5 years blogging and a look back on 2016

I can’t believe it was this time 5 years ago that I set up Morgan’s Milieu, back then it had a different name and a different purpose. It all started because I wanted to be a writer, I’d started writing a novel and had read that I needed a blog too so that I could get my name out there. My very first post went live on 30th December 2011 and it seems so long ago now.

The early years of blogging were okay, I blogged about once per month, if that, and it wasn’t regular at all. I had no purpose that I could think of and ended up writing rambling posts about nothing most of the time. 

  • Finding success is all about taking action. You can read all you want, but nothing will happen until you execute.

Pat Flynn

Then I stumbled onto parenting blogs and suddenly I knew where I belonged.

What's on your Christmas soundtrack?

This time of year you spend a lot of time in the car, travelling to see family, playing Santa and delivering presents, so you need a great list of music to listen to while you're on the road. Over the years I've gathered a few favourites I like to listen to during the festive period and below you'll find 10 (of the many) that are on my list. What's on your Christmas soundtrack?




  • If music be the food of love, play on

William Shakespeare



One of my favourite singers is Michael Bublé, I've got a few (okay, a lot) of his albums and I love "Christmas". You'll notice that I've picked a few from this album because to me, listening to Michael Bublé sing Christmas songs is wonderful.



Post Comment Love 16th - 18th December

It's the last Post Comment Love of the year! Stephanie and I have had a wonderful year hosting Post Comment Love and reading your brilliant posts has made us laugh, made us cry, and entertained us. We are both looking forward to a break but will be back in the New Year to read more of your great posts.

It's so busy this time of year it's easy to get behind on things, which is exactly what I've done lately. I'm catching up on my #pocolo reading and commenting but I'll get there. I'm hoping to catch up properly over the break. 

Like I said, this week is the last Post Comment Love of the year, closing on Sunday at 11pm, but we'll be back on 6th January to host the first #pocolo of 2017. 

Read stories to your children this Christmas

Reading to my sons has been one of the biggest joys of being a mum. Whether it was watching them fall asleep as I read The Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss or listening to their questions about the stories it's always been the best part of my day. As they got older their interest in hearing me read to them has almost disappeared, BP (now 12 years old) never wants me to read to him, and LP (7 years old) enjoys reading by himself but will, occasionally, want me to read to him.


  • There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.

Walt Disney





Post Comment Love 9th - 11th December

It's time for Post Comment Love again and I'm back for another week of reading and commenting on your brilliant blog posts. We're almost at the end of the year, Christmas is just around the corner and everyone is ready for a break. I can't wait for a break myself and am looking forward to catching up on reading.

I've been slowly getting over the flu this week, I've still got a cough but am feeling better. My head is clearer and I'm able to get stuff done, or at least try anyway! 

Has Christmas crept up on you? It has me, I realised yesterday that there's just 16 days until Christmas Day and I haven't started buying any presents for my family. To say I'm in a bit of a panic is an understatement. Not only have I got to get organised for hosting Christmas Lunch but I've got to do a lot of shopping too. I have no idea when I'll get it all done, more organisation is required. I'm going to have to have a schedule. 

Inspiring our children to read with Penguin Random House Children's

Whether you're a big reader or not it's hard to argue with the fact that getting your children to read classic children's books (or you reading to them) is a good thing. Stories like Treasure Island, Oliver Twist, and Black Beauty inspire a generation of readers and (hopefully) writers. I have loved reading since I was a child and the Hubby gets through at least one book per month. The types of books don't particularly matter either, I love anything from romance to science fiction and the Hubby loves non-fiction as much as he loves fiction. As reading parents we're hoping we can inspire our children to enjoy reading as much as we do.


diary of a young girl by anne frank, Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson, Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher, and The Witches Vacuum Cleaner by Terry Pratchett



Books we loved as children


Me


A couple of favourites that come to mind are Black Beauty and The Diary of a Young Girl. My nan gave a copy of Black Beauty when I was around 10 years old, it was a gorgeous deep red hardback cover with no pictures. I remember it being very small and the text was tiny. I started reading Black Beauty one Christmas when we were staying with my Nan and I fell in love with the story. Written from the perspective of the horse I found it intriguing and I truly empathised with the horse. The descriptions of having a bit shoved into its mouth and how it felt to have someone climb on its back moved me. While I lost the book (boohoo!) many years ago the story will always be one I'll remember.

