Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Going a bit nutty

So, for the last three weeks I've been going a bit nuts.
In that, I've been seeing whether a portion of almonds a day for 21 days to see if there's any difference in my life.
So, the first difference was the contents of my handbag:
A handy little tin has become a new feature which fits the recommended daily amount of almonds!
This may seem inconsequential- it's not, one day I just took the almonds in a packet. They got squashed. Squashed almonds don't taste quite as nice.

I also love the fact that California Almonds provide the tip that the daily amount (23 almonds= 30 grams) fits perfectly on a 3x3 post it note.
Working from home days have become a lot more entertaining as my first task is to fit them on the note, and I spend the day trying to pace myself eating them- rewarding myself for each task completed.

And, for anyone who loves almonds in food, we've also had a bit of fun trying to concoct new recipes.
I love almond croissants from Costa, I've used a packet or two trying to make an almond paste... quite unsuccessfully.
Mr J on the other hand has been adding almonds to his curries, with a great deal more success.

So, after three weeks, what can I say?
Has my life changed for the better?
Has it improved?

It's made some aspects better, and probably hasn't changed others.

If you're anything like me, half way through meetings you might get a bit bored, a bit distracted, and thoughts of a sugar-fix feature heavily in your new found priority list.
I have felt a lot better turning to a handful of almonds rather than a couple of biscuits or a pastry.
It's a little thing, and I know something like this will take time to see the difference, but I do feel better in myself not having had the sugar fix which I didn't really need.

Becoming aware of how much nicer food is with almonds in.
A silly one, but it's one of those ingredients you don't really think about.
Again, not really improved my life, but a good one to appreciate.

Because here's the thing.
Unlike my sugary food faves and crisps, almonds are good for you.
They're good for your heart, your diet, full of protein and vitamin E, and a whole wealth of other benefits which means they are better part of your life... than most other snacks.

And oddly, when I told my dad, he says he puts his well being down to his amazing breakfast (a handful of grapes and almonds)- the one that we thought he was mad for having the last twenty years.
It looks like he has a point.

And where am I at the end of the three weeks?
I will be making a concerted effort to snack more healthily.
Both with almonds and fruit.
I will ensure my pastry of choice is the almond croissant from Costa.
And I suspect Mr J will continue to add almonds to his favourite recipes.

Disclaimer: California Almonds has asked me to take part in the Snack Happy Challenge. They have provided me with all I need to complete the challenge. For more information about healthy snacking please visit www.AlmondBoard.co.uk

Monday, 29 April 2013

Introducing Monday's Multiple Mum- Trouble Doubled #MMM


You know there's that person, that mum, that says what you're thinking, that gets in with the punchline, and you're about six months behind.

Let me introduce you to Trouble Doubled.

Whether you are a parent or multiples or not, just being a parent of a pre-schooler means Peppa Pig is part of the territory and this post just said it all.
As a parent of twins I was torn in half by this post, agreeing and disagreeing in equal measure (I dress the boys the same because I can't make decisions and don't like the limited selection of boys clothes).

Troubles Mum started blogging around the same time as me, and has twins the same age (by a month) as the boys, so it is great to introduce TM as my first guest post as part of Monday's Multiple Mums.

”Trouble

Who are you?
Blogging at Trouble Doubled, I live in the north of England, and have a business and academic background. I love TV and blogging, and shouting at people on Twitter.

I have four girls – aged 8, 5 and 2 year old twins.

What was your reaction to finding you were going to be a mum of multiples?
I wasn't shocked, I already half-expected it. I knew we were going to need a much bigger car.

What did you want to know?
Not a lot really. Having the multiples effectively as my third child meant I was confident we could handle it. Rightly or wrongly.

What was the best piece of advice you received when you were pregnant?
A mum of twins (who I met one day in a café and was a friend of a friend) told me never to take advice off people who’d never had twins themselves because, in her experience, they didn't have a bloody clue. It has served me well.

What support networks do you use?
Other multiple bloggers, and the few parents I have met while out and about and at our short-lived twins playgroup. Apart from that, just the usual like family and local friends. The mums of our village school children have been awesome, especially in the early days.

How was your pregnancy?
Fine. No problems. As straight-forward as my previous two singleton pregnancies.

How did labour go?
It didn’t. I had an elective c-section at 38 weeks due to a previous c-section.

How did your other half cope?
Very well. He’s a great father.

What are your three best investments for multiples?
Specifically for multiples…..the double buggy. I have a MacLaren Twin Techno. Can’t get about with it.
Our VW Sharan. Can fit four car seats, two adults, and a double buggy in the boot. We had to sell our Vauxhall Zafira just for that little bit more room.
A v-shaped pillow for feeding.

What have you done as a mum of multiples which you never thought you’d do?
Write a blog. If I didn't have twins I’d probably think I wasn't special enough to have one. Having twins has made me more confident as I have become acutely aware of my own capabilities.

What’s your best piece of advice for the early days? (as in your babies early life rather than early hours!)
It’ll pass. It’s a phase. Things get easier. Enjoy.

How has your life changed, now you are a mum of multiples?
I won’t be going back to work any time soon. The child care is too expensive to make it worth the bother. As someone who enjoyed and excelled in her career and academic life, this is something that I am having to cope with mentally. As well as being permanently knackered.

At this age, what are the best things about your multiples?
At two years old? I hate 2 year olds. The potty training, the meltdowns, the constantly not really knowing what they want and just running round like headless chickens. They don’t even play with each other that much – if anything they egg each other on and wind each other up. Bring on the 3s.

What have your multiples done which have made you laugh most?
The vast differences in their personalities despite them being almost identical in every other way. One is loving and caring, and a bit clingy. The other is grumpy, and hates being cuddled, and tells you what she thinks of you in no uncertain terms. I find it hysterical when she has a little stroppy turn and the other one laughs at her.

What’s your best distraction for avoiding tantrums, arguments and/ or confrontation?
They understand the word ‘turn’ and have got quite good at taking their turns if there is something they both want. Otherwise I just buy two of everything.

In the words (sort of) of Wicked- how has having multiples changed your life for the better?
It’s made me stronger mentally if not physically. Life’s more fun. I can’t imagine just having the three children, or not having the second twin.

I wasn't planning on writing anything other than hosting guest posts.
But I have a fuzziness from reading this (and I know it wasn't Troubles Mum's intent!) but this is it.
This is parenting two year old twins.
I had the straight(ish) forward pregnancy, we have the Sharan... more so we have twins who are individuals, and for us- unless big sis is in the vicinity- the chances of playing together are like flipping a coin.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

New Peppa Pig Theatre Tour!

