Thursday, 20 September 2018

Zoe's Model Experience with Tommee Tippee

A few months ago I stumbled across a post on a local parenting facebook group looking for kids to feature in a Tommee Tippee online video campaign. I don't know what made me email them but it sounded quite fun and Zoe is such an insta-kid I thought she might enjoy it too. I honestly didn't expect they would pick us - it got quite a bit of interaction on facebook so I figured they would be swamped with applications. A couple of weeks after that initial email I heard back that they loved her unique look and gorgeous red curls and wanted us to come along for filming.

The premise of the shoot was for some under 5s to run riot in a fancy bridal boutique with juice in Tommee Tippee cups and beakers, to show how they don't leak "All Thrills, No Spills". I thought it was such a cute idea, and can confirm we had zero leaks!

Inconveniently my husband had been sent to London for work right before the filming day so I had a bit of a last minute childcare/work crisis, but thankfully my lovely Mother in law and Sister in law came with us and spent the afternoon with Zoe so I could rush back off to work straight after filming.

The day started really well. They staggered the kids arrival so it wasn't too overwhelming for them and Zoe went first. They had colouring books and stickers for them all to play with, and the staff were so great at speaking to the kids on their level and making them feel important.

The film crew were amazing with her too and within minutes she has shaken off the initial shyness and was laughing and joking with them all. She followed instruction really well and I was so proud watching her shine.

After they got those first shots of her on her own (the ones from the start of the video) we were sent off for an hour or so, we wandered around the Discovery Museum and grabbed some tea and cake. We were called back for a final group shot - the bit of the video where they were all running around - and this didn't go quite as well. You can see Zoe briefly on the right of the screen but then no sign of her again, this was mostly because she got stuck behind some dresses. She was wearing a tiara and she was suppose to hide in the dresses and when they shout GO she was to jump out and run in a circle. But her tiara got caught on a dress and she was stuck! It was such mayhem we didn't notice at first, then when they shouted 'STOP' we just heard a little voice say 'Mummy? I am stuck!'. She waited so nicely because she didn't want to hurt the dresses or spoil the video.

It was such a lovely experience, and I was almost tempted to go down the modelling route a bit further. I asked some friends about it and researched it (she was invited for a test shoot) but I think because we work full time and don't drive, we probably wouldn't be able to make the most out of it, or the return on the initial investment. It's a shame though as I mean I know I am hugely bias, but she is so bloody cute!

Here is the final video;

Little Wedding Crashers 60s from Tommee Tippee on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Eyebrow Threading with Superdrug.

This summer Punky Moms UK has been working with Superdrug on a range of activities from mystery shopping to a hair dye contest. As a member of the Punky Blog Squad I was asked to go along and try out an in-store beauty treatment.

My store was a bit busy to snap photos, so I got this from the superdrug website

In all honesty I had no idea Superdrug offered beauty treatments and I was a little bit apprehensive. My local store (Newcastle, Northumberland St) has a brow bar offering threading, tinting and a range of lash treatments.

I am pretty low maintenance when it comes to beauty treatments, the last time I got my eyebrows seen to by a professional was just before my wedding - a year ago. I tend to just either let them roam wild, or twease occasionally - it always seemed a faff or expense I didn't need.

I am here to say I have changed my tune based on this experience. Let me tell you why;

1. Pain -I've never had threading before and had heard it was really painful, which worried me. I found waxing painful and everyone I spoke to told me threading was worse. The threading itself was honestly fine, it stung a little towards the center but all in all compared to waxing it was a walk in the park and the redness went down much quicker (10-15 mins)

2. Time - I work full time and struggle to find the time between work and kid to fit in self care stuff like this. I walked into Superdrug at 3:15pm and was out by 3:28 - that included queuing to pay! It was super quick and easy, and I could easily see me fitting it into a lunch break.

3. Cost -You know how it can be for mums prioritising themselves financially. I am the kind of mum who wears primark while my kid struts around in Boden. I just feel all the guilt splurging on me knowing she needs new shoes or a term of gymnastics to pay for. The eyebrow threading at superdrug is really affordable at only £8.

4. Staff - The girls who work on the brow bar were so lovely, they spent time explaining how it worked and were really knowledgeable and professional. I felt completely confident and comfortable in their hands, which is definitely a huge plus for me as I often feel too polite to say anything if I am not happy.

