Thursday, 28 August 2014

Dream House

So I asked my four year old to draw his dream house and to think of what it would look like for the #TigercubHideout competition and this is what he came up with. Sometimes I wonder where he gets his vivid imagination from and his amazing ideas. We recently visited the Sealife centre and he became fascinated with penguins which is why they have became such an integral part of his dream house design and he chose blue because it looked like ice which he liked the idea of for himself and the penguins. It also has a swimming pool with a slide and a waterfall. Its a dream house with several water features. I think I am going to need a wooly jumper or two and a swimsuit!

If you want to find out more about the competition or to get your own child to create a dream house picture you can find out more about it here: #TigercubHideout

Bad Habits

Everyone has a bad habit or two; playing with your iPhone before bed - guilty, procrastinating on Facebook whilst you should be doing important 'must do' paperwork - hands up you got me, and finally and the most annoying, squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle - yes, I do that one too, but mainly to annoy my husband! Recently though I have been battling with a bad habit that I do want to break, one that I am sure many other people suffer with, even if they don't realise that do.

BODY PERCEPTION it seems so simple that when I look in the mirror I would see me as everyone else does, but I know I don't. Everywhere I go I am bombarded with images of women almost certainly photo shopped trying to tempt me to believe that I should be thinner, curvier, bustier, taller… the list goes on. The impact of this bombardment is that when I look in the mirror I'm in the bad habit of picking out all of the negative bits: the tummy that after two kids won't ever be as flat as it used to be, the one zit on my chin that is as huge a volcano and my bottom that is so large its desperately planning its escape route over the top of my jeans. I am never going to be a size 6 but I am not big at a size 10/12 despite needing to lose a few pounds and get fitter. I don't believe in dieting (which might be a whole other post) but I do believe in healthy living, eating and exercise which isn't always that easy to fit in when you have two very active boys of 2 and 4. Thats where the bad habit comes in, I had become entrapped into thinking negatively about my body, picking out its faults and flaws and covering it up with dark, baggy and drab clothing. My habit isn't about the way I look its about the way I feel about myself, about how I see myself and it was something that had to change and shift. Over the last few months I have been challenging the way I think about myself and replacing those negative habits with positives ones.

These are my tips for changing the way you feel about your body, ones that I have used and am still using, and overtime its made me see me as me, instead of trying to pidgeon hole myself into a body shape that is unachievable and unrealistic. After all we are who we are, and we should be proud of it, I don't actually know anyone with a perfect body, do you? 

1. Look for positives when you look at yourself in the mirror.

Its just habit that we want to be perfect and so pick out all the things we are most conscious about on our bodies, so turn it around and look for the good bits. I started with my eyes, when I looked in the mirror I made a conscious choice to break my habit and look at a bit I liked, my eyes. It grew from there. Be deliberate in your habit to look for the good bits and you will soon start to feel differently about yourself.

2. Think about what you wear and how you dress.

I am a busy mum and in the morning when your late for the school run you just grab whatever and throw it on. Have a mind plan, outfits you store in your head visually that you know work well and look good - know your wardrobe and don't try and come up with a new outfit mix when you don't have time to think about it! Its so tempting to cover up our tummies with a big baggy t-shirt but this is the worst thing to do, find clothes to fit your shape. Most big department stores now offer a free consultation with a personal shopper if you contact them ahead of time and so there is no excuse for not knowing what works anymore.

3. Be bright and bold

For me I am a vibrant person and I feel more confident when I reflect that in what I wear. If I don't have at least one bright thing on I don't feel like me. Bright colour's reflect our positive attitude and mood on to others and uplift us even on days where we don't feel very much like ourselves, so use it as a tool to help your confidence and your body perception.

It's such a personal thing and I met someone recently who also happened to be the tiniest person I think I have ever met, who told me of her low self esteem and regard for her body after giving birth. I was shocked that someone with such a petite and good body would feel that way. I am not ashamed of this bad habit of our brains to trick us into thinking we have the wrong bodies but instead I'm fighting it. I'm looking at my body through positive eyes with wonder, I'm changing me from the inside out and re-thinking our media messages and telling them they are wrong. My tummy may not look like a washboard but instead it bears the marks of two remarkable little people and I am proud and standing up for me as me.

Letting go of this bad body perception habit has been one of the best things I have ever done I feel slimmer even though I haven't lost any weight because I am actually seeing me, not warping my sight with what other people push on me. I am pretty sure that I am not the only one out their with this bad habit, so why don't you try ditching it too. You never know it might just change your life and give you the confidence back that you need.

