This is me

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m itching to get my blogging mojo back.

To get me back in the mood, I thought I’d take a trawl through old posts and remind myself of the reason why I started this thing in the first place – to keep memories for my children.

So, without further ado – some of (what I like to think of as) my best posts:

I joined the Siblings linky for a couple of years – one of the most poignant for me was the post just before I returned to work after my second maternity leave in November 2014

I wrote a poem to each of my boys. Elliot’s was on his first birthday,  and Alexander’s was earlier, within a few weeks of his arrival during those early days of settling in to life with a baby – I tried to capture the wonder and awe of that precious time, now 3 years ago!

Speaking of three year olds, I also came across a warning to my future self regarding the joys(?) of parenting at this age. This was particularly interesting as Alexander turned three in December. Will have to bear this in mind.

I attempted to get better at photography after splashing out on a Nikon D3200 a couple of years ago, which resulted in some improvements in photos around here. Having said that I still like my iPhone for on-the-fly photos (and because I’m never actually that good at remembering to take the Nikon out!) My iPhone has captured some pretty lovely shots of my two in the past.

I have also used this little spot on the internet to keep hold of some recipes we’ve tried and loved, and ones which have been passed down through family. My all time favourite will always be my Grandmother’s gingerbread. It’s always a hit around here!

I’ve loved looking through my old posts. The boys are now 6 and 3, as of last month (yes two children born three years and three days apart, in December. #badplanning) so we’ve already missed quite a bit.

photo-nov2016

My task now is to find that tricky balance in parenting and working to enable more time for writing…I’ll aim to share monthly updates on our family life at the very least, hopefully more. I’m excited to start filling in the gaps and documenting our adventures. Parenting these two is lots of fun!

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Holidays with toddlers & babies – top tips from a survivor!

We’re just back from a week away with our little family, our first holiday with both boys, and despite my fears of being cooped up in a mobile home with a rampaging three year old and a teething newborn while it rained apocalyptic rains outside, we had a really fantastic time!

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I thought I’d share some top tips for UK based holidays with little ones. These are things we adopted last week and tips that, I think, make holidays more fun for everyone and a whole lot less stressful.

1 – Pack toys that they’re familiar with, and some new ones
We got a new Thomas sticker book which went down well, and filled in the time waiting for everyone to get up in the morning, or when we were packing up the car to go out. We also indulged Elliot with some new books to make bedtimes fun.

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2 – Save time by planning dinners before you go
I spent a few minutes photographing recipes on my iPad and packing little pots of any spices etc we needed in little tubs so we didn’t have to spend time and money buying five spice, soy sauce or tomato paste while we were away. I also made a huge shopping list of everything else which meant we just had to do one huge shop on day one and didn’t have the repetitive conversations of “what shall we eat today?” throughout the holiday. We chose recipes that were fairly quick and easy – a Jamie Oliver chicken tray bake, some lamb koftes from the Organix website, a salad, and a speedy chicken noodle recipe (also from Jamie)
These were all things we knew Elliot would eat too, so it made it really easy to have yummy family dinners all cooked from scratch.

3 – Holiday baking
One of Elliot’s favourite thing to do is to make biscuits, and i thought they’d make a great treat addition to the daily picnics we had planned. I found the simplest recipe ever online which basically is a simple shortbread (flour, butter, sugar). We didn’t want to buy bags of flour and only use part of it, so again I got out my trusty Tupperware and weighed out everything we needed before we set off, and packed a couple of cookie cutters from home.

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4 – Sandwich cutters make picnics fun!
Daily picnics (or car-nics, in the rain…) can get a bit boring so I tucked out little dinosaur sandwich cutter in when packing and the sandwiches disappeared quicker than quick, accompanied by the occasional “RRRRROAR!”

5 – Plan activities to match child’s age & interests, but don’t be afraid to throw a curveball in there too
We went at Elliot’s pace mostly, and ensured that we spent time driving when the baby didn’t need a feed, which lowered our potential stress levels! We spent time on beaches and in swimming pools (bring a noodle float, baby float/ring thing as appropriate!) and we also spent time chilling out back at the ranch and doing short walks. BUT we weren’t afraid to push boundaries, and it really paid off – Elliot screamed blue murder being strapped into a bike seat, but absolutely LOVED it “Mummy, I love this bike!”

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6 – Have “best thing about today” conversations at the end of each day
If your child is anything like mine, if you ask them what they’ve done at the end of the day, or return home from nursery/school, the answer you’ll normally get is “I don’t know” or “nothing”
I read a tip some weeks ago that I’ve been using on and off with Elliot, and we did this each and every day while on holiday, asking him what his best bit of the day was, and then sharing ours. It allows them to search through their day and find a moment that made them happy. We got some surprise answers and it really helped us plan for the next day – for example one day his favourite thing was the short walk in the woods near the mobile home that we did while dinner was cooking. Literally 15 minutes, but that was his best thing, so it helped us decide to do a longer walk later in the week.
Elliot loved these conversations and was very good at reminding us to do it as we tucked him up in bed.