My only slight gripe with the experience is the location, its a very cramped store and while you are getting your treatment people are walking by shopping which isn't ideal, although for how quick it is I didn't mind. I wouldn't want to be doing anything longer or more dramatic like tinting there. The store is pretty run down too, it hasn't changed much over the last 10 years, I wish it looked more like the picture at the top.

I actually really enjoyed writing this post, would beauty related stuff be of interest in future posts? I mean I am no beauty blogger but I could share my low maintenance mum make up looks, or skincare routine? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I received the treatment for free in exchange for an honest account of my experience, all thoughts are my own

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Monday, 17 September 2018

Meal Plan Like a Boss - 17/09/18

Last week went well money-wise, as I didn't need to do any top up shops and resisted buying lunch at work. I didn't stick to the plan though as I had a couple of days of leftovers and an unplanned meal out one night.

I made this delicious tofu noodle dish on Monday, I have never cooked with Tofu before but would definitely do it again. Might blog the recipe too;

This week is another odd one, but it is the last week with Paul working away, so hoping to be back to normal the week after.

Monday Leftover Roast Chicken Risotto.

Tuesday Just me tonight, so roast veggie pasta for one, with extras for lunches the next day.

Wednesday King Prawn Ramen Bowl - experimenting a bit here, will report back if its good.

Thursday Scrambled egg on toast with avocado.

Friday Pizza - going to get one from the supermarket, not takeaway.

Saturday Just me and Zoe for dinner tonight, going to make fajitas.

Sunday Roast chicken dinner

Adding a slightly new element to this weeks meal plan, and that's a shopping list;

1. King Prawns
2. Eggs
3. A pizza - I really like aldi's own margherita (from the fridge not freezer)
4. Wraps
5. Roast Chicken
6. Veggies for roasting (peppers, courgettes, onion)
7. Avocado
8. Spring Onion
9. Fruit for snacks
10. Brown Bread
11. Milk
12. Sandwich fillings for lunches
13. Wine - necessary when solo parenting.

I have everything else I need in the cupboard/freezer already, so should be a light week.

Whats on your menu this week?

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Saturday, 15 September 2018

Our First Wedding Anniversary.

It's our first wedding anniversary! How was this a year ago already?!

In true 'us' fashion we have nothing planned, I had thought Husband was working away in Lndon this weekend but I got my dates wrong and didn't organise a babysitter. But to be honest it is more our style to stay in and watch a movie or something. #old

Anyway, here are some of my favourite photos from the day, just because.

You can read all about our day here, and about how we did it on a budget here.

Huge thank you and all the love to Lifeline Photography for capturing our perfect day so beautifully.

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Monday, 10 September 2018

Meal Plan Like a Boss - 10/09/19

Meal planning has gone well and truly out of the window in our house of late, and I am definitely noticing an spike in spending on adhoc supermarket trips and take aways. Meal planning and cooking is something I really love doing, so why am I not doing it? I think the shift of returning to full time work has made me very time poor and if I am honest a bit lazy. "I've been at work all day I don't want to think about cooking now" I am sure we have all had those days, but when those days become the norm its not OK.

In my last post I talked about finances and goals, and I am definitely overspending on eating out. Last month I spent £271 on eating out (that includes grabbing sandwiches for lunch or a sneaky greggs breakfast a few times a week) it all adds up! So here I am once again trying to reign it in and get back to enjoying food and cooking for my family again.

Monday I am home alone tonight as Paul is in London and Zoe will eat at her childminder, so I have some leftover fresh pasta and sauce to use up, I'll throw some veggies in to bulk it out and give some leftovers for lunch tomorrow too.

Tuesday Alone again, I have some tofu to try, I have been researching recipes on pinterest recently so going to try some sort of noodle stir fry or ramen bowl.

Wednesday Paul gets home but not until after dinner, so just me again, haloumi and chickpea salad (pictured) is on the cards. I will blog this soon as it is so tasty.

Thursday Thai green curry with brown rice

Friday Prawn and roast garlic risotto

Saturday Homemade veggie soup and bread

Sunday Roast chicken dinner If there are any recipes you'd like me to blog just shout, I have been hitting pinterest hard for inspiration, trying not to get stuck in a food rut again.

