Whoosh! What was that?

image via Pinterest

image via Pinterest

Most of August apparently!  “Where on earth has this month gone?” I pondered over a cuppa last night?  So, no surprise, I started to make a little list in my head and this is what I came up with:

Fabulous family holiday in Portugal (shan’t make you all hideously jealous but, suffice to say it was brilliant!  If you’re feeling blue, avoid my IG feed) – so good to see my folks, my brother and his little family (all the way from LA).  Mrs W and Co escaped to France and by all accounts had a super time too.

Rugby camp for Miss F & Master W at our local club, run by the lovely Northampton Saints.  Miss F hugely chuffed to be Saintsman of the week for her age group.

Miss L started her own blog (blind leading the blind, but we’re getting there!  Just the endless nagging now for a Pinterest and Instagram account!).

Catching up with the other side of the family for the dunking of the youngest nephew (though courtesy of the chaos that is the M25, we missed the crucial Church part where Mr N was supposed to do the reading!), still, the ‘after party’ was great.

Afternoons spent with lovely friends, eating well, chatting, letting the kids play ’til past their bedtimes.

We’ve spent so much time outside this holidays, in parks, fields and gardens, it has been just perfect: thank you British summer, you’ve been pretty good to us this year!

I’ve read at least three brilliant books (special mention to Gillian Anderson – she of The Fall, Great Expectations and of course X Files – who has a fab thriller out, ‘A Vision of Fire’ which I demolished at speed!) and have filled my reading list courtesy of friends recommendations.

This week has been (reluctantly) focussing on the return to school of the Nicholas clan, with the sewing box coming out, school shoes and new pencil cases being bought, labelling everything that might ever grace a school corridor and realising that, wow, they have grown again and I might need to hit M&S…again!

image via Pinterest

image via Pinterest

All in all, our August has been a time of recharging and reconnecting (slightly hippyish I’ll grant you, but so needed for us as a family), and a little bit of work.

Tell us, what have you lovely lot been up to, we’d love to know!

Love as ever,

Mrs N x

What’s your manifesto for 2015?

 

positive

image via Pinterest

 

Happy New Year lovely people, we trust this finds you all feeling upbeat and rested?  Here in the UK, unless you’ve had your eyes and ears closed for the last week or so, you cannot fail to have been bombarded on all fronts by all sorts of detoxes/ diets/ cleanses/ fasts/ body blasting/ gym bunny/ ab revealing shenanigans which seem to have been devised to make you feel rubbish about yourself and a total failure.  Often this advice doesn’t even come from nutritionists or qualified PT instructors but the fact that some vague celeb loosely ‘endorses’ it means it must be ace…err, sorry but no.  This time last year, we wrote about our feelings on this very topic and infact re-posted our thoughts earlier this month. (http://t.co/SfaNiGtu5j) So, we are going to buck the trend and publish a little manifesto for 2015.  Here we go, in no particular order…

  • Everyday is a fresh start, so start it with a purpose, even if that purpose is simply to not hit ‘snooze’ or drink an entire mug of tea whilst it’s hot!
  • All bodies are good bodies, look after yours, treat it with kindness, nourish it well and it will look after you: you’re pretty amazing, don’t forget that.
  • Move your body daily, doesn’t have to be a workout, just get out and fill your lungs with fresh air with the added bonus that it will clear your head too.  Choose an exercise format you actually enjoy so that you look forward to it rather than dreading it.
  • Focus on the good, positivity shines out and rubs off on others: ditch the draining negative vibes.
  • Look for the good in others, chuck those compliments around like confetti, everyone needs a lift sometimes.
  • Laugh and smile more – it’s the cheapest medicine (cheesy but true, try it).
  • Ask for, and offer, help.  You may be wonder woman, but even she needs a hand some days.  It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s the polar opposite.
  • Learn to say no.  Don’t be swayed, if you can’t or don’t want to do something, say so: you do not have to justify yourself, you’re a grown up.
  • Cherish your family and friends, an unexpected ‘hello’ text will always bring a smile here, try it, it’s lovely to know someone is thinking of you.
  • Always make time for those who make you feel happy to be alive and are always there when you need picking up off the floor and cheering up.
  • Enjoy the small things like cuddles, good coffee, sunshine, good books, a leisurely soak, an awesome workout…
  • While we love a list here, planning can only take you so far (or waste so much time if you are in full on procrastination mode – coloured pens anyone?!): planning is only effective if it is combined with actually doing!
  • Make time for yourself: it’s not selfish, it is essential.  Choose your ‘recharge’ and action it: reading, yoga, a long bath, a run, crafty pursuits, music….
  • Don’t compare yourself to others, especially online – it’s all curated!  Everyone has foibles and down days, we are unique, embrace your individuality.
  • Go on adventures – not necessarily to far flung places, take yourself back to being a child by exploring your local countryside, reengage with nature, use your imagination.
  • Be grateful for what you have: we all have moments of green eyed envy, but flick on the news and be thankful for the troubles you don’t have.

