Monday, 31 October 2016

10 things to do in November

The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in, but Christmas is coming and there's plenty to keep you occupied in November. Here are ten ideas:
  1. Go vegan. November is World Vegan Month, so why not try a vegan diet for the month? Or, i, like me, your family are too fond of their meat and two veg and that seems a bit too much of a lifestyle shift, try a vegan recipe. There are lots of resources on the Vegan Society website.
  2. Write a letter to Father Christmas.
  3. Make a Guy and display him outside your house with a "penny for the Guy" sign. 
  4. See a fireworks display. In Devon, there are displays at Teignmouth Rugby Club on 4th November and at Westpoint Arena on 5th November. If you're feeling brave, you might want to go to Ottery St Mary for the annual Tar Barrels.
  5. Write a story. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And, while writing an entire novel might be a bit much to ask of your children, why not adapt a game of Consequences and write a sentence each day and see how your story ends up at the end of the month? Who knows, maybe you will be inspired to write your own novel!
  6. Pledge an act of kindness for World Kindness Day. There are lots of ideas on the Kindness UK website.
  7. If you extend your commitment to random acts of kindness, make a Kindness Advent Calendar, where you come up with 24 random acts of kindness and commit to doing one each day in the run up to Christmas.
  8. Dress up as a hero of your choice or wear blue on 18th November to raise awareness of Anti-bullying week. Post your pictures on social media using the #wearbluecampaign #antibullyingweek and #powerforgood hashtags
  9. Wear a poppy and attend a Remembrance Sunday parade on 13th November.
  10. Visit a Christmas craft fair. You'll find lots of original, hand-made presents that will sort Christmas shopping for even the most difficult to buy for relatives and you'll be supporting local small businesses. As well as the big Christmas Shopping Fayre at Westpoint in Devon, there are hundreds of smaller events taking place in local church halls and schools. Keep an eye on your Facebook feed or do a Google search to find a fair near you.
  11. Mr and Mrs T Plus Three

Sunday, 30 October 2016

My Sunday Photo - 30th October 2016

One of the best things about Autumn is going for a walk in woodland, kicking around in the leaves. and admiring the beautiful colours as the trees change colour.

Ossie is 18 months old and this is the first time he's been able to really enjoy exploring the different textures of nature in Autumn.

This photo was captures the moment he realised we'd found him after he'd been playing hide and seek behind the tree trunks. His face is a picture of surprise and enjoyment.


Saturday, 29 October 2016

4 reasons bullet journalling didn't work for me

I am constantly on a mission to 'get organised'.

If there's a new fad that promises to save you time and guarantee you won't miss an appointment or forget something vital on your shopping list, I'm a captive audience.

Generally though, a few weeks in and I've either lost interest or managed to find a flaw in the plan.

In my head, I love being organised, but in real life, things don't tend to go to plan.

I'm a big sucker for stationery and notebooks, which made me think that keeping a bullet journal, or BuJo, might actually be a workable solution.

Basically, a bullet journal combines your diary and all your to-do lists, bucket lists, birthday present lists and any other thoughts you have into one handwritten notebook. It seemed like the perfect solution to the woman who seems to juggle several notebooks as well as a diary, usually missing the vital notebook for the occasion.

I started bullet journalling at the beginning of the year, so I've given it a fair crack of the whip. But I've finally conceded that even this 'foolproof' organisation system doesn't work for me. Here's why:

  1. I couldn't commit to the index. The index page (at the front of the bullet journal) is essential to make it a workable system. If you want to continue a list, you use the next available page, which might not be the next consecutive page, and then you mark the page number in the index. I was hopeless at writing page numbers on each page and not particularly good at adding this information to the index, which meant I could never find the page I needed.
  2. The system is flexible, but not flexible enough for me (or maybe I wasn't flexible enough for the bullet journal system). The index page is integral to the bullet journal; you just add information on a page and the index enables you to find it. But I prefer to be able to just flick to a section and have all the information in one place, rather than have to flick between pages to find all the relevant details. I tried to get round this, by ditching the notebook and using an A4 ring binder, and that kind of worked. The only problem was that the folder is too big to carry around every day. Instead, it sits on the kitchen table, so it's more a family organiser and planner than a true bullet journal. And this meant that I was writing random lists on bits of paper, which is really not the point of a bullet journal.
  3. I'm not arty enough. To get inspiration and to try and make my bullet journal work for me, I joined a couple of Facebook groups. I was inspired by the really amazing and artistic spreads and trackers created by other bullet journallers, but my own attempts were more functional. I'm not arty. I can't draw to save my life. And I got overwhelmed and disheartened that I just couldn't produce anything near so pretty.
  4. I didn't have enough time and I lacked the commitment needed to make it work. I think to get the most out of a bullet journal, you need to devote time to filling in the pages and making them look good. My own use of the bullet journal was more rushed. To make a bullet journal work, you need to use it pretty constantly. You need to spend at least 20 minutes every night sorting out your life and your bullet journal for the next day. I do most of my organising on the hoof - often while feeding the baby. Trying to write in a notebook while breastfeeding a curious toddler is, quite frankly, impossible. So I started using electronic apps on my phone - well, my Google Calendar mainly. So I was ending up with some information in my phone and some in my bullet journal. And I didn't have the time to tally them up.
Things came to a head when I got to the end of my first BuJo notebook. The thought of transferring the vital information scattered across multiple pages in my original notebook scared the crap out of me. And I really didn't fancy carting two or three notebooks around. So I added the BuJo fad to the long list of failed organisation attempts.

