Wednesday, 31 December 2014

#MeAndMine - A Family Portrait (December 2014)

What a whirlwind December!

Full of fun, laughs, dramas, love, family, friends and SNOW!

I don't seem to have stopped again this month. Christmas went as fast as it came. It was a lovely one and the children were full of Christmas magic.

They didn't ask for much from Santa but he delivered their presents and more. I will never forget their faces and squeals of delight Christmas morning.

We shared a lovely day together and then Boxing Day they got another wish...


It fell thick and fast during a family afternoon nap and when we woke at 4.30pm and it was still falling and did all evening. It was lovely to go out in the fresh snow and build a snowman with them and still it came down. We still have some even today.

To be honest it's been a whirlwind year but these last few months since my 40th birthday have been full-on. I don't seems to have stopped.

I'm so happy with where I am in life. Matt and the kids are my world. We have a huge family holiday to look forward to next year too. I cannot wait.

I know I haven't blogged much this year (it's actually my blogiversary today - 5 years!) but I've been enjoying life more. Spending time with Matt each evening rather than on my MacBook. I didn't think it was possible to be any closer than we were but it's happened.

When I look back over the last year of family portraits it fills me with joy to know that I have a photo of us each month again. They may not be the most professional looking photos (a lot of selfies) but they are real.

They are US.

Jan 2014
Feb 2014
Mar 2014
Apr 2014
May 2014
Jun 2014

Jul 2014
Aug 2014
Sep 2014
Oct 2014

Nov 2014

Here's to 2015 and filling the family album again.

dear beautiful

Sunday, 30 November 2014

#MeAndMine - A Family Portrait (November 2014)

I can't believe it's December tomorrow!

Where is 2014 going?

Life just doesn't seem to get any quieter. I thought I'd have more time to blog with TC starting to go to Play School a couple of times a week now but I don't. I'm desperately wanting to blog about my huge 80's themed 40th Birthday party but haven't gotten to that yet.  I have so much to do before Christmas and I don't know how I'm going to fit it all in.

Last time I blogged was about TC struggling to settle in to Play School but thankfully that all seems to be working out well now. He goes in without fuss now. I know he'd prefer to be at home or out with Mummy but he reluctantly accepts his time there and talks about all the fun he's had when I pick him up. I've noticed he's becoming more confident and less reliant on my apron strings so it's all a step in the right direction.

I was busy this month organising a charity event for The Lullaby Trust in memory of Matilda Mae. That consumed the vast majority of my time and, with the help of a few fellow bloggers, we managed to raise over £550 which will be doubled to over £1100 for the charity - it's more than I could've hoped for.

I between all the other stuff I've been doing I'm taking the children to private swimming lessons now. TC on a Wednesday and MC on a Saturday. The other Saturday we all decided to go and watch MC but we arrived early. Now, I'm always messing around with selfies of the children so I thought it would be nice to take some of us all. It wasn't my attention to use them for my Me and Mine post - they were for my '23 Snaps' app on my phone where I just share photos of the children with immediate family - but the series I took has made me laugh so much that I want to document them.

MC is a little madam and always like to be the centre of the shot…often to the detriment of her little brother…

Poor TC!
dear beautiful

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Mummy's Boy! My fault?

Tiny Ched is my youngest.

My boy.

My baby.

My last.

Maybe it's my fault he's the way he is?

Maybe because I know I'm not having any more babies I've somehow made him more clingy.

He's a mummy's boy through and through.

"Want mummy to dress me!"

"Want Mummy to come!"

"Want Mummy to sit there!"

"Want mummy!"



It's both lovely and exhausting in equal measures.

Maybe it's a boy thing?

Maybe they are more dependent on their mothers?

MC was never like this.

Sure, she used to want me a lot but she was never this bad. She certainly never used to have to be physically peeled off me at the doorstep of play school.

Yes, TC has started going to play school. The same one that MC attended a few years back. The same women run it and I know how great it is there. The gender split is somewhat skewed there though.

"I think there was a 'boy boom' around here two years ago" they said to me as they signed him up before half term. "We have 18 children and only 4 of them are girls".

I think this could be where some of the problem lies. I'm not sure. TC is used to more female biased company. He spends a considerable amount of time with me and with MC. Also, he's certainly never been thrust into a situation where he's surrounded by 13 other boys - a couple of them boisterous at that.

