New Year’s Resolutions: #LiveLAGOM

Normally, I’m not one for making lots of New Year’s Resolutions, as I am not very good at keeping them! But this year, I am working with IKEA on a sustainable living project, called #LiveLAGOM, which is encouraging the Pink family to make some good resolutions, and helping us to keep them.

IKEA, along with environmental charity Hubbub, are trying to help people live a more sustainable life. It’s not about depriving yourself of the nice things in life. It’s about taking care not to waste resources, and not taking what we don’t need.

LAGOM comes from the Swedish phrase ‘lagom är bäst’ (the right amount is best) which means enjoying what you love, while not taking more than you need.

A few months back, I was very excited to find out I had been picked for the Live LAGOM project, and went along to my local store in Milton Keynes, with five or six other people who’d also been chosen. We had a very interesting behind-the-scenes tour of the store, so we could see what IKEA are doing to reduce energy waste – they don’t just want their customers to live LAGOM, they do it too!

Becky Pink on IKEA's roof

I got a behind-the-scenes tour of IKEA, which included going on their roof to check out their solar panels and rain water harvesting system!

IKEA Milton Keynes has 6,000 solar panels, which generate around 20% of their energy, and they aim to be carbon-free by 2020. They harvest 2,500,000 litres of rain water from their ginormous roof every year, which is cleaned, and used to flush the toilets. They chip any waste wood, to fuel their bio-mass boiler, which heats water, turning it into steam, to heat the building. This means they don’t need to use as much gas, and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide they produce.

 

Our quest to Live LAGOM 

We try hard to be as eco-friendly as we can, and have long used reusable bags to minimise our plastic bag use. We use energy saving lightbulbs in most of the lights, and are pretty good at recycling. We have put in some water-saving measures from Anglian Water, and we use an airer or our washing line instead of a tumble dryer. We buy A or above rated appliances, and switch lights off when we aren’t using them. our bedrooms all have thermal blinds, which are supposed to keep it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Our house is fairly well insulated, but I have recently bought a draft excluder for the front door, which has made a difference already!

Thea sitting in a trolley with a draft excluder

Thea fell in love with this draft excluder, and luckily it was in the sale!

But we could still do a lot more! 

IKEA are giving us £500 worth of products to help us Live LAGOM, and I’ve been thinking hard about how we can spend it. I’d love to be more energy efficient, to help reduce our carbon footprint, but also to save money. So we will be looking at the lights in our kitchen, as they are energy-gobbling old things that were installed by the people who lived here before. All of IKEA’s lights are LED now, so getting new ones will instantly cut our electricity use (and bills, yay!). I have also noticed that since we have had the girls, our battery consumption has skyrocketed. We do have some rechargeable batteries, but will definitely be getting some more.

I’m also going  to look at ways to make our little home office more cosy. Because I work from home quite a lot, and mainly sit at a desk all day, and therefore don’t move about a lot, I get REALLY cold. I am a cold person anyway, so sitting still is a recipe for shivering. I hate turning on the heating for the whole house, just so I can be warmer in that one little room, so aside from layering up the jumpers, I’ll be getting some cosy blankets to huddle under.

I want to use the food we buy more efficiently, to reduce food waste. Some weeks I am pretty good, and plan out our meals. But more often, we end up wasting food because we don’t have the time or energy to cook the meals we have planned. What is worse, we don’t even put the wasted food into compost, or our green bin, purely (I’m ashamed to say) due to laziness. Well that is going to stop. We have a compost heap, and we are going to use it! Even if it’s just the small mountain of teabags we get every day, it will make a difference. I am also going to use my slow cooker more often. Currently it’s buried deep inside our under stairs pantry, which doesn’t encourage me to use it. Ditto the bread maker.

