Likes & Loves | January 2020

Well January I can safely say wasn't as stressful as last year. We've had quite a few appointments going on though in regards to Blake and trying to sort out school and speech therapy etc.

This year I have chosen instead of doing the #littleloves posts each month to instead do liked and loved posts because it's not as restricted with categories as the #littleloves linky. I'm going to leave books out of these posts as I will be doing a separate monthly what I've been reading posts. You can read what I've read in January here if you are interested.

Any items that are gifted to me for a possible mention within this feature will be clearly marked with a *


Skincare:

My skin has been incredibly dry recently and I've tried so many different moisturisers and the Olay Luminous Whip has been the one I've found to be the best that is working for me. It's pretty pricey compared to what I'd usually spend but I'm willing to spend that bit more as i love how soft and hydrated my face feels after I've used it.



 I've also been using these Dove exfoliating body scrubs. My skin definitely feels much more smoother after using these and they smell absolutely amazing too.


Along with my skin feeling dry my lips have been feeling dry and sore too. I picked up the Blistex Intesive moisturiser balm and it's been working wonders on keeping my lips hydrated compared to some of the other lip balms I've used in the past.


Shows I've been loving:

Netflix: You (season 2)
Season 2 has taken me a bit longer to get into but I still binged watched the whole season in about 2/3 evenings.

Amazon Prime: Good Omans
I've started using amazon prime tv and Good Omans caught my eye and I've really enjoyed it.

Netflix: Dirty Dancing
Confession time. This month I watched Dirty Dancing for the first time and honestly can say its right up there with some of my favourite films now.

Home related:

 Having a dishwasher
After not having a dishwasher since moving here we decided to go ahead and just buy one this month. Washing and drying up is definitely my of my least favourite chores.


 Snake plant
We visited the garden centre one weekend to look at plants for our garden and I spotted this houseplant that I liked the look of. I decided not to get it as wanted to know more about it first. Luckily it's a plant that is meant to be easy to look after so let's hope we can keep it alive.

Food:
I've been loving the delicious selection of grains and pulses by Jamie Oliver that I found in Lidil. My favourite is the sweet chilli spelt one but they all taste delicious and are healthy too.


Visiting family
We had a wonderful time at the beginning of January spending time with family.  I wrote about what we got up to in my first Little Moments post of the year which you can read here.




Valentine's With Swizzels Matlow

* I was sent the hamper and love hearts in return for this review however all thoughts are my own.


Valentine's day is fast approaching and the shops are now full of red and pink decorations, gifts and cards. We don't tend to do much for valentine's, a card and either a takeaway or a supermarket meal deal once Blake is in bed is more our thing.

However we like Blake to learn about different celebrations and events. So we like to do a few crafts and bits with him to celebrate the occasion. 

This year though we have been gifted some sweets thanks to Swizzels Matlow for us to enjoy.


Swizzels Matlow are a brand I've loved for years. I use to love getting the drumstick lollies as a treat as a child. The drumstick squashes since they came out with them are a favourite of mine too.

I love that Swizzels Matlow are still around so that Blake can enjoy them just like Stuart and I got to as well as our parents. Did you know that Swizzels Matlow have been around for about 90 years?!

They even have an online gift shop that is bursting with a wonderful range of sweet treats and you can even get personalised sweets too bringing an extra special touch to gifts. 



If you find it hard to choose what sweets to go for than Swizzels Matlow do a range of different hampers starting at £2.99 for a letter box hamper up to £21.99 for a full on wicker hamper. The one above we were sent costs only £7.99 and filled with favourites such as Refreshers, Rainbow Drops, Drumsticks, Palmavoilets and more. Plus for an extra £1 you can get the box personalised. 

Are you a fan of Love hearts? If so did you know you can get personalised ones? They do many different personalised packs such ones for wedding favours with the couples name and wedding date. But the ones below are the personalised Love Hearts tube filled with 25 mini packs of Love Hearts for only £9.99.


If you are thinking of treating a loved one than I've got a discount code which gives you 15% off via the website. All you have to do is type V15 at the checkout.  Valid 1st til 14th February. 

2020 Reading Challenge | What I've Read In January

January has actually been a good reading month for me and I'm happy with my mixture of books I've picked up.

This is the first year I've decided to join in with the Popsugar Reading Challenge. The challenge is a list of prompts to help you  up your reading game and try reads you wouldn't normally opt for. There are 40 standard prompts and a further 10 advanced prompts.

