Monday, 5 March 2018

One Grove...

This post is a little different to my normal posts as there are no kids in sight! Sometimes it's nice to take a little bit of time out to do something for yourself. Whether that time is taken daily, weekly or monthly and for how long, is up to you, but here's something I've done for myself recently.

I've always wanted to try pilates, so when Lucy from One Grove got in touch to invite me 
to see their studios and have a go on one of their reformers, I was really excited. I haven't exactly been a regular at the gym over the last few years, I've chosen to spend my time and money on a couple of other things, but I've always enjoyed exercise and been pretty flexible, so I had high hopes for my session! 

One Grove is a specialist pilates, physio and yoga studio close to the centre of Cheltenham. The studio is tucked away down a quiet side street, close to Waitrose (which has a huge, customer car park, just saying) and it's an oasis of calm, a really beautiful place to go to stretch your stresses away. 

With no monthly commitments, you can just call, go online or pop in to book onto any of their 25+ classes each week, a refreshing change from having to pay by the month, even when you can't make half the classes!

On arrival, I was given a tour of the facilities and a brief rundown about the history and principles of pilates and after filling in a short health form, we got started. Lucy moved me through a diagnostic warm up, during which, she was able to spot my weaker areas and encourage me to focus on these throughout the workout.

Once on the reformer, Lucy clearly demonstrated and explained what she wanted me to do and coached me through the movements, reminding me to focus on specific areas and also to breathe (which sounds odd, but I was concentrating so hard at points that I had in fact forgotten)! After less than half the session, I felt like Lucy knew my body and its capabilities better than I did and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was able to do. I totally switched off from everything else during my session, which is very rare for me as I always have a whole raft of brain tabs open, but I can honestly say that they were all well and truly closed while I was moving through the stretches and exercises Lucy set for me.

If you've ever considered pilates, I urge you to take the leap and give it a try. At One Grove, you will receive a personalised workout, which is tailored to your body. You will never be crammed into a huge impersonal class, so you know your body will always be getting what it deserves and needs from your class or private session. You can plan your workouts based on your free time and budget and the knowledgeable staff are so friendly and welcoming, you will feel right at home from your very first visit.

*Although I was kindly gifted a 1:1 session with Lucy for the purposes of writing a review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Mummy wears... Gym leggings by Primark

Pink Pear Bear

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Cheltenham Rocks...

Cheltenham Rocks, it really does. We were supposed to be moving house when I was pregnant with Ace but after we lost out on our perfect home (twice), we began to discuss looking further afield. Each time we were sent details of (perfectly nice) houses that were just a few miles down the road, my heart sank and the one time we actually drove out to look at one, we didn't even go in, it just wasn't Cheltenham.

There's so much to do here, every day there are parks and soft play to explore, classes to join, pubs and cafes to try and so much more. Obviously I'm fully aware that all these things are available elsewhere, but elsewhere just isn't Cheltenham!

Sometimes however, all these choices can be a little bit overwhelming and you can spend a lot of time researching places, finding out about their opening times, prices and facilities, as well as scouting out any special offers or discounts. This was my life when Honey was little, we tried a LOT of classes and venues, most of which I found by picking up flyers or scouring Facebook. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed discovering these things, but time is precious with a little one and there's never enough of it!

This is where Cheltenham Rocks comes in. Set up and run by local Mum Laura, she and her team collate all the information you could ever need, about what's on in our fabulous town. The user friendly interface makes it easy to find activity listings and local reviews to help you make up your mind about how to spend your precious free time.

Another HUGE timesaver is the kids' party directory. Party venues, entertainment suppliers and packages are rounded up so you can compare party ideas at a glance. The guide includes estimated prices and contact details for each entry, so if you spot something you like, you can get in touch straight away.

Although it is family focussed, Cheltenham Rocks is not just for parents. If you're heading into town for tea and want a great deal or fancy a day at the wine festival, that's all included too. You can also keep up to date with the latest additions to Cheltenham's ever growing bar, cafe and restaurant portfolio! You can even save a Cheltenham Rocks icon on your smartphone for easy, instant access at the touch of a button!

So whether it's new ideas you're looking for, you want be reminded about some old favourites or you run a class or business you think the people of Cheltenham, need to know about, find Cheltenham Rocks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and let them do the hard work for you!

Honey and Ace love... Cheltenham

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

In Sickness and in Health...

