Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Lang May Yer Lum Reek!

Every year, the same old story: New year, New Start.

Does it ever work?

I don't know.

I'm not sure I could even tell you what I resolved to change last year.

What I do know, is that I am significantly happier and I have taken more control of my life and I am very, very grateful for that.

We have accomplished a lot, and that's all you can ask.  Life is short and you should try and pack in as much as you possibly can with the time you have. Not to sound morbid or anything, but you never know when your time might come to an end.  There have been plenty examples of that this year.

So, what's the point of resolutions?

I think you have to see them as more of a self-assessment.

There's not much real point in saying you are going to do this, or you are going to do that - chances are it's not going to happen, and you are going to feel a lot less happy for it.

It's much better to assess what's already going on and try to take note - you might not follow up on any of it, but just a simple reflection is sometimes all you need to kick-start something awesome.

So here's my, well, not resolutions, but self-reflections.  I'm not promising to change, I'm not going to become super-human overnight.  But here's a note to myself.  A recognition of things I might not be all too happy with and an acknowledgement that there might be a better way to do things.

1. Try to see the positives instead of the negatives.

I am your classic glass-half-empty kind of gal.  It's a terrible affliction and more often than not leads to a lot more stress and strain than anything else in my life.  Nobody is harsher on me than I am.

I'm realising more and more with age that actually, in the grand scheme of things, what I do doesn't really matter.  I'm getting a lot more into the train of thought that I should do what makes me happy and I have stopped worrying about any so called 'consequences', which are, more often than not, completely dramatic and made up.

Trying to look at the light instead of the dark is easier said than done, especially if I'm feeling tired or stressed and overwhelmed, but one thing I have learned (especially through living with these crazy children) is that there's always something to laugh at and that we are in fact very lucky indeed.

2.  Eat better

I've tried a lot of new things this year, and it's been a real eye-opener for this fussy vegetarian.  I have a really funny palate and am completely adverse to some textures, so trying new things (and enjoying them) is always amazing to me.

Later nights and a smaller kitchen have led to me taking the easy route - pizza, snacks instead of meals, filling up on crisps.  I've never really eaten like that before.  I love to eat fresh and healthy, so I suppose I should make more of an effort to get back on track with this.  I suppose time has just become such a huge factor in this. Must try harder!

3. Stop worrying (so much) about the kids.

Okay, so this is never really going to happen, but what I can do is give them the benefit of the doubt more.  I can stop panicking that they are going to fall off walls, I can stop worrying so much about the impact moving house and school will have on them, and I can stop stressing about how they are going to cope with a new baby in the house.

I have two, very balanced, very happy wee guys who take most things in their stride, and as long as we continue giving them a solid base to work from, everything will be just grand!

4.  Stay open to new things (but know when enough is enough)

I'm quite good at this.  I love changing things up and trying new stuff.  I think I have to try and let go of my inner fear when it comes to some things though.  It's really tough to say yes to stuff when you are already pushed for time, etc. but one thing I have learned is that I should also learn when enough is enough. No point in ruining a great experience by getting too tired and stressed.

5. Take time to re-investigate what you love

I love gaming.  So I'm going to do more of that.  I need to read more books.  I NEED to use my sewing machine.

But I am ALWAYS making excuses.

No time, no energy, not enough fabric, too messy, too silly, too time-consuming, no good books.

Enough with the excuses!  I will be knitting, crocheting, reading, sewing, crafting and so much more this year, because that is what I love to do. And I miss it.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for reading this year and sharing this wee blogging journey with me.  It's made me laugh, been so good for reflecting and helped me close a few doors too.  It's also opened a lot of doors and I've made some lovely new friends to boot.

I'm really enjoying getting words down on page and sharing with you all.  It's something that's just for me, and I kinda need that.
I'm really looking forward to the new adventures 2015 will bring.


Lang May Yer Lum Reek!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

See you, Jimmy

We've all seen or heard of Elf on the Shelf? Right?

It's a pretty cutesy and magical thing to do with your kids.  Part of the lure of Christmas time for me is the crazy imaginative stuff that goes with it.

Santa's watching?  Best behaviour monitor ever.  You should see my youngest get a grip and behave himself when I mention those two very magical words; 'Santa's watching.'

I have had amazing shows of kindness, empathy and love from these kids because of Christmas - they make cards for Santa 'because Santa never gets any cards, mummy, and that's not fair!', they have thought very carefully about what people would like for Christmas, and they have also had a thought for other children who might not have so much, making sure we donate to foodbanks and baby banks.

I also love the challenge of creating magic for them - it goes from the mystery of what's behind the advent calendar door, to visiting Santa in his grotto, to helping them make special decorations for the tree which become keepsakes.  I really, really love it.

Elf on the Shelf has crept up in my newsfeed gradually every year, starting as a novelty thing one friend brought back from America one year, and now, suddenly, everyone is at it, my newsfeed filled with everyone's really funny and cheerful Elf on the Shelf antics.

It's the kind of thing that really grips me; the idea of making something every night for my kids to find in the morning.  The perfect mix of magic and naughtiness.  When I was wee, I sincerely believed that my toys had feelings and came alive at night, and I know my kids share the same healthy imagination, so I would have loved to have done it this year.

But yet again, it was just another thing that fell by the wayside as we budgeted for Christmas - an Elf on the Shelf, although awesome is a pricey piece of equipment.  I just couldn't justify that amount of money for a Christmas decoration, albeit a really cool memory-making one.

Turns out though, you don't need a real Elf on the Shelf to freak your kids out.  When your imagination is as wild as my boys', you can pretty much get away with magic thoughts alone.

And we have.

Introducing, Jimmy.

You can't see Jimmy.  He only comes when everyone is in bed, and he is really, really naughty.  Very silly indeed.  He plays tricks on everyone in the middle of the night.  He doesn't come every night either, only on the nights where me or Dave actually remember to do something silly.  So far, Jimmy has done various naughty things.

He wrapped toilet roll around the television.

He put pants on the Christmas tree (this one in particular got a lot of laughs).

He made the Lego alarm clocks hang by their bums from the top of the television (can you see where my children's focus is first thing in the morning?)

He left a crazy mess on the table.

He took apart Ethan's carefully constructed Mr Potato Heads.

He also gets blamed when things go wrong, which is actually working wonders for Ethan and his crazy tantrums.

For example, Ethan, at the moment, has a thing about wearing gloves when we go out.  Nobody else bothers, but he is very insistent.  The trouble is, he never takes them both off together or leaves them both in the same place, so more often than not, one always goes astray, which leads to all kinds of morning stresses and dilemmas.

Don't mess with the glubs!

The other morning, he found both of his mickey mouse mittens.  Brilliant - no drama!

How wrong I was.

