> The Beesley Buzz

Miss T and her box of OMG!

Earlier in the year the boys were each sent a fantastic Mega Box of Awesome, and you can find out what we thought of it here. You might also remember from our video that Miss T was quite excited about the Mega Box of Awesome that J and D received. 

Well when the lovely people at Box of Awesome (who are also the brains behind Box of Awesome's counterpart, Box of OMG) saw just how taken Miss T was, they very kindly sent her a box of her own. She received a fantastic Mega Box of OMG all for herself! 

We've also discovered the brilliant iMovie app recently and whereas video making has usually been Richard's remit, now the kids love making their own movies using iMovie. 

iMovie makes it so easy to make cool videos that even I decided to have a go. So here is my very own movie of Miss T unboxing her Mega Box of OMG!

Miss T received this just before we set off on our road trip in August in case you were wondering why she suddenly looks a bit younger.

Hope you enjoy the video.

Miss T was sent a Mega Box of OMG - We haven't been asked to blog about it - but have done so as we wanted to say thank you as it was really kind of Box of OMG to send Miss T her own box too! 

Fashion is good for the soul

I'm not sure whether Kate intended for her striking mums post this week to be a particularly thought provoking one, but I've found it has stirred lots of memories so I might end up going off on a tangent but will try to come back to the main prompt questions for this week which are:
  • Would you describe yourself as stylish? Has your answer to that question changed since becoming a mum?
  • Describe a stylish outfit you wear/wore and loved.
  • How important is it to have an individual sense of style as mum?
  • Are you ever embarrassed about how you look when you are out and about?
  • Do you judge people by the clothes they are wearing? Do you feel judged?
  • Does having a sense of style all of your own help with self-confidence?
  • A challenge – put together an Autumn outfit and post a picture of you in it on your blog. If that is too much, you could just photograph the items in the outfit. You can use things you already have or throw caution to the wind and go on a shopping spree.
So here goes...

1. Would you describe yourself as stylish? Has your answer to that question changed since becoming a mum?
I definitely would not describe myself as stylish. You will most often find me in tracksuit or jeans around the house and during our normal week. If we have a special occasion then I try to make a bit of effort, but comfort usually wins over style for me. The main reason being that I'm rather restricted when it comes to footwear because of my arthritis. The only shoes that are best for my back pain are trainers and whilst I can get away with wearing trainers day to day, they're not something you can get away with wearing stylishly with a dress for example!

So that means I tend to wear stylish clothes less often and even when I do I have to do so for a short period of time e.g. just for an evening out rather than a whole day so that my shoes, sandals or boots I'm wearing with my outfit don't impact on my backpain too much. High heels are totally out of the question for me. I used to have to dress reasonably smart when I was working pre-children and because I'm not in that corporate environment now has meant that things have changed since having kids. I have very little time to spend on myself these days so I barely get time to even brush my hair let alone blow dry it or straighten it. I'm lucky to have a hairdresser who understands that so he cuts my hair in really low maintenance styles. 

One of the things I didn't appreciate before having children was how (relatively) slim I was. After having the boys I managed to get back into most my pre-pregnancy clothes after around 6 months or a year. Since having Miss T over 2 and a half years ago my weight keeps creeping up rather than down and unless I address that with either diet or exercise (which has its own complications again because of the arthritis) then I'm going to have to accept that I may never fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes.

2. Describe a stylish outfit you wear/wore and loved.
I loved my suede skirt, black top, and suede effect jacket. These items were all charity shop bargains and I teamed them up with my Hotter boots for an Autumn look. I made the chunky necklace using beads from an old necklace that belonged to great nanny. At the moment I can't fit back into the skirt. (I've squeezed into it for the photo but can't do the zip up!)

3. How important is it to have an individual sense of style as mum?
We stopped watching ugly Betty after the first series when it started to get a bit too silly, but there is one quote that I remember well from it... When Ashley Jensen who played Christina said 'fashion is good for the soul'. Until that moment, I always thought of fashion as being a waste of money, far too superficial and used to think of the worlds problems that could be solved if the time, money, resources and effort that went into fashion went into doing good in the world. But actually when I thought about it, I realised that wearing clothes that look good and that you enjoy wearing, really can feel uplifting and make you feel good about yourself. I also realised that the two ideas (fashion and doing good) don't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive which I hope I've showed in my above outfit example. Buying from charity shops, upcycling clothes, charity fashion shows, clothing specifically designed for children in need / Red Nose Day/ breast cancer awareness and many other similar initiatives mean that fashion and good causes can potentially be successfully combined. It's so easy to lose so many aspects of our identity when we become a mother that if style is one way of reclaiming a sense of individualism and help me feel more like 'me' then that's a good thing in my opinion.