I'll also be reading books not in the prompts though as my goal is to read 65 books this year. With that said let's jump in to what I have read.


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
I picked this for the prompt "The book you meant to read in 2019".  Having read The Great Alone, I knew I wanted to read The Nightingale as I had heard good things. I unfortunately hadn't got around to picking it up in 2019 so made it my first read of 2020.

In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.

The Nightingale is a beautifully written historical fiction based in World War two.  I loved this emotional read and feel it lived up to my expectations. It's definitely not my favourite fiction of this era but enough for me to give it a 4 star rating. 


The Selfcare Project by Jayne Hardy
This book I picked up for the prompt " A book with only words on the cover". The Selfcare Project shares everything you need to know about Selfcare, what it is, why it's important, why it's such a struggle and how to integrate it into every day life.

Although a great book I felt it was more of a book for someone who needs convincing about making selfcare a priority. For me I have read many other selfcare books which I've learnt from and this one unfortunately didn't give me anything new hence why I've given it 3 stars. For the right person this would be a wonderful book.


Trianglum by Masande Ntshanga
Picked for the prompt "A book you picked because the title caught your attention". Trianglum was definitely a book I wouldn't usually pick up however I loved it. I found it hard to know what to rate this one I've put it as 3 stars as I found the second half not as great as the first.  Trianglum is a science fiction novel based in South Africa. It's about a school girl who sees a machine and it questions about if it's a vision or if it's evidence of something supernatural.




Never Look Back By A.L.Gaylin
I cant go into too much detail with this one as it's for a book tour I'm being involved in. Definitely head back to this blog on 9th of February if you want to know more about this read. I will tell you that it's a gripping thriller.



The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal 
I picked this up for the a book with a 3 word title prompt. It also happens to be a book I hadn't got around to reading in 2019. I love that its based in London in the Victorian times which is one of history periods I remember enjoying learning about in school.  It's a story featuring love, art, obsession and possession.

Home Improvement Trends to Consider When Renovating Your Home



*This post is sponsored by Property Inspection Pros a Baltimore Home and Commercial Inspection Company

Have you followed how the home improvement industry is doing? If you do follow but was not able to take part in the HIRI (Home Improvement Research Institute) summit last 2019, then below are the insights from the experts in home improvement, providing us ideas on the latest trends and what's hot in the market today.



Decrease in Luxury projects

Luxury remodeling is decreasing. High-end flooring, roofing, dimensional lumber, cladding, and even cabinets are facing the most severe headwinds, according to Todd Tomalak with John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

With the decrease in demand for luxurious projects, doors for emerging quality brands in bath and kitchen remodeling open, giving them the chance to be recognized and considered by clients who are opting for a more realistic project. A custom look at a more realistic price is one of the best approaches in the world of renovations nowadays. Features like soft close drawers and doors, organizing accessories, and sizing customization are now available in more affordable yet of quality brands.

         Buyers seek help

Shoppers nowadays don't just ask as to where they can find it but are also interested as to how do they do it when it comes to their home improvement projects.

When it comes to online resources, especially on home remodeling, various sites are offering more information on what to consider when purchasing for accessories or materials needed for your home. Getting more ideas if you are doing the remodeling by yourself is crucial since you need more of it so that you can truly choose the best for your home.

  Shopping via Mobile

Brendan Baby from the Home Depot said that the convenience of shopping using our mobile device grows rapidly and should be considered as one of the main tactics of retail industries.

With just one click after you have scanned all the products and have found the one that you were looking for, you can now add to the cart and finish the transaction by paying electronically without going out. This is a very easy process, yet make sure that the retail store that you are visiting offers quality products. To be sure, check out its customers' feedback, or you may search for the company's reputation online reviews.


Watch for the next generation

Centennials or the Gen Z or iGen is far more different generation as compared to Millennials. They give value to pragmatism and security as they venture into changing the world, as observed by Therese Caruso with the Zeno Group.

Ways to communicate with these generations may be done through the use of social media, mobile app, or websites, knowing that we have a world of innovations when it comes to communication.

         Health over savings emphasis


Millennials mostly consider health benefits as compared to how much they can save whenever they purchased products for their homes. They are much more interested in their health and well-being and are more likely to spend on those since it is beneficial. They choose wellness designs that focus on their overall health. And these improvements are proven to be healthy like in the selection of paints for walls, non-toxic materials for their flooring and cabinetry, faucets that are touchless that reduces germ spread, lighting that improves sleep, installation for water and purification system and many more.

