This year has been both very long and super quick!

It’s crazy to think it is gone mid November already. This year has been super testing and feels like it has been very long but at the same time it has whizzed by. 2020 has been just… nuts!

In August Dylan was fully embracing the summer fun and no schooling at home anymore, but there were news reports that all children had to return to school in September or parents would face a fine – and we were super anxious about him going back, thinking that in hindsight maybe it was a good idea for him to have returned back in June when the school opened up to just 2 year groups so limited pupils and his year group was one of them. But we kept him home.

The transition back to school wasn’t too bad though he was not keen on going back, he was glad to see his friends. The first term went well. We decorated for Halloween and went on a pumpkin walk on Halloween before it got dark when there weren’t many people out and about. We went for a long walk around the block looking at homes with pumpkins in their windows.

After the half term, Dylan was back at school for just one day when one of our fears were realised… I had a text at lunchtime on the second day back to collect him from school because there was a positive test in his bubble. The way it has worked in schools here is that each class or year group is a “bubble” as there is limited social distancing possible, and that way if there is a positive case, the rest of the school can continue but that bubble needs to isolate for 14 days. So he only returned back to school on Wednesday but they introduced hot school dinners again after providing packed lunches only, but for the infants (Key Stage 1 pupils), so he was happy to have his roast dinner days back, and it was week 3 menu which is his favourite! We were lucky that he was fine those whole 14 days, and as we were not in contact with the positive case, myself and Gareth could continue on as normal so I could go out and get groceries still and go to work, it was only Dylan who had to stay home those 14 days and it was tough going for him.

We were put in a second lockdown the day after Dylan began isolating so apart from work and grocery shopping, I have been happily at home. Gareth has continued to work from home, and work has under gone different measures over the months as well – we have some screens put up which means no more people leaning over our counters (hasn’t stopped people putting their heads down to the opening at the bottom of the screen nor trying to reach underneath…) but it is much nicer. We are supposed to finish lockdown on December 2nd but I’m not very confident that where I live will go back into tier 1 restrictions as we were going into lockdown as our cases have increased. We just have to wait and see how this current lockdown works.

So now it is just Christmas prep. I’m still doing my weekly stream, and at the moment those are working on my past December Dailies. I’m slowly getting some YouTube videos prepared for my old December Dailies, though at present I have been posting a new one daily to my IGTV. I’m hoping to get the Christmas decorations up this weekend, and we are getting a new fridge freezer pretty soon (it has been purchased, just awaiting a delivery date!) we have gone for an American style one so we have more space as every week it is a constant game of freezer Tetris and have had to ask my parents if they could store stuff for us 🙂

Stepping out of my comfort zone

Back when Hanson announced their String Theory tour, I knew I really wanted to attend. The thought of them performing with a live symphony orchestra was just an amazing opportunity and I just couldn’t miss out on it. Hubby told me to go ahead and buy my ticket as we would sort the rest out later. Originally my hubby would be coming with me, though not to the concert, and we would stay overnight in a hotel, asking his mum to have Dylan for us. The back up plan was if she couldn’t have him, hubby would stay home, the back up plan to that was get my dad to have Dylan as he should be finished work in time for school pick up and have him until hubs had got home from work and I would need to leave the concert early to catch the train home so I could do the school run in the morning.


As time went on we had arranged for my Mother In Law to have Dylan, however closer to the time, my husband simply could not get the time off work. I was torn between staying overnight or going home, plus I had never travelled on my own before. This was going to be a pretty big deal for me.

My Hanson fan friend Maiyu and myself decided to put in for a Meet and Greet with the band, figuring it was worth a shot so we requested one back in the September, I think it was and thought nothing of it after that. On the Monday I had checked my e-mails as it was a week that day but had received nothing and I just thought to myself that it was absolutely fine. Tuesday however, hubs had asked me to e-mail something over to him. I logged into my Yahoo account and there jumped out “HANSON.net Meet & Greet winner”. I couldn’t believe my eyes, nor my absolute luck! I had gone to bed at gone 9pm and the e-mail had come in at 9.21. I was so glad I hadn’t checked my e-mails before I had gone to bed, I’d never have slept otherwise! This concert was going to be the best birthday present ever!

I had booked the Sunday off work so I could do last-minute preparations, and my MIL arrived to help out. Monday 11th Feb (2 days after my 36th birthday), I took my son to school who really didn’t want to go because he knew mummy was spending the night away from home, and I headed home to try and have a rest and get the last of my things up together.

I think I over packed.

