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A Magical Christmas With Paypal...

on Wednesday, 17 December 2014.

This year I have done 99% of my Christmas shopping online.  In fact, I think I have only stepped foot in the shops once.  While I love shopping and enjoy a good browse around the shops, there are two things which make shopping more of a chore and less of a fun day out- little people and crowds.  Since having Mads and LL shopping isn't as fun as it used to be.  It usually involves lugging the buggy around the shops, hitting shoppers in the shin and bribing them to stay in their sets with sugary treats.  Everything takes twice as long and while they are pretty good, it just isn't a pleasurable experience like it once was. 

Add to that Christmas shopping crowds (is it just me or does anyone else get so angry?) and I just prefer to stay clear of the shops from December onwards.  For the last few years we have done most of it online but this year is the first year where I can genuinely say 99% of our purchases have been online.  

I have had a Paypal account for years, using it as part of my eBay account and to buy things online securely and quickly.  In fact wherever possible I use my Paypal account online, as it is easy and efficient to safely purchase goods.  I also use it a lot in my freelance work as a quick way of sending and receiving money with ease.  Therefore when Paypal asked if I wanted to write about their service, I was more than happy too as I genuinely use it an almost daily basis.

We don't go mad on Christmas presents but it does all mount up, especially as we have Mads birthday on Christmas Eve.  Here are just a few of the bits and pieces we have bought via paypal, obviously I can't show you them all because I don't want anyone to see!
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One big thing we have done this year is we are upgrading Mads and LL's play kitchen.  We have got them lots of gorgeous wooden play food from GLTC, ELC and Amazon to name a few.  Their play kitchen is their number one toy so I hope they will both enjoy some new bits for it.  Aside from this the one thing Mads has been asking for if someone asks 'what she would like from Father Christmas' is a 'Big Buzz.'  She is obsessed with Toy Story and so we have bought her the talking Buzz Lightyear and asked other family members to get the other characters- she is going to be so excited to open it on Christmas Day, I cannot wait to see her face.

We have also bought her a One Direction Harry doll, which makes me cringe a little but she again asked for this and who are we not to make a three almost four year old happy on Christmas Day?!  Plus we have bought them some little bits of clothing, like these super cute hats.  We have also treated friends and family, like these gorgeous stacking rings for my little sister.  They say giving is better than receiving and this is deinitely true- I love to think carefully about what gifts to get my loved ones.

Thanks so much to Paypal for making our Christmas so much easier.  It's given us more time to enjoy things as a family, such as days out, Christmas baking and other fun stuff.  This weekend is our wedding anniversary and we are taking the girls ice skating and out to lunch- normally we would be rushing around last minute trying to buy presents!

 ***** 

Paypal is running a ‘Win Christmas with PayPal’ competition where if you choose to shop with PayPal, you could win what you spent on your Christmas shopping back up to £1,000!

All you need to do is visit www.paypal.co.uk/winchristmas to register yourself, and then every transaction with PayPal is an entry in to the draw. Paypal is also running a series of amazing giveaways on its Facebook page.  Just visit Paypal on Facebook and upload your best Christmas Moments to enter. Good luck!

Find out more about the Paypal campaign on twitter using the hashtag #paypalmoments.

 

NB. Thanks to Paypal for working with us this Christmas, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Buying our first home...

on Thursday, 27 November 2014.

One of the biggest responsibilites and one of the most exciting things I have done in my adult life, bar of course having our two girls, is buying our house.  We had wanted to buy our first home for ages but unfortunately due to the recession we wondered how we were ever going to do it.  It was hard and we did a lot of saving to save up money for our deposit, including moving in with my Mum for a bit after moving back from London, but eventually in August 2009 we got the keys to our very first house.

It's certainly not our forever home by any means, in fact two small children and two feral kittens later and we are already feeling like we are outgrowing it.  But after living here for five years now, we feel settled and slowly we are putting our stamp on it.  Gone are the shagpile green carpets and lemon coloured walls, instead we have decorated every room and are slowly being able to afford to do the bigger, more expensive jobs.  We recently got rid of the horrible artex on the ceilings and had a living room makeover and just last month after living with an awful mouldy bathroom for many years, we got a completely new one fitted which I just love.

