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I tried really hard to think of an alternative title for this post because, 1. it’s the 13th January and you’re probably past the stage of wanting to read about people’s ‘goals for the year ahead’, 2. blog posts like this are two a penny in the first couple of weeks of January and I was keen to make this one feel different, and 3. In the last couple of years I’ve really shied away from setting ‘resolutions’ or placing unrealistic markers for achievement in front of myself, so as not to feel like a failure had I not reached them by the time that next round of 365 days drew to a close.

I know that many people feel swamped in January by the pressure of needing to manifest ‘a whole new you’ and kick the year off in a flurry of ‘achieve achieve achieve’ – I certainly do, and that’s why over the last couple of years I just stopped. Stopped making resolutions, stopped worrying about what I achieved and when I achieved it and tried to just keep my long term goals ticking along as best I could without any sort of time limit on them. I think as you get older, you start to realise that life is just a series of waves. Some ups, some downs. Some periods of hurtling forward at warp speed, some moments of standing still. And through all of those, you grow and change, your wants and desires and markers of success and happiness morph and change and are added to like a tree growing new branches and leaves. So you learn to embrace those quiet times of standing still just as much as the times when you’re climbing high. You learn to bask in the good times, and know that the rough ones won’t last forever. You learn to ride the waves.

We’ve been lucky that 2018 didn’t hold any truly dark moments for us, like I know it may have for many, but by the same token it didn’t hold any particularly high moments either. There was happiness of course, and joy at watching our daughter grow and develop into a beautiful and hilarious little person. Moments we want to remember and small achievements we’ve celebrated. But mostly it was a year of monotony and routine. A year of trying to make ends meet and put our daughter first. A year of living day to day and finding our happiness in those very mundane everyday moments. A year of too much work and not enough fun.

But that’s ok. Some years are slow paced and monotonous, some years are fast paced and exciting. But sometimes after one slow year, there’s the tendency to want to pick up the pace for the following one. To start planning ahead a little more, making bigger decisions and taking those leaps onto the new and scary paths laid out in front of you. And that’s how I feel about 2019. After two years of taking things as they come, I feel ready to start grabbing life with both hands again and start building the future I see for myself and my family.

This time in 2017 I was heavily pregnant, winding down on work with no idea what the future might hold for me as a parent, as a freelancer, as a person. Planning any further than February and the birth of our baby wasn’t something I could mentally make room for.

This time last year, we’d made the decision my Husband would go back into a full time job (after a year of us both being self employed) and we had no idea where we’d be living or what life would look like in the coming months. Planning ahead in terms of my work, in terms of childcare for Evie, in terms of what daily life might look like, was impossible.

But this year things are different. We’re now fairly settled in Manchester and hope to stay here for at least the coming year if not longer. Evie is almost two and although I don’t regret a single moment of the time I’ve had with her during her early years, I feel ready to start carving out time for myself again. I’m ready to take on more work, and throw myself into new challenges. We’ve started talking about the future we see for ourselves as a family, and want to start making tracks towards that (regardless of how long it takes), to address the balance of our routines and our work and family time. I want to tackle my health problems head on and work towards a healthier and fitter lifestyle, so that I can be the best Mum for Evie. And we both want to work hard to try and give her the best life we can.

This January it felt right to write down some goals for myself. Some posts on this blog I write with readers in mind, things that might inspire or interest. But this post is mainly for me. A form of spilling out all of the thoughts and ideas that are taking up space in my head right now. Getting them all down and leaving my brain free to start working through them and making sense of them. Something I can look back on in those times throughout the coming year where I’ll no doubt feel a little lost. A manifesto of the things that are important to me for 2019 and the things that I’m aiming to prioritise. But these aren’t necessarily goals for 2019 alone, and they’re not huge un-reachable tasks. They’re simple things that I want to begin making part of our everyday life, things that will form a better future for us and things that I think, actually, this is the year to address.

But just know, that if you’re reading this and are feeling that familiar sense of self scrutiny that you’re not achieving enough, that you don’t know what your goals are, that you don’t have a word to live by, then just let it go. You don’t need to change. You don’t need to make resolutions. You don’t need to have goals. And similarly if you do want  to set yourself goals, then know that if they don’t happen or haven’t fully manifested by this time next year, you have not failed.

So with that in mind these are just a few of the things that I want to focus on in 2019…

Health + Happiness + Hustle

I must admit I’m not normally one for a ‘word/s of the year’. It’s always felt too difficult to pinpoint only one or two things that the whole year could encompass. But this year, it felt so simple. These three things just jumping out at me as the parts of life I want to prioritise. Since having Evie, I’ve had to – compartmentalise – my life so much more. As a parent, there isn’t time for everything, so you do have to prioritise certain things. Last year I most definitely prioritised Evie’s health and happiness which I think in turn let mine slide. I’m not saying that I no longer want to make her a priority, far from it, she will always come first. But I’ve realised that when I feel well and happy and fit, I’m so much more capable of tending to her needs and being a better Mum. I want to put a bit less focus on some smaller aspects of life I was maybe prioritising too much last year and put more time and effort into eating well, making the most of family time, and concentrating on my own ambitions and career.

Health

So let’s start from the top. I really feel like I need to prioritise my health – both physical and mental – more this year. There’s no doubt that the first year of motherhood is exhausting and strips you bare. Your body becomes a vessel to care for another, you’re forced to survive on minimal sleep and your brain turns to mush. But the second year? Wow the second year is exhausting on a whole new level. Your days are longer than they’ve ever been before, your time is not your own, you spend 24 hours a day tending to every demand, cry and request. You spend your time preparing meals they don’t eat, rushing out to a playgroup here, a swimming lesson there, playing endless loops of the same imaginary game over and over, willing them to sleep, then willing them NOT to sleep, answering questions, deciphering new words, and trying your best to not think about the fact that your every action, every answer, every move is shaping the mind of your tiny sidekick and ultimately leading to the type of adult they’ll become.

When is there time for you to eat, for you to rest, for you to work through the list of worries in your head? Answer: there’s not. Most days I barely eat anything other than a hurried bite of a biscuit before Evie notices and wants it for herself, a quick slurp of a cup of tea before rushing out the door to whichever activity we’re late for that morning. I still barely sleep, thanks to a toddler who loves to be in beside us pulling at my hair and clambering to get closer and closer until my head is on the bedside table and my chest squashed by a small body. I can’t even pee without her there to ‘help pull up Mummy’s pants’ while I’m mid way through. My showers are hurried and frantic as I listen to every thud and clunk from outside the cubicle praying she hasn’t hurt herself in those 2 secs she’s dashed off to find another toy. Most days I wake up and know that today will largely be the same as every other day, and that there won’t be a single part of the next 8 hours that’s for me.

And that takes it’s toll. I don’t at all mean to sound negative, because the decision for me to be at home with Evie is one that I made whole heartedly and I wouldn’t for a minute change or regret. I’ve felt so lucky to have these early years with her, to be the one she comes to and the one who sees every new development first hand, because I know it’s not an option for so many Mothers. I’d never take it for granted, but of course it does come with challenges and in 2018 I felt the weight of them more than ever.

Not having time to look after myself has left my health really suffering, and I know I need to get on top of it from now on. I’ve suffered with some unknown stomach issues for a good few years now. Before we had Evie, I spent the best part of two years back and forward from the doctor trying to decipher what could be causing the problem. I’ve had blood tests and stool samples and ultrasounds and endoscopy’s. I’ve visited a dietician and gone on the FODMAP diet and still didn’t really get any further in knowing what exactly it is that makes me feel so ill. I had a temporary break from it (to an extent) while pregnant (maybe my body had other things to worry about) and I guess I had other things to worry about during Evie’s first year that I kind of blocked it out. This year it’s re-surfaced and I’ve found it difficult to cope with. Probably a mixture of lack of sleep, not eating well or drinking enough water, running on empty most of the time, worrying and getting anxious about things alongside perhaps still some un-diagnosed allergy or IBS has led to me feeling pretty unwell for most of the last 12 months.

