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NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE: IN REVIEW // THE RETREAT, ESSEX

 

WHAT: The Retreat, Essex
VENUE: Creeksea Place Barns, Burnham-on-Crouch
STAY: 3rd November – 5th November

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This time last week (eeek, I started writing this the weekend after The Retreat in November, life took over – apologies for my tardiness!) I was sat around a huge, dining table, surrounded by 26 other Women who were complete strangers, sampling the utter delights of the incredible Chef, Susan Foynes. (You have NO IDEA how long I’ve been desperately seeking the cuisine by Susan, and my god, it was worth the wait!). I was on The Retreat, located at Creeksea Barns in rural Essex, the concept born by Wonder Woman, Kate Irwin.

Back in April this year, I actually won my place on The Retreat; nobody could have foreseen how rubbish this year would have/has been, nor just how NEEDED The Retreat would really be by November.

Without being a total misery, our year has been filled with ‘life experience’, let’s say. From car accidents to family medical complications, anxiety, depression, loss and most recently, my miscarriage. It’s been tough and stressful and intensely sad – but we’ve learned a lot. Had I not won my place on The Retreat, I most certainly would have been up for the 2 night stay and the agenda that Kate had so perfectly organised.

So, what went down? (Bear in mind, I ain’t so good with the concise stuff, so this could be lengthy!)

Friday 3rd November

I just about managed to get the house in order and Eli sorted ahead of my 40 min drive in time. We live in Billericay and have quite a lot of country lanes in the area, so the drive to Creeksea Place Barns wasn’t a total shock – though the amount of bends was pretty crackers! It was dry and chilly and bright and our countryside is just stunning, isn’t it? I had the company of Harry Styles’ debut album for the journey. I arrived at 4:30 and was greeted by Kate. It’s a funny old world, chatting online with like-minded Women, you immediately feel like you’re pal’s when you finally do meet – this was no exception after receiving the BEST squeeze from Kate upon meeting for the first time!

I grabbed my suitcase and bits and bobs from the car and Kate took me along to my room. I was sharing with ‘Hanna’, I didn’t know a Hanna… I was nervous, but figured, she didn’t know me either, we were in the same boat. Turns out, I did “know” Hanna, or rather I did know the @the_savvy_mummy and was following her on IG.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few introductions (and the most delicious flapjacks from Susan!) acquainting eachother with our Instagram accounts, we were led to the decked area outside for a Group Mediation, as guided by Sarah Grattan of Yoga, Health & Wellness. I’ve only practiced Mediation in the past year or so, following an event with Mothers Meetings & the Mindfulness app, Quility. The session was brilliant (though, I was petrified to ‘sing’ my name as means of introducing myself, but hey, we all did it and it definitely helped  break the ice!) and a great way to relax before dinner and engaging in more conversation with the other attendee’s. Also, just wanted to highlight that there was the most incredible full moon on Friday 3rd November. This of course was fully to blame attributed to my emotional state.

So while we’re on it, dinner on Friday evening was >>

 

 

After din din’s, a group of us relaxed on the sofa’s in the main barns before heading back to our own rooms. Hanna and I chatted till probably *too late*, but it was great to have such a lovely talk with someone so likeminded! I should at this point give Hanna a little apology for my snoring; me, snoring, who’d have thought it!

SATURday 4TH November

I had one of those sleeps where you’re mega comfy and cosy…. but also clock watching. I knew I had to be up super early for our ‘silent walk’. And just couldn’t get into a proper slumber (despite the snoring).

My alarm went off at 6:45am. I’m not gonna lie, I struggled to get out that bed! But just shy of 7am, I found myself wrapped up and with the Wellingtons on, we were gearing up ready for our Silent Walk. I’d never been on one before so was intrigued but also curious as to what I was ‘meant’ to do exactly. Truth is, nothing was expected of me. The entire weekend was pressure-free. Kate made is completely explicit that if we didn’t want to take part in something, that was fine, likewise, if you wanted to do something else, that was fine. The Retreat had to work for us all, as a group and individually.

