This will probably be my shortest post for Blogtober, I’m feeling pretty rough today and I’m not a huge You tube fan but I am so keen to make sure that I have written every post in October, I can’t fail on the last day!
I’m not a vlogger and I don’t watch many videos online. It’s just not me, I’ve loads of admiration and respect for those creative enough to film, edit and produce videos, it’s a real credit to their talent and they deserve the recognition and credit for their work.
I use You Tube a lot for work, every assembly usually contains a very short video to introduce a topic or a song linked to the theme, so I appreciate the medium for the help it gives me at work. I also enjoy Ted talks which cover so many topics, there is always something to inspire and reflect on Ted.
So that’s it for #blogtober17, I do want to write another post about the project and to thank Mandi for hosting it, I’ll just save that for a day when I’m not feeling so nauseous.
Excluding Google, I think that Pinterest is my most visited website. I was a very early fan of the site and it has given me so much inspiration, ideas and advice on so many topics over the years. However, it is full of so much information that I recently started a revamp of my boards and follows as it was becoming too big to allow me to use it effectively. I still have more work to do on this, but it seems that my account is becoming mine again.
There are bits of my life which overlap and it felt at times that the fun had gone out of my Pinterest feed as a lot was themed on education, adoption, special needs etc.. all very useful and serious but there are times I need to switch off! I have now got a professional account for these topics to allow me to have more fun on my personal board and I use the professional one on my work laptop.
My favourite boards are my seasonal ones, inspiring ideas for different celebrations throughout the year. I’ve used so many of the pins on these boards, they simply are not for browsing and looking but trying, adapting and enjoying. The Elf on the Shelf has his own board and I have been indebted to these ideas as I plan our scenarios. Other useful boards are those for my running, journaling and books.
Like Instagram, my Pinterest account is not linked to my blog in any way, except name, it is just the things I like and am interested in. Pinterest is such an inspiring and fun website and one I love to use.
I can’t believe I’ve made it to Day 29 of 31 for this challenge and today’s theme is Instagram. Whilst I share the Seaside Sparkles name on my Instagram account, there’s no link with the blog and my Instagram account and its a medium I am not really sure on how to use it best. My byline is photos for inspiration, creativity and reflection. Honestly it’s not as pretentious as it sounds it’s just when you can’t post photos to identify your family or location, your content is limited and I don’t think I’ve posted much since I did some photos of our elf on the shelf last Christmas (I’ve just checked, one regram this year to try and win a prize) I also don’t get the hashtags, some people post tens of hashtags with each photo and it all seems a bit too much fuss.
However whilst I post little on Instagram I do follow some great accounts for my hobbies and interests. My biggest theme on my follows is cake decorating, there are some seriously talented bakers on Instagram. I also like crafting accounts and get lots of inspiration and ideas from Instagram. I follow a few fashion accounts and home interiors too. I like scrolling through my Instagram feed as it’s fun, colourful and relaxing and we all need that in our life!
Of all the social media mediums I love Twitter the most. It’s short and sweet and I think when it had the 140 character limit it made me more thoughtful and creative with my tweets.
What I really like about Twitter is how it connects you with people. I’m really interested in politics, but haven’t many people in real life who talk politics yet I follow political accounts and it gives me a place where I can read articles, thoughts and analysis. I follow a few amazing women too and I feel the feminism of my youth returning. The adoption community is also really strong and supportive on Twitter. Whilst this may be a bit heavy, I love the camaraderie on Twitter for major events and favourite tv programmes. I love Strictly but it’s not a love shared by Mr S yet on Twitter I have a community who comment and keep me company whilst I watch it, Twitter is a beautiful companion.
I really enjoy the book community on Twitter, I’ve found great recommendations on Twitter and it is a place to celebrate books and reading. When I’ve liked a book, I’ve tweeted a thank you or compliment to the author and have had replies, retweets or likes from Marian Keyes, JoJo Moyes, Matt Haig, Nigel Slater etc.. Tweets are like modern day fan mail and it’s exciting to have direct contact from someone you admire.
I like that Twitter is a diary of my life but also that it has helped to broaden my horizons and offers ideas and recommendations. It’s definitely my favourite online community.
In an earlier #blogtober17 post my secret was revealed that none of my friends and family know about my blog or twitter accounts. However, even with an alias I do not have a Facebook account, something I know that to some seems incomprehensible.