Peppa Pig has a new show!
Last April Squeaks went to see Peppa Pig's Treasure Hunt.
We flipped a coin and daddy got to take her whilst I took the boys on a quest for retail therapy and coffee.
Given how much Squeaks loves Peppa Pig I would have been happy to swop roles.

Fast forward to April 2013 and I now have three MASSIVE Peppa Pig fans.
Everything in our power is stopping us take everyone to Peppa Pig World until the boys turn 3, Squeaks got the most of it at three.

But, STOP PRESS.
There's a solution!
There's a new show in tour from October 2013!!

Peppa Pig's Big Splash!

Brand new and the biggest ever tour, including the fourth West End Christmas Season.

"The nursery roof is leaking and Peppa and her friends need to fix it quickly. They set up a fete to raise the money for Mr Bull to do the repairs. There’s plenty of fun to be had as Peppa, George, Mummy and Daddy Pig, as well as Danny Dog, Pedro Pony and Suzy Sheep put up bunting, run stalls and organise a great day out. There's also a Champion Puddle Jumping competition judged by Mr Potato where everyone gets wet and Peppa needs to find her Golden Boots. Another all-singing, all-dancing adventure full of songs, games and muddy puddles is guaranteed for all the family."

Playing on episodes the children are familiar with (and I can only hope the 'Mr Potato' song features heavily!) this is guaranteed to have my three excited and enthralled.

The tour, across the UK currently includes the following dates:

THURS 24 – SUN 27 OCTOBER 2013 ORCHARD THEATRE, DARTFORD
Thurs 24 at 4 pm www.orchardtheatre.co.uk
Fri 25 at 1 & 4 pm
Sat 26 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm
Sun 27 at 10 am & 1 pm

WED 30 – THURS 31 OCTOBER NEW THEATRE, CARDIFF
Wed 30 & Thurs 31 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk

SAT 2 – SUN 3 NOVEMBER CONCERT HALL, CROYDON
Sat 2 at 1 & 4 pm www.fairfield.co.uk
Sun 3 at 10 am & 1 pm

TUES 5 – WED 6 NOVEMBER G LIVE, GUILDFORD
Tues 5 at 1 & 4 pm www.glive.co.uk
Wed 6 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 9 – SUN 10 NOVEMBER GROVE THEATRE, DUNSTABLE
Sat 9 at 1 & 4 pm www.grovetheatre.co.uk
Sun 10 at 10 am & 1 pm

TUES 12 – WED 13 NOVEMBER NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE, BIRMINGHAM
Tues 12 at 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com
Wed 13 at 10 am & 1 pm

FRI 15 – SAT 16 NOVEMBER WYCOMBE SWAN, HIGH WYCOMBE
Fri 15 at 4 pm www.wycombeswan.co.uk
Sat 16 at 10.30 am, 1 & 4 pm

WED 20 – THURS 21 NOVEMBER HEXAGON THEATRE, READING
Wed 20 at 1 & 4 pm www.readingarts.com/thehexagon
Thurs 21 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 23 – SUN 24 NOVEMBER GRAND THEATRE, BLACKPOOL
Sat 23 at 1 & 4 pm www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk
Sun 24 at 10 am & 1 pm

2014

SAT 18 JANUARY LIVERPOOL EMPIRE
1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com
WED 22 – THURS 23 JANUARY CREWE LYCEUM THEATRE
Wed 22 at 1 & 4 pm www.crewelyceum.co.uk
Thurs 23 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 25 – SUN 26 JANUARY NEW THEATRE, HULL
Sat 25 at 1 & 4 pm www.hullcc.gov.uk/hullnewtheatre
Sun 26 at 10 am & 1 pm

WED 29 – THURS 30 JANUARY CHARTER THEATRE, PRESTON
Wed 29 at 1 & 4 pm www.prestonguildhall.com
Thurs 30 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 1 – SUN 2 FEBRUARY PRINCES HALL, ALDERSHOT
Sat 1 & Sun 2 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.princeshall.com

WED 5 – THURS 6 FEBRUARY THE ALBAN ARENA, ST ALBANS
Wed 5 at 1 & 4 pm www.alban-arena.co.uk
Thurs 6 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 8 – SUN 9 FEBRUARY ASSEMBLY HALL THEATRE, TUNBRIDGE WELLS
Sat 8 at 1 & 4 pm www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk
Sun 9 at 10 am & 1 pm

WED 12 – THURS 13 FEBRUARY DE MONTFORT HALL, LEICESTER
Wed 12 at 1 & 4 pm www.demontforthall.co.uk
Thurs 13 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 15 – SUN 16 FEBRUARY CIVIC THEATRE, DARLINGTON
Sat 15 & Sun 16 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.darlington.gov.uk/arts

WED 19 – THURS 20 FEBRUARY THEATRE ROYAL BRIGHTON
Wed 19 at 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com
Thurs 20 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 22 – SUN 23 FEBRUARY CLIFFS PAVILION, SOUTHEND
Sat 22 & Sun 23 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.southendtheatres.org.uk

WED 26 – THURS 27 FEBRUARY GORDON CRAIG THEATRE, STEVENAGE
Wed 26 at 1 & 4 pm www.gordon-craig.co.uk
Thurs 27 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 1 – SUN 2 MARCH CORN EXCHANGE, CAMBRIDGE
Sat 1 at 1 & 4 pm www.cornex.co.uk
Sun 2 at 10 am & 1 pm

FRI 7 – SAT 8 MARCH DERNGATE, NORTHAMPTON
Fri 7 at 4 pm www.royalandderngate.co.uk
Sat 8 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm

WED 12 – THURS 13 MARCH CORN EXCHANGE, KING’S LYNN
Wed 12 at 1 & 4 pm www.kingslynncornexchange.co.uk
Thurs 13 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 15 – SUN 16 MARCH HACKNEY EMPIRE
Sat 15 & Sun 16 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.hackneyempire.co.uk

TUES 25 – WED 26 MARCH HARROGATE THEATRE
Tues 25 at 1 & 4 pm www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk
Wed 26 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 29 – SUN 30 MARCH BECK THEATRE, HAYES
Sat 29 & Sun 30 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.becktheatre.org.uk

WED 2 - THURS 3 APRIL LIGHTHOUSE, POOLE
Wed 2 at 1 & 4 pm www.lighthousepoole.co.uk
Thurs 3 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 5 – SUN 6 ARPIL HALL FOR CORNWALL, TRURO
Sat 5 & Sun 6 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.hallforcornwall.org.uk