We would really love your feedback on this – it’s always good to share – will you be taking stock and trying some of these suggestions out? Do you have some you think we should add?  Let us know!

Ten tips to get Back To School ready

I always think that September is almost as good as January for getting your head straight and organised for the few months ahead.  I try and use it as a chance to have a good old clean and sort out too – an Autumn instead of Spring clean if you like.

Image from here

Image from here

I’ve been thinking of how to make the start of school as easy as possible and with good habits, we’ll get through to July again with no hassles!

These are in no particular order…

  1. Have a family calendar on the wall, where all the family can see it – Mrs N favours one with multiple columns similar to this… oh, and make sure you write on it!
  2. Plan ahead, make sure there is clean uniform for the next day for the kids each evening and I find it helps to have a brief think about what I’m going to wear too.  Mrs N gets hers to change into home clothes when they get in to save on school uniform panic washing and break the connection with the school day, helping them unwind.
  3. Have a quick glance at the calendar each evening so you know what’s coming up over the next day or so.
  4. Mrs N gave me this tip and it’s a gem.  Have a magazine file for each child and then file away anything that comes home in their box.  Make sure you have a little clear-out periodically or else it can get a little out of hand!
  5. Any letter or party invite that comes home – deal with straight away.  Write the date of event or whatever on the calendar, RSVP and then file away in the box.  Things then *shouldn’t* be forgotten.  Mrs N has a tendency to go overboard and not only put it on the wall calendar, but also in her phone calendar, if it’s an important school letter, she often photographs it so that it doesn’t get swept away in a cleaning frenzy!
  6. School meals menus – deal with these straight away, mark them on the calendar too to avoid phone calls from the school office asking you to pop a lunch up to your poppet!
  7. Have a set time for homework.  I try and get mine to at least make a start on it the day it comes home.  We have a quick snack then sit down at the dining table and crack on.  This completely depends on your child obviously but there’s nothing worse than frantically scribbling something down 5 minutes before it’s due in is there?!  This also leaves your weekends free to be a family without schoolwork encroaching into fun.
  8. I’m lucky as I work from home and am around after school, I know this isn’t practical for all but I try and keep after school clubs to 2 or 3 a week.  This leaves time for them to unwind and get the homework done too and still have some energy in the bank for the weekends.
  9. Mrs N has her three in the routine of putting lunchbox items into the dishwasher as soon as they come in, getting them to do a quick tidy up of their bits before sitting down to tea so that the time after a wash is quiet rather than her frantically tidying up/ ‘recycling’ precious artworks/ homework whilst trying to listen to reading practices.
  10. Have a quick tidy round the house and switch the dishwasher on before you go up to bed – mornings are manic enough, you don’t want to be faced with a sink full of dirty dishes on top…

Here’s to a smooth start to the school year!

We’d love to hear any tips that you have too – leave us a comment!

Mrs W x

Our 9 Best Back to School Picks

Yes, yes, I know – we’re only a few days into August but September will soon roll round and those slightly too big school jumpers and stiff new shoes will soon be out of the wardrobes and on our little darlings.

We’ve been looking at those items that somehow are *needed* each new school year,  pencil cases, bags and lunch boxes.  Just click on the picture to be taken through to the site.

