Before she starts school…

Before she starts school…

Yesterday I bought Jasmine’s school uniform and as I watched the cashier zap each item of clothing across the till and fold them up neatly in front of me, the realisation that my baby is starting school, very soon, hit me hard. More than it did when we got the letter through, telling us which school she was going to. And more than when we went to visit the school itself for J’s ‘taster days’. It was buying the white polo tops and little grey pinafore dresses that really gave me a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye (and not just because of the expense of it all!)

I feel like I’m trying to strike a balance between cramming as much into these last few weeks of summer as possible (whilst she’s still mine, all mine) and giving her time to rest and prepare for the changes that are coming our way.

We decided to keep J in preschool (x 3 mornings a week) right up until the end of August to keep her in the routine that she’s used to. Also, being 100% honest here, I’m not sure how I’d cope with both girls by myself full-time as they fight almost constantly and it truly wears me down.

Getting out of the house is usually the best thing for us. It’s stops the girls squabbling (as much) and I generally find it easier to parent when we’re out and about (just don’t ask me about our disastrous swimming trip earlier this week).

With all of that in mind, and the fact, that J will not be doing full-time school hours until the first week of October. I’ve been thinking about some of the things we’d like to do over the coming few weeks – a sort of ‘before school to-do list’ if you will.

Go to the beach

We’re very lucky to have a massive, free to use, sandpit in our local town centre during the summer holidays. We spend several hours there a week and the girls love it. But nothing quite beats the real thing – the beach! I’d love to cram in a couple of beach days before the end of the summer – probably Brean or Weston-super-mare (which are our local-ish beaches) or perhaps a trip across the bridge to Wales and Barry Island!

Visit Monkey World (Poole)

Monkey World has been on our to-do list for ages. Stephen and I visited there quite a few times pre-kids (and even considered getting married there at one point!) but we’ve yet to take the girls. If we get up and go early enough, the trip is totally do-able in a day so we’re hoping to go later this month when Stephen has booked off some of his annual leave.

Join in with Clifton College’s ‘forest discovery day’

On Saturday 8th September, Clifton College are running a free forest discovery day for toddlers/preschoolers and their parents. There will be den building, marshmallow toasting and mudpie making – oh my! I booked my two littles onto it as soon as I heard about it as I just know it’ll be right up their street (or should I say, tree?!) We’ll be there in our wellies and waterproofs and if you’re local to Bristol and would like to be there too, head here: https://www.cliftoncollege.com/events/2018/september/free-forest-discovery-day/ to find out more!

A family bike-ride

J’s had her bike for a while now, and other than the occasional jaunt around the block with it, she never much rides it anywhere else other than in the back garden. I’d love to dust off mine and Stephen’s bikes (which have been sat in the garage since we moved here over a year ago) and go for a family bike ride. I bought a toddler seat, from a friend, to attach to my bike for E to ride in, I just haven’t gotten around to attaching it yet! Our local cycle path goes all the way to Bath and whilst I can’t see us getting that far, it’ll still be fun to ride together as a family and see how far we do get!

Visit Grimsbury Farm

There’s a fair few community farms in and around Bristol but I hadn’t heard of Grimsbury Farm until recently when my Childminder friend, Sarah, told me about it (she knows all the good local places to take kids!) I only passed my driving test last month and I’m slowly growing in confidence enough to take the girls out for day trips, driving a little further each time. Grimsbury farm is about 20 minutes away by car and I’m planning to pack a picnic and take the girls for a visit in the next week or two. Watch this space!

Is there anything in particular you’re planning with your pre-schooler before they start school?

Jenna xx

This is a collaborative post.

 

How to dress up your walls

How to dress up your walls

Leaving your walls bare is one of the top decorating mistakes which you should avoid when you are trying to create a ‘homey’ environment. Thankfully, there are plenty of creative solutions out there which allow you to dress up your walls and make them look more interesting. So, here are a few ideas which will provide you with a bit of inspiration.

