For various reasons I'm taking a Blog Break at the moment, however I am still posting to Instagram and Facebook so do pop over and say hello. I am also selling my products in my Folksy Shop, so come and have a nosy.
I can't believe I last posted in March!! Well actually I can as I know I've been neglecting this blog but there is a reason for that.....I have been very busy setting up my own business which fills me both with excitement and trepidation. So after over 10 years working in the field of mental health and specialising in wellbeing in the workplace, when funding cuts hit the charity I was working for and I was made redundant, I wasn't ready to leave this area of work behind so I set up....
Work Smart Work Savvy - The place to come when work gets crazy
Work Smart Work Savvy is the place online for employers and employees to get tips and advice about all things related to wellbeing in the workplace, creating good work life balance and focusing on our general mental wellbeing.
There is also a website which is work in progress at the mo so I can't really share more on that for the time being.
There is a whole host of free information on the blog that I add to several times a week.
Every Friday, one of our readers takes on the 12 Question Coffee Date Challenge answering a set of randomly selected questions from our database in as much or as little detail as they choose....it's a genuine excuse to be nosey!!
Hannah Fox's Diary is the Work Smart Work Savvy weekly soap opera. Each week, Hannah shares her diary and her joys and struggles to achieve perfect work life balance without going crazy. Hannah Fox is a character we have created. She is based on my years of experience working for a national mental health charity supporting people facing stress in the workplace. The names and characters are not based on any one person and any similarities are purely incidental. However, hopefully we can all see a little bit of ourselves in Hannah from time to time!
Wednesday is often seen as the hardest day of the week; we're climbing that proverbial hump back bridge but we haven't quite reached the top of the hump yet to start the run into the weekend. So the Midweek Motivation is that little bit of positivity to help ease the weekly "hump day".
The articles I write come from my experiences, my ongoing interest and research into workplace wellbeing work life balance, conversations I've had and articles and reports I've read which I've felt compelled to comment on.
I am busy beavering away at creating affordable on-line training block workbooks...I know the title needs a bit more work, I haven't settled on a name yet... courses... workbooks... blocks but whatever I decide to call them the concept is the same. Some of these blocks will be one off, one hit sessions and others will run over a four week period. The blocks will be downloadable and available via the Work Smart Work Savvy website meaning that individuals can access the course wherever and whenever they wish and can do it in the comfort of their own home at their own pace.. These workbooks will be provided at a similar price to the price you pay to participate in a physical exercise class such as Body Pump or Pilates. The NHS make recommendations on their website about the number of hours of physical exercise we need to do to keep healthy and I see these training workbooks being an exercise class to look after the wellbeing of our mind which I think we can all overlook at times. Grab a cuppa and pop over for a visit me at what I now call my day job....Work Smart Work Savvy
Oh yes I'm still making and baking in amongst this but I haven't been so good at sharing photos of my creations. I'll try and do a catch up post soon...
Mother's Day (and Father's Day for that matter) tend to be pretty laid back and low key affairs in our house where we just spend time together, being a family and enjoying each others company.
On Saturday we followed Miss E's swimming lesson and Miss M's jazz class with a trip along the M4 to my in-laws to spend the day catching up, visiting the park, browsing a couple of shops in their high street before returning home later with two pyjama wearing very sleepy girls. So Sunday's plan was always to be a bit more chilled out before Monday hits us again!
My lovely colourful card from Miss M.