They were a glove from each of the two sets we own; both were left handers.


'Mummy!  My glubs!  My glubs are not working!'

'Aw Ethan, you've got two the same, honey!'

And then, magically, without me doing a thing...

'Mummy, it must be Jimmy that did it!  Jimmy swapped my glubs! Jimmy!!!'

I still can't find that dratted other glove, but Ethan is very happy to turn the other upside down and wear them anyway, because Jimmy did it.

(I bought him new glubs for Christmas, don't worry!)

Tantrum avoided!

I might have taken the whole thing too far though, when I downloaded an app on my phone called Santa Spy Cam.  It lets you use the camera on your phone to superimpose animations of elves doing silly things, so it looks like they are in your house.  I made a few up; one of Jimmy peeking out of my wardrobe and going back in, one of Jimmy driving his car along the unit and disappearing into the TV, one of Jimmy dancing on my bed with my knees on it.  It looked really good.

The boys were quite amused, but admittedly, a lot more freaked out than I thought they would be.

Thomas refused to go through to the other room to get dressed without accompaniment.

Ethan kept asking if he would be going into his room, like he'd gone into mine.

It all ended with a phone call to Santa, to see what Jimmy was up to and if Santa would have a wee word with Jimmy - it's not good to drive cars in the house apparently, and especially not into TVs.  He shouldn't bounce on the bed either.

Making Jimmy a 'reality' was one step too far, apparently.

Jimmy has got them some gifts as a thanks for having him.  He might do something a bit daft tonight as a last hurrah before Christmas Eve.

The power of imagination is a wonderful thing.

And we didn't need an Elf on the Shelf to do it!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas is coming!

I messaged my sister in law last night to see how she was getting on with her wee ones in the run up to Christmas.  She has a brand new baby boy and it's been a really busy time - I think she must be some kind of superwoman for getting everything together for Christmas and also looking after two kids aged two and under.  I remember quite well what it was like for us a few years ago - and Ethan's birthday was in October, which meant I had phenomenally more time to get my shit together (and I sincerely did not)!

This year I feel really overwhelmed - due to losing approximately 9 weeks of my life to morning sickness and the wonderful early stages of pregnancy, I feel like I woke up about a week ago to a nightmare-ish scenario of loads to do, lots to sort out and virtually no time left at all to do it.

Panic stations!

Ho Ho Ho!
Hence there has been a lot of panicked buying, planning and hasty wrapping going on. I feel like we have missed so much this year - usually I do all sorts of crafts and fun stuff with the kids, but this year we just haven't had the energy nor the time.  Still, we have done the fundamentals; we took the kids to see Santa at our usual venue and we still went to the cinema to see our annual festive film (which this year was Paddington - very nice indeed) which I think I enjoy more than anything.  I love making memories.

The boys popped into my workplace last-minute with Dave to make some lovely crafts with some other families, who all had an amazing time making snowmen out of cotton wool, glittery decorations and playing in the 'snow' foam tray with polar bear figurines.  It was so nice to let them be glittery and gluey and foamy without having to worry about house destruction!

In my panic about whether we have enough sellotape, or if I have forgotten anyone on my card list, I try to remember the stuff we have done.  The boys have been hyped since November - Christmas has been absolutely everywhere.  Our tree has been up since the first of December.  Tom has written his cards for his classmates.

Yes, there are things we would like to be able to do but there is also the fact that the kids don't care!

And I don't mean that they don't care about doing all of the things that make Christmas for us, but what I do mean is that they don't want to hit that saturation point.

None of us do.  There is stuff absolutely everywhere.  Where we live, we could visit a different Santa every day of the week for a month.  We could attend every single Christmas showing, Christmas panto, visit all of the Christmas shops, spend days and days watching a plethora of Christmas films, tv specials and documentaries.  The shops are stuffed to the gunnels with jumpers, antler headbands, santa hats and (of all things) Christmas leggings.  It's crazy.

Yet, I have been constantly reminded this year that it really is the little things.

It's spending time all together instead of stressing out at the shops.

It's watching The Snowman before bedtime.

It's reading Christmas books borrowed from the library.

It's getting excited at a Christmas card through the door.

It's dipping your cookies in your milk because 'That's what Santa does!'

It's dressing up like Santa, beard and hat included, because you are 4 years old and you idolise Santa.

In our wee catch up, my sister in law rounded off with this sentiment, which is something I have found to be very true: 'Christmas with kids is the best!'

You know what?  When you forget about the other rubbish, the magic of the season, especially in the company of little people who are very excited and loving the participation, really is the best.

These guys are really my reason for the season.
Ethan loves to dress as Santa - 'I HAVE to wear my red coat, mummy!'

Friday, 19 December 2014


It's been a while.

I never meant to stay away for so long, but hey, life is never straightforward and is always happy to throw me a few curveballs.

First of all, Dave was working in a crazy-demanding job which saw our routine with work and kids and childcare and house stuff go completely to pot.  There were simply not enough hours in the day to complete everything.  Needless to say, any spare time was spent catching up with stuff we didn't have time for; piles of washing, dishes, school notes, was crazy.

Thankfully he has a new job now and so far  (touch wood), it seems to be a much smoother ride.

There's a lot to be said for work/life balance.

While this was going on, we are also house hunting.  We are hoping to buy our first house in the very near future, so I have been trying to use free minutes perusing house-buying sites, hoping to stumble upon something cheap and cheerful.  Needless to say, it's a terrible time of year for it!

While scouring various domains, my poor wee laptop managed to pick up a few Malware gremlins.  It took a long time to get rid of them - in fact I am still sorting stuff out after having to restore my computer back a few months...grumble.

Add on to this the other pressing gremlin we discovered one day a wee while ago...

They always look very odd in the first photo - although, look!  Tiny wee hand!

Yes, check it out!  Turns out there's a wee guy/gal hiding out inside of me!

I have been feeling horrendous these last couple of months - hence the lack of blog - but I have to say, I am feeling a lot better now, even more so after going to the hospital and actually seeing a real-life baby on the screen! Paranoid-me likes to imagine I was imagining it.

So, I missed a couple of things; my 30th birthday wasn't quite as intense as I'd planned, but the way I was feeling, that was okay by me!  I had a really great meal with my family and had some really lovely gifts given and even delivered!  I certainly feel very loved indeed.

I've had a great time keeping this a secret from real life people too.  Some I told, knowing I'd need support as I felt so rubbish.  Some I told accidentally.  But others, as I have discovered this week when I told them, already knew.  Apparently the bump which I didn't think I had much of gave me away. Ha!

I am going to be huge.

But hey - it's (most definitely) the last time I am going to be doing this and I am determined to enjoy every last second of it.  Pregnancy hasn't been a positive experience for me, but now I am that bit older and wiser, I seem to have a different attitude towards it.  Things are so very different from when we had the boys, it's kind of nice to just not worry quite so much.

