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Why I am making time to have ‘dates’ with my kids

So this is nothing new in the world of parenting. We all know it’s important to spend ‘quality’ time with our kids (if we have them, and this also includes step children). The difficulty is actually getting that quality time and even, establishing what quality time actually is.

We need to remember that quality time isn’t just about making a big event out of something, it’s also the small things that are really important to kids. Making sure you give them your undivided attention. It’s most definitely NOT showering your kids with gifts. The most important thing you can do is give them your TIME and ATTENTION. Yes I’ve capitalised them, and yes I am shouting those words because they are what your kids, my kids, everyone’s kids need.

Life gets busy, a bit crazy at times and we all know just how exhausting having kids can be! But that craziness can be used to your advantage. Ride the wave of crazy and enjoy some special time with your kids – individually. Don’t make this a family thing, this is about you and your relationship with your kids on their own, individually. There’s plenty of time for the family fun, make this a time just for you and your children. Make it part of your self-care routine, it’s as important for your well-being as it is for theirs. Let me just say here and now, I am not a perfect parent. Far from it, anyone who thinks they are, well they’re living in cloud cuckoo land as far as I’m concerned. We none of us a perfect, we all have our faults, we are only human after all, however, I’d like to think most of us do what we can in the best way we can for our families.

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If you’re a grandparent, I know you want to see those grandbabies as much as you can but let their mum and dad have some special quality time with them too. Support them when they need it, be there with kind words and love but take a step back once in a while and let mum and dad have their moment with their kids, let them build a happy relationship where the kids can feel they can talk to you and them about anything.

This is something that takes time, and doesn’t always involve big grand gestures, sometimes it’s the little things that get remembered and it’s those things that build the trust between a parent and child.

What is quality time?

Quality time can mean different things to different people. Is it sitting through a movie and everyone being so enthralled by it no one speaks? Is it making a meal together? Is it cuddling your child/partner/loved one?

To me it means getting off screens, listening to my kids/husband/family and by this I mean really listening to them, paying them attention. It means devoting time and effort to really being in the moment with them, regardless of the activity.

The official Oxford Languages definition is:

quality time

noun

  • time in which one’s child, partner, or other loved person receives one’s undivided attention, in such a way as to strengthen the relationship.

the most important thing is to spend quality time talking to their children

Quality V’s Quantity

To me it’s about quality Vs quantity. We live busy lives and often we want to spend quality time with our children but there’s also a tonne of laundry to be done. Time is finite. We too often try combine our tasks we have to do with our quality time and it just doesn’t work. It means we are only giving our kids half our attention. There’s no easy answer as if we do one task and then spend the time with the kids the time we spend is decreased. So rather than saying I’m going to choose one over the other I think it’s important to think about what the purpose of the quality time serves.

One thing we do need to consider when we are spending quality time is not just what we do or how we do it but focus on the other person’s feelings about quality time. Identifying just what quality time means to them. On one occasion a couple of years ago now, my son said to me “I never get to spend time with you”. What?! This rocked me to my core. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, hang on a minute ‘I listen to him, I play with him, we have chats’ but to him this is just stuff that’s done as part of our daily lives. Not ‘special’ time. I got a little bit put out by his comment if I’m honest. I took offence at his comment at first, because I thought his idea of quality time was the same as mine. I was put out because even when I said let’s do something together, just us two, he would often say not at the moment thanks mum. That moment was lost. When I mentioned this in passing to someone I know who is a ‘child expert’ said I should ignore him when he says not now and just ‘make’ him spend quality time with me. I was horrified at their comment. Why? I don’t believe in ‘making’ a child do anything, encourage – yes, educate them about good/bad/right/wrong – yes, but not by force which is essentially what she was telling me I should do. You may think I am wrong to believe she was incorrect, but that’s your choice, your personal opinion and we are all allowed those. I’m just saying how I feel here and how I parent my kids.

It is obvious that we all have different ideas about quality time, and what it means to us. After the “I never get to spend time with you” moment, I waited until my son and I had some time on our own at bedtime, this is when we often have a little chat to sum up our day, and I asked him what he meant by his comment, I asked him what he saw quality time as.

It was interesting, he told me that felt left out sometimes, he found it difficult to spend time with me as I seemed spend time with his sister (who seems to be attached to me like my shadow most of the time!). He adores his sister and they have a fantastic relationship with each other, fighting with each other one moment and then plotting and scheming together the next, but I didn’t quite realise how much of an impact she had on his life. There’s only just under three years between them but he seems to feel he didn’t have long enough with me before she was born as he was so young. He was frustrated with me as in his eyes I didn’t spend as much time with him as I did before his sister was born, he was having to share my attention and he didn’t want to do this. I think he meant when I went back to work a year after having him but I didn’t go straight back after having her, I had more time off and he felt it was unfair on him. It’s difficult to explain the reasons why to kids, they don’t always understand that we are expected to return to work after maternity leave, they just want to spend their every waking moment with us. Just like they’re our world we are everything to them too.

I’m much more aware of what my son sees as valuable, quality time and how it should be spent. This means we can move forward and learn more about what we need to do as parents and as a family. Something we’ve learnt and experienced over the past couple of years especially.

On the one hand the pandemic certainly changed things and how we acted as a family and we haven’t gone back to the way we did everything before. In some ways the pandemic helped us become closer as a family unit, building better relationships. It was also harder in some ways than others at times, as we were on top of each other, getting in each other’s way and not getting enough space or time away from each other. Having that valuable ‘me time’ was so important.

What kind of things do we do as a family to make sure we have quality time together? And how can we have quality time with the kids on an individual basis?

We make a point of eating our evening meal together, as a family at the dining table. We try to avoid meals on the sofa in from of the telly. The only exception is ‘family fridays’ where we sometimes have carpet picnics and takeaways flopping in front of the telly watching catchphrase or something equally silly! It is really important to me to spend mealtimes together, I grew up having meals with my parents and we almost never had telly food. We sat at the table and chatted about our day, ate our food and enjoyed being a family.

We also have a no electronics at the table policy. This means absolutely no compromise whatsoever; no laptops, phones, tablets or telly at the dining table when we are eating. There are no distractions and we focus on each other, and our food.

And, of course it also starts with spending time together preparing the meal. The kids like to help and it makes them feel proud that they’ve prepared something we all enjoyed eating. Giving kids a sense of ownership and responsibility is vital for a child’s well being. It’s essential for their development and of course confidence.

These are important steps in our family life where we know we will focus on each other and it’s our little bit of quality time as a family, and of course there are lots of other things we do, the list is endless. For example the time spent at bedtime, reading stories, chatting about how we feel, how the day has gone and things. You know, those little moments together. The hugs when dropping the kids off to school, the bear hug you get when you pick them up from school, along with the endless chatter of what they did and who did what. The nudge of an elbow and the wry smile passed between us when we do something that makes us happy. All of these are things that make us feel together.

But there are also the little things we need to do with each of our kids on their own, and this is why I am continuing to make ‘dates’ with my kids. It could be make up and beauty sessions with my daughter, clothes sort outs which inevitably means trying on sessions with her or just going for a hot chocolate and gingerbread man at the coffee shop, it could be letting my son teach me how to play fortnight, or doing some bug hunting with him. It might be going for a drive and getting him to tell me which direction to go. It is anything where we smile, talk and enjoy each other’s company. Away from the stresses of life and everything it brings. Just ‘our’ time together, where we can really connect. It doesn’t have to be a huge fanfare of an event, you don’t have to go ‘out out’. Just being there with them and doing something special to you is more than enough.

By all means go ice skating or have a shopping trip with them, take them to the movies, whatever you want to do. But remember it’s how you connect that’s important here.

I don’t make the choices of what we do on our ‘dates’, we choose them together. We come up with ideas and my kids make the final decision. Our dates are not always scheduled, sometimes the moment just happens. But we do like to get together and put ideas forward, it might just be that for some of the things we want to do we need to pre book something so this is the only time things are really planned. But, that said the kids love to plan our movie nights and they know time is valuable and perhaps we might have something on for a particular time so things can’t be done immediately but we all try to be mindful of each others own schedules when we do things. Trying to go on dates when either of the kids are tired is a recipe for disaster, and we know we just need a chill date rather than full on fun at these times. There is no perfect moment. Every relationship is different, and there is no single perfect way to spend time with each other. You need to do what suits you and your children.

Ultimately we want our children to feel important and we want our time together to be strong in their memories. No matter how busy our lives are we need to put things aside and make time for those special to us. If we want our children to grow healthy and happy minds we need to show them how to be happy and healthy and that means taking the time to talk to our kids one on one and taking care of our well being and theirs.

I’ve told you how I’m going forward, how about you? Are you planning on ‘dates’ with your kids? What kind of dates are you going to have?

Enjoy your time together, treasure it because those babies grow up so fast.

Take care, stay safe.

Becks xo

Hearing aids and heels…

The hearing aids bit anyway!

I had a bit of a moment the other day where I felt really stupid. And I mean really stupid. Like I was incompetent and worthless stupid. It’s a more frequent occurrence than I would like!

I had to ask my hubby to repeat something several times and even in the end I still didn’t hear it properly. It’s not because I’m stupid, I just didn’t hear him. Don’t assume its hubby making me feel this way, it’s me and my hearing that is doing it. I was on my way out to get some milk and he said something, a joke probably but I just didn’t hear him. I sat in the car and it hit me just how much this is beginning to bother me and also how much I have been hiding it from others.

