How to Make Any Dress Work in Winter

I don’t know about you, but I hate the fact that when the weather changes, half of my wardrobe gets consigned to the archives. I’ve got items of clothing that I love and am super comfortable in, so I love to find ways to make them work all year round. I’ve recently been looking at the Esprit website, given the fact that my favourite maternity jeans of all time were made by the brand. I love the fact that the company makes clothes which aren’t seen everywhere, and are both comfortable and stylish.

Anyway, after spending time lusting after a whole bunch of stylish winter dresses from Esprit I thought I’d share with you some tips on how to style dresses so that they last all year.

Shirt Dress

Esprit makes some stunning shirt dresses which are perfect in the summer as they’re made from a lovely crepe material. However, if you want to make them a part of your all-season wardrobe, pairing them with thick tights (exrta points if you opt for bottle green or mustard, which are SO in style this winter!), leather ankles boots and a buttery-soft leather biker jacket will look amazing and keep you warm, too.

Maxi Dresses

Maxi dresses are actually perfect for wearing the the colder weather because you can hide a whole bunch of stuff underneath them! Wear over leggings and a long sleeved t-shirt and then top with a poncho and your boho-chic look goes from summer to winter solstice!

Sequin Dresses

I mean, come on, this one isn’t even difficult. Winter equals Christmas and what’s more festive than sequins?! Sequin dresses are perfect for Christmas parties, and all you need to do is wear flesh coloured tights and a gorgeous pair of platforms to keep your legs warm in the chilly air.

Bodycon

Not gonna lie, I’ve never worn a bodycon dress in my life. Plenty of plus sized women do, and ROCK THEM might I add, but I don’t have the body confidence to do it. I have, however, seen other women wearing bodycon dresses but wearing a different skirt over the top, utilising just the top part. Floaty, metallic pleated skirts are all the rage this season and would look fab over a bodycon dress, also helping to keep you a little warmer!

Evening Dresses

When it comes to formal evening wear, the best thing to do is to think about your layers. You’re not going to want to wear a thermal vest or long johns underneath a beautiful Esprit evening dress, but you can layer OVER one. Faux fur stoles, short jackets and wraps all add an air of luxury to any formal outfit and allow you to stay warm without sacrificing any element of your look.

Do you love wearing your items all year long? Have you got any great tips on making dresses last all year? Please leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

How to Make Your Christmas Cards and Envelopes Extra Special

Christmas cards and envelopesI don’t know about you, but the one part of Christmas that I find a little bit of a boring chore is sending out Christmas cards. It’s not that I don’t want to send messages of good tidings to our nearest and dearest each year – it’s more to do with how boring the cards are. Every year, it’s a conveyor belt of cards with “Dear XXX, From XXX” written inside, shoved into boring envelopes and the whole thing feels like a damp squib. I’ve decided this year that I’m going to make our cards a lot more interesting, and I’m sharing some of the ways with you today:

Ditch the Boring Envelopes

Plain white envelopes might be functional, but they’re hardly inspiring, and blend in with the daily post and bills coming through your door. We’ll be switching things up this year by using gold envelopes from Bestbuyenvelopes  for our cards so that each one looks like a little bit of magic, sitting on the doormat. They’ll definitely stand out from the other boring post!

Use Rubber Stamps

Another thing we like to do is use a rubber stamp and ink pad to put a lovely festive image on the outside of the envelopes. It makes it look so lovely and takes only the tiniest bit of effort. In fact, I highly recommend you get the kids involved with this bit because mine love doing all my stamping for me (disclaimer: I won’t be held responsible if you kids end up bickering over who gets to use the stamp!)

Include a Drawing

Speaking of the kids, one thing that Sausage and BB love to do is draw pictures. They spend a LOT of their free time with a pen or pencil in their hands and love nothing more than creating something for someone they love. Give the kids a pile of paper and ask them to do a Christmas doodle to put in each card. It’ll make a sweet keepsake that people can look back on when the kids are all grown up.

Make More of Your Message

I know it will take a lot longer, but making your message a bit more personal can really improve your cards. Include a joke you think the person will like, or even joy down a happy or funny memory you share so that they’ll have a smile on their face when they read their card. Just a tiny bit of effort can really spread joy at this time of year.

