Tuesday, 22 April 2014

With two little ones under five and a brain like a sieve, being organised is a lifeline for me and I cling to it like a shipwrecked sailor adrift in a sea of to do lists. Getting things out of my head and onto paper or into an application frees up my whirring cogs for more important things like having fun and daydreaming. 

My favourite organisation app? Evernote. I use it pretty much as my personal assistant, organising all my writing, information and reading from the web. (No, this isn't a sponsored post, I just LOVE this app and I'm all about sharing the love. Find out more about Evernote and how to get started with this tutorial.)

So here's the thing - I know loads of bloggers use Evernote and I'm sure there's oodles of great ideas for using Evernote as a blogger - so this is my first #crowdsourced post! Give me your best tips in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Evernote.com

I keep two main notebook stacks - one for Home and one for Work. Home contains everything from pictures of important household receipts and scans of documents to developmental milestones for Little Man and a list of crucial phone numbers in case my phone ends up down the toilet (again). Work is split across three main notebooks - one for my freelance work, one for the various committees I'm on and one for this blog.

Here's five ways that I use Evernote to help organise my bloggy life:

5 Tips for Using Evernote as a blogger

#1. Use it to capture your drafts
I do all my draft posts in Evernote. They're saved automatically and available to edit across my phone, laptop and tablet instantly - perfect for a quick round of editing when I have a spare minute at the school gate or in the dentist office. I 'tag' all my draft posts with 'to do' and 'draft post' labels so that I can easily pull up a list of everything I need to work on.

#2. Use it to keep a monthly blog calendar
Sometimes I just like to write away and post. Done. But I also have a monthly calendar for Bod for tea that I use to schedule posts I know about in advance - holidays, landmarks in our family life, blogging conferences like Brit Mums, planned reviews and giveaways for brands I'm working with and guest posts for my series.

#3. Use it to save your URLs and guest posts
When I publish a post I use the calendar to log the URL for quick reference when I want to promote it across my social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook etc. I also use the Evernote Web Clipper to save copies of articles I've written for other sites in a portfolio notebook. I love that it saves the images and links too.

#4. Use it to capture your thoughts
I used to scribble down ideas for blog posts on notes scattered around the house but now that Little Man is tall enough to reach the counter they tend to go missing! So as well as having an organised list of planned posts in my calendar I try to pull up a new note in Evernote whenever I get an idea for a blog post. Anything from a sketchy thought to a fully formed idea gets bashed out quickly and tagged with 'to do' so that it's out of my brain and ready for me to work on when I've got the time.

#5. Use it to organise information about the brands you work with
I'm lucky to work with some lovely brands and I get emails from them and their PRs quite regularly so I find it useful to store all the correspondence relating to brands in Evernote. Each brand has it's own notebook and I forward emails related to them directly to my dedicated Evernote email address (you can find it under settings). I also store contacts, scan delivery notes for products I'm going to review and draft the reviews themselves all in the same place.

Do you use Evernote or another application to organise your blogging life? What top tips do you have to share? Leave me a note in the comments...

Monday, 14 April 2014

Parenting Around The Planet: Dorky Mum in Tasmania

Today I'm delighted to welcome the lovely Ruth from Dorky Mum as my guest here at Bod Towers for another in my occasional series of posts about Parenting Around The Planet. Ruth is an award nominated blogger who started Dorky Mum in 2011 – when she was still living in Edinburgh - and has over ten years experience as a writer, editor and campaigner. She's been published in local, national and online press, for titles including Huffington Post UK, the Guardian and Easy Living. Last year she and her family moved to the other side of the world.

I was fascinated to read her commentary on expat parenting in Tasmania. It really does sound like the perfect place to raise a child and their state school system has a lot to teach many other countries in my opinion. Hope you enjoy reading it too - if you do please leave a comment below!

You can find Dorky Mum on Twitter where she tweets as , say hello on her  page, follow her on  and and of course you can read about her family's day to day adventures in Tasmania at her fabulous blog.

