Shopping and Unlocking

So today I went shopping, for the first time in 13 months. I know that might seem standard given the year we have all had, but I didn’t even go when we could between the various lockdowns. Through a combination of being extra careful because I was pregnant and wanting to be generally sensible and keep to the essentials, I hadn’t shopped recreationally for well over a year. I had popped in to shop here and there to make a return, or pick up a click and collect but I also hadn’t wanted to shop. I found the whole experience uncomfortable, people too close, people not wearing masks, just people full stop!

Visiting the holy grail…

Today I actually enjoyed it. I wandered. I had a coffee. I browsed and talked to random strangers and shop assistants. I tried shoes on. It was busy but not packed and felt gloriously (sort of) normal. I could do without the mask wearing (I hope its inspiring a new level of respect in people for those in jobs and professions who wear them all day to keep people safe,) as it does detract from the experience and I cant wait to be able to stop and sit down somewhere for lunch, (I was in The Trafford Centre so no indoor dining,) but over all I enjoyed it. Most importantly I came home feeling so much lighter, happier.

I know everyone has struggled through the pandemic (and I’m not suggesting it’s all over,) for many different reasons but I certainly felt I had been relatively unaffected, and was coping well. But as we started to unlock I’ve found myself feeling flat or even down at times as the promised freedom hasn’t been quite as good as expected. A lot of things still haven’t changed. It’s still really cold for outdoor socialising. And sometimes I don’t even know what to do anymore because we haven’t done anything for so long. What did we used to do when we could go anywhere or see anyone we liked whenever we wanted? I think I hadn’t realised how much of a toll 24/7 parenting 2, then 3 kids has taken on me. Not just the actual parenting itself but the lack of time NOT parenting. It’s not a unique circumstance by any means but Pete and I haven’t spent a date night away from our home and children together since 7th March 2020. It has been relentless and left very little time for us, for me. These hours to myself today were restorative. I had time and patience for the girls this evening and found the energy to joke and laugh over dinner even when they were reaching peak tiredness and awkwardness – if you know you know.

Although I enjoyed going to the shops I didn’t actually do a great deal of ‘shopping’. I had returns to make and a few things I wanted to buy in person but I think my consumer behaviour has changed so much I wonder if I will use the shops in the same way in future. If I’ll ever go back to shopping the way I used to? I don’t think it’s just Covid that has changed my behaviour but a combination of factors amplified by lockdown. Supporting small and independent brands has become important to me and through following several of them on social media I’ve become way more conscious of the impact my consumer habits have on the world. I’ve learned about ethical production and sustainable fabrics. The idea of buying once and buying well. I’ve developed a distaste for fast fashion and all the ethical and environmental issues that go with it. Now I think about where my clothes come from, what they are made of, who made them, packed them and how they are delivered*. Even if a product ticks all of the right boxes, will I even have anywhere to wear it? Does it fit my lifestyle now? Do I ever want to wear heels again?! I find myself browsing mailing list catalogues and although I want many of the featured items I’m really hesitant to buy them as I just don’t need more ‘stuff’, so I’m haven’t really substituted in-person shopping for shopping online either. I have even found myself thinking about making one or two pieces that perfectly fit the bill of what I want to wear, instead of buying several that aren’t quite what I was looking for and getting minimal wear out of them.

All of these changes can only be a good thing but I can’t help but wonder if everyone felt like this and consequently changed their shopping habits there would be a huge section of the retail industry and and its workers out of a job.

There’s no denying that today was a good day. Clearly it left me thinking though. How are you feeling about the shops reopening? Have you changed your shopping habits? Maybe you feel similarly about restaurants and now prefer to cook at home (I’m sure that person must be out there?!) I’d love to hear how you’re all finding it, shopping and unlocking… Feel free to comment here or pop over to my Instagram post with the same photo and leave a comment there if its easier. As always I love to hear your thoughts.

Rebecca x

*I am by no means a saint when it comes to shopping but I am trying to make better choices and buy less items, more responsibly; learning all the time.

Spring Dresses Edit: The Breastfeeding edition

Firstly, feel free to scroll on by if you’re not currently breastfeeding, however, these are all chosen from mainstream fashion, just with breastfeeding access in mind so it shouldn’t make a difference. 🙂

It’s less than one week to go and the internet is exploding with round ups of spring fashion to wear as we all get to mingle with friends again, and not long after that we will be able to do it in an actual restaurant with actual food we haven’t cooked ourselves, (yes I know, takeaways have been open and we have had many, but you’re still stuck with the clearing up.) Personally, I have mixed feelings about this. I do love a dress, but more and more with small children, the change in behaviours we’ve all made in the last 12 months and now breastfeeding Kit, I find I wear the same clothes on repeat. I’m also really starting to think about ethically made and sold items, buying better, buying less, so I’ve been scouring the shops with the idea in mind of buying one or maybe 2 nice dresses that I can get a lot of wear out of. As I was doing the leg work I thought I’d share here.

Firstly, I should say, it is BARELY spring. Don’t expect to find strappy dresses or if I have included them, please know I’m intending them to be layered over light weight polo necks or a long sleeved Breton, or under some chunky knitwear. Whilst we are all hoping for a spring like last year, I’m being realistic and remembering that Easter and most of April and May can often be frankly baltic here and whilst we will be seeing friends we will all still be stuck outside for the foreseeable.

