Jumping in muddy puddles at Bluestone National Park Resort Wales

The morning of our second full day at Bluestone started off well; we awoke feeling refreshed and happy that we had all slept through, and looking foward to a day of swimming, exploring and going for a nice meal that evening. However, that was not to be. Ava woke up, shouted to us and then started being sick! We brought her into our bed and grabbed a few towels and I tried not to cry about our ruined day (not really). I did however get a bit panicked about how we were going to deal with this without loads of towels, plenty of extra bedding and a washing machine. But luckily the Bluestone staff were amazing and brought us a big pile of clean towels and took our used one’s away, checked if there was anything they could do to help, and let us stay an extra day! How great is that? I had started to worry that (I’m a worrier, can you tell?!) we would have to make the (loong) trip home in the car with a toddler throwing up everywhere, so it was a bit relief to be able to stay an extra day, and so nice of the resort to let us.

A few hours later we tried giving Ava some toast which she thankfully kept down, and she seemed brighter as the hours went by, which was such a relief. For the first time since we had got to Bluestone it wasn’t raining, so we all wrapped up warm and went for a lovely walk around the grounds, splashing in plenty of muddy puddles along the way (Ava’s favourite pastime). The grounds of Bluestone are so beautiful even in rubbish weather and there is so much land to explore. The Village has the restaurants, a bakery and a good size village shop that stocks a lot of products.

The Forest at Bluestone WalesTaking a stroll to The Village at Bluestone WalesThe Adventure Centre

After our stroll we decided that we were too tired to go out for a meal, and we wanted to give Ava something relatively plain, so we decided we would cook ourselves (Paul) again. So we didn’t actually get to sample much of the food on site; only the takeaway and some fish and chips at the Blue Lagoon Water Park the next day (not great), which was a shame, but it was really great to have a proper kitchen in our lodge so we didn’t have to eat out even if we didn’t feel like it.

On our last day at Bluestone we braved the pouring rain again to venture to the water park in the grounds of Bluestone. We spent a fun few hours splashing about and jumping the waves from the wave machine, which Ava absolutely loved. She didn’t want to leave. The main pool was smaller than I expected and non-swimmers weren’t allowed past a certain point which meant that there wasn’t a huge area that you could go in with young children; but it was still good and a great activity to have in the grounds to get away from the rain for a bit. It’s free if you are staying at Bluestone. The whole of the water park felt a bit like it could do with an update to me, but that is probably standard for a heavily used pool. There are three flumes which the boy said were good and an outdoor lazy river, which was absolutely freezing when we were there! It was also here where we found out we had a brand new nephew! After the swim we went back to our lodge, completely exhausted but happy where we all had baths and showers and spent our last evening relaxing.

We really loved our time at Bluestone National Park Resort; it was just what our family needed. It’s a lovely place to just have a relaxing time or to do more physical activities if that is what you want. Our lodge was really nice, and I especially love that the living area is upstairs so you have better views, and it is just a nice change from the normal layout. The grounds were beautiful and even though we didn’t try any of the places to eat in the Village, there seem to be a good range of options for your evening meal. The staff we encountered were all really lovely and friendly which makes a big difference. There is so much you can do there, that I do feel like I missed out on a lot of stuff, but that is not a bad thing, I just wish we’d had longer there and a bit better weather (and a non-poorly child). Bluestone is a great place to go with children as there is just so much for children of all ages to do, and many things that they wouldn’t usually get the opportunity to do.

I’m struggling to think of any proper negatives really; I wish the buggy’s were cheaper to hire, as at £75 for a weekend it does add a good chunk onto the cost of your holiday, but you don’t actually need one. It would have been nice to have and good fun but we were fine without one and that is with a young child (Daddy’s shoulders did come in useful sometimes though!). You do get regular emails from them once you have booked; encouraging you to book activities and telling you about things at Bluestone, and there do seem to be rather a lot of them, but I find things like that rather easy to ignore if I don’t want to read them so it didn’t bother me that much.

I do think it would be useful for there to be some lockers in the Adventure Centre so that you don’t have to hold on to all your ‘stuff’ constantly, especially when you are taking part in something like ‘Kingdom of the Elves’ where you are walking around for a while.