I know that there are others who suffer so much more and for whom ill health is a constant and unfortunate part of life, so I’m hasten to complain too much or too compare my symptoms with those who have a more serious condition, but I can honestly say that there was no part of 2018 where I felt – well – and that’s been tough. Constant migraines, huge hormonal surges and dips, and bouts of constant nausea. Anxiety over whether I’ll make it through a night out with friends or whether one glass of wine will see me in a taxi home with a migraine. The fear of eating the wrong thing unknowingly while out for a meal and then spending the whole of the next day doubled over with pain. Waking up feeling so shaky and dizzy that I don’t know how I’ll get through a day of parenting. Feeling like I can’t fully enjoy life because every little treat or indulgence will no doubt lead to a week of illness.

It has to change.

I ended the year (perhaps one final push to make changes in 2019) with yet another bout of illness over Christmas and sworn off various foods, and that was it for me. From the first week in January I vowed to make changes and although it’s not been easy (especially this week as we’ve been thrown back into the normal routine with me at home every day on my own with Evie and struggling to find the time to eat, no less eat the right things), I’m committed to getting to the bottom of these issues this year and beginning to live a healthier life.

I’ve returned to the Doctor to discuss the possible problems and solutions once again but for the most part I’m taking things into my own hands. Cutting things out of my diet that I know don’t help me, aiming to make time for three square meals a day which are sustaining and fulfilling, while still being quick and easy to prepare with a toddler around, and prioritising time that was previously spent on other things towards meal planning and cooking.

I’m going to stop feeling pressure to eat or drink certain things while on a night out, stop being too timid to say ‘actually I can’t eat that’ or ‘no I don’t want a drink’ when at a friends house or out for a meal and accept this ‘condition’ for what it is, and find a way to manage it long term, rather than just ignore it and pay the price.

My main – mini goals – to help in this area are to be more organised with our food shop so that we can plan ahead with meals and know what we’re cooking and eating ahead of time, rather than hurriedly going to Aldi on the way home and picking up something quick from a packet.

I want to experiment with cooking more, try new recipes and find cookbooks and meals that can help me put together a rosta of heathy, easy to prepare, meals that both myself and my Husband can enjoy while still keeping my tummy happy.

I want to try and rest more, work towards more sleep by encouraging Evie back into her own bed over time and persuading her to let my Husband do more of her morning and evening routines.

I want to begin some gentle and regular exercise again, regain some time for myself and ultimately feel fitter. Maybe in turn regaining my figure a little (I feel like it’s not really allowed anymore to say you’re not happy with your figure – we’re all supposed to love ourselves and our bodies – but equally if you don’t feel fit or healthy and don’t feel yourself when you look in the mirror it should also be ok to want to work towards changing that, right?).

I want to tackle my anxiety issues head on and work on managing them more.

I want to get to know my cycles better, begin using a mooncup rather than tampons, and try and look after myself more during hormonal points in the month so as not to exasperate my stomach issues any further.

That’s a lot, but I feel like over time it’s do-able. Maybe not fully this year but I’m confident I can make small changes to work towards all of these things this year and through doing that will hopefully end 2019 feeling healthier and more in control of my health than I did in 2018.

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It’s the 5th January. As I type this, perched at our dining table in our cold kitchen with a snoring Evie in the buggy next to me, I can see our neighbours across the road from the kitchen window – up a very tall ladder, slowly dismantling the multitude of lights that formed a giant Christmas tree across the front of their house for the last month. Yup, Christmas is officially over.

Although we admitted defeat a couple of days ago and de-Christmas-ified the house in favour of organised toys and a somewhat tidy living room again, walking down our street with doors adorned with wreaths and lights on bushes, I could almost tell myself the holidays weren’t over yet. But the giant christmas tree coming down across the road is somehow poignant, with tomorrow being the 6th Jan and the last official day of our co-parenting ‘holiday’ before my Husband goes back to work, I go back to solo parenting and work juggling 5 days a week and the everyday monotony once again begins.

I still can’t really believe that Christmas is over for another year. I can remember having a conversation with a friend what feels like only yesterday, saying ‘no need to worry about Christmas yet, it’s AGES away’ for her to reply ‘you say that but don’t you think that Christmas always has a habit of creeping up on us? It’ll be here before we know it’ and of course, it’s true, because here we are, the festivities behind us, entering a whole new year. There are times I wonder if the build up to the festive period is, in fact, the truly exciting part? Because as wonderful as the day/s themselves are, they come to an end all too quickly and before you know it you’re hurtling towards January, a new calendar, and a whole lot of self imposed pressure and expectation.

I try really hard (I really do) every year to not let myself get down in January. To not feel the weight of those cold grey days, to not let the expanse of the unknown year ahead swamp me, to remind myself that the journey from one day to the next is really no different whether it’s the 31st December or the 7th October. But every year it’s futile. I really rather dislike the first few weeks of January and I can’t help but feel a little out of whack during them. To be totally truthful, I don’t always emerge from my new year slumber until the spring, when my birthday hits and I feel a re-awakening of sorts. Maybe in a previous life I was an animal that went into hibernation over the winter?

I think it’s the magnitude of it all you see. That new number on the calendar and the prospect of all it could bring. The dizzying excitement of everything I could achieve. That clean slate, fresh start, new you thing. It’s overwhelming.

But over the last few years I’ve kind of learned that January really isn’t my month. March, maybe, but not January. And so it’s totally ok for me to go a bit more slowly. For me January comes with tiredness (so much tiredness), a lack of motivation and usually a fair bit of anxiety. The cold weather, the lack of direction, the longing for Spring, they get me down. So it’s not the best time for me to make big steps forward or work towards a whole new me/life. It is however, a good month for me to plan, to take stock and to look after myself.

So that’s what I’m doing. I decided not to ‘go back to work’ as such (i.e. begin looking for freelance work/ do my tax return/start working on the blog again) until next week, when my Husband too returns to the office and daily routines resume. And although I definitely have a few goals set out for this year (which I’ll share in a seperate post) and things I’d love to make happen/ achieve, I’m trying not to get caught up in the flurry of ‘go go go’ that attacks us every January and just approach it all slowly. I’ve become a lot more laid back about things like life ambitions since I became a parent. I’ve kind of accepted that with a kid around nothing happens overnight, changes take time to process and you just have to accept and utilise the small pockets of time you have to take small steps forward (while simultaneously trying not to compare yourself to others who are moving so much faster).

As far as January’s go, we’ve actually got quite a busy month with lots in the diary to look forward to and keep us busy. And there’s plenty of things to begin making tracks with too – Evie is going to be turning two next month (aah!) so there’s her birthday to think about, plus we’re revisiting childcare again so I can have a couple of mornings a week to work (hopefully) and need to start looking into the option that is right for us, I’m thinking about taking on a weekend job/some extra work to supplement my freelance income (and take the pressure off when it comes to paying childcare costs), we’ve got family to visit, house jobs that need attention and, well, a very big pile of washing to get through – so LOTS to be getting on with.

Right now though, I’m still processing Christmas. There’s still the odd box of biscuits/ tin of truffles waiting to be eaten, I’m still opting for comfy loungewear over real clothes, haven’t looked at the gym timetable for this month yet and I’m not expecting any major life changes to occur in the next 25 days or so.

So I thought I’d make my first post of 2019 a reflective one and share some of my favourite moments from the last three weeks of our Christmas holiday. One of the things I really want to do more of on this blog in 2019 is record more of life’s little moments. Ultimately these are the things I’ll be keen to look back on in years to come and I’m slightly obsessed with trying to capture and write down all of these little snippets of Evie’s (and our) lives so that I don’t forget how special it all was. I think I fall victim to the perfectionist trait all to often with this blog and while I might have the blog post drafted and the ideas ready, I worry that the imagery isn’t as good quality as it could be or that I don’t have the time to write the perfect words. I want to just sit down, and let the words pour out more. And even if there’s very few of them, or only a couple of grainy shots, just remember these times as a family and everything we loved and laughed about.