We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.

Anna Sewell, Black Beauty





The Diary of a Young Girl is Anne Frank's diary and it's another one that will stay with me. At the time I read the diary I had no idea what it was about, I didn't realise it was about her time during the war. I was still quite young, around 11 or 12 I think, but again the story moved me. Because it was a diary I found it easy to read and was drawn in. Anne's descriptions of some of the more difficult times made me cry and I wished I could've helped. I still have a copy of The Diary of a Young Girl, it was in a Reader's Digest compilation and it's so old that some pages have gone missing. I will keep that book for as long as I can because not only do I love the story (so much I'm getting it on my Kindle) but it provokes memories that make me smile.


Just one short passage from the book.




I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains. 

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl


While my boys wouldn't be interested (or at least I don't think so) in reading Black Beauty or The Diary of a Young Girl my love for the books will stay and I hope that at some point I will be able to pass these stories on to my granddaughters.




The Hubby


When I asked the Hubby to tell me about two books he loved reading as a child he said, The Lorax, because it's awesome, and The Hobbit for the same reason. Asking him to say something more descriptive resulted in him laughing at me. But having read both books myself I can do the describing for him!



The Hubby read The Lorax when he was about 7 or 8 years old and I'm sure the language was the most enjoyable part. Dr Seuss' use of rhyme and funny words is entertaining for young readers but the story in The Lorax teaches too. I love the last few lines and having read the book to LP I know he loves them too. 




I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues. 

Dr. Seuss, The Lorax




At 11 years old, during the first year of High School (or Secondary School - whichever you call it!), the Hubby read The Hobbit. A teacher read a passage out in class and the Hubby decided, from hearing the passage, that he'd like to read the rest of the book. 



I first read the Hobbit when I was around 28 I think, I'd never heard of it until that point. I loved it though, and having seen the movies I still prefer the book. I always enjoy reading the chapter with the barrel rides. If you haven't read The Hobbit, you really should.




So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings. 

J. R. R. Tolkein, The Hobbit  




I have read The Lorax to both our boys and they loved it. I must've read that story to LP hundreds of times and I'm sure it will stay with him long enough that he will want to read to it to his children too. The Hobbit is a little too complex for LP at the moment but give it a few years and I'm sure he'll read it, it's a classic and I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't get him to read it!




Getting our children to read



Big Prince


When BP was a baby I read to him all the time, from nursery rhymes to short tales I spent hours reading. As he lost interest in the nursery rhymes I moved on to longer stories but he always seemed to want to either play while I read or he fell asleep. At the time I thought his falling asleep while I read was a good thing but I don't think it was. Because he fell asleep he missed out on the story and by the time we got around to reading again he'd forgotten what was happening. Whether it was the sound of my voice or that he didn't like the stories his introduction to reading put him to sleep, did that tell him he didn't like it? 

These days BP doesn't like to read, we asked him to read The Hobbit recently and we had to keep reminding him to read. He doesn't do it by choice. We've spent money and time trying to convince him that reading is good but we haven't managed to find the book that will pull him in yet. 



Little Prince


LP loves reading. I went through the same routine with LP that I did with BP, I read to him every day. When he was in bed and settled I would sit next to his cot and read nursery rhymes and LP would lie awake and listen to every word. It wasn't until I left the room that he would sleep. As he grew up and we moved on to more complex stories he would ask questions as I read and if he didn't understand a word he would ask what it meant. It's only been in the last few months that he's been more interested in reading to himself rather than me reading to him, but he does still enjoy the occasional story from me.

I've read many Dr. Seuss books, The BFG and other Roald Dahl books, and lots of other stories to LP and he's benefitted from it. His vocabulary surprises us sometimes and I can only put that down to how much I have read to him. 





New books



It's not just the classics we should be encouraging our children to read, newer books are important too. The newer stories incorporate new technology, talk about things that may not have been in books in the past, and the stories are more diverse. From boy spies to investigative teams of children the stories inspire our children and show them they can do anything, I love that. 

Penguin Random House Children's publishes a wide range of fiction, picture books and children's classics and some of the worlds favourite authors including Eric Carle, Roald Dahl, Jeff Kinney, Jacqueline Wilson, Rick Riordan, Cathy Cassidy and Terry Pratchett and popular character brands such as Peppa Pig, Peter Rabbit and The Snowman.