Kate asked us to refrain from speaking on the walk, to take time to think about whatever we felt we needed to – to reflect – to also take in the beautiful surroundings. I desperately tried not to reach for my phone to take photos – but I took just this one, below. I took it at a point where we stopped for just a few minutes along the walk. I was ready to burst into tears. I found the walk particularly intense – which I certainly hadn’t prepared myself for. How could such silence make you feel so overwhelmed with emotion? I was very grateful for taking the walk with everyone, it was actually really quite poignant for me, in the end! I will definitely be trying this again – whether on my own or with friends/family. It was really interesting – and lovely not being distracted by conversation or the old phone!

Post-walk, we all made our way to the main barn for the BEST breakfast ever.

Susan & Natasha had prepared the most incredible feast. For the first time, I tried baked porridge – topped with CREAM – which was a total revelation. Susan, please send me the recipe – it was just incredible! We also had plenty of other bits to munch on ahead of the Nutrition & Training session with Jemma of @trulymadlyhealthy.

 

So from 10, Jemma joined us in the outdoor barn for the Nutrition session, where she talked through what fuel she takes on, on a typical day. Jemma gave us a take-home sheet with examples of good/bad foods and alternatives. The hot topic’s raised were ‘What Milk should we be having?’ and ‘How much BEEF can we eat?’ (LOL @LoveForTheMama).

Following the nutrition session, Jemma took us through a Training session with warm up and straight into stretching, using an elastic gym band. I paired up with mega Mama & Photographer extraordinaire, Charlotte Green. We then had to work together using the bands to stretch and pull – which was part difficult/part hilarious.

By the end of the session, I was SO HUNGRY. Susan & Natasha had prepared a warming bowl of Butternut Squash Soup, topped with yoghurt and pumpkin seeds, served with freshly baked baguettes. SO GOOD I went in for seconds.

 

After lunch, we had a few hours of ‘free time’ – I already had a back massage booked in at the Saltmarsh Spa – and had planned on being completely chilled for the rest of the time between. But what is this? A mobile gift shop filled to the brim with wondrous treats?! MERAKI GIFT is a brilliant concept, founded by Nadia following a curry evening with friends, in 2016. 4 months after the initial idea, the UK’s first mobile gift shop was ready to hit the roads! Meraki is a Greek word meaning the soul, creativity and love you put into your work – the Meraki gift truck is just that, packed full of soul, creativity and love,  travelling throughout London and the UK providing gorgeous gifts at markets, fairs and events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t leave the van empty handed – I wanted to buy SO MANY things! It was such a treasure trove. I went for a very me necklace – gold with Lightning Bolt pendant – by Ophelia.


HUSH have a similar design // Click here to shop

I also did a bit of hanging out with the ladies from @Black_and_Sigi, @AWhittinghamphoto and Charlotte, where we proceeded to sit in front of the WORST Christmas films ever, on channel 5 (whatever else!?)

Soon enough it was time for my massage. Now, I have an incredibly bad back, full knots and tension and stiffness –  especially since my car accident in March. I actually *need* massages often, so I guess I know what I’m looking for. While my massage was ‘good’ and the ‘time out’ was soooo needed, it wasn’t quite what I’d usually go for. I was also a little distracted by the ticking of the clock in the room – but hey, thats just my personal hearing issues going into over drive there, I think!  Nevertheless, the treatment was on the cheaper side, so it was fine.

I jumped into my swimming costume and headed back into the Spa. I spent a good half hour, on my own, in the jacuzzi as the sun set, looking over the rolling fields. It was just total bliss.

Caitlin Scheybeler joined ahead of our final dinner – the evening however, was quite emotionally charged, to say the very least! Caitlin is a psychotherapist and fellow mum, also founder of @MamakaLondon.

Through Caitlin we all (I tried to, through sobbing face) shared something that we had going on in our lives that we’d like to let go of – and also, what we’d like to let in – in order to lead a happier life. This evening proved, once again, that everyone you meet is fighting a battle you have no idea about – so be kind, always. Once we’d gotten over the tears and great words of advice from Caitlin, we all dug into the most beautiful final supper from Susan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously, just the most glorious of meals. Susan Foynes, you have surpassed all expectations. Just stunning! I really must get to one of The Yes Mum Moon Club’s!