We told the boys on the day we got the scan - they were both ecstatic.  Tom really wants a sister.  And you know, sod's law, Ethan really wants a brother. One is going to be sorely disappointed!

So, yeah!

Bear with me - I might not be around so much in the next couple of weeks (although the sickness is fading and I'm getting some of my energy back - hurrah!) but I shall do my very best!

Monday, 3 November 2014


Every year I wear a poppy.  I make a point of buying a new one most times I see a box. I feel like I owe it to past generations to wear one; they sacrificed a lot for our freedom.

As with most things, it was a habit passed on to me from childhood.  A big deal was made in our house about making sure that we wore a poppy.  That we observed the silence on Remembrance Sunday, and it was with solemnity and silence that we thought about the strong family ties that linked us with some of the greatest tragedies of human time.

When I was a wee girl, my Grandad spent ages teaching me how to march like a soldier.  In the long summer days in the garden, after he'd spent the afternoon cutting the huge hedges or cutting the grass to perfection, then he'd sit in a white fold down chair beside the summer house on the yellow and pink patio, smoke a horrible-smelling cigarette and have a cup of tea, and teach my restless, childish mind about things from his own past.

It always baffled and frustrated me as a teenager, and even as a young adult that we never knew more about what my Grandad did in the war.  He bore the scars so obviously physically (he had a glass eye and had been through major plastic surgery on his face and body) and later on, sadly, mentally, yet we never really heard what happened.

We agonised as a family over his own personal torture; what had he done?  What had he seen?

It was just never spoken about, out of respect more than anything.  And that was alright.

It's only now, now that I am that bit older and wiser, and now that I have children of my own, that I look back to my own childhood and the little detailed nuances of warm summer afternoons spent with my Grandad that I realise that he told me more than I understood.

As I stood in my shorts, face muddied after digging holes for plants, t-shirt stained green with grass and dirt, a smile on my face, waiting to be 'entertained', I was just a wee lassie spending time with her Grandad.

Clasping my bamboo cane 'gun' to my chest, he'd give me orders, showing me how to properly carry a gun while marching, how to do a proper 'about turn' and how fast the pace should be.

There's something quite bitter-sweet about that image; an old war veteran, showing his grand-daughter moves from a war which almost claimed his life.  And if his life had been claimed, I wouldn't be here today either.

He'd teach me how to make signals and signs with stones and twigs; secret signals to those who knew the code.  We'd spend hours making them for each other on the garden path, and without even thinking, I turned it into a game with my friends, which we played over and over again.

He taught me how to camouflage my face with fresh-pulled grass, how to conceal myself with cut-down branches when we lopped the tree branched together and how to wash my hands with leaves.  He showed me which berries we could eat and how to use dock leaves after a nettle sting, and how to whistle with blades of grass.

He taught me how to use old rope and carpet and whatever I could get my hands on to build a hide-out at the side of the garage.  He showed me how to stay silent when playing hide and seek with my sister, and how to avoid being caught out by shadows.

My Grandad never told me stories of his wartime buddies, nor did he boast about anything he had accomplished.  His silent victory was in his survival, and the rebuilding of his life and getting to share it with his children, and his children's children.

Every year however, the same silent ritual.  The same respectful moments; dropping pennies into every collection tin we passed on the street or in the supermarkets, pinning our red poppies to jumpers, jackets, scarves, t-shirts.  Falling silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month with more solemnity than our young years should have been able to muster. And afterwards, sticking our poppies in drawers with great reverence, heads bowed, ready for next year.

War was never really spoken about in our house, but it was still a relevant thing.

Of course, we learned about it at school, we talked about it with friends and we looked at pictures in books from the library.  We learned about injustice and hard times and what those we knew and loved had had to do to survive.  We learned about rations and the suffering of those at home and the many, many people who never returned from trying to fight evil and make the world a better place.

It was so black and white to us; there was never any doubt that by wearing a poppy and dutifully remembering those behind us who sacrificed so much, that we were doing so out of respect and love.

When my Grandad died, the ritual carried on, except with even more reverence.

Now I truly had to remember my departed and dearly beloved as he was in life, and as a man who bore so much pain for his whole life in order to ensure our freedom today.  Now when I fell silent, I remembered him and him alone, and I felt even more sure that yes, he had returned from a war so vicious, but it had also claimed a huge part of him that had never come home.

He's been dead for ten years now, and I miss him every day.  I have amazing memories of him and the time we spent together, and I am so very grateful for that.  In that time, I have grown.  I've come out of the awkward teenage years, I've started a family and become involved and interested in politics.  I have read my way around the war - researched where he was posted, read about the battles which he may or may not have fought in and tried to make sense of the part of his life which he never divulged.  I've looked into history books, read about the holocaust, the home front and the man who treated him in hospital, where my Grandad was one of the first to receive pioneering plastic surgery.

I've learned and now understand so much.

And as I have grown, I have made a point of getting my red poppy, every single year.

Times have changed and now a war like the one my Grandad and his friends faced, are thankfully far past most people's lifetimes.

Now they relive this through their parents and grand-parents, and with this kind of distance comes a special kind of forgetting which is neither our fault nor our fancy.

Many of us are desperate to change the world.  Life and politics move so quickly nowadays, with the advent of media and technology. We can often hear of news on the other side of the world via our Twitter accounts before it hits the six o' clock news.

With technology, war now seems further away than ever.  We have been at war as a country for a huge amount of time now - we have had troops in places like Iraq and Afghanistan for years, fighting for things we have been told by governments we need to protect.

Ourselves from 'terrorists'.

We send troops to foreign countries to get maimed, killed and injured.  We bring them home and make a half-assed job of 'rehabilitating' them.  We press buttons to kill faceless people we don't know in the name of fighting terrorism and protecting the world.

Just recently, we, Britain, started yet another 'campaign' in Iraq.  More war without consultation.

I wonder what my Grandad would make of it.

I used to buy my poppy every year.  Every year I'd make a massive point of pinning it to my chest.  I did to honour what my Grandad and his generation had been through. To remember the sacrifice that they had all made; the lives lost, the children gone, never to return, the rupture of a whole lifetime for the whole world.  A lesson hopefully never to be repeated.

I did it out of respect for the man I loved, for his experience and his health and his life.  To show thankfulness for his life.

For the first time I am considering not just donning my usual red poppy, but instead wearing a white one alongside it.

This year, more than ever I am aware of what is going on in the world, and I just don't know if I would feel right this year wearing just a red poppy on my lapel.

A white poppy signifies hope for peace. A hope that no more blood be spilled.

I will still drop a pound in the poppy box when I can.
I will still bow my head in remembrance.
I will still hold my silence.
I will still be thankful.