I was so nervous! MIL dropped me off at the station and I double checked with a person on the platform that I was getting on the right train even though I had downloaded the Trainline app to make extra EXTRA sure. I sat opposite a lady, sharing a table. I tried to get my article done for the magazine done on the train but for some reason my keyboard wouldn’t sync to my tablet so I decided to forget it and just watched out the window. Luckily the lady I was sat with was getting off at the same station as I was so she let me know when to start gathering my things together ready to get off.

The station was so big. I had a little panic when I arrived there as there were so many platforms and I wondered if I was going to make it home the next day! But I stepped outside, dropped hubby a text and saw the Bullring opposite and had an hour until I could check in to my hotel. I started walking around and looking at shops, and I got the hotel up on Google Maps and just started walking in that direction popping into shops to have a look (I did make one purchase – a “Little Baby Bot” bath bomb from Lush for Dylan as a treat) and I was super excited to go into a Muji shop. Next thing I knew, I was looking at Symphony Hall and my hotel was a mere 6 minute walk away. I had been videoing along the way as well, planning on making a vlog type video to remember the day.

I arrived to the hotel early, but one of the ladies on the Whatsapp Chat that we started for other Meet & Greet winners had managed to get into hers early so I thought I would give a go. It was a bit strange turning up to the hotel and there were just kiosks to check in lol.

My Hotel Room

I had a mix of emotions, I was excited to be seeing Hanson and sad to have left hubby and Dylan behind. I headed out to Sainsburys across the road to grab something for breakfast the next day (I wasn’t spending £5.25 on the hotel’s small breakfast) and as I had to be at the venue to meet up with the M&G ladies by 5pm so I grabbed a meal deal for my tea- I hadn’t really had a proper lunch, and at this point my stomach was doing flips.

Dylan was home from school and hubby had finished work so I did a video chat with my little monkey who after being upset that morning that I was leaving, was watching telly and couldn’t give two hoots that mummy was calling. I had a regular call with hubs, and then I had to hurry up and start getting ready – my wish for a nap was clearly not happening!

Once at the venue, I started saying hello to the ladies I had been chatting to on Whatsapp for the last week and we began picking up our VIP passes. At this point, I was surprisingly calm. The nerves had vanished and I was having a great time.

The guy who was handing out the passes was hilarious and kept us all entertained and we all chatted for a while. The ladies in our M&G were all so great! The merch kiosk started setting up when we were there and I grabbed a t-shirt and a pin for my collection. I adore this pin! I have worn it to work and have popped it on my hoodie a LOT.

We had to wait a lot, it was about 6.15 when we headed off towards the side room that we were meeting the band in, and as I was in group A we went in first, it was gone 6.30 I believe. I was the last in the group to go into the room and put my bag down and go say hi. The rest is mostly a blur LOL. I remember I shook their hands, Isaac signed my book first so he asked my name and I spelled it for him, I then went to Zac for his autograph, and then Taylor who could just about squeeze it in LOL. I was then stood listening to a conversation with Zac and Lizzie and Sarah. I hardly said anything to be honest. Looking back there are a couple of things I wish I could have said:
– Talk with Zac about when Dylan was born because his son Abe was born days after him.
– Talk with Zac about the switch. Because he loves it and I think it’s awesome too.
– Mentioned to Isaac about the time I bumped into him back in 2011 when he was on his way back from the pub.
– Said how I got to see them in 2010 on my honeymoon when they played Eat To The Beat, and left my husband in the UK pavilion with a cider in each hand so I could see them.

Taylor then mentioned that we had to take our picture and I felt his hand on my shoulder to get in for the shot for a brief moment. Looking at the picture I kind of look a bit odd standing on my own out the front while everyone else is in a line LOL, but I was pretty unaware what was happening behind me. I was sure my picture was going to be a bit funny anyway as I could feel my cheek full on twitching so I was dreading seeing it but it wasn’t that bad after all lol.

In the end, we were told our time was up, and I was on auto pilot thinking that there were others who still had to have their turn and I just turned and headed straight for my bag, but I did say to the guys that we were having an absolute blast outside the room as we were all leaving.

I stood in the entrance afterwards and caught up with a bunch of my Hanson friends, including Maiyu. It was great to meet some old friends, some friends who I hadn’t met before but I had known via the fanclub/street team and some new friends too. They called that doors were open to take their seats but no one rushed to go, most people stayed in the bar area (I had taken a bottle of water with me and a small pocket squash) and slowly went and took their seat. There was one lady who I heard had taken her seat already so I went in, but she was on a balcony but we did wave hello.

