The World According to Izzie

Mum of twin daughters - nothing else scares me

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Musings on Eurovision

I suspect that the Eurovision Song Contest might be the TV equivalent of Marmite and after posting several tweets on the topic last week I discovered that my friends were divided into two distinct camps:

1. Those who couldn't wait for Saturday night and were planning Eurovision-themed parties.

2. And others - for whom there just wasn't enough gin or wine in the world to persuade them to sit through it.

For me, I have to admit to being a huge fan. Eurovision will always be an excuse for Twitter, sharing random thoughts and giggling at Graham Norton's inspired commentary.

The entries this year were rather subdued and there were just too many ballads. I'd have personally preferred a little more 'cheese' and eccentricity - as this is what we've grown to love about Eurovision during its 60 year history.

The night was brilliant nonetheless and the tweeting became increasingly random and daft as the evening wore on. I spied several friends as well as the cat (@catostropic) tweeting throughout.

I can only blame the wine.

The UK entry, Electro Velvet's - Still In Love With You, finished in a disappointing 24th place with just five points. Personally, I think it deserved better - as the song was quirky, original and quintessentially British.

Russia's entry, A Million Voices by Polina Gagarina finished in second place. I was saddened that the audience in Vienna booed each time Russia was awarded one of the high scores - surely that's not entering into the spirit of Eurovision and politics should have no place here.

I loved the Italian entry, Grande Amore by Il Volo but though it a little sophisticated for the Eurovision Song Contest - their entry came third.

The voting however is all about politics and may have driven me to distraction as I'm clueless as to how they will ever stop it happening. In the end, I think the best song won.

And if the Swedish entry had been a piece of homework - it would have been awarded a gold star. The mix of interactive graphics and a song with a message about bullying was a winning combination. Here, (with a massive 365 points) - for anyone who missed it is Mans Zelmerlow with Heroes...



Thanks to everyone on Twitter on Saturday night - it was one hell of a party. I hope to see you all there at the same time next year.


Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton


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Monday, 25 May 2015

Life in an (Almost) Empty Nest


We've lived in our current home for eighteen years now and our twin daughters, Sophia and Olivia have grown up here. When I reflect on that time, the house has seen many changes to suit the needs of the girls from toddler to teen years and beyond. Two years ago the girls left home for university and for most of the time they live away from home. This meant that our living space changed once again to suit our needs as a family with grown-up children.

While I miss the girls when they're away, it's given us the opportunity to sample what life might be like once they leave home for good. I'm always happy to spend time with our daughters and when they're home, life is fabulous, but chaotic. As a result, the house has to adapt to the needs of a couple, as well as a family of four adults and we've had to be creative to make that happen.

I love the quote from William Morris that says, 'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.' Morris's advice is as timely today as it was more than one hundred years ago and is always in my thoughts when contemplating changes to our house.

I thought I'd share a few tips on how to make your home a versatile living space for anyone who's in a similar situation...

1. Declutter
Not loving the clutter from family life? Donate, recycle and discard to create a minimalist living space that's functional and stays that way. Clutter makes for a chaotic lifestyle and wastes valuable time as you're forever moving things to create space. Keep it tidy and you can use this time more wisely.


2. Keep the cute stuff
There will always be things you can't bear to part with - photos, cute drawings from nursery and your children's favourite toys. Hold onto belongings that you love - these are the memories of life together as a family and should be cherished.

3. Create versatile storage space
If you're at the in-between phase where children are away but come home again with all their belongings, make sure there's plenty of space to store everything. The blanket box purchased as a toy box when the girls were small is still being used to stash some of their university kit and therefore, was a brilliant buy. 

4. Recreate
Don't feel guilty about recreating adult space in your home once the children have moved out. It's time to be yourself and take advantage of a new found freedom that suits your lifestyle. We've learnt to confine our daughters' belongings to their bedrooms while the rest of the house is ours to enjoy.


5. Love what you own/ buy what you love
While owning less is most definitely the way to go, it's important to love what you have and not compromise on quality or style. Replace worn items with purchases you're going to love and if there's any doubt about whether (or not) something is a great investment for your home - sleep on it for a while. Chances are you'll know what to do after that time.

6. Create a grown-up space for your adult children
After the girls left home we revamped their bedrooms to give a functional space along with everything they might need as students. As they spend a lot of time studying and relaxing up there, it's important that they still feel at home. As there are more books than ever we've added extra bookshelves. We've also kept a selection of favourite bits and pieces from childhood.
 
