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

Putting Together Your Perfect Winter Wardrobe |AD

It is still getting colder and colder, it tends to get a bit milder and then drop again. If you have not already done so, now, is a good time to finish off putting together your winter wardrobe, or in my case start!!!

As you can see, there is plenty of Christmas outfit choice out there. So, I thought I would come up with a few suggestions to help you to narrow down the options a little bit.

A practical and great looking coat

Top of the list has to be a good quality coat. This year, many of the classics are back in style. Trench coats in particular. These are great for keeping you dry when it rains, but they can be a bit too thin for wearing on really cold days. Fortunately, traditional wool fabrics are also back on trend. Old-school patterns and cuts look stylish and will definitely keep you lovely and warm.

Stylish boots

I highly recommend that you treat yourself to a new pair of boots, said no ones husband ever! Biker and cowboy boots are far more popular than they have been for a while which is great because a chunky boot has to be my most favourite type. They look fantastic with casual clothes, especially jeans.

A special dress

Dressing up a bit over Christmas will always make your celebrations feel even more special, it is one of the times of year where I do like to get a bit more dressed up.
For me, you cannot go wrong with a little black dress, especially the beautiful detailed ones that are around. But, you do not have to restrict yourself to wearing black. As you can see here, there are some truly stunning coloured dresses in the shops, this year. For a party, or other type of special occasion a shimmery emerald or ruby dress would be a stunning choice.

Warm trousers and jeans

Winter is always a good time to treat yourself to a new pair of jeans.
 Yes to mum jeans!!!!

If you have enjoyed this fashion related article and want to read some of the others that I have written, you can do so by clicking here.

*This post is sponsored but all opinions are my own

Aldi Dupes | Is it acceptable?

Even if you haven't bought into it I am pretty sure you'll have heard all about the Aldi dupes for products such as Liz Earles Cleanse and Polish. Aldi's version being Hot Cloth cleanser and well a quarter of the price at least. I have bought into it and I have mixed feelings, I will be really honest.

One part of me absolutely loves the product for what it is. To me it does a good job for the price and my skin appears to really like it. It is gentle enough for me and leaves me feeling cleansed and well, polished. I also love the consistency and the smell is very spa like which is a scent I like. It is filled with rosemary, chamomile, cocoa butter, white tea and eucalyptus oil which are all scents I enjoy. It isn't floral or over powering, it just smells clean and fresh.

Aldi Hot cloth cleanser

But let's be real here. It is a complete rip off of the cult Liz Earle product that has been a staple in many peoples cleansing routine for a long time and for a good reason. In one way I think Aldi (Lacura) have made a bold step even attempting to come close to such a brand and surely it can't compare?

I am not a long time user of the L.E Cleanser, as much as I would love to it sadly is purchased as a gift and I can't sustain the price tag as my usual go to product, as much as I would love to. So to compare the two wouldn't be fair. So I looked at the ingredients.

First let's look at Aldi’s Lacura Hot Cloth Cleanser. Firstly it looks like a great pick for your skin. It’s got no harsh cleansers such as SLS and 2 of its top listed ingredients are coconut oil  and cocoa seed butter. Good right? Pretty much the same pattern you'll see emerging from L.E Ingredients list. Of course you can see which of the ingredients is a top ingredient by seeing how far up the list it is but you can't necessarily see exactly how much is in either of the products to truly compare.

Either L.E has a lot more of the active ingredients in them to warrant the price tag or they are using their brand name and trust to reflect the price tag.

Image Source: Look Magazine

For me I like the Lacura product, I just wish they had marketed it slightly differently. Why make a deliberate copy of that famous cult product? But then you have to ask yourself would the likes of you and I have picked it up if it wasn't?

There are some more dupes that have been released this last few weeks and as much as I want to try them I do feel this tie to the original cult brands. Watch this space!

Stop Rushing Me

time saving with kids
Come on, in to the bath...

Out you Jump quickly!

Eat up faster!

Come on tidy up, we need to go...

Stop rushing me.

Do you feel like you’re always in a hurry and rushing your kids around?  Or is it just me?