Whats on your menu this week?

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Life check-in and goal setting for Autumn.

September is here, I don't know why but September always feels a bit more of a new beginning that January to me. Perhaps its the change in season, or the years spent in school and now working in higher education but I really love this time of year.

A chance for a fresh start.

Things have been busy since I went back to full time work, it has been 7 months now and I feel like I have an OK rhythm going, but it still feels like there aren't enough hours in the day sometimes. I mean we all get where we need to be, we all are fed and watered and clothed etc... All the essentials are getting done. I just struggle with the juggle sometimes.

So with the change in seasons I am reflecting and setting myself some goals. My main issues right now are around fitting in housework and spending too much money.

I feel pretty happy with how life is going in the most part but housework always seems to drop off the bottom of my list, I very much get to 8pm having put Zoe to bed and feel like I have earned a rest and the idea of starting to tidy fills me with dread. I am lucky that my husband is a tidy person so I avoid living in complete squalor, but I want to get some control back and feel a bit house proud - instead of doing those 10 minute blitz cleans where everything gets shoved out of sight before someone pops round.

I recently started following The Organised Mum and Mrs Hinch on Instagram and they have got me feeling a little more motivated. I find the Organised Mum method a bit restrictive and very much geared towards a certain type of person and home, which doesn't always suit me - but I do like the general idea of 30 minute timers, fitting things around life and doing little bits throughout the day. I also love Mrs Hinch for the little tips and tricks, product recommendations and also just her enthusiasm for it all - it reminds me that its not all just a chore and it can be fun! I am planning on setting my own little daily tasks and ticking them off to keep on top of things better, I am tempted to share some things on IG stories BUT everyone else out there cleaning seems to live in immaculate homes so I am not sure I should really be sharing my shame.

The second focus right now is money, we have lots of plans and things we want to do this year, including taking Zoe on her first holiday abroad. She starts school in September 2019 so we want to get away while we can still do it in term time. Similarly with the housework, the food planning and prepping has taken a back seat. I am doing more little trips to the supermarket, little stops at Pret or Greggs for breakfast/lunch at work. It is all adding up and chipping away at any savings we manage to tuck away. I attended a GiffGaff Gameplan event a couple of weeks ago to learn more about managing money. The Giffgaff gameplan app is launching in January, but they have some info on their website, as well as a free credit report tool.

I attended talks on Mortgages and Savings and picked up some great tips. The mortgage talk wasn't great as it pretty much cemented for me that we are so far away from being able to get on the property ladder, which is a hard pill to swallow. However, the savings talk by Eileen from Your Money Sorted was fantastic. She gave us some great tips and advice so I thought I would share what I found useful with you;

1. Meal Planning - I mean I know meal planning is great, you know I love a bit of meal planning around here, but I have lost my mojo for sure. She reminded me how much you can save by meal planning and being that bit more organised. I am determined to get back into it, so lookout for those posts coming back as well as some midweek meal recipes.

2. Haggle and switch - Switching utilities, or haggling a better broadband deal can reap huge rewards. We do already do this as my husband is a big fan of a haggle, but I hadn't realised just how much could be saved.

3. Apps and tech - There are literally loads of apps and pieces of technology that can help you gain control of spending and save. Based on recommendations from friends and Eileen, I have started using Cleo and Chip. Cleo is a spending analysis tool which utilises facebook messenger. It presents you with all sorts of information and you can ask it questions like "how much have I spent on eating out this week" and it can really hone in on problem areas and give that reality check when needed. Chip is an automatic savings app, it analyses your spending habits and squirrels small sums of money away for you without you really noticing, this is ideal for me as I am very much a 'if I see it I spend it' kind of person. I am hoping to use this to save for holiday spends.

4. Talk about money - Actually one of the biggest take homes for me was that its OK to talk about money, its healthy, its normal. I tend to shy away from money talk and have always felt like a total novice, but after talking to people in the workshop I realised I knew more than others and I felt better knowing others had debt or couldn't even consider mortgages etc... It was really freeing to talk so openly. As a result I went away and checked my credit rating (something I have always hidden from out of fear of it being awful) but actually I have an excellent credit rating and my financial situation is much brighter than I thought! Its easy to look around at others buying homes and shiny things and assume that they must have their shit together, when they just have a different approach to their finances.

