A new little project #18for2018 inspired by Gretchen Rubin


I’m not one for making new year’s resolutions but with social media awash with resolutions and bucket lists I thought this year I would think of 18 things I would really like to do in 2018, I’ve seen it mentioned in a few posts, @glasgowmummy is a great example so thanks to the creative genius, Gretchen Rubin behind the idea. Some will take an hour to do, others months, some are for fun, some serious, some I’ll do alone, some with others.  Here’s my list and I hope to provide updates randomly throughout the year of my progress.

  1. Learn to kayak. We live at the sea and I’m always envious of those kayaking in the bay, now Little Man has been a few times its time for me to learn how to do it so I can go out with him on the water too.
  2. Bake a soufflé. I’ve never made one and fancy a cookery challenge.
  3. Read some amazing books. I’m not looking to read a set number, but just books which are brilliant and allow me to lose myself in the story.
  4. Train well and run a half marathon. I’m planning an October half marathon so I can train seriously in the Spring and summer.  I’ve done half marathons before but its 5 years since my last and I want to do one in my 40s.
  5. Wear a pair of pretty heeled  shoes.  Depending on the season and activity, I will be wearing one of these, Converse pumps in a variety of colours, boots, flip flops or running shoes.  Stepping out of my comfort zone here!
  6. Have a cruelty free make up bag.  Since learning the devastating news that my favourite brands are no longer cruelty free because as they now test on animals to allow their products to be sold in China, my make up will become cruelty free this year. 
  7. Plan a trip to London for the children. They’ve seen so many images of London that its now time to take them and show them the sights.  We’ll do the tube, red buses, see Big Ben etc..
  8. Go the theatre.  I miss seeing the big shows and musicals so this year I will go and see a show and be wowed by live theatre again.
  9. Meet up with old friends. There’s a group of old work colleagues whom I haven’t seen for years and in every Christmas card we vow to meet up, so I’m finally going to organise it and do it.
  10. Play rounders or another summer sportRounders, tennis I love them but never play, that will change in 2018.
  11. Look after my feet.  I walk a lot and am always on my feet but never treat them as I should, this year its foot massages, peppermint cream and filing away the hard skin (TMI!)
  12. Go to a roller disco. This is so random, but I really fancy going to a roller disco so on to the list it goes!
  13. Invest in a warm, winter coat.
  14. Make something simple on my sewing machine. I use my machine but want to do something on it that I’ve never tried before, a skirt?
  15. Be more creative with the photos on my blog.  Its difficult when you write anonymously there’s no people to brighten up my blog, so I’ll try some more interesting still life shots.
  16. Swing on the high ropes.  Again this is something the children want to do and secretly me too.
  17. Do one scary but exhilarating thing.  I have no idea what yet…
  18. Have a holiday inspired nail art manicure.  I look at Pinterest and see so many nice holiday nails.  Before our holidays this year I’m going to have something a little bit different done!

Wish me luck on something that I hope will inspire me, invigorate me, develop new skills and will help bring the sparkles to 2018.


The #littleloves of 2017


I only have one #littlelove this week and that is for our nhs. If you’ve read my previous post you’ll know that our Christmas was a little different to what we had expected as my Father in law who was staying with us for Christmas was taken very poorly on Christmas Eve. Christmas really took a different perspective this year and I’ll remember that it was the kindness and dedication of people which made this Christmas special.  We are very thankful that my Father in Law is now recovering and feeling much better.

As a consequence of the above I thought I would put together a simple best of #littleloves for 2017. Some categories are easy to choose others i.e. makes show me that perhaps I need to be more focused on my creativity next year. So time for a fanfare as I reveal my favourites…

I like to read  and I’ve managed to read some great books this year. However there’s one book which I can’t stop recommending. It was a birthday present from a friend with impeccable taste. The book is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The storyline revolves around a simple, reluctant act of kindness and the effect it has on Elinor’s life, it is so life affirming and has all the feels. Please if you haven’t read it do, you won’t regret reading a single word as it is so beautifully written.