I would love to go back to Bluestone again but only if it was for a week or so as it is such a long way away for us to go; and I would choose to go back in the spring or summer months too. Even though Bluestone is still gorgeous whatever the weather, and there is always loads to do, I would love to be able to do a lot more of the outdoor activities such as the Steep Ravine (a treetop adventure with zip wires, high ropes and loads more – I LOVE that kind of thing!), and have a meal at Camp Smokey, an outdoor venue (which we discovered isn’t open in the wintertime, which is a shame as I’d pictured us wrapped up, sitting amongst some outdoor heaters and enjoying some red hot food!), and just not have to worry about staying warm after getting soaked by the rain. I’d also be sure to pay a visit to the Wellness Spa if I was there for longer, and spend some quality time by myself!

 

Louise at Bluestone WalesBeautiful Sky at Bluestone WalesStrolling through Bluestone National Park ResortExploring Bluestone Wales

You can read Part One of a A Christmassy Trip to Bluestone Wales here, and The Vlog here.

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Wedding Planning: The Dress

December 14, 2014

Love HeartsOn Saturday I went to try on wedding dresses for the first time with two friends and my sister. It was so lovely and so much fun! We went to two different shops where we had two very different experiences.

In the first we had a lovely time; very relaxed, happy, chatty, loads of beautiful dresses and a great atmosphere. But in the second it just felt so different. I had to actually try really hard to pick some dresses to try on because there weren’t really any that I loved the look of or were what I wanted. I tried about six on anyway because it’s good to try on styles you didn’t think you wanted in case one really suits you. But there was only one we all liked, and it would need too much doing to it to get it to how I would want it. The atmosphere just wasn’t as relaxed and the lady kept the curtain drawn around me while she perfectly placed the dress for my friends to see and then opened the curtain for me to be viewed! I couldn’t help letting out a “Ta dah” and jazz hands the first time the curtains were pulled back and I was ‘revealed’! The shop was quite dull and old-fashioned and not a great overall experience.

At the first shop that we all really enjoyed, I found a couple of dresses that I liked as did the girls, and one in particular that I’m kinda in LOVE with! My original thought on what I wanted and what shape of dress would suit me best were actually spot on! And even though some of the other dresses in different shapes and styles looked quite pretty, they didn’t do as much for me as the shape I had thought I wanted; which is great! However, the one I can’t stop thinking about is actually made from very different material to what I thought I wanted which is ok with me really; it just takes some getting used to going for something different that you didn’t think you liked or wanted. I also don’t love the bottom of the dress so it isn’t perfect and I am going to keep looking. The girls also really loved THE dress on me and gave me some lovely comments which is nice. They are actually calling it ‘the WOW dress’ which says a lot. And how can I choose another dress after wearing a ‘wow’ dress?! I actually re-tried the other dress that we all really liked after I tried on the ‘wow’ dress and it seemed quite boring to me, even though it certainly wasn’t a boring dress.

There’s just one problem. The dress I want/need/love/can’t stop thinking about is over budget. Surprise surprise! Damn my bloody expensive tastes. But it’s ok! The lady is happy to sell me the sample dress which hasn’t been in the shop that long and would then be in budget! It is also weirdly in my size, which could be a sign that this should be my dress! All of the other dresses that I tried on (about 15) were all too big, and ‘The One: Possibly’ fits me really well! Sooo, because I can only realistically afford the sample (which I am happy with as it looks perfect) I need to make a decision quickly because someone else could steal the dress from me! But, it’s nearly Christmas and there is no time until the new year to go and try more dresses on in other shops. So I am feeling rather anxious and under pressure to buy this dress as soon as possible if I want it!

I have decided to go and try the dress on again with my sister later in the week to see if I still love it, and if I do? Then I still don’t know what I will do. I caaan’t just buy it without trying some others on in the same style, but with a hemline that I like, can I? Can I?! No, I can’t. I’ll just have to keep my fingers REALLY tightly crossed that no-one goes to that shop in the next few weeks, tries ‘my’ dress on, loves it, and is the same size as me. Easy.

If you are married did you find your dress easily or did you try on loads before you found ‘The One’? Or did you never really find ‘The One’, just one that you were happy with? I’d love to hear your experience of trying on wedding dresses.

