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Getting a good nights sleep

As Autumn edges towards winter I start to think of my bedroom as a cosy little nest to snuggle up in during the long dark winter evenings. My bed becomes my favourite place to be in the house and it quickly becomes covered with squishy cushions and cosy blankets to keep out the winter chills.

I have a very bad back and as much as I’d love to spend my days and nights snuggled up under a thick duvet, my spine won’t let me, but one of the things I do insist on is a good firm mattress, I need to be well supported in bed and comfortable. nothing too saggy or lumpy. I’ve always seen a good quality double mattress as an investment as I spend maybe 8 or so hours a night lying on it.

The dream has always been to have a nice king size bed, so there’s plenty of room for us all, we three like to get in under the covers and read stories before bedtime. Now the small boy is growing up our old double bed seems very small. When we bought our current house I wanted a bedroom big enough to accommodate a new bed with a king size mattress and I think it’s very nearly time to invest in a new bed, one big enough for story time and sleepy cuddles for us all.

Sleep is a serious issue for me, my pain medication means I’m either incredibly alert or very sleepy and I never feel like I get quite enough kip. I’m not alone in that either, according to Mattress Online just 61% of employed people in the UK feel they are getting enough sleep and 22% of people suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia, snoring and nightmares.

Having a cosy, restful bedroom with a comfy bed is one of the best ways you can help guarantee a good nights sleep, you can take other steps too, like avoiding caffeine, having a warm relaxing bath, not playing with your smartphone before bed and just taking time to wind down properly before drifting off to sleep.

How do you guarantee a good nights sleep?

get a good nights sleep

 ~ In collaboration with Mattress Online ~

Maintaining a good work/life balance

As a Mum and a Freelancer (in that order) I often struggle to balance the two competing worlds. Like most Freelancers I find that in terms of work it’s either feast or famine, and as a Mum the responsibilities are constant, as is the guilt, but that goes with the territory, whatever I did I’d feel bad, it’s a no win situation.

As a Freelancer I work from home, which means that technically I’m around whenever my family need me. I can do the school run, I can be there when my son is poorly to care for him, I can take time out during the school holidays to spend time with him. I do all of that and more, but it does mean that I also have to put in long hours in the evenings, early in the mornings, or my weekends are spent slaving over a hot laptop while my 9 – 5 husband spends time with our son.

Whilst I can see the benefits of working *for* someone else, for me the benefits of being a Freelancer far outweigh that. Although the work and the hours I put in are never constant, I am able to be more flexible with my time. This means I can create and maintain a good work/life balance, or at least strive to.

My tips for creating and maintaining a good work/life balance are…

  • Protect some time for family, for me 5 – 7pm are family time, where we eat together, talk about our days, have bath-time, read stories and snuggle.
  • Go for a walk. Being stuck at my desk all day is miserable and not why I became a freelancer. Go for a walk round the park, get some fresh air and exercise and take a brain-break. You’ll be more productive after.
  • Accept help – enlist family and friends who don’t mind entertaining your child for a few hours occasionally. My son loves his Grandad and spending time with him is a special thing for them both.
  • Don’t try and multi-task. If you’ve got a few hours of family time, focus on the family.
  • Work smarter, not harder. If you’ve magically got a spare hour to spend working, you can accomplish a lot in that hour, set time limits for tasks and see what you can achieve.
  • Be organised, even if that’s not in your nature. To do lists, a filing system, record keeping however simple will save you time. Having my own workspace has really helped with this.
  • Go to work – some people get dressed for work, or have a pre-work morning routine. I get myself a drink and plonk myself at my desk and get cracking.
  • Family comes first – for me at least. If I need to stay up and work until 3am to catch up then so be it. My son is only young for a finite amount of time and he comes first. Always.
  • Make friends. Freelancing can be a lonely life. Find and nurture a group of like minded fellow freelancers around you, they will save your sanity and sometimes your bacon!

I have found that by having a small circle of freelancing friends they can offer me advice, practical support, contacts and the feeling of having colleagues; we even go on “work nights out”, which is nice. 

