Britmums Live Butterflies?

Blogging conferences, for those who don’t blog, or who haven’t had the pleasure,  are ever so slightly nerve racking.  Suddenly that world in your computer is real and 3 dimensional. You meet people for the first time whilst knowing their life history, but you’re unable to remember their first name. It’s a chance to promote your blog yet if anyone asks you what it’s about or why you started it, you pause like a rabbit in the headlights and say something like ‘Goodness me is that the time?’

If you have even the slightest flutter of Britmums Live Butterflies, don’t fear.  Something rather lovely is planning its first solo flight at Britmums Live this Summer, look!

More on the butterfly project here

Edited by me.

Video Shortlist

Luminarium, Wheee! and #blogitforbabies Nottingham

I can’t wait to welcome Mamasaurus to Nottingham on her #BlogitforBabies tour, we’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity for her to join a team of East Midlands bloggers at Lakeside Arts, Nottingham, as we construct one of the 12 giant windows in Architects of Air‘s next Luminarium EXXOPOLIS.

For those who haven’t set foot in a Luminarium before, they are beautiful exploratory inflatable sculptures which tour the world, here’s my sneak preview of EXXOPOLIS.

Here’s me, Becky, from Baby Budgeting and Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary in front of an example of the kind of window we’ll be making happen.

As we prepare something totally huge for the Wheee! Children’s festival it seems fitting that we raise some funds for children in poverty. We’re giving our time to stick and glue this huge window that thousands of children and their grown ups around the world will enjoy, and we’re hoping in return our lovely readers might text donate a pound to Mammasaurus’s Just Giving page and/or retweet and share our exploits on the day. Text XVRL71 £1 to 70070,

Penny, a section of window and EXXOPOLIS

It’s going to be a great opportunity to network with some fabulous East Midlands based bloggers (Alexander Residence, Ana Mum Diary, Baby Budgeting, Hello its Gemma, Rosie Scribble, A Mummy Too, Love Chic Living, Mini Break Mummy, My Gorgeous Boys to name a few) You can also find out more about Lakeside Arts, Whee! and Architects of Air and it sounds like the BBC are popping in. There’s always room for more bloggers on the team, contact Penny.

Our work will have it’s world premiere in Nottingham at the Wheee! Children’s theatre and dance festival from 2-9th June. Wheee! culminates in a family weekend on the 9 and 10 June, with free craft, art, spontaneous performance and fun in the parkland around the arts centre, plus even more shows to choose from. Book shows now, the weekend attracted over 4,000 visitors last year.

Your Online Shopping – Give as you Live

Give as you Live

Did you know you can give to charity as you shop online at no extra cost to you?  When I heard about Give as You Live I was totally, utterly bowled over by the genius and simplicity of the concept.  There are untapped billions out there and I am on a mission to claim them back for charity, are you with me?

We all have the best intentions about giving to charity, but finding the money can be tricky. Estimates suggest charity giving is down 50%.  It’s not surprising, in these uncertain times. When people’s circumstances change, donations and direct debits to charity are often one of the first things to go. I posted recently about the creative accountancy that was required to enable our family to sponsor a child through Action Aid.

We sponsor Luqman and his community in a Pakistani village through the Action Aid sponsorship programme. Having a connection to someone far away who needs our help has changed me. I have a photo, beautiful drawings and accounts of life in a village in Pakistan from 7 year old Luqman. Luqman’s letters make me so determined to sort out these billions that we are spending without giving as we live.

So how do you do it?  Simple.  Sign up for Give as you Live here.  It’s a nifty piece of software that prompts you to Give as you Live whenever you shop online.  So instead of the profits from the fee that’s added to all online transactions lining someone else’s pockets, it goes to charity. So simple.

You’ll find over 2000 online retailers on there and you can pick from any charity you like to donate to. I’m on a mission to help more children like Luqman through Action Aid, but you can support any charity you like, and you can even change your charity with each shop.

So what you waiting for?  I was just waiting for it be available on Google Chrome, and now it is hurrah! Every time I browse a participating retailer’s site, up pops Give as you live. So easy. Please help me. Let’s make billions.