We have recently been thinking about whether to move again.  As mentioned our home isn't the one we want to be in forever, we eventually want to move to a bigger house, but after umming and aahing for a while we realised that we are happy where we are for the time being.  Our mortgage rate has just come down from a REALLY high fixed rate to something a lot more affordable and as moving house can be quite expensive with costs of estate agent fees, removal companies and stamp duty, we have decided to stay where we are for a few more years until we are in a position to have a bigger budget to buy our forever home.  We did have a look at mortgage rates and there are some really good deals out there at the moment if you have a good sized deposit though.

Moving can be a lengthy process and as we have a lovely little house that is perfect for us right now, we just think this would be the better options.  Obviously you have to find a house, then make sure you can get a mortgage which takes a lot longer than it used to, then theres waiting for the legal aspect of exchanging and completion before you even get the keys.  It can be stressful at times and hard work but there is nothing more exciting than owning your own house- the day we got the keys to ours I remember so vividly, we were shaking as we went to pick them up from the estate agent and our hearts were literally thumping so loudly as we unlocked our new front door for the first time.  We sat on the floor in the evening and shared a bottle of champange and a takeaway pizza as we had no furniture- it is such an exciting and daunting time.  Plus of course it is lovely to be able to plan and decorate without having to worry about whether you are breaching your contract when you put some wallpaper on the walls!

Moving house is expensive and quite a daunting thing to do but we genuinely are so thrilled with our little home- it is wonderful for Mads and LL to grow up and make memories here and it also makes me feel safe and secure too.  

movingin2009

 

 

 

Life with Two Kittens...

on Monday, 24 November 2014.

A couple of months ago we welcomed two new additions into the family in the form of Jesse and Walter- our new little kittens!  

They certainly have been keeping us on our toes, they are full of love, affectionate and sweet, but also incredibly naughty.  No where is safe as they climb up our curtains, on our leather chairs, in the girls beds and anywhere else they can find that is cosy or safe.  But ultimately we love them to pieces and wouldn't change them for the world, we want Mads and LL to grow up with pets in the household, I grew up with dogs but at this stage we don't think a dog is right for our family as much as I would love one.

We were initially a little concerned about the cost, especially as we decided to get two kittens instead of one. We had to pay out for the initial cost of them from their breeder and then we needed to buy them a bed, litter tray and cat carrier.  Then it was time for vaccinations and initial vet costs, as well as in the near future the cost of having them neutered and spayed.  We had a cat before the girls were born and he ended up having a chronic illness meaning that he was on lifetime medication, for this reason cat insurance is something we researched a lot before hand.  It just isn't worth the potentially very costly risk if our cats were to need vet care either now or in the future.  Places like Argos Pet Insurance are really reasonable and it is definitely worth the peace of mind. 

It is definitely not something to rush into, it is obviously a very big commitment and also a big cost.  But we adore our new pussycats and most of all our girls are totally in love with them, Mads carries them about all over the place (poor kittens!) and LL walks around the house shouting 'meoooooow' at them.  

Hopefully they will bring us many years of love and companionship!

2 kittens

 

The Circle of Life...

on Wednesday, 29 October 2014.

Last week we went over to my Mums for the morning.  While we were there Mads wanted to paint some pictures so as a surprise we decided to paint one to send to my Nana and Grandpa.  She sat at my Mum's table for ages painting handprints and writing her name for her Great Nana and Grandpa, her Great Grandma and Grandpa and for my Mum and Dad as well.  Once we had finished we put them in an envelope and sent them off as a surprise for them.

A couple of days later she was incredibly excited to see that the postman had delivered a card addressed to her in the post.  Her little face was an absolute picture as she opened up the card and saw that her Great Nana had sent her a 'reply' back in the post- a thank you card to the 'budding artist.'  She carried the card round with her all day and it was the first thing she showed her Daddy when he arrived home from work that evening.  That small little gesture most definitely made her day, so I can only imagine what it did for my Grandparents.