A Christmas Present Challenge


Working with Penguin Random House Children's this Christmas season is brilliant. Like me, they think that books make the best Christmas presents, with incredible adventures and unforgettable characters the stories can last a lifetime. 

When they sent me a package with three books inside I wasn't sure what to expect.

Would I be given books my children would love?
Would I have to find some other child that would love to read them?
Would I want to keep the books for myself?

The package arrived in wonderful Christmassy packaging; a sparkly purple envelope. I tore it open and pulled out the books, they were all new and I didn't know anything about them but I was excited.



The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner - Terry Pratchett


Fourteen fantastically funny stories from master storyteller Sir Terry Pratchett, full of food fights pirates, wizards and crooks!




Poor Mr Swimble is having a bad day. Rabbits are bouncing out of his hat, pigeons are flying out of his jacket and every time he points his finger, something magically appears - cheese sandwiches, socks... even a small yellow elephant on wheels!
It's becoming a real nuisance - and he's allergic to rabbits. His friends at the Magic Rectangle can't help, but the mysterious vacuum cleaner he saw that morning may have something to do with it...



This story sounds brilliant. I judged it by its cover (naughty, naughty!) and thought it wouldn't be a story for LP but I having read the blurb I've changed my mind. I'm sure LP would love to read this story and others and I'd love him to enjoy reading Terry Pratchett books because I know there are so many of them to choose from! I'll be giving The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner to LP for Christmas.




The Christmasaurus - Tom Fletcher


The magical, moving and bestselling first children's novel from Tom Fletcher.




Forget everything you thought you knew about the North Pole, and set off on a Christmas Eve adventure with a boy named William Trundle, an elf named Snozzletrump, Santa Claus (yes! The real Santa Claus!), a nasty piece of work called the Hunter, and a most unusual dinosaur...



Snozzletrump and the Hunter made me certain that this book is perfect for LP. While some might know Tom Fletcher from his time in the group McFly I know him from his amusing stories about The Dinosaur that Pooped. LP loved those books and we have read them time and time again. Once LP finds out that Tom is now writing stories for children his age I'm sure he will be eager to read The Christmasaurus.




Clover Moon - Jacqueline Wilson


Introducing the brilliant and brave new heroine from the wonderful world of the bestselling and award-winning Jacqueline Wilson. 




Clover Moon's imagination is her best escape from a life of hardship in poverty-stricken Victorian London. When tragedy plunges her into a world of grief, Clover realizes that everything she loved about the place she called home is gone. Clover hears of a place she could run to, but where will she find the courage - and the chance - to break free? And could leaving her family be just what she needs to find a place that really feels like home?



I have never read any Jacqueline Wilson books, or at least I don't remember doing. And unfortunately I don't think this one sounds like something LP or BP would want to read but luckily I have a niece that it would be perfect for. I'm sure she will love reading, it sounds like a great book for the girls. 




I'm so glad I decided to take part in this challenge, giving books for Christmas makes me feel good because I know they'll be used time and time again.

What stories did you love as a child?

I was sent the 3 books new books listed free of charge as part of the Brit Mums and Penguin Random House Children's Books Christmas Present Challenge. All opinions are my own.

Maintain your immune system with Redoxon multivitamins

I'm just recovering from the flu and although I still have an awful cough I am feeling a lot better. For about a week I was sneezing, coughing, couldn't breathe, and my whole body ached. But of course I'm a mum and I have to continue regardless of how terrible I'm feeling. Thanks to Redoxon multivitamins I've been able to help my immune system and this time the illness hasn't lasted as long as it usually would.


When I was a little girl I remember hating autumn and winter because I knew I'd be ill most of the time. If there was a bug going around in school I would get it and suffer for more than a week. I don't ever remember having a 24 hour bug, they always lasted longer. My body could never cope with the colder weather and went into shutdown mode. 

My immune system is not the best, I'm the kind of person that catches everything. The winter months are the worst with colds and flu around and I tend to get prepared beforehand by stocking up on lots of lemsip and cold capsules.

Post Comment Love 2nd - 4th December

Welcome to Post Comment Love, the linky Steph and I have been running for almost a year now. Link up a post written this week and we'll show it the love it deserves. We love seeing newbies link up and are so pleased that you decide to come back every week, our little community has grown over the year and it's so nice to see familiar names and new ones too. 