So, down to some goal setting. I really want these to be more than just empty promises, I want to set SMART objectives for myself and check in on progress and document when I achieve them.

Goal 1: Set a daily task list for housework, put it up somewhere in the house and tick it off when completed. I will share this more on Instagram for those interested.

Goal 2: Meal plan weekly, blog it, put it on the fridge and get excited about cooking again. I want to start sharing recipes here again too.

Goal 3: Set a savings target, stick to it and try to curb unnecessary spending. I might do semi-regular check-ins on this here, Follow up on how the apps are working for me and any lessons learned along the way. I am also determined to do Christmas frugally this year, so lookout for some content on that!

Anyone else feeling a fresh start at this time of year?

Sidenote; if anyone has any holiday recommendations for a family who have zero clue please let me know, we want a cheap and cheerful all inclusive type sun holiday, somewhere central where you don't need a car, good pool, chilled vibes... Help!

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Saturday, 28 July 2018

Family Memories with Cheerz (plus a discount code!)

It was my birthday last week, birthdays and anniversary's always make me a bit nostalgic, thinking back to childhood parties and memorable presents. Its funny how memories work, I have vivid memories of my 4th birthday but after that I feel like my memories are based on photos I have seen of cakes and tearing through gift wrap. Photos are such a big part of childhood memories, I don't have many photos of my mum and its something I really wish I had more of. I try to take lots of photos of us as a family, and its part of the reason I love Instagram so much - its all about making and keeping hold of those precious memories.

I was recently contacted by Cheerz to ask if I'd like to try one of their photobooks. I love the idea of photobooks, I have made them before as gifts, but found the whole process of designing and laying them out to be tedious. So I was a bit apprehensive at first, but thought I would give them a go. I used to love going through the family photo box as a kid and Zoe loves sitting with me and looking through her baby albums. So as a bit of a birthday treat for myself I thought I would make up a book of our wedding (which was in September 2017). I have some printed ones for frames, but it actually so lovely to have a book we can all look through and remember that magical day.

I also got a few little photobooth style prints and some heart shaped magnets, they are so cute and would actually make lovely wedding favours or thank yous.

I absolutely love the look and feel of the book, you have complete control over the colour and design of the front cover, with an option for wording on the spine too, which will look so lovely on a bookshelf. The design tool is really intuitive to use and get the photos sitting nicely together. I still found it a bit of a chore to pull together but that is mostly as my own personal system for filing photos on my Mac is so bad.

There was an option to auto fill the book, which I used and then tweaked as and when I wanted, it really was so much easier than other photobook places I've used, and the designs are really modern and sleek.

I used the laptop to create mine, but they also have a really great mobile app, which can integrate with instagram too!

Cheerz have also offered readers of my blog a 20% discount on their site with the code CUPCAKE20 until the 27th August (including gift cards).

What do you do with your photos? Please tell me I am not the only one who is crap at storing them? I have about 30,000 photos on my macbook in desperate need of sorting and filling.

I received the photo book as a gift in exchange for this post, all thoughts and views are my own

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Monday, 16 July 2018

Making the Most of our Weekend - Lightwater Valley

Since going back to full time hours at work back in March 2018, I have really tried to make the most of our weekends as a family. So, with this in mind I thought I would start a new feature all about how we make time for ourselves as a family.

It is so easy to get caught up in the rat race of full time work then spend the weekend running errands and cleaning, forgetting to fit in the fun. I'm not going to lie and say everyone weekend is a high octane thrill ride, sometimes its just a quick trip to the leisure center swimming pool and feeding the ducks on the way home, but every moment, no matter how small, that we spend together as a family - this is how memories are made.

Having said that, this first edition of MTMOOW (making the most of our weekend) is pretty high octane, lets start this with a bang!

We decided to take a trip to Lightwater Valley - a theme park in Ripon, Yorkshire.

I haven't been to Lightwater Valley since a year 8 school trip! We did a quick search of similar places within a few hours drive, and it seemed the most affordable. I was a bit worried there wouldn't be many rides Zoe could do, but for kids over 1 meter tall there is LOADS. Although, most they have to be accompanied by an adult, which I wasn't super thrilled about. Although in all honesty I really did enjoy some of them.