The show itself was an amazing experience. I was relieved it wasn’t a standing show so it wasn’t as crazy to queue and was so laid back. Everyone was just sat and listened to the music – it wasn’t like any other show I had been to, it was great. As the orchestra started playing the opening to Reaching For The Sky, I got emotional. I was so glad I went and got to experience it. As the show went on, some fans would shout out to the band that they love them between the songs, towards the end everyone was clapping along then got up to dance, before during the last couple of songs a bunch of people went up towards the stage to dance. I, however, stayed at my seat and watched everyone debating on whether to stay where I was or go and join some of the others and get up closer for some better photos than my phone could manage.

After the show, I called hubby who insisted I get an Uber or taxi but the area outside the venue was pedestrianised and just after that where the road actually was, it was closed due to roadworks. I had to walk halfway to the hotel to have got a taxi… and quite frankly there were a lot of other fans around anyway so I was fine. I was so tired that I walked right past the gates where fans had started gathering to wait for the band, while still talking to hubs who insisted he stayed on the phone until I got to my room then.

I got dressed for bed and jumped straight in, saying goodnight to hubs. I awoke at 2am (habit from being woken in the night) but I woke up properly at 7.30 and started watching some telly, opting for a quiet and calm morning with no rush to get anywhere, minus the fact I had to be home in time for parents evening appointment. But the adrenaline had worn off, and the anxiety of getting home had kicked in.

I had been debating about going to the free museum but instead opted to head straight to the station. I had Dylan’s present so I didn’t really need to go and nose through the shops, and I checked the train times and there was one at 10.30 but I would be better off getting an Uber for that, so that’s what I did 🙂

I followed the signs for the platform shown on the app and felt pretty confident, especially when a few other people came on to the platform and asked another person if it was the right train and it was. I sat and ate another one of the blueberry muffins I had bought for breakfast on the train. It was a bit difficult carrying the 4 pack of those as well as my bags, so I knew I definitely over packed but for my first trip I just wanted to be prepared, but I will know for another time. And there will definitely be another time ^_^ The whole experience has made me more confident to do something like that again for sure. Everyone I met was so nice and friendly – even outside of the Hanson Fan community. People on the train etc were so nice and made me feel calm and safe the whole time. The Uber driver was so pleased to hear that I had such a great experience too.

[My video vlog to come soon]

Day In The Life

I had some issues with my web host and I backed up a lot of my sites, just in case. Some of them I have put up at Google Sites, one of them being my “Photolog” that has my Daily Grinds/Day In The Life posts. I participated in Ali Edward’s one yesterday (though didn’t follow the same guidelines as hers but rather stuck to my regular type) If you want to check it out go here: https://sites.google.com/view/mmmbisto-photolog/27112018

Flickr also have updated their service which means I have backed up my entire photo library from there and have put it into Google Photos, I had already started using it and was backing up a lot of my photos and videos there, so I ended up getting a push to back everything else up from Flickr there too. It does mean that I now have some broken photos here at my blog as there seems to be no easy way of deleting albums including the pictures and some have been deleted by mistake while I started trying to get my 8,000+ photos down to below their 1,000 photo limit. I will get around to sorting something out at some point.

I have excitedly almost finished my December Daily 2017, and I have set up on my Google Drive for potentially doing one this year – I’m still debating it, but I think as long as I collect stories like I did last year an album will come together nice and easy. We shall see 🙂 But maybe I could get a YouTube video made on my set up!

First Day of School

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It has been a long wait, but this monkey finally had his first day of school on Tuesday, but this week has seriously done me in! He has been in for just 2 and a half hours in the morning so I have been feeling that as soon as I dropped him off, I was getting home, frantically doing chores and racing back down to go and pick him back up. Next week will be a little easier as he will be staying for lunch and then coming home, and by the end of the month, he should be going full time. He wouldn’t stand still one little bit for me to take a picture and then refused any more. It’ll be the perfect photo to sum up life at the moment though!

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I’m also probably going to get a reputation as the “quirky” mum – or “weird mum” or be known as “scooter mum”, but really couldn’t care less.  This awesome thing has made the school run oh-so-much better for me. Dylan gets on it, and as it is surprisingly downhill (slightly, but enough lol) to the school so I only need to do a little scooting, and as Dylan has been walking down there and running around in the playground and then going into the classroom to play and then having to walk all the back he has been exhausted (I didn’t take the scooter the first day), so I have been pushing him back while he stands on it. Scooting back after drop off has also been giving me a flipping good workout!

