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

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,

The Rise of the Cleaning Bloggers

I may have been a bit docile and not noticed that it has been going on for ages or has cleaning taken over the Instagram, blogging and vlogging world this last few weeks? This isn't a post to slate that or bring any negativity to it, I just wonder what it is that the nation loves so much about it? I mean the jist of it is that you watch someone cleaning their house. As simple as that. According to tubefilter.com in 2017, views of videos with “clean with me” in the description got close to 50 million on March 4. This year on March 15, there were over 100 million views of such videos. Which just shows how fast this is growing!

So if you haven't come across it yet you basically watch someone clean their home until it is pristine like a show home and they show you any hacks they use and the products they're loving. Simple right, but weird at the same time. Speed cleans have been around on YouTube for a while and I may have dabbled in it a little from time to time and viewers do seem to like them. I mean if you look at the likes of Emily Norris her YouTube channel really took off and I think a lot of that was to do with her cleaning hacks and speed cleans.

This last few weeks I have been watching MrsHinchhome on Instagram grow like you wouldn't believe, she is growing by over 2k viewers some days! How insane is that? People have gone Hinch crazy! I admit I follow her, more out of curiosity than anything, it just blows my tiny little mind! But what is it that people love so much? I asked my Instagram followers what they thought and I was really interested to see their reactions. I had a range of answers from them and it was anything from the videos giving motivation to people to get them cleaning their own homes, satisfaction from seeing the end result and picking up tips and hacks that they can use in their busy lives. I mean we all want an easier life, especially when you are busy with work, parenthood and maybe even a social life, if you're lucky!

I can understand the motivation and also the tips. I too have picked up a product because it has been show on a video and thought that could work for us too. You just have to look at the Zoflora phenomena where everybody and their dog goes mad for it, finding new scents and new ways of using it. That came from the same type of thing, cleaning videos! And I am sure Zoflora are reeping in the benefits of that! Even if my hands do not like it, I find it pretty useful and had I not have seen it online I would never have picked it up because lets face it the packaging doesn't exactly scream pick me up and I would never have spotted it on the shelf in Tesco!

The reactions to my questions were a mixed bag though and I wasn't surprised to see that not everyone likes the cleaning craze that has hit social media lately. People have said its boring, mundane and it is people just pushing affiliate links. There is certainly an element of that with some accounts but then I am all for links of I would be purchasing that product anyway, it isn't going to cost me any extra money if I buy it through the link, so why wouldn't I click that link. Another response was that they made a person feel guilty for not cleaning more, and who needs more guilt in their life? And Yeah I feel this response too, I get enough mum guilt when I don't do enough with the kids, don't think out of the box and get creative enough, don't save enough, don't make enough effort and now for not cleaning? Or on the other hand is it something we could be aspiring to be like?

They're boring. That was what a lot of people had to say about it. And I agree to an extent. I can perhaps watch one or two videos when Is it down to watch my subscriptions but then I am done, all cleaned out. They all appear very samey and I wonder how long the fad will last. If I watch them then they are on in the background whilst I am working or tidying myself, ironic huh? So they do have a purpose to me.

What do you think about it all? Interesting or bore you to death?

Hayley x

The Simple Things: Camping with Children

When I started this blog it was to capture memories from my pregnancies and my children's adventures so I could look back like a diary with photos, so I could reminisce over the times we had when they were growing up. I still do an element of that but I don't just seem to share the simple things anymore. The camping trips where we just arrive at a campsite in wales and camp out for a few days, hoping for some dry, warm weather so we can just explore the beach all day long and let the kids do what they do best, roam about and get mucky.

It is no secret that we love a camping session, and usually in the same spot, Barmouth way (Mid Wales). Camping gives us an excuse to get out as a family away from the day to day jobs and chores at a weekend, otherwise we find ourselves whizzing about here, there and everywhere and not really spending much time together.

camping near barmouth

wetsuits for kids, childrens wetsuits, konfidence swimwear

We recently went to stay where we have been many times before, Caer Daniel, which is close to Barmouth if you know Wales at all. It is a simple site that has sea views and has loads of room for the little ones to run about, they never pack in the pitches so you always feel like you have space to let them play and sit out.

Sadly the British summer has already peaked the month before and August hasn't been all that good for sunshine. We had one afternoon and evening of warm, beautiful sunsets but then it was a bleurgh! It was okay but it did mean we cut our trip short by a day as we just couldn't face packing everything down in the pouring rain that was forecast for the next day.

We have got a tent that we bought last year from Go Outdoors, Voyager Elite 6 Person Tent. We used it a few times last year but really wanted to get some use out of it this summer but sadly the weather has been far too hot to camp (I know, ridiculous to say about the UK) or just miserable. Hopefully we will get plenty more use out of it over the next month!

Go outdoors tent review

If you want to read a post I wrote about our top camping essentials then you find that here too.

Hayley x

How to Save Money on Holiday | Travel Tips | AD

We all know how pricey family holidays can be, if it isn't the actual flights and accommodation costing the earth then it is the food you need to buy, the drinks that don't stop flowing and all the other expenses that come with travel. Over the years (since having children mainly) we have found ways to become that little bit more thrifty when we are away from home.

cheap family holiday

(1) Be organised when it comes to food. We like to eat out most nights because that is just something we look forward to on holiday. But in the day we often head to a supermarket for some bread, cheese or meat and make up our own sandwiches on the beach or back at our accommodation. Along with a big bag of crisps and a bag of bananas or apples it suits us just fine. It works out much cheaper than lunch out and often it is so much easier with young children because you can just go with the flow rather than forcing them to sit nicely in a cafe/ restaurant when in reality they want to be free roaming about.

(2) If you are bed and breakfast think about what you can do to make the most of that package. What can you do to make it last throughout the day? A little sneaky perhaps but needs must sometimes!

(3) Look into car hire. It may be that you want to get about on holiday and the thought of taxis makes you squirm, they sure know how to rip off a tourist in some places. It is worth looking at car hire well before you go. We have had two weeks car hire in Cyprus before for less than £100. Which just meant it was much easier for us as we could come and go as we pleased but also meant we didn't reply on taxis or transfers from the airport etc. The other tip with this is take your own car seat, airlines will allow you to do this for no extra cost and sometimes to hire a car seat is more expensive than the car hire itself!

(4) This sounds super obvious but don't open that minibar, those prices are often extortionate! Take your own bottled water etc and really save on those un-necessary charges.

(5) Shop around for holidays don't just accept the closest package price you stumble across. There are lots of sites out there available to scour if you have the time such as Holiday Gems' cheap holidays or Travel supermarket.

how to make holidays cheaper

*This is a PR collaboration but all opinions are my own.