7. Hold onto what works for you
Our squishy leather sofas were a brilliant investment and not something I'm planning on changing anytime soon. When the girls are home we frequently pile onto one sofa for movie night and when they're away, Mr A and myself have a sofa each and make the most of the space. The sofas are regularly updated with new cushions and throws.


I was asked by Harvey's Furniture to share some tips on creating a home that grows with you and to focus on life with grown-up children as part of their national survey. There's a chance to win a sofa and £500 to spend on finishing touches for your living room from Cargo. Good luck x

*This is a collaborative post.

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton



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Friday, 22 May 2015

Life in the great outdoors

My last pair of walking boots fell apart after many years of faithful service. Since then I've made do with trainers for our numerous walks and hikes throughout the year. I can't pretend that my feet have felt as comfortable in trainers and so, when I was offered the chance to review a pair of boots from Trespass, I accepted immediately and couldn't wait to try them.

With some free time on Sunday we headed out towards the Malvern Hills. Walking from British Camp to the Worcestershire Beacon and back again is something we do every year. There's nothing quite like the exhilaration of fresh air, feeling the wind through your hair (see photo) and the promise of a pub lunch at the halfway point to make for a brilliant day out. There were lots of like-minded people walking on the hills and making the most of the cool, but dry weather.

Description
Designed for life in the great outdoors, the Serena walking boots are made from breathable fabric to keep feet feeling fresh and comfortable throughout the day. The boots have been designed using Tras-tex technology (created to repel water) and keep feet and socks dry. In addition, the nubuck leather upper sections are very durable making the boots both hard-wearing and long-lasting. They also have steel shank midsoles to protect feet from any sharp debris that might puncture the sole. And finally, the Vibram soles help with balance as they have a strong grip and are brilliant on rough terrain.



Review
I may have broken the first rule of wearing new walking boots without breaking them in first and I'm happy to report that my feet remained comfortable for the entire day. The boots were sturdy enough to cope with the terrain, but still flexible - enabling my feet to move naturally while tackling steeper inclines.


The sizing was generous and I was able to wear a thick pair of socks without needing to size up from my usual size 5. The boots were surprisingly lightweight and stylish, despite feeling incredibly sturdy. My feet were nicely cushioned, yet supported during the walk and it was bliss to arrive home without sore feet. It's great to have a pair of walking boots that cover every eventuality for the great British weather and therefore, they come highly recommended. Currently, the Serena Walking boots are half price at Trespass. I look forward to wearing the boots again during our next expedition in a couple of weeks time.

   

Here's hoping for a brilliant British summer and making the most of the great outdoors. Here are a few of the scenic highlights from our walk...

Adorable isn't he. Sadly, not mine, but only too happy to pose for this photo...


A gorgeous carpet of bluebells. The scent was heavenly...

 
Fields of rapeseed under a cloudy sky...


And finally, British Camp - a welcome sight at the end of a long day...



Disclosure: I received a pair of Serena walking boots for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are my own.


Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 18 May 2015

Across the pond

There's excellent news from the Anderton camp this week and I'm happy to announce that daughter, Sophia will be heading over to the US this summer. She applied to Camp America back in August of last year and has been lucky enough to be placed at a camp in Oregon. She has wanted to do this for a very long time and I can't begin to tell you how excited she is.

I am going to miss her so much, but have to remind myself that our children are not ours to keep. If you love someone you have to learn to let go. She loves the great outdoors and has been a keen rower for many years - so her choice of activity for the summer months is perfect. Although I have no doubt that the summer will be challenging, as well as brilliant.

Sophia hands in end of year coursework on Tuesday and I suspect this will be accompanied by a request to move out of digs and return home shortly afterwards. I'm preparing myself for the onslaught of chaos as she negotiates packing, visa and insurance etc.

If all goes to plan she's planning a trek at the end of camp (destination to be confirmed). I'm hoping that she'll be home in time to celebrate her 21st birthday on 13th September along with her twin sister. I wish Sophia all the very best and know that this is a fabulous opportunity for her to experience a little of the big wide world and all it has to offer.

Note to self: try not to cry at the airport when I drop my youngest daughter off in June. She is going to have a wonderful time and will no doubt arrive home with many tales of life at camp and all that the US has to offer.  

In the meantime, I hope to spend a little time with both daughters before Sophia leaves - even if it's just for a few days - here's hoping they can make it home.

Here's to a wonderful summer and my daughter spreading her wings and having the time of her life.

Until next time...


Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton


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Thursday, 14 May 2015

Facts You've Kept From Your Offspring

If ever I find myself wondering where my daughters get their rebellious streak from, I have only to think of myself as a child and realise that the apple(s) haven't fallen so very far from the tree. I may have blogged about this previously here,
here and here.

Here is yet another of my confessions to add to the list...

In 1981 I was due to leave middle school and go to the local comprehensive. I was looking forward to high school as I was desperate for independence and the chance to spend even more time with my friends. My dad however, had other ideas. I was a tad rebellious even at twelve and he thought that I'd benefit from attending a local convent school several miles away from home.

He may have been desperate for me to go there, but I had other ideas. I had a close friend already at the convent school who hated it. The nuns were incredible strict and during the week I hardly ever got to see her as she was bogged down with homework. I couldn't think of a single reason why I would want to go there.

Despite my protests, Dad insisted that I sat the entrance exam. I was not impressed as this clashed with a day trip to France from middle school and I wasn't allowed to go. Resigned to my fate, I was delivered to the main hall one Saturday morning in February. I was not happy, and sat seething as the exam papers were handed out. Casting a glance around the room, I was told off by one of the nuns for looking up. Thinking that this was not where I wanted to spend the rest of my school days, I decided that I wouldn't answer a single question on the exam paper - instead I spent my time doodling and yawning a lot.

When the papers were collected, I skipped out of the exam hall - happy that I'd resolved the issue. At the time, I was just twelve years old and naively thought that I'd gotten away with it.

A month later a letter arrived addressed to my parents. It read something like this...

Dear Mr and Mrs xxxxx,

Unfortunately we are unable to offer Izzie a place at our school as she failed to answer a single question on her entrance exam paper.

We would like to wish your daughter every success in the future.

Yours sincerely,

xxxxx

I was in so much trouble for doing this. Grounded for a month, I received lots of extra chores and no pocket money. As far as I was concerned though, I was happy that I'd won the battle and I went on to enjoy the local comprehensive along with most of my friends.

There are times when I wonder what life might have been like had I gone to the convent-run school. I've concluded only that I'd probably have landed myself in even more trouble than I managed at high school. In hindsight, things probably worked out for the best. The irony is that I'm now working at the school as an exam invigilator. Fortunately the nuns left a very long time ago and now - I'd be happy to go there.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who was rebellious back in the 1980s?

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 11 May 2015

Mmmmm... what are we going to wear today?

Is it just me or does everyone spend most of their annual clothing budget on gorgeous clothes for the summer? In comparison winter is easy and my outfit of choice would be a pair of jeans, a jumper (or two) and a pair of biker boots. I own three little black dresses, one pair of smart black trousers, a couple of skirts and voila, every eventuality is covered. Head into summer though, and it's an entirely different ball game...

There are so many options...

1. Don't we need sandals for those rare days when feet aren't freezing or we're lucky enough to head off to sunnier shores?

2. And who doesn't love a pair of Birkenstocks for the beach?

3. Not forgetting ballerina pumps for days when the weather's not sure what it wants to do.



4. There are mini dresses for hiding the bikini body.

5. And maxi dresses for hiding everything...


6. Skirts in an assortment of lengths and eclectic prints...


7. Cropped trousers for when you're not certain that the weather will stay perfect.

8. And full-length trousers for when summer's deserted us.


9. Shorts for holidays and warmer days in the garden.

10. Bikinis and sarongs... gulp! Only if I absolutely have to...


11. Plus an assortment of gorgeous shirts and T-shirts to go with the weird but wonderful assortment of clothing we've bought for the warmer weather.

Mr A does not get my obsession with the fabulousness (is that even a word?) that is the summer wardrobe. But then I guess he doesn't have anywhere near as many options. His only dilemma would be full-length or cropped trousers and he's all sorted whatever the weather.

So here's to blowing 75% of my annual clothes budget on the summer wardrobe and spending the winter living in jeans, jumpers and boots.

Summer clothes are simply gorgeous and I guess my winter wardrobe will always pale into insignificance.


Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Blog Spot Interview - Natalie Ray

Natalie Ray is a freelance writer, blogger and full-time mum to daughters, Libby and Lia. Natalie blogs over at Plutonium Sox and writes about everything she loves in life. Natalie started her blog back in March 2013 and has recently become a brand ambassador for Drayton Manor and Sea Life Birmingham.

