Monday, 20 March 2017

Vloggers Home Interiors? Is there a Uniform?

I watch a lot of you tube it has to be said and I am starting to see themes. 

Source: Pinterest
It feels like everyone has the same headboard, or a variation thereof. I keep seeing grey upholstered headboards everywhere (on at least 5 of the big youtubers videos). 

Emily Norris has what looks to be one (it looks grey to me but not sure) and Mrs Meldrum says in this video they got their "bed" from Swoon Editions so I am guessing it's a bed and not just a headboard. I saw the Michalaks and a few other vloggers with something very similar. 

I don't know if it is an interiors trend or a vlogger trend? Do you know? 

We have an Ikea bed and it doesn't even have a headboard - I best get one. Not that I plan on vlogging in the bedroom anytime soon but it'd be nice to have the option and look the part. Oh and when I say I best get one I mean a headboard not a grey upholstered one.

I keep seeing vloggers with geometric ornaments what are they about? Honestly? Am I the only one who does not know? Are they based on the Finnish Christmas ornament the Himmeli? Except that is made of straw and what I keep seeing people with looks like rose gold in some instances and copper in others. Even my friend Hannah has one of these geometric thingies but as a candle holder: here it is on Instagram.


Vloggers all seem to have cacti or spider plants. 

What the successful ones seem to have in common is stunning homes. 

Oh and they all have prints. Prints with statements on like "it's all going to be okay". My favourite vloggers the Michalaks have even gone into business selling them: prints (I love the insufferable hipster twat one) so much so has the trend grown momentum. Now I do have a blank wall next to my dining table, where 2 bookcases were till I recently moved them, but I am enjoying soaking up looking at the blank canvas of it and everyday seeing a different potential. I tend to favour pictures of family on the wall. Yes I was arty at school, I got an A, but I don't seem the extend my gift with art to a flare with it in my home. Having quote prints on the wall.... is it a trend for keeps?

I have neither the budget not the inclination to do my home up to magazine style vlogging standard and when I do make purchases they tend to be of a functional nature like the Christmas present I got hubby. We have a smart TV and I put the bag of cables that make it smart to one side a long time ago. We've moved since then and I had no idea where it was. Our TV is obviously HDMI whereas our DVD player has a scart so in the end I demoted that DVD player to the den for cartoons and got hubby a DVD player for Xmas but not just any old one, this one is online, so it now makes our TV smart via the DVD player somehow. So now we have youtube on the telly AND Netflix. Oh how I adore Netflix, despite being such a late adopter. Oh and you haven't truly vlogged till you've watched your channel on the big screen. Wow does that showcase great editing and highlight the flaws of bad. It's enlightening though and great as you can get other things done while watching your favourites. Sometimes we watch our own, it's a super way of reliving a lovely day out and for Aaron keeps the memories alive.

Now that I have hubby addicted to youtube and Netflix on the telly box, he's not getting much else done LOL, I'd love to sort out his music. He has a very large collection all stored on different electronic gadgets and he connects them via the auxiliary cable, to his old stereo system (you know the sort, in a 3 pile stack, with a turntable for vinyl, a drawer for CDs and even two tape decks). Well just like I bought him his first mobile phone and first MP3 player and first DVD player I could also get him next generation ALL Connected Multi-Room Speakers. They allow you to play your favourite music from your CD collection, radio or smart phone straight through to your bedroom, bathroom and beyond. Now that is what I call home entertainment. These Panasonic CD Speakers sound phenomenal I think he'd love them. He'll have to wait for his birthday though I reckon.

What else have you noticed that vloggers all have in common? Interiors really is a thing now isn't it?

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Mum Uniform It's a Thang Says #UKMumSquad

It's tough getting out of the house with kids. It's totally doable don't get me wrong but it's the timescales and degree of preparation involved. There's them to get ready and ourselves, but also all of their stuff... when we're a first time Mum we're overwhelmed with all of the paraphernalia that goes in a nappy changing bag, but imagine having that, plus the baby plus a school age child(ren) and a school run to do whatever the weather. At least when you're home alone with a baby on maternity leave you have the option of staying indoors in your PJs with your offspring in nothing more than a sleep suit. Enjoying a babymoon. You don't know it at the time, but life doesn't get much better than that.

I have been amazed, flabbergasted in fact, at how different having a second child is to the first. They never get the chance to stay in bed unless it's the weekend, the school holidays or inset days. Oh inset days, they have a certain lusciousness about them don't they? You're off but the rest of the world is not. Almost like when you had a week day off when you worked Monday to Friday. Naughty but nice. Like a cream cake. (I'm showing my age to remember that advert but hey ho)!

So there are things us Mums can do to get out of the house more quickly and one of them is the adoption of a Mum Uniform. Gone are the days where we peruse our wardrobe thinking shall I wear pink or peach, Zara or Next. No, now it is more along the lines of "what's clean?" or "is it ironed?" the latter of course not applying to me as I iron NOTHING! But the most important thing is the act of getting dressed. Don't whatever you do, do the school run in your PJs. At our school a Mum dons PJs and a dressing gown and slippers. Don't do that #BeLikeMum and adopt a Mum Uniform, it works for #UKMumSquad.

