A jar of Seaham Seaglass

This summer Joss and I have visited the beach every week, exploring the Northumberland and Tyne and Wear coastlines and we’ve loved it!

When Think Money challenged us to fill a jam jar with our holiday memories for their Jam j-art project I had an idea that it would have a beachy theme, little did I know the treasure that would eventually come to fill our lovely kilner jar as we start to get ready for preschool!

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Our seaside visits took us to Seaham Beach, famed for its treasures – seaglass! Seaham seaglass is pretty special stuff. until almost a century ago there was a glassworks at Seaham and waste glass from the hand blown bottles was tipped into the sea, years on and polished by the sea these marine treasures can be found by keen eyed beachcombers. End of day glass is especially prized, tipped into the sea at the end of the day these pieces are multicoloured and so pretty!

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On our first trip we found a few small pieces which I blogged about at the time, and by the end of the summer we’d become a little bit addicted to the hunt and ended up with some beauties!

These are my favourites:

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Displayed in our kilner jar they’re a reminder of a summer of adventure, and as I’ve lightly oiled some of the more dense pieces to give a gorgeous glow keeping them under a lid keeps them dust free and vibrant!

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A ProjectLife tag with the date tied with some lovely ribbon from a dollypeg makes this a great memento!

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Disclaimer: Think Money provided me with the Kilner jar and a contribution towards project materials, all words and photographs are my own

#LoveNorthEast

Women’s Equality Day 2015

Women’s Equality Day marks the date in the United States that women were granted the right to vote – August 26, 1920; commemorating Women’s Equality Day (WED) calls our attention towards women’s continued struggle towards equality, and the stories of women forging a path for others coming up behind them.

I’ve blogged before about the importance of amplifying women’s voices, increasing access to opportunities and highlighting and challenging the inequalities women face in their everyday lives. To this end I want nothing more than for my daughter to dream big, learn to become resilient in the face of setbacks and stand up for her beliefs.

For young women coming up behind a long line of women including Emmeline Pankhurst and Malala Yousafzai there’s no shortage of inspirational stories and I particularly like the This Girl Can campaign for shining a light on women’s strengths. Thinking about these stories made me reflect on my own experiences of overcoming challenges and finding my voice.

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Recently I’ve felt my own resolve tested and have sought out sources of inspiration and hope, reminding myself of the personal resources and energy reserves I have to fall back on.

I’ve been exploring goal setting in my personal as well as working life and looking to the future after a setback has been a huge challenge, but one which comes with some great rewards. There’s a lot to be said for spending a little time doing some soul searching, living in the moment and taking the time to re-evaluate your personal goals and how these fit with the life you currently lead – making dreams a reality is all about breathing life into them and moving forwards towards them.

I’ve found strength in exploring what makes me feel empowered, these are some of the questions I have found really useful to explore:
– What inspires me and makes me feel empowered?
– What holds me back?
– Who are my role models?
– What attributes do I admire in them?
– How do I deal with setbacks?
– How do I look to the future? What are my hopes and dreams?
– How can I make my dreams a reality?
– What I will tell my girl about life’s struggles and setbacks when she looks to me for support to deal with her own?

There’s a quote by Erin Hanson that I love, “There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” – there’s such promise to be held in a leap of faith! Which women do you admire? Which stories inspire you?

Disclosure: Post in collaboration with TheCircle

Kiqplan Review and Giveaway

I first heard of Kiqplan when a friend told me she was using their fitness app to train for Race for Life (Kiqplan is RfL’s official training partner).  Kiqplans are 12 week training packs and there are 8 Kiqplans to choose from, I am reviewing Slim and Trim, which aims to help women of all sizes with weight loss and toning, I am very happy to report that six weeks in I have lost 6lbs (my goal is to lose 10lb) but more importantly, I’m thinking differently about me!

The Kiqplan syncs to your activity tracker to help you track diet, exercise and weight loss – syncing to Fitbug products, Fitbit products, Nike+, Apple trackers, Jawbone and more.  I am reviewing Kiqplan with a Fitbug Orb, which I received to help me write this review.  A nifty little watch type device that I have become rather attached to!

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Priced at £19.99 the app kick started me into a 12 week plan to help me become fitter, healthier and more aware of my personal goals. The virtual coaching model helps encourage and keep me on track.