But this year I think I have realised that war never ends.  The justification for the current wars are just not enough. Men, women and children around the world are suffering every day. We still need to support those who fight, but we need to show that it's not enough.

This year, I need hope. I will be seeking out one of each.  Red for remembrance and to support those who have suffered through war.  And white for hope.

Everyone needs hope.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Teaching fairness to the kids, and expecting some ourselves: RBS, Hello, Goodbye

Teaching loyalty and fairness to my kids is something which (I hope) comes across as an everyday event in our house.

Having two boys so close in age, it's an ongoing task to teach them to be kind and courteous to each other.

 Sharing is a huge deal too - my boys are always having to learn how to share and how to treat each other fairly (or try to).

Being so close in age (just 2 years between them) they have had to learn to share a lot.  My eldest son has felt the brunt of this - he learned very quickly what it meant to be a big brother, and I'm very proud of him; he very often defaults to his younger sibling automatically for most things.  Ethan on the other hand can be a little more reluctant to show fairness.  He is the bitter to Thomas's sweet a lot of the time, and it's an ongoing task to make sure that Ethan learns how to show fairness to his brother.

I'm happy to report that, in the main, I receive a lot of lovely compliments about how polite my boys are, which is something I am very proud of; if nothing else, I wish for them to have good manners.

They are in no way perfect though - we've definitely had our moments!

What do we do?  We do our best.  That's all anyone can ask.  We try.  We're not perfect, but we do try!

1. Be the best role model.

Being kind to animals!

Children model your behaviour.  Like wee sponges, they soak up your social cues like nobody's business.  If you listen while others talk, they'll listen while others talk.  If you always say please and thank you, they will also insist on doing it.  You are the best role model for your child - never forget how heavily they monitor the little things you do.

2. Teaching Empathy

I have always worked in customer service, so more often than not, I'm either trying my damndest to provide a great service for some people,or hoping to receive the same courtesy.

Transferring this into my personal life, I always try to treat others the way I would like to be treated.  I try to teach the kids this too - so when they are squabbling over something and they hurt each others feelings (a daily event!) I always say to them 'how would you feel?'

Giving them this wee moment to consider how each other would feel if in each other's shoes usually hits home for them.

3. Books and Storytelling

Book reading is fun too!
Books are a brilliant way to get a message across - they cover almost anything that you wish to teach your child, making it easier to discuss topics which may otherwise pose a problem, without being too daunting for a wee one.

One of my favourites is this one by Mo Willems:

It really makes me and the kids giggle, as well as showing them a wee bit about fairness and loyalty, without being at all heavy.

4. Board Games

Playing games teaches fairness
This one is a bit harder to do with young children, but this is definitely one of the great tools of teaching.  Not just focusing on chance and luck, games teach about taking turns, playing by the rules and doing your best.
Our boys love a board game, and I like to encourage this.  It fosters a sense of competition while allowing them to see losing and accepting failure (not always graciously - but then I know some adults who have a huge problem with this!)

Loyalty and fairness is a difficult concept to grasp!

RBS have launched a new campaign which deals with fairness and equality,making the point that it shouldn't just be new customers who benefit from great deals.  Which is so true!  Having been a loyal member of some schemes int he past,I'm always a bit miffed when deals and awesome giveaways pop up 'for new customers only, as seen in this video:

How many times have you been wooed by fancy gifts and polite conversation, only to be pretty much shoved out of the door when you happen to mention that you've already been a happy customer?

It's even happened to me in the street!

I completely agree that companies should work hard to keep their customers happy and to reward those who have been loyal.

That only makes sense to me.

RBS are saying 'Hello' to great offers for existing customers, and saying 'Goodbye' to a lot of the things that banks are otherwise notorious for - like extra overdraft charges on missed payments and only new customers getting the best rates.  Check it out for yourself here.

We spend a lot of time teaching our children the meaning of fairness and equality.  It's time we expected a bit back.

It's great to see RBS rewarding existing customers as well as new ones!

Disclosure: I'm working with Britmums and RBS on theis project and have been compensated. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Safety Nets

It's that time of the month again.

Over a week until pay day and we are wondering what in the heck we are going to do.  We will manage.  We will cope.

But it all comes with a lot of jumping through hoops and a lot of thinking outside of the box.

At this moment in time I am considering my options; I'm mentally going through everything in my head - what we need to have and how much money we will need in order to get to the finish line.  What we have to sell which might be able to tide us over.

Our safety nets.

We've been going through our safety nets a lot quicker recently.  It used to be that they were a last resort - we had too much, so we set things aside and never even thought about them.  Never even thought of them as saleable items, never even realised that we would be using them as resources.

Now I tally them mentally every month when yet another crises arises, when yet another bill rears it's ugly head.

Things are very tight, there's no doubt about it, but we are very good at strategising, very good at working out what we can live without.

We are lucky to have safety nets like this.  Not everyone does.

A lot of people get uncomfortable when they talk about money, about finances, about not having enough of it or having too much of it.  Nobody likes to discuss their own personal situation, unless it's in hindsight or with a close personal friend.

Money is life's great equalizer, the great judge who deems whether we eat or heat, the one who separates the have from the have nots and divides and rules.

Our dealings with it, be it the debt we owe or the millions we have stashed away are whispered, like a huge dirty secret.

It's a strange old thing.

The concept gets weirder, the more you think about it.

Why do I document this?  Why do I write this down? Surely I should be quiet and get on with it like everyone else?

For the future, I suppose.  So we can record what it is like now and hope that one day we will look back at it and know that we got through it.  To laugh at the crazy things we got up to later on.  To hopefully remind myself in the future to build more safety nets.

And to teach my children that they can build them too.  And to be grateful for each and every one.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Today, my baby boy is Four Years Old.


How did that happen?!

I'm looking forward to Four, but I'm going to miss Three.

Three was...

Discovering Mickey Mouse

Getting grommets and finally being able to hear properly

Starting to listen properly to books at story time

Being a 'prown up!'

First rollercoaster ride (and loving it)

Singing songs

Discovering 'Let's get ready to Rhumble' and listening to it over and over

'Everybody wants to be a cat'

Jake and The Neverland Pirates

'I'm not wittle, I'm a big boy!'

Having a 'big' seatbelt in the car

Eating fruit and veg sneakily, anywhere else but at home...

Imaginative play

Susan the ladybird

Watching movies with the family

Toilet training (at last) and doing it in one go after months of treating the toilet like it was a volcano

Donald Junior

I'm excited for Four, but there's definitely something bitter-sweet about it.  This year will mean my baby will finally no longer be a baby.

All part of the adventure!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Party Day: The Two Birthdays in Two Weeks Quandry

Our boys have their birthdays within two weeks of each other, which has always been a bit of a headache for us.