Here’s what my internet Browser looks like each time I shop online, you can see it tells me Give as you Live is ON and that I am currently supporting Action Aid. Clever eh?

If you go to my Ambassador page and sign up we can track what we all donate collectively. You can choose your charity or help mine. As you can see from my total, I am starting today, I’ve downloaded the software and I’m ready to give as you live. Please join me and do check out #mums4good on Twitter.

Here’s a video that makes it all very clear:

And here’s to happier shopping.

Who are you going to give as you live for? Here’s my last letter from Luqman, I love that his favourite thing is sheep.  I’m going to ask him all about them in my letter.

Proud supporter of Brit Mums for good!

I’m a Give as you Live ambassador and this is a sponsored post in conjunction with Britmums and Give as you Live for #Mums4good.

The Ansaphone Message. Memory Book/Little Legacy

For weeks our ansaphone has been full, but there’s good reason why I let it get like this. Last night I finally deleted all the messages.  All except one. The one where my Mum called the night before she was coming to visit.  ‘If I need anything just call’ she says.  I listened to it again twice last night and wished so hard I could call, or that she was coming tomorrow.

Every time I drive past Wollaton Park in Nottingham I remember how she would call as she drove past it to let us know she and Dad were 10 minutes away.

Reminds me of an amazing poem, Long Distance II by Tony Harrison.

I love how he nails that idea of feeling connected and disconnected in equal measure.

Just a note to say I plan to do Memory Book on the last Thursday of the month now instead of weekly.  There’s so much going on in my life right now and I want the writing I do for it to be something really special. I will put a little legacy up from time to time.


Tips to enhance your creativity

What’s the difference between a creative person and a non creative person? The answer is nothing. Well, okay, there might be one or two habits people who are labelled ‘creative’ have developed that make them successful. Let me spill the beans.

I went to a creativity event in Nottingham a few months back where creatives ranging from architects to authors and from fashion designers to web designers shared their road to creativity.  Here are some of the top tips I collected on enhancing your creativity:

1.  Record your ideas, whether it be by dictaphone, notebook, sketch pad or phone, whatever you do, get them down as they occur to you.  You will forget them otherwise, no matter how brilliantly they seem to burn at the time.

2.  Use social media as a sounding board.  Simeon Hartwig, the designer behind Bantam clothes uses social media to check out responses to new ideas.  Just like bloggers often use Twitter or facebook to pose questions.

3.  Say No.  Focus on the projects that really excite you.

4.  Spend a few minutes in nature every day. Sounds corny, but my best ideas come the minute I step out of my front door after a morning sitting stuck at my desk.

5. Nurture your inner child and learn from children, who aren’t afraid to write, draw, improvise and invent freely.  Visualising your ideas is powerful.  Ricky from Livescribes, who help people and businesses do just that, got us drawing each other.

I accidentally gave my friends beards. So I scribbled them out.  How did drawing get so icky as a grown up?

6.  Problem solve.  Creativity isn’t an ability, talent or gift, creativity is finding the solutions to the obstacles in your path.

7.  Places can spark your creativity.  Author Nicola Monaghan uses the example of moving back to her hometown of Nottingham as the catalyst for her career as a writer.  But, you don’t have to move, just visit, or revisit.

8.  Say Yes.  Don’t be afraid to try something, to ‘drive in the dark’.  You don’t always need to know where you are going.

9.  Don’t be afraid of limited resources.  Hartwig’s best design came the day he forgot his materials and was forced to improvise with the I heart NY t shirt off his back.  He graffiitised it to say I heart Notts and it sold, lots.

10.  It helps to surround yourself with other people who are open to creative journeys.

Good Luck, enjoy the journey.  And why not check out these creative tips from Filmmaker and Honestmum Vicki.

Picture credit – © Fabricio Simeoni De Sousa |

Narrowboat Wife – Guest Posts on Time Management

I’m really thrilled to welcome back Peggy, who blogs at The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife, for a second guest post.  Since we last posted Peggy has set up her own business as a freelance writer, blogger and virtual assistant, working from her boat.  I also got to meet her at Blogcamp UK and she’s ace!  I totally covet her office, look:

I can see this developing in to a slot where lots of you creative types share pictures of your desk and guest post….shout if you fancy posting!  I know lots of my readers love to gain tips on getting more organised and time management, so over to Peggy…

You don’t tell time: time tells you.

