Beachcomber Finds at Seaham

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Late last Summer we spent a week on the beach at Druridge Bay and logged our beachcomber finds - now I’m back with a part two, having spent the day at Seaham Harbour, famed for its seaglass.

Until the early 1920s Seaham was the location of the largest glass bottle-works in Britain and the waste glass from the factories was dumped into the sea, time and tide has transformed the waste shards into polished beads and people head down to the Harbour to collect the End of Day sea glass.

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Beachcomber Finds at Seaham

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The beach is beautiful with great rockpools too.  We started a tradition when she was tiny to always make a ‘family circle’ with our footprints whenever we visit a beach, and then Joss sits in the middle for a photo!

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We are sea glass novices, although I ended the day with a keener eye, but we managed to gather a small handful of gifts from the sea.

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Now to think about a part two on displaying our finds!

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And finally we rounded off our walk with a visit to see ‘Tommy’ the WW1 sculpture installed last year, these photos don’t need any words

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Things I want to remember that my toddler has said

I haven’t blogged any of J’s new words or little quips for a while but I have been keeping up to date with a list of them. We’ve had such gems as “Mammy I think you talk too much” and “Mammy went to the doctor and her arm hurt and the doctor did her blood fresh air!”

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One of my favourite recent anecdotes happened one morning in a public toilet, having previously had concerned staff banging on the door after Joss pulled the red emergency cord in the loos at the local museum whilst I was mid flow, at least she’s learned not to do it again – this week we heard “this wee is not an emergency so I not pull that doctor string Mammy” – phew, I think she’s sort of got it!

There are also the sweet heartwarming moments walking back from our childminder’s house “I will cuddle you mammy, tuck your head in so the wind doesn’t frost you” and “my Daddy is ‘tending to be my baby bird in a baby bird nest and you know it is spring when there is a baby bird”

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There’s also the downright frustrating “Joss you must listen to Daddy/Mammy when we are talking to you… ok, you need to stop and look and listen…what do we need you to do?” “Erm, you need me to…erm…to….you need me to….to….eat my dinner” – no, that’s not quite right!

A recent fave our both Daddy and I was J waking in the night a bit upset because she was “chasing a feather and it flew away” – sweet dreams for a little one and she easily settled back off to chase that feather again

And finally, role play has started, she either asks us to talk to her as her cuddly toys with voices or she’ll say “Dad, bear wants to ask” – we’ll say “what does bear want to ask you?” and she invariably responds by yelling “CAN YOU ASK BEAR!” and getting really angry with us, we’re still working out a response to this one!

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Do you keep a record of things your little ones have said? I’d love to hear some anecdotes!

Urban Jungle Bloggers: Offer a plant to a friend

I’m linking into this month’s Urban Jungle Bloggers initiative with a challenge called ‘Offer a Plant to a Friend’ – it’s my first UJB post though I’ve often wanted to join in!

I don’t think there’s anything nicer than receiving a plant as a gift, remember the gorgeous azalea hubby bought for me for Mother’s Day, so special, so spectacular and still blooming beautifully today!

I have been fortunate to have occasion to visit Anthropologie in London this month, I finally picked up one of their great Forest Dweller Pots as I’ve been after one of these for a while; I also made a great find which I think would make a sweet gift for a friend’s desk.

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I found a sweet little pot that is just £3 in a gorgeous foamy sea green, it’s called Tenderling which can mean a small child, or the first antlers of a deer

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This made me think this little beauty could perfectly house some ‘antler like’ simple sempervivum stems, packaged in a pretty bag with this Oh Happy Day Project Life card I think this makes a really pretty gift!

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If you’re thinking a little bigger, for a special birthday why not look at a terrarium instead, I am in love with our Totoro theme at the moment, follow the link for a little how to guide!

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And finally, some outdoor news, in need of a tidy up but I am happy with our yarden, it’s looking more established again this year and is a source of much pleasure!