So knowing in advance what suits us is half the battle and having a capsule wardrobe means the battle is won! Both for cost reasons and storage reasons (those kids take up a lot of space - I share my wardrobe with mine, literally)!

So I've asked our very own Instagram #UKMumSquad of 12 (<<< they're all tagged there) about their go-to outfits and they straight away knew what they were. Their answers are insightful and because they are more stylish than me, it is good for the old curtain twitching nosey curious side of me to hear their answers. You'll enjoy them too...

First up, Hannah from What Hannah Did Next. One of the first (and loveliest) bloggers I ever met IRL.

What's your mum uniform?
Something that's quick and easy to put on, is comfortable but yet still looks like I've made a slight effort with being stylish! Last year I bought a denim pinafore dress and I lived in it throughout the seasons. It was perfect in the summer months with bare legs, a t-shirt/vest underneath and sandals. Yet it was versatile enough for the colder weather teamed with tights and a long sleeve top underneath. Now I've bought another denim dress that's a slouchy style that is going to be my go to outfit.
Have you always had one or like me is it just since motherhood?
I've always been a denim girl, so that hasn't changed but since motherhood my choices have changed slightly. I go for outfits that I'm going to feel happy about wearing and that don't make me too self conscious about my tummy area. Now that my youngest is 18 months and I've lost the baby weight, I'm finding that I'm rediscovering my style again... 
What about it makes you feel confident?
When I wear a dress I feel more girly. A bit like when you've done your makeup or painted your nails, it instantly picks me up a little.

Sabina from Deep in Mummy Matters also told me about hers. I've known Sabina for years and loved having a giggle with her at Thomas Land.

What's your mum uniform?My Mum uniform tends to be jeans and a sweatshirt or leggings and a dress through the Autumn/Winter months and maxi dresses or denim shorts and vest tops in the Summer.

Have you always had one or like me is it just since motherhood?Before I became a Mum I worked in offices so I wore suits, becoming a Mum and have a very 'changed' figure I naturally wear more comfortable clothes.  I have friends who say they stopped saving their 'best' clothes for going out as they would never get worn but working from home it just feels a bit overkill to be dressed up. 
What about it makes you feel confident?The only time I feel confident in my clothes is when I actually dress up for a night out, the rest of the time I feel pretty rubbish about my general look.

N4 Mummy's Karen is a cool kitten indeed having been featured on Selfish Mother and Toms all in one week. 

In fact 7 of our gang of 12 met up at the recent Toms UK event.
What's your Mum uniform?
My mum uniform has to be dungarees striped T, white trainers & a back pack oh & red lip stick for days when I've had zero sleep 😬 
Have you always had one or like me is it just since motherhood? 
No just since motherhood as I now have no time to think!   
What about it makes you feel confident? 
Red lippy always makes me smile!

Now our lovely Emma knows the importance of a Mum Uniform as not only is she is a Mum of FIVE blogging at The Joy of Five, but she's also soon to be a nanny.

What's your Mum Uniform?I would say my uniform changes with my mood that day. It's all about feeling confident  and so if I'm feeling insecure about a certain area then I try to dress to hide what I'm not happy about. 
Jeans, ankle boots and a baggy top are probably my go to items though. 
What about it makes you feel confident? I like to try and have something bright in my outfit or makeup as that always gives me a lift and helps me feel more confident.

Emily Family Four Fun is someone I have known in the blogging world for years and years. She has a joy filled life with her husband and family of four children meaning she also knows the importance of a Mum Uniform.

Didn't realise I had one but over the years find myself grabbing for the same comfortable clothes more and more. 
Those clothes (in Autumn/Winter) are jeans and a t-shirt with a pair of slouchy boots pulled over and my fat face parka thrown over the top.  
They're warm and comfortable and I trust them to look ok whilst forming a trustworthy barrier against the elements. 

Myself Liska, blogging: here :-)

What's your mum uniform?
So it has to be flattering. It has to be non iron. I've discovered I even love things that can't be tumble dried as I just hang them, air dry them and they're crease free and good to go. Even better when they're to hand when I need them. My Mum Uniform has become a dress with leggings underneath and that's NOT because it's Winter it is because my legs are HAIRY :-) I got a Merino wool Hobbs dress from my Mother in Law and Sister in Law for Christmas and as it was the 2nd or 3rd year in a row they'd got me a dress I got to thinking about it and it dawned on me how often I wear them so I bought a couple more. The budget did not allow for this so they were charity shop bargains like the Phase Eight dress you see pictured above. I now feel great even on the school run. 
Have you always had one or like me is it just since motherhood?
My Mum Uniform has only really been a thing since 2017, since Christmas. When the penny dropped. When Aaron was in Reception and Year 1 I would do that thing of trying to put an outfit together each morning, when time just didn't allow. No wonder we were so often late for school 2014 and 2015. Now we never ever are. 
What about it makes you feel confident?
I hardly ever wear makeup and can no longer afford Shellac so having my slimming dresses on is everything. As long as it is a month when I haven't eaten all the pies they are even flattering too. Thanks to the calorie burn of breastfeeding Lottie, which I still am and walking 30 miles a week I  don't even wear hold it all in underwear underneath anymore either...

