Thursday, 30 November 2017

Me and Mine in November

November has been the month that Autumn became Winter, even if not officially.  We started the month in light jumpers and thin tights, mild mornings and trips to the park after school  yet we are ending it wrapped up in hats and scarfs, with the heating on, candles burning and the anticipation of Christmas everywhere we look.  November seems to be very much a transition month and it has passed quickly and without standing out too much.

I don't feel like we have done much, but friendships have been established, play dates enjoyed, the outside world appreciated and all four children seem to have grown in the past four weeks.  We didn't manage to get a family photo on time, so this is a very last minute phone snap before the school run this morning - only three of us are dressed, the house is messy and not everyone really knows what is going on - we will always make sure we get a photo, even if it is by the skin of our teeth.


December will be full of excitement and magic, Christmas and fun and I feel like our simple November leads perfectly into it.  This month 

Becky is loving a night out with the reception mums from school, playing football, a day out with my big two boys and going to the Mother and Baby awards.

Ed is loving is new breadmaker, getting Sky for the house, discovering that we have underfloor heating in the kitchen and celebrating friend's birthdays

Dylan is loving arts and crafts with Aunty NatNat, a day in London with Mummy, preparing for the school Christmas show and asking 'who would win in a fight' questions about animals and mythical beings.


Archie is loving playing Pokemon cards, talking about Pokemon cards with his friends, drawing Pokemon and thinking about Pokemon related presents he can ask Father Christmas for.

Finn is loving scooting to nursery, getting himself dressed and undressed, chatting to the older ladies in the cafe and the new playgroup we have started going to.

Cora is loving carrying around her dolly, walking on the school run, splashing in puddles and having her hair brushed.



Hopefully our December photo will be a bit more organised!




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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Sony Xperia XZ1 - Initial Review

Blogging is what started my love for photography and when I look back at the photos from my early posts, I can see just how far I have come.  The cluttered backgrounds, odd angles and blurry limbs of a little Dylan feel like a lifetime ago and taking photos has become not just something I do to illustrate a blog post, but something I do because I love to.  I love taking the perfect shot, capturing just the right moment and learning more about using my camera. 

My DSLR is usually my camera of choice, but it is big and bulky, a pain to carry around and I can look quite odd when I pull it out my bag and start snapping away.  I need a phone that can take a good photo, photos that I want to share on social media, display on my blog and capture all those imperfectly perfect moments that aren't going to wait for a big camera.

We are testing the new Sony Xperia XZ1 which boasts brilliant camera techology alongside easy to use android technology (I am most definitely an android girl). It has lived in my pocket and my hand this last week whilst I get used to the camera, the features and the fun slow-motion videos you can make.  

Sony Xperia XZ1

We recently visited a little local soft play which has a (closed) theme park behind it so I stopped to take some photos of the little two running around outside.  It was a bright place but the day was dull and the sky was dark.  I love how well the camera captures the colours and more importantly how well it captures the moment.

Sony Xperia XZ1

Sony Xperia XZ1

One of my favourite features so far is the predictive photo taking.  Before I have even pressed the shutter the phone has taken a couple of photos and when I browse back through I can choose my favourite from the bunch. It means I am less likely to miss a sweet cuddle or the way they hi5. 
Sony Xperia XZ1

Sony Xperia XZ1

The phone camera can be used in either auto or manual, and this coming week I am going to be playing with the manual features a bit more.  These photos are all in the automatic setting so I just point and shoot, and they haven't been edited at all.

Sony Xperia XZ1

Having a phone with a great camera is important to me as it allows me to get in the photos more too.  Whilst most people are a little scared when I hand over the 'big camera', they are confident to point and shoot with a phone and it means I can get in the photos more too.  I want my children to be able to look back and see me in their childhood and I love these photos of me and my baby girl that my sister took on the Sony Xperia XZ1

Sony Xperia XZ1

What I really wanted to see is what makes this phone better than my other one, which is also a top of the range model of another brand.  Pretty much all phones now can call, text, browse the internet and host a huge range of apps and games.  Most of the features that get updated are things that I would be content having an older model of, but the camera is really important to me and the reason I upgrade every time I am able.  

In video mode on the Xperia XZ1, you can tap a little icon above the stop/start button which adds a slow motion clip into the recording.  It makes a tiny moment expand into five seconds worth of footage as it records 960 frames per second and you can do this as many times as you want during one clip.  I have so many ideas to try with this, but here is our very first go.  Again this video has not been edited other than the very start being cut off and I have uploaded it directly from my phone.


So far I am really impressed with the Sony Xperia XZ1 and whilst I won't be hanging up my DSLR, I am enjoying having a great little camera in my pocket.  

I will be writing a full review of the phone next week!


 I am working with Sony on a paid collaboration but all thoughts and opinions are completely my own.