So with that in mind, here are a few of the things that made our Christmas…

Co-parenting

Three whole weeks of tackling everything as a team – it was glorious. I think that’s what I’ll remember most from this holiday – just the amount of time we’ve spent together as a family of three. Time that has allowed both myself and my Husband to indulge in rest, to have the odd long lie. Time which has meant my Husband could take Evie out for a few hours and let me write blog posts or take photos. Time that has seen us do lunches together, take Evie to play cafe’s and out on walks and to the swimming pool together, rather than alone.

It really is SO much easier when there’s two of you around to help each other out. One to pack the car up or get the bags ready while the other gets Evie dressed. One to get up in the morning while the other has ten more minutes in bed to get ready for the day. One to take over when you’re feeling tired, impatient or overwhelmed. One to support you when that tantrum hits.

The first week of our holiday was spent doing many of the normal things I do week in week out, but with the added bonus of having the Husband around to help. He entertained Evie while I drank a cup of tea, took her out for an hour here and there so I could get my final few blog posts up. We went out for little family lunches, long walks, outings to town or the park. And of course we indulged in plenty of the festive activities that the week before Christmas is made for – we watched Christmas movies, baked gingerbread, wrapped presents and posted our Christmas cards. Little acts, everyday moments, made pretty lovely.

Evie’s excitement

Evie’s interest in all things Christmas was really what made the festive season for us this year. She didn’t exactly understand what was going on but she understood enough. She knew something exciting was coming up, she realised Dad was at home more than often, and she got giddy at all the talk of presents and Santa and going to Nannie’s house. There are of course a lot of times when having a toddler is bloody hard work, but there are these occasional pockets of time where it’s just the BEST. And I’ve learned that when those times come, it’s so so important to soak it all in and enjoy it before the next crazy period hits.

I have to say that Evie was an absolute joy the whole month of December, and her obvious excitement made everything more special for us. We loved choosing and decorating the tree with her, seeing the wonder in her eyes when we all sat down to watch The Snowman together, watching her giggle away non stop while making gingerbread cookies, and of course the joy of seeing her open her presents and join in with all the family parties and celebrations. She’s the best!

Family time

A big ol’ dose of family time was just what we needed. Not just the three of us spending time together, but seeing our wider family too. This year we spent Christmas at my in-laws (the last one in their current abode before they move this year) along with my brother-in law and his partner too, and it was lovely to have those few days to eat and drink and toast and play games and indulge in all things Christmas together.

And it was great to see Evie’s relationships with all of them blossom too – she had a blast hanging out with Nannie and Grandad (and Charlie – the dog) day in day out, and it took no time at all before she was running around their house shouting ‘Nannie, Nannie, Nannie come play’ at the top of her voice. or chasing the dog around the kitchen table squealing with delight. On Christmas Eve more family came over, and Evie stayed up late playing excitedly with her big cousins and dancing around the living room in her vest. She got to see her Great Grandparents again on Boxing Day, and then spent another late night with pretty much the entirety of my Husband’s family that evening. Something that only 6 months ago probably would have completely overwhelmed her – so many new faces and a strange environment – yet she took it all in her stride and happily chatted and played away. She’s becoming such a confident little thing that sometimes I wonder how I ever thought she was going to be quiet or shy!

Of course we missed my family this year, but the whats app group was filled with a constant stream of photos, we made sure to Facetime and we’re seeing my Mum and my brother later this month, before my Dad retires in February and we’ll hopefully all get together for Evie’s birthday, so plenty of family get togethers to look forward to this year.

Slow days

I was actually pretty ill over Christmas, and when it first hit the day before Christmas Eve, I was pretty devastated. Thinking it would ruin the entire break and I’d miss out on everything and spend the whole of Christmas miserable on my own in bed. I know – dramatic much? But actually, it’s probably not what I’ll remember about this Christmas at all, and I managed to get through it and still join in with the celebrations as much as I could.

I started off with a few days of constant nausea, dizziness and stomach pains, unable to eat anything without feeling sick. And I mistakenly thought it was either a stomach bug or my stomach issues flaring up badly, so I did what I’d normally do for a stomach bug and spent a day in bed not eating anything at all. Which, in hindsight probably made things worse. After a couple more days of that, I started getting pain in my ears and down my neck and my head felt heavy and congested, with the dizziness and nausea continuing and I realised it was perhaps an ear infection of some sort. A few doses of Sudafed later and the dizziness was almost kept at bay, which reduced the nausea greatly and allowed me to eat small amounts again.

I’d been worried we might not make it to family, but we swung by the pharmacy on route (this was back when I thought it was a stomach bug), I loaded up on all sorts of nausea tablets and bought an abundance of beige food and we got through the journey ok. And I was so glad to have made it to a home full of people willing to help with Evie and let me rest. Just knowing that at least she would be well looked after and have a great Christmas allowed me to relax and took the pressure off, which in turn eased the symptoms a lot.

I didn’t eat all that much over the few days of Christmas, and I didn’t drink at all, which ordinarily I might have been upset about but really this year all I cared about was making sure Evie had the best time, and feeling well enough to be a part of things. Eating plain foods and drinking only water wasn’t all that ‘festive’ but it meant that by Boxing Day I was starting to feel better, and I managed to at least be part of the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations.

We kept our days slow and relaxed. Evie went out on walks with her Grandparents but until Boxing Day I stayed put on the sofa, watched movies and ate rich tea biscuits. It was probably exactly what my body needed.

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I adore getting dressed up. I always have. There’s something about clothes – and pretty, floaty, sparkly, dressy clothes in particular – that just speak to me. Make me feel a rush of adrenaline, excitement, joy. The swish of a layer of chiffon, the sashay from a cascading train, the sparkle from a bed of sequins, the glint from something metallic or glittery, it all just makes me so SO happy.

But here’s the thing. This current period of life has no call for getting dressed up. It might change again in the future but for now,  there’s very rarely an occasion that warrants party wear. I love it, but making room for it in my wardrobe is like hoarding a collection of garden tools when you live in a flat with no garden.

This year I didn’t have one single Christmas night out. There was no Christmas party to attend and even my Christmas Eve party outfit was relegated for a simple midi skirt and jumper when I fell ill over the Christmas period and didn’t have the energy.

Between being Mum to a toddler (and rarely leaving the house past 7pm), working for myself (office Christmas party is always pretty lonely) and living in a city where I still don’t know many people, the ‘party season’ for me basically involves the same evening routine as every other ‘season’ but with a box of quality street thrown in.

I know, woe is me right? But before you all eye roll me for being so melodramatic, I don’t bring this up for sympathy or even so you can laugh at how pathetic my Mum life is. I simply want to give a bit of pretext to what this post is all about. Because although I could write about party-wear until the cows come home (and have done for various other publications), give you endless styling tips for making that – totally out there – dress look chic rather than tacky, and list all the best places to buy a sequin skirt, when it comes to my own blog, I find it so much easier to write from a personal point of view and stick to sharing musings from where my life is at this given point, and style notes that reflect that place. Because I don’t actually mind the fact that I don’t get out much anymore. I don’t mind missing out on the hangovers and the late nights and the loud music. I’d probably much rather be cosy on my sofa with my box of quality street and a movie on the TV. But I do miss the dressing up, I miss the party outfit planning and the accessory buying and the getting ready with the girls side of things. I miss having those dates in the diary that warrant a sparkly new outfit.

And so with it being Hogmanay, the bells set to ring out later and the last occasion for sparkle this year, I thought I’d share my version of party-wear this season.