This week I'm feeling sorry for myself, I've been hit with a flu bug or a cold of some sort. I've got a foggy head, the sniffles, I'm sneezing constantly and feel like my arms weigh a ton! I'm doing my best to fight it, filling up with Lemsip and pills and carrying on like all good mums do. It's so tough to keep thoughts in your head when you feel this way, one minute you're concentrating on what you're doing and the next you're overcome with sneezes and forget what you were doing. 

Planning Christmas lunch for a large party

Last year I invited family to our house for Christmas Lunch and on Christmas day 15 people arrived expecting to be fed and watered throughout the day. Right now our family is going through something (I'm not ready to write about it just yet) and it's important to get the entire family together to enjoy these special times. Again, I have invited our family for Christmas Lunch and this year I'm expecting 18 people which means it's going to take some planning. If, like me, you're expecting a large party for Christmas Lunch I've got a few tips for you.



Time for food

Once everyone has been invited you need to settle on a time for serving the food and for Christmas Lunch it tends to be later than usual. We'll be serving (as long as everything goes to plan) at around 3pm, and will expect everyone to have arrived before then. When you know what time you want to be serving your meal you can let your family and friends know when to arrive.



Have a seat

Tables and chairs are an important part of hosting Christmas lunch (duh!) and if you're inviting lots of people you'll need to make sure you have enough space for everyone to sit and eat. Plan where everyone will sit, how you will arrange your seating area, and count how many seats you'll need.



Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.
Washington Irving.



We have a large lounge with a dining table we can extend but even with that I'll need an extra table and lots of extra chairs. I'm lucky we still have an old table in the garage that I can pull out. 



Decor


It's Christmas and you've invited people over for lunch. They will expect the table, and your house, to be decorated.


Table


Decide on a theme, it could be colours, or style, but make sure anything you select fits into your theme. These days there are so many places you can find beautiful decorations for your table, I saw some lovely table runners in Tesco that I'm going to buy, as well as the place settings. I want to go all-out this year and am even planning some candles for the table, if I can find the right sort.


gold Christmas table decorations


I've loved this table runner ever since I spied it in Tesco.

And this candle holder from John Lewis would look perfect in the middle of the table.

Plates and cutlery is another thing to think about, do you have enough? Will you need to purchase more plates or a whole set? Will you need extra wine glasses? Consider every aspect of your table.


House


I would've thought that by the time Christmas Day comes around your house will already be decorated but on the off chance it isn't you might want to consider adding a touch of Christmas to your home. Putting a Christmas Wreath on your front door is a lovely welcome to guests, and some jolly wall hangings will make them smile. I recently went to The Range in Derby and picked up a few extra pieces for our house, I can't wait to get them up!



The lunch


Planning on feeding 18 people all at the same time is challenging but it is possible. I have catered for large parties at Christmas more than a handful of times now and I'm fairly confident I've got it down (famous last words!) but I always stick to a plan. 

I use Google spreadsheets to plan out my meal and I start with the turkey. Before the big day I work out what time everything needs to go in the oven or on the hob. I write the times in my spreadsheet and organise them so I know when my potatoes go in the oven in relation to when the turkey is cooked. It sounds complicated but having a timetable makes the whole cooking process much easier.

cooked christmas turkey on a bed of sprouts


I've only done one Christmas lunch where I didn't have a timetable, and that's when my turkey (it was totally the turkey's fault) decided to not cook in time!

Timetables are a huge help, I cannot stress enough how easier your life will be if you have a timetable.



Drinks

This is really more of a personal choice, you could serve wine or soft drinks and that is up to you. We serve a sweet wine, it's one we've had many times before and know everyone likes. For those that don't like wine, or don't want to (or can't) drink alcohol we serve soft drinks and that can be anything from Coca-Cola to J2O.



Dessert

Having spent the majority of the morning in the kitchen I don't want to have to spend more hours in there preparing a fancy dessert. At the same time though I want to prepare a dessert that will wow everyone. Finding a great dessert that is easy to prepare and looks amazing is a difficult task but you can do it.


Frozen soufflé with raspberries and blueberries and a berry coulis.