Secondly, from a breastfeeding POV a dress is often a tricky beast. I’m just going to acknowledge now that what works for one breastfeeding mother doesn’t work for another. It depends where your boobs are, how often you’re having to get them out and who you’re breastfeeding etc. I often find people are fans of the pull up/pull down method with a top pulled up and a vest pulled down underneath but I often get too hot in too many layers and of course this is not an option in a dress. I’ve done all sorts of methods but this time around I am completely happy just with the easiest access possible, even if that does mean getting a whole boob out. Firstly its just a boob, and secondly if I feel I’m flashing a bit to much flesh (and that’s entirely my decision to make, not other peoples,) then I chuck a muslin over my shoulder and just drape it across me for a little extra coverage. On that basis I’m mainly looking for button front dresses or dresses to pull down/aside but if I think it will work I’ve included them here.

First up, Zara. Every year Zara nails an ‘it’ dress so it was my first port of call. Unfortunately the one I really loved is sold out in my size but you can bet I’ll be stalking it in case one comes back in.

Florals are big news this year, (as usual, because, spring,) but a lot of ditsy prints that I wouldn’t usually go for. If that’s your thing, this blue floral is a good spring option for layering. The blue African style kaftan I’ve sneaked in just because I thought it was stunning. I’d have to see it to see if you could get a boob out of that v-neck but it could work if it’s low enough. I’m tempted to buy it just for a future beach holiday even though I try not to buy things ‘for the future’. If I had a foreign holiday planned I’d definitely be snapping it up! It was the green jungle print dress that drew me here and I think is a bit formal for my needs this year but if I wasn’t on maternity leave I’d buy it for work.

Next up H&M – also often producing a cult dress purchase that sells out, H&M is always worth checking out, especially their Conscious range which is ethically made from at least 50% sustainably sourced materials – like organic cotton and recycled polyester. I’ve been buying a lot of Kits clothes from this range as the GOTS certified organic cotton is so soft and sustainable! This Conscious lyocell dress they make in several styles every year and is so easy to wear. I had to include this red dress as I’ve developed a bit of a thing for red lately, it’s such an easy statement and easy to wear with a tan in the sun or red lipstick for an event if you’re lucky enough to have one. I love broderie dresses and whilst black is not my thing I love this black broderie anglaise dress. Again its more for an event but I reckon with Birkenstocks or Teva’s it would look great just out and about.

Lastly if I wasn’t breastfeeding, I’d be tempted by this one.

Another place I always check out for dresses is M&S. Often at a good price point, it does take a bit of searching amongst the more mundane stuff, but they often have a gem or two. I’m thinking about ordering this tiered Chambray dress which can be worn loose and flowy or belted as in the picture. The collar trend is going nowhere, and this Collared floral mini comes in the pictured style or a tea dress tiered midi, with with button front fastening. I’m not sure how I feel about M&S coining the phrase ‘midaxi’ but I guess it describes the length well of this loose button front dress. Lastly this Gingham strappy style is £10, yes you heard me right, £10 in the sale and would be very cool layered with a tee underneath.

Hush. At the pricier end of the spectrum is Hush but I have to say I consistently go back for comfortable clothes that have seen me through pregnancy, breastfeeding and in-between. I have another of their white dresses but liked the retro vibe of this tiered one, and the puffed sleeves of the Sienna shirt dress. I think the Poppy wins for me with the v-neck and puffed sleeve combo in a bold pink leopard print which I love.

Best of the rest…

I was temporarily very excited when I found this wrap front gingham dress from New Look but unfortunately its only available in sizes 14-18 currently – your gain if you happen to need that size! I also quite liked this red floral style also from there. Scamp and Dude do a few dresses now and this pink star dress is designed to be worn with a low back but I have seen Jo, the owner and designer model it worn back to front with the v-neck and I’m quite keen to try it and use the zip for boob access. (Also available in blue.)

And Other Stories has also got a few nice pieces, with more of an edgy fashion feel… This checked voluminous dress with big puff sleeves will make even the most tired mama feel like she’s earned some style points. Most of these are longer styles but I love this floral mini with all the frill detailing – it’s pretty but not bulky. (Also available in a wrap front midi length.) My favourite though is this simple striped number, but I’d have to try it on to confirm the breastfeeding access – it looks like it could work but you never know!

I’m going to leave it there as I could go on forever. Other places I’d usually check include GAP, Oliver Bonas, Olive Clothing and my current fav, Beyond Nine. I hope amongst the massive selection here you might find something to celebrate our forthcoming (relative) freedom in! Enjoy!

Rebecca x

6 weeks of Kit…

I could have also titled this blog post, ‘Having a baby in a Pandemic’ or ‘Adjusting to three kids’ but Kit Gabriel Norris has rather taken over both of those situations and made it all about himself – as it should be.

Brand new tiny Kit ❤️

Kit was born at the end of November, a lockdown baby, and my first winter one too. We took him home from hospital in the cold and dark at 5 am, got straight back into bed and all had a lovely sleep, before calling and texting friends and family to announce his arrival when we woke up late in the morning. We have always had visitors almost straight away when we’ve had babies. With both of the last two we had not only family but medic friends who were working in the hospital popping by, so it was a complete change to have silence, just us and him. My sister had left bucks fizz and croissants on the doorstep on her way to work and we sat in bed feeling like we were in a 5 star hotel and had won the lottery with our baby prize. For me this was the closest I could get to the home birth I had initially wanted and those glorious hours of soaking in your new addition in your own home. I didn’t get up when the midwife came and I was still in bed when the girls came home from school and they got to meet their new baby brother. They were totally in love from the moment they saw him and it was a lovely moment to share as a newly formed family of 5.

