Do we need a smart home? Part Two - What we thought!

A couple of weeks ago you may remember I wrote this post on whether on not we needed a smart home. We are working in partnership with Maplin to test out some of their smart home products and see what effect they have on our life as a family.

As a little recap the products we received were :

Google Home
Ring Doorbell
TP link plugs 
Canary home security 
Yale alarm system 

As always whenever I do a review here on the blog (or anywhere else) it's always my honest opinion and as such there were items from this list we really LOVED and one we didn't get on with so much. Here's what we thought.

First up the Google Home. We really love this item and have found we use it every day for one reason or another. Generally we start the day by asking questions such a the weather or random answers to facts or actors names that are on the tip of our tongue. We use it to check opening hours or how far a particular place is away or when the next bus is arriving. All the types of things you usually Google on your phone but just ask the Google Home instead. 

We've also found we use it to listen to music or the radio and I love being able to say 'OK Google play such and such' when that particular tune comes into my head. 

Wilf loves Google Home for one reason and one reason only, he can ask it jokes! He actually stumbled across this by literally asking Google to tell him a joke, both Tom and I were about to say 'it can't do that sorry' when it suddenly came out with one. Since then he asks Google a joke on a daily basis and now has a pretty good repertoire for jokes.

Next up we have the Ring Doorbell. This was our second favourite item and has worked really well for our family. One of the highlights for us is that when someone rings our doorbell it automatically sets up a video notification on our phones. We can then decided whether to press to speak to the person at the door or not. We use this feature so be able tell couriers that we are not home right now (or I say five mins away) and to leave the parcel in the shed in our garden. It could also be really useful for when you're away on holiday and want to sound like you're at home you could use it to say, 'I can't come to the door right now' etc even though you're not home. 

For comedy value I like to see when I'm not home and Tom does something like run to the bins in his socks in the morning or see the kids off to school. In fact when I was away for a work trip for a couple of days Tom would get the kids to all wave and speak to me through the doorbell and to play tricks like holding the cat up at the camera to give me a surprise ha!

I've even accidentally videos myself vlogging as I leave the house which is quite funny

Third up is the Yale Alarm system. This is the only product we really didn't get on with, the reason for this is it just wasn't really compatible with our life. As it is sensor operated we had two sensor cameras installed in our living room and hallway. We quickly realised that our cats would trim this quite easily and so there was no real use to using them. We could still use the alarm for the front door trigger when we travel but again as we have cats our neighbour feeds them daily and we worry about her having to put in the code etc so it just wasn't the right fit for us. 

I can see that without cats though it would be a great security system and you could definitely leave your home with your mind at ease that any intruders would be quickly scared away with the deafening alarm! A plus point is as well as the on wall keypad everything can also be controlled by the app on your phone so you can disarm whilst away if something does accidentally trigger it.

We have however kept the Yale sign up on our walls to act as a deterrent which you can actually buy from Maplin without buying the whole system. Often this would be enough to put off any burglars anyway. 

Instead of the Yale Alarm the security system we really liked was the Canary.

On first impressions it is a really atheistically pleasing piece of kit, we loved that it was small and inconspicuous but also looked nice in our home. As you can see we've mixed it up with my collection of Matryoshka dolls in our living room cabinet. 

Again this device comes with an app that you can set to alert you on movement or you can set it to not go off in the day when you're home etc. It also comes with an alarm that you can turn off via the app too. I really liked using this when we were away and felt at ease that nothing was going on in our home whilst we were away. I did see a few videos of our cats though which was very funny.

Lastly we tried out two TP Link plugs on two lamps around our home. We can control this using the Google Home which makes for a fun little piece of kit. I think we'll also try out some of the bulbs we can screw into our main lights at some point in the future. 

So that was how we got on turning our home into a smart home! I have to say a couple of the items have been really useful and we get a lot of use out of them such as the Google Home and Ring Door bell. The Canary is definitely useful if you might be away a lot or out of the house a lot but as we work from home and are generally home we only really use it on trips away. I actually found the Ring Doorbell gave me most piece of mind when it came to security as if Tom was away I knew I would get an alert straight away if anyone came into our front garden. It would also record anyone breaking in (the back of our house is nearly impossible to access so we were really only concerned about the front.

I hope that this review has been useful, do let me know if you have any of these items or if reading about them would tempt you to check them out!

In association with Maplin


Just be you

For a little while lately I'd been feeling burnt out, tired and a bit confused about what I was doing or who I even was. I felt a bit like I'd lost my identity or had no idea what the 'real me' was and why I was of any interest to anyone. I felt really down on myself and found myself struggling to try and fit a mould that wasn't really me.