I have spoken on my blog many times before about my Nana and Grandpa.  They live a couple of hours away from us and we don't see them that regularly, but we try to visit them as much as we can.  I am very close to them and my childhood is full of memories of fun times and adventures spent at their house.  Even now, although 92 and 89, they still are relatively active and still live at home on their own together.  Whenever we go and visit we try and take some of the strain off them, but even if we cook or tidy up, it is envitable that my Nana will come in to 'help' or tell us where to put things away.

If I am honest, it does worry me a little.  They have my Uncle nearby but other than that all the rest of the family live away.  We all visit as much as we can, my Dad and Step Mum especially, but one day they might not be able to live on their own.  Sadly they are getting weaker and it is something that one day in the not so near future we may need to address.  There are things that are options, like live in carers or care homes, but at the moment these aren't on our radar.  Although we don't like to think about it, each time we visit we are aware of the fact that we need to make as many memories as we can.  I take hundreds of photos each time and every time I leave I get upset.  It is sad to think about them one day not being here, but unfortunately it is the circle of life.

Until then though, we will continue to treasure the time we have with all of my grandparents and will make sure that the girls do things like we did last week.  Just little small gestures that don't mean much to us, but to them will have meant the world.  We are so lucky to have them and we will make as many memories as we can.  

a bbq at dads aug14d

Our New Additions.

on Monday, 27 October 2014.

If you read this blog a lot you may have noticed that a few weeks ago we had some new additions arrive in our household- Walter and Jesse our new little kittens!  

We deliberated for ages as to whether to get them at this point in our lives, obviously the girls are so little and we also have hectic lives, going away a fair bit, often being very busy with work and also with the general craziness that comes with being a family with two small children.  But ultimately we want Mads and LL to grow up with pets in the household, I grew up with dogs but at this stage we don't think a dog is right for our family as much as I would love one.

We were initially a little worried about the cost, especially as we decided to get two kittens instead of one.  Firstly we obviously had to pay out for the initial cost of them from their breeder, and then we needed to buy them a bed, litter tray and cat carrier.  Then of course it's time for vaccinations and initial vet costs, as well as in the near future the cost of having them neutered and spayed.  We had a cat before the girls were born and he ended up having a chronic illness meaning that he was on lifetime medication, for this reason cat insurance is something that we will always have.  It just isn't worth the potentially very costly risk if our cats were to need vetinary care either now or in the future.

It is definitely not something to rush into, in fact caring for a pet is a very big commitment and also a big cost.  But we adore our new additions and most of all our girls are totally and utterly in love with them, Mads carries them about all over the place (poor kittens!) and LL walks around the house shouting 'meoooooow' at them.  

Hopefully they will bring us many years of love and companionship!

2 kittens

Feeling Grateful For What We Have...

on Tuesday, 21 October 2014.

Time and time again on my blog I talk of 'The Ordinary Moments'- relishing our everyday and feeling grateful for what we have.  That is one of the main reasons I started blogging, to record the simple moments of our lives and so when our children grow up they realise just how much we loved them.  I love having a record of our adventures and our general day to day lives together.

Since becoming a parent, I have come to be a lot more thankful for the duldrum of our lives together.  Before the girls were born, I used to get bored and restless very easily, feeling like I always needed to have our next holiday or weekend away booked, or something in the diary to look forward too.  Becoming a mother has made me truly appreciate the little things more and to feel so immensely grateful for our slightly boring, ordinary life.

I am so much more emotional now, constantly fearing the things we don't even talk about.  Becoming a parent has made me scared occasionally to bring my children up in this world sometimes, it can be a horrible and cruel place.  But then at the same time, it has also taught me to appreciate the beauty as well, and I am thankful for that.  

Since having my girls, I have become truly grateful for the fact we have so much.  We aren't rich, we are comfortable and some months we struggle like a lot of people do, but compared to a lot of people in the world we are incredibly lucky.  I do try and take the time to donate to a great charity- I have a few that I regularly donate to and I often try and help friends who are running, baking cakes or raising money in different ways to help charities close to their hearts. 

I am so thankful for my little family and thankful that we are at the moment, happy and healthy.  I know that life can change in an instant and having my girls has definitely made me appreciate it more.  Our life is simple, ordinary and occasionally dull- but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

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How I Am Doing In My Fitness Mission...

on Monday, 13 October 2014.