Despite using that quote, I actually think that fashion and style are two very different things. There are people that seem to effortlessly look stylish whatever they wear, whilst others might be wearing items that are the height of fashion and yet it just doesn't work for them. So I guess it's important to find your own style rather than follow the crowd and make sure it is something that makes you feel confident and comfortable in your own skin.

4. Are you ever embarrassed about how you look when you are out and about?
Not too much. I've probably had times when I've been overdressed or underdressed for a particular occasion but I guess most people have been there.

There are probably a lot of tatty old clothes that I wear that should be thrown out a lot sooner. Old tracksuits, nighties, t-shirts that are really worn and sometimes even have holes in, I find really comfortable to wear. Although these days I wear really tatty things out and about less often and keep them for around the house. Sometimes I do feel like I'm the scruffy one because I don't usually bother about hair, make-up or nice clothes if I'm just spending the day doing school runs and toddler groups, but I don't think I actually mind too much about that because I always keep in mind another quote I came across as a teenager...'I can make myself ugly and I can make myself beautiful - Don't judge me by how I look'. It was a project we were doing at Youth Club and we made a poster with photos of us putting make up on to make the point about how we can choose to wear make up or not. So I guess I figure that I can put more effort in when I want to, but everyone can just take me or leave me as I am the rest of the time.

5. Do you judge people by the clothes they are wearing? Do you feel judged?
I am sure that to some extent I do even without meaning to. I remember watching a TV programme a few years back where some high profile personalities went 'undercover' as homeless 'tramps' to see what it was like sleeping on the streets, One lady who was a well known actress (although I can't remember who everyone was on the programme as it was so long ago now) went into a cafe and was thrown out purely because of how she was dressed (i.e. dressed to look like she was homeless).She had enough money to purchase some food and drink that day, just like any other paying customer, but because of how she looked she wasn't even able to go in the cafe.

So I think to some extent people do judge others by the clothes they are wearing and also feel judged by the clothes they are wearing whether they mean to or not. People will usually get a first impression of someone and that first impression can be influenced by clothes / style. But I guess what's more important is to get to know someone beneath that first impression and as long as people give me that chance, then I don't mind even if they have judged me initially by appearance.

6. Does having a sense of style all of your own help with self-confidence?
I think it does if you are happy and comfortable with your style.

Personally, I still think I'm finding my own style. I'm beginning to recognise clothes that I do particularly like and ones that I don't like.

7. A challenge – put together an Autumn outfit and post a picture of you in it on your blog.
See picture above for this as question 2 makes a great Autumn outfit in my opinion.

Thank you Kate for a great set of thought-provoking questions!
Kate on thin Ice Striking Mums

Book review: Before The Fall, by Juliet West

Reviewed by Richard Beesley.
It is very difficult to say much about the plot of this book without giving too much away. So I shall stick to just a few basics from the opening pages, before going on to say how this book made me feel.

The book opens in 1916, East London. Hannah Loxwood is a mother of two children, who is now living with her sister and brother-in-law since her own husband has gone to fight on the front line. We follow Hannah over the next couple of years, as her life comes together before.... nope, can't spoil it for you!

This is a superbly written book, full of historic details and descriptions that let you see, hear and smell what is going on. The dingy and grimy streets, the noisy trams, the dark and oppressing stale air, the creek, the docks, the rations, and the bombs. Above all, we are reminded of how much times have changed and how difficult things were for some people just a hundred years ago. As Hannah's life changes in ways she could not have anticipated, and she experiences her father's illness and then suffers depression herself, the huge advances in social and medical support we now benefit from are stark reminders of how things were then.

The closing chapters of this book are utterly moving. A twist I did not see coming, an outcome I was totally unprepared for.

Juliet West has a real skill in developing believable interesting and multi-faceted characters, set in a place and time so carefully depicted that you can understand the underlying tensions, the social norms and the family values. This book is based on true accounts from the time, which add to a sense of desperation and shock. Yet it is quite conceivable that the tale of Hannah Loxwood is not unique, and the challenges she and her family face were all too familiar to many others.

This is definitely one to read, but expect to be moved and shaken as the tale unfolds.

Before The Fall, by Juliet West is published by Pan Macmillan and available to order from their website.

Disclosure: Pan Macmillan sent me this book to keep for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own.

Vice House Captain - Kind of miraculous!

I just have to share this for a Small Steps Amazing Acheivements post about my little boy (well not so little now he is 10!) But this is the same little boy who started school at age 4 and was told he was naughty, that he didn't listen, that his parents couldn't control him, that he mustn't hit the other children, that he mustn't be rude to the teachers...When we got his diagnosis we realised that it was the anxiety and the problems that school was causing for him that was triggering these behaviours but there was no doubt about it, they were still highly undesirable behaviours.