I felt like I was always pushing myself to try harder but not for the right reasons, not because it was something I felt passionate about or enjoyed but because I felt like it was the thing I was 'supposed' to be doing.

This is all so terribly cryptic I'm sorry! What I mean to say is that I had lost my way.

Over the past eight (nine?) years of doing this job I had always done it with one hand rocking a baby or with quick breaks here and there, child care mornings or nap times. It was originally a hobby then a part time job then suddenly became a full time job and one that was not possible without something changing. So Tom and I made the decision to give this a real go, we became a company (whaaat!) and he was able to give up his job and work with me. All of this has been an absolute blessing and joy and we feel SO thankful for this opportunity but I think it also threw me into a bit of a crisis.

I began to feel a lot of pressure to work harder/be better but for all the wrong reasons. I lost sight of why I love sharing and why people (hopefully) love reading and connecting. I tried to make myself something I thought people wanted and in doing so made myself question who I even was.

There was a build up of things if I'm honest but one day I sat down with my friend Lucy and just burst into tears. I felt a bit lonely, out of my depth and basically a bit crap about myself.

A lot of this had been a build up of few things, a few 'helpful' emails offering unsolicited advice on how I was doing as a parent (badly according to one reader who also used the word 'disappointed' when talking about my use of shock horror pre-made pasta sauce). Another message telling me I had made a particular Instagram follower feel bad about her life because we were able to go on holiday, and lately someone telling me that I should concentrate on being a mummy and not on working (what?!). I wondered if I was in the wrong job if my skin wasn't thick enough to not cry at the thought of making someone feel bad or someone making me feel bad.

I made a couple of tricky decisions, I left a network that has been a great success for so many but wasn't the right 'fit' for me. My hand was literally shaking as I wrote the email and it took about ten minutes to press send but it was something that needed to be done. This post isn't about that Network though, I think they do a great job but just aren't 'me' which sounds like a cop out but is just as simple as that, honest!

I spent a lot of my life trying to please people and if I'm honest I would do almost anything to avoid confrontation or hurting anyones feelings. There's a huge part of me that still does that and so the last big change I needed to make was probably the hardest. I left a project with a friend that I knew wasn't the right decision for me at this time. That was one of the hardest things I've done because I know my actions directly will affect another persons dreams but I knew I needed to simplify to save my sanity. Turns out that person was having similar thoughts and this project just wasn't right for either us at this time in our lives!

Anyway the point I suppose of this long and rambling post is that the most important I have learnt is to be true to yourself. As hard as that might be and sometimes it might mean letting someone else down, which is rubbish and hard but sometimes inevitable.

There is NO point trying to be something you are not, or do something that doesn't feel 100% right, because it will make you so so miserable and ultimately isn't sustainable.

You might be a bit of an odd one out and it might take you a while to find your 'place' or your people, and even if there are less of those people, you'll find them. Believe me, just be you.

Photography - Lauren Jayne Hall
Location - M Shed Bristol
Jumper - ASOS 

Etsy Made Local

I'm a massive fan of Etsy and they are one of the first places I look when I'm shopping for gifts. I even have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to Etsy loves for my wish list. I think it's SO important to shop independent and handmade where ever possible and to support creatives and designers. Especially around this time of year when thinking of Christmas.

I'm working with Etsy in this post to highlight and celebrate their 'Esty Made Local' campaign which champions not only the independent but the local artisans. Obviously with Etsy you can shop all over the world and some of my favourite sellers can be found in the most interesting and exotic of locations but there is such a wealth of talent on our own doorstep that I loved the idea of supporting the home grown a little closer to my actual home.

The first shop that caught my eye was La Martiz Handmade which is a textiles shop from Cardiff. The seller makes the most beautiful homewares from cushions to pouffes and even wearable textiles like cowls. Her whole shop gave me such a cosy vibe and I loved her aesthetics. I picked up two of her star cushions for the children's stockings, one in yellow and one in black.

I also picked up a couple of patches from the brilliant Oh No Rachio again for the kids stockings and also this beautiful print from her shop too. I think the sentiment is just perfect and a message I really want the children to grow up with. I'm going to frame it and hang it in their bedroom, it's just perfect. Rachel lives in Southampton and makes the most brilliant and imaginative designs. I quite fancy picking up some her patches to put on my own clothes too.

Next up I went for some stationary from Constance and Clay who are based in Leicester. I always love buying new stationary for the new year. I love the idea of getting organised even if it only lasts for the month of January ;) I picked up the Herbal Remedies calendar for the year ahead as well as the weekly planner which I think is such a good idea for families with lots going on. I also got the 'Ducks in a Row' list maker which I'm hoping help with my organisational skills. I love that it has a section on the bottom to write something you're feeling good about that day too!