Regular readers of this blog will know that in January I decided to change my lifestyle.  Fed up of feeling unhealthy, getting out of breath when I walked up the stairs and constantly feeling tired and sluggish, I committed to thinking seriously about my diet and fitness.  I wasn't overweight, but I definitely had a 'spare tyre' around my waist, and I endulged in far too many sweet and fatty treats.

I get a fair few readers from my blog ask me how I managed to lose and maintain my new weight.  To date I have lost just shy of two stone but yet I haven't dramatically changed my diet.  I still treat myself to the things I enjoy- like pizza, sweets, ice cream and chocolate, but I just do it in moderation nowadays.  Before I was indulging in these things every night, but nowadays I will make sure that if I am having something a bit more unhealthy for dinner, that I will eat healthily the following day to make up for it.

We have swapped things like white rice for wholegrain, and also switched to wholegrain pasta.  I eat a lot of things like jacket potatoes now, but I will just ask for no butter, as once it is covered in beans you won't be able to taste it anyway.  My one downfall is diet coke, I can't seem to give that up, but then I guess the occasional vice is ok!

Running is another thing that has changed my life.  Before January I couldn't run up the stairs without getting out of breath, but last week I completeed my second half marathon.  I have found a passion in running that I didn't think I would have.  I started slowly, being careful not to injure myself, and I made sure that I bought things like Ibuprofen gels from an online chemist- I found this a godsend at first as I would get my hubby to rub it in to my knee when I felt like I had overdone it a little.

I think the main thing is that I haven't overdone it- I haven't gone overboard with dieting or exercise as then I think it can quite easliy become a chore.  Instead I have just eased my way into it gently, and now it almost feels like part of my life, rather than something else I need to do.  I definitely feel so much better for it, and I hope that I continue it for a long time.

 

six months of fitness

100 Years of Magic...

on Wednesday, 27 August 2014.

Mads is at an age where she is fascinated by anything that helps her use her imagination.  For ages we worried about taking her to the cinema, or to a show because we were worried that she would get bored and not want to stay in her seat, but now at nearly four (I can't believe it!) she loves to be entertained, so I am constantly on the look out for family friendly shows and attractions that we can go to together.  She is a typical little person who absolutely loves Disney so I was really interested to hear about Disney on Ice going on tour.

I know that she would absolutely love this- seeing Mickey, Ariel, Timone, Jasmine and her absolute favourite - the Toy Story characters.  She literally is obsessed with Toy Story.  I also think it would be something that LL would enjoy too, as well as something fun for the whole family.  

lionking

 

Disney on Ice is touring Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham over the next few months, before ending up in London at the end of the year.  I cannot decide which show to take Mads to as we thought it might be nice to make a weekend of it.  The IHG hotel group have hotels in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, Glasgow is a little far for us but I have stayed in the Manchester Crowne Plaza before and it is really nice.  If we did go to Manchester then we could go and see Mr E's Mum as she lives there too.  

Have a little look at the official video for Disney on Ice- doesn't it look amazing?

 

 

 

*In partnership with IHG*

I Love Leeds...

on Wednesday, 20 August 2014.

There's a place in the UK that holds a special place in my heart.  That might sound a little cheesy but it is entirely true.  And that place is Leeds.

aleedsphoto  

I can quite clearly remember the day I first arrived in Leeds.  I headed up there with my Mum and her then boyfriend, having never been before, our car all packed full to the brim of my prized possessions and belongings.  Heading up there for a new challenge, a new beginning and the start of a journey into becoming an adult.  I was eighteen heading up to university and I had no idea what to expect.  I remember being so scared and nervous about leaving my life behind.

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With scary blond hair in my third year at University.  

I soon fell in love with the city.  Leeds is relatively small as 'big cities' go, but it has everything you need and more.  The city centre is amazing, with every shop you could imagine including the gorgeous Victoria Quarter which has a large Harvey Nichols.  I spent so much of my much needed student loan buying things I shouldn't be!  And then there are the bars and clubs.  The Leeds nightlife scene is legendary, with so many cool independent bars.  My favourites at the time were Oporto, Jake's and Norman.  They are all in the Call Lane area of the city, and I spent almost every evening there. 

