2018 was always going to be an interesting year for this little corner of the internet.  Now that I work four days a week, I don’t have as much time or headspace to dedicate to creating content; especially when you add in having to keep up a presence on social media, the photography involved, shooting and editing video footage…and just all of the many elements which go into making Catch A Single Thought the blog that it is.

I remember sitting down with James at the start of the year and basically, to quote my favourite (not) line from X-Factor…’this is a make or break year for me’.  Either I can achieve the things I want so very badly to achieve, or I have to admit that it is time to take a step back from the blog and from Youtube and just go back to being a non-influencer.  Of course in my heart of hearts that isn’t what I wanted to do, but with so much else going on, I needed to prioritise the things which made me happiest.

And then out of the blue, a message slid into my DMs.  ‘Congratulations…you have been shortlisted for the Lifestyle Vlogger category at The Northern Blog Awards 2018.’  Believe me when I tell you that my jaw hit the ground.  I don’t think I have ever been nominated for a thing in my life, never mind an award.  Isn’t it funny how just at that moment when we begin to wonder if we are just caught in a different kind of rat-race, something amazing goes and happens.

It’s a tricky one because I don’t write and I don’t film just for the accolades.  But knowing that there are people who appreciate the content I create goes a huge way to boosting my motivation and beating that little voice in my head that often compares me to others, telling me to keep on trucking.  It reminded me that I do in fact have my own little community, and that this space is appreciated by other people.

So despite the fact that I have been blogging for over six years now, September saw me attend my first ever blogging awards ceremony!

Northern Blog Awards sign

The Night Itself…

I felt very much like this was a big night for me.  Not only were James and I able to get dressed up but it felt like I was making a statement.  I don’t want to walk away from everything I have worked so hard to build here; I was fully invested again in my blog and my channel.  I want to make this work and I am excited for the potential that I have here.  For some reason, when people ask me about my blog and my Youtube I try and play it down.  I make out as though it isn’t something that I spend a good portion of my time thinking about, planning and executing.  I honestly can’t tell you why that is but I know that I need to be better about it.  So with that in mind, we put on our gladrags (I even got my make up done!) and away we went to The Midland Hotel in Manchester.

The night was absolutely fantastic from start to finish.  There were a few brands dotted about with different things for people to get involved with; like clambering into baths in a very undignified manner, having photos taken in a booth and against a flower wall of dreams and so on.  This was mixed in with a delicious three course meal, the awards ceremony and then dancing until the wee hours.

You will have to forgive the quality of the photos.  James did a stellar job of filming with my big camera whilst I whirled about, drinking prosecco and having the best time, but it meant I was mostly using my phone to take pictures and despite it being a blogger fail, these are the best I have.

Flower wall

christy loves bloggers

Northern Blog Awards 2018 bath

As I had expected, I didn’t win my category, although the vlogger who won then went on to win ‘Content Creator of the Year 2018’ so I won’t put myself down too much.

As we had to get back for the kids, we left at around 11pm but it was a wonderful night and we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Even if my feet ached by the very end!  I’ll be uploading a vlog this Sunday evening with some more footage of the night if you want to keep your eyes peeled for that.

So what’s the update?

The final piece of the puzzle, and I’ll try not to waffle on too much, is that this has given me a second wind.  It is very inspiring to be surrounded by people who are all interested in the same things you are; who have a passion for creating vivid and interesting content whether that be through their words, their photography or their videography and it reminded me why I love what I do so very much.  I just need to learn to shout about it a little more.

celebratory close up northern blog awards

I don’t have the same capacity for creating content as I did this time last year but that doesn’t mean that I am going to stop.  I have some exciting ideas for my Youtube channel in particular, and I want to get back into writing more meaningful content over here as well as I do miss that aspect.  We have a press trip coming up in November so look out for an update following that, and a few things in the pipeline for 2019 as well.  So overall I am very much looking forward to the next few months and I want to say a big thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me, who takes the time to visit here and read what I have to say, and who encourages me with comments on a regular basis.  It really does mean a lot.  And my promise is that I am going to try and be more organised, and keep things rolling along.  Because it really is something I love doing and I don’t want it to stop just yet.

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It’s funny how easily we can become stuck in a rut and I know that is especially true of me when it comes to fashion.  For the past 10 years I have stayed with a style which worked for me; the invention of skinny jeans became my look and for as long as I can remember I have been a ‘skinny jeans and tee’ kind of girl.  A lot of that has to do with having the kids and finding that I didn’t have time to do anything other than throw on something simple, but also because it allowed me to be comfortable whilst running around and getting down on my hands and knees to play.  Although I have lost the knee from many a great pair of jeans that way too!