Where does the inspiration behind Plutonium Sox come from?
I decided to start a blog when I first started working from home. It was predominantly because I'd been given such an amazing opportunity to look after my children full time and have a career. It made me realise that this was an opportunity that should be available to more parents and I was passionate about sharing it. It developed into a blog about my family and a record that I hope the girls can look back at in the future. Oh, and the name came from my dogs - at the time I had two dogs called Pluto and Soxa, so Plutonium Sox was born!

Describe a typical day in your life...
Oh wow. We get up around 7:30, I get the girls changed and ready for the day. Libby looks after Lia in the cot while I have a shower, she loves the responsibility of being a big sister. Then we go downstairs for some breakfast and head off to one of their groups such as ballet or playgroup. Then we come home, collect the dogs and go for a walk before lunch. After lunch, the girls have a nap and I start working at around 2 pm. I then work until midnight, with breaks to eat dinner and get the girls off to bed. On a good day, I squeeze in a run or a swim somewhere.

Tell me one thing that most people don't know about you...
I once got on a boat to the Isle of Wight. When I arrived I swam straight back to the mainland. It was for charity, I'm not completely mad.

Twitter or Facebook?
Facebook.

In my next life I'm coming back as a...
Three-toed sloth.

Name three people, dead or alive that you'd like to invite for dinner...
Johnny Wilkinson, Ranulph Fiennes and Nelson Mandela.

Before becoming a mum, what did you imagine parenting would be like?
I thought I'd go back to work when my little girl was three months old and be quite happy to just see her in the evenings. I went back to work as planned and lasted six weeks before finding something else so I could work from home and be with her all the time.

Champagne or cocktails?
Both, you can't make me choose.

What's the best thing about summer?
Open water swimming.

What do you watch on TV when no one else is home?
Oh definitely my guilty pleasure when it comes to TV is Neighbours. Sadly I haven't seen it for ages, I just can't fit in the time to watch it anymore with work and the children.

My favourite holiday destination is...
Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand.

And finally, what's the best book in the world?
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It's inspirational.

You can also find Natalie on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

If you would like to be interviewed for The Blog Spot, please send an email to: izzieanderton@gmail.com
I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton



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Monday, 4 May 2015

50 Things That Make Me Happy


What makes us happy as a nation? A new study has revealed the top 50 things that make the people of Britain feel great. The survey of 2000 people, commissioned by Bupa reveals some surprising results and proves that the simplest of pleasures give the most satisfaction in life. Here's a link to the original feature that appeared in Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago:

50 things that make us happy.

In no particular order whatsoever, here are mine...

1. Time off for good behaviour
2. Volunteering
3. Driving when the roads are deserted 
4. Spending time with our rescue cat
5. Not being able to put down a book
6. Beachcombing
7. Random conversations on Twitter
8. Catching up with friends
9. Arriving home at the end of a crazy day
10. Days out with Mr A
11. Cinnamon buns
12. The scent of freesias
13. Dark chocolate with a cup of coffee
14. Watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off
15. Decluttering the house
16. Finding a parking space
17. Comfortable shoes
18. Drying the washing outside
19. Catnaps
20. Finishing the housework
21. Pimms and lemonade
22. Pancakes with maple syrup
23. Giggling with my daughters
24. The smell of suntan lotion
25. Dancing in the kitchen when no one else is home
26. Finding exactly what I've gone shopping for
27. Clean sheets
28. Feeling the sun on my face
29. Writing
30. Looking through old photo albums
31. Prosecco
32. Watching snow fall (as long as I don't have to leave the house)
33. Listening to old records
34. A good night's sleep
35. Live music
36. A new magazine
37. The smell of a new jar of coffee
38. Blowing soap bubbles
39. Warm fluffy towels
40. New underwear
41. Strawberries
42. Seeing rabbits on the bypass near my house
43. Hot air balloons
44. The first cup of tea in the morning
45. Having a long soak in the bath
46. Hearing a favourite song on the radio
47. Fairy lights
48. Finding the perfect gift for a friend or family member
49. Donating to charity
50. Walking barefoot on the beach

Sadly, the results also reveal that for the majority of people these moments are few and far between. Just one in eight participants admit to experiencing more than one 'feel great' moment in a month. Stress, lack of sleep, bad manners, financial pressures and the weather were the top reasons given for preventing people from feeling happy.

From a personal point of view I think it's good to reflect on what's made you feel happy each and every day. Before I fall asleep at night I always try to think of things that have made the day fabulous. It's rare that I can't come up with at least five.

What would be in your top 50 I wonder?

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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