The Best of; February

February proved to be a busy month here on the blog and saw me publish 84 posts!  As March rolls on, it is time for me to share The Best of; February, just in case you missed anything!

The Best of

February

I started the month sharing my guilty pleasures in the form of 5 Things; I love to watch, you can’t beat a bit of reality TV in my book!  When we were at Bluestone we went on a trip to Tenby beach.  Between Hubby and I, we took some of my favourite pictures ever and had a magical time with Baby on the stunning beach, I shared it in drifting on the beach.

Beach 11

My first #BlogClub post of February was How to run a successful blog linky, in which I shared my experience of running two successful blog linkies. At the end of January we experienced our first family holiday and so I shared it in our Bluestone Review.

Bluestone

What Baby Rocked returned to share my favourite ‘Baby’ outfits of January.  I was recently nominated to win a Hotel break, so it was my turn to return the favour, as I made my Spa Seekers nomination (vlog).  Our family loves the outdoors and so we really enjoyed taking Baby out to test her Muddy Puddles boots.

Slushstompers

In the spirit of the impending Valentine’s Day I shared with you 5 Things; That make Mr Hubby my lobster, awwww!  We were very excited that it snowed and Baby enjoyed her first ever snowy walk.  I recently joined the Parent Panel for Parent Friendly Holidays and was challenged to write a post in the hope of winning a holiday.  We were thrilled that our post won!  Here is our Treworgey #ParentPanel entry.

parentpanel

Back to #BlogClub with my tips for fab and effective Blog Post Images.  I spoke about Baby’s sometimes defiant behaviour in Dear Defiant Daughter, we have to laugh don’t we?!  Hamburger cupcakes anyone?!  I Baked Something Funny for Money for Comic Relief.

ComicRelief

Reflecting on 5 Things: That make me happy, which seemed to be shared by many of you and telling our story of the ordinary moments we love in Pet Shop Girl.  Blog Club rolled round again with SEO for Bloggers – 13 tips to improve traffic, check it out if you haven’t already, it might be helpful.  We had a difficult time trying to get pregnant and I wrote about it in Did you save for baby? Our Fertility Story

rp_29342_10151257127093749_525711436_n.jpg

Blogging has brought so much into my life and I tell you about it all in 5 Things: I learned from blogging.  We had a wonderful day with friends, which resulted in some really lovely pictures of Baby and her gorgeous little friend, have a peak at fun with friends.  More and more of us are working from home, here are my top tips on how to work from home effectively.

How to work from home effectively

One thing I get asked quite a lot by fellow bloggers, is how to break into working with brands, so I shared my top tips on how to work with brands.  A stressful day prompted me to write an open letter to a kind stranger.

An open letter

The rubbish weather demanded some Mummy creativity, as I created our Winter beach project.  I was treated to a trip to the big smoke, when I attended the Alicia Kay Style Showcase event, which was great.  I ended February with a Gratitude list, counting my blessings and remembering the little things that make my ordinary life extraordinary.

Gratitude

I hope you enjoyed my February posts, thanks for reading!

 

Super Busy Mum

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Let’s put the #brakesonsmoking – NHS Smokefree Homes & Cars Campaign

I think everyone knows that smoking is damaging to health;  it is not something that only non smokers are aware of.  This shows how difficult it is to give up;  in spite of the dangers, people continue to smoke.

Growing up, I was only too aware of these dangers.  My father smoked a pipe and sadly passed away when I was ten, following a horrible battle with cancer.  During his time in hospital, I vividly remember watching the other men on his ward; some very ill men, who needed the help of oxygen tanks to breathe, yet they would still try to get outside for a cigarette, such was the power of their addiction.

Do you know the dangers of Secondhand Smoke?

Second hand smoke has inherent dangers to all who breathe it in, but it is especially dangerous to young children.  As their airways, lungs and immune systems are not yet fully developed, combined with the fact that they breathe more rapidly than adults, they take in more harmful chemicals.

Brakesonsmoking

What is Secondhand Smoke?

  • Smoke which is exhaled, but also the smoke created by the lit end of a cigarette.
  • Scarily, 80% of secondhand smoke is invisible.
  • The Royal College of Physicians estimate that over 300,000 general practice consultations and 9,500 hospital admissions of children in the UK each year are the result of the exposure to secondhand smoke.