What do you do to make your Christmas cards special? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Why Nitrile Gloves are a Home Essential #GloveIsAllYouNeed

Nitrile GlovesAs you’ll know if you read my blog on the regular, I’m far from a domestic goddess. Housework is not massively high on my list of priorities, however we do like to maintain a good standard of cleanliness even if tidiness isn’t our forte! One thing that I do like to keep a stash of at home to help me with my domestic duties is disposable nitrile gloves – they’re something that I find absolutely essential for so many things, so I thought I’d share a few uses for them with you here:

Oven Cleaning

This is one that I learned the hard way – oven cleaner is VERY caustic and if it gets on your skin can cause blistering and irritation. I once got oven cleaner on my hands and my skin was in a bad way for days afterwards, so now I make a point of never even going near oven cleaner without wearing a good pair of thick nitrile gloves.

Cleaning Up After Pets

Even though we have a long poop-scooper, I always wear a pair of gloves when I’m cleaning up after Maureen, just for an added layer of protection. Animal droppings can cause myriad health problems and ensuring there’s no bacteria transfer is really important. We have also now added two budgies to the family, so gloves are worn when cleaning out their cage.

First Aid

This one, thankfully, is a much ‘fewer and farther between’ use for gloves, but nitrile gloves are so important when doing first aid. As well as ensuring that my hands are sterile when dealing with cuts and scrapes, it gives me an added layer of protection too, as I’m a bit rubbish with blood!

Car Maintenance

Another thing I’ve blogged about in the past is that I try to do as much car maintenance myself as I can. This means that changing batteries and bulbs, filling up oil and water and even changing wheels and spark plugs are all within my remit, and it it MESSY work! I discovered, after too many times of ending up with ground-in grease on my hands, wearing nitrile gloves while doing car stuff protects me from dirt and grease.

Hair Dying

Although I don’t tend to dye my own hair anymore (TOO risky!), Sausage has had pink, blue and purple dip-dyes for the last three years running, and gloves are absolutely essential for this. The ones that come in the box dyes are worse than useless, so I always end up raiding my own stash of gloves instead, so that I don’t end up with multi-coloured hands.

Christmas Traditions Worth Sticking To

I’ve written in the past about how I feel overwhelmed by certain elements of Christmas. Being a mum in the age of social media means that as soon as Halloween is over, I’m bombarded by images of huge piles of presents, questions on groups about where people are going to see Santa and what people are loading their kids’ Christmas Eve boxes with. Each to their own, and all that, but I do find it all a bit excessive at times. When I was a kid, Christmas was a little more minimal but just as enjoyable.

We do, however, have a few Christmas traditions that we stick to and I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

Christmas Dresses from David Grant

New Dresses

The girls and I always get a new dress to wear on Christmas day. The key features are that it must be pretty, it must be festive and it must be comfortable! This year, I wanted something special for the girls so I’ve been looking at special occasion dresses for children from David Charles. The designs are stunning and I think Burrito Baby would look so cute in them!

Decorating the Tree

This is something that the girls and I do together every year. We set aside the first Saturday or Sunday of December and get the tree and decorations up. We drink hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows, we put a Christmas music channel on the TV and we get properly in the festive spirit while we adorn the house. It’s one of my favourite parts of the Christmas season.

Films

There are certain films that we watch as a family every year – Elf, Home Alone, Gremlins and The Polar Express, to name but a few. Then, on Christmas Eve, Husband and I watch It’s a Wonderful Life once the kids are asleep and share a few hours of peace before bed.

Wrapping

Speaking of wrapping, ours has become a bit of a regular event. I’m a bit of a control freak and love doing all the wrapping myself, so we usually compromise by enjoying a mulled wine while I’m doing it, with Husband delivering me festive treats like stollen and mince pies while I work. It may sound silly, but it’s something I really look forward to.

Boxing Day

Christmas Eve and Day are usually the time we spend with family, but Boxing Day is spent at home, eating junk (we usually buy party food from Waitrose to pick at throughout the day), watching movies and letting the kids play with their toys. Its great to have some downtime after two busy days and I think it’s something we definitely need, as a family.

Get The House In Order Before Christmas

Get The House In Order Before ChristmasIt’s that time of year when our thoughts are filled with festive plans; where we’re going for Christmas dinner, what’s happening on Boxing Day, who will we see the New Year in with? If you’re someone who likes to host, you may also be thinking about getting your house into shape before the masses descend upon you for eating, drinking and general merriment. But what can you do to spruce the place up without spending a fortune? Here are some ideas:

Flooring

It doesn’t matter how perfect your paintwork is, if your flooring is worn or dated it can ruin the whole look of a house. One of the most economical and hardwearing ways to improve things is by putting down some laminate flooring. It won’t cost a fortune, it will last for decades and you won’t have to worry about someone spilling a glass of Christmas mulled wine on it (which you KNOW will happen if you put a new carpet down instead!)

