THE HAPPY LIST

September 11, 2014

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Forget your troubles, come on, get happy!
Here’s five things that are making me happy this week….

1. The boy still has four more days left before he goes back to work after over two weeks off! We’re determined to make the most of them.

2. We have a new Dyson and I am in love! Yes, with a hoover (sorry I mean vacuum cleaner). It’s cordless, it’s called an Animal, it’s purple, and I can hoover the cat hairs off the chairs and the cobwebs off the walls really easily.

3. I’ve started exercising pretty consistently again.

4. I think I’ve found my hairstylist for my wedding. Squeeeeeee!

5. My daughter is bloody amazing and I laugh lots every day because of her.

What’s making you happy this week?

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Ava: 32 Months

September 10, 2014

Ava 32 Months

Loves: Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, ice-cream, ice-cream, ice-cream, her Daddy doing bench presses with her, putting her toys on top of our cat Molly (luckily Molly is currently enjoying this too), being outside/on the beach/in the garden and never coming in, this awful cartoon called ‘Littlest Pet Shop’ that is like, totally awesome dude and I just got so many likes on this photo and you should totally like just be yourself; and is now banned. Singing (I use that term loosely) to Frozen, watching Frozen, looking at pictures of Frozen, anything Frozen. Telling me there is a snake/spider somewhere (and I can’t help but check that there isn’t), drawing, her Granny and Grandma (her Father and I are COMPLETELY ignored if either of them are there).

Dislikes: Me asking her to do anything, going inside after playing outside, fruit (not that she’ll try any).

Favourite foods: Chocolate, ice-cream, chocolate ice-cream, Daddy’s butternut squash risotto, mummy’s Thai red curry bolognaise from the I Quit Sugar for Life book (which I bloody love by the way), still pâté sandwiches, yorkshire puddings, carrots, gravy, humous, anything you can dip in, bread.

Favourite Toy: An elephant cuddly toy called Ellie. He is a character from The Jungle Book (which we watched together for the first time the other day) and he is actually mine (or he was) from when I was young. He came from Florida when I was on holiday there. She also still really loves the pull-along doggy we bought her for Christmas. He recently took a trip to the park and went in the sandpit where his lead got rather filthy and he made friends with two other little girls who cried when they couldn’t take him home.

Favourite book: Ava likes spending time reading by herself at the moment (i.e looking through and making up the words), and it’s so cute to see. She has rediscovered her love for the weird one that is Pig in Love, and now knows most of the words herself (I’m determined to get it on camera). She is also obsessed with this hardback book of ‘Jake and the Neverland Pirates’ that comes with little figurines of the characters and a pull-out playmat.

Challenges this month: Trying to get her to answer me when I speak to her. She is loving ignoring me as much as possible at the moment, which I HATE. I think she gets it from her Dad; but she can bloody well un-get it. We left potty training for a bit after she kept peeing everywhere but the potty, and then left it a bit longer because we were going away so it’s now time to try it again. She’s actually in town with her Daddy as I write this buying some more big girl knickers (time to myself; WAHOOOOOOOO!!!). She’s generally quite good at the moment; she has a lot of mardies and would watch tv all day if she could but generally she’s very lovely, sweet and loving.

Best bits: Our little family trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon at the end of July; she loved playing in the hotel room, being outside lots and having big grassy areas to run around on, eating ice-creams, staying up late and having mummy and daddy all to herself with no housework or other mundanities to distract us.

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I hate cleaning, but I LOVE that satisfying feeling of having cleaned. There’s nothing better than knowing a room is really clean and sparkly and you don’t have to bother with it for another few months. I’m joking don’t worry. I clean at least once a month. I also love finding quicker ways to do things; that make my life a bit easier and make the time I have to spend cleaning a bit shorter. I want to be playing with my daughter or reading super important tweets on Twitter, not sweeping the kitchen floor again.

With the summer starting to come to an end (sorry, but it’s true) you might be thinking about doing a big house clean (an Autumn clean?) at the same time as you begin to put all those pretty summery clothes away (*sob*). If so, I have a few tips for you that I have collected since having my own home that will hopefully make your life a bit easier, or cleaner at least.