Last up is the cute mug from Katy Pillinger which I think is the perfect stocking filler. Who doesn't need another pretty mug hey? I love that they are made from bone china too, I do think that makes your tea taste better (or is that just me?). Katy is based in Truro and makes all sorts of items from stationary to enamel pins to homeware, her Etsy shop is just gorgeous and perfect for picking up a little gift or two for Christmas.

I hope you liked the items I picked from Etsy as part of showcasing the local talent on the site. Local Etsy events will be taking place all over the country between the 1-3rd of December and you can find out which one is closest to you by clicking here. I'll be popping along to the Bristol event on the 2nd so do say hi if you'll be coming too.

In Partnership with Esty 

DIY Peg Angels with Command Brand

As I've mentioned before earlier in the year I'm a Command Brand ambassador for the second year. They are always a brand I LOVE to work with because their products are so genuinely useful. We use them all over the house and I recommend them to everyone, be it friends living in rentals and not allowed to use nails on the wall or for a quick and easy way to refresh your home during the holidays (perfect for popping up those Christmas wreaths!). I'm using Command Brand products in my posts for some quick and easy DIY's. 

Last year I made a very simple DIY advent calendar using envelopes and Command Brand products and this year I wanted too how you how to make really sweet and simple peg doll angels! 

All you need for this craft are :

Pegs (you can find these on Amazon or Hobbycraft easily) 
Card for wings
Ring hooks
Clear plastic string

Making the dolls is pretty self explanatory,  simply paint them white initially (or buy white pegs if you can to bypass this part) and leave to dry.

Whilst they are drying cut out a rough shape of wings (like you would butterfly wings) then glue to the back of your angels.

Next chose a colourful paint for the clock of your angel, I chose three pastel colours but you could go for silver or gold to be a bit more Christmassy!

Paint a little face onto your dolls with black paint and a small paintbrush.

Next up screw in your hook, the pegs are soft enough to do this with your fingers but you could use pliers if they are a bit stubborn.

Finally tie your clear plastic string around the hook and attach to your Command Brand hook!

As you can see the hooks are white and really easy to camoflage into your ceiling, leaving the effect of the angels hanging in mid air. I liked hanging them all at different heights in more of a mobile type effect. I think they would look really sweet as a Christmas decoration especially in a nursery or Childs room.

Let me know what you think! Do you think you'd give this craft a go?

In association with Command Brand 


Winter Wish List

1. This black cord pinafore dress is perfect for wearing over all those cosy knits and pairing with bright winter tights! 

2. You might have to be quick with this lovely striped mohair jumper as it's now in the Topshop Sale...it was added literally just after I bought it - I swear that always happens to me!

3. I love the simple style of this shirt dress

4. Another cosy sweater because you definitely can't have too many!

5. How pretty is this Anthro dress? It would look cute all year round!

6 & 7. Loving the pop of red on these two slogan sweaters from Urban Outfitters and Anthroplogie. Perfect for easing your way into xmas before cracking out the festive jumpers!!

Tel me, what's on your wish list this month? Did you pick up any bargains in the Black Friday sales?


Working in the corner, peaking over shoulders, waiting for my time to come

'Working in the corner, peaking over shoulders, waiting for my time to come' - I'm good I'm gone - Lykki Li

When I was 16 I used to take self portrait shots with my £30 digital point and shoot, a camera probably so bad that pretty much any cheap cell phone would undoubtedly rival it in quality these days.

I'd upload them on the family desktop and edit them in Photoshop 6.0 always, ALWAYS with a heavy filter, an emboss or a thick black and white..moody and what I thought was sophisticated! I'd edit them listing to whatever band I was into that time and add a lyric of two as text over the image and that was my way of expressing myself. Id print them off onto cheap printer paper and then stick them into my sketch book, sometimes writing a dairy entry next to it.

It's only now 15 years later that I realise how similar my little teenage angst hobby is to the job I have today. Granted it's a bit more professional now (I hope) but it's still my way of self expression.

I'm very lucky I now am friends with some amazing creative people including my friend Lauren who took these pictures.

I'm wearing this dress from Topshop which I love, I feel like it's the perfect shade of mustard and has such a seventies feel about it. If I was the sort of people who went to festivals (I'm not) it would 100% be what I would be wearing.

Myself, Lauren and my pal Lucy went to Jamaica Street Stores for lunch and it was the perfect backgrop for these shots. If you live or ever visit Bristol then defo give it a try, we had the three dishes for £10 deal which was so delicious and we actually didn't even manage to finish. I'm really looking forward to going back with Tom sometime.