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A Christmassy Trip to Bluestone Wales

In this, my first ever vlog, you can check out a bit of Bluestone National Park Resort and what you can get up to there (when it’s raining!), have a nosey inside the lovely lodges and see the beautiful grounds. You can also see how much fun Ava had jumping in muddy puddles and visiting ‘Kingdom of the Elves'; a magical festive tale through the Elf Workshop in which you find out what happens to your letter when you post it to Santa! I hope you enjoy watching…..

Please let me know what you think about first attempt at vlogging, but please go easy on me – I know I can do better!

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Our Perfect Family Holiday

December 10, 2014

I'd Love to be a Mark Warner Mum

Last year my little family were lucky enough to enjoy our first family holiday abroad together for my sister’s wedding, in Portugal. We had a wonderful time with loads of family, plenty of sunshine, beaches and relaxation time. Ava loved spending quality time with Mummy and Daddy on the beach and got more and more brave venturing into the waves with her Daddy each time.

The Bridesmaid and Flower Girl

We would love to go abroad together again next year, just as our little family this time, and create those special memories that we can cherish forever. Ava will be the perfect age at around three and a half and would absolutely love spending a full week with her favourite people (please don’t ask her if we are actually her favourite people because I’m not sure I want to know her answer!). She adores those times when we are all together, sharing lots of laughs and having both of us there to give her lots of attention and love. She is so much more aware of things now and she gets so excited when we talk about where we are going or what we are going to be doing, that I just know she would be so happy to find out we were going on an aeroplane and off for a sunny holiday together.

Every time she goes swimming she loves it a little bit more; and I would love to relax on the beach whilst watching my favourite people in the world jumping the waves together and hearing Ava’s delighted giggles as the sea splashes her in the face yet again. The sun would be beating down on us, and I could forget our troubles and worries knowing that there is no-where else in the world I’d rather be.

DSC_0004Daddy and AvaA Flower Girl and a Bridesmaid

Ava’s daddy and I are not actually yet married; as trying to have a baby became our priority after I had some health issues years ago. But next year we will finally become husband and wife. Our perfect holiday would be extra special if we were there on our honeymoon celebrating our marriage. It would be an amazing feeling being there with my new husband and sharing our honeymoon with our daughter in a beautiful place in the world. It would be the perfect beginning to married life.

We could spend lots of quality time as a family, but also share some experiences as a couple; get all romantic at a spa, or have some fun doing some watersports, while Ava had too much fun with other kids at a children’s group. Maybe we could even have an evening out just the two of us, before strolling back to our room for some wine (her) and beer (him) on our balcony. We could reminisce about our wedding day and what it’s like to finally be married! Maybe I could even change my name on my passport in time so that it would be our first holiday as a family with the same surname (and I wouldn’t be left out anymore ;).

Ava and Mummy overlooking the seaProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

We really want to explore more of the world together with Ava, before we (hopefully) give Ava a brother or sister after we have been away on our honeymoon. Maybe all the relaxation and sunshine might help? Or maybe we would be lucky enough to have a honeymoon baby. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

We would spend the days of our perfect holiday playing in the pool together, reading books in the shade under an umbrella, eating delicious food, playing on the beach and exploring wherever we were; having adventures and making memories. I would take loads of pictures, and hopefully by that age Ava would finally keep still and smile for me as I point the camera at her. We would love to enjoy everything through our daughter’s eyes, as she takes in all the new experiences, sights and sounds. Oh to be tiny again and to live purely in the moment!

 

This is my entry into the Mark Warner Ambassador Programme for 2015. I would love to become a #markwarnermum and possibly take our last ever holiday as a family of three.

 

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Of The Week: #2

December 9, 2014

Birds and Lilies favourites of the week

Last week was a busy one. This week is going to be even busier. I have lists coming out of my ears, but it’s the only way I can release some of the overwhelmed-ness (!?!) that I am feeling at the moment. How did we get so far through December already? Only two full weeks until Santa arrives! I’m so excited because this year Ava recognises Santa and “Rudolph the red reindeer” and she knows she’s going to get some presents and she can’t wait! And with a new baby in the family it’ll be even more brilliant, and special.

Here are some of my favourites of the week!

Photo OTW:

Jumping in muddy puddles at Bluestone WalesI love this photo of Ava at Bluestone Wales. She had been poorly that morning but we took her out for some fresh air and she had a blast doing one of her favourite things – jumping in muddy puddles just like her favourite pig, Peppa. Plus she looks all cute and snuggly in all her layers and bear balaclava.