In the same way I wrote my take on tackling party wear when you’re pregnant, and then tackling it as a new (and extremely tired) first time Mum, this is how I’m tackling it this year as a stay at home freelance Mum who hasn’t had a single cocktail in the whole of December.

Relatable right?

Ok so my tip for making use of your favourite party pieces when there really is very little actual partying going on, is simple. You just gotta dress it down a bit. Imagine how you’d wear it for a Christmas lunch at the pub rather than a night on the tiles. Despite not having much in the calendar in the way of nights out, I knew I’d still want to embrace a bit of festive sparkle and don the odd party dress, so I switched things up to make sure I could do so for the festive occasions I did have coming up – party nights in with family, little Christmas lunch/hot chocolate meet ups with Mum friends and babies, Children’s Christmas party at the playgroup, family outings in the week before the big day – without feeling over dressed or out of place. Basically there was no way I was going through December without some sparkle so party or no party, the sequins were coming out.

We all know about the casual party wear formula right? It’s nothing new – sequins for day, dresses with jumpers, skirts and trainers. But the thing is it really WORKS, and it’s a brilliant way to make sure your party pieces get more than one outing and avoid that ‘keeping them for best’ rule that leaves them gathering dust in your wardrobe all year.

I’ve picked a few of my go to party looks to share and below is how I made them work for the daytime Christmas coffee catch ups and the (house) parties for three. But other outfit combos that I didn’t photograph include;

-The sparkly jumper with a cute denim/leather/suede mini skirt, tights and boots (This Joanie Clothing Golden Girl style is a fave!)

– Pretty dresses worn with trainers, and/or a jumper over the top

– A nice party midi skirt (satin/velvet pleated/bright colour) with a simple white tee or plain jumper tucked in and a pair of boots

Look 1 – The Party Dress

Dress – Asos (old) | Coat – Vintage House of Fraser (via eBay) | Boots – Boden (old) | Headband – Orelia Jewellery

I adore this navy and silver dress – I originally bought it for a winter wedding last year but it works equally well as festive party wear too. The sheer layers and the silver glittery design are so fun to don but while previously I’ve dressed it up with high heels, oodles of jewellery and a dressy blazer, I’ve realised it works just as well when worn with ankle boots and an oversized masculine style coat too. These boots are ideal for this outfit as not only are they silver and shiny but they’re also super comfy and easy to wear and I can handle a whole day in them no problem. The coat takes the – out in a party dress – feel away from the outfit and means I can go all out on the accessories with this cute silver star headband and sparkly clutch. I wore this in the week before Christmas when my Husband finished work and the three of us headed out for a little pre-Christmas lunch. I kept it pretty much as you see it here but simply added a little cropped fluffy jumper to dress it down more. I felt great in it and didn’t feel overdressed at all – it was essentially just like wearing a skirt and jumper out, but a sparkly one!

Look 2 – The Sequin Skirt
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Seeing as in about 5 days, I’ll revert to living only in either festive pyjamas or Christmas jumpers and fancy loungewear (after the obligatory Christmas Eve party dress of course), I thought I’d share one of my slightly more put together December looks before I’m swallowed whole by the sofa this Christmas.

I’m all about the cosy classics in December – skinny jeans, fluffy jumpers, wooly hats, red lipstick and then some great accessories to bring it all together. That and a good coat of course.

Coat – Vintage House of Fraser via eBay | Jumper – H&M | Jeans – Topshop (old)

Shoes – Boden – 40% off right now! (*gift) | Watch – Cluse at Browns Family Jewellers (*gift) | Bag – Dune via TK Maxx (*gift)

Let’s talk about the coat first, because I adore it but it was a mission to find one like this. I’ve been searching for a decent navy pea coat for MONTHS. Months I tell you! I’ve always opted for the out there coat of the season – the pink shearling, the bright red, you get my drift. And I love all of those coats but this year I really wanted a more classic style – something I could wear with jeans and dresses, wear casual or dressy. And in my mind a great navy wool pea coat would do all of that. But of course they just didn’t exist on the high street this year. The shops were full of camels and browns and wrap coats and teddy bear coats. But no pea coats – well maybe a few, but they were FAR out of my price range.

So I turned to eBay and found this one on an eBay charity shop (making me feel even better about my second hand purchase) and it was an absolute bargain – £20 for a vintage wool House of Fraser style, I lucked out. It’s a little small – as in I’ll probably always have to wear it open – but other than that it’s just what I wanted.

Other things to discuss – these super chic flats from Boden. I LOVE them! As soon as I spotted them on the website I knew I had to have them – anything described as a slipper made from navy suede and with a shooting star embroidered on top has my vote every single time. Plus they’re SO comfy – I’ll be living in them from now until June I reckon. Oh and I may also have ordered a jumper with a shooting star on too but I’ll show you that another time. Basically Boden are killing it for the festive season (as always) and definitely worth checking out – they even have 40% off right now.

Lastly I’m really in love with my new Cluse watch which was a kind gift from Browns Family Jewellers. I have another bigger classic watch which I wear for day, but this one is great as a dressier option. The green velvet strap is gorgeous and the small face makes it ideal both for day or evening. I’ve been wearing it with both this everyday casual outfit and with party dresses, so it’s been a brilliant addition to my December wardrobe.

And my favourite accessory of all – that big bunch of eucalyptus and red berries. I just can’t help myself at this time of year, I spend a small fortune on the stuff. But it just looks (and smells) so great around the house – and the berries are so festive. I have vases all over the house full of them.

Anyway I always feel a bit silly just reporting on the outfit and nothing else these days – outfit posts are so 2010 blogging or something like that – so let’s do a little life catch up too shall we?

Today I rocked up for a hospital appointment, 15 mins before my allocated spot as requested, only to discover I was at the WRONG hospital. Yup, not one of my finer moments but alas, we had a nice day out as a family none the less. I’ve only got a few more presents for Evie to wrap, a bit more Christmas baking to do and a couple more blog posts to get live and then I’m well and truly downing tools and settling back to eat as many Celebrations as I can.

How about you? Are you feeling festive? Ready to relax or still panicking about everything you have to do? Oh and please tell me what your December staples look like – do you go all out in sequins or are you more of a casual jeans and fair isle jumpers type?

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The post A Cosy Winter Uniform appeared first on Jaclyn Ruth.

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I know, I’m an actual Saint aren’t I?

Amidst all of the christmas gift guides and shopping bonanza’s and Instagram round ups and affiliate links here, there and everywhere, I bet what you really wanted from the blogosphere this year was for someone to eat their own bodyweight in mince pies on behalf of their blog and report back, RIGHT?

The question of which supermarket does the best mince pies has long been a contentious one. Remember when Holly and Phil attempted to crown a winner on This Morning and the nation was left divided? Well, this blog post will probably be nothing like that, and of course there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to listen to me (because mince pies are like wine, in that everyone’s tastes are different) but I figured, hey, why not add my humble opinion into the mix (and face the potential wrath of all who disagree)? If only for the fact that it gives me licence to eat mince pies every day in December and pass it off as ‘creating quality content’ for the blog. I know, being an online content creator is just SUCH hard work at times.

I’ve actually been wanting to create a blog post like this for a number of years, and each Dec the idea comes to me, I buy up all the mince pies and then somehow find myself on the 26th Dec, very much in a food coma and wondering what happened? *I ate all the mince pies – that’s what happened.

This year I decided to take things seriously and make it my mission to tell you all which mince pie brands to stock up on and which to avoid. When I say I ate ‘ALL’ the mince pies on the market, what I really mean is that I started eating mince pies far earlier than is really socially acceptable and was geeky enough to take notes along the way. I tried a batch from each of the main supermarket chains, all claiming to produce ‘the best’, and rated them against each other (because even I – a mince pie addict – really would struggle to eat ALL of the mince pies on the market). And when I say ‘So you don’t have to’, well I don’t really mean that either because, of course, you too have full permission to eat your body weight in mince pies this month with no judgement from me! But, if you’re someone who just wants to pick a shop and buy all of your Christmas supplies in bulk, then you might want to make sure you’re buying mince pies which won’t disappoint the relatives on Christmas Eve.

