Preserve your summer memories with a photobook

Preserve those precious summer family vacation memories with a photobook – Everything you need to know to create one

As summer starts to wind down and the kids prepare to head back to school, it’s only natural to look back at all the great family memories that were made this year. Summer is typically that time of year where families escape on a holiday, if only for a couple of days, giving everyone a chance to enjoy the great weather, fresh air, and share some special times together. 

With that said there’s also no doubt that you snapped quite a few photos over the course of the summer holidays. So what happens with all of those photos? Sure you can keep them on your phone or send them to the Cloud, but you’re taking your chances there as there are no guarantees your digital files will remain safe. Not only that but it’s hard to enjoy them when they’re stuck on your phone. This is exactly why photobooks are such a fabulous and popular idea.


Photobooks allow you to pick and choose all your best memories, moments, and photos from the summer holidays and make them into a lovely and permanent picture book that everyone can enjoy. If this sounds like a project you’d be interested in but don’t know where to get started, then this guide to photobooks is a must-read.


Choose a theme

Typically the best place to start is to choose a theme for your book. Sure you can go ahead and fill it with random photos, but it just won’t feel as cohesive and complete. Instead, choose one theme, idea, trip, memory, and build the book around it. If you packed a lot into this summer, then it may be necessary to make a number of photobooks and start your own library of memories.


Decide what type of book you’d like

The next step is to think about the actual book, meaning the physicality of the book. What kind would like you? Do you want a softcover or hardcover, how large should the book be, what kind of binding do you want, what about the material used, how about the colour and finish? Then again, maybe you aren’t really particular about the details, which means you’ve got a lot more options available to you.


Use a comparison tool

Another great tip is to use a comparison tool to help you choose the best photo book provider out there. Take for example this website, which provides people with photo book reviews, detailed descriptions of the various photo books, the features and tools offered, a listing of all the big brands out there, and even access to a photo book voucher code, which can save you money. 

Photo Book Deals does more than just look at the surface, it goes into detail on everything you need to know about creating your own photo book.


Start to go through your photos

This step is the one that will end up taking you the longest time, but you want to be sure you have a chance to go through all your photos first before you start to create your book. If you’re finding it hard to narrow down the photos, try using three categories – yes, no, and maybe – you can then dwindle your list down from there.

Try to keep your main photo book theme in mind as you go through the photos, as this will also help you in the selection process. If it doesn’t fit the theme, then it is an automatic no. Keep in mind there’s nothing to stop you from creating additional photobooks, so there’s no need to feel restricted in the number of pictures you choose.


Be picky about the photo quality

As you browse through your photos, it’s also important to think about the photo quality and how that particular image would look blown up and in a photo book. The image should be sharp and clear, but also visually intriguing. 


Give thought to the layout

Next comes the actual layout, where again you want to take your time and really think things through. Just like with any book, a photobook should tell a story so there should be an order in which the images are presented. In terms of your summer family vacation, it makes sense to go in the order of the events that took place rather than skipping around from day-to-day. This will help the book to have flow and feel cohesive.

It’s also a good idea to be a little bit creative where the actual layout is concerned, not using images that are the same size each time, and using features like a bleed or border.


A lovely memento from summer holidays

So before you start to feel too nostalgic about the many memories that have occurred over summer holidays, go ahead and create a lovely photo book for all to enjoy all year-round.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

How to keep organised with a busy family life

Keeping organised with a busy family life

It’s no secret that the introduction of children can complicate home life. For the most part, naturally, this complication is welcome. But it can make it a struggle to impose order.

If you’re not careful, you can easily find that the problem runs away from you: allow chaos to reign for too long, and it can be a bit difficult to persuade the rest of your household that getting things organised is possible – or even desirable. 

With that said, there are a few steps you might take to keep even the most hectic home grounded and organised. You needn’t take all of the following steps at once: each of them, even in isolation, can help to keep a busy family home organised.