Individual desserts that can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge until you're ready are perfect. Last year I made frozen soufflé with raspberry and blueberry coulis (picture above) and it went down a treat. It looked great and tasted good too, everyone loved them. This year I'm going to attempt something a little different; cheesecake. They'll still be individual ones and I haven't quite decided on what type but I have a fair idea of what I want it to look like, so it's a start.



Fun Times

Once the meal is over and everyone moves away from the table you'll need to have some entertainment ready. It could be a board game, a Christmas movie, or even a quiz game you could play on the TV like Best Guess. Team up and guess at the answers, it's bound to be an entertaining afternoon.

For those who don't want to play Best Guess there's always Top Trumps, or Monopoly!



Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'.
Bing Crosby



The best tip I can offer is to enjoy it. Yes, it's going to be stressful and you'll be run off your feet but once it's all done and you can sit down you'll realise just how much you enjoyed it.



I have teamed up with a group of fellow bloggers who also wanted to share their tips and memories for the Christmas season.





Stephanie at Life at 139a has some some Christmas crafts, find out how (and why) to bleach pine cones, how to make a Christmas wreath and inspiration for some gorgeous gift tags.







Catherine at Growing Family is sharing her tips for bringing the outside indoors this Christmas. Find out how to make easy pine cone tree decorations, how to use Spring flowering bulbs to create lovely homemade gifts, and how to choose the perfect real Christmas tree.







Jingle Bells, Christmas smells - it really does. Nicky at Not Just The 3 of Us is talking about the memories that Christmas decorations evoke.







Jane at Maflingo has great ideas for festive treats to make with the kids this Christmas. Find out how to make Santa Fruit Skewers and Festive Chocolate Pretzels.







Jocelyn at The Reading Residence is sharing some fun and easy Christmas crafts for children. Find out how to create a Christmas centrepiece, a festive arty keepsake and make kids placemats.







Kirsty from Hijacked By Twins is planning every meal including how to use up those precious leftovers. Find out how to make a delicious toppings for the perfect leftover Christmas dinner soup. This recipe will make you want to cook extra just for the leftovers.






Caro from The Twinkle Diaries shares a simple idea for creating edible Christmas tree decorations







If you're anywhere near the UK capital this Winter, Nell from the Pigeon Pair and Me tells you how to enjoy the festive fun of London - for free. She also gives her top picks of Winter family shows, and explains why Christmas with kids is a magical time of the year.



Are you planning Christmas Lunch for a large party?
What are your top tips?

Perfect Proposals, Wonderful Weddings, and more

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about marriage proposals, it started out as a simple post but after turning to blogging buddies for their stories the post transformed. I loved writing it, but I loved reading others' stories so much that I decided to do a proposal series. An interview style post where you answer questions about your proposals and tell your story. So today, sharing my own story, I'm introducing Perfect Proposals.

But that's not all.


Exiting Engagements is a chance for those who aren't yet engaged to share their idea of the perfect marriage proposal.

And Wonderful Weddings, where I ask about your wedding, how the day went, what the weather was like, and everything in between. 

Post Comment Love 25th - 27th November

Welcome to Post Comment Love, the linky that aims to give extra love to the posts linked up. Whether you're a regular or a newbie, it's great to see you! 


Is it just me or are the weeks flying by? I feel like it was only 2 minutes ago it was the start of the Summer Holidays and now it's almost Christmas. Next week I'll be putting up Christmas decorations and the house will feel festive and before you know it'll all be over and we'll be into yet another year. 

But let's not wish the time away,

I'm focussing on right now. 


Be Real, Be You

We are bombarded day and night with images in magazines, on the TV, and in movies that make us think we are not good enough. We are not, and could never be, as beautiful as the movie stars or the music stars. We are shorter, fatter, have a stumpy nose or wear glasses so how could we ever consider ourselves worthy? Our confidence revolves around the images we see every day and that's why I love the Be Real Body Image Pledge, supported by Dove. It's time that organisations portrayed realistic body image. It's time you had the confidence to be real, to be you.



An attack on the mind


When I was thirteen years old I was told I had to wear glasses. I had been struggling to read the blackboard in school and couldn't manage without them any longer. It was amazing to finally be able see further than a few feet in front of me while wearing my glasses but I now had to contend with the fact that I was a teenage girl who had to wear glasses.

I became "four-eyes".
I became "ugly".



Not only did I have to deal with raging hormones and periods but now I had to deal with awful people who called me names because I needed glasses. I was a timid child and didn't like confrontations so I tried to ignore the bullies and secretly cried into my pillow at night. I hated wearing glasses. The worst part was when bullies drew glasses onto stars faces in magazines and laughed because it made them look ugly. Wearing glasses was the mark of ugliness.

There were no stars who wore glasses, that I knew of, and it only made things worse. The movies didn't help either, there was always the classic librarian who suddenly became beautiful when she took off her glasses. It killed my self-esteem.

I remember a slight change in attitudes when Mel B (Scary Spice) wore glasses in public, suddenly it was cool to wear glasses. Those bullies began to wear glasses, everyone in school wanted to be 'cool' like Mel B. I wasn't "ugly" anymore, and no one called me "four-eyes" for a while.



Be Real


80% of women and girls wish the media did a better job portraying realistic and diverse body image. The Be Real Body Image Pledge encourages organisations to promote the responsible portrayal of body image in advertising, media, fashion and music.

It would be great if we could start seeing more realistic images in the media. Imagine what it would be like to see the real stars, not photoshopped magazine covers.

After years of being brainwashed to think that having a tiny waist and big boobs is beautiful I've managed to retrain myself. I used to laugh or judge women if they were overweight or flat-chested and I'm ashamed of that, but I blame the media. I was told what to think and was too young to know any different. Now though I don't do it, when I see an overweight lady running along the street in her lycra I want to shout out "Good for you!", I smile because she's making an effort and she looks great. We are all different and should celebrate our differences, not pretend those differences don't exist.



Be You


The best way to make a change is to be you. Go out there and be confident. Show everyone that we are proud to be different and we celebrate our differences. It would be a boring world if we were all the same after all.

If you like to wear bright and colourful clothes, DO IT!
If you want to have pink hair, DO IT!
If you want to wear joggers and relax, DO IT!




Whatever it is you love to wear, put it on and strut your stuff! And don't forget...

Be Real, Be YOU.

I created this post as a competition entry in support of Dove and the Be Real Body Image Pledge.

Linking with Share the Joy.

Autumn/Winter Workwear for Men and Women

Workwear is not something that I find myself concerned with very often. Having not worked in an office for almost 13 years it's not something I think about. The Hubby hasn't had to think about it for a while either because for the last 7 years he has worked at home. Working at home means that the Hubby and I can select more comfortable clothes to work in but during Autumn and Winter we still need to think about staying warm. I love putting together fashion pieces so I thought I'd do an Autumn/Winter workwear post for people who work at home, with a few pieces for those who do work in an office.
clothes in hexagons, workwear, homewear

Finding clothes that are both comfortable and smart can be difficult when you're a plus size woman. I like to look smart even though I work at home but more often than not I opt for comfort. I tend to have a few favourite shops I'll go to because I know their clothes are comfortable and smart.


Womenswear


Tops


First of all I grabbed all the tops I loved from my favourite stores:

Post Comment Love 18th - 20th November

Hi guys! Welcome back to another week of Post Comment Love where Stephanie and I give your posts that extra bit of love. Every week we look forward to seeing what posts get linked up and every week we have such a range of topics it's a pleasure to read. Thank you for coming back week after week to link up your posts, and if you're new here - welcome!

I have finally recovered from Blogfest '16, I think last night I managed to catch up on sleep and am feeling back to normal now. It's always tiring to go to the blogging conferences in London, I have to get to the train station at about 6:30am, spend a few hours travelling, then there's the conference itself and then back on train to go home. I usually get home after 9pm whenever I go to a conference in London so it's quite a long day.

It was a great day though, despite some questionable comments about men. I enjoyed listening to the sessions and learnt a lot from Emily Quinton in her photography session. I don't feel like I'm a terrible blogger for wanting to take all my photos with my phone because she said she takes the majority of her photos with her phone! Yay! Like I said, I learnt a lot in that session and hopefully that will show in the photos I take from now on.

A new family game to play this Christmas: Best Guess

We love playing games, the four of us together sat around the dining table playing our favourite board game. While there are a few games we can play on consoles, like MarioKart, there aren't many games on, say, the iPad, that we can play as a family. But that is all about to change thanks to a brilliant new game from Crash Lab called Best Guess. This is a game we can play together while passing around an iPad or iPhone and answering questions, or at least guessing at the answers!