And yes, it really was a selfless act entirely on behalf of you dear readers, I got nothing out of it at all. Nope, nada. In fact, I even had to go out of my way to stock up on all of the different varieties. ‘Why are we driving an extra half hour to get home?’ , ‘Because dear husband it’s absolutely crucial that we try a mince pie from Asda despite the fact there’s not an Asda anywhere near us at all, my readers are counting on me this year and I CANNOT let them down – it’s very important work!’.

VERY important work, I think you’ll agree so let’s get started.

Oh, before I begin, this list obviously doesn’t take into consideration homemade, which we all know are far superior. I’ll be making plenty of my own too (like I said – mince pie addict over here) but I feel it’s important to know which shop bought version comes out on top don’t you?

And also, if you happen to be one of those strange people who doesn’t actually like mince pies… well I’m not really sure why you’ve read this far in the first place but, there’s probably not much more for you in this post, sorry!

Right, let’s get on with it shall we? To make things a little more comprehensive, I’ve rated a score of 1 to 10 and also crowned certain ones with a title. You’ll find my opinion, and just for a little diversity, my husband has stuck his oar in too so you can be sure this is in no way bias to one brand (side note – wouldn’t it be great if I actually did get sponsored to do this activity?).

THE BEST MINCE PIES ON THE (SUPER)MARKET The best for ‘A Wild Card’ – Aldi specially selected Salted Caramel Mince Pies £1.25

The Lowdown – Aldi are offering a whole bunch of ‘alternative’ mince pie styles this year for those who like to live on the edge – there’s everything from salted caramel to blackforest and sloe gin flavoured. Now normally I’m a fan of the traditional when it comes to mince pies, and like so many favourite foods, I’m not always on board when people start messing with a perfectly good original recipe. BUT, I was intrigued by these I have to say, and at £1.25 for a box of six, it’s affordable enough to take the risk.

I say – actually very tasty. But very sweet too. Not sure I could devour a whole pack in one go like I ahem some people might normally do. Would be best served warn with a bit of ice cream to take the edge off. But, they were a surprising hit for me (I do love salted caramel), despite the caramel taking over on the flavour front slightly and making them not at all traditional.

Husband says – Nice but not at all like a mince pie, which ultimately is what you’re buying. Needs less caramel and more mincemeat. A bit weird.

Overall – enjoyable, but don’t buy them if you’re a die hard fan of the traditional buttery mince pie as you mght be disappointed. Do buy them if you fancy something a little different, have a sweet tooth and want a conversation starter when having your less than forthcoming family members over.

6/10

The Best for ‘Being most like Homemade’ – Marks and Spencer Mince Pies £2.50

The Lowdown – there’s no ‘specially selected’ or the like when it comes to M&S, there’s simply ‘mince pies’ but they’re in a gold box, and are far more expensive than most other brands so there’s definitely the suggestion of luxury here. As if they’re trying to tell us that M&S don’t need to differentiate between standard and luxury, because ALL of their products are luxury. Anyway these are crumbly, packed full of mincemeat, shaped into stars on the top and dusted with a heavy dose of icing sugar. Oh and tasty, really tasty.

I say – expensive, but some may say worth it. These are definitely up there as one of the best mince pies I’ve tried. Generally I’m a fan of firmer crispier pastry but I make an exception with these, which are very soft in the pastry department, because it really works. Along with the icing sugar, they taste like they could be homemade and I’m here for that.

Husband says – A good traditional mince pie. The only annoying thing is that they’re so crumbly I can’t get them out of the case without them breaking. Oh and prepare for an icing sugar shower – it goes everywhere!

Overall – we were fans of these, but of course the price means you might only want to buy these as a bit of a treat.

9/10

The best for ‘Luxury’ – Tesco finest All butter mince pies laced with cognac – £2

The Lowdown – Again on the pricier end of the mince pie market, Tesco are offering a ‘finest’ version of their mince pies with a touch of the ol’ alcohol thrown into the title to entice us all for the holiday season.

I say – I really loved these mince pies. I’m a fan of a crisp, firm pastry and these delivered. They held their shape, had a good mincemeat to pastry ratio, a sprinkling of sugar on top and of course that cognac taste which made them somehow taste more luxurious. If you’re into heating up your mince pies and eating them as a pudding with a dollop of ice cream (I am) then these are the ones to do it with – so so good.

Husband says – Good pastry, good filling, good all rounder.

Overall – definitely one of our top choices and a traditional taste while offering a bit of luxury.

8/10

The best for ‘Value’ – Aldi specially selected classic mince pies – £1.25

The Lowdown – It seemed rude to only try a salted caramel from Aldi, so I gave their classic version a whirl too. It’s still in the specially selected family so eludes to a bit of luxury, and the price is very good too.

I say – At the cheaper end of the market (i.e. under £2), these were definitely the best. If you love the M&S ones but need a cheaper alternative which is similar, then opt for these. They offer the same crumbly pastry and icing sugar top, and although the mincemeat is not as rich, the price makes up for that.

Husband says – For the price, these are really really good.

Overall – probably in our top three. A good affordable alternative to the M&S variety and a price that means you could buy a few packs.

7/10

The best ‘All rounder’ – Morrisons All Butter Mince Pies – £1

The Lowdown – Again Morrisons didn’t appear to offer a ‘luxury’ option but they’re classic version was a great price and to be honest, pretty darn good for that price.

I say – I was really impressed with these considering they were the only supermarket where we tried a non ‘luxury’ branded version. Similar to the Tesco finest range in that they have a firm pastry but these ones definitely delivered on the amount of mincemeat- they were packed to the brim with the stuff. If you’re not a fan of an alcohol taste, these might be better for you as they omit that brandy/liqueur after taste.

Husband says – good pastry, good filling, good price. I like the design on the top. Um… what else can I say? They’re all starting to blend into  each other to be honest! How many more mince pies to we have to try?

Overall – impressive for..

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes finding unique presents for family members year on year can be a very difficult task. Once you’ve done the socks and pyjamas and hampers and framed photos in previous years, the ideas start to run dry.

My parents are especially good at telling us they have everything they need. Which although I’m sure is true, doesn’t make buying them gifts any easier. This year we’ve decided to go down the homemade route, and send them a few small things from Evie rather than spending money on things they might not want/need.

And in seeking out unique handmade gifts, I think I’ve come up trumps with this year’s. I was recently introduced to Neveo – an app which you can add and store all of your favourite family photos to then be collated into a photo book and sent to family members of your choice every month.

If there’s one thing that I know will always put a smile on my parents face, it’s looking at photos of their one and only grandchild so signing up for a years subsrcription to Neveo was an unexpectedly perfect gift.

We added all of our favourite photos of Evie in the run up to Christmas into the app before the beginning of December, added captions and then left the rest to the Neveo team. Within a week or so, I’d received a message from my mum, exclaiming ‘what a lovely surprise!’ as their book had arrived in the post in time for Christmas!

Essentially like a monthly magazine with news from your family, Neveo is such a great simple way to help family stay up to date with each other and an especially good way of sharing pictures with people who you might not see regularly. Obviously for older members of the family, who maybe don’t use social media or have a whats app, getting a tangible paper magazine each month with photos, is a brilliant way to let them see what your little ones have been up to. And with the app being so simple to use and the printing process taken out of your hands, it’s a much easier route than remembering to print and collate photos each month by hand.