Blog Post OTW: This brilliant post from Aby at You Baby Me Mummy ‘Organise Your Blogging’. I am terrible at being consistent with my blogging and even though my teachers used to always say I was organised at school, I fail terribly now. I just get overwhelmed so easily with how much I need to do all the time. I really need systems in place to help me to stay organised and Aby’s tips such as using the ‘Editorial Calendar’ plugin and using spreadsheets are exactly what I need.

Product OTW: My Dyson Animal. I was sent this as part of a collaboration with Lewis, but honestly I am in love. I just keep wanting to hoover, and normally I never want to. I am impatient waiting for it to charge so I can use it again and chase after my mess-making toddler with it.

Dyson Animal Cordless HooverKids Thing OTW: Ava has loved her ‘My Busy Books’ Jake and the Neverland Pirates since I bought it and she recently got the Disney Princess version which has also become a firm favourite. It consists of a box that opens like a book and has some kind of story in it (they vary), with a pull out sheet based on the theme of the set, and 12 figurines, some of which often come out with us. They are usually about a fiver from Amazon or from supermarkets and I think they are really good value for money, providing Ava with hours of entertainment.

YouTube Video OTW: It’s actually a series of video’s from beauty vlogger and blogger Lily Pebbles. Lily is doing Vlogmas this year, which is when Youtuber’s post a video every day from the beginning of December until Christmas. I love watching youtube video’s and often watch them instead of TV in the evening now. I always enjoy Lily’s vlogs but I’m especially enjoying her daily uploads as they show more what her real life is like, rather than just the highlights of her week. I don’t know why it is so interesting watching other people’s lives but it is!

Ava’s New Word OTW: ‘Fabulous’! “You look FAAABULOUS mummy!” It really makes me laugh every time she says it. I don’t know where she’s got it from, because it’s a word I rarely use. She has also said, as I was looking at bra’s “Daddy needs a bra too and then he would look fabulous in it”. Yes he would darling, yes he would. Christmas present idea?!!

Tweet OTW: Paul’s cousin Sophie tweeted a few days ago ‘Today is UN Day of People with Disabilities. I’m disabled & I’m proud! Being disabled is not something to be ashamed of! Embrace it! #IDPD’. She is a very inspiring and lovely young woman.

Want OTW: Any of the beautiful Christmas gift sets at Space NK. Until last year I had never entered a Space NK before, but now I am in love. I could spend so much money in there if I didn’t want to eat/own a house/marry my fiance. Choices, choices.

Highlight OTW: Seeing my newborn nephew again, who was a month old yesterday and having lots of cuddles with him. He is soooo gorgeous, and I am soooo broody.

Do you have any favourites to share with me? Any links I should check out? Let me know!

Mums' Days

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The Healthy List on Birds and Lilies Blog shares a few favourite 'healthy things' from the previous month.

Once again I am sharing a few healthy bits and bobs that I have been loving over the last month or so…

The Primal Kitchen Paleo Bars*: These are a range of snack bars founded by Nutritionist and mother, Suzie Walker, that are free of gluten, grains, dairy, refined sugars, soya and vegetable oils and are made with 100% natural ingredients. They are hand-made and cold-pressed in the UK, which I love about them. There are four bars in the range: Coconut and Macadamia, Almond and Cashew, Hazelnut and Cocoa, and Brazil Nut and Cherry. The Hazelnut and Cocoa one is my favourite and tastes very similar to the Nakd Cocoa Delight bars. They are great for kids too, rather than a cereal bar full of sugar, and I am very happy to share one with Ava (well, reasonably happy – LOUISE DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!). Each bar contains no more than six ingredients. I love finding products that are convenient but still healthy and I can grab for Ava and I when we are in a rush or on the go. Like most other bars that are ‘healthier’ they are not particularly cheap, at £1.49 each but they are handy to have one in your bag for emergency’s, i.e hungry toddlers/mummys. You can get them from Superdrug, Ocado, Tesco, health stores and in a multipack at The Primal Kitchen.