Yesterday was only his 4th time at play school and I realise it's very early days but it was a particularly heart wrenching morning at the drop off. He started before we've even got out of the house...

"Don't want to go play school!"

Refusal to put his shoes and coat on.

"Want mummy come!"

Refusal to get in the car.

"Want mummy come to play school!"

Outside the gate he's sobbing. Not screaming or kicking. Just loud heart wrenching sobs and tugging at me to walk him away from the door.

The door opens.

The delivery of my boy is quick.

Like ripping a plaster off.

"It's the best way" they tell me.

As he's peeled from my arms he turns to me. Snot and tears fill his tiny face and he shouts "MUMMY!" with a look of terror one last time before they take him inside and I walk away.

I keep walking to the car.

I don't look back.

Snot and tears begin to fill my face.

I feel like the worst mother in the world.

I remember MC had a few wobbly moments. Half an hour later I would get a text message from play school to say she was fine. Sometimes they'd even send me a photo of her playing happily.

Not this time though.

They never text me about TC.

Because they know, and I know, he's not fine.

Through each session he doesn't want to join in. He doesn't want to play. He doesn't want to listen to stories. He doesn't want to have a drink or snack. He just stands there completely out of his depth silently sobbing occasionally.

Maybe it's my fault?

Maybe it is something I've done as a stay-at-home mum?

Maybe it's just a phase?

Maybe he'll grow out of it?

I really don't know.

What I do know though, is that having a mummy's boy is messing with my heart. On the one hand I want him to be independent but on the other I love the fact he wants me and I never want to let him go.

My boy.

My baby.

My last.

Friday, 31 October 2014

#MeAndMine - A Family Portrait (October 2014)

What a month it's been!

I turned 40 on October 12th and I have loved it.

I've embraced being a decade older as my 30's have been so much better than my 20's ever were. I am now married to the most wonderful man and we have two amazing children. I'm blessed with amazing family and friends - some I've known almost all my life now who I love dearly and some who I've met through work before children and some I even met online in the last few years. We now live in our dream house in the best neighbourhood ever and I've made some really close friends from my neighbours - people I can always rely on.

Not only that but this year I did something completely out of my comfort zone. Something I never ever thought I would do and I have the photographs to prove it.  I even took the big decision to blog about the photo shoot. It was incredible and I still feel amazing when I think about it.

My actual 40th birthday fell on a Sunday and so it was a fairly laid back day where we invited family and my best friend of 33 years out for a special lunch. I was spoilt rotten with amazing cards and gifts and I felt so blessed.

Then, for the 'mad' half of my 40th birthday we held an 80's themed party at the house for close friends and neighbours. It was an amazing night and I really can't wait to blog all about I've just about got over my hangover!

Matt and I are still closer than we have ever been and he's also now sporting a stubbly beard look which I think really suits him.

After the chaos of my birthday we were looking forward to some family time last weekend. We spent a lovely Sunday morning at a local country park where we walked, talked, played, kisses, played Pooh sticks, jumped in muddy puddles, collected leaves and basically just enjoyed the outdoors. We followed it with a lovely Sunday lunch at a nearby pub.

It was perfect.

I thought it would be nice to set my 'big' camera up on a rock whilst we were out and take a self-timer photo of us all.

TC wasn't for coming out of the mud to pose for a photo and so we captured this…

When I looked at the photo on the back of the camera I laughed so much that I knew I didn't need to capture another one. 

TC is two and half now and I think it sums up his ever growing defiance perfectly!

And here are some of the photos I captured on my iPhone that day - it was a fairly inexpensive day but it is one that I will remember for a long time.

dear beautiful

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Red Shoe - The One Where I Felt Sexy

Sunday 12 October 2014 was a very special date.

It was my 40th Birthday.

I still can't quite believe it.

Me? 40?

I remember thinking 40 was so old when I was younger. Now I know it isn't. Well, not to me anyway. I still feel young.

I was actually really excited about turning 40. I was definitely more upset about turning 30. I think it's because my 30's have been so much better than my 20's ever were.

Matt and the kids are my world and I'm right where I want to be in life. We are all happy and healthy and that's all I can really ask for.

Last year was a bit of an up and down year and I wanted 2014 to be the year that, not only I turned 40, I rediscovered the woman inside. I did it thanks to finding a friend of a friend, Sarah Jane, and Red Shoe Photography.

Here I share my Red Shoe story...