I was at university in Leeds for three years, but I ended up staying for five because I loved it so much.  It's where I grew up, became an adult, 'found myself' and found my future husband.  I made lifelong friends there and to this day even after living in many different places, I still haven't found a city like it.  There's something so special about it, and sometimes I wonder if we made the right decision in moving away. 

But alas we have, although we still visit regularly, there are so many gorgeous hotels that you can book through companies like Hotel Direct- we love the Malmaison and also the Park Plaza because they are right in the centre and near to all the places we love.  The last time we went up there was a couple of weeks ago, where we took our girl's for a 'walk down memory lane' visiting all the places that hold a special memory for us- the place along the canal we first kissed, our first home together and the bar we worked in.  

I still find it surreal to think that if I hadn't have put it down as one of my choices for university, then my life would have turned out very differently.  Therefore it will always hold a special place in my heart and I will always make sure we go there regularly to keep our memories alive.  However even if you haven't been before, it's definitely worth visiting- especially if you love great shopping, nightlife, culture, and the other beautiful parts of Yorkshire quite ilterally on your doorstep.

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The first photo of myself and my future husband, who I wouldn't have met if it wasn't for living in the wonderful city of Leeds. 

 

 

Finding Cool Kids Clothes...

on Thursday, 31 July 2014.

I absolutely love dressing my little ladies up, and spending a little bit of time and effort on their outfits.  I think both of them actually have more clothes than I do, but I just find the cute and cool outfits for kids irresistable!  

Mads and LL have outfits and items from many different shops and brands but I always try and mix nicer, more expensive pieces with cheaper ones too.  They can't wear an outfit without it needing a wash, and to me there is just no point in spending a lot of money on something which gets filthy every time it is put on.  That said, they need to wear well as anyone with little people knows, they get climbed in during soft play sessions, messy at the park and covered in food!

I genuinely think you can't beat supermarket outfits- they are trendy, fashionable, wear well, yet also are really reasonably priced.  We buy probably 70% of the girls outfits from the supermarket.  One brand we love is ASDA George, they have some really cute things for little ladies.

Check out some of our recent purchases from there below-

asda kids

 

Cool Themes for Children's Bedrooms.

on Thursday, 31 July 2014.

 

If there is one thing that I absolutely love doing it's decorating our house.  I am so proud of my little home and while it isn't our forever house, it is full of love and perfect for us now.  I take a lot of pride in the way it looks and if I had an endless supply of money I would constantly update and change the rooms around. 

Themes are a tricky topic when it comes to children’s bedrooms, as their tastes and interests change so frequently you could end up changing the design every week if it was up to them!  Currently our girls have gorgeous little rooms- Mads has a woodland theme and LL has a pastel theme. Rather than going for the simple Disney Princess or Monster Trucks theme, how about trying one of the suggestions below and see how much your kids thank you after.

Treasure Island

This is a really fun idea as it can include everything and anything that comes to mind when you think Treasure Island: adventure, pirates, princesses, sword fights, other worldly beasts and of course… treasure! Furniture with lots of hidey-holes work well, such as a bunk from http://www.superamart.com.au/ with adjacent angles to create a fort-like hide-out. Include obstacles that require climbing like beanbags and large cushions, and include a printed treasure map on the wall.

Movie Magic

This is a great idea for all the storytellers, and it’s fairly straightforward to set-up. A neutral colour palette works best as the kids or movie stars will create the splash of colour. Add simple accessories such as a child’s size director’s chair, a spotlight/camera light (which can double as a floor lamp), and some kids movie posters. Then just have a large box or cupboard filled with dress-ups and costumes.

A Favourite World

Out of all the fantasy places in the world, where is their favourite? Is it Hogwarts from Harry Potter or Arendelle from Disney’s Frozen? This is a great idea as it’s not simply designing a theme around the characters, but is creating the world that their favourite characters live in! They will feel like they’ve literally jumped through the TV screen.

Complete Creation

Arts and crafts are popular at any age. Stick with neutral walls (make sure you choose a wash-and-wear paint though!), and then add bright colours in accessories. A beanbag would work with the chilled-out arty theme, and attaching a large blackboard to the wall is a fun way to really get creative. An art and crafts desk is an essential feature stocked full of paper, pencils and crayons, and add a cord above the desk, that sits against the wall, to peg all finished artwork on.

