Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Me & Mine {January 2017} ♥

It's the first Me & Mine of 2017 and (hopefully!) the beginning of our first full year of joining in with this photography project. I have to admit, I'm a little bit sad that we didn't join in sooner, but still, the pictures we captured together during the last few months of 2016 have been great keepsakes for us - so better late than never.

This months pictures were taken today - talk about last minute - but we really enjoyed capturing them and thankfully Tyler was happy to join in without any cajoling needed. I spotted the snowdrops in bloom during the weekend when I was out walking with the boys and I thought they'd make a perfect forefront for our family picture for January.

This month has been a rather depressing one if I'm honest. It began with me suffering terribly with my gallbladder (the pain is horrendous!), then Jacek had to work six days a week - for two weeks out of the month, meaning he's only had six days off in total, not enough at all. Then both of the boys became sick, with Beau taking the brunt of it - we've even had a visit to A&E with him.

But thankfully there were also some good things to get us threw - like Jacek and I visiting Dublin and seeing Black Sabbath live, lots of walks which resulted in beautiful photographic captures and Jacek and I also had our yearly visit to the cinema (not even an exaggeration... we never go) to see T2 Trainspotting.

I'll be happy to wave goodbye to January and welcome February with open arms - February 1st marking the beginning of spring for me and I LOVE spring, even if it means that my eldest will be turning four in just over two weeks time, and I am definitely not old enough to have a four year old. Four!

This month Jacek is loving:
Seeing Black Sabbath in Dublin 
Getting two limited edition Black Sabbath books
Booking a trip to Amsterdam (for my birthday, yay!)
Booking days off work and making holiday plans
Seeing T2 Trainspotting

This month I'm loving:
Having a kid-free lie-in
Taking lots of pictures
Seeing flowers in bloom again
Getting lots of fresh air
Reading new books
This month Tyler is loving:
His washing machines (the obsession is back in full force) 
Being back at school and seeing his friends there
Playing in his playhouse
Smarties
His Miss Hooley ragdoll

This month Beau is loving:
Warm buttery toast
BeatBo
Long walks in his buggy
Having his picture taken
Being rocked to sleep

The Me and Mine Project

Monday, January 30, 2017

Being Outdoor Lovers | Win 12 Months National Trust Membership ♥

One thing we love to do as a family is get outdoors and discover old places, as well as visiting some old haunts of ours again and again. We're definitely outdoorsy people, being lovers of nature, historic places and destinations which allow for the most perfect of picture opportunities.

I'm quite proud of our outdoor lovers status and I think it's quite apparent from my photography that my boys and I like to surround ourselves with nature and frequent places of interest on a regular basis. In fact, myself and the children have spent the last two days strolling around and exploring the beautiful gardens of an old manor house quite close to our home (I'm not going to lie, I was pretending it was my own garden as we were walking around - a girl can dream, right?).

I see so many of my blogging friends and people I follow on Instagram, visiting the most beautiful buildings and gardens, many of them part of the National Trust and honestly, from the pictures alone I dream of visiting these destinations with my own little family as they all look so beautiful.

I love that the National Trust encourages people and their families to get outdoors and explore and if this is something you're interested in, this giveaway from Nomow to win a 12 months national trust membership is perfect to enter. The prize is a 12 months National Trust membership for two adults and their children - and I can't think of a better prize for encouraging outdoor adventures with the family. The giveaway ends on March 31st so there's still plenty of time to enter too.

I wanted to share some of my fellow bloggers posts on their days out to National Trust properties, just to give you a glimpse of what the National Trust has to offer and to give you some inspiration for any family days out you may be planning -

Nikki from Yorkshire Wonders has a great post about her family's visit to Beningbrough Hall, which offers a beautiful house, an adventure playground, den building and tea rooms - just to name a few.

Kate from Lesbemums has shared a post about her and her sons visit to Sheffield Park & Gardens, which is a beautiful historic park featuring waterfalls, landscape design and horticulture - as well as plenty of space for the little ones to run around and soak up some fresh air.

Halina from Viechoufleur has written about her experience of Basildon Park with her toddler in tow. Basildon Park offers rolling hills, woodland, fairy doors and did you know that Basildon House is where Downtown Abbey was set?

Samantha from North East Family Fun has shared her day of exploring (or rather getting lost in!) Labyrinth at Cragside. Her pictures of this place are absolutely stunning!

Karen from Mini Travellers has shared her family's experience of Roald Dahl's Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park. The park itself looks absolutely beautiful, offering woodland, flowers and lots of things to keep the kids busy and entertained as they explore the grounds.

Jenny from Midwife and Life has shared a post about her family's trip to Bodiam Castle, which offers extensive grounds, activities for children, a fort and of course, the castle itself which has interactive displays and demonstrations of medieval life.

Emma from Life According to Mrs Shilts has a post detailing five things to do at Dudmaston Hall - I won't ruin the post for you but the place looks beautiful!

Louise from Pink Pear Bear has shared a post about her family's visit to Waddeston Manor - which looks absolutely stunning by the way!

Colette from We're Going On An Adventure has shared a post about Bodnant Garden, an absolutely stunning property (the stuff that dreams are made of, seriously!), beautiful gardens and dreamy views over the Welsh countryside.

Emma from The Joy of Five has shared her family's visit to Limpsfied Common to search for Peter Rabbit's office amongst the bluebells, her photos are stunning.