– Chumbawumba ‘Timebomb’. 1993

I feel that my biggest challenge as a mumpreneur is time management. However, I recently read ‘Your Best Year Yet!’ By Jinny Ditzler. Jinny points out that “Time is unmanageable. No matter what you do or how well organised you get, the hands of the clock go round and round. What you can do, however, is learn to manage yourself.”

I am really into making lists. I have a notebook with different lists for different parts of my life:

A ‘To Do’ list for each client, a ‘To Do’ list for each blog and a ‘To Do’ list for home stuff, like ‘clean kitchen cupboards’! Then I have a personal ‘To Do’ list for everything else. That one is really random and goes something like: Do tax return, phone dentist, enter poetry competition, get a picture of Angelina Ballerina for my daughter and put more diesel in to the boat engine!

A good way to get a list off to a flying start is to make it something like this;

1) Something quick and easy.

2) Something you’ll enjoy.

3) Something you’ve already done.

4) The thing you’re dreading.

My second tip is to have a routine or a schedule and do the same things at the same times each week. I need to become more aware of things that sap my time and distract me: like social networking or reading random articles on line. Working at home it’s too easy to swap roles and flit from the computer to the dishes to the laundry. So staying focussed is another goal that I’m working on right now!

As I began this article that line from an old Chumbawumba song popped into my head. I asked Google to find out for me where the sample had come from and when Google didn’t know I went on Facebook and asked my music expert friend. He said,

“Doesn’t one of the band say it?”

It started a whole Facebook discussion and there I was sucked into social media again.

How did you land on this blog article? Where will you surf to next? Are you distracted or focussed?

Do you tell time or does time tell you?

About Peggy, by Peggy:

Peggy is a time management expert – just kidding! Peggy is a freelance writer, blogger

and virtual assistant. She’s also a mum of two, a daydreamer and lives on a narrowboat.

She blogs at Peggy Melmouth and The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife

Residence Recommends – A great hotel for kids Crowne Plaza Birmingham

Sometimes something makes such a good impression that you want to sing about it on your blog without being asked to. Last Saturday we decided at the last minute to join Mr A, who was working at The Gadget Show Live, and staying at the Crowne Plaza hotel Birmingham.

I love hotels, when I was a student I worked as a chambermaid in two pretty famous five star hotels. Working backstage should have burst the bubble, but if anything, like working in theatre, it makes me appreciate the show that’s put on even more.

I thought being stuck in a hotel room, in a city I didn’t know with two small children might be a very bad plan. I was proved very wrong. Hotels and kids are great for lots of reasons.

Hotels mean wheely suitcases.

Hotels mean pretending to be super important

Hotels mean raiding the toiletries and minibar (I loved the This Works… complimentary pillow spray and temple rub).

Hotels mean watching telly in bed

Oh and pillow fights, followed by snuggling up as a family to watch a good movie.

I needn’t have worried about being on my own lots with the kids. The staff bent over backwards to help. Four times in 24 hours the Front of House Manager asked me if I needed any help with my children.  I wondered if perhaps he had mixed me up with a celebrity, or if I had parent blogger tattooed to my head.  But no.

He told L and G all about his rabbit called Charlie, suggested things to do, suggested he booked us in before the rush in the restaurant, even had a special word with the chef and got him to make the kids pancakes for their (free) and already eye-poppingly-exciting breakfast, then offered to organise a mini bus to save us walking to the Gadget Show. All this on their busiest day in 5 years.

Love it when something unexpected turns into something magical.  I think I really needed to get away too.


Scrapstores…craft that keeps on giving.

I have made the most amazing craft discovery.  If like me you like you love craft that’s child centred and all about letting their imaginations run totally wild, without costing the earth, then you’re going to love this.

