This month we have loved:-

*Getting back into the rhythm of school and work after a long Christmas break.
*Heading out and discovering new places to have adventures.
*Watching Friends from the very beginning (just the grown ups of course!) having a good old chuckle in the evening.
*Lots of onesie wearing and hot chocolate drinking to really make the most of the cold spell.

I loved joining in with Me & Mine last year and, December aside, we now have a full year of photos with us all in which is so lovely to look back on.  

I am hoping that this year I can continue to improve my photography and get a bit more creative with our photos, and remember to take them before it is the last minute which is something we have been good at this month.


I ended up having to narrow down a large selection rather than trying to make the most of the few we had, although even then the majority featured at least one unsmiling child.  Oh well!


Me and Mine is a family photography project hosted by Dear Beautiful and several other wonderful bloggers.  If you want to see more family portraits or find out how to join in then head over there.
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I’ve decided to do my book reviews a little differently this year; as I tend to devour several books a month I found it too tricky to keep up with individual reviews so instead I’ll briefly outline the books I’ve read each month, and give them a star rating to make it simple.

So here’s what I’ve been reading in January:

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult – I am a huge fan of Jodi Picoult books so when I spotted this in the library I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.  As usual Picoult chooses a tough subject that challenges assumptions and opinions.  It is the story of Peter Houghton, a teenage boy who has been picked on at school since his first day at kindergarten, and the decision he makes to enter his high school and in nineteen minutes kill ten people and wound several more.  Picoult offers the story from various perspectives: we have that of Peter, as well as his parents, Judge Alex Cormier and her daughter Josie (who is pivotal to what took place on the fateful day), the detective dealing with the case as well as Peter’s attorney.  If you are familiar with Picoult’s work then this won’t disappoint.  It is fast paced, and keeps you thinking until the very last page.  
Star rating: **** 


The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – James bought me this book for Christmas and although I wanted to read it there and then, I managed to put if off for a little while longer!  During a summer birthday party at her home in the countryside, 16 year old Laurel Nicolson is daydreaming in her tree house when she is witness to a shocking event which challenges everything she ever thought about her mother, Dorothy.  50 years later, the family gather at her childhood home to celebrate Dorothy’s 90th birthday and Laurel realises that it might be her only chance to discover what really happened that day, and why.  This book flicks between the present day and Dorothy’s story which takes place in the 1940’s and beyond.  Hers is a story of how three perfect strangers could meet and impact upon each other’s lives and how one simple decision can throw everything we know up in the air.  
Star rating: ****


The Seafront Team Rooms by Vanessa Greene – This is the story of how three women from very different backgrounds come together when they least expect it and have a real impact on each other’s lives.  There is journalist Charlotte who is charged with the job of finding Britain’s best tearooms in order to prove she is worthy of being editor, Kat, a single mother who is desperately trying to keep herself afloat and whose only sanctuary is the Seafront Tea Rooms in Scarborough and Seraphine, a young French girl who has taken a job as an au-pair in an attempt to escape something back at home.  Quaint, enjoyable and easy to read.  This was my first of Vanessa Greene’s books but I will definitely be hunting out her others.  
Star rating: ***


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I am actually taking part in Claire’s A-Z of Authors (although I am still waiting for my B to arrive at the library!) and this was my first choice.  I have often considered picking it up, especially as I’ve read Sense and Sensibility and Emma but just never got around to it.  I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you the story…so I will just say that I absolutely loved it.  Witty, charming and with the ever amusing sparring between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, I am a real fan for sure.  
Star rating: *****

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan – I only discovered the wonderful Jenny Colgan last year and made it my aim to read as many of her books as possible so this was the next instalment.  Rosie Hopkins is working an an auxiliary nurse in London, living with her boyfriend Gerard and generally thinking that life is pretty great.  Then she gets a call from her mother asking her to go to the tiny village of Lipton in Derbyshire to help her elderly Aunt Lilian sort out the sale of her sweet shop.  Rosie immediately pictures life in the countryside as boring and dull but finds she couldn’t be more wrong.  Alongside discovering Rosie’s exploits in the village and following her gradual realisation that maybe there is more to life than London we also step back in time to the 1940’s when Lilian was just a teenager, helping to run her family’s sweet shop during WWII and the many brave sacrifices she made.  I adored this book and am not surprised it is an award-winner.  If you like light-hearted, romantic fiction with a few recipes thrown in for good luck then this is a great read. 
Star rating: ****

Have you read any good books this month?  Let me know if you’ve got any recommendations as I always love to discover new authors.