I've posted some similar styles below as this dress is a bit on the pricey side, but for something a little bit special its still worth a look!


Toddler Christmas Gift Guide

Hi guys!

As you may or may not know I've been uploading a video every day over on my YouTube channel. I obviously won't add them ALL over here but when there are one or two that I think might be of interest I'll pop them up. Hope that's OK!

Anyway, I wanted to share one that me and my lovely friend Lauren from Hunters's and Heels did together yesterday and it's a toddler gift guide. Lauren is a mum of three and one of her little boys is only a few months older than Mabli so we thought it would be fun to collaborate on five Christmas ideas for two year olds (Mabli is two in just over a week!)

I hope you enjoy it, speak soon xx

The items listed in my video were :

Baby Doll -http://amzn.to/2jWSrxR

Baby Doll Sling - http://amzn.to/2jYKJU1

Duplo -http://amzn.to/2jlfcrf
Micro Scooter -http://amzn.to/2i3clq9
Selection of books including : Jane Foster book - http://amzn.to/2jYKNTL Ingela P Arrenhius book - http://amzn.to/2i2F3HW Pizza book - http://amzn.to/2jYKXdP


When you have no groceries and you want to keep wearing your slippers - Day in the life

What I love about my job is that no two days are every the same. What is tricky about my job is that no two days are ever the same! Add to that two cats, two kids and a household to run, like most mums I find juggling it all a bit of a struggle at times.

I'm going to just be straight here and admit, I'm 100% the mum that is remembers the same morning that it's 'dress as a (insert some random theme) day' at school. I'm not always so organised with the day to day 'life admin' and add to that Tom and I both don't drive and sometimes the food shop becomes one of those tasks that we struggle with.

I'm working with Tesco in this post to give their 'Same Day Delivery' service a go. I'm no stranger to online shopping, in fact that is how we generally shop but I actually didn't realise you could get a same day service so this was music to my ears! I think this would solve so many last minute problems  like when we're at the end of a loaf of bread or the milk is running low for the rest of the day.

I love that Tesco have realised how much of a help having a same day service can be for busy families running low on essentials. Sometimes with school runs and kids clubs and working from home the last thing you need to think about it heading to the shops to do your grocery shopping.

All you need to do is order by 1pm to be able to have your shopping delivered the same day from 7pm onwards. Just in time for dinner time. I thought it would be fun to show you a bit of a 'day in our lives' of a regular Tuesday and how we used the service to help out in our day-to-day.

So our day usually starts at around a 6am when I crawl out of bed to the background noise of 'down? Bing?' from Mabli. It's literally her favourite show and the first thing she says upon opening her eyes the morning. I really hope she gets a new favourite soon as I'm a little tired of hearing how many things Bing is claiming are 'a Bing thing' am I right?

Anyway, somehow the next two and a half hours fly by and its the general panic of rushing to get out the house, putting on coats and jumpers and hats and gloves and bribing Mabli into the pushchair. We're home by 9am and its another cup of coffee for me.

Next up I have a few Instagram campaigns to shoot. This is always somewhat of a challenge when I have an almost two year old assistant but it does make things a whole lot more fun too ;)

Whilst Mabli goes down for a nap I finally have a chance to work on a few bits and bobs and also to book my online shop! I love the fact that I don't have to wait until the next day for this and also that I don't have to drag the kids round the supermarket after school, perfect! I've popped a few essentials in like milk, bread and toilet roll but also children's snacks (we are always running low on healthy snacks for kiddos). I've also had a quick look in the fridge and realised we need a few more veggies for tonights meal so popped those on the list as well and picked up a few two - for - one deals I noticed where happening that day. I always find it easier to pick up bargains like that on-line rather than in store as everything is categorised so easily.

Off for pick up a quick play in the park before it starts to rain..

School run done and hope for a bit of chill out time, the kids have a snack and watch their shows whilst I run the hoover around and do some laundry. I can catch up on emails and shoot a few back that are urgent.

I can start to get the kids dinner done now and know that the shopping for ours is arriving at 7pm just before the kids bedtime. We used to try and all eat together but if I'm honest the things Tom and I like to eat or sometimes a bit different from the tastes of a 5 and 1 year old. As much as we'd like them to eat more exciting things sometimes and do try and make them try new things but we do find it easier now to eat our evening meal separately during the week. We also don't want to eat our dinner that early so it works to get the kids to bed before we have ours.