Image by Peter Lawson of Lawson Photography

There have been many downsides to life with Covid and it massively impacted on my pregnancy, but having a baby in a pandemic, in lockdown 2.0, was in some ways a blessing. As I said before, we have always had a lot of visitors in the past and I had often read enviously of people who made a nest and managed to spend their immediate post natal days ‘on or by the bed’ – something I read recommended somewhere once. I truly believe that is the best start you can have with a new baby, getting plenty of skin to skin, bonding and breastfeeding without worrying about getting your boobs out infront of visitors. I’m way past that on baby #3, but when Cora was born she was so all consuming that I felt my attention and time really taken away from Bea. I wanted us all to be able to participate in enjoying him and adjusting, and of course it was different this time around anyway – the girls are so much more independent and play together for hours, as well as being older – Cora is over 3 and a half now whereas Bea was only 2 and a half when her sister arrived.

Image by Peter Lawson of Lawson Photography

I won’t lie, there have been tears thanks to Covid too. Tears shed because at some points, not sharing the joy of a new baby dulled my own joy in him, though fleetingly. Filling the house with friends or family admiring him, telling the story of his birth, eating and toasting him together, has all had to wait. Whilst I enjoyed the absence of scheduled visitors I missed the joy of sharing him too. We have been fortunate that we have been able to form a support bubble with my sisters household, as the new rules on that came in on December 2nd for households with a baby under 1. Looking back on those weeks after Pete returned to work, I would have been sorely lacking in adult contact, and in fact any contact other than the kids, had I been reliant on meeting people outside.

Image by Peter Lawson of Lawson Photography

Of course we have met people – as soon as the November lockdown was over we arranged a visit with my family to meet their newest grandchild, but keeping to the rules we went for a walk and had supermarket sandwiches and coffee in the park. Breastfeeding a newborn in the freezing cold wasn’t a highlight and I’m still trying to perfect winter dressing appropriate for feeding, that keeps as much of me covered as possible! Soon after we also met my in-laws in the same way and I was spoiled rotten by my best friend setting up sandwiches, mince pies and prosecco in the park on a sunny day so we could debrief and toast Kit, albeit 2 weeks late.

Image by Peter Lawson of Lawson Photography

Despite all this time and space, babies still seem to fill it! I have been reminded of how all consuming newborns are, how you can easily lose an hour or more to a feed, a nappy change, another feed, a poo-splosion, change and bath… and so it continues in a never ending cycle. Kit isn’t a bad sleeper, mainly waking 3 times during my sleeping hours… but he has had his moments and bad nights too. So far we have managed by Pete taking the role of getting up with the girls and any mornings he is around he lets me sleep in to catch up. In exchange the nights are up to me, which is fine anyway as breastfeeding only needs me and there’s no point having us both up. The mornings I have to take the girls to school were definitely the hardest. There is nothing worse than watching the clock and seeing the hours of sleep slip away and a fixed wake up time looming. Other than that we have been lucky, he hasn’t been plagued by colic and fed like a superstar from the off. My milk came in quickly and there seems to be plenty of it so he’s been a quick and efficient feeder though that does mean he likes to do it often!

Christmas was quiet, spent with my sister and her family in our bubble, which was especially good for the girls getting to play with their cousin. It was the first year in several that we haven’t hosted and it was amazing to be cooked for and just enjoy it. Sometime between Christmas and New Year on a particularly tired night I went straight to bed when the girls were in bed and bedded in to watch tv while Kit fed. It’s become a new routine as it’s cosier and comfier than the sofa and I don’t intend to stop until he gets a bedtime routine! This is the first year I’ve truly lost track of the days between Christmas and New Year.

Image by Peter Lawson of Lawson Photography

Like everyone I think, January has been harder, this third (I cant believe I am writing this) lockdown ending any prospect of family seeing Kit for some time. The grim cold weather. The schools closing was the final straw… and that first week of homeschooling involved a lot of tears and desperation, feelings of failure and despair as I juggled all three children. Fortunately Cora now has a nursery place so I am home with just Bea and Kit, still difficult when she needs help with her work and Kit needs feeding or settling… but easier than having both of them doing different things and needing different, constant help, and Kit too. It’s not the maternity leave I imagined and I feel sad not only that I’m not getting to soak him up in the same way as I could when I had time alone with them at school, but also that that stress and pressure of being stretched thinly in three directions did not make me the best version of my parent self, by a long stretch. Tiredness and patience do not go hand in hand for me and I felt bad for the girls too getting the short end of my fuse. Almost the hardest thing however was the guilt. If you follow me on social media and are thinking that you had no idea I felt like this, its because I haven’t talked about it to anyone but my closest mum friends who totally get it. I felt like if I complained about having them at home (aside from the fact I am very aware I’m not the only one in this position,) there would be people thinking, ‘well if you don’t want to have 3 kids at home, don’t have 3 kids!‘ It’s a valid point but none of us signed up to parent 24/7 in a pandemic, with work to balance in many peoples cases and no respite from school. I had always planned a bigger gap with a third child specifically because I knew how much easier I found it once Bea started pre-school full time when Cora was 6 months old. Those first 6 months were the hardest of my life I think! On top of all that Pete is ridiculously busy with the Covid vaccine roll out in South Manchester, on top of his day job. Like many medics at the moment he’s working a lot of extra hours to get it done, which means less time to help me, and less time with Kit.