My card full of hearts from Miss E....and I'm particularly loving being "bootifl"
At Miss E's school I'm involved in organising a really sweet event called the Mother's Day Wrap where we collect donations of unwanted gifts. Then a team of us sorts through all the donations and wrap smaller items together in plastic wrap and ribbons and count the donations as we aim to try and open the event to the whole of Key Stage 2. We wanted to collect 300 gifts this year and just made it. Then on Friday morning, a class at a time the 280 children come into the school hall where the gifts are all laid out, they choose their gift, take it to the wrapping paper section and choose their paper, then move onto the work stations where we help them to wrap their present and write a gift tag. It's such a lovely event watching the the children make their decisions about what their mum would like best! I had to close my eyes when Miss E was choosing her gift for me but one of my mum friends who helped her said she was very definite and made her choice very quickly. She was so excited and could barely wait until Sunday. She loved the hiding the present in her bedroom bit too and so on Sunday morning she proudly presented me with the special present all beaming smiles; a set of beautiful glass butterfly fridge magnets although Miss E was unaware this is what they were! She said she chose them because she likes butterflies and knows I like pretty things...can't fault her reasoning!!
Not strictly Mothers Day but this cup and saucer is so pretty I just had to share it. While Miss M was at her jazz class on Saturday I had half an hour to browse around a Vintage Fair and picked up this little treasure. The colours are gorgeous and it's sitting on my mantle piece at the moment just being admired.
Back to Mother's Day and the rest of the day was spent playing and helping the girls do some baking. Miss M is a very competent baker but the cake she made the other weekend was rather flat and certainly not up to her usual delicious standard....a bit of a baking disaster if we're honest which we're putting down to the the new scales following Miss M's comment that the "grams kept changing to flozzies and ozzies" (fl oz and oz!) So to avoid the disappointment this time, I stayed with her the whole time and she produced an amazingly light coffee cake which is her favourite. Miss E also wanted to bake and although I tried to persuade her to make cheese scones or something similarly savoury which we could enjoy at teatime, she was having none of it and baked some delicious sweet scones. So we had a rather naughty Mothers Day's tea of sweet scones with butter and homemade jam followed by fabulous big slabs of coffee cake!! We did have a few veg sticks and pieces of fruit as a token nod in the direction of healthiness! The girls thought that Mr M and I had completely lost the plot letting them have cake for mains and pudding...but we had such fun giggling naughtily to ourselves!!
While the cakes were cooling I played around arranging and rearranging yarn in preparation for my next hooky project which I've not definitely decided on yet but I'm certainly leaning towards a granny stripe blanket.
I just need to finish the boarder on my ripple blanket first but with it's so much fun choosing colours.
I also find a few minutes to get the sewing out on Mothers Day, namely when the children had gone to bed hence why the photos are a bit dark and make some progress on a project from Mollie Makes 51. I love Mollie Makes magazine but I don't often make any of the projects until now. I just couldn't resist these cute little retro blue birds.
We have a wall in our lounge where we used to hang a row of black and white photos but these have since been moved to the landing wall leaving a clean wall space which I was quite happy with for a while but now I'm thinking it could do with something. I've played with many ideas in my head but was never really convinced with any of them but I believe a string of these little birdies will be just perfect.
In case you're wondering why the birds above only have stubby beaks, well I got a bit carried away and glued the beaks on and then realised that I'd end up sewing over the beaks when I sewed the two felt pieces and light stuffing together....doh!! So the poor little blue birds had to have a beak trim!!
But with beaks back on and lovely Liberty scrap tummies I think they're OK.
I have some bakers twine to attach these to next and might make up a few little pom poms for a bit more colour, we'll see.
If happy little blue birds fly beyond the rainbow, Why, oh why can't I? xxx
I'm making absolutely no excuses about this post, it is pure self indulgence about our few days away over half term in Manchester and Leicestershire.
The main purpose of our trip, as well as having some lovely family time together outside of the normal school and work routine, was to visit Great Grandad Roy in Ashdon Under Lyme. At 95, he's living independently , hugely interested in technology and has an eccentric collection of things in his back bedroom. Although his sight and hearing are not what they used to be he's still revealing new and fascinating stories of his early life abroad.
We did however have to politely refuse his offer of a band saw from the back bedroom this time. Could you imagine me walking into our hotel in Manchester with that tucked under my arm? Best not!