With every breath of secondhand smoke a child will breathe in thousands of cancer causing chemicals and increase their risk of developing:

• Middle ear infection (up to 45% more likely)

• Decreased lung function (modestly more likely)

• Meningitis (more than twice as likely)

• Sudden infant death syndrome (cot death more than three times as likely)

• Lower respiratory infections (such as bronchitis and pneumonia) (up to 60% more likely)

There is help to quit smoking

Stopping smoking is such a difficult challenge for many, but there is lots of help available if you want to make the change, for yourself and your family.

There is a wide range of free support and resources available by searching ‘Smokefree’ online or visiting http://www.nhs.uk/smokefree.  The resources include a Quit Kit, Smokefree App, local Stop Smoking services, text message and email support.  The more support you have, the more chance you have of quitting for good.

 

Disclosure: “This post is in support of the NHS Smokefree Homes and Cars campaign with BritMums.  This campaign is covered online, on television and on the radio”.

Amazon Fire TV Giveaway

We are a family of TV watchers.  Although we all love being outside, we equally relish our comfy time indoors watching our favourite shows.  We currently have a very expensive Sky TV subscription and we could do with cutting down some of our expenditure.

JNB Aerials offered us an Amazon Fire TV box, to see if it was the answer to our problems.  JNB Aerials provide smart AV technology installation services across the northwest of England.  Installing TV aerials, satellites, install home cinemas, lighting, automation, smart audio & TV technology.

The Amazon Fire TV is a small box that you connect to your HD TV.  It is an easy way to enjoy Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube.com, games, music and lots more.

Amazon FireIt has a voice search facility that we found works in general searches, but not in all apps.  Although the box is small, it is mighty.  It harnesses three times the processing power of Roku or Apple TV, with 2 GB of memory and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound.

The fab new feature ASAP predicts what movies and TV episodes you’ll want to watch and buffers them for playback before you hit play, to provide instant streaming.

Allowing you to connect your smart phone to your TV, Fire TV lets you transfer your favorite home apps to your TV.  Or you can even mirror your phone or tablet to your TV.

Setting it up

You need to purchase a HDMI cable (which cost us £9.99 and they are widely available).  Simply plug it in, follow the easy on screen instructions.  Enter your amazon account details and away you go!

Child Friendly

Amazon FreeTime allows you to limit screen time and create a personalized profile for each of your children, allowing them different time limits.

The Amazon Fire TV is great for gaming and you can access both free and paid for games.

Giveaway

JNB Aerials are giving away one Amazon Fire TV box (valued at £79) and a free 30-day Amazon Prime trial membership.  Which will give the winner unlimited access to thousands of popular movies and TV shows.

For your chance to win, just enter via the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: We were given an Amazon Fire TV Box to review and were compensated for running this giveaway.

Style Your Blog – Tips for a Pretty Effective Blog

As Content is King, does it even matter what your blog looks like?  Surely people will read your brilliantly crafted blog posts and nothing else will matter?  I am afraid not, in this competitive world of blogging, the visual aspects of a blog DO matter.

Style Your Blog

Reasons why the visuals DO matter

  • Readership – Text being too small, difficult to read font, poor layout or cluttered side bar can all contribute to making a blog hard to read.  If it is hard to read, or unappealing, you are going to have to be twice as good as everyone else to attract readers.  A blog that doesn’t shine visually means that you risk people moving on and not coming back.
  • Professionalism –  If you want to work with brands, then your blog needs to be attractive to the masses.  Your own personal design likes and dislikes are important, but the look of your blog needs to be appealing to as many people as possible, so brands will be confident in working with you.
  • A reflection of you – Your readers identify with YOU and so your blog design should give something of yourself away.  Otherwise you could just become another faceless blog.

How to create a stylish blog

To have a stylish, pretty or beautiful blog doesn’t mean it has to conform to the popular trend of white and minimalistic.  I do like blogs with this design ethos, but is that you?  Do it reflect you?  I am certainly not a white, put together, person so my blog isn’t designed like this.  So here are my tips on how to style your blog.