The games we play


Game of Life, Monopoly, Catan, and Carcassonne are all games we have played together as a family and we love all of them. Playing board games has become a thing we all enjoy doing and I'm sure it will continue as the boys grow older. We've introduced the boys to games we played as children, like Monopoly or Scrabble, and together we've discovered new games like Catan and Carcassonne where we learn as we play.

So far though there hasn't been a game on the iPad we could play together. My boys love their iPads and love all the games they can switch between, but it's never much of a social thing, they'll just stare at the screens and play quietly (or as quietly as a 7 and 12 year old can),


Enjoying me time at Blogfest '16

If you didn't know Blogfest '16 is a blogging conference organised by Mumsnet and it was held last Saturday in London. It is a place where hundreds of bloggers meet, learn, and have a good time away from the children. I bought my ticket months ago and travelled to London on the train early Saturday morning, I was excited to meet lots of blogging buddies and enjoy some me time in the process. Being more confident because it wasn't my first trip definitely helped things and I'm so glad I made the trip.
blogfest 16 programme, notebook, pen, iPad, and camera on an old table background

Meeting new friends


Just before making the trip to Blogfest '16 I'd organised to meet someone new on arrival at St Pancras. A newbie blogger, Sarah from A Mundane Life, was going to Blogfest and it was her first time. She was super nervous so I offered to meet her in London and we could walk to the place together.

Christmas Extravaganza at Clarks Village

It's exciting to see towns and cities putting up Christmas lights this time of year as they prepare for the big switch on. I like to see the process of the lights and decorations being put up as the town transforms into a festive place. The switch on though is the best part and it would be nice if I could go to the Christmas Extravaganza at Clarks Village on 17th November (this Thursday), not only are the lights being switched on but there's a chance to meet local Olympians too.
The entrance to Clarks Village lit up with christmas lights



Meet Olympians and Paralympic Heroes


On Thursday 17th November local Olympians and Paralympic heroes, James Guy (swimmer), Jo Frith (archer), and Ed Ling (trap shooter), will be pushing the button and illuminating the village. 

Visitors to the village will be able to meet their heroes and ask questions as well as have a photo taken with their favourite star - and they'll even have their medals with them!

Make a child smile this Christmas with Operation Christmas Child

In a world where our children are bombarded with adverts this time of year and we're surrounded by thoughts of presents to buy for family and friends it can be easy to forget there are children out there that won't receive a present on Christmas morning. It makes me sad thinking about that and so this year, we decided to take part in Operation Christmas Child; a project run by Samaritan's Purse that ships shoeboxes full of gifts to children around the world.
holly at christmas, focussed in the foreground, blurred in the background



What Christmas is about


When I was a little girl (think 8 or 9 years old) I remember  going to Midnight Mass with my Nan. She was a religious lady who wanted to involve me in everything she could. I couldn't believe she'd chosen to take me and felt privileged to go. My memories are fading now, but I recall the pastor speaking about helping others at Christmas, how it was a person's duty to help those less fortunate than themselves. That has always stuck with me and I like to think I've done my best to do that.

Christmas is a time to be together, to give presents to family and friends to show how much you care. But it is also a time to think about others, those less fortunate than ourselves, that may not receive a present at all. 

Post Comment Love 11th - 13th November

Welcome to another week of Post Comment Love - where your best (or favourite) post of the week gets the extra love it deserves. If you're a regular linker, welcome back, and if you're a newbie thanks for stopping by. Link up your post, grab our badge, and make some new friends!

I can't quite believe we're in the second week in November already. I was chatting to the Hubby the last week and we were talking about Blogfest 2016, I told him it was in two weeks and he was confused. After checking I realised it was just a week away and then I panicked. "I'm not ready!" was my first thought, but after calming down a little I got excited. Tomorrow (!) I'll be travelling to London (again) and I get to see some of my favourite blogging buddies as well as say hi to people I've only ever spoken to online. Best of all though I get to chat (in real life!!) to Steph, my lovely co-host.

This time around I'm a lot less worried and a lot more excited, I might even learn something... or more to the point I might implement the things I learn! I'm looking forward to saying hello to Aby from You Baby Me Mummy, her productivity course has really helped me over the last couple of months so I want to thank her.