The Primal Kitchen Paleo Bars

 Yoga: Yep, I am still loving my Yoga classes at my local gym and apparently so is everybody else. You can book the class a week in advance and if you forget to do it on the day, chances are it will be full because it is so popular. Each week the room is getting fuller and fuller and as yoga requires some space around your mat, it is not quite as relaxing as it should be, as you have to make sure you are not about to bump into the person next to you. They really need to put on another class with the same teacher. I still really enjoy it though and love the time to myself, despite the fact that it is getting more and more difficult to make myself go out into the cold, dark, miserable world outside, and leave my cosy little nest at home.

Carly Rowena on YouTube: Carly is a Personal Trainer and Fitness Blogger on YouTube who says she is always trying to make food to go to her boobs! Me too Carly, me too – the dream, surely! I came across Carly’s video’s ages ago but for one reason or another didn’t subscribe to her channel. But I have recently rediscovered her and I am loving the content she is putting out. Recent video’s include ‘4 Healthy Snack Swaps for Weight Loss‘ and ‘How to Beat the Binge | Eat the Biscuit’. She is realistic, fun, motivating and knows what she is talking about. I always feel like she has put a lot of effort into her video’s and they are really inspiring (so is her body!) and enjoyable to watch. I love the variety of her content.

Kale Chips: I love making my own Kale Chips in the oven, with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and sometimes some paprika or cayenne pepper (warning: can be very spicy – I’ve found that out first hand!). I’m not very good at getting them quite right, so sometimes they are more soggy than crispy, but I still love the taste and having a snack that is pretty healthy. The trouble is I can (and do!) eat a lot all in one go, but at least they are good for me (I only use a bit of salt and it is Himalayan Pink Salt which is mineral-rich, unrefined and without additives).

Kale ChipsSource

So that is it for this month’s Healthy List. I definitely haven’t been as healthy this month and I’m finding it harder to keep up with the smoothie’s, exercise and generally eating well since it has got so much colder and the days darker. I just want to snuggle up in front of the TV with some crisps/chocolate/sweets and wine. We have had lots of poorly-ness in the house since the weather has changed and so there have been lots of sleepless nights, which equal very little exercise. I start doing it for a couple of days and then don’t do any for days on end. I drive past runners out in the icy cold evening and I can’t help thinking that they are nutters; crazy, inspiring, amazing nutters. I’m jealous obvs.

*I was sent these bars to try but as always all thoughts are my own and I genuinely like them.

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LumiPotti

Over the past few months we have been potty training Ava on and off. I gave up and decided to wait a bit longer a couple of times because she just didn’t seem quite there and was a bit too happy peeing here, there and everywhere!

A couple of months ago she was ready and it finally clicked, and apart from standing up to wee for a while it didn’t take long for her to get used to using the potty. Then a few weeks ago we made the leap to no nappies at night either and she is now completely nappy free! It feels so good not having to change nappies all day long!

We have been testing out the LumiPotti, which is a potty that lights up when you go near it, making it great for the night-time in particular. LumiPotti has a movement activated night-light that it said to help children master night dryness. It has anti-microbial plastic and is made in England which is nice. The light is powered by three AA batteries, and we have been using it on and off for a few months and it has only just run out. And that is with it lighting up every time any of us walk near it, so one set of batteries should last a good amount of time. The light stays on until it detects no movement for 60 seconds.

Even though at first it may seem a bit gimmicky and unnecessary, the light actually would be really helpful at night when your little one needs the loo and you don’t want to turn a light on and wake everybody up. Ava actually hasn’t needed to go at night since she has been out of nappies (or she is holding it well!), but it has been used on those early mornings where it is still dark outside and hence in our bedroom, and the night light does help then.

When it comes to pouring the contents of the potty down the loo, I don’t think it is that great as it does drip all down the front and onto the floor before you have had chance to wipe it, and another potty we have used doesn’t have this problem so that is something which I think could be improved. I also don’t love the green colour of the one we have and would prefer the white one, but obviously that doesn’t really matter.

LumiPotti’s are £23.99 so at the higher end of the market for a potty, but if your child often needs the toilet at night and you have to turn a bright light on for them to see what they are doing, then it could be worth spending the money so everyone’s sleep is disturbed less.

You can find out where to buy LumiPotti from here.

Would I buy it myself? At the moment, with the way things are, no. Ava doesn’t wake to go to the loo at the moment so the light isn’t very useful to us right now, and by the time she does she will hopefully be using the toilet rather than a potty so we won’t need it. But if she did wake and we had to turn a proper light on then I would consider it. I do think they would be better priced around the £15 mark so you are paying for the light, but they would not be too much more expensive than a plain old potty.