  • First things first, creating a stylish blog doesn’t have to cost the earth.  You can probably even do a lot of it yourself.  I used the wonderful illustrator Helen Braid from Ellie Illustrates and it was (at the time) less than £100 for a hand drawn image that reflects us a family.
  • Be inspired – If you are starting a blog or planning a make over, try creating a mood board of design elements you like.  A good way of doing this is to create a secret Pinterest board; that way you can just add to it when inspiration strikes.  How do you want your blog to look? What fonts do you like? What colours attract you?  How do you want your photos to be styled?
  • Background colour/pattern – Make sure the text is easy to read over your chosen background and I would advise against a strong background colour.
  • Wide images – I have covered blog post images in a previous edition of #BlogClub, so just to say that they should be as wide as your template allows (but for speed of loading reduce them to the correct size, mine are always 610 px wide.
  • Colour match - Your blog will look more stylish and professional if you colour match to your header/blog colours.  So, if you are adding coloured text to an image (for example) match it to one of the colours on your blog.  You can follow the colour match tutorial which I gave in my PicMonkey tips post.
  • Easy/attractive navigation – Make it easy for people to find the posts they want.  Don’t just rely on your categories, which can look a bit dull in a drop down or cloud.  You could display your top types of post as an image in your side bar.  For example, if your recipes get lots of hits, create a little recipe image badge and pop it in your sidebar linking it to your recipe category. It will look good and hopefully drive some more traffic.
  • De-clutter your side bar – It can be quite easy to keep adding to your side bar, which just adds to the clutter.  Remove anything you don’t really need, for a sleeker look.
  • Left justified text – In my opinion posts look better if the text is left justified and the pictures, picture captions and highlighted points are centered.
  • Reduce any annoyances – Auto music and pop ups can be really annoying to readers.  I also don’t think they add anything to the aesthetics of a blog.
  • Change the type face – You can change the typeface of all the fonts on your blog by installing the WP Google fonts plugin.  I am drawn to fonts such as Lato, Raleway and Oxygen.  Go for something which is clear, light, open and professional.
  • Improve your images – Great pictures go a long way to adding to the beauty of a blog; so try to improve your photography.  You don’t need a posh DSLR to take good pictures.
  • Header/avatar –  Be consistent in your images and use the same images across all your platforms.  I think your face should be included.  You can always use your blog header as your background image, with your face picture as your avatar.
  • Add value to your images – Adding type to images, not only makes them pinnable, but can add your blog style to the image. Consider pairing up fonts for attractive designs (as I have above)  This is a great article on font pairing.
  • Format of your posts – Decide how you want your posts to look and stick to it.  Do you use headers?  If so what size?  Make a note of it so you can always use the same size. Will you include a signature line and follow me buttons?  If so, which order will you display these in? Note it all down in the Style Guide for your blog (which can just be a word doc).
  • A consistent message across social media platforms – For example, are you always going to use the same filter for your Instagram images?  Do you tweet your blog posts with an image? All these things adds to the style of your blog.  Think about it as a way to build your brand.
  • Practicality – There is no point in your blog being pretty if it doesn’t deliver on practicality. Are your social media icons, contact details, email sign up, search bar and categories easy to find?  If not, make it so!

 

I hope these tips help you create a pretty and stylish space online.

BlogClub

Super Busy Mum

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Half-Pint Chic – Exclusive Children’s Fashion

Half-Pint Chic offer gorgeous children’s wear at discounted prices.  They recently sent Baby two stunning dresses to review, which resulted in a very happy Baby and Mummy!

Half Pint Header

No added sugar – Flurry

This dress has an rrp of £75, but is available from Half-Pint Chic for a fab £38.

Such a cute jersey dress with a dropped waist.  A rib insert on each hip and a fabulous ruffed skirt, with just the right amount of volume.  It is so easy for little ones to wear as is not restrictive at all, but at the same time does look quite special.  It washes really well and Baby loves to twirl when she is wearing it!

Dress

Check out her model pout bottom right!

Poppy – Martha Lolipop – Steel Blue

This dress has an rrp of £59.98, but is available from Half-Pint Chic for £36.00

I have admired Poppy dresses for some time.  I adore the classic look of their dresses and the Martha dress is one such classic.  A stunning cotton silk dress, which is fully lined and made in the UK.  I think the colours and the print are stunning and although it would be a perfect party dress, I am going to try and persuade Baby to wear it every day!

Half pint

Why not have a look at the fabulous selection of boy’s and girl’s clothes and see if you can find a treat for your little one!

 

Disclosure: Baby was sent these dresses in return for an honest review.  She just says ‘WOW’ when you put them on her, so I had to write this up….

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Point + Shoot 3rd March

Welcome to Point + Shoot, which is a great photography based linky that I run with my dear friend Em over at Snowing Indoors.