I’ve recently discovered Hiive. Hiive is a creative network that offers users a portfolio platform, job opportunities and access to careers resources. Hiive is designed to encourage discussion and collaboration within the creative industries and is an incredibly useful network for freelancers. I have joined and think it’s well worth a look and can help you to balance your work and home life.

I love freelancing, it’s changed my life and my family life for the better. It’s not easy, in fact it’s bloody hard work. Finding the right work life balance is a constantly shifting task. Having an understanding husband is half the battle, but the rewards in terms of quality family time are worth the late nights and early mornings. 

What are your tips for creating a good work-life balance?

work life balance

In association with Hiive.

The healing power of friendship

I’ve been through some tough old times these last few years. I didn’t realise quite how much having a good, solid network of friends to rely on would mean to me. Friends tend to come and go, a couple of years ago I met a whole bunch of new friends through Twitter; when I couldn’t leave the house and was bedridden, these were the people who I’d chat to at 3am because I was in pain and needed distracting. These were the people who kept my spirits up through the long, hazy days and nights when I was dosed up on pain killers, or having a panic attack about my next surgery. These people kept me sane, or closer to sane than I would’ve been without them.

Two years on I’m still more or less in the same group of friends. We’ve all changed, grown up a bit, moved on or moved away; but when times are tough we rally round and look after each other, which is how it should be. My physical pain, is now classed as chronic and is usually at a level I can cope with. Sometimes though I am overwhelmed with emotional pain, depression, anxiety, just blind panic. It is  my friends I turn to for support and for calm.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who love me and understand me better than anyone. Friends like my BFF Bobble who always knows the right thing to say to stop me mid-meltdown, or make me laugh when I’m crying. Another friend Daisy knows me inside out and keeps an eye on me, even when I think she’s not looking. Liz offers pints and bar snacks (better than tea and sympathy).  Jon is like Yoda only taller, less green and understands how sentences should be properly structured. Guy offers sensible and sage advice. And Lou tells me to think about donkeys – it’s physically impossible to cry when you think about donkeys, try it.

These are only a few of the awesome people I call my friends. Each one has held my head above the water a whole bunch of times, each one has gently persuaded me back from the edge, each one I’ve laughed with and love more than they’ll know. My friends, my friendships are healing me. Slowly, quietly, most definitely they are helping me grow stronger and more able to stand by myself.

I like the unnamed people who check in on me daily, weekly, whatever, just to see how I’m coping and if I’m ok; the kind people who comment on my blog; plus other friends and acquaintances from real life, the close “mum” friends I’ve made in Jane, Liz, Carla, Rachael and Sarah (amongst others). And my husband, my best friend for the last 20 years, who understands what it means when the light in my eyes changes and has seen me at my very worst. Collectively the healing power of friendship is huge, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

To my friends, I love you, thank you for throwing me a life belt and for helping me to grow a little bit stronger every day.

It’s the International Day of Friendship on the 31st July 2015, which seems a pretty good excuse to celebrate the brilliant friends that you’ve got and to tell them what they mean to you.

the healing power of friendshipThis post was written in collaboration with TheCircle.

Time for a kitchen upgrade

During our half term holiday I managed to pin my Mister down and have a proper talk about the house. We’ve lived here for nearly four years and there are two rooms which remain untouched and I cannot stand them. One of these rooms is our kitchen diner. In our old house the kitchen was the size of a cupboard, so when I clapped eyes on our current kitchen it was love at first sight. It’s big and light and airy.

The problem is whoever decorated this big, light, airy space decided to tile the floor with black slate tiles and the walls in a selection of dark, dingy coloured tiles. It’s never been what I would choose, but I can live with it, it’s not terrible, it’s just not making the best of what’s there. New kitchens are not cheap.

Kitchen

I long for a bright white kitchen with tiling which makes the most of the light available. I want a lovely chunky light wooden worktop, white walls and splash backs which bounce the light around and are easy to clean. I’m not sure about what to do about the floor tiles though, the black does suck up all the light, but it is really practical and hides a multitude of muddy boot prints and dirty dog paws (we do clean it regularly, fear not).