This post is my entry into the ‘Bad Habits’ blog competition – find out more here:

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

What an A-MAZ-ing day #newthings

I have been asked to be apart of the CSMA Club New Things campaign where over the next four week I along with a few other bloggers will be set new challenges to do with my family each involving #newthings. The idea behind it all is that UK psychologist Dr. David Holmes came up with a scientific formula to booking the perfect holiday which stated that the best holiday memories are created when you try something new. Whether it’s introducing your family to a new recipe, visiting an attraction you’ve never seen before or just playing a new game, a unique activity leaves a stronger impression in your memory and helps you and your family remember the fun times you had together.

Our first challenge has been to visit a new place. We love visiting new places as a family and the time we spend doing so has become very precious over the last few months due to our strange in-between living arrangements; camped up with family until we finally get into our new house. With the boys only being 2 and 4 I don't like to travel too far in the car, as too long a journey can spoil a great day. So I started to think about places that we always pass and say "we should go there" but we never get around to. When planning a day out with my boys (that includes my husband too) it has to be practical and hands on to be successful. They get the most enjoyment when they are in the thick of it, not viewing it from the sidelines. So we decided to go to the Milton Maize Maze, the perfect place for hands on exploration.

Forget about my boys being excited, I was leaping around and raring to go too. We must have past the maize maze hundreds of times on our journeys in and out of Cambridgeshire and been intrigued by all of the activity on the site around it from go-karts and animals to a farm shop. I was really surprised when we got out the car and saw just how much there was to see and do; bouncy castles, tractor rides, a fire engine! Wow! 

We headed straight for the Maize Maze on arrival, after all that is what we came for and we figured it might take us quite a while to work our way around it. My husband took the map and my four year old took the lead, he was determined to find his way around and collect his stamps for his paper map. It was quite interesting hearing my husband trying to negotiate with him about which way we should be going, and which way he wanted to go. My son won. He walked us around in quite a few circles, and I really enjoyed letting him take the lead and make his own decisions. I love new learning experiences like this and seeing just how much my kids get out of it. I was surprised at how undaunted my four year old was by the maize as it towered above our heads, and he enjoyed looking at the crop itself and spotting corn. I loved his concern that someone else had trampled some of the crop and how he carefully moved it to the side of the path, so that no-one else could step on it. Sometimes I think it takes an activity like this to really step back and be able to see the young leaders and men that I am nurturing in their element. 

We loved going up on the walkway towers which had all of the united kingdom flags on them. We could see the maze below and just how much more we had to do, as well as how far we had come. My youngest started to flag a little, two is a tricky age and his desire to chase after his brother and keep up soon became the desire to be carried on shoulders. I think when you're small sometimes its nice to see what you're doing from higher up. The maze has two levels this year (as they grow a new one every year) and we only completed level one as our little explorers were tired. However they got a new lease of life when they saw the tunnels, the tower of tyres to climb up, on and through, the bouncy castle slide, the animals and a few other things. I was impressed with just how much there was to do. We just went for the afternoon, but we could have easily gone for the whole day and taken a picnic lunch. 

The boys beelined towards the fire engine and had great fun clambering inside to take a look and worked out what was what. They already have such an interest in how things work and learning more about the mechanics of it all. They also had a go at pumping a duck around with water from a hand pump (Daddy had to help as it was a bit stiff and needed some elbow grease). We then worked around the activities they wanted to go to and have a bit of a nosy. I love days where we have the space to choose what we want to do together and just have extra time just to explore.

The water pump

The boys talked about the maze all the way home and it was fun to hear about how much they had enjoyed it. The good thing about it being made of maize is that next year the maze will be new again and we will have more exploring to do. This year our four year old was a bit on the young side to be shown the map but I think next year he will be ready to learn all about it, and how to navigate using it. 

Overall we will be talking about the Maize Maze for a while to come and I would highly recommend it to anyone in the Cambridgeshire area. 

Look out for my other three posts about the activities we have been doing as a family and trying out #newthings along the way and feel free to check out the CSMA Club as they have plenty of ideas for free attractions and places to visit around the country.  They also have a page to give you some ideas on fun activities to try that don't cost too much: Ten Cheap Things To Do with The Kids

Review of Away in my Aeroplane

This month we have been sent 'Away in my Aeroplane' by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Henry Fisher to review by Parragon. This is the second book that we have reviewed written by Margaret Wise Brown and we were excited to get stuck in.