So what is Point + Shoot?  The concept is really simple, you’re sharing your weekend with the rest of the blogging community.  It can be one picture or a whole bunch, it is up to you.  An accompanying story is also fine with us.

Each week Em and I pick a favourite picture and give it a little shout out.  We have a sponsor printed.com, who very kindly send 12 Instagram prints to the owner of our joint favourite picture. So link up for your chance to win.  Our winner from last week is Amy from Mr and Mrs T Plus Three with this stunningly beautiful shot.  I can’t tell you how breathtaking I think this picture is.

PointShoot

You don’t have to play every week, just drop by when you have something to share.  You don’t need a fancy DSLR either, a phone camera works just as well.

As for the photos, they can be of absolutely anything, if you saw it, or did it, at the weekend, then photograph it and link up!

Just point…and shoot…and share.

You Baby Me Mummy
<div align="center"><a href="http://www.youbabymemummy.com" title="You Baby Me Mummy"><img src="http://youbabymemummy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Point-Shoot.jpg" alt="You Baby Me Mummy" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

 

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The Chosen One – Favourite Toys

Over the past two years, Baby has acquired lots of teddies and cuddly toys.  When she was a baby she never had a comforter, or a toy she took to bed with her.  There was no stand out best friend. As she has got older, she has started to interact with her toys much more and now certainly has her favourites.

Barney

Each morning, before we go out for the day, I ask her to go and pick who is coming out with us.  Off she goes to select either Doc, Barney the bear, Upsy Daisy and more recently Iwan the sheep (from our Welsh holiday to Bluestone).  The Chosen One will then be clutched all day, joining us on whatever adventure the day has in store.

Teddy's

Every evening she selects the toy that she will take to bed.  Often during her bottle she will drift off to sleep and lose her grip on her little friend, but I place it in the bed next to her in case she wakes. She often likes to feed her friends too!  I love seeing these bonds, albeit imaginary, develop and watch her caring nature come to the fore.

UD pics

I am linking up with the following fabulous bloggers and their lovely linkys.

Katie from Mummy Daddy Me for #OrdinaryMoments

ordinary moment link The Simple Things

Jaime at The Olivers’ Madhouse for #MagicMoments magicmoments150x150 zps58f60c40 The Simple Things

Charly at Podcast Dove for #What’sTheStory whats the story The Simple Things

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Living Arrows 09

It’s time to link up with ‘The 52 Project’ (Practising Simplicity) and the ‘Living Arrows’ (Shutterflies).  The aim is to take a picture that captures the beauty and magic of childhood in our eyes.  I am also linking with Snowing Indoors and my Point & Shoot linky.

“You are the bows from your children as living arrows are sent forth’ Kahlil Gibran.”

09/52 (2015)

Living Arrows

Our 2014 year of Living Arrows can be found here.

practising simplicity Living Arrows / The 52 Project 18/52

Point & Shoot

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day is now less than two weeks away,  so it is the ideal time to start making a list.  Then you can casually leave it lying around so your other half see’s it!  A little bit of prompting doesn’t do any harm…   Here are my pick of Mother’s Day gifts.

Mother's Day

Wonderful Mum Mug and Tatty* - This cute Tatty Teddy mug and bear set would be such a sweet present.  The enamel mug features an adorable image of Tatty Teddy and the words ‘Wonderful Mum’, while the mini Tatty Teddy holds a beautiful pink rosebud.  RRP £14.00.  Available from Clintons.

Godiva Chocolate Heart Box* – Beautiful chocolates in a stunning presentation box, such a lovely gift.  Available on line or in John Lewis stores £11.00

One4all Gift Card* – Why not give your mum an One4all Gift Card, so she can pick her own perfect gift from a choice of 17,000 outlets Nationwide. From pamper days to a nice lunch at PizzaExpress or a new outfit from House of Fraser, she can pick whatever she fancies.  It is also accepted online.

Shloer Celebration Pink Fizz* – An alcohol-free, fresh and fruity combination with the vibrant flavours of red and white grape juices fused together to create a beautiful sparkling rosé juice drink, which really is a glass of something special.  Available from various outlets, see website for more details.

