My Captured Moment #73 {A Picture Link-up}

Welcome back to My Captured Moment, a weekly link-up where I share my favourite ‘Captured Moments’ and invite you to do the same.

This week my captured moment is a short series of shots I took last week at our local park. The girls look like they’re in the middle of a beautiful meadow, not a popular village park, and I love the way the sun’s shining down through the trees. This time of year is truly stunning.

As you can tell the girls didn’t know I was snapping away, which makes these pictures even more special because they gives a real glimpse into their relationship and closeness. They play so happily together and this really comes through here…

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Share your Moments

Your ‘My Captured Moment’ can be a single picture or a series of shots, new (taken this week) or old, with or without words. The idea is to simply share a moment in time you’ve captured on your camera and make sure it doesn’t go unseen. This could include vintage shots of your own childhood and beyond or a simple picture you’ve recently taken and want to ‘show off’.

How to Play Along

• Link up every Thursday to Sunday (ending at 11.00pm)

• Add my badge (or link back to my website using #MyCapturedMoment) at the bottom of your post.

• Share the love – try to comment on a few of the other posts. After all that’s what it’s all about.

Go Social

Tweet your posts to me @HeleddLavender using the hashtag #MyCapturedMoment and I’ll retweet. Hashtag your picture #MyCapturedMoment on Instagram (follow me @HeleddLavender) so we can share our pictures and hopefully get some new followers and likes.

Running in Lavender


10 things that have made me happy this week #4

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It’s been a fair few weeks since I last wrote a “10 things” post. Actually, I don’t think I’ve done one since Iris was born (and she’s now 2 months!). So it’s definitely time to get back on it and let you know what’s been making me happy.

I really love writing these posts because they force me to appreciate life and the little things that have made me laugh and smile over the past seven days.

Here we are, the 10 things that have made me happy this past week…

1. Waking up on a sunny morning to see a beautiful sleeping baby lying next to me.

2. Last week I went the launch party of a gorgeous new ‘vintage style’ tearoom called Dotty’s Teahouse in Carshalton, Surrey. It was a great night full of homemade cakes and pink champagne.

3. On Saturday I spent the whole day shopping by myself (well, Iris was with me but she slept in her pushchair for most of the day and was no bother), which was such a treat. I never get time to shop anymore so it was lovely to just take my time and go from shop to shop.

4. I bought this cute top from Zara, which I really love!

5. Game of Thrones – I’m obsessed by this show. Thank goodness for Now TV, because we don’t have SKY. This week’s episode was so emotional, all I’m going to say is “Hold the door” which will make total sense to anyone who’s seen this week’s episode.

6. I’ve discovered a gorgeous new chocolate bar from the Co-op, it’s Milk Chocolate from Ghana with Toffee & Red Himalayan Salt – and could quite possibly be my new favourite chocolate.

7. I had a breastfeeding cafe in my kitchen last week (in aid of Medela’s breastfeeding campaign) with four of my good ‘breastfeeding’ buddies and their little ones. There was cake, balloons, chatter, feeding and lots of laughter.

8. My mum was up from Wales for a week, to help me with the girls and ‘hang-out’. Life’s always a little happier when my mum’s here.

9. Cuddles on the sofa with my three girls.

10. Seeing Dom asleep with Iris on the sofa. This happens most nights but it makes me smile every time.happy.1 happy.3 happy.4 happy.2

What’s made you happy over the past week?

My Captured Moment #72 {A Picture Link-up}

Welcome back to My Captured Moment, a weekly link-up where I share my favourite ‘Captured Moments’ and invite you to do the same.

This week I’m sharing some pictures from the weekend. We had no plans and the sun was out, so we decided to make use of our National Trust membership and headed over to Chartwell House, the very beautiful family home of Sir Winston Churchill. This was our first real family day out with baby Iris, which made it extra special.

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We’d never been to Chartwell House before but we were so impressed with the stunning grounds and gardens that we’ll definitely go back for a summertime picnic.

Share your Moments

Your ‘My Captured Moment’ can be a single picture or a series of shots, new (taken this week) or old, with or without words. The idea is to simply share a moment in time you’ve captured on your camera and make sure it doesn’t go unseen. This could include vintage shots of your own childhood and beyond or a simple picture you’ve recently taken and want to ‘show off’.