Image by Peter Lawson of Lawson Photography

It’s a lot. But it’s a lot for everybody, for many different reasons, and it will be over eventually. I write all this not for sympathy, I know there are people worse off, with less help than me, but to say if you’re reading this and feeling the same, you are not alone, or a bad person or mother for feeling this way. I’m trying to take the positives of having some relief with Cora going to nursery and having so much time 1-2-1 with Bea homeschooling. It’s been a joy (at times) seeing her grown up persona – she plays so well with Cora on her level that its easy to miss her more mature moments and she’s has been a great help with Kit. She can hold him for me while I get something done and he smiles away at her! One of the things I have enjoyed about homeschooling has been the insight it gives into their school work and seeing the improvement in Bea’s writing and reading since March last year is incredible. Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments of abject despair, head banging frustration and tears shed by all parties involved, but I’m clinging to the positives here!

First snow day!

As I write this, Kit is 7.5 weeks. In the last week or so he has changed so much, really waking up. He is super smiley and is starting to really take in his surroundings. He’s started to have cooing conversations with us and we even did our first baby massage class, via zoom of course but he loved it, we both did. I’m already sad that those sleepy newborn days are passing, but looking forward to getting to know his little personality. I realise as I come to the end of this blog post that I haven’t mentioned the transition from 2 to 3 children. In truth that’s because newborn needs aside, it hasn’t been that noticeable. For me the transition from 1 to 2 children was incredibly hard but when people ask I always say I think the transition depends entirely on the babies and children involved at the time. When Cora arrived, Bea was just starting to enter the terrible 2’s (a phase that lasted until she was at least 4!) and Cora was a really challenging baby, in retrospect because of her dairy allergy we diagnosed very late, affecting her sleep and her tummy. This time around, the girls are more grown up, easier and Kit is a relatively easy baby too, so it hasn’t seemed as hard at all. He makes us the family I had always imagined we would be and I feel very, very lucky that he’s here with us. ❤️

I hope you have enjoyed reading this, I wanted to try and put it down for myself as much as you guys, and I have lots more to write if I get chance… but we shall see how I manage that in the coming weeks! Thank you all for all of the lovely messages we got when Kit was born, they were lovely to read even if I wasn’t able to get back to them all, and all the more important when we couldn’t share him in the way we would usually. I’m always grateful for the friends and insta-pals I have made in my phone. 🥰

Until next time, stay home and safe,

Rebecca x

Other posts you might like:

Social Distancing and Isolation fun for toddlers!

Hi everyone! I hope everyone is surving in these strange times we are currently living through. Despite being two key workers, we have elected to keep the girls both home currently as we are able to do half a day each from home and cover childcare. We think this will lower the likelihood of the kids succumbing to A.N.Other bug and end up causing us both to be out of action when actually well. So that’s us right now. I’m posting lots on Instagram so if you want to see what we are up to or hear about life in GP land during this crisis, make sure you check in there. 🙂

Gorgeous Sensory Play dough kits from Organised Chaos with Kids on Etsy.

Sometimes however a blog post is the best way to share information so I’m putting this together for all the mama’s reading who need help with the very little people in their lives. It has struck me that there are tons of resources to help parents of school aged children out with homeschooling or just keeping them happy, and less for toddlers. I have been quite outspoken on Instagram about asking people to just please #stayhome but I am under no illusions about how difficult that is with a small child especially if you haven’t got a sibling for them to play with. Having two is my personal saving grace right now (and there have been many points in the last 3 years that I never thought I’d say that!) So I shouted out to my Instagram friends and followers to point me in the direction of some great resources, ideas and online classes they can do at home to get through the day. I can’t vouch for all of them but there are some personal favs and each one comes recommended by another mum just like you. Take a deep breath – there’s loads here to keep you busy, and just remember you’ve got this, and its is finite. We can get through this together.

Instagram Accounts

@fiveminutemum is full of brilliant play and learning set ups that aim to give mum 5 minutes peace to have a cup of tea. She also advocates play set ups being super easy and simple in case the kids don’t love them – then nothing lost, but if they love it she shows how you can extend the activities. She also has a website – start by reading her golden rule post and a book which is suspect is going to fly off the shelves!

@busytoddler Scriolling through this account the ideas look best for 2-5yo’s but there’s definitely a few for younger kids, like this Toy Wash

@bbctinyhappypeople looks great for young babies with links to their BBC Tiny Happy People website and loads of things to encourage your Childs natural development if you feel you need something to focus on and replace the outside interaction your baby would normally get.

@organisedchaoswithkids makes incredible sensory play doh (we have the unicorn set) and kits for open-ended play for toddlers right through to much older kids. Her instagram grid is beautiful but her stories are bursting with ideas and before she started this venture her grid was full of play ideas so scroll back and get busy! This is her sensory dough Etsy shop.

@Inspiremyplay has tons of great ideas that work across several ages but I noticed lots fo sensory play set ups and ideas for keeping kids busy like this dyed spaghetti set up with ocean animals.

@whatshallweplaytoday is slightly more prop intensive – ie you would need to have a decent range of open ended play toys to make it work) but also has lots of ideas for play set ups for littles. Also you may often think you don’t have the kit for this but scouting around different play sets often means you can pull something together.

@play.hooray is another personal favourite and she is doing a daily 10am play along live – with the required items (nothing more complicated than cardboard, elastic bands and some pens or crayons today) with ideas across her account for babies right through to preschool and early years learning.

@mumlife_mcr has lots of preschool level activities for I would say 3-5yo’s

@beckys_treasure_baskets is a great site for babies right up to 2 and 3yo’s with fantastic sensory play ideas.

