Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Spring is coming!

I am so ready to wave goodbye to Winter now. As I type this the puppy is insisting on going out into the garden, leaving the door wide open behind him so that he has the freedom to come in and out, in and out, in and out. Don't get me wrong, when the sun is shining and it's warm outside I would love nothing more than to be able to give Lux this kind of freedom and let the warm breeze roll into the kitchen. As it happens though, It's February and it's cold, and that cold wind is not welcome in my cosy space while I work.

It won't be long until the days are warming up and we are finally able to get back outside again, I look forward to being able to take the laptop outside and work from the garden. April is perhaps one of my favourite months of the year, it's starting to warm up, the days are brighter and it makes me want to get outside the most. Last year I was getting up at 6am and heading out for a run, by the time I got home the sun was blaring and everything just looked beautiful. 

Now I have Lux we do spend a lot more time outside, rain or shine, but when the weather improves I will want to be outside as much as I can be. We spend quite a lot of time at my Parent's home while I am working because their garden is so big, it means the dog can burn a bundle of energy while I get on with my to do list. I keep thinking how lovely it would be to help my parent's do up their garden. I keep looking at the garden selection on Fishpools as they have some gorgeous pieces. I would love to surprise my Mum with one of these Rattan Sofa Sets, it would make the perfect place to sit in the garden with my laptop and watch the dog do laps of the garden. 

The garden is a area that has such huge potential, but no one has ever really had chance to do anything with. We all like to get out there, but I know that if we could get on top of it all, there would be even more reason to bring the BBQ out and make the most of that time in the year where we can sit outside and enjoy the great outdoors.

Keeping this puppy of mine entertained really will be so much easier once I can leave that back door open, or better yet go and sit outside with him. Currently he is in the process of taking whatever he can find out into the garden. He is like a magpie and gathers a collection of things he likes, underwear, bras, tea towels, paper that he shreds, plastic bottles that he likes to chew until they are ready to be recycled. 

That puppy certainly keeps us on our toes but we wouldn't be without him. 

My Top Tips on Flying with Children

Tips on Flying with Children

We have traveled with Leo since he was a baby in arms, and that is something that I would highly recommend families do with their little one's from a young age. I remember thinking how daunting it felt at the idea of flying with a baby, but the actual process and experience was so much easier than I could ever have dreamed it would be. 

I remember really working myself up about the whole milk situation, because these days you cannot take liquid through security into departures, and as I cast my mind back, this was actually my main concern. I was worried that the sterilised baby bottles with cooled boiled water would be confiscated and I would be without the means to feed my baby. I really stressed myself out of it, but when the time came to walk through security on Leo's maiden voyage out of the UK at a mere 5 months old, they literally just asked us to taste the water, so they could rule it out being something malicious disguised as baby essentials. 

That was literally it, we just needed to taste test each of the 4 bottles I had prepared to bring on our journey, and that was it. As we walked through the gates into the departure lounge to embark on our journey to Tenerife I couldn't understand why I had worked myself up so much for it to be such a simple demonstration. 

I actually found it easier to fly with a baby than I did when Leo had turned 2. Baby's don't talk, baby's don't get up and try to walk around, but 2 year old's certainly do. When we flew out to Cyprus it was a really early morning flight, so I had convinced myself that Leo would sleep most of the way there... Well I couldn't have been more wrong if I had tried. Leo was awake for the entire flight, well apart from when he fell asleep 5 minutes before the plane landed. I was exhausted as I couldn't even contemplate closing my eyes, because I had a 2 year old who would have been everywhere but in his seat. How I missed that 5 month old baby at that very moment in time, the baby who sat on my lap and slept the flight away, and when he woke up smiled and giggled and had everyone around him cooing.

Tips on Flying with Children

Tips on Flying with Children

Of course now that Leo is older, flying has got easier again. He will happily sit and watch a film on his iPad, or play some learning games as we fly away to warmer climates. There are companies that you can book family friendly holiday's through, Tots To Travel handpick family friendly villas and cottages all over the globe which really can help take the stress out of travelling.

My Top Tips on Flying with Children 

- Make sure you have plenty of drinks/snacks to keep them going.

- Pre-load the iPad with films/games/activities for the children to play while air born. I highly recommend the 'Teach Your Monster to Read' app, Leo loves it and it was a life saver on our flight to Crete last year.

- Bring colouring books/story books to complete together.

- Take a blanket so that they can have quiet time and go to sleep if they wish.

- Take a portable DVD player and a selection of DVDs.

