Monday, 28 July 2014

Keeping a toddler occupied

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the summer holidays are a bit disruptive when it comes to keeping busy, even with preschoolers. That's why I wanted to take part in the Britmums Summer Linky Challenge. Well, that and the fact that there were biscuits on offer! So more about the activities later, I've got to get my priorities right so first - biscuits! 

The challenge was sponsored by McVities BN biscuits which, I have to admit to being a little addicted to. Last week, I was trying to be good because I've decided to try to lose the baby weight and get back into exercise. So the biscuits arrived and stayed in the cupboard, unopened. That is until hubby spotted them. He then dropped into conversation that they were good, and that if I wanted to try them they were in the biscuit tin and I'd better get on with it. Well, to cut a long story short, he didn't get many more biscuits. Libby had a few and my attempt at not eating biscuits went straight out of the window. We had the raspberry and the chocolate flavour. Both are fabulous, but I was more addicted to the chocolate ones. Would I buy them again? Definitely, but not when I'm trying to be good! 

Anyway, back to summer activities. For us, every day involves a dog walk, whatever the weather and whatever we're up to. The afternoons always also involve a nap for Libby, so we just have the morning to fill. Firstly, the summer is a great time to see family. This weekend we headed to hubby's family in Swansea, catching up with some old friends of mine near Cardiff on the way. Each week, Libby always spends time with my family, which is particularly useful during school holidays. 

Other activities that Libby enjoys are many and varied. There is a lovely little cafe nearby with quite a few animals to see, such as reindeer, goats and alpacas, so last week we had intended to go there. In the event, we never make it because on our only free morning, I asked Libby what she wanted to do. This is my best tip for filling the days because pre-schoolers are unlikely to ask for too much. Libby is no exception. 

All she wanted to do when given complete freedom of choice was to "go on the train, have a milkshake and watch the other trains going". So that's exactly what we did. We go one stop, sit in the  station cafe and watch the trains coming and going until she's finished her milkshake. She then decides which train she wants to get on to go home. This is definitely her favourite way to pass a morning and we'll be doing it again this week. 

We also go swimming at least once a week and spend many hours playing with playdo, riding bikes and scooters and playing with a ball. We are both getting quite into our fresh fruit and vegetable juices from the juicer and making cakes with the leftovers. As far as I'm concerned, no child is too young to learn to make cake. At this age though, its the little things that kids love, so we're making the most of it. Here is Libby sporting an apple and beetroot juice joker face. 

This post is an entry for 42 Days of Summer Linky Challenge sponsored by McVities BN. Learn more at

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Our Thursday Photo #11

Well, the summer holidays are here. Whilst my children are not old enough for school, the summer holidays still have a big effect even on pre-school children. Every week, we have our little routine that Libby enjoys. Mondays are a singing group, she goes to her nan's on a Tuesday, Wednesdays are ballet, playgroup on a Thursday, nursery on Fridays and swimming Saturday. Sundays we tend to go out as a family. 

The structure that we have in place is ideal for Libby because she loves all of her activities. That said, it is even more ideal for me, since tiring Libby out every morning means that I get the afternoons to work. Hubby is home by 4.30 pm, just around the time when Libby wakes up so before Lia came along I was managing to work all afternoon and evening. Lia isn't quite so accommodating because I have to feed her, but she has started to sleep in the afternoons, realising that it's the only time Libby isn't around to disturb her with her constant chatter! 

This week, we've managed to fill our days rather well. Her singing group is still on through the summer so that sorted Monday out. She still goes to her nan's on a Tuesday, yesterday we went to a friend's house for lunch and today I asked her what she would like to do. It was no surprise to me that she chose to go on the train. We just stay on for one stop, watch the trains coming and going while Libby has a milkshake and then we get the train home. This may sound incredibly dull, but Libby loves it, it's her ideal day out. 

I will be writing another post about ideas for keeping busy this summer over the next few days (this one involves biscuits!) so for now, here is our Thursday photo #11, taken after we'd been on the train this morning. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Our Thursday Photo #10

Yet again I'm posting this a day late, as we've had such a busy couple of days. As usual though, the photo was taken yesterday. This week, Lia has really started to interact with Libby, as she seems to recognise the voices of her dad and sister. She always smiles when she hears one of them and gives Libby lots of smiles when she comes over to say hello. 

I continue to feel guilty about the lack of attention that Lia gets, she spends a huge proportion of her day just watching the world go by. This shows in how absolutely delighted she is every time someone looks at her, smiling and gurgling at them. The one person who does look after her and pay her plenty of attention is Libby. I really hope that this continues as they get older. Here they are playing together in Libby's cot yesterday in our Thursday photo #10. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Our Thursday Photo #9

Erm... Yeah I know, it's Friday again. But I took the photo yesterday and forgot to post it. I'm rubbish at weekly posts. It will be worth it in the end though to have a folder full of photos of the girls together as they grow up.

My major achievement for this week was that I've managed to get out for a run two days in a row. With a breastfeeding baby, exercising was proving difficult so it has been great to get out there and do something. Libby is doing fabulously well at using the toilet now, and Lia is lovely and calm and chilled out. Her favourite thing to do is just to watch Libby. At playgroup this week, I could tell that Lia was enjoying it because she was happily looking around, watching what was going on and she managed to stay awake for virtually the whole morning. 

This week's photo isn't our best, but that's mainly due to my terrible photography and my even worse mobile phone camera. I can't wait for my upgrade in November! That said, I love the interaction between the two of them, Libby is still so happy to be with Lia, I can't wait for them to be able to play properly together. In the meantime, here is our Thursday photo #9. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Getting back out there

When I was pregnant with Libby, I distinctly remember chatting to a few friends about the fact that I was looking forward to going for a night out after I'd had her. I'm talking a big night out, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, London, somewhere like that. Starting early, drinking all night until around 6 am and getting the first train home. Well needless to say, it's now over two years later and I'm still waiting for my night out. 