Coincidentally, it was at this moment that I discovered an online organisation app called Trello. It's an online project management tool, which I started using at work. But I soon realised how helpful it could be in my personal life. Basically, you create a board for particular project and you then add cards to detail the specifics. Each card has options to add comments, a checklist and even attachments. There are also 'power ups' that enable you to link due dates with your online calendar, which I haven't explored yet.

I love the concept of the bullet journal and I can see how it is an amazing tool for some people. But sadly, not me.

What organisation systems work for you in managing your life?

Friday, 28 October 2016

A Crealy great Hallowe'en

Last weekend, we visited Crealy Adventure Park near Exeter for the second time in a week, thanks to their very generous free returns in six days scheme.

One of the benefits of living in Devon is being able to visit attractions when they're a bit quieter. So on the previous weekend, we'd taken full advantage of the unseasonal sunshine and had pretty much free reign to ride the most popular attractions several times with little or no queueing.

We expected the park to be a bit busier this weekend as it was the start of Crealy's half-term Hallowe'en extravaganza. So, as well as the usual attractions, there were added extras, such as Creaky House, Trolls in the wood and pumpkin carving.

When we arrived, again we benefitted from amazing weather, the park was still quiet and we headed straight to our favourite rides, starting with the wetter ones so we had time to get dry before it was time to go home.

The aqua blaster boats are probably the wettest ride and after soaking each other, we teamed up to squirt everybody else on the lake. I shared a boat with Beatrix, who took on the steering responsibilities, while Wilf shared with his dad and Elliot was big enough to captain his own vessel.

We then headed down to the Tidal Wave log flume. I had been on this with Wilf the previous week and managed to avoid riding again by opting to look after a sleeping Ossie in his buggy. Despite it being half-term, the park was still fairly quiet and they managed to stay on the ride for a few times as there was no queue. As well as the Aqua Blasters and the Tidal Wave, Crealy has the Vortex triple water slide, which we'd been on the previous weekend.

We decided to take advantage of the lack of queues and headed straight over to the Maximus roller coaster. Elliot and Beatrix were incredibly excited to get a spot at the front of the train, while 4 year old Wilf rode further back with his dad.

After this, Wilf wanted to go on the Dino Jeeps again before we began investigating the special Hallowe'en attractions.

So, we headed for the Creaky House, only to be told it was closed for lunch, so instead we returned to the Carousel, Honey Swing and Flying Machine swings before wandering down to find the Trick or Treat Trolls. These are based across a rickety bridge in a forested area of the park we had never visited before. We enjoyed a lovely stroll through the trees and the children were rewarded for finding the trolls with lollipops.

Once we returned to the main park area, we decided to try the Creaky House again. Unfortunately, it seemed that everyone else at Crealy had the same idea and we found ourselves in our first queue of the day. After an hour of waiting, we were guided through the haunted hotel and encountered lots of spooky occurrences before landing back in the reality of the park.

Because the queue was long, Mr SeasideBelle opted to take baby Ossie up to the indoor Atlantis play area, where they had great fun in the soft play. It was a good option because the queue was something of a time warp and by the time we emerged, the park was almost ready to close! So we scooted up to the animal barn, where we had held the rabbits the previous week, to pick up a pumpkin. You can actually carve them there, but we were too late for that.

If you take advantage of the free returns, the park is great value for money and you can definitely spend two full days there without worrying that the kids are spending too long in the play areas. The indoor play areas are also a great option to get out of any inclement weather.

I looked at getting a season ticket, but I think I'll probably wait until Ossie is old enough to participate a bit more. While my older two are the perfect age for Crealy and Wilf, who is 4, is now tall enough to be able to go on most of the rides, I still need to have an adult with me, to look after baby Ossie. So that would mean we would only be able to go when both Mr SeasideBelle and I have a day off, which is not as often as I would like.

However, after picking up a leaflet promoting their campsite and hearing great stuff about the underfloor heating in the shower blocks, I think we might be taking a trip over with our tent next year!

What's your favourite theme park and why?

Friday, 7 October 2016

How to choose a baby carrier

Most babies love being held, even beyond the fourth trimester. However, if you've got older siblings and stuff to do, sometimes it's not practical to be a one-armed superwoman. Or maybe, you have dogs that need walking on terrain that's not really suitable for a pram or buggy. That's where babywearing can be an absolute life saver.

This week is International Babywearing Week, which aims to "celebrate, promote, advocate for, and focus media attention on the many benefits of babywearing".

