I don’t know about you but when the weather starts to get colder we spend less and less time out in our garden.

It doesn’t have to be that way though, and I would love to make better use of our outside space all year round.

So I’ve put together a little list of 4 ways to enjoy the garden in the winter to encourage me, and you hopefully, to get out there and make the most of the garden whatever the season.

4 ways to enjoy your garden this winter

1. Look out for the birds

This is one thing that we do regularly and the whole family enjoys it.

All you need to do is get a bird feeder and some bird food then enjoy watching to see what different birds come to visit each day.  We love standing at our kitchen window and watching the birds visit our feeders.  We get a lot of different tits in our garden, and we’re trying to learn how to spot which is which from the colours and markings on them.

You could take it a step further and get a bird bath for your garden too.  Keep checking on it though, and if it gets really cold and the water in the bird bath starts to freeze then you can carefully pour warm water in to melt the ice.

 

2. Warm things up

You can still sit out and enjoy time in your garden in the colder months.

Take some cushions and blankets out with you while you enjoy a hot cup of coffee or a hot chocolate.  If you plan on spending a fair bit of time out in the garden then think about getting a patio heater or a chiminea to keep you warm.

Or if you’re feeling crafty you could build yourself a fire pit to sit around and toast marshmallows on any time of the year.

 

3. Let the children play

Pop a warm coat on your children and then let them loose in the garden.

They can play football and ride their bikes or scooters, or get creative drawing on the paving slabs with giant chalks.  Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean they can’t play outside, just maybe give the paddling pool a miss!

 

4. Get ready for spring

If you want your garden to look lovely when spring rolls around then winter is a great time to start planning.

You can spend a bit of time clearing out flower beds and cutting back bushes or trees.  Then it’s time to start planning what you’d like to grow where in the garden when the seasons change.  If you’re not confident to do it yourself then you can look for a garden service who can help you, or a gardener who knows what they’re doing to get to work for you.

With a bit of effort and planning now you could have a garden to be proud of next year.

 

It’s so easy to think that the garden is mainly for the warmer months, but there’s no reason at all that we can’t enjoy it all year round.

What do you enjoy most about your garden in the winter?

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

If you have children who are often anxious and who lack in confidence then there’s a trick you can try to help them feel braver and more confident.

What’s really great about it is you only need a few minutes to try it.

All you have to do is get your child to stand in an open, powerful stance for 2 minutes.  These power poses have been found to influence our hormones so that we’re less reactive to stress and get a boost of testosterone which makes us feel more confident.

The power poses that can boost confidence in our children

 

This idea of power poses was made popular by social psychologist Amy Cuddy in a TED talk in 2012.

She discussed how she and her colleagues had found that holding our bodies in a way that opens them up instead of curling in on ourselves can have a big effect on how confident we feel.

In her talk she mentioned that standing in a power pose before an interview can reduce our anxiety and make us feel more confident.  Doing it before the interview starts means that we walk into the room feeling more powerful and much less nervous.  It’s not really about standing in a certain way so that others view us as more confident, it’s about doing it to change the way we feel about ourselves.

 

Now, there have been various studies carried out since Cuddy gave this talk that seem to dispute her findings.

But I think there’s still something in it, even if it’s more of a placebo effect than an actual biological change brought on by standing in these power poses.

 

For children who are nervous about going in to school or scared about starting a new club then getting them to stand in one of these power poses for 2 minutes before you go could really help them.

It’s like how faking a smile can actually make us feel happier.

If we stand with our bodies in a big, confident pose then we’ll start to believe that we are genuinely more confident.

 

So if you’d like to try this with your children, here are 3 different power poses they can try:

 

The Wonder Woman pose

For this pose your child should stand strong with their feet a bit wider than hip width apart.

They then need to put both hands on their hips.  If they want to they can make fists, or just put their hands straight on their hips.

Power pose wonder woman post boost confidence

 

The superhero pose

Get your child to plant their feet firmly about hip width apart.

They then need to make a fist with one hand and then put it up in the air, like a superhero about to fly off to rescue someone.

Power pose superhero pose boost confidence

 

The performer pose

For this pose your child needs to stand strong with feet a bit wider than hip distance apart.

Then put their arms up in the air in a ‘V’ shape, like a performer in front of the crowd at the end of an amazing show or an athlete celebrating winning a race.

Power poses help boost confidence

 

The key thing with all of the poses is for your child to stand straight and tall, and take up as much space as possible.

When we make ourselves big and visible (even when we do it private) we feel more powerful and, as a result, less anxious.

A big part of this is that it’s not about changing how other people see us and what they think of us.

It’s about changing how we feel about ourselves.