Jane from Hodge Podge Days has been very busy exploring National Trust properties, sharing six of her visits to different National Trust locations over on her blog, all of which you can read about here.

Helena from Babyfoote has also visited and written about many National Trust properties on her blog, all located in the North Wales/Chesire area. You can read about her National Trust adventures here.

Hopefully the above posts will give you some family day out inspiration and will definitely make you inclined to enter the giveaway for the 12 months National Trust membership - I couldn't think of a more wonderful prize to encourage family days out, especially as everywhere I've read about looks so beautiful!

The winner of the giveaway to win a 12 months National Trust membership will be announced on the giveaway landing page above and also on the Nomows Facebook and Twitter pages, so if you're entering be sure to follow along for updates.

*This is a collaborative post.

Friday, January 27, 2017

5 Tips For Saving Money When Shopping Online ♥

I love online shopping, it's convenient, quick and easy, I can browse at my leisure and there are some great deals to be had. When shopping online at catalogue shops, there are some tips which can make your experience more enjoyable. These tips will also help you to save as much money when buying what you are looking for.

Compare
When shopping at online catalogue websites, be sure to spend time comparing so you can get the best deal. Most offer interest free credit, so make sure you choose the one that is offering you the best price. Be sure to check out postage costs too to make sure you aren't paying too much.

Don't Only Look Online
Although online catalogue shopping is easy, you shouldn't just look online. Online prices are typically cheaper than prices in store, but that's not always the case. Make sure you look at store prices too, just to make sure you really are getting the very best deal.

Use Cash back Websites
Many online catalogue shops have signed up to cash back websites. These cash back sites are a great way to get a little bit back on your purchase. This can be anywhere between 1% to 10% and sometimes even more.

Look for Coupons
Sometimes you can find coupon codes online to enter into the catalogue websites, these will help to reduce the purchase price - I used some promo codes when doing my Christmas shopping and they really helped me to save money on Beau's Christmas presents. Beware though if you are using coupons, they may make any cash back claims invalid. Sometimes cash back sites list some coupon codes which be used whilst still allowing you to earn cash back.
           
Shop the Deals
Catalogue stores often run promotions and special offers. Be sure to get the best price by trying your best to shop the deals. If the product you want to buy isn't on offer at the moment, consider waiting a bit to see if it does go on offer. Sometimes the people in the store may know when the next promotion is starting, and what's likely to be included. If you would like to compare some catalogues to see what deals they have then click here.

By using these five simple tips when shopping at catalogue stores online, you can hopefully save quite a lot of money while still buying everything you want - and that's always a win-win situation!

*This is a collaborative post.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Perfect European Seaside Holiday Destinations For Families ♥

Travel is something we've been thinking a lot about recently as a family. Jacek is longing for a break somewhere sunny and warm again, Tyler is longing for long, lazy beach days and I just want sunshine and flowers in bloom once again so that I can take some beautiful, summery pictures once more.

Our annual family holiday is something we look forward to as soon as the previous one has come to an end and it's something we save up for all year round. It's so important for Jacek and I to instill a feeling of wanderlust upon our children and to make them love exploring new places just as much as we do.

One thing we'll be changing about or holiday arrangements this year though is the type of accommodation we stay in. We're hoping to stay in a villa rather than a hotel, as Jacek and I both feel as though they're much more family friendly and after last years disastrous hotel stay, I'm definitely wanting to embrace a relaxing stay in a villa just for us. Sites such as Villa Plus offer some amazing family-friendly villas, all available in the destinations I'm speaking about below too.

There are so many stunning destinations dotted around Europe which are perfect for soaking up the sun and enjoying some quality time together as a family. Today I'm sharing some of my favourite destinations, all of which Jacek and myself have holidayed at (separately and together) and which are perfect for enjoyable and relaxing family holidays.

Crete, Greece
Jacek and I went to Crete in July 2013 and we've both been longing to go back since. The island is perfect for family holidays and is just a four hour or so plane ride away from the UK and Ireland.

There are many great places to stay just a stones throw from the beach - perfect for little ones who like to play in the sand and swim in the warm waters around the island. Most places to stay are also just a short walk away from strips which offer everything you need from supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants and shops.

There is so much culture and history in Crete and lots of interesting places to visit such as Knossos - which Jacek and I visited during our stay - if you and your family like to do some sight-seeing whilst on holiday. The people in Crete are all very friendly and accommodating to those with families, making the island the perfect holiday destination for you and your family. 

The Algarve, Portugal
This is where we went on our first family holiday abroad back in 2014 and it was a fabulous destination for us.

The beaches are beautiful with their golden sands, caves and archways - perfect for little explorers and everything is close to hand with restaurants, shops, pharmacies being in close proximity to each other on the strips.

The Algarve is the perfect place to relax with your family - the weather is glorious, the family-friendly atmosphere is apparent wherever you go and the coastal views are simply stunning.

Lanzarote, Canary Islands
This is where my family and I used to holiday when I was a child and I have the fondest memories of lying on the beaches there and watching the planes fly overhead (we used to stay very close to the airport).

The beaches in Lanzarote are very family-friendly and there is so much to see and do from visiting volcanoes, bike riding along the coast, visiting the vineyards or simply lounging by the pool. Lanzarote offers a whole lot of activities no matter what your family is into.