How to Play Along

• Link up every Thursday to Sunday (ending at 11.00pm)

• Add my badge (or link back to my website using #MyCapturedMoment) at the bottom of your post.

• Share the love – try to comment on a few of the other posts. After all that’s what it’s all about.

Go Social

Tweet your posts to me @HeleddLavender using the hashtag #MyCapturedMoment and I’ll retweet. Hashtag your picture #MyCapturedMoment on Instagram (follow me @HeleddLavender) so we can share our pictures and hopefully get some new followers and likes.

Running in Lavender


Sisters in May 2016 {Siblings Project}

It’s time for my monthly Sibling Project post, which gives me the perfect excuse to take some pictures of my three girls together. It’s always been tough to get a good shot of my two big girls, someone is always pulling a face or just not interested in standing still. But now with an extra member, it’s almost impossible! Here’s what we managed this morning, after I realised it was the 15th of the month (the weeks and months are flying by)…

It's time for my monthly Sibling Project post, which gives me the perfect excuse to take a picture of my three girls together It's time for my monthly Sibling Project post, which gives me the perfect excuse to take a picture of my three girls together It's time for my monthly Sibling Project post, which gives me the perfect excuse to take a picture of my three girls together It's time for my monthly Sibling Project post, which gives me the perfect excuse to take a picture of my three girls together It's time for my monthly Sibling Project post, which gives me the perfect excuse to take a picture of my three girls together It's time for my monthly Sibling Project post, which gives me the perfect excuse to take a picture of my three girls together

It’s hard to believe that another month has past. Iris will be eight weeks old tomorrow and we’re now fully settled into our new routine, and manage to leave the house for the school run every day – something I was so worried about while I was pregnant. I couldn’t understand how I was going to get all of us fed and ready in time, by myself! Thankfully, Lili is now pretty self-sufficient and Iris goes from bed to pushchair in less than a minute, bless her.

The girls are also starting to get used to being one of three. Lili is fitting into her role of the big protective sister to little baby Iris and Poppy is loving being a ‘big girl’. She often reminds us that she’s not the baby anymore and that she and Lili will always look after Iris. I think she gets this from her big sister but it’s lovely to hear.

This month Iris has started smiling and is now in ‘0 to 3 months’ clothes, which means I already need to put away the newborn and ‘up to 1 month’ outfits. She still sleeps a lot but is now staring to make new facial expressions and shows signs of recognising us when we’re near.

Lili is getting excited about her class assembly and has recently been moved up to a ‘more difficult table’ as school. We’re so proud of how well she’s doing and how hard she’s trying at school.

And Poppy is getting more and more confident with her numbers and letters. I’ve taught her to spell and write her name and she’s getting really good at holding a pen and drawing pictures. She starts nursery in September and is so excited to be going to school with her big sister.

 

The Me and Mine Project

What Does a Celebrity Look Like in a Child’s Eye?

my three year old to draw a picture of a celebrity

Today, I asked my three year old to draw a picture of a celebrity. Her first question to me was “what’s a celebrity?” Good question. I told her that a celebrity is a famous person, think of someone you see on TV. She then told me she was going to draw a picture of Cinderella – not quite what I had in mind. Can you consider Cinderella a celebrity? I guess in fairytale land she’d be a massive celebrity.

After much discussions, she finally decided she was going to draw a picture of the Queen, who she’s seen on television recently – due to her 90th birthday last month. We then had a little chat about the queen and where she lives. Poppy now wants to go into London to visit the Queen at the Palace “because we live near London, don’t we mum?”.

So here is what Poppy thinks the Queen looks like…

my three year old to draw a picture of a celebrity my three year old to draw a picture of a celebrity

I get the feeling she still had the Cinderella in her mind. What do you think?

If you’re wondering were all this came from, I recently found a very interesting online kid’s celebrity drawing quiz, which was so cute and fun. They asked a group of children to draw different celebrities in their own way and made a quiz from the results. The test is to guess which celebrity the children have attempted to draw.

Take the quiz yourself. I took the quiz and only missed out on one! I must understand a child’s eye pretty well, or am  just a big kid myself.

Disclosure: This post is in association with Sunlife Direct who commissioned the quiz.

 

My Captured Moment #71 {A Picture Link-up}

Welcome back to My Captured Moment, a weekly link-up where I share my favourite ‘Captured Moments’ and invite you to do the same.

