Yep, I said it! Christmas, I just LOVE this time of year and everything that comes with it! Christmas is only next month so I have started to get myself organised with Christmas shopping (still a tonne to do!) and organising some exciting festive things for us to do like visiting the pantomime and a ride on a festive train.
Frankie recently received a letter from Santa to let her know that she had made it on the GOOD list!! How amazing is that?! The letter did let her know that the elves would be keeping an eye out to make sure she stayed on the good list. With her letter she got some colouring pages, some reindeer dust and a door hang for Christmas Eve. The letters were lovely and we could personalise them too. I loved seeing frankies face light up when she realised the 'real Santa' had written to her. It's the little things like this that make Christmas really come to life!
If you would like 30% off your Santa letter visit www.magicsantaletter.co.uk and enter code VP30OFF Prices range between £3.99- £7.99
So apparently, I'm THAT mum. The one that puts my children in matching clothes. I love my girls to wear the same matching outfits, and whilst my eldest (almost 4) thinks it's fun, I'm making the most of it. Soon enough she will be refusing to dress like her little sister.
I recently bought the girls these beautiful black and white tweed coats with a faux fur trim from TU at Sainsbury's . They are such good quality and we're really good value for money (£16 & £18). I think they look so sweet in them and they look a bit nicer for when we are out and about or going for a nice family meal. A few weeks ago, Ste and I were in Harrogate and I popped into Primark as I needed a smart-ish coat (but in a budget!).
I saw a lovely black and white, knee length tweed number (with the right price tag - about £20) and just bought it straight away.
A couple if weeks later, we went for a family walk, me and the girls were all in our new coats, when people started to stop us and say how amazing our "matching" coats were.
I fell about laughing, I had genuinely not noticed! I can't believe that I've started to copy what I dress the girls in (hands over face!!)
On the plus side, it meant we got some pretty cute photographs of us all in our matching coats!! Maybe I will make it a more regular thing haha!
Halloween is something that I've never had much interest in. As a child I hated the scary costumes and as an adult I found 'trick or treaters', an annoying inconvenience. BUT after experiencing Halloween the American way whilst living in Houston, I am a complete Halloween convert!
There are so many lovely traditions in America associated with Halloween, and we have decided to keep a few of them with us.
1. Decorate your garden, some go for just simple pumpkin arrangement, whilst other turn their entire garden into a graveyard!! Garden decorating starts at the end of September so you can get a full month of enjoyment from it. We have decorated our garden this year (see pic below) and to our amazement some of our neighbors have followed suit!
2. Halloween isn't scary. Princess's, prince's, characters, cowboys, and so much more. Our experience of halloween in Houston was that children dressed up as something fun, we didn't get a single trick or treater that was dressed 'scary'.
3. Family fun! Whole families dress up and get involved with halloween, last year we went as the Frozen cast. Frankie thought it was amazing that we dressed up with her, we will be doing the same this year :)
4. Neighborhood party. Halloween is a brilliant excuse to get the neighborhood together. A street party was organized and we were all to bring drinks and a plate of food each. All the children trick or treated together and then we ended up in one of the cul-de-sacs just near our home where we drank, ate and had a party!
5. Being BOO'D!! this is such a lovely tradition that I am yet to do over in the UK, BUT I will make sure I do it this week. Being BOO'D is when you leave a little pre-halloween parcel on a chosen child's doorstep, filled with halloween related goodies such as coloring pages, candy, or some homemade cookies. The parcel will have a sign saying "You've been BOO'D" on it and the idea is that if you are BOO'D then you have to chose someone to BOO to in order to keep the fun going.
Nothing is too much effort in America, and we are really hoping to keep a little piece of that with us. This year we are throwing a little Halloween party for Frankie's friends, and hopefully their mummy's and daddy's will do the family dress up and get involved too!
First of all, an apology. I've not blogged for what feels like an eternity. Returning to work, finding our feet and trying to establish a new routine has been a little overwhelming, and blogging has taken a back seat.
I am am loving being in a working environment again, and find my time with the children feels so much more enjoyable and prescious now. I find that having an immaculate house (I used to clean everyday) just isn't a priority anymore, and have been doing 20 minute power cleans each morning or evening so that I get to spend as much of my free time with my girls as possible. Sunday evenings, I have started to bulk make 2 or 3 meals that I can freeze making sure we are all eating at least a few substantial meals each week and not reaching for quick teas that are full of rubbish. By the evening (if I'm not working an evening shift) I'm shattered and have found myself slipping off to bed at around 9pm (previously 11:30!)