If you'd like to contribute a post for Parenting Around The Planet get in touch with me on  or by .


A year ago exactly, I visited Tasmania for the first time.

It was a tough trip. Almost thirty hours of flying with my husband and four year old son, just four days on the ground, and then another thirty hours of flying back to the UK. But it was a necessary trip. It was the only chance we would get to look at that island state, just south of mainland Australia, before deciding whether to live there.

It didn’t start well. I left my credit card in a ticketing machine at Melbourne Airport. The first thing our son did when we got into the hotel room was throw up all over it. And for the first 48 hours I was slightly mad with jetlag, unable to sleep at night but desperate to sleep all day.

Even with all that stacked against us, we fell in love. How could we not? We had the chance to live in a beautiful city, perched on the banks of the River Derwent. The schools were good. The houses were far more affordable than they were back in our corner of the UK. There was a gallery or a museum or a busker around every corner. There were parks, beaches, mountains and wildlife sanctuaries all within twenty minutes drive. There was street art. There were bookshops. There was local produce in the grocery stores, great wines and top restaurants, all right there for the taking.

So we moved.

We packed up our UK life into boxes. Filled a couple of suitcases, and stepped once more onto that thirty hour flight. But this time the ticket was one-way. (And this time I lost an iPad en route rather than a credit card. Ah well…)

One year on, we are happier than we ever imagined possible. We really are. We have to limit our smug blog posts and sunny Facebook updates for fear of annoying our dear sweet friends, who have all been so supportive.

Part of it is that my husband is happy – enjoying the challenge of a new job, meeting new people, working so hard but already starting to see results. Part of it is that I am happy, breathing sea air again, pootling around our little house, trying hard to find our place in the community. Partly it is because we love our house so much, because we have already had friends come to visit, because it is brighter and lighter, warmer and more laid back.

But mostly it is because our son – who turned five last week – is happier than we have ever seen him. What a place Tasmania is to grow up.

The education system is very different to the UK. Had we still been living in Hertfordshire, our son would have been in full time education for six months already. Five days a week, with literacy and numeracy tests looming. I was dreading him starting school in the UK. He would have been exhausted, unhappy and probably pretty ill. At the age of four, the prospect of his education was already a huge source of stress.

Here, he is currently in three days a week of play-based education. Next February, after a long summer holiday when he is about to turn six, he will enter ‘Prep’ – the point in Tasmania where education finally becomes compulsory. He will do Prep, Year 1, and Year 2 in the same small school by the sea that he’s in now – a place that specialises in early years education. When he is eight, along with many of his friends, he will feed in to a larger school, still within walking distance of home.

This system suits him. He is soaking up information like a sponge. Yesterday, he came home prouder than I have ever seen him, because he had cut out an egg shape, on his own with scissors, for the first time ever. In the last few weeks he has had a sports carnival, an Indonesian puppet show, and a visit to a planetarium to learn about the stars. Next week he goes to a local wildlife park. He does weekly swimming lessons and daily exercise, he gets to choose a book every week from the library, and he takes a flask full of water to school every day because juice and smoothies aren’t allowed. They call water ‘cloud juice’ (and all the proud parents just about die of the cute).

He puts on a hat, and Factor 50, and he knows to avoid the corner with the redbacks. He makes friends, mixes paint, and comes home to tell me about symbiosis, beluga whales and icebreakers. He climbs higher in the park than ever before, runs faster in the field than ever before, and when we walk along the road to the grocery store he tells me the number and destination of every bus that passes.

Tasmania is a place that understands childhood. It understands that what children need, more than anything else, is space and freedom and just enough direction to satisfy enquiring minds. The state schools here are the best I have ever seen.