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Monday, 20 November 2017

I Think We Are Done

It felt like this day would never come, and in some ways I think I will always be broody.  As I see women walk past me, their prominent bumps ahead of them I feel excited for them, a little envious that they are at the beginning of this journey, they still have all the best bits to come.  I cuddle a newborn, and sniff that beautifully milky scent on the top of their head, hold them with their head resting in the palm of my hand, feel the weight of them curled up on my chest, and I feel desperate to hold my own baby in that way again.

But it isn't a new baby I want anymore.  It is the babies I already have.  I would love to go back in time just for a little bit, to savour those final moments of pregnancy, knowing how everything is about to change.  I would love to hold my newborn sons and daughter again, to take in all the small details that I may have missed the first time.  To feel the warmth of them, to watch their tiny fingers curl around mine.

I would love to be back in that new baby bubble, where nothing else matters, where you lose hours a day just watching them sleep. 

But I don't want to give up what we have now.  As Cora started taking steps, using her voice and becoming more independent, we are moving on to a new stage.  The end of nappies and buggies, slings and cribs is in sight, even if still a long way off, and new adventures will soon be possible. I want to visit new countries, watch our children enjoy and explore them without the limits of a baby.  I want to go on days out, visit theme parks without a pushchair in tow and I want to watch my children develop their sibling relationships just as they are.


Four is busy and loud but it isn't too busy or too loud.  We fit in our car and in our house, we can remember each child's name (although we may have to say the other three first). They always have a playmate or a partner in crime and it feels just right for us.  As much as I would love to do it all again in some ways, I don't want any more children, I think four is our number.

I am going to try and enjoy these final months of having toddlers in the house, celebrate those lasts because I have so many memories of the firsts, and the seconds and the middle ones too.  I know we have new adventures ahead of us and I can't wait to see what they are.


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Friday, 17 November 2017

Simple Christmas Cards with Sellotape

One of the best things about Christmas is the lead up.  Decorating the tree, playing those familiar tunes, carefully choosing the perfect gift and of course making the Christmas cards.  The boys are still too little to go Christmas shopping, but they love making cards for family and friends and used some of Sellotape's new sparkly range to make our cards extra special this year.

sellotape, sparkly tape, Christmas card crafts

Dylan has his own big ideas, Cora is still too little but Finn and Archie are at an age where they want to unleash their creativity but need a little guidance.  I drew basic tree outlines for them and they then decorated them as they pleased.  We used the tapes to create a bright photo-frame border around the outside.

sellotape, sparkly tape, Christmas card crafts

The children loved this activity and it was easy to let them get on with it, helping only with the final framing.  They have so many more ideas for using the sparkly tapes like decorating the toy boxes and covering plain baubles in them.  Sellotape has been a Blue Peter staple since the 1970s and a household essential during my childhood and with my own children, and I am loving how great the tin is for hiding the tell tale ring of tape from small children who have something (or someone) they just 'need' to stick together.

sellotape, sparkly tape, Christmas card crafts

Sellotape are celebrating their 80th birthday with the launch of these Christmas tapes as well as a special edition tin.  If you want to show how you are 'sticking together' then check out their generator.

sellotape, sparkly tape, Christmas card crafts

If you are looking for other Christmas crafts involving these sparkly sellotapes then check out these glitter tape baubles.

sellotape, sparkly tape, Christmas card crafts


 In collaboration with Sellotape



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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Port Lympne Dinosaur Forest

We recently visited Port Lympne Wildlife Reserve and I was prepared to enjoy seeing the animals and the safari, I wasn't prepared for how good their 'Dinosaur Forest' would be.  For four children who all love dinosaurs (Cora may not be talking but give her a toy dinosaur and she knows to start roaring) it was fantastic.  As the UK's biggest outdoor dinosaur exhibition it was bigger and better than any of the ones we have previously visited.


You walk through the forest following a path that traces the different eras of dinosaurs so you can really see how they have evolved.  What made this brilliant for young children is how hands on it is.  Whilst there are signs asking you not to climb on the dinosaurs, you are able to touch them, walk around them and study the different features.  It is so much more interactive and that is perfect for these four explorers.  Port Lympne have designed it so well with plenty of information one each one and even my non-reader could understand some of it.


Each dinosaur's weight is compared to other animals and you can see that it weighs 15 rhinos or something similar by the 15 pictures of rhinos in the box.  The boys loved counting and comparing as they walked round and Dylan could read them more of the information too.


There are dinosaurs in the trees up high, tiny ones on the floor and some where even the tallest of my boys barely reached his knee.  There was so much to see and I know if we were to return, this is what they would most like to see. Towards the end of the exhibit there were dinosaurs that you could climb on/in which was fun and made a great picture too!


I have written already about our experience at Port Lympne and about staying overnight at Bear Lodge but I really wanted to share how impressed we were with the Dinosaur Forest too.