Two little monkeys

The first year, we had two very expensive celebrations, feeding our huge family twice with a lot of food to honour both our then three year old and one year old.

The second year, we had learned from the year before.  The month was already expensive enough with two birthdays, why not have just one celebration?

We hired the local hall, complete with bouncy castle, musical statues and pass the parcel, and decided to host it here for everyone - we also invited some of the boys' friends from nursery!  Bonus!  We held it between the two birthdays, sure that this was the obvious, perfect solution.  There would be food for both adults and children. Perfect!


We hugely underestimated how excited both children would be for their birthdays, and also how excited everyone else was for them (which of course is very lovely).

We ended up with not just one celebration, not two, but three whole celebrations, complete with three cakes and snacks across three days.  It was crazy - and much more expensive than the previous year.  But, no matter, by all accounts we were still experimenting.  And also, there's nothing wrong with eating party food for a whole month (I quite enjoyed the extra cake, crisps and chocolate that happened to be lying around - who wouldn't?!)

The kids had had a blast, and we had really enjoyed seeing everyone so frequently and were really grateful that they had made the time and the effort for the kids, but we also felt guilty about asking folk to make such time and effort so close together.  Our family, although large, is not especially social and doesn't spend a lot of time together naturally, plus, you know, the usual busy with life stuff.

Dave: "How can we make it so that we have one efficient birthday celebration? Hmm?"

Me: "Disneyland!"

That's right.  I'm crazy!

We went from the sublime to the ridiculous last year when I suggested, researched, booked and executed an elaborate surprise trip to Disneyland Paris for the kids' birthdays.

But, I surmised, it combined the elements of holiday and birthday celebration perfectly, and, oddly, was quite cheap (I got an amazing deal in the January sale).  We booked up for 4 nights, children were free and we got a free food package.  It was brilliant.  And what's more, our best buddies decided to come along too and join in the birthday celebrations! Amazing!

We had such a great time - it was truly magical.  I won't go into the whole holiday (that's a completely different blog post), but we were all completely blown away.

Due to school holidays and pricing, we ended up going away the first week in October.

We ended up in the Mickey Mouse cafe on Tom's 5th birthday, complete with cake and singing and finished the night with fireworks at the castle.  As we were walking back to our hotel, Ethan in the buggy, Tom on the buggy board, Tom whispered to us 'I can't wait until I have kids so I can tell them how great this has been.'

Deal, done - best time ever.

We had tried to make it about both kids - we packed presents for both, gave them both as equal a share in cake celebrations as we could, but there was no escaping the fact that Tom definitely had the best birthday out of the two.  We had a small pirate party for Ethan at home when we got back, and Tom got in on this too: because we hadn't been at home on his actual birthday, everyone was really keen to see him and give him gifts too, which was great.

But it was tough to make it equal.


This year, they are that bit older, that bit wiser to birthdays and what they entail.

Poor Ethan is still a bit young.  At very nearly 4 years old, he is very excited, very much into it all and really clued up on parties, cake and presents.

Having Tom's birhday first has really confused him though.

First, he got a few really cool presents on Tom's birthday from some relatives, which meant he felt included and he was really excited about that.

Next, they both asked for a party for them and their friends, which we held yesterday at a local hall. We decided, to be fair, to hold it in the middle of the school holidays and in the middle of their birthdays.

It was chaos.  Nearly 30 children in a hall with a bouncy castle and lots of bikes.  We spent a lot of time making Pinterest-inspired food, sourcing cheap tablecloths and stressing out about invitations.

Ethan's birthday is tomorrow, but his dad is working overnight tonight and then until late on tomorrow, so instead of missing it all, we have decided to have Ethan's birthday today, so we can celebrate together.

Much more chaos has ensued.  Instead of having one birthday and a party between them, they have both ended up with one party, a gathering of family on each birthday day and Ethan is technically having two birthdays, plus celebrated on Thomas's and got loads of lovely presents from his party yesterday. Both boys have been absolutely saturated!  But what the hey - you're only wee once!


Next year it is Ethan's 5th birthday and we plan to go away for it - I'll be searching for a deal in January, but blooming heck! Who knows if we'll ever come up with a solution for the birthday problem!

When they are older it will be easier to explain, but at the moment it's really nice that everyone is so keen to celebrate our little boys.  We are so lucky and really grateful.

A huge thanks goes out to everyone who has celebrated with us.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


Six years old.

Five Years was...

Mummy, I'm finished, but I'm still hungry!
Arguing with my brother.
Crying with happiness at the end of films.
Scared of the dark (but only a little bit).
Getting to like the cinema.
Theatre trips.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Rollercoaster Loving.
Computer Games.
Cuddly Toys.
Good at making friends.
Made myself like bananas and peppers!
Fish and Chips.
Learning to ride my bike.
Being an amazing reader for my age.
Awesome school reports.
Sometimes not listening...
...but a first clear hearing test!
First wobbly tooth.
Barber visits.
Long walks.
Visiting the zoo.
Secret late nights on the couch with Mum and Dad.
Making toast!
Getting my own breakfast.
Planning a career in video games making.
Playing the Yes game!

Properly counting the sleeps until my birthday...

Happy 6th Birthday Thomas!

Monday, 6 October 2014

I tried it, and I liked it #1

Skulduggery Pleasant, The Dying Of The Light

So, the main character is a guy who is dead and is a skeleton. And a detective.  That's grounds enough for an epic story, right?

My first experience of Derek Landy's epic series, combining horror, fantasy, comedy and intrigue was in the library.  Of course.
I work in a children's library, and as such, I get to spend a lot of time talking to kids of all ages about what they read.

So here she is, the young lady in the green jacket.  She approaches me nervously as she hands back her book.  As I scan it back into the system, she stutters, 'Do you have the next one in the series?'
She's not nervous because she has to ask me for a book, she's nervous because she really  really needs the next one  right now and she is worried that I am going to say that I don't have it for her.

And I don't!

I search high and low and in the secondary stock and even in the Teenage library, but it's not there. These things happen in a children's library - it's a hazard of the job.

 I break the news to her gently, and then I tell her we can order a copy in for her, but it might take a week.  She's not too disappointed.  Instead she grins and nods her head enthusiastically, just glad that she can get it at all.  Curious, I ask her about the book, while I apologise profusely for the missing copy, and she's eager to tell me all about it, telling me that actually, she's glad she has to wait a bit, because she needs a break, just to absorb it all.

'Wow!  Is it that good?' I laugh.

'Yeah, it's really awesome.  It's just so thrilling and I really love the characters - the writing is really unpredictable and it's not done in a formulaic kind of way, so it's really different.  You can never tell what's going to happen.'

I make a mental note to look out the first of the series.