A study by Binel et al 2012 found that people who stood in a power pose like the ones mentioned above were more likely to rate themselves as feeling confident than people who stood in a smaller, ‘doubtful posture’.  And it does make sense.  If we stand in a hunched position with our arms crossed in front of our bodies we tend to feel smaller too.

Opening up our bodies and standing tall does make us feel more in control and ready for action.

 

So next time your child is anxious or scared about something, try getting them to stand in one of these poses for a few minutes and see if it helps them feel more confident.

 

This post is linked up with KCACOLS.

If you own your own home, then chances are at some point you’ll start wanting to make some changes to it.

One room that lots of people decide to renovate and refresh is the family bathroom.  But it can be tricky to know where to start and what pieces to pick to furnish the room.

If you’re thinking of renovating your bathroom, here are some things to keep in mind when you’re choosing new bathroom furniture.

Top tips for choosing new bathroom furniture

 

One of the main things to think about is the style of pieces that you want in your bathroom.

Do you want a minimalist look or something a bit cosier?

If you like the sleek feel of minimalism then you might want to choose cabinets and drawer units that can be closed.  This way all your bathroom clutter can be carefully hidden away.

On the other hand, if you like a more cosy, relaxed look then you might be happier with open-fronted units and shelves where you can see everything.

 

Do you want to be able to change things up?

If you know you’ll be happy to keep things the same for quite a while then think about built-in units that fit the space perfectly.  You might also want to go for a classic sturdy shower screen if you have a shower over the bath.

For those people who like to be able to change things around now and then though, a Byretech shower rail and a shower curtain might be better around the bath.  It’s stainless steel too, so will last for years to come. (If we could add this in).

That way you can get a new shower curtain and maybe some new bath mats when you fancy a new look in the room.

 

Consider your budget.

Before you get started with shopping for your new bathroom, think about how much money you’ll plan to spend on your bathroom.

Knowing this will help you narrow down your choices later.  And having a budget in mind should help you stop costs from getting out of hand once you get started.

 

Consider the practicalities.

If you have a young family make sure you keep in mind all the stuff that children come with.

Do you want open shelving in the bathroom so you have easy access to the baby shampoo and bath toys, or would you rather be able to put all those bits out of sight once the kids are in bed?

It’s also important to think about the materials used in the furniture that you pick.

Make sure whatever you choose will be able to cope in warm, humid environments.  Wood veneer and laminate are often good options.

 

Work with the space you have.

When you’re planning your new bathroom you’ll need to be realistic about what you can achieve.

If you’re working with quite a small space you might need to get a bit more creative with your bathroom furniture.  While you might love the look of a big roll top bath and freestanding storage units, they won’t work in all bathrooms.

In a small bathroom you need to get the most out of the space you have.  So, think about putting a storage unit around the sink and use the walls to hang a medicine cabinet to store bits and pieces.

 

With this advice in mind you should have a bathroom you love, with the option to change things up in the future with a few new accessories.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

The shops are filling up with gifts and decorations and the festive adverts have started appearing on TV, so I think it’s safe for us all to start thinking about Christmas.

If you like to send homemade Christmas cards to your friends and family then this craft activity is for you.

It’s a ridiculously easy Christmas tree card that looks really great and is bound to go down well with the people you give it to.

Easy homemade Christmas tree card button craft

 

 

Here’s what you need:

  • A card blank, or coloured card folded in half
  • 2 and a half green lolly sticks
  • Small green buttons
  • 2 yellow or brown buttons
  • Glue

simple christmas tree card what you need

The card really is simple to make.

First you need to get your lolly sticks and glue them together to make a Christmas tree shape.

simple christmas tree card lolly stick tree

 

Once the glue has dried on the tree, stick it to the card blank.

I used foam pads to attach mine, which gives the card a bit more depth, but you can use glue instead if that’s what you have at home.

simple christmas tree card lolly stick tree shape

 

Glue the green buttons along the lolly sticks.

Depending on the buttons you have you could go for a bit of a pattern here, or just stick them down randomly which is what I’ve done.

easy christmas tree card lolly stick buttons

 

To finish off, stick the 2 yellow/brown buttons on the card at the bottom of the tree to look like the trunk.

And there you have it, a really simple Christmas tree card that anyone would be happy to display on their mantelpiece.  It’s so simple you could get the children involved and make a whole pile of these to send to everyone on your list.

easy christmas tree card

easy fun christmas tree card

 

You don’t need to stop at Christmas cards with this idea.

You could make a smaller version to use as gift tags for your presents.  Or make the tree but instead of sticking it to the card you could attach some thread to the top and hang it from your actual Christmas tree.

 

If you like this idea you might also like my button snowman gift tag and Christmas tree card craft activity.

 

Disclaimer: I was sent a box of craft items for the purposes of this post, but all ideas, words and photos are my own.