At this point, Kate handed out the most jam-packed goody bag I’ve ever seen! Each tote was hand embroidered by Dawn, founder of @girlfridayembroidery – such a lovely touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all enjoyed a few more glasses of wine than we’d anticipated, I think! And a lot of the group headed over to the dutifully named, “Party Barn” . We all had a more relaxed conversation with eachother, with the best music blaring! (YEP, it was that kind of retreat! We all definitely let our hair down!)

I initially attempted to get to bed at 1am. But am placing blame firmly at Kate’s door when I say I didn’t end up getting to ‘bed’ (on the sofa!) until way gone 3:30am. I’d spent a lovely time chatting with Kate’s brilliant sister, Natalie.  Natalie, I have to just say, you’re one of the most kind and caring souls I’ve ever met. Completely selfless, beautiful human.

SUNDAY 5TH November

I woke  on the sofa, to the smell of baked porridge – the time was 6:15am.  At 7am the majority of us were out on the field, with moderate hangovers. The temperature was 4c (though it felt much, much colder) and it was the most beautiful sunrise I’d ever seen. We prepared for ‘Grounding’ by slipping off our socks and shoes, so we could connect with the Earth. Though it was absolutely freezing underfoot, it was also pretty magical – and again, I felt pretty overwhelmed with emotion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following our outdoor session (with a little bit of help from @motherofall_tings!) , we went back indoors for our final breakfast. Baked porridge and sour dough, doesn’t get much better does it! This all set us up for a Yoga session with Keeley Beech, founder of Yoga4all. Having only ‘practiced’ Yoga in the comfort of our living room, I was again nervous for a proper session – and one in front of others. Thankfully, Keely was brilliant in her approach as she caters for all abilities – also, the environment was so calm and I didn’t feel conscious about my own abilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 11:30, Jemma of @Mummas_health_hub came along to talk through her own fitness journey, whilst also  giving us her amazing hints & tips on fitness planning and fitting it all in. Jemma is a personal trainer and Mum to 2 boys, who started writing down little tips for herself, when times were so busy and she couldn’t train for the length of time that I would have liked. She talked through how she’d stick post-it notes around the house to prompt her, short exercises, sequences that took only a few minutes but were quite intense, and tips to remind her to relax too – that’s how her Pack of Hacks was born. In the time that I’ve known Jemma, I’ve found that she’s a force to be reckoned with – a true Mum-Boss with a heart of old (and abs of total steel!). 

Time soon ticked away and before we knew it, we were saying our final goodbye’s for the weekend. Though, I absolutely knew I’d be seeing a lot of these wondrous women again soon. That’s been the beauty of The Retreat – the brilliant culmination of REAL Women. There was a real sense of sisterhood across the entire weekend. We were all in it together and there for oneanother. This weekend has changed my life in so many ways. I can’t thank you enough Kate.

Can’t wait to meet up again soon – and please do give @the_retreat_essex a follow across all the channels too – there’s so much more up Kate’s sleeve and it’s bloody exciting!

 

C
✖️ ✖️ ✖️

NB: I did win my place on The Retreat, but was not asked to write a review/did not accept payment for doing so. All opinions are my own and are 100% honest. 

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BACK | TO | BLIGHTY.

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The first weekend back in England and we had a forage in our new back garden, where we found the most marvellous rhubarb! 

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…and just like that, we’re back in Blighty.

For me, our secondment to Berlin feels like such a whirlwind. A total blur. We were there 9 months, and for the most part, I loved it. Loved being at work, loved the people, the culture, the places to see and the things to do. Berlin was incredible for kids. Which I had never anticipated! Even restaurants will go out of their way for children. It’s a highly child-friendly City.

But the truth is, England is home. And in Essex, we’ve found a county that I’m not sure I could ever move away from again.

Also, just wanted to shout out to some new friends. I felt majorly disconnected and really quite lonely when we were living out in Berlin. Whilst this may, or may not, come as a surprise, I found the Insta-Community to be ERRRRRRRRYTHING. I can’t tell you how much the chatter and support helped me. Even if I wasn’t mustering the energies to join in – just keeping abreast of how everyone else was getting on, also helped. Never underestimate the power of a Digital-shoulder, and how it can impact on others! I look forward to meeting you all IRL soon.

