The Simple Life, a new accessory and making plans #littleloves

So after the back to school last week, this week has been about getting back into the swing of things and new plans.  The return to clubs bought letters home about dance exams, a production, trips out and suddenly my year which I thought was all neatly planned looks a whole lot busier.  Thankfully with Mr S no longer working away, it will be easier to co-ordinate.  Its also been a week of coughs and cold, Little Man got it the worse, as he normally does because of his eczema and asthma and was off school for a couple of days, the rest of us are all sniffing and cosying up under extra blankets.

img_5375imageI am really serious about living a greener, simpler life this year so have read this short Penguin special by the Australian author, Rhonda Hetzel.  Its a book which asks you to focus clearly on what your values and goal are and offers solid advice.  I like that she doesn’t demand a total green dedication but allows you to work out what fits into your lifestyle, the author herself argues her life needs to include her car and computer, it makes it all a little more achieveable.

img_5379This week, I’ve not watched much television, preferring to read or plan and write in my notebooks.  On Thursday evening, I did accompany a school trip from the school where I work to our local theatre to see the pantomime, Robinson Crusoe.  Our students loved it and participated well.  Whilst the story was an interesting interpretation and some jokes very local,  it was a fun night out for all.

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Last weekend, I did some research into my #18for 2018 and started to make plans.  Many of my activities are summer based so there’s not much I can do at present.  However I did make a booking to see Wicked in October so that’s one nearly ticked off.  I am very excited and may have already been thinking of an outfit to wear, I’ve always fancied a  green velvet skirt.

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Last weekend, I listened to Charlie Brooker’s Desert Island Discs, in which as well as playing some rather surreal music choices, he spoke about lying in bed listening to music wearing a headband.  I always listen to the radio in bed and often end up twisted and half strangling myself with my headphones. His comment inspired me to do an Amazon search and I purchased this, Bluetooth (so no wires) head band, you can wear it a variety of ways, over the eyes, as a hair band etc.. but it is fabulous and very comfortable for listening to music.  I also use the timer function on my phone so it doesn’t play all night.

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After booking the tickets to Wicked, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack and having some musical inspired playlists for my walks and runs.  (At this time of year when its so dark and our pavements are in such disrepair, I run in daylight and walk in the dark as I’ve never properly recovered my confidence from a fall when running in the dark) The music has only added to my excitement for our theatre trip.

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This is a post inspired by Morgan’s excellent linkie, however I’m not linking it up formally as I’m not able to read and comment on the other posts as I would love to.  My blog always has and always will be a hobby.  Recently especially on Twitter, I’ve been reading a lot what bloggers should and shouldn’t do, like a post if its an ad, comment, retweet and the expectations all seem a bit scary and overwhelming for a hobby.  I will continue to read my favourite blogs of which there are many and comment when I can and write my own little thoughts.  Good luck to all the bloggers who are trying to grow their blogs and develop a career in blogging, you go ladies, we need your voices and there are some amazing writers and blogs out there.  Good luck x

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Cheer up Love, 18 for 2018 and the Skyline Gang #littleloves

As I sit here to plan this #littleloves post, I’m thinking back on my week and it seems such a long time so much more than 7 days. Last Friday we were enjoying our Butlins break, then we were back at home for New Year and now I’ve already done 3 days back at work!

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Since being back at work, I’ve settled each evening with Susan Calman’s Cheer Up Love. It’s an autobiography with a strong narrative on depression. I’m enjoying it, in parts it reminds me of Matt Haig’s Reasons to be Alive but there is more on Susan’s life too and stories we can all relate to.

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Our children love Butlins, especially the Skyline Gang and Rainbow the dog. This week I’ve watched lots of shows at Butlins not simply watching what’s on the stage but my children’s reactions too. Its lovely to see how happy and involved they are, Butlins will always be our happy place.

img_5378This week I’ve seen lot of references to Gretchen Rubin’s 18 in 2018 and I’ve made my list here https://seasidesparkles.net/2017/12/30/a-new-little-project-18for2018/ I’m excited by this little project and am looking forward to my new adventures.

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Despite this being mid-winter I seem to have been outside a lot this week, my Fitbit steps show this too. Its been a week of woolly hats and scarves and wearing my new bag from White Stuff. I love the bright colour which brings a pop of colour to my dark clothes.

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img_5380After reading about Gretchen Rubin, I found her Happier podcasts online and have been listening to them non stop since. It’s a great podcast and one I would readily recommend.

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January is a fresh start and I like focusing on our home this month. The decorations are down and I am looking for new ways to make the house sparkle. It’s my day off today and unusually I’m looking forward to sorting out the children’s bedrooms and just making the house tidy and organised.

Happy new year to Morgana and all the #littleloves posse.