This week I’m sharing some pictures I took of my big girls at the weekend in Camber Sands. At last the sun came out and we made the most of the warm weather. The girls loved playing on the beach and in the garden back at our weekend beach house.

camber.2 camber.3 camber.4 camber.5 camber.7 camber.8

Share your Moments

Your ‘My Captured Moment’ can be a single picture or a series of shots, new (taken this week) or old, with or without words. The idea is to simply share a moment in time you’ve captured on your camera and make sure it doesn’t go unseen. This could include vintage shots of your own childhood and beyond or a simple picture you’ve recently taken and want to ‘show off’.

How to Play Along

• Link up every Thursday to Sunday (ending at 11.00pm)

• Add my badge (or link back to my website using #MyCapturedMoment) at the bottom of your post.

• Share the love – try to comment on a few of the other posts. After all that’s what it’s all about.

Go Social

Tweet your posts to me @HeleddLavender using the hashtag #MyCapturedMoment and I’ll retweet. Hashtag your picture #MyCapturedMoment on Instagram (follow me @HeleddLavender) so we can share our pictures and hopefully get some new followers and likes.

Running in Lavender


Top 5 ways to save money with a budget overhaul

This is my captured moment

Let’s face it – there are more enjoyable things in life than budgeting and worrying about money. Between looking after the kids and going to work each day, the last thing you want to do with your precious free time is a budget overhaul. But when you could be saving thousands of pounds a year, it’s worth setting aside a day to analyse your finances and assess where can make some savings. Dom and I recently put our heads together and made time to do just this!

If I’m honest, the hardest part is finding time to do it, because the process of streamlining your finances is pretty simple and pain-free.

Here are the top 5 points to consider…

  • The battle of income versus expenses

Astonishingly, it has been predicted that Brits will spend £40 billion more than they earn during 2016. Make sure you’re not one of these on the road to unsustainability, and accurately assess your spending. Remember, there are daily expenses (a cup of coffee), weekly expenses (the food shop), monthly expenses (council tax), annual expenses (holidays) and even sporadic or seasonal expenses (extra spending over Christmas). Break it all down into an average common denominator such as pounds per month, and compare this with after-tax household income. Now you should be well placed to determine whether you’re living within your means.

  • Save on bills

Whether you’re in the red or the black, chances are you’re paying more than you need to on bills. For starters, many people in the UK find themselves in the wrong band for council tax. You can find out if you’re one of them here. But when it comes to things like broadband, insurance, digital TV and, most of all, energy, the simple step of switching provider can save you plenty. In the background are some ferocious price wars going on, and these companies are desperate for your business. So take advantage by picking up the phone, then switching and haggling your way to some big savings.

  • Cut the cost of debt

Having multiple credit cards need not be a bad thing. In fact they can be helpful to your credit rating. But what really can sting you is when you aren’t paying off all your high-interest debts each month. Credit cards in particular typically have APRs of around 20 per cent! So, if you’ve built up high balances on expensive debt, you have three choices. Firstly, you could ask one of your providers if you transfer all your other credit to them whether they’ll give you a special rate. Secondly, you could try a balance transfer to a new ‘interest-free’ card. Or thirdly, you could try consolidating your debt into a cheaper, single loan. The important thing is to channel all your repayments towards the most expensive debts, even if it means doing minimum repayments on the rest.

  • Get your extras

There are so many cashback and other perks out there, so don’t miss out. Credit cards in particular offer great cashback deals of up to 5% on everything you spend. Just make sure you pay them off each month! Otherwise just make sure you cover all your bases. Could you get a bonus for switching banks? Other product loyalty perks? Be eligible for childcare vouchers, or child tax credits? Have you paid too much income tax? It’s all money for nothing – don’t let it go to waste.

  • No pain, no gain

If, after doing all of the above, you still find yourself spending more than you should, take a look at how you can make the ‘painful’ savings. Do you really need that extra cuppa from Costa each day? Can the weekly shop be trimmed down? Packed lunches? A staycation instead of a holiday abroad? Staying away from buying brands? There are plenty of ways to cut down on your outgoings, and they need not even be too painful. Just a little bit of discipline and restraint can go a long way to ensuring that you and your family stick to a steady budget that will ensure your long-term financial security.

Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post.

Giveaway: Win aden by aden + anais goodies

 

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My favourite baby brand aden + anais have recently launched a fusion brand called aden by aden + anais that “unites the magic of muslin baby products with affordable pricing”.