It feels good to be back.

I have started writing a Things I Missed list, in true Mother Of All Lists (aka and/or Clemmie @Peckham_Mamma) style! Might be helpful for prospective/current Ex-Pat’s living in all different corners of this lovely globe of ours.

So here is to being back in Blighty. I’ve missed you, you gorgeous thing.

MM.

 

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Brand in Focus | Cult of Youth.

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I first came across CULT of YOUTH on Instagram last year…  And it wasn’t long before I could see how utterly incredible Kelly, (founder) really is. She is the ultimate #MumBoss. An amazing Mama, juggling her gorgeous-chops little boy between everything life throws at you and this wicked jewellery business. She’s a total mega babe who is 110% dedicated; with her passion and frank honesty pouring out through her day-to-day postings. (Kelly generally responds to emails and comments with her son on her lap or in the middle of the night – quite likely both scenario’s at the same time (having received just a few 2am emails from her myself!). I literally have no idea how she’s doing it… I’m pretty sure she’s made of magic?!).

Kelly makes all her jewels by hand – the majority made to order – back in England. When Eli was Elvis’ age, I could barely make it to to the shops… (see, told you she was made of magic!) Not only does this mean that each piece is made with her love and care, it also makes her jewels extra special. (Yours  probably has might have even been made with a little added midnight magic too).

I instantly fell in love with the ace of base MOTHER necklace…

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…and then one day this beautifully wrapped (and ever so slightly psychedelic) parcel arrived on my desk in Berlin. My necklace hasn’t left my neck since (well, I will point out – it does come off for showers and bedtime – she’d probably slap my wrists otherwise).

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CULT of YOUTH, may well be famous for the signature #MAMAChain (now available with added skulls, ‘cos you know, us Mum’s do enjoy Rocking and Rolling still), but do check out Kelly’s other products too as they’re proper good – from personalised slogan necklaces to dainty initial pendants in Gold, Silver and Rose Gold. Gift wrap is also available now, making your jewels fit for a magpie’s nest from the get go; whether it’s a surprise for your loved one, or a well earned treat for yourself.

Basically, I’m really very proud to be a Mama / Mother / Mummy / Mammy / Mum / Mam / Mummy Dinosaur. Being a parent is a daily struggle – and we’re all in it together, one way or another. Wearing a statement necklace, made by a Mama, who went through a struggle to present it to you, is so exceptional I can’t even get it into words. It’s admirable and inspiring and everything inbetween. As a real human being, Kelly is one of the most honest Mum’s I’ve come across. Her raw emotion hits every nerve within me. So truthful and so eloquent. From Mother to Mother, the Sisterhood is real.

All the loves Kelly – keep doing what you’re doing pet, you’re bloody amazing!

Shop all CULT of YOUTH products: Click Here

MM.

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CULT of YOUTH was created early Autumn 2011 by head designer, London trained silversmith Kelly Seymour. Forged out of chaos in a Hackney warehouse, the first collection of heavy cross chokers and silk bound animal bones launched at London Fashion Weekend that autumn. Two years at Portobello market followed which led to meeting head accessories buyer at Urban Outfitters with three subsequent seasons in stores including Oxford Circus, Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Berlin.

 

*NB: This is in no way a sponsored post. I just wanted to big up a Mama who I think is frikkin amazing*. 

 

 

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Wot Ma Like | Shy Bairns Get Nowt mug.

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“Shy bairns get nowt”. For those who don’t understand what this means… I shall explain! This well known phrase (an overused phrase by oneself!) translates to: a shy person doesn’t get anything without asking for it.

I absolutely LOVE this mug. My dear friend Christie bought me it for my birthday this year, but due to Royal Mail being HORRENDOUS the birthday gift not only arrived smashed to smithereens but as we were out at time, it was put into a food caddy that was FULL of food at the time. (I honestly don’t know where to begin with that one!).