Feldman pencil case

Feldman Pencil Case £5.00 from Blott

Waldo Pancake

Waldo Pancake Kevin Pencil Case £6.50 from John Lewis

abc pencil case

Boutique Green Pencil Case £6.00 from M&S

 

girls herschel

Herschel Settlement Kids Backpack £40.00 from Alphabet Street

 

Navy Satchel

Navy Leather Satchel £43 from Zatchels

 

tartan backpack

Mi-Pac Mini Backpack £24.99 from John Lewis

Pow Lunch Box

POW Lunch Box £10 from John Lewis

Beatbox Lunch Box

Beatbox Lunch Box £6.50 from Paperchase

Gauch Glam Lunch Box

Gaucho Glam Lunch Box £9 from Paperchase

Obviously this is not the be all and end all, there are LOADS of lovely things in the shops right now and fairly reasonably priced too.

Of course, the thing we get most excited about here at Nicholas and White is the joy of a new school calendar!  There’ll be a post to follow soon about getting organised and ready for Back To School.

Hope you’re enjoying summer!

Mrs W xx

Pictures: Perfect or Purge-worthy?

Camera

I don’t know about you but the thought of losing my photos fills me with ‘The Fear’. Growing up, my Mum was the lady who was never without her camera, whatever the event, out came the Canon or ‘The Big Olympus’ *serious photo time*. Whilst we all used to groan, now as Mum myself, I see why she was always snapping away (more impressive was that Mum always got her rolls of film developed promptly then put the pics into an actual album). The memories that are evoked by flipping through the pages on a damp afternoon, seeing us all at the beach of a weekend, sandy sarnies, ice creams and body boards are, frankly, priceless. Dad was also a keen photographer, so we are extremely fortunate that as a family, we have hundreds of photos and slides to pore over.

Fast forward twenty odd years and having snap happy folks has clearly affected both my brother and I – he now plies his trade as a professional photographer for Transworld Skateboarding magazine in the US and me, well I’m constantly clicking away at my kids with my camera phone – often feeling guilty that I have a fabulous camera that rarely sees the light of day because I always have my phone to hand.

Back to the task in hand: whilst I’m not implying that we should all be regularly putting our snaps into an album (though it is truly a lovely thing to flip through on a wet day), what I am suggesting is that once a month you commit to decluttering your SD card. Most phones will automatically back up your pictures to your ‘Cloud’, certainly my android does over the home WiFi.

First and foremost, scroll through your photos – how many of the shots are blurry/ duplicated/ out of focus/ ones you’d prefer not to keep? Delete them, free up space.

Download your photographs on to your picture management programme – iPhoto for Mac and Windows Photo Gallery on PC. Once you have downloaded them, delete them off your card (scary yes, but be brave, you know they are on the computer).

Create a folder on your hard drive for each month, you can have as many sub folders within that month as you like, for example ‘Birthday party’ or by subject such as ‘Kids’ or ‘Beach’. Now file your snaps neatly within each folder, deleting any duplicates or duff shots along the way.

Now, you are nearly there, back your photos up! Heaven forbid your computer dies, taking with it all your pictures! Personally, the Nicholai use a combo of external hard drives and Cloud sites, but you could also back up to DVDs but these don’t hold as many pictures as an external drive or Cloud facility. (An external HD is like a giant USB stick that can store hundreds of thousands of photos, which you plug in to your computer via a USB port. Once plugged in, look for the drive icon on your desktop then drag and drop your folders across to it. A Cloud site is a secure place to store photos, docs, videos remotely that you can access from anywhere via your login – password protected for privacy. Popular sites are SkyDrive, Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive.)

Share your pictures! Whether it’s showing off or sharing, let your friends and family share in your photos. Most Cloud sites have sharing capabilities, or you can use specific sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa which you can use for free. You could make yourself an album with online sites such as photobox.co.uk or snapfish.co.uk or even go ‘Old School’ and print out your photos and make your own album!

Whatever method you choose to do, do it – the heartache of losing your phone or camera or computer and all your photos vanishing doesn’t bear thinking about for me. Yes, initially this could be an arduous task, but also satisfyingly enjoyable. Like all these things, once the routine is in place, it becomes second nature. Go, take pictures, make memories…just remember to edit and file them later…

Mrs N x

What an Exciting Week!