Before I started I hadn’t used a fitness tracker product, I was fearful that I would hit nowhere near 10,000 steps a day but was pleasantly surprised by the activity levels I achieve in my daily car-free life, this was before my evening walk on a work day, so hitting 11,000ish was a pleasant surprise and told me that I’m not as sedentary as I thought!  Oh and don’t be alarmed, I do sleep more than zero hours, I just didn’t log it this day!

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Tracking my activity levels was great, but the really appealing thing for me is the food and nutrition aspect of Kiqplan, pre-loaded with lots of my usual Aldi products it was so easy to track my food intake, a pleasant surprise as I have struggled with this on popular lifestyle plans. Logging my daily water intake was useful, I’ve not done this before, but had my eight glasses once I got used to checking in throughout the day.

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The guided exercise videos made exercising at home easy, no excuses when you can log in and dive straight into a session, and they were so easy to follow that they quickly formed part of my evening routine!

I’m totally converted to tracking now, and would definately explore the other plans on offer when I finish up with Slim and Trim, I’m happy with the results and enjoying being a bit more mindful about how I eat, rest and move!

If you’d like to try the Slim and Trim programme I have a 12 week subscription to give away, just follow the Rafflecopter instructions to be in with a chance of winning!  The winner will get a Kiqplan pack worth £19.99 (you will need your own fitness tracking device as listed here, the prize is the code to access the app) – Terms and Conditions Apply

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received these review products to trial Kiqplan for 12 weeks, I will blog my progress and all views are my own

Trespass Jada Ladies Waterproof Jacket Review

Why does it always rain on me?

I’m no stranger to the great outdoors; as you know we live in the rainy North in the land of the Fog on the Tyne and we don’t have a car so I’m reliant on decent outdoor gear to see us through the seasons.  There’s nothing like waiting for a bus in the pouring rain after a long day at work, or worse still first thing in the morning seeing me spend the day soggy and miserable!

Trespass Jada Ladies Waterproof Jacket Review – The practicalities

My trusty red rain jacket is bright and fun but it doesn’t really cut the mustard as a waterproof.  Being offered the chance to select a better jacket from the range on offer at Trespass was pretty much my ideal review opportunity!  The women’s Jada waterproof jacket is ideal for those who need a decent jacket that looks good but goes the extra mile in terms of waterproofing.  Coated with Trespass’ specially formulated Tres-Tex membrane it’s waterproof to an impressive 15000mm with taped seams, and that big number with all the zeros is the reason I chose it!  I’ve worn it out all this week in the inclement weather and stayed warm and dry in comfort.

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Style and substance

I like to run in the rain so was pleased to see that the Jada has underarm ventilation zips which allows fresh air to circulate; it has a high breathability rating to boot and I like the slim fit and fab decent sized hood (this probably sounds odd, why would it not have a good hood?! Maybe I’ve always just bought crap raincoats but the hoods are always really small in them!)

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One of my favourite walks is down by the Farm and through the woods near us so the Jada rain jacket got a really good testing this week as we were out for a good couple of hours in the rain and the jacket really stood up to the weather, I was dry and happy which is more than I can say when I wear my usual jacket!

I have to say the best thing about the jacket after all the practicalities is that it fits a tall girl like me without me having to buy a bigger size (this is a medium and I am a size 12)  – I can never understand why a waterproof would have short arms and it’s long been a frustration of mine that my red raincoat sleeves are at half mast so I get wet cuffs!  Even better these have a handy pocket in the left sleeve to keep small essentials dry and close to hand.

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The Jada is currently retailing at £46.99 which is more than half price and makes this a bargain super waterproof!

Disclaimer: I received this review product as a complementary product, all views and opinions are my own

Family Fever

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

Post Comment Love

Wildflowers and whimsy

After a long month of travel which saw me make nine journeys totaling 1,200 miles by train I’ve really needed some time to get some paperwork done and get my thinking cap on from the comfort of home.

I decided when I took this new job that I would do one of two things on a daily lunch break 1) work on the yarden or 2) take a walk with my camera

I’m learning to shoot on manual and though I have a long way to go I’m especially enjoying photographing flowers of late.