My film of 2017 was the last I saw at the cinema this year, Paddington 2. It is delightful, funny and magical. I love the way it embraces the importance of community and how to treat each other kindly. Breathe was an inspiring film too. On tv I have loved my old favourites, Strictly Come Dancing, Call the Midwife and Cold Feet.

My favourite outfit was this blue Boden sunglasses print dress with my flip flop necklace. I loved it because it was simple, comfortable and the print very much me, I’m always in sunglasses in the summer!

Looking back on my makes, there was more of a choice than I realised, an Anglo Saxon model house and costume ( yep school projects ) birthday cakes, meals etc.. However my make is simple because of its spontaneity. On July 4th we made a last minute decision to have an American themed barbecue and I tried making S’mores for the first time. They were amazing but it was the memories of me and the children sitting around the barbie cooking them on a warm evening with some music playing in the background that stays with me, sometimes life is simply about being in the moment.

This year I discovered Spotify and it took my music choices in many wonderful directions. For me the album of the year was Ed Sheehan’s Divide and the song to sum up the year Ariana Grande’s One More Time. Little Miss has always loved this song and following the Manchester terror attack the song gained even more significance. I have so much respect for Ariana and her attitude and actions after the attack, she’s a strong role model to my daughter.

So that was 2017 and I’m now looking forward to 2018. There’s no big events planned for 2018, no big birthdays or anniversaries, simply a year to create our own sparkles.

Thank you to all Morgana’s #littleloves brigade whom have given me so much inspiration in the past year. Happy new year to you all x

An Unexpected Christmas Day


As I write this post, I’m simply trying to make sense of all that has happened in the past 24 hours.  My Christmas day has been very different to how I had planned (and I am a meticulous planner so I knew exactly how it was going to look)  It has been a very scary time but what has shone through is the adaptability of children, kindness of people and our amazing NHS.

Last evening, Mr S, myself and my Father in law who was staying with us for Christmas were all settled on the sofa waiting for the children to fall asleep.  The men were drifting off to sleep in front of the tv and it all felt very cosy and a typical Christmas eve.  I’m not really sure what happened next as one minute we were sitting on the sofa and the next I was aware that my Father in law was struggling for breath making terrible noises, then that he had stopped breathing and didn’t appear conscious and then after a terrifying amount of time and some shaking he was violently sick which seemed to restart his breathing. We called 999 and then had an agonising 50 minute wait.  We live rurally and this is the response time on some nights from the closest ambulance station, as not all are 24 hours. We followed the excellent advice of the 999 operator and one of us stayed with him whilst the other collected his medication etc..  Little Miss also got up at this point as she had been alerted by the commotion, so we needed to reassure her and try to get her back to bed (on Christmas eve, of all nights)  The paramedics were amazing and quickly did a load of tests on my Father in Law and gave him oxygen.  Again despite our attempts to get her to bed Little Miss reappeared and found the oxygen the most frightening as Granddad was wearing a mask and clearly struggling to breathe.  It was decided that my father in law needed to go hospital, another 45 minute drive and Mr S quickly followed in his car to give us some transport for his return.  It was now when our neighbours alerted by the ambulance texted us and on learning it was my Father in law offered to come and stay on Christmas eve so we could both get to the hospital, even though they knew we were likely to be gone most of the night.  Whilst we decided I should stay for the children, my neighbour said to call at any time of the night and she would come over, her kindness has continued throughout the day today.  When Mr S and his dad left, I think the enormity of what had happened hit me.  Little Miss was still awake, she was upset and needed a lot of comfort and of course being a child she asked the question outright is Grandad going to die and it was a question at that time that I really couldn’t answer.  We talked about all the specially trained people who would be helping Grandad and that it was a good time to say a little prayer too.  It was at this point that I was so proud of her as she said Christmas didn’t matter and all she just wanted was for Grandad to be better.  After half an hour of comforting and cuddles, she finally fell asleep and then I had to call Mr S’ sister to tell her what had happened.  It was another of those conversations you don’t wish to make and you try to sound reassuring and confident when in fact you’re wobbling yourself.  After the difficult conversations and cleaning up, it was around midnight and I was left with a dilemma about Christmas presents.  Our two still believe in Santa and had left out mince pies and stockings, however the last thing I wanted to think about was the morning, I was living by the minute, desperate for updates from Mr S. However I also didn’t want to create more bad memories from this incident, so hesitantly got the presents together and put them in the front room.  Normally I make such a fuss of this, its a real highlight but I did it very simply.  I also do a stocking for everyone in our house for Christmas and made sure Grandad’s was there in the middle of the pile.  I spoke to Mr S again who said that his dad was still in A&E and on oxygen and that he would stay with him for as long as he was able to but for me to try and get some sleep and to try and carry on as normal for the children.  Needless to say I slept poorly, worried about my lovely Father in law and thinking on how to deal with Christmas morning.  At around 5.30am, Mr S returned as his dad was now on a ward and in a more comfortable state, he managed an hour’s sleep before Little Man who had slept through this all woke us up all excited for Christmas.  The first thing we had to tell him was about Grandad, amazingly he had slept through the whole thing despite the ambulance and the flashing blue lights being outside his window, however he is convinced he woke up and saw Rudolph and Santa’s sleigh last night!

