The view from my bedroom at 7am this morning. Beautiful. A new day is about to start, full of possibilities.
There is always good in the world, there is always crap. You decide what you focus on and what you look for. I think if you look for the crap, that is what you will see. I choose to look for the beauty, the life and the positive.

Enjoy today- whatever it brings.

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Blogging Saved My Life!

You know when life becomes all about work and the fun just disappears? This was me a few years ago, before I switched things around and prioritised enjoyment.

The past seven years have seen me building up my business. I started working from home in 2005 after a year of planning whilst holding down 'the day job'. I'd just had my daughter and I wanted to work from home so I could be there for her and whilst I have been able to run my company whilst she has been at school and with a little childcare help from both Grandmas, the focus has been on the family and the business.

When my son came along, I had a new challenge. Keeping my head above water with the business whilst caring for a new baby, giving my daughter the attention I wanted to be sure she had, and keeping the household going. Any small business owner will tell you that it is not an easy life. You live and breathe the business. You are always looking for ways to bring in new customers, make your offer more attractive, make more money. The family came first but after that- the business was priority, then the cats, then the cleaning, then at the bottom of the list -me. Or this is how it felt a lot of the time.

Juggle Mum was created to give me a creative outlet. I needed something to do that was pure fun, totally in my control and just for me. Nothing to do with clients, kids, housework. Not an obligation but a pleasure. Something where I could write what I wanted, how I wanted and when I wanted, without having to self edit and think about how 'it might look to a customer'. I love my blog and I love what it has become. It has evolved with me, accepting my new interests, helping me make new friends and helping me to discover new interests and new people to share them with.

Four years ago everything changed. Drastically.
My son was born, the recession had just started, I was keeping the business going whilst trying to have some sort of maternity leave and trying to work out how I was going to get back in control of my life. Babies turn your whole world upside down, and even though you know what to expect a bit more the second time around, second babies have a way of making you look at what you are juggling and wonder if you can keep all those balls in the air with two kids - the way you had probably been managing with one. I juggled through. The kids were ok, the housework was being kept on top of as we employed a cleaner, hubby and I just got on with it- heads down, plough through. Something always gives and that something was me. My weight shot up to almost 17 stone- I was comfort eating to help me cope and the sugary food gave me a much needed energy boost as I wasn't getting much sleep. Of course this was followed by the slumps, so I ate more energy boosting sugar and the rollercoaster began.

I've spent the past few years working hard on regaining my brain space. I don't know where my head was at- I had the fog of new motherhood again and no sleep makes you a crazy person. A year ago times were really tough financially as the Government cuts and global economy took their toll and we had to let our cleaner go. Luxuries went, belts were tightened and I had to face the fact that my small business wasn't pulling its weight financially. How could it? I'd been off caring for a newborn and when you are self employed if you don't work, you don't earn. I cut back the business activities and concentrated on one service that would continue to bring in an income whilst I was off mothering, and I accepted that my business had to take second place- which was hard after it had been 'joint first' for so long.

But this sacrifice brought with it some freedom. I didn't realise it at the time - it all just felt difficult, but like a plant in the soil, things were shifting underground even though it looked outwardly like nothing was happening.

My tomato and onion plants have sprouted through the soil this week- all of a sudden, and this reality was echoed in my life too. I was getting on with the business of keeping our family afloat, taking what money my husband brought into the home and maximising the hell out of it- making it stretch as far as it could. I leaned how to cook cheaply from scratch, where I'd been reliant on pre-made 'ready meals' for so long, I learned how to patch things up in the house and was motivated to repair old clothes rather than throw them away which I'm ashamed to say I once did. My blog became a new way to get back some of those luxuries that we'd given up like days out and new clothes, as PRs and marketers started to see that these mummy-bloggers had a voice, a platform and an audience, so offered us free products to review to get some publicity for their clients.

I threw my energies into being a great mum and really noticing the time spent with my children. We live completely in the moment, never wishing our lives away, and paying attention to what was going on made it easier to write up blog posts! In short, I'd learned the art of home-making.

My last blog post was about becoming a Professional Housewife. It was about how I focus on my family and home and what that means for those within it and shows some ways in which I reigned my housekeeping activites in, getting back full control.

There is a saying that 'A good family gives you roots and wings', and this is my aim. To care for my family, keep a lovely home where they can come back to and feel safe, and really enjoy being a mum. These days the business is not the second priority after the family. The new order is family - always family. Then ME! Then the home, the cats, and the business. That's right! I've clawed my way up from last place in the priority list to second- and I can live with that. I get my rest, I take time to exercise, I'm shedding that weight (I've lost 2.5 stone so far) and I make time for my own headspace. I blog. I love to blog, and I hope that you get as much joy from reading my blog as I get from writing it.