Work rota

Just a few children will generate mess at an astonishing rate. If it falls to one parent to clean it up, then the task will seem endless and a bit soul-crushing. Nip this in the bud by entrusting everyone with cleaning their own room, and, on occasion, some of the communal spaces, too.

Things like vacuuming and laundry can also be divided between the household. Set up a formal rota and stick it up somewhere public, like the fridge. That way there’ll be no ambiguity about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher.


Set aside work time

It’s easy to put off household chores until the weekend, where they can chew up hours. By setting aside a fixed time every day to get work done, you’ll ensure that the work gets done. A single load of laundry can go in immediately after dinner. While that’s being done, another person can load the dishwasher. Of course, the person who actually did the cooking can put their feet up!


Fix mealtimes 

Sit-down mealtimes can provide a day with a much-needed structure. Fix breakfast and dinner at specific hours: 7am and 7pm are as good as any. This predictability will make it easier for everyone to turn up to dinner on time. For example, if your eldest son is midway through a bout of Fortnite, they won’t have to let ninety-nine other players down just because you’ve summoned them for a lasagne. 


Don’t go to bed when things are messy

Mess escalates when it’s ignored. You might take a look at a cluttered dining table and decide that it’s a task for another day – but this is almost always a mistake. Get that stuff tidied away, and then hit the hay. If you have a  extendable dining table, then make a rule that you need to fold it back up at the end of every day – no matter how much stuff is piled on top.


Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

What your shoes say about you

What do your shoes say about you?

When you get dressed to go out, how much thought do you put into what goes on your feet?

Personally, most of the time my decision is based on practical considerations.  Things like the weather and how far I’ll be walking come into play much more than concerns about the way my shoes look.

I do wonder at times though, what my shoes say about me to other people.


I know there are some people out there who put a lot of thought into the shoes that they wear.

And other people who would refuse to date someone based on their choice of footwear.

So the shoes we put on our feet can be used to express parts of our personalities, and help us make judgements on other people’s personalities.


Studies have found that we can make some quite accurate assumptions about strangers based on their choice of footwear.

People who wear comfortable, practical shoes are generally nice and agreeable.

This is the category I fall into I think.  My shoes are definitely in the comfy, practical category, rather than being chosen for any major fashion points.  And I’d like to think that people who know me would generally describe me as agreeable!


On the other hand, people who wear pointy-toed heels, especially those that are made by an expensive fashion label, tend to be less agreeable.

Now, I have to admit I don’t know all that many people who wear expensive, designer, pointy-toed shoes so I’m not sure how accurate this is.  But studies have found that this is the case.


There are also those people out there who wear older shoes that they’ve taken good care of and really looked after.

These kinds of people are generally conscientious, which makes sense really.  If I saw someone who clearly looked after their shoes, I would assume that they were thoughtful and caring with most other things in their lives too.


What do you think of this?

Do you ever make assumptions about other people based on what shoes they’re wearing?

I don’t tend to notice other people’s shoes all that much, but I do wonder if it’s time for me to change things up a bit and try some new styles and see if it affects how people see me

I’ve been browsing the shoes at FSJshoes and there are so many styles on there, I could take on a new persona every day if I bought enough pairs!


Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post

Saving for your family's future

Saving and investing in your family’s future

We all work hard. When you set up your family home, at first, making ends meet seems impossible. But, usually, with hard work and time, things do get easier. Perhaps one of you gets a promotion, or once the kids are old enough to look after themselves more, you can pick up extra hours.

When that happens, you can start to save and eventually consider opening an investment account like the ones you can find here. But I know that getting to that stage can be a frustratingly slow process.

Fortunately, there are ways to speed things up a bit. Ways to get extra cash flowing into the family home to allow you to save and later invest for your family’s future.

Here are some of the most effective ways to do just that.


Minimise what you spend

The first step is to get your current spending habits under control. If it has been a while since you last sat down and cast a critical eye over where your money goes, do that now. The sooner you do the better. Without realising it we all slide into wasteful habits. 

