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January 2016

Alice at three months

by Clare Mansell

Hurray for three months! This is where the fun starts and the slightly breakable looking sleepy newborn is replaced by a sturdy interactive baby. Alice is totally living up to the sturdy part of this vision. She’s now 13 lbs and has already managed to rollover twice in the night (and get cross about it too) and can hold her head up and support her weight on her legs. I don’t remember Theo doing the weight-bearing thing at all, so she’s cornered this milestone all for herself.

alice at 3 months

All her growth seems to have gone into length and she’s gone from being around the 50th percentile at birth to the 98th this week. I’m trying to squeeze the last few wears out of her 3-6 month babygrows before we move up a size. I ordered some clothes for her this week in larger sizes and it was total guesswork trying to work out which season it would be by the time she was in 12-18 month clothes. Summer, I hope!

Last week we had her first physio appointment for her Talipes. We’ve been told to continue with exercising her feet at every nappy change and to come back for a check up in another 3 months. If exercises don’t fix it, there are a couple of options including putting her feet and legs in plaster for a few days (eek!) or built up shoes when she starts to walk… but let’s hope we don’t get that far!

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In the last month Alice’s personality has really started to emerge. She is smiling a lot and has great bursts of giggling. She enjoys mimicking sounds and seems to be desperate to talk and get her words across. Theo is convinced she already says recognisable words to him!

She continues to be a good sleeper, but for the last month we’ve been employing the magical powers of a Whisbear which we were given to review. The Whisbear is a cuddly white noise generator with long legs who perches on the sides of a cot. We used a white noise app in the early days with Alice, but of course this tied up an iPad and we also needed to ensure it was regularly charged. The Whisbear is a much more sensible use of resources and switching it on has become a regular part of our bedtime routine. Though Alice was sleeping well already, I have found that the Whisbear definitely gets her to sleep much quicker, within a couple of minutes usually, so we will definitely be using it for the longterm.

whisbear

During the day she spends longer and longer periods happily sitting in a chair watching what is going on, but is unequivocal about her desire to spend most of the rest of the time over someone’s shoulder, usually having a cat nap.

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Adding colour with Joules Homeware

Last month Joules invited us to try out some of their lovely colourful Homeware. I’m already a big fan of Joules and actually bought most of my family’s Christmas presents from their clothes store, so giving their homeware the once over was right up our street. We selected one of their great pet duvets which are not only comfortable, but also look good (kind of important when you have to look at them I think) and unlike our previous dog bed are made of a fabric which doesn’t clog up with hair. We also chose a magnetic notepad and one of their Lobby lobster cushions.

This season the colour palette for Joules homeware is pink, turquoise and navy blue and it lends itself really well to some of the nautical themed items they sell like their lovely lighthouse cushion and lobster mug. You can still find their trademark florals appearing in the range too where they feature as the design on one of the three cake tins.

Here’s my pick of the new range which you can find over on the Joules website.

jouleshomeware

1 – CAKEADOODLE Set of 3 Cake Tins £29.95 / 2 – SHORELY Four pack Coastal Mugs £36.95 /
3 – LIGHTBURY Lighthouse Cushion £24.95
/ 4 – MARYLEBONE Throw £49.95 /
5 – PERENNIAL Set of 6 Pencils £6.95 / 6 – THEA Two pack Tea Towels £12.95

Are you a Joules fan and if so have you got any favourites from the new homeware range which you are eyeing up?

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Living Arrows 4/52 – A haircut!

So just like that, Theo has gone from being terrified of having his hair cut to actually requesting to have it shorter! I’m not entirely sure what happened, but my sister deserves a lot of credit for coaxing him through a cut she did at Christmas time which obviously somehow proved to him he didn’t need to be terrified anymore.

It also probably helps that after being very worried that the girls at school wouldn’t like him with short hair, a new girl in his class has recently declared she wants to marry him (hair length apparently not a deal breaker!)