It was a decent trek from Wiltshire to Manchester but armed with our bag of car games we did well. Miss M can't really do anything whilst travelling which doesn't include looking out the window as she can sometimes feel unwell. On previous long journeys I have created paperchains which we've hung in the back of the car and the girls take it in turns to tear off a chain and reveal the task I've written on it. These can be things like "lead the car in a session of car aerobics" or "choose a song for the whole car to sing together" or "how many Mr Men can we all name in 1 minute"....you get the idea. We also have a "pick from the bag" where I have a bag of folded pieces of paper with further tasks, quizzes, activities or discussion questions to keep us going. This time I didn't make the paperchains but we still had all the activities in our "pick from the bag" and amazingly only had three "are we nearly there" before reaching our destination!
Mr M had done us proud by finding us a very central hotel in Manchester so after dropping off our cases we set off for a wander. Miss E was not too keen to come out again after discovering her hotel bed but soon changed her tune when she saw all the Chinese New Year decorations around the city as she'd been learning about this in her reception class. She became our little expert!
We found this huge Chinese Ram lantern in the window of The White Company in Kings Street and took a snap for Miss E to take into school after the hols. I'm only in the photo as Miss E wasn't too keen to stand too close to the ram on her own...and not, you understand, because I wanted to be in the picture to be shown in her class!
We visited a favourite of ours, Tampopo in Albert Square for a delicious East Asian meal. Mr M and I have visited this underground restaurant before on previous pre-children trips to Manchester but it was the first time for Miss M and Miss E and they loved it. Miss E loved her child friendly chop sticks, being underground, the long tables and the noisey social dinning experience.
And so did Miss M. Both practiced before their meals arrived so they were ready to tuck in once their noodle dishes arrived; chicken and veggies for Miss E and chicken, prawns and muscles for Miss M.
The girls were given some lovely colouring and activity sheets as well.
When we left Tampopo we were treated to quite a sight, seeing the Town Hall building lit up in red for the Chinese celebrations.
The following day we set off in our waterproofs for the short walk to MOSI; Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry. Miss E decided to pose outside the main warehouse building, in the rain!
First stop, a quick pit stop at the very lovely Warehouse Cafe at the entrance to MOSI. Can you see the rain outside through the window? Mosi doesn't open till 10 and with two early risers we were up and out way before then. With it being a wet day in the middle of half term at a mainly indoor attraction we knew it was going to be busy so wanted to get an early start to avoid some of the craziness!
A combo of it being wet and chilly and having a not so great hair day, (a stubborn tufty bit insisting on sticking up on top) resulted in me keeping my trusty and oh so cosy bobble hat on!
Now if you are eating whilst reading this blog, of even just having a snack, then please for your own sake, finish your food before scrolling down any further...don't even be tempted to sneak a peep....this post is about to take a turn for the worst and get quite frankly a little bit disgusting....a whole blinking bit gross if I'm completely honest....OK you've been sufficiently warned I think....
Let me introduce the Goo in the Loo workshop which Mr M and Miss M attended at MOSI! At the same time Miss E and I attended a much less icky Pablo Fanque's Circus of Dreams Workshop for the under 8s where we met 3 mill children in Victorian Manchester and used our imagination and some great story telling to turn their dangerous and grim mill jobs into circus performances. Perfectly pitched at this age group and I was having so much fun too I completely forgot to take any photos, sorry. Any way back to the goo where we have several photos I'm afraid!
Basically they were learning about the sewers and water supplies, in a rather messy yet hugely appealing way if you're 9 years old! Enough said!
MOSI is huge but well worth a visit and at a suggested donation of £3 per person, it's amazingly good value too. These photos only capture a teeny tiny snippet of all the things in the 5 buildings they have on the site. After our workshops we joined back together again for the Textile Mill demonstration. Again the delivery by the staff was lively and fun and they were able to get several of the machines actually working explaining not only the cotton process but also the life of those adults and children working in the mills.
This is us having a go at twisting the cotton to make it stronger, obviously on a much smaller scale than the mill machines!.
We did lots more including Miss M doing a timed lap of the velodrome in the Pedal Power exhibition, making discoveries in the hands on Exploration Zone, getting into the cockpit of an aeroplane, seeing steam trains and engines in action and finally ending our visit with a trip down the sewer complete with authentic smells!! Apologies for the rubbish photo but it was getting pretty busy by this point in the afternoon.
And just in case you're wondering, no the rain didn't stop all day and we had to put our PJs on when we got back to the hotel while we dried our clothes! Our stay in Manchester was short but very enjoyable and we'll be back again as there's so much more we want to see and do. The following morning we set off over the Pennine Hills on the Woodhead Pass into Derbyshire. It was brilliant to see the hill tops nestled in the clouds and the piles of snow at the sides of the roads at the higher points of the Peak District. We were heading to my parent's house in Leicestershire and broke our journey at Hardwick Hall. Again I forgot to get my camera out but we enjoyed a lovely lunch in the National Trust restaurant before looking around the house. The only photo I took was Miss E getting to work in the kitchen polishing the shoes, folding napkins and making a rag rug.
Next stop Barrow-upon-Soar in Leicestershire, the village I grew up in. It was my Dad's birthday and the Midlands as it's name suggests makes a pretty central meeting place for us coming from Wiltshire (obviously we normally take a more direct route than going via Manchester) and my sis and her family travelling down from Yorkshire.
On Saturday morning while everyone else was busy doing various things I took the girls for a walk in the village taking in a couple of playgrounds. I forgot to take photos of the first part of our walk and playground number uno but this is along from where the canal meets the river Soar and after a few wet days, the canal was pretty full.
Miss E enjoying the muddy tow path and giving her best smile to send back to Daddy who was back at the house helping Grandad with all things computery!
Nobody was home at this canal boat but there were some lovely potted plants on the roof and at the back of the boat.
Looking back at where we joined the tow path at the lock and can you spot a couple of ducks? A handsome drake and his lady friend decided to escort us along the canal. I'm guessing they were expecting some food but we were unfortunately empty handed.
A quick group selfie to send back to Daddy....cheese!
Our duckie friends didn't give up on us...
...the drake even popped out of the water onto the path at one point, I think to just double check if were really were without treats for them both.
We spotted a field of beautifully woolly alpacas munching on the grass.
...and as much as we tried, we couldn't coax them to come any closer for their photo!
It wasn't the most sunny of days but we still managed to capture a few reflections in the water.
Often you can walk under this bridge along the tow path but not today with the water being so high. As you can see our duckie friends popped out to say goodbye as we headed for playground number two.
We refer to this park as "the cow swings" which was the descriptive name we used when my sis and I were little. We lived very close to the canal and would often walk along the other side of the canal from the walk we've just done, collect acorns and other treasures in our baskets on our way to "the cow swings". The reason we called this playground "the cow swings" was that behind the swings was a field of cows. Obviously that was a long time ago and things change, the new swings are still in the same place (just next to this roundabout) but the cows and field has gone I'm afraid to make way for these canal side houses.
This blue sky picture was taken minutes after the grey skied, slightly rainy one above. Crazy British weather!
In the afternoon we all, us four, Grandma, Grandad, my sis, brother in-law and niece and nephew headed out to Rushcliffe Country Park which has a fabulous sensory play area as well as lake walks, adventure playgrounds, BMX track, exercise park, run routes and skate park to name a few...
We spent a long time having fun in the sensory park. Miss E playing woodpeckers above and Miss M on the metal chimes below.
Miss E make quite a racket on this Celtic Cymbal but the sun came out so we were very happy!
There were lots of puzzels to solve, tasks to complete, things to spot and music to make.
Well done if you managed to get through the whole of this post, it was quite a marathon!