This post has felt really therapeutic to write. Try for yourself and see how much lighter you feel after you get a thought out of your head and onto the screen. Share your stories and thoughts with me below in the comments and I promise to try and respond to each one.

My piggy bank tale is about learning prudence. I've become careful with money now, more like my mother was when I was growing up. I think that there is a lot of wisdom in some of her ways, and its only when you get a bit older that you realise that! This post is also my entry to the BritMums Piggy Bank Tales competition, sponsored by Virgin Money.

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Becoming A Professional Housewife

The last few months have seen me taking full control of this house. I don't just mean I have cleaned it from top to bottom, but I have re-organised, re-cycled, de-cluttered, mended, re-painted, re-located things, brought in new systems of organisation, planted flowers and vegetable seeds and created a crafts corner where I can keep all those empty packets, jars and swatches of fabric that just 'might come in' for something.

I have found old fashioned but effective (and cheaper!) ways to clean my home- from using denture tablets down the loo (to get rid of some hardened limescale that just looked grotty) to bicarb of soda sprinkled in the bottom of my kitchen bin so it doesn't pong.

I have actually started using my composter which has been sitting empty in the back garden, judging me with its 'too clean' outward exterior, so you know it hasn't been used. I've owned that damned composter for ten years - and now I am VERY PROUD to say that I'm actually using it! Plus I found a ceramic cream casserole dish with lid, on sale for half price so I bought it to use for the sole purpose of keeping my kitchen peelings, eggshells and old teabags in to take to the composter! It looks a lot prettier on my kitchen worktop than a carrier bag or bucket.

This house has become a home. A well functioning, well cared for, lived in, comfortable, well stocked, pleasant to live in home, and it became this when I became a professional housewife!

When finances became tight a few years ago, I started to find cheaper and more effective ways to run our household which included using technology like apps and websites to price compare food and using vouchers but also looking back into the past and the ways women used to manage. It has sparked an interest in me, in finding the best and most cost effective ways to do things. Looking for the value in the products I'm using, so whilst they might not be the cheapest, they are the best for my family.

I love blogging and through this blog I will share with you what I find, what methods work, what don't, ideas for things you can make and do cheaply at home (did you see my recent post about updating a laptray?!) and the things I do within my home to make life better for my family.

I've always been a 'business mum', running a small business and doing freelance work, but I've taken the same business focus, eye for the bottom line and strategic thinking that I have used in my career to date and applied this to my home too. I have even created my own home 'mission statement' to remind me of what is truly important on those days when the small stuff seems to take over and you get caught up in minutia.

So whilst 'home-making' hasn't been a particularly desirable career option for 30 something women in recent years, being lower in status than the long term unemployed, I'm now proud to say I'm a Professional Housewife, Mother, Stay At Home Mum. For me, this is the most rewarding career of all, and by blogging through it- it is creatively fulfilling too.

This post was inspired by a writing prompt on the Tots 100 website where Morphy Richards are looking for 10 house-proud innovators to test kitchen appliances and offer giveaways to their readers! I'm applying so I will let you know how I get on! Share your own thoughts on how you run your home below...

Other posts you might like: Blogging Saved My Life!

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Sponsored: My Day Without Paper- An HP Challenge

Ooh! How would you cope if you couldn't use paper at all all day? It doesn't sound too difficult does it? Have a look at my vlog to see how I got on with the challenge!

How would you get on with this? Leave me a comment below!

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Win A Prize in my Virtual Easter Egg Hunt!

Here is my daughter, isn't she beautiful? She is wearing her 'Sunday Best!' The team at George at ASDA offered me the chance to dress my daughter in a fab new outfit to show off her 'Sunday Best' and I have a treat for you too- as we are doing a virtual Easter Egg hunt! More details below...

The dress and sandals are from the girls clothing range and this pretty dress will look lovely on our summer holidays later in the year! The whole outfit (dress and shoes) came in at £20!

So what is a 'virtual Easter Egg hunt?' I hear you cry...
Basically 16 bloggers have put together the best Easter Sunday look for their child. Hidden in each blog post is an undisclosed number of Easter Eggs! If you look hard you will see one or more eggs in my photo.

You have to find the other 15 blog posts and count up the eggs in their pictures. Or you can just take a guess as to how many Easter Eggs are featured across all the blogs. The first five entries to get the right amount (or closest to the right amount) will win a £20 gift voucher from George. You can enter the competition here (this will take you to another web-page where you will see the Rafflecopter competition widget.)