Raegan Moya-Jones co-founder of aden + anais says…

We believe that soft, breathable muslin is the only fabric you should use on your babies. We also believe that every parent and caregiver should have access to this “wonder fabric” and its benefits—which is why we introduced the aden by aden + anais collections. By creating similar products to our aden + anais range with just minor adjustments, we are able to make the calming assurance of muslin accessible to everyone everywhere.
These new products are made from muslin and woven with 100% cotton and features a unique fabric that is extra-soft, breathable, and durable. It is gentle on babies’ skin, stays soft wash after wash and really stands the test of time.

This beautiful aden by aden + anais range has been available in the US for the past few years and has been enormously successful,  even Beyonce is said to be a fan!

This new range is now available in Babies “R” Us stores nationwide and includes…

  • SwaddlePlus 4-pack swaddles  – £29.90
  • 5-pack musy squares –  £19.90
  • Burpy bibs  – £7.49

All products are available in three different prints; Safari Friends, Small Fry and Light Hearted.

The Prize

aden by aden + anais Safari Friends available at Babys R' Us

Enter now for your chance to win a Safari Friends 5-pack Musy Squares and Burpy Bibs.

Giveaway: Win aden by aden + anais goodies

Why A Cottage Holiday Can Make You Feel Better In More Than One Way…

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This is a guest post by the ultra talented Diane Pearce, a successful entrepreneur who has been buying and letting holiday cottages for over 15 years. She is passionate about providing last-minute getaways to those seeking a real retreat. She now owns BimbleBox, a popular holiday cottage rental website that provides beautiful and affordable escapes to remember. Here she explains why a little cottage holiday can make you feel better in more than one way…

Modern day life is so fast-paced that we rarely get a moment to stop and reflect on the things that are important to us. We’re working harder, we’re playing harder, and patience is something we just don’t have time for. Regardless whether it is a hectic home life or a frantic work life, we deal with constant stress.

Human beings are creatures of routine, and though routines may provide a sense of comfort for the majority of the time, occasionally breaking from it is crucial to our overall health and wellbeing. Holiday escapes can benefit us in a million little ways, but the following are arguably the most important.

You’ll get a mental break

In Britain, we’re working harder than ever before. We are working more hours than the rest of Europe, but despite our efforts the average British employee only uses three-quarters of their annual leave. In fact, only 12% of the workforce make use of the full allowance. We might regard this as dedication and perseverance, but such efforts may actually have negative consequences. One source claims that due to long hours and heavy workloads, the average worker feels that they require six short holidays a year to stay focused and that those who don’t become aggressive, anxious and ill, leading to an increase in sick days.

A quarter of workers feel desperate to get away from work every few weeks, but don’t take long to de-stress. In fact, most feel rejuvenated after just one or two days away. Taking a mental break can actually benefit your overall job performance. Penny de Valk, managing director of talent management at Penna, states that “Evidence shows you become less productive without proper breaks. Even if people work longer hours, they are not as creative and can’t maintain the same intensity level.”

A holiday can reduce blood pressure, stress and glucose levels

It is no surprise that a holiday can soothe and relax, but a holiday can also have a physical impact. One study claims that vacations can rejuvenate by lowering stress levels and cutting blood pressure. Such positive changes can last for months. A study carried out by Nuffield Health shows that the average blood pressure of holiday makers drops by 6%, and those who abstain from holidays see an increase in blood pressure over the same period. On top of this, research suggests that people on holiday see a decrease in glucose levels, which lessens the risk of diabetes and obesity while boosting mood and energy.

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Holidays can rebuild family ties

Family holidays comprise our happiest memories. Researchers at Purdue University have shown that family holidays can create what is known as ‘crescive bonds’, which positively contributes to family communication, bonding and solidarity. This is brought about by shared experiences, connections and memories. Though family holidays might see their share of stress and frustration, quality family time is a benefit that far outweighs any negatives.

Holidays provide lifetime memories

Memories are powerful things, and evoking certain memories can have untold benefits on relation and brain patterns in a way very similar to meditation. Fond memories can move the brain into alpha waves, the stage brought about just before sleep when we are calm and relaxed. According to clinical psychologist Ron Bracey, reflecting on holiday memories can be utilised as a ‘rescue remedy’, as the brain actually releases feel-good hormones in response.