Are there parts of parenting here that are a pain in the ass? Of course there are. Just as there are anywhere. My son is addicted to fresh fruit and vegetables, and they are jaw-droppingly expensive here. When it’s six dollars for a punnet of strawberries (strawberries which are often so big you only get four or five to a punnet) it’s a good incentive to scrape the leftovers into a tub for later, rather than stick them in the trash. The sun is fierce, so the sunscreen and hat are non-negotiable, and it takes a few weeks for that to sink in. And at this time of year (it’s autumn here), when the outside starts to move in, and you have to discretely dispose of mice, spiders and centipedes before breakfast every morning, it is tempting to dream of places a little less wild.

But the good stuff compensates. If that hour between four and five is getting a little too tetchy in the house, we walk across the street to the oval and play cricket for half an hour before dinner. If dinner feels like too much of a challenge, we head to the taco van, or the fish and chip shop, or we have a bits and pieces picnic in the garden.

There will come a point when the novelty wears off, I’m sure. Or maybe not. Maybe postmen on motorbikes, parrots at the play park and free cocktail sausages in every butcher shop will retain their magic forever.

Maybe this really is the best place to be both a parent and a child, in 2014.

Shhhh, can you keep the secret?

Friday, 11 April 2014

Bath time fun with Koo-di's new bath toys

Bath time has always been a special time at Bod Towers. It's a central part of the little ones' bedtime routine and although it's often a riotous affair with shrieks of laughter and much splashing about (half of which usually ends up on the floor *sigh*) I like to think it helps to wind them down from the day... ok just a little bit. Actually they do tend to bicker quite a lot in the bath come to think of it. Anyhoo, it IS a great time to play and we love trying out new bath toys.

This week I announced that we are officially Ambassadors for Koo-di and as luck would have it they have a NEW range of bath toys that we've been sent to review. Here's little ol' me to introduce them...

Curly Girl and Little man were excited as soon as they saw the bright packaging and immediately got out their clipboards and pens to review them. Ok, maybe only the first part of this is true, but they were definitely keen to start playing with them so I left them alone initially to explore the toys for themselves before I joined in the fun.

Little Man loved the new Koo-di bath toys - everything goes in his mouth!

  • Both Curly Girl and Little Man zeroed in on the Pour n' Play, repeatedly filling it up and pouring the water out again. They ended up squabbling over who could play with it - at 16 months Little Man isn't big on sharing!
  • Curly Girl discovered that she could also squeeze the sides and the water would bulge up and trickle over the rim and this fascinated her for a while
  • I encouraged them both to try the Spray n' Play next and they squealed as I squirted them both with water. After a few attempts to repeat the game themselves they left it to one side and went back to the pouriny toy.
  • Little Man spent ages exploring the Sprinkle n' Play, biting the soft rubbery legs and chewing them. Once he'd started to lose interest I showed him how it made a shower which he loved. He tried to repeat it himself but this was a bit too difficult for him to do on his own.

Pouring fun with the Koo-di Pour n Play!

After they'd had some time to play I asked Curly Girl what she thought of the Koo-di toys and which she liked the best...

'The pouring one,' she said, 'because I can just fill it up and pour it out and it's fun and easy.'

She also liked the soft feel of the toys and the way they were squishy but still held their shape. When I asked her view of the other two toys she was a bit more reflective...

'I like them but they're just too tricky for me on my own,' she said. This was only her first time playing with them I should point out and she definitely enjoyed it when I played with them with her. Since then all three Koo-di toys have become firm favourites at bath time. So much so that I have to ration their time with each one so that they both get a turn!

The new Pour n' Play , Sprinkle n' Play , and Spray n' Play cost £5.99 each and are available now from Koo-di.co.uk.

Disclaimer: As an ambassador for Koo-di I was sent these three new bath toys to review. I received no other compensation and all opinions are our own.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

I remember...

Stealing an hour while baby Curly Girl sleeps fitfully to slip away to Diva Life on Nanchang Lu. Settling back into soft purple cushions to breathe out my relief through my toes as Hebe buffs, pummels and polishes them new.