We were sent the LumiPotti to review, but all thought and opinions are my own.

 

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Letters to Santa
Bluestone National Park Resort is a luxury short break and holiday destination in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Bluestone is situated in 500 acres of beautiful wide open countryside that you are free to explore, with a choice of accommodation available; wooden lodges, quaint cottages and studio apartments all to choose from. It is an all-weather holiday destination where you can be adventurous with tree-top climbs or enjoy a relaxing time in the spa. It’s all about free-range fun.

We were very excited to be invited to Bluestone for a three-night break and to visit ‘Kingdom of the Elves’ where you are taken on a magical festive tale through the Elf Workshop to find out what happens to your letter when you post it to Santa.

A Blue Sky in the Forest at Bluestone WalesJumping in muddy puddles at Bluestone WalesDaddy and Ava in the Adventure Centre at Bluestone Wales

After driving rain for most of the looong journey there we arrived at Bluestone to lots more rain and with empty belly’s and feeling tired. We were quickly welcomed through the drive-through check-in and were very happy to get into our beautiful topsy-turvy Ramsey lodge, in which we would be sleeping downstairs and which are designed so that you get great views from the living area’s french doors and windows. The lodges are really nice, spacious and well-designed to a very high standard. Upstairs there is an open-plan lounge and fully-equiped kitchen which was great as it meant that Ava could play whilst we (Paul) were cooking or tidying up. The kitchen even had a dishwasher (a luxury that we don’t have at home) which we loved as we didn’t have to spend much time washing up. The first night that we got there as it was quite late it was already pitch black outside so we had no idea what kind of view we had and it was quite nice being completely surrounded by darkness and feeling like we were shut off to the outside world.

We chose to order a takeaway for our dinner the first night as it was late, dark and raining. Our takeaway came from a restaurant on-site which is a great option to have. We got a pizza for Ava, Paul had a curry and I had fish and chips which were all decent, and my fish was especially nice.

Ava in her bedroom at Bluestone WalesAva and Mummy out in the rain at Bluestone Wales

On our first full day at Bluestone it carried on raining most of the time which was a shame because we couldn’t explore quite as much and it meant we had to wrap up lots and then carry our coats and everything around with us once we were inside again. In the morning the boy went shopping and we got all sorted and then we ventured out into the pouring rain and howling wind to go to ‘Kindgom of the Elves’ which was in the Adventure Centre. We were greeted by a couple of friendly elves and then went through to the main room where we waited for our trip through the kingdom. This was our first glimpse of the amazing Adventure Centre, which has, *deep breath* crazy golf, a bouncy castle, a climbing wall, a smaller climbing wall for younger one’s, a soft play area, a Swing and Drop (a pendulum-like contraption up in the air), a Lego wall, wooden climbing frames with slides, a high ropes indoor adventure, trikes, and more. There’s also the Wildwood Cafe there so you can sit and watch with a drink.

We then started our Christmassy adventure as we were led as a group through Kingdom of the Elves. We journeyed through different rooms and spent a bit of time in each one where an elf entertained us and told us how they needed our help. In the first room all of the children were given an elf apron which was cute and Ava was quite enthralled by the elf, the room and the other children. The first few rooms were really good fun with lovely elves who entertained the kids well and moved things along nicely. The ice-themed room with its dancing snowman, balls flying around, fun music and lots for the little one’s to get involved in was a highlight and Ava loved collecting balls and putting them into a machine.

Overall, Kingdom of the Elves was a great experience that helped us to feel Christmassy and that Ava loved. She loved getting involved and spending time with other children (although as most of them were older they weren’t that interested in her), and it was lovely to see her joining in. The ‘Elves’ were mostly good; enthusiastic and engaging and most importantly; fun. The whole thing did last a bit long though, around an hour and a half and we thought an hour would have been better. The kids, especially the younger one’s had begun to lose interest towards the end, with some constantly crying and whinging and demands for the loo not being met (by the parents not the Elves). Ava got tired of walking round and being constantly on the go after a while and was definitely ready for a sit down and a snack by the end of it. We were also carrying all of our outdoor clothes around the whole time so it would have been nice to have had somewhere safe to leave them.