If you are opting to remodel your home, then above mentioned are the trends now. Consider what the experts have said for you to be more updated on the latest and what types are the most considered trend that most people are vying for. Home renovation is fun yet a headache, but after you finish your project, expect a feeling of self-fulfillment since you have arrived in a successful project.





Little Moments 2020: 4/52 | Chinese New Year

This week we had the meeting at school that I went into detail about and you can read here.  We've also had a few trips to town as I've had to get a few bits and pieces in but our main activities for this week has been for Chinese New Year.


2020 is the year of the golden rat. I want to start doing alot more seasonal activities with Blake this year and am using the National Trust 2020 nature month by month a childs Almanac. The book has many wonderful ideas for each month and I'm especially excited about getting involved learning new things myself as we go along.


So Chinese New Year was yesterday and to celebrate Blake and I raided the craft box and made a chinese fan and a Chinese dragon using card and other bits I found in our supplies 

We also found a video of the Chinese New Year The Great Race on YouTube to explain about how the names of each new year came about. 



We also decided to watch Mulan as it's in my Disney princess box set and is actually one of the films I am yet to see so it felt fitting to watch it. Of course you can't do Chinese celebrations without eating noodles so that's what we had for dinner although Stuart and I had stirfry and beef with ours. 

What have  been your little moments of  the week? 

6 Lessons Learnt In Our First Year Of Home Ownership

Can you believe that today marks one full year since we completed on our house. So one year of being home owners and I must admit we have learnt quite a bit in that time.  To be able to afford our own home we had to relocate from Bedfordshire to Lincolnshire and we have no regrets as we love the area and we are a train ride away from bigger cities such as Lincoln, Leeds and Sheffield.


Our house is a 2/3 bed terrace house with a good size living/dining space, small kitchen, average sized bathroom and a small yard. 

So what have we learnt during this first year of ownership? Well read on and I'll tell you:

1. Owning a home comes with extra costs
When renting we didn't have home insurance which is one of the things that is 100% important to have as a home owner. It's important to also factor in utility costs for us  we are now heating a 3 storey home not 2 bed flat for example. Then you need to factor in if you need new appliances for us we had to budget to get a fridge freezer, a washing machine and a dishwasher and eventually we will purchase an oven (we currently use a halogen).  Furniture as well is something you may have to consider we got a new sofa as we needed a bigger one and luckily we were passed on a dining table and chairs set.I think I may actually do a separate post on the true cost of owning a home if anyone is interested?

2. It's important to have a fund for repairs
Our home needs quite a bit doing to it as it's a sort of fixer upper. It's important to have money saved for doing bits and bobs around the home. Our first big thing we did was get a new front door as it was essential as the previous one wasn't in the best condition. We also had our yard sorted so that we have a safe and fun space for Blake outside. 

3. An emergency fund is essential 
As well as having money aside for repairs around the home an emergency fund is important too as you don't know what may go wrong big or small. We've had to get a plumber out twice now for example.

4. Do it yourself when you can 
You can save money by doing things yourself. Hopefully we can start to do some decorating this year and it's something we plan on doing ourselves instead of paying someone to do it for us. If there is something that needs doing then you can save a ton of money doing it yourself. However don't always which leads to...

5. Some jobs are worth hiring out 
We want to get our roof looked at this year and our electrics. For us they are things that we feel is best done by someone who knows what they are doing and worth paying out for.

6. Plan and prioritise 
As a home owner there is always going to be something that needs doing. It's important to list your needs vs wants. For example I'd love to decorate the whole house but there are some things that are more important to get done first such as the roof and electrics. Once these are done we need to look at what is important to us to be done next. 

My First Book Of Comparisons


Blake is exactly like me in the sense that he loves books. He can't yet read but he still loves us to read to him and also will sit on his own flipping through a book looking at the pictures.

My first book of comparisons by Clive Gifford is a book that is packed full of facts along with beautiful illustrations by Ana Seixas. The fun book compairs and measures everything from animals to space, dinosaurs to machines sports and people.



Did you know that a blue whale weighs about as much as 20 T-Rex dinosaurs? Or that a guinea pig is 70% water? This exciting picture book is full of these and many more fascinating fact nuggets.

The book is suitable for  children aged 5 years and over and is ideal for curious children who love asking questions. The book can help to build maths skills as well as to help build understanding of the world around them. 


Blake's favourite pages are definitely  zoom, dino detective and space stuff. He keeps reverting back to these pages especially when he is looking through the book by himself.

Fact books like these tend to be really popular with children and this one is definitely worth adding to your childs ever growing collection.