 

Hang Artwork

 

One of the more obvious solutions which you can put into practice is to hang some artwork. Ultimately, this is one of the best ways of showing off your individual personality. Take your time to choose something special such as the collection available from Laura Ashley wall art by Rattan & Lighting Company. Choose a size which is appropriate for the wall space you have available. Too large will be overly dominant, whereas pieces which are too small are in danger of being swallowed up.

 

Use Bold Colours

 

Rather than only choosing regular white and beige walls, you could aim to be a little more creative – especially if you have an apartment or house with high walls. If you don’t want to go for entirely bold colours, it is easy enough to paint a single accent wall to give your room a sense of definition. And if you want to keep with the standardised wall colours, you could always choose some bold colours in the artwork that you choose to hang.

 

Experiment with Textiles

 

If you feel like being a little more daring and innovative, you could always experiment with some different types of textiles on your walls. So, why not try hanging some different fabrics to give the room a more layered effect. This is a great design technique to try during the winter months to give the room a greater feeling of warmth and cosiness.

 

Build a Bookcase

 

How about building a floor to ceiling bookcase complete with a library ladder to access your collection? This is an idea which creates both an interesting and sophisticated to your interior. If you are not a big reader, you could always put up some staggered wooden shelving to display, artwork, pottery, a collection or souvenirs.

 

Create Shelves

Shelves provide a nice way of breaking up walls into some clearer sections, which provides a sense of architectural intrigue in an otherwise dull area. If you live in an area which is likely to suffer from earthquakes or violent storms, it is worth building your shelves with a front-lip area to stop items from falling forward or slipping off.

 

These are just five of the possibilities which you can put into practice to make your walls just a little bit more interesting. And you don’t have to use these ideas in isolation of one another. You can mix and match to create the type of effects which suit your individual sense of style. And since many of these solutions are simple, you always have the option of changing when you like.

 

This is a collaborative post.

Bjorn To Travel? Try Scandinavia!

Bjorn To Travel? Try Scandinavia!

Do you ever get bored with travelling to the same Balearic every year for your annual fix of sun, sea, and sand? While a package holiday is often the simplest and most convenient means of travel with a brood in tow, it is rarely the most exciting. More recently, parents are choosing to shun the traditional package holiday for something more authentic, if a little more tricky to organise. If you have plenty of time to do your research, enjoy making plans and want to immerse your little darlings into a culture rather than allowing them to see a hotel pool and holiday complex for a fortnight, then a jaunt to a lesser trodden land might be just what you’re looking for.

 

It is not set in stone that you need to take your annual vacation during the summer months. Instead, you could choose to take a winter break with your rabble. This can often allow you to secure cheaper prices for flights and accommodation when heading away off-season and you could face less tourist crowds. If you fancy hot-footing it abroad for a snow-filled holiday, take a look at why Scandinavia could be the ideal family holiday destination.

Geological Wonders For The Entire Family

 

When you think about Scandinavia, thoughts of Vikings, blizzards, Hans Christian Anderson, and Fjords may come into your mind. The joy of this northern region of Europe is the sheer variety of interest and activities it has to offer.

 

Take a jaunt to Iceland on your travels, and you could find yourself enjoying the vista of a geological spectacle every day of your trip. You might fancy whisking your brood away for a night time hunt for the Northern Lights. Many specialist tour companies know the best spots on the island from which to try and spy the natural phenomenon. Before you know it, you could be witnessing the solar flares lighting up the darkened skies with green and pink laser light shows.

 

During the day, you might want to explore the delights of a glacier or two. You could take your family on a snowshoeing trek across a glacier, or a hike up a dormant volcano or even a dog sled ride across the snow covered lunar landscape. The geysers and geothermal springs on the island mean you could take a bathing break in the spa-like Blue Lagoon or traverse Pingvellir National Park with its methane filled walkways while straddling two tectonic plates. If your little cherubs are curious and love the great outdoors, Iceland in the winter could be your perfect holiday destination.