De-Cluttering

Another thing which can massively improve the look of a house is de-cluttering. If you get rid of stuff you don’t want and keep surfaces as clear as possible, it can even make your rooms look bigger and improve your health because of the reduction in collected dust. If you sell anything of value, you could even make yourself a few quid in the process!

Woodwork

Sprucing up things like skirting boards and dado rails can give the room a much fresher look, and sometimes they simply need a wipe down with a wet cloth or Magic Sponge to get them looking nice again. Look at the bottoms of doors and the areas around handles which can often get grubby over time, especially if you’ve got kids or pets.

Sofas and Cushions

If your sofa cushion covers and throw cushion covers are washable, taking time to stick them through a wash cycle will have two positive benefits – as well as looking cleaner, they’ll smell nice too, which can make your whole living room smell nicer. If they’re compatible with fabric softener, opt for one of the strong smelling concentrated ones for maximum effect.

Carpet Cleaning

If you don’t have the option of ripping up your carpets and laying laminate (if you live in a rented property, for instance), hiring a carpet cleaner is a good alternative. It won’t cost much and will revive the carpets, leaving them looking cleaner and smelling much fresher. You can get spot stain removers and even anti-pet smell solutions which can get your carpet looking and smelling as good as new.

Unlocking Netflix Content From Across the Globe

Unlocking Netflix with a VPNPhoto by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Despite the fact that we have a Sky box, I would guess that at least 75% of what gets watched in our house is through on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. The kids love being able to watch what they want, when they want (although that’s usually a strict rotation of Full House, Sam and Cat and Victorious!) and Husband and I get really tired of the usual ‘flicking through Sky before announcing there’s nothing on’ routine that we get sucked into almost every evening.

However, despite the fact that Netflix adds a lot of new content all the time, we’re starting to get to a point where we feel like we’re exhausting all of the films and shows that are available to us. There’s no doubt that Netflix still offers great value for money – as of 2016, statistics showed that the average user pays around $0.20 per hour of viewing and managed to avoid a massive 160 hours of adverts per year by watching on-demand. But, hey, we’re greedy and want more from the service!

We recently discovered that if you watch Netflix through a VPN, you can access WAAAY more content – if you don’t know what a VPN is, it’s an app that you can utilise on your phone, computer or pretty much anything that connects to the internet to secure your internet connection through another server.

When you connect to a server, you can connect to most places in the world (depending on the VPN provider) so your IP Address will appear as if you are in that location. What’s great about this is that in doing this you can access content from that country – so say you’re based in the UK, you can access US Netflix – which has almost double the content the UK Netflix has!

The best part is, a VPN doesn’t have to be pricey, with some just costing a couple of dollars per month, which means that you’ll still be paying very little for absolutely loads more content than you’d usually be able to access.

With estimates that Netflix will spend a mind-boggling $13 BILLION on content this year alone, it’s well worth using a VPN to allow yourself to get access to as much of this content as possible, especially if foreign film and TV is your thing! Husband and I are big fans of Scandinavian crime dramas, of which there seems to be very few on UK Netflix, but unlocking our subscription with a VPN would allow us to enjoy more of what we like.

According to The Motley Fool “The results speak for themselves. Netflix added over 26 million subscribers in the trailing 12 months ending in March, nearly 6 million of those in the “saturated” U.S. market. As long as Netflix continues to add subscribers at that kind of pace, the content spending is working. At some point, the company will hit an equilibrium where increased spending doesn’t result in a meaningful increase in subscribers, but that day still seems far away.”

Caribbean Flavours at Turtle Bay

When we first found out that we were going to be reviewing Turtle Bay, my first thought was how happy Husband would be as he’s a HUGE fan of Caribbean food. My second thought was “will the kids cope with the spice?”. It has to be said, my kids aren’t total chilli wusses, BB has been asking for sriracha on her food since she was about 2 and Sausage copes with things like hot wings, so I figured we’d just see how they fared – besides, there was a kids menu to choose from.