SAT 12 – SUN 13 APRIL KING’S THEATRE, EDINBURGH
Sat 12 & Sun 13 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.edtheatres.com

TUES 15 – WED 16 APRIL WATERSIDE THEATRE, AYLESBURY
Tues 15 at 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com
Wed 16 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 19 – SUN 20 APRIL NEW MARLOWE THEATRE, CANTERBURY
Sat 19 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.marlowetheatre.com
Sun 20 at 1 & 4 pm

SAT 26 – SUN 27 APRIL VICTORIA THEATRE, HALIFAX
Sat 26 at 4 pm www.victoriatheatre.co.uk
Sun 27 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm
WED 30 APRIL – THURS 1 MAY MILLENNIUM FORUM, DERRY
Wed 30 at 4 pm www.millenniumforum.co.uk
Thurs 1 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm

FRI 2 – SUN 4 MAY GRAND OPERA HOUSE, BELFAST
Fri 2 at 4 pm www.goh.co.uk
Sat 3 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm
Sun 4 at 11 am

WED 7 – THURS 8 MAY CORK OPERA HOUSE
Wed 7 at 1 & 4 pm www.corkoperahouse.ie
Thurs 8 at 10 am & 1 pm

TUES 13 – WED 14 MAY CIVIC HALL, BROXBOURNE
Tues 13 at 4 pm www.broxbourne.gov.uk
Wed 14 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm

SAT 17 – SUN 18 MAY RICHMOND THEATRE
Sat 17 & Sun 18 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com

WED 21 – THURS 22 MAY BELGRADE THEATRE, COVENTRY
Wed 21 at 10.30 am, 1 & 4 pm www.belgrade.co.uk
Thurs 22 at 10.30 am & 1 pm

SAT 24 – SUN 25 MAY WYVERN THEATRE, SWINDON
Sat 24 at 1 & 4 pm www.wyverntheatre.org.uk
Sun 25 at 10 am & 1 pm

WED 28 – THURS 29 MAY COLOSSEUM, WATFORD
Wed 28 at 10.30, 1 & 4 pm www.watfordcolosseum.co.uk
Thurs 29 at 10.30 am & 1 pm

SAT 31 MAY – SUN 1 JUNE GRAND THEATRE, WOLVERHAMPTON
Sat 31 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.grandtheatre.co.uk
Sun 1 at 10 am & 1 pm

WED 4 – THURS 5 JUNE EVERYMAN THEATRE, CHELTENHAM
Wed 4 & Thurs 5 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.everymantheatre.org.uk

SAT 7 – SUN 8 JUNE KING’S THEATRE, SOUTHSEA
Sat 7 at 1 & 4 pm www.kings-southsea.com
Sun 8 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 14 – SUN 15 JUNE GRAND THEATRE, SWANSEA
Sat 14 at 1 & 4 pm www.swanseagrand.co.uk
Sun 15 at 10 am & 1 pm

WED 18 – THURS 19 JUNE THEATRE ROYAL WINCHESTER
Wed 18 & Thurs 19 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm

SAT 21 – SUN 22 JUNE THE HAWTH, CRAWLEY
Sat 21 & Sun 22 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.hawth.co.uk

WED 25 – THURS 26 JUNE ASSEMBLY ROOMS, DERBY
Wed 25 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.derbylive.co.uk
Thurs 26 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 28 – SUN 29 JUNE MANCHESTER OPERA HOUSE
Sat 28 & Sun 29 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com

TUES 1 – WED 2 JULY GRAND OPERA HOUSE, YORK
Tues 1 at 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com
Wed 2 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 5 – SUN 6 JULY HIS MAJESTY’S THEATRE, ABERDEEN
Sat 5 & Sun 6 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.aberdeenperformingarts.com

SAT 12 – SUN 13 JULY KING’S THEATRE, GLASGOW
Sat 12 & Sun 13 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com

WED 16 – THURS 17 JULY ALHAMBRA, DUNFERMLINE
Wed 16 at 1 & 4 pm www.alhambradunfermline.com
Thurs 17 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 19 – SUN 20 JULY FLORAL PAVILION, NEW BRIGHTON
Sat 19 at 1 & 4 pm www.floralpavilion.com
Sun 20 at 10 am & 1 pm

WED 23 – THURS 24 JULY MILTON KEYNES THEATRE
Wed 23 at 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com
Thurs 24 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 26 – SUN 27 JULY NEW WIMBLEDON THEATRE
Sat 26 & Sun 27 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com

TUES 5 – WED 6 AUGUST PLYMOUTH PAVILIONS
Tues 5 at 1 & 4 pm www.plymouthpavilions.com
Wed 6 at 10 am & 1 pm

WED 20 – THURS 21 AUGUST VENUE CYMRU, LLANDUDNO
Wed 20 at 1 & 4 pm www.venuecymru.co.uk
Thurs 21 at 10 am & 1 pm

SAT 23 AUGUST GAIETY THEATRE, ISLE OF MAN
Sat 23 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm www.cfvg.gov.im

WED 3 – THURS 4 SEPTEMBER CHURCHILL THEATRE, BROMLEY
Wed 3 at 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com
Thurs 4 at 10 am & 1 pm

WED 1 – THURS 2 OCTOBER NEW VICTORIA THEATRE, WOKING
Wed 1 at 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com
Thurs 2 at 10 am & 1 pm

WED 7 – THURS 8 OCTOBER BRISTOL HIPPODROME
Wed 7 at 1 & 4 pm www.atgtickets.com
Thurs 8 at 10 am & 1 pm


More tour dates to be announced

Friday, 26 April 2013

Housework

I couldn't bring myself to input recently to a conversation on the amount of housework which goes on in our home.

I said to a friend recently that our house may be clean but it's definitely not tidy.

I am left wondering.

Like many, the kitchen and the bathroom are priorities where cleaning is concerned.

Our laundry is done over the weekend.
But without the intervention of an iron.
My mum has already (subtly) suggested this needs to change.
For all of us.
How come boys look great in shirts. Which need ironing.
My favourite tops. Need ironing.
I am putting it off until Squeaks starts school in September.
So there.

Polishing shoes.
I am so aware we should do this.
Hmmmmm.
September?

Tidying up.
This is my domain.
Living by the mantra "A place for everything and for everything in its place."
Which Mr J doesn't.
So we have the frequent conversation of where things were last seen.
Common sense need not apply.