A few weeks ago, we went back to Newcastle for the first time in 6 years, where we had once lived for 4 years, to visit our lovely friends Christie (who sent me the mug!) and Adam. Our Motherland is a 1 hour drive from Newcastle, so we used a lot of Geordie lingo to begin with, but living in Newcastle gave me a proper tongue from the Toon! This mug is perfect for me and I couldn’t wait to get it replaced!

I managed to get the mug back Daaaaaahn Safff in one piece, I’m hoping it remains the case!

Wot Ma Like is an ingenius brand from husband and wife team, Jo & Nick Burrows, who set up the Geordie Mug company initially, before expanding the dialects to include accents such as Yorkshire, Scouse and Manc to name but a few. Their items are definitely one-of-a-kind and make such great gifts and treats for your home. We’ll definitely be purchasing more items for ourselves and others! I do love to give Independant, small and local brands a shout out – so if you’re a new/small/local business, please do get in touch!

You can find my “Shy bairns get nowt” mug as well as other Geordie products on their website: wotmalike.co.uk and you can follow them on Twitter @wotmalike

MM.

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CUSTOMER SERVICE | Kiddicare, Lakeside.

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I just HAD to write a blog post on the customer service we received on a recent trip to Kiddicare, Lakeside.

So let’s start at the beginning…

We decided that we REALLY, REALLY needed to get Eli is new car seat after massively outgrowing his old one a little while ago. The weather was pretty bleak on our journey to Kiddicare, so when we arrived and were greeted with (Starbucks) hot chocolate at the door, it was more than welcome! Such a nice touch.

We headed straight over the to vast car seat section of the superstore. A friend of ours had recommended the Maxi Cosi, Axiss car seat – but it had been priced at £225 previously on Amazon, so we had disregarded that one.

As fans of Maxi Cosi however, we started looking at cheaper models. We found a great one for £120… but it didn’t swivel. After struggling with our old car seat and pulling our necks/backs trying to get Eli into the damn thing without banging his head in the process, I wanted one that swivelled! So we looked at the Maxi Cosi Axiss anyway – it was priced at £160 in Kiddicare. Quite a saving! We checked out how much it would be on Amazon, and couldn’t believe the price had dropped to £113!!! Even better. We couldn’t believe it. We went to the Car Seat fitting desk to ask some questions about this model. They told us that this particular car seat only fits 20% of cars; and they test each car seat fits your car, for you. We thought this was a great service.

I mentioned the price difference… and then noticed that they had signs around the store that said “Price Match Guarantee”. I, cheekily, thought I’d ask the lady at the front desk if they would indeed price match with the Amazon price. She was so lovely and said that yes, indeed they would! As long as the item on Amazon was sold by Amazon, and not a private seller. We ACTUALLY couldn’t believe it.

So then we had the car seat fitted into our car – it was pouring down at this point and the two lovely assistants had smiles on their faces and nothing but positivity about them. The car seat fitted like a glove! Again, we couldn’t believe it.  Out of 20% of cars! PERFECT – LET’S BUY IT! We got to the car seat desk again to have our receipt for collection printed out. The car seat we’d ordered was the LAST ONE IN STOCK. Unbelievable.

So with that, we dashed to the till to pay. The lady at the till, again, was so lovely and polite. It makes such a difference to have a smile and a ‘hello’, doesn’t it? Another assistant sorted out the price match while some other items were put through the till for us. They then said, “So the car seat will be £99 today, is that ok?”. EXCUSE ME WHAT? WHO THE WHAT NOW?

This is where it gets RIDICULOUS. When Kiddicare do a price match, not only do they match that price – but they then extend the discount to a further 25%. How amazing is that? The car seat that we really wanted, that was £225 RRP was just sold to us for more than half the price! We felt like we’d committed a crime as we walked out the doors, with the same lovely assistant who had tested the car seat.

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She again fitted the car seat for us, for the drive home. She showed us how everything worked. All this in the pouring rain! Then she took the card board box away to recycle for us. So polite and patient, she didn’t rush or cut any corners. Just simple good manners and being good at her job. She strived to go the extra mile to make sure we were comfortable and confident with the car seat. You REALLY don’t get service like we received anywhere (apart from maybe John Lewis), and that’s such a great shame.