So decision made, whilst we can’t afford to do anything massively drastic with the tiles or the actual cupboards, we can it least paint the walls a bright white colour and get a new fridge to replace the one which moved with us in 2011 and is currently in its death throes.

I’ve long had my eye on a Panasonic American fridge freezer, something we do have the space for and with two hungry boys to feed, a bigger fridge is what I need. Plus I’ve always fancied having one of those integrated cool water dispensers. Sad I know, but it’s the little things.

I’m hoping the Mister will remember his holiday promises to me and that by Easter I’ll have a kitchen I’m much happier with.

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Affordable Luxury – Cashmere & Merino Wool Jumper

This last week has been cold, very, very cold. It was only when I did the school run earlier, bundled up in a couple of jumpers, a scarf and a big coat that I realised I missed my old, sadly now too shabby for respectable company cashmere coat. It was a coat that had kept me warm for about 8 winters, not only did it reach to below my knees, but it was made from cashmere and it was incredibly cosy, it was flattering too. I miss that coat.

That got me thinking, if my incredible cashmere coat was so warm and snugly, perhaps it would be sensible to buy myself a cashmere jumper to wear for warmth. I had a bit of a search of the internet, did a bit of research and and found that a cashmere and merino wool blend is just as warm, but a lot less expensive than 100% cashmere. I checked and as it appeared I’d not married Donald Trump, I decided the cashmere/merino blend was the future.

I found this merino wool top online which I was quite taken with. This long V neck sweater is very me, it can easily be layered and is both stylish and practical. I’ve chosen the dark olive colour, I think this will look great with jeans, perfect for keeping me cosy on the school run and for popping for coffee with friends afterwards.

merino wool

The jumper is from Woolover, who at the time of writing have a sale on. This jumper should’ve been £37 which I thought was a good price anyway, but in the sale they are £32, or two for £60.  Which seems a good price for a cashmere and merino wool blend. A little bit of affordable luxury if you will, not only because I’m worth it, but also because I’d ideally like to avoid getting frostbite during the daily battle to get to school on time.

I think the secret to school run warmth is lots of layers made from natural fibres, a big bobble hat and gloves, a fairly brisk walk because we’re (usually) running late and then a hot bucket of coffee afterwards in a warm cafe with steamy windows. What’s your secret to school run warmth?

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How to get a good nights sleep

I was always a sound sleeper, right up to the moment the small boy arrived and then, well you know the rest. I’ve had nearly four years of broken nights and worse, those nights where sleep just will not come. Talking to friend about how to get a good nights sleep, he told me about something called “sleep hygiene” and it all just made perfect sense.

There’s always lots written about children’s bedtime routines, but much less so for adults. I think we all have bad habits, overstimulating ourselves before bed with tv, the internet, caffeine and alcohol, then falling into bed and thinking sleep will just magically come to us. I think, especially about myself, that my body has got out of the habit of just falling asleep and drifting off into dream-land, so to me sleep hygiene seems incredibly sensible.

 

It’s not just about brushing your teeth and washing your face, although those are important too; it’s about getting into a proper bedtime routine, and not doing those simulating things in the hour or so leading up to bedtime. How many of us are checking our emails and social media accounts right up until the lights go out? I’m very guilty of this.

Searching the internet for some advice I found this great little ebook from bedroom specialists, Feather & Black. The book contains lots of really useful information and advice about how to create the right environment for sleep, as well as tips on how to unwind and switch off from your day enough to have a good nights sleep. The free ebook also contains information about helping your children to get into a good bedtime routine as well.

The free ebook was inspired by the results of their annual sleep survey. Feather & Black have created the free ebook to offer practical solutions to the sleeping woes of the nation, and I think it’s a cracking little resource, and an enjoyable easy read.

What do you do to help you drift off to the land of nod?

Special Cuddles

The small boy started big school this week. We were both brave and have managed the transition quite well, but it’s made me all reflective about my little baby growing up.