I wonder about housework.
The state of the house is the reason we don't have an open house.
Like others (I convince myself) that we do more cleaning in the lead up to guests visiting than we do  in the previous month.

But when I am meant to do it?
At work?
When spending valued time with the children?
When I want to be blogging?
When I'm taking time out?

I reassure myself that guests mainly see our house in a good state.
Family see the hall and lounge, they may be brave and use the bathroom.

We will pay more attention when Squeaks is in school.
We will pay more attention when all three have fled the nest.

Until then we will enjoy their company.

The housework can wait.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom- Live on Stage: A review

We were fortunate enough to win a ticket to see Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom Live through a competition on This is Life.
My parent's were disappointed- they had really wanted to take the boys as they know how much they love the television programme.

It was another where I was brave enough to take sole charge of the three children.
Fortunately the team at St David's Hall were more than helpful in helping us park the double buggy and showing us to the lift rather than getting everyone up the stairs, and letting Mr J help me get everyone to their seats.
A little disappointingly, but it worked well for us, we had seven seats- a family hadn't made it, it was great it gave the children choose the seat that gave them the best view. I just wish Mr J could've stayed!

Ben & Holly Live is the first performance I've seen with the little people where masks play an integral part of the performance. Making characters instantly recognisable and ensuring the visual recognition in a large space worked really well.

The performance takes the extracts from many of the episodes you're probably familiar with, if you have Ben & Holly fans at home.
I have to admit, Ben & Holly is one of my favourites. Episodes are longer than the bite size Peppa Pig, so mummy can usually get a little more done when it's on, alternatively sitting down to watch it with the little people means long time cuddles rather than 'ants in the pants' in the case of shorter programmes and adverts.
We really enjoyed the performance.
The 'magic' of Lucy becoming little.
The travelling to the Little Kingdom with puppetry.
The spiders web.
It drew the children in.
The children weren't as hypnotised as they have been with other performances.
Although I think this is mostly due to their familiarity with the characters.
There was an interval, which to be honest I'm not sure was necessary- it meant I had to keep the children entertained and seated.
And my only other bug bear was the merchandise and its cost. Not probably an issue with one child- given the amount in the theatre it definitely wasn't. With three children it was a no-go.
I would have loved to have seen merchandise which we can make use of outside of the theatre- books, dvds, etc rather than "light swirlers" which I can guarantee my children would have broken by the time we reach home.

The verdict?
This is a great introduction to the theatre.
Offering young children the opportunity to experience the theatre with characters they are familiar with is a fantastic approach.
The performance itself is well thought through, offering storylines and characters children know, and using theatre and its techniques to offer so much more than a television screen.
My children loved it. Squeaks raved about it to everyone. And that's enough!

Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom is touring the UK, and is back in Wales next month!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Giveaway: Win a £25 Sainsbury's Voucher!

Sainsbury's has recently introduced the 'Taxi of Mum and Dad calculator'.
I know we have all this in store.
Squeaks already has swimming lessons once a week, and has her name down for gymnastics.
We have thought about ballet lessons, but intend to wait until September when we stop paying for playschool.

And then, of course, if Squeaks is doing these activities, of course the boys should as well.
Which of course will be different classes, no doubt on different days or at different times.

So, like my parents, there is no doubt our taxi service is a business just getting off the ground.
And then there's the million dollar (or in this case you could bag yourself a £25 Sainsbury's voucher) question... how would you like to spend your time- What would you do with your time saved?

Reading a book is my very obvious choice, and of course blogging.
But if I could bank the time? Maybe a trip to the theatre... or a shopping trip with no expense spared.

So, if you would like the chance to win a £25 Sainbury's voucher, please let me know how you'd make use of time saved by entering the Rafflecopter below.

Disclaimer: This giveaway is offered as part of the Sainsbury's Bank Family Blogger Network, with a voucher offered by Sainsbury's Bank Car Insurance.
How to enter the giveaway:

Leave a blog post comment with your ideas for what you'd do with your time saved?
Tweet about the giveaway, and refer friends to enter the giveaway. The more times you enter, the better the chance of winning.

Whether or not you're the prize winner, your affordable family activity ideas could also potentially appear in a future Money Matters blog post.

The winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter (which uses random.org) and announced on this page.
The deadline for entries is 12am on Wednesday 1st May.

Good Luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions
This giveaway is open to all readers in the UK.
Rafflecopter will accept entries for this giveaway at 12am on Wednesay 24th April.
Rafflecopter will close the competition at 12am on Wednesday 1st May
Sainsbury's Bank will run this competition via Rafflecopter.
The winner will be chosen by Sainsbury's Bank via Rafflecopter (which uses random.org) and announced on this page.
Entrants must have a UK address to enter. No bulk or third party entrants.
The prize is non-transferable, and will be sent out from Sainsbury’s Bank.
The giveaway winner will be contacted by the blog host to retrieve name and address.
The name and address of the winner will not be used for marketing purposes by Sainsbury’s Bank.
All entries may be featured on the Sainsbury’s Bank Money Matters blog post without further payment.
The winner will be contacted by e-mail, if they do not respond within seven days another winner may be chosen.
Entries using any software or automated process to make bulk entries will be disqualified.

Parenting fails- overcoming the dummy

I can finally write this post.
It's not as complete as I would like.
I took a week of work at the start of April to try and put right a lot of my parenting wrongs.
I only managed one.
But it's done.

My daughter turned 4 still having a dummy at night.
Of course four years ago I never thought that would be the case.

Having two brothers having dummies at night added to her excuses and my reluctance.

Having sleep filled nights added to my reluctance.

I booked a week off work with the simple mission of righting parenting wrongs.
As it was the week before we had a dental appointment and the dentist picked up on the fact dummies were a factor in our home life- whilst teeth are perfect this had to be overcome.
As someone who had braces for sucking my finger I know that it is worth getting this right rather than orthodontist appointments into teenage years.

Of course it helped telling my mum and the dentist that we would be stopping the dummies the following week.
If you say it out loud you're only letting people down if you don't do it.
Well, that's how my head works.

As it was, it was how everyone promised it would be.
The first night was really difficult.
It literally was waiting for the exhaustion of energy.
For the tears and tantrums to lessen to sleep.
And that there is no pacification which can be offered whatsoever.

Night 2, there was a fight, but a lesser fight.

Nights 3 and 4, there was a request.

In all cases, there was sleep, and unbroken sleep.

It is just the getting off to sleep part that was the struggle.