I like to think I’m quite digital savvy and know how to protect privacy on Facebook so it really is a personal choice. I did belong to Friends Reunited and whilst it was nice to catch up on how old school friends were doing, that was all I looked at it for. When Facebook first arrived I chose not to join, as a secondary school teacher I wanted to maintain my privacy. I worked at a school near to where I had grown up and still lived and where I also had been a pupil so many parts of my life were entwined, it was easier not to have an account rather than try to work out who could be friends of friends. I never felt I was missing out, I’m also pretty good at maintaining friendships the old fashioned way such as calls, emails and meeting up.
When we adopted I was quite relieved that I didn’t have an account. As is quite common as part of the adoption process we met the birth mother who talked about how much she likes Facebook and uses it often. I feel that if I’m not on it then we can’t be found. The whole issue of Facebook and other social media will without doubt be a huge issue in the future and it’s one we’ll address when the time comes.
There are inconveniences about not being on Facebook, particularly the group boards for clubs we all do. These are useful virtual notice boards with dates, activities, key information etc.. and I do have to depend on the news being passed on in another form. However people are pretty good at doing this and understand our reasons for not being on Facebook. Our children are not allowed to have photos on social media, particularly Facebook and so every school event is preceded by a request to respect this and we have asked family and friends not to put up photos on their feeds.
One thing I’m not keen on in Facebook is the voyeurism. People watching your life from a distance and knowing perhaps a little too much about you, there’s a fine line between curiosity and stalking. If I were ever to go on Facebook with my own identity (rather than Seaside Sparkles) I think I would only choose to friend those who I would happily pick up the phone and speak to about a post.
Despite not being on Facebook I’m not against it, it can be used really positively to connect people. I know my Dad enjoys using it for chatting to his tram friends, fellow enthusiasts who initially met online and now do an annual trip to an European city to ride and talk trams! It helps give others a voice and can provide friendship or company. It’s all a matter of balance and remembering to interact in the real world too.
It took me a while to realise that #Blogtober17 was the letters of the alphabet for the first 26 days, but I’ve made it through the alphabet and its Z today for zoo. I’m not a fan of zoos as I feel uncomfortable with animals being locked in a confined area. However, we do enjoy visiting Longleat safari park which I’m more relaxed about because of the vast areas the animals have to roam and graze in. Each year, we have a weekend away in Longleat, we buy a two day ticket and then stay in a local hotel overnight. I really enjoy the two day trip, the first morning is spent at the safari park in our car and then in the afternoon, we visit the attractions in the main part. On the second day, we start with the bat cave and river cruise for the gorillas, hippos and seals, in both attractions the animals are really animated. Later in the day, we go on the double decker bus around the safari park. In both vehicles you get very different views of the animals, neither is better, simply different.
At the safari park, my favourite animals are the giraffes and you can get up very close to them on the viewing platform where you can feed them at set times too. I love the patterns on their fur and the way they move, it always reminds me of the children’s classic book Giraffes Can’t Dance. I am also amused that they have blue tongues. The tigers and lions are a treat too but surprisingly I’m really quite taken by the bats. If you go first thing in the morning you can watch them eat their fruit and up close they are fascinating creatures.
I am interested by the conservation work being done at Longleat, there are lots of examples of projects throughout the park and it all helps to make Longleat a fantastic place to visit.
2017 has been a funny old year, for us it’s been a very ordinary year with no big family birthdays, weddings or other celebrations. However, this is ok, I like ordinary it means we’ve had no heartache, everyone is healthy and happy and we’re just pottering along nicely. Rather than precis each month, I’ve chosen 7 things which have made our year special.
Portsmouth. We visited the Historic Dockyards in May half term and had a terrific day, it was much more than I expected, with historic ships, a boat ride, a submarine tour, ninja style assault courses etc.. there was something for us all.
Paultons Park. Paultons Park aka Peppa Pig World is my favourite theme park in the UK. This year we had a magical alignment of perfect weather, everyone in a brilliant mood, little queuing and it was possibly our best family day out ever.
Cricket. This year with both the children belonging to the cricket club, our summer weekends have been busy with matches. The children have played, I’ve learnt how to score and Mr S has been driver and support.
Longleat. We like to have a weekend away at Longleat every year and this year was as good as ever. The lions were particularly animated the day we visited and were amazing to sit and watch.
Cardiff. My dad and I took the children to Cardiff in the summer. I used to live and work in Cardiff and love the city. We went to a great Dino Babies exhibition at the museum, to McDs for lunch (we don’t have a McD in our town so this is a big thing for the children) and then to the Bay where we rode the big wheel. The Ferris wheel was one of my favourite things to do this year!
The Eden Project. In planning our summer holiday to Cornwall, we knew that the Eden project was no1 on our places to visit. We spent the day there and the children loved it as much as Mr S and I. It certainly inspired some little changes to try and improve our eco habits.
Cycling in the Forest. This is a very simple activity but was so much fun. We went to our local forestry commission on a stunning autumn day and spent the morning exploring the forest on bikes. It was the first time that we weren’t practising our skills and were competent enough to ride, it gave us a taste for future adventures.
Brighton. Our weekend to Brighton was on our 2017 bucket list and we managed it last weekend, it was a fantastic weekend, good friends, good food and the opportunity to explore Brighton. I was very excited to finally visit the ChoccyWoccydoohdah shop as I used to be a big fan of their cake programme (along with Cake Boss, Charm City Cakes I love them all, they’re my guilty pleasure) Now I’ve been to Brighton, I can’t wait to return.
This post is for Day 25 of #Blogtober17, My Year in review…
Firstly, I have this thing about the word, xmas, I can’t stand the abbreviation so apologies but for my own sanity, I’ll need to write the word out full in this post! I like Christmas and I am in my element now with all the planning and preparation. In the next few weeks I’ll be buying all the Christmas magazines and browsing the catalogues. I am a list maker and have been writing notes and ideas throughout the year so that I have a good idea of presents to buy, special events are pencilled in on the calendar, I have a few new recipes to try and I’m planning Tommy the elf’s hiding places! All my planning is done in my Christmas book, of which I have a couple of editions and its level of detail is impressive. I have details of every present bought for the children, presents we have given to friends and family, menus for the period, information of Christmas cards sent, to whom and which design, decoration plans, highlights of the season and things to remember for the next Christmas. I know this may make me sound a bit of a control freak but actually it helps the Christmas season run very smoothly and I am pretty relaxed at Christmas. I am very much aware that Christmas is much more than presents and parties, to me it’s not about material things but surrounding yourself with friends and family.
I like that we have been able to create our own family traditions in what will be our 7th family Christmas in 2017, here are some of the things we do to make it our special time.
Tommy the elf (aka The Elf on the Shelf) I love Tommy, he’s been with our family for 5 years now and each day in December he hides in a new place and leaves the children a little letter. On December 1st he brings the advent calendars and finishes off with a deluxe hot chocolate set on Christmas eve, it’s also his job to bring the Christmas jumpers for the first Christmas celebration. The children adore Tommy and I do too, Mr S is bemused by it all!
The summer holiday Christmas decoration, we always try and buy a Christmas decoration on our summer holidays to remind us of our year. This year we purchased a small glass Christmas tree decoration in St Ives.
The town Christmas Market. This is such a fun day, the main street in town is closed off and the beach huts are brought in to be disguised as Alpine huts, lots of local crafts people, charities and groups sell their goods in the market and there is live music, a fairground etc.. It’s a day for seeing friends, having a little festive drink and nibble and just enjoying the Christmassy atmosphere.
The Christmas tree festival. This again is such a simple concept but one which our town embraces. Local businesses sponsor a tree and then local groups decorate them, it’s a three day festival where there is a dress up Christmas tableau, local choirs perform, craft activities etc.. The decorations are very artistic and creative and it’s wonderful to go and see 60+ trees beautifully presented.
Christmas gingerbread decorations. Every year the children and I spend a morning making lots of gingerbread decorations, icing them and singing along to Christmas songs in the kitchen. Some of the decorations are put on our Christmas tree, others go to family and neighbours.
Following Santa on Norad. There is a lovely story about how Santa is tracked by Norad, it’s a military unit in America whose telephone number was mistakenly put in a newspaper advert and lots of children’s calls for Santa came through to the base. Nowadays not only can you track Santa through satellite tracking, you can phone or email Santa on Christmas eve. We emailed him one Christmas eve and got the most lovely response from one of the hundreds of volunteers who man the service, I may have cried a happy tear that night because of the children’s awesome reactions.