Linking up with Read With Me and A-Z of Authors.

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When you live in a rented home it isn’t always easy to make it feel like your own, even when you move into an unfurnished property.  This is because you are often subject to the landlord’s choice of decor, which can sometimes be a little questionable!


We’ve always been quite lucky in that the houses we’ve lived in have been fairly neutral or we’ve had laid back landlords who haven’t been too bothered about what we’ve wanted to do but I know that this isn’t always the case.  Some friends of ours moved into a flat and weren’t even allowed to put a picture on the wall without prior written permission!

However, I believe that even if you can’t change the wallpaper in a room, or the colour scheme you can still put your own stamp onto a place and make it feel more like the kind of place you’d want to live in.

We have been in our current house for a year and are now ready to start making some changes to make it feel more like our home rather than just a place we happen to be living in and we have started with the lounge.  Although neutral in colour, the wallpaper is like something out of the seventies and the fireplace has lovely, erm, gold and brown colours which are definitely not something I would choose to have.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t still make the space feel more like ours!  
I’ve been busy gathering ideas for our lounge which is the first port of call as it’s the place we spend the most amount of time.  Rodgers of York have a fantastic selection of furniture, soft furnishings and floor coverings which I could easily incorporate into my new room.  What do you think of my choices?

Products (L-R)
And if you are living in a rented house and want to make your rented house feel like home, here are my top tips:-

1. Furnishings
If you are moving into an unfurnished property then, of course, one of the easiest ways to make a house feel your own is to bring your own items.  You can change the whole feel of a room by simply adding your own furniture into it.  If the house is furnished but bits are looking worn, consider asking the landlord whether you can replace them.  You never know, they may even contribute to the cost if something is no longer suitable for use.  If you are purchasing new items then consider buying neutral colours so that no matter what the decor of your rented house (current or future) you won’t clash.  Alternatively, invest in throws to cover things up!

2. Rugs
Rugs are a brilliant way of covering up dingy or worn carpets.  There is an unattractive burn mark where the owner dropped her iron in the middle of our lounge carpet at the moment but by purchasing a large rug we have successfully covered it up, as well as brightening the room up by choosing a rug which suits our preferred colour scheme of duck egg blue.

3. Hang drapes over blinds
In our old house we had an ugly dark brown blind in the bedroom which was just an eyesore.  Using drapes we were able to cover up the blind and change the feel of the room; and we just took the drapes down when we moved.

4. Radiator Covers
If the radiators in your house look old or tatty, then invest in a cover.  These are usually easy to install and remove and can transform a tired looking radiator into an attractive and useful space which could be used for photo frames (ideal if you aren’t allowed to hang any pictures on the walls!)

5. Flower Pots and Hanging Baskets
Upgrade the exterior of your property by adding hanging baskets or flower pots.  These can bring colour and vibrancy to an otherwise dull exterior; just make sure you keep them alive!

Have you any tips for how to turn your rented house into a home?

Disclosure: This post was written in connection with Rodgers of York.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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This September Eli will start at school.  Whilst I am excited for this next stage for him, I am also going to be incredibly sad to lose the special time that we have together right now.

With Meg, I had two years before Eli came along to spend each and every day with her.  I got to learn her little quirks, the way her inquisitive mind works and to see her beautiful personality develop as well as experiencing the more trying parts which come from having a child who is both extremely intelligent and extremely stubborn!  With Eli it was certainly harder to find that one on one time until Meg started school and now he is at preschool our time has been condensed into just two and half days.