- Take a Nintendo DS and game selection

This year we are flying to Crete in May, and Leo is already counting down the sleeps. At least now he is 5 I don't need to worry about him trying to escape the confines of his seat...

Monday, 13 February 2017

Enough with the Valentine's Hate

Valentines Day is tomorrow, I know that people say that we should show our affections each and every day of the year, and I have to say I agree, but I personally don't see the harm in having an excuse to spoil that special person in my life on Valentines Day. Yes it's a commercial holiday, yes it can be cheesy, but that's part of the fun right?

I remember on the very first Valentines Day Luke and I were together, I stood in the card shop looking for something that wasn't too 'in your face', I was there for ages. We had only been together a month, so I wanted to mark the day but not come on too strong, because that could have been a little bit too fast too soon!

As I was stood there looking for a card that had something a little lighter than 'love' emblazoned all over it, I got talking to a lady who was in a similar situation and eventually we both walked away with the same card, it was simple sweet and said just what I needed it to, but boy was it hard finding a card on that very first Valentines Day.

Luke and I do things throughout the year, we love a good date night, so for us Valentines Day is just another excuse to go out and do something just the two of us, We don't spend a fortune on gifts, this Card-Cutters Valentines round up for gift ideas under £30 has lot's of great ideas, we do love a good dose of cheese on the most romantic day of the year. We usually go out for a slap up meal and have a few bottles of wine, this year I really want to go and see 50 Shades Darker, so that might be an option for tomorrow night. We haven't made any real plans this year, which is a first. 

Everywhere I have looked this year I have seen people tearing Valentines Day down, it's why I don't understand? No one is saying that you should just show how you feel on this one day, it's just the perfect excuse to fit in a date night that you might not ordinarily have. Some couples don't get the opportunity to go out spontaneously because they don't have the childcare help that they need to do so. I am really lucky that my family are so close by and Leo loves to visit, it gives me flexibility to be able to go to the movies or out for a romantic dinner with the other half, but I know just how lucky I am on that front, and I know that not everybody get's to do it.

The lack of love radiating towards Valentines Day is hitting me like a brick wall, the anti-Cupid's we shall call them, just like Scrooge's at Christmas. The best advice I can give anyone is buy the card, organise a bouquet of flowers and just make an extra special effort, because it's just one day, but those little efforts might just put a big smile on your special ladies face.

Suck it up anti-Cupid's.

Freshening Your Home for the Arrival of Spring

There is no better way to say goodbye to the doom and gloom of winter and embrace the life and colour of spring than by freshening up your home. Spring is a much brighter, vibrant and happier time of the year and your home should reflect this.

Not only will this help you and your family to feel happier and more energised, but it will also impress any visitors and help them to feel comfortable. Revitalising through decorating can also be a fun activity to do with the kids.

Spring cleaning
Firstly, you should spring clean the entire home. This is a great way to reduce clutter and provide you the opportunity to get rid of items that you no longer need. Not only will this drastically improve the look and feel of your house, but it can also help to clear your head and reduce stress.

Next, you will want to make some decorative changes to reflect the change in season. This does not necessarily have to involve changing the colour of every single wall (although it certainly could); as there are many other smaller changes that you could make that will have a huge impact.

Replacing the rugs with lighter colours (think yellows, oranges, purples etc) can transform a room and requires little effort. Similarly, replacing the curtains with fresher and lighter colours can have a similar effect. Made to measure curtains look fantastic and provide much greater privacy and insulation (it can still be chilly in spring!) – These are best ordered from specialists, like Direct Blinds.

Other small ways to reinvigorate the home include buying new sheets for the bedroom, replacing current artwork and photos with livelier pieces and buying new cushions (or cushion covers).

Finishing Touches
Finally, a great way to embrace spring is to buy flowers or plant life for each room of the home. This really can bring the house to life and improve your mood, but remember to care for these plants by watering them regularly. You could also consider air fresheners, potpourri or simply open the windows for a fresh new fragrance in the home.

Winter can be a depressing and cold time of the year, so the arrival of spring should be embraced. This is a much lighter, colourful and happier season, so celebrate this by transforming your home with a few easy decorative changes. This does not have to break the bank, it can be done quickly and it can be a great activity to do with the little ones.

Getting Your Backyard Ready for Summer

Before long the cold and bleak winter will be a distant memory and everybody will be embracing the warmth and joy of summer. In order to fully maximise the summer and get the most out of the best season of the year, now is the time to start getting ready. This means getting your garden prepared so that you will be ready to get the BBQ out and invite you friends over as soon as the weather permits.