We can’t thank Kiddicare Lakeside, enough for their help that day – or the huge saving! It meant that we could have our first date night in a very long time 🙂 So there you go, always head to your local Kiddicare store or shop online at Kiddicare.com and get a price match where you can. We’re certainly customers for LIFE.

MM.

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Mr Eli’s 1st Birthday!

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This weekend we celebrated Mr Eli’s first birthday with party at our (newly moved into!) home. All his friends came and the sun even made an appearance too! Here are some snaps from the day 🙂

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Dj Boy!

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Eli’s AMAZING cake! Made by Lady H Bakes, Essex.

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Eli wearing his amazing cake!

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I ADORE Belle & Boo, I used their party pieces as a kind of theme for the party.

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Ball pool fun!

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Eli and some of his buddies.

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A worn out birthday boy, ready for bed!

We had a wonderful day, with wonderful company and wonderful food. Thank you to everyone who came and celebrated Eli’s very first birthday with us!

MM.

xx

WHATELIWORE: Ralph Lauren Oxford Shirt, Ralph Lauren Shorts, Red Converse Hi-Top Trainers. Blog post coming soon. 

 

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Mr Eli turns ONE!

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This was us, a little after 9:43pm on Monday 6th August 2012. I cannot believe our beautiful baby boy is now ONE! This year has just flown by. Mr Eli has been so so brave throughout all the challenges he’s faced – he’s the happiest little boy, with the cheekiest grin!

To celebrate his birthday yesterday, the three us of took a trip to Colchester Zoo. It was just brilliant. We had the BEST day! Colchester Zoo is just 45 minutes away from where we live; and after a recent trip to a farm we knew animals BIG animals would go down a treat with the birthday boy! He loved seeing the elephants, zebra’s, rhino’s and of course, all of the different types of tortoises! Can’t lie, OH and I enjoyed it thoroughly too. We made lots of “woah” and “ahh” noises throughout the day.

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Just a perfect way to spend the day reminiscing over Eli’s first year on the planet and how this bundle of joy has grown into such a handsome chap.

Happy very FIRST birthday Mr Eli. You’re our absolute world and we love you more than anything.

xxx

 

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Silent Sunday: 25th November 2012.

MM.
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Silent Sunday: 11th November 2012.

MM.
Love All Blogs
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Mr Eli and Mini Boden: Outfit #6.

Today is the final instalment of Mr Eli’s Mini Boden Adventure! Today is Outfit #6.

It is absolutely FREEZING today. I can’t believe how chilly it is, even in the house! So Mr Eli got snuggled up in this incredible Winter jumper and cosy cords. We’ve already decided that this just has to be Eli’s Christmas Day outfit – how cool is this for a Christmas Day jumper?

So what is Eli wearing today?

Click here to purchase>> Winter Jumper (Snowflake), Red, £24-26; from Boden.co.uk

Click here to purchase>> Lined Cord Trousers, Cadet Blue, £16-£18; from Boden.co.uk

As I mentioned, this jumper is just awesome. It’s the perfect Christmas Day jumper. But with a twist… this is a COOL Christmas Day jumper! Like the other Winter jumper from my previous post, this one is also cashmere blend so is super cosy and warm. The bright red is a great colour and the snow flake pattern gives it the true festive feel. Mr Eli particularly enjoyed eating the rolled up cuffs for some reason… but the rolled up cuff does mean you can make this style shorter if your little one still has space to grow into it. Unlike traditional knitted jumpers, this one is not itchy against your little ones soft skin, so you can be safe in the knowledge they’ll be having an excellent time wearing it! As opposed to when we were kids and HATED wearing knitted jumpers for that reason alone! This style is a definite must-purchase for the festive season, your child will be so warm and look beyond adorable in it; plus it will make for a conversation piece, as you all reminisce over festive jumpers from years gone by.

I would suggest you get your order in soon mind; because I just know that this jumper will be flying out!

Click here to purchase>> Winter Jumper (Snowflake), Red, £24-26; from Boden.co.uk

MM.

 

* I am partaking in a Boden Bloggers competition. Head over to the Boden Facebook page to vote for my blog posts as your favourite :)