I actually think I might be raising a little thrill seeker! She snubbed the 'baby' rides for the more exciting rollercoasters and the wonderfully names 'Trauma Tower'. She rode the Ladybird rollercoaster 8 times and cried when we had to leave as she wanted to have one more turn.

She even asked if she could try the Ultimate! Sadly she wasn't tall enough. We found the height charts super helpful for showing her why she couldn't ride, with the green/amber/red indicators she cottoned on pretty quick which she could ride.

The only downside to the day was the food, if we were to go again I would 100% pack a picnic. The food was expensive and all burger, hotdogs, chips and sweets - not a vegetable in sight. Also from an environmental point of view there was so much plastic, I would have liked to have seen a water fountain or free tap water on offer. Heck, I would have even paid to refill my bottle rather than having to buy multiples.

I know these places make their money on the concessions, but I was really disappointed by the selection on offer.

All in all a very successful trip, Zoe is dying to go back to the 'fun fair' as she calls it. Although at £55 for the three of us, we won't be able to do it that often.

Along with this new blog feature I will be starting the #makingthemostofourweekend #mtmoow hashtags and sharing some of my faves in subsequent posts or on my IG stories. Lets share how we make time as families, and share ideas for awesome activities over the summer!

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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Conquering the Curls. - Our curly hair care routine.

One of my most asked questions on Instagram is how I deal with Zoe's curls. I do not have curly hair so its been a bit of a learning curve for me too, but I thought I would write up a little 'what we do' post. I am no expert, we have just experimented and come up with what works for us right now. I am completely open to tips and tricks, or product suggestions that you love.

Zoe had quite straight hair up until her first birthday when it started to curl, it was still quite fine but over the past 2 years it has thickened and grown curlier and curlier. It is almost to her bottom when wet, but as it dries it bounces up into wonderful ringlets.

We have tried all sorts from the Curly Girl Method, to Low-poo/No-poo, serums, oils, leave in conditioners etc... Some worked well, some did not, but we have learned and added to the routine as we went. We stumbled across a brand called Curly Ellie 6 months ago and fell in love. The brand was developed by a Mum of a curly haired child who was fed up of the pain of combing her curls so developed her own range of products. The products are gluten free, SLS free, SLES free, dairy free, peanut free, wheat free, silicone free, paraben free and we are free of all mineral oils. ANother thing I like about the products is they are mostly coconut free (the shampoo has some ingredients derived from coconut oil), so many products aimed at curly hair are coconut based and Zoe has a coconut allergy so I am wary.

So without further ado, let me talk you through our routine...

This is Zoe's hair pre-wash. We tend to only wash Zoe's hair once a week (unless needed, she's three so something comes home with sand/paint/beans etc... in her hair). We find washing less actually really helps combat dryness and frizz. If we want to neaten up her curls midweek we tend to just spray with water and apply some leave in conditioner and allow to dry naturally again.

We start with a thorough shampoo, we do love the Curlie Ellie Shampoo as it has no nasties and smells amazing, but it is pricey so we also have some silicone free Superdrug stuff we love too.

Her pony friend is getting in on the action too, luckily Zoe is really good with water and doesn't mind getting it in her eyes etc... But having a toy in their that she gets to wash helps her with sitting still through this process.

Up next is conditioner, I apply a generous amount, especially around the ends and knotty bits, then grab a comb. We have tried a plethora of combs over the years but have settled on these wooden beard combs! They are cheap (ebay) and wooden so can withstand a lot, I cannot tell you the number of plastic combs we have broken trying to comb out knots. One important point to make is that we only ever brush Zoe's hair when wet, with plenty of product, brushing when dry is a big no no with curls - you'll end up with a HUGE frizzy helmet of hair rather than bouncy ringlets.

My method for combing is simple, lots of conditioner and tackling it section by section. You lift up a small section, hold it tightly below the root and comb downwards, its important to hold it so that when you comb you don't pull at the root, your hand takes the brunt of the pulling meaning little to no pain for Zoe. I hope I have explained that well, if not I can post a little video - let me know.