Activities

Moon Dough – I think some people would know this as kinetic sand or we have bought some in the past called sand clay but what I didn’t know is you can make your own (and get any appropriately aged children involved in the making of it too, it’s another activity!) Afewshortcuts.com has this recipe you can use and which can be made Gluten free – bonus!

Montessori Family Box This was suggested by one reader because they get so much use out of it and when I looked into it I could see why. Aimed at slightly older kids (age 3-6) I think a slightly younger second sibling might also enjoy it and I can see there’s real longevity. The kids I see enjoying this however are the forest school loving preschoolers – perhaps those who are the older ones in their year and waiting to go to school, but getting a bit bored at home!

Along the same line is Okido Magazine which we asked for form the Grandparents for Bea this Christmas. It’s a monthly arts and science magazine for ages 3-7 which I mainly love because it has no plastic tat attached! It’s full of gender neutral stories, crafts and science experiments and provides loads of activities for dipping in and out off. I find it perfect for Bea’s age (5.5 or Y1.)

Painting for little’s – yes it’s messy but hey, what else have we got to do these days?! And the weather is perfect for messy play. Try food colouring shaving foam to let little’s do ‘mark making’ or make a ‘paint’ with cocoa powder, coffee granules or tomato puree for them that doesn’t matter if they put it in their mouth.

Easiest thing in the world to do with little kids is water play. Nice weather? Use a bucket or dishwashing bowl in the garden with some cups. Let them bath their dolls or wash their plastic animals. Crappy weather? Stick them in the bath and do the same!

Chalk on the floor outside or if you’re indoors, something like an Aquadoodle is also great for budding artists – no chance of drawing on the walls!

Online Classes

Myleene Class (youtube) Is running a Music Klass on youtube and instagram for home schoolers but it also doing a Wednesday evening lullaby session for tinies.

Little Linguists is a local class someone tipped me off to doing languages for babies and toddlers. They are doing online classes now for £4 – find out more via the Little Linguists Facebook page

Another local class (but a national franchise I think) is Toddler Sense, also doing online classes – See one of their Toddler Sense classes via Facebook live here.

TinyTalk South Manchester Baby sign classes – again local to me and run by a mum friend, she has moved her usual baby sign and toddler sign classes online for the same price.

Heartbeeps is a music class for 6w – toddler ages and is also doing online classes – more available here via the Hartbeeps Facebook page.

For Baby And Me is a local class I used to attend for Baby Massage and also running pram active classes. She has since expanded into Toddler yoga and is doing online baby massage and yoga classes currently via Zoom! See more on the For Baby and Me FB page.

Of course the downside of doing online baby classes is that you miss the social interaction with other mums which I think is one of the most important things about those classes. At least planning something gives some structure to your day which is half the battle. Also, if you’re still working from home, being able to carve out a small bit of time to dedicate to your little one might also make you feel a little bit less mum guilt!

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I would love for anyone reading who has a tip, link or contact to share to comment below. Thanks to all the amazing mums who answered my call out for sources for this blog post and I really hope it helps some of you in the coming weeks and months to stay sane and enjoy this albeit enforced but still very precious time with your Little’s.

Stay safe and #stayhome, Rebecca x

3 things that made my 2019 better…

I know, it’s a big title. 2019 was a year of ups and downs for us as a family, we identified Cora with a dairy allergy and Be a was diagnosed with coeliac disease. Both were game changers and massive learning curves we had to navigate. We went on some epic holidays though, didn’t have much to do to the house and as a consequence we were able to slow down a bit and just enjoy being a family of four, in a way that we hadn’t really been able to since Cora came along, between the sleep deprivation and house renovation.

Anyhow, it was a year in which I finally found some time for me, and there were a few key habits that I started and kept up that had a really positive impact on my life last year, so I thought I’d document them here and maybe inspire you to take some time out for you in 2020.

The books we exchanged for book club secret Santa!

I started reading again…

Actually, this isn’t strictly true, depending on your definition of reading. What I did was joined Audible. For years now I have not had time for reading, or haven’t really found a place in my life where it could fit and work for me. I don’t go to bed early to read – I like to get into bed and go to sleep. I don’t tend to read in the evening either and obviously between kids and work, I’m not going to read in the daytime or on holiday either. I’ve never been ablate listen to audiobooks before but I ended up downloading Period Power as I wanted to badly to read it and my pre-ordered copy was delayed. I combination of the friendly tones of the author and the fascinating subject matter really hooked me in and after it finished I went straight onto Becoming by Michelle Obama. I’ve long wished I had a commute I could make on public transport to make use of that dead time and finally realised I could use those 3+ hours I spend commuting a week, and get real satisfaction out of them. I’ve now listened to book club fiction and finally ticked several non-fiction titles off my list, ‘How to Talk so little Kids will Listen (game changer,) The Chimp Paradox, and I’m currently listening to ‘How not to Die’ by Michael Gregor. 6-8 months on I’ve discovered my love of reading so much so that I’m actually making time to pick up reading books at home too. It might be that some of the subject matter is positively impacting on my wellbeing, but I’m getting huge enjoyment out of it either way.