So what am I on about?

I have been losing my hearing for a few years, and up until now it hasn’t really worried me, it’s one of the reasons I was going to call the blog hearing aids and heels. But just recently it’s begun to have a big impact on my life – both personally and professionally. I’m struggling to hear students in class, made all the more difficult with the fact that they are international students and we were having to wear masks. I avoid talking to colleagues as I know I won’t be able to hear them. I smile and hope I’m looking like I can hear people and smiling at the right moment too!

I do have an appointment for another hearing test in the next couple of weeks as I’m well overdue but with pandemic delays and suchlike any previous ones had been put off. My hearing aid hasn’t worked for almost a year and is well overdue a service, I thought I was getting on alright without it but clearly I’m not.

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When did it all start?

Just over 14 years ago I was having ear issues, constant earache, pain and suchlike. I didn’t worry about it I just thought it an inconvenience at the time as I’d suffered with ear problems when I was young. But after a while and realising that this wasn’t going away, visit number four to the doctors finally discovered I had a perforation of the ear attic. Bearing in mind this had taken two years to discover and things were not looking pretty. I was lucky as the doctor I saw that day knew a bit about ears!

I was booked an appointment to see a specialist in ENT. Went through lots of poking about and x-rays and scans. Then the bombshell hit. You have a tumour. Of course the first thing you think is I’s cancer. Thankfully it wasn’t it was a benign tumour, but it was in a nasty place and there was a secondary infection going on which given the nature of the tumour was making its way to my brain.

Cue the “right, young lady, let’s get you booked in for surgery and quickly, we don’t have much time” moment. To be honest I’m not sure if he explained much about it as I was in a fog but I signed the forms and went ahead anyway. It’s not every day you get told you have something wrong that isn’t normally bad but with the extra problem of an infection going on could kill you.

Well, me being me didn’t tell people it was as bad as it was, why worry others with stuff they can’t control. My parents would have been worrying (as parents do!) and I couldn’t be arsed with people fussing.

Hair shaved and off I go, I had the surgery to remove the tumour, get rid of the nasty infected stuff and rebuild my inner ear. Took a few hours but seemed to go ok. Things were a bit muzzy for a while. Head was itchy where the hair was beginning to grow back but it wasn’t all that bad. I got the piss taken out of me by family members but I’m the black sheep anyway so this was nothing new.

I am on lifetime care regarding my ear. I slowly regained some hearing in my rebuilt ear and things seemed to be all going tickety boo. Until I had one of my quarterly check-ups. And, boom. It was back! The tumour had returned and was obviously happy as it was growing far too well! This was almost 8 years ago. Back into surgery I went again, head shaved, ear sliced and off we go. I now have miniscule plastic tubes and bits where my little bones were. Micro surgery is amazing. 

Anyway, same old operation, seven hours in and redone prosthetics. All is well? Not quite. This time my hearing really is shot. To top it all off the hearing in my other ear has been degenerating quicker than I would like and I’m now at the stage I am now. The surgeon managed to cut a little bit of my facial nerve so my face drooped a bit but thankfully wasn’t noticeable unless I was tired, it’s still a little noticeable even now but only if you look carefully!

I didn’t realise how much having poor hearing would affect me. I didn’t think it would be something that bothered me, but the pandemic and others wearing masks really has made my life hard. Over the years I’ve learnt to lip read, albeit in a basic form, and this has been a lifeline for me even with a hearing aid. But it really is frustrating when you go into a coffee shop and ask for something and can’t hear what the barista is saying as there’s noises of the machines, a mask over their mouth and people chatting. It was getting to a point where I put a note on my phone and showed them what I wanted.

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I’m fed up of not quite getting what people are saying in conversation as they’ve turned their head a little away from me and I can’t see their lips properly. I’m fed up of getting frustrated by asking people to repeat things several times. I am at a point now where I don’t know where to turn or go to make this any better. I know some sign language but not enough to get by. I struggle with lots of noise in the background, or when both kids are trying to talk to me. I can’t manage a group conversation I can’t process it all with what little hearing I do have.

I am grateful for mask wearing given the Covid situation, and I am an avid mask wearer and still will to certain extent even though restrictions have been lifted. However, it hasn’t made mine or any other hard of hearing person’s life easy.

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I was quite surprised when I heard on the news recently that BSL isn’t a legally recognised language like Welsh or Gaelic in the UK.  Given the fact that there are eleven million people in the UK that are deaf or profoundly hard of hearing and only 131,000 actually use BSL I’m surprised they don’t teach it in schools, although I know by the already saturated curriculum that there simply isn’t any time to teach it and teachers simply don’t need any more stress. [source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/understanding-disabilities-and-impairments-user-profiles/saleem-profoundly-deaf-user#]. Apparently it is also the second most common disability in this country. I always thought it was an old person’s disability, but whilst figures do show 40% of the over 50’s are deaf it rises to 70% in those over 70, there are increasing signs of it becoming more prevalent in younger generations.

This got me thinking why this could be happening. Could this be our constant need to be plugged in to something? I know I’m often saying to the kids even with their noise limited headphones that they need to turn to volume down and take a break from wearing them. Of course I get ignored completely and their eyes roll but I think I may have a point. I found this article interesting and it’s not the only one saying similar things https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/53221-Kids-headphones-earbuds-hearing-damage-tinnitus

When we listen to loud music for long periods of time we damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear and the hearing nerve which is called sensorineural hearing loss. Of course hearing loss can be caused by many things, most commonly ear infection but I do think our habits play a big part in how we manage hearing loss in the future. I know I check my kids ears regularly, it’s habit, just like checking for head lice – you never know!

So let’s rally round and encourage our kids not to listen to their music or videos up too high, taking breaks away from it more frequently and hoping they have a sensible bone in their body to actually pay attention to the advice we give them. They’ll thank us for it later!

I’m hoping my hearing test won’t be so bad and that they’ll sort my hearing aid out and I can get back to being ‘normal’, as much as I can be.

Take care, stay safe

Becks xo

What did we do before the internet?

This is a challenging one for those who were born in the noughties and beyond. So come on in and dip into my little trip down memory lane.

I was pondering a question posed by some of my students, they asked me what people did before the internet existed. This is a pretty normal subject for me as an ICT teacher but it got us as a class talking about things before the internet and how we coped without social networking platforms and also how we managed our mental health before the vast minefield of the internet and the pressures of social networking, trying to lead the perfect life depicted by so many Instagram influencers and the like. We discussed this at great length but it made me think it might be an interesting post to write.

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I thought about my childhood and what it was like to grow up in the late seventies/early eighties. I often see memes on Facebook about growing up in the days before the internet and mobile phones. How we popped to the shop to give back our glass pop bottles and got 10p for each one, and when we stayed out all day only coming home for food. Our parents seemed to trust us more then perhaps as they couldn’t check on us, we were out and stayed out in all weathers. We walked to school, very few were driven to school by their parents. If you lived further out from school you caught the bus.

I remember a childhood where I used to go out on my bike, and hop on space hoppers. We made daisy chains in the fields, checked to see of we liked butter with a buttercup, played hopscotch, ran to the shop with our pocket money for a bag of one penny sweets! Rolling down grass embankments, listening to music on the radio and playing records on a record player. I remember my first seven inch vinyl I bought with my pocket money was XTC Senses Working Overtime! All seems so idyllic, I know, I’m sure it wasn’t always perfect.

The only ‘searching’ I can remember was for four leaf clovers!

So, how did we manage to find out information, call people, find our way?

Well, we might have used or done some of these:

Encyclopedias. These were the gift that no one wanted but needed. They were really expensive and I remember school having a complete set of very old ones. Most of the information I’m sure was outdated but these things were our internet of the day. I remember having a couple of Children’s Encyclopedias passed to me from my parents from when they were kids. They were beautiful leather lined crafted books that were heavy but were well used when I was young. I may still have one of them somewhere. Although we have the internet and the kids can access what they need when they are using their laptops we still have a couple of more modern up to date knowledge books as my son is an avid reader and soaks up information like a sponge so he’s busy learning things in bed at night the old fashioned way not on screens.

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Magazines and books. I am a tactile person and love to read, always have. I remember the magazine/journal section in the school library being full to the brim of national geographic and other colourful delights for us to peruse. I like to have my gardening magazines even now and not just for the freebie packet of seeds that might be attached! I have several books on the go too. I’m currently reading the second in the Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman and a book called The Couple at Number 9 by Claire Douglas. Both very good I hasten to add. These were both Christmas gifts from dear hubs, he knew how much I liked the first in the Thursday Murder Club but also ‘The Couple at Number 9’ was one that is a Sunday Times top three best seller but also the title is a little personal standing joke to us. I won’t divulge now, maybe another time 😉

Maps (paper ones). I remember learning to drive and satellite navigation didn’t exist! When I was a kid we occasionally went out of day trips on the weekend when Dad had time off and would just head out somewhere. Often not really knowing where we were going. We always had a paper map with us or one of those big map books you used to get as a freebie with roadside rescue plans. More often than not the map would be out of date but it added to the fun of things. We got lost on more occasions than I can remember and we did the alien thing of asking for directions such an outdated thing to do these days! Shock horror!