He’ll be four in November and those years have gone like a blur. I know it’s a cliche, but sometimes, most of the the time, cliches are so very true. I remember holding him when he was born, doing the skin to skin thing and I was just shocked, amazed, full of love and terrified that I had a real life baby in my arms. I knew at that moment, I would fight anyone to the death if they so much as gave him a funny look.

I remember holding him during our first days at home, when I was alone and wondering who on earth had decided I was grown up enough to care for this beautiful, helpless, vulnerable creature. He smelt great too, newborns are almost edible, almost.

Cuddles

I remember his Christening and watching his grumpy face as he was passed around family and friends when he just wanted to cuddle his mummy or daddy. I remember holding my breath in case he cried when they baptised him. He didn’t.

I remember taking him to nursery for the first time, just short of his first birthday and breaking my heart in the car on the way to work. I held him extra close for a long time that night and for several nights after.

Cuddles

I remember the nights before I went into hospital for my operations, sticking that brave face on for him and squeezing him tight before bed, knowing that I wouldn’t see him for a few days, and those nights in hospital when I hadn’t been able to kiss him goodnight, they seemed horribly long and lonely without him.

He’s not overly cuddly, but when he’s poorly he really goes for it, so I make the most of his under the weather snuggles, when he’s burning up and he just wants his mummy. I know he’s coming down with something when he just climbs on my knee and nestles in.

His first day of school, he was all manly and grown up. No proper cuddles for mummy, just a cursory hug of my knee and he was off. He’s growing up fast and I hope we’ve done enough to prepare him for big school.

Special snuggle

He’s a tough little monkey, independent, funny, chatty, charming, with eyes that’ll get him both in trouble and out of trouble in equal measure. I know his cuddles will become less frequent now he’s growing up and becoming a man of the world, so when they do happen I’m going to make the most of them, hold him extra tight for a little bit longer.

He’ll always be my baby, no matter how grown up he is, I hope he’ll still occasionally give me a special mummy cuddle. I hope one day he’ll feel his heart fill with love for the tiny newborn in his arms, and understand for himself what unconditional love really is.

Fairy Non Bio have made this gorgeous little video (it made my eyes leak a bit) about the #PowerOfSoft and how important and special sharing those lovely cuddles are.  Watch it and I dare your eyes not to leak a little bit too!

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Top Tips to make your school uniform last

A schoolwear specialist has put together a series of tips to help parents get maximum value from school uniform.

Carolyn Budding is a Director at YourSchoolUniform.com and has assembled 10 top tips for making the most of school clothes.

She said: “As a retailer and a manufacturer of school uniform we understand exactly what is required from these garments over the course of a school year.

“Our own-branded products, under the name Hubaco, are carefully designed so we can say with confidence that they are both comfortable and durable.

“We offer a range of different school uniform items for every household budget and because we understand parents have concerns about the cost of uniform, we have put together our 10 top tips to help it last longer.”

make your school uniform last

1- Right first time: “Buying cheap can mean buying twice,” says Carolyn. “Work out which items you can afford to spend a bit more on and avoid paying again further down the road.”

2- Size it up: “Children’s growth can be steady over a period of weeks, or sometimes they seem to get taller overnight,” Carolyn explains. “It is a good idea to use a size guide rather than choose clothes by age. The age guides in some uniform items tend to be based on height alone, which doesn’t take into account children’s body shapes.”

3- Room to spare: “If you want to buy uniform which will last, make sure you leave some growing room,” says Carolyn. “Look out for trousers and skirts with adjustable waists and if you’re handy with a needle – or can use iron-on webbing – buy them too long so you can turn-up the hem and then let it down again as they grow.”

4- True colours: “If the school allows different colour options always go for the darker shade,” Carolyn warns. “Spills, stains and marks are much more visible on lighter coloured clothing.”

5- Cover-up: “One of the easiest and simplest tricks to help extend the life of school uniform is simply to cover it up,” suggests Carolyn. “Aprons, tabards and wipe-clean smocks are ideal for protecting clothes while children tackle practical lessons – we even offer a lab coat for youngsters to help make sure their uniform doesn’t suffer while they conduct experiments.”

