockles a bit! I did go a bit mad and buy a few too many, but hey it's the time of year for it!

I highly recommend the trip :)

So you want an extension on your home? How do you go about starting it?

Those of you that have followed me for a while will know that we are now the other side of a home renovation, it feels like it has taken an absolute age, but we are just about done now apart from a few annoying little things that need finishing off. 

I often get asked how we started it, what do you need to do? So I thought I would note them down for anyone interested. 

how do you start an extension

  1. Know exactly what you want. We had lived in our home for a few years before we knew what it was we needed from our house to enable us to live there happily for longer. Once we had the children we knew that we needed more downstairs space and a family bathroom upstairs, which we didn't have previously. Alex also had a little box bedroom so it was important we were able to build that into our plans and give him some more space. We live in a dormer bungalow, so we have an upstairs but the roof shape means there is limited space up there compared to downstairs. But what I am trying to say is, live in it and really know what you want. Building work and planning is expensive so you are not going to want to do it again in a hurry. 
  2. Get an architect that understands what you want and designs to your style. We had 2 architects. The first one being far too old school and traditional for us, he worked from paper and just didn't convey what we wanted him to so we had to part ways and find ourselves another. The final architect knew exactly what we wanted from our home and was able to put it in our designs and we absolutely loved our final design as a result. You should find yourself someone who not only understands all the planning process and can do this for you but also someone you feel like you can talk with and tell if you don't like something on the plan or you have other ideas. Your architect will also be able to draw up your builders plans too which allows them to know exactly what needs to be done. There’s no law saying you need to use an architect but we found it so much easier to have a professional draw up the designs.
  3. Planning permission. Que the eye rolls! Everyone hates having to do this process don't they. But find out what they are looking for, work alongside them rather than against them and it should be a smoother process. You can undertake some extension projects without the need for planning permission so you need to look this up too, it will be referred to as your “permitted development rights”. Regardless if planning permission is required or not, any renovation must comply with building regulations. You’ll need to ensure whoever carries out the work can self-certify the work they do, that includes everyone from the builder to the electrician to the window fitter! 
    dormer bunglaow extension
  4. Find a tradesman that comes on recommendation if you can. You're going to have to have these guys coming in and out of your home for a few months and work with them. With your builder agree the price before commencing so you know exactly what to expect financially. There will always be a little "something" that crops up or needs replacing so have a bit of contingency if you can. 
  5. Neighbours. Just think of them. It is going to disturb them or change their view for a while so just be kind. It could make a big difference when you're back in your home! 
    Velux kitchen window

Bike Adaptations for Riding with One Hand

I haven't really done much personal writing recently, with Daisy starting school and being busy at work I just haven't got around to putting pen to paper, or you know, fingers to keys.

With limb differences being in the press more and more recently it has reminded me why I write; to share awareness and maybe help someone one day if they ever stumble across my blog.

And I thought adaptations for limb differences would be a good place to start, her bike.

baby born with no hand

Recently Daisy had a bike adaptation made for her bike and honestly it was the first time we had asked for any help from her occupational therapist. Up until then we hadn't needed any help and if we are honest when we first got Daisy her bike for her birthday we didn't feel that she would need any help with that initially, but we soon realised if we were going to make it as easy as possible for her then yes, we needed a bit of assistance. It was more to do with her balance than the ability to hold on to her bike and use her hand. Because she doesn't have fingers or a palm on the right hand it means the length of that side shoulder to hand is shorter than the left, meaning she leans to that side and then the balance puts her steering off and makes her naturally steer off to that side.

What it meant was that she was getting frustrated because she was spending more time trying to steer the thing and keep it straight than peddling. It was almost as if she couldn't do the two things at once. And who can blame her, not sure I could either!

So the team at the West Midlands Rehabilitation centre built a socket for her handle bars. She would put her hand in to it and it would come up to her elbow joint. That way she could steer freely and have the length she needed to be able to concentrate on her peddling and balance.