We also want to be more creative with our recycling. We already recycle pretty much everything we can, (luckily Milton Keynes Council make it really easy for us to do this) but Ava and Thea just LOVE junk modelling, and can often be found rooting through the recycling, to find a suitable piece of cardboard, or tin foil to make something with. So I have started pilling up cereal boxes and egg boxes next to the fridge, so they don’t have to search them out. And it looks hideous. It’s a complete jumble of pens, glue sticks, bits of paper and card, finished art work and abandoned projects. It stresses me out every time I see it. So I really want to tackle that.

So a new storage solution for this area is called for, to let us access the cooking equipment more easily, and sort out the junk modelling supplies. At the moment, the girls often take their art materials into the living room, which make me worry about our rugs and furniture, (I really don’t want a repeat of this rug situation) and leaves me alone in the kitchen. So having easier access, and a nicer place to ‘make’ would mean we’d spend more time together.

IKEA trolley full of #LiveLagom sustainable products

I’ve gone for a fluffy sheepskin rug, a blanket, LED lighting and a few other goodies.

I’ll be writing more about this project over the next few months, so you’ll be able to see what differences it has made to our lives.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Happy New Year! (And happy birthday to PinksCharming)

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and welcomed the new year with something sparkly. I woke up with a migraine, and all my New Year’s Eve plans were scuppered. I spent most of the day in bed, and finally managed to crawl to the sofa late afternoon, knowing I’d have trouble sleeping that night if I slept any more. I flaked out about ten o’clock, and then got woken up at midnight by the fireworks outside our house. Oh well, I’ve never been one for New Year anyway!

The start of January does mark my blog’s birthday though: PinksCharming.com is now a whole year old! So I thought I’d mark the occasion by doing a round up of my most popular posts, so that those of you who have joined us more recently get a chance to see the older ones.

By far and away my most read post is What I Learned from Being a Breastfeeding Failure. It’s definitely my most personal post, and seems to resonate with a lot of people. It was really hard to write, but I think getting it all off my chest (so to speak!) has helped me come to terms with it (although I think I will always carry some guilt about it, to be honest!)

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Our Christmas

Despite my fears, our Christmas was wonderful. We kicked things off with our Christmas Eve Box, in the early afternoon, and it was a total hit.

I bought the box from IKEA, and added some classic Christmas tales and DVDs, and some jam jars filled with hot chocolate and marshmallows, and popcorn, and the girls’ homemade stockings. My sister Debbie and I made them a few years ago, and cousin Bonnie has a matching one. I also got them some matching Frozen PJs.

I’ve done a Christmas Eve Box  for the past few years and we tie it in with hanging up the stockings and putting the mince pie and carrot out for Rudolph. Continue reading

How my quest for a Pinterest-perfect Christmas has turned me into a Christmas-zilla

Are you finding Christmas extra stressful this year? I don’t know why, but I am really struggling, and I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of unwritten Christmas cards, half-finished to do lists and weird dreams of unfinished work interspersed through mainly sleepless nights. Normally I love everything about Christmas. I love planning and buying gifts, I love doing Christmas crafts, I love choosing and decorating the tree. But I have come to the conclusion that I am a Christmas-zilla.

This picture is my idea of a perfect Christmas. Thea and Ava in front of our Christmas Tree

I just took this, and it I think it looks great, but it’s taken a good couple of weeks and a LOT of stress to get to this point!

This year, I feel like everything I planned has gone wrong, mainly due to lack of time. It started off well, with a visit to Father Christmas that the girls loved. But I feel like it’s all gone a bit downhill from then! I can feel the tension rising up through my shoulders, and have been on the verge of a migraine several times over the past week. I blame Pinterest. Such high levels of perfection can only be achieved by people who have loads of money and time. And perhaps a nanny, or grown up or no children. It can only lead to inflated expectations. But still, I really want the perfect Christmas (whatever that is!).

Last year, we went to a wonderful local Christmas tree farm, and tramped about in the cold looking for the perfect tree. I was really looking forward to doing it again this year, but as usual, I had planned too much in too little time. We had arranged to go to my parents’ house so the girls and cousin Bonnie could help decorate their tree. But time slipped away and we knew we’d be really late if we went to the Christmas tree farm. It was also raining and really windy.