The Great Outdoors

Yes, it’s always a good idea to get the kids out into the real outdoors to play, but sometimes that’s not an option. Choose a ‘nature’ inspired colour palette that includes sky blues, greens and earthy browns. Do they like safaris? Include a few large prints of African animals. How about camping? Set up a small tent in the room, or put some glow-in-the-dark stars on the roof that will sparkle at night-time.

Children come in all shapes and sizes, personalities and temperaments, so it’s not easy trying to pick one perfect theme. But no one knows your child better than you do, so relax, and let their interests be your ultimate inspiration. Just remember to pick something that can easily be changed down the track – as you know they’re going to change their mind again by tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

Theme idea's for your child's bedroom

 

Weekends Away in the UK this Summer.

on Tuesday, 29 July 2014.

Now our holiday to Rhodes has been and gone (sob) we are planning lots of lovely little breaks in the UK.  Last weekend we went to our friends wedding weekend near Leeds, and this weekend we are off to Wales to try our first family camping experience.

When the weather is nice, as it has been recently, there is nothing I like better than staying in the UK and exploring our beautiful country.  We love to take trips to the beach, to new cities we haven't seen before, and making little day trips not to far away.

One area of the country that has defiinitely captured our hearts is the North.  I lived in Leeds for 5 years and it was where I met Mr E, who is originally from Manchester.  He still has his friends up there and so we try and go and visit regularly.  We love it there, the city is so vibrant and fun, and we always have a great time exploring.  We are huge fans of doing things on a budget- staying away from home doesn't have to be expensive, normally we will just stay at a Manchester Travelodge- meaning that the money we save on the hotel can go towards fun things to do while we are there.

So far this Summer, we have our camping weekend, a trip to Manchester, a trip to Alton Towers and a trip to London all booked in the diary.  We love being busy and enjoying adventures as a family.  Let's just hope the sun continues to shine for us!

yellow rapeseed photoshoot3

 

 

Do you know your hygiene?

on Thursday, 17 July 2014.

As parent's we try and do everything we can to protect our family from germs and bugs.  After all, no one want's their child to get sick.  Of course we can't protect them from every cold and cough, especially in nursery and school these things spread like wildfire.  But we can try and do the best we can to make sure that we teach our children clean hygiene practice.  It is so important to teach them basic things that will help them as they get older and go through life- silly things like blowing your nose and putting a tissue straight in the bin, or washing your hands before you eat a meal.

But how clean actually are you?  Here is a simple test you can do to see whether you know the answer's to simple hygiene questions.  I was quite surprised, I only got 6 out of 7!

 

 

 

marchmeandmine

Protecting our family against germs and bugs.

Gorgeous Maternity Bits from George at Asda...

on Tuesday, 08 July 2014.

The one thing I miss about being pregnant is my bump.  Obviously bonding with your growing baby, feeling them kick inside you, is quite frankly the most amazing feeling in the world.  But yet there is a part of me that misses dressing my bump.  Until right at the end when you can't see your feet and start to get really uncomfortable, I always used to love showing off my big belly to the world.  I did a fair few pregnancy style posts when I was pregnant with LL, and it was fun trying to find stylish maternity clothes.

This is not an admission of pregnancy on my part (honest- we are quite happy with our two little ladies for the time being!) but I was really impressed to see the new George at Asda maternity range.  I did find it hard to find specific maternity items, usually just buying normal clothes that had a bit of stretch, as most of the maternity ranges are really overpriced considering you only wear them for nine months.  I was pleasantly surprised with the George range so just had to share a few of my favourite pieces.

 

maternitygeorgeasda

1.  How gorgeous is this floral dress- perfect for dressing down with gladiator sandals?

2.  Love this casual stripy dress and what a bargain at £8!

3.  Love this black kaftan- perfect for holidays this summer.

 

It's lovely to find a range that is stylish but also doesn't cost a lot, like a lot of other maternity ranges.  I will definitely be recommending it to some of my pregnant friends!

 

 

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