For us, not having family nearby does sometimes mean that there are moments our parents and wider family maybe miss out on with Evie, and a constant stream of shared photos is the best way to help her grandparents feel like they were part of it, even if they couldn’t be there in person. We have a shared family Whats App of course but I’ll admit during busy times I sometimes get a little slack at adding photos in and making sure it’s updated. Now that I have the Neveo app, I just make sure that at the end of each day I add in any snaps I’ve taken that day, write a short caption about what we got up to and then I don’t need to worry about it anymore. At the end of the month the photos are collated, printed into a glossy magazine and sent out for you. It really is completely hassle free! You even receive a copy yourself too so you can remind yourself of all the best moments from the month.

The app itself is simple to navigate and only allows for certain actions – mainly adding photos and writing captions – and once you’ve input the addresses of where you’d like it to be sent, everything is done for you. All you need to take care of is remembering to add the photos. One key feature is that you can invite other family members into your account and they too can add photos in throughout the month making it a truly collaborative project between the whole family. With one shared account you can ensure a magazine full of pictures from all sides. There’s a limit of 50 photos per month within the magazine (probably more than enough for one month) and although the app is free to download there’s a small charge per month should you want to subscribe and send a monthly magazine (£9.99 per month for a 50 photo album, £14.99 per month for a 100 photo album), but it’s still a whole lot cheaper than printing photos out in store every month.

Neveo asked us to try the service for the month of November (ensuring a magazine delivery in time for Christmas) and review it, and I have to say overall we’ve been really impressed with the app. Specifically how easy it is to use and how quick the whole process is. Printing photos out is a bit of a dying art isn’t it? But whenever we do it, we’re always really glad to have those tangible memories to hand. But I guess the thing that stops us doing it regularly is the fact that it takes time to collate all of the photos onto a memory stick, head to a printing shop, wait for them to be printed and then figure out what to do with them once we have them. Not to mention the cost, as printing photos is rather expensive nowadays. Neveo has taken that hassle away slightly, and although the quality within the magazine isn’t as great as it would be getting a printed photo, it’s brilliant having a completed book of all our adventures within that month. Neveo have kindly given us a year’s subscription to the app and I’m really looking forward to keeping all of the magazines and being able to look back on them in years to come, knowing exactly when each of our adventures took place.

Obviously as it’s a fairly new service there are still a few kinks to iron out and the app isn’t totally perfect yet in my opinion. A couple of things I’d love to be different; I’d really like it if you could personalise the magazine slightly more. I realise this would then take more time and perhaps put people off as the process wouldn’t be a simple as it is now, but I’d love to be able to arrange the photos in a certain way within the magazine (currently they go in time order depending on when you added and also per person adding – i.e. all of the ones I added first then all of the ones my husband added and so on), perhaps choose fonts or colours and what I think would really make it more special is to be able to add a personalised message to the recipient at the beginning. Although my parents loved getting their magazine in the post, as it was a gift and therefore a surprise they were a little baffled as to where it had come from and who had created it. I’d loved to have written a personal gift message alongside the book, and perhaps even had a page at the beginning of the magazine with a small blurb like ‘Dear Nana and Bapa, we thought you might like to see what Evie’s been getting up to this month, here’s a collection of photos of her getting ready for Christmas and enjoying the festivities’ or something along those lines.

I also didn’t love the way each photo was preceded with the name of who had added it in bold letters at the top of each column. I can see how this might be good if a large family were all adding photos so that the recipient could see who took what, but for us it was a little redundant as it was only myself and my husband adding photos in and therefore quite repetitive. And lastly as it’s me who has the app and I set up the account, I’d love if I could add captions to all photos to ensure the book is fully completed before printing. Unfortunately you can only add captions and edit/delete the photos you’ve personally added in. My husband isn’t much of a writer and therefore many of his photos remained caption-less. We initially didn’t think this was a problem, but upon receiving the magazine through the post, we realised it looked a little odd with one section of the magazine (as I mentioned the photos are laid out by person rather than all mixed up) completely blank and the other full of words (easy to guess whose was whose right?).

But I’ve no doubt that as the app continues to grow and develop those small issues will easily be resolved and they definitely haven’t put me off continuing to use it. My parents were really pleased with their personal ‘book of Evie’ and even more excited when I told them it would be a monthly thing. I’ve been adding pics in ever since and can’t wait for them to see the December issue, as we are spending Christmas with my husbands family this year and I know my parents will love seeing all of the pictures of Evie throughout the holidays, seeing as they won’t be with her.

If you’re keen to have printed photos of your children and easily keep other family members up to date with everything they do, Neveo is the app for you. It’s honestly so easy to use and compared to other similar services, very affordable too. So if you’re still in need of a last minute Christmas present for that family member who is proving tricky to buy for/ has everything, this could be just the thing!

What do you think? Would you use an app like this?

This post is sponsored by Neveo and they kindly provided us with a year’s subsription to the app, but as always all words and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the sponsored content on this blog.

The post Introducing Neveo – The Unique Family Christmas Present appeared first on Jaclyn Ruth.

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With both our wedding anniversary and my husbands birthday at the end of November, thoughts of Christmas and all things festive definitely don’t enter our household until at least the 1st of December. And then wham, bam, I find myself in the position I’m in now – somewhat flabbergasted that there’s now only 11 days until the day itself, and completely and utterly unprepared.

But slowly over the last 14 days we’ve been adding little festive touches to the house, indulging in those oh so fun family traditions and introducing Evie to all the joys of December (slightly concerned about how I’ll explain the lack of chocolate after breakfast come January!).

Preparing for Christmas with a toddler is a whole different ballgame than it was this time last year with a ten month old. I found myself hugely excited last year with it being Evie’s first Christmas but this year there’s the added joy of seeing everything through her eyes which really is wonderful and makes all the prep so worth it. There’s definitely more challenges involved – everything now has to be explained (explaining why we don’t open the presents yet, why we only open one advent per day, why we have a tree in our living room), every demand reasoned with (and then re-reasoned with when Evie seems to have an answer for everything) and new hurdles navigated (attempting to read a single Christmas card that comes through the door before it’s been covered in blue crayon, having to re-decorate the Christmas tree each evening after Evie’s ‘played’ with all baubles and so on), but it’s also a LOT more fun doing all of the same things we always do but with our little mini alongside.

From baking gingerbread to wrapping presents, to choosing the tree and hanging the stockings, Evie’s been right there by my side watching on with wonder and lapping it all up. I have a feeling that it’s only going to get more fun as the years go on too. We’ve been explaining little bits along the way, and she’s picking it up so fast. She loves visiting the polar bear and penguin display in town, she’s learned the tune for ‘Jingle Bells’, knows what snowmen and reindeer are, she keeps telling us that ‘Evie get a present from Santa’ and she’s DEFINITELY on board with the increase in chocolate snacks this month.

Me – Jumper – c/o Boden | Jeans – Topshop | Boots – Asos | Scarf – H&M

Evie – Jumper – c/o Boden | Welly Boots – M&S

Our annual trip to a tree farm to pick our Christmas tree was a much bigger day out this time around too, and admittedly didn’t come without a mild tantrum or two in tow. Last year we rocked up, took some photos and had chosen our tree within the hour, Evie bundled up in her snowsuit on my hip and happy enough to be part of the festivities. This year, she got so over excited about the prospect of this unknown day out that after a short run around the firs pointing out all of the ‘big Christmas tree, little Christmas tree, tiny Christmas tree’ and a stint of reluctant posing for the camera with Mum, it all got too much and the lure of a big red bus (a cafe on a double decker selling hot drinks) and a shop with a Thomas train circling the roof became a whole lot more enticing than a cold field of trees with two indecisive parents. That said, it was very cold, wet and rainy last year and this time we were treated to the most glorious of winter sunshine.