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National Stationery Week: Get Writing! #NatStatWeek #GetBritainWriting #GetKidsWriting #WritingMatters #WritingisForever #lovestationery #stationeryaddict

Next week is National Stationery Week and I’ll be blogging all week about the stationery I love to use.

I thought I’d share a couple of favourites from the last few weeks; firstly this stash of goodies arrived to help me in my role as a National Stationery Week blogger – I love getting papery post!

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I have been working away a lot at the moment, generally I am back for bedtime but I am not always lucky to be there first thing in the morning to greet J; I have started leaving a special note for her and stepped it up this week using these Maped Colorpeps – they’re a watercolour crayon, you can draw with them, then use a damp paintbrush to mix your colours just like watercolour paints – so this is the note I left for her this week :)

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And finally, the Colorpeps also got J interested in drawing again, and boy am I a proud Mama; this is her drawing of her beloved Totoro this week, the first drawing she has produced (OK, well she draws daily but it’s the first where you can really tell what it is!)

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See you over on the blog for #Natstatweek next week folks!

How to create a Fairytale Terrarium (with Totoro)

I bought this Terrarium for our glass wedding Anniversary and since then it’s taken on several looks, most recently I gave it a good clean and added some new sempervarium. When I set up this little styled shot J got interested too “I like lots of little trees in there Mammy”

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I had been saving some bits and bobs spotted on my travels for a summertime outdoor fairy garden but decided to make our little terrarium a fairytale garden instead, we’ve gone with a Studio Ghibli Totoro theme as this is currently a big fave with the whole family!

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How to create a Fairytale Terrarium (with Totoro)

1) Take your terrarium (you can use a large glass mason jar, old clear glass teapot or a classic terrarium like ours) and add a 2 inch layer of pebbles to the bottom of the container for drainage (I use fresh fish tank gravel)

2) Then add a half inch layer of activated charcoal over the pebbles (available at Wilko or garden centres) this helps keep bacteria at bay and keeps your terrarium smelling sweet

3) Add damp but not soggy potting soil and plant up your succulents, cacti etc and finish with a fine sprinkle of gravel, I use a chopstick to adjust the plants as it’s a narrow space at the back!

4) Add pretty stones, I added sea glass but you can pick up other pretty pieces of stone or use coloured gravel

5) Add your characters and other ephemera; I added a miniature wire cherry tree I bought at a garden centre, a small white plastic bridge that turned up in a kinder egg type Easter gift, and some small Totoro and Mei figurines, finally J added her Lego Monkey (why not?!) and a small house I bought on Ebay with the fairy garden in mind!

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Shared Parental Leave: just not progressive enough for me

I’ve been mulling over what we will do about childcare when J starts school recently, and to be honest it scares me!  I have been reading around our options, and naturally the new shared parental leave policies and prospective childcare policies have been popping up on my news feed encouraging me to think about how Mr B and I will manage this between us.

To be honest the policy background leaves me thinking ‘is this it?’

The Children’s and Families Act 2014 introduced a new entitlement for employees who are parents, to take shared parental leave (SPL) in the first year of their child’s life (or the first year after adoption).  I’ve blogged before in my post ‘What About Daddy’ about the sense of missing out Fathers can feel heading back to work after their two weeks paternity leave. As it happens this month Daddy has just reduced his working week by two days to spend more time with J while I work full time, so this is highly topical in our house.

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The deal

Previous policy interventions including additional paternity leave (APL) have seen a low take up though (with just 1.4% of new fathers taking it in 2012-13)* – cultural barriers are likely to be at work here, fathers are nearly twice as likely as mothers to have requests for flexible working turned down; in 2012, 18% of men who requested flexible arrangements were refused, compared with 10% of women.

Under SPL eligible working parents (you can check your eligibility here) can decide how to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37  weeks of pay, including being off at the same time or regularly swapping.