My first book of comparisons by Clive Gifford will be released 3rd of March and retails at £12.99. Don't forget you can preorder a copy over on Amazon so it will arrive on the release date.

When the system let's you down

The whole system is a mess for SEN children and it not only frustrates but angers me.  I wasn't going to write this post but then it's what we are going through and others must be in the same position.

Our brief backstory is that we relocated from Bedfordshire to Lincolnshire almost a year ago and since then the help for Blake has been near enough non existent.

Back in Bedfordshire we saw a speech therapist and was doing PECS (picture exchange communication) with Blake and was told to continue this when we moved and they advised that new speech and language to continue with support of this.

We were then referred to speech therapy up in Lincolnshire who pretty much decided not to be involved and discharged us. On starting school in September the school SENCO along with our Health Visitor here pushed for another referral.

So after waiting almost a year for anything we had our appointment last week and we are not happy with the outcome. We feel we are going backwards. We have been advised that PECS isn't needed as it will set him back. Although some of the advice given us is good it's stuff we had already been doing and when we had a our last TAC meeting it was agreed the advice speech therapy has given isn't suitable for Blake. At the moment we are at a complete loss as he is no longer seeing anyone and it's looking likely that nothing will happen until he is in a specialist school.


Talking of school Blake is still unfortunately on a reduced timetable which really isn't enough time for him. Unfortunately school doesn't have the funding to keep him in any longer then 45 mins a day due to him needing one to one support.  It's also that the provision just isn't right for him. We are currently at the stage where we are waiting to hear back from 3 schools within county who have been sent the draft EHCP and will come back with if they can meet Blake's needs and if they have a space for him. 

We are keeping our fingers crossed for the local specialist school as the others aren't as accessible for us to get to and to I do worry about if all 3 say they can't because then they have to look out of county for a school for him. 

Little Moments 2020 : 3/52 | Learning through play

This week has been busy for us. We had one particular appointment for Blake that really stressed me out but that is definitely for a different post. 

Blake was pretty exhausted by Friday and was reluctant to go to school so we decided Saturday was to be a day of rest and relaxation for him.

We spent the day in watching a film, reading books and we decided to get out the Learning Resources Whirling Wave Reactor.

We had yet to get around to using the set after it was featured in my Christmas gift guide so decided it was the perfect time to something new together.


Inside the box as well as the bits needed to start making experiments there is a instruction manual showing 5 different experiments you can do which includie items you will most likely have in your kitchen.

We chose to do the simple extraction  experiment to reveal what Beaker Creature was in the reactor pod. Blake was absolutely loving it and we will definitely get it out again soon to try out a different experiment.


My top 5 apps for SelfCare

This year I want to be taking time out each day from technology. Instead I'll be reading, doing art or even going for a walk. With that said though we can make the most of technology and use it in a positive way. 

I've been trying out a lot more apps to help with selfcare and wanted to share my top 5. Some you may have heard of already and others you may not know about.

So let's jump in

1. CALM
Calm is an app that you have probably heard of before. It's the app I have been using the longest and can help you meditate, sleep, relax and much more.

Twitter: @calm 








 2. Headspace
Headspace is pretty similar to Calm in my opinion. Using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques the app shows you how to train your mind for a healthier, happier, more enjoyable life.

Twitter: @Get_Headspace
 Facebook: /HeadspaceOfficial


3. YOUPER


Youper is an AI chat-bot app designed to help users identify, track, and process their thoughts and feelings. The app includes four main features: Youper the AI Chat-Bot, Journal Logs, Mood Logs, and an Emotional Health Assessment.

Twitter: @Youper_ai 
Facebook: /youper.official




A game that let's you pretend staying in bed all day. Let's cuddle with our cat, light a candle, consult our Tarot cards, collect things for our altar. Let's stay in bed. 

Twitter: @selfcaretheapp
Facebook:  /selfcaretheapp


5. My Affirmations 

My Affirmations helps to impregnate positive thoughts in your mind by giving you reminders at specified duration. You can select affirmations from different categories, which you want to show as notification. You can also create your own Affirmations too.

Facebook: My Affirmations





Packing Tips for moving home

It's almost a year now since we upped sticks and relocated. Moving was certainly a stressful time for us and it was relief once we were in our new home and boxes were unpacked.

There are definitely things you can do to make the whole experience a little less stressful.


Research moving companies
We wanted to find a cheap and efficient removal service that met our needs. We researched different ones in our area and got some quotes before deciding who to go with.