In the end I had to leave the husband the un-enviable task of choosing the right tree from a sea of green, while I gave in to Evie’s demands for a ‘ginger man bisc’ and a seat on the ‘big red bus’ and distract her from her tiredness by letting her choose a decoration to go on the tree (never been so thankful when she dropped the £5 ‘moo moo cow’ in favour of the 99p jingly house). It did take a fair bit of explaining why I couldn’t actually get the chugging Thomas down from it’s track on the roof and let Evie play with it, BUT we got there in the end and despite the odd bit of shouting and arguing, it was absolutely a day to remember. From us wrapping up in our matching Boden festive knits, to Evie’s glee at finding the tiniest of tiny Christmas trees, munching away on her gingerbread biscuit while sat on the top deck of a double decker and shouting ‘Daddy, Daddy, Evie bought a house’ to all who would listen as she came bounding out of the farm shop. Just in time to see Daddy crown a short, wide, traditional spruce as the tree we would take home.

I’m starting to see glimpses of how these little family traditions will evolve over the years, and it feels so good to be creating these memories together as a family.

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It’s no big secret that we love Aldi for all of our shopping needs in this household, but since having Evie and becoming a family who now has to add nappies and kid friendly snacks to our weekly shop, it’s the ONLY supermarket you’ll find us in.

I think I probably find myself frequenting our local branch daily, Evie now knowing her way up and down those aisles and charming the shop assistants as she insists in doing the ‘beep beep’ contactless pay. And if you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, you’ll know that I LIVE FOR those special buys. Every Thursday and Sunday you’ll find me scouring that middle aisle for bargains and my favourite pastime is reading the special buys magazine with a cup of tea. Yup. there’s definitely no denying that I’m an honest fan and have become known as somewhat of an Aldi aficionado over on Instagram.

So when I got an email from their PR team suggesting a blog collaboration, I didn’t need to think long before saying yes. I try to make sure I only ever partner with brands on this blog that fit naturally with my lifestyle, and as far as reviews go, discussing the Mamia range from Aldi is probably one of the easiest things I’ve had to write about, as these are products that we use (and have done since day dot of parenting) without fail week on week.

I can remember when I was around 36 weeks pregnant and we set about stocking up the nursery for the unknown little bundle that was about to join us in 4 weeks (and 5 days) time. I reached out to friends and family with babies to ask which nappies we should plump for. The resounding answer from almost everyone was to opt for the Aldi Mamia range, mainly because they’re newborn size packs were super affordable, but also because the consensus was they really were the best.

We trusted the majority and stocked up our changing table with lots of teeny tiny first size nappies. And do you know what? We’ve never really wavered since. We’ve dabbled in different brands here and there, if we’ve run out unexpectedly or headed out somewhere only to realise we’ve left the house sans nappy bag, but we’ve always found ourselves coming back to the Mamia range. They’ve seen Evie through from those tiny newborn size 1’s, right up to her current size 5, and we’re now moving onto their pull ups too. And it’s not just the affordability (although that is a big factor – having a child is undoubtedly the quickest way to drain your savings), we’ve always found them to be the most absorbent, they easily last through the night and they’re easy to put on with the fun designs alerting you to which side is the front and which the back. The Newborn nappies even have a line down the front which changes colour when the nappy becomes wet, so you know easily when to change your little one (before they’re at an age to tell you of course – Evie now likes to shout ‘no poo poo, just wee wee’ or ‘big poo poo’ whenever she wants her nappy changed. LOL kids are the funniest!). We’ve used the Mamia sensitive baby wipes since Evie was small too, which are brilliant for sensitive skin prone to redness or rashes, which Evie used to get a lot as a baby.

But it’s not just the nappy related products we rate. the Mamia range of weaning pouches, foods and snacks is excellent and a fraction of the price of other brands. We really struggled with weaning Evie (I’ve still got a half written post drafted on our weaning journey and the mistakes we made) and she’s still not a huge eater even now so it can often be difficult to find foods that we know she’ll actually enjoy.

However since we first introduced purees to her, she’s loved these fruit pots from Aldi (and still scoffs them now!) – at times the only thing we could get her to eat in those early days was pureed pear and apple, and we used to have to mix these in with other savoury/vegetable pouches to disguise the taste for her and get something inside her.

Before she ate all solid foods, we used to love the Mamia range of puree pouches – there’s a sweet potato, pumpkin, apple and blueberry one that was always a winner, and as it seemed to sell like hot cakes, whenever I saw it in, I literally used to buy every pouch on the shelf. The carrot, apple and parnsip one was also a hit, and the breakfast fruit and yoghurt pouches, Evie used to love!

Now that she’s older and likes the odd snack (ok more than the odd one!), we stock up on these apple flavoured rice cakes (and the raspberry versions too) and the apple biscotti biscuits which are slightly more kid friendly than a sugary digestive biscuit and make me feel like a marginally better parent when I give in to Evie’s ‘bisc, bisc’ demands for the fifth time that day! She’s clearly a fan of the apple flavours… although still won’t eat an ACTUAL apple if I put that in front of her – toddlers!!

Aldi truly has seen us through almost two years of parenting  – we’ve bought everything from toys, to nappies to books and puzzles there and I’m very glad there’s a branch local to our town in Manchester as I don’t know where I’d be without my daily visits. I think, should we be lucky/mad enough to do this all again and have another child. I would be tempted to try re-usable nappies next time as I often do feel guilty about the impact our nappy usage and disposal is having on the environment. But with Evie nearly two and us probably attempting potty training next year, I feel as if now perhaps isn’t the time to make the switch. So for now I’m happy that Aldi offer us an affordable option and we’ll be continuing to use the Mamia range for the rest of Evie’s time in nappies.

Fellow parents, do you rate the Mamia range? And where to you shop for those family essentials?

This post was in collaboration with Aldi, and the products featured were gifted. However it genuinely is all products we buy on a weekly basis anyway and I was happy to promote. As always all words and opinions are my own – thanks for supporting the collaborative content on this blog.

The post Family Essentials (and Where we Shop for Them) appeared first on Jaclyn Ruth.

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Tell me, do you stick with dresses come the colder months or are you firmly bundled up in jeans and multiple layers the minute the temperature drops?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a jeans and jumper girl most days, especially now that I’m a Mum, but I think there is still a bit of a common misconception that dresses belong in the summer camp only, destined to be packed away/ shuffled to the back of the wardrobe indefinitely when the summer sun is replaced by an icy winter blast. I touched upon the idea of re-purposing your favourite summer dresses and making them work through autumn and winter too, in my last outfit post, and it’s something I’m keen to stick by. Because you know, on the days that I do forgo the scruffy jeans in favour of a dress, I just feel better about myself. There’s something of a confidence boost in putting on a dress, something that makes you feel that bit more put together, ready to take on the world and play the role of glam Mum for at least part of the day (until your kid wipes snot/yoghurt/paint on your shoulder and you’re right back down to reality).

And it doesn’t need to be a dressy dress. You don’t only need to wear a dress when you’re also wearing heels and going out for a posh dinner (but when you do get that chance of course – GO FOR IT). You can be that well put together, chic, stylish, version of yourself while still wearing trainers and a comfy jumper too. That’s as much of a reminder for me as it is for you – as I seem to lose that memo regularly. When I was in my 20s a cute mini dress, black opaques and small heeled ankle boots was my go to come autumn winter. I lived in dresses and felt good in them too. But then as I got older, had a baby and coped with a changing body, I didn’t feel as good anymore. I started to dislike my now chunky legs, feel self conscious in minis and worry I looked too overdressed for a day of baby/toddler activities. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to bring dresses back into my wardrobe in a way that suits me, but I was determined to do so. And now I think I’m finally discovering my new dress style, a way of incorporating dresses into my outfits without feeling over the top or silly. A perfect blend of the former – cute, pretty, overly dressy – style I used to adopt, and the current – laid back, casual yet still quirky – stage I now find myself in with my style choices.