Spinning TopsDaddy and A drawing a train at Kingdom of the ElvesCollecting balls in the ice roomToy Soldier

After Kingdom of the Elves our tired girly got some energy back and hot footed it to the bouncy castle, where she spent quite a while bouncing around and copying off the big kids with no fear whatsoever. Then it was time to leave, to have a rest and get some dinner so we picked up our screaming-didn’t-want-to-leave-ever-ever-ever-I-hate-you-mummy-and-daddy toddler and ventured back out into the pouring rain back to our cosy lodge.

Lots of toys and a reflectionAva the Elf at Bluestone National Park ResortRoom full of toys at Kindgom of the Elves

We had been planning to go out for dinner that night but after a tiring day we decided to cook dinner in our lodge so the boy popped to a local Aldi and picked up some steaks for us and sausages for Ava. We then put Ava to bed in her own room where I had pushed the two single beds together and created a sleeping area in the middle with pillows all around (she’s only little still!) and we set to ‘work’ having a relaxing evening upstairs, with wine and a magazine for me and beer and a tablet (not the druggy kind!) for him. It was really great being able to put Ava to bed and having our own area on another floor to be able to relax and not have to be really quiet. You could hear the floor creaking a bit from downstairs when someone was walking across the kitchen but it wasn’t enough to disturb her and we just walked as quietly as possible whenever we got up to get another drink.

View from the front of lodge and a rainbow!By the Bouncy CastleAva and Daddy taking a stroll through Blusetone National Park WalesView from our lodge at Bluestone WalesAva and Mummy outside our lodge at Bluestone Wales

We ended up going to bed reasonably early (to sleep!) after a busy day and lots of fresh Welsh air and battling the wind and rain. We all slept soundly after a lovely, fun and happy day.

Next I will be sharing another post about our next two days at Bluestone (it was only supposed to be one!) and our overall thoughts of the holiday. I also have a vlog (my first one!) coming if my computer decides to let me finish editing it and not decide to delete it all and go crazy after I’ve spent hours editing it. Sigh times a thousand.
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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A young child doing yoga.Source

In September Legacy Sportswear set me a challenge to set four goals to try and improve my way of life and be the best version of myself over that month. I wrote a post detailing my four health and fitness goals here. It is now over two months later. Shall we see how I did? Really, do we have to?!

Here are my four challenges and how I did in them:

1. Attend a fitness class once a week – I did really well at this one! Since writing that first post I have been to a fitness class almost every week. During the first month I did miss a class once but apart from that I have started attending an exercise class once a week (and I’d like to start going to two). For the first few weeks I went to Pilates at my local leisure centre which was nice and had me aching deep inside, but it wasn’t really taken seriously enough for my liking and wasn’t what I wanted from a yoga or pilates class. I looked around for a more suitable class and ended up joining my local gym as it actually works out cheaper than if I went to two classes or one class and a swim each week at a leisure centre. I am attending a yoga class at my new gym and absolutely love it. The class is relaxing, inspiring, motivating, focused, and takes place in a dedicated yoga room with dimmed lights, chilled music and oms. It is exactly what I wanted. I am very happy with the class (apart from wishing it was on a different day) and I am going to try something new soon, probably Zumba or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).

2. Yoga every damn day – I haven’t done very well on this one I’m afraid. I have done a bit of yoga or practised a pose on some days other than the day I attend the yoga class, but certainly not consistently. I just like sitting down far too much. The best time for me to do a bit of yoga would be when the boy is getting A to bed, but that is also usually the first time I have had chance to sit down all day and that opportunity is verrrry hard to resist. So is wine. #sorrynotsorry

3. Use my Acupressure mat every evening before bed – Fail, fail, big fat fail. I want to use it, I really do, but I just always forget. When I decide to go to bed, I go to bed. I really do want to get into a routine with it though where I actually remember and make time to use it so I will keep trying. I have used it a few times but unfortunately that is all.

4. Drink lots of water consistently –  I have done well at this. I already drank a decent amount of water but was rather inconsistent with it. I would say that I drink more water now and I have a pint going at all times when I am at home. I also take a bottle out with me whenever I leave the house.

