Sorry, I’m not PR friendly anymore

I’ve never really liked that phrase, “PR friendly” anyway. It implies there are people who really hate people who work in PR, or are just pretty unfriendly generally. There probably are, actually. Anyway, I don’t hate people who work in PR. I did it once years ago and I found it hard, so I sincerely admire those who succeed in that profession. But I need to announce that my blog is no longer “PR friendly”.

When I first started this blog in July 2016, I was excited about the possibility of receiving products to review and being invited to cool events. And I’ve been very lucky to have had some modest success in that area. In the archives you can read about some cool products we’ve received, and some fantastic days out. I even got paid to write a couple of times. But it’s time to move on.

I’ve got a new job – a new career really. I don’t want to talk about it too much here, as I want to keep my professional life separate from the blog. It’s the sort of job in which collaborating with companies might lead to a conflict of interests for me. So that’s why I’m shutting that aspect of the blog down. But I didn’t want to kill the blog entirely.

This comes at a good time, actually, because I have been wanting to shift focus for a while. I’ve never had a sharp focus for this blog, just talking about life as a mum generally. But I’ve realised that what I like writing about best is how I keep myself vaguely healthy and sane in my crazy life, balancing kids and work and a host of other priorities.

So from now on, I hope to write more sharply focused posts that aim to help you think through the mental and physical health challenges in life, along with finding balance amongst all of your competing priorities. I do not write this from the perspective of someone who has all the answers. Quite the opposite. My blog posts are how I think these issues through for myself, and I hope that my ponderings might just help someone else who faces a similar situation.

You might notice I’ve changed the look of the blog to coincide with my shift in focus. I hope you like it. I can’t guarantee regular posts, as my new job comes with more hours and a LOT of new things to learn. I’m sure that’s going to lead to some new thoughts about how to survive this life of mine. I hope sharing it with you might make some small contribution to the crazy internets or at least offer you a few moments of light reading.

If anyone has ideas of things I should cover under my new theme, or wishes to do a guest post for me, please comment below or get in touch via the contact page.

Mission Mindfulness
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There’s nothing wrong with New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve noticed that New Year’s Resolutions are a bit out of style these days. Some say: don’t make them because you’re going to break them anyway. Years of people making unrealistic goals for themselves and then failing have led to people not bothering at all, even scoffing at the whole notion.

However, I think that taking stock of the past year, and allowing yourself a fresh start, is a good idea. It’s not “new year, new me”. I’m the same me, but I want to set some gentle intentions for things I’d like to do it the year ahead. I also want to let you know about some things that are going to change on this blog.

A year reviewed

As years go, 2017 has not been my favourite one. The worst part of it was saying goodbye to both of my grandparents, who played a major role in my upbringing. It’s the first time close members of my family have died. Learning to live with my grief while continuing to function in daily life was very difficult for me. I developed a full-on anxiety problem, with heart palpitations/panic attacks.

I eventually got mostly rid of it though, and found that exercise and mindfulness are key for me in keeping myself happy and avoiding anxiety. I developed new strategies to fit exercise into my busy lifestyle and have tried new types of exercise too. My big success was completing a 10k race in 1 hour and 16 minutes, having never run so far before in my life.

Another fantastic success of this year was that I got a new job. I had a long notice period to work for my old one, so I’m not starting my new job until later this month. The new job is a complete career change but it is for an amazing and exciting employer, doing important work. I’m going to have a lot to learn and it’s pretty scary, but overall I’m looking forward to it and think it can only be a good thing.

I have loved my current employer, but it had gotten to the stage when I had been there too long and just needed a change. I never thought I’d be able to move on so easily because of my flexible working requirements, so I am so happy I’ve found an amazing new employer who is happy to be flexible.

Back to the downsides, just at the beginning of December I suddenly found a large lump in my breast. I went to the doctor straight away and was referred to a breast clinic. I was expecting them to say it was just a cyst, but instead I ended up with a mammogram, ultrasound and core needle biopsy. I have not yet had my biopsy results. So that is scary. It’s taken me a few weeks to feel normal again after the biopsy, but I’m now determined to just carry on as normal and think positively while I wait for the results.

Intentions for myself

My biggest discovery this year was that exercise really, truly does make me happier. Of course, science supports this and other people told me that for years, but despite exercising on and off for many years, I never believed it made me happier until recently. Perhaps it is my age, but now I feel a noticeable difference in myself when I exercise compared to when I don’t. So my intention is to do as much exercise as I can in the new year.