Our take on it

For our family this might have made a difference when J was born, financially at that time I was the bigger earner and from a cultural point of view, we both work in the voluntary sector where employers can be more sympathetic (I think more flexible in my experience) to changes in working requests and our colleagues, family and friends would have been more open to the idea too, but clearly the stats outlined above indicate not all employers will be as open to these changes.

In comparison to Labour’s ideas about paternity leave (extended to four weeks and with a weekly pay increase) plenty of tabloids are referring to SPL as ‘progressive’ but for me both policies are lacking and lagging behind; in Norway shared parental leave was introduced in 1977!  I’d like to see a little more ambition for early years policy!

Money isn’t everything, which is why we are accepting a drop in household income at this time to enjoy more time with J whilst both working, but being able to do this is a luxury, we will still enjoy a decent standard of living, and this was something we really had to weigh up in terms of where we are at in our careers and employment status.  I recall policy and primary research I was reading about a year ago when studying; plenty of mums reported having to go into work to be interviewed for their own jobs, to talk about possible redundancy situations or threats of reduced hours, even in early maternity, a time when these issues would have worried me deeply in my post-natal anxiety state, we are not safe from threats to family income and livelihood even at this precious time.  Choosing to share parental leave would thus be a difficult decision, a weighing up of the work environment, each parent’s income, their hopes and wishes and whether either can really afford to take leave.

My hubby and I believe in sharing our parental responsibilities, we both work hard and play hard; like everyone else we do this against a backdrop of cuts in local early years services, potential job loss, reduced costs of living and our costs of childcare have a strong impact too – these policies don’t go far enough towards supporting families, supporting them for a year after birth is important, it’s an important time in terms of bonding, but it stops there, what happens when the leave comes to an end? Is that really where shared parental responsibilities end, surely it’s only the beginning!?

Affordable childcare a must

Until we have a better system of affordable childcare parents cannot truly share the rewards and joys of child rearing.  All of our friends with little ones Js age talk about their fears about wraparound childcare and making that work, of reduced hours, or increased pressure on grandparents, and it’s a fear we share too.  I feel strongly that free childcare should be extended to all two year olds but also that this should also be increased beyond the current 15 hours for older preschoolers too, this would reduce the financial strain and keep more parents economically active too; a better universal offer would really interest me, in the meantime we’ll continue to look at best and worst case scenarios for childcare for the coming three years and keep trying to make our family situation work in the best way we can!

*Source:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27838255

Crafter’s Companion Easter Wreath Make

The challenge

The lovely folks at Crafter’s Companion set me a little Easter challenge, to make an Easter wreath using some goodies they sent me in the post.  I love a craft challenge, and haven’t done anything creative for a few weeks so I took up the mantle, and here are the results!

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Supplies

  • A cut out cardboard ring (I made my own by drawing around two different sized plates and cutting out carefully with scissors
  • Two different coloured ribbons (I used a spring green and cream)
  • Collal tacky glue and Collal all purpose glue
  • Crafter’s Companion Centura pearl card pack
  • Patterned paper flowers
  • Buttons

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Easter Wreath Make: How to

  1. Secure your ribbon to the back of the wreath with a little all purpose glue, then wind the ribbon around until you’ve covered just more than half of the wreath.  Switch to your second colour ribbon until the wreath is completely ribbon-wrapped.
  2. Add another length of ribbon using all purpose glue to make a loop to hang your wreath
  3. Cut out your flowers from patterned paper (I used a printable) and cut out some rough leaf shapes from pearl card stock.  Assemble your flowers in layers with tacky glue and pop a button in the centre of some of them to add to the 3d effect, stick the leaves to the back of each flower
  4. Assemble your wreath by gluing the flowers into position slightly off to one side of the lower wreath
  5. Cut some ribbon shapes from pearl card and assemble with tacky glue.  I cut a large ribbon shape, a smaller copy in a contrasting colour, then assembled a simple 3d bow by gently folding the card stock to make the ribbon ‘stand out’ – a final loop of card to cover the centres of the ribbons finished off the look – again I used tacky glue to affix to the wreath

The finished piece!