I WILL find a new norm soon enough and will hopefully get my blogging mojo back. I am still vlogging over on YouTube so you can find me there once a week (search: Finding Tori in the search bar).
Just a couple of weeks ago we celebrated Noa's first birthday. I remember Frankie's first birthday, and feeling really emotional about it, but for Noa I didn't feel that way, just excited that she had turned 1 (and that hopefully life would start to get easier?! haha who am I kidding!).
We threw Noa a cowgirl themed birthday party to honor her Texan roots. If I'm honest, it was a last minute throw together as my time management since working has been diabolical, and her birthday just seemed to creep up on us.
Luckily I have a very organized friend Chrissy who was all to help out with some decorations (See Noa sign below) and give me a little inspiration.
It was just a small party with family and friends in our home. The cake was pink and white with stars and a little cowgirl sat on top. The plates and cups all had little cowgirls on (from Amazon) and we had a cowboy boot piñata for the garden (Amazon). Not wore a custom made outfit by Momma makes, it was cactus print leggings, catchy bib and hair tie teamed with a little Next cream top.
She received some really lovely gifts and was truly spoilt rotten. She received a particularly exciting delivery just this week from our lovely friends in Texas, her very first pair of cowboy boots!
It was a lovely afternoon and Im so glad we decided to celebrate her birthday with our loved ones. I have filmed a 1st birthday haul which will be up on my youtube channel shortly.
You, like many other new parents, may be realizing that a new baby sure does wound the wallet! So here come some incredible baby freebies to get that baby budget back up and running.
A Few Freebies For Before Your Little Bundle Has Even Arrived
The Bounty Mum-To-Be Pack. Asda, Boots, Kiddicare and Superdrug all stock the Mum-to-be-Pack by Bounty. Not only is it packed with money off vouchers and exclusive promotions to give your pregnancy budget a helping hand, but you'll also get lots of pregnancy-related samples as a try-before-you-buy offer. The pack also contains a Baby Product Guide by Bounty, crammed with expert reviews on various baby products from all budget ranges.
WOW FreeStuff This is another great source of Mum freebies, with baby products from Johnsons, Pampers and extra bonuses when you join there news letter, one of the best freebie websites in the UK
Prescriptions and Dental Treatment Are Free. Both during your pregnancy, and for one year after your baby is born, you are entitled to free prescriptions and dental care. Your health visitor, midwife or doctor will be able to give you the appropriate form so that you can get a Maternity Exemption Certificate. In Scotland, so long as you've completed your registration with the Minor Ailment Service, you will likely not need a prescription to get your entitlement of free medicine for a minor ailment during pregnancy.
Get Yourself Free Baby Equipment And Clothes. Care Confidential is a charity that can offer support if you are on a low income. Below you'll find a list showing the centres which offer free baby equipment and clothes.
Enjoy Free Pregnancy Books. Websites like bookmooch.com and readitswapit.com offer free pregnancy books, as well as books for children. Your health visitor will also provide you with a free Bookstart baby pack within your baby's first year.
Entitlement To Free Fruit, Vegetables, Milk And Vitamins. If you are entitled to certain benefits and are a minimum of 10 weeks pregnant or have a child who is under the age of four, the 'Healthy Start' scheme may provide you with infant formula, vitamins, milk, fruit and vegetables for free.
Get Yourself A Contraction Timer For Free This software can be used to time your contractions when the big day has finally arrived.
Freebies For Once Your Little Bundle Has Arrived
Child Benefit Entitlement The current entitlement for child benefit begins as soon as your baby is born. As soon as you have your baby's birth certificate, you can complete the necessary form. For your first child you will receive £20.70/week, for each child after that you have an entitlement of £13.70.
For families where one parent has a yearly salary of over £50,000, child benefit is restricted. If one of the parents earns in excess of £60,000 then they are not entitled to any Child Benefit.
Free Assistance For Crying And Colic This free guide to baby massage gives clear instructions on how to massage and swaddle your baby, techniques which can provide much relief from crying and colic. You may find that you are awake far too often during the night with your little one, in which case sign up for the free 30-day trial at audible.co.uk and download Samuel L. Jackson reading a laugh-out-loud novel. It's a good attempt to keep your sanity intact!