Clearing the Area
Winter can leave the garden looking not particularly inviting, so the first step to a summer-ready garden involves clearing the area. This includes picking up debris, weeding the garden, tidying flowerbeds and trimming back any hedges. This will immediately make a big impact on how the garden looks.

Tree Surgery
If you have large trees that create a lot of shade, you will want to thin the branches for a brighter and warmer garden. This should always be carried out by professional tree surgeons, such as UK Landscapes.

Mow the Lawn
Much like getting a fresh summer haircut, you will want to mow the lawn to a neat length to make it look much tidier and more inviting. You should also aerate the lawn and prepare the soil (if you plan on planting anything).

Fresh Paint
The harsh weather can take its toll on your perimeter fence and shed which can bring down the tone of the entire backyard, so correct this by revitalising these parts with a fresh lick of paint. Whilst you’re at it, you should also clear out the shed of items you don’t need, bring out the BBQ and garden furniture and put remaining items back in a neat fashion.

Cleaning Furniture
Next, you will want to clean the furniture and BBQ so that they will be ready for use on the first day of summer. If you have a patio area, this should also be cleaned thoroughly. You can then set up an area for socialising/relaxing.

Finishing Touches
Finally, you will want to bring the garden to life and add personality. This can be achieved through buying colourful flowers and plant life, decorating the social area, placing rugs and cushions on the lawn, buying garden lights and anything else to make this a calm, inviting and relaxing space. You may also want some garden games for the kids to enjoy.

There is no better time of the year than the summer when you can relax in your backyard or invite friends and family round for a BBQ. Now is the perfect time to get your garden ready for the summer months so follow these steps and you will be amazed at the difference that it makes.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Being a Working Parent is HARD

Being a working parent is hard. Being a parent is HARD. Regardless as to whether you go out to work, you work for yourself or your stay at home parent looking after the children, it's really, really hard. It honestly feels at times like there are not enough hours in the day, and it often seems impossible to stay on top of the house and then keep the kids fed and watered each day, when exactly is there time to get any work done?

I find working from home even harder to juggle than actually going out to work, when you go out to work you have set days, set hours and no interruptions. You have an entire day where you can smash your to do list, there are no puppies demanding attention and no children needing picking up and taking to school. It's even harder when your child is sick, I find this is again even more poignant being self employed and working from my living room office space. There have been a number of occasions where I have had to go and collect Leo from school half way through the day, or even had to keep him off school completely due to sickness.

Of course this is like a domino effect, sick child = No work for Laura. A sick Leo means taking the day off, unpaid and spending that time with Leo. Of course don't get me wrong, I feel so lucky that I have the opportunity to spend that time with my little boy and be the one that gets to nurse him back to health again, but it does take it's toll on my working life. It means I cannot reply to emails, I have the potential to miss out on important opportunities, and my deadlines for other work get's pushed back. 

I always make sure I have a supply of Calpol from Pharmacy2U, I have been caught off guard before and thankfully Luke was around and willing to drive to a 24 hour shop at just gone 11pm at night. You never know when sickness is going to strike and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will happen when you are least prepared or have exciting plans... let's re-visit the times that Leo has unexpectedly succumb to illness...

There was that time when he was about 8 months old and we were heading to London to an exciting event with Pampers and Emma Bunton. After we traveled 2 hours to be in attendance...Leo threw up every where right in the center of Covent Garden. We ended up missing the event and hopping back on the train to go home... Both of us smelling of sick.

There was that time when Leo was about 18 months old and he couldn't possibly use a sick bucket, he insisted on being carried over my shoulder the entire time, and the only safe place was sitting in the bathroom until the sorry scene was over. I was having a mass clean when I stepped right into a puddle of sick that I had missed, slipped and fell straight onto my back....

Viral Rash: Roseola

There was that time we were heading to LEGOLAND on the train and my pushchair wheel popped. Then as we made our way further from home, Leo started to become grizzly and it wasn't long before a familiar viral rash spread over his body. Leo got worse as the day went on and could not enjoy the day at all, we ended up leaving the pushchair at the resort and heading home with a very poorly Leo. Did I mention that it was my Birthday?

Being a parent is hard. Being a working parent is HARD. It is all HARD. We all navigate it in our own way and fair the storms that come our way, the sun does shine after the rain, and dealing with a poorly child is never going to be a walk in the park, but as long as we keep the essentials (and by essentials I mean CALPOL, CALPOL, CALPOL) close to hand, because these sickness spells seem to be sprung on us when we least expect it!