I have created a little calendar for January with a planned activity for each day. But I am not going to beat myself up if I don’t actually manage to exercise every day…I just going to be happy each time I can cross off another day of my exercise calendar.

Another intention on the health front is simply to eat more vegetables and less sugar. I refuse to cut things out of my diet. I think that’s a recipe for disaster. But when I am not bothered about whether or not I have something unhealthy, I simply won’t have it. And I will not clean my plate unless I want to.

Finally, I am also going to try and think positively and live in the moment. I am a great worrier and explorer of “what-ifs”. But, as my husband repeatedly reminds me, “what-ifs” are rarely useful. I am going to cross bridges when I come to them, and try not to worry which rickety crossings might be miles ahead.

Intentions for this blog

Some of you may (or may not!) have noticed that I haven’t written much on this blog lately. This is mainly a product of being busy and tired, and simply having other priorities. I started this blog for me and I see nothing wrong with using it however it suits me. But, it does make me happy when I write, and so I’m going to aim to write something once a week or so.

I’m going to shift the focus of the blog slightly. I don’t want to change its name because that is too much of a faff, but I’ll probably change the tagline when I have time. I’ve always called this a parenting blog, but that’s not really what it is. It’s more about life as a mum (rather than focusing on the actual children), and about how to look after yourself. I’ll have to think of a way to describe that in a catchy tagline!

So my future posts will unashamedly be about me and how I’m surviving my busy life, only one aspect of which is being a mum.

I’m also going to stop doing product/service reviews and sponsored posts. There will be one more sponsored post coming out this week, and that will be the last one. The main reason for this is that my new job prohibits that sort of moonlighting in my contract. I may still review things that I’ve paid for myself, but I won’t be accepting free products or any money to write posts.

And so…onwards and upwards for 2018! Thank you to anyone who reads my little musings, and I wish you all the best for the year ahead.

What are your resolutions this year, or are you a resolution refuser?

 

Mission Mindfulness

 

Gone fishing for Easter

Just a little note to any subscribers or regular visitors that I haven’t forgotten you. I’m fine and I’m not giving up blogging just yet! I’m just enjoying Easter holidays with my schoolboy who is rather good company these days.

We’ve visited Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire, Coram’s Fields, the British Museum, and Chartwell so far! We’ve also been playing quite a bit of Lego Star Wars on the Nintendo.

I’ll be back from Tuesday onwards with plenty of new stuff, including some posts about our days out and our shiny new National Trust membership. It’s burning a hole in my pocket because I want to be sure I get my money’s worth!

Here are a few photo highlights of the week.

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Have a very happy Easter weekend!

If you don’t try, you can’t fail…?

I’m the sort of person who would rather leave things to fate than really try for something. It’s easier to quietly hope for something than to go out there and really try. If I don’t try in the first place, then I can’t fail! So I am doing something that scares me now.

I’m going to go ahead and ask that if you read this blog, could you – pretty please – drop me a little vote in the #tribalchat awards?

Tribal Chat is this awesome community of bloggers of which I’m a part. We have a Twitter chat once a week and all support each other in a Facebook group and across social media. Three times a year, they do a little award ceremony where people can vote for different bloggers who they think are doing well in particular areas.

I started blogging to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone. Asking for your vote is totally out of that zone!

There are loads of different categories you can write me in for. You can write The Mum Reviews in up to 3 categories, but any more than that and your vote won’t count. I’m happy for you to choose what category you think my blog most fits, but if you want a suggestion, I’d be keen on Rising Star, Kindness or Social Butterfly.

Rising Star because I went from 100 to 2600 Twitter followers in 6 months. I think that’s pretty good going. Kindness because I help other bloggers learn how to do blogging stuff. Social Butterfly because I have a good #tribalchat attendance record and am always up for some wine and a silly GIF.

If you are in the running as well, drop me a comment about what category you’d like me to vote for you in. You see: kindness! 😉

Please CLICK HERE TO VOTE. Remember to vote for me in no more than 3 categories. You don’t have to fill in all the categories if you don’t want to.

THANK YOU! xx

Two Tiny Hands

The Slightly Belated Quiz of the Year

Happy New Year!

By way of easing myself into a new year of blogging, I’m completing this quiz tag post thingy that’s going around. My writing muscles (like all of my other muscles) have gotten a little soft and slack during my lovely Christmas break, so I need to give them a bit of warm up before going full speed.

