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August 2016

We’re brand ambassadors for JJ Jiraffe

When Alice was born one of my friends passed on a lovely bundle of baby clothes which included a brilliant pair of multi-coloured leggings. Alice has worn the leggings continually since we gt them receiving lots of compliments from people in the process. They wash brilliantly and (I think) make her look like a mini rock star. The company who made them are called JJ Jiraffe and so when Vicky who handmakes the clothes started looking for brand ambassadors we jumped at the chance to apply.

Luckily both Theo and Alice were selected and so we’ll be helping Vicky over the coming months by promoting her lovely clothes and sharing a few photos of the kids wearing them. Alice was first to receive her clothes bundle. Inside it was this fabulous rainbow coloured jersey dress…


….Along with some amazing black and white dinosaur leggings. You may have seen the email which circulated on social media recently from a mother who wrote to a store asking why she couldn’t get dinosaur print clothes for her little girl? After that email Vicky decided to create her own dinosaur themed garments for girls and tracked down a lovely monochrome fabric which she now makes into leggings and dresses.


Our third item was a scoop fabric bib. When we started weaning we bought a hard plastic bib from the supermarket which split after a few weeks use, I really didn’t want to buy another and have the same problem again, so I was intrigued to see if JJ Jiraffe’s fabric one would do the job. We took it away on our recent boat holiday in France and it worked brilliantly. The placing of the poppers on the back of the bib keeps the scoop open (far better than the rubber travel ones you can buy) and it can be wiped clean or washed in a machine. It also folds properly flat for travel.


If you are looking for brilliant original children’s clothing and want to support a lovely small business, do pop over to the JJ Jiraffe facebook page and have a browse.

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Our garden in August : Out with one tree, in with another

This month we said goodbye to a large pine tree in our garden. It was a decision I felt torn about right up until the morning that the tree surgeons arrived, but I’m relieved to say we are delighted with the results.

The tree was about 30ft tall and had completely outgrown the spot in the flowerbed where it was planted. The trunk was pressing against our boundary fence and the roots were erupting out of the ground in several spots on the lawn, but the bigger problems were that it stole the light from our patio and shed pine needles in large quantities all year round.

I missed most of the action on the day, but Jim sent me photos and when I came home I was blown away by how the garden had changed.

First a photo of the garden in July, then one of it (in not quite the same spot) this week (it looks a little bare because of our damaged lawn but we’ll come on to that…)


The width of our lawn appears to have doubled, our raised flower bed now gets a significant amount of extra light and lavender which I had been worrying wasn’t getting enough sun now gets 5 hours a day.


Next the stump a jasmine has been struggling to grow in the parched soil and we are expecting it to shoot up with the increased moisture and light and we’ve planted another tree next to where the pine was… I know what you’re thinking, removing one and planting another seems a bit crazy, but the new tree is a minarette apple tree which will grow no higher than the fence and will remain neat and lean…but fruit bearing!

Sweeping up the last batch of pine needles was really satisfying and our patio is now permanently clear of debris for the first time.


Our lawn is still recovering from the effects of treating it with Evergreen 4 in 1 earlier in the month. Several large areas of grass turned black overnight and its been looking it a very sorry state since. From what I have read online this is fairly common and the scorching is most likely a result of us having walked on the treated areas too soon. The consensus seems to be that it’ll be back to normal (or better) within a few weeks…here’s hoping!

The only other news is that we’ve finally had a mini harvest of dwarf green beans from Theo’s pots. Our dwarf cucumbers and tomatoes have not produced, but at least we’ve had one crop. No photos as Theo eats them almost immediately!

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Turning 40 and embracing new challenges

Yesterday I celebrated my 40th birthday. I’m pretty sure this is something I’m supposed to keep quiet about and that I should probably try and fake being in my 30s a bit longer (at least publicly) but I’m happy to move on to another decade and I’m excited what it will hold.


And what is youth really all about? Perhaps staying young is less about beauty creams and more about embracing new trends and if that’s the case, it’s a challenge I’m up for taking on…

On Friday I decided to spend one of the last days of my 30s at what seemed like it might be a youth dominated event. I bought a ticket for Creator Day at Summer In The City, the UK’s largest YouTube convention. If anything feels like its owned by Generation Z and the Millenials it’s the world of online video, but I wasn’t going to let me hold that back from going.

Traveling to Docklands on public transport you could spot the gaggles of teens and twenty-somethings who were attending from a mile off and then there was me on my own, listening to music on my iPhone that was released in a decade that most of the other attendees couldn’t remember (Ian Brown’s album Unfinished Monkey Business…. if you’re asking).