Thankfully (touch wood) we seem to have had a nice clear run so far in 2017, and I hope that with the winter months ticking away day by day, that the warmer months mean that we will avoid a poorly little man.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Working from home

Working from home

I have been working from home since August 2015, it's been the most amazing experience, I never dreamed when I started my blog back in 2011, that just 4 years later I would find myself in the position to be able to live off of my blog. It is a rather surreal feeling when I think about, because it really was not my intention when I started writing that very first post, it just sort of progressed and naturally happened, and when I got made redundant, I just fell into it and didn't look back.

I think if I had deliberately set the end goal as being able to do exactly what I am doing now, then it would most definitely not have worked out that way, but I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work so flexibly around Leo, it means that I can do the school run myself and be there for important events such as school assemblies without having to gain permission or acceptance from the powers above. 

I think that this is something that Leo also loves, he knows that it is always going to be my face when the school bell chimes at 3:15, and he knows that if he is ever sick for any reason, it will be Mummy coming to pick him up and take care of him until he is better again, and that is something that makes me feel really proud. I am in a position I always dreamed about, but for a long time never thought could be a practical reality, but somehow, all be it completely left to chance, I found my way to where I am today completely by chance,

Working from home is the best set up I have ever had, and I genuinely don't think that I could go back to being an employee again. It's only me at home during the day (well except for the dog), and with it being Winter, I sometimes feel a little disheartened about heating up the entire house. I have often wondered about just bringing an oil heater into the lounge to keep me warm during the day, I work in the living room, and the only other room I would really frequent is the kitchen for snacks and hot drinks.

Oil heaters are considered to be great heating options during the winter months, they are low in noise unlike a fan heater as they heat up the air through convection heat, and they don't cost a whole lot to run. I have been having a look at the range available on Electrical Guys, and I think that I might be looking to invest in one before the winter days are behind us.

 People often think that it will cost them more money because they think that they will have to replace the oil in the radiator, but they are actually really energy efficient. They heat the oil over burning the oil, so you never need to refill it.

They are really good for the home and office (or in my case..My home office!) Their design makes them easy to fit into small places, and I could get one right next to my desk so that it heats my immediate area, but not the whole house, which will of course help me save some valuable ££.

I have always needed that additional heat, I like to be cosy warm, and that is one of the luxury's that I love from working at home, I used to sit in my coat at my 9-5 office job, and now I can quite happily sit in my dressing gown and slippers with the heating blaring, is it any wonder I am in my element working from home?

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Planning a Crete Getaway

2017 is already off to a rather incredible start, over the past few months my family and I (when I say family, I mean the entire extended family!) have been planning a very exciting holiday to Crete. Crete is a beautiful part of the world, and we are all very much looking forward to a well deserved break away from the typical day to day life routines. Leo and his younger cousin are like children at Christmas as they count down the sleep's until they take off on their jet plane to warmer skies. 

We have been looking at the Crete Villas on clickstay and have been trying to narrow down what we need out of a villa, as we will be travelling with such a large group we need at least 10 beds, and of course space for everyone to spread out of the week that we will be staying there. There are some truly stunning villas and it has been a lot of fun looking through all of the different styles that are on the website. 

We had a list of things that we wanted/needed out of a villa:

- Sleeps 10+ people
- Swimming Pool
- Close Proximity to the beach
- Air Con
- Short walk to restaurants

The clickstay Kouvohori superior 5 bedroom Villa ticked all of these boxes, and was just so visually stunning that it drew us in for a closer look.

It's about 15 minutes walk away from restaurants and shops, which is not to far at all. We like to get some cardio in on our holidays as it's the best way to have a look around and discover what is nearby. The children aren't to bothered about a walk either, especially if it means a jaunt along the beach front. 

You only have to look out of the window to see the sea, what more could you possibly want or need?

The villa is incredibly spacious which means that our party of 10 people will be able to live in harmony for the time we are there. I love these big family holiday's that we have been taking together over the last few years, it's a fantastic time to get my parents, siblings and our partners/children all together for a week.

 Last year we visited Crete and loved it so much that we just had to return this year, we spent our time relaxing by the pool and looking for shells on the stoney sea front, and we forged some incredible memories that still bring a smile to my face almost 12 months on. 

I feel incredibly lucky to have a family who want to go away and spend this quality time together, and it is so great for the children to see and have that special time with their grandparents. 

The villa has all the amenities of a home from home, but we will more than likely be trying out some of the Greek delicacies and making use of the restaurants that are a stones throw away from us. I remember as a child visiting Corfu with my parents, and they found the most incredibly Greek Tavern high up in the hills. How they found it I will never know, but to this day I still recall it as being the best Greek food I have ever eaten in my entire life. I would love to find a hidden gem like this while we are away this year!

Family holiday's really are a privilege and it's so nice to have people to make these memories with.

Crete 2017 is going to be really special.

Monday, 6 February 2017

How to throw yourself into a fitness routine and stick to it

Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide

I am officially 6 weeks into my fitness plan now, Christmas and it's post Turkey tummy are a far cry away, and as much as I adore the festive season, it feels so good to finally be back into a routine with everything again...Finally.

It's been 6 weeks of working out, eating right and falling back into love with fitness. If truth be told, as much as I wanted the results from getting back on plan, I wasn't feeling the effort that it would take to get there, but it is amazing how quickly everything slots into place and forms a routine, or you could even refer to it as a habit. 

6 weeks doesn't sound like a very long time, and it will pass regardless as to whether you chase your dreams or not, so I decided to put my all into it, set some goals, overhaul my mindset and just go for it. 
Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide

I get asked a lot why my body changes so quickly, what do I eat? How often do I work out to see these changes happening over a matter of weeks. The truth is that it boils down to what I put into it, I know that this is not what people want to hear, and they long for me to tell them that there is some magic potion that you can swig down before bed, and wake up with washboard abs and a 2 stone weight loss, but there really isn't.

I eat over 2,500 calories a day, I eat a lot of food. The difference between the calories and getting lean is the food that I eat. I eat wholefoods, food that is as close to the original product as humanly possible. I cook my own meals, I eat everything (Including carbs and fats!), and that really is the key. If you are half half heartedly working out, and half heartedly eating right, you will get... you guessed it. Half hearted results. 

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you will know that I follow Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide. This week marks two years since I decided to turn my life on it's head and make some serious changes to my mind, body and soul. When I took those tentative baby steps in the right direction, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I didn't know how to squat, burpee or lunge. I worked my way through the week, one work out at a time. The 12 weeks went by and I got stronger each and every single day, and I went on and on. I achieved goals that I never would have dreamed of setting back in those very early days of trying to loose the weight. 

A fitness journey means learning to believe in yourself, pushing your perimeters and daring to give it a go. 

So how do you get motivated enough to throw yourself into a fitness routine and stick to it?

Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide

1. Set a over all goal that you want to achieve
Whether it's weight loss, toning up or both. Think about where you want to be in a year. Write down your hopes and dreams and make a plan of how to achieve it.

2. Join a gym, running club or start working out from home
Whether you are going out to the gym, doing classes, joining a club or working out from home like I do, you need to treat these as important meetings with yourself, just as you would a colleague in the office. The sooner you can start ticking your workouts off, the sooner it will become part of your everyday routine. Even if you just have half an hour to do something, you are still lapping everybody on the couch. 

3. Take progress photos
This is a really important factor. You might not want to take those initial photos (I know I didn't), but I was so thankful when I started to take my more recent photos because the pictures highlighted just how far I had come, they told me more than the scale ever could. 

4. Treat yourself to a new fitness wardrobe
When I first started working out, I had no gym clothes what so ever. the trainers I started with back in 2014 dated back to 2007 when I once attempted to go to the gym with an ex boyfriend. Ironically although the relationship ended, those trainers still looked brand spanking new, perhaps because they were! As I ticked the weeks off against my set goals, I decided to set rewards for the objectives that I achieved. I treated myself to my Triangl Bikini (The most expensive bikini I have and ever will purchase in my life!), and I kitted myself out with a new Nike collection, including sports bras, trainers and gym shorts, promovouchers.co.uk have some great Nike voucher codes to check out!

5. Bin your scales
I spent far to much of my own journey obsessing over the scales, in my head putting on any weight would send me plummeting back in the wrong direction. I associated my old weight with fat. So in my head if I ever surpassed a certain number on the scale, I would be back to square one again. This couldn't be further from the truth, and muscle actually weighs more than fat does, so you could weigh more, and look completely different to how I did on my almost 10 stone frame. My new years resolution is to forget all about the scales, and it has taken me a long time, but I no longer care about what those scales read, and my goal of 2017 is to put some size on in muscle and actually gain some more weight!

It's important to be kind to yourself, and take things one day at a time. Remember that you can make changes but they are going to happen over a period of time, but by setting smaller goals within your over all goal, and rewarding yourself, you can make lasting changes that will make yo