The shopping has arrived! The whole process was so easy and it's brilliant that its only been five hours since I ordered it. This is definitely a service I think I will be using again for sure, I think its so useful for families but also for anyone with a busy life (which I'm sure is all of us). You could even order it on your lunch break on your phone and have it ready for when you get home that evening. 

Mabli goes up to bed with Tom whilst Wilf gets to play lego for half an hour and I can start on our dinner. He then gets half an hour of story time (we've started the second Harry Potter book) and then its off to bed for Wilf and dinner time for us!

We went for a warm autumnal salad with goats cheese, beetroot and root veg (something we could never get the kids to eat ha!)

It was so nice to order this in the morning and have it for dinner that evening, perfect for those days when you just don't have time for a big shop in store or even for when you need the essentials like tea, milk, bread for the next day.

What do you think? Would you try out the Tesco Same Day Delivery service? I'd love to know what you think of the idea and if you'd use it.

In Association with Tesco


Getting out off a rut with Gousto

I'm not sure how it happens so often but when it comes to meal time we tend to stick and rotate the same few meals each week. I think we always have good intentions of mixing things up but often (and especially with kids) we find ourselves sticking to things that are quick to make and know the kids will eat. Those things tend to be a pasta meal at least twice a week, jacket potatoes at least once and stir fry for something easy and to use up veg.

I'm not saying we are massively unhealthy when it comes to meals and think we do eat a good amount of veg even if it mixed up with a lot of carbs but it does tend to get a bit 'samey'. When Gousto got in touch and asked if we wanted to try out one of their boxes I was intrigued. We have tried weekly meal boxes before but one of the things that we found tricky was not having control over what arrived and whether our children woulda actually eat it.

You can actually use this unique discount code which allows you two Gousto boxes from £14.99 each

With Gousto you do actually have quite a few options of what will arrive in your box. Each week you can pick your meal options from a good selection of meals. I actually expected as a veggie family for the selection to be quite limited but there were a good eight meals for us to pick from which ensured we were sure to have a few quick and easy ones and a couple ones we probably wouldn't have thought to make ourselves.

One of the meals in our box this week was the Tortizza Margerita and I thought this would be a great one to make together with the kids. I think that by cooking together it makes my children more interested in actually eating what they've created.

We actually made a little video of the process of cooking together which I think is pretty cute if I say so myself, what do they say about working with children haha! You can get a taster of how it went by the picture below!

One of the things we loved about how Gousto put their boxes together is they have measured out exact amounts so even when it comes to something like a meal with butternut squash for example (another of our meals that week) the squash would have been cut and cubed to the exact amount for you. So there's really not much extra work you need to put into the prep a lot of the time, which as a busy parent was a plus point from me.

The kids loved helping me make these pizza like dishes and they were simple enough for both of them to be able to add the toppings and spread the tomato paste which they loved doing, even if Mabli did make quite a mess!

One of the things I want to try and do more of when we can is eat together. Its not always possible with all our schedules being different but its so special when we are able to do so. I remember family meals as a child being about us all catching up and connecting, which I think is what good food and eating together is all about really!

I'd love it if you had a watch of the video we made and what we all thought of the dish. We were so impressed with the Gousto box and will definitely be booking them again.

Have you tried the Gousto boxes yet? Don't forget you can actually use this unique discount code which allows you two Gousto boxes from £14.99 each

In association with Gousto 


Three favourite wallpaper prints right now

It's been ages since I've done an interiors post over here, I think mainly because my blog is whatever is going on in my life at that moment and doing up our home had taken a back seat since we decided we won't be staying here.

It's funny because when we were doing up our home over the past almost eight years we were so excited for what we could do with it and the potential it had. We actually did some major work on it but also just little interior bit and bobs like choosing carpets and wall paper and sanding down floor boards etc. Once we realised we were growing too big for it (mainly after we had Mabli really) and that a move would have to be on the cards at some point, it seemed a bit pointless to do anything else.

We now have a move in mind for the new year so I'm starting to get interested in everything home once more and I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite wallpapers at the moment.

Obviously flamingo is a thing but I think if you are going to go for a slightly kitch design like a flamingo you might as well go big right? I love this print because its bold but the illustration feels sophisticated too. I don't think Tom would be majorly keen on a pink flamingo bathroom but a girl can dream right?

You can pick up this one here

Or what about this Art Deco type print? Would love so good with those gold taps and accessories.

I feel like this wallpaper from Etsy would make me so happy every time I went into my bathroom. I'm really loving green at the moment and think the plant print would just make it feel like such an airy and inviting space.

So those are three wallpapers I'm loving at the moment, I'd love to know which one was your favourite! 
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