Alnwick Gardens Late Summer Bloom

It’s been about eight years since I last visited Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland, how nice to visit again and see how much more established it is, the gardens have been here since 1750 but were redeveloped in 2001 and a Poison Garden added in 2005. Today we took in the Rose Garden, Serpent Garden and Ornamental Garden, quite a walk for a toddler and a real treat for me! Not the best photos but we were busy making memories!

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Our Lego Dream House

What if you could build the house of your dreams? What would it be like? Classic, modern, traditional?

How about multicoloured, designed and built by a three year old architect and situated on a blue ‘sea’ road?!

We were challenged by Ocean Finance to design our dream home from Lego for their latest blogging competition. In exchange for 1 kilo of Lego J and I spent a happy hour planning, then building her dream home, if you’re a regular reader you will know animals will be involved and actually in her dream home they play an inspirational role!!

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I absolutely love it when J’s imagination runs wild, so when I challenged her to build her dream house I was delighted by her specification, here’s a brief rundown of her spec!

– “My house is at the seaside”
– “Needs to have a garden for my bunnies on the roof”
– “No Mammy, no black Lego bricks, brown is OK but not black”
– “Can you help me make a sandy road on the sea road?”
– “Has it got somewhere for the bunnies’ lettuce?”

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Part beach condo, part open plan fridge (yes, she was serious about storing the bunnies’ lettuce inside the main structure of the house!) I love how her dream home has evolved into this masterpiece, not bad for a just-turned-three year old!

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I suggested we build stairs up to the roof terrace but that idea was met with horror!

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What do you think of our dream home? Perfect for Flopsy rabbit and family?

Kiqplan Review and Giveaway

I first heard of Kiqplan when a friend told me she was using their fitness app to train for Race for Life (Kiqplan is RfL’s official training partner). Kiqplans are 12 week training packs and there are 8 Kiqplans to choose from, I am reviewing Slim and Trim, which aims to help women of all sizes with weight loss and toning, I am very happy to report that six weeks in I have lost 6lbs (my goal is to lose 10lb) but more importantly, I’m thinking differently about me!

The Kiqplan syncs to your activity tracker to help you track diet, exercise and weight loss – syncing to Fitbug products, Fitbit products, Nike+, Apple trackers, Jawbone and more. I am reviewing Kiqplan with a Fitbug Orb, which I received to help me write this review. A nifty little watch type device that I have become rather attached to!

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Priced at £19.99 the app kick started me into a 12 week plan to help me become fitter, healthier and more aware of my personal goals. The virtual coaching model helps encourage and keep me on track.

Before I started I hadn’t used a fitness tracker product, I was fearful that I would hit nowhere near 10,000 steps a day but was pleasantly surprised by the activity levels I achieve in my daily car-free life, this was before my evening walk on a work day, so hitting 11,000ish was a pleasant surprise and told me that I’m not as sedentary as I thought! Oh and don’t be alarmed, I do sleep more than zero hours, I just didn’t log it this day!

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Tracking my activity levels was great, but the really appealing thing for me is the food and nutrition aspect of Kiqplan, pre-loaded with lots of my usual Aldi products it was so easy to track my food intake, a pleasant surprise as I have struggled with this on popular lifestyle plans. Logging my daily water intake was useful, I’ve not done this before, but had my eight glasses once I got used to checking in throughout the day.

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The guided exercise videos made exercising at home easy, no excuses when you can log in and dive straight into a session, and they were so easy to follow that they quickly formed part of my evening routine!

I’m totally converted to tracking now, and would definately explore the other plans on offer when I finish up with Slim and Trim, I’m happy with the results and enjoying being a bit more mindful about how I eat, rest and move!

If you’d like to try the Slim and Trim programme I have a 12 week subscription to give away, just follow the Rafflecopter instructions to be in with a chance of winning! The winner will get a Kiqplan pack worth £19.99 (you will need your own fitness tracking device as listed here, the prize is the code to access the app) – Terms and Conditions Apply

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received these review products to trial Kiqplan for 12 weeks, I will blog my progress and all views are my own

Wide Eyed Books: Nature’s Day

Wide Eyed Editions publish non-fiction books for children. Nature’s Day is the first Wide Eyed book I’ve seen, but it won’t be the last, it’s perfect for curious little minds and I was blown away by the attention to detail; from cover to cover it’s packed with facts and brilliantly detailed illustrations – some new creatures to learn (look at the gorgeous heron!) and lots of well known ones to shout out too! J is just 3 but she has been enjoying a longer storytime for a while now, so introducing non-fiction books adds interest and opportunities to dip into learning too.

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Regular readers will know we are a family of nature lovers, Nature’s Day takes us not only through the seasons in the country, but in our homes and streets too, it really brings the great outdoors to life, and talks about bringing outdoors in too. Spring is a firm favourite in this house, I love the speckled egg!

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There’s so much to look at and talk about on each page, J has always loved poring over books that give the opportunity to spot small details, so shouting out the characters on the cover was a fun start to the book! The chickens were a firm favourite, so expressive!