Cue meltdown. From me. The girls were so confused about why I was crying, and keeps saying “Please be happy mummy” and hugging me. Ryan took over and said he’d go and get a tree whilst I took the girls to my parents. I was so gutted to miss out on the experience, but I knew that I would be stressed, and the girls would not enjoy it as they would be cold and miserable. I didn’t want to get a tree from one of the big chains, as we always like to support local growers, but I thought that’s what we’d have to go for. But luckily Ryan found a great tree at the green grocers on our high street, and, even better, it was his last one so he gave us money off. Ryan was especially pleased about that!

The girls had a great time at Grandma and Grandpa’s, and Ava only asked about going to pick the tree once, and luckily didn’t make a fuss when I explained why.

Bonnie, Ava and Thea decorating the Christmas tree

Bonnie, Ava and Thea had a wonderful time decorating my parents’ tree. It needed a *little* bit of adjusting when we had gone home…

Then it came to decorating our tree. My friend had shown me a beautiful time lapse video of her family decorating their tree, and I really wanted to try and make one too. Here it is.

I did edit out the final second as when I bent down I had a builder’s bum. Not quite what I had in mind.

Next, Ryan knelt on a bauble. Fortunately he didn’t cut himself.

Minutes later, Thea dropped the glass snow globe my mum got for Ava a year or two ago.

Broken bauble and snow globe

I feel like this smashed bauble and snow globe sums up our Christmas so far!

I don’t know if you’ve ever dropped a snow globe on a hard floor. Well I don’t advise it. It shattered and tiny shards of glass flew everywhere, along with goopy liquid covered in glitter and ‘snow’. I can’t even believe how far the pieces went. It was panic stations because we weren’t wearing shoes and were worried about getting cut, and then it was the question of how to clear the blessed thing up!

After that, we gave up for the day. I don’t know how anyone stays sane trying to decorate a tree with small children.

The next day, we did managed to get the time lapse video. (This time we secured the phone with blu tack, we are such professionals.) Sadly there was still a but of builder’s bummage. Sorry about that.

The tree looks lovely, now that I have rearranged some of the decorations Thea put up. Her method is to hang them all on the same branch.

We had Ava’s Nativity play, and her school Christmas Carol Service, which were both wonderful, although Thea got a bit out of control at the service. She really needed a nap and the only way I could keep her quiet was giving her that party rings I had stanched up on the way out of the door for emergency use. Then the sugar kicked in. One of her best friends was sitting with us, and the pair of them spent most of the service making a fort out of the kneelers, and giggling together. I don’t think anyone minded, fortunately!

Ava spend half of it with her hood over her face, or pleading to sit with us.

Ava enjoying her carol service

It turns out she’d spotted the biscuits and wanted her share!

I managed to get most of the Christmas cards in the post on time but haven’t done any local ones. Ava wrote most of hers at half term, though by the time it came to take them to school, I couldn’t decipher all of the names…

Ava's Christmas Cards

Ava did all the writing and most of the colouring… but can you guess which one Thea did?!

It was Ava’s 5th birthday last week, so along with Christmas prep, we also wanted to make sure her birthday was special, and not overshadowed. I think we managed it, but then had added stress when she kept asking for a party, which we hadn’t planned on doing. Last year we hired a hall and clubbed together with two of her best friends and did a big Frozen party. So it turns out she was expecting something on that scale. In the end it was a mad dash texting round a few school friends’ mums, hoping they could make it the weekend before Christmas. We kept it family simple, with six little lovelies plus Ava and Thea at our house, and they all seemed to have fun!

After that we went to a great carol service, which had the added bonus of hot dogs and hot chocolate afterwards, which the girls loved. It was so lovely to sit down and have a chance to think about the real meaning of Christmas for a little while! It made me realise I am being an idiot. Instead of creating the ‘perfect’ Christmas, I am just being a stress monster who is shouting. A lot.