I can't say that she loves it because that wouldn't be true, but she doesn't hate it either. She loves how it means she can ride a bike like everyone else, that she can go out on bike rides and enjoy it easily. But what she doesn't like is how it has to be different to everyone elses bike. But we will come across things like this a lot more I am sure.

I made a video all about this with some footage of her riding it so you can see how it looks in real life situations.

Natural Cleaning Products: What are the choices?

You may or may not have seen my latest post all about the rise of the cleaning bloggers. As the beautiful Mrs Hinch and her army grow by the day so does the controversy that surrounds some of those cleaning products that not only they are using, but we all are. (well most of us)

I have thought a bit about it recently and thought what could I be doing differently? Would it make an impact on the environment if I start moving to more natural products? The answer is it is a start, the more people that have that mentality and start making the move it can only be a positive transition surely? In the past when I have looked I was shocked to see how premium some products were, the prices of some of the products on the shelves surprised me. It just wasn't affordable to the majority of us. But recently I have been seeing some dupes out there and some reductions in prices.

natural cleaning products
Image Source: http://www.theherbshoppepdx.com

I just wanted to share what I have found and what options are out there for us. This is in no way sponsored, it was more a bit of research that I thought I would put out there.

First up there are truly natural products, Items you may have kicking around your house already and that can be bought almost anywhere:

  • White Vinegar
  • Bicaronate of Soda
  • Essential Oils
  • Lemon Juice
  • Olive Oil (Stainless steel magic!)
  • Soda Crystals
And then you've got the products that you can buy ready mixed in the supermarket. 

Method. So, Method was created as a collection of eco-friendly household cleaning products at the forefront of the green cleaning revolution, when people first started moving over to this way of cleaning. But I will be honest I found it expensive. Expensive when it is not a product I a picking up once a week but daily, using freely to clean our home. As a standard price in the likes of Tesco it is £3 a bottle but I am now starting to see it being promoted more and more and often it can be picked up for less than £2. However, in my local store I was unable to find more than 2 varieties, so a little disappointing. 

Ecover. Another brand out there that is similar to Method in the respect they are trying to make cleaning cleaner. And I am all for that. Again you're looking at anything above £2 for to get your hands on one of these products. 

I would buy the above products when they are on offer, but would I by them on the regular. I am not sure, and it does pain me to say that! 

I switch between Lidl & Aldi for my shopping usually, unless I am doing an online shop. And recently I have found them both to be offering some kind of dupe for these products. I knew it wouldn't be long before they caught up with the trend and as they usually do, lead the way. Especially when it comes to affordability. 

In Lidl I was pleased to see some Clean-ology products on offer the last couple of weeks. Clean-ology surface cleaners are at base price about £2.50 but they were on offer for two for £3!! They do some lovely scents so I have stocked up on them and I actually do love using them. My only issue being that you just don't know what you find in store week to week. 

I have also just seen that Tesco have started their own range too called Eco Active but I am yet to see this with my own eyes in store or in fact online. According to articles I have seen online though they are amazingly priced so I will be on the look out for them products in the future. 

What products do you use that we should all be trying?

Do You Need a Fancy Camera for your Blog? | AD

This is something I see get asked time and time again. And in my opinion the answer is NO, not necessarily. Not in all instances.

However if you want more control over your photos and the end product then they will certainly help. The impression you can get online is that perhaps the days where you could take photos on your phone and use them for your blog posts have long gone but that isn't true in every instance. If you are familiar with the blogs, chances are that you’ve come across some bloggers using professional photography for their content. People are now investing in high quality camera equipment to shoot photos for their blogs which sometimes are businesses too. But saying that I have seen lots of photos taking with a phone which have been beautiful. Half of my photos are taken with what I call the "big camera" and the other half which are more instant which are taken on my phone.

mirrorless camera Sony
Photo by @Benchallphoto (My husband) on our Mirrorless Camera

An expensive camera with more megapixels doesn’t make you a photographer, just someone who dabbles in professional equipment. But there’s more to photography than a really fancy, good camera. 