Elle MacPherson sensiLight Hair Removal System* – Offers a permanent reduction of hair growth based on Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) technology that can be found in salons.  It is a non-invasive device, which works below the skin’s surface and therefore does not involve any cutting or pulling.  Reducing hair growth with minimal pain and you can do it in the comfort of your own home! £99

Cardnest Greeting Card Subscription – Fabulous greeting card subscription service.  Choose from 3, 6 or 12 month subscriptions, from £22.50 – £90.  A truly unique gift, that will be very useful too!

HoMedics NEWA – Skin Rejuvenation Treatment* – NEWA is a clinically proven skin rejuvenation system that claims to remove up to 1/3 of wrinkles and lifts and tightens skin better than any cream.  This non invasive treatment is comfortable, safe, pain-free and as relaxing as a warm facial massage.  £199

Zippo Candle Lighter* – A unique, reliable and long-lasting gift.  This hardwearing and practical gadget, has a sleek and stylish appearance.  Three colours to choose from and featuring an advanced soft touch ignition system, adjustable flame dial, a patented child-resistant safety button. RRP £13.75.

Salter MiBody Bluetooth Digital Body Analyser Bathroom Scales* – For mums who are watching their weight, this would make an ideal gift. Salter MiBody connects devices to make weight and health management easier.  Measurements are sent wireless to your mobile device and can be viewed using the free to download MiBody App.  Trends can be tracked overtime and the measurements explained with healthy/recommended ranges.  The results are stored on your personal mobile device only and are private unless you choose to share your achievements.   Offers a range of measurements, weight, body fat %, body water %, muscle mass and Body Mass Index.  £79.99

William Hardy Chardonnay* – Why not treat your mum to a bottle of William Hardy.  This wine has a fresh and lively palate with rich flavours of peach, stone fruit and lemon zest.  £9.99, available from Asda, Tesco & Ocado

What do you want for Mother’s Day?  What will you be getting your Mum?

 

Disclosure:  I was sent the items marked with a star, but all opinions are my own.

5 Things; To Lift Your Mood

Welcome back to ‘5 Things’, a feature which allows me to talk about a variety of subjects in one place.  This week;

5 things

To Lift Your Mood

As Mama’s we have tend to have a generous spirit.  All the people in our lives come top of our list, leaving us lucky if we even make it onto the list.  We have people who rely on us and it is so easy to forget about our own needs.  To simply focus all our time and energy on caring for others.

I believe this can be where problems can develop with our mental well being.  Not always with dire consequences, but enough to chip away and add to negativities we carry round with us.  We must remember a happy mama is a better mama.

I am terrible for giving myself any ‘me’ time, partly down to a lack of support/childcare to allow me this time.  However, I do have little things I try to do that help me if I am having a stressful day. Small things that lift my mood and set me up for a better day.

Not every day can be a good day, but there is good in every day

  • Go outside – It can be tempting on a ‘low mood day’ to stay indoors, in the comfort of your house.  Don’t do it people!  I truly believe that a trip outside (even in bad weather) brings your mood up.  Fresh air and removing myself from our four walls, always perks me up.  Baby and I both go a little stir crazy if we are stuck in the house all day.

5 Things

 Combining my first and last points!

  • Listen to music – Obviously don’t pick music that makes you feel thoughtful, down or sad. Everyone has happy songs, so pop them on and feel the benefit.  Either sing along or grab your little one (if they are small enough to not object) and have a dance.  Moments like this are good for the soul.
  • Connect with a friend – We all live busy lives and physically catching up with friends at times can be difficult.  In a world surrounded by social media, it is so easy to make contact.  A simply message through Facebook chat, a tweet, a text or an old fashioned phone call to a friend can do you the world of good and lets them know you were thinking of them.
  • Hug someone! – I love a good hug, nothing connects you to someone like hugging does.  I think hugging releases happy hormones and we should all do it more often.  I am not advocating that you walk up to a random stranger and offer a bear hug, but friends, family and even pets are good hugging partners.

5 things

An old photo, I haven’t dyed my hair again!

  • Count your blessings – This might sound a little cheesy, but I am going to say it.  We ALL have our worries and troubles, it can be so easy to let these negative thoughts take over, but we ALL have lots to be thankful for too.  So, when things are getting to you, take a moment to think of your gratitude list; all the things, however small, that you are grateful for.
  • Have a cup of tea – O.k so this is a bonus entry!  I believe in the power of a good old cup of tea!  I might be slightly addicted, but it is warm, comforting and always puts me in my happy place.

What things help to lift your mood?  Do you like tea as much as I do?!

Mami 2 Five

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