I started a beauty routine…

If you follow me on Instagram., you might have seen that I joined Beauty Pie – the members only beauty club for massively discounted beauty and make up products. I really felt like my age (and again, those sleepless nights!) were starting to creep up on my skin and it was time that I started to look after it better. The stumbling block being that I am not good at spending money on premium beauty products. I also felt like I didn’t know where to start so didn’t want to lay a lot of money out. Anyway, this isn’t about Beauty Pie – if you want to find out more about that then head over to my InstaTV and listen to my explanation and favourite skincare products. I might even do a blog post one day ;). It has become less about the product however and more about the time spent. The ritual of that mini-spa like experience every evening really helps me unwind before bed. I use a melting oil based cleanser that I massage off and swipe off with a hot wrung out flannel. The smells and the steam are so soothing it feel like a real act of self care. Following it with eye cream carefully applied, serum and massaged in moisturiser and I feel like I have cleared my mind and committed to some real self care – such a rarity as a mum!

I committed to an exercise class…

Feeling ever despondent about the changes in my body since having children I started to look for an exercise class that might help. I wasn’t looking for a fat burning or weight loss type of solution, but wanted specifically to target my core and spent some time looking for a class that would feel impactful enough. Eventually I tried a physio led pilates class (at G4 Physiotherapy if you’re local) and really felt like I had finally found something that was going to make a difference. Wanting to address my core postnatally I had an introductory session to get assessed before I started which I found really thorough and then I committed to twice weekly classes for 8weeks to get a head start, until my work pattern changed and I had to drop to once weekly. Since then, for over 6 months now I’ve booked in to the Saturday morning class, and felt all the better when I’ve left at 10.30, ready to face a busy weekend.

Reading this back, I can see it reads like a classic self care article in a magazine, and I also know that much of what I managed this year was because my youngest child is becoming more independent which means not only is she happy without me, but I crave time without the kids sometimes, something for me, in a way I didn’t consider in the throes of new motherhood – the first time at least! So if you are reading this and thinking you don’t have the time or inclination to do things like this yet, know that one day, not only will you want to but you will find opportunity and it’s ok not to just now.

So, I know I’ve totally missed the boat on analysing the last year, but well, frankly January was a wash out over here and its only now I’m really in the frame of mind to think about it. I’d love to hear what stands out to you as a success from 2019?

Rebecca x

Planner planner, on the wall…

Typically, it’s the 3rd of January and I have just ordered our new Year Planner to put on the kitchen wall. Organisation in our house is pretty multi-layered if I’m honest, using a combination of the kitchen wall planner, a shared iCalendar with Pete and then I also use a BuJo or as of this year I’m trialling a Hello Day planner which I won on Instagram! I’m a list maker through and through which is why I have loved having a BuJo but I’m giving the planner a go to see if it saves me time in not essentially DIY-ing my planner and yet still accommodate my extensive lists.

It might sound like a recipe for disaster but we use the different spaces for different things really. The shared calendar means we don’t have to remember to tell each other when we have made individual social plans – we just add them to the calendar and check the diary to make sure we can plan nights out. My own planner is full of detail, lists of what I need to get done every day, meal planning, holiday planning, budgeting, childcare, birthdays… you get the gist. Then the wall planner acts as a visual aid for us to plan ahead – school holidays, annual leave, weekend activities as a family etc. Because its on the wall in the kitchen it has to look good also, so I thought I’d share a few of the ones I looked at this year, in case you need one too!

This year I chose the Terrazzo planner from The Native State. I wanted something portrait to fit in the existing magnetic poster hanger I have and the burnt Sienna tones mixed with pink and green blend perfectly with the room.

Close runner up was Gayle Mansfield designs and the only thing that stopped me buying one of those was the landscape orientation. I loved the mustard or pink colours though and the typographic style.

The last 2 years we have had a planner from DoodleLove via Etsy. First the Eucalyptus planner which is still available and really calming and beautiful I think, and a more colourful one in 2019.

Do you use a wall planner? I hope you might have found a new independent brand reading this – all of the creatives listed have prints, cards and other items for sale if you would like to support indie brands when you need a new piece of art or gift. Check out DoodleLove’s prints here and Gayle Mansfield’s Magnifique print is next on my shopping list!

Happy New Year readers!

Rebecca x

The Edinburgh Pad AirBnB

The first time we used Airbnb I felt really anxious that the booking would get cancelled before we got there leaving us high and dry. We’ve had varied success with it since but our last trip to Edinburgh proved to be our best Airbnb find ever and I had to share it with you. If you’re into staycations or interiors you’re going to love this – I was pretty much ready to relocate permanently!

The master bedroom

The property is a 4 bedroom first floor flat, overlooking Edinburgh’s beautiful Meadows. With the autumn leaves turning and the sunshiny days we were blessed with, you can imagine what the views were like. The entrance hall was bright and airy with vintage and scandi details, lots of wood, bright colours and handcrafted details.

The lounge was huge, with a gas fireplace perfect for cosying down in the evening for TV binges, and we were delighted to find lots of toys hidden away – the marble run was a particular hit! Isn’t the decor in here just gorgeous? The whole place spoke to my particular passion for period features mixed with modern pattern and colour. G Plan coffee and side tables mixed with typographic art, Bluebell Grey fabric panels and velvet jewel toned cushions made for a bright and inviting space.

The Master bedroom was similarly stunning and my favourite room in the house I think… I think I felt so at home as the colour is so similar to our bedroom wall colour. The furniture has a vintage French country vibe but the whole room is brought up to date with modern art work and pops of colour in the chair and recovered stool (Bluebell Gray again.)

There’s a lovely en-suite tiled in grey toned plank effect tiles and with my fav patterned Lino – I’ve seen this in other houses and it’s a brilliant compromise (and warmer underfoot) if you lust after encaustic tiles but can’t afford them or just don’t fancy the upkeep.