As a family we quite often head out to the beach, the park or the local woods for a walk at the weekends.

My husband in particular likes to go walking.

Every year, for the last few years, he’s done what he calls ‘the Gower walk’ with his friend.  Basically they walk their way around Gower, which is quite a trek.

He also walks to work pretty much every day, regardless of the weather.

Which means he needs decent shoes or boots and clothing to keep him warm and dry.  So we were both thrilled when Blacks asked him if he’d like to try out some really sturdy men’s walking boots and a pair of men’s waterproof trousers to see what he thinks of them.

men's all weather walking kit from Blacks

The boots he chose are these brown leather boots from Brasher.

We both really like the look of these boots.  They are perfect for casual family walks through the woods, but also actually look smart enough for Steve to wear for work too.

The boots are waterproof which is great as he so often heads out in the rain, walking through the park to get to work.  What’s really great though is that they’re also designed to be breathable so his feet stay completely dry while wearing them.

Brasher mens boots

 

The Brasher boots have vibram soles which are designed to give an optimal balance of traction and durability, making the boots perfect for walking on all sorts of terrain.

They’re made for stability and comfort and hopefully they’ll stand the test of time with my husband who has a tendency to wear his boots down quite quickly!

He also quite often has trouble finding boots that fit him properly as his feet are slightly different sizes.  We got these boots in a 12 and they are a bit on the snug side for him, and as they’re brand new they feel a bit stiff at the moment.  But he’s sure that after a bit of wear the leather will soften up a bit and they’ll be just right.

Brasher men's walking boots

 

As well as the boots Steve was also asked for his thoughts on a pair of men’s waterproof trousers.

Steve already had a pair of waterproof trousers that he’s had a lot of use out of.  He walks to work most days, rain or shine, so they’ve come in really handy to keep him dry on his way to the office.

With this new pair of men’s Berghaus waterproof trousers he can keep one pair at home and one at work so he’ll always have some handy if it suddenly starts to pour down.

These trousers are made with AQ2 fabric which has been designed to be completely waterproof and windproof.  They’re also really breathable, and the loose liner makes the trousers comfortable to wear while still being really durable.

Berghaus men's waterproof trousers

 

The men’s Berghaus waterproof trousers have a zip to open up the bottom 1/4 of each leg to make them quick and easy to pull on over your normal trousers.  You can then do up the zips and fasten the bottom of each leg with the popper to secure them and keep you dry.

They’ll be perfect for the rainy weather this winter and, as far as waterproof trousers go, they look good too.  Living where we do, it won’t be long before both the boots and the trousers are really put to the test and from what we’ve seen so far they’ll do a great job of keeping Steve warm and dry.

 

The weather might be getting colder (and wetter) but Blacks have got a huge range of footwear and clothing for all different outdoor activities, so there’s no excuse not to get out in the fresh air this winter.

 

Disclaimer: The brands included in this post asked for my opinion on the products featured from their range. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’ve lived in Swansea for 18 years now, and really can’t imagine living anywhere else.

We really have the best of all worlds here, with beautiful parks, stunning beaches and coastline and peaceful woods, there are so many places to explore and have a good, long walk.

This is Wales though, so we often have wet and windy weather to contend with when we head out for a breath of fresh air.

I try not to let that stop us, and keep in mind the quote that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.

Getting out whatever the weather with Blacks

 

With the seasons changing I needed a good waterproof coat to keep me warm and dry on family walks and on the school run.  The lovely people at Blacks let me take a look at the women’s winter jackets that they have available, and I think I found my perfect coat to review.

The North Face two in one waterproof coat

 

I chose the women’s Evolve ii Triclimate 3-in-1 HyVent jacket from The North Face.

After putting it to the test on a very chilly morning at the beach I may have fallen in love with this jacket just a little bit.  My husband has had a very similar coat from The North Face for a while now, which he raves about, so I did have quite high expectations for mine.  I’m pleased to say that I’m definitely not disappointed.

 

This particular women’s North face jacket comes with an outer shell and a fleece liner.  You can wear each of those bits separately or you can zip the fleece in to the outer shell and wear them together as a lovely warm, waterproof jacket.

The North Face two in one coat

 

I really love the flexibility that this gives me.

The fleece itself is perfect in its simplicity.  The fit is just right and it’s really comfy to wear.  I love the high neck on it to keep me snug, and the zipped pockets are really handy for keeping my cash and keys safely tucked away.

The north face women's coat inner fleece

 

The outer shell of the jacket comes with a hood that you can tuck away if you don’t need it, although I quite like having it out all the time.

The main jacket shell is made from DryVent fabric which blocks out rain while still being breathable so you don’t get too hot and clammy.  The way the jacket is designed with the high neck, adjustable cuffs and cinch cord hem means that it’s really effective at blocking out the wind too.