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Holidays give you a chance to laugh

When on holiday, you can truly relax, unwind and open yourself up to fun and laughter. You might have heard that laughter is the best medicine – well, this just happens to be true. Laughter has similar advantages to that of a workout. It can boost your heart rate and actually burn calories. Maciej Buchowski, a Vanderbilt University researcher, showed that ten to fifteen minutes of laughter burns as many as fifty calories. Laughing also has the added benefit of strengthening your immune system by releasing endorphins.

You’ll catch up on your sleep

A holiday is the perfect time to catch up on your sleep, the benefits of which are constantly underappreciated. In our hectic everyday lives, we may not find the time to get the eight to ten hours that most human beings require to function optimally. Regardless of the many stories we might hear about the famous and successful people who survived on four hours sleep a night, sleep deprivation can seriously impair mental performance, weaken our immune systems, and prompt premature aging. Without the stresses and strains of work and the strict schedules modern workers must adhere to, our bodies can fall back into their natural rhythms.

Provence, Airbnb, holiday home, hamock

Put simply, sleep is imperative, and we need it to repair and renew. During sleep, we release higher levels of cortisol (the hormone that protects our immune systems) than we do during the day.

You’ll get time outdoors

Ideas of nature, the countryside and sprawling green fields are inextricably linked to the concept of a cottage holiday. We’re still animals, and proximity to nature can provide some huge health benefits. We’re more likely to venture outdoors on holiday than we are during the average work week, meaning that we are re-oxygenating our blood and getting exposure to sunlight, which will boost our vitamin D levels.

 

In The Land of Make Believe – Imaginative Play

Imaginative play and being outdoors is an important part of being a child

I know that imaginative play and being outdoors is an important part of being a child – but it does worry me that children these days are distracted by all the multi-media options available to them in the house, which is keeping them from running free and playing make-believe.

When I was growing up, I remember spending most of my free time outside in the yard with my younger brother. We’d make mud pies, build dens, play ‘house’ and come up with a hold host of imaginary games. Back then computers, game consoles and the Internet weren’t really around, and we only had 4 channels to choose from (until channel 5 was launched), so we really did prefer to be outside ‘playing’.

I want to encourage my daughters to ditch their beloved iPad (well, I should say my iPad) and play in the garden as much as possible, using their imagination and soaking up the sunshine. Especially now the weather is getting better.

My two older girls do have a wonderful imagination, they’re always coming up with crazy stories and games that include fairies, princesses, witches, dragons and pirates.

Imaginative play and being outdoors is an important part of being a child

Here are a few things I do to nurture their creative minds…

1)   We have a dress-up box full of clothes and props – handbags, jewellery, hats, dresses, wigs and more, to help them come up with their own games and ‘shows’. We’re frequently treated to a show or play in the garden!

2)   We also have a recycling box, full of empty containers, cereal boxes, milk bottles and so on (which have been washed out), to encourage the girls to play ‘shops’ and/ or play ‘house’.

3)   Another important box of props includes paper, pencils, crayons, paint and glue. These are all ‘must-have’ items for playing ‘schools’ and making different props. This box also includes bubbles!

4)   Lastly, I give them second-hand kitchen utensils for making imaginary cakes and pies. This is an idea I’ve stolen from my own childhood.

There really are so many amazing benefits to being outside and coming up with stories and games. Of course having the right garden toys and play sets will boost their imagination even further. So when the Early Learning Centre recently offered us this wooden play centre for our garden, I jumped at the chance!

An Early Learning Centre, wooden play centre or swing set for the garden. An Early Learning Centre, wooden play centre or swing set for the garden. An Early Learning Centre, wooden play centre or swing set for the garden.

And I must admit it has had a huge impact on the girls. They now want to go out and play in the garden whenever they can. I even came down on Sunday morning to find the girls outside swinging on the swings in their nightdresses, coats and trainers – I kid you not! Apparently they were mermaids swinging in their ‘underwater palace’.

It’s been proven that imaginative play is great for social skills, as children have to work as a team to create their make-believe land and come up with a story to play out. Also, being out in the garden means that they are running around, climbing or swing – keeping them fit and healthy.

For more benefits of imaginative play and being outdoors read this great post.

Disclaimer: This post is in association with the Early Learning Centre who sent us the play centre. All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.