It is is difficult as a parent not to add this time pressure to our little ones, especially when we have school to get to on time, work to start and jobs to do before a certain time. But just lately I have been feeling the guilt when I have spent the afternoon rushing them about, especially Daisy who has been at school all day. She obviously just wants to spend the time doing things at her own pace once she is home, enjoying her bath and playing with the toys she has missed whilst at school all day. I am not sure why it has suddenly dawned on me how often I actually do this and truth be told how to try and make it that bit easier for her.

At the weekends I make a conscious effort to allow the day to be slower. If she doesn't get dressed util 11am then so be it. If we are spending the day at home then why not? If she wants to dilly dally over her lunch and be the worlds most painfully slow eater then fine. But how do I bring more of this into the time she has after school? How do I change my mindset that everything has to be done in a rush?

I know rushing about makes me feel on edge, especially when there is hold ups and she wants just "2 more minutes" in the bath at least 3 times before actually getting out! But why is it that I let it bother me? Because really, does it matter if it takes that 10 more minutes to do our bedtime routine?

When I stop and see other people with my children just absorbing the moments and letting them explore I feel a pang of jealousy. Not because I wish it was me but because sometimes life and routine just feels like it doesn't let me very often. Should we be letting out children stop and think a little more, take things in and then act. Sometimes ‘slowing down’ is easier said than done and obviously some things we can't help but rush and some times we really do need to be somewhere at a specific time, I.e - School!

My commitment (I have to now I have noted it here) is to try and remove things from the never ending job list. For example they really don't need  baths/ showers every single night, why not spend longer choosing the bedtime story that I often hurry along. Why not let Daisy doodle away whilst having her tea and let her spend extra 10 minutes eating if she enjoying herself? And do you know what, yes she has to read at home for school, but will one evening a week less really made a massive difference to her education at this age? I think not.

Just a bit of thought for you on this dreary, frosty day...

Garden Activities For Kids: Ideas To Improve Your Lawn and Plants With Little Helping Hands* AD

Those of you that have followed us for a while will know that we have recently been renovating our home. This means our garden has taken a bit of a hit and so we really need to start focusing on that now!

Free activities for kids

Keeping your garden in a reasonable-looking state is a year-round task though. Whether you live in the city and have a man-made patch of greenery or in the countryside, there is always room for improvement and odd jobs that can be done. So, why not get the kids involved? Garden activities for kids are a great way to keep your kiddies happy but keep your garden in tip-top shape at the same time. Of course, there are some jobs that the kids can’t get involved in, like using machinery or sharp tools, but little odd jobs can all add up to improve the overall look and health of your lawn and general outdoor areas.

1. Planting!

Whatever the weather, there is potential to get outside in the garden and plant some seeds. You may think that now winter has arrived there is no hope for any sort of flower, vegetable or shrubbery to thrive but that is not the case. Taking kids shopping for seeds is an activity they will no doubt enjoy, or you can even use food scraps to reduce waste and grow your own veg for free! Some hardy trees, plants and vegetables that can survive even in freezing temperatures are evergreen trees, shrubs, grass, berry bushes, kale, spinach, beetroot, carrots, cauliflower and much more.

An important aspect of every garden (well, most) is the lawn, so why not get the kids involved in preparing the lawn for winter. Of course, using lawn mowers is not an option but you could get inventive and have a leaf collecting competition to see who can pick up the most or who can find the biggest or most colourful. Ideas like this might seem simple but are a free and easy way to keep your kids busy for hours, whilst also keeping your lawn in good health. Aerating your lawn by spiking small holes on its surface is another way you could all have a go, but with the kids using toy rakes which can be found in most kids gardening sets.

However, if you think your lawn might need a slightly heavier helping hand to get it through winter, you could get the professionals in. Greensleeves offer a range of year-round and affordable lawn care services, with guaranteed results. There’s nothing to say you couldn’t get the job started off with a seasonal winter lawn treatment from Greensleeves, then add little finishing touches with some garden activities for kids, as all their services are completely child-friendly.

2. Crafts and DIY!

The good thing about getting creative and doing some child-safe DIY, is that it doesn’t need to be done outdoors. There’s plenty of things that can be made indoors to add some colour or even functionality to your garden – lawn, plants and all.

You could create shelters or mini houses for animals, whether these be for birds, hedgehogs, toads, bugs or worms. Winter months are the perfect time to recycle some of your household waste, such as coffee cans, paint cans, old containers etc. and your kids can get messy and crafty (which of course they’ll love) whilst giving some lucky animals a place to hide from the cold! As well as keeping the kids happy while they’re making the shelters, they’ll no doubt be kept occupied for the weeks following too to check if their shelters are being used.