The climate in Lanzarote is especially lovely for those travelling with babies and toddlers as the mild breezes offer some relief from the sun. 

Majorca, Balearic Islands
Majorca is a fabulous destination for families with it's laid-back beach resorts, beautiful beaches and stylish cities, this is an island which offers a whole lot of beauty for your buck.

This is an island I am yet to visit but Jacek has been and thoroughly enjoyed his holiday there and would be more than happy to return to it's gorgeous beaches one day.

Croatia
Croatia is an up and coming holiday destination for families and and one which my family would love to visit for ourselves one day.

Croatia is perfect for families with it's uncrowded, beautiful beaches, historical treasures and sleepy villages, all sure to offer you and your loved ones a peaceful and relaxing holiday experience.

Have you ever been to any of my recommended European seaside destinations? Which would be your favourite out of the five to visit?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Playtime With BeatBo ♥

Just before Christmas our boys were sent a toy which they have really enjoyed playing with together, and I have to admit, I quite enjoy pressing the buttons on this one too to listen to it's little, catchy songs, this toy is BeatBo by Fisher-Price.

BeatBo is suitable from babies 6 months plus to 3 years, so it's been perfect for my two boys. I like to think that BeatBo is based on a robot (I like robots!), as he moved rather mechanically when his buttons are pressed and he has a light up 'disco' like tummy, which brings Beau great joy, he loves the lights.

This toy has honestly kept both of our boys so entertained. I think it's the three different modes of play - which are available through three different buttons - that appeal to both of their ages. BeatBo dances, moves and sings little songs - which are rather funky! He also sings learning tunes such as the alphabet and a song about the colours of the rainbow. He also has a button, which when pressed, will record what you say and then BeatBo will sing it back - I love using this mode myself!

BeatBo has over 40 tunes and phrases, so it's not a toy that will grate on parents or that the kids will bore of easily - I actually love some of the tunes it plays as they really have a dance vibe to them.

BeatBo evokes joy in our house and although Beau is a little bit too young to move a lot to the songs, he does enjoy pressing the three buttons and looking at the lights on BeatBo's tummy. Tyler loves listening the the 'ABC' song and seeing BeatBo dance along to it. When they're older I can see them both playing along to the 'Freeze' song - a song which stops at stages throughout, kind of like musical statues.

This really is a great toy and as a parent I really do love when my boys play with it. It's light enough to move from room to room and as you can see from the pictures in this post, the boys have lots of fun playing with BeatBo all around the house - even in my bed! Tyler brings all the cuddly toys to Beau and then they have a little 'party' with BeatBo - it's the sweetest thing.

BeatBo is €34.99 and is available from all good toy stores and online.

*We were sent BeatBo to try out with our boys, however, as always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My Thoughts On Plastic Surgery & Understanding What You Want ♥

The other day my friend and I were having a catch up and the subject of plastic surgery came up. I don't know how the topic even came about - it was one of those conversations that began at one place and ended up at something completely different to what we had started chatting about in the first place, you know the kind, but it became apparent that plastic surgery was something that the both of us have considered at some time.

My arms have always been a source of embarrassment for me and I've always been overly conscious of showing them off, preferring to wear cardigans and long-sleeved tops to cover them up. It all started when I was about eleven when a friend at the time pointed out that my arms were, in her words, fat. I know she didn't mean to be nasty, after all, we were only children, but that comment has stuck with me forever - I even remember the time and place where she said it.

Since then I've always longed for some sort of surgery or body sculpting on my arms and honestly, if I had the money, it would be something I'd definitely do. The above picture of myself and Beau in the sunflower field makes me cringe and seeing pictures like that all I can focus on is my arms and how much I hate them - it's sad but true as other than that I think it's quite a beautiful picture. Also, my weight loss efforts have done nothing to improve the appearance of my arms and sadly, I don't think it's an area which a whole lot of toning up will improve, as even at my thinnest my arms were still big.

I believe that plastic surgery can be a great thing, if done for the correct reasons. If someone has a part of their body which they hate (like me with my arms) and which causes them some distress in having to be overly conscious about it, then surgery can be a good option - if researched and thought about properly.

Today I'm sharing some tips, for people like myself who are contemplating having plastic surgery. It's important to think about the impact plastic surgery can have on your body and mind before going ahead with a procedure and to be fully aware of the consequences and outcomes it may bring.

Select your surgery
There are a number of cosmetic surgeries available, not all of which involve going under the knife; the surgery you want will depend on what you want to change about yourself, and how comfortable you are with the thought of surgery and going under the knife.

There are also a variety of combinations of surgery available, such as tummy tucks and liposuction together and breast enlargements and uplifts. Deciding on the right surgery for you can be complicated, but the job is likely to be easier if you select a plastic surgeon with a supportive team and an esteemed reputation. People like Gary L Ross in Manchester or Harley Medical in London are great starting points.

Be realistic
The majority of people who choose to undergo the knife for cosmetic surgery are 100% satisfied with the results of their surgery - but there are some people who aren't as enthralled with your new look. To ensure you aren't disappointed after your surgery, it's crucial that you discuss your surgery, expectations and likely results with your surgeon prior to opting for the surgery.

It's also extremely important that you choose a surgeon who is experienced and professional and willing to answer any questions you may have. If you can't communicate fully with your surgeon, then it's time to look for another one; the changes you make to your body are likely to be permanent, so it's important that you have the chance to be frank, honest and open with your surgeon about your wants and your expectations to avoid disappointment.

