Thursday, 8 January 2015

Happy 15 Months!

I almost forgot to write this update as we all seem to be a bit poorly at the moment! Emilia and I have a terrible flu bug and Elsie had an operation at the beginning of the week so she's currently recovering too.... Ben seems to be the only one to have escaped any illness so far!

Emilia turns 15 months old today. She's had a super fun month which has included Christmas celebrations, plenty of birthday parties, lots of cake and heaps of new toys to play with! We've had a very cuddly month, I love that she's so very affectionate with everyone she meets. Her cuddles and kisses are just the best!

Here's a little update on some of the main things during the past few weeks....

Sleep - Still good! We're still aiming for a 7:30pm bedtime though most nights she won't actually drop off until after 8pm and then *fingers crossed* she'll usually sleep until around 6am. 
We've always read her a story just before she goes to sleep and recently she's started showing interest in the books we're reading her. She's now taken to standing up in her cot and pointing at the pictures on the pages. It's very cute although I think she might be sneakily trying to make our bedtime routine just that little bit longer! 
This month we have also introduced a pillow to her cot bed as we were finding she was resting her head most nights on a teddy or a blanket. We opted for the Ikea Len as it has pretty good reviews and is quite flat so it's the perfect starter pillow! So far she really loves it and she moves around the cot a lot less now during the night. We also purchased the matching duvet though she's yet to use that as she still likes her sleeping bag.

Doing - Walking like a pro! Walking seems to be her favourite thing at the moment and she's keen to practice constantly. At home she'll carry her toys from one room to another and when we are out she's off as soon as her feet touch the floor. She's very active, I'm looking forwards to the weather being a bit better so we can spend more time outside!
She received many toys for Christmas and she loves anything that involves posting, stacking or sorting. Her new play tent is also a firm favourite and she'll often take a pile of toys in there and hide from us haha!

Saying - Cat, pudding (or "'DING!"), hi, bye. She's also starting to visibly understand us such as if we ask "shall we go upstairs and fill the bath?" she'll go and climb up the stairs to the bathroom..... it's pretty awesome!

Eating - Emilia has been teething a lot this month which has really affected her appetite. Some days she'll just want milk and other days she'll eat like crazy! The good news is she'll try almost anything, even if she doesn't then like it. This month she has really enjoyed sweetcorn, peas, porridge, crumpets with nutella, couscous, chips, bolognese, bananas and blueberries.

Likes - tummy tickles, hiding in her play tent, walking, going to cafes, exploring in the garden and being outside, trying to dress herself, cuddling and kissing everyone (including the dog!), pressing buttons, watching Sofia the First, bath time, emptying all the toys from her toy basket and empyting drawers/cupboards. 

Dislikes - Again, Emilia has been very good this month.... nappy changing, teeth brushing and being dressed are a lot better! We're still having problems with going to shops or being told 'no'. She's mastered the art of throwing herself on the floor and screaming if we tell her not to feed the dog mince pies or not to step into the road. I guess she's developing that little personality and trying to work out where the boundaries are!

Happy 15 months, my princess!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas in Finland

If I had to draw up a list of countries that i'd like to visit soon then Finland would be pretty much at the top of that list. Finland is the land of seemingly endless forests and lakes, vibrant cities, home of Moomin World (yes, this does exist!) and one of the best places to see the northern lights. It’s also home to some of my all time favourite bands (think HIM, Apocalyptica, The 69 Eyes.... and many, many more!).

As we’re well and truly in the run up to Christmas now, ICE International Currency Exchange recently tasked me to put together a Christmas bundle to highlight the difference in other cultures when it comes to Christmas celebration. 
Everyone knows that Santa Claus comes from Finland and I’d absolutely love to visit this at this time of year so I think that it is the perfect country to write about!

There's no denying it, Finland during the festive season sounds just wonderful! Putting together this bundle was a real blast and I've enjoyed learning about some of the wonderful traditions in Finland at this time of year. I'll share some of these interspersed with some snaps of the things I gathered for my 'Christmas bundle'. Here goes....