Scrapstores are amazing places across the UK, they take unwanted materials and offcuts from industry for schools, organisations and families to use in craft activities. I’ll put some details about how to find your nearest one below.

At our last visit to Nottingham Contemporary we joined up for the special half price offer of £5 a year, so now for the bargain price of £2 can take home a bag full of scrap materials each visit. We took home a bag filled with: some giant tubes, shiny card, ribbon, foil ribbon, stickers, cardmaking decorations, pink bubble wrap and peach fabric. Here’s what Mr G and I made:

And here is the play that came out of it.  I think this is an awesome outcome out of freeform, unplanned craft activity, easily a morning’s entertainment:

He really enjoyed the film making part too which as a teacher I always found, if children are in the right mood, really give status to their creative endeavours and raise confidence.

So Scrapstores…what an amazing way to recycle whilst cheaply funding and inspiring your children’s creativity.   I can’t wait to visit the actual scrapstore, as it sounds like an Aladdin’s cave of crafty stuff and the stall was just a taster of what’s on offer.

Check the Scrapstore UK website to find your nearest.

Austin Powers Baby

I hope the lovely Maria at Very Busy Mama forgives my tongue in cheek entry to this week’s Trendy Toddler Tuesday. A little and rather random homage to Austin Powers. The result of trashing his clothes and having to borrow some flared cords from the nursery spares box.

Neon shades- local toyshop

Space mission T shirt – hand me down

Red cords – nursery spares

Trainers – Clarks

For more info, click Maria’s badge:

We built this city

We took part in a fantastic family workshop at Nottingham Contemporary last weekend.  It was based on the end of an art exhibition I managed to sneak a quick look at, and summarised, despite an unwilling-to-stop-and-let-mummy-read-daughter, that it was about architecture, boundaries and maps.

Decolonizing Architecture/Art Residency (DAAR) is an art and architecture collective set up by Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hilal and Eyal Weizman, based in Palestine. Their work is a critical examination of the role played by architecture in the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

So in the workshop we had to start by throwing a roll of coloured crepe paper across the giant white paper space to mark our territory.  Then we began to build little houses, bridges, roads and railways from boxes, tape, and crayons. G built a skyscraper and L a little rosebud cottage.

There was a Zebra who made a little house too, he caused much excitement with our kids. I know, this post is getting more and more surreal.

Mr A, normally found orchestrating virtual online game spaces, was very at home with this concept and quickly set to work building roads and town planning.

As we left to try out the kid’s tapas menu at La Tasca we were able to look down on our creation from above, our settlement and road is to the right of the top of Mr G’s hat brim. A real sense of achievement for the whole family.

Nottingham Playworks Scrapstore had a stall at the event and I really enjoyed chatting to them, I can’t wait to blog about scrapstores and kids creativity, a post to follow shortly on that.

A perfect family day out, Nottingham Contemporary have lots of great events for families. I’ll leave you with a bear in a window of La Tasca, can you spot a real live Zebra crossing?


My Mostly Yummy Mummy, Geek is the New Chic and Typecast Zalando makeover

I was quite taken aback by the reaction to my first first foray into fashion blogging.  Well, actually it was more like a shoe audit and a social commentary on women’s shoes, inspired by Caitlin Moran, but it clearly struck a chord with people. This month I have managed to persuade some super stylish bloggers to give me a summer dress makeover.

Since that post, and my no jeans experiment (7 weeks in and still finding long forgotten skirts in the back of my wardrobe) I have become much more interested in style.  I don’t get it right every day, (some weeks not any day).  I still have some great big holes in my wardrobe, but having no jeans has forced me to be more creative, which in turn has made me enjoy clothes more. This week my guest stylists and I have been browsing at the online wardrobe of delights that is Zalando.

Following up the shoe theme, Mostly Yummy Mummy, who knows a lot about being stylish while running round after kids, inspired me to buy some ballet pumps, but being short in the leg and a pear shape, I like something to balance the flat, narrowness of pumps. So these gorgeous green Killah pumps with a flower embellishment are perfect. I also love the inscription inside:

Nicki from Typecast, who claims not be an expert, picked out this Anna Field dress for me, I think she knows a lot more about style than she says she does, because it’s a neat empire line, absolutely perfect for my pear shape.  It’s so refreshing to see clothing designed for real women, it has sleeves, a flattering  v neck, a decent length and it even hides a multitude of sins under the ruching around the tummy area. I’m impressed Nicki, thank you.