Top Tips for a Sparkling Home

- Use rubber gloves to remove cat and dog hairs from settees, curtains, cushions and anywhere else you find them. Except for the actual cat or dog; they’re supposed to be there. Put the rubber gloves on and wipe over the hairs.

-Keep cleaning products where you need them, not just in one place. So that if you do decide to spontaneously clean the bathroom you don’t have to go down to the kitchen to get everything you need where you suddenly decide you must have a cup of tea, the toddler wants a snack, so does the cat and so does the woman across the roads best friends son and you completely ‘forget’ about cleaning the bathroom.

- Keep the bin bag roll in the bin beneath the bag that is being used so that you can quickly put in a new bag once you’ve emptied it. Particularly any upstairs bins.

- Keep old toothbrushes to clean around taps and to get to all the tight little bits around sinks and plugholes.

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- Use an old sock or two as a duster for things like the bannister or a blind – put it on your hand and wipe over each part so that you can get at all the little bits easily.

- If you break a glass (one of my many skills), get a piece of bread and put it over the area and it will pick up the little pieces.

- Vinegar and newspaper works really well for cleaning mirrors and windows. As long as you haven’t been putting all of your newspapers in the recycling bin as soon as you got them. Then it doesn’t work so well.

- Cleaning wipes (or baby wipes!) are good for doing a quick clean in between the deep cleans or when your relatives/friends (delete as appropriate) have just invited themselves round and you haven’t cleaned for months days. Keep some in the kitchen and some in the bathroom, so that you can just pretend you’re taking a long time in the loo. Better that than a dirty bathroom, am I right?

- Apple cider vinegar is great to clean ev-ery-thing. I use it diluted with water instead of a shop-bought anti-bacterial cleaner to clean all surfaces, the highchair, the floor, potty-training accidents; everything AND the kitchen sink. Apple cider vinegar is non-toxic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal so it’s perfect for cleaning. I also use it to wash vegetables, for cleaning windows, as fabric conditioner, and to neutralise smells. Oh and I also sometimes drink it. But that’s a whole other story blog post.

- Get yourself a lightweight hoover so that you can quickly hoover a few times a week and jobs like hoovering the stairs don’t seem like such a mammoth task; use it in between doing a full hoover once a week or so if you need to. An even better idea is to get a cordless one to make it even easier for yourself. The Dyson Animal Cordless Vacuum Cleaner looks totally up my (lazy) street. It’s apparently got great suction (which is always good), it is designed to pick up fine dust, it’s cordless, and it comes with a mini motorised tool good for removing hair and dirt from upholstery (no rubber gloves required).

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I need this so that I can chase the dust bunnies (and the cats) around the house and up on my high ceilings (not the cats) where I tend to ignore the dust winking at me because I can’t reach. Also, I love love love the thought of not having to unplug my hoover from downstairs halfway up the stairs and then replug it in upstairs. Heaven. John Lewis have £50 off the Dyson Animal Cordless Vacuum Cleaner until 9th September.

- An extra tip from my ‘worn-out-from-fixing-and-cleaning-the-oven-today’ other half: use one of those scrapey things that are to remove paint from glass to clean the oven door; instead of scrubbing and scrubbing at it you just sit there and scrape it off (his words!).

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And if you are struggling to find the motivation to get started with your cleaning, remember: housework burns lots of calories! So get cleaning…. and then have a big glass of wine to congratulate yourself for all that hard work!

Have you got any super cleaning tips to make all of our lives that little bit easier? Please share in the comments; I need to know!

P.S My fiance said this must have been hard for me to write because he does all the cleaning. On another note, that wedding that I’ve been talking about on here might not be happening after all FYI.

This post was sponsored by John Lewis; but all thoughts, opinions and cleaning tips are my own, or my ex-fiance’s ;)

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Turning 30

August 10, 2014

30th Birthday

Last week I turned the big 3-0. Thirty. Dirty thirty. Flirty thirty. Everyone always seems to dread turning 30 and I kind of did as well. But the closer I got to it the more excited and grateful I got. We are lucky to be getting older, even if we are all scared of getting wrinklier and droopier. But if we don’t age there’s only one alternative. I know some people who haven’t made it this far in life so I am bloody grateful to be here enjoying life and getting older.