I don't feel brave enough to overcome all of our parenting fails.
And I don't have the strength to put them all right in the week.
But we can start working on them, get the thoughts in heads.
And overcome them one by one.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The boys at 27 months

The question of which is your favourite child is a frequent joke in our house.
As it's such a contentious question Mr J stepped up to the plate.
Even before the boys were born, it was probably just after we decided on names Mr J decided which would be his favourite.

As it turns out, it's an impossible task to remain faithful to having a favourite child.
Each one tugs at your heart in such a different way.
The boys now go to playschool three mornings each week, one morning they go without their big sister.
When you ask them each morning who wants to go to playschool Tiny is the first to shout "Me, me". Cheeky just looks at me, and I know as soon as he can string a sentence together his words will be "five more minutes?".

As we drove home from grandma's tonight, we drove past the park up the road from our house.
"Park, park" shouted Cheeky.
It wasn't an option, it was tea time.
As I walked Cheeky to the front door to turn back for Tiny, Cheeky threw himself down on the floor- lying flat.
As they started tantrums so early on, they are perfecting them now.
Having completely missed this with Squeaks I am at a bit of a loss.
Apart from completely relating to this course of action- if I could...!

The boys are soooo good at goodnight kisses.
They find it funny to make me run back and forth around their beds whilst they demand "one more".
It's the thing I probably miss most when I'm away (alongside bedtime stories "in your head" with Squeaks).

The boys are exceptionally good at sharing.
It may not be true on every occasion.
But they always catch me unawares with how considerate they can be.
Even with chocolate.
And it's completely rubbed off on Squeaks, who understands that she can't have her own things if she doesn't want the same rule to apply to the boys' toys. Even so far as they helped her open her birthday presents.
And they share chocolate, despite it being a much loved rarity.

Even now they can still have 'drunk' eyes, the ones babies perfect as they guzzle milk. The boys still have it when they've been without milk for a while, and with chocolate.

The boys are now loving nursery rhymes. They sing them after snacks at playschool.
When they started there they loved 'twinkle twinkle', their repertoire has extended to include "Miss Polly had a Dolly" (they love the "rat-a-tat-tat" bit), "The Wheels on the Bus" and "The Grand Old Duke of York".
Like Squeaks did, they have now learned the "Please and thank you" song, without fully understanding singing this doesn't automatically result in a glass of milk, banana and toast- like it does at playschool.
Since moving into beds, the boys have truly come into their own as masters of destruction.
Nothing is safe in their room.
I tried a box of toys as a distraction. It lasted a week.
Emptying their cupboard and climbing inside is the best thing ever.
Closely followed by taking out wet wipes and nappy bags one-by-one, and strewing them all over the floor.
And if that hasn't woken anyone up they turn to the beds themselves, lifting the mattresses off and playing 'peek-a-boo' or moving the beds closer to the cupboard or window sill to enable climbing.

This is the thing with twins.
They always have a 'partner in crime'.
There is always someone on hand to help out.
Someone to laugh with, someone to make cry.
Someone to scram (with nails mummy hasn't cut [again]), and someone to kiss better.

I am amazed at how well they keep the other company.
Which is not something to take foregranted, the moment you do is when chaos ensues.

Whilst they do not have much of the independence that Squeaks did.
They do have socialisation skills which Squeaks missed.

It is impossible not to compare.
And it is amazing when you do.
So many strengths which come from parenting one child are lacking.
So many strengths which come with having parents and siblings are gained.

Life really is swings and roundabouts.
"My heart runneth over"
Always the phrase most closely linked to my children.

dear beautiful

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Project #365 - Week 16

I can't wait to start a #365 post with "well, the week really dragged itself out"... life just never seems to slow down, but with the little people developing their unique, wonderful personalities I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday: with all three now attending the same playgroup it wasn't going to be long till this happened. Sugar rush multiplied by three as all of them get to go to a birthday party.

Monday: making the most of the turn of weather, an obstacle course is made in the garden.

Tuesday: fantastic blue skies and learning how to stand up and swing.
Wednesday: London.

Thursday: the boys decide to take the bike for a spin.

Friday: Squeaks is allowed to buy something at the supermarket with the condition she must share it. She's nobody's fool!
And my photo of the week, Saturday, the culmination of the good weather, getting to each their tea outside!

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Friday, 19 April 2013

Preparing toddlers for the London Marathon!

With the London marathon looming, adult runners are preparing for a major feat. However, what mums and dads may not realise is that on a daily basis, the nutrition our little ones require to achieve every day milestones, like crawling, walking and running, is comparable to the power grown-ups need to complete major achievements.

The boys, at 27 months have discovered "Ready, Steady, Go". It has them in fits of laughter. We never have the same winner. And then throw in 'Hide & Seek' which results in not only chasing, but a lot of rough and ready fun.
I think they have more energy in their little fingers than I have in my whole body.
The First Steps Research, commissioned by Growing Up Milk, highlights how a toddler’s daily antics, which might include: tottering from one end of the sofa to the other, playing in their sandpit or even their afternoon nap, uses the same energy, when compared ‘pound for pound’ to an adult running 30 miles. That's more than a marathon.

This is also equivalent to:

· Eight hours of straight singles tennis – just three hours shy of the record breaking 11 hour, five minute match set at Wimbledon, by Nicolas Mahut and John Isner in 2010

· Rowing for six hours – plenty of time to row the 21 miles of the English Channel

· 250 minutes boxing – that’s 83 rounds in the ring, which is over 27 individual fights

Leading dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton explains the science behind these findings. She comments: “To illustrate the difference between a toddler’s and an adult’s diet, the First Steps Research worked out the average calories required to support a toddler on a daily basis. We took into consideration their weight, resting metabolic rate, and energy necessary for growth, development and activity. Each of these factors, when compared with an average 70kg (154lb) adult, equated ‘pound for pound’ to a 3,600 calorie daily diet for an adult. That's enough to run marathons, climb Ben Nevis twice, or box more than seven fights consecutively.

“I hope the findings of the First Steps Research go some way to help parents understand why it is so important for our toddlers to get the right healthy balanced diet, designed to meet their special nutritional needs, including the right amount of vitamins – for this amazing period of growth and development.”

Visit GrowingUpMilkInfo.com to find out more about the amazing growth and development that one toddlers experience from the age of one to three. The website offers nutritional advice from experts, as well hints and tips on ways to top-up your toddler's daily vitamin D intake, and the role Growing Up Milk can play to help support little ones.

Disclaimer: This information has been brought to you in my role as a 'Growing Up Milk Mum'. This information is brought to you of interest, without recompense.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

'Managing' the unplanned

I know I seem to be going on about work a lot lately.
In fairness it seems to take up over half of my life.