Selecting your surgeon
Cosmetic surgery tourism is a thing. Many people from the UK and Ireland choose to travel abroad to undergo risky procedures for the sake of a few quid. Although travelling abroad for surgery may undoubtedly be cheaper than having the same surgery in the UK or Ireland, it's significantly more risky.

It's unlikely that the surgeon you choose will be able to speak English fluently, and it may be that a no professional translator is employed to facilitate conversations between you and your surgeon; this could mean that some of your queries and questions, or some of your surgeon's crucial information, is ultimately lost in translation.

There's also the problem of medical standards abroad not always being as high as those you're used to here in the UK. Depending on the country and facility you choose, it may be that the risk of infection is higher due to lapses in hygiene, unsanitary conditions, or the use of surgical tools which haven't been properly sterilised.

If you're having implants or fillers of some kind, you may struggle to identify exactly what type of filler or substance is being put into you body, and the fillers used may not be approved for use in the UK (hence why they're probably cheaper).

That being said, it is possible to have surgery done abroad and be satisfied with your results; just make sure you do your research first and, wherever possible, visit the clinic prior to booking the surgery to speak with the surgeon and staff and inspect the facility.

The risks
Every kind of cosmetic surgery carries its own individual and unique risks; even non-surgical forms of cosmetic surgery (such as lip fillers) are risky and could potentially result in an infection or other problem.

For surgeries which involve going under the knife and having anaesthesia, the most obvious risks are those typically associated with being knocked-out. Serious risks often associated with going under anaesthetic include respiratory distress and cardiac arrest.

If you smoke, your surgeon will probably recommend that you stop smoking for a number of months prior to having your surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots and other problems.

There are also psychological risks associated with going under the knife; opting to undergo operations at a young age or if you aren't totally sure can result in dissatisfaction and reduce your confidence further.

Have you ever contemplated or had cosmetic surgery?

*This is a collaborative post.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Beau Samuel James | 8 Months Old ♥

My darling Beau, you are now eight months old.

Eight quick months have passed us by and I can't quite believe that we've already had you in our lives for this long, yet it feels like you've always been with us. Always brightening up our days with your cheeky little smile and your giggles, you're still such a happy little baby, even if teething is making you suffer quite a bit.

You still have two teeth, but I feel you have plenty more on the way - judging by your little cries and moans anyway. You constantly want to bite on things now to relieve the pain and warm buttered toast seems to be your relief of choice at the moment.

It amazes me how quickly you learn things. Today you had blueberries for the first time and it astounded me how quickly you were able to learn how to chew them - it's the little things that really make me think 'wow' about you these days.

You're such a tall boy and you're so adorable. Sometimes I look at you and think - "How did I make something so beautiful?" You have the biggest, bluest eyes and the longest eyelashes. I swear I always see such a sparkle in your eyes, especially when you're happy - which is almost always.

It's so strange because when I was pregnant with you I imagined you to have blue eyes, very long eyelashes and a light complexion, and that's exactly what you have.

Your hair is red at the front and light blonde at the back and you now have your first few curls. Your big brother is delighted that your hair is getting to be like his, with him asking me - "Beau's hair going to be like mine mummy?" Sometimes I think you look just like your big brother and then others I think you're totally different, but you're Beau and you're you and that's absolutely perfect, no matter who you take after.

Things you love right now are bath time with your big brother, sitting up, rolling onto your tummy (even though you can't roll back yet!), food - honestly you're one of the hungriest people I've ever known, your toys and cuddling up to your teddies and comforters. You also love having your picture taken and oh how happy I am at this fact.

I love you so much Beauzie Boo, you're the happiest little chappy I could ever have asked for. You're our prince and we're so happy to have you in our lives.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Weaning the Baby ♥

Weaning has left me feeling a mixture of emotions - the excitement that my baby is growing and exploring new things, and a sense of sadness that my baby may not be such a little baby anymore...

Beau started on his weaning journey back in November when he turned six months. I have to admit, I'm surprised that I was able to hold him off on just milk for that long because he's quite a big boy - not in chubbiness but in length and stature, and he has quite a big appetite too.

I'm going to be totally honest here, I'm winging it when it comes to the weaning. I have no set method to follow and have been giving him a mixture of food on a spoon and finger foods that he can chew on himself, but it's working for him and that's all that matters to me.

I remember weaning Tyler (you can read my posts about weaning him here) and being so organised at pureeing the food and making sure that he tried each flavour individually before mixing them - I've abandoned this completely when it comes to Beau and you know what, I'm not one bit sorry.

I was so careful with Tyler, making sure he tried all the different flavours and foods and he was mostly a spoon fed baby, and now I have an almost four year old who refuses to eat anything bar toast, beans, crackers and cheese, so I'm doing everything different with Beau in the hopes that he'll be a keen and adventurous eater. So far, so good.

Beau is happy to take food from the spoon (ideal for me if I'm trying to get him fed before rushing out the door!), but he's also keen to hold the spoon himself, grab onto foods and mash them up in his hands, as well as chewing onto them - a great reliever for the teething pain. This morning he ate triangles of buttery toast all by himself and very proud of himself he was too.