Firstly an apology: we’ve been a quiet on the blog front of late, marginally better on Twitter! Life seems to have been very busy this month what with one thing and another and we are sorry for neglecting you dear Reader.

Last week was a particularly busy one with the middle Miss N and Eldest Miss W going away on their first residential school trip to Ironbridge (and Cadbury World – can you guess which the kiddies enjoyed most?!), the Junior Mr N and Junior Miss W were also off on another school trip to a toy museum and Mrs N had a very exciting day out in London which required a posh frock and best manners on parade. For you see, Mrs N’s Daddy was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list! Cue much excitement, secrecy and planning.

The day itself was incredibly special, with HRH Duke of Cambridge doing the Honours so to speak, in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace, flanked by Ghurkha Guards and Yeomen Guards. As we sat patiently waiting for The Big Moment we whispered about how many Heads of State and other VIPs had sat on the banquettes and twirled across the dance floor before us, and rather naughtily chuckled at some of the names of other awardees on the list (Mrs N is due to be an Aunty this week so was ‘helping’ her brother with names). It was a morning filled with immense pride, a very long queue for official photos, a rare peek inside one of our most iconic buildings, watching the Yeomen squeeze into the back of a horse drawn carriage to go back to the Tower and a good look at HRH Prince William (no baby puke on his uniform you’ll be thrilled to know!).

We whisked ourselves off to The Ritz for a celebratory glass of fizz (or two) and the most delicious lunch with friends and family, followed by cocktails at the Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall. The day was made extra special by Mrs Ns brother being there as he not only lives over the Atlantic in Los Angeles, but his wife is due to deliver another beautiful boy tomorrow…though I imagine she may not be *as* impressed with the name concocted after several alcoholic beverages that Mr N and her husband came up with…’Tiberius Storm’ anyone?!

Normal service is to resume on the blog, in the meantime, I leave you with my very proud Dad and his award.

Mrs N x

20140326-155643.jpg

Calm can be Content…

Recently whilst mooching around on Pinterest, Mrs N came across the below graphic which got her thinking…and talking…

Image via Melody Ross

Image via Melody Ross

Whilst having an active, busy household can be noisy, frenetic and mean being governed by the clock, it ultimately makes Mrs N happy. Obviously she would be thrilled if the middle child didn’t file her washing (clean and dirty) on her bedroom floor or under her bed (she does have adequate storage, just no inclination to use it it seems) or if the dog chose to wipe her paws on coming in from the garden before running through the house or if the chores magically did themselves, but, on the whole life is good and it is also happy. Mrs N may not be performing brain surgery two days a week or going to exotic locations and eating out each evening however she can multitask and juggle a busy family diary with the best of them, and she’s okay with that.
Here at Nicholas and White we’ve noticed a trend of late that is beginning to irk us somewhat. The need to bemoan or belittle every aspect of daily life be it messy kids, the lack of laundry fairies, too many commitments and not enough time to fulfil them, unhelpful partners/ friends, the weather…the list is seemingly endless! Granted we, as a nation, love nothing better than a chat about the weather, and let’s face it, who isn’t over all this wet stuff (webbed feet yet anyone?), but the other gripes, really? These are first world problems, not major issues. Kids are generally messy creatures, and yes, the house could be tidier/ cleaner/ better organised but, you know what? If we logged off social media/ email/ internet/ stopped texting for say half an hour, some of these ‘annoyances’ could actually be dealt with and we could be left feeling a wee bit better about our lot in life.
If you are feeling like life is a bit too chaotic and moan worthy right now, do something about it; take steps to sort it out. Plan your time more efficiently, get a calendar, use it, make use of some of the many apps designed specifically for this very purpose, ask for help (nicely) and be appreciative of it when it’s offered. No time to nip out and do a food shop? Rather than scrolling through Twitter/ Facebook/ Pinterest/ Spotify/ Instagram do an online order and cross it off your list. Feel like you are missing out socially (darn you Facebook and your carefully curated newsfeed!) then organise a night out or a night in if you’d prefer and have a gathering to plan and look forward to. So your little darlings/ partner are messy beasts, ask them to help tidy up, there’s no point being a martyr and they may surprise you (failing that, bribery works a treat!).
We seem to be veering ever closer to becoming an impatient, instant gratification seeking, selfish bunch – oh woe is me! – not exactly a good vibe to be giving off either to our nearest and dearest or our kids, after all who really wants to hang out with a whinger? So, ranty bit over, grab a drink and a pad, it’s time to reassess what *really* matters; this shouldn’t take you long. Make a list of what’s going on in your head/ life right now, using three columns with the headers: important, desirable and ditch. Apportion it all out into the relevant columns and then deal with the most pressing first. Actively take control of the hubris in your head and feel instantly calmer (really!), life is generally good for us all, let’s enhance it by being a bit kinder to each other and ourselves…smile, Spring is just around the corner.