Just as she leaves, and I put the book she just returned on the book trolley, a young lad comes in, he's maybe about 10 years old.  He looks awkwardly at the book on my trolley.  I smile and say,

'You okay, dude?'

He points at the book and says nervously, 'Is that for anyone?'

'Err...' I look at the hope on his wee face and smile.  This is why I love books.  They are magic.  

'Just you, mate', I say, handing him the book.  He looks at the cover and then I ask if he wants to take it home.  He nods and I beep it out for him.  He's happy.  I'm happy I've made him happy, job done.

I was sent a copy of the last Skulduggery Pleasant book in order to review it, but I think that these two experiences do all of the talking for it.  Landy's writing is fast-paced, energised and exciting - to all ages. The characters are a work of art, all relatable and, the beauty of it is, none of them safe from Landy's plans, no matter how awful they may seem.  Nobody is immune from being killed off or sidelined, and the plot is twisted and fun.

I'm sad to see the end of the series, like may Skulduggery fans will be, but like many, glad there has been a conclusion.  And a very thrilling conclusion at that!

Available in Hardback in all good book shops!  If you are looking for a gift for a pre-teen for Christmas, this is the one!

RAVPower Mini Lipstick Charger

I hate my phone.  For some reason, it's never got any battery on it and it never has quite enough when I need to do important things like take photographs for work, or upload stuff to my G+ account (all very important for a blogger!)

I have to mention that since I dropped it, it's kind of lost its appeal to me too  It's not quite the same trying to scroll down a broken screen.  The cracks catch on my finger and well, it just makes me sad.  And I still have another year on my contract! Poop!

I can't fix my screen without forking out a lot of money, but I can sort out the battery issue.

I was sent the RAVPower Luster Mini Lipstick charger to try out, and I have to say, it's been great.

Doubling up as a torch too, it charges from my computer via USB port, and then the wire simply flips around to connect from the charger to my phone.

It takes up no more space in my bag than a lipstick case, is a sleek design and comes with a small price tag of just £10.99 too.  A fab piece of kit.  No more blogger emergencies!  It also ensures my phone is charged when I'm out all day - very important as a parent!

You can buy it from Amazon.  And it's compatible with:
iPhone 6, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, 4, iPod (Lightning Cable not Provided); Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3, S2, Note 2; Nexus 5, Nexus 4, HTC Sensation, One X V One X V S, EVO 4G, Thunderbolt; Nokia Lumia 1020, 920 900 N9; Motorola Razr; LG Google Nexus 4 and other Android & Apple Device, Smart Phones and Tablets!


Vimto Squeezy

We spend a lot of time out of the house at the moment and a lot of time in the car.  Nobody ever told me how crazy it could be, running between all the kids diffeent groups and classes, not to mention my own day to day stuff.

I need sustenance!

It's very important to stay hydrated when busy, and water can get boring.  I was sent some cool new wee bottles to try to jazz up my water. Vimto now comes in tiny little bottles, ready to turn water into tasty goodness with just a few drops.  What's more, the bottles are handy for slipping into a bag or even coat pocket, providing a wee treat for when you are rushed off your feet.  They come in three fab flavours too, original, cherry and strawberry, enhancing your water with as little or as much flavour as you like!

And you know what? No Added Sugar! Win!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown

I have a slight Snoopy obsession.

It's not something I have been vociferous about since I entered adulthood, but yes, I am a huge Peanuts fan.

This week, Charlie Brown celebrated his 64th Birthday!


I didn't really fathom this however, until I was perusing my various social media accounts and stumbled across the AMA section on Reddit, where none other than Jean Schultz herself was answering questions about Peanuts and the whole franchise, including details on the new Snoopy Movie which is to be released next year.

What a lady!  I had goosebumps as she described her husband's drawing routines, his views on copyright and also his health issues, of which I had no real idea.

The reason I love Peanuts is because it encompasses humanity.  It corners those feelings that all people have on relationships, the ironies of everyday life and its nuances and also the breadth of emotion felt at such a basic, but very complex level.  The protagonists are children, and I really do think that not only do they link in with our inner children, but help us to simplify our feelings on a basic level, which is sometimes is all anyone needs.

Plus, it's pure joy.

Old Sparky left us with a lot of that.

Thank you, Charles Schultz.

In honour of Charlie Brown's big day, here are some of my favourite Peanuts quotes!


Saturday, 4 October 2014

Small Morning Victories!

Getting two small children out of the door in the morning should be considered nothing less than an Olympic event.

My mornings never run like clockwork, despite the effort made the night before to ensure as smooth a run as possible.

Someone always spills milk, there's always some sort of calamity involving the loss of a shoe or worse, the dreaded school tie, and we very rarely have a morning where everyone is completely happy and ready to go on time (not looking at anyone in particular, oh youngest son).

Refining the various tricks and things that go into the morning routine is nothing short of an every day small miracle and should be considered applicable for addition to a C.V.

Plus, there's never a morning where everyone is happy.  Either the dog ate the toast off the table (he's supposed to be old and doddery, not to mention a wee bit blind but apparently his nose can always locate toast at a 5 mile distance) or Ethan doesn't feel like he got to watch quite enough Jake and The Neverland Pirates before we leave (hence a tantrum) or worse, I don't get time to grab some food before we leave, which makes everything seem just a little bit more challenging.  Especially once we have dropped Tom at school and I then realise I have a butt-ton (yes, that's a legitimate unit of measurement), I say, a BUTT-TON of stuff to do before I'll be able to get home.

I hate mornings.

That's why I decided to hook up with the #MorningWin Linky challenge with Belvita breakfast biscuits.  I need to see how other people are doing this!

Britmums and Belvita are asking bloggers for their small morning victories.  So here's a few of mine!

Hat finding - just one more thing to remember!

1. Leaving the house on time

It's pretty much the end goal, isn't it?  All roads lead to exiting the house, albeit with one shoe on, no school tie or a half-packed school bag.  Joke.  I'm not that bad.

But leaving the house in the morning, on time, with everyone intact is one huge victory! So, a smaller victory would have to be...

2. Finding all of the shoes

Not my shoes then...
I have no idea where my trainers are.  I took them off three days ago, and I can't find them.  I have three pairs of shoes, all have very specific purposes.  When I am rich and famous, I'll buy back up pairs.  But until then, I live in a perpetual, never-ending search for my shoes.  Or, more frustratingly, one shoe.  Because no matter how many times I make sure everyone has put their shoes in the hallway, ready to go, or do the end of the night count, there's always some crazy shit that goes down that means that some of the shoes go walk-about. Usually in the middle of the night after the elderly dog (who likes a middle-of-the-night wee) has been out and I've sleepily deposited my shoes somewhere crazy, or after the three year old has decided to play that lovely game of 'sniff my stinky shoe!' with his brother.