For example, buying a snack every time you purchase a takeaway coffee instead of eating one you brought from home. That habit alone can easily cost you £1.50 or more every workday. Depending on how many days you work that comes to about £360 a year. If you are both doing this, you are basically frittering away £720, every year, probably, much more. 

So, sit down, identify where the money goes for a month or two and save where you can. There are plenty of really good budgeting phone apps out there that make doing this really easy. Mint is a particularly good one, but it does not yet work with UK bank accounts. A good alternative is Money Dashboard, it is not as widely used, yet, but, it has all of the features you will need.


Live to a budget

Once you have done this, you can take the next step and set yourself a budget. Then all you have to do is to stick to it. Doing this will help you to build up a pot of money far faster than if you just carried on spending as you were before.


Maximise what you earn

You also need to maximise what you earn. If you have not had a pay rise for some time, ask for one or look for a better paying job. 

We all get stuck in a rut without realising it and just settle for what we already have. But, we really shouldn’t. The chances are you are far more skilled now than you were a couple of years ago. So, why not capitalise on that fact and get yourself a pay rise, promotion or better job? You can find out more about the right way to go about doing this by clicking here.

Starting a side business is another way to increase your income. The fact that you can reach a global market means that anyone can sell online. That may mean selling services like writing and website design or selling items that you make. Either way, you can make quite a bit of extra money.


Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

teach your children these life skills

Teach your children these life skills to help them thrive

A few months ago I had an interesting conversation with my children on the drive to school.

Rhys started asking me about when he’s older and not living at home any more.  He was worried that he wouldn’t know how to do certain things, and so I promised him that we would teach him everything he needs to know.

We talked about all the different life skills we would make sure he knows by the time he’s old enough to leave our family home.

Here are some of those life skills that I think our children need to know to thrive on their own as they get older.


How to treat other people

One of the most important life skills I think we can teach our children is how to treat other people with kindness and with respect.

For me this starts with simple manners, like saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, which we can teach our children from a very young age.

After that we need to lead by example and show our children how to be considerate of other people’s feelings, to think about points of view that are different from our own and to be kind to everyone.


How to treat themselves

As well as teaching our children to be kind to others, I think it’s incredibly important that we also teach them to be kind to themselves.

Knowing how important it is to take time to look after themselves will help them so much when they step out on their own.

So let them see you put yourself first sometimes.

Take them with you to do a yoga session or for a run in the park, to teach them about taking care of their health.

Make time each week to slow the pace down and read, paint, and relax.


How to care for their clothes

Knowing how to wash and care for clothes is a key skill that our children need to learn.

You can start from an early age teaching them about separating items to do a dark wash or a lights wash.  I know you can just chuck everything in together with a colour catcher sheet, but I think it’s still worth teaching our children about how different items might need to be washed separately.

As they get older children can learn about what different care labels mean.

There are still some that I have to google when I see them, but children can learn quite quickly to recognise the labels for what temperature to wash clothes at and whether or not an item can be tumble-dried.


Basic cooking skills

From an early age we can get our children in the kitchen with us, learning basic skills.

Nerys loves making her own sandwiches at lunch time and helping my husband chop up vegetables when he makes a bolognese.

There are so many skills you can teach in the kitchen while you have fun together.

Baking fairy cakes teaches them to measure out ingredients, to understanding techniques like creaming butter and sugar together, and how to be safe around the hot oven.

As they get a bit older you can teach your child simple recipes like scrambled eggs on toast, pasta dishes and homemade pizza.


How to handle their finances

Knowing how to take care of money is a vital life skill for children to learn.

It can be harder to teach children about money these days, when so much of the time we pay with cards or do our shopping online.

So make a point of using cash on a regular basis when you’re shopping with your children.

Even better, let them have their own money in a wallet and let them choose to buy a little something with it when you’re out in town.

We also look at price labels when we shop together, and my children are starting to understand that sometimes a pack of 4 chocolate bars can be better value than a single bar.  They get quite excited when they realise this means we can buy more chocolate!


These are some of the life skills that I’m working on teaching my children, so that when they’re old enough to leave home they should not only be able to cope, but really thrive.