Obviously ageing in our bodies and our minds can be a potentially scary thing, especially for women I think. But really, I wish we could just embrace ageing and not see it as a negative thing. I think it’s hard with society nowadays (clearly I am old to say things like that!) when so much emphasis is put on the quest for eternal youth and celebrities all over the place appear to defy ageing. We do all want to look younger but we shouldn’t let it bother us as much as we do. I think it’s great that whilst there are all these beautiful young seemingly perfect stars making us feel bad about our looks, that there are lots of respectable, classy, successful older women like Helen Mirren who look amazing; who show us that you don’t have to look old and wrinkly or go into hiding or wear bad clothes when you are older; who show us that ageing doesn’t have to be a bad thing and we don’t have to be young to look beautiful and fit and that we can still be inspirational and fun when we’re older.

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The older I’ve got the more I have started to care about my health and I believe being healthy and fit plays a big part in growing older beautifully and keeping our bodies looking fit and healthy and keeping our minds young as much as possible. Drinking lots of water, moving our bodies, eating good clean foods that nourish our bodies, getting outdoors and enjoying some sunshine are more important to ageing gracefully and feeling good about ourselves than trying to stay forever young with lotions and magical potions and surgery of the plastic variety.

I also quite like being older; I don’t want to be 21 anymore. I like the thought of being 30, being a mother, getting married (next year) and being a grown up. I feel like I’m officially an adult now and I’m ok with that.

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I think my thirties are going to be amazing; I’m getting married, will hopefully be lucky enough to have more children; I’ll see Ava starting school, we’ll move house and more and more people around me will start to have children. I plan to only get fitter and healthier rather than less so; increase my confidence in different ways, learn to play the piano, travel and practice yoga. That all sounds pretty bloody amazing to me. It feels like a new chapter with lots of new experiences to come. I’m excited!

How did you feel about turning 30 or how do you feel if you’re not that old yet?!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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The Things She Says

July 14, 2014

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My toddler comes out with so many funny new things every day; she constantly makes me laugh. Some things she’ll pick up from things she watches, but most of the time I’ve got no idea where it’s come from. I wish I could remember them all and exactly how she said something because they’re often so hilarious and I always think ‘I’ll tell her Daddy that when he comes home’ but I usually can’t remember what it was.

Here are some things she’s said or conversations we’ve had that I have written down. I know some of them aren’t that fascinating, but they are when your toddler (she’s two and a half) has recently started speaking in sentences and she’s never said the cute or funny thing before.

Me (when she’s hurt herself): “Are you ok?”
Her: “I’m ok, just kiss it” and sticks the hurt body part out for me to kiss it better.

“Extra extra read all bout it”

To our cat: “Daisy a chew toy for you. I throw it for you and you bring it back for me.”

A to me: “What’s happening girl?”

“Calm down mummy”

When I’m singing
A: “Only daddy can sing mummy”
Me: “Why?”
A: “Because he’s a good singer”
Me: “Am I a good singer?”
A: “No”!!!!!!

“Only Daddy can sing mummy”
I pulled a sad face
“Come and hug me” (I was changing her)
“You didn’t hurt anybody”

A: “No don’t sing mum, I sing”
Me: “Why? I’m a good singer”
A: “Daddy’s a good singer”
Me: “Am I a good singer too though?”
A: “Of course mom”!!! (We say mum)

Watching frozen
A: “Everybody’s blowing away”
Me: “I know”
A: “Don’t worry, they’ll be fine”

“Mummy, what’s happened to the Princess?”

“I want to play ano” aka I want to play the piano

“Look at his big tuna” (talking about her toy elephants trunk)

A: “Mummy you trumped”
Me: “No I didn’t”
A: “You did you trumped”
Me: “No I didn’t!”
A: “You did you did stinky mummy”

Slaps my bum and says “nakeeeed” and runs off

Me: “We need to change your bum because you’ve pooed”
A: “No I haven’t”
Me: “What’s that stink then?”
A: “YOU!”

Coming out the doctors
“That was a good doctor”

“Can you be my hero mummy?” (She wanted me to help with her jigsaw)

To me: “No I don’t want your stinky compote”!!! (I’ve never made her compote)

“Mummy I’m calling you T-bone”

“I’m hiding from your face gorgeous”

“No I’m not proud of you mummy”

Have you got any funny things your children have said? I’d love to hear some!