Our wonderful Ruth, one of the Gurus of our squad, blogging very regularly at RocknRollerBaby. Judging by her pic she's competing with Karen in the rock chick stakes but with hubby in a band and her URL that's no surprise girlfriend!

What's your mum uniform?
My Mum uniform is black tights and boots in the colder months and when the sun comes out I prefer floral and floaty. I like to mix things up with pieces which are maybe vintage or a little bit different, I do like to try and make a statement. However, for those days when you just want to feel comfortable it's very easy to throw on a baggy jumper dress to conceal a mum tum and team it with shades to hide the eye bags - I guess on days when I feel a touch self conscious it's all about the hiding factor... That's not to say I don't know HOW to get my groove on and I absolutely will add a statement piece be it in my coat, make-up or jewellery just to show I'm still me.
Have you always had one or like me is it just since motherhood?
I'd say that before and after having babies my most worn colour is black and I have so many baggy batwing jumpers from Tezenis that even my daughter calls them my uniform... Might have to rectify that!
What about it makes you feel confident?
In the picture I'm wearing a pleated black skirt from Asos, A Sparkly bat wing jumper from Tezenis, T-Bar dancing shoes from Clarks and my bag is Asos too.

Mummy Endeavours' Carolynne is a go get 'em blogger. Whenever I am stalking the hashtag for an event, she's there, shaking her funky blogging stuff.

What's your mum uniform?
My mum uniform has changed now that I work three days a week because obviously I have to make more of an effort on those days :) But if I'm not working I love to just throw on something comfortable. I'm a lazy morning person and always in a rush so usually it's jeans, boots and a jumper in the winter and jeans with flip flops in the summer! I quite often change for the afternoon school run when I've had more time to consider my outfit, Oh and I'll do my hair and makeup!
Have you always had one or is it just since motherhood?
Definitely since motherhood! My eldest is 18 and I have to admit to not owning a pair of flat shoes before I embarked on the school run. I'm not even joking... even my sandals were high wedges! Flat shoes and flat boots are my go to now for the school run.... comfort is key! Uggs are my all time favourite! 
What about it makes you feel confident? 
I love my mum uniform of jeans but will wear heels with them when I want to feel more confident!
This new infographic from 4imprint helps to deconstruct the uniform and being that I have a school age child who wears a uniform everyday I find it particularly interesting. What various colours mean is enlightening too, take a look. Click it to big it:
We buy and our kids wear, the colour of school uniform that our school tells us to. Some of us have jobs that require certain clothes or when working at an event we occasionally wear printed t-shirts. I know it was a thing once, at blogging conferences, that people would literally wear a t shirt with their blog branding on or that of their sponsor who'd covered the expenses for them attending (ticket, hotel and travel). I've never personally done this, although I have attended with a bag that had NewMumOnline emblazoned on it. Also, last year, I was so impressed that Coca Cola sponsored me to attend BritMums Live (and put me up at The Montcalm and paid for my return train journey) that I went and bought a Primark Coca Cola t-shit and wore it to the Coca Cola Symposium the day before the conference. Always going the extra mile, that's me :-)

So tell me what is your Mum Uniform? And remember, #BeLikeMum and get dressed. Always, when leaving the house, get dressed LOL. 


I hope to update this post to let you know what the rest of #UKMumSquad wear as THEIR Mum Uniform.

Ruth from RocknRollerBaby has already blogged about #UKMumSquad's recent outing to the Toms UK event, but alas I was at home nursing a very sick Lottie.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The #MarkWarnerMum Mood Board with a Difference

When I read the brief for this year's Mark Warner family ambassador programme I immediately read Mood Board as MOOD (happy/sad) board, even though I know what they do represent in reality, like in say the fashion industry for example. I worked in Monsoon Accessorize Head Office for over 4 years and often had cause to visit the brand floors - their mood boards were exquisite and inspirational for sure - nothing like seeing a designer at work and they had loads that were inhouse. 

My take on the theme inspired me to do lots of drawings in recent weeks. But, with Lottie being ill I hadn't got near the computer, to execute any of them, so every day was terrified somebody else would get there first with this idea. Thankfully I finally fired up the laptop (only just yesterday) and here I am.  Plus, over the passing of time my ideas matured, developed and evolved.

I give you 10 boards illustrating 10 moods, both their good side and their bad. The moods that can be resolved by a great Mark Warner Holiday.