 

Overall I think I have done quite well with my #LeaveYourLegacy challenge, but I could have done a lot better. I am glad I have started going to regular fitness classes and I have fallen in love with yoga, which I was kind of hoping I would. I have wanted to find a kind of exercise that I love for a long time, and the fact that it is relaxing as well as good for my body is a huge bonus. I find the whole aspect of yoga and the yoga community really interesting and I hope to do it for a long time. I also hope that I start to do a little bit #everydamnday as well as get off my a*se and use my Acupressure mat more regularly.

How do you think I did? Please be gentle with me! #CouldDoBetter

#LEAVEYOURLEGACY

 

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Learning to Play the Piano with Piano in a Flash

For all of my adult life I have really wanted to learn to play the piano. Last year in my 35 Before 35 post I included learning to play piano and after that I bought a keyboard so I could teach myself from YouTube videos. I tried a couple of times but every time I did Ava wanted to join in and I didn’t get very far. I then asked for a keyboard stand and stool for my thirtieth birthday which I got, and planned on setting them up in the spare room and taking an hour or so to myself each week. That never happened. I think because time is so short and because I didn’t have set classes or anything like that, there was no structure to my learning and I wouldn’t be able to tell how far I was progressing, and I had to find videos to learn from myself which obviously would take longer. I still regularly thought about my desire to learn to play but couldn’t find the motivation to start to teach myself.

I was then lucky enough to be offered to try the ‘Piano in a Flash‘ course which is a combination of online instruction, lesson books and personalised feedback from the teacher, Scott Houston. Scott has had 14 seasons of an Emmy award winning public television show “The Piano Guy” and runs many live workshops which have been attended by over 15,000 people. Scott walks you through each class (online) and gets you to do an exercise to go over what you have just learnt.

I am now a couple of hours in to the first course and I have learnt so much already and I am loving it! I really wanted to keep going because it is so exciting to see much you have learnt in a short space of time. After just four of the classes within the first course I feel like I can ‘play’ (I use the term quite loosely!) two songs on the piano: ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘When the Saints Go Marching in’, which feels amazing. And whilst I can’t play them very fast or perfectly every time, I can play them, with two hands which I think is incredible for such a short time doing the course.

It’s not like you are just learning certain songs and that is it though. As you go along you are being taught to understand things like chords, what symbols and things in the gig book mean, why certain things are the way they are and loads more which is great. I know and understand so much more about playing the piano as well as about the piano itself. I can now identify a key just by looking at it.

It feels so good and so exciting to have only done roughly two hours of the course and have learnt so much so quickly and I’m very excited for what I will be able to do by the end of the course. I’m impatient and want to blitz through it so I can learn faster, but I also want to take my time and do it properly so that I have learnt this stuff forever and don’t forget it all straight after I have finished the course.

The teacher for ‘Piano in a Flash’ is great, he explains things really well and is quite informal which I like, whilst being encouraging and clear. Each lesson is simple and straightforward and not very long which I really like, as it means you don’t have to spend an hour concentrating (unless you want to) all at once, and you get to finish the individual lesson and go over what you have learnt by yourself, until you are ready to move on. This all means that you can fit learning to play the piano in with your busy life rather than trying to find time and energy to go out to a private lesson every week.

The one thing that I think could be more clear is how well I should be playing after each class. After we had learnt to play ‘Jingle Bells’ the teacher mentioned that we could now play the song. However, I am not sure whether we should be able to play it really well, fluently and go back 24 hours later and pick up where we left off, or, like me, be able to play it, relatively slowly, occasionally making a mistake, and needing a reminder when we go back to playing. It is not a big deal, because obviously you can just keep practising until you know it really well. I would just like to have an idea as to when would be best for me to move on to the next stage.

So far I am (clearly) enjoying the course, and feeling like I am starting to be able to actually play the piano – a lifelong dream! I am eager to continue with the course and find out how good I could be by the end of it, and I will do another post with updates of how it is going soon. If you are interested in learning to play the piano yourself at home and in your own time, then make sure you look out for a very special giveaway coming soon on Birds and Lilies…. Or if you can’t wait that long, you can get $25 off any course or bundle here.

If you have any questions about ‘Piano in a Flash’ then please let me know in the comments and I will try to answer them for you. Do you play the piano or another instrument, or, like me, has it always been your dream to do so?

I was given the ‘Piano in a Flash’ course to review but all thoughts, opinions and powerful renditions of Jingle Bells are my own.

 

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