Be Organised 
Being organised is key for making the moving process run more smoothly. 
Lists will be your best friend for listing items you need for packing and for people you need to inform when you move out and who to inform of your new address. It's also handy to have a list of emergency numbers such as for a plumber and even the number for a takeaway as you wont want to be cooking moving day.

Label boxes
Labelling boxes is a must with each room and what's in them. This helps movers when you reach your new home to take boxes to the right room. It's also very helpful for when it comes to when you start unpacking. 
It's also important to label any boxes that contain fragile items in so that both you and the movers are aware for when packing up the van and moving items into your home.


Protecting items
As mentioned above it's important to label boxes with fragile items. Its also important though to make sure that when you are packing them that they are wrapped correctly. For example we made sure that photo frames were all wrapped in bubble wrap so that they didnt break.  Valuable items we chose to take with us in the car so that we knew where they were and were our responsibility. We made sure we knew where all paperwork and important documents were packed and used bin bags for items like duvets.


Packing essentials
It's a good idea when you are writing your lists to do one for a box of essentials that you will need as soon as you get there. This can include items such as toilet roll, your kettle, milk, sugar, cups, coffee and snacks. Its also a good idea to have a suitcase with clothing and items such as chargers, medication, laptops etc. If you have kids do ones for them too including favourite toys, clothes and other essentials.


When you arrive:

Make sure that you deal with essential items like having somewhere to sleep and somewhere to sit first. Then open your essentials box and enjoy a nice mug of coffee or tea. 

How Journaling Can Help Manage Our Mental Health

Recently I have found Journaling to be really helpful to me especially with regards to my mental health. There is no right or wrong way of doing it. My two favourite ways to  journal are a journal which has written prompts inside for each day and the other is a notebook where I write whenever and whatever I want in it. You could also grab a notebook and find prompts on pinterest to use or there is the option of bullet journaling as well. The great thing is there is no pressure as how you go about it, as it is entirely up to you. 


Journaling has many benefits for our mental health and so I wanted to share them with you. If you are on the fence like I use to be than hopefully this post will help you decide if journaling is for you.

Outlet 
If we are using a journal to write down our thoughts it can provide us with an outlet. I've found  since starting to journal that it's a great way of being able to free up the mind. With some days giving the feeling as if a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders.

Organisation
Having a place where you have all your thoughts written down is handy. That way if like me you  can read back what you've  written. This can then help you to process your thoughts.

Identify patterns
 Journalling is a great way to enabled you to recognise any patterns for example what your anxiety triggers are, what triggers  your low moods, your sleep patterns, behaviours etc. 

Ranting
Having a journal is a great place to just have a good rant when you need to . It helps to release tension in a healthy and safe way.

LITTLE MOMENTS 2020: 2/52 | SLIME

This week Blake has really been getting into Slime. Blake us really into sensory play and his Auntie Kim and Uncle Shem got him some Crystal Slime as a Christmas gift. 

The set that they got him contains 8 pots of different coloured slime which have beads in them making it a fun sensory experience for Blake.


I've had to put some rules in place for when he is playing with it such as he has to play with it at the table and only when supervised. Thank goodness we don't have carpet downstairs! We used the box for his Kinetic sand to pop it in so he can have a few of the tubs out at once.

Blake loves squeezing and squishing the slime and taking the little balls out. One of the things he's absolutely been loving is lining up the slime like he does with his PJ masks cars.



He's been playing with the stuff alot this week so its definitely a new favourite activity for him. In fact it's been played with most days since we opened the pack and more often then not its been more than once a day. 

What I like is that it is a great activity for him to do to sit and just have a bit of quiet time.  Blake rarely sits still unless it's for something he is really into. 



I can see that slime is certainly going to be our lives now and I'm sure eventually we will get to the stage where we will end up making our own.

Focusing on Relationships in 2020


When busy with day to day life it can be easy for our relationships to be put on the back burner. Having a child with additional needs makes it harder for us as well especially for Stuart and I to spend time together just the two of us.

 In 2020 I want to improve my relationships not just with Stuart and Blake but also with my other family members and friends here are my ways to do so:

- Disconnect or "Unplug" more
- Be more "Present"
- Call family more often 
- Reach out to family and friends I don't speak to often
- Meet new people
- Make time for dates with Stuart 
- Establish family nights 
- Have mum and son time
- Get to know our neighbours better
- Make new friends 
- Go out to groups and meet new people
- Arrange time with an old friend whenever I'm in the area
- More time with my mum and sister one to one when visiting