So my first mood, above, is *Bored* and this is how Mark Warner takes that problem away

A holiday in the sun with Mark Warner would see us using the Toddler Club for Lottie and Junior Club for Aaron providing a wealth of activities and experiences so that they would never be bored. This would release Mummy from being their cheerleader every hour of every day and Mummy could get a well earned #MarkWarnerMum rest :-) I am a stay at home Mum who believes in attachment parenting, so this is something that would be life changing and a holiday in every sense of the word. Daddy works long hours and we have no family nearby (mine, including my Mum, are in Ireland), so I would avail of the childcare, of course I would. Lottie is breastfeeding so I'm not saying she'd be in there for the full quota, but I'd certainly get some Mamma me time.
Each morning and afternoon session is tailored to include a good balance of outdoor and indoor play, ever mindful of the heat of the sun and energy levels of a toddler.  Our Toddler Club is very well stocked with a superb range of toys to keep the most active of toddler occupied and stimulated and a morning or afternoon session usually consists of 2 outdoor and 2 indoor activities.    

My second mood, above, is *anxious* just like us the kids get anxious at the beginning of a long journey. This is how Mark Warner takes that problem away

As you can see above, the kids are really joyful once they've arrived at their destination. Although I haven't shown a plane, train or coach in these photos above, I have picked them for their authenticity as they were genuinely their faces (on the left) at the beginning of a real life journey and on the right at the end, at the destination. This blog post is *all* about the emotions - the moods. 

It's getting them through a journey that turns me into a children's entertainer meaning I am spent when we arrive. So what does that mean? It means we want to arrive with great speed. Nothing worse than the longest part of your journey being equalled or rivalled by the "transfer" that comes after. Just like when we arrive at London Paddington, after a long coach journey and it then takes the same length of time again to get from there to Grandma's. No such worry with Mark Warner:
Transfers
Private coaches are used for transfers between the airport and resort. On occasions we may use other Tour Operators coaches but there will always be a Mark Warner representative at the airport to assist. Approximate transfer times are below, but these can vary according to traffic or weather conditions. On some transfers a short stop is planned for refreshments.
 
Lakitira Beach Resort: 15 minutes by coach,  Helona Beach Resort: 15 minutes by coach, Levante Beach Resort: 30 minutes by coach, Lemnos Beach Resort: 30 minutes by coach, Perdepera Beach Resort: 2 hours by coach, San Lucianu Beach Resort: 30 minutes by coach
After the thought of flying with 2 young children, reading the above is like music to my ears. When we get there, we want to GET THERE. Luckily my kids are good travellers, but it's how taxing the journey is on this Mamma that is the problem.

My third mood, above, is hangry, have you heard of it? It's when you're so hungry that you're angry, hence h'angry. This is how Mark Warner takes that problem away:

Food varies from resort to resort but this is what Mark Warner says about Levante Beach and I like what I am reading:
Greek Taverna In July and August, dinner is also served at no extra charge in the poolside Greek Taverna, serving local dishes including hot and cold mezes, grilled meats and fish. Full board upgradeIf you opt to upgrade to full board (for a supplement of £90 per adult and £77 per child per week, booked prior to arrival), lunch is also included in the Amalthia restaurant in peak season and in the Annora restaurant or the pool snack bar in low season.Room ServiceThere's also a reasonably priced room service menu with Greek salad, burgers, pasta and more.
I love the word hangry and with children it explains a lot which is good because it is easy to forgive their behaviour when we know exactly what makes them tick and more importantly it means we can meet their every need.

I've often seen people over the years having waffles or pancakes for breakfast and got a real "wish I was there" moment. The food is definitely one of many things that Mark Warner has to offer.
hangryˈhaŋɡri/adjective
informal
bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.
"I get very hangry if I miss a meal"

My fourth mood, above, is *tired* and here is how Mark Warner would solve that problem for us...

Well quite simply I wouldn't be tired ha ha:
Childcare is excellent at all resorts, giving you time to relax by the beach or pools. 

Sleep would not be a problem with Mark Warner with the comfort provided. This is what they say about Family Accommodation in Sardinia:
Family Room
These attractive Family guest rooms are centrally located, positioned away from the tennis courts. Family rooms are the only two storey villa houses at this resort and feature a private terrace, floor-to-ceiling window, a master bedroom with king size bed on a mezzanine level overlooking a furnished living room with 2 single beds, a separate shower room and an open plan kitchenette (at a supplement).Maximum Occupancy: 5 Extra bedding: Cot
To be fair, when Lottie is tired, only the breast will do, but I'll be on holiday with her, so no problemo. Our sleep routine, in a sunny luxurious environment will be bliss.

My fifth mood, above, is *curious* and here is how Mark Warner would solve that problem for us...

Children have so many questions don't they? Lottie learns by exploring, crawling and now walking. She also explores taste and feel by putting EVERYTHING in her mouth. Aaron learns by asking lots and lots of questions. Other parents warn you that they'll spend a long time saying "why?" to everything but nobody prepared me for the "How?". A few months ago it all started: "How do you know that this is the train that goes to London?" and "How do you know that we should get on it at 4 o'clock?" and "How do you know that means we'll be at Grandma's by....?" and so it went on.

I'm not saying that Mark Warner will provide all the answers, although the childcare team will no doubt answer all of Aaron's questions whilst he's in their care. But what I love is that the holiday will provide more reasons to be curious "what's over there?" "how do you windsurf?" "What time does the tide come in?" etc... More reasons to be curious and more reasons to learn. Plus the quality time for it all to take place.