Perhaps most people did this quiz before the end of last year, but I’m sure it’s still relevant, at the start of a new year, to carry on reflecting about the one that has passed. Thanks to Kelly from Nature Mum Blog for tagging me for this.

What was your highlight of 2016?
We built an extension! Right across the back of our house, we built a new kitchen diner, and converted the old kitchen into a downstairs toilet and utility room. It took 5 months and a lot of money and stress, but it was totally worth it. We had been living with a single room for both living and dining and it was a bit of a cramp for a family of 4 – especially since it’s important to us to eat together round the table. Now we have this wonderful family space and room to entertain guests as well. Look for a full post on this topic sometime soon.

Name one thing you are likely to remember about 2016 if asked in five years time?
Obviously, 2016 was the year when some of our favourite stars from our youths started passing away. It’s been a bit of a thing to be incredulous and to blame 2016 for it’s scourge on celebrities, but I have a feeling it’s just part of getting older in a culture far more media-obsessed than the one our parents grew up in. So we need to get used to this.

Sum up 2016 in one word.
Tumultuous.

Name one pearl of wisdom from 2016 that you will carry through 2017.
Take time to breathe! My life got pretty busy in 2016. My eldest started school, I started this blog, I was working 4 days per week, and the building works were stressful. I also had surgery and some other emotionally and physically stressful things happen. I learned if I don’t take time to practice a bit of mindfulness, then I start to have some serious issues with anxiety. So now I take regular breaks just to breathe. My favourite blogger who keeps me on track with this is Mission: Mindfulness. I’ll be guest posting on her blog soon about my mindfulness journey!

Do you have any new year resolutions?
It’s super-duper beyond cliche but I want to lose some more weight. This year, I lost the baby weight from having my youngest (who is now 2!). Now I want to lose what I like to call the “beer and burritos” weight from my 20s. I have my 20-year high school reunion coming up in July and this is good motivation for me. Obviously I will swan in looking healthy and be able to tell people about my incredibly glamourous life. 😉

How did you see in the new year?
Our neighbours from across the street came round with their kids from 3-6pm for the kids to play while we imbibed cava and spicy chicken wings. Party on down, I know! After the neighbours left, my husband and I put the kids to bed and carried on with the cava and junk food in front of some spectacularly awful TV. Did anyone else see Robbie Williams groping himself live on the BBC?? At least we managed to stay up until midnight.

What would you most like to do in 2017?
Just live normal life and appreciate the little things.

What are your main goals for 2017?

  • Be a fab blogger – with all the right stats – but to keep on keeping it real.
  • Stop looking at my phone when I’m supposed to be playing with my kids.
  • Do something new that scares me – I’m not sure what yet.

I tag Sparkly Mummy and Me, You, Baby Too to take part, if they want to and they don’t reckon it’s too late!

Merry Christmas lovely people!

I just wanted to write a quick note to whoever reads my blog that I’m going to take a little break now until after the new year. Thank you for all who have been reading my stuff and supporting this blog since I started in July. I really appreciate it.

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. Look, I made a card:

Blog Christmas card.jpg

See you on the flip side! (Can’t help it, will always be an 80’s cheeseball child.)

xx Nicole

I like to review stuff

On a recent holiday to the Isle of Wight, I was sat somewhere being bored. I can’t remember exactly what I was doing at the time, but it was probably while waiting for my children to do something. They like to take their time.

And then I started thinking about the holiday itself, and what I liked and disliked about it. I realised I had a lot of opinions and advice based on those opinions. And then I remembered that before I went on holiday I spent quite a lot of time trying to see what opinions other people had about things I was going to do on holiday.

And then I had an epiphany: I actually really, really like to review stuff. I spent some time as the editor of the arts & entertainment section of my university’s newspaper, so I’m not entirely new to reviewing stuff. But since then, my reviews have been confined to chats with my husband and friends, or the occasional TripAdvisor or Facebook review.

So I thought I’d have a go at telling the world my opinions about interesting things I’ve done. A lot of the things I review will be useful for people with young families. But I will also review the grownup things I (very occasionally) do.

I never thought I would be the sort of person to write a blog. But hopefully someone will find it useful. And if not, at least I will have a record of lots of things I’ve done and what I thought about them.

Watch this space for my first two review posts, which will be about our Isle of Wight holiday (which was mostly not boring – when I wasn’t waiting for my children to do stuff).