The Christmas light drive. There are some mightily impressive Christmas decoratively lit houses in our town and on one of the evenings before Christmas we will drive around to see them all. Again the children’s reactions are so special and their excitement contagious.
I love a bit of Christmas sparkle and would love to hear your special traditions too.
This weekend we have spent some time with an amazing lady, I like to think of her as our family’s fairy godmother for her kindness to our children and the friendship she gives both Mr S and I. She is an incredible person and with her determination and hard work she is now the owner of a very successful business and helps to sponsor a school in Africa for which she does not simply provide financial help but has been out to give hands on practical support. I am in awe of her and can’t believe we’re lucky enough to call her a friend. The children were keen this weekend to find out how we became friends as our lifestyles are so different and simply it comes down to a little act of kindness from which a friendship blossomed.
We first met at Melbourne airport after arriving on a flight from London in December 2006. I don’t travel well and had spent the previous 12 hours sleeping and vomiting violently so was not in the best state to make a new friend, all I wanted to do was collapse in my hotel bed. We were all on a cricket tour to watch the Ashes in Melbourne and Sydney and ended up getting a taxi together to the city centre. It was on the journey that we discovered that she was travelling alone as the husband of the couple she had booked to travel with had suffered a serious heart attack days before (happy ending, he survived and we met him at cricket games in the future) I knew how I would feel about arriving in a new country and the prospect of a holiday alone, so we all agreed to meet up for the Christmas day dinner, its so much easier to go to something when you know that there will be a friendly face there. In the meantime, we had a day to get over our jet lag and as we were staying in different hotels I managed to get a message via the rep to make sure she was ok. We all met as planned for lunch and had one of the best Christmas days, we got on so well and as she now had two spare tickets for the very best seats in the ground, we took up her kind offer of joining her at the match. Whilst we had tickets, we got the rep to sell these so her friends could get a little compensation for missing the match. We had such a good time at the cricket with our friend and others in our group and we would meet up in the evenings for drinks and dinner, it was just a lovely relaxed time. Mr S enjoyed her company for her cricket knowledge, humour and general loveliness and I found a friend to chat all things girlie with and a companion to come to the theatre with, one of my personal highlights on the tour was a brilliant night out at Priscilla with her whilst Mr S played at the casino. It was a fantastic holiday and we all agreed to meet up at home.
The friendship did continue when we returned home, via email, phone calls and visits. Our friend loved to come down to the seaside (she has only recently moved to Brighton) and we would visit her too. We shared a number of hobbies, so during the years, we would meet up to watch England cricket games together, to run races and simply enjoy each others’ company. Over the years we’ve got to know each others friends and families too. Its always been lovely to spend time with each other and its a friendship where the three of us are close. She was a reference for our adoption application for the way in which she knew us as a couple and has always been supportive. Since the children have arrived she has been generous, kind and thoughtful to them and she has reassured, counselled and supported us, she is a magical person.
Our weekend in Brighton has just reminded me of what a beautiful person our friend is in our lives and also what a super stylish and accomplished woman she is, a role model to us all. She is the friend you can’t believe is your friend and I only hope we give to her some of what she gives to us. Its crazy to think that a little act of kindness has led to such an important friendship.
So after a weekend of Storm Brian it seems apt that today’s prompt is weather. We’ve been in Brighton this weekend where the weather was quite spectacular, the waves were so high and fierce, fantastic to watch from a distance. Earlier this week when it was Storm Ophelia, it was the sea and sky which were mesmerising, the colour, clouds, waves etc..
Before I lived at the seaside, I didn’t pay much attention to the weather simply to check for the basics, sunshine or rain. However at the seaside the weather has more of an effect, particularly with the tides and we get some spectacular weather, good and bad, at times. Our town has been flooded in recent years and damage has been done by storms. Even today, I saw lots of sand bags by the doors of those businesses on the seafront. I am more aware of my environment too, I am convinced that the sea and sky are a different shade everyday and I would be careful of some activities in extreme weather.
I agree with the adage that there is no such thing as bad weather just wrong clothes. I am an outdoor person and cannot stay inside all day, unless I’m really poorly. My preference is the sunshine but I can happily run or walk on a crisp, cold day and enjoy warming up after.