So we're half way, and I am thinking of this as I write it, so I have 5 moods conjured up so far as below and 5 more to think of. So far we've covered
  1. Tired
  2. Hangry
  3. Anxious
  4. Curious and
  5. Bored
And as you'll probably have guessed, those 10 moods will result in me determining the 10 travel essentials. Things that address those moods. Things that a Mark Warner holiday would provide, that make be chomp at the bit to be considered. Here's hoping and here's to having a commercial break (get it?!?!? ;-) ) until I work out what those 5 other moods/solutions are.

My sixth mood, above, is *love hungry* and here is how Mark Warner would solve that problem for us...

Given that childcare comes as standard and is one of Mark Warner Holidays' USPs, then this is what I would be looking forward to. I was going to leave it till the end, till number 10 mood, but it felt like the elephant in the room, and with Valentine's Day being so so recent, I just wanted to put it out there, I'm starved of romance. I've now had a wee taste of it and want me some more. Come to Mamma Daddy-oh. Coughs. I think I'll leave it there. This is a competition entry and 10 Shades of Travel Essentials not 50 ha ha!

My seventh mood, above, is *homesick* but in the sense of being sick of home, sick of the same four walls, claustrophic. In a box like Aaron above. Trying to get out, like Lottie above. The bottom right picture of Lottie represents that I want my babies to SEE the world. Here's how a Mark Warner holiday would solve that problem:

With a sun holiday with Mark Warner, we could get on a plane and leave the dishes, the sink, and the humdrum behind. A holiday of a lifetime for our little family. I can feel  it in my bones how wonderful it would be and I have spent 4 years watching what a fabulous time their holidaymakers have. Think of it as a game of Home and Away. I've experienced home I want to experience away. A self catering holiday (like Bluestone was) doesn't allow me to leave the kitchen, the cooking and the dish washing behind. I don't have a dishwasher (I'm it) so a complete break, a complete get away, would be bliss and so appreciated.

I've never been on a sun holiday with Aaron let alone Lottie. It would be heaven. Lottie soaks everything up like a sponge at the moment. It would blow her mind. She's now walking, exploring and loves the water. I know she'd thrive with me as her #MarkWarnerMum and Aaron. Oh My God Aaron, he is so appreciative of every experience he has in life. We went to Bluestone Wales in April 2015 and he talked about the Lazy River outdoor swimming pool for months. After school he always has a packed lunch for the journey home. Today I packed more than normal as he'd been in after school club. His little face lit up better than it does for Santa. To see his reaction to a resort and a sun holiday.... I think I'd cry. He wouldn't want to come home. He's such an adventurous outdoor boy and I know he'd dive in with all of the activities that they do in the clubs. He'd miss his Sister though so we'd spend lots of time as a family too.


My eighth mood, above, is *lonely* as in how the 3 of us are when the 4th one, Daddy, is missing - as in AT WORK :-( Mark Warner would solve that problem for us...

By bringing us all together. Isn't that what holidays do? Ah but the beauty of this one is that ordinarily Daddy, being the breadwinner, would pay for the holiday, so he'd choose somewhere with a climate he likes, like Scandinavia, if only we could afford it... The beauty of winning a Mark Warner holiday would be that we could go on the sort of dream *sun* holiday that I long for, and the kids would get that resort kids club experience I know they'd so benefit from. Daddy is not the sort to look a gift horse in the mouth plus he REALLY needs a break, so we'd get our kind of holiday and Daddy would be off the hook. I know he would LOVE it anyway. What's not to love. Plus we don't have to go at the hottest time of the year anyway and I've done Malta with him and Poland when it was at its hottest. He copes. He stays in the shade and takes pictures of me from there ha ha!

My ninth mood, above, is *argumentative*. Mark Warner would solve that problem for us... 

By having the two of them in 2 different ages of kids club. To be fair they'll miss each other terribly as they are incredibly close (but they'll probably be having too much fun to notice). She was so young in that picture above when she pulled his hair she really didn't know what she was doing but it did briefly upset Aaron. No, the trouble with these two is that Lottie is now walking so she'll march on over to what Aaron's playing with and take it off him. Also if he catches her with one of his toys when he tries to take it, she screams and refuses to let go. This is all new to him as she'd previously always let him take things off her but she's coming into her own now my little Lottie. Plus we go to a LOT of baby groups so she's getting used to having to stand her ground with the many "snatchers".

The reason I'd be glad that they are separate in their two different age groups of childcare on a Mark Warner holiday is because I think Aaron deserves, out of school, to have fun with his own age group. He helps me with Lottie so so so much, he's earned any bit of fun or adventure that he gets. He'll go get me nappies from upstairs. He'll watch her while I have a shower and he'll watch her while I cook. 9 times out of 10 he doesn't grumble and only does if she's acting like he's not enough or if he is in any of the moods listed above LOL.

My tenth mood, above, is *blue* as in feeling blue (more like green) due to being poorly. Mark Warner would solve that problem for us... 