And yesterday morning I stood in the shower, at 05.15 trying to figure out what to do for the best.
Mr J had been up most of the night "poorly".
I knew, he doesn't do ill quietly.

And therein was the dilemma... the ultimatum.

"Your husband, the carer of your children is ill."
"Your children all need to be at playschool by 0915."
"You need to be on the 0624 from Cardiff."
"Your have two board meetings today. Your board meetings."
Mr J understood the importance. Fortunately.
I might have to come home and cancel my following day's meetings, but it was agreed.

At 0715 I got the text that his situation wasn't improving.

And so, my amazing mum stepped up.

The lady opposite me on the train was nearly wetting herself.
(I always try to be inconspicuous when listening in on someone else's phone calls).

"Mum, Mr J's ill."
"What's wrong with him."
"Well... he's ill."
"What's wrong with him."
"I'm on the train to London." (Do all of the passengers really want to know?).
"Oh." (I heard the penny drop).
"The thing is, he's not up to anything, and I wondered, hoped, that you might be able to go round and help him... maybe take the little people to playschool."
"Well, yes, I can. But I haven't had a shower yet, and I might be late, what happens then."
"Well, they'll just have to be late for nursery".
(The lady across from me is now laughing).
"Well, will you want me to pick them up and have them this afternoon?"
"Well, I don't know if Mr J will be better, but it would be great if that was a possibility."
"Well, the thing is, I'm picking S and C up from school. And we're going out with Mark tonight."
"That's fine mum, Mr J will make it work, and I'll come home later, it'll be fine."
By the time I spoke to her during a break. She had found her way to playschool, dropped them off, and was having a coffee. After which she'd was picking the boys up and would have them overnight.
Until I got home as soon as I could this afternoon.

I know Mr J and I can cope.
I know we'd have found a way through it.

But, my mum,
My mum just makes everything work.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Project #365 - Week 15

Ok, so I haven't got back on track completely, playing a little bit of catch-up!

So, what was last week about?
Last week was Squeaks going back to school after a three week break.
And more difficult to adjust, the boys starting playschool three mornings a week.
I suspect that's why they feature in the majority of my photos, I've missed them being around.

Sunday: even when upset Tiny's eyes seem so blue.
Monday: enjoying Fab ice-lollies.
Tuesday: Upgrading from the child's seat to the grown-up seat for the school run.

Wednesday: An afternoon off to see Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom Live.
Thursday: My photo of the week. After too many years I opened the blinds in the office. Only to discover (due to my lack of spacial awareness) we overlook the underground station.
Friday: Enjoying the remaining Easter Eggs.
Saturday: Happy smiley Tiny- the contrast to the start of the week.

(Oh, and if you're wondering why the boys look permanently shattered- of course they've now given up on afternoon naps.... Send more chocolate!).

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Keeping up with the gardening

So, things seem to be getting competitive at the Johnson's.
Although I think the competition is against chaos, disorder and nature.

I posted a little while ago about us starting gardening.
I think, if I were to rate it I'd say we had a 75% success rate.

Around the house we are growing sweet peas, sunflowers, asparagus, peppers, lettuce, spring flowers, morning glory, an apple tree and, Mr J's pride and joy, chili.

What are the lessons learned? Don't leave plants in the reach of children and don't expect flowers to keep their heads.

The cress was a quick win, the strawberries came into contact with toddlers, and the daffodils were beheaded (by all three little people thinking they would cheer mummy up).

There's so much enthusiasm to water the plants each morning and to see how everything is growing, that I couldn't stop myself from getting some new ideas at B&Q.
I wanted to stay with the idea of the little people getting longer term payback for their efforts, so we went with mushrooms, strawberries, basil and oregano.
Mushrooms were on recommendation.
Strawberries are the favourite fruit with all three at the moment (closely followed by bananas, I don't think a a banana tree is on the cards). Fortunately, B&Q had great planters which hang from fences- preventing the little people offering their ongoing support.
And herbs, well, I would love to grow herbs well.
Fortunately we had great weather which meant the boys could get really involved with preparing the mushroom compost and preparing the strawberry planter.
We'll see in a few weeks time if we're eating the growing veggies, growing our new seedlings, and maybe, investing in some more of the ideas B&Q have on hand.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensatd as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® #CBias #Social Fabric
All views contained are our own.

Introducing #MMM - Monday's Multiple Mum

In a complete contradiction to my life pre-twins, I'm completely demonstrating why this idea means so much to me, why twins change your life.

I know, it's no longer Monday, am I late? What's new?

Mums of multiples have kept me going, during pregnancy and in my first six months I relied on the TAMBA forum. For everything. TAMBA mums saw me through Twin 1's growth slowing at 30 weeks, the decision for them to come into the world at 36 weeks, the first to suggest a possible diagnosis of pyloric stenosis... and that's before you get to all the practical advice around pushchairs, cots, weaning, and toddlerdom.
When the boys turned six months I discovered blogging, and a new source of advice and wisdom for all twin related support.

As a mum of 4 week old twins, you can't imagine a mum of 6 mth old twins would possibly remember what you're up against.

A mum of 6mth old twins can't begin to imagine how life will be if these little ones could possibly walk.

A mum of two year old twins looks back on all of this with fondness, and wonders if having another set of twins would be so difficult (ok, so that's just me).

And whilst I have rose-tinted spectacles on the past, I can't imagine for a moment what I have on the horizon.
I've just submitted my application for the boys to start nursery school next April. Words cannot express.

I have firm ideas on separate classes. But no idea whether I will see this through.

And so in all of this, I know how much I rely on mums of multiples.
I have for neary three years.
From the moment the sonographer found the second heart beat.
And so I hope, most Monday's, I can welcome a parent of multiples to tell me how life is, parents across the piece, allowing reminiscing and foresight.
How well worn are my rose tinted spectacles and what's in store for our family?

I would love any parents of multiples to get involved. Please get in touch with me via lovely envelope button on the top right and let other parents know the best bits of twins, triplets and more!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Introducing the 2013 #QuinnyCasters

How excited am I?
Along with nine other lovely people, I've been selected to be one of the +QuinnyCasters UK
Check out the lovely new badge!!

And so, this week, we're going to be the proud owners of a single stroller!
Grey Crackle Quinny Moodd
This is the Quinny Moodd. Not only does it look like a fantastic pushchair, it's a travel system, two-way pushchair, and unfolds automatically!