There are all kinds of shenanigans that you wouldn't believe goes on in this house. I feel genuine relief when I see a pair of shoes together. Actual, genuine relief.

3. Getting four pairs of socks

What the hell happens to socks?
I love new socks.  I get a bit precious about them.  I promise things to them in my head, like 'I'll keep you both together always' and 'I'll never let Dave wear you with his bag mad crusty feet' and 'I'll always wash you together so you stay in a pair'.

Lies!  All lies!

Despite my best efforts, we have ended up with a sock bag.  I think I hate it more than anything else in my life.  Every day, the search through the bag for pairs is a soul-destroying task that fills me with rage.  And complete happiness when I find a pair. And complete merriness when I find a pair for everyone.

One day all of my socks will be paired and in drawers, but today is not the day.  Not when I still have butt-ton (yup, there it is again) of other, more important stuff to do.  Like, anything else.  Life is far too short. Sorry, socks.  And anyone else who cares.

4. Managing to leave the house with everything we need

It's early, we're all tired, we've possibly dealt with things in the night that we never thought we'd ever have to deal with.  If you have small children, or an elderly dog for that matter, you'll know the kind of things I mean.

I'd give you my secret handshake, but I can't remember if I've washed my hands yet...

Joke.  I joke. *dry laughter*

Getting out of the house with everything we need ; packed lunches, play pieces, homework, a change of clothes, hats, gloves, scarves, gym shoes, lunch money, books, things I said I'd give to's no mean feat.

I do forget sometimes.  Although, I'm going to jinx it now by saying I've had a good run lately where I haven't forgotten anything.  But there were a LOT of times last year where I forgot things and had to hand them into the school office an hour after making the initial trip.  It was so bad that the lady in the school office didn't even have to ask who I was handing it in for.  But at least I got it in the end, right?

These are my morning victories. These, coupled with not getting stuck behind the bin lorry in our narrow street, not getting stuck behind every red light there is on the way and managing to get the kids out of the door without the inevitable fight that they have to see who gets to open the door (Why?  Why do they do that?  Every damn morning!)

Eating a wee brekkie always makes things a wee bit better, and if I can grab a wee bite to eat on the way out of the door, in the car or even on the way to school, or even after, then I consider this a big win too.  It just makes life so much easier to deal with if I'm not running on empty.

I use Belvita breakfast biscuits a lot, and although I prefer to be sat at home enjoying a leisurely breakfast in front of the television, or curled up with a book, these are the perfect alternative for some healthy sustenance.

Try them out - the chocolate and hazelnut ones are my favourites.  I love a wee bit of sweetness in the morning and they make a nice wee change from the usual milk and cereal ones I enjoy.

This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. Learn more at

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Four tips to get your kids up and going in the mornings

Though it may seem difficult enough for most mums to get themselves up and ready to start the day, the beginning of a new school year can be especially hard to get little sleepy heads back into a school routine after the summer holidays.

Whether your kids are reluctant to go to school, want a few extra minutes in bed or are just a little disorganised, weekday mornings can turn into running battles in many households.

Unfortunately, there are no magic wands that can be waved to transform a child into a compliant early riser, but by following these four tips you can help make the school run just that little bit easier with less stress for everyone.

1. Prepare the night before

Getting packed lunches, school uniforms and homework ready to go the night before can save valuable minutes on hectic mornings.

Whether your children go to a state or private school, you should be able to get a copy of their timetable to help them work out what they need as far as homework and PE kit for each day.  Help them be better organised by making sure homework is done and lunches are packed away nice and tidy before the manic morning arrives.

2. Get your kids used to an alarm clock

To help your little ones to rise and shine with a smile on their faces, invest in an alarm clock , which will stress the importance of punctuality.

By encouraging kids to set an alarm and dress themselves, you’re giving them a bit more independence without the struggle of repeatedly going in to wake them.

3. Keep breakfast simple

As long as the kids have something healthy and filling in the mornings, it doesn’t matter how elaborate the meal is, so why not save precious time by keeping it simple?

A bowl of cereal, some fruit, yoghurt or breakfast biscuits will all do the job nicely. As your kids get older they can start preparing breakfast themselves, saving you even more time.

4. Stick to a bedtime routine

No matter how old you are, getting up in the morning is always tough when you’ve had a late night.

By sticking to a regular bedtime as much as possible, you will get your kids settled into a routine and ensure that they get enough sleep before the long school day. 

By following these tips you can make your mornings a little more manageable and little less manic.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

After School Chefs

Summer is over, school is back.
No more lazy picnics on the beach that last longer than they should.  No more impromptu garden lunches while the kids dig for worms.  The days are shortening, routine is back and life resumes a steady pace once again as we count down until the next set of holidays.

Our home life is especially chaotic at the moment.  Both of us adults work shifts, so there's no straightforward routine when it comes to teatime.  Ours are very much a hurried and usually quite erratic affair.  It's something that really makes me sad - something I have always loved is the idea of sitting around the table at night, catching up with each other's days.

Modern life has a lot to answer for.

The nights that we do manage a well-thought out and properly balanced meal are the ones that keep me happy as a parent - there's something intrinsically maternal about making sure your family has a nicely balanced and nutritious meal that they enjoy.

As we have no real set routine, it's hard to plan.  But we try.

Here are our top tips for keeping to some semblance of a routine at teatime - especially if yours are as hectic as ours can be.

1. Keep it easy

There's nothing worse than coming home later than you planned, with two hungry, grumpy children while also feeling like you are running on empty.  Everything feels much bigger than it actually is when there's nothing left in your tank.  Think simple.  Think whipping out some Birdseye potato waffles and toasting them in the toaster rather than grilling them.  Toast them a couple of times on a medium toasting setting and not only will you have a delicious base for a meal, but you'll also have saved yourself some extra minutes and a bit less time listening to grouchy children. Pair with beans or cheese and microwave some peas at the same time and voilà! One meal, literally in minutes. They're waffley versatile!

2. Plan Ahead

I know, I know.  I hate planning ahead.

Plus, when it comes to food, I find it quite difficult.  I can guarantee that if I really fancied Enchiladas the night before, the next night I'm going to want a big bowl of soup.  You can never really tell what your taste is going to be leaning towards on the night, so why not make it easy on yourself by keeping your freezer stocked with wee bits and pieces that can provide a springboard for a variety of meals?

Fish fingers, peas, frozen vegetables, chips and onion rings all make good stand-by accompaniments for bigger dishes.  A toastie always looks more wholesome when sat beside some fluffy potato chips and there's always the good old fish finger sandwich for a quick savoury meal.

3. Make it Fun Time

Meal times can be very stressful. Try to bear in mind that it might be the only time you spend together as a family mid-week, and that no matter how tired you are, you should try and use it as a bit of a chill-out time too.