Before you go off to enter this competition, the competition organisers want to award prizes to the participating bloggers for 'Best Look'; 'Best Smile' and 'Cutest Kid'. Would you help me to win one of these prizes by leaving me a comment below and let me know which award you think I should get with this picture of my daughter. Thanks a bunch for that!!

All the participating blog posts are live now, so 'hunt' them down! Or you could just enter with a guess. To give you a clue, the colour of the eggs in my photo are purple and yellow- but there could be more than one of each colour! Knowing the egg colours may help you to find the hidden eggs in other bloggers posts too!

To make it even easier for you to find all the participating blogs, I have created a Linky below so that if you are a blogger that is involved, just add the link to your page below so our readers can find the eggs!!

To try and win one of five £20 George gift vouchers, enter here. Bear with the web-page if it is slow to load. The competition entry box will get there in the end. Good luck!

Terms & Conditions:
1. Open to UK residents over the age of 18.

2. The prize is a £20 gift voucher from ASDA/George.

3. Instructions form part of the terms and conditions.

4. This giveaway is hosted on behalf of ASDA/ George who will deliver the prize(s) following confirmation of winners’ contact details.

6. The prize sponsor’s decision is final and binding on entrants; no further correspondence will be entered into.

7. There is no cash or alternative to the prize stated.

8. The prize is selected in good faith, however the prize sponsor may substitute with one similar value/type if original one is unavailable.

9. Failure to claim prizes within 7 days will result in a replacement winner being chosen.

Bookmark the Juggle Mum blog to see all current giveaways and return to this post for bonus chances to win daily!

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Growing Our Own Veg

We've talked about growing our own veg for a while and my husband's Nanna has even given us a few books on what to grow and when, to get us started. ("Thanks Nanna!")

A month ago I wanted to get the children excited about vegetables, and so I asked each of them to make a list of what they wanted to grow. My daughter is a brilliant veg eater- she will try anything and has a varied palate. My son on the other hand, really dislikes veg- but the annoying thing is that he's never actually knowingly tasted any!

He had pureed veg in the weaning stage and loved it all but once he grew into a toddler and learned that he could exercise his own free will, he has avoided fruit and veg- saying he "doesn't like them!" So this veg plot is my sneaky way of trying to get him excited about food and where it comes from. I want him to grow something from a seed then taste it himself after he has nurtured it and harvested it in the summer.

Last weekend we hit the garden centre and bought some top soil, seeds, a propagator and some brightly coloured kids garden tools in preparation and today we have dug out the plot, marked out everyone's areas and planted the seeds.
Here are the kids digging:

Here is my husband with our son, checking where to plant!

A new book came out last month called "Grow Your Own For Kids!" by the Royal Horticultural Society, and I was sent a copy which was great timing for my veg plot! The book is aimed at children and features lots of photographs of kids digging, planting, caring for and eating the veg they have grown. It was easy to get my son interested in making his own plot when he could see boys of his age doing the same in the book.

We found the book really useful when it came to the snails we had in our plot. I knew that worms were good, but I didn't know that snails were damaging to our crops as they will eat the seedlings, but when we saw that written in the book, we all promptly re-homed the snails to under the trampoline where they were away from the plot and could do no harm! The book is published by Mitchell Beazley and costs £12.99 for a hardback, and well worth a look for budding children gardeners! It costs even less on Amazon.

Here is my son with the book:

Now all they need is watering, sun and time so I will let you know how we get on later in the year.

Have you ever tried to grow your own at home? If you have any tips for me, share in the comments below!

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Updating An Old Laptray!

I had two laptrays that were looking tatty and after a recent trip to Dunelm Mill, I also had some offcut oilcloth so I decided to spruce up my tired old laptrays!

Here they are 'before':

...And here's how I did it!
First step- prepare the surface by peeling off ripped lining, and cleaning off any spills:

Then, paint over the old design so that it can't show through the new fabric:

After this I cut the oilcloth to size, stuck down with superglue and taped over the edges with masking tape to finish! I couldn't find brown tape which I think would have been better, but I used black and it looks ok!

What do you think! Do you like the new design? Drop me a comment!

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A Girly Lunch and a Fishcake Demo!

I had the girls round last week to treat them to lunch. As we'd been to Slimming World together in the morning, I was keen to prepare a low syn lunch so we could all stick to our plans, but this was also a low cost lunch too!

I had decided to throw the gathering to share a new recipe that I'd picked up at a recent blogger event with Morrisons. They invited a group of Northern bloggers to their Head Office in Bradford to give us a kitchen demo with their Head Chef and to launch the new M Savers range. Here are some of the photos from the night:

From left to right: Karen from Help Me To Save; Ellie from Insomniac Mummy; Laura from Are We Nearly There Yet, Mummy?; and Annewen from Ramblings of a Suburban Mummy. The lady stood in the background is with Morrisons!