An additional occasional step (we don't do this every time) is a hair mask, if its feeling super dry or neglected, or we have a fancy event coming up I might add this in to give it that little bit extra. Its just a case of slathering it on, leaving it for 10-15 minutes then rinsing. I've also used some Lush products like H'suan Wen Hua, which is a product I use on my own hair.

Once you are all rinsed and done splashing about, its time for the post bath products. I know this seems like a lot, especially for a child, but its only once a week and its honestly worth it for me.

I use the Curly Ellie detangling spray and leave in conditioner. The leave in conditioner is the wonder product for me, if you buy any of the Curly Ellie range this is the one - the superstar. Once out of the bath I use an old cotton t shirt to squeeze excess moisture from Zoe's hair (rubbing curls with a towel is another no no, frizz central), and then spray with the detangler - combing it through to ensure all knots are gone. Then I rub a small amount of leave in conditioner in my hands and run it through her hair, focusing on the ends first then the front (so less product goes on the front and more at the back).

I run my fingers through as I do this to separate the curls a little and style her parting to the side, as when its central it tend to fall into her eyes, so a side part is easily managed with a clip.

I always make sure she has some toys or her tablet for this bit as asking a 3 year old to sit still while you comb and style is a big ask. She does love having her little pamper sessions though, and the detangling spray means we rarely get any tears or upset with brushing.

I try to let her hair dry naturally and completely before bed, although we are having some issues with her waking up with frizz, we are planning to try a silk pillow next to see if it helps combat this. With the hot weather though I think its unavoidable sometimes. I quick spray with some water and a bit more leave in conditioner in the morning and she is good to go though.

I hope this has been helpful, and please do share your own curly tips or tricks!

I purchased all of the products myself, this is not a paid review in any way

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Thursday, 14 June 2018

Life Lately - June 2018

Well, long time no see once again. Life seems to keep finding a way to get in the way of blogging. I have umm-ed and ah-ed over wether to continue calling myself a blogger these days, but the fact is, I love it and its been such a huge part of the last 12 years.

So here is a little update to whats been going on with me...

1. We've been making some home improvements recently, we replaced our ancient old inherited sofa (which was far too big for the room) with a brand new mustard yellow two seater from DFS. Its made the room feel so much bigger, and made room for this cute little desk area. While we rent, we finally realised that house buying is a long way off for us so we might as well make this place feel more like home. I've become obsessed with interior inspo on instagram and I am toying with the idea of painting some walls. If you know any cute blogs or IG accounts focusing on making rental home cute... hit me up.

2. How nice has the weather been lately? I am living in these new Birkenstock sandals, after I literally wore a hole in my last pair, they lasted 5 years which is not bad. I also picked up these wannabe birkenstocks for Zoe from TKMaxx. I am toying with the idea of sharing some more fashion related content on here, thoughts?

3. We've had some health related news recently and as a family we have decided to implement some lifestyle changes. I am all about the body positivity and acceptance, but for me this change is not about the outside, its all about the inside and looking after ourselves. We bought ourselves Fitbit Charge HR fitness trackers and I practically dislocated my shoulder trying on sports bras, we're making small changes and focusing on health. Wish us luck. Is this something you'd like to see more of on the blog?

4. Little Zoe update for you; Zoe is at such an awesome age, she is 3.5 now and her little personality is really coming into its own. She has a weird sense of humour and loves to compliment people. Her favourite activities are swimming and going to the cinema. Her taste in music is growing outside of Disney soundtracks, she is particularly partial to Little Mix, Beyonce and Robyn. I am really enjoying this age, and while she can be grumpy or tired at times, she is alot eaiser to talk down or distract/bribe.

5. We went to Center Parcs! I am thinking of doing a longer post about our long weekend, but honestly it was so lovely, already planning another trip! This weekend I am travelling again, a little trip to Telford and Suffolk for a long weekend, watch out on Instagram to follow our adventure.

6. I am sure I have mentioned the group Punky Moms here before, its a facebook group and website, and we have launched a Newcastle Chapter for local meet ups. Its been amazing and its lovely to get a chance to meet lots of lovely local parents and kids. So, if you are looking to meet up with parents in your area, check out all the chapters (they are global) its the most wonderful group of people. Last week we met up for a chilled coffee and ended up spending 5 hours chatting!

So anyway, enough about me, how have you been??

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