The flat has a second large double bedroom in a more feminine traditional style of muted greys and pinks which we didn’t really need or use but made it a feasible space for two smaller families wanting to go away together.

The small double was next door to us and perfect for Cora. With mid century sidetables, yellow velvet cushions and a patterned rug, this had a bright scandi vibe yet still felt very cosy.

Finally the smallest room had a single in with a trundle bed beneath. Aimed at kids it was kitted out with books and Bea absolutely loved it.

The location of the flat was brilliant too. Between Marchmont and Newington it was walkable to Bruntsfield (an area known for its independent shops and restaurants) and straight across the Meadows took you right into the old town. We walked and walked in mainly beautiful crisp weather which was perfect for exploring!

I’ll try and do a quick blog post on what we did whilst in Edinburgh at some point but wanted to get on and share The Edinburgh Pad. I can’t wait to go back at some point and stay here again soon!

Rebecca x

The Florence Finds House Tour: A Dressing room makeover with IKEA PAX.

One of my favourite views…

I have always been a massive fan of PAX wardrobes. They are astoundingly cheap by comparison to any other kind of ‘fitted’ wardrobe and brilliant quality. I also think the varied interior options are incredible, especially if you’re like me and crave a place for everything, and everything in it’s place. We had 2 PAX in our old house, although they didn’t fit the alcoves either side of the fireplace in our bedroom then and we sold them with the house. There were two hold ups to us finally getting our dressing room sorted and installing the fancy ‘wardrobe of dreams’; One being money (isn’t it always?!) and prioritising other bits ahead of what seemed like a bit of an indulgence, and Two, until they developed the corner unit, I just couldn’t make the units fit and give us adequate storage.

We lived with a couple of old Billy bookcases (also IKEA) as shelves, and a John Lewis hanging rail for 4 and a half years, before we got around to buying and fitting the wardrobes and at the same time we papered the walls to provide a fun feminine contrast to the bedroom and papered the back of the open shelving too. So here is what we did!

The Wardrobe delivery!
The corner PAX unit which made this room possible 🙂

We created this dressing room or walk in wardrobe when we moved in. It used to be accessed from the hallway and was its own room so we bricked up that doorway and knocked through the double doors into the bedroom. That means one of the long walls is out of action for putting any wardrobes against and there is also a beautiful, but rather large window. It’s a narrow room and the window is almost the width of the wall at that end, so we were limited by not wanting to block that at all, and only having an L shaped run of wall to work with.

IKEA has a brilliant PAX online planner which allows you to create a virtual room with your dimensions then fill it with different wardrobe options and even add the interior fittings you want. After a bit of tweaking, we printed out the plan and took our list of products to IKEA to buy them, then got them delivered.

PAX are pretty easy to assemble, but be warned, you often need to assemble them in situ as they would be too big to move. Pete put ours together during nap time one day, in the room itself but didn’t add the backs because we wanted to paper them before installing the back panel for a seamless finish. This then lead to much swearing and sweating trying to move them out of the room to lie them flat and add the back panel, despite the double door access and our relatively high ceilings!

To paper the back panels we simply treated it like wallpapering, but had to do it in situ in the bedroom again. The back panels are kind of bifold for the double wardrobes and that was NOT easy. Should you be planning to attempt this I would strongly suggest doing the panels first and allowing them to dry. We applied the paper then installed straight away which caused a lot of stress about the paper slipping on the panels because the paste was still wet. Slight rookie error but it all came good in the end and it would have been impossible to create a decent finish papering it with the back panel already on. The paper by the way is Harlequin Standing Ovation Exuberance in Heather/Indigo, chosen for the blush tones and near perfect match to our bedroom wallpaper (Dulux Denim Drift) along with smudges of khaki, another colour I love. I did look at some of the murals available online and Bluebell Grey’s wallpaper murals too as I thought they would look stunning with big blousy florals draped around the window and double doors from the inside, but it was impossible to find one with the correct pattern placement so as not to loose the majority of the design in the window and door areas. I also had to accept that the majority of the view of the room would be from outside it, so the priority was making those areas look good.

We went to town and papered the whole room, (well all the room that can be seen – It would have been a gigantic waste of money to paper behind the wardrobes, probably £200 worth of paper would have been lost so we did the top couple of feet behind them only.) It wasn’t easy, and is a bit slapdash in places because our walls are anything but straight so the doors, corners and windows in a short space was hellish. Words were had. But I can confirm, we are still married. 😉

Finally the wardrobes were put into position and (using the provided kit) all bolted together. I’m so pleased with the quality, rock solid and the pale oak finish is calming and restful. We haven’t bolted to the wall as we felt they were so heavy all bolted to each other that even a climbing child wouldn’t be able to topple them. Frankly we cant move them! To solve the issue of the wide window and not wanting to obscure it, the wardrobe closest to the window is a reduced depth one, designed for hallways and narrow spaces. its is still deeper than the available wall space (less than 20cm!) but the wardrobe doesn’t go all the way up to the window and the front of the wardrobe being set back from the central one actually works well with the same arrangement on the opposite side. At least I like to think so.

Of course the fun bit was arranging my shoes and bags, hanging all the clothes, finally having space for everything and everything in it’s place!