These days, my sights are set a little lower. For nearly three years, I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding without a break. I've had a few tame nights out but nothing major. These days, I enjoy going to the theatre or having a few drinks in our local pub. The last few times I've done this have been with Libby, taking her to see something she would enjoy at the theatre like the panto, or having a pint at our local while she had a beetroot and apple juice (I know it sounds odd, but beetroot and apple juice is lovely). 

Whilst I'm not ready for going out to the theatre yet, last night I decided that I was going to go for a swim. The previous few evenings Lia had been asleep by 9 pm, so I'd set my sights on going out when she nodded off. Unfortunately, she had other ideas. She fed all evening virtually without a break so I didn't manage to leave the house, but at least she then gave me a solid 7 hours sleep. 

When we do go to the theatre again, hubby and I have discussed the fact that we want to see a few more comedians. Some really good people come to Malvern, probably the best comedian I've seen there was Lee Evans, who was doing a warm-up gig. He is now touring again and will be playing the O2 in September and October. I'd happily see him again, and Milton Jones, Hugh Dennis and John Bishop are also on my list. Not wishing to be controversial, but there are very few female comedians who I actually find funny. The one person who really does amuse me though is Sarah Millican. I also have a lot of respect for her after she dealt so well with the awful internet trolls who criticised her appearance. 

I'm really hopeful that this time next year, I will at least be able to go out occasionally for an evening with hubby. But in the meantime, we're enjoying days out as a family and drinks on our decking so I have nothing to complain about. Plus, who could be annoyed at this little face for keeping me at home? 

N.B. I will be given a small gift for writing this post, but views, opinions, dream nights out and an apparently unreasonable desire to leave the house one evening are all mine. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Work for all

Since I started working from home, I have been passionate about the entitlement of everyone to work in a job that they enjoy, and that fits in with their lifestyle. 

For the majority of people, a nine to five job works just fine. For some of us though, office work just doesn't fit with our skill set, lifestyle, family requirements or enjoyment of work. That's where specialist job websites come in. There are a variety of websites that publish opportunities in specialist areas, such as the list of construction jobs uk provided by City Calling, where project work as well as long term work is listed. Similar sites are available for medical work, investigative work, legal work... you get the picture. 

The one thing that seems to be lacking as far as I can see is a comprehensive list of all the jobs available for people who want to work from home. I don't mean the network marketing or door to door sales jobs. I also don't mean the area managers who are loosely based from home, but end up travelling all over the country. I am thinking more of the sort of work that I do, administrative or writing work that can genuinely be done from a home office, fitting the hours around other commitments. At the moment, I have my hands full but one day I hope to launch a website or recruitment agency that allows people to find the sort of work that I am talking about. That work is out there, but finding it really is like finding a needle in a haystack. 

For me, the idea of going back to commuting to work each day horrified me. I love spending time with my little family. Even when Libby is out and about like this morning, I still have Lia to look after and the dogs to walk, I would hate to have to go back to leaving them in the kennel all day while we were at work. That said, I walked them across the hills this morning and got caught in the rain. Pluto, as you can see, was less than impressed. I think at that moment, as he attempted to shelter from the rain by curling up under a leaf, he was wishing that I would just get a "proper" job and leave him alone! 

N.B. I will be given a small gift for writing this post, but views, opinions, business ideas, job and lifestyle requirements and exceptionally sulky lurchers are all mine. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Moving on

Eleven years ago next week, I bought the house that we still live in now. I was only 23 and it's a big house, so when I first moved in I was rattling around in here on my own. Several house mates, three dogs, three cats, two children and a husband later and we're finally considering moving on. 

The house itself is ideal for our family, and the garden is slowly shaping up to be just the way we want it. The location is lovely, we have a fabulous view of the hills and our neighbours are all lovely. My dad, brother and sister live across the road, my mum and another sister live a short walk away. The house really does have everything going for it. But... 

And sadly, it is a very large and important "but". The local school that Libby would have to go to just isn't a place that I'd like to send her to. My good friend Maz recently wrote a blog post about the tough decision that they have had to make when it came to educating her oldest boy, who they are going to home educate. I think this is a wonderful decision, particularly as she has also struggled to find a satisfactory local school, she is a teacher and her son is incredibly gifted and will thrive under his mum's teaching. 

For us though, we are lucky enough to live in an area where there are good local schools if we move just a few miles down the road. I'm not a teacher and I know that school will suit Libby and I would love her to go to a small village school. In particular, I'd love her to go go my old school in the beautiful village of Colwall if at all possible. So whilst we're not looking to move immediately, we are starting to look around now so that if our ideal house suddenly appears on the market, we will be ready to go. 

It is such a long time since I've bought a house that the property websites these days have astounded me. When I bought this house, I just found it in the local paper. How different things are now! Companies like Strutt & Parker who offer property for sale in London provide swanky looking websites with photos that can be enlarged so that you can see what the house is really like without needing to walk around it. 

So for now, we are working hard to get our house up to standard. The decking is done, new windows and patio doors are going in next week and we are enjoying our gorgeous new (second hand off ebay- I like to recycle!) leather sofa, as modelled by the girls. 

The next things to do are new flooring, kitchen and bathroom. I only hope that when it's all done, we can find somewhere else that we love just as much that's near to a nice school. I will miss this house, but Libby and Lia's education is much more important than my sentimentality towards bricks and mortar. 

N.B. I will be given a small gift for writing this post, but the views, opinions, plans to move and regret at having to do so are all mine. As an aside, I have no idea what hubby was doing behind my head when I took this photo, he won't tell me. But the girls were clearly fascinated by it!