I wish I could say all this has made Dylan sleep better at night. Nope, he’s pretty much the same as before minus a couple of really bad nights where school the next day has been playing on his mind so those nights were worse. So many people have said that once he starts school his sleep will be better and there’s still a little time before he’s full time so I’m still keeping my fingers crossed but I’m not holding out much hope!

My Graduate

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My baby graduated Preschool yesterday, and it was so emotional. He is VERY ready for school now, but I’m not sure if I’M ready for him to be ready. Life is just whizzing by so fast.

I took the obligatory final day of playgroup picture as well 🙂 This will go nicely for a comparison between his very first day of playgroup in January 207 plus his first day of preschool in September 2017.

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I look forward to getting some scrapbook pages done. It just seems I’m constantly busy and never get the time, but I will be sure to set some aside to do some memory keeping. Dylan still is not sleeping well at night and lately is forcing himself to stay awake until up to 10pm at night – and still wakes in the night. This makes for one exhausted mama. So many people have mentioned that once he starts school it will wear him out, so I am certainly hoping! Hopefully here’s to blogging more than once every 4 months as well LOL.

The Beast from the East.

Luckily for us, the “Pest from the West” which hit afterwards didn’t affect us, but we certainly had fun and games during what the media called “The Beast from the East”. On the 1st March we started having the snow which most other places had already been hit with, and the snow was very fine (not at all the type of snow that we usually get!) and with the wind, a lot of the snow was creating snow banks. Gareth (hubby) was sent home from work as he has a long commute and he worked from home for 2 days. My place of work had such low temperatures in addition to no heating that the store closed for days. I was due in at 7am on the Saturday and was on standby to wait for news if we were going to open or not – but we ended up opening on the Sunday and wore multiple layers and gloves etc to keep warm with quite a few heaters that were hired to keep us warm. Dylan’s playgroup closed at lunchtime the Thursday that the snow hit due to heating issues as well. He had an absolute blast playing in both our garden and my parent’s garden 🙂

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Luckily Gareth got home when he did, as when the snow really got going, his car was well and truly not going anywhere!

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Even my parents had to dig their way out of the door.

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Luckily by Saturday evening the snow had already melted quite a bit which was a relief for me getting to work on Sunday 🙂

The Creative Planner magazine

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Back in the summer of last year, a few people within one of the communities I belong to on Facebook suggested that we should have a magazine for planners. I thought it was a fantastic idea and immediately volunteered to join the team! We worked on ideas, I made a Brand Identity for the magazine as voted from a few ideas I put forward, and we were on our way! There was a lot of research and collaboration that went on for months, and I was having a blast. The whole magazine is a passion project that we do, for free, and offer for free as well. It is a PDF download, so not an “online magazine” that some may be where all the content is on a website with each article being a sort of blog post. This is an actual PDF of layouts and spreads. In fact our Editorial Team got the first issue professionally printed as sort of a keepsake 🙂 Tomorrow we launch issue two, which is even more exciting this time around as I have also written an article.

What is also really interesting to some people, is that the whole thing is done within Google Drive. It’s no secret that I absolutely love Drive, but it has allowed us to collaborate on this with team members all over the UK. Each issue has its own folder where we keep images and articles (organised in their own folders so we know what goes with each) and a document with an issue overview including deadlines, article ideas, who is writing what and what the current status with it all is in addition to page order and whether it is to be started, in progress or completed.
Even the magazine itself is made using Google Slides and is kept in the issue folder as well, myself and Dominika have been working on the file simultaneously collaborating on layouts, before being exported as a PDF file when completed.
All for free 🙂

Head over to our Facebook page for more information and how to download the new issue.

Finally it’s Christmas – well, almost.

Back in 1997, I heard MMMBop for the first time and immediately became a Hanson fan. That November they released a Christmas album so naturally I had to have it and ever since that album has been a big part of my Christmas celebrations every year (it is habit to listen to it on its release date!)

Last year when they announced they would be releasing a new album this year, I just couldn’t wait! The year has flown by though and the release date was on Friday. I woke up and immediately went over to the hanson.net website and purchased it. As much as I would have liked a physical cd of this specific album and even some of the goodies they were offering, the cost of shipping alone was just not happening. So I just purchased the download album instead.

I absolutely love it, and with all the December daily planning I have been doing, I have been in Christmas mode and adoring it! Haha! Though with it only being Halloween, I may need to give the festive atmosphere a little rest for a while 😉 who knows if I will follow my snowed in tradition and listen to finally it’s Christmas on its release date each year or whether I will keep the date the same as snowed in 🙂

The album is out on iTunes, Amazon, hanson.net and you can even listen on Spotify so check it out!