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Sunday, 12 November 2017

Staying Overnight at Bear Lodge, Port Lympne

We recently spent a night staying at Bear Lodge in Port Lympne wildlife park and it was such a fantastic experience for the children and us.  It wasn't our first time glamping, but Bear Lodge was definitely the most glam thanks to the en-suite shower and toilet and the running water in the kitchen sink.  We slept overlooking the bears as well as being able to see out 40 miles towards the coast and we had our entry to Port Lympne included the next day.

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

We were expecting the tents to be big and from the outside they looked similar to others we had stayed in.  Inside they were quite different though, so much bigger and better.  Being a family of six, we had one of the largest sized tents which sleeps up to 8.  There was a master bedroom, a second bedroom with bunk beds and a bed built into what looks like a wooden crate.  It had a storage/crawl space underneath and you could close the shutters both sides to make it fully coccooned.  There was a small 'kitchen' with cupboards, a fridge and a sink, a dining area with a large table and a living area with a sofa.  Outside the tent were tables and chairs so we could sit and enjoy the view.

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

All of the beds were made up with thick winter duvets and fleece blankets which we were really grateful for as we stayed at the end of October and it got pretty chilly! Whilst the previous day was mild, the night was freezing and we slept wrapped up in the warm layers.  I would definitely recommend taking warm layers if you are going outside of the summer season.

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

There were around 20 tents all grouped together with a communal playground in the middle which all four children loved.  It was really great to be able to let them run around out there as soon as they woke up in the morning too.  

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

Just behind our tent was a small meerkat enclosure and towards the bears was another one with small mammals (I have forgotten their names) that the children loved watching run around through the wire tubes.  Whilst the area felt safe and serene at times, you were very aware that you were sleeping in a wildlife park and we heard the bears growling through the evening too.

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

The views were breathtaking and my photos do not do them justice.  The sun set just in front of us so it was the perfect spot to sit and watch it.  As occupants of Bear Lodge you can book in to do a later safari so rather than queing with the day customers, there were later safaris for the guests to go on an hour tour of the reserve taking in animals such as the giraffes, rhinos and deer.  We were staying at Bear Lodge as part of a project I have been doing with Panasonic so we had dinner with them, but there is a restaurant on the campsite that sells dinner and breakfast and had a bar.  The tents don't have any cooking facilities so you do have to eat out.

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

If you are thinking of a visit, then don't forget to pack warm pyjamas, wellies and some marshmallows to toast! We had a brilliant time and I would love to take the children back.  From one year old up to six, they all found different things to amuse themselves and there was a lovely atmosphere in such a small site with the children all playing together.  

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping

You can stay at Bear Lodge at Port Lympne from £210 a night and that includes entry into both Howletts and Port Lympne for the duration of your stay, all bedding and towels and the safaris.  You can read more about our experience at Port Lympne here.  I have also written about the amazing Dinosaur Forest

Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping
Bear jumpers for Bear Lodge - It had to be done! All 4 are from Tootsa Macginty
Bear Lodge, Port Lympne, glamping




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Thursday, 9 November 2017

Our Ordinary Adventures

Mondays and Thursdays we go to playgroups, Wednesdays and Fridays Finn has nursery in the afternoon.  We have one day left, one completely free day - no commitments, no interruptions, just a day for our ordinary adventures.  We don't always go far, we don't always go anywhere but I love our Tuesdays, just the little two and I.

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures

When we are out at groups or round friends, their relationship is different, but when it is just the three of us, these two couldn't be closer.  Cora looks up to her big brother and Finn loves having a ready made friend in his little sister.  They are as thick as theives and seem to communicate in their own special language.

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures

This week we went to a private local park that we have passes for.  These two are happiest outdoors and they were in their element with things to climb and balance on.  We had the place to ourselves and we were wrapped up warm.  There were sticks to find, leaves to throw, benches to jump off and fish to look for.

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures

We reviewed some wellies from Bogs last year and were so impressed that when Cora started walking I bought her a pair.  They have flexible soles, pull on handles, warm soft insides that keep little feet insulated down to -10 degrees and are machine washable.  We were sent another pair for Finn last month and we both love them.  Cora's are bright pink and orange with flowers and Finn's are black with red and blue dinosaurs.

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures

I tried to keep my camera away for most of the day, to roll down the hills with them, to catch them as they jumped off the bench for the umpteenth time and spin them round in circles, to lift them so they could reach the higher branches and the colourful leaves.  I try to spend these days having ordinary adventures, enjoying them just as they are now.

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures

Cora decided that she was very attached to her water bottle this week and it took a lot of persuasion and distraction to encourage her to eventually put it down.  She is equally as attached to her Bogs boots, bringing them to me and trying to put them on herself if I make no signs of immediately taking her out.  With children that want to be outdoors all the time we definitely have to make sure we are dressed right and these boots will be accompanying us on lots of our everyday adventures over the winter.

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures

albababy onesies, baby bogs, everyday adventures
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