When Honey refused cake, then promptly fell asleep on me at a birthday party this weekend, I knew she was really under the weather. It's never nice when children aren't feeling very well, you'd do anything to take their place and stop them feeling rotten but instead you can only provide medicine, sustenance and of course, plenty of cuddles. The thought of being housebound with a poorly little one isn't the most appealing way to spend your day, but with a little bit of planning and lots of positive thinking, it doesn't have to be as bad as you fear!

Be courteous
Don't forget to make the people who need to know, aware of your little one's illness. Whether it's calling work to let them know you can't come in, leaving a message on the school or nursery answerphone or a quick Facebook message to the person who runs that lovely group or class you can no longer make that day. 

Be positive
Yes, it's annoying and sometimes inconvenient for a little one to be poorly but it's something you can't change and they certainly wouldn't choose to be feeling rough so it's best to find a way to come to terms with the situation and get on with things. 

Negative: We have missed what I know would have been an awesome photo shoot with Mouse About Town today.
Positive: We are super lucky to have been photographed by Gill on a number of occasions previously and I know other people who are attending today so I'm looking forward to seeing their beautiful faces in the photos later.

Negative: I missed Melody Mamas yesterday, it's a fab choir for parents, where children come along too.
Positive: Everyone else at choir got a break from my voice ;-) Plus, I decided to film my own version of the song we were due to sing, which was silly but good fun!

Negative: We are going to miss our Matilda Miniature Music class this afternoon. It's a brilliant music class where all the kids (and grown ups) get to play real instruments and sing a mix of original and traditional songs. Oh yes, there's also tea and cake during free play time!
Positive: There's another class tomorrow so we will go then if Honey is back at school and if not, there's always next week!

Be organised
You're at home, possibly unexpectedly, what can you get done? Make a list. Perhaps you need to put a load of washing on, does the dry washing needs removing from the drying rack, or maybe the dishwasher needs unloading. These things don't take long but will instantly make you feel productive and might even spur you on to complete other jobs. On the first day of feeling poorly, Honey sat on our bed and helped me sort out all her and Ace's clothes (well, she fell asleep halfway through, but it's the thought that counts). This led to me preparing bags to take to the charity shop, to pass on to friends and listing some bits on a Facebook selling site. Subsequently we ended the day with more space and a little bit of money towards the next size up.

Be different
Offer things that your children don't often choose to play with or that are kept hidden away under normal circumstances. In our case, board games and jigsaw puzzles are a good place to start and are perfect for a little one who's feeling under the weather, as they can be done slowly and in stages. I also brought down some longer books we have been given for when Honey is a little bit older. We have been sharing some of the stories in stages and holding our place using a home made bookmark (stickers are another great poorly activity). Honey and Ace have also enjoyed playing with a drawer full of cuddly toys that never usually see the light of day, they just needed reminding they were there!

Be outside
Just hear me out on this one! If you've kept a child off school, it's unlikely they're well enough to spend much time outside but that doesn't have to stop the rest of the family. During Honey's most recent bout of illness, Ace wasn't keen on staying inside all day so I bundled him up, opened up the playhouse and sent him off to roam in the garden for a little while. I briefly joined him and spent 20 minutes doing some weeding and sweeping leaves off the (fake) lawn while Honey had a nap on the sofa indoors. The next day, with my to do list in mind, I took advantage of my husband coming home early from a training course and walked into town with Ace to get a few jobs done. Ace and I both enjoyed the fresh air and we were also very productive. Today, there is a slight improvement in Honey's health but there's no way she'd have managed school after not eating for 3 days and barely moving so she's still off. The plan to get outside today, is a walk to the corner shop for some milk and maybe even have a cheeky pit stop at our very local cafe to pick up a cake to bring home for later!

Be naughty
Now, don't go breaking toys or ripping books and blaming me, here's what I mean. Let the rules slide a little. Honey hadn't eaten for two days so when she fancied jelly and ice cream for tea yesterday, that was a step forward in my book. Ace eating a packet of crisps on the sofa (usually a total no go area for food) bought me some time to fold the washing that had been sitting in the tumble drier all morning, so it was worth having to get the hoover out when he'd finished. Honey finished watching a film (usually restricted to one film of an afternoon at the weekend) then immediately asked for another one because her 'body was too poorly to play' why not, and as it turns out, the second film actually sent her off to sleep!

There are so many germs around this winter and if you're looking after a poorly little one, I hope they feel better soon. Roll on Spring!

Ace wears... Coat by Little Buffalo

Just Hannah Jane

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Cotswold Blogger Awards...

Guess what? The short list for The Cotswold Blogger Awards is out and stephloveshoney has been nominated in all four categories! I am so chuffed to be nominated and if you enjoy the blog, I'd love it if you could vote via the link below. This is the link to the 'Feelgood' category, which I'd love to think that my blog fits into nicely! Thank you to everyone who nominated my blog, you are all stars!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Tell me why...

I’m often asked three things about blogging. Why do I blog? Do I make money from it? How do I fit it in?

Why did I start?

I set up my blog while I was pregnant with Honey. At that point, I’d never used Instagram so didn’t follow anyone else’s blog religiously but saw a few posts from big bloggers pop up on Facebook occasionally, so was well aware of the Mum blog concept.

When Honey was born, I used the blog as a way to share photos of the people Honey had met without totally boring all my Facebook friends and I began to write about all the fun activities we started joining in with. I envisaged my blog as a diary for Honey and I to look back on and to use as a stimulus for conversations about ‘when I was a baby’. I was also generously given a LOT of clothes for Honey while I was pregnant and I also bought a fair few, so I thought the blog would be a fun way to record the fun we had putting outfits together for her!

After a few posts, I began to get messages asking which changing bag or buggy I had chosen and wondering if I was pleased with my choice, so I created a new page called Mummy Likes... and wrote mini reviews of my favourite baby equipment. Similarly, when I featured past season clothing and referred to it as preloved or wrote about the second hand bargains we were loving, a few people messaged to ask where I’d got hold of the items so I added Honey shares... to the site.

Since then, I’ve written about lots of our adventures, from days out and holidays to courses and classes we have attended. I generally have a pretty positive outlook on life and strive to maintain that on my blog, there isn’t much I have to rant or moan about and the very few times we’ve had a bad day out or class experience, I’ve felt no motivation to write about it!

Motivation is crucial to me, I never want to feel like I have to blog. I’ve enjoyed the learning curve so far and still have A LOT to learn (I really need to master the mobile view of my blog as unless you click ‘desktop view’ it can get a bit jumbled on a mobile) but that’s part of the fun!

I’ve met some amazing people through blogging. In the early days, it was rare but wonderful to meet people who had read my blog and now thanks to Instagram, it’s not as rare, but still just as wonderful! I love it when people tell me they’ve tried a class or purchased something they’ve seen on my blog and also when people suggest new things for us to try!

Do I make money from it?

In terms of money, I have never been paid for a post but I have been lucky enough to receive some great products which I get to keep in exchange for an honest review. This first happened completely by accident, when a local Mum boss gifted me some of her amazing Nom Nom Kids reusable pouches as a thank you for showing support as she started her business. I’d bought some from a local stockist and had found them really useful so I mentioned them on Twitter (which was brand new to me back then, as i'd only really ever been on Facebook) and shared some of her Facebook posts, as well as purchasing more pouches for pregnant friends! 

Slowly but surely, I discovered more about how to promote my posts so that people (other than my poor family who I emailed all my early posts to) would see them and with that, came an offer to join a review panel. Once I’d completed my first review and had a positive response, I actively sought to join other panels and have had some super opportunities from them. Highlights include being gifted all the paint and equipment to redecorate our stairway, by Valspar, being treated to a take away from Deliveroo and most recently, having a complimentary salon experience at the very swanky Stuart Holmes Salon.

As well as writing for my own blog, over the last year or so, I have also been invited to write posts for other people like the Cotswold Baby and Toddler Show and Cheltenham Maman. This is always an honour and a responsibility as it means someone else rates my ‘voice’ enough to share on their social media channels! 

These days, my Instagram account is as important to me as my blog as it’s a great way to share posts and link up with the brands I review. It has also led us to become brand ambassadors for some wonderful companies, which often involves being gifted products or services in exchange for regular posts in support of the company. I am careful only to apply for ambassador opportunities where we have had positive experiences with the brand and where I can see how I can incorporate them into my blog and Instagram feed.

I was recently approached by an international company asking whether I’d like to collaborate with them on an Instagram post which felt amazing (after I’d worked out that it wasn’t a scam). Getting to choose a beautiful item of clothing for Ace, as a gift from them, was so exciting, but the pressure to get the photo they asked for right was real (hats off to all photographers, I think I’d definitely develop the stress gene if I had your job)!

So while I’m not counting the cash, I have been incredibly fortunate and have been able to try things and provide things for my family that we would not have had if it weren’t for my blog. Having said all that, you definitely can make money from blogging, but just like any other job, it's hard work! If you want to make blogging your job, make sure you're following Pink Pear Bear and Emma and 3, both of whom are super successful, local bloggers who share their advice and experiences regularly and willingly. Emma has even co-written a book called 'Blogging Your Way To Riches' which you should definitely get hold of if you want some tips!

How do I fit it in?

I fit blogging in around everything else. Unless I have a deadline, I rarely blog or use social media on my work days (unless it’s a scheduled post) but on other days, I blog, check out stats, use social media or cull photographs during nap time or after the kids are in bed. Ace is a much earlier riser than Honey so I often prepare posts on my phone while we wait for Honey to get up (CBeebies babysits, in fact right now, Ace is lying in bed next to me watching Bing as I type). 

Will I keep blogging as the children get older? I don’t know! I’ll blog for as long as I enjoy it and have somethings to say! Maybe one day, I’ll take the leap into getting paid but for now I’m having fun and learning lots and that’s all I wished for.

Honey and Mummy wear... Biker jackets by Primark (Mummy) and Zara (Honey)

Monday, 18 December 2017

I'm pretty sure I've finished Christmas shopping now. I have this evening earmarked to finish wrapping everything, apart from the kids presents as my husband and I always do that together on Christmas Eve. Having said that, I do need to check whether I've got enough stocking fillers to, well, fill the stockings! If you still have a few presents to buy, here are my top, last minute picks!

Last minute toy...

Last Christmas, the Fisher Price Beat Bo was a huge hit in this house! It appealed to me because at that point, Ace was crawling, cruising and pushing a walker along and I'd heard that the Beat Bo was great for encouraging independent standing and subsequently walking. Although it was on Ace's Christmas list, at first, it was Honey who loved it most. The brightly coloured robot has dozens of games, songs and tunes to sing and dance along to and you can even record your own song or message for Beat Bo to play back to you. If I'm ever asked to recommend a toy, I usually say this one as it appeals to a wide age range and is really good fun! As I write this, Smyths in Cheltenham have 5 left in stock!

Last minute stocking filler...

Children (and adults) of all ages will appreciate finding some Nom Nom Kids reusable pouches or snack bags in their stocking! Honey and Ace love having yoghurt, smoothies and porridge in their pouches, amongst other things and the possibilities for the snacks bags are endless too. As well as snacks, they're also great for storing leftovers and pre prepared garnishes. Tomorrow is the last day to order to make sure your items arrive before Christmas!

Last minute voucher...

Have you seen the gorgeous handprints gifted to us earlier this year by Babyprints Cheltenham? The print taking process is quick and non invasive for little ones, then the intricate work begins once your print is dry. Victoria turns your print into a work of art and frames it ready for you to collect. Drop Victoria an email or message her via social media and she can arrange a voucher for your loved one so they can pop along for the full Babyprints experience in the new year! It's too late to collect your voucher now, but what a fabulous IOU to be given!

The Camomile Rooms also offer gorgeous gift voucher bundles, we can highly recommend the Indian Head massage, full body massage and reflexology (we totally credit the latter for Ace's prompt arrival) so pop in and see them if you're in town!

Last minute cash in a card...

Why not suggest that your loved one treats themselves in 2018? If you're treating a grown up, we can highly recommend suggesting they spend it on a massage or facial at home with Tasha from The Hideout (read a review I wrote for The Cotswold Baby and Toddler Show earlier this year). If the money is for a little one, perhaps they might like to put it towards a term of their favourite class! We love Miniature Music (you'll be reading more about them on the blog next year) and Tatty Bumpkin (who have a swanky new premises). If you're gifting some money to a new or expectant Mum, send them over to Kito Baby and Vija Design UK so they can put it towards their favourite teething necklace or skin to skin top when these fabulous businesses reopen in the new year!

Good luck and happy shopping! We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and an incredibly Happy New Year!

Honey and Ace wear... Matching Christmas Jumpers by Florence and Fred @ Tesco