And I think it's going to be fantastic.
The boys have never been in a single pushchair!

And if you've read my blog before you'll know that spending one-to-one time with each of my little people is a real priority for me.

One of the other things I'm aware of is that Squeaks rarely travelled in a pushchair after the boys were born. She was 22 months.
The boys at 27months are practically the opposite, walking is usually only an option 'off road'.

So, with a Quinny Moodd for company, I'm hoping we're going to get one-to-one time, and also time where one of the boys gets to walk and the other gets to chill out.

I am hoping the Quinny Moodd is going to give us a lot more options.
Not only for taking the boys out separately, but also to take them out with walking time, or time with their big sister one-to-one.

I'm so excited about having all these choices we can now make.

And you'll get to share all of this with me, because all ten of the +QuinnyCasters UK will be sharing their adventures.
We're representing the cities of Cardiff (that'll be +Blog: Mum of 3 Boys, Louise and me), Manchester (Tina), London (+charlotte Bragger, Lucy and Michaela), Brighton (Bex+Charlotte R.B and Lee).
Over the coming months you'll find us all on Facebook putting the Quinny Moodds to the test- I hope you'll check in with us all.
Disclaimer: As a result of our successful application we won a Quinny Moodd which will be used going forward to participate in more activities. All views and opinions contained are our own.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Home security with WatchBot - a review

Just over four years ago we were burgled.
I was seven months pregnant, and we had just started buying things for our new arrival.
The feelings that you have when you are burgled are unquantifiable. The feelings of intrusion, that bar trying to sell you house there's no option but to find a way through.

We were fortunate to an extent. Someone was apprehended. They couldn't be charged for the burglary, there was nothing to link them to our house, but they were caught in receipt of stolen goods.

The original link was made because they were caught on CCTV at 3am using my credit card. I found out as I was cancelling my cards when waiting for the police to arrive. It led to the individual's home being searched and many of our possessions being returned- I remember being asked to identify what was ours, turning the Tom Tom on and pressing 'home' for it to come up with our address.

The difference CCTV makes is etched on my mind.

Which is why reviewing the WatchBot really appealed to me.
Installing CCTV has always seemed a bit too far a stretch, it's so easy to give into every concern.
The WatchBot, to me, is such a great medium, which comes with lots of other benefits from a family security perspective.
The WatchBot is quite a funky little family friend.
It works via your modem, and in a home security setting has motion detection, night visibility, and records footage.
You can access from your laptop, tablet or smart phone.
And, for when you're away from home, not only do you have access but you can also set up your emails so you receive an email if motion is detected.

And of course, when you take into account these functions, you can imagine the same applies as a parent to babies or toddlers. We relied a lot on a video monitor when the children were babies which suddenly packed in. The benefit of WatchBot is that it fits into modern life, there's no need for two units, that rather than having a unit in the lounge you can use the devices (the mobile phone, the tablet, or the laptop) you probably have to hand.

So, how does the WatchBot work?
It sounds twee, but actually installation was really straightforward.
The first thing I did was see how it would work in my office.
In my world, should we ever be so unfortunate as to burgled twice, the office would be stumbled upon.
I plugged the WatchBot in and connected the WatchBot to the modem.
I installed the software on my laptop and was away.
I was so impressed.
You can control the WatchBot from your media device!
And so, even if there is nothing going on, you can control the WatchBot to be assured of this.

You can take video and captures really easily, and this was all done without me applying any real brain power.
I have to admit to really putting off this bit, I thought it might get technical, but all of this was completed without any hesitation or calling upon Mr J for support. (The first three pictures are me capturing my laptop, the fourth image is what my laptop captures directly)

And then it gets a little bit better, because of course the WatchBot connect to the Wi-Fi so you can quite happily move the WatchBot to different rooms (for us the importance of the room the boys sleep in) and have all of the same functionality, with the added benefit of operating the two-way chat functionality.
I was really impressed by how easy the WatchBot was to operate.
I am so put off by anything remotely associated with technology, but to me this was completely user-friendly.

The greatest benefit to me was the multi-functionality, that you can use it for home security and for family-security, that we can use this as a toddler-monitoring support or as a home security device.

The WatchBot does have lots of online support, I didn't need it for the initial set-up, I did use it for setting up the Wi-Fi operation having not linked the modem to anything but laptops before.

The WatchBot is quite expensive in my mind, at £200 however, when considering the cost of a good quality baby video monitor is over £100, and the longer term, wider use of the WatchBot, it does offer value for money. As a home security device again, this is a great solution and much more cost effective than considering installing a CCTV system.

Overall I'm really impressed with the WatchBot. As a home security device it is spot on, giving the reassurance that you can put this in the same room as your valuables or just common entry routes.
As a parent, it gives the additional benefit of leaving in a room with your children to be assured of their sleep, to offer a two-way chat should it be needed.
I like the fact that when we're away, if we want, we can check up quickly on the home to give reassurance.

Disclaimer:  We recieved a WatchBot for the purposes of this review. All views contained are our own and have not been directed.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Back to work yuckiness

I did something odd in March, I had a week off, had a week in work, and then had another week off.

And my week in work was a four day week, and those four days were all focused on getting a proposal in on time, so it was a bit of a bubble having only one focus.

It made me feel like I had been off forever as I woke on Monday to my 5am alarm.

It was a wonderful feeling, as short lived as it was.

Because of course you go into work and realise how out of touch you are, how behind schedule you are, and how much you have to catch up on.
It's not just the three weeks, my single-focused project means I haven't really been doing my day job since February.
The same as happens with migraines, the worst thing about my job is that no-one picks the work up for you when you're off, the emails are all there, the meetings have been postponed, and everything is then added to your day job.

So, I spent Monday in meetings, my journey to and from London writing papers for a meeting, a meeting where the papers should have been sent out last week.
I spent Tuesday trying to catch up with the project which is 50% ish of my work, and then spent the evening writing papers for another meeting, a meeting where the papers should have been sent out last week.
I spent this morning writing up performance plans, which should have been submitted in March, ready for the first quarter reviews, which take place tomorrow.
The alarm is set for 5am for another trip to London.

On the plus, I had this afternoon off, I took my gorgeous children to see Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom Live.
And it was so good to relive a little bit of how I spent last week.

And now, when I should be in bed I'm writing this post, because I love my blog, and hate neglecting it.
But between trying to be with my children and catching up with work, all my little ideas for my blog are parked.
I have a fab idea, I hope it works, I need to spend some time on it, but I think it could be the answer to what I needed a couple of years ago.
I just need some time to work on it.