I chose to host a mini 'Finnish feast' for my family using snacks, drinks and decorations that evoke a sense of Finland at Christmas time. Details of where I purchased everything can be found at the bottom of this post!

During the festive period, people in Finland like to take things slow and enjoy the company of their loved ones. The family home is important at Christmas time, as is nature and the surrounding natural atmosphere. Nobody is left out, including animals who are invited to join in with the festivities with farmers hanging out a sheaf of wheat to be eaten by birds as well as nuts and suet hung on tree branches.

I made sure that our garden birds had plenty of yummy treats too, stocking up on everything from seed to suet balls and feeders!

During the run up to Christmas, you'll find the festival of St Lucia which takes place every December 13th. The festival marks the beginning of the Christmas season and is meant to bring hope and light to all during the darkest time of the year.
The festival is celebrated mostly by the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland and involves a young girl wearing a crown of candles followed by a procession of girls who each carry a single candle. Here's a video of the celebration I found on youtube (it looks magical!)....

I bought this beautiful red horse candle ring from Chalet in Bakewell. The ring of candles reminded me of the festival of St Lucia and made a stunning little centerpiece on our dining table during our feast. The winter decorations and candles are interchangeable and so can easily be changed when spring comes around!

As with many countries including here in the UK, food plays a central role in the Christmas celebrations. The favoured dish for most is ham or a pork roast which is usually served with a variety of fish, casseroles and salads. Sweet pastries, cakes, biscuits and chocolates are enjoyed and rice pudding is also highlighted as a traditional and authentic Christmas food in Finland. There is a really cute tradition for a single almond to be hidden in the pudding and whoever finds it will have good luck for the year ahead!

Baked rice pudding with a sprinkle of cinnamon and golden stars, yum!

In terms of drinks, traditional glögi (spiced wine sprinkled with almonds, raisins and a dash of vodka!) is served to welcome visitors across homes, parties and markets.

Of course, Santa Claus comes from the north part of Finland (Korvatunturi, Lapland!) so he doesn't have to travel far with his reindeer to deliver his presents. In fact, he's so close by, people get their gifts a day early!
For some, Santa Claus is still known as Joulupukki which literally translates as 'Christmas goat' and this refers to the tale of a naughty goat who liked to ask for presents but never gave any out! Throughout time the goat eventually became the gift giver and Santa then took over the gift giving duties.

This reindeer decoration came in a do-it-yourself kit which was 100% made in Finland. I love how the kit is flat, super light and easy to send..... they would be an amazing gift to send through the post! For me, reindeer and Santa Claus are synonymous with Finland at this time of year.

Christmas eve seems to be the 'main event' in Finland and this is when families spend time together, decorating their trees, drinking glögi, relaxing and (this is my favourite!) bathing in a Christmas sauna. How lovely! I think we could do with a bit of sauna action here in the UK too!

As the sun sets so early in Finland, you'll see lots of magical ice lanterns lit up outside which i'm sure must be amazing to see in the cold wintry darkness. There is also a tradition for people to journey to cemeteries to leave candles on the graves of loved ones to remember them by at this time of year.

I adore this little decoration, the trees and reindeer remind me of Finland and I love the use of natural materials.

Here's a list of everything I gathered for my Finland Christmas bundle (apart from the food which disappeared very quickly before I had chance to photograph it!) and the shops I got them from....

Black and white Moomin plates - Artbox
Lovi do-it-yourself wooden reindeer figure decoration - Lovi
Wooden reindeer/forest Christmas decoration - Chalet Home in Bakewell
Christmas Moomin tin mug - Chalet Home in Bakewell
Red Horse candle ring and decorations - Chalet Home in Bakewell
Moomin tea towel - Ekelund Weavers via Chalet Home in Bakewell
/Assorted wild bird food and feeders - Bakewell Pet Supplies
Sheaf of wheat - scologic on eBay
Santa Claus tree/table decoration - Wilkinsons
Food and mulled wine - Aldi

Have you ever spent Christmas in another country? Or if not, where would you choose if you did?