I have hung my Easter wreath onto a piece of willow branch, with some contrasting coloured paper eggs to add to the festive feel!  I’m really happy with the finished result – thanks Crafters Companion for providing me with the materials and the inspiration for this eggstra special make (no more Easter puns now, I promise!!)

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Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom

After five years in my current job I am moving on to pastures new, starting a new full time job working from home. This has its benefits in terms of my personal preference for homeworking, but also enables my lovely husband to drop some of his hours to have more daddy-daughter time which I’ve blogged about before, this is an important change for all of us, and a busy time too!

I haven’t worked from home in the time since I became a parent, and space is at even more of a premium for my family, so I saw some challenges in creating a home office space that I think I have managed to meet happily.

Last time I worked from home my office was set up in our living room, but this is no longer practicable with a toddler around and all of the trappings of life with a small person, so this post is all about setting up a home office space that integrates with living in a small family home and uses smart solutions and technology for making the transition into home working.

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom

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I’ll precede all of this by saying that we live in a small flat, well, it’s actually a large flat in some aspects, the rooms are light bright and spacious but storage space is lacking, and space for a desk even harder to accommodate!

Home office in a bedroom: planning

I decided to set up my home office from our master bedroom in the absence of a spare room. Creating a home office in your bedroom is actually pretty practical if you’re clever about your use of the space.  I have opted for a bureau setup with the IKEA Secretary desk from their PS 2014 range, complemented by office furniture and peripherals that make the space really work for me.

Opting for a laptop bureau means that I can pop my devices and paperwork inside the main body of the desk at the end of each day so that we reclaim the space as our bedroom and I can literally call time on the working day. The space up top acts as a handy store for all my stationery and keeps important papers and notebooks out of the way of my inquisitive toddler!

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I thought about whether to make the space distinct or keep the colour scheme in line with our existing bedroom palette, I opted for the latter because it’s a calm room and I didn’t want bright and vibrant office ware to detract from the relaxed feel of the space.  Hannah from Mumsdays has wrestled with such issues recently, and I love the palette she is looking at too, but her post really inspired me to look at what we already have and how we can complement this!

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: colour

So… I have gone for a soft, complementary and feminine palette to denote a separate work space that ties in nicely with the overall feel of the room, my chest of drawers gives you a feel for the style of the room.

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Speaking to Graham and Brown about some ideas for the space I decided to build on the soft sage theme in our bedroom drawing in colours from their Dreamscape range which I have also drawn out in the stationery and furniture too. You can see from my home office pinterest board that this draws on peach, cream, soft muted blues and corals.  More on this in another post looking at the Dreamscape range with a review to follow.

Follow Thereandbackagainamotherstale’s board Home Office Edit on Pinterest.

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: making the space work hard

I sought advice from Logitech about smart wireless solutions for homeworking and I have found their K400 wireless keyboard and mouse to be really effective in making the transition to homeworking in a way that works for me, they’re sleek and really easy to get to grips with, I’m not very techie but I got these two beauties up and running in minutes!  I can now work from anywhere in the house, so on days when I am home alone and everyone is out I can be in the living room with a wireless setup that I can also take out on the go when I am on site visits too.  This fits really well with blogging life too – with a wireless range of up to 10 meters, I can even browse the web and blog all from the comfort of my sofa!  I thoroughly recommend exploring wireless options as you can make your whole home work for you!

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As a National Stationery Week blogger you will know stationery is a priority of mine! I’ve selected complementary colours from Dutch store Hema, Smiggle and Marks and Spencer drawing on the colour scheme with fun and practical notebooks, pens and office equipment – I know this stuff doesn’t set everyone’s world on fire but I’ve always loved to work with a bit of creativity and this helps me draw a bit of colour into my working day!