By getting us out in the great outdoors. By us taking part in such an active holiday that is bursting with the opportunity for exercise. The fresh air. The sunny Vitamin D. The sea air. The happy endorphins, quality time. The whole kit and kaboodle. Which is why this is mood 10. Boy do we need it, we've taken it in turns to be sick since October and I have had enough now, of sickness and of Winter, especially as we're normally fabulous at fighting things off. The rash above was an allergic reaction Aaron had to a spider bite. When me took him to A and E (we thought it might be meningitis) Lottie played with the toys there (I brought her as I'm breastfeeding) and she contracted Hand Foot and Mouth, which she ever so kindly shared with me a few days later. That seems like such a long time ago now, at the end of the Summer.

This "mood" takes me back to bygone days when Doctors would literally prescribe that people spent some time on the coast, to get some sea air in their lungs, hence us having some great coastal piers and hotels in this country. Royalty would literally go to see the sea for a holiday. Plus Royals opened many piers. I know Weston Super Mare even had a royal, Princess Anne open the new Pier when the old was destroyed by a fire. But I digress.
So above, finally, my finished Mood Board ;-)

Except you'd be right in saying it is just a collage of the moods I have explored and not technically "travel essentials" as per the Ambassador Programme competition brief. Well....... I have now added the travel essentials that would ensure that these "moods" don't occur. All of which being travel essentials that Mark Warner provides in abundance.

So here really is the final mood board. GOSH there's been a big build up to this and I don't mean the long blog post above. There has been brainstorming and drawing. Notes on paper, notes on the phone. Sleepless nights tossing and turning, grabbing the phone to "memo" a mood I've just thought of. I've been working on this in different guises since the day the Ambassador Programme competition begun. But it was only yesterday that I fired up the laptop, and was brave enough to see what my idea would look like in reality. The original idea WAS always about MOODS but originally each mood had a colour but I moved away from that as the idea evolved and here is my final masterpiece. NO glue guns were harmed in the creation of this mood board. No pencils or scissors were blunted. NO glitter was used... but the same amount of creativity took place nonetheless, only it was digitally (if you don't include my drawings).

Ultimately, when everyone is happy, Mum is happy, so my ultimate "mood" board is me as a happy #MarkWarnerMum
#MarkWarnerMum
Now I know what you are thinking, where is the video? Well I want to make one but am up against the wall for time. We'll see...
Phew I managed to get a video done today, and I'm actually very proud of it. Phew, thank God I managed to feed the kids and get them to bed toooooooooo

*Hit PLAY below - I'd love to know what you think*

All this comes as standard

  
  • Convenient flight times and resort transfers
  • Sunny Mediterranean destinations with beautiful beachfronts 
  • Half day childcare from 2yrs and full day childcare from 6-17yrs
  • Watersports and fitness activities 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Are you Saving for your Child's Future?

I've often blogged regarding finances and children, but that was always concerning how I cleared all of my debts before getting pregnant. To the degree that at the age of 30 I said to the husband it will take me till the age of 35 so let's start trying then. Turned out quite a few things (like malaria tablets no less) caused us to wait even longer but along came Aaron the year I turned 37, meaning I conceived him aged 36, so not too too late on target LOL. But you'd consider that late if I told you that next year the husband and I will have been together 30 years!

I'll give you a few minutes to digest that fact.
But now I'm informed we're meant to be saving now that they are here... Say what?!?!? I spend my spare money on lattes and cappuccinos isn't that how it's meant to be? I've given up manicures, pedicures, leg waxes and cut Aaron's hair myself, so that I have the few pennies required to get my caffeine fix.

But Shepherds Friendly got in contact to share with me How to Work Out if You're Saving Enough for Your Child's Future. The infographic contains the average price for many saving goals today and also includes a section on how to work out how much you’d need to save each month over how many years in order to reach your goal.

There are lots of different saving options for your child such as a Junior ISA where the capital growth is tax free and friends and family can also contribute on behalf of the child.
Are you saving enough for the future of your child? via Shepherds Friendly

I can well believe the figures in the Infographic and my Dad (thanks Dad) did give us £7,000 towards our wedding, which then considering I asked everyone for cash as presents (we got married in Ireland and I didn't want to bring presents back on Ryanair with THEIR luggage allowance) meant I walked away from the wedding pretty much debt free despite a very expensive wedding album. I think the hubby had some credit card debt thanks to paying for the honeymoon. But it's the Father of the Bride who traditionally helps and he did. We spent a lot in today's money considering it was 2001 and the West of Ireland but we benefited from the exchange rate as it was prior to the Euro going in if I remember rightly.  Just checked it was 2002 when Ireland properly phased in the Euro.

He hasn't had to help me out on the car front as I still don't drive despite counting down the days to my 17th birthday and being aged 44 now! Gulps!

But knowing how I have benefited from his help, I best get saving so I can help my two. Equally, I was fiercely independent financially, putting myself through Uni, so I know there's a place for that too. I don't think a silver spoon helps any child. Drive and determination, with emotional support are the best recipe. I plan to ensure my kids have that. We'd love a 3rd child but I think it is better to concentrate on giving these two the very best start in life. What do you think? Are you saving? I know my best friend saves her child benefit every month making sure it goes in a savings account instead of into her current account. Now if I suddenly developed a successful youtube channel I'd do that too. And no, I am not quite ready to go back to work just yet. Lottie still needs me and Aaron really benefits from having a SAHM.