He is such a little charmer and comedian.  Mixed in with limitless energy, an inability to sit still for more than two minutes, constant chatter and a certain disregard for the rules is a little boy who is very eager to raise a smile, who is quick with a cuddle and a kiss, who must tell me how much he loves me at least ten times every day and who is always ready with a song.  Where Meg can be shy when the spotlight is on her, Eli has no such qualms and has often been known to reveal details to perfect strangers we’d much rather he didn’t!


I adore our time together and I know I will be in pieces come September when I have to send him off to school.  If he is anything like his big sister then he will be more than ready but I’m not sure that I am!

For right now, I am enjoying this amazing age he is at, where every day brings something new and exciting and when I am constantly being challenged to keep up with a little boy who has a boundless amount of energy and imagination.  A truly precious time.


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I can remember being pregnant like it was yesterday, especially that magical feeling when baby first starts to move and you wonder if you really felt it or whether it was just in your imagination!

Both my pregnancies were quite different.  With Meg it looked like I had a football under my jumper for most of the time, and with Eli…well, see for yourself in the photo below.  It’s like my stomach muscles said to everywhere else, ‘yeah, we’ve got this’, and just collapsed outwards!  How I even moved let alone picked up a toddling Meg, never ceases to amaze me.

Creating another human being is a truly awesome thing to do but when I was pregnant for the first time there was just so much that I didn’t know.  I had a friend who was pregnant at exactly the same time with her first and we were forever comparing notes on how we felt and whether it was normal etc not to mention the varying advice on what we could eat, what we could do, how we should feel from midwives, previous mums, our own mums and perfect strangers and on and on and on…


Here are just some of the gems I heard whilst I was pregnant:-

‘It’s definitely a boy, I can tell from the shape of your bump’
This one is a cracker and I bet there isn’t a single mum out there who hasn’t heard this at some point.  I carried all my pregnancy weight at the front both times and have one girl and one boy.  Go figure.

‘It’s okay, you’re eating for two.’
I really wish I’d been able to make this one be true!  Not only are you not supposed to eat for two but I actually couldn’t.  Both times in my third trimester I couldn’t eat a normal portion of dinner without throwing up.  Glamorous, I know.

‘Going for a walk will kickstart labour’
Meg was two days overdue and I tried everything under the book to get labour to start.  All the old classics: curry, pineapple, walking…but nothing worked.  I don’t think there is much that can start labour, your body will just be ready when it’s ready and there’s no point pulling your hair out about it.  I can remember vividly talking to a friend a few years ago and saying that if I ever got pregnant again I wouldn’t tell people the due date, just the rough period of time when the baby might arrive to stop all those texts appearing on D-Day asking when the baby is coming.


‘You’ll get weird cravings.’
This might make me the most boring person to have been pregnant but I didn’t get a single weird craving.  Sure, I got cravings for certain things (like when I sent James out at 10pm to get me a tuna subway sandwich) but there was nothing odd about it.  My midwife told me that strange cravings come about when your body needs something, such as iron, and is looking to get it in any way possible, rather than that you’ve just lost it a little bit.

Of course, every pregnancy is different and that’s what makes it such an amazing experience…there really isn’t a one size fits all solution.  C&G Baby Club currently have a campaign called, ‘Wish I’d Known’ which is all about the myths we hear and the things we wish someone had told us before we became pregnant!  If you’re interested in offering your opinion, you can fill in the survey here and let them know your own thoughts.

In terms of things I wish I’d known, there are plenty but I wouldn’t want to terrify any mums to be out there…I jest, I jest.  Really I wish I had known that pregnancy isn’t always glamorous (swollen ankles, lack of movement, vomit…), sometimes it’s downright hard and that when it comes to giving birth you really won’t care no matter what you think beforehand but that ultimately when you are handed the tiny, fragile human being that your body created well…you realise that it was totally and utterly worth it.


Have you got any myths to add to my list?  I’d love to hear them!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

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