Friday, 23 December 2016

A Weekend:In

I've loved writing this blog during 2016, sharing snippets from our family life and the odd adventure here and there. One of the absolute highlights of my blogging journey this year has been the opportunity, on a couple of occasions, to meet up with other bloggers in 'real life.'

Tapping away at a computer screen and publishing posts, in itself, can feel a bit lonely at times. So getting the chance to meet other creatives to chat, inspire and encourage each other in a non competitive environment has been such a treat. One such occasion was at an event hosted last month by a lovely lady called Olivia Tripp.

Aptly named the Weekend:In the event was held at The Chickenshed, a stunning building tucked away in the Monmouthshire countryside. As I wove my way through single track roads to find it, I vowed that I'd return soon with Sam and the kids to explore this pocket of my home country a little more.
As usual I was pushed for time leaving the house in the morning and, as usual, arrived feeling flustered and apologetic for being a bit late (it's a state of affairs I'm well versed in.) I was welcomed in to the beautiful space, with views of fields as far as your eye could see, and instantly relaxed as we enjoyed a delicious breakfast, thanks to Pinkmans Bakery. Note to self, search them out for a croissant next time I'm in Bristol. 
We were then treated to some amazing workshops from some truly inspirational businesses. We had a chance to hear some of their stories of how they'd got to where they are. I came away thouroughly inspired to stick at doing what I love and to graft hard to see my business flourish. As you can see (and might imagine) the stationery session with Papersmiths and wreath making with Talullah Rose Flower School were both right up my street!
Playing with paper and pens, wrapping gifts and making cards whilst chatting to new friends over cups of tea, has got to be one of the most relaxing Saturday mornings I've spent in a long time.
If I wasn't feeling festive enough already, after a delicious lunch we moved on to wreath making, which got me there quicker than you can say 'holly berry.' We were utterly spoilt for choice on the foliage front and each picked out different combinations from what was on offer. I was amazed at how completely individual everyone's wreaths were, it was wonderful. If you're looking for a little last minute inspiration for making one of your own then check out the #wkndin hashtag on instagram, where you'll find a wreath line up like no other.
It was one of those afternoons where you look at your watch and wish for time to stand still because you don't want it to be over. In fact, I was enjoying myself so much that I quite forgot to take my camera out again and instead soaked up the lovely company, conversation and atmosphere that Olivia had brought together.
The afternoon finished with a really interesting talk from Caro Somerset, a shop and B&B in Someset, another place I've since added to the visit list (perhaps just a visit with Sam for that one though!)

If that wasn't enough we were also treated to some wine tasting from More Wine. We were introduced to sparkling wine in tins and my thoughts of wine in a bag have changed forever (for the good!) Did you know they're more cost effective and keep the wine for longer as you don't end up with big gaps of air like you do in a half finished bottle. 

Sadly I had to stay restrained and say no to more wine (after a few sips) as I was driving. I could very easily have cosied in and spent the evening chatting away. 

I felt very lucky to have been invited to such a well thought out and special day. To also have made new friends and been introduced to some great independent businesses along the way was just the icing on the cake. 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Confessions Of An Elf Mum

It's ten days since Penny and Pip, our Kindness Elves, landed back at our house after 11 busy months of sitting at the back of my dressing table drawer and a brief spell at the bottom of a golf bag, helping Father Christmas with important jobs.
Needless to say the kids are delighted to have their friends back! They first met them two years ago after I found inspiration from the wonderful Anna Ranson's blog The Imagination Tree. You can read more about the idea behind The Kindness Elves and the idea of bringing them into your home to help spread kindness, over on Anna's site here.