You May Qualify For Tax Credits According to the HMRC, 90 percent of families are entitled to tax credits, however approximately 1.4 million don't claim them. Granted the rules are a little complicated, but the bottom line is that two types are available: Working Tax Credit (you may be entitled to up to £1,960, plus £2,010 each year for a couple or a single parent). The second type is the Child Tax Credit (you may be entitled to up to £545 for each family, with an additional £2,780 for each child, per year). It's well worth finding our if you qualify.
Free Nappies Galore Both Huggies and Pampers will provide you with a free Jumbo box of nappies,, all you need to do is sign up at Free Pampers Nappies and refer a friend. Greenty will also happily provide you with freebie of Greenty 'Tea Therapy'.
So there you have it, getting baby freebies is pretty simple! Also when signing up to free stuff please do create an alias email, as you might get a lot of emails in the post, will you try any of the above tips?
As I write this, we are on our family holiday in north wales. Being on holiday, feeling relaxed and totally de-stressed, I find myself being more analytical and conscious of what I am doing. Especially when it comes to the children. I so desperately want them to enjoy and love every second of their holiday, and of course like most, I have happily snapped away over 200 photographs in the space of 5 days. We had a busy morning exploring the beautiful and wonderfully scenic 'Harlich Castle', where I took some photos to try and capture Frankie's joy and also the breathtaking views that were framed beautifully by the castle Windows.
Whilst getting rather carried away with my photo taking, it suddenly dawned on me that whilst I was busy snapping, I wasn't really enjoying the scenery or beauty of the castle myself.
Arguing with myself (as I often do) I thought about how lovely it would be to have the photographs to look back on one day and how nice it is to capture these precious memories.
But, then I questioned myself. Am I capturing memories? Or am I in fact ruining special moments?
When I think back to my childhood, the memories I remember so vividly there aren't any photographs of, and yet the photographs mum pulls out every so often of us as children I often think I remember the memory but then quickly realise that actually I'm using the photograph to create and build a memory around it.
I realised today that by taking so many photographs, I'm not 'present' whilst we are exploring as a family. I'm too busy telling Frankie to 'say cheese' or photographing the castle from different angles to include the rolling hills and crashing waves in the background.
This afternoon, we headed to the beach and the phone/camera stayed at home.
We built sand castles, we ran and waded in the sea, we played chase with Noa and span her round in a giggly embrace. We collected sea shells, we played 'camper vans' and took it in turns to 'drive' to a new destination. We then walked up the beach to collect driftwood so we could make a fire.
That 2 hours of our trip was the more special than any other part so far. I was present. I wasn't trying to get a good shot of Frankie laughing with her daddy or Noa eating the sand for the seventh time, nor was I trying to get a candid family selfie.
Instead I will treasure and cherish this memories, and I know Frankie will too.
From now on, I'm going to try be a little less snap happy and focus more on creating memories not capturing them.
Raising children presents you with an interesting blend of timeless and brand-new problems. One of the latest to come up is the e-cigarette. Vaping - using e-cigarettes or other similar devices - is proving to be frighteningly popular among teens who are too young to smoke. Just like cigarettes, they deliver nicotine as well as a host of other potentially harmful chemicals with every indrawn breath.
Vaping often appears to teen participants as a harmless and fun practice. Parents know better, though; they see the specter of past threats moving in under the cover of brand new technology. The rapid social acceptance, fun candy flavorings, and canny marketing used to push vaping products are all too familiar to parents who have struggled to steer kids away from tobacco in the past.
Learn more by listening to two doctors who are also parents. They have useful advice to help you talk to your kids constructively about vaping.
A Troublesome History
If you'd like to place the vaping controversy in its proper historical context, just look at the public collection of Tobacco Industry Documents maintained by Truth. This collection houses internal studies, reports, and memos created by tobacco companies. They show a very clear picture of a predatory industry specifically targeting users who are too young to make healthy long-term choices. Joe Camel and cigarettes with candy flavors were just the tip of the iceberg.
As noted above, the unfolding story of vaping sounds eerily similar to what's come before. Common flavors for the e liquid used in vaping include a range of candy, fruit, and dessert selections. Liquids that taste like doughnuts, waffles, coconuts, blueberries, peaches, cotton candy, and more - and that contain highly addictive nicotine - are freely available for online purchase by anyone who will claim to be over the age of 18.