Book Yourselves a Monthly Family Appointment for 2014

This week sees the Nicholas & White collective of kids back at school and back into a routine which they all seem to be in need of… don’t get us wrong, we love them very much, and by the end of next week we will both be so over the school run, homework, packed lunches and related paraphernalia, but for now, the thought of the fridge staying closed for longer than 20 minute intervals and the opportunity to get ‘stuff’ done is extremely alluring!
Both our families have had a really lovely break over the Christmas and New Year period, much needed sleep and downtime as a family has been caught up on, good food munched, board game battles done (secret maths practice in the form of ‘Monopoly’ – though the younger Miss N is quite the sneaky property tycoon!) and bracing *read muddy, blowy, often damp* bike rides and walks have been had. All this ‘quality family time’ (please excuse the cloying phrase, can’t think of a better one right one!) lead us to thinking, “we should do this more often” which in turn led to a plan…
The plan, such as it is, involves everyone in the family making a list (surprise!) of things they would like to do together this year. The plan is then to pool all your ideas and together choose 12 things in total from everybody’s lists to do as a family (or group of friends if you’d prefer). Then, you can either write these 12 activities on separate pieces of paper, place them in a jar for safe keeping and choosing at random each month or you can decide to write them (in pen if feeling brave) on your calendar. As a family or collective of friends, you need to pick one thing for every month of 2014 that you *will* do.

Image via LollyJane.com

Image via LollyJane.com

The activities don’t have to be costly, but they must be chosen and agreed on by all. Obviously some activities such as ‘go for a picnic’ are better done when it’s not lashing with rain and blowing a hoolie (although you could of course have an indoor ‘carpet picnic’), so you would book such an activity for the generally drier months of the year.

Some suggestions for you:

  • Family DVD afternoon (with salty & sweet popcorn please!) or cinema if you’re feeling flush!
  • ‘Nature Detective’ walk in the park/ forest/ on the beach where kids can collect ‘treasures’
  • Board game afternoon
  • Go for a picnic
  • Let the kids choose what to cook & let them help make their choices for all to munch
  • Visit a museum or exhibition (Natural History Museum and Science Museum are great for kids)
  • Go for a day trip, not necessarily far afield, but be out for the whole day doing fun things
  • Go camping (in the garden if you like or somewhere more exotic…like the next county?!)
  • Try a new activity together (sporting or creative)
  • Go for a bike ride/ swimming/ play footy/ tennis/ rugby/ tag together – you could do a mini sports day
  • Take a snapshot of the family each month, maybe doing the activity you’ve chosen or just being silly and create your own collage with your year of images.
  • Have friends and/ or family over for a meal at your place – you could make it a ‘pot luck’ job where everyone brings something or a course to the table (if you like a bit of control, you could give your guests theme/ cuisine parameters – or just wing it!)

Who fancies giving this a whirl and letting us know what you plan to do? Best be quick though – it’s already the second week of January!

Wild Weather Stops Play?

In typically British fashion, let’s mention this crazy weather we have been having.  Wild winds and lashing rains have caused mayhem here in the UK over the last week or so with flights, ferries, and trains being cancelled or delayed.  Mrs N’s brother was a victim of both the baggage chaos at Gatwick and of the weather Gods delaying his onward flight to the Paternal family home, which having flown in from LA with a pregnant wife and toddler in tow earlier in the day wasn’t exactly ideal!  Serious flooding has left roads impassable and some towns and villages under several inches of water: the Environment Agency still have 157 flood warnings in place as of this morning.  Electrical supplies have been patchy in places with some areas being left without power for substantial periods of time.