A really good idea which would help improve the quality of your garden and lawn, whilst also creating something that the kids can monitor and check up on, is a worm farm. Worms, although they may seem gross, play a super important role in your garden. To create a worm farm, use a cardboard box lined with a bin bag and soil. Then add a few worms, which should multiply if you give your children the fun responsibility of putting kitchen scraps in the soil regularly. Once your worm farm is alive and kicking you can even use the soil as compost to help the growth of your lawn or plants.

3. Planning!

Although this post has hopefully shown so far that there are plenty of garden activities for kids to be done no matter the season… sometimes it really is just too cold to take your kids outside without wrapping them in a thousand layers. All mums will know that getting a coat on a child is a struggle! Despite this, there is nothing saying that you can’t sit down with your kids and plan your future garden activities, for example, you could create a fun wish-list for your kids to tick off. As the famous saying goes… failing to prepare, is preparing to fail. You could book in some lawn care treatments, for example, at the start of each season, alongside seasonal garden activities for kids to keep your lawn in good health but with lots of colourful creations to compliment it!

If reading this post has inspired you to get creative in the garden with the kids but you like the idea of getting a professional treatment too, Greensleeves offer affordable lawn treatment services across the whole of the UK. Visit their website for a quick quote or to book in your own personal lawn assessment.

*Collaborative Post, all opinions are my own.

Finding that Perfect Dress for the Winter Party Season* Collaborative Post

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!

 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,

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. 

How do I stop my child coughing? | Tips

We have all been there, when our child will not stop coughing. Especially at night when we all need some sleep, you find yourself scouring the internet in the early hours for as many tips as you can find! I thought I would share some of my top tips:

how to stop baby coughing

  • Prop them up. So don't let them lie flat on their back. If they are just babies then a pillow is not advisable so instead I used to roll up towels or pop a pillow under their mattress to elevate them slightly. 
  • A fan. I find my little ones get super hot when they have a cough, which then means they get even hotter when they cough and its a vicious circle because the hotter you are, the more likely you will cough. I tend to pop a fan on them, on a low setting which usually allows them to drop off to sleep. Sometimes if they have stopped coughing once asleep I will switch it off, otherwise I leave it on a low setting away from their bed. 
  • Snuffle babe/ Vicks vapour rub. Depending on their age one of these rubs works really well. You can't use Vicks until they're quite a bit older so always worth checking the ages on the labels. I pop this on their back, chest and the soles of their feet. 
  • A Humidifier. I swear by these things they are absolute god sends! I pop in either some olbas oil or some eucalyptus oil and have it going in their bedroom at night. It means the room isn't dry and the oils help with congestion. It also makes the rest of the house smell like a spa! 
  • Steam helps! I try to get my babies to have steamy showers or sit in the shower room with the hot shower running so they can inhale the steam. It just means their airways can be opened slightly and mean sleeping is a little easier. 
  • Fluids! The more you drink the thinner your mucus will be, or so a doctor told me once! It also keeps the throat nice and moist and prevents that tickly sensation that makes you cough! 

Hope at least one of these helps!

Hayley x

How To Take Photographs of your Children | Blog & Photography Tips

If you have seen my previous posts on blog tips then you will know I am passionate about helping others, I often get asked how I started my blog or why? How do I set one up and now more so than ever I get asked questions about my photography. I thought I would start to share some tips to give you a little insight.

I should put in a disclaimer and say out right that I am not a pro, I don't claim to be but I do think I have some good tips to share.

So children. The trickiest subjects to take a photo of ever. Worse than pets, for sure! However, I have 2 so have had lots of practice...

how to take a childs photo

Here are my top tips!

(1) Only approach at Happy Hour! And no I don't mean down at the local pub. Time your photograph taking at the right time, don't even think about attempting to bribe them before bed time or when they are felling a little under the weather, you will get no where! If you are in the winter make sure they are warm etc, just think about what makes them happy and is it really the right time to be directing them about to get that perfect shot!