My walks take me to this lovely green retreat at the end of our street

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I adore cowslips, this week the Mr bought me a locally grown pot of them too, so I can enjoy them when I look out of the window

 

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Another yellow beauty, it doesn’t look like much but I’ve never had any success growing lilies in a pot until this year!

Look closely on the foliage though, I noticed this when I was editing the shots, and popped back outside to get a closer look…

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…scarlet lily beetles, mating carmine pests, they’ve not destroyed my lilies yet but I fear for them!

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Midweek I relaxed with tea made from our apple mint plant, I adore this Anthropologie spoon, cup and saucer, such a joy sparker!  The plant is a cutting from our darling neighbour, I love it and hope it grows as strong as its parent plant which I’ve long admired!

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More yarden blooms

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More blossoms enjoyed on walks

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And then finally a few poorly days during the weekend, a very kind friend brought round some pastries, gratefully received and I feel blessed to know such a lovely lady :)

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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!

Day One National Stationery Week – Pen and Paper Day

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National Stationery Week kicks off today with Pen and Paper Day and I’m working from home using these Cath Kidston pieces and writing a training plan for work I’m starting this summer.

I made some notes earlier this week mulling over why I think it’s really important that we continue to value the handwritten over word processing and I think I’d sum this up by saying handwriting brings a personal touch, allows me to be more reactive as I always have a pen and paper to hand and keeps my mind sharp too.

There are five things that I think we can all try to #keepbritainwriting

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1) Keep a paper diary

I write in a journal most days, reflecting on the day, hand writing this means I take the time to think about the words before I write them down, mulling over the positives and negatives of the day, counting my blessings and planning for the future

2) Sending handwritten notes

I love nice note paper and these Project Life cards in the photos above are a new thing for me, I use the double sided ones to send notes to friends, leave notes for the family and it generally brings me joy to work with nice paper, so they bring colour to the mundane too!

3) Write notes for work/study by hand

I never make meeting notes onto a tablet or laptop if I can help it, I write quicker capturing more by hand, the nuances of conversation are missed when I type too, so I like to note interviews down on paper with a trusty biro

4) Write for your children

J can’t write yet but is interested in letters and numbers, we draw together but I also write for her too, it’s a lovely bonding exercise as I want for her to love to read and write too

5) Use a paper planner

More on this later in the week, but since returning to an old fashioned paper planner with stickers and colour coding I feel much better organised and I definately keep it better updated than the days where I kept scrappy notes to pop into Outlook at a later (never!) time

Do you value the handwritten? Why?

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

Blooming gorgeous home office feat. Graham & Brown’s Dreamscapes range

There’s an unforeseen perk to working from home; I get to enjoy my Mother’s Day flowers that little bit more, with Easter just around the corner I’m feeling so springlike!  I recently discovered Urban Jungle Bloggers so I am linking in this post; greenery is a huge mood booster so I’m loving their community!

I’m really pleased with the office space and it’s working really well for me.

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In my last post I promised to look at the colour scheme in a little more detail drawing on the new Graham & Brown Dreamscapes range; in soft pastel shades with motivational quotes about dreaming big these compliment a working space perfectly and add a fun and creative touch too!

Graham & Brown’s Dreamscapes Range

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From Graham & Brown website

Graham & Brown kindly sent me their Air Balloon Cushion and Dreams as Big as the Ocean canvas to accessorise my office space.

I am delighted with the quality, a gorgeous big squashy cushion in lovely muted pastels with complimentary shaded piping (a sign of a quality cushion I think!) that really sets off the scheme and is super comfortable, and the equally impressive canvas which is great value at £20 as it’s enormous and really draws the space together!  The canvases really are brilliant for filling a blank wall space with fun quotes and a dash of colour too, I love the moody blue tones, they draw together my overall colour scheme really nicely.

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Graham & Brown’s affordable art isn’t a newcomer to our home, the LOVE letters in the floral pics have been with us for a couple of years now, they were a gift on the arrival of our little girl, so I know their products are built to last at a brilliant price!

If you’re looking to add a splash of colour to your home you might also like to check out Graham & Brown’s wallpaper ranges too, I’ve got my eye on their children’s range for when we redecorate little Miss’ room later this year!

Disclaimer: I was sent these products for review purposes, all views are my own

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