With my eldest, while the benefits of babywearing were obvious, I wasn't sold: I had been given a high street carrier that was a faff to put on, was uncomfortable for me and which my son outgrew in a matter of weeks because he was just too chunky and the shoulder straps dug into him.

It was only with my daughter that I discovered the myriad of babywearing options out there and really got into the babywearing scene.

If, like me, you are confused by all the options, here's a rundown of the different baby carriers and slings available. The best place to start is by looking up your local sling library or sling meet where you can try out a few options and ask questions from babywearing experts.

Things to consider:

  1. Who will be using the baby carrier? Is it just you, or will your partner or another care giver also be using the sling?
  2. When will you be using it? Will you be wearing your baby all day? Will you be out in all weathers or are you just planning to use it for the school run?
  3. Do you need to breastfeed in it?
  4. How long will you be babywearing? What age is your child? Will you just be wearing your baby while he or she is an infant or will you continue until they are nearer pre-school age?
  5. How will you carry the sling when you are not breastfeeding? Do you need something that can fold up into your change bag or is size not an issue?
  6. What size are you? Are you tall, short, slight or larger? You'll need a sling that is comfortable and supports your back as your baby gets bigger and heavier.
  7. What's the weather like? If you're in a hot climate, you'd be better off with a lightweight fabric like cotton, whereas if you live in a cooler climate, you might be better off with a thicker fabric.

Buckle carriers

If you want a carrier that's fairly easy to put on and can be easily adjusted between you and another care giver, you might want to look at a buckle carrier. These are the easiest to find on the high street or you can visit a specialist retailer. Look for a carrier with a wider base to support your baby's hips. You want baby's legs to sit in an 'M' shape rather than to just dangle. Although some carriers are built for baby to face either you or out to the world, it's generally recommended to have them facing you as this position is better for their backs and prevents them from being over-stimulated. Popular makes include: Beco, Connecta, Emei Baby, Ergo, Manduca and Rose & Rebellion.

Half buckle

These are similar to buckle carriers, but the shoulder straps are fastened by tying a knot in the straps and the waist is fastened with a buckle. 

Mei Tai

A Mei Tai carrier has a similar body to a buckle carrier, but is fastened by tying long fabric straps rather than with a buckle. This means it's easy to adjust the carrier to fit your size and means it can easily be shared with another care giver. Popular makes include: BabyhawkKozy, and Palm & Pond.

Stretchy Wraps

These are ideal for newborns and infants. They are a length of stretchy material that you tie around you in a variety of different ways. Stretch wraps are ideal for supporting baby while leaving your hands free to get on with life and it's easy to reposition baby to feed while wearing them. The bonus with a stretchy wrap is that you can pre-tie it around you before placing baby inside. Popular makes include: Calin Bleu, Je Porte Mon Bebe (JPMBB) and Moby.

Woven Wraps

These are a length of woven material, available in different lengths, that enable you to achieve a range of different carries by tying the material around you and your baby. Woven wraps are incredibly versatile and suitable for front or back carries and for all ages of child. It can take a bit of practice to get the hang of wrapping, but there are plenty of YouTube videos that show you how to achieve the different styles. Woven wraps are ideal for longer-term use, the only drawback is that it can be difficult to tie them in the rain without getting the ends wet. Popular makes include: Didymos, Girasol, Kokadi, Lenny Lamb and Oscha.

Ring Slings

Ring slings are great for popping in your change bag and for quick carries, such as getting from the car to do the school run or, for an older child, when they tire of walking. They are a length of material with two rings attached that you wear over one shoulder and then simply tighten the material through the rings. Ring slings are suitable for any age and easily adjustable for different wearers. However, because all the weight is on one shoulder, they're not ideal for wearing on long walks. Popular makes include: Didymos, Girasol, Lenny Lamb and Little Frog.

Some people have been put off babywearing after hearing tragic stories of babies being suffocated while in a sling. However, if you use a bit of common sense and follow the simple, TICKS babywearing guidelines, the risks are minimised and you and your baby will benefit from an increased bond and an ability to get on with everything life throws at you with both hands available!

TICKS guidelines

  • T - Tight: Ensure your sling or carrier is tight enough to hold your baby close. You don't want any slack or loose fabric that could mean your baby slumps down in the carrier and potentially could hinder their ability to breathe.
  • I - In view at all times. You should be able to see your baby's face. Not only does this help with your bond, but it means you can easily check on their wellbeing.
  • C - Close enough to kiss. Your baby's head should be close enough to your chin that you can easily bend forward to kiss them. 
  • K - Keep baby's chin off their chest, so their airway is unrestricted.
  • S - Supported. Baby's back should be supported so their tummy and chest rest against yours.
Over the years, I've tried a few baby carriers and I currently have three: a ring sling I made myself; a Beco buckle carrier; and a Kokadi Frog Prince woven wrap. I like having the versatility of choosing a carrier for different circumstances. For the school run, I favour the ring sling, while for longer days out I prefer the buckle or the wrap.

What baby carrier do you have and why?