The boys are looking forward to Saturday too because it means they get to spend a whole day with their dad on their own. I'm sure they'll have a great time, and when I get back they'll probably ask me when I'm going again!

Marriage proposals - how do you do it?

When I was a little girl I dreamt of the day my knight in shining armour would ask me to marry him. As a steadfast Disney fan I knew my day would come eventually, all I had to do was wait. Obviously as a young girl I had no idea about the realities of a marriage proposal but I do think it was healthy to dream. I loved the fantasies, pretending to be a princess and having a prince propose was always my favourite. With the pressures of movies showing us how a proposal should be done I began wondering how regular people (not movie stars) proposed, so my question to you is - How do/did you do it?

According to tradition the man proposes to the woman, although that isn't always the case, as we almost saw in Friends.


He presents the woman with a ring and simply asks "Will you marry me?" - but is that how it really happens?



Our story


The Hubby and I have been married for just over 9 years and they have been the happiest of my life. Our engagement story is nothing like the movies, there was no restaurant where the Hubby hid the ring in a cake. Our story signifies who we are as people. 

One night, while we were in bed chatting, the Hubby asked me if I was happy.

“Of course!” I said, at the time I couldn’t have been any happier; I had a boyfriend who loved me and I had a beautiful son who I got to spend every day with. I was a young stay-at-home mum with nothing to worry about but keeping my boys safe.

He went on to ask if there was anything he could do that would make me happier, I told him I didn’t think there was. As I was clearly not getting what he was driving at he said “Okay then... what if we got married?”

How to enjoy Autumn

The Autumn months are officially here, there's a chill in the air and the days are shorter, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself. Even when you spend your days at home with the children there are great ways to enjoy Autumn.
a young boy playing in a pile of dead leaves, the sun is shining and there are trees in the background.


Leaves



What comes to mind when I think of Autumn is the coloured leaves, the wonderful colours that surround us during the cooler months.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. 
Albert Camus.

Doesn't that just say it all?

Post Comment Love 4th - 6th November 2016

It's that time of the week again, Post Comment Love is here and Stephanie and I are waiting to read some fantastic posts from you. Link up your best post of the week, a post that needs some extra love, or simply your favourite and we will show it the love it deserves. If you're new here, welcome, and if you're a regular linker, thanks for coming back!

The boys are back at school this week (Yay!) which means we're back into a good routine. Although I'm not liking the darker nights very much, it's dark by 5pm these days. It won't be long before I'll be getting up when it's dark too, I hate that. I'm lucky to sit by a large window during the day because really it's the only daylight I get, apart from during the school runs of course. 

I always find it difficult to get motivated to do anything when the days are shorter, it must be to do with how much daylight I'm exposed to. I've been meaning to sort out my office, things are getting rather cramped and it's filled with junk, but finding the time and motivation is proving tricky. The same goes for the rest of the house too, there's so much junk everywhere and I keep saying we'll get it sorted but somehow it never happens. Do you find you're like this? I say I'll do something but when it comes around to actually doing it, I don't. Perhaps I'm just being lazy?

Beasty Baby Christmas show at Nottingham Lakeside Arts

This Christmas season you can experience the heart-warming tale of Theatre-Rites' Beasty Baby at Nottingham Lakeside Arts.

beasty-baby-production



About Beasty Baby


In a snow-laden forest lives an adorable, sweet yet totally mischievous baby. Watch the magical mayhem unfold as three people take on the job of raising this endearing little rascal. 

Beasty Baby is a story of family life and the wonderful, but often challenging moments in a child's early years. Children will delight in the comical antics of Beasty Baby, whilst parents can reminisce on the chaotic magic of bringing up a child. It's one that will make the whole family smile. 

Hobbies for stay-at-home mums

Thirteen years ago I'd just found out I was pregnant. I spent time reading about pregnancy and readying myself for being a first-time mum. 

At around 5 months pregnant, I left work and began my maternity leave and at the time I had no idea how my life would change. The Hubby (the boyfriend then) worked in an office which meant I would be at home alone every day. 



Having spent most of my time up to then working I didn't know what I would do but I decided to do a little research into hobbies. Over the years I've been through a few hobbies, some I've enjoyed and some I gave up pretty quickly. Below you'll see just a few hobbies you could try.