The pot luck of supermarket shopping, scouring the shelves for recognisable brands, cornflakes at £5 a packet, UHT milk from Australia our safe choice, exciting fruits and vegetables piled high.

Walking away from the bright lights, glamour and sparkle of Xintiandi along Danshui Lu towards Fuxing Park, the dust in the air enveloping my skin in a cloying shroud. 

Hearing the strains of a waltz inside the gates, watching as couples dance into view. Perfectly poised they dip and twirl in an unseen ballroom as they pass tai chi practioners on the grass. The symbolic juxtaposition epitomising Shanghai in all it's colours. 

Later, walking through the lobby of our apartment and feeling the icy cold blast of aircon cooling the sweat on my back. Standing in front of the elevator and using the mirror doors to check if Curly Girl is still asleep in the pram while saying a silent prayer that she is.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Exciting news at Bod Towers!

Exciting news at Bod Towers! I'm delighted to announce that we are now officially Ambassadors for Koo-di!

What I love about Koo-di is that their ethos is not only to create baby and toddler products that are fun, funky and great value but that they free up precious time to spend doing the fun things in life with your little ones. Yes please!

They've won loads of awards and have everything from pop-up travel cots small enough to fit into your changing bag, to the roomiest changing bags, bath time fun and safety, beautiful feeding sets, compact rain covers, sun and sleep shades, carriers and all the bits and bobs you need when out and about.

Over the coming months we'll be reviewing some of these fab products - honestly and with integrity - and telling you all about them.

If you're interested in baby and toddler products have you entered my giveaway to win two tickets to the Baby and Toddler Show at Bluewater 25-27 April?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Silent Sunday

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

WIN tickets to The Baby and Toddler Show!

I never went to a baby show when I was pregnant with Curly Girl. We were in China at the time and there just wasn't the opportunity. When we discovered that we were pregnant again with our miracle baby boy three and a half years later I thanked my lucky stars that I'd kept hold of all the really useful baby paraphernalia from the first time around and didn't really feel the need to visit a baby show.

But now I feel like I missed out on all the fun!

So this year I'm definitely going to The Baby and Toddler Show at Bluewater in Kent. It's on from 25-27th April and promises to be the ultimate place to find everything that an expectant, new Mum or in my case Mum of a toddler needs to rock their Mummy world. One of the best things is the ability to try our lots of different brand's products - what's the best car seat for us? Which high chair do we like the best? Try, test and compare. Great eh?

There's also going to be a team of friendly experts on hand with advice on sleeping, feeding, first aid and more. As you would expect there will be all the bumps and babes facilities that you could possibly need - and free parking too.

There will be more than 150 fab brands exhibiting, many of them offering discounts on their products at the show, including Britax, Quinny, Cosatto, Bugaboo, Maxi Cosi, Bloom, Mamas and Papas and Silver Cross... I could go on for quite some time, but I'll let you click through and find out more for yourself because *drumroll* I've got a great couple of offers for you!

I'm delighted to be able to offer all my readers a discount of a third off the ticket price for The Baby and Toddler Show! Just use the discount code BWB31 at the checkout to receive your discount.

I've also got TWO tickets to The Baby and Toddler Show to give away to one lucky reader! That's FREE entry to the show for you and your best mate, Mum, husband or whoever you fancy taking along with you to carry your bags. To enter just use the Rafflecopter widgety thing below and answer the questions. Good luck!

 be the first to hear when I'm launching a new one.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you like what you see here please consider voting 
for Bod for tea in the Brilliance In Blogging Awards for 2014. 
Thank you!

Disclosure and all important small print: I was sent a pair of complimentary tickets to visit The Baby and Toddler Show and offered another pair to give away. I received no other compensation and all opinions expressed are my own. This giveaway is open to UK residents aged 18 or over, one entry per household. There is no cash alternative. The winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to claim the prize or another winner will be chosen, again at random using Rafflecopter.

Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com
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