Unless you have a job that involves working outside, chances are you spend a fair bit of your time indoors.

It might be that you spend a lot of your time at home with your baby, or children if you home-school.  Or it might be that your days are mostly spent sitting in front of a computer at the office.

Wherever you spend the bulk of your time, have you ever really thought about how the different buildings we spend our time in affect our mood and sense of wellbeing?

How buildings affect our mood and wellbeing

 

The simple answer is that our mood really is impacted quite a bit by the buildings that we spend our time in.

All sorts of studies have been carried out that show that buildings and the way they’re decorated can influence both the way we think and the way we behave.

 

One of the major factors in how buildings make us feel is the amount of natural light that they let in.

Buildings that don’t have that many windows and so don’t let in much natural light have been found to make us feel less motivated and generally feel low.  On the other hand, buildings with plenty of big windows that let in large amounts of natural light make us feel happier and more relaxed.

 

Rooms full of natural light can feel more spacious too, which has been found to be a good thing for our wellbeing.

A study carried out at the University of Minnesota in 2007 found that rooms with higher ceilings can allow us to think more freely and be more creative.  So if you feel uninspired and stuck in your head then visiting somewhere like a cathedral with lovely high ceilings might help inspiration strike.

 

The colours we use in our homes and work environments can have a huge impact on our mood too.

If you want to create a calm, peaceful space then blues and greens are a great way to go.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking to feel energised and fired up then reds and oranges are much better.

The thing to keep in mind is that it’s not just the colour on the wall that can affect our mood, the flooring that we have in the building can have a big impact too.

Research has found that buildings that use wood and wooden products in their interior design can help to lower heart rates and blood pressure, as well as help us feel less anxious and stressed.

So installing something like Parador engineered floors in your home can help make it a more relaxing place to spend time in at the end of a busy day.

The beauty of engineered floors is that they’re hard-wearing and designed to be a practical and versatile alternative to hardwood floors.  They also come in a variety of colours that, again, can really change the feel of a room.

Warm shades of brown are a classic option and make us feel relaxed and comfortable.  They’re great if you like to embrace everything hygge and enjoy cosy evenings curled up with a good book.

If you want to feel a bit more energised though then white or lighter coloured wood flooring can create this atmosphere of calm yet energised, like being by the beach.

 

The things we fill our space with can also have a big influence on our mood and sense of wellbeing.

A study by Zeisel et al. found that patients with alzheimers showed reduced levels of anxiety, depression and social withdrawal when they were in private rooms with their own personal objects around them.

So displaying our favourite photos and personal objects can make us feel better than living or working in a blank, impersonal space.

Buildings with plenty of plants and greenery also have a positive affect on us.

Professor Frances Kuo found that apartment buildings in inner-city Chicago that were surrounded by vegetation experienced about half as many crimes as those that had hardly any greenery.  Various studies have also found that having plants in the workplace helps us feel less stressed and increases productivity.

 

So if you’re looking to move home or redecorate then take some time to really look at different buildings and spaces and think about how the light, colour and furnishings will affect how you feel when you spend time there.

 

If you’re not able to change your home you can still benefit from the positive impact of buildings on our wellbeing by taking time regularly to visit different places.

Spend time in green spaces as much as possible.  Take a walk through your town and find interesting architecture that interests you and maybe even brings you a sense of awe.  Find a local cafe with warm wooden flooring and a cosy interior design to relax and switch off for a bit after a busy day at work.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

I seem to have started a bit of a tradition that I really love.

Around this time last year, and the year before, I took photos of Nerys having her hair dried after a bath for my Living Arrows posts.

I happened to read last year’s post the other day and at the end of the post I wrote:


“If I remember I’ll try and take some more photos then!”

So when Steve was drying her hair after a bath that evening I grabbed the camera and took these photos.

Living Arrows
Living Arrows
Living Arrows

I just can’t get over how much her hair has grown in the last year, and how much older she looks!

What I really love though is that I mentioned in last year’s post that she was busy singing ‘let it go’ at the top of her lungs while her hair was being dried.

This year, the facial expressions are thanks to ‘this is me’ from The Greatest Showman. I wonder if we’ll still be doing this next January, and if so what the song of choice will be!


If you’re wondering how much she has changed and grown, here are the photos from 2017 and 2018:

Living Arrows 2017
Living Arrows 2018

For so long Nerys didn’t have much hair at all, it does make me smile now seeing quite how long it is.  I’m really not sure how I’ll feel if and when she decides she wants to cut it all off.

Who knows, maybe next January I’ll be sharing photos of her having her hair blow dried into a neat little bob!

 

Living Arrows

This is the third year now that I’m taking part in the siblings project, and I still absolutely love it as a way to make sure I get a few photos of the children together each month.

Our photos for January were taken on a cold winter walk on the beach.

We’d been in a bit of a Christmas bubble and a blast of fresh sea air was the perfect way to blow away the cobwebs.

The tide was only just on its way out when we got there and there was so much left behind on the tideline, it was really interesting to search through it as we walked.

We found all sorts of driftwood, shells, and mermaids purses. And then plenty of stones to throw in the sea and try to skim.

Siblings project Jan 2019
Siblings project Jan 2019


Quite often when we go to the beach in the winter months it’s quite quiet, but it was actually pretty busy that day.

I think everyone was out doing the same as us, sort of emerging back into the real world after a few days of Christmas hibernation.

Siblings project Jan 2019


I did actually get another photo of Rhys and Nerys together this month, which I really want to share as well.

Siblings project Jan 2019

It was taken on a walk through campus after swimming last weekend, where we found a really lovely little garden area perfect for a little sit down. I just really love the two of them together with their matching furry hoods up!

Here’s to another year of seaside walks and siblings photos.

Kids are carefree. They play like there’s no tomorrow. They don’t care if people judge them because they don’t even know what judgement is.

They are content to be in their own little world without stress, releasing them from the chains of inferiority or feeling like they’re not good enough.

Glorious imperfections how to take tips from our kids

When kids get up every morning, they put on their hand-me-down clothes, last season’s coat, and mismatched shoes, and storm out the door without looking back. They don’t know that stripes don’t match polka dots or that you don’t wear your socks on the outside of your pants.

But here’s the truth: they’re right. None of that matters if you feel good on the inside.

Kids do what makes them feel good, and that’s why they’re so cute. They are compassionate and fun-loving. They don’t make a fuss about navigating social situations with grace or tact.

While we spend every hour worrying about being a great parent or what others think of us, we should be thinking about being kind and doing what makes others feel good. We know we should have eaten fruit instead of cookies, but we need to forget about the weight loss.

Forget about fashion, forget about diet, and forget what your co-worker said about you when she was frustrated for a second. Think about why your kids love you. It’s not because you have cool shoes or the most gorgeous hair or the thinnest body.

Chances are, that’s not why anyone loves you. And if it is, they shouldn’t be your friend. These are things we learned in primary school, but they often don’t sink in, even as adults. We know better.

So try spending more time treating others with kindness. That includes yourself. Wake up in the morning and be grateful for all the little things that make your life so amazing. And let the other little things go. So what if you wear your socks on the outside of your trousers for a day?

Love yourself and then love others.

Be confident in the skin you’re in. Bonds will take care of the comfort on the outside if you focus on a healthier mind and spirit.

Life is full of glorious imperfections, but we’re all in this together.

Be as carefree as your kids and cherish the love in the world.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

We survived the first week back at school after the complete break from normality that was the Christmas holidays.

There may have been a bit of complaining in the mornings about having to get up and go to school, but for the most part the children settled back into the routine really well.

They did seem tired though by the end of the week, so on Saturday we had a quiet day at home. Well, Rhys and Nerys had a quiet, peaceful day, while Steve and I went on a bit of a clear-out mission in their bedroom.

We’ve got a huge pile of things ready to be passed on to friends or the charity shop and their room feels so much better, with room to actually move and play.


On Sunday we were back at swimming lessons, then took the scenic route home through Singleton park and the uni campus. We wandered round a little garden area on campus that, despite going to the uni and living in Swansea for 18 years, I had never been to before.

It was a really lovely little spot to stop and take some photos for this week’s post.

Living Arrows
Living Arrows

I think we walked for a good hour and half, including a stop at the shop for bread, before we made it back home.  And apart from a few whinges now and then about just wanting to be home already the children did really well!

Especially considering they’d both put a lot of energy into their swimming lessons before the walk.

Nerys only started lessons in September and she moved up 2 groups yesterday which she was so excited about.  She has been so bold and brave with her swimming, and so determined to do well with it.  

It took Rhys quite a bit longer to get to grips with it all when he started, mainly because he was so full of energy he couldn’t seem to stay still long enough to listen and learn.

He is doing so well with it now though, and looks so comfortable in the water.  I’m not sure at what point we’ll stop his lessons; I suppose when he tells us that he’s not enjoying them any more.


Would you stop swimming lessons once your child is able to swim, or keep going with them to keep working on technique and improving their skills?

 

Living Arrows

As ancestry websites, DNA websites and long lost family TV shows become ever more popular, more and more people want to know where they have come from and if there’s more family out there, then they want to find them. It could be due to distance, time, or just growing apart, but every family has long lost relatives – and today more and more people wish to reconnect with them. It’s not even just about family; it could be people looking for their first love or their best friend from school. The fact is that anything seems possible these days and if there’s someone on your mind you want to find then you may as well go for it.

Can you really find long lost family online_

Technology and social media has made finding people so much easier and more accessible, but really how easy is it and is it possible to find someone online? Take a look at these steps if this is something you’re interested in and have started looking into as it’s definitely possible to make a start on your own and online if not find the person and do the whole thing all by yourself.

Create A List

Begin by creating a list of all the essential information that you know about the person you are trying to track down. Don’t skip this step as it’s very important and if you go straight into searching then you could likely miss something. Like anything, it’s vital to prepare, as the saying goes, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ and it is very true in this scenario. By not writing down all the information you need, not only might you miss something but it could completely derail you, put you off, mislead you completely and end in not finding them at all. You’ll need to include more than just their first and last name too. Write down information such as where they went to high school if you have any previous phone numbers and addresses and vehicles they might have owned, whatever you can think of to build a bigger picture. This kind of information can be really beneficial to your search later down the line. Also, make sure that all this information is correct, there is no point going down one route on some false information as it will waste your time and could put you off the search.

Use Search Engines

Search engines really are an excellent way to find the information you’re searching for quickly. However, don’t just rely on one. They are all different and will give you different results. Each search engine uses a separate database and search algorithm, and this will affect what information is returned. You should never rely on just one search engine – private investigators search multiple search engines to find information and obtain the best results.

Try Google, Bing, Yahoo, AOL, Duck Duck Go. Also, Metasearch engines are an excellent way to search multiple search engines at the same time. Instead of using crawlers to index the web like Google and others do, they send queries to a variety of search engines, combine the results. Here are a few examples of meta search engines that best for finding people: Dogpile, WebCrawler and Monster Crawler. If you’re not comfortable with the technology and these terms, then get someone to help you. Even if you go and use one of the computers at your local library, a librarian will likely be on hand to assist can help you find these particular search engines or websites.

Advanced Search Techniques

There are also advanced search operators which use things like Boolean logic to help you filter out the junk that isn’t related to your search. They allow you to combine words and connectors to exclude specific results, for example, if you search for “John Smith” then search engines will return results with all web data with the words ‘John’ and ‘Smith.’ It is highly unlikely that this will be what you want, so, by using ”Not” or “–“ before a term, your search will exclude web pages that contain those terms. For example, a typical search would look something like this:

“John Smith” and New Zealand or + John + Smith + New Zealand.

Have a look at Google’s extensive list of operators and other tips and tricks which will help make your searches more powerful on their advanced search page. Other search engines will have their own specific operators too, so be sure to look them up before you start using them.

Use Social Media

Lots of people have found people who they have been searching for on social media networks since they became so popular. They are the perfect place to start looking for someone online – especially family members that have fallen out of touch. Starting with Facebook, this is the most significant and most extensive search engine by far. You can search for people using names, locations, and even groups. Then there is Linkedin, another great place to look for people, especially if you know the person’s employment history or where they might currently be living. There are other websites dedicated to searching for people such as People finder UK, so it’s worth having a look on there too.

Search Genealogy Sites and Resources

These have become increasingly popular over recent years and with that are getting smarter and have more information and data each day. By doing a little bit of research into your genealogy, you might discover family members you had no idea existed which means that this research can often point you in the right direction if you’re stuck elsewhere. Take a look at Access Genealogy, which includes old letters, Native American historical records, and military documents; The Olive Tree which is a private researcher’s collection of links and other resources that are incredibly useful and in-depth; Family Tree Searcher – The Family Tree Searcher is yet another website that was created by a private researcher to educate and assist amateurs. The interactive quizzes that ensure your search is customized for your particular search are a tremendous help; Genealogy Today is a website has an impressive searchable collection of traditional and unorthodox historical records; Cyndi’s List has 332,340 genealogy links that you can access; RootsWeb is part of the Ancestry.com family, RootsWeb is a massive, community maintained database of US genealogy records searchable by first and last name, created by thousands of genealogists; and US GenWeb Project is the U.S. Genealogy Researchers website was created by a collection of history and genealogy enthusiasts to share resources and educate the public about genealogy and ancestry research.

Finally, You Could Hire a Private Investigator

If you have the money and the resource, then go for it. This is what Private Investigators do for a living. If you give an investigator all the information you have, they can conduct the entire search for you. With access to information that you won’t be able to access as a civilian such as vehicle registrations, private investigators are incredibly skilled at uncovering information and can do it quickly and efficiently.

Prepare Yourself

Whether someone has gone missing or you’re looking for someone you’ve never even met before, it can be tough. You need to prepare yourself for the fact that you may not find them, there could be great leads which draw dead ends, or sometimes people just do not want to be found. Looking for someone is a big deal and something you should consider carefully before getting into.

Take It Slowly

If you do find the person you are looking for, then it is best to take things slowly. Don’t make your first connection a rushed story about what may have been a scandal at the time it occurred. Be friendly, take your time, offer them your contact information, and let them know you would like to keep in touch.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Don’t get your hopes too high about how the meeting will go, be prepared for things to go differently than you expected as it is possible that the long lost relative will not want to get to know you at all and that can hurt, especially in situations involving adoption and biological parents. They might come round, do remember that it’s likely you’re dropping a bombshell on them and they won’t be prepared. You have had time to accept the news and prepare, so allow them to have that too.

There is also the possibility that the discovery of a long lost relative could result in drama. Other relatives may become emotional, and they might refuse to accept the new person as part of their family tree. Or, they may welcome that person with open arms. Every family has its own internal structure, and a new person could shake things up.

Just be aware of all the possibilities and eventualities and take the time to prepare yourself for whatever may occur, but fingers crossed it will be a positive experience for everyone.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

We are rather fond of Bluestone, Wales in our family.

It was somewhere I’d heard such wonderful things about for quite a while before we actually went ourselves and I was thrilled that it lived up to all the expectations I had.

We have been twice now, once in late spring and once in December for a winter break including a trip to the Kingdom of the Elves.  And it sparked a conversation with the children about which holiday they liked best.  I wondered if there was a particular time of year that is best for visiting Bluestone.

Best time of year to visit Bluestone Wales (1)

 

I think the best way to tackle this is to look at what you can expect from a holiday at Bluestone at different times of the year, and what we particularly enjoyed about each of our trips.

 

Spring and Summer

We went on our first trip to Bluestone in May 2017, so it was late spring and it was absolutely glorious.

We got really lucky with the weather and had plenty of sunshine and blue skies, with just a bit of drizzle on the last day.  Which meant we seemed to have endless hours to get out and explore the resort.  This would be a big draw for me to go again in the spring or summer, the fact that there are more hours of daylight to spend outside enjoying everything that Bluestone has to offer.

 

There are also a few things both onsite and in the local area that aren’t open, or have restricted hours, in the winter so the warmer months are a great option if you particularly want to do them.

This includes eating at Camp Smokey at the resort.

Bluestone camp smokey

 

The steep ravine with its tree climbing and high ropes course is still open in the winter, and you can wander down to Camp Smokey for a look around, but if you want to enjoy a meal there you’ll need to book a visit in the warmer months.

We didn’t eat there when we went but it’s something I would like to try on another visit, now the children are older and more likely to try different foods.  At Camp Smokey you can enjoy hot sandwiches, burgers and hotdogs as well as various snacks.  The main appeal though is in the smokey smores, where you can toast your own marshmallows over the camp fire.

 

If you want to visit Folly Farm while you’re in Pembrokeshire you’ll also be better off choosing a spring or summer break, because it’s only open at weekends from the start of November to the middle of February.

 

 

Holidays to Bluestone in the spring and summer are great for simple things like letting little ones burn off their energy in the play park in the village.

They can still do this in the winter of course, and it’s still great fun, but it’s more relaxing for parents when it’s warm and sunny.  You can let the children stay and play until it gets dark, while you sit down and enjoy a coffee or a milkshake from Ty Coffi.

Bluestone Wales spring summer

 

The whole philosophy at Bluestone is about free range fun, getting the whole family out in nature and exploring.  And the lake is a great place to go for a walk to experience some of that free range fun.

In the spring and summer especially the lake is brilliant.

Between March and October you can sign up for a whole range of watersports and water-based activities at the lake, from paddle boarding and kayaking to family raft wars.  If you’re not feeling quite so energetic you can still have a great time walking around and seeing all the amazing wildlife.

When we went we were all so excited to see some ducks with their little ducklings walking around.

Ducks Bluestone lake

 

If you’re looking for more things to do to keep your children busy and entertained on your holiday there are all sorts of options in the spring and the summer thanks to the legends of the sea festival and the summer festival.

Both festivals offer so much to keep the whole family entertained, with special events, shows, workshops and craft activities.

A lot of these events take place out in nature during the warmer months which is really lovely. 

And you can keep making the most of being outside at mealtimes too, by having a barbecue at your lodge.

All the lodges have little stands in the kitchen to use with disposable barbecues, which you can either bring with you or buy at Newton Stores in the village.

Newton stores Bluestone

The one potential downside of visiting Bluestone in the spring or summer is that these times of year are often more popular and busier. What we found when we went in May though, was that even though the resort was busy, it really didn’t feel busy.

There is so much open space around Bluestone that we found plenty of places to explore that felt quiet and peaceful.



Autumn and Winter

Things can get so busy in the run up to Christmas and a few nights away at Bluestone is the perfect way to get away from it all and relax a bit.  You can visit the spa, go for walks in the woods and around the lake and just enjoy a slower pace of life.

There are also some activity-packed festivals during autumn and winter too, from the Bwbach festival in autumn to the winter lights festival at the start of each year.

One of the biggest reasons to visit Bluestone in winter though is for the Kingdom of the Elves.

Bluestone Christmas

The Kingdom of the Elves is the hugely popular event that Bluestone put on every year in the lead up to Christmas, and it is well worth a visit to get in the festive spirit and is great for children of all ages.



One of the great things about Bluestone is that there is still plenty to do outdoors in the colder months of the year.

As long as you come armed with wellies and warm clothes (and possibly a torch) then you’ll still have an amazing time exploring the nature trails, the lake and the playground in the village.

Bluestone park village

The resort is set out so that you can get everywhere easily on foot, but if you don’t fancy walking everywhere in the cold then you can easily hire a buggy for the duration of your stay, or time your outings to make use of the free bus service that runs around the resort.

Visiting in the colder months might also mean that you get full use out of all the indoor activities on site that you might not get round to in the summer.

There’s the adventure centre that has enough to keep the children happy for hours at a time. And coffee and wifi for the parents.

The main indoor attraction for my family has always been the blue lagoon, and swimming here when it’s cold is a brilliant experience.

The lazy river takes you outside and it is something else when the cold air hits you for the first time!

We also absolutely loved the frost lagoon experience on our winter break. The pool stays open a bit later on these days, so you can swim after dark. There is music playing and disco lights flashing, and the pretty surreal experience of going from that to looking up at dark skies in the freezing cold when the lazy river takes you outside.

Frost lagoon bluestone wales

Bluestone is still busy in the lead up to Christmas, but again we didn’t notice it feel busy while we were there.

At other times in the autumn and winter though it may be quieter than the warmer months which some people might prefer.

You also have the added bonus of the local area being quieter too at these off-peak times of the year. You might not think of going to the beach on a chilly day, but it’s amazing to have the whole place pretty much to yourself. And you can still have so much fun, building sandcastles, exploring and even flying kites on windy autumnal days.



So, there are so many reasons to visit Bluestone at any time of year, I’m really not sure if there is one season or another that is actually better than any other.

It all depends what you’re looking for in a holiday really.

The one thing I preferred about our May trip was that we were able to spend longer outdoors. It felt like we were able to squeeze more out of each day because we were out exploring later into the afternoons and early evenings.

When we went in December though it was just magical.

I really don’t think I could pick between the two holidays as to which was my favourite. What’s so lovely about Bluestone is that they have found a great balance between keeping some things the same, so it’s familiar and almost like coming home when you go back for another stay, and updating things and moving with the seasons.

There are festivals throughout the year, celebrating the changing seasons and making a holiday at any time feel like something really special.

So I’m sorry if this post hasn’t actually helped you decide the perfect time of year for you to book a holiday to Bluestone, but as far as I’m concerned there is no bad time to go!

Disclosure – We were given a four night stay at Bluestone, including tickets to the Kingdom of the Elves, but all words and opinions are my own.