Recently however I have begun to feel the need to shake things up a little.  I wanted to stretch my every day looks and try new things; be a little braver in my clothing choices and although what I have been trying out is by no means revolutionary…it’s quite a step for me.  This stepping out also includes changing up my hair which is a massive deal as I have had the same hairstyle for well over a decade *cough*

I don’t want to say that it was connected to my turning 30, or that there was any one thing which prompted my decision but just recently I have been making different choices with my clothing.  I mean, I still have 5 or 6 pairs of trusty skinny jeans lined up and waiting but I’ve also been including dresses, shirts, cropped pants, and cropped tees into my every day as well.

primark floral trousers

next striped dress

It has been a lot of fun playing around with different looks, finding that I don’t want to stick to one particular style but that I actually get like changing things around.  Where one day I might dress quite casually in a slub dress and sandals, the next I might opt for a stylish shirt and tailored trousers.  Don’t get me wrong; I am never going to be a fashion vlogger and I will always, always be more Primark than Prada but I think I am getting into my stride and I am pleased that I am no longer just opting for what is easy.

It also definitely helps that I have more time to get ready in a morning now.  I am not a morning person and there is no way on earth I will get up earlier than I need to so not having to run around getting the kids ready gives me more time to plan out what I want to wear each day.  It’s lovely that the kids have a little more independence in getting themselves ready and that allows some ‘me’ time in a morning too.  It also definitely helps that I am less likely to be chasing down an errant child and in need of practical clothing although that does still happen on occasion.

yellow floral dress

And I’m not quite a convert just yet.  There is just something so comforting about a good pair of skinny jeans which even the prettiest dress can’t quite match…

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It’s not often that I get to start a post on here talking about a stretch of glorious weather; it just isn’t something which happens on a regular enough basis in the UK, especially not when you live in the rainy North-West of England either but oh, my! The weather just recently has been so beautiful.  I can’t think of the last time we had such a long stretch of sunny days all in a row and although there is now rain on the horizon, I hope we have managed to make the most of the sunshine whilst it has been around.

We kick-started this sunny spell around the May bank holiday; which may just have been the hottest May bank holiday for years (don’t quote me on that!) and to make the most of it we spent the Monday of that long, wonderful weekend at the beach.

If you’ve been around here for a while then you’ll know that one of the reasons I fell in love with where we live was our sudden proximity to the beach.  We moved quite abruptly almost 5 years ago (eek!) and where we lived before we were as landlocked as it is possible to be in the UK, so suddenly having golden stretches of sandy beaches on our doorstep was a real novelty, and one which has yet to wear off.  That said, I think when you live anywhere long enough, you don’t always take advantage of what you have right in front of you and we didn’t visit the beach nearly enough last year.  We really wanted to change that and the past bank holiday seemed like the perfect excuse to do so.

It turns out that James was pretty serious about making the most of the day and had plans for us to leave the house just after 8.30am.  At the time I thought he had quite possibly lost the plot but given the amount of cars already parked up when we arrived just before 9am, I’d say he was on to something.

formby beach

books to read at beach

looking over beach

We walked about 15 minutes away from the main car park and were treated to a wide expanse of empty beach, perfect for setting ourselves up for the day.  Often when we head down to the beach we just throw a few bits and pieces in the car and hope for the best but this time we had come fully prepared for a long day.  It took James a couple of trips back and forth to the car but once we were set up, we were good to go.  The fact that the beach was so empty meant that I was happy for the kids to run down to the water and explore as well as climb the dunes because I could hear, and see them quite easily.  Once it got a bit busier (and boy did it get busier!) we didn’t really have that luxury.

There is something so wonderful about the simple pleasure of being a kid at the beach and I love how enthusiastic both Meg and Eli are about spending the day paddling in icy cold waters, building sandcastles, being buried in the sand and even eating lunch with a good old dash of sand thrown in because let’s be honest, no matter what you do, sand gets everywhere!

I will never get over how fearless both Meg and Eli are when it comes to the sea either.  James did go for a little dip but he said it was absolutely freezing and he had no idea how on earth the kids played in it for so long.  Kids just don’t seem to feel the effect of the cold the same way that adults do.  I loved standing on the shoreline (with just the tips of my toes cooling off…) listening to them squealing and shrieking with delight as they chased down waves and tried to spot jellyfish.  Bliss.

building sandcastles

wave jumping

jumping the waves

running from waves

watermelon beach towel

We managed to stay and entertain ourselves for around 6 hours before we noticed the crowds beginning to creep ever closer; we decided to make a move when we found ourselves surrounded on either side and it didn’t feel so much like our own private slice of beach any more.  It was surprising heading back how much busier it was, people were literally piled on top of one another and to walk back to the car you had to step across people sunbathing…British people are crazy when the sun comes out!  Had they just walked 10 or 15 minutes further along they could have had a nice section all to themselves.  Madness!

We rounded off our wonderful day at the beach with a wander up to the main car park which housed an ice cream van.  We’d promised the kids ice creams so we dutifully stood in the queue for 20 minutes before walking back down to the car and heading home.

sandy toes

As you might expect, we were all pretty worn out from the day but it was that delicious sort of tiredness where it feels like a day well spent, do you know the kind I mean?  We may have had to sing silly songs and talk really loudly to keep Eli awake on the way back in the car but it was worth it for the memories we made.