Collaboration

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Highlands of Highworth eviivo Review

We accepted the challenge to review a Bed and Breakfast for eviivo and were thrilled to receive confirmation that we had Highlands of Highworth booked. It meant we were to stay at a place that appealed to me online  - I liked the decor - and we could visit the Cotswolds. I've wanted to visit Devon, Cornwall and the Cotswolds for decades.


We're converted

Ordinarily we'd be strictly hotel people and we've never ever stayed at a Bed and Breakfast as a couple or family (I have myself though with my Dad and his wife in Wales on the way back from Ireland, to break up the long boat and car journey). We stayed in a hotel this Christmas Day night just gone, but it was so awful and this Bed and Breakfast SO great, I think I may now be a complete convert to what eviivo affectionately calls the "independent sector".
The outside of Highlands of Highworth B and B and landlady Karin
The house is way bigger than it deceivingly looks above. It's like a tardis! What is undeniably huge though is the driveway in front which has 2 access points and I'd say parks quite a few cars off-road, so don't at all worry if you as a couple arrive separately. Also makes unpacking the car and popping out for something you've forgotten extremely convenient.

Arrival

We arrived late Friday night 27th January, as Daddy didn't want Aaron to miss football. We arrived at 21:30 and the landlady was very pleased we'd not only let her know our time of arrival but also that I'd texted to say we were running 30 minutes late. You receive a very warm welcome and this is only possible if you are honest and open about your expected time of arrival. They do have solutions if you arrive out of hours but it is ideal to meet the proud owner of this Bed and Breakfast, Karin, pictured above. Depending on the days you stay you may be lucky enough to meet her husband too, who sourced a high chair for us, to make breakfast comfortable for Lottie. It's there now should you need it too :-)
Lottie in Highlands of Highworth high chair

Our room

Straight away, Lottie and Aaron adored our room and they were both right at home. A quick look through the guestbook and you can see that all of the guests feel like this and they get many repeat bookings. In fact they have 100% Trip Advisor reviews and 82% occupancy with our stay being to celebrate them being "Simply the Guest Winners" in the prestigious eviivo Awards very recently. On the eviivo website Highlands has 100% in their reviews.
Highlands of Highworth awards Simply the Guest eviivo
I love that Lottie's PJs coordinated with the decor of the Purple Room which looks way nicer in real life than it does on their website. I got the PJs as one of her many birthday gifts as I am just exhausted trying to do up sleep suit poppers when all she wants to do is crawl, walk or wriggle away. Yes they are cute and much more the baby in a sleepsuit, so I did also get some new ones of those, but you can't beat the speed with which you can put these on :-) and they were only a fiver for a 2-pack in Asda. Thanks for the recommendation Mummy in a TuTu.
Lottie in the purple room at Highlands of Highworth
Lottie has very recently started walking so she was delighted with the metal bedframes on both our single and double bed, using them as a prop to pace up and down up and down the room. This kept her amused for quite some time. She was then very taken with the plentiful tea and coffee area, but here I couldn't take my eyes off her as I did not want her to smash a cup or saucer.
Tea coffee and hot chocolate facilities in the room at Highlands of Highworth
I made very good use of the hot chocolate and we really enjoyed the biscuits Aaron and I, especially as they were topped up for our second night. The icing on the cake was the bottles of water, which I was very grateful for. It's worth accepting the offer of having your room cleaned as all of this gets topped up. Yes it means you have to keep your room tidy ;-) but that makes packing to leave easier - but keep reading as boy is THAT a story!
Large family Purple Room at Highlands of Highworth
Our room felt big even though there wasn't a huge amount of floor space (due to double bed, single bed and travel cot) because it had windows on two walls and because the bathroom is huge. Off the room are THREE doors, one to a wardrobe, one to the bathroom and one, the entrance to the room. The wall of doors is actually quite coordinated and aesthetically pleasing if you know what I mean. 
Large family Purple Room at Highlands of Highworth
As you can see below we had a cloakroom row of hooks on the back of our bedroom door and I loved hanging all of our coats there - I know, simple pleasures! But it's calming to have a home for them and enjoy the room as clutter free as possible. We had a big TV and loved the fact it had children's channels that even worked late at night Friday. It took me till Saturday night to work out how to get the kids to sleep at a reasonable time but it involved a bath followed by lights out. Yeah those pesky lights but I'll know for our next break away. I discovered Friday night that even one desk lamp or just the glow of the TV kept them awake, so Saturday night Daddy stayed in the bathroom for a wee while whilst I dealt with lights out and little people.
Cloakroom hooks and large bathroom Highlands of Highworth Swindon
Speaking of the bath though, I would never normally trust the cleanliness of one away from home for my kids, but so clean is Highlands I felt more than comfortable making a bath part of their wind-down routine on Saturday night and it was so sweet. I had to do something, given the crazy late night of Friday (they slept after midnight out of pure excitement at being in a new place) and how grumpy it meant they both were at breakfast. So Saturday night I think I had them asleep quite soon after 8:30 p.m. Sunday morning they were then both in good form for breakfast and they needed the early night anyway after an amazing day spent in Avebury, a recommendation over breakfast from our landlady. The hubby happened to mention Stone Henge and she explained that Avebury was nearer and way better. Turned out it has the biggest stone circles in Europe and we were indeed very impressed with our day out.
Large bath purple room Highland of Highworth Swindon