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The new cut is definitely an improvement on the unstyled mess it had become, but I still miss his surfer boy hair a little and I hope he might humour me by growing it a bit longer over the summer. (Typical huh? I’m never happy!)

It’s worth a reminder of how far this boy has come, not in terms of hair length, but in terms of fear of haircuts. Where once he would scream and cry if the scissors came out, this was his look of indifference on Sunday.

haircutbw

We had tried everything before, but where the iPad seemed not to help when he was three, now it enables him to zone out enough to let my sister get the job done with only the odd irritated flinch when the bits of hair go down the back of his neck – and who doesn’t do that?

Linking up with…

Living Arrows

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Morris Minor Traveller

It’s been six months since we decided to spend nearly all our savings on a 46 year-old Morris Minor Traveller to run as our second car and I thought now would be a good time to write a post about what it’s been like to have her on the road.

Just to remind you of the background to our purchase. Last spring we discovered that a change in my husband’s commute would mean he’d need to take our Volvo Estate to work everyday leaving me without a car during the week. A second car was not an essential purchase for us, but a desirable one. I do the school run every day on foot, what work I do is done at home and we have a train station at the end of the road. However getting to the doctors, post office or visiting friends and family does realistically require a car.

We decided to buy a classic to protect our savings and to keep our running costs low…. oh and maybe, just maybe cause she’s also a lot of fun!

Maggie in the Bosham sunset

Driving

My sister thought I was crazy to consider buying a Morris without any experience of what they were like to drive, but it was probably a good thing as the first couple of times behind the wheel were quite daunting! It was actually rather like learning to drive a car from scratch, but once I cracked it I realised what fun it was.

Maggie has four gears and a top speed of about 55mph. There are things about her that are a little quirky like the fact you can’t change down to first gear until she is completely stationary and that the gears have quite a wide gate, so it’s easy to crunch into third if you change in a hurry. Although she has covered long distances during her life (we know she’s visited Dunbar in Scotland) I personally wouldn’t be in a hurry to take her on a motorway and she is most suited to pottering around on local short runs.

Maintenance & reliability

When we bought her Maggie had been sitting in a garage unused for six months due to her owners death and we were well aware we’d have a few issues to iron out. She ‘failed to proceed’ (how classic car owners refer to a breakdown) just days after we got her, when a retro fitted modern part failed. However what we also discovered was the camaraderie of classic car ownership when a fellow classic owner stopped to help us within minutes, along with two friends of ours and my parents who were traveling behind us. It actually turned into a little social gathering at the roadside!

Since then we’ve had a couple more minor things that have needed fixing and we’ve had to replace the battery, but the total of all of these things is still under £200 and we believe she is now back up to full health and starts first time every time.

faliuretoproceed

Upgrades

One great thing about owning a classic is that you can (if you wish) constantly improve them and Morris Minor parts are still being manufactured and are easily accessible and cheap. The first obvious upgrade was to add seatbelts to the back seats (not a legal requirement on classic cars because of authenticity) they were cheap and quick to fix. Then we added a bleeper on the indicator which gives an audible notification when the (non-cancelling) indicator is on. We also replaced the rear chrome bumpers (we sold the old ones on eBay!) and added heated rear windows and…. heated seats!

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Car seats and children

One of the reasons for writing this blog post is to give families some reassurance about fitting car seats. We have a four year-old and a young baby and can fit both their car seats (a Britax Evolva and a Maxi Cosi baby seat on a easy fix car seat base) in the back without problems. Obviously there are no ISO fixings, but all seats seem to have a seatbelt fitting too and the click in base we bought for the baby seat can be fixed in both ways.

Also unlike in modern cars the front seats in the Morris tip right over so you can stand in the footwell of the backseat quite easily making it more accessible than your conventional two door or hatchback. Our four year-old also loves our Morris and particularly his increased visibility compared to the Volvo.