Record players. I used to love routing through my parent’s vinyl collection, especially dads. I grew up listening to The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Status Quo! There was a bit of Errol Brown/Hot Chocolate mingled in there too. I can also remember listening to Black Beauty on vinyl, it was fantastic. The story and music all rolled into one. Fab. I guess it was an early form of Audiobooks.

Cabled telephone usually found in the hall. We had one cabled telephone in the house and as expected it was in the hall, some posh houses had one in the living room in the warmth. There was one of those old fashioned telephone benches where you could sit down but calls were quite expensive then so we didn’t really spend that much time on a call anyway. I know that there was never any privacy so calling a friend for a cheeky chinwag and find out who fancied who didn’t really happen! If we wanted to call someone in private we went out to the public telephone box after raiding our piggy banks for change and every excuse in the book to the parents otherwise they’d be suspicious 😎

Diary/paper calendar. Anyone remember the days of the Filofax? I had one lasted years. Even used it when I had a phone to do it all for me. I used to like the way you could just pop in new pages and organise things efficiently. They weighed a tonne though. My shoulders always ached from lugging them about. I did think I was the bees knees when I had one. I felt super ‘cool’ 🤣

Remembered things/wrote them on a list. I still do this today, although I need to write things down on a list otherwise I’ll forget things! I’m the type that can forget what I was doing whilst doing it. We didn’t have the internet or Alexa. We had to pay attention and listen to what was being said otherwise we wouldn’t learn anything.

Wrote letters/cards. This is something I tried to instil in my kids as I like to write thank you cards to those who may have gifted me something but despite my best intentions even I have started to wane on this a little. It’s just so easy to send a thank you text or message, but it doesn’t have the charm of a personal letter or card. Perhaps this is a dying tradition that just needs a little push to revive it. Note to self: make an effort! 

Went to the library. Ooh I used to love trips to the library to borrow books. I always came back with an armful. I’m an avid book worm anyway and love the tactile quality of books. The feel and smell of a book is a pleasure to me. I don’t get to read as much as I perhaps would like to, but I still love books. Libraries are vastly different today. They are ‘hubs’ for just about everything, sort your council tax out, collect more recycling bin bags and claim your benefits are amongst some of the things you can do at libraries these days.

Banking – paying with cash and cheques. I can’t remember the last time I paid by cheque and certainly wouldn’t know where to find my chequebooks or paying in books for that matter. But I used to enjoy going to the bank to empty my piggy bank of pocket money and put into my bank account. My parents encouraged good money management quite early on, and I remember having my first cheque book and paying for something with it. I felt so grown up! I used to enjoy the little chats with the cashier when checking the bank balance or paying money in, seeing it through rose tinted specs it was so much more personalised then.

Shopping – catalogues. Remember when there were big paper catalogues for things? Scouting through the pages of a catalogue and ordering something, only to wait weeks for it to arrive. I know we have catalogues these days but it’s all online and even the Argos catalogue is online an instant delivery.

Playing cards/board games. I’m an only child, and can remember the board games I used to cajole my parents into playing with me. I had no other siblings to annoy so pestered my parents instead. Board games are still expensive and can remember playing Monopoly, and my favourite, Cluedo over and over again. All very fun and much more social, although I’m sure my parents didn’t think so at the time.

Going to the travel agents. I asked my students to consider life before the internet and social networking. I asked them to imagine there was no internet, no social networking and consider how their lives would be different. They were horrified! Shock horror, noooo, you can’t take away the internet and social networking. What would we do!?! I did say they could call and text using a phone but that just sent them into a swathe of sheer panic! I wanted them to consider how they might book a holiday or flight as it’s something they do regularly for when they go home (International students from all over the world). They hadn’t a clue. I said that they could visit a travel agents. This was something completely new to them. They didn’t even know what a travel agent was let alone that they still had some shops out there that you could visit and book holidays and flights. It just made me realise what a vastly different world we now live in.

Cutting out coupons. We do still get paper coupons but they are few and far between these days. I have a ration book used by my grandparents and think about what life must have been like. How hard it would have been. I can remember milk tokens when I was a kid, and Mum used to cut out a coupon or two for discounts on the weekly grocery shop. I even had coupons for Freebies from the hospital when I had my kids so it’s still a thing, just mostly digital these days. I’m not quite sure how I feel about the ‘free Tena pants’ coupons that come through the letterbox. I’m not quite at that age or stage in life… yet.

Using cameras with film in. I think I still have my 35mm camera. I haven’t used it for ages, and probably won’t, but it’s a lovely piece of kit. I used to love going to the shop (Lloyds Chemist we used to use) and getting my films sent off to be developed. I can remember the negatives in the packs too. Something great about looking at a negative with the light shining through.

Photo albums. My parents have loads of the old fashioned photo albums, there must be at least thirty on the shelf in their living room. Although we don’t look through them as much as we perhaps used too, it’s still nice to see the old grainy photos from yesteryear. I have a few of my favourites. I was so upset when I thought I’d lost some my Mum had sorted out for me. They are special memories that once lost are lost forever. I can’t remember everything from my past and having an old photo or even an object brings back those moments in my head. Warm and fuzzy feelings most of the time.

Clubs. Aah… I remember the youth clubs of my day. The local village kids club, the church youth club and then the big town youth club where we could go to keep us off the streets. I used to like the clubs when I was younger but as I moved into my teen years I started to like them less, although it did allow me to meet other people who didn’t go to the same school which was nice. Having friendships outside of the school environment is so important I feel. Clubs aren’t seen as being trendy enough these days and funding has dwindled so much very few places have any ‘real’ youth clubs. Many organisations have to rely on Lottery Funding and fundraising events to keep going.

Face to face, in person meetings. Word of mouth, conversations with others.  Something which still happens in business although the Pandemic has had a huge impact on home working and online meetings these days that this is a dying trend. It has been for some time with the introduction of more and more accessible technology but there is something nice about a catch up chat at the ‘water cooler’ in an office, or a meet up at the coffee shop with friends. I’m a person that does like a good chinwag and can talk the hind legs off a donkey but I also like silence on occasion, so being able to mute someone during a group call is nice sometimes – oops did that come out. I do get bored at pointless meetings where it could have been summed up in an email but that’s all down to poor management skills not the meeting itself.

How to manuals/books. Hands up if you’ve never read an instruction manual (dearest hubby you are excused). Always kept and subsequently lost, these were the things that never really helped much anyway! So much easier to watch a video these days on good old YouTube, we are very lucky these days. 

Newspapers. I remember we didn’t have much by the way of newspapers, we kept up with the local news by going to the village shop and buying a local Bicester News, Malvern Gazette or something like that (depending on where were living at the time) and we watched the BBC news in the evening after our dinner on telly. I can remember my early childhood being surrounded by Farmers Weeklies! I think that may have been one of the weekly papers my Dad would read to me when I was a baby, no wonder I’m a tomboy!

Typewriter. I’m old fashioned enough to have one of these. I think it’s what started off my love of writing. Mine wasn’t one of those old metal black ones you see in ‘Murder She Wrote’ but a Maritsa bluey green plastic cased one. It was really expensive at the time and I still have it to this day. My Dad bought it for me as a birthday gift and I’ve loved it and looked after it ever since!

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Yellow pages/phone book. Every house had a Yellow Pages and most often a BT Phone book where you could look up business numbers and private dwelling numbers. Of course more often than not the books would be used to prop up a table or be used as a doorstop. They were super heavy and people used to attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records by ripping up yellow pages books!

Whilst it’s so easy to see our childhood and growing up through rose tinted glasses, it wasn’t always easy. We had blazing hot summers yes, but we also had really cold snowy winters. We didn’t have houses with central heating, I remember an open fire blazing out on a winter’s day that would pretty much heat up the living room and if you were lucky enough to have the bedroom above! Bedtimes were always accompanied with a hot water bottle and several eider downs. We had a Rayburn (like an AGA for those who weren’t sure) in the kitchen with a back boiler that fed the water heater (and radiator type heaters in the house if we were lucky enough to have them). In one cottage ‘Red Cottage’ I remember it being called, we had the fire brigade over so much, they would ask if we were putting the Rayburn on if they saw us in the village shop, our chimney stack went on fire so often. It was a standing joke, wouldn’t be allowed to happen these days, but you just got on with it.

We didn’t have double glazing, we had metal framed single glazed windows that froze both inside and out. Condensation would run down the windows and soak the window sill. I used to mop it up with a towel in the mornings before heading out to help Dad on the farm or school. Insulation wasn’t a ‘thing’ back then. If you ran out of milk and the shop was shut, tough. You had to rely on your neighbours for things like that!

And I’m sure there will be some of you reading this that will be saying I had it easy when I was a kid, but I’m only in my forties. It was harder but in many ways it’s a different kind of hard these days.

If we were bored we didn’t have instant gratification from a screen. We had to find things to do to cure our boredom. My kids are always asking me “what can I do?”, “I’m bored”.  I’m forever saying find something to do. Be bored, it’s good for you. Let your imagination play. They always moan at me as I’m not thinking for them, they are part of the instant gratification generations that have grown up with something there at their fingertips. But they are also more anxious than I ever was, although they are only young and perhaps aren’t exposed as much to the general horrors of the news, Instagram and social media platforms as much as teens are, they still feel the pressures all the same. Getting the balance right is the tricky part and is a big part of being a parent. Knowing when to protect and when to step back. I’m still learning. Not sure I’ll ever get it right, but at least I’m trying.