So Mother Nature is causing mayhem and continues to do so this morning with high winds and more rain forecast for later, however, here at Nicholas & White, we’ve taken our usual approach to grotty weather: no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.  Yesterday Mr N got the three junior Ns geared up for the elements and took them all for a 10k bike ride to check out the localised flooding and see if the farmers had moved their livestock from their usual, now sodden patches.  Meanwhile, Mrs N (being super rock n roll) set ‘The Staff’ *read electrical appliances* to work and blitzed the house: cue clean sheets, vacuumed floors, fresh smelling bathrooms and a sense of order restored.  Ruddy cheeked, slightly mucky, happy children returned and emptied Lego everywhere: order was pretty nice whilst it lasted!  Over at the Whites, a similar ‘gear them up and turf them out’ situation was going down.

Image via Howies

Image via Howies

In an effort to get everyone away from the selection boxes and biscuits and outside, we thought we’d put some (cost free!) suggestions out there for all to peruse and hopefully get you moving for the wellies and anoraks rather than another slice of Christmas cake!  We find *whispers* bribery works a treat on sluggish family members – promise of a steaming hot chocolate or a bracing walk to the pub gets most out of the chair – do try to leave the ‘oh but we’ll all get mucky and add yet more to the laundry pile’ thoughts from your head, after all, what parent doesn’t own shares in laundry liquid and the sheer abandon with which the kids will play when they know they can go puddle jumping without reprimand is lovely!

  • Get out for a walk – the dog (if you have one) will thank you too!
  • Go for a bike ride or a run
  • Take the kids to the park – pack a flask (and bin bags to sit on in the car on the way back)
  • Play footy/ tag rugby/ rounders/ tag/ basketball/ any games they’ve learnt in PE
  • Check out any local wildlife walks/ parks/ footpaths near you (your council webpage should have this info on it)
  • Play nature detectives, the Woodland Trust have a great printouts in the kids section of their website
  • Get together with friends – we’re sure their kids could do with blowing off steam outside too!
  • Build an outdoor den together
  • Do a scavenger hunt, looking for specific twigs/ leaves/ shaped pebbles/ animals
  • Visit your local woods and get the kids collecting sticks, building dens, kicking through leaves
  • Get the kids to help on your allotment if you are lucky enough to have one or in your garden clearing up whatever the wind has blown in.
  • Check out Project Wild Thing for inspiration and the Wild Network, both backed by Play England, and whose aim is to get kids back outside and connected with nature

To quote Chris Packham, naturalist and wildlife TV presenter:

Children have a natural fascination to touch and to feel things – it’s part of existing in the world.   It’s not the kids that have said they don’t want to put their hands in the mud or jump in the pond, it’s the adults that have said no.

So, gear up, get out there and have fun together!

TV Time

Image via Speckyboy.com

Image via Speckyboy.com

Mrs W gets very excited about Christmas TV.  The trailers start being shown and she gets slightly annoyed that she can’t put them on her generic satellite tv planner straight away – what if she misses one?!

There is of course the seasonal radio and tv programme lists and both Mrs W And Mrs N have fond memories of highlighting favourite shows or circling with a red pen.

These days, there is the added secret world of the red button too – Mrs N kindly alerted me to a Sherlock special being shown on there on Christmas day with the series then starting on New Years day.  *faints with excitement*  The red button is a whole other world of tv with all kinds of extra bits and bobs hidden in your tellybox waiting to be explored – a bit underused in the W household except for Glastonbury coverage and Wimbledon.

Mrs W is most excited by (don’t judge) Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Call The Midwife amongst others.  Mrs N’s household is looking forward to Top Gear, Gangster Granny and a few good films.

We’re both very much looking forward to Kirstie’s Crafty Christmas and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces at Christmas and Death Comes To Pemberley.  There are also all the wonderful Christmas cookery programmes too…

Just need to make sure there’s enough room on the planner as neither Mrs W or Mrs N have any intentions of festering on the sofa this holiday.  Nothing better than a good watch of the telly whilst ploughing through the ironing eh?!