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A Christmas fit for a Pug

You may remember that Elsie was super prepared for Christmas and wrote her letter to Santa way back in October. She must have been on his list of well behaved doggies because recently she received this wonderful parcel of goodies courtesy of Pets at Home....

Elsie was overjoyed with everything (there was an awful lot of sniffing of the box it all came in!) though I think her favourite item is the Christmas pudding costume as it is made from super soft fleece which keeps her nice and warm at home. 
She's not worn the outfit out yet but we are anticipating that she'll get loads of fuss from everyone she meets..... it is just so ridiculously cute!

We've bundled up everything else ready for the big day but until then, she's enjoying having an advent calendar 'chocolate' every morning with her breakfast! 

Thanks Pets at Home!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Winter Days

We've had almost a month of nasty chest infections and colds in our house and it's left us all with little energy. We've not been getting out much or as far as we'd normally like to but we are so blessed to have wonderful places nearby to get a bit of fresh air and walk the dog.

This was probably the first time I remembered to pack my camera in weeks. I wanted to share how lovely and peaceful the Longshaw Estate is at this time of year, even on the most grey and drizzly day. I'll be honest, if it isn't too cold then this is absolutely my favourite kind of weather..... I know that i'm in the minority though!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Happy 14 Months!

Today Emilia turned 14 months old and what a month it has been! From illness to new teeth and taking those magical first steps all by herself, we've had a bit of everything! She's really very much a little girl now, absolutely into everything and very sociable towards everyone she meets. 
Much to my delight, she's slowly becoming rather fond of cuddles too and I love nothing more than when she takes those wobbly steps towards me with her arms open wide ready for me to pick her up! 

*all photos taken with my phone as I've not had the camera handy this month, oops!

Here's a little update on some of the main things during the past few weeks....

Sleep - Night time sleep continues to be generally very good! She had her first proper cold a few weeks ago (I'm amazed she made it to 13.5 months before getting a proper one!) which really affected her sleep but she soon settled back into her routine once it had cleared up. Obviously it was our first experience of a cold in a baby but we found that raising her cot by sticking a few sturdy books under one end really helped and we also used the Calpol Vapour Plug for about 7 nights which was amazing at soothing her and clearing her nose. 
Currently we start her bedtime routine about 6.45pm and aim for a bedtime around 7:30pm though most nights she won't actually drop off until around 8pm. She'll generally sleep until around at least 6.30am but we've had a few very early starts recently which have been quite hard, especially when it is so cold and dark!  

Naps are still all over the place but we're not too bothered about it. I'm sure she'll be dropping the morning nap for good pretty soon and we'll settle into a new routine again.

Doing - Emilia took those wobbly yet completely magical first steps all on her own this month and she's not stopped since! She's so happy to finally have mastered it and doesn't stop smiling when she's showing off her new skill. She's doing so well and she just loves to be outside, waving to everyone she meets and practising walking as much as possible!
At home she loves her books and snuggles with mummy or daddy. She also loves playing with Elsie and feeding her treats. She's a very active little girl and loves a bit of soft play too so I'll often take all the cushions off the sofa for her to climb on or let her play on our bed! In addition to this she loves climbing stairs, hiding in things or crawling under things. We often play peekaboo as she finds it hilarious if she thinks I can't see her! I've had to rescue her a couple of times from underneath our bed though after she's crawled under and can't work out how to get out!

Saying - Emilia is incredibly vocal and loves saying "hi!" to everyone she meets. This month she has started saying "ta" for thanks when we pass her things, very cute! Her little voice is so precious and she's very keen to communicate with us constantly.

Eating - Still on three milk feeds a day and we're yet to find a beaker that she will properly drink out of so she still has her milk in a bottle. She absolutely loves her milk but we think the amount she has is starting to affect how much she'll eat throughout the day. She'll often pick at meals now and is very fussy about what she will eat. Pasta, some meats and fruit are no problem but we'll keep trying new things and definitely reduce her milk intake over the next few weeks! 
Emilia loves using cutlery and is getting very good at using a fork and spoon. Yogurt is her favourite and mealtimes can be quite messy because even though she's good at picking things up, we're not yet at the stage of food always going in to her mouth! Great fun though!

Likes - Tummy tickles, cuddles, doing forward roly polys, watching Sofia the First, going to the park, seeing and stroking animals (especially dogs!), walking, playing with empty bottles in the bath, exploring in the garden, sorting things into piles and stacking them into towers, hiding, crawling underneath things, pressing buttons, chasing the dog, pretending to answer the phone, walking outside and going to new places!

Dislikes - Emilia has been generally very good this month and we've had massive progress with nappy changing, dressing and teeth brushing! However, we still have massive problems going into shops, supermarkets, the post office, or inside any building. I generally try and avoid having to do it at the moment (good on the bank balance I guess if there's an upside to this!) as it makes me very anxious when she has a complete and utter meltdown as soon as you step inside anywhere.
As with all other things we try and handle it well and believe that this too is a phase that will pass. My goodness, I really hope it is soon though!

Happy 14 months, my princess! 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Super Nice Hair on a Super Small Budget....

I'll admit that I'm no stranger to popping into Boots for one thing and coming out with a huge bag of assorted cosmetics and hair products! As 2014 has been the year of cutting back on our spending however, these impulse shopping trips have becoming a thing of the past and instead I have been thinking about the products I use and looking for cheaper alternatives. 

I've never been faithful to any product or brand when it comes to hair. My natural hair is some crazy curly/wavy phenomenon (think Brian May!) and it needs an awful lot of taming to look acceptable. 
I think I've pretty much nailed the hair routine now with the help of a select few products, so much so that sometimes I can just blow dry my hair and leave the straighteners alone. I wanted to share these products with you today as I've been so impressed with them. 

Budget products can be amazing too, who knew?!

1. Essential Waitrose shampoo & conditioner - £1.10 each. 
My husband picked these up for me recently and I was dubious as cheap shampoo and conditioner can be really quite dreadful but no, these are really super fantastic! No fuss, nice smell and don't weigh my hair down. Lovely!

2. Superdrug Style Expertise straightening spray - £2.99
Semi-permanent spray for straightening curly hair with built in heat protection and wheat protein. This is definitely a product that I can't live without now, it's a little bit of magic! Simply spritz about 10-15 times over damp or wet hair and then proceed to blow dry and straighten. It's super easy to use, has a really nice spray cap allowing even distribution and a bottle of this lasts absolutely ages! 

3. Fudge "Instant Smoothie"
I know this (and the product below) are not really classed as "budget" purchases as full price they can set you back about £8. However, Poundland and Bargain Buys have been stocking Fudge Urban products recently, so it's really worth stocking up if you see any in your local store!
Instant Smoothie is quite the wonder product, use this after you have finished drying and straightening your hair and simply brush through to achieve sleek locks in an instant. This product smells amazing and really does what it claims to without weighing down your hair or making it greasy.

4. Fudge "3 in 1 Miracle Moisture Stuff" with Argan Oil.
Again, pick this up from your local Poundland or Bargain Buys if you see it! A fantastic little multi purpose product enriched with the revolutionary dry Argan Oil. You can use this product in multiple ways by either using before you blow dry to protect and condition, applying to dry hair to defrizz and seal dry ends or using post straightening to leave hair smooth and straight. I tend to use it for the latter as I find that is what works best for me. 

5. Bleach "Beach Lights" Balayage Hair Kit - £7.00 from Boots
I'm no stranger to DIY hair dyes and i'm a massive fan of Bleach products. The last one I used was this kit and I was really pleased with the results, so much so that I've not actually dyed my hair for quite a few months now. The instructions are super easy to follow (though there are heaps of tutorials on youtube!) and included in the pack is a balayage board, helping you get professional looking results without a hefty salon price tag!

6. Salon Performance Thinning Shears - £8.29 from Boots
As mentioned in a previous post, I've started trimming my own hair recently. Obviously when I want layers cutting in or a restyle I'll be going to the hairdressers but this is a really nice money saving way to maintain your hair in between visits.  If you're going to do this yourself then invest in a pair of scissors designed for cutting hair. I have super thick hair so these ones are ideal.
If you're not sure where to start then take a look on youtube where you'll find loads of easy to follow tutorials. If you're feeling daring, you might want to also try adding layers..... this is a great video to watch as you'll see how easily it can be done!

Are there any budget hair products that you can't live without? Let me know in a comment below!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Money Saving from September to November....

The past few months have been quietly productive for us. It's been nice. I'm not missing my old job and handing in my notice has given me chance to concentrate on our little family, exciting new projects and i'll be totally honest, it feels like a massive weight has finally been lifted. It's great!
It's been a little while since I last updated here on our little money saving mission so here is a pocket sized update of some of the things we have been up to during the last few months. Not much new but I hope you enjoy reading nonetheless!

Here we go....

The mortgage. Last time I updated we had just made a one-off payment of 10% of our outstanding mortgage balance which instantly bought our monthly repayments right down. Doing this made us quite enthusiastic about reducing our mortgage quickly so in September we made another 10% payment, bringing our payments down even further. Doing this feels amazing and means that we can whack the saved money straight into the savings ready to make another over-payment as soon as we can next year. Be gone, mortgage!

eBay. Selling on eBay is going really well and is really helping us not only in terms of making a bit of money but de-cluttering and evaluating what is really important in our home. Vintage items seem to be a real hit for me so this is something i'll continue throughout next year too as I still have plenty to get rid of!

Budgeting. This is something that both of us are hopeless at normally but for Christmas this year we've been prepared and bought most of our gifts early as December for us is the dreaded month of ALL THE BILLS. Car insurance, home bills.... argh, it all comes at once! Feeling kinda smug though that we're almost on top of gift buying already and we'll hopefully be able to spend next month mostly eating mince pies and watching Christmas movies! 

Beauty.  At the beginning of the year I decided that I would only purchase cosmetics and toiletries if I had run out and genuinely needed to get more (things like toothpaste, deodorant, etc!). This is going really well and it means i'm not popping into Lush to treat myself or spending hideous amounts on cosmetics! 
I boxed up all of our unopened toiletries so if we run out of anything, it's as easy as just picking out the next thing from the box to use up and we're concentrating on using one thing at a time. If I do need anything though, i'll look out for offers and stock up on my favourite products (cosmetics are often on 3 for 2 at Superdrug and Boots!). 

DIY haircuts. Yeah! The ultimate thrifty experience, right?! I'm trying to grow my hair anyway (Ariel-esque lengths would be nice but we shall see!) so instead of visiting the hairdressers for a trim I've been doing it myself. Considering the hairdressers I usually go to charges around £50 for this, i'm saving quite a few pennies! 

Sealed Tins. Finally, I filled my 5p sealed tin! Admittedly once I saw that it was near the top I did go to the bank and change a note so I could finish filling it but shh, don't tell anyone! 
Inside the 5p tin was £75.00 so a worthwhile task to do and we'll probably continue to have a few more tins on the go in the future. Filtering those annoying coins out of my purse is a great habit to get into and they soon add up!

Aldi. This year we discovered the joys of Aldi and now we make sure we use them for everything from fruit to nappies. I've never actually done a full grocery shop there (I don't think I could handle the stress of the checkouts!) but we generally use them for topping up fresh food and stuff that we know is way cheaper. Oh and their ridiculously cheap fake Milky Way bars are the best though I do find myself eating more than I should just because they are so cheap.... oops!

Not buying 'stuff'. And similarly, eating out less. Both of these are a complete revelation for me, I can't believe how much we are saving and how much our lives are changing for the better just by changing a few habits. Buying less and consuming less = saving more, less stress, less clutter, less tidying, more time and most importantly, learning (how to cook, for example!), increased happiness and better clarity.    

If you're interested in reading about what I did during past months you can read back through my previous posts by clicking here

If you are trying to save money for a special occasion or just cut back a bit please do let me know your top tips and how you're getting on!