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Having some photos helps personalise the space and I wanted to treat myself to a little something special too, when I heard I got the job I treated myself to some accessories from my favourite homeware store, Anthropologie, I adore this coaster and mug, as well as the sweet little plant pot!

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Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: Practical planning tools

And finally, in terms of literally working from home and doing the do, I selected a bright vibrant magnetic glass noticeboard in Retro Yellow, (no secret that it’s my favourite colour!) from Boards Direct – this lets me make a quick note whilst I’m on the phone, have a visual to do list to hand and handily stores notes and business cards too with super strong magnets.  I love the write on wipe off nature of this, and with a choice of up to 21 beautiful colours and 7 sizes there’s something to suit every office space and budget, with boards starting at less than £25.  This 45cm x 45cm board is ready to be fixed up on the wall later this week, priced at just over £40 it’s a bright statement and functional piece that offers great value and quality.

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What about you? Do you work from home? What tips do you have for making your workspace work hard for you?

Disclaimer: I received goodies from Logitech and Boards Direct, all views are my own, all other brands referenced are of my personal preference and I bought these products or already owned them!
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Edinburgh Zoo with a toddler too!

What a brilliant weekend we just had staying in Edinburgh and visiting the Zoo!  About an hour and a half away from us by train we decided to make a little break of our day out and stayed a couple of nights in a hotel for the first time with J, I was apprehensive about the sleeping arrangements but we actually all had two really good night’s sleep!  Here are some of the highlights from a fantastic day:

First up some brilliant birds

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I’ve always loved flamingo so this was a treat for me, twice in a few months after our visit to the Wetlands Centre!

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Then another treat, Tian Tian the panda was sleeping, but it was wonderful to see her

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Next up, J’s favourite tiger and some very active tussling rhino!

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Plenty of greenery at the beautifully landscaped gardens including this unusual Wollemi Pine

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And that view of the city!

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Not forgetting some hijinks of our own!

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Surprise!

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And finally, gorgeous striped zebra rounded off our visit!

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The Boiler Shop Steamer

Bored of the usual toon eateries? The Boiler Shop Steamer is a great monthly event celebrating great North East food, drink, music and art.

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The Boiler Shop Steamer is held on the first Friday and Saturday of each month in the impressive surroundings of the Boiler Shop; the birthplace of Robert Stephenson’s Rocket, just behind Central Station.  I love the warehouse feel, sparse lighting and smokiness, all those wood beams are gorgeous.

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Whilst we haven’t enjoyed an evening at the Steamer yet the Saturday afternoon slot is a great family day out if you’re a family of foodies like we are, plus it’s free entry until 6pm (when entry is £4 per person)

The food is street food, hot, fresh and plentiful with bags of variety and the smell inside the building is divine! You pay for your food with tokens which can be bought for £2 each and most vendors offer food for 1 to 2 tokens, with long tables for sharing food and plenty of standing room there’s a real buzz about the place.

We bought £14 of tokens and enjoyed food from Fu-Schnickens Kitsch n Crepe and The Hip Hop Chip Shop - I’d say £12 was a good amount for lunch for the three of us which isn’t bad at all for an afternoon out!  J surprised us by tucking into an ox cheek steamed bun, they were soft and light and salty, mmmm, topped off with a banana and nutella crepe, delish!

I loved the retro Hip Hop Chip Shop Van!

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I enjoyed their food the best, triple cooked fries, crab fishcake and an enormous sweet, salty delicious beer battered bacon slice that Joss adored, this was soooooo good, perfectly seasoned and really moreish this would be my ultimate Saturday lunch every week and this portion was easily shared by the three of us!

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Later we headed back out to get some new shoes for our littlun, she chose these herself!  Must say my muscari is looking canny here too!

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Then it was out for a walk down by the Tyne to burn some of those Boiler Shop Steamer calories!

Love this gorse against the cranes and wheels

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And then the most gorgeous sunset!

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