I’m not really sure where to start with this but I’ll try my best…

In 2009, after the birth of my first child, I took the big decision to leave my career and become a stay-at-home-mum. A lot of people think this involves a WAG-type lifestyle but it can’t be further from the truth. Plus, going from full-time work to being at home with a child has a huge impact on your lifestyle and your confidence. 

5 years on and another child down the line I realised I’d let myself go a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mum and I love that I get to see my children flourish every day – I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s just sometimes I forget that I’m a woman in my own right too.

I spent 2013 in a rut after a friend suffered a horrific tragedy. Instead of embracing life and realising it can be cut short, I got really down. I also often found myself eating all the wrong things and not looking after myself at all. It had a huge impact on my wellbeing.

At the end of last year I discovered Red Shoe. 2014 was going to be the year I was turning 40. I knew that Red Shoe would give me the focus I needed to kick the next decade in the ass. 

I have to admit that it took me a good 6 months to pluck up the courage to book the photo shoot. I didn’t really tell anyone about it. I wanted this shoot to be ‘my little secret’ – something just for me. I didn’t even tell my husband. I still can’t believe I managed to get a suitcase and huge bag full of underwear, clothes (including one of his shirts!) and props out of the door without him noticing. I never realised just how sneaky I could be.

The day of the shoot I was shaking so much I thought I was going to throw up. I’d never done anything like this before. But there was no going back.

When I arrived at the studio I met Mandy. How amazingly lovely and welcoming she was. She is amazing and I still struggle to believe she’s the age she is. Mandy put me immediately at ease and I felt so much better. Mandy worked a miracle on my hair and make-up and made me look and feel like the most beautiful woman on earth.

Then in came Sarah. The most wonderfully sassy and hilarious lady you’ll ever meet. She made me feel so sexy – a word I would never associate with myself at all. She got me to mirror poses and work the camera. She made me laugh and she also made me cry. I had the best time and I felt totally amazing.

By the time I left the shoot I just wanted to rewind the day and do it all over again. It was incredible.

The results? Well, lets just say that it’s not just me that’s pleased with them and it was worth being a bit sneaky for! I absolutely love them and I think I have really kicked turning 40 in the ass. Mission accomplished.

Thank you Mandy and Sarah for the tears and laughter we shared that day. It was awesome xx

I can't even begin to tell you just how nervous I was on the day of the photoshoot. I'd never done anything like it before. However, now I have, I can highly recommend it to anyone. I felt totally alive and incredibly sexy that day and I still feel quite good about myself even now, almost 4 months on.

Sarah and Mandy had a big impact on me that day and have continued to have an impact on how I feel.  They were amazing and you cannot fail to be perfectly at ease with them. They are two incredible women who I now call friends. Love them!

Here I'll share just some of the 31 awesome photographs Sarah took back in June.

I think you'll agree that it was the perfect way to kick turning 40's ass!

Please check out the following links

I have written this post to share my story and share 
my Red Shoe experience. I paid for my photoshoot myself. 
Sarah Jane has given me kind permission to use one of 
the images she took for my blog and social media design 
and for me to share some images with you all.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

#MeAndMine - A Family Portrait (September 2014)

September has been a busy month. 

Really busy.

It's been a month of birthdays, nights out, days out, meals out and general madness. I feel like I haven't even got time to break wind right now. I'm also on countdown as I'm turning 40 in less than 2 weeks! Eep! I'm going to be revamping the look of my blog to coincide with my birthday too and I have some very special photographs to share. I am really determined to find the time to blog properly again.

Anyway, back to this past past month...

Matt and I have weirdly become closer than I ever imagined over this past month. We've always been incredibly close - we share everything - but this, this closeness is amazing and something I wish I could bottle and sell to every single couple I know right now. We are so thankful for a lot of things too. We have two happy, healthy and beautiful children. We have amazing family and friends and our house move last June was the best move we have ever made. We love our new house and have made some fantastic new friends from our neighbours. We are off for a third trip to Walt Disney World with the children next year and my parents are joining us for part of it too. I could go on.

We've lived in this area together for over 10 years now (I've lived here all my life). We are a stones throw from beautiful countryside, amazing cities and lovely beaches. We have the perfect mix of what we need at this time of our lives. We are also very close to Chester Zoo.

Because of this we have a membership which means we can go along anytime we like. Sometimes we will just go for an hour so the children can visit some of their favourite animals and play on the play ark for a while. We love Chester Zoo and I've written about it before we had a membership. 