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I mentioned in my last ‘Us’ post that we had gone into the year thinking that 2018 was going to be a quiet one.  If that wasn’t true in January then it certainly hasn’t been true this month either!  We have ended February with some big changes on the horizon, the most significant of which is that I will now be working four days a week rather than three.  I’m taking on some new challenges at work and although I’m excited at the prospect, I’m also not sure how it is going to affect the very fragile work-life rhythm we have just managed to get into.  For the next couple of months it is only going to be on a trial basis so we will have a chance to see the impact before I have to fully commit to anything.

canal walk

leeds liverpool canal

sitting alongside canal

February was also a month of crazy mixed weather.  At the start of the month we had a beautifully mild day which we took full advantage of and went for a stroll alongside the canal, one of our favourite walks.  This was quickly followed by some of the worst weather we have experienced in a long time.  Storm Emma arrived with a vengeance and we spent a lot of the rest of the month huddled in the house or rushing from house to car, trying not to get blown away in the process.

We did manage to squeeze some fun out of the month though.  We ventured into Liverpool a number of times.  I took Eli to the Clip and Climb centre and was amazed when he scaled each wall with absolute ease.  I’ve always suspected that climbing would be his ‘thing’ and it turned out I was right!  I’ve managed to find an outdoor climbing club which is local to us and takes place during the summer so I’m looking forward to enrolling him in that as I think it will be right up his street.  Although he seems to think parkour is more his speed; I’m not so sure.

clip and climb liverpool

climbing wall liverpool

albert dock

drawing mattel play

There was also the launch party of Nearly There Yet? which was hosted by Mattel Play.  We had a great morning watching the kids play and then afterwards we headed into Liverpool for some exploration and lunch.  Mattel Play is on the docks, which is one of my favourite places in the city.  When the sun is shining, even if it isn’t warm, the docks are just such a stunning location and I am totally there for it.

The rest of the month was, as I mentioned, spent in hibernation.  We made some travel plans for when the weather is warmer, talked about progress on the house (or lack of!) and basically tried to keep ourselves occupied whilst it was bitterly cold outside.  I don’t think we did too badly, but I will say I am definitely looking forward to the real arrival of Spring.

And that was February for us in a nutshell.  I am desperately hoping that we get a longer stretch of mild weather so we can properly get out and about again but with the unexpected flurries of snow we had again this week, I’m just not too sure!

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Let’s be honest, chocolate and flowers are nice but they aren’t for everyone.  It might be that you enjoy giving and receiving more unusual gifts or you just might not be into the whole ‘standard’ Valentine’s Day celebration.

If you are looking for something a little different this year, then I have put together this handy gift guide to help you along.  With 7 days to go, I’ve picked up a variety of items for a range of budgets so I’m sure you will find something that you like!

Personalised Our Song/First Dance Poster

This poster is such a sweet and unique idea.  It costs £9.99 for an A4 size and although you’d probably also want to purchase a frame I love that you can choose something which would be a nostalgic trip down memory lane.  You can also get A3 versions and there are different colour options too.  It’s going to sound incredibly cheesy but The Scientist is a significant song to us because when we were first going out James sang it to me and played the guitar.  Clearly I had dreams of marrying a rock star!

Itty Bittys

Who doesn’t love a cuddly toy to celebrate all things romantic?  Hallmark have just released three new couples in time for Valentine’s Day: Belle and the Beast, Miss Piggy and Kermit and Lady and the Tramp.  If those don’t grab your attention however they do a whole range of well known and loved characters and the miniature size means they make a sweet but thoughtful option.  Prices start from around £6.

We are very familiar with Itty Bittys is this house with the kids having a number from the Star Wars and Disney ranges and I think these are some very cute additions.

Rock and Ruddle Hairbrush

If you truly want to think outside the box then why not buy your loved one a Rock and Ruddle hairbrush?  These brushes are made using boar bristles which are strong and resilient and they pull through the hair incredibly smoothly.  You can buy them in a range of different styles and a handbag size brush costs £20.  We tried this brush out on James’ hair as he has incredibly thick hair and we were interested to see whether it lived up to its claim of brushing through without pulling and I can honestly say that it did the job perfectly.  The bristles also have microscopic scales which release and drag the natural oil from your scalp along your hair to keep it healthy looking.

The Perfect Mug

Whether your loved one’s beverage of choice is tea, coffee, hot chocolate or just good old plain hot water, there is something about drinking from a nice mug which just takes your experience to the next level.  I wouldn’t say I’m a mug connoisseur but I definitely know a thing or two about having an obsession with nice mugs!  I adore this Tinkerbell one from Find Me A Gift (£9.99).  It’s quirky, perfect for Disney lovers and would make the perfect receptacle for a Valentine’s morning brew.

A Good Read

It wouldn’t be a gift guide written by me if I didn’t include the option for a good book to read!  If your partner is anything like me then I’m sure they will have a wishlist just waiting at the end of their fingertips with books they are dying to own but if not then I was sent a copy of H.O.Charles’ first book: City of Blaze which James has been reading and enjoying just recently.  It’s the perfect option for anyone who loves Epic Fantasy with a good dash of magic and some romance (it is Valentine’s Day after all…)

I was provided with the items in this post for the purpose of the gift guide.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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