At first I was a bit reluctant to let him eat by himself - fear of him choking and my OCD self being less than enthusiastic about the mess - but then I realised that the only way for him to really learn to eat is to get messy. Thank goodness for wipe down bibs and I love his Winnie the Pooh Piglet and Tigger ones, both just €1.49 in Dealz - bargain.

I've tried a whole host of pre-made foods with Beau too, as they're just handy to have with us as we always seem to be on the go. One of his favourite baby food brands is Piccolo - who offer organic food filled with lots of Mediterranean goodness.

Piccolo offer foods from stages 1 to 2 and in a host of delicious flavours. Beau's especially a fan of the Spring Greens Pear & Apple, which has a hint of mint in it and the Mango, Pear & Kale, with a dash of yogurt - both of these flavours are from the stage 1 collection.

What I love about Piccolo is that their food is honest and natural, filled with healthy, wholesome ingredients and bursting with delicious flavours that will give Beau an adventurous appetite when it comes to exploring new foods. I love the packaging of their foods too, so colourful.

Piccolo will only be available to buy in stores in Ireland from March onwards, but until then I've been purchasing them on Amazon from £6.41 for a five pack of pouches.

Some people frown upon pre-made baby foods, but I'm of the belief that as long as they're made from natural, healthy and organic ingredients, then what's the difference between me preparing it myself or buying it ready prepared?

Beau is well into his weaning journey now and is able to master texture as well as feeding himself. I may be winging the whole weaning thing this time around, but I honestly feel as though Beau has taken to weaning much better than Tyler did.

Once again, following my mothering gut instinct has given the best outcome for both myself and my baby.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tyler Lee & Beau | Siblings {January 2017} ♥

January marks the beginning of the first full year of my boys being siblings. They've been siblings now for almost eight months and their relationship grows more and more each day.

Tyler is still very much the protective big brother, with Beau taking up the role of the cheeky little brother. Anytime I see them interact with each other it's evident how much they love each other, with Tyler always wanting to be around his brother, who he calls "lovely" and Beau looking at Tyler with big, wide eyes and little grins.

Tyler regularly tells me that Beau is his best friend ever and he always wants to be around his baby brother, always wanting to include him in his imaginary games and pretend that Beau is his 'customer' in a shop or restaurant. It's very sweet.

Tyler's been noticing that Beau is getting older and changing in appearance too. He spotted the other day that Beau's hair is now going curly and Tyler said - "Beau's hair going to be be like mine mummy". It seems that I'm going have two little curly heads on my hands!

Tyler's dying for Beau to get out and about with him in the garden and play in his new playhouse. He asked me today if Beau was going to walk and I had to explain that he's a little young yet, but I'm betting it won't be long until Beau is following his big brother around.

Beau is now able to sit up unaided, so it sits by Tyler and takes great delight in watching him play - even trying to get his hands on some of the toys too. Hitting the toy pots and pans off the floor is a new favourite pastime of his.

This past month the boys have celebrated their first Christmas and New Year together and although Beau was far too young to understand any of it, it was lovely to have them together opening their presents from Santa and going for New Years walks in the woods.

This coming month we don't have much planned, apart from little walks here and there, but I know that these two boys of mine will have fun wherever we go, even if it's just to the countryside to throw leaves - like in these photos taken just before the cold January rain arrived.

I love watching these two little boys of mine grow up together and as their mother, it makes me so incredibly happy to know that they're already the best of friends.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

11 Baby-Tastic Things To Do On Maternity Leave ♥

Congratulations, you've made it to the last stretch of your pregnancy! Officially you should be on maternity leave two weeks before your baby is born, but if you're luck you might even get a bit longer! Now it's the long dreaded wait for baby to make its appearance. This could be anytime now.

On my first I had to wait extra long as he was 10 days overdue. On my second I started maternity leave on a Friday and I was in the maternity ward a day later. Pregnancies can be so different.

Now that baby is here, you might be busy changing nappies, feeding, cleaning up sick, changing outfits after a poo incident, but yet you still need to keep your head clear and get out of the house. Remember babies sleep 16 hours out of 24 hours after all - or so they say! (Wasn't the case with my second)

Here are some tips how to keep yourself busy while on maternity leave:

1. Go for a walk everyday
Fresh air is important for babies. Try to aim going for a walk everyday, weather permitting of course. I didn't go outside that much when Matthew first was born but I changed this when Chloe came along and we were outside as often as we could be. Buggy Walks Ireland has lots of great buggy accessible walk locations all across Ireland on their site, perfect for finding new routes to take a stroll with your pram or buggy.

2. Meet other mums 
Baby/Toddler groups are great for meeting other mums with babies/toddlers. Ask your public health nurse when they are on or look for ones online, one a week should be enough. They are normally on in the morning.

3. Go to a baby massage 
Baby massages are very popular these days. Whether your baby has reflux, has trouble bringing up wind or you just want to simply do your baby something good. For most babies it is nice way to relax.

4. Book a baby swimming lesson 
Obviously your baby is not going to learn how to swim that young but water is great for babies. They can build up their strength and learn so much floating in the water. Water Babies is one organisation who provide this service. You can bring your baby from birth. Have a look at their website and see if they do a session near you. We tried it with Chloe when she was only 3 months old.

5. Meet a friend for lunch
It’s nice to meet familiar faces for lunch like your friends and talk about the latest gossip.  The least thing you want is to get lonely now that you have a baby. Keep in touch with your friends as regularly as possible.