6- All white: “To get rid of mud stains on white shirts and t-shirts, soak in a solution of water and bicarbonate of soda before washing,” says Carolyn. “And remember – the quicker a stain is dealt with, the easier it is to shift.”

7- Fade to black: “Turn dark coloured clothing inside out before washing and store away from direct sunlight to combat fading,” says Carolyn. “Darks are best washed in cold water and dried inside. Purple in particular reacts to UV light, so drying away from bright sunshine will keep the colour better for longer.”

8- Pen and ink: “Biro and ink stains are fairly common with schoolchildren,” adds Carolyn. “A handy trick is to soak a biro stain in milk before washing. Not many children use fountain pens any more, but ink stains can be removed by covering with hairspray and then blotting with a paper towel.”

9- Iron out: “Your iron can be a great tool in preserving the life of your children’s uniform,” says Carolyn. “Iron-on patches are an easy way to make small repairs, while special webbing can be used to shorten hems using your iron. Iron-in naming labels are a popular method of making sure every item has your child’s name on.”

10- Keep it clean: “Easy-care fabrics and Teflon coatings are great for busy parents,” says Carolyn. “Teflon helps prevent stains while the easy-care fabrics tend to require less rigorous washing and ironing. It’s also best to hang clothes on hangers or fold them neatly to help keep them in good condition. Lots of children think their bedroom floor is the ultimate storage solution, but looking after their uniform will make it last longer.”

For more information visit www.yourschooluniform.com

Published in association with YourSchoolUniform.com

Redecorating with Rodgers of York

When we bought our forever home three years ago we had a babe in arms and we were just desperate to get in. All the walls were simply slapped with white paint and neutral carpets were fitted. We just wanted to get in and get comfortable, then at a later date we’d think about wallpaper, nice furniture and turning our house into a cozy family home.

There are a few rooms in my house which do need some attention, the avocado downstairs loo for a start, but that’ll have to wait for now. I’d really love to stamp my style all over the kitchen too, but that needs a good deal of thinking about first. So style priority number one is my lounge. It’s a nice enough space, it is long and was originally two rooms which have been knocked through. At one end is the TV and toys, and the other is the open fire and all of our books. It’s a much more grown up and cozy space.

Rodgers of YorkI’ve longed to do something with the white walls around the fireplace and to make a feature out of it, I love teals and blues, so I’m thinking peacock shades around the fireplace to make it feel more opulent, probably something like this stunning  “Embrace” Harlequin wallpaper from Rodgers of York.

I love their selection of wallpapers, they’ve just started stocking the Sanderson Emma Bridgewater wallpaper, which is as stylish and on trend as you’d imagine it is.

I’d love a new sofa, this retro brown leather Halo Gable sofa would look fantastic opposite our fireplace, especially if teamed with this lovely Ercol Ravenna armchair, which would be perfect to curl up in and read a book in front of the fire.

Rodgers of York

I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in to some pre-Christmas redecorating, and with the help of the friendly and knowledgeable people at Rodgers of York we can finally have the stylish, comfortable, cozy home that we’ve always dreamed of.

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Chocolate and Cherry Brownies

Who doesn’t like brownies? These have a crisp crust and a delicious gooey centre, best served warm with vanilla ice cream. If you’ve frozen them previously then just defrost and warm them briefly in a hot oven.

Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 35-40 minutes
Makes about 18

200g butter, cubed
100g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
4 eggs, beaten
425g granulated sugar
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
½ tsp sea salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
100g dried cherries

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c, gas mark 4. Line a small roasting tin with baking parchment.
  2. Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and allow the ingredients to melt either over a pan of barely simmering water or in a microwave on a low heat. Allow to cool slightly.
  3. Place the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and pour in the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Fold together lightly until thoroughly combined. Pour into the prepared tin and place in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until a crust forms. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 15-20 minutes. Cut into squares when cooled.

Cooks Tips:
Add alternative ingredients to the cherries according to what you have in your cupboard. Pecans and brazil nuts work well instead of cherries, or leave out as you prefer.

brownies

This recipe was developed by an Appliance House Chef. For all your kitchen appliances at discounted prices please visit www.appliancehouse.co.uk

 

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