It's great to have them back and their excitement (mainly from Wilf) as they head downstairs to see if they've left a note is just magic and makes my heart want to burst. The truth is though this pair are hard work and the life of an elf Mum isn't as magical as it might seem. So here, my friends, are a few confessions...
  1. I don't have a long list of kind activities and notes all pre-planned. Most nights, JUST as I fall asleep, I sit bolt upright, exclaiming "PENNY AND PIP!" and drag myself downstairs to find them and scribble a note.  
  2. When Pip went "back to help Father Christmas with some important jobs" the truth was that he was just lost and I was too tired to find him. He was later found down the back of the sofa and quickly returned to the elf front door while the kids weren't looking. 
  3. The other night that 'bolt upright' moment didn't happen and the first thing I realised yesterday was that I HADN'T left a note. Cue heading down the stairs before the kids and quickly swiping them into my dressing gown pocket. Still half asleep I couldn't for the life of me come up with a kind message so quickly wrote that they'd gone to help Father Christmas wrap yet more presents and would be back when they got back from school. 
  4. They weren't.... cue quickly finding them, brushing off the dog hair and sneaking them onto the Christmas tree along with two chocolate coins. 
  5. I may have conveniently forgotten to remind the kids about P+P's suggestion to bake biscuits after school this week when I'd forgotten to buy the ingredients we needed. I acted none the wiser at dinner when Wilf remembered about it.
Despite my failings the kids are absolutely clueless and the magic that these two bring is, to them, truly believable. When I couldn't find Pip the other day I remembered Wilf asking if he could take him to bed with him that night. When I crept in to his room I found Pip safely tucked inside his bed guard pocket. Christmas and magic through the eyes of a four year old is simply the best! 
Something I have managed to get right is to find the perfect elf size tiny tree to welcome them back to our home. This miniature tree from Bloom & Wild arrived just a few days before Penny and Pip and we had great fun decorating it together. The kids were amazed to find "a TREE!" inside the letterbox box and we took great delight in hanging the baubles and lights that came with it. Severe restraint was required to stop myself from evenly distributing them once they'd first finished with it (obvs restraint went out the window before taking these photos!) You can find a few varieties of these lovely trees, along with their full Christmas collection of blooms, on the Bloom & Wild site here.
In a bid to avoid the late night note writing, I sat down with the kids last night and we wrote notes of 'kindness spreading' activities to put in our DIY calendar from Cotton Twist. Anwen wasn't that fussed and just ran off with the envelopes, glitter tape and attempted to grab the scissors. But when I asked Wilf to come up with suggestions his first response was, "I know Mummy, let's give some toys to children that don't have any." That's my boy! We did this last year with Penny and Pip and it's stuck with him all year.

So whilst I might not be the most organised elf Mum, I know that by welcoming these two into our home we're creating moments that will stay with the kids for a lifetime. Most importantly though, they're leaning ways of spreading kindness and love and that, for me, is the very best kind of magic. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Final #mythursdaybreaktime - With a Double Whammy Giveaway

About 20 months ago, on a whim I started a weekly project on Instagram with the sole purpose of celebrating breaktimes. From quick 'pause' moments, restful mornings and lie ins, to hour long refuels with tea and cake to poolside drinks abroad.

The project was called #mythursdaybreaktime and (at the time of writing) has seen a staggering 3,344 photos being shared in a gallery that's bursting with beautiful images and thousands of cups of tea.

Every week since starting I've shared my favourites, always with a monthly round up of the photos shared. Thursdays have always felt a little bit different because of this project and I've received the loveliest comments from people throughout it, saying how it's reminded them 'to sit down for a moment in a busy day', or that 'scrolling the gallery to see what others are up to has given a break in itself.'
My favourite post this month. Spot the Spaniel! Congratulations to @lornarachel.
The truth is though, I've been struggling to find the time to keep up with everything recently. Work is busier, naptime afternoons seem to be a thing of the past (I was CLINGING on I tell you) and so, I've decided to make this my last monthly round up. Of course the gallery is there for people to post into and I'll certainly be popping by. I've genuinely loved seeing posts being shared by people on the same day of the week, each telling an individual story.

I'm so happy to have brought you some amazing giveaways throughout this project, all from brilliant British, independent businesses. I thought it would be nice to mark this final month with a little extra something for you all. So I'm delighted to tell you that I'm partnering with TWO amazing businesses to bring you a prize that, for me, sums up the perfect breaktime. Yes, one involving plenty of tea, cake and some chocolate thrown in for good measure.
The first prize comes from Milk and Honey Bakes, a genius business idea which involves sending chocolate brownies through the post. The delightful Bristol-based founder Hannah, sent me some of her Chocolate Orange range to taste and they were SO unbelievably good. They arrived beautifully packaged in tissue and ribbon, making them the perfect gift to send to someone. Hannah is kindly giving a box of brownies to the lucky winner who also gets to pick the flavour from the mouth watering options available.

The second prize comes from Fair Do's (Siopa Teg if you'd like the Welsh version), a brilliant Cardiff based Fair Trade shop. Tucked away on a road in Canton, West Cardiff this shop stocks and champions an amazing range of fair trade gifts and treats. They're kindly giving away a selection of fair trade chocolate treats and teas. If you live in Cardiff and fancy buying some Fair Trade goodies for Christmas then get yourself down to their late night shopping evening next Tuesday 6th (5-8pm). Their Facebook page here has full details.
ALL you have to do be in with a chance of winning these delicious prizes is join in with #mythursdaybreaktime anytime from today, 1st December to Thursday 15th December. One favourite image will be selected and announced on Friday 16th. The winner will need to pick out their brownies and provide address details in time for them to be sent out on Wednesday 21st - just in time for some Christmas feasting!

Thank you to everyone that has joined in with this project. I truly believe in the power of taking a break. There's a well known saying which rings so true for me 'you can't pour from an empty cup' and it's spot on. Even taking a few moments out to pause can be so important and refreshing. Obviously the longer breaks involving a hot drink and a sofa are the winners but a break is a break whatever it looks like.

Thank you so much for reading today. I can't wait to see the festive images shared over the next few weeks.