6. Setup the nursery
If you haven’t done so already, start on the nursery for your baby. Sit down with your partner and decide on the colour and theme of the room. Matthew's room was finished by the time I was 22 weeks pregnant with him. I did Chloe's room while I was on maternity leave with the help of a few friends and I've shared a video of Chloe's nursery too.

7. Gardening
If your baby is born in spring time, it’s a great opportunity to do some gardening. Put the baby in the pram and leave him/her in the garden beside you. That way she still gets fresh air and you get things done.

8. Book a photo session
It’s nice to have some baby photos hanging in the house - especially precious newborn pictures. We had photos taken by a local photographer who specializes in baby photography with both of our kids.

9. Get hand and foot prints done
This is a lovely keepsake. I recommend to get this done as early as possible. Once they are older and can move/roll around it can end up in a disaster. I’ve been there.

10. Book a place in the nursery 
Find that perfect nursery for your child to start in. Both my kids started creche when they were 5/6 months old as unfortunately, in Ireland, you only get 6 months paid maternity leave.

11. Start a blog
As a parenting blogger myself, I can't stress enough to start your own blog while you are on maternity leave. I have done a monthly update on Chloe when she was a baby and I am so glad I did. I can always look back on these updates and a blog is a lovely keepsake of all yours and your family's adventures and memories together.

*This is a guest post by Janine from Janine's Little World - a full-time working mother with two young children, Matthew and Chloe. Janine is originally from Germany, but now lives in Ireland with her family. Her blog shares posts on parenting and lifestyle.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Common Misconceptions Of Being A Stay At Home Mother ♥

Before I became a mother, I was wrongly under the impression that stay at home mothers had it made. What could be better, I thought, than staying at home all day with your little darlings, not having to conform to strict time keeping to make it to work on time and being able to plan your week how you wanted. Essentially I thought stay at home mothers were their own boss and oh how wrong I was! 

I get the opinion that people think I collect the dole and sit on my arse all day. I do neither (okay I may sit on my arse occasionally...). I take no money off the government, nor do I think I'm entitled to any and now that we've that cleared up, I can continue.

I will admit that when my first baby was born, it was a breeze looking after him. I'd only be lying if I said it wasn't. He used to sleep all the time and I'm sure he would have loved to have slept twenty-four hours a day if it wasn't for the fact that he had to eat and have his nappy changed. 

He was such a little angel and my house was cleaner than it ever had been, I had everything organised, dinner made every night and I even had the time to shower and do my makeup on a daily basis. I was becoming the "perfect housewife", a status which I never thought I would achieve (I bloody hate cleaning and cooking!). "This mothering malarkey is easy!", I oh so foolishly thought. 

As the months went on I found it harder and harder to get my house in order. To this day, the lack of organisation drives me mad. I now don't have the dinner ready until Jacek literally walks in the door and even at that it's a 'take frozen food out of the freezer but it in the oven and bam!' job.

A stay at home mother is most definitely not her own boss. In fact, my boss - or should I say bosses now that Beau has graced our lives, are the most demanding bosses I have ever had! Work starts at four or five in the morning, depending on which child wants to greet me first, and doesn't end until five-thirty that evening for baby boss and seven o' clock for the child boss - that's a twelve and a half hour day for one and even more for the other! Breaks are not included in my contract. 

Tyler still needs everything done when he wants and not a second longer otherwise his whinging becomes intolerable. I swear, I can't wait for his Oscar's award ceremony in the future, because the child is definitely a master in dramatics! Thankfully Beau is of a calmer disposition... for now.

I'm not allowed to work on my own initiative, the bosses have me on a strict schedule that allows for no other 'jobs' to be done. The laundry basket keeps breeding whilst I'm not looking (much to Tyler's delight. Seriously, anyone know of any other three year olds obsessed with washing machines?) and the basket of ironing (*snorts* ironing. Who even does this in 2017 apart from my mother? Creases on pant legs n' all) sits on the tumble-drier unloved and untouched. 

By the time my 'shift' ends I am exhausted, I want to do nothing but lie on the couch and chill out, but unfortunately there are things to be done, bottles to be prepared for the morning, blog posts to be written and other bits and bobs which are necessary to the smooth functioning of my next working day. In reality it's a twenty-four seven job, you are always a mother, always on call, always needed - thanks for the middle of the night wake up calls boys, I'll be remembering them when you're both teenagers and I'm demanding toast which I won't bother eating either...

Stay at home mothers are unable to leave the house on their own and this task is no longer as simple as getting yourself ready and picking up your handbag. Do you know how many things a child needs when out and about? A lot! 

I went on a three day holiday with my eldest boy once and had to take four big bags, four! Being a stay at home mother can also be quite lonely, some days go by where the only adult I get to speak to is Jacek when he comes home from work. 

There are no work colleagues to have a laugh and some banter with, no work nights out and no company throughout the day. You're not part of a team, you are the team and everything is up to you to get done. A stay at home mother plays many roles - chef, cleaner, driver, carer, playmate, entertainer along with many others, how many jobs out there have these many roles for one employee?

People seem to think I have all the time in the world to do what I want when I want and I think they're crazy! As you can probably tell these are people without children, oh the shock they're in for when they do eventually reproduce - to be a fly on the wall when the thought finally hits them that being a stay at home mother isn't all it's cracked up to be.