At Pennsylvania's Lancaster Pediatric Associates, pediatrician Dr. Pia Fenimore found out about vaping from a teenaged patient she'd already helped get away from traditional smoking. Fenimore recalls that the patient attempted to "sell" her on the safety and healthiness of the process. Demonstrating the way e-cigarettes worked, Fenimore's patient produced a cloud of lollipop-scented vapor that instantly filled the doctor with dread.
Meanwhile, Janet Raloff wrote an in-depth article on the risks of teen e-cigarette use that appeared in the June issue of ScienceNews. Nicotine may have severe effects on the still-developing brains of teenagers. Of course, it must be said that nicotine-free products are both manufactured and widely sold alongside their addictive counterparts. This is far from a guarantee of safety, though. Vaping products can contain a host of other unknown and potentially harmful chemicals. Vaping is also a technology that's easily applied to illicit drug use; 18 percent of surveyed high schoolers who vape have reported vaping marijuana on at least one occasion.
Opening A Dialog
According to Dr. Laura Offutt, a leading crusader against teen smoking, very real progress has been made in curbing teen smoking in the past few decades. The message that smoking is dangerous has penetrated deeply into the public consciousness, including the teenaged zeitgeist. The problem is that vaping is being positioned by producers and marketers as something completely different and far more acceptable.
E-cigarette use is a lot easier to conceal than traditional tobacco use, according to Offut. It leaves behind much less of a telltale odor. Subtle signs, like bloodshot eyes or withdrawal pangs, are still detectable. Many teens rely on the novelty of vaping technology to allow their habit to pass under the parental radar. Offut advises all parents to study the pictures of sample vaping devices she's posted to her website.
Offut says that the most productive way to start the conversation about vaping is to keep things casual. Rather than starting off with any judgmental language, it's a good idea to explain to your kids what you've learned and then ask them what they've heard on the topic. Asking about attitudes among their friends and fellow students is also a good icebreaker.
Fenimore agrees that staying away from judgment is important. She advises parents to steer clear of absolute yes/no questions, as these kinds of queries invite glib, unhelpful (and possibly untruthful) answers.
The good news is that modern teens know a lot about staying healthy. Exploring the negative health consequences of nicotine use (e.g fatigue, mood swings, high blood pressure, addiction) is often enough to convince kids to make smart decisions regarding vaping.
Fenimore says it's important to make it clear that vaping isn't a spur-of-the-moment pastime. It's a long-term decision that can affect your health for many years to come.
Finally, and most importantly, remember to set a positive example. Just as with traditional tobacco, vaping product usage is much more likely among teen children of parents who vape. Parents who indulge can send the message - even an unintentional one - that vaping is OK.
Sunday 4th September 2016 marked my last ever day as a stay at home mum. My experience of being a stay home parent has been very mixed and in the end, I decided that it would be best for myself and the children if I returned to work part-time. I had got myself in a rut of not leaving the house very often, and felt as though my days were a haze of nagging the children, shouting and an increasing need for caffeine. I had also reached a point, where I didn't appreciate my time with my girls. And I desperately wanted to enjoy my time with them again.
I returned to work quite quickly after having Frankie, and have lovely memories of our days off together. I really appreciated the time we had, and found working 3 days a week was a really nice work/life balance.
I had been so excited about starting my new job and the benefits we would all ( hopefully) feel from it, that I had neglected to think about all the things I would no longer get to do with the children anymore.
It was only on my last ever day as a stay at home mum that the realization of what I was giving up, hit me like a lead balloon. I made sure that I treasured and savored every last moment. My phone was locked away in the glove compartment for the day, no checking Facebook, no instagramming cute pics, no checking emails, no texting friends. Just me, Ste, our girls and quality time together.
I woke up that morning feeling sick with nerves, both for myself and the kids. They wouldn't have mum around all the time anymore, they would be going to nursery and would have to learn to wait. How would Noa cope without me breastfeeding her in the day? Had I made a mistake? I kept telling myself that if it doesn't work out, then its a simple solution, I just go back to being a stay at home mum.
Sunday morning was a lazy one, Ste went out on his bike, and me and the girls played tea parties and play dough in our PJ's. I kept feeling the need to sniff the childrens' hair and held, cuddled and kissed them at every opportunity. It was a gloomy day, so we asked Frankie what she would like to do, she chose to go to the soft play centre.
So, off we went, whizzing down on slides and climbing through ball pits. The children laughed and seemed so content. I felt as though my heart ached, how could I leave my girls to go back to work? Why is it that only now I am appreciating this time with them?