Getting Back To Nature And Wildlife

 

It isn’t just Iceland that offers up some amazing opportunities to get closer to nature and explore the outdoors. Spending some of your winter in Finland would allow you to head to Ranua to feed a pack of elusive polar bears, head off on a whale watching tour to try and spot minke and humpback in their natural habitat or hot-foot it to a reserve to spend some quality time with a troupe of reindeer. If your kids adore animals, but you aren’t keen on the zoo, a trip to Finland could be a perfect way for your children to see conservation in action.

 

You might want to extend your trip with a jaunt to Norway to venture even further off the beaten track. The Lofoten Islands is the prime location from which to see killer whales and the Norwegian Svalbard offers the perfect vista in which to see walrus, arctic foxes, and lynx. Even if your kids aren’t into wildlife before a trip to Scandinavia, when they return home, they’ll be keen to make it as the next Sir David Attenborough.

Cosmopolitan Cities

It’s not all snow, ice-capped mountains, freezing temperatures and volcanic vistas. Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Denmark all have their fair share of cosmopolitan cities that are well worth a visit.

 

The beautiful city of Reykjavik is renowned for its friendliness and down to Earth ethos, stunning architecture and exquisite cuisine. You could while away your days sampling Skyr in the cafes near the harbour in the morning, experiencing the joys of pickled herring and fermented shark for dinner, and stop off at some achingly cool vegetarian eateries for a snack or two. With a full belly, you might be keen to explore the iconic Hallgrimskirkja, the incredible cathedral in the centre of the city. You can scale the tower to view the city vista from the stained glass windows. The outside is just as spectacular as the interior with a unique spaceship style architecture.

 

Oslo feels a tad more traditional, with Victorian red brick style buildings adorning the city. The most special thing about the Norwegian capital is the stunning inner city fjord. For the more active family, this offers up plenty of chances to have a go at kayaking, canoeing, fishing or sailing. For those who fancy a more relaxed pace for their holidays, a fjord beach might be more appealing.

 

If you fancy a more coastal capital, Helsinki might be more up your street. The kids could enjoy the beach, paddling in the sea and having a kickabout in one of the many green spaces throughout the city. The pastel hued buildings are picturesque, and the whole city has a very laid back, and hipster sort of vibe. If you do venture here in the winter, you may find yourself cross-country skiing with the locals when traversing the city. Finland natives commute to work on their skis and will often pick up their salopettes rather than their car keys making this a green, eco-friendly and special metropolis.

 

Forget the sun-filled balmy days reading the latest bestseller by the side of a kidney-shaped pool on a Costa. Instead, opt for something different for your annual vacation, embrace the snow, the ice and the colder conditions and venture a little off the beaten track. If you fancy a winter break for your next family holiday be sure not to overlook the joys of Scandinavia.

 

This is a collaborative post.

12 home decor secrets for a Pinterest worthy place

12 home decor secrets for a Pinterest worthy place

Have you ever looked at a picture of somebody’s decor on Pinterest and wondered why it looks so fantastic? Usually, the pictures on Pinterest are just pictures that normal people have taken of rooms they are proud of – so why do they look so good?!

There are a few things you can do to get your very own Pinterest worthy place. Not all spaces have the following in common, but if you pick the ones that suit you and your space, you should end up with a place that wouldn’t look out of place on somebody’s ‘home decor’ board. 

 

Display Items On Shelves

Shelves can be a very practical addition to any home. They can be a great way of maximising floor space and storing certain items. However, on Pinterest you’ll usually see something called ‘curated shelves’. These are shelves that are being used as storage but have been styled carefully to look good.

 

Whether you have a bookshelf or a number of shelves on your wall, consider carefully how you’ll make this look put together. You can use books, CDs, and even and few well chosen accessories to create a look that is lived in but works well. Consider only displaying the ones you’re super proud of to add to the cool factor of a room!

 

Have A Curated Coffee Table

Another thing you’ll notice on Pinterest is that the coffee table is usually never empty. It’s usually carefully styled, too. You could have a couple of your favorite books on the table, or just books that you think look good. You can include plants, magazines, a journal – anything that you feel will add a bit of a lived in edge while looking great. There are no rules, so have fun with it!

 

Always Include Fresh Flowers And Plants

Always include fresh flowers and plants in your place. The great thing about these is that they not only look fantastic, they have numerous benefits. They bring in color, they smell great, and studies have shown that they make us happier just by looking at them.

 

You don’t have to have fresh flowers in every room, as those bills would quickly add up. They usually look better in the lounge or even the hall, so consider that. Plants, however, are a different ball game altogether. Plants can be used in abundance to bring the outdoors inside, add texture, and create a bit of an eclectic look. If you don’t want to use real plants, that’s fine too – realistic looking fake plants will work just as well, although they won’t purify the air like their real counterparts.

 

Create Your Very Own Unique Gallery Wall

A gallery wall can look amazing, whether you want to do something that looks tidy with your favorite pictures all in a row, or you want to make it look more ‘organic’ by using frames of different shapes and sizes to show off various pieces of art and pictures that you like. You can also use hanging accessories, plants, and mirrors to create the gallery wall of your dreams.

 

However, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t rush your gallery wall, or expect it to be complete within one day. It takes time; you want to slowly collect the pieces for the wall, and only choose pieces that you absolutely love. Think of it as a special project that will simply take as long as it takes.

 

Once you have your pieces, you can practice how you want them to look by lying them out on the floor. Do this before you put any holes in your wall.

 

Make Everything Look As Plush And Cosy As Possible

Who wouldn’t love to just dive on some of the sofas and beds that you can see on Pinterest? They look super plush and comfortable, don’t they?

 

To make yours look the same, you have to focus on dressing them properly. This means investing in throws and cushions that make them look amazing. Using cushions of different sizes and textures can help.

 

Get The Texture Balance Right

Although you want to include a lot of texture in your space to bring it to life and stop it from looking dull, you don’t want to use too much. Too much texture can be just as bad as not enough texture – plus, it can harbour dust and germs, making allergies and illnesses worse in the home.

 

Make sure you work hard to find the right balance and it’ll make a massive difference.

 

Don’t Feel Pressured To Have All Of Your Furniture Matching

Having matching furniture in every room, or any room, can quickly make that space look dated. You can purchase separate pieces that you really love and easily bring them together, providing there is one unifying element, such as a color, pattern, or similar style. It can take a little practice to get right, but mixing up your furniture often looks way more interesting than matching it, even if you’re not looking to have a super eclectic decor. It looks better in just about any decor.

 

Invest In Great Lighting

Great lighting is key to a Pinterest worthy space. Even in spaces that use, dark, rich colors, you never get a feel that they are ‘dark’. This is usually because of the great lighting. As well as the right type of lighting for the room, invest in fixtures and fittings that look great and will stand the test of time. For example, chrome or metallic light fittings can look great in an industrial style home decor.

 

Add Character With Artwork You Love

Every home should incorporate artwork, so add character with pieces that you love. You don’t have to go overboard here, and they definitely don’t have to be expensive. You can get a local artist to commission you a painting if you have a small budget, or you can buy a copy of one and simply frame it. You could even create your own.

 

Make Sure Your Lay Out Makes Sense

Your lay out must make sense – are people bumping into things as they make their way around? Is getting around unnecessarily difficult? It should look great, but function well too. Focusing on the balance and symmetrical aspects of a room will stop it from looking crazy most of the time, even if you’ve gone for eclectic pieces.

 

You can use pieces of software and even free apps to input your measurements and get a feel for what will work in your room better. You might find that the lay out you have now isn’t as great as you thought.

 

Do Something Unusual With An Unexpected Item

Why not get creative and do something unusual with an unexpected item? This could be making a bed frame out of old crates, or even using vintage suitcases stacked up as a side table. Use your imagination – fruit crates can also become shelves, or even bedside tables. This will bring a quirky look to your home, and quirkiness is something that Pinterest isn’t short on!

 

Keep It Clean And Tidy

Finally, make sure you keep your place clean and tidy. It’s the only way to keep your space light and bright with a true Pinterest feel. Make sure you focus on your windows, as you want to let as much natural light in as possible.

 

Which of these ideas will you use for your Pinterest worthy place?

 

This is a collaborative post.

 

5 things for kids to do in Bristol this summer

5 things for kids to do in Bristol this summer

The summer holidays are nigh! And whether the prospect of 6 weeks with the kids at home fills you with dread or excitement (or a strange mix of both), I’m sharing a few suggestions of things for the kiddos to do over the summer, in and around the Bristol area.

1 – Gromit Unleashed 2 Trail

It’s back – the ever-popular Gromit trail! This time with over 60 giant sculptures, designed by high-profile artists, featuring 3 of Nick Park’s characters; Gromit, Wallace and Feathers McGraw.  You’ll explore some of the city’s most iconic locations whilst you seek them all out!

To find out the locations of the sculptures, download the Detect-O-Gromit 2 app or, if you’d prefer, pick up a good ol’ fashioned paper map from the following locations:

The Mall at Cribbs Causeway (in the GU store), Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Bristol Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre, M Shed, Tourist Information Centre, Aerospace Bristol and the Gromit Unleashed HQ on Upper Maudlin Street.

Happy searching!

Visit https://www.grandappeal.org.uk/trails-exhibitions/gromit-unleashed/ for more info.

2 – Kids’ Club at Clifton College (for 3-13 Years Old)

This summer, Clifton College in Bristol are hosting their popular kids’ clubs, with a group suitable for all ages between 3-13 years of age. Each club includes a wide variety of activities all with the aim that your children enjoy themselves and learn different skills on the way. The Mini’s Kids’ Club (3-4) focuses on personal development and interaction with others, while the Junior Club (5-7) focuses on encouraging children to pursue their interests and develop their skills through their own choice of activity. The oldest club, the Kids’ Club (8-13) promotes self-expression, confidence building, offering complete flexibility and choice of involvement. Of course, all three groups offer FUN, with activities such as arts and crafts, outdoor play and even afternoon swim sessions (Kids’ Club and Junior’s Club). 

Price for all clubs start from £22 for half a day and £44 for a full day. The Mini’s Club starts from 6 July 2018 while the Kids’ Club and the Junior’s Club starts from 9 July 2018. For more information, please visit www.cliftoncollege.com

3 – Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2018 

The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is Europe’s largest annual meeting of hot air balloons, attracting over 130 Hot Air Balloons from across the globe. Made possible last year by Bristol Energy, the Fiesta truly is a sight that can only be seen in Bristol. Held over four days in August at Ashton Court Estate, the event is completely free with charges made for parking on the event site. Alongside the fantastic site of hot air balloons filling the skies, there will be a large number of trade stands, fairground rides and entertainment.

For more information about the Fiesta visit: http://www.bristolballoonfiesta.co.uk/

4 – Visit Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

The cost of days out during the school holidays can soon add up, so why not check out some of Bristol’s free family attractions. Let your littles explore the collections of art, nature and history on display in a beautiful building. Find out about the last billion years of Earth’s history, explore the region’s natural wonders and discover more about peoples’ lives, past and present. You’ll not be disappointed!

For opening times visit: https://www.bristolmuseums.org.uk/bristol-museum-and-art-gallery/opening-times/

5 – Visit Bristol Zoo… at Twilight!

This summer you can experience Bristol Zoo as the sun sets with their Friday Twilights ticket entry (£5 per ticket or £4 for members).

You’ll be able to enjoy the following…

• Live music throughout the evening.

• Exclusive Friday Twilight animal talks.

• Explore the award-winning gardens.

• Enjoy a delicious treat at the immersive restaurant.

• Transform into an animal with our fantastic face painting!

Buy tickets online here: https://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/whats-on/friday-twilights (hurry – they’re selling out fast!)

Jenna xxx

This is a collaborative post.