One of the most challenging things in my day is entertaining my kid. Do you know how easily kids get bored?! They can be occupied for literally twenty minutes before they need something new to catch their attention.

I am constantly on the move looking for a new toy to give to my sons and am permanently having to turn Beau onto his back when he rolls over and gets stuck.

People laugh at me when I say I have to feed the baby at a certain time and need to go home, find somewhere to sit, etc. They think he'll be okay for another few minutes, he most definitely won't be, when it's lunch time it is lunch time and that's at one o' clock. If I didn't follow this strict schedule my life would be chaos and that would most certainly not be fun. 

Stay at home mothers have no time to be sick, therefore it's necessary to make sure you're in optimum health. There is no cover to take over for you. Young children do not understand that mummy needs a day in bed. They're unable to fend for themselves. 

When people express how much they're looking forward to the weekend I just smile and nod, the weekend is nothing to me, just another day just like the rest of the week following the orders of my bosses and sticking to our routine.

However, there are many perks to my job which I could not live without. I get a lot of cuddles, what other boss would be so affectionate? I get to play with my sons, see them laugh, giggle and shriek with delight on a daily basis because apparently I'm hilarious. I get to see them grow, explore, learn and be amazed by the general wonder of the world that surrounds them

Being a stay at home mother is one of the hardest jobs in the world and I am now thinking that 'job' is the wrong word, perhaps 'vocation' would be better. This vocation that I decided to undertake (twice!) has been the best thing that has ever happened in my life. 

To be a mother, it's a feeling I cannot describe. Nevertheless, there are far too many misconceptions surrounding stay at home mothers, people really think we have it made. I would love one of these people to spend a week in my shoes and do what I do everyday, it's bloody hard work but my God is it worth it.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Second Baby ♥

Our baby boy Beau has been in our lives for over seven months now, and in some ways it seems as though he has always been with us, yet with some things still feeling very new.

The familiarity could stem from him being our second baby and whilst every child is different, ultimately we have been through it all before, the different stages that a baby goes through as they set out on their road to independence.

So far we've passed the beautiful newborn stage - possibly the most precious time of having a baby and also the quickest to pass, the familiarising stage - where a baby learns who's part of it's family and can recognise them by sound and sight and we're now in the mobile stage - the stage when babies no longer want to lay down and can roll about and shuffle on their tummies to get about.

All of these stages have come and gone so quickly for us and I have to admit, it's all left me feeling a little bit sad. What if Beau is our last child and I didn't get a chance to fully embrace each stage? Parenting is much different with a second baby.

It's sad to admit, but it's true what people tell you - no one will care about your second baby as much as they did with your first. No one came to visit Beau and I in the hospital apart from my mother and Tyler and a handful of people sent a card or gave him a gift when he was born, a complete opposite in comparison to when Tyler was born.

No one offered any help the second time either, even to take Tyler out for a couple of hours so that we could settle the new baby or even bond with him on his own. I found this surprising, but in my heart of hearts I knew it would happen, with the second baby you're just expected to get on with things aren't you, after all, you've been through it all before so you should be able to cope...

I've found that I've done things completely different with Beau too. Maybe it's because in my mind I feel as though he may be my last, so I've tried to cram in as much as I possibly can with him and began doing things from the beginning that I had only learned about and experienced much later in my parenting with Tyler.

I'm not OCD about having things sterilised (apart from his bottles of course), I learned that him being with me is much more important than giving him things. I take a lot of photos of him as I wasn't into photography when Tyler was a baby, but I'm aware that I must live in the moment and experience my memories with him away from the camera lens too.

I'm not spurring him on to reach the next milestones in his development, whereas with Tyler I seemed to wish his life away waiting for the next one to pass. I didn't even want to wean the child if I'm honest. Every milestone to me feels like I'm losing my baby, whereas with Tyler it was all so exciting.

One thing I've struggled with when it comes to parenting a second baby is dealing with the impact it's having on my first child and feeling guilty that I haven't been able to give my second child the same experiences I gave his brother.

When Tyler was a baby, him and I used to lay on the couch, snuggling up and having that closeness a mother and her small baby should have, whereas with Beau I haven't been able to experience that simply because Tyler is always here, or if he isn't I have so many things to catch up on before he gets back that sitting down and relaxing with the baby just isn't an option.

I used to have baths with Tyler, him laying on my chest with the warm water lulling him to sleep - I have yet to do that with Beau as I know that Tyler will just want to join in too and will end up getting upset if I explain that only the baby can come in with me.

Going for walks is also something I struggle with. We have a beautiful pushchair that I love taking Beau out and about in, but going for a walk on my own with the two kids is almost impossible as Tyler will either walk for five minutes and then tell me he's too tired or will run off.

However, like everything in life, with all the challenging aspects of parenting a second baby, there are some beautiful, positive aspects too. I absolutely adore watching my boys sibling relationship grow and it's so heartwarming to see how besotted Tyler is with his baby brother and how in awe Beau is of his big brother.

As a mother, all I can hope for is that they're very close and will remain firm friends throughout their lives. I've spoken on the blog before about the positives of having a three year age gap between our children and I fully stand by those things, but part of me still feels a bit sorry for Beau.