Here are the bloggers to my left:

From left to right: The arms belong to Claire from Life, Ninja Killer Cat and Everything Else; Cass from Frugal Family; Jen from Mum in the Madhouse. Then Sarah, the money saving expert who was there to present the new range!

Everyone split into pairs to make one of the dishes on the M Savers recipe cards. Here is my team-mate Annewen checking our chops!

That's the thing with us bloggers, we have to photograph EVERYTHING!!!!

...And here we are as a group having a lovely dinner!

...So back to my event, here is me demonstrating the fishcakes! On the blogger night I made pork chops but the fishcakes looked easy enough to tackle and I love a bit of salmon, so this is why I prepared them at my girly lunch.

....And here is the finished meal which was delicious BTW!

If you are interested about Slimming World, each fishcake is 1.5 syns on Extra Easy if you use reduced fat pesto- otherwise it is 3 syns per fishcake using regular pesto. The breadcrumbs that coat the fishcakes should also be counted, I didn't work out the exact syn value, it was tricky as I didn't use much, but I counted an extra half syn for the breadcrumbs. Here is the M Savers recipe card. As you can see, this meal serves two people for a total cost of £2!

I really enjoyed my lunch and sharing my new recipe with the girls! Morrisons gave me a whole stack of cards to work through so I will be kept busy!!

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Nominate me!!

Hey! The BiBs 2012 have just been launched - this stands for 'Brilliance in Blogging!'

I am going for the category of 'Inspire' as I like to keep my blog positive, upbeat and enthusiastic, and I hope that you feel all those things when you read the posts I write!

Brilliance in Blogging: Inspire!

For the next two weeks, blogs are being nominated for various categories, and each nomination I get will increase my chance of being shortlisted for the awards, so if you like what you read, please do nominate me!!

You do this by clicking here and this brings up the nominations form. Then, look for the INSPIRE category which is the third one down, and in Blog Name, put JUGGLE MUM. Then, in INSPIRE! Nominee, put in or insert the URL to a specific post that you might like! I sent in my recent post about following my dreams and how my book has helped others to do this too, as I think this is inspiring!!

I know the form looks long but you don't have to nominate someone in each category if you don't want to! But if you have lots of favourite blogs, this is a great way to nominate them all in one go!

I really hope to reach the shortlist for this awards, as this is my first blog awards and I feel ready after 4 years of blogging to take this step!

Thank you so much in advance for your nomination. It will only take a few minutes of your time to complete and you will be making me smile even wider!!

If you want help finding a blog post to nominate, then here is a URL of a recent inspiring post for you to copy and paste into the awards form!

You DON'T HAVE TO BE A BLOGGER to nominate me for this awards! All you need to do is make sure you press 'Submit' at the bottom of the form!!

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Is Your Book Still A Dream, Waiting to Happen?

Today is the start of the third month of 2012 and some of us will be still going strong with our New Year’s resolutions whilst some of us are back on the carbs, ciggies, chocolate (delete as appropriate!) But it’s not too late to make positive changes and any day can be the first day of the rest of your life.

One of my ambitions several years ago was to write a book. Not a novel or piece of chick-lit, I’d tried that before and become stuck quite quickly! I wrote a non-fiction book, drawing upon my knowledge and experience, and I timed it right – my subject was emerging in a business marketplace so the book achieved a lot of success, becoming a best-seller on Amazon! After this, I used to get scores of people approaching me at events to tell me that they’d always wanted to write a book but didn’t know where to start or how to find the time!

Writing a book is an ambition that a lot of people hold, but it is also an ambition that we can easily talk ourselves out of, worried that we won’t have enough to say to fill a book, that no-one will buy it or even if we have it in us to finish it in the first place! I’m a big believer in going for it – regardless of what ‘it’ is for you, so I knew that I wanted to write another book to help people who wanted to write their own book.

‘I Don’t Have Time To Write’ came out in 2011 and has so far, helped hundreds of people to believe that they can write a book and to find the time to actually do it! I have the writing bug now and have the synopsis written for four further books on my computer, I've yet to decide which I'm going to tackle first!

It’s exciting to think that having one book written has led to a thirst for doing more, and nothing is more satisfying than achieving a long held personal dream. My next goal is to shift some weight which I’ve been doing slowly for a while but have turbo boosted since January! I’m focused and ready to make it happen, and it will. Tell me about what you will make happen for yourself in 2012? I’m willing you on – you CAN do it and I'd love to hear about it when you do.

Leave me a comment below!

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