(2) Expect nothing and anything else is a bonus. I never go in with an exact idea in my mind that I would like to achieve. You will be left disappointed most of the time. I like to go with the flow and usually my most used photos are those that were spontaneous and in the moment rather than staged. If you often have your camera out you will find your children get used to it and it isn't such a big deal. Ah the joys of being a bloggers child!

candid photos of a child

(3) Distractions are key. Think bubbles, water, food, things they can explore like nature. Anything to keep their minds off you and your camera. Children don't tend to have much of an attention span either so asking them  to do a certain task such as crafting for a photo could leave you with a very small time frame to get that photo you need. Think outside of the box with this one! Music is often a winner here, get them to sing and dance and this often shows their happy sides too, making it a bit more fun!

(4) Fun! Make sure it is fun for them. Then are children after all and it isn't in their job description to provide you with the perfect image that you want or need! Take them somewhere they love, do something they enjoy, don't make it feel like something they have to do! It also relieves the pressure from you a little too.

tips for photographing children

(5) Set your camera to quick fire! Ensure it is firing shots as quick as it can, that way you may take 100 photos and surely one or two of them will be up to the standard you were after. Children move super fast so making sure your shutter speed is fast enough really is key here too! Continuous mode really is the star of the show here.

(6) Get down to their level. This really does bring a different perspective to your photos, it means you aren't constantly looking down at them and it also means you get their engagement as they wonder what on earth you are doing! If you want to give them impression of them looking bigger than they are then get even lower as if you are looking up at them.

(7) You will no doubt need to crop your images. Don't worry about the fussy clutter around you, you can sort that out at a later date. Just focus on your child and capturing that moment. Also when cropping don’t be afraid to cut part of your child's body off with your framing if it helps the viewer’s eye to focus on what’s important in the photograph, what is it that you are trying to capture?

(8) Don't be worried if they aren't smiling. Some of my best shots are not where my child is smiling. Think candid and natural! You can really capture a personality or a moment that way.

Hayley x

More useful posts:

Blogging tips: 10 tips for photographing children by Surrey Mama

Honest Review of the Leesa Mattress*

When we were contacted about trying out a new Leesa Mattress I couldn't stop myself from replying in an instant. Anything to do with my bed or sleep and I am there! I absolutely love my bed and sleeping, I don't know many people who don't?

We have been testing the Leesa mattress now for just over a month and so wanted to share my thoughts on it with you all.

Mattress collection
When the mattress arrived I was quite surprised to find it in a pretty small box, I quickly was searching the box for labels with kind sized written on. I was thinking perhaps I had ordered a small one by mistake! I knew mattresses could be delivered in a box but was shocked at how small the packaging was, how on earth did it fit in there? It turns out pretty easily! 

We opened it up and put the mattress on to the bed to unravel and within seconds it was starting to expand. The Leesa mattress has been designed with three really soft foam layers that adjust to your body to give you the best support  possible without leaving those awful long-lasting dips in the mattress like traditional memory foam mattresses can. I know first hand from putting a mattress through two pregnancies that it can happen!! 

Mattress Reviews

It has been designed with the three premium foams for cooling, body contouring and pressure-relieving core support. The 2" Avena® foam top layer provides airflow for a cooler night's sleep whilst allowing enough movement for it to remain comfortable. The 2" memory foam layer delivers the body contouring and pressure relief you would expect from any memory foam mattress. The 6" base foam layer adds strength, durability and structure to support sleepers of all sizes, without feeling too firm. Our last mattress was classed as firm, the new Leesa one is definitely softer but is very supportive at the same time.

I have to say the one thing that I have noticed is the smell of the mattress when you open it. Only 2 weeks in did I notice the smell vanish completely. It is not a disgusting smell but there is a smell none the less. I remembered having the same thing with our previous mattress though. It soon disappears and really is worth it.

Honest Review of the Leesa Mattress*

One thing that really impressed me was that Leesa mattresses are made in the UK and they come with a 100 night risk-free trial which means that if the mattress isn't working for you. Which means you can at any point within the first 100 nights of having it arrange for the mattress to be collected and then donated to a charitable organisation.

Overall we have really enjoyed this mattress and found the transition for our old one a pleasure. It was easy to receive via delivery, to unpack and to set up on the bed. It took no time at all to expand and be usable and it really is comfortable.

I have a discount code for you THELITTLETHINGS which will give you £100 off at the checkout. You can find Leesa here.

*This is a PR Collaboration, we were gifted this mattress in return for our own, honest opinions.