The children were excited about their presents but I think their thoughts were very much with Grandad too, he was missing and he is normally with us for Christmas day if we’re at home.  Little Miss had to be persuaded to open her presents from Grandad as she wanted to wait for him.  After the presents, the children got a bonus visit from their auntie who came in to go back to the hospital with Mr S, she lives 2 hours away and had to be stopped from driving through in the middle of the night.  Christmas day then became a bit of a waiting game, I stayed with the children whilst Mr S and his sister were at the hospital waiting for news.  We’ve spent the day playing with the new toys, watching a bit of Christmas television and having our neighbours popping in to see the children  too.  I swapped our Christmas dinner and tea around (minus the leftover turkey which hadn’t been cooked) but then the later it got in the day I swapped Boxing day lunch (always cold meat, salad and chips) for Christmas day, the children couldn’t believe that they were allowed to have chips on Christmas day!  Mr S returned home around 4pm having survived on one hour’s sleep since Sunday morning, he  played with the children, had something to eat and then exhausted went to bed.  At present, Mr S’ sister is with her dad who is feeling much better in hospital and has been seen by a consultant who has diagnosed a serious chest infection.  The last update is that he is awaiting some drugs and then may be able to go home.  As home is far from both his children, its been agreed that Mr S’ sister will look after him at her home as it is in a big city with easy access to medical facilities if needed. We are due to go on a Butlins break on Wednesday but at present we’re simply taking each day at a time.

Its been a strange old day, worrying but also trying hard to keep everything as it should be for Christmas.  Its also made me reflect on what’s important, not once today have the children complained about Christmas day being a bit rubbish, they are more interested in Grandad.  The people we have encountered in the past 24 hours have all been brilliant, the paramedics, NHS staff, nurses, doctors were superb.  Our neighbours rallied round to help too.  Perhaps this year we didn’t get the Christmas we had imagined but perhaps it showed us all what Christmas is really about, acts of kindness and looking after each other.

Tommy Part 3

Phew another year in which I have remembered to find a new hiding spot for Tommy each evening.

This week started with us away at my parents before returning for some final Christmas preparation.

December 18th : Tommy was looking through the window lights at the little lit deer in my parents’ garden.

December 19th : Still at my parents’ Tommy was found on the staircase.

December 20th: Back home and munching away at the fruit in the bowl.

December 21st : Nibbling again, this time home made biscotti from a friend.