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The #littleloves of 2017

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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 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.

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Christmas songs, signs and trees #littleloves

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I love this time of the year, its a period of preparation, anticipation and excitement and I have all the festive feels.  As we are breaking up early (really who thought Dec 15 to Jan 2nd for the school Christmas holidays was a good idea!!) lots of things are a little earlier this year to fit in with the school term. Its been a busy Christmas week, Friday saw the school’s Christmas fair, Saturday, a visit to Santa’s grotto, on Sunday, we put up our tree, Monday saw parents invited to share a mince pie and have a festive singalong with the Brownies and Thursday was the fantastic Christmas tree festival.  With trying to balance a job and just everyday life I am incredibly organised at this time of year, it is my way of keeping sane.

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Even whilst things are busy I’m still trying to keep a few minutes each day to relax.  The easiest way to relax is to enjoy a book and I am loving The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, it is beautifully written and a pleasure to read each night.

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Sneaky shot so I can get my favourite Christmas cushion in the photo too!

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This week we have been very busy practising our songs for our Christmas concert at work.  Its not just singing as signing is very important to us too and all staff are expected to be fluent in the Makaton signs for the concert.  I have been watching Singing Hands’ A Christmas Cracker DVD a lot this week and I love these women for what they do, their songs are signed making them a fantastic resource to teach from and they are just so cheerful and fun too.  I really enjoy signing, its a big part of my job and a very useful skill.  However singing and signing takes some practice, especially on the faster songs.

I also got to watch the reaction of my children to the 40+ stunning Christmas trees at the town’s Christmas tree festival.  I love this idea, businesses sponsor a tree and local schools and groups decorate the trees.  I was so proud of my school’s tree this year, we had worked hard on our decorations and it looked amazing.  The local secondary school did a superb job on theirs with an under the sea theme, whilst the badminton club who are always creative, transformed a shuttlecock, always featured on their trees, in to a robin. Visiting the tree festival is one of my favourite festive activities with the children, especially to watch their faces as they enter the room and see the lights and trees it really is magical.

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Other things I’ve enjoyed watching this week are the A word, seriously that soundtrack is amazing and I have been dipping in and out of I’m a Celeb.

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Not many makes this week, soppy as it is but at this time of year I’m making happy memories.  On Saturday when the children visited Santa and his elf workshop, they got to make decorations, reindeer food, ice a biscuit and a write letter to Santa.  I have no photos to publish in this post as they all have the children in them but it was a lovely little visit and as my two are 8 and 9 now, possibly the last year I can convince them of Santa’s magic, there are already questions being asked….

img_5384I’ve been wearing Christmas jumpers quite a lot this week, I like to look festive for the special events. I have two I’m alternating, the robin is from Primark and its gorgeous, I’m really pleased with it.  The reindeer was from Tescos last year and is warm and cosy.

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I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Brownies sign a long on Monday.  It was one of those evenings which was so simple, but everyone was just in such good humour that the evening flowed with a warmth and Christmas glow. The girls’ singing was beautiful and it was a pleasure to listen to them.

On Monday night I was in the kitchen wrapping a pile of books for the PTA (is it just me or do working mums try too hard to pretend we can do it all?) and listening to Jo Whiley on the radio on which Tom Chaplin was doing a Christmas session.  I’ve downloaded his album, 12 Tales of Christmas as a result of the session.  Its an album of new and covers of Christmas songs, it is really chilled and relaxing for when you want something a little Christmassy without the jingle bells et al.

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So we’ve made it to the final week of term and probably my craziest week of the year.  I am working full time (ish) next week as its just easier to be in school than not.  So far on our family calendar we have the Christmas market , 2 carols by candlelight services, one for school, one for beavers, same children, different uniforms, different nights!, Christmas dinner, parties and two nights out for me with friends.  Fortunately the week before Christmas is much quieter so we can all chill out and relax.

I’m looking forward to reading about everyone’s festive #littleloves and thanks to Morgana for our inspiring linkie.

Paddington, Christmas cards and a shopping trip #littleloves

I don’t know if its because the children and I are breaking up early for Christmas this year ( December 15th) and the schools and clubs are doing special events earlier because of this but the I’ve been feeling unusually Christmassy this week when we’re still in November.  Its been hard keeping to my December 1st date to start my Christmas season but I did and I am now very ready and enthusiastic for Christmas.

I have started December with a lovely festive day today, if not a bit busy! I went to big town for a Christmas shopping trip and as its an hour’s drive each way, I got to listen and sing along to all my favourite Christmas music on the journey.  The town looked so pretty with all its decorations, lights and alpine market huts, the shops were full of festive delights and I ticked off plenty on my lists too, so a very successful trip.  In addition to my Christmas shopping trip, I’ve also had the children’s school fair this evening and as I was helping on the tombola, I felt inspired to wear a Christmas jumper.