Turtle Bay Collage

The Turtle Bay we visited was in Chelmsford, just outside the High Chelmer Shopping Centre and in a nice location with an outdoor seating area. The first thing you notice about Turtle Bay is just how vibrant and beautifully styled the whole place is. From the bright colours that scream Jamaica to the wall of guitar amps and the reggae playing in the background, the restaurant felt themed in a way that managed to avoid the pantomime-y feel of other themed restaurants.

We did the usual ‘sit down, peruse the menu, give our drinks order’ and were informed that cocktails were currently 2 for 1, so mine and Sausage’s virgin cocktail orders meant we’d be brought two drinks each – quite a bonus and one to remember next time we’re out for dinner and I’m not driving!

While we were waiting for our food, we were given colouring stuff for the girls, but also a Connect4 game, which made the time between ordering our food and it arriving pass really quickly. Not only did we love the fact that the kids were catered for, we loved the implication that this wasn’t a place where kids had to be seen and not heard, that they were allowed to have fun and be kids.

BB ate from the kids menu, and her main arrived at the same time as our starters, which worked well as she’s a SLOOOOW eater! Serving it this way meant that by the time we’d eaten our starter and mains, she was just about finished too.

Caribbean Flavour at Turtle Bay

In terms of the food, here’s what we ordered:

 I’m not going to bore you with a description of every single morsel of food that we ate (ALTHOUGH, the prawns I had for my starter were TO DIE FOR, and I said to husband that I could quite happily have eaten it ten times over), but every single one of us loved all of our dishes. The jerk chicken and ribs were SO beautifully seasoned and spiced, not so much that it blew your head off, but just enough to make you feel warm down to your flip flops. Husband’s curry goat and my ribs were so tender, the meat melted in your mouth and all of the desserts were perfect and sweet, after such a savoury meal.

The meal was, in fact, such a resounding success, that the whole family declared it the best place we’ve ever reviewed, and we’ve been to a LOT of restaurants in the last eight years! Unless you’ve got kids who are exceptionally fussy with what they eat, please don’t think you can’t eat as a family at Turtle Bay because there are plenty of dishes which cater for those with more delicate taste buds, and everyone else gets to enjoy the deep flavour of Jerk wonderfulness!

It would also be an amazing place for dinner and drinks with friends (not least of all because the cocktails are 2-for-1!), and the decor and atmosphere would really lend itself to relaxation and socialising. All in all (for three starters, three mains, a kids meal, four desserts, four virgin cocktails, two pints of Red Stripe and a soft drink) our meal would have cost £82.60, which I think is excellent value.

As we were leaving, the manager mentioned to us that a new Turtle Bay is going to be opening in Southend, which is even closer to us, and all I can say is, I really  hope he’s correct!

Post contains affiliate link.

Learning from the Successful: 5 Weight Loss Tips from Women Who Have Managed to Shed More Than 100 Pounds

Photo by Justyn Warner on Unsplash

Losing weight can be hard, a lot of people struggle with it. But the good news is, it’s not impossible; not even remotely. Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration to see the light that awaits you at the end of the tunnel. So, we did a bit of digging to find out what successful people do to shed off that much weight and decided to share five of the tips we learnt.

  1. Set a goal and break it down into small milestones

Weight loss is a journey towards one big goal. But you don’t want to bite it whole as one big morsel. Instead, it helps to break it down into several, small, easily attainable milestones to motivate you with each completion. Skip the elevator, for instance, on your way to the office today, then make it a routine to use the stairs for the rest of the week. Once this milestone is complete, you’ll have gained some good knee power to hit the treadmill, get into jogging every morning, and more. Frequency and consistency, and not intensity is what yields progress.

  1. Make physical exercise part of your life

Cardio exercises can be such a quick way to burn fat. Lifting weights at the gym (or even at home) with the help of a trainer will help you not only lose fat but also build the power to work out more and shape up into the look you desire.

Make it gradual and fun. Your workouts can be as simple as taking a 15-30-minute walk during your lunch breaks. Just be sure to do it even on rest days. Taking a hike or yoga class on weekends or holidays should be ideal for women.

  1. Start with one small lifestyle change at a time  

Starting small, one-step-at-a-time, is the order of the success game. Ideally, you want to avoid anything that would set you up for discouragement. It could be about the amount of sugar in your diet that you want to cut, or the sedentary lifestyle that you want to change first. Challenge yourself to replace the soda with water. Success. Take on another challenge: Swap the regular rice with brown rice. Success. Drop the white bread for turkey sandwich made from slices of whole wheat bread with mustard…

  1. Stock only healthy foods at home

When you can see carbs in sight, you’ll want them. And since carbohydrates like pasta are known to create brain-altering cravings, the best way to avoid their temptation is to make sure you won’t be seeing them every time you open the fridge or kitchen cabinet. Just don’t stock foods that you’re trying to avoid.