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XPlus Screen

On Friday evening my friend and I attended a preview screening of the new Transformers: Age of Extinction movie at the brand new XPlus screen at Showcase cinema in Nottingham. XPlus has been labelled as ‘The Ultimate Cinema Experience’, with a wall-to-wall and floor to ceiling screen.

The red carpet was rolled out for me (and maybe the odd other person) and we very much enjoyed a few glasses of Prosecco and really nice canapés before the film. I could get used to being a VIP.

Here is what Showcase Cinema’s have to say about the XPlus experience:

“Showcase XPlus is our proprietary large format auditorium featuring Dolby Atmos™ sound and the most advanced digital projection and screen technology. XPlus offers a premium cinema experience with immersive sound, crystal clear projection and reserved seating.”

The Nottingham Showcase is only the second cinema in the country (the first was Leeds) to get an XPlus screen with more being rolled out soon.

Louise entering the XPlus screen

The viewing experience is said to be ultrasharp, with vibrant colour accuracy, super-reflective screens for maximum brightness and the brightest and sharpest 3D experience. In my opinion, it did look really good; it was very bright and clear and the 3D aspect of it looked really good (Transformers is a good film to have in 3D), but I didn’t really notice a massive difference. I’m obviously not a big film buff but I feel like I would have to see an XPlus screen and a normal screen side by side to be able to tell the difference. I am sure there are big one’s, but as an ordinary viewer I am just absorbed in the film and not paying particular attention to the details.

The XPlus auditorium features Dolby Atmos sound which is apparently the most significant development in cinema since the arrival of surround sound. Again, we didn’t really notice a difference during the film. However, before the film started they showed us the power of Dolby Atmos by playing some heavy rain and a thunderstorm and that was amazing. The sound really enveloped us and it felt like we were part of a thunderstorm. It sounded really realistic and the placement of all of the many speakers used with this sound system obviously works very well. We both agreed that it sounded brilliant.

Auditorium at Showcase XPlus

The Nottingham XPlus auditorium is having completely new seating soon, and having seen some photos of what that looks like I am sure that when they are installed that the overall experience will be much nicer than in a standard screening. Tickets to an XPlus screening are around £15 so it’s certainly not a budget option.

Regular film-goers will probably notice more of a difference and a higher standard with the XPlus but I just really ‘see’ the film rather than the details that make it.

Jen and I at Showcase XPlus

Transformers: Age of Extinction was ok. It is not something I would really choose to go and watch (I have seen the first one), but I do think it’s quite an easy watch and I enjoyed most of it. The fight scene near the end went on for about half an hour too long and I got pretty bored and just wanted it to stop. Also (and I’m really not a big feminist or anything usually), the women in it were REALLY wimpy. I can take the ridiculously short shorts and the close-ups of them and the never-ending legs inside numerous times; but the main girl in it screamed at everything and was scared of everything and so were all-but-one of the other women. That kind of thing doesn’t normally bother me, but with this it was a bit too much and obvious that the girls were made to look really weak and pathetic.

Overall we had a really fun night (free Prosecco helped!) and it would probably be nice to have an evening at the cinema and a bit of luxury – if you reserve your seats, make a visit to the bar for some sparkles, lounge in the new comfy seating (that will be there soon) and relax and enjoy a film on the very high quality screen with incredible sound, and really make it an evening out – then you will probably have a great time and it will be worth the cost. If you just fancy seeing the latest film, don’t pay much attention to details, and want a cheap-ish evening out – then maybe just stick with a normal screening.

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Fitness Update: June

June 30, 2014

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Maybe it’s the odd flashes of sunshine we’re getting amongst all the rain or maybe it’s the fact that I dragged out my summer clothes during these flashes (not mine) and a lot of them didn’t quite fit (I thought I’d only put on a few pounds during winter!), but I’ve been feeling very motivated to start exercising again during May and June. I planned to keep doing my 4 minutes a day throughout winter but the dreary weather, cold, greyness, layers of clothes and pure laziness stopped me. I’m still not finding it as easy as I was before, probably because it’s still been chilly and rainy a lot of the time (weather take note – it’s not April anymore, bugger off with your showers; sunshine sort it out, it’s June, almost July) but I really want to do it. I caught a glimpse last year of how amazing it was to actually feel nice in my clothes and it really increased my overall confidence so I really need to get back on it like a car bonnet.