One thing I’ve never got round to buying is a Maxi dress, so when Sian of Geek is the New Chic, super fast stylist to the blogging world, offered to pick one out for me, I jumped at the chance.  As you can see from my gravatar/picture in the sidebar, I love stripes.  I think this Serious Sally stripe maxi dress is going to be so wearable, it’s smart and practical when chasing after kids on summer days, but it’s also smart enough for no kid days. Thanks Sian!

And now my style eye is coming back, I picked out a couple of dresses for myself, albeit somewhat above budget.  This Behave Maxi makes me wish there was a wedding on the cards this Summer.

This GANNI Madison dress appeals to the gothic, utilitarian loving girl in me. Smart, lightweight and a bit different.

Anyway, see I’m flitting all over the style shop now, which is probably why my wardrobe is so chaotic.

Anything grab your eye? Which should I buy?

Residence Recommends – La Tasca

Right now my family doesn’t spend enough time together, Mr A works away and I see too much of our four walls.  So an invite to dine at La Tasca, Nottingham and review the new children’s menu went down a treat.  Spain is also very important to Alexander Residence; it was on holiday in Spain that I first began this blog.

On walking through that big red door you are immediately transported somewhere else…

The kids were immediately drawn into quietly colouring their worksheets, the castles, princesses, knights and basic Spanish vocab intrigued them.  The restaurant setting with its barrels, flags, spooky spiral staircase and pirate treasure quickly captured their imaginations too.

The children’s menu is good value at £5.95 for a choice of 3 mini tapas, vegetables, a drink and a pudding.  My two have been raised vegetarian, but recently took a liking to fish fingers. L picked Spanish omlette, fried potatoes and fish fingers, and uber fussy Mr G picked fish fingers, french fries and cheese croquettes, both of which came served with vegetables and fresh peppers.   Meat eaters can also try meatballs, pork ribs, paella, chicken croquettes or spicy sausage.

It was great to see them really tucking in and I really loved that the tapas concept gives children a chance to try new things without wasting a whole plate of food if they don’t like it. Although L wolfed the lot, she loved the omelette and fresh fish.  Even fusspot G tried a bit of everything. I’m vegetarian, I’m not going into detail on fish, but I will say these are freshly made fish fingers and not packet ones.

There wasn’t much left on their plates…But they found room for a child size chocolate brownie and ice cream, and a little bit of Mummy and Daddy’s Churros (Spanish doughnut sticks served with chocolate dipping sauce, strawberries and marshmallows).Mr A and I really enjoyed our food and we could see as our two get a bit bigger they may be up for trying even more of what was on our plates.  There’s something really special about eating tapas as a family.  My mum used to make ‘bits and bobs’ dinners and they were always our favourites with everyone reaching across to pass each other bits and pieces.

There was one moment where I though things might unravel. We asked for tomato ketchup, as did the family dining next to us, only to be told by the smiling Spanish waiter that they don’t have it.  But none of the children on either table batted an eyelid, and even gave the mayo mixed with spicy Spanish tomato sauce a dip. Silly parents, we didn’t need that ketchup safety blanket after all.

Children even get given their own passport to collect stamps in, and after six stamps can collect a free T shirt. L really liked the passpost concept and enjoyed filling hers in and collecting a stamp.  G was most taken with his red balloon. Mr A ate every last grain of his paella, wolfed his chicken wings and some other meaty stuff. And me?  I was just happy to be transported back to holidays in Spain by eating great food with my special people.

Oh and that this time someone finally took a photo of me…

We’ve done French and Italian chains with our kids but we’ll definitely think Spanish and visit La Tasca again. Staff were relaxed, warm and welcoming, the service was good, and speedy.

Residence recommends! Click to check out the menu at La Tasca.

Twitter @LaTascaNotts for Nottingham folk, or @LaTasca.