Fast forward 6 years...3 years of homeschool later...2 diagnoses later...2 schools later and this same child has been voted as Vice House Captain at school by his entire school!

His teachers said of him:
"Everyone is very proud of him. This has really given the other children something to aspire to!"

It is almost miraculous that the little boy who everyone found difficult and didn't want to be like is now the one that other children aspire to be like.

We can't really express just how proud of him we are. We were so proud when he came home with the form to apply for the position, giving his reasons why he should be nominated and filled it all in himself and he didn't even show us what he had written.

It's not like him to put himself up for things like this - so that was an amazing achievement in itself and then to actually be awarded the position of Vice House Captain was just the icing on the cake!

Ethans Escapades

Apple Crumble with Apples from our apple tree

Today was the day that we decided to pick the last few remaining apples from our little apple tree in the garden.

Today was also the day that Miss T decided to start potty training! Here she is sporting her Baba + Boo cloth nappy which we are going to be using as an alternative to pull-ups in the early stages of potty training.

What better to make on a miserable Autumn day that a warming apple crumble! We tried to make it as healthy as possible by using wholewheat flour, oats and less sugar and butter.

And it proved rather tricky to get all the apple into the crumble as Miss T had lots of pieces of fresh apple to taste along the way - Declaring them to be 'mmm....dishes' (her word for 'Delicious')

I've not been very accurate with my quantities so a bit of a guesstimating going on here...

You'll need:
6-8 ish apples
A sprinkle of sugar to go onto the apples
A splash of water

For the topping (this is a little more accurate with measurements I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear)
220g wholewheat flour
90g butter (cut into pieces)
1 tsp cinnamon
95g dark drown soft sugar (but I suppose you can use any sugar)
40g oats


1. I know a lot of people don't pre-cook the apple and I suppose you don't really need to but as a force of habit I chopped the apples and put them on the hob with a splash of water and a sprinkle of sugar just to steam them a little.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C.

3. I used my Kenwood food processor (which has made such light work of things like this) to mix the flour and butter to make a mixture resembling breadcrumbs. I saved my Tesco loyalty points to get this food processor for free and it has been such a big help in the kitchen. Mega sharp though - I've already cut my finger on the blade - So I'm extra cautious when Miss T is helping.

4. Then we added the cinnamon and sugar and gave it another blitz to mix these into the breadcrumbs. Then finally added the oats and literally gave the machine a single pulse as I didn't want the oats chopped up but just to be mixed in.

5. Transfer the apples to an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the crumble topping! Miss T enjoyed helping to sprinkle the topping on.

6. Bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes until the topping is cooked.

Tastes great served with cream, ice cream or custard. It also felt really satisfying to know that we were able to make such a tasty dish from apples grown in our own back garden and with a few storecupboard ingredients making it a very budget friendly dish too.

And so far, so good with the potty training too.

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A Glimpse of the Ocean

I am entering this photo into the Depths of Perception Ocean Photoblog Competition being run by Cruise.co.uk

This photo was taken in St Ives when we were on our summer road trip. We were fortunate enough to experience the beauty and wonder of the ocean in many places on our road trip from the golden beaches of Bournemouth, seeing the Fowey Regatta in full swing at Fowey in Cornwall, then stopping at Clevedon for Sunday lunch overlooking the Bristol channel whilst en route to Wales. When staying at West Usk lighthouse in Newport we were utterly astonished at how the landscape changed with the fast tide coming in. We experienced this phenomenon again at Portmeirion having previously imagined the tide being something that slowly goes in and out - it was incredible to see it rise at such speed to totally transform the view and demonstrate the ocean's speed and power.

So I had lots of photos I wanted to pick including some adorable ones of the seals we saw also in St Ives. The sea there forming a perfect habitat for them.

But in the end I chose this one which I think of as 'A Glimpse of the Ocean'. Before we got down to the main part of the beach, we spotted this gap between the walls and rocks and it gave us promise and hope of what was out there.

I love the contrast between the darkness of the rocks and the bright blue sea beyond. And then there's the hues of blue and green in-between.

Regular readers of our blog will probably have spotted me mention on more than one occasion that I grew up by the sea and it means so much to me. As a child it was a place to escape to - whatever the season, whatever the weather - in fact the stormier the better as far as I was concerned.

The sea was a place that was reliable - it was always there. Yet at the same time unpredictable and changing - like having a volatile personality. It was at the same time both a calming place to be (yes even in the stormy weather) and an exciting place to be - How I loved finding 'treasures' that had been spat out by the sea after high tides and storms.

It was a place of discovery where you never got bored.

And because the ocean means so much to me, whenever I get a glimpse of the ocean - my heart fills with excitement, hope and memories.

As we no longer live near the sea, I try to make those moments matter whenever I take the kids to see the ocean and I hope that one day, they will love the ocean as much as I do.