A private journal

When I was 11 I got my first journal, it was one of those notebooks with the lock on it, and I was hooked. I journalled a lot over the years, but for a long while recently, I haven’t done much at all, if any.

I enjoy perusing the Ali Express website and have many a planner over numerous wish lists: Travellers Notebooks, Hobonichi style covers, ringbound planners etc, but I spotted a few planners by a company called Cagie and I was intrigued. I did what I usually did and I added them to the wish lists for fun – sort of a collection without actually owning them. Then I got the idea in my head how the ones with the locks on would be a great journal, and that I really should get back into it, as it is good for mental health surely. I actually had a different one in my cart for a long time – it was white with purple florals on, and I battled over in my mind which one would be better – Rings or a book cover, but the book cover continued to sit in that cart. Then one day, up popped “New in!” and I spotted this one.

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It was in Gold, silver and yellow. The silver one promptly went into my basket. It was cheaper than the other one that sat in there for such a long time, so already – a big bonus! Plus I wasn’t sure the floral design was completely ME on the other one. But this…. This one spoke to me! Once again, it sat in my cart for a while, before I finally came back to it. The gold seemed more of a “nude” colour than gold and I quite liked that, and I already have a lovely grey planner… I swapped the gold and silver a few times before I finally went ahead and bought the gold one. It arrived yesterday and I LOVE it!

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It is quite reminiscent of my childhood journal, and the lock feature is wonderful – this one thankfully doesn’t need a key as it is a combination lock and very easy to change the original number. The inner book can come out when it is full and be replaced inside the cover, so this will last me a very long time. I am so pleased with this, and look forward to writing in it very soon.

[Ali Express link to the cover I bought]

Using Google Slides for Planner Printables

G-Suite is absolutely amazing – it’s free to use and all G-Suite files do not count towards your Drive storage.

I am a huge planner addict, and I love to create things so in this instance it is making my own planner stickers and inserts, customised to how I want them! It was just me fiddling around in the suite of apps within Drive that I started using Google Slides as a desktop publishing software (think along the lines of Microsoft publisher) while it’s not quite on the scale of Adobe InDesign, it does a great job for making stickers and inserts. Plus I have set up a little resource library here on my blog where you can take things I have already done and tweak them to your requirements 🙂 Under “Downloads” At the top, you will find “Planner Goodies”, or click RIGHT HERE.

What can I make?

Pretty much anything! A5, personal, pocket, traveler’s notebook style & Happy
Planner Inserts, dashboards, covers, dividers and stickers.

So what do you need to know to make your own planner bits in Slides?

I have made a youtube video for this, which you can view here: “USING GOOGLE SLIDES FOR PLANNER PRINTABLES” this shows you how I do things, otherwise I will give you a rough guide below the video…

Firstly we need to get acquainted with the toolbar and what you will need.

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Next to the arrow we have the text box, where you can get some type on your page. Next to that you can insert images (pretty self explanatory) and next to that are the main tools you will need! We have a drop down for shapes and lines.

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Once in a shape or text box you will see this toolbar. You can change the fill colour, line colour, line thickness and line style (dotted or dashed!) Then we have the Font selection – here you have access to all the Google Fonts, I will show you that a bit better below. Font size, Bold, Italic, Underline and Text Colour. After that we have hyperlinks, Add comment (which I don’t use, I believe this is for collaborating with people), then text alignment which is super handy!

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Here are just some of the shapes available.

We also have the colour section when you are on objects that you can change the colour of. There is a selection that you can choose from but also there is a “custom” section where you can find your own colour – if you have a hex code (I.e. #000000 and #FFFFFF) then you paste it in here too. I have a file set up with colour combinations that I can copy boxes over to the new document and have the colours ready to choose from that section.

An app I was told about was “ColorZilla” in the Chrome Browser which is fantastic, it can pick the hex code from colours you want to use!

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There are lots of fonts to choose from! By clicking “more fonts” at the bottom you have access to the google font library 🙂

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Another thing to note is changing page size – though if you are changing the size, anything on that page will also change ratio of the items on that page, so you might want to start a new document and copy & paste everything over to your newly sized page.

I have a document set up called “sizer” where I can make boxes the precise size I want, say like a 1 inch box on my page which I then can copy and paste. Perfect if you want to make stickers for a HP or an EC.
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It’s then all just down to playing with all these tools and see what you come up with. I do have some files that you can use, once you are viewing them click FILE > MAKE A COPY to start using some of my files to customise to how you want them to be!