After soft play, we went to our favorite family spot, Costa coffee in Wilmslow. We used to live just a short 5 minute walk from it, so spent a lot of time their as a family of 3. When we lived in Texas, I always thought of this Costa coffee as 'home'. Its a sentimental place for us. We spoke about wedding arrangements their, we planned our move to Houston, we spoke about trying for a second child their. Its just a special place.
We ordered our Americano's ( I had a pump of pumpkin spice in mine!) and Frankie ordered her usual chocolate milk. We chatted about our day and spoke to the girls about how things were going to change from Monday. Frankie thought it was "awesome" that Noa would be going to nursery with her, and that we would make sure our time together was more special. Noa was particularly clingy all day, I think she could sense that I was quite anxious and nervous about the impending change.
As we left Costa to head home, I felt very daunted by the fact that we were heading back home to start what would, from now on, be a Sunday night ritual. Uniforms to sort, shirts to iron, snacks and packed lunches ready for the week, meals to prepare for the days that I would be working. Gone are the Sunday evenings where we would just eat and relax.
The TV went on for the girls, and I started to prepare dinner. Whilst it was simmering, I saw Noa take a couple of steps unaided out of the corner of my eye. Ste saw it too. Excited and emotional, we all got on the floor and started to encourage her to walk to each of us. And just like that, on my last ever day as a stay at home mum, Noa walked ( 11 steps to be precise!!).
I will do a separate post about how life as a part -time working mum is going in a couple of weeks :)
Thanks for reading!
Are you a stay at home mum? Do you have days when your tempted to go back to work?
When we were living in Houston, something I decided that I really wanted to invest in was getting laser hair removal. For anyone who is unsure about what laser hair removal is, it is a laser light that destroys the hair follicle. For many people (but not everyone!) this stunts hair growth and can easily maintain a hair free look with a top up laser session (about 40GBP) or two a year. As I mentioned, it doesn't work for everyone, as my husband is living proof of that!
Since having the girls, I barely get time (or remember) to shave my legs etc and its usually when I decide to wear a nice summery top that I realize that I have big bushy armpits...YIKES!
SO after months of me moaning about it, my parents very kindly paid for a handful of laser sessions for me ( and I will pay for the rest as I go along) as a birthday gift.
I decided that I would get my armpits, bikini and toes (yeah, I have a crazy toe hair problem!!) lasered and pay for my legs as I can afford it.
Before you can start treatment, a full consultation takes place. Asking about your health and medical conditions etc and only when that has been given the OK can you then book in for your first session.
Going for my first session was nerve wracking to say the least. I was especially nervous as I knew I wanted my bikini to be done, and I really didn't know what to expect ( or how much flesh I would have to reveal!).
The lady was very professional and really reassured me that to her any area of the body was exactly that, just an area.
She started with my armpits. I put on my protective eye wear then the lady quickly shaved any missed hairs and then wiped the area with an antiseptic wipe and started to use the laser light machine.
The laser just felt like a small pin prick or an elastic band pinging the skin. It wasn't painful at all just a little uncomfortable. I think the strangest part was the smell of burning hair as the laser hit a hair follicle. My armpits and toes were virtually pain free, my bikini however was a little more uncomfortable. Not because it hurt, but I think more because I was very conscious that I had my fanny out and lets face it, after 2 kids no-one needs to be seeing that! After my bikini area was done she asked me if I would like my butt crack to be lasered... cringing and dying inside I said "Yeah sure, why not". I want to reiterate that the lovely lady made me feel so comfortable and at ease the whole time. So , on she went layering my butt as I pulled my cheeks in different directions, wishing time would go quickly so I could put my kecks and jeans back on.
I was very impressed that after my first session, the hair barely grew back at all. I had been told to keep shaving to encourage the root to fall out which I did.
I have since had another session ( which I of course got my postpartum period back 5 minutes before I walked into my session- rolls eyes!!) and am virtually hair free.
I have another few sessions booked in so will keep posting little updates. So far though I have to say that it has been one of the best things I have done. I feel so clean all the time, well until I remember (once again) that I've not shaved my legs haha!
Have you ever had Laser hair removal? Is it on your wish list?
My name is Tori , I am wife to Ste and a mum to my 2 little girls, Frankie Bella aged 3 and Noa Blossom aged 9 months. We have recently returned from an exciting 18 month adventure living in Texas USA and have now settled in a beautiful part of the Peak District. .