December 22nd : Hidden in our Christmas tree, Tommy brought letters from Santa.

December 23rd: Tommy had found us all we needed to make our gingerbread decorations.

December 24th : As is traditional, Tommy arrived with all the ingredients and extras for a very special Christmas Eve hot chocolate.

Tommy has again give us so much fun this year and we look forward to welcoming him again to our home next year. Tommy is such an important part of our family Christmas and we love having him.

A trip to Bristol’s Christmas markets, the Christmas Radio Times and football commentary #littleloves

This week we’ve been enjoying the first week of our Christmas holidays and its come as a welcome break.  Despite my best efforts life has felt a little overwhelming at times in the past few weeks, so a quiet week was just what was needed.  We started with a few days away at my parents and then our days since we returned seem to have developed a routine of a long walk or outdoor activity in the morningand then a film or Wii U in the afternoon.  We still have a few more traditions to do before Christmas but these are always reserved for the final days of advent.

Bristol, from the M Shed, looking spectacular on Monday.  

img_5375I’m sure I’m not the only one this week who has sat down to read the  Radio Times with a highlighter to mark my programmes for this fortnight.  I think the programmes I’m most looking forward to are Call the Midwife and the new tv adaptation of Little Women.

img_0510I’m also continuing reading The Christmasaurus with the children which is such a delightful book.  Its not only at bedtimes this week either as we worked out that if we want to finish it by Christmas we need to sit down and read a few chapters during the day too.  There are far worse ways to spend your time.


On Saturday I sat down and watched the Strictly final.  I didn’t have a clear favourite before the show and would have been happy with any finalist as a winner.  However given their performances, the majority of my votes on the night went to Joe and Katya and I was pleased they won.  We were enchanted by their show dance, the way Cinderella’s rags turned into a ball gown was magical.

Although I’ve watched much of the series I missed the Apprentice final, its been an uninspiring series and then when I heard that they both got picked, I felt the whole series was a bit rubbish this season.  It really needs to improve next year with some quality candidates and solid business ideas.

img_5378Okay be warned there are some tenuous links in this section this week.

Firstly, I made a discovery, Bounty spread, OMG has anyone tasted this coconut spread it is gorgeous on a crumpet or whispers on a teaspoon from the jar.

img_0443I also made a purchase.  I was given a gift voucher at work but decided to use it against some household purchases so I could swap it for cash.  At the Bristol Christmas markets (which were gorgeous) I found this clay decoration on a stall called the Nutcracker.  Not only does it light up when you put in a lit tea light, but if you put water and some essential oils in the chimney it emits smoke and a little festive fragrance.  I love my new decoration and it fits in beautifully with what I like to describe as my Hansel and Gretel display.



I have a new Christmas scarf which I bought when I was in Bristol.  For those familiar with Bristol, the scarf is from St Nick’s market, where I used to love to hang out when I was younger, there are always lots of quirky finds here and I impressed myself with only buying one thing here!



I have been a football fan all my life and Bristol City are my team.  I was a season ticket holder at Ashton Gate for many years and I only stopped going when we moved away.  Bristol City will always be my number 1 team.  This week they were in the Carabou League cup quarter final against Manchester United and I listened to the commentary on Radio 5.  I was so proud that Bristol City beat Man Utd and it was exciting to hear the match and the late, late winner.


 So its nearly time for Christmas now and I am ready and looking forward to the big day.  In the meantime we have few special things we do in the last few days, making gingerbread decorations, touring the local Christmas lights and visiting neighbours with gifts and cards.  We have my father in law staying with us for Christmas and then on Wednesday we’re off to Butlins for a little break, which we’re all looking forward to.

Merry Christmas to Morgana and all the other #littleloves contributors, I hope you all have a happy and sparkly Christmas.