I’ve scaled back the Christmas crafts. I really wanted to make a gingerbread house for the girls to decorate. But in my current state of mind, I know that would end in tears. Probably all of us! So instead we invited some friends around and made a very fun, sticky mess decorating some IKEA biscuits and tree. Nobody cried. It was lovely. And just what I needed.

I have managed to do a few other mini crafts, which I may, or may not get around to blogging. It’s not what I had planned. But I’m slowly coming to terms with it!

I know that this is such a first world problem, and pales into insignificance when you think about the refugee crisis. But I’m hoping that some of you might feel better knowing that I am feeling totally out of control!

So is it just me, or are you finding it much more stressful this year? I don’t know if I have just blocked out the drama from previous years, and it’s always like this. But I really don’t ever remember feeling this stressed.

So if you don’t see any more blog posts for a while, I’m sorry but I am either collapsed in a heap under a pile of unfinished Christmas cards, or on the sofa with a glass of Baileys. Hopefully the latter! Merry Christmas!

 

Ava is five!

Ava is five. FIVE! How did that happen? I know everyone says it, but these years have flown by, and whilst it hasn’t always been easy being parents, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We are so proud of our clever, funny, caring, imaginative, beautiful little girl and we love hanging out with her.

Newborn Ava

Ava was just a day or two old here, and so teeny!

Here is a gallery of some of our favourite pictures of Ava, pretty much in chronological order! It makes me realise we really need to get more pictures of us with her, we only have a handful out of the thousands we have taken.

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Quick Christmas gift recipe: Peppermint ‘bark’! 

My sister Debbie made this super easy ‘Peppermint Bark’ and thought she’d share it with you. It’s perfect for wrapping up in pretty paper or bags and giving to teachers, neighbours, or anyone else who deserves a festive treat.

First melt about 200g dark chocolate in a bain Marie (a bowl over a saucepan of hot water). Dark chocolate melting over a bain Marie Continue reading

Mantlepiece with snowflake bunting

How beautiful snowflakes can help improve children’s lives

A few weeks ago, I wrote about all the (many) things I’m thankful for, but obviously not everyone is as lucky as us. I recently found out about a charity called Home-Start, and their mission really speaks to me:

“Home-Start helps families with young children deal with whatever life throws at them. We support parents as they learn to cope, improve their confidence and build better lives for their children. The benefits of our support include improved health and well being and better family relationships.”

As a mum myself, I know how difficult it can be to be responsible for the wellbeing and happiness of a tiny new human. I really relied on Ryan, my family and friends to help when I couldn’t cope. And let’s face it, we all go through those times when we just don’t know what we’re doing, or what to do next. When the kids are ill, when you’re ill, when you haven’t been able to get any sleep, when they won’t eat, when their eczema is causing them a lot of pain, and even when they are having an epic tantrum… the list goes on! Continue reading

Breakfast with Santa at Wyevale Garden Centre

Breakfast with Father Christmas at Wyevale Garden Centre

We’ve never taken Ava and Thea to visit Father Christmas before – they’ve met him at school fetes and at nursery, but have never been to a ‘proper’ one. Well this year, we had the opportunity to review Wyevale Garden Centre’s Breakfast with Father Christmas event, so I was very excited!

As we walked in, the girls spotted Father Christmas, and Thea ran up to him – Ava hung back a little bit, but soon got chatting to him as well.

Ava and Thea ran straight up to Father Christmas Continue reading

Christmas letters

Have your kids written their letters to Father Christmas yet? We are going to have breakfast with the man himself at Wyevale Garden Centre (and are just a teeny bit excited!) at the weekend, so I think we will write them tomorrow, and hand deliver them straight to him!

Last year we went to Waddesdon Manor for their magical Christmas light experience, and the girls ‘wrote’ their letters there, and posted them into a special post box. Thea and Ava 'writing' their letters to Father Christmas

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