We have had a DSLR for a few years now and I have self taught (with some help from my husband) myself to use it. Although we now use a mirrorless camera most of the time the same principles apply. But if you have one of these cameras then you need to know how to use it, otherwise you may as well stick to your phone camera. We all know these things come with the biggest manuals we have ever seen and that they stay stuck in their boxes rather than being read most of the time. However with what I like to call a "big camera" there really are some aspects you should read up on.

There are a few key things that I think you should read up on how to do with your camera and a few aspects of photography that really will make all of the difference to your end results. Lighting is the biggest key thing that will change your photos forever. With the right lighting even a phone camera will produce some pretty fancy photos! Natural photo is best for shooting with a phone because lets face it their flash isn't the best feature but if you can crack the lighting then you will more than likely have something you can work with. Once you've taken a photo (whether that be on your phone or your camera), you can play with the "Exposure" tool in your favorite photo editing app if you haven't used it on your camera to see if you can make the image slightly brighter or less bright, without losing any quality.

mirrorless camera reviews

I am a big fan of a fancy, big camera but I also am a big fan of the apps that are out there now to use on your mobile phones. We can now take high quality photos that are good enough for our blogs and social media channels and edit them without too much hassle, all on the one device. It really does depend on your end subject, what you want to do with it and where you want t take your photography.

If you are interested in learning photography and how to use the various elements to your advantage then a DSLR or Mirrorless camera will be good for you, otherwise just keep at what you are doing and have fun!

Stiperstones shropshire

Hayley x

*This is a Sponsored post but all opinions are my own. 

Dear Daisy, It is your first day at school...

It's true. The time has come for you to head to school. Your uniform is hung waiting for you and your shoes all shiny next to your bag. Today, you embark on probably your biggest chapter yet, and as we rush about getting everything ready; hair brushed, teeth cleaned, back packed, I thought of so many things I wanted to say to you. Things I’ve been thinking of for some time and things I have probably already spoken to you about over the last few months.

A letter to my child on the first day of school

I don't know if you'll feel the butterflies in your tummy or if they'll stay put in mine, but either way I want you to be excited and not nervous. I just know you will absolutely love school and all of the excitement and adventure that comes along with that. I know it will tire you out and I am prepared for the sassy attitude to rear its head at the end of a long day. And I am prepared to be bamboozled with chat when you're ready to tell me all about it. There is no rush, you have over 10 years at school left to go... plenty of time to be telling me about your days and plans. You’ve been looking forward to this for so long.

You have to believe in yourself, believe that you're big enough for school now and that you can do what ever you set your mind to! Put on your biggest smile and embrace it, embrace all of those new friendships that are waiting for you and embrace those that are going with you from nursery. There may be questions from others as they get to know you, but embrace it and let them see who you are.

Have patience. I know you want to do everything now and perfectly, but be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to find ways of doing things and let others help you if you need it. Just because you are a big girl now it doesn't mean you have to do everything yourself, we all have little struggles from time to time.

First day at school poem

I would love for us to be at home together every day but the truth is it wouldn't be enough for you, you deserve much more. And I will always be here waiting for you anyway, you can have it both ways. My heart is aching a little because it feels like a big step but then I know you are ready and you have been for some time.

I know when you put on that uniform you are going to appear tiny, drowning in the smallest size the school sold. But you will soon fill it (that or I will have shrunk it in the wash!!) and it will just be the norm. We will soon be doing the good old sunday routine of washing, ironing and packing the bags ready for the next day. This first day will feel like a lifetime away.

You’re so excited for this day and have been busy telling everyone we come across. I am excited because this is the start of a new adventure. You want to be a doctor for animals when you grow up, and although that may happen when you're a grown up and that feels like a long way away – and there’s so much to do and learn before that – it all starts now, your little life adventure. Whether you still want to do that in the future, I don't know, but I just know you will be great! And I am excited to watch you grow and learn...

Have the best time little lady!


Other Bloggers letters to their babies: Surrey mama, Hey Its Romeca,