The Christmas Tag

I’ve been writing my blog for over 4 years now and I’m finding it difficult this year to create a new Christmas post, my decorations are similar to previous years, as are the events we’ve been too and I’ve written in detail about these in the past.  I have been doing a weekly update on Tommy’s hiding places and the #littleloves posts have been highlighting some of our favourite things we’ve done this Christmas.  A few days ago, I read Kimberley’s Christmas Tag at 


so have chosen to use this as a model for a Christmas post this year whilst I try to work out a few new ideas for Christmas 2018.  Thanks to Kimberley for sharing ..

What’s your favourite Christmas Movie? 

Whilst there are so many great Christmas films, my favourite is the Muppet Christmas Carol.  Its brilliant, true to the original book, funny and has some great songs in it too. 


Have you ever had a white Christmas?  

I don’t think I’ve ever had a white Christmas.  On the children’s first Christmas in 2010 we had heavy snow the week before Christmas but it melted after a few days to leave a bright, dry Christmas day.  I can’t remember any childhood white Christmases.  

This is as close as we’ve come to a white Christmas the week before Christmas in 2010


Where do you usually spend your holiday? 

I think its a little contentious with extended family, but we have often gone away for Christmas.  As a teacher I always have a two week break and as Mr S is self employed, Christmas is also a good time for him to have time off too.  We’re not skiers so the breaks have tended to be to hot, sunny places and we’ve had Christmases in Australia, the Caribbean and we’ve had UK breaks too.  Even with the children we’ve had Christmas holidays, one year we did Christmas at Butlins which was lots of fun and last year we were in Lanzarote.  Santa arriving on a camel was memorable! If we’re not on holiday then we always have Christmas at our house.  


Yes seriously on Christmas day 2002, I visited Ramsey St in Melbourne! 


What’s your favourite Christmas song? 

I love Christmas songs and its difficult to pick just one favourite, I have done a post here on my favourite Christmas songs 


but to be honest all Christmas songs make me happy as long as they are played from December 1st, I’m a bit bah humbug until that date!  This year, I have really liked Stevie Wonder’s That’s What Christmas Means to Me, its been played a few times in the Sparkles household.  I also really like Christmas carols and some classical pieces at this time of year.  

Do you open any presents on Christmas eve? 

No and I wouldn’t even be tempted.  I love the excitement of Christmas morning. 

Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? 

Yes because when I was in junior school we had to learn by heart Twas the Night Before Christmas in which they are all named and I can still recite it from memory, a useful party piece at this time of you, so thank you Mrs Williams! 

What holiday traditions are you looking forward to this Christmas? 

As our family, we have developed our own little traditions over the past seven Christmases.  Tommy our elf on the shelf, is probably my favourite tradition as the children love him so much.  He hides every evening but he isn’t a mischievous elf and writes a letter every day to tell the children of all the positive things he saw them doing the day before.  I love hiding him and am so grateful for all the magic he has created.  Other family traditions are going to the town’s Christmas market and then having a fish and chip lunch, doing a tour of Christmas lights, making gingerbread decorations, visiting the Christmas tree festival and the children wearing new pyjamas on Christmas eve.   

Is your Christmas tree real or fake?

This year its fake, we bought it last year for when we were going to be away as we still wanted to decorate the house.  Its a really nice tree and I was happy to use it again this year.  In the past, we have had real trees so I’m sure we’ll have a discussion next year on whether to have a real or fake tree.  

 What’s your favourite holiday food/sweet/treat?

Chestnuts, Christmas cake, cheese with fruits.  Normally I have a really sweet tooth but I like the savoury dishes at Christmas.  

Be honest, do you prefer the giving or receiving of gifts?

Definitely giving.  I try to give very thoughtful gifts and am always on the look out for original and personal gifts.  This year I bought my first in May as I saw something I just knew would be perfect for my cousin.  I have a little Christmas notebook where I jot down ideas, purchases etc.. throughout the year.  

What’s the best Christmas present you ever received?