What makes it so special now is that we have been watching the new BBC drama 'Our Zoo' which is based on the true story of the Mottershead family who founded the zoo in the 1930's. The series documents their fight to make Chester Zoo work, despite huge opposition from the locals of the village of Upton.

It's fascinating watching the history of a place I love and have known all my life. I was born just down the road from Chester Zoo too so it makes it even more special.

The only bad thing (for us) is that, since the series has aired, Chester Zoo seems to be a lot busier than it used to be. This is a great thing for the animals and conservation work they do though and I'm so pleased the series is such a huge hit. Thankfully, even when it's busy it's still a superb day out. If you haven't been then you should make sure you manage to visit. I may see you there!

I've been to Chester Zoo a couple of times this month with TC and friends but we went there as a family on Matt's birthday weekend. It was perfect weather - not too hot or cold - and there were plenty of animals to see and fun to be had. MC wanted to go on the monorail as she'd never been on it before. I decided that this was to be the setting of our family photo for this month.

Matt decided to yawn on the first take.

Then TC shut his eyes on the second.

But I didn't bother taking a third photo as both of these were enough. They show us as happy and together and that, for me, is the perfect photo.

dear beautiful

This post is not a sponsored post
I wasn't asked to promote Chester Zoo or Our Zoo -
I just love them both

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Get Ready To Check In At The Furchester Hotel!

My TV planner is all set to record tomorrow - Friday 26th September at 5pm.

On CBeebies!

We love it when anything new starts in this house but especially this.

This is very exciting!

MC is beside herself because she says she "knows the characters".

You see, back in May this year, we were both invited to CBeebies HQ in Manchester to get an exclusive preview of a new children's show which is a collaboration between CBeebies and the Sesame Workshop.

It was a brilliant afternoon.

Photo: BBC
The Furchester Hotel is a brand new series following the lives of a family of a cheeky monsters who own and run an 'almost' world-class hotel - Funella Furchester, her husband, Furgus Fuzz and their daughter Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz. Phoebe's cousin, Elmo (I know!), comes to stay at the hotel for an extended visit and the Cookie Monster (squeal!) gets the job as a waiter and room service attendant.

Each week the family encounters small problems that they need to solve so the series is designed with helping to develop problem-solving for three to six year olds. With their family motto of 'A Furchester never gives up!' the series will promote this skill each week with the monsters going out of their way to meet the needs of their hotel guests.

When we arrived at CBeebies HQ we were greeted by Elmo and Cookie Monster characters and were invited to colour pictures and have fun in a photo booth before heading upstairs for refreshments and a look at an unfinished episode which all the kids absolutely loved.

Not only did we get to see the sneak peek, we also got to meet the characters and their puppeteers!

I was unaware that this was going to happen (I thought the character meet was the big characters downstairs) and, I do have to admit, having a lump in my throat when they all walked into the room and all the kids (and adults!) squealed with delight.

It was amazing seeing the puppeteers working the characters and voices and it was fabulous to watch the children interacting with the characters themselves despite being able to see the puppeteers.

MC is a fan of Elmo so, as soon as she saw him, she made her way straight over to him and got the first hug in (please excuse the portrait recording).

We also got to go down to the studio between filming and walk onto the set itself. We couldn't take photos of the set itself but you can get an idea of just how amazing The Furchester Hotel is on this BBC news video. Who wouldn't want to check in here?

Photo: BBC
I was totally in awe at how huge and impressive the set was and the great work that goes into making each episode. I really do think that CBeebies and the Sesame Workshop have created something brilliant for both children and adults to enjoy and I, for one, cannot wait until tomorrow!

MC and I were invited to CBeebies HQ and were
given light refreshments, a tour of the studio, an 
episode airing and character meet.
I was not asked to write this post and all photos, 
videos and words (unless otherwise stated) are my own.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

"What Do You Do?"

It's a question the rears it's ugly head once in a while.

It's a question that I sometimes answer with a passion. Ready for a fight that never comes.

It's a question that I sometimes answer with weakness and dread. Then I kick myself for not being proud and not fighting my corner when that question I dread is asked of me.

"What do you do?"

Such a simple question.

It should be a simple answer.

"I'm a stay at home mum" comes my reply.

It's either met with enthusiasm or jealousy...

"Oooh how fabulous!"

"You're so lucky! I wish I could afford to stay at home with the kids - they are only little for such a short time"

...Or it's met with misunderstanding or ignorance.