So, I hope, by the time I get home from London tomorrow night, that I have caught up on all my work stuff. That I don't feel so out of touch. And out of control.
And that I can reunite with my blog.
And have a wonderful family filled weekend.

Sweet dreams x

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Project #365 - Week 14

Wow! What a month of March, just looking back through my photo folder it seems it as a fantastic month. And April seems to be bringing a glimmer of good weather, and if nothing else we have a weekend at Butlins to look forward to at the end of the month!

Sunday: An Easter Egg Hunt at Dyffryn Gardens. An absolutely stunning house.
Monday: It is always a good day when all three play together.
Tuesday: A trip to the "rock sea side".
Wednesday: My favourite photo of the week. We all went to the "rock sea side" but the tide was in, so we just played at the nature reserve.
Thursday: A new pair of googles must always be worn immediately.
Friday: Getting to know Thing 1 and Thing 2 at bedtime.
Saturday: Playing in their cars regardless of the traffic jam.

Dyffryn Gardens and Dean Heritage Centre
Rhoose Point
Johnson Babies

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Friday, 5 April 2013

Loving #BlogSummit Bristol

Copyright:Tom Arber Photography
So, this is obviously a delayed post. Which is good on the one hand- it's always good to have time to reflect, to make sure it was't just a short-term high. (On the other hand, my laptop died on me).

I was really nervous about attending. I missed the +Tots100 events I'd registered for previously due to childcare and child illness, so was really grateful to have made the list- there was nothing going to stand in the way of me attending, I had back up plan on back up plan.

In spite of the planning I was still nervous about going, I didn't know anyone else, and I hate walking in places alone.
Fortunately as soon as I walked in I was met by a smiling Cathy from +NurtureStore and her lovely nature put fears at bay.
I was then lucky enough to meet Emma from +snowingindoors photography and Emma @lilchinchi who were so kind in adopting me for the day.

Blog Summit is, as promoted, a very low key meet; very relaxed and stress free. Throughout the day there was plenty of time to get to know other bloggers. I met the lovely fellow twin mum Claire, and the lovely Sarah, it was lovely to talk to people about anything and everything.
Copyright:Sally Whittle
In terms of the content of the workshops, I was glad for the most part I had my trusty notepad with me.

+Sally immediately put everyone at ease and trepidation in equal measure- there are no photos of this!

We got a double whammy with +Annie and +Christine offering their insights into working with charities.
We heard that sometimes it can really be about taking things back to the basics. Treating people as you want to be treated, and ensuring the charity, you and your audience get something different.
Sometimes its about knowing that there are different ways to achieve things, that blogging may not be the best return, and sometimes its about exploring the whole opportunity.
Sometimes its about your social reach rather than just that of your blog, reaching people beyond those reading blogs.
Working with charities is a personal a choice as everything else which goes on your blog, and how you want to achieve this can really be in your gift as #TeamHonk as proved.

Next Tots100 went all out in helping us understand all the technical bits around SEO, follow/ no follow, Google's standpoint and where things stand with paid links. Tom from Fresh Egg made this all make sense.
A really basic tip was to make sure any links open in a different page (on Blogger there's a little tick box for when you're adding a link).
I know everyone can have a different interpretation and people can argue as much over grey areas as they wish.
From what I've heard and know, my blog is mine, and I have legal responsibilities in terms of content. I hope I make things are readable as possible for anyone stumbling upon it and that it is a blog which has integrity. I think this means I'm ok.

Cathy from +NurtureStore really opened my eyes to engagement on Facebook and Pinterest. I have to admit this has been way beyond me, I struggle with social media. Whilst on the surface, to me, it's because I don't know where I'd find the time, Cathy showed it's about using time properly, investing effort in the right things, and just tweaking for maximum impact.
Cathy talked us through considerations like the time of publishing, especially if your audience is overseas, about using your whole repertoire- promoting your older blog posts which have relevance, to use images which get maximum exposure on Pinterest (Portrait), to have a blog board, and to get involved.
Cathy encouraged having a plan, to make sure that you do consider everything but don't get too absorbed.

As a little plug I'm now working on my Pinterest and Facebook pages and would really appreciate a follow!

In terms of what's given me the most immediate benefit, and left me feeling like it was ok to switch my camera from automatic, was the photography session by +Becky and Tom Arber. Some great tips came out of the session, from using a halogen torch, to using the little flower icon (macro I think!), and not being afraid to break the classic rules. I loved the fantastic family photos that Becky and Tom shared, showing the beauty in the most simple moment. And I have started taking photos which I love, in manual setting! At this rate a tripod and a halogen torch will be on my Christmas list!

And before we finished we got to hear from brands. Key words which came out of the session were authenticity, credibility, quality, shareability and content.

I came away from Blog Summit with a to-do list a mile long.
The most urgent thing on my to-do list is keeping my blog mine.
I don't like feeling stressed by 'my thing'.
Blogging is 'my thing', outside of work, friends and family.
I hope this is the thing that will keep my blog authentic and credible.
I want to invest as much as possible in making this a quality read.
So, a list a mile long then!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Why this just might be our forever home

The idea of a 'forever home' was new to me till recently.
In saying that my parents still live in the home we moved into when I was two.
I moved out aged 20. And probably moved every year until I was 28.
I learned that you can make anywhere a home.
The southern most point of mainland Wales
When we moved to South Wales it was to be nearer to my parents.
We couldn't afford anywhere nearby, and started exploring the surrounding areas.
I would never have thought of moving to where we are.
It is too far away from the nearest city for my liking.
And yet, as always for me, at least you feel like you are going home.

Mr J fell in love with the garden and the view.

And these are the things that will mean we can't move away.
I joke about the things I would like if we had options.
From a double garage to a swimming pool.
And from living in a larger house we both know it is simply space to fill with junk.

Every time we talk about ever having a different home.
We think about what we overlook.
And between the view and the garden, we can't think of anywhere which could compete.
Unless a lottery win came into play.
And we'd have to start doing the lottery for that to happen.

As it is we have the space we need.
We have enough bedrooms should the boys decide they don't want to share.
We have space for a toys, space for an office.
And we have a fantastic garden.

And as if that is a great argument for staying put.
It only gets better.
We overlook a nature reserve.
We are fortunate to be able to say that our view will not be interrupted by buildings.
That we have a footpath from the house that leads us to the sea.
And that the children have this on their doorstep to enjoy.

 I never thought I'd have a forever home.
That if we need to move we can and will.

But today, I can't think of any reason which would ever make us want to move.
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