Untitledtheomaggiebackseat

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The financial side

Our initial purchase was not cheap, you can buy a Traveller for anything from £2000-£12000 and ours was somewhere in the middle. So far Maggie has cost us £88 to insure, £30 for the MOT, £30 for roadside assistance (not yet used) and £170 for repairs and a new battery. Vehicles which are more than 30 years old are road tax exempt because the Government considers them to be “an important part of the nation’s historical heritage” so we do not pay for her. She has held her value and could even appreciate over the years. Over the last few months a huge number of my friends seem to have been landed with huge bills for their modern cars (anything from £700-£1200) and it is a massive relief that we are unlikely to ever face this. The most expensive part of a Morris is the engine and even that would cost less than £1000 to replace.

Unexpected perks

The visibility when you are driving a Traveller is second to none, as unhindered by modern plastic support columns you can see right round you at almost all angles. There is a great community of classic car owners who are willing to help and advise and I love the fact that every time I pass one on the road they wave at you. Also daft as it may sound, since we acquired Maggie I have also been reminded that if you keep a car in the garage it stays looking in great condition!

Unexpected problems

This is a weird one, but as Maggie is garaged all the time, we have found we have a problem with couriers and delivery men assuming we aren’t in because there’s no car in the drive! We haven’t actually missed a delivery, but occasionally they’ve left a parcel on the doorstep and not bothered to knock. Strangely pedestrians also love jumping out in the road in front of classic cars, seemingly because they think we don’t move very fast, what they don’t realise of course is that classics do not have the stopping distances of modern cars!

In conclusion

When we were weighing up our Morris Minor purchase with a modern 4×4, we worked out the modern car would lose about £2000 of its value almost immediately (this was based on the price the garage were selling for versus the price WeBuyAnyCar.com were offering to buy it for) we also faced paying £495 for road tax and about £250 for insurance as well as the MOT and roadside assistance which we have for Maggie. So after six months, opting for a classic has saved us an incredible £2158.50. Unsurprisingly we are more than happy with our decision!

Any questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them

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Living Arrows 3/52 (and the importance of post-processing)

In my Living Arrows post today I want to show you something I don’t often share. It’s a “straight out of camera” (aka SOOC) photo and I think it’s important to share because I believe there is a myth that beautiful photos are always just a camera upgrade away and if only you had that extra £500/£1000 to spend on a camera your pictures would be better too.

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The biggest leap I ever made photographically was realising that a lot of photos are crafted outside the camera. Of course, sometimes when the light is fantastic and you have oodles of time and a willing model you can create something wonderful in camera, but my life isn’t like that!

I’ve got a 4 year-old who gets bored easily, a 2 month old who starts to cry about twenty seconds after the pram stops moving, dogs who get in the way of what I’m trying to shoot, and also as useful as it would be I don’t have a spare hand to carry a reflector with me!

So (deep breath) this is what I started with…

straight out of camera image

ISO 400, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/800

I think a great word to describe this would be “sludgy.” It’s dark, the colours don’t pop and there’s a few distracting elements in it.  My eye is much more sophisticated than my camera and has a higher dynamic range,  so this is not even a fair representation of what I was seeing either. (There’s a myth that the Jpegs from your camera are “true to life” they are not… but that’s another post, for another day)

Although I do 90% of my processing in Lightroom this one needed  a lot of help so I worked in Photoshop. I started with my RAW image, and the firstly I got rid of the dog (which is more of a messy white blob!) over Theo’s left shoulder by using the clone tool. While I was at it I also got rid of the logo on his jacket, some of you may be thinking that’s a lot of effort, but it probably took me 20 seconds at most to do it and it gets rid of distracting parts of the photo. Next I adjusted the photo using Curves. Curves allows you to adjust the light and contrast in an image and I use it on most of my pictures. Then I boosted the saturation a bit and finally I sharpened it.

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments if you found this post useful, if I get a good response I may do some screencast videos so you can see exactly how I edit an image.Living Arrows

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