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This was the stunning view on my journey this morning, as I waited for my ferry.  Yes its not just a drive, I have to cross the water too. 

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After reading a couple of inspiring autobiographies recently I wanted to read some fiction this week that I could just dip in and out of.  I saw that the follow up to Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter was on offer on Kindle, so I downloaded Goose, which is aimed at the Young Adult market.  Its exactly what I needed and I’m enjoying the continuing tale of the two teenage girls.

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Last Saturday we went to our county town to watch Paddington 2.  We all loved it and the film had all the feels, I may even have cried a little at the end.  I think its my favourite film of the year (with Breathe.) Hugh Grant as the villain steals every scene but the themes of the film make you leave the cinema a little more inspired to be kind, polite and to always think of others.  Paddington is definitely my favourite little bear.

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This has been taken from a screen shot, the quality is much better.

This year I decided to try something different with our Christmas cards and went online to design a card on OptimalPrint (not an ad) I’m not a fan of having a picture of our little family on the cards (although for those closest to us, we add the new school photo in the card) so I created a list of things that we like to do at Christmastime.  I hope the cards will be appreciated in the spirit they were designed.

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Its not a wear from me this week, although today’s Christmas jumper might count, but from Little Miss.  As Paddington is set in London, Little Miss wore my favourite Boden print pinafore to the cinema, yes I really coordinated her outfit with a film! I love this print and it will be an outfit I will keep for the happy memories.

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Today it was all about the Christmas songs, I love them and have so many memories from all different songs,  Jim Reeves Silver Bells reminds me of my Dad and putting the Christmas tree up as a child, Band Aid was the first single I ever bought, Mariah Carey is Christmas eves in nightclubs.  Christmas songs are simply magical.

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We had a lovely surprise at the Christmas fair tonight when in the raffle, we won the VIP pass to visit Santa and work in his elf workshop, we are going to be doing this tomorrow and are all very excited.  We’re also going to be putting up our tree this weekend, this is a little contentious in our house, I would prefer to wait at least another weekend but I am outnumbered. Putting up the tree will always be one of my favourite parts of Christmas.

Thanks to Morgana and all her contributors, I’m loving the festive feel to all the posts at present.

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Our Altered Life, a sparkly ring and cricket #littleloves

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Last week I wrote my post up to Saturday evening, so this is a shorter #littleloves of 5 days. It’s been a lovely, quiet and relaxed week, it started with a christening on Sunday, movie night at home last night with our first Christmas film and the hairdressers today, she is also my neighbour so we talk about a lot! Here’s what I’ve been loving this week….

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I discovered Charlie Beswick @ouralteredlife on Twitter when she was protesting about Instagram removing a picture of her son who has a facial disfigurement, I liked what I read on her blog and also downloaded her book onto my Kindle.  It’s a great read, a refreshing honest account of being a special needs mum, the guilt, grief, joy and perspective she shares makes for an ‘unputdownable’ read.

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I’m a huge Strictly fan and the Blackpool show is one of my favourites, I love the big routine in the show and the extra sparkle of this week.  I was sad to see Johnnie leave, he’s been a big hit in the Sparkles household but I thought his leaving speech was so dignified and lovely, its just made us love him that little bit more. I am Strictly obsessed and Mr S is bemused how I am able to watch a little bit of Strictly everyday whether it be the programme or It Takes Two with Zoe, I even have it series linked so I don’t miss an episode.

img_5378Nothing of any real note in my makes this week, the weekends tend to be my creative time in the kitchen and I hope to be trying a new recipe from Nigel Slater this weekend.

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It was really nice on Sunday afternoon to get dressed up for a christening.  I wore a favourite embroidered skirt above with a simple blouse and silk cardigan.  I also wore the amethyst ring, which was given to me by my mum.  I love jewellery which has a special meaning and this ring was a 21st present to my mum from all her siblings.  When I wear it, it just seems to connect me to my mum and my aunts and uncles.

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I am a big cricket fan and for those unfamiliar with the sport, the biggest Test match series is Australia / England (the Ashes) which began last night.  I’ve been lucky enough to have gone on two Ashes holidays with Mr S, who is the biggest fan and has willingly taught me all I know.  I was really excited by the start of the Ashes, so when I awoke during the night  I tuned in to Test Match Special to listen to the match, the atmosphere crackles through the airwaves and its such an entertaining programme, not simply about cricket but life.

img_5386I am so pleased that for the first time since it came out we have a free weekend day and can go and see Paddington 2.  We’ve booked our tickets, so we’re off to enjoy my favourite bear’s adventures and then to potter around the county town and look at all things Christmassy.

Thanks to Morgana for hosting the link and all the other #LittleLoves contributors.

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