What other skills do you think are important for our children to learn to set them up for independence?

Rainy day activities

12 fun rainy day activities

It’s sod’s law really isn’t it, that as soon as the school summer holidays start the skies cloud over and the rain sets in.

I have to be honest though, I quite like rainy days.

The sound of rain falling is so soothing, and you can’t beat the smell of rain when it falls on the parched ground.  If you have busy children at home with you though, rainy days can be challenging.

So here are 12 ideas for things to do on rainy days to stop everyone going completely stir-crazy.


1. Feed the birds

Depending on what bits and pieces you have at home you can have a go at a few different ideas.

You can make a really pretty tea cup bird feeder to put up in the garden.  Or you can keep things simple and make a toilet roll bird feeder or some wild bird seed treats to hang from the trees.

The lovely thing with these ideas is that once they’re made you can spend time watching to see what birds then come and visit your garden.


2. Do some junk modelling

Go through your recycling and dig out all the boxes, toilet paper tubes, and plastic tubs that you can find.  Then add some glue, pipe cleaners and paint and see what creations your children can come up with.

If you need some inspiration then Rainy Day Mum has got a post with 30 recycled materials and junk modelling crafts that are perfect for children of all ages.


3. Go on a treasure hunt

You don’t need to go outside to go on a treasure hunting adventure.

Hide your treasure somewhere in the house, then draw up a map and write out some clues about where it’s hidden.  You can do this for your children, or they can do it for each other if they’re old enough.

You can also hide various things around the house for younger children to find.  We’ve got a set of colourful plastic eggs that we use to do egg hunts all year round.


4. Get painting

Dig out the paints and get creative.

If you want to do something a bit different then try blow painting, where you water down your paint a little bit, put a blob on the paper then use a straw to blow it around.  You can then make the shapes you’ve created into monsters by drawing on eyes and limbs.

You could also try marble painting and see what patterns you can make.


5. Make fairy cakes

Baking together is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon at home.  The children learn all sorts of skills and you all get something yummy to enjoy at the end of it.

My simple 2-4-4-4 fairy cakes recipe has never failed us yet and always produces really tasty cakes.


6. Make your own playdough

Playing with playdough is another classic rainy day activity.  And you can mix things up by making your own dough.

Using different colours, scents and textures can make this into a brilliant sensory experience for both young and older children.


7. Get the kids to make lunch

Get some ready made pizza bases and let them have fun creating their own pizzas for lunch.

If you don’t have pizza bases and don’t want to head out to the shops then you can use pitta breads or tortillas, or even just do it like a extended version of cheese on toast.

Another simple meal you can teach them to make with you is scrambled eggs on toast.  You can do the eggs in a pan on the hob, or in a mug in the microwave, and let them see how the eggs change in colour and texture as they cook.


8. Make a time capsule

Find a suitable box and get the children to fill it up with things that sum up their lives at the moment.

They can write lists of their favourite foods, books and toys.  They can write about their friends at school and the games they like to play together.  Then add in clippings from newspapers and magazines, as well as a few photos from recent days out.

Then seal the box up and hide it somewhere together, to be opened up at some point in the future.


9. Create an obstacle course

For children that need to be physically active and burn off energy an obstacle course is great fun.  You can use cushions as stepping stones, make tunnels from blankets draped over chairs, and put a strip of masking tape down on floor for them to walk along, practising their balance.


10. Record a story tape

When my sister and I were younger we used to record our own radio shows on our fisher price tape recorder.  Who else had one of those brown beauties back in the 80s?!

I’m guessing not that many people still have tape recorders now, but you can set up your camera, phone, or tablet though, and let your children record themselves reading their favourite book.  Or they could make up a story of their own and act it out.


11. Play some card games

Pull out the playing cards and teach the children a few different card games.


12. Embrace the rain

There’s no rule that says you have to stay inside on rainy days.

If it’s chilly then put your wellies and raincoats on and head outside for a walk and a splash in the puddles.

On warm but rainy days you can let the children head out barefoot in the garden for a fun sensory experience.