7 – Keep notes of what you do each day
In a similar vein to number 6 above, I think it’s a great idea to keep a little note of what you’ve done each day. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just notes on your phone or on the back of an envelope will do. Remember holidays with little ones are all about making memories, for you as well as for them!

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Reasons to be happy

Reasons to be happy

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Today is International Day of Happiness, so I’d like to list the many reasons that currently make me happy.

1. My husband regularly getting up at silly o’clock and sorting out Elliot so that Alexander and I get more sleep. Thanks love.

2. Elliot’s current love of giving everyone cuddles, we all got great big cuddles first thing this morning as “cuddles are very nice to do”

3. Alexander finding his thumb (and therefore sleeping longer at night!) Yippee!

4. Elliot being really adventurous at a soft play centre with me yesterday, when he’s normally quite cautious at these sort of places. (Yes, I single handedly took two children to a soft play area and not only did we survive to tell the tale, we actually all had a really good time. It was fab to spend some one on one time with Elliot while Alexander slept! It also made me feel like supermum!)

5. Hot cross buns with butter and a hot cup of tea!

6. Ignoring the forecast of more cold and wet weather to come, I’ve loved the bright sunny weather we’ve had over the past few days. Spring is here people!

8. Pink tulips against the green wall in our living room. Love love love.

9. Maternity leave – not having to think about work for another 6 months is brilliant 🙂

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To keep up to date with Letters to Elliot, why not follow me on Bloglovin and Twitter @elliotandme

January…

January…

Number of books read: 3 and a bit (am struggling to get into The Book Thief right now)

Number of glasses of wine drank: Only 6 (two separate occasions – not bad I think)

Number of yoga sessions done: 4 (room for improvement..)

Number of runs completed: 0 (oops!)

Number of snowmen built: 2 (and Daddy built a mini one in the garden too!)

Number of new crafts learnt: 2 – crocheting and making macarons (more on this to follow!)

Not bad for month one of 2013. Here are some of the highlights in photo form:

Hug a penguin

Penguins are nice to hug

Why ride a scooter when you've got a Mummy to push it along?

Why ride a scooter when you’ve got a Mummy to push it along?

Snowman

Admiration of the snowman

Haircut

Haircut a la Mummy!

The Book List 2013

Dear Elliot,

One of my favourite things at the moment is how much you love books. You can happily sit and amuse yourself looking at books on your own, and can tell us the titles of most of the Thomas books we own (quite a few!)

Elliot reading

I, on the other hand, have done less reading in the past two years than at any point in my life. Funnily enough, I don’t class repeated “I have this little sister, Lola..” or “Thomas was a Really Useful Engine” as particularly stretching literature at the age of 32.

Thankfully your grandparents came up with a brilliant idea to get me back into my reading habit and I’m now the proud owner of a Kindle. This means I now need a book list.

Looking on several lists that other like-minded bloggers have created  (see the lovely Aimee over at More than Toast who is an inspiration in herself) and those compiled by the powers that be dictating the “Top 100 books to read before you die”, I’ve come up with a slightly shorter list for myself, but would love recommendations to add to it (I’m already a book and a half down don’t you know!)

  1. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  2. The Illiad – Homer (and The Odyssey)
  3. Enders Game – Orson Scott Card
  4. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
  5. Ghost World – Daniel Claves
  6. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
  7. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
  8. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  9. Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace
  10. To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf
  11. The Island – Victoria Hislop
  12. When God was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman
  13. The Outcast – Sadie Jones
  14. The Man in the Picture – Susan Hill
  15. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Schaffer + Anne Barrows
  16. The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch
  17. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
  18. Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffenegger
  19. Hangover Square – Patrick Hamilton
  20. The Book Thief – Marcus Zusac
  21. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
  22. When You Reach Me – Rebecca Stead
  23. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  24. A Million Little Pieces – James Frey
  25. Enduring Love – Ian McEwan
  26. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
  27. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
  28. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
  29. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
  30. The Glass Castle – Jeanette Walls
  31. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  32. The Women’s Room – Marilyn French
  33. Love Virtually – Daniel Glattauer
  34. The Other Half of Me – Morgan McCarthy
  35. Catching the Sun – Tony Parsons
  36. Delirium – Lauren Oliver
  37. Miracle on Regent Street – Ali Harris 
  38. The Distant Hours  – Kate Morton
  39. Sister – Rosamund Lupton
  40. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – Yasutaka Tsutsui
  41. Saturday – Ian McEwen
  42. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
  43. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
  44. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
  45. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne
  46. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  47. Small Island – Andrea Levy
  48. A Ladies Paradise – Emile Zola (in French?)
  49. My Dear, I Wanted To Tell You – Louisa Young
  50. The Wierd Sisters – Eleanor Brown
  51. The Master – Colm Toibin
  52. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

So that’s one per week of 2013 which is highly unlikely to be accomplished, but we can but try. I’ve tried to get a big variety of styles and authors in there whilst also including some books which quite frankly have been on my “to be read” shelves long enough I just need to get on with it.

And, Elliot, don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll find plenty of time to introduce you to the wonderful worlds within lots of books this year. It really won’t be long before you’re reading all on your own. I can’t wait!