I also really want to start a few new things, in particular yoga and running. I have never really been interested in yoga but after seeing lots of beautiful and inspiring photos of yoga poses on Instagram and coming across a couple of blog posts about it (particularly this one), I really fancy giving it a try. I’d like to do it for the body benefits but also for the things it can do for your mind. I find it impossible to switch off and stop worrying about every bloody little thing so I would love to do something about that and be a calmer person.

Unfortunately I haven’t found a suitable local class yet so I’m going to start practicing yoga at home for now starting with videos from here and here. There is a Pilates class near me; I know they are different, but I’d like to give that a try too so I might go to that one week and see if I like it.

I also want to start running. But I don’t want it to be a big deal or really push myself at first as I’ve always hated running so I just want to see how it goes. I feel like I would just like to add something different to my exercising so I would be happy with going just once a week. There is a place we take Ava for walks near where we live by a river so I’d actually like to go with my family for a walk and keep running away from and back to them. I don’t know if that’s a weird idea, but because going for a run sounds horrible to me at the moment I know that I will never make myself get my exercise clothes on and get out the door on an evening, when I am shattered and just want to collapse with some wine and Netflix. However getting some fresh air and going for a walk with my family by the river appeals much more.

There seem to be rather a lot of fitness related blog posts around at the moment and I am really enjoying reading them and getting inpsired. And hopefully next time I speak to you I’ll be downward dogging all over the place.

Do you do much exercise? I’d love to hear about what you do or if you have or any motivational tips to share.
Namaste my friends.

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A couple of months ago we went to see a wedding venue for the first time and we fell in love. It’s perfect for us. The Carriage Hall is a restored and converted station goods shed which makes a really unique and beautiful setting for a wedding. I love love love the big open space of the main hall with its stripped back brick walls and super high ceiling. It has lovely rural views and seating scattered about outside to enjoy a drink in the (hopefully) sunshine.

I actually dismissed The Carriage Hall a few years ago when I started looking because it doesn’t have any bedrooms to stay in and I really didn’t want anyone to have to leave early with Ava to put her to bed somewhere else. However, we are getting married next summer by which time Ava will be three and a half, therefore she will probably stay up late with us dancing the night away and if she gets too tired she can always fall asleep on someone’s shoulder for a bit, or in a room we have earmarked as a kiddies play/sleep room.

We did also want bedrooms at our wedding venue for ourselves so that we can just retire upstairs at the end of our long happy day and so we could join our close family who would have also stayed there for breakfast the next morning.

But this place is pretty perfect in every other way, and it’s really not a problem staying somewhere else. I just need to find a beautiful hotel in Nottingham for us to stay on our wedding night. We were actually thinking of staying in the Lace Market Hotel where the boy proposed to me but it just went out of business!

This weekend we went back to The Carriage Hall for a wedding open day and mainly to see the venue again. We still love it. The hubs-to-be thinks he likes it even more than last time. It was lovely to see it in the sunshine with people milling about outside and with all the big windows and doors thrown wide open. Let’s all now cross our fingers for sunshine on our special day!

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Father's Day

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Here I am sitting looking at the mountains in the Marlborough Sounds, enjoying a nice cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc from the very same region. It was gorgeously hot and we were staying at one of the most beautiful places, where there were only two self-contained purpose-built quaint and lovely lodges in the grounds of the owners house, and we were the only one’s staying so we had the place to ourselves. There were chickens and a goat, and the owner brought us fresh eggs, and homemade bread and cake. It was wonderful.

The Marlborough Sounds is a really beautiful place and we spent a couple of days there after attending the Marlborough Wine Festival (which was also brilliant), and then we got a boat over to the Sounds from Picton. Our long, lazy days were spent on long walks in the hot sunshine, buying rhubarb and ginger jam from the locals driveways, eating lovely food at the few and far between cafes and from our lovely host, drinking the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc we had bought before getting there (there were no shops close by) and admiring the beautiful views and lazing about reading books and relaxing.

It was one of my favourite parts of our entire 5-month-long trip around the world and I’d love to go back to the exact same spot again one day.

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