Sorry that he never gets a moments peace, sorry that the house always descends into chaos and quiet moments are rare, sorry that he almost gets smothered by his over-enthusiastic brother and his rough cuddles multiple times a day, sorry that we've never have those mummy and baby cuddle moments or baths, sorry that I'd rather not take him for a walk for fear of his brother running off, sorry that he's the baby of the family, which inevitably means that he'll have to put up with me babying him and doting on him for much longer than I did with his brother - it's a rite of passage for the baby of the family, right?

Monday, January 02, 2017

My Daily Blogging Schedule | How I Get 42,000+ Page Views A Week ♥

Back in 2015 I wrote one of my most popular posts ever - My Daily Blogging Schedule | How I Get 25,000+ Page Views A Week, and more than a year on, I thought it was time to do an update and share the new things I've been doing to gain my blog exposure and get people to view it.

I have to admit, last year I was a bit lax with my blog and wasn't writing or promoting as much as I used to and it wasn't until December that I really stepped up my blogging game again, but even in the short space of a month my page views have rocketed due to the work I've been putting in and I couldn't be more delighted with the results.

In my last post, I stated that blog promotion was a lot of hard work, but since then I've found and been using promotion tools which do all the work for me, and to be totally honest, I'm relieved that I no longer have to participate in Twitter retweet threads in various Facebook groups, as some of the content I really wasn't happy about sharing. The threads seemed to turn from bloggers helping bloggers to bloggers helping businesses promote their crap and that really wasn't for me.

However, I will stand by what I said in my last post - you have to work for your blog, not just have it work for you, and this is what I do on a daily basis to make sure that my blog is seen and read by people all around the world.

BLOG
  • Check stats from the previous day to see how well my blog did and record them in my diary so I can tot up my page views at the end of the month.
  • Prepare and publish a new blog post - I always create and publish blog posts on the same day, as my creativity flows better when I'm not preparing posts in advance.
  • Capture photography for the blog post and social media promotion - this is such an important aspect to blogging that I think some people don't bother with at all, but it's so important for getting people to want to click on your links and read your posts. After all, the visual is what captures a potential reader's attention  first, and what will ultimately make them want to read your words. Photography sessions for me can take up to an hour, depending on what I want to capture. I've been known to take over 600 photos for just one post and believe me, whittling them down to a select few is a job within itself. 
  • Edit photography for the blog and social media. I use the Royale feature on PicMonkey, which costs €66 for the year.
  • Re-read the post before publishing, check the HTML and make sure the layout is just the way I want it.
  • Respond to blog comments.

TWITTER
  • In December I began using a new promotion tool for Twitter, which I discovered by reading this helpful post from Sparkles & Stretchmarks. That new tool was SocialOomph. This allows me to submit tweets and set them up to be published at a time or frequency of my choosing. Twitter allows you to tweet 100 times per hour (but note that retweets are included within this). When I publish a post, I add it to my SocialOomph updates and always select for the post to be shared once every hour. I've also added old and seasonal posts to my SocialOomph updates and have seen great results. Since using SocialOomph I gained 170,000+ page views in December alone - a big increase from my average of 55,000 page views during the previous months of the year. SocialOomph costs €338 a year for the Professional version and €188 a year for the Twitter Unlimited.
  • Respond to comments people have left on my tweets.
  • Retweet some tweets from other bloggers which caught my attention.
  • Follow back relevant accounts which followed me. 

INSTAGRAM
  • Add new pictures to Instagram feeds (I have three accounts) and mention 'link in bio' if I think a post may be relative to my Instagram followers.
  • Add 30 hashtags for maximum post exposure.

PINTEREST
  • Add post photography to relevant boards.
  • Re-pin 20+ old pins to new, relavant boards.
  • Re-pin 10+ pins from other people.

 STUMBLEUPON
  • Add post link to StumbleUpon - however, I only do this if the post is a photography/DIY/Inspirational post. I do not add review or other generic posts to StumbleUpon as they're not inspiring to the StumbleUpon audience. 
  • Give a thumbs up to at least 10 stumbles.

FACEBOOK
  •  I have to admit, I hate Facebook, so I'm not too bothered about promoting my blog there, but I do post updates to my blog's Facebook page.
  • I also post blog links in various blogging Facebook groups.

 EMAILS
  • Respond to emails throughout the day.
  • Send collaborative posts links to relevant PRs and keep them up to date.  
I honestly can't believe how successful this schedule has been for me and just how much by blog has benefited from sticking to all these things.

As I stated above, last month I gained 170,000+ page views, which I think was a result of posting tweets every hour via SocialOomph. Some people may think that this is too frequent, but the way I look at it is - if you're not shouting about yourself or your blog, then who's going to know about it? You must be your own cheerleader to get your voice heard and your blog seen amongst the sea of other bloggers and blogs there are out there.

By 9' o clock every morning by blog has gained over 2,500 page views and knowing that people are reading and visiting my blog because a tweet, pin or Facebook post caught their eye and made them want to read and visit it is a really great thing.

I'm expecting my page views to grow even more this year and will be back with an update in a few months time to share just how helpful SocialOomph and other techniques I'll be using, have been to my blog and I.

I hope this post has given people an insight into all the work that really goes into creating and establishing a successful blog.

It's absolutely amazing to see your hard work paying off and to see that people are interested in your blog and are reading your posts, admiring your pictures and engaging with you on social media. It means an awful lot to a writer or blogger such as myself and I am forever grateful to those who take the time to stop by my blog and for all the opportunities it has given me.
 

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