  1. Eat smaller portions more frequently

Instead of doing three large meals a day, switch to five to six healthier alternatives every day. You could carry stuff like protein bars or nuts with you to eat whenever you want a meal. This can effectively help you avoid the temptation to settle for a quick snack on your way home.

Wrap up

Whether a health scare or preferred piece of clothing is your motivation, you may hit a plateau in your weight loss journey that can feel like all hell breaking loose. Just never give up. Refer back to these tips and keep the effort going – success will come eventually.

Travelling in the U.K. #ExploringCheshire

If there’s one thing that Husband and I have realised this summer it’s that we want to do more stuff as a family all year round. We put so much pressure on ourselves in the holidays to pack in the days out and activities that we’re all a bit burnt out and the holidays seem to disappear in the blink of an eye. We decided that if we did more stuff for the rest of the year, there wouldn’t be a big rush in the 6-week break and we could enjoy it all a bit more.

We’ve vowed to travel more within the UK and see more of our lovely isles, and one place we’d like to go is Cheshire. It’s a great county with so much to offer (and it helps that it’s home to a lot of players from our beloved Liverpool FC!), and the lovely folk at Laurus Homes have made a really interesting infographic to show some of the best parts of the area:

Cheshire

Here are some of the places we’d love to visit:

Blue Planet Aquarium Ellesmere Port

Blue Planet is the largest aquarium in the North West and you can view Europe’s largest collection of sharks through our captivating 71-metre underwater tunnel – you can even swim with them! It’s also home to over 100 living displays and thousands of marine creatures from around the world, so you’re bound to find something fun for the whole family!

Nantwich Jazz, Blues and Music Festival

These days, I’m a bit too much of a lightweight for the intense environments of most music festivals, but one which showcases the best jazz and blues sounds right up my alley!

McArthur Glen Cheshire Oaks

The only thing I love more than shopping is getting a massive bargain and this retail park in Cheshire is a designer outlet, home to shops which give massive discounts off of designer brands!

Where in Cheshire would you love to visit?

5 Great Tips to Organise Your Kid’s Room

kid's roomThe summer vacation is great for your kids but not always so great for their rooms. Being stuck inside all day whining almost always ends in mess and clutter and dealing with this can be even worse when you see the state it’s in. So here are 5 great tips on how to organise your kid’s room without giving up on first sight:

  1. Sort, Store and Simplify

If your kid’s room is lacking in storage, buy some boxes or shelving. You could even ask them to go with you to choose something they like so they’ll be more inclined to help you (see point 4 and this article by Gtech on getting your kids involved with cleaning). Sort through all the mess and divide into subject piles (e.g. one pile for games, one for books, one for clothes, etc.) and then store accordingly.

  1. Make it easier to put away, harder to get out

Shelving is a great way to do this as your kids may not be able to reach the shelf so they won’t be able to take out everything at once. Also consider getting storage solutions that offer padlocks or child-lock technology. This will force your kids to ask you for which toys they want rather than cluttering up their whole room with unused toys and other mess.

  1. Label, label, label

When you’re sorting through the different piles, make sure you store things in boxes or draws that are clearly labelled. Having a colour coordinating system could also work for you (e.g. the red box is for books, the blue for games, the green for dolls and so on). Labelling will also make it much easier for you when it’s time to clear up the mess from around the house or your kid’s room. theartofcleanliness.com has a great post on a closet organiser system to make your kid’s closet much easier to keep tidy; you could label each section of the closet for even clearer organisation.

  1. Bring the child into the process

As I mentioned before, you could ask your child to come with you to choose some storage they like (e.g. boxes with their favourite characters on them) or make cleaning a game. However you decide to bring them into the process, it’s important to get them started in helping you. You could even offer a reward at the end if they’ve done a good job.

  1. Build a maintenance routine

This will help you stay on top of things without the mess getting too hard to control. Set out a weekly cleaning schedule and allocate a day to organising your kid’s room. This is a good habit to get into especially if your child is also getting involved. See this maintenance checklist by Lowe’s Canada for the monthly maintenance you shouldn’t be avoiding.

See more ways to keep your kids busy on mumstheword.me.