When TK Maxx got in touch and asked me to be part of their latest -£50 dresses campaign -to highlight their expansive range of dresses all at such affordable prices, meaning you can usually get a whole outfit for under £50 -it was just what I needed to rediscover my love of dresses this winter. I set myself the challenge of finding the ultimate versatile dress – one that would work with multiple items in my wardrobe, see me through various occasions, make me feel confident wherever I wore it and be chic enough to fit into both the dressy and casual realms.

I’ve long been a fan of TK Maxx for things like dresses and coats, as you know you can find top labels at much more affordable prices. Now that I’m aiming to be more conscious in my shopping habits and create somewhat of a capsule wardrobe with pieces I can rewear again and again, shops like TK Maxx appeal to me as they sell off past season stock that otherwise would have gone to waste, and ultimately it means that we can get those key wardrobe essentials for a fraction of the price. I knew that if I was going to add something new to my wardrobe – I needed it to be something I’d get a lot of wear out of.

My Winter Dress Style

So what is my new dress style I hear you ask? Well if 20 something me favoured the minis, then 30 something me definitely favours the longer length midi style. It’s not that I don’t ever wear minis anymore but just that I reserve them more for the dressy occasions or the days where I don’t spend most of my time on my hands and knees wrangling a toddler. Midis for me are just more practical at the moment. I also really rate a versatile style – something that I know can be dressed up or down and work with multiple footwear choices. And comfort is quite key too – I know, who am I?? I’m loving wrap styles, button down pinafores, and anything with a bit of fit and flare.

For winter I’m opting for any style that can easily be layered, and I’m a fan of warm tones and prints that can complement shades of black, navy, dark green and burgundy (the colours most of my coats and boots are in).

I shared a few of the TK Maxx dresses I was considering over on my Instagram stories, and asked for your help choosing one. I have to admit that most of you voted for a different style than the one I ultimately took home – a quirky rust orange coloured flared mini with billowing sleeves and a fun print – but while I definitely appreciated how unique that dress was, I just couldn’t see myself wearing it for anything other than a dressy occasion. I decided to put my sensible head on and stay on track with my self imposed challenge, choosing instead a style that I knew I’d get lots of wear out of, would fit with items in my existing wardrobe without having to buy new pieces, and that I could envision being worn in both a dressy and casual way.

I opted for this silk printed wrap dress as it really ticked a lot of boxes. The blue, green and red tones of the print which really appealed to me as I could see them working alongside everything from my bright pink fluffy coat to a red cardigan to my dark green and black dress coat. The wrap style which nipped me in at the waist and offered some shape. The floaty pleated skirt which offered some movement. The length which would work with both boots, heels and trainers. And that low neckline meaning it could so easily be dressed up too. And the best part? This gorgeous dress was just £10! I know, you can barely get a hot chocolate and a slice of cake for that these days! It meant I could also take home this beautiful Dune London snakeskin bag. I toyed between either the dark green or the burgundy but in the end decided to go for the green as I don’t have any bags in that colour and if there’s one thing you can be more experimental with, it’s accessories right? I’m loving the shade though and it actually works with so many more colours than I originally thought it would, so expect to see this bag popping up a lot over the winter season.

So seeing as versatility was key in my dress choice, I thought I’d prove that this style really can be worn in a number of ways and show you how I’ll be styling it with other items in my wardrobe.

I’m definitely all about the – dressed down dresses – look right now, because ultimately flat boots and baggy jumpers suit my everyday lifestyle of looking after a toddler and wading through muddy leaves at the park, so the more casual way of styling this dress is probably the look I’ll be opting for in an everyday setting. But it’s good to know that it can also be dressed up should I need to look smarter one day, or have somewhere to be that isn’t a toddler friendly cafe. And I must admit I felt quite bad ass in that second dressier outfit – I’m loving those burgundy boots (a Boden sample sale find at the start of this year which are seeing their first winter of wear) .

Dressed Down
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Are you all sick of pumpkin photos now? Am I about to get heckled with this post? I realise it’s now November, and I did plan to have this post up before October came to an abrupt end but hey life got in the way and here we are. I just loved these photos so much though that I didn’t want them to fall into unblogged obscurity like so many others so figured I better post them sooner rather than later, before you’re all ready to throw a pumpkin at me for even mentioning the colour orange.

Since having Evie, I’ve found myself constantly wanting to create little traditions for us as a family. Things we do together year on year/ month on month/ time after time, things that we’ll be able to collate photos of in the future and that Evie can look back on fondly.

I had a similar desire when it was just the husband and I of course, but the type of traditions were very different. Mostly based around how many cities we could travel to, or all the places in the world we could take a jumping photo together. Often circling back to food, memorable meals or little things we’d do for each other on anniversaries or birthdays.

Now our ‘traditions’ are taking the form of more wholesome family activities – days out and experiences that we can mark certain occasions with each year, adventures we know Evie will love to hear about when she’s older and little quirks about those adventures that we can claim as ‘our thing’. Only last weekend we found ourselves sitting on hay bales in a large green tractor, Evie in a Dorothy costume and a pair of wellies, as we were driven down a bumpy road towards a farm full of Halloween activities and animals to visit. As we sat and smiled at all of the other parents also choosing to spend their weekend at what was essentially a giant kids party in a farm, my Husband turned to me and said ‘One good thing as a parent is that your free time gets filled with some pretty unique experiences doesn’t it? I mean, we would have never done something like this if it wasn’t for Evie’. And he’s right of course, without Evie our weekend might have been filled with drinks or Halloween parties, we might have got a long lie or got to slob on the sofa all day, but instead we found ourselves running through mud chasing after an excitable toddler, watching baby goats be fed and seeing Owls up close. To be honest, I know which I’d prefer. And considering Evie’s been talking about the ‘white neigh neigh’ she met ever since (now crowned her favourite animal) it was definitely worth the pricey entry fee and bumpy tractor ride. Watching your children experience the world with fresh eyes really is one of life’s most wonderful joys.

Making memories. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? And I’m kind of obsessed with making memories for Evie (even though I know we’re doing that by default every day anyway). I think because I can look back on my childhood fondly and remember similar little family activities and adventures. Things we used to do every Christmas or spring, those family walks that we got dragged on every Sunday and thoroughly protested at the time, the little family quirks that made our holidays uniquely ours. I want that for my children too.

Sometimes they’re well thought out traditions – things we want our family Christmas to be known for for example – and sometimes they’re accidental traditions – things that just so happen to align and you find yourself with the beginnings of a yearly occasion.

October at the Pumpkin Farm 2018

One such accidental adventure, which now that we’ve found ourselves doing two years in a row has automatically been bumped into ‘must happen every year’ tradition territory, is pumpkin picking. Last year it wasn’t quite as hugely popular an event in the UK, but I’d seen enough cliche Instagram shots to know that it would be something I’d enjoy and provide me with plenty of Instagram fodder for the month of October (don’t hate me but that was kind of my motivation first time around). When we discovered there was a Pick your Own farm nearby us where we lived in Kent at the time, I persuaded my Husband (and Mum who was visiting at the time) that it would be a fun day out and we could get one of those cute photos of Evie sitting on top of a pile of Pumpkins. We all bundled up, and I couldn’t resist dressing both myself and Evie in matching mustard knitwear for the occasion. And you know, it turned out to truly be one of the MOST FUN days, and something we’ve talked about ever since. Evie was only 8 months old, and truth be told at a tricky stage in terms of sleep/illness/general disagreement with the world, but she LIT UP that day. She was happiest little soul and her little face peeking out from her Dad’s chest in the sling was one of pure joy and excitement. She giggled non stop, chased her Granma around the field and didn’t complain once despite the fact it was freezing. We got some utterly adorable photos of her and it’s a day all of us look back on and smile about.

And so, how could it NOT become a tradition, when the outcome from that accidental adventure was one of wonder, and excitement and joy?

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