Having two boys they were both excited by the cover with the little boy in the aeroplane and couldn't wait to get reading it. It has the rhyming motion we expected which catapults you onwards throughout the book, and its easy to read too. The illustrations capture the scene beautifully and we loved looking at each page to see where the little boy was flying to, or over. My youngest son loved the page where the farm animals look like ants and he enjoyed trying to work out what they all are from their overhead shot. We also liked the silhouettes of the cats as the aeroplane flys over the city nightscape. My eldest son who is four I have overheard reading the story to his toys a few times. The simplicity of the story means that remembering it is much easier than some of the other books we have. I overheard him telling his toys about the bit where it says "I wave to the sun, I shout to the rain". He also explained to the toys that the aeroplane likes to loop the loop.

'Away in my Aeroplane' we have found to be a great book for both boys (2 and 4) which is nice to find a book that works for both of them. Overall this is a lovely story and perfect for bedtime reading for an aeroplane enthusiast, I would recommend.

If would like to buy your own copy you can on Amazon here: Away in my Aeroplane

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book in order for me to review it.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Romantic Scotland

Its the summer holidays and I hear countless parents telling me about their exotic holiday destinations, their sweaty delayed airport experiences and the challenges that come with holidaying abroad. Its not inspiring me to jump on a plane to soak up the sun, so why do we think this is such a good idea? I find it hard to understand why we don't holiday closer to home here in the UK. My husband and I when we got married seemed to raise a few eyebrows when we chose to honeymoon in the Lake District in March. But it was a fantastic week snuggled up by a cosy open fire in this cute little cottage between the peaks and the lake district with a world of exploration on our doorstep. So it got me thinking, what about Scotland? Could Scotland be the romantic destination we have all been so desperately wanting? It has a lot to offer, and the more I look the more I see about this enchanting and interesting place.

Its practically on our doorstep and the perfect getaway for a family or a romantic break for two. It's definitely given me some food for thought about planning our next holiday. I am wooed by the thought of the early Autumn weather, warm but with a bit of that cooling breeze thrown in. When I think about Scotland I think of the vastness of rolling countryside, the beauty in open space to think and refresh. The quiet stillness away from the business of life, to rekindle and revive - no wonder so many people refer to it as romantic. Its vastness and varied landscape seems almost mysterious when I think about it, a place to forget whats gone before and enjoy the time you have there- the perfect recipe for romance.

Eilean Donan Castle
Nestled in the amazing views are the popular cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh (and a few others) steeped in history (and a bit of shopping too) waiting to be explored, the perfect accompaniment to the rural countryside. Edinburgh is a place I have always wanted to visit with my husband to enjoy the breathtaking views, explore the sights and then wine and dine under the dim light of evening together. A romantic place where we can have time for the two of us and yet still enjoy the bustle of a busy city. I always think that traveling by train to Scotland seems like the best option as if you plan ahead you can get fantastic prices for tickets and its a great way to take in the views from your carriage seats and breathe it all in. Of course if you were really going to arrive in style it would have to be a steam train but I guess maybe I am dreaming a little on that one. I have very fond memories of a weekend in Glasgow visiting friends very early on with my husband before we were married and its one I think upon with fondness. The hum and glow of the city really drew us both in and I would capture a little it of that magic again.

Scotland seems to have a little bit of everything to suit everyones tastes and for me thats part of its attraction; the quiet countryside retreat, the bustling city with nightlife, michelin dining, whisky tours, incredible wildlife, historic buildings and intrigue, castles a plenty and home grown fresh food. Whats not to like?

When I think about what I love about Scotland its like being drawn into my very own novel. The perfect setting for my own mini-break version of pride and prejudice, the perfect backdrop and incredibly beautiful countryside to play out my own romantic adventure (that might be where the steam train comes in). Its almost like a secret garden that we have forgotten about just waiting for us to remember and re-discover it in all its beauty but still wowed by the wild treasures we wouldn't see anywhere else. Its so close and yet when was the last time we visited?

So why are we choosing such overcrowded destinations for our family holidays and romantic breaks away when almost on our doorstep is a romantic adventure waiting to happen in Scotland? We seem to have been seduced by cheap airline deals and all inclusive holiday destinations with overcrowded beaches. We seem to have forgotten about a beautiful place within a few hours reach that has natural beauty, space to think, inspiration around every corner. I want to be inspired on my holidays by my surroundings not frustrated that I have to share it with thousands of other visitors. I  want my kids to see a place in its uniqueness and understand its heritage and culture; and I think Scotland has just that to offer. I am not saying there isn't a place for holidays abroad, there is, but I am certainly going to be rethinking our breaks and holidays going forward and considering just what this enchanting romantic place has to offer for us as a family and a couple. Would you consider a break in Scotland?

This post is my entry into the Romantic Scotland competition by Sykes Cottages if you would like to find out more about it or enter yourself you can find all the details here about how to write your blogpost: #RomanticScotland.