Breakfast

It's best to discuss breakfast the night before, what time you would like it and whether you're a continental or English breakfast kind of person. Although I can heartily recommend both. The fresh fruit and yoghurt is delicious - I definitely should have eaten more of it. Karin uses only the best sausages - bloody lovely - and bacon, but as delicious as they were, they were eclipsed by the mushrooms which were more than yummy, literally to die for! A highlight for me though was the huge cafetiere of coffee I got each morning. I bought proper coffee on the way home but it wasn't nearly as nice. Clearly I need to get Kenco like Karin. The condiments on the table were all leading brands too. I became an absolute fan of the Lurpak butter, lashings of it on my toast each morning. With a greedy guzzler like me, she wouldn't make a profit. Speaking of profit, breakfast is now £7 per adult and I'd say well worth it too. The rooms though are cheap for the standard you get, so enjoy them whilst they still are as I'd told Karin she's selling herself short!
Continental and English breakfast at Highlands of Highworth
The ambience at breakfast was lovely, in fact so pleasant that I wanted to sit there all day chatting with Karin the proprietor. I could tell she is a kindred spirit. She's also my own Mum's twin in terms of housekeeping standards and height/build etc... So now I am praying my Mum comes over to the UK again on holiday (from Ireland) and that we find an excuse to go to Swindon again. Hope to see you again Karin :-)
Breakfast area at Highlands of Highworth Swindon
Karin took a break from cooking breakfast - pictured below - to spend some time with Lottie who we were trying to settle in front of the TV, out of pure desperation so we could eat our food while it was still warm.  Karin even fed her some of her Weetabix whilst I tried to enjoy my coffee and English Breakfast. Daddy and I were tag teaming so we could have a forkful each. This is all new to us, because she's started walking so recently and now doesn't settle as well in a highchair, like up until now she always has done.
Karin Landlady of Highlands of Highworth Swindon
Breakfast was definitely one of many highlights of our stay at Highlands of Highworth. The bread is homemade in a bread maker, so whilst you shower and dress you're already salivating. I must have had 5 slices each morning we were there, with Lurpak and jam.


It's Underpriced

Certainly for the standard I won't hesitate in saying this establishment is charging too little for what you get in return and I am so glad to find that a reviewer on Trip Advisor agrees with me:
“Green Room”5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 18 October 2016We stayed in the Green Room & all I can say is attention to detail and your comfort is beyond our expectations, it has all you need for extremely comfortable relax and chilling, en suite is very clean and again everything you need, we were greeted by the owner who is very nice, we opted for breakfast which is a small additional charge and honestly well worth it, my husband had the full English but I had warm baked croissants with what I'm sure tasted and looked like fresh fruit homemade preserve, your every need is most definitely catered for, I asked if there was an iron which the owner organised straight away, we loved our stay so much we are definitely going back for longer, our room had an amazing view of the lovely well kept garden with chickens roaming free and the tree had bird feeders which brought beautiful wild birds of all shapes and sizes, there are even binoculars to use if you so wish, Thank you for such an amazing stay at such a meagre fee, we would of paid double well worth it.
We were reviewing the Highlands of Highworth so our stay was complimentary but ordinarily breakfast is charged in addition to your room rate and the travel cot would be £10.

At first I thought Karin was being exceptionally warm, kind and helpful because I was reviewing as a blogger, but it only takes a quick glance at reviews and at the guestbook on site to see that she is consistently like this. I know it is taxing to give of yourself so freely and unconditionally so I hope the universe returns to her all of the goodwill she generates and more.

I also made a video Vlog of our stay and will also be making one of our day spent at Avebury. So here is a video tour of our wonderful accommodation in Highworth, Swindon


I will also be blogging about our wonderful time spent in Avebury on Saturday 28th January (picture below) but we didn't get to the Cotswolds on the Sunday, even though Karin diligently did a route map for us. Remember I said above that there was a story. Well Daddy asked Aaron to carry one of the bags to the car and it had a pot of satay sauce in it from a takeaway. Suffice to say Aaron left a trail behind him down the long carpeted staircase. Such a shame as I'd just finished packing and they'd had such a lovely time seeing the free range chickens in the garden, the same ones that lay the eggs for breakfast. So we quickly drove home instead which meant we got a food shop done and got all ready for school on Monday. I even managed to unpack straight away which is rare for me. Luckily Karin has a carpet cleaner and it didn't at all stain. Thank God for that.
Avebury our day out from Highlands of Highworth