Inside Excel the demographics were far more mixed than I’d expected and the wannabes and the stars in the audience were not as easy to pick as you might have thought. Fellow blogger Sian was in the first session with me and when the speaker asked who earned from advertising and half the audience put their hands up, then she asked her earned from brand collaborations and Sian and I stuck our hands up again, but looked around to see that we were now in the minority and many of the twenty-somethings had their hands on their laps.

I never really thought I’d be any good at youtube, but a curious thing has happened, my views and subscribers on youtube are climbing at a higher rate than they have ever done here and last week I did my first commercial collaboration in video form. I’m hoping it won’t be my last.

So here’s the (nearly) 40 year-old face that often hides behind the camera on this blog appearing in animated form for a whole 3 minutes. It’s not perfect and there is still loads to learn, but it’s an interesting way to start my fifth decade…


One of the things I learned on Friday is that brands are now looking to older creators to make content and the 30 and 40 somethings are in demand. So what do you think? Is it time for Generation X & Y to stake their claim on youtube?

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In search of the perfect capsule wardrobe

One of the things I loved about being pregnant was my capsule maternity wardrobe. Every item of maternity wear I owned got worn and got worn often. Every morning I reached into the wardrobe and plucked something out, I knew it would fit and if I needed a dress for an event, I had a choice of two or three all of which I liked. It’s the same on holiday, restricted by what fits in the suitcase, you wear what you have and life is simpler and choices faster.


I’ve been thinking a lot about capsule wardrobes recently, partly after watching videos of people who have joined the tiny house movement in the States (and slimmed down their possessions accordingly) and partly because of the amazing people who take on the challenge of buying no new clothes for a year. I think we all probably have too many clothes, if you are wearing some, some are in the ironing pile and some are in the wash and you still have a full rail, that’s probably more than you really need, right?

The more I have been thinking about it, the more I have started to realise that buying new clothes isn’t actually about solving a problem of what to wear, it was more about an incessant consumerist tic. Even though I try my best, I literally can’t go for a week without thinking of just one more item I need for my wardrobe or browsing websites to check (usually after an email) that I’m not missing an essential sales bargain. As bloggers we play a small part in fueling this hunger, a few days ago a post popped up on my Facebook timeline about a blogger’s new outfit which I then spent 15 minutes browsing online, when honestly I don’t need any of it… or frankly suit that blogger’s style.

I’m not quite sure where all this thinking is taking me, but in the last two months my more thoughtful approach to clothes has already started to pay dividends. Although I’m quite systematic with clearing out things, a few weeks ago I did a massive clear out of what’s on my rail. Lovely tops which were too short to wear, dresses which just aren’t my style anymore and trousers that looked great on the hanger, but rubbish on me. I’ve listed or donated about 30 items already and bought only three since June. The result is that I’m rediscovering pieces and wearing things I had forgotten and everything seems to go together better.

I’m still not quite at the capsule wardrobe stage (I counted and I reckon I have about 12 summer tops and most capsule wardrobes including this one are around 8 0r 9) but even my moderate wardrobe slim down has been an interesting experience, helping me realise that against all logic, reducing how many items of clothing I have, has actually made me feel like it’s increased the options of things I have to wear and I’m much happier with what I own.

Next year I’ve been thinking about a challenge to take on and part of me is intrigued by the idea of buying no new clothes in 2017 and if not no new clothes, could I manage for instance, just one item a month? Or could I be brave enough to decide on a capsule wardrobe at the beginning of a season and never add to it? The thought is scary and liberating all at once….

PS – Caroline of the Unfancy blog sums up what moving to a capsule wardrobe has done for her brilliantly. “The more I’ve limited my choices in my wardrobe, the happier and more creative I’ve felt. It’s so refreshing to open my closet door and find a clutter-free zone, filled with all I need and nothing I don’t.”

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Home Life Project – August

Home Life Project – August

by Clare Mansell

It’s our eighth month this year documenting our family life and it’s lovely to look back on each month’s collection of images and get a window into what we were doing at that point in the year. This month’s images have a lovely summery feel and also show a developmental change for Alice.

In the last week she has become fixated with the doll we bought Theo as a “toy baby” when she was born. He is somewhat reluctantly sharing it while we await delivery of a second one. The tears in the first photo are because she was momentarily parted from it while we strapped her in to the carrier!

The photos in the cabin are the whole family getting involved in creating some zero waste party bags for Theo’s birthday which I’ll post about at the end of the month…

homelife project augusthomelife_august2homelife_august3homelife_august4homelife_august5homelife_august6homelife_august7homelife_august8homelife_august9homelife_august10homelife_august11_1600homelife_august12homelife_august13

Please share your images from the weekend in the linky below and if you are inspired to take part, but missed the chance this weekend the linky stays live for two weeks and you are welcome to photograph at your own convenience and join in when suits…

Home Life Photography Project

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