 

Along with the jacket, I was also asked to try out some lovely women’s walking trousers.

I chose some grey stretch trousers from Brasher which will go really nicely with the jacket for family outings.

Brasher women's trousers Blacks

 

I chose my trousers in size 12R and they fit pretty much perfectly.

I was a bit worried that they might not fit me because they didn’t feel like they had much give in them when I first picked them up. Once I had them on though I was really pleased to find that they do actually stretch quite a bit and are nice and flexible.

They have a water resistant finish which is great for when we go for family walks, but will also be super handy on the school run on rainy days.

The trousers also have a little zipped pocket on the back which would be handy if you need to carry some change or a door key and don’t want to take a bag out with you.  There’s also a nice webbing belt to help get the perfect fit.

 

To top off my all-weather-winter-ready outfit I’ve been wearing the gorgeously bright and colourful BBC Children in Need Countryfile ramble hat.

This hat is so snug and warm, and if you buy one you’ll be left with an extra warm feeling knowing that at least 50% of the proceeds will be going to support Children in Need.  Both the children had a turn trying it on and, I might be a bit biased here, it looks fab on both of them!

Countryfile children in need bobble hat Blacks

 

I think I’ll be claiming the Children in Need hat for myself though.

Yellow isn’t a colour that I wear all that often, but as it turns out I love it!  It adds such a lovely splash of colour when I’m wearing my black coat, perfect for brightening up dark winter days.

Yellow countryfile bobble hat for children in need Blacks

 

I’m a big believer in getting out in the colder months and not letting the rain or chill in the air stop us as a family from getting out to the beach or the woods.

All you really need is the right clothing and kit to keep you warm and dry.

You can find pretty much everything you need at Blacks, from women’s walking trousers to a whole range of jackets and coats.  Then just add a lovely warm bobble hat and get out there!

 

Disclaimer: The brands included in this post asked for my opinion on the products featured from their range. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The clocks have gone back and British summertime has officially ended.

We’re into the season of long, dark evenings which I know a lot of people struggle with.  Not surprising really, it’s not much fun heading out to work in the dark and leaving the office in the dark too.

While we can’t change the weather or the season, we can change the way we react to it and think more positively about the long, dark evenings.  It’s all about finding things to do to actually make the most of this time in the winter months.

7 little things to get you through the long winter evenings

 

So much of life is about the details for me.  

It’s not all about the big days out and the milestone moments, it’s the little things that bring the most happiness and joy.

The little things that are the bonuses, like a surprise lemony filling in the cake you’re eating, or the freshly painted skirting boards that add the finishing touch to a newly decorated room.

These little things are what can help get you through the dark winter evenings.

Here are some ideas of things you can try:

 

1. Do a spot of star-gazing

Take advantage of the sun going down long before bedtime and take the children out for a bit of star-gazing.

Wrap them up warm and head out somewhere at least a little bit away from the artificial light of street lamps.  Then simple look up and see what constellations you can find.

 

2. Try a new hobby

Long evenings spent inside are a great opportunity to try and learn something new.

It could be knitting so that you can make yourself a gorgeous blanket to curl up with, or to give to a loved one at Christmas.

Or maybe you’d prefer to dig out the paints and get a bit arty.

There are various benefits to getting creative so it’s worth trying a few things and seeing what you enjoy the most.

 

3. Whip up some warming drinks

The dark, cold evenings of winter are a perfect excuse to indulge in a delicious warming drink.

I love a hot chocolate, with a good glug of Baileys in it, at this time of year.

If you have trouble sleeping then you could try making some golden milk, and if you’re already feeling festive then get some mulled wine on the go.

 

4. Get out in the daylight

We all need a good dose of natural light to feel well and to keep our body-clocks in order.

So make a point of getting out for a walk during the day if you can.

Get out in the daylight winter months

 

5. Start a movie night tradition

Find a film the whole family will enjoy and curl up in the warm together once a week for a movie night.

You can make it a special treat for everyone with popcorn, chocolate and other sweet treats.

 

6. Go for a torch walk

If you have to go out with the children in the evening when it’s dark, make it fun rather than a chore.

Get everyone their own torch and let them wave them around and see what they can pick out with them as you walk.

 

7. Plan treats

If you find that you are dreading the dark evenings, then plan something to look forward to each day.

Find a series on Netflix that you can watch an episode (or 3) of after work.  Get a few new books out of the library to curl up on the sofa with.  Grab a tin of chocolates while they’re on offer and crack them open even though it’s not Christmas yet.

 

Hopefully some of these suggestions will work for you and help you enjoy the winter months that bit more.

What do you like to do this time of year to make the most of the long, cold evenings?

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post