What do you and your children like to do on rainy days? 

Which of these ideas do you think your children will enjoy the most the next time it starts to tip it down?

How to photograph everyday family life

How to photograph your everyday life

I love a nice photo of my children smiling at the camera as much as the next person.

But what I love even more, are the perfectly imperfect photos of our everyday life.  The photos that capture what our life looks like, right now.  The photos that hold all those little details that take me back to that moment in time when I look back at them.

If you’d like to photograph more of your everyday family life, but aren’t sure where to start or how to go about it then these tips will help you get going.


Have your camera on hand

This is something that my mum said to me when I first had my son and it’s advice I still keep in mind today.

You never know when something is going to happen with your family that you’ll want to photograph, so keep your camera out and on hand as much as you can.  So when those moments arrive you can grab your camera and capture it.


Watch for the moments that make you feel something

Think about the things you’ll miss about this stage of life when it’s gone and aim to capture photographs that show these things.

Look for the moments with your children that show you more than just what they look like.  Record the peaceful moment they fall asleep in your partner’s arms.  Capture their little feet dangling at the edge of the chair, nowhere near reaching the floor yet.  Photograph them with their favourite cuddly toy that they sleep with every single night.


Be patient

Wait for the moment to happen.

You can step up activities for your children, like if you want to photograph them playing with their favourite lego set, but you’ll still need to be patient and wait for the perfect moment to take the photo.


Think about your composition

Take some time to think about the composition of your photos.

Don’t always keep the main subject of your photo in the middle of the frame.  The rule of thirds is a great rule to keep in mind to create more interesting photos.  This is basically where you imagine your frame being divided into a grid of 9 rectangles.  You want to place your subject on one of the gridlines, which will be a third of the way into the image.

Another tip with this, if you’re using it with photos of your child, is to make sure they’re moving into the image, rather than heading out of it.

You can also create great photos of your everyday life by thinking about layers.

Some images are best kept clean and clear of too many distractions, but others work really well if you have interesting elements in the foreground, the middle and the background.

If you’re capturing your children at home playing, then you might have toys on the floor in the foreground, a child playing in the middle, and an overflowing bookcase in the background.  All these different elements add so much interest to the photo, as well as holding so many memories to discover in the future.


Think about the details

The details are so often my favourite things to capture.

Close up photos of teeny baby fingers and toes.  The curls that appear in my daughter’s hair when she’s been out in the rain.  Grubby hands and filthy fingernails after a day playing and learning in the dell at school.

These are the details that will fade over time, and they are so special if you can capture them in a photograph.


Think in stories

You can’t always capture what’s happening in a single photo.  That one picture won’t tell the whole story of what your child is up to.

Sometimes it’s worth thinking about taking a series of photos, almost like a personal photo essay.

So if you want to capture your child painting a picture, you could take a wide shot of the whole scene.  Then close ups of their hand holding the paintbrush and the look of concentration on their face.  You could get up high and take a photo from above showing them working on their masterpiece.  Then finally you can photograph the finished artwork.

The key here is to move around.  Zoom in and out.  Mix up your angles and your composition to get different photos to tell the whole story.


Have fun

Get to know your camera, and then start having fun with different settings.

If your child likes to spin around so their dress flies out, use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action, then change to a slower shutter speed to get some fun motion blur.

Have fun playing with focus points in your images and change the depth of field to put the attention on different things.

I love to use a shallow depth of field and focus my camera on my children’s hands when they’re playing or drawing.  This puts the focus on what it is they’re doing in that moment, while still showing some of their features and expressions.


I’ll just leave you with one more bit of advice for photographing your everyday life – make sure you’re in some of those photos too.

I’ve said it so many times before, but you need to make sure you exist in your photos.  I feel so strongly about it that I started a little community over on Instagram with #ShowYouWereThere.  It’s all about getting more parents in more photos, and I’d love to see more and more people joining in with it!


Which of these tips will you be putting into action?

What story about your life right now do you want to take the time to capture in photographs?



Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday