Finding the right gifts this Christmas

With Christmas fast looming, I’m now entering a panicked stage of purchasing. Rather than wandering shop to shop aimlessly searching and pushing past people I’ve instead opted for pretty much total online shopping.

It’s easier, quicker and let’s face it – less hassle.Merry Christmas

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When a bug isn’t just a bug

I’ve been quiet the last couple of months and for that, I can only apologise. I’ve been a ‘bit’ ill with reoccurring gastroenteritis. Sure, it doesn’t sound pretty but it sounds pretty normal right? Wrong. I’ve lost at least 16lbs, dropping at least a dress size (nearly two) and looking slimmer. I’ve shed pounds as quickly as a tree shedding leaves in autumn.autumn tree

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The day the world took another step backwards

This morning I was watching my daughter while she watched her favourite TV programmes before breakfast. She danced side-to-side and melted my heart by trying to copy the people on TV. Her heart is filled with innocence, joy and kindness. When she sees peril she shouts “oh no!” and everything about her just makes my heart grow one size bigger.

Georgia holding book

But while I was watching her, I was also watching Trump’s winning speech quietly on my phone.

Just like Brexit, this should have been a relatively simple decision, but one that has apparently been squandered. Two decisions that have led the future of the world down a path. A path that we’re going to have to walk and one that my daughter is going to have to grow up with.

The world has spoken and I feel like we’re no longer respecting our voting systems. In a world where X Factor voting allows clown acts to stay in longer than desired, where Christmas songs are heavy rock songs instead of having sleigh bells in the background to ‘beat the system’, we seem to be in a rebellious voting age. One that doesn’t truly respect what voting means or the repercussions of our actions. Sure, a Christmas number 1 doesn’t matter too much, but whether we leave the EU and whether Trump – a reality star – becomes president does matter.

I’m not going to dwell on the negatives for too long. After all – democracy has spoken. We voted to leave the EU. They voted for Trump. More than half the population agree with these views, with the decisions that will be made in the future based on our votes. The people have spoken and we have to respect the system. It doesn’t mean that we have to like it as I disagreed firmly with both of these decisions. For the first time in my life, I’m uncertain about what the future looks like.

For most of the time, decisions such as presidential elections play a very minor role in my every day life. Frankly, I’ve hardly cared before as I don’t live in the US and things generally run in roughly the same direction. Forwards.

But this time, the world has taken one big step back. And then another.

Looking at my daughter having just learnt to dance, I really wonder what the world is going to look like when she’s older. What she’ll think of these stupid decisions. Will they matter? Will much change?

I just don’t know and that scares the crap out of me.

 

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Spreading a bit of Kindness

Kindness. It’s something that everybody has the ability to use, but as an adult it’s probably a personality trait that seldom gets a look in. It’s a sad truth but as we get older, we forget about the small things. We become more self-obsessed by getting the upper hand even if that means treading on other people to get there.COOLABI_CLANGERSforKINDNESS_2016_WEB

We teach our children to be kind, to share, to say please and thank you. We value kindness as a trait that we want to instill in our children, but how often do we do that as an adult? Not often enough is the answer and we often don’t even realise that it’s slipped away from us. Being kind has somehow evolved to be uncool, to be a trait for small children only. But that’s rubbish. We should all be more kind, more positive. A bit like a Clanger 😉

Being kind makes us better, more thoughtful people.

How I’m being more kind

I try to do one act of random kindness a day to try and beat the negativity. I’m not talking about grand gestures, but small things. Like letting somebody out when in a queue of traffic.  Let’s all be honest, we’ve been on both sides of that scenario. You’ll swear at the person that doesn’t let you in (pretending that they don’t see you), yet sometimes nudge up to the person in front of you to make sure somebody doesn’t steal ‘your’ spot. But really? It’s only one spot. It’s not going to make you late to wherever you’re going. What it will do though is make somebody else happy and that’s the point of kindness.

It’s about opening a door when you see somebody behind you instead of being in such a rush to let it slide, or maybe getting up to help someone who is struggling rather than letting them carry on like you’ve not seen them. They’re only small things, but they all matter. Everybody needs a bit of kindness and what goes around comes around.

Clangers for Kindness

I’ve hooked up with the Clangers* to help continue to spread a bit more positivity. They sent me some beautiful books (I know, the delivery charge from the Little Blue Planet must have been astronomical) to review and to have an extra set to giveaway to one of you lucky lot!

To enter, head over to my Instagram page and find the picture of the books – leave a comment to let me know how you’ve been spreading positivity and kindness recently and I’ll pick the best (and most kind!) answer to win on Wednesday 9 November 2016.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Clangers for Kindness campaign, head over to their website www.clangersforkindness.com

Clangers are also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.Clangers giveaway

The prize

The prize for this competition is as follows:

  • Major Clanger’s Soup Machine (hardback thin-board book)
  • Clangers Little Library (four board books)
  • The Brilliant Surprise (I kid you not, I had a tear at the end of this one but I won’t give it away!!) (paperback)
  • Small’s birthday treat (paperback)

These are now firm favourites of my daughter who won’t just accept that we’ll read one… oh no, she has to bring the complete set for us to binge read. The illustrations and stories are all about the kindness of Clangers. The paperback books also don’t have a lot of text which is great for my daughter who has a short attention span for long stories!

*This is a sponsored post

Terms and conditions

  • Only one prize available as noted above
  • To enter, head over to my Instagram account, find the picture of the Clangers books and comment with how you’ve been kind recently
  • One winner will be chosen (UK resident) on Wednesday
  • Winner will be notified by Instagram message and your email address passed onto Clangers to deliver your prize.
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No more point and click – getting started with photography

Owning a camera does not make me a photographer – I have no illusion about that. But what I do want is to learn more about photography.

Let’s face it – most cameras are sophisticated enough nowadays that anybody can use them by pretty much pointing and clicking to get a good image. But I started to want more than this.

I wanted to take beautiful images the way that I saw them and the only way I was going to get there was by learning about photography.

To do that, I started off by buying my ‘tool’. A DSLR to start me off (a Nikon D3300 if you wondered…), but I didn’t have the confidence to move past that auto function which defeated the point of me having one. So I booked onto a photography course.

Georgia holding book

-Georgia holding a book, taken with aperture as a priority to blur the book and focus on her face-
-Nikon D3300 | f/4.5 | 1/400 sec | ISO-3200 –

I booked onto a one day course by a Northampton based company called Wildcard Photography run on a Saturday.

It covered everything from the working parts of a camera to the different settings and how to get past auto. Of course, it didn’t make me an advanced photographer overnight (I’m WAAAYYY off that!), but it did make me appreciate my camera a bit more and know how to start using it properly. It’s starting to help me to capture those moments that mean the most. The small things that would otherwise go unnoticed like the look in her eyes when she’s showing me a book, or when I’m pushing her on the swings.

It’s breathtaking for me to be able to bottle these moments. Moments that are gone within a split second, but when captured by a camera can be admired forever more.

Below I’ve gone through a few settings that can help you move past auto – I hope they’re helpful but I’m by no means an expert.

Holding a sticker

-Georgia holding a sticker with two hands, taken with aperture as a priority to blur everything but the hands –
-Nikon D3300 | f/5.3 | 1/250 sec | ISO-3200 –

Camera settings you should know about

Okay… so I’m going to talk about these with my “GO NIKON” hat on. I don’t talk Canon as I don’t own one, so the buttons will be called different things (apparently they don’t believe in a collaborative world of calling things by the same names…).

So if you’re looking to improve your photography, the first thing you need to do before you even touch your camera is to think about what you want the picture to show – Do you want to show depth of field (blurry background or everything in focus) or how to show motion (blur or stop motion)?

Depth of field? You’ll want to swing the setting on the top to A for aperture. This is best for still objects (or at least still/slow moving people). It’s measured in F/NUMBER as a ratio where the lower the ‘NUMBER’, the smaller the depth of field (and  the more blurry everything else is that you’re not focusing on). The bigger the number under the F (and so the smaller the fraction), the bigger the depth of field meaning that more is in focus.

I tend to like photos with a small depth of field, so I choose an aperture with a large fraction – such as F/5.6, whereas a landscape picture would look great at a smaller fraction, such as F/16.

In this mode, the shutter speed is amended automatically by the camera to suit the aperture you want. Cool huh?

Motion? Swing to setting S for shutter speed. This is great for moving objects… such as toddlers on the run. But how do you want to show that motion? Choose a quick shutter speed to freeze time, or a slow shutter speed to blur everything that’s moving. You know those ‘cars on a motorway’ pictures with the zooming red and white lights? They are made using a slow shutter speed. But, it’s important to know that when you’re holding a camera, you can only hold it till 1/60 seconds shutter speed without needing a tripod. Anything slower and just by breathing you’ll inadvertently blur the image. Not great. So, if you want to make those snazzy pics, use a tripod.

Don’t worry about aperture on this setting – it’ll automatically be amended. Just be warned that in this setting, you’ll need a high sensitivity to light at night or in a dark room else your camera may show it as being too dark to take the picture confidently. But how can you adjust that?

Brightness. Brightness of an image can be dealt with in a number of ways before you take a picture. One is the ISO setting which adjusts the light sensitivity (can be found in the settings). The higher the ISO, the brighter your image will be. I love bright images so I’ll push up  this setting at pretty much every opportunity as it saves me doing it post-edit. Even days with just cloud cover could need an ISO setting of about 3200. You can also amend brightness via exposure compensation, which can double the amount of light hitting the sensor by increasing the number by one ‘stop’.

Georgia on the swings

-On the swings, taken with shutter speed as a priority to account of movement of swing –
-Nikon D3300 | f/11 | 1/200 sec | ISO-1600

Constantly learning

I’m not going to lie – it is all a bit confusing. There are a LOT of numbers and I don’t know everything. I’m still only a beginner.

But, I learnt a LOT in that one day – but it’s just that. One day.

Photography is about more than technically being able to use a camera – it’s about thinking in a different way. Thinking about not just blindly snapping away but thinking about what you really want to show people and how you can show them through taking a picture. The camera is just a tool so when people say “I love your camera”, they really just mean that they love your photography… which is a much nicer compliment!

I’ve not even scratched the surface with what I want to do… so please come and follow me on Instagram to see what new pictures I’m taking 🙂

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What pushchair can fit in my boot?

After struggling to fit my pushchair into my boot for well over a year, I thought it was high time that we try to find one that actually fits. It’s a perfectly good pushchair and I love its big wheels which are great for country walks – it’s just that the bulky frame is not so good for my boot.

Every time I have to lug it into my boot I have to turn it on its side and take off my parcel shelf. After it’s in, there’s not really much room to fit anything else in other than her change bag. I thought my Punto had a fairly standard sized boot – sure, it’s not as big as an estate, but I could comfortably get my weekly shopping in before we had Georgia so didn’t think twice when purchasing a pushchair.

So now I was on a mission to find a pushchair that is smaller and lighter without costing the earth. One that I don’t have to feel like a champion weight lifter to heave up into my boot.

Armadillo City unpacking and assembly

Umbrella fold pushchairs

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BeatBelle Boogie review

Beatbelle BoogieWhen it’s raining outside and I’m stuck inside with a toddler, minutes can feel like hours. I constantly struggle to find things to do that can keep us active inside.

Try as it may, TreeFu Tom just doesn’t quite cut it with his intermittent stretches. So when I was asked to review BeatBelle Boogie by Fisher-Price*, I was up for the challenge.

It’s a new activity toy and sibling of the BeatBo which was named as one of the ‘must have’ Christmas toys in 2015.

I have to admit, I saw the BeatBo last year and was VERY tempted to buy it. I think other toys just won out at the time for a 9 month old as I felt it was a bit too advanced at the time.

But now Georgia is a bit older, I think it’s time that she can really appreciate the BeatBelle.

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