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The internet and social networking has opened up a whole new world for us. We have access to information at the touch of a screen, we can book a holiday at the drop of a hat. We can order an item online and have it delivered the next day, stuck for something for dinner – Deliveroo are there to rescue you! We have so much freedom with the internet, yet we are somehow prisoners and slaves to it. We have come to rely on it so much, we would struggle live a life without it.

Do you remember using or doing any of the things I might have done? Let me know your childhood memories. What did you do before the internet existed? How did you keep yourself out of mischief?

Take care, stay safe.

Becks Xo  

Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022

“It’s been a funny old day”, I can never think or say this without thinking of old Arkwright in Open All Hours (those of a certain vintage will know what I’m on about!). It’s been a funny old year too! Lots of happenings not happening…

Lockdown no lockdown, mask no mask, stay in go out and every possible mixed message in between! Then there’s the lockdown parties in Whitehall which our Government say didn’t happen but then they did but weren’t parties they were working lunches with wine and cheese. I’d love a working lunch with wine and cheese, although I fear I’d be the size of a house and be jobless after having wine during the day if I did!

If I were to sum up the year of 2021 I’d say it was a slightly skewed, aiming to get back to some form of normality year. It wasn’t all negative there have been some real positives to come out of it. It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives in life and this is especially understandable given the strange happenings of the past eighteen months to two years.

There was some good news Climate challenge wise, COP 26 wasn’t necessarily a complete whitewash. Yes there were parts of it that failed the climate completely and yes some elements didn’t come out as strong as they could have but there are some small achievements that we can be positive about. Small steps, but steps all the same.

My year? It was pretty much the same as many others I should imagine. I managed to work, the kids were educated, and we experienced some strange weather. The latter part of the year meant we could go out more and enjoy some of the things we once took for granted such as a visit to the theatre as a family to see the Panto (absolutely brilliant I hasten to add!) and popping to London for a day trip (super quiet by the way – so not like London at that time of year, or any time, to be honest it was eerily quiet), then Covid decided to mutate a little and numbers were going up but thankfully the number of deaths has remained relatively low considering. Although not necessarily any easier for those who have lost friends or family, loved ones to the awful virus. My heart goes out to you if this is your situation.

Did anything happen to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Yes actually, there were some great moments. We had a fab week away in Wales, where I really felt close to my kids and saw a different side to them. I felt it was the break we all needed. Yeah, ok, they had their moments but they were also bloody amazing and they made me so proud to be their mum.

I was really happy that some of my nearest and dearest friends and family have managed to make real successes of their small businesses during a tough year, so it is my pleasure to encourage you, my fantastic readers to check them out! They are all fabulous people who are making their way through the minefield of business but they are amazing and why not give them our support. So, whether you like and follow them on Facebook or buy one of their products I’m sure they will love you for it.

Here are some of these amazing small businesses – really, you must visit…

First up we have the lovely Little Vines at https://littlevinesholiday.wixsite.com/littlevinesupton. Little Vines is a fantastic holiday let that focusses on the personal touch. Sally is trying to get her husband to buy her a fab KitchenAid Mixer like mine so she can whip up more of her delicious homemade cakes that are always waiting for her guests! If you’re looking for somewhere to spend a nice little break away then check out Little Vines but hurry as they’re booking up fast with a lot of returning vacationers.

Another fabulous small business I’m super proud of is my lovely cousin in-law Yvonne at https://www.facebook.com/fireandfilemetaldesign/ she has the most amazing jewellery in her store. She uses eco silver and has designed and made some really quirky but super wearable jewellery. She doesn’t just make jewellery, she makes wall art/hangings and book marks. I’ve bought a couple of bookmarks from her for the kids school teachers as thank you gifts so if you’re stuck for ideas then go pay her a visit at her Etsy shop and like and follow her for regular updates on Facebook.

One of my school run mum friends has a small business making gemstone bracelets. She does this as a hobby which has been a real booster to her wellbeing. You can find her gorgeous bracelets at https://www.facebook.com/natcmusi. I’m all for supporting the independent business and small local is always good for the community.

Although I’m part of a style club online and have actively promoted RuthEssex.com of which you may find a little treat in a future post by the way, I also have a lovely school friend from way back in the day who is a brilliant personal stylist. She has a small business where she does colour analysis and style advice. She has been in the business for a few years but recently made it a full time occupation as the perfect opportunity arose. Sometimes you just have to take that risk, and occasionally it pays off. If you’re interested in colour and style then Wendy is another person to check out at https://www.styleandcolour.co.uk/.

Last but not least if you want some lovely Cornish made crafts then pay my friend Lynn over at https://www.facebook.com/Kents-Cornish-Crafts-609845416339903/ a visit. She makes some lovely personalised crafts that invoke some very special memories for her customers. Lynn has made teddy bears from some treasured baby clothes which is a lovely keepsake, so if you have anything special in mind have a look and see what she can do for you.

What do I (we) have in store for this New Year?

A lot! We have a huge amount planned to be going on this year, but whether it will all happen remains to be seen but we can just roll with it and see what pans out. I’m still super busy with teaching, and blogging but you know me things will get done regardless. I have the usual stuff going on at home as well as a potential belated honeymoon on the cards too! We’ve been married over ten years but we never managed to get a honeymoon. We’ve been promising to have one all this time and maybe, just maybe we’ll get one this year. A global Pandemic stopped us last year, so we’ll just bump it over to this one.  

Coming up on the blog is an interview post with Ruth Essex @RuthEssex.com which will be coming out at soon so make sure you get in on that one. I just need to finalise a few more bits and pieces to it and it’ll be all good to go. I have lots of helpful blogs planned but again, it all relates to what’s happening with me and my life so if it doesn’t fit it won’t be written about at that particular time. I do wonder how some bloggers manage to post several blogs a week when I can barely manage one a fortnight! My life just isn’t that interesting perhaps?!

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What else?

So, I’ve decided I’m not partaking in any fad month this year. Dry January, Veganuary, or any other. It’s not because I don’t believe in following them I just don’t feel we need a month of doing something to make it right. I know it’s about focus and making the general public aware of the causes but for me it doesn’t sit right. Too many years in marketing and being slightly cynical of these events has had a lot to do with it. I will cut down on the amount of meat I eat, it’s a small thing that makes a big difference. I will drink dry wine instead of sweet dessert wine… no, no, sorry that’s not dry January. I mean I will reduce the amount of alcohol I drink. I’m not a heavy drinker anyway, but I do like a glass occasionally so it’s not a huge game changer but will make me a little healthier. I will make an effort and do more exercise. I have become far too sedentary and it’s not doing me any favours. All of these steps are small but important and I don’t need a designated month to get me doing them. If we make small changes over a longer period of time then we are more likely to stick to them, at least I know that’s what works for me. If you choose to do dry January, Veganuary or any other ‘month’ I applaud you and good luck with them. Either way we’ll all come out slightly healthier in the end.

The weather, well that’s always a good topic to talk about 😆

It’s funny I hear so many parents and carers on the school run saying its cold and they can’t wait for the warmer weather. I actually like the seasons. I know it’s cold, I’m sat at work with thermal undies on and several layers of clothes as I have to have my classroom window open because of Covid requirements for adequate ventilation and I have a hot water bottle on my back and a heater at my feet – chilblains anyone!? But, despite the freezy feel it’s refreshing, just as I like a clear spring day and a balmy summer’s evening I think all weathers have a part to play. I’m not so much a fan of fog and rain though. That just gets to my bones. Brrr. I did buy a thin pair of gloves to wear whilst I was working at my computer but as is the usual with my online purchases these didn’t fit. I must have very long alien fingers or these were designed for a child! My daughter now has a lovely pair of satin gloves! I got asked if she could wear them for school. She would be very glamorous if she did 😎

I am worried about the more extremes of weather we are experiencing and as I’ve mentioned before I am trying to do my little bit to ease the environmental strain on resources and helping Mother Nature along a little. But if, I’m honest, Christmas is always going to be hard on the environment. There’s more paper and plastic to deal with. More of everything that we as a nation have wasted.

I was super good this Christmas just gone and had very little food waste as I shopped wisely and used up leftovers. It was surprisingly easy to do for those that don’t/haven’t manage/d it. I’m good at reducing food waste most of the year, there are loads of really good websites and apps that help, but always struggled at Christmas. I’ve always viewed Christmas as gluttonous and where we overbuy and overeat. But, also rather tellingly we over waste too. I can remember in past years disposing of leftover food in the waste and chucking mince pies out because they were past their sell by date. But now I’m savvier about waste. The sniff test on milk (thank you Morrisons, but I have been doing this for ages!), the use by is the date you need to be watching don’t worry so much about the best before as it’s only a guide. Use a bit of common sense, if it looks off it most likely is, if it smells funky it’s probably not worth trying it.

So there you go, there’s the first instalment of the New Year for you.

Here’s wishing you a belated, but important, Happy New Year and let’s hope it’s a good for us all.

Take care, stay safe

Becks xo

The run up to Christmas…

I’ll keep this one short!

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It’s that time of year where the final couple of weeks run up to Christmas is upon us, everyone is busy planning, buying and wrapping, going to parties and enjoying themselves. For me, these last few days are a nightmare. Don’t get me wrong I do love Christmas, and usually in the last week/couple of days, its lovely. It’s just all the stuff that comes before it! It’s super busy, and I’m having to juggle more than usual this year.

It’s been a tough couple of months, with Mum falling and breaking her hip and needing extra care when she came out of hospital, and the simple fact that I have family sending me text messages telling me to go and help out as my Dad is tired from having to look after her isn’t helping! What do they think I’m doing sitting on my arse all day and larging it up?! I have been helping out and thankfully she is now in a much better position as she is able to do so much more for herself. And then there’s hubby been away abroad working, Kids to manage, house to manage and work all thrown into the mix. Oh and there’s all the house stuff going on too. More on that another time I don’t have the energy to go there!

I have the headache from hell most days and to say I’m feeling stressed is an understatement. Hubby is doing his usual last minute shopping for his family, which is always right up to the wire. Why? As usual he’s been super busy working and hasn’t had the time. I have most of my presents already bought, just not wrapped, there are only a few more to get but as they’re foodie ones these are best left as late as possible. We have 12 months of the year to go and buy gifts for loved ones and friends, so whilst in the past I may have been guilty for last minute shopping, the reality is there is no excuse. I can’t believe I managed to write the Christmas cards early this year, although I’m sure I will have forgotten someone along the line!

We are visiting hubby’s family the weekend before Christmas and will be spending some time in the neighbourhood. Will have to take the bigger car this time as we certainly won’t fit all four of us, luggage and presents in my little dinky toy! My car is not what you would call a practical family car 🤣. I’m looking forward to spending some time away albeit only a couple of nights, it is a break away from the daily grind at home, I’m hoping the tiredness will pass and let me enjoy my time away. Plus I get to dress up a little as we are staying at a nice hotel without the kids as they’ll be at their grandparents, and we get to eat out in a posh restaurant for a change. To be fair I do like a Harvester pub, but sometimes something a little more refined is welcomed.

We also have the Theatre booked, the Panto to be precise, and I’ve heard great things about it, hoping it lives up to it. I’m sure it will – Peter Pan is a classic, although it’s been brought right up to date apparently this year. I’m sure the kids will love it, I may have to pack an extra Tena pad – apparently it’s hilarious!

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If you were wondering if Hubby and I had finalised our Christmas dinner menu yet, well the answer is no. Not yet. And, if I can’t get a click and collect booked then it might just be chicken instead of turkey this year 🙄. I don’t fancy doing anything super amazing this year, not that I could anyway not being that good a cook and all, but I’m still not feeling full on festive yet.

There’s niggling doubt over Covid at the back of my mind, we’re promised things won’t change, and it’ll be a normal Christmas, but I’m dreading the bit after Christmas. Omicron has a lot to answer for! I’m now booster jabbed, if I’m honest I feel quite crap with it. I wasn’t too bad with the AZ, but this third half dose has made me sore, and very achy. I did have the flu jab done at the same time which I admit could have something to do with it. In all likelihood the simple fact that I’m just completely shattered is probably the underlying issue!

In fact, I’ve been feeling decidedly grumpy of late. I’m trying to figure out if its just me getting older and having less tolerance for stupidity or actually whether there is something more going on. Perhaps its hormones kicking in, now that I’m over 40 there are obvious hormonal changes going to happen but I’m starting find my sleep patterns are getting worse, my tolerance levels are lowering and I’m generally feeling… just bleurgh! (If there is such a word?!).

Anything and everything seems to irritate me these days. I also notice I don’t feel the cold as much as I once would have. Although this may just be down to the fat content I have keeping me well insulated 🤣🤣🤣.

It could be the dreaded Menopause kicking in although it’s a bit early, my family don’t normally experience it until 50+, but you never know. It may be that I just need an MOT and a break away from everything. I might be waiting a while though, I’ve been married ten years and still haven’t been on a honeymoon, somehow something always gets in the way 😞. Perhaps it’s just good old fashioned frustration getting the better of me. If you know the answer give me a heads up 😉.

I’ll sign off until after Christmas. Will catch up with you all after, until then have a great holiday everyone, wherever you are, whoever you’re with and whatever you do x

Take care, stay safe

Becks xo

Christmas, food and all the bits that go with it!

Each year I buy a tonne of Christmas magazines. You know which magazines I’m talking about… the ones that promise you the perfect Christmas. Well, I’ve done it again, spent a small fortune on magazines that will somehow take me to the holy grail of Christmas perfection.

Presents under the tree

Inside they are filled with perfect images of the perfect décor scheme, the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect Christmas countdown, the perfect Christmas family crafts to make, the perfect Christmas menu, the perfect Christmas collection of drinks, the perfect Christmas gift list and it goes on… I love the idea of getting perfection at Christmas but the reality is far from it.

Food

I’m an awful cook, and I don’t know much about putting the perfect scheme together, but I do know I have an amazing family and I love doing our silly Christmas stuff together. So what if I over cook the sprouts and burn the turkey a little, we are still alive and we can laugh about it and that’s what is important to me. Enjoying the time we have together, being silly and doing daft things. So yes, I would love the perfect everything at Christmas but sometimes perfection isn’t really what we need, what we need is for things to just be a little bit okay.

Hubby and I have the same conversation each year about what we are going to cook on Christmas day. We peruse the magazines with the aim of identifying a really first class menu for the day, but after looking at a lot of the ideas and images we come to the conclusion that we wouldn’t eat most of it and it’s all a bit too fancy. We’re simple folk and like old fashioned, simple, hearty food. So we end up doing a more traditional meal of turkey, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, veggies including one or two Brussel sprouts even though there are only two of us in the family that will eat them, gravy, cranberry sauce (although hubby puts mint sauce on his instead of cranberry as he’s a fussy one!), pigs in blankets and occasionally a Yorkshire pudding if we do beef instead. We don’t normally have a Christmas pudding as I’m the only one who’ll eat it, and we often don’t have room anyway! We might get in a cheesecake or something simple just in case.

There are always mince pies in the house, as the kids merrily munch their way through them, and we always have the kid’s version of a trifle, minus the sponge fingers, custard and cream. Yes, I know it’s just jelly, humour me will you?

I did find a fabulous recipe for a Gingerbread Soufflé which I’d like to try, never baked a soufflé and I’m sure it will sink in the middle but I might just have a go at it. Recipe can be found here if you’d like to try it for yourself https://www.yourhomestyle.uk/recipes/desserts/hot-gingerbread-souffle/

I have had a request from hubby to get in some stinky cheese (Stilton fyi) and some cheddars too, which is fine as both the children and I like to have crackers with cheese (although not stinky cheese!). It’s nice to have something different other than the usual chocolate and sweets that are usually abundant at this time of year. I confess to not buying tins of sweets for us at home, we do buy for others, but we usually get given plenty as gifts from friends and family. Oh, and I’m aiming to get hubs a Colin the Caterpillar Advent Calendar this year as he’s been hinting at it for ages! Although it’ll probably be sold out by the time I get to buy one!

Drinks

My kids love their hot chocolate, squirty cream and marshmallows, so much in fact, that we’ve had to cut them down on it to once a week as they were getting into the habit of having one several times during the week. They’ll get a few more this Christmas though as they like to prepare it all. There’s something about giggles when they’re using squirty cream, they sneak a squirt directly in their mouths too! Grim monsters 🤣.

There’s lots of ideas for the perfect Christmas cocktail, I’d love to try some but I have to admit I usually just end up with a G&T with a citrus twist for my tipple of choice and we usually have bucks fizz or prosecco for Christmas lunch. It’s all a bit of a faff, and takes up too much space on the sideboard, plus there’s always the risk something will get knocked off the side with us being quite a clumsy family. I do like the idea of all the loveliness of a cocktail trolley, just not sure it would work in practice.

Decor

I mentioned in the last post about our Christmas decor this year and pointed out some of the trends and how we tweaked the latest trends to suit us. I also mentioned I would be attempting to dig out the deccies from the garage. That has and hasn’t happened. What? I see that confused look on your face. I know. I only managed to get in the garage the day hubby left for work abroad, very much last minute too! So, this meant I didn’t have the manpower to help with the lifting and ‘getting of things up high’, with me being a shortie and all that. I ended up just getting the kids Christmas trees and their box of decorations as they were easy to hand and it meant that at least they got to do some decorating for Christmas. We can wait until Dad comes home and get at least one family tree up before the big day. I’m not bothering with outdoor decorations this year, we haven’t the time to put any up really.

Outfit selection?

So each year I say to myself “right time to really snazz it up this year”, meaning in Becky speak time to find an outfit that’s all sparkly and christmassy. The reality of this is a pair of loose fitting trousers and a top without fail every year. It is essential for the consumption of all of the mince pies!

I did attempt a sequin outfit once, I scoured Pinterest for ideas and identified a really great looking outfit. Sequin skirt, top and shoes. Fab. Well I attempted it. Slippers instead of shoes as we don’t wear shoes in the house. Family trait I’m afraid. Never can see the joy in dragging outside dirt in on carpets and flooring, especially when dogs and people might have peed on the pavement, or spat on the pavement, anyone whose worked in the city will know what I’m on about. And whilst were on the matter why do people feel the need to put their feet up on public transport seats, dirt on clean clothes, really! It’s unhygienic enough when the ‘boys’ in the house miss the toilet seat (mums of boys will know exactly what I mean here!), I certainly don’t want anyone elses ‘ickiness’ in my house or on my clothes if I can help it.

Anyway, I digress, so sequins were donned, and a white top with a cardi to top it off. It looked awful, the skirt showed my massive mum tum and teamed with dark nora batty wrinkly tights (only those of a certain age may get this), the top was a ill fitting and the cardi just didn’t cut it! I looked like a granny gone wrong. I knew as soon as I donned the outfit it was just wrong, so took a pic to prove how bloody awful it was and immediately went to the backup outfit of loose trousers and top! Failsafe, not attractive or particularly stylish but great for slobbing out after Christmas lunch.

Lesson learned. The Pinterest image I found was the look I was going for but I completely misinterpreted the outfit. In the image I found the individual had on knee high boots in black, gold sequin skirt (similar to mine) and a black polo neck top. She was also very slim and as I mentioned in a previous post it’s hard to find images of plus sizers in the type of outfits I like. It’s a learning process and I know what went wrong which is a good thing to come from it. And you get to have a good laugh at my awful choice in footwear!

I still have the skirt even after a couple of years, It’s in the pile of ‘not sure abouts’. It may go to the charity shop, or someone I know might benefit from it. I may be able to make it work with skin colour tights, and keep the outfit light but I may just give up and use the darker sequin skirt instead. I can see how unflattering the skirt is it just highlights the mum tum too much.

So, I’ll be revising my wardrobe choices this year and maybe, just maybe, might don something a little more jingly this year. Funny Christmas jumpers anyone? 😁

Let me know in the comments below or over on the facebook page if you’re planning on donning a fancy Christmas Jumper x

Whatever your choice of food, tipple or outfit this Christmas, I hope you enjoy it.

Decorate to your heart’s content and cherish the moments you have with loved ones.

I will try to post again before Christmas, but until now, take care, stay safe.

Becks Xo

Christmas decor trends in our house

And other Christmassy things!

With the month of December almost upon us, some of us may be thinking about digging out the well-worn and much loved decorations and dusting off the tinsel. Yes, it’s that time of year again.

I feel I can mention the C word (No not the really rude one! That’s just wrong!), as it’s almost December and only a few more weeks to go before we all start to overindulge and go into overdrive at how much we’ve spent… really? That much… again! But I budgeted this year! You know the drill.

I’m planning on fighting my way into the garage this weekend hopefully and will drag what I can out and see what is still useable. Much of our tat has been about for years and is looking a little beyond its best. But, sometimes that’s the way I like it. It means it has a story to tell, it’s seen a few Christmases and many changes along the way.

I am trying to be a little more eco-friendly and using what we have rather than buying new. I am using a fake tree – I would love a real tree, and have had a few in the past, but if I’m honest the fake ones we have will have already had their carbon footprint and it would seem such a waste if we binned them. They are a few years old so I’m hoping to keep them in good condition for as long as possible to minimise the damage they would and have done. They were expensive in the first place and are good quality so I’ll continue to use them for as long as I can. It’s better not to cut a tree down anyway, much better to have a potted one and grow it on – there’s lots of schemes out there where you can buy potted trees and when they get too big or after 7 years (assuming they are still alive) then they can go back to the supplier to be planted in the ground and you then start the cycle again. Cutting a tree down doesn’t always mean eco.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

What are the Christmas Trends for this year?

What I do try to do each year is see how the Christmas trends pan out and identify what is predicted for the year and use what I already have in storage and adapt it to suit. Looking at the predicted trends and what has been in the shops for what seems an age now, I know we have quite a few items that I can use this year. I’m not a minimalist when it comes to decorating a Christmas tree. I go for the more is more approach. I like it stuffed full of baubles, silly decorations and of course family heirlooms. This goes against the grain of the less is more trend some have predicted, a more stripped back approach for this year it seems.

The rustic, handcrafted trend is very much in this year, so of your love crafting little handmade gems will come in handy this year if you’re big on handmade. If you’re not a crafter you can still get the look but you’ll have to buy it and there are some super glamorous decorations out there, albeit made with more natural materials such as wood and berries!

There’s also a love of all things DIY still and this means plenty of garlands with dried fruit and foliage, going au naturel. I think the idea behind the DIY trend is due to last year 2020 being a year where we couldn’t see family and friends and do the ‘group’ activities we perhaps might normally have done and so this is a symbol of a new normal and getting back to some of the fun times we may have had in past Christmases.

I have to admit to failing at setting a perfect table display in our house. We have a small, tatty old table that fits the four of us and not much else. We have been meaning to invest in a bigger one but just never got round to it. We’ll probably look to getting a new one next year, we’ve so much on at the moment we just don’t have the time to go furniture shopping. So, I usually keep it simple with our nice John Lewis white crockery and our posh Oneida cutlery set (the stuff that only comes out for special occasions, I’m too clumsy to use it everyday!). I use a simple tablecloth and runner just to make it look a little more festive but that’s about it really. I dream of a huge table with lots of room to create a really elaborate display. I have a friend who puts on the most amazing table displays when she holds her dinner parties, and I’m sure Christmas is no different at her house, she puts so much thought into everything from the wine to the food to the decor. I would love to be able to do such things I admit, but we just don’t live that lifestyle. We are simple folk and rarely have guests over.

It looks like the colour trends are following clothing colours at this time of year, lots of burnished berry tones and natural earthy muted tones paired with gold and bronze. These are many of the colours I use each year anyway, and as we have a huge amount of decorations (7 Christmas trees, yes, you read correctly, 7!) this will not be hard for me to put together a scheme. I try to vary the colour schemes each year although clearly I can’t use colour schemes that will clash with the current wall colours or any of the permanent colour schemes in the house, but I do like to harmonise as best I can. I do let the kids go wild with their trees though, as kids should be allowed to be creative in my view.

Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels.com

What else will I be doing?

I will be using my new anniversary/Christmas gift mixer this christmas to make some cookies and I think I will get the kids to decorate them, they can use their imaginations, you never now we may end up with another day glo colour on the cookies (long story, for another time maybe). We will probably put a few in for close friends and family presents and also for just munching whilst watching cheesy Christmas movies.

Talking of movies, there are a few films we always watch at Christmas, we were put off last year as I don’t remember Die Hard being on mainstream telly. Christmas isn’t Christmas without Die Hard! I did watch Love Actually though which is also on my list of must see Christmas Movies. What’s your favourite CHristmas movie? Here’s a list of mine, in no particular order:

  • The Holiday
  • Love Actually
  • Last Christmas
  • Lethal Weapon 1987
  • Ghostbusters 1989
  • Gremlins
  • White Christmas 1954
  • Die Hard
  • Muppets Christmas Carol
  • Bridget Jones Diary
  • Bad Santa
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Deck the Halls
  • Jingle All the Way
  • Christmas Chronicles 1 & 2

I’ve quite possibly already peaked on the Christmas movies front as there are loads on daily at the moment and I dip in and out occasionally. If I peak too early I get a bit Bah Humbug, but I’m slowly starting to get into the spirit of things. We popped into a garden centre the other day on our travels and I was getting more enthused by the decorations as I was walking round. I did almost buy something but decided I probably wouldn’t have enough room in the boot along with the luggage from our weekend at the folks!

We booked the Panto this year too. The kids haven’t been to the panto and we were looking at perhaps booking The Play That Goes Wrong, but after the kids watching it over and over on iPlayer I’m all ‘The Play That Goes Wrong-ed out!’ We are really looking forward to spending some quality family time together with a few big belly laughs along the way. He’s behind you… Oh no he’s not!

We are not expecting any visitors to ours this year, although my parents do pop over for boxing day occasionally. We will do the trip to see the kids grandparents down South of which we all thoroughly enjoy visiting. We will take the bigger car this time, it’s got a bigger boot. I need say no more 🤣. It may all be a little different this year all depending on my mum’s recovery from her big operation. I’m hoping she’ll be able to make it to ours as I really enjoy having them both over. I’m lucky to have both my parents still around and hope it stays that way for a long time. It must be hard for some who’ve lost parents, especially if they have lost them recently or if they had a particularly close relationship with them. My heart goes out to you if this is you, you never forget them. This time of year can be tough for many and my thoughts are with them.

The light show!

Every year hubby usually does a big light display in both front and back gardens for the kids but the past couple of years has toned it down considerably. When we used to live at our old house the lights were really bright and you could see them from the car park at the back of the house, I have to say the garden glowed! This year with all the things we have on we won’t have time for a big display so will keep it simple and pop up a couple of strings of lights in the garden. It’s just time that is keeping us from doing a big display. It takes a whole weekend to sort it all out. Time we don’t have free this year. It seems to have come around so fast.

Are you doing anything special for Christmas? Comment or visit us on the facebook page, I’d love to know what you are up to this Christmas.

Take care, stay safe.

Becks Xo

What defines the perfect beauty regime?

Is there even one?

According to experts, and it seems everyone on the internet is an expert these days, there are three main steps to a beauty regime: Cleanse, Treat and Moisturise. Ok, fair enough but being a teenager in the late 80’s early 90’s I thought Tone was the middle one. Well it seems I’m wrong and Toning is an optional activity these days and we do it to redress the PH balance of our skin, but apparently the key thing we need to be doing now is Treating our skin after we’ve cleansed and before we moisturise.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Fair enough I’m no expert but this is what I have found out and if you are like me and don’t use much by the way of skin care products then this may help. For those of you that do use products daily you might just find you are using too many products and actually overwhelming your skin.

So what does ‘treat’ stand for?

I can tell you it’s not a lovely chocolate biscuit treat unless it’s one specifically made for skin! I do have a rather lovely face mask that smells so chocolatey and delish that it always makes me feel hungry… but I digress. Treating is where we use, serums or creams which are packed full of skincare superheroes like vitamin C, retinol, hydroxy acid and more.

Of course everyone’s skin is different and we need to adjust to suit our skin and our age but after looking at what is recommended the following seems to be the ideal skincare regime:

Daytime

  1. Cleanse – use a gentle face wash to take away the impurities of daily life. Using a gentle face wash is important if you are using several products in your skin care regime as you don’t want to overwhelm your skin. Don’t cleanse too often or use too harsh a cleanser otherwise your skins natural barrier will be washed away and you’ll end up with redness and potential problems with other products.
  2. Tone – this is an optional stage but is good for rebalancing the PH levels of your skin. Make sure you are using the right toner for your skin type though. If you have dry skin use a hydrating toner to soothe skin and if you are prone to acne then using a toner with salicylic acid in will help keep spots at bay.
  3. Serum – whatever your age or skin type it seems as though vitamin C is the skin saviour. It helps reverse the damage caused by the sun and pollution. It’s also good for hyperpigmentation, and especially so if used in the morning routine.
  4. Eye cream – find one that suits you and dab with your ring finger to prevent damage to the fine skin under the eyes. Our ring finger is the weakest one so ideal or delicate areas.
  5. Moisturise – this is designed to keep your skin hydrated and create a protective barrier for your skin against damage and pollution. Depending on your skin type choose a lighter moisturiser that will soak in quickly, if your skin is on the drier side then a thicker cream based moisturiser will do the trick.
  6. Sun cream/sunscreen – this is essential, our skin can get damaged by the sun even on an overcast day. It is the number 1 cause of skin damage so we need to use it daily and at least an SPF of 30 is recommended, even if you spend most of the time indoors. 

Night-time – this is the perfect opportunity to ensure your skin is getting all the key nutrients it needs

  1. Cleanse – this is where a cleansing oil is recommended as it is designed to take off your makeup and cleanses your skin in one go.
  2. Tone – again optional but do it before you apply serums.
  3. Serums – apparently retinol is the skin saviour for anyone to use at any age but especially in our 40’s and 50’s. There are recommendations to using alpha hydroxy acid to encourage collagen but this will need to alternate so as not to put too many ingredients that may fight with each other if you now what I mean.
  4. Eye cream – use as you would in the day, but using eye cream at night helps the delicate skin around the eyes deal with stronger ingredients like retinol better.
  5. Acne cream – this is about prevention rather than cure. If you know you are prone to the odd or regular breakout then putting spot control cream on can help keep them at bay.
  6. Moisturise – uber important to moisturise using a night cream as this is designed to hydrate and protect your skin and make sure it is glowing when you wake up.
  7. Face oil – these are designed to give that extra boost of moisture for your skin overnight. They add an extra layer of protection. Don’t worry if your skin is oily these if the right formula is chosen can work wonders for your skin.

To me this seems a lot of a faff, although it is why many women and men have fantastic skin and I don’t. I look at my own skin care regime and for me to do what is recommended I’d be there all day messing about. Especially as it’s advised to wait a little between stages to let the skin settle and for the products to sink in. But with the pressures on us all to look good every day, and keep the aging process at bay we are ‘encouraged’ to follow complicated regimes.

To be honest in the grand scheme of things if you only do half of the recommended régime you are doing something right!

Essentials are – cleansing, applying serum and moisturising the other bits, are for when you have time if you can.

What about me? What do I do?

I’m such a heathen when it comes to my skincare, or lack of care as is mostly the case. I do put sun cream on I confess to that, but if I’m honest I don’t much do the other stuff. I have the odd phase where I go all out and do all three steps, but mostly I wash with a bamboo or organic cotton flannel, yes you read that correctly a flannel. I was born in the 70’s and some of the things I did as a kid have stuck with me. I have a pile of bamboo and organic cotton flannels in the airing cupboard as they get used regularly, I’m not for these environmentally damaging wipes (they don’t do your skin much good either) and the washable wipes that companies seem to keep coming up with as the new environmental alternative, well open your eyes they’re just cut up flannels made from bamboo or organic cotton, marketed as the new way to save the planet! And, yes I can be this cynical I used to work in marketing, kinda know the tricks they use to get people to buy into the ‘product’. And spot cream! I just use toothpaste! It works a treat and leaves my face smelling minty fresh 🤣, the other half has grown accustomed to seeing me with toothpaste on my face occasionally he doesn’t bat an eyelid these days.

I will use a moisturiser on occasion when I remember to, although I confess I don’t always do this every day. I forget. Unless I get into routine and remember to do it or I’m putting on makeup, it just doesn’t get done. I do put sun cream on though, as I mentioned before but I don’t much like the combined moisturisers with SPF in them I find them far too greasy for my skin. So normal mineral based sun cream does the job for me. I do remember to put moisturiser on at night, and I’m even choosing a night time one for extra Oomph. So I suppose I might get some brownie points for that!

My mum always encouraged me to ensure my skin was clean but she used to suffer terribly with allergic reactions to most skin care products and so she rarely wore makeup, in fact I think she only ever wore mascara and lipstick as everything else made her skin react. She would react really badly and have to have prescription cream to put on, usually some steroid cream or …

What’s it called? …

Hang on…

It’ll come to me in a bit…

This is one of those walk into a room moments and you forget what you walked into the room for! It’s an age thing.

Antihistamines! That’s the one.

Mum used to wear a moisturiser but it was the same one for years and she rarely changed the brand, she had to though on the odd occasion as the formula and ingredients had changed and caused a really nasty reaction where her face swelled up and went burning red it started to peel in places. So as you can imagine skincare and makeup wasn’t foremost in my teens. Most of my influence came from teen mags like MORE and when I was older Cosmopolitan. Ahh, those were the days 🤣 Anyone of a certain age will remember More Magazine, Cosmo is still about and is even more racier than I remember 😜

I can’t say I’m much of a girly girl and I never really have been, but on occasion I do like to make an effort. And, this means when I do remember to use skincare products I want them to be as skin, animal and environmentally friendly as possible.

I will only use animal friendly products those with the Leaping Bunny and Vegan logo on them. I have long been an advocate of animal friendly products and positive ethical practices in the beauty industry and I naively used to use many of the high end brands Estee Lauder, Clinique and such like, but I found out that they were and are still not animal friendly. They are often owned by parent companies who sell in China and their products must be tested on animals before they can be sold there. So at some point there will have been an ingredient that has been tested, if not the actual product, on animals. It is hard to find a truly animal friendly product but if you care enough then look for the leaping bunny and the vegan V and you can’t go far wrong.

You don’t have to pay high end to get a good product. Many cheaper products use the same ingredients as the more expensive brands, it’s just the bigger more ‘high end’ brands market to a ‘lifestyle dream’. We all like a bit of designer but we don’t necessarily need it for our moisturiser. Do your research, there are plenty of informative websites out there.

I’m not here to tell you which products to use, you are old enough to make those decisions on your own. All I ask is that you consider the impact on the environment, animals and your health and do your research you can’t go far wrong.

Thats it from me for now. Have a rummage through your skin care products and take a careful look. Hopefully you’ve perhaps picked up a little snippet of useful information in this post.

Take care, stay safe.

Becks xo

Is it really all about the likes and stats?

I’ve found myself becoming more and more concerned about the amount of engagement I have and focusing on my stats of my page recently. I mean let’s face it, I’m putting myself out there and opening myself up to the world so why not, right?

But I’m finding myself becoming quite anxious about it, checking the stats on an almost minute by minute basis. I’m becoming almost addicted to checking and for me it’s a concern, I teach kids about screen addiction and social media issues and yet I’m now following that path!

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

I’m not sure why I’m worried about the stats, perhaps it’s because I wrote a post that I thought might have appealed to more people and it didn’t, perhaps it’s because I felt I’d laid myself bare in my honesty and now I’m wondering if I’ve done the right thing, perhaps I expected more engagement, perhaps I did something people didn’t expect and readers were put off, should I have paid more attention to SEO as bloggers are often told to do to maximise their readership and engagement, perhaps people just didn’t get to read it, maybe I posted at the wrong time? Who knows there are so many what-ifs and could haves that I’m slightly overwhelmed by it.

Part of the issue I think though, is that I have been inconsistent in posting. For me this is a personal blog, about me and my life, so I don’t post every day, week or month – my life just isn’t that exciting! I am a busy mum, teacher, crafter and blogger, I’m perpetually knackered, so something has to give somewhere at some point. I post when I feel something important or useful happens and this goes against blogging advice, but there are so few blogs out there that aren’t out to make money that I wonder if that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I rarely do recommendations on anything and when I do I do it because it’s genuine and not because I’m getting paid for it, I switch off reading most blogs that have constant ad pop ups and so this doesn’t appeal to me. I like my little blog because it’s clean and free of the interruptions of everyday internet bombardment.

I know from looking at the blog and stats that the only comments I’m receiving are spam and they’re filtered out anyway, and it seems that only a handful of followers are commenting on the Facebook page and they’re usually close friends. Maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board with the blog and social media and make some changes.

Am I going to be going against what I originally set out to so?  Probably, but we evolve and I suppose my little slice of the internet has to evolve too but I honestly don’t want it to. I’m happy with change, but not when it’s forced. I’m more of a natural evolver.

I get so wrapped up in what I’m writing that maybe perhaps I don’t focus on the structure of the post enough, I certainly don’t plan the post, everything I write is written from the heart and perhaps it comes across as a bit rambling, and loses its intention. There is so much information on the internet about ‘how to write the perfect post’ its information overload. And maybe I don’t want to write the ‘perfect post’ maybe I just enjoy writing and getting my personal story out there.

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

I’m not even sure how to plan a blog post for my type of blog. I mean it’s a little slice of my life and how I manage things. I don’t want to churn out just anything to meet a statistical requirement but in my head I’m thinking the opposite – reader engagement, get the likes, get the comments, post, post, post! My fear is I’ll lose the feel of the blog and it’ll become another blah blog. How some people manage to churn out post after post day in day out is beyond me. Do they not sleep?! They can’t have a life surely? Or maybe they are just so incredibly organised they have planned everything months in advance like a professional!

I remember when I started out during the pandemic lockdown 2020, I researched online about how to start a blog, I grabbed as many planning tools as I could and filled them all in planned to the hilt and then put it all to one side and forgot about it. I do dip in and out of the pack every so often but I don’t give it my complete focus I admit. I found it easier to maintain a consistent posting schedule and there was plenty to talk about with the pandemic and all. But now were back to the new normal life has become busier (work, kids, home, crafting and blogging = busy, busy, busy) and it’s not quite so interesting. I’m not off on jolly’s out all the time and neither have I been on a posh cruise or exotic holiday so it’s all about the day to day stuff going on which can be a bit… well… dull really.

I’m not sure what you want to read, I don’t know what you find interesting or not about the blog so it’s difficult to write interesting things and insights for you. I’ve been told in the past not to change what I’m doing, I’m just not sure anymore, I don’t know what to do.

I guess it may be time to re-evaluate and look at what to do for the future with Mylifeandstyleover40.com. If you have any ideas (keep them clean!) pop a comment below, or on the Facebook page.

Take care, stay safe

Becks xo

A little bit of style is all you need…

I guess as my little slice of the internet is about my life and style I ought to put my money where my mouth is and write a post on said style bit. This may get a little embarrassing but be kind, I’m all about being kind here.

I mentioned ages ago in an old post (Archived post: Surprised? I was… https://mylifeandstyleover40.com/2020/08/ scroll down a little in the archives to find it if you want to have a look) about how I need to get grip on finding my own style as I’d kind of given up on my appearance and how I looked in others eyes. I tend to be the type who doesn’t always practice what they preach and I must get out of that habit! Definitely not a good habit to have if you’re a teacher like me 🙄

I’d like to think I know a little bit about style, I know the a bit of the ‘theoretical’ elements, which some might deem to be ‘common sense’, and I think know how to put a stylish outfit together (most of the time) and I’m a good learner. But, I think the problem is I’m quite lazy and I also quite often have a ‘so what do I care what others think’ approach. Believe it or not, I actually do care how I look. To me it’s not being vain it’s a part of self care, just like taking five minutes to ground ourselves and refocus. Something we are told to do for our mental health. I do care about what others may think about me and how I look but it’s easier to hide behind ‘a cloak’ and appear nonchalant about things.

Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels.com

Why is this? Is it a British stiff upper lip thing? Who knows! But, I do think there is something in the feeling that if we change how we look, even if it’s a smart pair of shoes rather than the usual scruffy trainers we may wear on the school run, someone might notice the little change we’ve made and may comment on it. Oh no, how do we deal with that!?! Especially if it’s a compliment, because let’s face it, for some of us, we are not good at receiving compliments are we. It often makes us a little uncomfortable, it may even sometimes make us think in a negative way “OMG, if they make a comment on what I’m wearing then I must have looked really bad before”, which can go either way and make us think positively enough to make us care a little more or as I suspect I have done in the past, we may verge towards the negative side and will hide away going back to our old ways because if I don’t’ change they will never notice. The truth is, if we try to hide we get noticed just as much as when we make an effort. And any changes we make get quickly absorbed into our daily look and become the norm to others. Ironically I like to compliment others on how they look and yet feel a little awkward when others compliment me.

It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut where you just grab the nearest thing to hand and throw it on hoping that it might look reasonable, I am busy like most people, I am time deficient, and planning what I wear often doesn’t work for me. I have off days, fat days, happy days, down days and every kind of day so what I may plan to wear may not be what I actually wear as I might just not be feeling in the mood that day! I am very much an emotional dresser, much like my emotional eating. I wear happy clothes if I’m feeling buoyant, but I wear scruffy clothes if I’m feeling tired and worn out. My clothes fit my mood.

I find it difficult to find clothes that I feel really comfortable and confident in, many of my comfort clothes do not scream style and make me look frumpy (see the dress in the pic as an example!😲) which then puts me in a negative frame of mind and thus the continual cycle goes on. I do have some really positive days where I will wear something I really like and makes me feel confident.

This has been down to learning a lot about style from a group I’m part of. ALERT!!! Shameless plug of the Lessons in Style Club I’m in (I’m recommending this service because I love it, I don’t get any commision for doing this at all so this is genuine!!!). Visit RuthEssex.com for more information. If you are feeling in a style rut, or just want to understand a little more about colours that might suit you believe me there’s a lesson for everyone there. Have a peek and sign up for her newsletter – you’ll find some really interesting helpful hints and tips there. She really is one of a kind when it comes to stylists.

Beware, you will be subject to some awful photo’s but I’m all about keeping it real! 🤣

The photo, although a couple of years on, does show I’ve improved my style I think. The dress in the first image makes me look overweight and frumpy. I would have worn trainers with it or sandals I’ve come a fair way in a couple of years. The second photo shows in my opinion a much better more refined me, despite the grumpy face 🤣. I’m still the same size, you just don’t notice it so much, I’m just wearing a much better outfit. And, yes, I still wear colours that don’t suit my colouring but I wear them away from my face (most of the time). I’m also not one for a full face of war paint, I bow to you if you have the patience to apply everyday, but I’ve just bought some new mascara and concealer so will be slightly more presentable than I was!

I remember being slim, and wearing miniskirts because I had good legs, I’m not being vain when I say I think I still have half decent legs and although the skirt lengths may have come down a little I know from the help and guidance from the friends I have made in the club I can still make the most of the good parts of me. I’m still learning the art of disguising the not so good parts though 🤣 Mum tum anyone?!

Photo by Castorly Stock on Pexels.com

I thoroughly enjoy my lessons in style in the style club (again if you want more information go to https://ruthessex.com/ to find out more). It’s a lovely family community, very supportive and not bitchy like other groups I’ve been in, and the lessons are well thought out, and very insightful. I learn a lot, although I may not always put the learning into practice, but like I said I’m an emotional dresser. There are going to be days where I don’t wear what I may have initially planned to wear and throw on some old trousers and a jumper – I unlike many cannot pull off the ‘looks amazing in a bin bag’ look.

I often have this concern that if I try to follow trends I’ll look like overweight mutton dressed as lamb! I’ve always been a little bit old fashioned I guess. I love the idea of coated jeans with an oversized jumper and heels, and in my head it looks great, and I’ve scoured Pinterest and gathered loads of images, sadly there are so few images of larger ladies there in the styles I like that I’m fast losing interest in Pinterest. And let’s face it how many times would I wear said heels?! I can barely keep my balance in flats at the best of times – oops. Maybe I should start flooding Pinterest with awful images of me 🤣. Yes, I have bought a pair of Matthew Williamson Butterfly black coated skinnies on a whim but they were from a charity shop so I’m not buying new and I’m doing my bit for the environment which is quite apt considering we’ve just been through COP26. Haven’t been brave enough to try them on yet though!!!

I have a daughter who is a real shopper, something I never really got to do much with my own mum. But little one knows what she wants and goes for it. We went charity shopping (again) the other day, and she got herself all dressed up in sequins and fluffy fake fur with sparkly trainers and a full face of makeup too! She outdressed and out accessorised me! It was so lovely having the proud mummy moments when shop assistants commented on how lovely she looked and ‘why shouldn’t we wear fluffy fur and sequins whenever we want?’

Not sure if you’ve experienced this but if you have you’ll know, but when you are out and you’re browsing through the rails and somehow listen in on people’s conversations? Well, it was so funny when we were out my little one was chatting away to me about bags and clothes, and she saw a bag she liked. Purple rosette flowered clutch to be precise. Anyway, she was talking about all my bags, I do love a good bag, and how “I can borrow them whenever I like, can’t I mummy?” and I could feel myself getting a bit anxious over this, I am quite precious over my bags, when I noticed another customer chuckling to herself whilst listening in to our conversation. She looked over and gave me a smile and then said to my little one “will mummy be able to borrow your new purple bag if she wants too?”, to which my daughter replied with a stern “No, only if she pays me”. I snorted, couldn’t help it. She is such a character, and very strong willed. The poor woman, had to bite her lip to stop herself from laughing.

Lesson learned here? Must make more of an effort in my choice of outfit when shopping with my daughter! Let me know in the comments if you’ve had any of these moments… I love to hear your stories. Or if you prefer pop a comment on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/Mylifeandstyleover40/

Take care, stay safe

Becks xo