Did anyone else get a whiff of beautiful summer weather this month?  I feel like we are edging ever closer to long days spent at the beach, ice creams just because, wild hair and mucky feet and not going to bed until way past bedtime…or is that just me?

Having just been away this month for half term I am so ready for it to be the summer holidays!  Just 8 weeks and then total freedom.  I have the best memories of the summer holidays when I was growing up; of the simplest things really like Mum taking us camping for 3 weeks whilst Dad went to work (although my sister did get struck by lightning on that particular trip so it may not have been all that great…) or running round the village and causing mischief, buying paintbrush lollies from the local butchers for 25p or getting a big bag of sherbert sticks for £1 and holding bets on how many we could tip into our mouths before we had to swallow…and I love that Meg and Eli get to start making those same kinds of memories now and I can be a part of that.

But back to May, this month we have enjoyed:-

*Lots and lots of birthday fun.  That’s all 4 of our birthdays done and dusted for 2015 and I can start planning what happens next year!
*Publishing my book.
*Eurovision.
*Going away for a week to Wales and getting some much needed time together as a family.

I had hoped that being in Wales would give us a good opportunity to get a nice family photo but despite taking my tripod with us I completely forgot to get it out, so we mostly took selfies whilst we were out and about.  Not that I really mind…we are all well versed in taking family selfies now and the kids will ask to take one wherever we go.  I think they are definitely the product of having parents who love to Instagram life!


We did manage to capture this one shot of us at the beach although Meg is grimacing as she has sand in her eyes (despite the gorgeous blue sky the wind was up and there was literally sand blowing everywhere) and who knows what Eli is doing; I sort of just leave him to get on with things now rather than insisting he smiles.  You just need to take a look at my IG feed to see what happens when you ask him to smile for a shot.


Although every once in a while you do strike gold…


So that’s our little monthly round-up; I hope everyone else has had a good one.


dear beautiful
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It has been a long while since I’ve joined in with #LittleLoves but something I am going to get back on board with.  I love reading about the small things which have made other people smile in the week, and thinking back on my own.

It was pretty easy to make my choices this week as we’ve just been away and spent 5 lovely days together as a family so I had lots of fab moments to choose from.

Read
I’ve been a bit ‘off’ reading lately; I think it is a result of having spent too many days staring at the manuscript for Secrets…but whilst we were away I did manage to finish reading Tuck which is the last in a trilogy about the legend of Robin Hood written by Stephen Lawhead.  I’ll admit, I shed a tear when I finished as Lawhead just has this amazing way of sweeping you up into the story he has created and making the characters feel like your friends…and then he invariably goes and bumps off one of the best.  


Watched

We didn’t get chance to watch too much whilst we were cocooned in our cottage, which is probably a good thing.  However, I did subject James to Eurovision; it is without a doubt one of my little pleasures in life.  No guilt here whatsoever; I love it and unashamedly so.  My favourite is never the winner although I did enjoy Sweden’s offering, but I loved Norway this year.  It gave me little chills.


Wore

I picked up some gorgeous summer clothes in H&M before we went away for Meg and Eli, in particular my favourite is this little outfit.  Meg has hated trousers since she was tiny, and it is always a real battle to get her to wear them but these are so floaty and lightweight that she will be able to put them on in the summer when it’s a bit cooler but won’t feel like she’s wearing trousers, if that makes sense?  I’m on the lookout for an adult pair now as they seem super comfy.

Yoga on the beach? Why not.


Heard

Some good news for some friends.  I can’t share too much but it was a stressful time for them and they’ve had a break and got some great news which will pull them out to the other side.  Hurray!  

Made

Fire!  Honestly, who would have thought getting a log burner going would be so tricky?  Apparently (according to James) it is something to do with the level of seasoning the wood has had but all I knew was that without fire the cottage got very very cold in the evening and there was no hot water.  We struggled for a few days to get the fire to last but finally we made it work.  I felt very proud of my fire building skills although I don’t think I’d be much good out in the wilderness.  Bear Grylls I am not.


And Lastly…

Feel free to slap my wrists at this point but I just have to say that I am really pleased with how well Secrets of the River is being received.  I’ve struggled with knowing how best to promote it but have had some lovely bloggers sharing about it, and reading it too.  Watching the little reviews going up and up in number makes my day.  I’m not a bestseller yet but I’m trusting that slow and steady will win the race (or something….)

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If you are a regular reader then you may have noticed that things have been a little quieter here than usual.

This time of year is always chaos; we are thrown into birthday season and as Meg and Eli get older so their expectations rise of what will happen for their special day.  I loved planning Meg’s ballet birthday party and I will never forget the sheer look of joy on her face but I was left completely exhausted in the days that followed.

Not least because two days later it was my birthday and the long awaited day of my book release which also brought its own levels of fun (think automatic pre-order cancellations and disappearing books!)  This has been a rollercoaster in itself and continues to be so.  I am constantly amazed that even one person has bought the book, and love hearing how people are finding it.  James says I need to have more confidence in it and promoting it, telling people how great it is but that really isn’t my style so I’m afraid you will have to put up with a tad more self-deprecation for now.

With all of that going on I was really pleased when last Friday rolled around and we took a long awaited and much needed holiday in Wales.  We are lucky enough that James’ auntie owns a cottage in North Wales and we were able to visit and stay for 5 wonderful days.  Just getting away from home can make such a difference to the way I feel within myself…I was supposed to be downing tools and stepping away from social media and the book and the blog for the duration of our time there and whilst I didn’t quite manage that (sad to say I did find myself sneaking a look at Amazon to see if there had been any more reviews in the early hours one morning…) I did find myself scouring Twitter less and only popping onto Instagram a couple of times.

I even managed to get some reading in which is something I haven’t had the brain capacity to do for a number of weeks.  I adore reading and getting lost in a fictional world; is it my ultimate way to switch off…getting to lie on the beach in the blissful sunshine, listening to the kids building sandcastles and splashing in the sea and reading was wonderful.  Even if it was on my kindle and not an actual, real paper book!


I indulged in far too many ice creams, didn’t get as much writing done as I had hoped and am sure I have come back more tired than when I went (the perils of walking for hours and sleeping in a different bed) but I have also come back completely re-inspired about the setting for my next book, with some lovely new memories and a real desire for it to be July for our ‘big’ summer holiday and two weeks together as a family.



I’m sure I will be writing up our holiday in more detail, once I’ve waded through the 600 photos I took and 80-odd videos I filmed but for now I wanted to give you a little update.  I am still here!

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When Meg was small we had this little routine at bedtime where we would take her to the window, wave goodbye to the sun and then draw the curtains.  It was one of those little habits we cultivated so that she would know when it was time for her to go to sleep for the evening and something we carried on after Eli was born.

Of course, there was no issue whatsoever when it was winter and dark of an evening but no fun at all during the lighter months.  

‘Mummy, Meg see sun.’
‘Sun say hello!’
‘No bedtime, not dark.’

These were just some of the arguments we had to contend with.  Of course we still have those disagreements now but Meg and Eli are old enough to understand why it is still light.  When they were small we had no chance of persuading them.  So we were delighted when we discovered, on a random trip out to a baby store, the Gro Anywhere Blind.

The Gro Anywhere Blind is a fab portable blackout blind which attaches to windows using suction cups.  Not only does this make it adjustable but it also ensures a snug fit so no sneaky slants of light creep through.  You can use it at home and take it away with you, making certain that wherever you go your little one will know it’s time to go to sleep.


Some of the facts:-

*Adapts to fit any window up to a maximum size of 130cm x 200cm
*Velcro fastening makes it easy to adjust to fit smaller windows
*Comes with handy travel bag
*Made of premium black out material
*Conforms to highest applicable British and European standards.

Best of all, The Gro Company have kindly offered one of their Gro Anywhere Blinds for me to giveaway to one lucky reader!

Just complete the rafflecopter below for your chance to win.

UK entrants only please.
All entries will be checked.
Please note the prize is not supplied by me and is non-transferable.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you aren’t lucky enough to win this time then you can still beat the lighter nights and buy a Gro Anywhere Blind currently just £24.99.

UK competitions at ThePrizeFinder

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This year Meg was determined that she was going to have the best birthday party ever.  Those who regularly read the blog will know that her plans have been wild and extravagant covering everything from horse drawn carriages to sparkly party dresses.


Whilst we couldn’t quite keep up with all her demands, we were confident we could give her a special day to be remembered, especially when she mentioned that she’d quite like to learn a ballet routine with some of her friends.  There was a theme we could work with!

I set to work, diving into all things tutu related; think lots and lots of pink.  Kate from Feather Grey Parties helped with the accessories, sending us some of their new gorgeous pink and gold themed party pieces which really got the ball rolling.  They were really high quality and although I could have got lost in trying to decide which of the Feather Grey Party themes would work best I’m glad we went for the Pink Sparkle Party.  Pink and gold worked perfectly alongside the ballet theme and inspired a number of the other decorations that we used.  



I bought a number of different coloured tutus and set up a little dressing up stand; the girls loved rooting through the tiaras and skirts, trying different ones on and looking at themselves in the mirror.  Apart from the tutus, this stand was made up entirely of items from our house…a very cost-effective little station which kept them occupied whilst we waited for everyone to arrive.



We paid for someone to come along and teach the girls some ballet steps from babyballet®; Miss Katherine was absolutely brilliant and the girls took it so seriously!  She had them all in first and fifth position and doing demi-pliés by the end and they continued to practise their moves long after she had said goodbye.  She also played a number of games with them and was just really engaging, knowing how to keep them all involved and concentrating on what they were doing.  It was magical to see, especially knowing that this was something Meg had really wanted.





Although we also had some wand making and games lined up, the babyballet® section was by far the favourite and seeing Meg’s face when Miss Katherine walked in (we had left that part a surprise) was priceless.  She has been performing ever since.  I think we may be looking up local ballet classes in the not too distant future.



I didn’t manage to capture any photos of the wand making as I was too busy trying to ensure that nobody stuck their fingers together but we basically bought some pre-cut sparkly foam pieces, some dowel and some ribbon and PVA glued it all together, tying the ribbon around the dowel stick at the end.  I had hoped this task would last a little longer than it did but each of the girls loved making their wands and the only hard part we found was trying to stop them whisking them off and around before they had fully dried!

The cake table was also a favourite; lots of parents commented on it and the girls were dying to nab the treats from the second they walked in.  I made the tutu which tied underneath a plain cake stand myself using tulle and ribbon, and then just used bits and pieces from around the house to bring little extras and sparkle to the table.




Unfortunately I didn’t make the cake myself as I think that would have just been one step too far for my sanity!  It is just a standard supermarket princess cake.  Nobody seemed to notice so shhhh!



For the food we decided pre-filled lunchboxes would be the easiest option.  We packed them beforehand with crisps, yoghurt and a chocolate treat and then made heart shaped sandwiches with a variety of fillings which we then offered out.  We also filled the cups from Feather Grey Parties with grapes and strawberries to try and inject something healthy amongst all the sugar.





The party bags were provided by All About Party Bags who offer a range of pre-filled party bags and boxes.  Naturally we chose a ballerina themed bag which came with a set of stickers, a chain bracelet and some adorable charms and a selection of party sweets as well.  It cost just over £40 for 12 pre-filled bags and they came packed up and ready to go; perfect when there was so much else for me to be thinking about on the day.  The bracelet and charms got lots of compliments and Meg has loved wearing hers.  They have all kinds of themes so are well worth checking out.



The final element to the day was the nail station.  Meg’s auntie very kindly offered to paint nails so whilst the other girls danced amongst bubbles and balloons, she pampered each one, very willingly painting lots of different colours.  It was a lovely addition and I hope each girl went home feeling like an extra special little lady.


I have to say a huge thank you to Feather Grey Parties for their stunning party decorations and All About Party Bags for their contribution to the day.  You made a very sparkly party extra magical and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend both to anyone looking to plan a birthday party (or any special celebration) in the near future.

Meg had an absolutely wonderful time and I truly hope we made her sixth birthday everything she wanted it to be.

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