It happened to me again the other month.

An older brother of an ex-boyfriend I hadn't seen in years.

"So what are you doing now?" he said eagerly.

"I'm a stay at home mum".

"Ooooooh" he laughed "A lady of leisure!"

"Ha, yeah" came my feeble response as I wasn't prepared for a fight…but then I never am. "I wish!" I added on the end and then quickly changed the subject.

I'd like to think I would be ready to stand up for myself but I never am. I then spend the rest of the year month week day kicking myself for not being stronger and standing up for something I believe in. Something I love.

It makes me feel like crap.


Why should I have to explain myself?

Why should anyone judge me for giving up a career to be with my kids?

Why should anyone think that being a stay-at-home-mum resembles the lifestyle of a WAG?

I don't judge women who return to work. In fact I salute them. I'm not entirely sure I could do it, especially full-time.

But this isn't going to be one of those posts that gives all the pros and cons about working versus staying at home. It's been done thousands of times over and the same divides remain. It's quite tiresome actually.

I just know that I hate being judged for the decision I've made. I hate people thinking I swan around each day meeting friends for coffee, having my nails done or going shopping.* It can also make me feel like some kind of second class citizen. Like I don't belong if you know what I mean?

The fact remains, I hate the "What do you do?" question and I don't think that feeling will ever change.

However, I love being a stay-at-home-mum (the clues in the blog!). I love that I am here for my kids and I can watch them both grow. I know that I have these feelings on my side and all the people who are ignorant to my decision can, quite frankly, do one!

If they want to think I lead a WAG lifestyle then let them. The thing is, I lead a lifestyle far more richer than any WAG. I lead a happy and healthy lifestyle with my children and that's something I'm mightily proud of.

* I still have spa vouchers I was given as a gift in March that I haven't used yet!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Works Of Heart - A Bit Of Disney Magic In Our Home

Every now and again you discover something amazing. Something that you know you will love and you will want to treasure forever.

It's like this a lot of the time when MC brings home her artwork from school or sits down to draw something at home. She loves drawing and I have a large folder full of her work that I just have to keep.

The thing is, apart from the ones I display on our 'This week at school' board and the ones I have framed in the play room, they do just that, they sit in a folder never really to see the light of day.

This makes me sad.

Luckily my wonderful artist friend Minty has created something very special that every parent of young children should know about. I remember Minty testing the idea on Facebook and quite a few of us thought it was wonderful….

Take a piece of your children's precious artwork and bring it to life!

How amazing does that sound?

Well, wait until you see the actual work from 'Works Of Heart'. It's even more amazing.

Minty has a very special creative talent. She didn't demand I wrote this blog post but her work deserves to be shared.

As soon as I saw Minty's new 'Works Of Heart'' venture I knew immediately which piece of artwork that I wanted re-created. Regular readers of my blog will know how much we adore Orlando, Florida and our love for The Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World. We first went in 2012 when I was heavily pregnant - it was meant to be a last big holiday before or baby boy was born. We loved it so much we returned in 2013 with a 4 year old and a 13 month old and we are going back next year too. We are all completely hooked.

MC often draws pictures of Disney characters and earlier this year she drew Mickey and Minnie Mouse and I loved it.

One wall in our dining room was still blank. Awaiting the perfect picture or photo to sit opposite the family gallery on the other wall. I wanted Minty to re-create MC's Disney picture larger than the original so I asked for A3.

I sent over a digital photo of MC's creation and simply told Minty that I wanted it to show our love for Walt Disney World, Florida. That was it. She did the rest.

What I received was beautiful.

You can't really tell from the photograph of the artwork but Mickey and Minnie, all the flags and hearts actually stand out from the background. There is also so much sparkle on the artwork too and I love the fact Cinderella's Castle is the backdrop. It's amazing and I love it so much.

I knew I wanted to pay to have it professionally framed immediately. I took both MC's and Minty's artwork to the framers and they said it was incredible - asking who had done it. The framer put a large mount around it and, with some left over paint from our kitchen and dining room, painted the perfect frame. He even mounted MC's original drawing on the back so the two will always be together and I want to pass this picture down through the family over the years.

It looks absolutely amazing - far better than the photographs show.

It's now a fantastic talking point over dinner in our house!

Please head over to Minty's Works Of Heart Facebook page and see all the other incredible children's artwork she has recreated.

Please contact Minty at Works Of Heart for all size options and prices


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