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The cursive writing gives a nice touch, I think it makes this stand out as being a bit different, whilst this may be difficult for young readers it’s lovely for a book to be shared with a grown up; the hardback book and paper quality would make this a really special gift for a small nature lover!

Disclosure: I received this book from Wide Eyed Books for review purposes, all views are my own

Inkly Moments

During National Stationery Week we reviewed the Inkly cards service. Inkly recently added a new, free, feature to their app, called Inkly Moments, that is adding a little extra to my photos right now!

In the app you can upload a photo, add filters, text and choose from a wide range of stickers uniquely designed by Inkly to add a special touch to your photos, the fonts on offer are brilliant! Here’s one I screenshotted before uploading to Instagram with #inklymoments

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Helpfully categorised into a wide range of topics such as ‘weddings’, ‘pets’ ‘birthdays’ and ‘baby and bump’ it’s quick and easy to find just the right sticker; you can then easily share your ‘Moment’ across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (or you can just save it to your mobile device).

I quite like those Instragram pics with text overlayed, you know the ones I mean? With inspirational words and quotes – it’s easy to do with Inkly Moments – here’s a Birthday one I sent to a special friend this week, when I saw this poppy and photographed it I thought of her, so it makes a great birthday sticker!

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What will you create when you have your own Inkly Moment?

Disclaimer: I reviewed the free Inkly app Moments feature in exchange for Inkly card printing credits, all views are my own

Organic July Roundup

Welcome to July’s organic/health roundup! I have had the pleasure of reviewing some real treats this month!

First up I’ve been cooking up a storm in the kitchen thanks to Clearspring’s superb range of organic and vegan ingredients. Browsing their site was a breath of fresh air, authentic Japanese and European ingredients and best of all products that I’ve struggled to source elsewhere like the jars of azuki beans and unsweetened baked beans! I reviewed a selection of their products and am really impressed with the quality, the brown rice noodles are a big hit with our family (recipe and photos coming up later this month) and the miso paste was the best I’ve tried! I urge you to take a look at the huge range on offer, especially if you’re in need of ‘free-from’ produce!

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Next up was new to the UK Grahams Skincare; Oz’s best selling natural skincare range for eczema and sensitive skin. I loved the gloriously sunny packaging, what’s on the inside is great too; the shampoo soothed my itchy scalp and I loved the herbal scent, I found it to be a moisturising but non-oily shampoo which left a lovely fresh scent throughout the day, I generally prefer a ‘clear’ rather than cloudy shampoo and this gives a great wash. The calendulis plus cream is a nourishing all-round moisturiser, a slightly thick consistency with a pleasant smell the cream sinks into the skin really easily and left my skin soft and comforted throughout the day, a great cream to get your skin ready for summer after the drying winter!

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A little bit of luxury came into our lives this month courtesy of the beautiful Little Butterfly range of baby / children’s organic certified skincare as seen in Vogue and Elle magazines. I fell in love with the dreamy packaging, softly scented products and essential oil notes that evoked wonderful memories of baby massage and snuggly baby cuddles! These products would clearly make a wonderful gift to a mother to be or newborn; they’re everything I look for in a baby gift with great attention to detail, the duck egg blue bottle tops and gorgeous product names (floating on clouds! – so evocative) are a case in point! I absolutely adore the soft cucumber and nourishing buttermilk additions to these products, somehow they conjour up the smell of a new baby too, just divine in every possible way!

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Always on the lookout for new sources of organic clothing I was really interested to explore tinyleaf - small, local (Midlands based) and with a great ethos – 100% organic babywear with 100% water based inks and recycled cardboard gift tag even the packaging the products are sent out in is carefully thought through – 100% recycled bags keep your products wrapped up whilst inside the bag 100% recycled tissue papers and PVC free stickers mean there are no heavy pollutants or chemical toxins given off when incinerated. As you know I don’t have a tot small enough to fit into this super sweet cow print jumpsuit baby gro anymore but I wanted to see the quality of the cotton; they are supersoft and warm and the quality of the print work is brilliant, how fun is this cow design too! I really like the unisex prints; if you’re looking for a new baby gift that’s funky and eco-friendly this is for you!

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Back to skincare now with some great hair and facemasks, no photos of me wearing them (you don’t need to see that!) from the company formerly known as Montagne Jeunesse – now 7th Heaven. I used to spend my pocket money on these masks as a teen so I’m glad to see them going strong; with the addition of some vegan friendly and organic masks to the range this really appeals. The products I tried formed the basis for a perfect home spa evening, something I highly recommend, the coffee cocoa mud both smelled amazing and left my skin feeling reinvigorated!

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Last but not least something new on my radar in the form of Peau Naturelle‘s Organic anti blemish facial oil – organic teatree and lavender oils make this a relaxing treat for the skin and my stress breakout was lessened and soothed by the light blend of oils, just a few drops gives a smooth coverage and amazing scent – the oil is the brand’s flagship and at a great price (£9.99) this is definitely one to watch! (available to buy here)
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That’s all for this time folks – over to you – have you tried anything new that I might like to check out?

Trespass Jada Ladies Waterproof Jacket Review

Why does it always rain on me?