A quick note about interiors. We do have wardrobe space in spare bedrooms upstairs which I tend to use to rotate my winter and summer clothes. This was mainly because of the lack of space we had before though, as I dislike having my clothes where I can’t see them. I find I just forget about them! So I planned the interior space very carefully. We have 3.5m of wardrobe space (if they were arranged in a straight line,) and only 2m of hanging rails. I much prefer folding clothes on shelves, and use drawers for things that don’t hang well, so hanging was 1/4 long hanging, and 3/4 half height. We put a full wardrobes worth of shelves either side of the central wardrobe, for symmetry, and deep drawers in the middle with hanging above. The side/corner wardrobe is also split with a set of smaller drawers for underwear etc. We also kept the height of the top shelf identical across the whole width of wardrobes, just the right size for their SKUBB storage boxes for a neat look. I splashed out on one of the fancy wide shallow drawers with the inserts for jewellery etc and now have all my sunglasses, hair slides, earrings and belts laid out so nothing gets hidden away. It brings me immense joy every day!

I hope you like what we have done, and feel free to hit me with any questions about installing PAX! The wardrobes cost between £6-700 if I remember correctly, which was vastly less than most fitted wardrobes and freestanding ones too.

Of course we still have bits to finish in here. Theres a couple of corners of skirting that never got put back when the original room was created, then waited for this project to be done and still haven’t been sorted. I also wish we had done the radiators (its in the plan to change the rads in this room and the bedroom to the old victorian style but again, time… money… soon!

I hope you have enjoyed the tour!

Rebecca x

June Loves

I rarely have time these days to do a comprehensive blog post focusing on summer dresses for example, a brand I am obsessing over or good reads. That doesn’t mean however that I don’t have things I want to share so I’m starting a new monthly post sharing the things I’m loving right now. They won’t just be purchases, you might find rediscovered old wardrobe or beauty items, eats or things to watch or read. And here comes June… (better late than never but I started writing it in June and now I have room for July too!) 😉

Madewell

J.Crew’s little sister, the less preppy, younger (and personally I feel more mum-life friendly) brand was one I hit hard on our recent trip to California. I bought glitter star sunglasses (much asked after on Instagram, clear with holographic star frames,) a set of three celestial inspired necklaces for layering, and a updated my wardrobe with a summer version of the Transport tote I already own, the smaller Medium Transport tote which has a cross body strap and handy front pocket detail. Side note, the brass colour to Madewell jewellery never rubs off or fades. *These links are to the US site which ships to the UK but you can find Madewell in John Lewis now too.

Mutha.Hood

I have a new Favourite tee, the Solidarity Feminine from Mutha.Hood. I’m buying a huge amount of red and pink hi season, mainly to be worn together and I particularly love this with the Hush Santana skirt in red. The text on the left breast at the front is subtle but the message is loud and clear from the back!

FitFlop

Not that I’m getting chance to wear them in this hideously wet spell of weather we are having, I recently became fed up with all my sandals being uncomfortable and went on a mission to find some super comfy ones. I usually wear Birkenstocks as general run around flip flops but found no matter what I wore when I was really pounding the pavement on the school run for example, the soles of my feet were feeling really tender. I had seen Fitflop mentioned by a few bloggers and Instagrammers as being very comfortable and after trying a pair on I was sold. Fortunately I had some birthday vouchers from John Lewis that softened the blow a bit but I’m really happy with the ones I chose (Fitflop Barra) if you are looking for cloud-like cushioning and a quality pair of summer shoes.

IKEA SOLVINDEN LED festoon lights

I’ve had so many questions about where our new festoon lights were from. They were an IKEA find, £30 for 12. I could only find the multicoloured ones online but ours are clear. They have a great look, the LED should last, the bulbs are plastic so not likely to smash and our last set of outdoor festoons were IKEA and lasted around 5+ years so I was happy to buy again 🙂 This corner of the garden was high on the list for getting some TLC before the terrible weather started but has been put on a bit of a hiatus since the weather became awful.

I’m just gonna leave this one here…

Period Power

This should be a ‘May Loves’ as I listened to this via Audible on my commute for most of May. I’m going to write a full blog post on it but will just say this now – if you want to know more about *What The Hell* actually happens in your body every month, you NEED to read this book. Period Power by Maisie Hill (follow her on Instagram via the link) has genuinely revolutionised both my knowledge of my cycle and myself since reading and I can’t wait to share more about it with you all soon.

Thats it for now! Enjoy the read and I’ll be back soon 🙂

Rebecca x

Toys for 4 year olds: Aquaplay

Happy Sunday readers! Yesterday we celebrated Bea’s 4th birthday and we bought her a bit of a last minute present that has turned out so well I thought I’d share it with you all here in a quick review.

I asked some friends recently what their 4yo’s liked to play with and one suggested a water play system like this. We didn’t really have a ‘big’ present in mind for Bea this year but all we had bought her were some dress up outfits and an electric toothbrush – I always try in vain to buy toys that might give me 5 minutes peace and encourage some independent play now she’s getting bigger and particularly with the summer holidays looming. I also hoped we might find something that was Cora proof too – Bea was always so delicate and liked to do arty things, we have never had to put the crayons out of reach – they were always out in her bedroom to use, but now Cora draws on everything so it needed to be something she could use too.


The Aquaplay Mountain Lake is amazing! Bea didn’t look up for an hour once it was set up for her and Cora has been wading in (quite literally) too! It’s an amazing toy for the garden and we are using it inside because our Karndean flooring doesn’t mind being wet. And it’s got educational value in teaching about water movement and imaginative play. Now just need to figure out where to store it! If you’re stuck for a present or have been eyeing this wondering if it’s worth it, I’d definitely recommend it! (more Aquaplay sets here, including a smaller transportable one in a case)

Rebecca



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