Tickets to go to my first ever concert Aha at the Albert Hall, a lilac bike Candy, a clarinet, a music stereo, an engagement ring.  

What’s your dream place to visit for the holiday season?

I would LOVE to go to New York in the run up to Christmas for the shopping, sights and shows.  

Are you a pro present wrapper or do you fail miserably?

I am very coordinated with paper, bows and labels and try to present my gifts as neatly as I can.  I do find some shapes very tricky to wrap and may use tissue and gift bags.  

Most memorable Christmas memory?

The children’s first Christmas with us in 2010.  It took us 7 years to have the family we had dreamed of and in those 7 years, Christmas was very, very difficult and a period simply to get through.  From 2010, it has become the most magical time of the year and we cherish every single moment.  

What made you realise the truth about Santa?

I think it was probably from children at school.  However my mum had this rule that if we didn’t believe we wouldn’t get presents so in our family we all still believe!

What makes the holidays special for you?

I genuinely enjoy the preparation and anticipation of Christmas, the concerts, special events etc…  Christmas is about being in the moment, taking time to be with those you love and thinking of those who can’t be with you.  Its relaxed times, good food, lovely music and sparkly lights.  

Me and my mum circa 1976/7


New Year’s Resolutions 2018 – #ecosparkles2018


Firstly a confession, I never make new year’s resolutions, but this year I am because something has turned in me and I need to do something.  When I was younger I was proud of my ethics and teenage girl protests, I discussed  nagged my parents not to buy goods from South Africa in the apartheid era, poor Dad was never allowed to buy Gillette razors for their refusal to stop testing on animals and the Body Shop was the shop of my dreams.  Through to adulthood, I kept my values, carefully recycling, writing to my favourite clothes shops to ask of their working practices to ensure that my clothes were being made for a fair wage etc..  And then I became complacent, I thought the battle to ensure that products were not tested on animals had been won with legislation in the UK, I presumed that the kerbside recycling meant that we were becoming greener as a country and simply pottered along.  However I have read a number of articles recently and watched some video footage and have had that sad realisation that things aren’t as rosy as I had hoped.  If companies wish to sell their beauty and skincare products in China, they must be tested on animals before they are allowed to sell in the country, so some companies who have maintained a cruelty free product in the UK are rejecting this to sell to the large Chinese market.  Suddenly products which I believed to be cruelty free are no longer, my ‘I finally found the perfect’ foundation is no longer perfect, my beloved Essie nail varnishes have lost their gloss.  I’ve also watched videos of the damage being done by our obsession with plastic and our throw away attitude and how we need to act to protect our planet.  I am not an eco warrior, I’m simply someone trying to do little things to help our eco system so that we have a healthy world to live on and to be proud to pass it on to future generations.

As a new year’s resolution it has a pretty big remit, so I thought I would use my blog to post some updates on what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, using the hashtag #ecosparkles2018.  I’m not sure how this will look, but we’ll let it develop organically as time progresses.  However I know that the first thing I am doing is compiling a list of cruelty free brands which do not trade in China and to use this list to replace the unacceptable items in my make up bag as they are finished.  My other quick fix resolution is not to use any new plastic bags next year or take away coffee cups.

There will be other actions as I research more and try to take positive steps towards improving my environment and I hope to include many links too for others to look at the arguments.  Here’s to a greener 2018.


Resources I’ve used so far …

Make up and Toiletries 


Whilst this is an American website, it has lots of useful information on multi national companies and their policies.  It also helps you to work out who owns which brands.



This is a really useful introduction to some cruelty free brands.


This website has an excellent database of manufacturers for inspiration.


The same website has this page of companies who sell in China and therefore accept testing on animals.  To me this was difficult reading when many favourites are on it.

Environmental Pollution / The use of plastics 


Some worrying graphics about plastic in our environment


A pledge to help reduce your plastic use.


This article looks at different types of plastic packaging.


More ideas here, some so simple, stop chewing gum and using straws.