Life is tough enough without the added stress.  We always try to go with the flow.  We are all very tired and some of us are starving, some of us are not.  Some of us are dying to get into the bath, some of us just want to relax with a book.  This is down time.

Be a bit silly, make faces out of food, have a laugh with each other.

Life's too short for grumpy faces! 

This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye.  Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook page.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Celebrating Scotland's Heritage: Shopping At Heritage of Scotland

What is 'Scottishness?'

What makes us 'Scottish'?

We are a proud nation, a strong nation, a warm and hospitable nation, a beautiful nation.

Recently, like many, I have been re-investigating my nationality in the quest for identity.

It's not all about Tartan and Haggis.  Hell, it's bugger all to do with that at all.

For too long we have been a stereotype in the world - to many we are giant Tunnocks tea cakes and sporrans for handbags...but it's NOT like that.

Scottishness is innate.  Either you feel it, or you don't.  I don't think it's explainable.

It's not anything you think it might be.  And it's everything that makes any other nationality go, 'What?  Really?'

We have a crazy, self-depricating sense of humour.  The kind where calling your mate 'a bawbag' is a term of high endearment.

We have a way of going the long, hard way around things.  It's never easy and is usually punctuated by biting wind, whiplash rain and mud trails down yer lobby (hallway) carpet.

I love being Scottish.  It's not an easy gig, by any stretch of the imagination.  But it's fun, characterful, and for such a wee nation, well, it's easy to say that everyone knows who we are, usually has a good word to say about us.

Heritage of Scotland ( ) have a great online store where you can celebrate your Scottishness, or indeed, help you inject a bit of Scottish goodness in your life.

Shopping on the website is a great experience, supported by some of the best and most attentive online customer service around AND it has it's own loyalty scheme too!

Airgid is the Gaelic word for money and is the currency which was used in Scotland hundreds of years ago. It is the name of the loyalty points and represents the loyalty scheme which Heritage of Scotland uses.

There are airgid to be gained on purchases, when you sign up for newsletters, for giving reviews on the website itself on bought products AND you can use them against any purchase you make online!

As you accrue them, they gather in your own personal account, and are there to utilise whenever you like; so always good for a wee treat for yourself.

Kilts and accessories for men can be found HERE

I was sent some airgid in order to try out some happy website ordering and I had a great time. There's so much to choose from - and it was very time-consuming simply browsing through the vast array of kilts, clothing, gifts, accessories, souvenirs, children's items, home ware and jewellery!

Everything is extremely good quality - definitely not your usual souvenir/gift ware tat - and all purchases are tracked in order to make sure you receive your goodies safely (although at a cost, or free if you just want standard Royal Mail).

So, what did I order?

Well, I tried to sum up Scottishness with my choice.  An impossible task! Plus, it was impossible not to be swayed by Deal of The Day, which changes every single day!  Ahrgh!  I did spend more time than was acceptable really deliberating over quite a few deals of the day!

But I think I definitely rounded up the best qualities.

1. Beauty

Pewter earrings with purple Amethyst

Scotland is well known for it's beautiful scenery - rolling hills and gorgeous flora and fauna punctuate the blue and grey hues of the skies on yet another rainy day.  We may not always have the best weather, but there's always a flash of purple heather or the top of a thistle blowing in the grassy thick to catch your eye.

The jewellery on the Heritage of Scotland website is nothing short of beautiful.  There are some really stunning bracelets, necklaces and earrings.  Now, I am not a huge jewellery fan.  Mainly because I never have anything that costs a lot of money and if I have something that costs a lot of money and I have to take it off and it gets lost, or it has a chance of breaking; well, that's going to upset me a lot! I do however have a thing for stud earrings.  Practical and  pretty?  I'm there.

I love these cute thistle earrings. Made from Pewter, wonderfully detailed and discreetly sparkly, they are the perfect choice for a bit of patriotic day wear.

Pewter Eternal Interlace
As are these gorgeous circular Celtic swirls.  Very small, yet beautifully detailed, they look very nice indeed and are small and pretty; a hint of history too.

2. Myth and Legend

Bogles, kelpies, faeries, ghouls, ghosties and of course, Nessie.

The Loch Ness Monster still gets people talking and Loch Ness itself is a gorgeous place to go if you are ever up visiting.

I love the story of Nessie - the idea that a secret monster lurks in the loch has been a huge draw for tourism and the subject of many an investigation.

Why not celebrate the oddities of the country with some tongue in cheek homeware, like this pottery Nessie?

Purchase Pottery Nessie HERE

I love her - she fits right in with my eccentric collection of bits and I love how she looks like she is just peeping up to say hello.  Very cool!

3. Warmth and Hospitality

We are a hugely welcoming and accepting lot. We love company and any chance to sit down, invite a stranger in and make a new friend is grabbed with both hands.

Scots are well known for their hospitality and warmth - so why not offer your friends and family some homely comforts when they come into your home?

Find a cosy tartan rug for your home HERE
This gorgeous, cosy , tartan rug is perfect for putting in the back of the car for some warming up after a long walk, draping over the back of a chair for covering shivery legs, or comfy-ing up your sofa in anticipation of visitors. It's big enough to use as a throw on the end of a bed, or cuddling up after a wintery wander. Mmm! Braw!

4. Banter!

It's my main joy in life.  I love the banter.  I love nothing better than sitting around with a group of old friends, casually insulting each other in a show of love and complete happiness.  A lot of people don't really get banter, and that's fine, but I think if you live in a cold country, where it's dark, life can be a bit grim and you get flashes of craziness day to day, well, you develop a bit of a dark humour.

Up Yer Kilt!
I love this 'Up Yer Kilt', pin.  Sums it right up.  Means, it but doesn't really mean it.  In a vicious, nice kind of way.  Spot on.

5. Celebrations!

Naeb'dy celebrates like us Scots!

Heritage of Scotland is the perfect shop to purchase all of your wedding gear - from Kilts, to Favours, Quaichs, to Wedding Dresses!  Check out their amazing range of gorgeous bridal wear and tartan accessories. There's sizing charts and advice on Kilt fitting too, so no need to worry about getting it wrong.  And if you do - returns and exchanges are hassle free.

Ah, we were so young and carefree! Ha ha!
My own wedding was a Black Watch Tartan affair, and although I spent very little on the big day (more on that another time!) , the one thing I did purchase was a gorgeous Black Watch, woollen shawl to compliment my dress and also to keep me warm - I got married in January, very chilly! A lovely keepsake too! I still use it now, just around the house to keep cosy and sometimes on trips to the theatre, where I can sit and look both stylish and smug because the theatre can be really cold...brrr! Hee hee!

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That time my Dad left