I’m no stranger to the great outdoors; as you know we live in the rainy North in the land of the Fog on the Tyne and we don’t have a car so I’m reliant on decent outdoor gear to see us through the seasons. There’s nothing like waiting for a bus in the pouring rain after a long day at work, or worse still first thing in the morning seeing me spend the day soggy and miserable!

Trespass Jada Ladies Waterproof Jacket Review – The practicalities

My trusty red rain jacket is bright and fun but it doesn’t really cut the mustard as a waterproof. Being offered the chance to select a better jacket from the range on offer at Trespass was pretty much my ideal review opportunity! The women’s Jada waterproof jacket is ideal for those who need a decent jacket that looks good but goes the extra mile in terms of waterproofing. Coated with Trespass’ specially formulated Tres-Tex membrane it’s waterproof to an impressive 15000mm with taped seams, and that big number with all the zeros is the reason I chose it! I’ve worn it out all this week in the inclement weather and stayed warm and dry in comfort.

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Style and substance

I like to run in the rain so was pleased to see that the Jada has underarm ventilation zips which allows fresh air to circulate; it has a high breathability rating to boot and I like the slim fit and fab decent sized hood (this probably sounds odd, why would it not have a good hood?! Maybe I’ve always just bought crap raincoats but the hoods are always really small in them!)

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One of my favourite walks is down by the Farm and through the woods near us so the Jada rain jacket got a really good testing this week as we were out for a good couple of hours in the rain and the jacket really stood up to the weather, I was dry and happy which is more than I can say when I wear my usual jacket!

I have to say the best thing about the jacket after all the practicalities is that it fits a tall girl like me without me having to buy a bigger size (this is a medium and I am a size 12) – I can never understand why a waterproof would have short arms and it’s long been a frustration of mine that my red raincoat sleeves are at half mast so I get wet cuffs! Even better these have a handy pocket in the left sleeve to keep small essentials dry and close to hand.

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The Jada is currently retailing at £46.99 which is more than half price and makes this a bargain super waterproof!

Disclaimer: I received this review product as a complementary product, all views and opinions are my own

Family Fever

Mindfulness and Meadows

Having started working full time again I started doing two things that have been mutually supportive, firstly following the Marie Kondo prescription for removing unwanted and unnecessary ‘stuff’ from my life, and secondly practicing mindfulness with a greater focus recently; something I first explored with a CBT therapist when in recovery from postnatal depression I have gradually become more ‘practiced’ at meditation and managing my anxiety and depression with regular sessions. I decided to buy the Headspace app with extras in May, the free guided meditations are brilliant by the way, I just really like the extended app; a favourite is the guided meditation for going out walking, it focuses on movement, flow and really paying attention to how your body feels as you stroll.

I often take my lunchbreak now as an opportunity to walk, tune into the meditation and tune out getting some headspace and appreciating the world around me, I highly recommend taking just ten minutes a day to form a habit around this, whether sitting still or moving once you’ve been practicing for a while. Where better to work than from home in this respect?! All of these photos were taken on my travels during May and June and they are as sunny and joyful as my steadily improving mood! Taking in meadows, cycle paths and just relaxing in our ‘yarden’ I have started to really pay attention to my surroundings and notice my thoughts, paying them a little attention and then letting them go. I find I feel like a more relaxed parent to, if I am playing with J or enjoying her company and my thoughts drift I am much more adept at bringing myself back to just be present in the moment; if you’d told me I could live like this two years ago I would never have believed you, caught up in frantic thinking and worries!

I’m not going to write more, instead I just want to take some time to appreciate the photos and continue my mindfulness journey, if you’d like to know more, or have any thoughts on meditation and mindfulness I would love to hear from you!

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Beachcomber Finds at Seaham

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Late last Summer we spent a week on the beach at Druridge Bay and logged our beachcomber finds - now I’m back with a part two, having spent the day at Seaham Harbour, famed for its seaglass.

Until the early 1920s Seaham was the location of the largest glass bottle-works in Britain and the waste glass from the factories was dumped into the sea, time and tide has transformed the waste shards into polished beads and people head down to the Harbour to collect the End of Day sea glass.

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The beach is beautiful with great rockpools too. We started a tradition when she was tiny to always make a ‘family circle’ with our footprints whenever we visit a beach, and then Joss sits in the middle for a photo!

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We are sea glass novices, although I ended the day with a keener eye, but we managed to gather a small handful of gifts from the sea.

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Now to think about a part two on displaying our finds!

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And finally we rounded off our walk with a visit to see ‘Tommy’ the WW1 sculpture installed last year, these photos don’t need any words

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Plant Gang!

How is it the end of May already?!

I have been working through the Marie Kondo Life Changing Magic of Tidying for a month now and it has really brought to the fore how much my beloved plants ‘spark joy’ for me. This month’s Urban Jungle Blogger challenge is to show of a plant gang, I introduced a new member to the gang today, a ceropegia woodii with gorgeous variegated leaves, I just need a hanging pot for her and she will be good to go!

So here is my current plant gang, with a guest appearance from our new girl!

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